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In a land where bloodshed was more of a constant than the rising sun, most never set their sights past the goal of survival. It wouldn't be fair to ask such of them. After all, the entire Pitch Black Forest was meant to be a broken Prisoner's Dilemma: Psychopomps, supposed angels, would stand over the shoulders of the powerful, telling them that their allies had already defected.   In spite of this, one man chose to see the best in people regardless of his doubts, and forged an unlikely alliance between six great warlords who ordinarily wouldn't hesitate to murder one another. In doing so, he broke the system designed as a literal slaughterhouse for his people and waged war on the false gods presiding over it. Not with sorcery nor artifice, but simply through building trust. Despite easily being the weakest of the Shrouded, it's no stretch to say that Vhagar was the only truly irreplaceable one.

Early Career

As the younger sibling, Vhagar formally held very little power. By the traditions of the land, his older brother had total control over the clan holdings. Regardless, Meraxes treated him as an equal, often even deferring to him behind closed doors.   In diplomatic situations, individuals in Vhagar's position would often be used as collateral: hostages held until terms of an agreement are met. Naturally, this is normally quite a begrudging task. The temporary prisoner is never truly sure if they'll ever be freed: it's the perfect way to eliminate one's rivals within the faction, after all. Vhagar, unlike most, took these opportunities to befriend his guards and jailers. Simply by consistently being an honest and friendly person, he managed to build good enough relations with several factions that while the tradition was observed, both sides treated it as more of a friendly visit than a hostage situation.   The fact that he built relationships with servants and household guards rather than lords and generals stifled his influence at first, but actually worked out in the long run: the upper class is expected on the battlefield. Given the constant warfare, their faces change much more than that of the household servants. As time went on, it would be those same servants who raised the next generations of leaders.  


Vhagar's ideals didn't always hold, though. During his stay with one of the three great powers, a group famous for their use of poison, it was only his Shrouded regeneration (unexpected, given that tradition dictates that only the family head undergoes the ritual) that kept him alive. This was one of the few times he was forced to lie and pretend was well- the fallout of making accusations would have been unacceptable, regardless of justice or honesty.   Even this wasn't enough to earn his ire (though it definitely earned his brother's). At a point in the future, with the poisoners' faction under new leadership, Vhagar would give them another chance. In doing so, he would learn about their fanatical devotion to their patron god: a psychopomp aspected to poison. This may have been what initially raised Vhagar's suspicions with regards to the acts of psychopomps and their supposed impartiality, long before he noticed more unsettling patterns in his allies' decisions.  


Despite his best efforts, Vhagar would occasionally be spotted on the battlefield, as befit his station. His focus on illusion magic stemmed from a lack of desire to truly hurt anybody: instead, simply terrify them into not fighting in the first place. Despite its seemingly soft-hearted motivations, this actually brought him a significant amount of renown, because the sheer creativity of his sorcery was something of a wonder- especially when the most durable illusions involve subjecting oneself to the experience before transferring it to others.  


It was this that he shared with Murmur: a recent upstart who single-handedly took their backwater fishing village to a notable regional power. Like Vhagar, Murmur had a flair for soul-crushing illusions, having managed to use one to drive a kraken, of all things, to suicide. However, in that great act, they found that they'd broken themselves in more than just body. Murmur had also lost much of their humanity. With their work as a common ground, Murmur eventually ended up looking to Vhagar as a moral compass, as they realized that they'd destroyed their own somewhere along the way.  


Eventually, Vhagar ended up meeting the ruler of a major power during one of his stints as a hostage. Most never bothered to visit, housing him in a vassal's holding or some such. However, Ariadne was a person who loved tearing others apart- she would often destroy lesser factions simply by walking in and spreading rumors based on dirty secrets whispered in confidence, overheard by her sorcery. Vhagar's position made him a prime target to sow discord within his faction, so Ariadne paid him a visit.   Instead of drawing out his deepest insecurities and hanging him with them, Ariadne ended up liking the man. The pair made an interesting contrast: Ariadne's magic was all about communication and understanding, while she enjoyed using it to mentally destroy people. Vhagar was famously the most terrifying illusionist in the country, yet he did so out of desire not to harm. After the meeting, they pursued a romantic relationship for some time. Within a few years, they would find that they couldn't stand each other- Vhagar unable to accept Ariadne's casual cruelty, and Ariadne unwilling to change. But in the meantime, this connection opened many doors. He suddenly gained access to all sorts of functions and events that his family lost the clout to attend decades prior.  

War on Death

While his ability to work within traditions was exceptional, what truly set him apart was a refusal to simply accept the system. He would often talk to friends and allies, freely giving out information typically held confidential. As time went on, so would they. After years of such talks, he noticed a pattern of inconsistencies- one that couldn't stem from deliberate lies. Rather, the consistent blind spots and subtle misinformation seemed like the work of a third party. If it wasn't for his focus on honesty and clear communication, he likely never would've noticed.   In convincing others of this, Vhagar finally managed to unite the land with the oldest, most primal of concepts: a common enemy.  

Vhagar's Law

The culmination of this was Vhagar being handed the reins to the civilization: by laying claim to the moon's domain, he was indirectly given the ability to place the entire population under mind control. With this power, more than anybody could've even dreamed of, he chose to do a single thing. He made murder unthinkable. It was quite convenient for him that his personal goals and the groups' aligned quite neatly. What better way to stop the psychopomps from accumulating power than preventing death?   Vhagar's Law was perhaps the keystone of the alliance's plan: without it, there'd simply be no way to catch up in strength. With it, they could take their time, acting methodically over decades without granting their enemies a massive surplus of souls to reap. And without somebody like Vhagar to tie them together, there would be no way that any of the other Shrouded would agree to give another so much power.   On a societal level, Vhagar's Law essentially meant the cessation of all armed conflict. After over two centuries of endless warfare, peace was finally brought to the region. Not without its detractors: non-Cotd mercenary companies who had become entrenched over the decades didn't leave quietly. At the same time, being so dramatically outnumbered meant that few took chances in combat.  

The Moon Readers

The war on death was a slow, methodical thing; much of it essentially a series of assassinations, picking off psychopomps by abusing their greed for souls to reap. Vhagar, having played his part, didn't have much of a role in this. Instead, he focused on building infrastructure, acting as a mediator, and overall improving the lives of the general population. He acted to limit the potential influence of psychopomps, spreading his ideals through a group of trusted individuals, inadvertently building the foundations of a religion around himself as a result.   At the end of the day, Vhagar valued the truth. And when the truth was that he could technically take full control of everybody at any moment, it's not hard to see why this became the basis of a religion. If Vhagar were a fallible human, giving him this level of power would be unacceptable. Therefore, Vhagar must be a deity. Being a benevolent god, he chooses to use this power only to make sure that nobody kills one another- were he not so kind, he could make the entire Cotd race his puppets. But that's not important because he's a benevolent god, so all is well.  

Later times

After the War on Death concluded, the psychopomp hegemony broken, some disagreed with maintaining Vhagar's Law. The events of the resulting civil war are rather murky, though the law still stood by the end of it. Some know the era as Artificer's Folly, for at the end of it, the Shrouded bearing the title of Artificer was dead. Of him, only a sword remained.  
"Having grown up surrounded by warfare and death, Vhagar could not envision a better world past it. Therefore, he chose not to try, and entrusted our people's revolution in the hands of future generations. All he did was ensure that no matter their vision, the process would be bloodless."- unknown Moon Reader
  After these events, Vhagar proclaimed a challenge to his nation: convince him of a better system, and he'll hand over the reins. In the centuries since, he has been something of a recluse, making few public appearances and rarely directly intervening in political matters.    


Vhagar is widely regarded as the most powerful offensive illusionist on the continent. His illusions are horrifying things, the utterly nightmare-inducing sensory assault reinforced by, of all things, empathy: Sympathetic Illusions requires the caster to experience their spell before inflicting it on another.   Has a signature sorcery medium named after him. It's the mechanism behind his infinite-storage sleeves.   An odd aspect of this ability is that it makes him unable to cross deep bodies of water (without an exceedingly sturdy boat, at least)- his magically enhanced shadow doesn't take well to being diffused.


Typical Cotd in appearance. Though to be fair, it's more his look defining the stereotype than the other way round.   Tall, lean, and ghostly pale, with statuesque features.   Clean shaven; long, slightly wavy black hair- it's often unclear where his hair ends and Shadow begins.  


Generally wears loose, billowy robes of silk with bright red embroidery.   He may or may not improve the billowiness of through manipulating his shadow for dramatic effect.  


Overall, Vhagar doesn't really look very distinct from other Cotd in terms of physical appearance, or even mannerism due to the race's expected ridiculous grace.   It's when one looks a bit closer, they realize that something seems a bit off.   The shadows he casts look just a little too dark, seeming to pulsate and squirm every now and then.   Stare long enough and one may catch a glimpse of phantasmal crimson eyes, like the lights which dance behind closed eyelids.   His eyes have similar depth to them, the blackness giving way to something just outside the limits of perception when gazed into for long enough.  


Vhagar doesn't really see himself as good with words in general.   He's so used to being able to literally throw ideas at people through sorcery that his verbal communication skills aren't as great as expected.   Note that he speaks plainly, not poorly- he's still very capable of reading social situations and figuring out the optimal approach to a conversation.

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26 Sep, 2019 23:55

Well done. Very interesting....though if I could make one formatting suggestion?   Put more in your sidebar to even it out. Pulls at my attention--but the content is awesome =)

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Garrett Lewis
30 Sep, 2019 20:14

I quite enjoyed this one! Truly would take a very particular sort of person to gain that level of sheer control and only stop murder with it.

3 Oct, 2019 17:10

Its interesting to see a politician without good social skills. And it makes sense, why talk when you can use magic to convey your ideas so much more effectively? Being so hell-bent on maintaining a peaceful demeanour that you avoid being seen in your station, which requires presence amidst battle is a very interesting one. It almost sounds like an obsession of sorts.