The Heroes of the White Eye is a remarkable group of individuals, brought together by fate, who have overcome incredible challenges together against all odds. Initially the disparate individuals were thrown together to resolve a simple matter of a disrupted water supply on the estate of an enigmatic noble family, they went on to discover signs and portents of a new time of high magic, and with it a new start of a Conjunction of Planes.
The last conjunction was so long ago that only the very oldest surviving members of the longest living races could recall it. It was a time in which the fabric between realms became thin and demonic creatures spilled over to wreak havoc on the lands of men, elves and dwarves. It was called the Age of Fear, and it brought humanity on the brink of extinction before they harnessed the power of magic, allowing them to mount a defence against the hordes of demons. The Silver Crusade, a collaboration of the knightly orders of the Lance, Shield and Gryphon, counselled by the mysterious Senhadrim, a loose knit group of wizards and priests, defended humanity long enough for the conjunction come to an end and the last of the demons be defeated.
The heroes discovered powerful, ancient artifacts from the Age of Fear, each of which contained the long dormant spirit of one of the Senhadrim. They encountered strange servitor creatures called the skaven, a fierce, rat-like people whose purpose was to find these artifacts and bring them to their as of yet unknown masters.
The heroes travelled the kingdom of Lyria, finding clues about the conjunction, the crusade and the Senhadrim. They met interesting people and dangerous adversaries; Vadoma, the treacherous gypsy, Falka, the helpful scholar, Ulrikke, the Daerland noble, Ridley, the endearing deckswab, Syldarael, the tolerant healer, Martha, the jealous bigot, Strickland, the love-struck Magister, Cendelius, the vengeful terrorist, Liliana, the seductive instigator, and many, many more.
They travelled to a different realm and found a small army of crusaders, betrayed by a Senhadrim mage named Atilesceon, who had been corrupted by evil. Atilesceon’s cruelty lead him to curse the crusaders to replay a doomed battle scenario against a horde of demons over and over, leading to their eternal suffering. When the heroes found a way to break the curse, they ended up confronting and defeating Atilesceon and bringing the crusaders back from that realm, instantly gaining them the status of heroes.
In liberating these ancient crusaders and bringing them to the modern time, they managed to gain an understanding of the Age of Fear and learned that the conjunction occurred due to the waxing and waning of magic, which influenced the Seal of Divine Animus, which protected the realms of the ethereal mist from the realms of the elemental chaos and the astral sea. The seal was placed there by Tharizdun, a long lost god with a complicated mythology.
Throughout all of this, the heroes have remained unlikely companions. As they’ve learned more about what’s at stake, uncovering the legends, and separating fact from fiction, they’ve tried to discover possible ways of preventing another Age of Fear, or at least mobilising a defence against the coming conjunction before it is too late. Each has their own reasons for dedicating themselves, and their methods, motivations and styles differ wildly, but for now they continue to be bound to one another.
It’s not easy to come to a clear understanding of Astrid’s personality, goals and motives. At the best of times she comes across as aloof or frivolous as her pendulum swings from long periods of silence, having few outspoken opinions or strong desires, and moments of extreme exuberance, often fuelled by alcohol. In the quiet moments she is as calm, quiet and reserved as she is loud, boisterous and borderline obnoxious in the moments where she’s not.
The two extremes of her mood seems to serve one thing particularly well; she is never requested or expected to talk about herself. As a result, it’s not clear why Astrid is in Lyria, why she has chosen to attach herself to the other heroes or why she eagerly sacrifices her own safety in order to step between the group and the danger which is heading their direction.
Even when she woke up one day to find that her eyes had turned bright golden, she never seemed to invite the other heroes to dare question or comment on that physical transformation; her aloof response making it seemingly difficult to bring up the subject. She is well-respected for her physical abilities, but is rarely asked for her opinion, which may reinforce a pre-existing notion she may have held that she would never be valued for her ideas, should she have any.
Her goals seem simple; she wants to be able to purchase a ship of her own. What she wants to do with that ship, or why she wants a ship, is not something her companions have ever asked her. She seems happy enough hiding behind the tired stereotype of a reaving Hellmarker in an attempt to convince any of her companions that there’s nothing more to her goals than that.
The priestess has defied expectations since she was a young girl and continued that tradition from the moment she went into the service of Lord Marcus together with the rest of the heroes. She chose a more thoughtful, less action-prone approach to problem solving which often clashed with others, especially James. That was not to say that she could not be forced into action, however, as she was quick to display against the Procyon when Cendelius lead them in his attack on the village of Allenham. She showed that she would not shy away from violence in order to stand up for what she believed in.
Thoughtful and observant, she was often very capable of quickly getting to the core of a person; sometimes so fast that the person under scrutiny had a hard time catching up, or even realise their façade had been breached. I believe that this lead to the frequent conflicts Emma had with James, who tried very hard to reinforce the cool exterior he had developed growing up on the Kingsport streets. Emma seemed frustrated and genuinely perplexed each time she was confronted with social subterfuge or obfuscation. It seemed to run counter to the truth she wanted to live by. Either that, or despite her keen insight into the people around her, she never truly understood people and found their idiosyncrasies foreign and alien.
She found comfort in the variety of ways in which Sedna touched life around her. The hopeful rebirth of spring, the growth it provided in summer, the way autumn brought the cycle to a close with a great cleansing and the way in which winter became harsh, cold and unforgiving. And it was this variability in the Goddess which made her naturally distrustful of Muirgheal when she started to explore her connection to the trident; it was extreme, unyielding and dogmatic and it ran completely counter to Emma’s own personality and who she understood Sedna to be.
There were other forces surrounding the trident which she found invasive and had difficulty understanding, again frustrating her ability to quickly get to the heart of a person or situation that she was so accustomed to. While evocative, the trident came with too many strings attached and she soon decided to disinvest her from the weapon and the spirit within.
As she divorced herself from the trident she also found that she struggled with many of the things that she and the other Heroes of the White Eye uncovered; about the nature of the world, the coming Age of Fear and her position therein. She decided to divorce herself from the group, focus herself on her faith and evaluate what her position within the grand order of things was going to be moving forward.
Either Emrys is the most complex character in our group of heroes, or he is the simplest. At the risk of overthinking things, I will assume the former, rather than the latter. It is going to be difficult to start the analysis, either way.
Born into a tribe of aen adhar, or People of the Moon, who are notoriously religious, both his father, Fingir, an aen adhar, as well as his mother, Catriona, a human who had estranged from her family, had fallen in with a type of religious zealotry that could consume a person. They followed the teachings of Mohiam, a Sehanine Moonbow prophet and believed that their tribe had an important role to play in the future of the Verdant Kingdoms.
In fact, both parents believed that Emrys was to be a child of prophecy, which would explain his name. In the elder speech, Emrys means “immortal one”; a name not given frivolously, I imagine. When Catriona died right after giving birth, against all expectation, Fingir was struck with enormous grief leading him to defer the rearing of Emrys to the rest of the tribe.
Subjected to the tribe’s zealotry, Emrys proved to be a less than ideal student. He was subjected to hours of training which he described as arduous. The spiritual leader of the tribe, an elf named Voriel, disappeared without a trace during a training session and the tribe was thrown in disarray. It wasn’t the first time that strange things happened around Emrys and he was quickly asked to leave as the tribe had given up believing that he was going to be the promised child that they were awaiting.
I tell you that in order to conclude the following; considering Emrys’ background and upbringing, which I think was likely to be considerably harder than he has ever shared with anyone, it is surprising that he has maintained such a happy-go-lucky, laissez-faire attitude to most things. He has either leveraged what must undoubtedly have been a very traumatic upbringing into an amazing psychological bedrock, or he is possibly the most ruthless case of psychopathy that I’ve ever witnessed.
He has womanised his way through most of the Riverlands and has been keen to continue that habit while in Kingsport. He has developed a penchant for the young daughters of nobility and has left quite a bit of carnage in his wake. One wonders whether he doesn’t find some perverse pleasure in using the station of these women for his own ends only to compromise them to the point of reputational ruin. His involvement with these women has assured that they will never ascend to the position that was expected of them at birth.
Does that sound familiar?
He has now been able to infect the heart and mind of one of the most influential young noble women in the kingdom. Gods give her the strength to withstand him.
When confronted with some of the origins of his tribe by meeting Lauriel Skycaller, the Senhadrim priestess, Mohiam cultist and self-confessed mother of the zealotry that has ruled his tribe for millennia, he seemed detached and distant from her. Even as he inhabited the body of her lover and soon-to-be husband, Benedict McAllister, he did not hesitate to send Lauriel into the woods to slow down the onslaught of demons portalling onto the battlefield and ultimately sending her to her death.
Of course, I might be completely misreading him. One thing that suggests that I might be wrong is the relationship he has built up with Toruviel, the Senhadrim who is inhabiting the moonblade he carries. Legends say that moonblades only graces the hands of those who stand for noble elven virtues; love, life, creation and the arts. Perhaps he has been able to fool Toruviel as he has fooled lady Annabella, who knows?
To most people looking in from the outside it would seem that James wears his membership to one of the Heroes of the White Eye with the least amount of pride. I find myself wondering whether that’s because he thinks that what he did isn’t worthy of hero worship, or whether he is uncomfortable with the idea that he’s becoming one of them.
To most people looking in from the outside it would seem like James had a pretty tough childhood growing up on the streets of Kingsport. The frail, half-elf bastard to an immigrant who sold her body for silver stags, raised among whores and ruffians. But once you get to know him you’ll realise that despite his environment, his upbringing in no way held him back from having a happy childhood. He cares deeply for a mother who probably hasn’t always had the time to properly care for him; he’s developed relationships with several men in his life that could be described as father/son or teacher/student relationships; and despite his slight stature and elven heritage, he’s managed to carve out a place among his community.
And yet, he seems to be having trouble accepting the relationships that he’s forged with the rest of the heroes. I’d wager he thinks Luca is deranged, Quentin is misguided and Emrys is unfocused. Astrid seems to be the only one he genuinely cares for, but mostly as a drinking buddy who doesn’t ask too many questions. He purposefully keeps himself from investing in his relationships with the others, either because he doesn’t think they’re worth it, or he thinks they won’t last.
The proposition of him not thinking the relationships with the others aren’t worth it seems flawed considering all that they’ve accomplished together. It is clear that his continued involvement with the rest of the Heroes of the White Eye is benefiting him and that they have a lot to offer him. So it must be that he feels that the relationships won’t last. He’s unwilling to commit because he knows that all of them are regularly engaging in very dangerous work which will likely get one or all of them killed. Does he want to keep his relationships “professional” so that he won’t have to deal with the likelihood of losing them?
It would explain James’ caution at accepting the Arms of the Senhadrim. He has seen that the weapons have subtly changed their wielders and he doesn’t like the idea of giving up control, even if the potential power gain is significant. This, in turn, would explain his disdain for Emma and her dedication to a higher power; arbitrary rules of a divine kind which promise an undisclosed reward after death just mean you’re a pawn in a celestial army, controlled by a deity that sets the rules. Equally, Quentin is hostage to the trappings and expectations of nobility and chivalry, which might even be worse. And Luca is the pawn of… who knows what, but practically no different than Emma and her goddess, though likely much less benevolent.
James values his freedom. The Steady Hand gave him that freedom at the cost of the kickbacks he was paying to the day master. When his mother became an unwilling pawn of the Cult of the Dark Queen and was manipulated to turn against the Steady Hand, he found himself at odds with the guild. Despite finding a way out of the situation and saving his mother’s life in the process, he found that the Steady Hand was never again going to be the home for him it had been in years past. He also found that his mother required care, which had never happened before. She became a burden and perhaps even a liability, which eroded the freedom he valued so much. He quickly found another place that would take her off his hands, leaving him once again unburdened.
Perhaps that’s why he like Astrid as much as he does; there’s no burden there.
At the moment I think James is probably feeling a little unmoored. He has no clear goal, no clear direction. He can’t go back to burglary; he’s come too far and seen too much for that. But he also doesn’t necessarily want to make a habit out of going on quests and gathering more titles like the Hero of the White Eye. He’s stuck between longing for a simpler existence and a duty to act on those things that’s he’s learned.
Luca considers himself to be many things that he probably is not.
He grew up the son of pig farmers who was gifted with a great intellect, a strong personality but without the strength of willpower to persevere. I suspect he became profoundly lonely in the Elder Foothills, unable to connect to his family or his community and started admiring the scholars that would come through from civilised places, on their way to study the ancient ruins in the region. He probably had a conversation with one of them as an expedition passed through and realised he could connect with them on an intellectual level.
And so he started reading more books. He got obsessed with them. He started considering himself a scholar, and he could have become one if he had applied himself well, but he never did. As he read more he also became more frustrated with his modest origin. He changed the way he dressed, changed the way he spoke, changed the way he acted, all to be more in line with who he wanted to be.
Supposedly in order to get access to more books he was convinced to consume mushrooms which he claims to have given him visions. Those visions showed him a dreadful glimpse of the future, one that he could prevent from occurring. It lead him to the discovery of a book which taught him how to use magic. The circumstances are all a little vague, but afterwards he was no longer a scholar, instead he was a mage.
He finally worked up the nerve to leave the Elder Foothills and I think that cutting ties with that environment which reminded him of who he was allowed him the freedom to tell anyone that he was who he wanted to be. He has also started gathering and gaining more magical power, still maintaining this fantasy that he’s a studious mage. All the while, he’s been taking shortcuts and compromising himself (and possibly others) to gather that power, as is the tendency of those weak of will.
He’s been lying to others, but more importantly he’s been lying to himself; he’s convinced that he’s the only one who realises what is coming and the only one who can stop it. Another lie that he’s told himself is that the ends justify the means, and as such he has made some dangerous and questionable decisions lately. All for the greater good.
I’ve been surprised at the way that the rest of Luca’s companions have been willing to overlook the obvious problems and delusions he’s dealing with. Perhaps they realise but find that the power he wields useful, however ill-gained it may be, and are willing to put up with him.
Eventually, Luca will have to pay the price for what the choices he’s made, the things he’s done and the power he’s gained.
The most junior member of the Heroes of the White Eye, the easiest observation to make about Quentin is that his noble birth has afforded him a life of relative luxury and privilege. It makes him a bit out of touch with the rest of the heroes at times, but it also allows him a different perspective and avenue that the others may have missed.
Hailing from a small noble family without much political or financial influence, it seems the precarious position that House Morvrayne finds itself in has placed an extraordinary burden on the shoulders of its heir. Initially setting out to find a legendary sword of incalculable historical and cultural value which would earn him the right to marry the daughter of an influential noble and positioning his house in a much better spot in the Beauclair peerage.
When, against all odds, that seemingly impossible quest turned out favourably and he didn’t just retrieve the legendary sword, but also became one of the Heroes of the White Eye, gaining popularity and renown in Lyria, the young knight seemed eager to leverage that success into something more. He is keen on following in the footsteps of the legendary knights and cavaliers who joined the crusade to protect humanity during the Age of Fear.
Whether Quentin’s new goal of restarting a new crusade is born from opportunism or idealism are unclear to me at the moment. But for now it seems he has thrown his lot in with the rest of the companions.
He respects James, though is having a hard time relating to him due to the wildly different environs they grew up in. He has big plans that James doesn’t recognise his roll in, and probably wouldn’t approve of that roll even if he did. James disapproves of much of what Quentin does and thinks, and I suspect it won’t be long before Quentin falls prey to the same exhaustion that overwhelmed Emma.
Up until the moment that Emrys introduced Quentin to Andrew Selkirk, the troubadour who came to investigate the rumours of Fleur’s resurfacing, I don’t think Quentin had any strong opinions of Emrys, positive or negative. The two have never held a conversation that wasn’t about pleasantries or frivolities. Quentin has confessed his ambition of a new crusade to Emrys, and found that Emrys was keen on being there to support him. This will likely remain the basis for their friendship; whether Emrys is able and willing to further Quentin’s goals.
As for Luca; it won’t be long before Quentin will come to understand the full weight of Luca’s choices and the possible price that will need to be paid for them. It will be at that point where we’ll see whether Quentin’s opportunism will win out over his idealism; he will have to make a choice about what kind of man he is, and whether he’s made of ruthless ambition, or romantic ideals of chivalry and nobility.
I wonder whether Quentin will ever seek out the crusaders he helped to rescue and have a true, honest and open discussion about what the crusade meant, and what it cost the crusaders and the people they protected. Was the crusade a benevolent organisation who protected the weak from the wickedness of the demonic hordes, or was the crusade enforced on those they protected, whether they asked for protection or not? What was the price the crusaders and those they protected had to pay in order to keep humanity safe, and will Quentin be willing to pay that price? Will he be able to make the hard choices which will pit his ambitions against his ideals? Is he simply the entitled noble who is playing hero until such a time that the hero’s role becomes too difficult a burden to shoulder?