I could see in Grenith's weary eyes that he had finally accepted defeat. "Every empire must fall," he said to me. "I was foolish to think mine would be an exception." The following evening, his body lay lifeless in a mass grave, alongside those of his brothers and compatriots.
If you were to ask any reputable bookseller or academic who was the most prolific and influential author in all of Periva
n history, their inevitable reply would be Baelyn Blackwell
, author of The Blackwell Histories. Simply put, the Histories are the most notorious, mysterious and unbelievable works of Perivan literature ever published.
To begin with, they all profess to be first-hand accounts of the author, rather than secondary sources compiled by historians after the fact. What's more, the volumes cover an immense variety of subjects, such as exposés of infamous secret societies, detailed accounts of pivotal battles, insider information regarding key historical and political figures, and explicit descriptions of the rituals and rites of Perivan cults. But perhaps the most mysterious element of the Histories is that these books date back to the dawn of Human
civilization, thousands of years ago, and yet they are still being written and published to this day. To top it off, despite his reputation, there's not a single soul who seems to know Baelyn Blackwell's true identity.
Since 1E-126, Blackwell has produced 143 works, some being published within a decade of each other while others took nearly a century to produce. While a complete list of Blackwell's work is beyond the scope of this article, what follows is a list of some of Blackwell's most (in)famous and influential works.
The White Council
The first of Blackwell's works was published in 1E-126, shortly after the fall of The White Council
and the establishment of the first independent Human colonies. It created quite a stir. It was the first book in Perivan history ever produced on a printing press – an invention which some historians claim Blackwell himself devised for this very purpose. Blackwell's book, simply titled "The White Council," had a limited run of only two hundred copies. Unfortunately, most if not all of these copies have been lost to the ages.
However, it was not the printing press which earned this first volume its notoriety. It was the intimate first-hand account of the private lives of The White Council's members: their daily routines, their personal struggles, and their apparent mental decline as the Human insurrectionists overthrew their oppressive regime. It was clear that Blackwell had somehow ingratiated himself among the Council members and was a primary witness to their lives during The Human Uprising
. Blackwell's work provided a unique insight and perspective that few other Humans had ever known, as it was previously believed that Humans were only kept as servants by the White Council, never as intimate companions. Yet numerous sources have since verified Blackwell's accounts, establishing his credulity as an author.
The Crimson Concord
In 1E-318, Blackwell published "The Crimson Concord
," a high-profile exposé of the infamous assassin's guild by the same name. Readers were shocked when Blackwell not only confirmed the Concord's existence, but identified the location of three guild halls and unmasked many of their leaders and members. The book revealed the secret inner workings of the guilds, including their recruitment and initiation practices. But the most shocking revelation of all was the revelation that The Crimson Concord was not just a guild of assassins – it was a cannibalistic cult. When numerous well-known members of Perivan nobility were pinned as members of the cult, the Concord nearly imploded. Hundreds of murders, both inside and outside the cult, resulted from the cult's attempts to find and destroy Blackwell and anyone who had provided him with information. As a result, The Crimson Concord was weakened significantly, allowing a number of other assassin's guilds to gain a foothold. Despite nearly self-destructing, the Concord never managed to eliminate Blackwell, as evidenced by the continued publication of later works.
The Bowtree Atrocity
Published in 2E-13, Blackwell's "The Bowtree Atrocity" detailed the life and crimes of Eliza Bowtree
, wife of Venys Bowtree
, high king of Norhame
. During the seven-year conflict with the Vorlexi
to the East, King Venys left Eliza to rule over Norhame while he accompanied his armies in battle. During this time, Norhame was host to a wave of grisly murders which claimed the lives of nearly a third of the young women in the kingdom. It wasn't until the release of Blackwell's account that the truth was revealed. The list of crimes was as horrific as it was diverse. Victims had been stabbed, boiled, skinned alive, hung from hooks, dismembered, drained of blood, forced to eat their own body parts, frozen in ice, chained up and starved to death – a laundry list of atrocities which, understandably, shocked and revolted the people of Norhame and Periva. Blackwell's account led to the arrest and execution of Eliza Bowtree and her accomplices, destabilized the kingdom of Norhame, and contributed to the Vorlexi's successful defeat of King Venys. It also included the names of sixty-three victims and the locations of their buried remains. Despite destabilizing the kingdom of Norhame, "The Bowtree Atrocity" was widely praised for its role in bringing Eliza Bowtree to justice and bringing closure to the victims' families.
Perhaps one of Blackwell's most controversial works, "The Bloodletters
" (published in 2E-112) exposed a secret cabal of dark mages who had been stalking, kidnapping and sacrificing people all over Periva in order to attain practical immortality. The reason for the controversy is that, by his own admission, Blackwell had to commit murder and performThe Bloodletters' rituals in order to be accepted by the cabal and gain access to their inner circle. While most mages in Periva are treated with some measure of distrust, the majority practice ethical magic, harvesting their magical energy from the life essence of plants or from their own vitality. Not so with The Bloodletters. As Blackwell revealed, they regularly kidnapped people from various communities, murdering them and extracting their blood as a source of magical energy, which they used for life-extension rituals. After their vampiric cabal was revealed, The Bloodletters were hunted down and eliminated by The Wolfguard
, which (ironically enough) became the subject of Blackwell's next book.
Beyond the obvious impact that each work has had on the people and societies involved in his works, Baelyn Blackwell's work has made a significant mark on Perivan society as a whole. With the invention of the printing press prior to his first publication, Blackwell threw wide the doors of literacy and publication, which led to the establishment of the first publishing house and the publication of numerous other works of literature. His invention was reproduced and spread all across Periva, ushering in a new age of creative fiction and non-fiction publications. Without Blackwell's efforts, well-known authors like Sylvia Sterling, Kurt Faelyn and Sunjan Yarrowseed could never have become household names.
Blackwell also helped to establish the first public library system in Periva, beginning with the construction of The Great Library
of Primrose Pointe
, which was funded with the proceeds from his first three books. The library was created as a place of safe-keeping for Blackwell's work, but was constructed with plenty of room for thousands of writers to share their work. For many years, the Great Library held the only known complete collection of Blackwell's writings, but after a fire in 1E-502, most of Blackwell's books were lost. Many were replaced from personal collections following the fire, but some of the earlier and rarer works were never recovered.
While many disagree with Blackwell's methods in the research and publication of many of his works, none can deny the incredible positive impact he has had on the world of Perivan literature.
Perhaps the most perplexing aspect of Baelyn Blackwell's story is his identity. Despite playing an active role in numerous battles, infiltrating major organizations and crime syndicates, taking part in major historical ceremonies and becoming personally acquainted with some of Periva's most famous and influential individuals, no one has been able to determine who exactly Blackwell is.
Throughout the years, numerous impostors have attempted to claim Blackwell's identity, yet those who survived the inevitable assassination attempts that followed were invariably discovered to be fraudulent. One of the most notable examples was prior to the publication of Blackwell's "The Rockshore Revolt." A very convincing impostor had been touring various Perivan provinces, signing books and speaking with fans, and despite their best efforts, no one had been able to prove him a fraud. That was, not until Blackwell's publishing house announced that a new manuscript had arrived. When asked about the manuscript, the impostor said that he didn't want to "ruin the surprise" by revealing any information about the book. Many fans were suspicious of this, including Blackwell's publishers, who refused to release the book until the impostor had described what the book was about. Put on the spot, the impostor finally admitted that he didn't know, and he was revealed to be a fraud. When the book was finally published, the dedication page read: "To future impostors, I wish you the best of luck. ~BB"
A number of theories regarding Blackwell's true identity have circulated and gained traction, yet none have yet been proven. Some people believe that he, like The Bloodletters, is a mage using the power of his magic to keep himself alive forever. Others believe that Baelyn Blackwell is a pseudonym, used by a collective of authors in order to publish their works without exposing their identities. Some even believe that Baelyn is, in fact, an immortal deity, meddling in the affairs of mortals via the written word. Yet Blackwell has somehow managed to maintain complete secrecy about his (or her) true identity since his work first began.
Despite this, or perhaps as a result of this, his popularity has never flagged, and his fans can often be found haunting the various libraries and bookshops around Periva, trading theories, making predictions about future books, and hoping that they'll someday soon find the next Blackwell History for sale.