So this is how this whole story of Dark Lord and epic Questing Party to defeat him started: with a prophecy as is proper...
Isabelle is a young French woman who was brought through a magical portal to Sérannie, hit with translation magic, and told to help the Séranniens beat their Dark Lord. Only, once the questing party triumphed, she was forced back to the normal world. She is rather bitter about that.
While looking for a way to go back, she writes journal entries about her time in Sérannie to not forget what happened and to prepare for her return, illustrating her notebook by sticking postits with emojis scribbles, drawing, or printing photos.
So, in Sérannie they have what they call prophecy magic. Prophecy isn't exactly the best translation though, as they don't truly see the future but the present. The way it works, the prophets need to do a ritual to get into a specific mindset. When I asked for more details, Jérine only looked haughty and said this was "classified information"—I'm pretty sure that snob just didn't want to admit she didn't know either and that it's a prophet's secret.
All the public knows is that some herbs and mushrooms whose name I forgot are involved.
Once the prophets are fully relaxed and in the right mindset, they connect to the flows of magic that fill Sérannie like an ocean. Basically, everyone lives in this mystical water,
and every action we take, every thought we have affect the magical currents and create imperceptible ripples.
Directly reading and interpreting these is impossible. What the prophets do is let this unimaginable quantity of information travel through their brain while they are in this altered mindset.
Once they awaken, they do not have truly gained any new knowledge. At least not consciously.
In order to access it, they need to perform another piece of magic. By this second phase, they are still under the effect of the ritual and of the drugs they have taken, however the magic now manifests differently. They start by meditating for a few minutes to an hour—don't know why, to get in the right mood, I guess?
Once they are ready, they take up their preferred musical instrument and improvise a song, letting themselves be guided by their magic. What comes out is some very twisted and cryptic kind of story or prophecy based on all the information they have learned. And the fun part comes with trying to interpret all of that.
Prophecy songs can be made with any style of music or instrument, so long as the prophets can sing at the same time. However, most prophets' music can be sorted in one of five styles, as taught by the five major prophet schools. The one I'm familiar with is the one from the capital.
In this style, prophets use a faniol, Séranniens' favourite musical instrument. It's a mix between a harp and a lyre that's held on the player's knees, is attached to their torso by a strap, and reaches about the top of their head. Most of them are crafted in heavily ornamented wood. Apparently, different types of woods subtly affect the sound they make, but I've never really heard a difference.
The players use their two hands to pluck something like 30-50 cords.
While the prophets play their faniol, they declaim a poem in a mixture between a kind of sing-song tone and a proper song emphasising clear, bell-like tones in their voices. It does sound quite pretty—though since you're so focus on not missing any word, you can't really take the time to enjoy it.
While rhyming is not really necessary, all prophets are rivalling with each other for status, and having great catchy lyrics and tunes really helps to get remembered.
Having an inkling of what your enemies or business partners think and what actions they're likely to take based on that is absolutely invaluable. This makes prophets highly respected, with the best ones living in luxury in the king's court. Most senators and rich citizens also have one or two prophets in their services—I've heard it's great as a status-symbol.
Less talented prophets live in temples, where their skills are put at the disposal of regular citizens in exchange for offerings.
Prophets are required to attune to the people they wish to target in their prophecies. They do so best by living around them and interacting with them regularly. If the prophets work in a temple rather than a court, they do so by having a discussion with the individuals petitioning them. The goal is not so much to learn all the person's secrets as to get a feel for them and their personalities. And of course, powerful mages have magical protections that limit the information prophets can find about them without their permission.
The most famous prophet is Elènie Damance, as she's had an enormous impact on the kingdom that will be felt for the rest of the century at a minimum. There are lots of stories circulating about her, but I know the truth
—the royal children and mages in our Questing Party had to bring Romain and I in their confidence to explain why her prophecies were far superior to everyone's else and why we could not just go and ask the other prophets we were coming across for help.
All mages, no matter their speciality, need to be taught magic at an extremely young age. That's because adults' brains have lost their flexibility and can't truly learn to get as easily into the proper mindset—and don't I know it!
Prophecy magic is no exception to this, and so young children from prophet families are sent at 3-5 years old to one of the 5 boarding schools teaching this magic.
The Damance family has produced several major prophets in its last few generations, and most family members enjoy the patronage of moderately rich citizens. Thus, there was never any question of not sending young Elènie to the prophet school in the capital.
The environment in those schools is extremely studious and strict, for all that the future prophets are also pampered. There, Elènie learned how to play several instruments, sing, and compose music. She was also taught history and languages to have all the tools necessary to make sense of the information brought by the prophecy magic. And she was given the manners and skills required to live among high society.
Prophetess Elènie Damance playing her faniol
Prophets truly start their career during their teenage years at school. The different exhibitions and festivals they have to participate in are followed with attention by the public—everyone wants to spot talents as early as possible and snatch them away for their private court.
Even as a child, Elènie was already extremely ambitious and self-serving.
She's always known she was better than everyone else, and she was impatient with having to show respect to elders who were not half as talented as she was and with being forced to stay with those of her own age group—I can certainly sympathise!
This made her hungry to prove herself as quickly as possible so as to get her "proper" status recognised.
In order to accelerate the usual timeline, Elènie decided to awe everyone with her talents and make absolutely sure that there was no question about her being better.
She did so by using some more than borderline methods to enhance the quality of her prophecy: the blood of her prophecy targets.
She developed a trick to obtain people's blood: offering them a drink from a cup decorated with sharp edges that were sure to prick the unwaries. Having access to their blood once was enough to hone in on them and enhance her prophecies.
Elènie's plan was highly successful, and she was brought directly to the king as a mere teenager, becoming the younger appointed royal prophet. Of course, the king and the royal mages are not stupid, and they immediately knew what she was doing—or at least they pretended to once they discovered it.
They just did not care. The quality of her prophecies was too good to not take advantage of them.
Thanks to her amazing skills, not only in prophesying but also in composing music and improvising catchy lyrics, Elènie quickly became the darling of the royal court. However, what guaranteed her national fame was one particular prophecy that was made exceptional not thanks to her blood magic tricks but rather to her own skills—and whether they like her or not, everyone recognises that she had loads!
Indeed, what first made Elènie a talented prophet was her perceptiveness and her ability to hone onto targets with the slimmest of interactions with them. For this particular prophecy, Elènie managed to see through the magical protections of many powerful individuals and to unveil a deadly plot against the kingdom.
During a public prophesying, Elènie revealed the existence of a mysterious Dark Lord who was using taboo illusion magic to replace the senators one by one with his minions so as to take control of the kingdom and assassinate the king.
This revelation was absolutely shocking, as there had been no traces of a Dark Lord or treason plot at all.
People were doubtful at first, but it was proved true when minions in disguise were found among the senators. This triggered a massive panic, first in the royal court, then the entire kingdom.
And a well justified one! When you're surrounded by illusion magic, you never know who to trust and you're just filled with paranoia...
Following this, the whole prophecy was carefully analysed to find all the hints it could possibly contain and more. Nobody wants to admit it, but I got the distinct impression that more than a few people were wrongly executed based on nothing more than flimsy interpretations of a throwaway line.
Everyone is still trying to find a proof of the Dark Lord's identity, but so far nobody's had any success with that.
Invisible evil covering the land
All will happily worship his bloody hand
Malevolent hidden lord of damnation
Spreading iniquity throughout the nation
So unthinkably tragic
The Chosen One
Besides unveiling the existence of the Dark Lord and his plot, the prophecy also told of a hero, a Chosen One, hiding somewhere in the capital, and who would be able to wield one of the mystical weapons owned by the royal family. This sword has the ability to pierce through magical wards and shields, and since nobody has been able to wield it properly in centuries, no counters have been created, making it an ideal weapon against the Dark Lord.
The king sent his royal mages to hunt for the Chosen One, and Romain was found rather easily in an orphanage of the capital thanks to the details of the prophecy, thus further enhancing Elènie's fame.
His young nemesis slumbers in ignorance
Magic so thick but a mere pawn
Forsaken yet the only one with a chance
Wielding legendary weapon
Consequences of the revelation
Unfortunately, the prophecy did not help with capturing the Dark Lord himself. However, he was forced to change his plans and stopped his slow infiltration of the senate and nobility. Instead, he started an open warfare against the kingdom in order to kill the king and take the throne for himself.
Despite the nobility hailing Elènie has a hero who saved them all from getting under the Dark Lord's dictatorship, I've heard all the things people have been saying behind their back. That without her, there would have been no war at all and that their family would not be dead...
The Dark Lord's army by AmélieIS
All the nobles are only ruling us because of their powers, so why would that Dark Lord be any different? Just give him a fancy title, put him in control of a region and be done with it! It's not like anyone noticed he was influencing politics anyway, so he won't be that different from all the other assholes in the North!
— A southern man refusing to help the king
Following the revelations, the king investigated the taboo illusion magic practised by the Dark Lord to find a counter for it. The royal archives still house some information about it from before that magic was banned, and they mentioned that people from other worlds are immune to it. This led the royal mages to study rituals to open gates between worlds and resulted in them summoning little old me to Sérannie.
Finally, the king created the Questing Party, led by his heiress Jérine, and including his son Calendre, royal mages and guards, the Chosen One Romain, and me, the otherworlder. And we were all sent on a quest to fulfil the prophecy and defeat the Dark Lord.
The questing party that has defeated the Dark Lord
Elènie's prophecy has created a rush to get more of them related to the Dark Lord and the civil war. However, although a few prophets have been able to uncover some parts of his plots and illusions, no one has reproduced her exploit and got through the Dark Lord's protections. Not even Elènie herself—he undoubtedly reinforced his shields after the revelation.
Elènie herself was the leader of this new craze, and the king was encouraging her. She was trying to link her prophecies specifically to all the most important and powerful people of the kingdom until she got a hit on the Dark Lord.
Unfortunately, all of this ended tragically when Elènie was assassinated at the height of the war. Some rumours of dubious quality say that the Dark Lord did it himself. That he tempted her with joining him and she refused him by loyalty to the king—hard to believe given her character.
IMO she refused to submit fully to the Dark Lord and behaved too arrogantly, and he simply didn't have the patience to deal with her.
A lesson to everyone facing him, and exactly why when I was captured, I was extremely polite and immediately pretended to submit to him. And we all know who survived in the end.