Despana - To be venerated or despised. A Faendryl perspective on the influence Despana has had on our lives
Despana is a figure who changed the very course of history, and yet incredibly little is known about her. In fact her General Dharthiir the Arch-Lich has more written about him. Her early history is lost to time and even her race is in question. I’ll not repeat known facts, little as they are, in this paper: instead, I will concentrate on what is known, which are the influences Despana has had on our society. Necromancy and Summoning, the fall of Elven supremacy on Elanith, and the exile as well as the diaspora; all these things can be lain at her feet.
So little do we know about Despana that the only known depiction of her is the famous bust in the Wehnimer’s Landing museum. It is likely a projection by an artist as historical fact and place of origin demonstrate that Despana was either a human desert nomad or a roaming Elf. Due to her mythological status, she may well be a scapegoat sort of "witch", where one would take a rebel who fought back against elven imperialism and transform her into a human witch, rather than a being akin to the Faendryl.
Before the Undead War, Faendryl society was much like that of the other Elven city-states, believing themselves enlightened by dint of their status as rulers of the Elves. Sorcery was being developed, and the Valence had already been breached. My ancestors were not prepared to unleash their new found Art in full force until the war forced our hand. When Despana unfurled her claws, the Faendryl began to restructure their society around Sorcery more than ever before. Patriarch XXXIV Unsenis Ignaas Faendryl decided that desperate times called for desperate measures; demonic summoning was researched in earnest, and through the course of this research it was realized that the lesser of the demonic types were Necromancers themselves. This revelation is surely the core of the idea for the lighting strike on Maelshyve. Of course, once they revealed their arts of Summoning and Sorcery at the final battle of the Undead War, their society was changed forever by the subsequent exile.
Necromancy seems to have developed at first as a separate discipline. The relative unreadiness of the Empire for her forces presents a case for Necromancy being unknown to them. Despana might be the first mortal Necromancer; certainly she was the only one of historical note other than Aramur Forean, who fell to undeath through cannibalism as a sort of proto-Necromancer. (Of note is Thyrsos Kanigel Faendryl who is mentioned as a “necromancer” in the histories yet is credited with the first Demonic Summoning and no works of actual Necromancy.) It is likely these prior undead were created by Luukos for inscrutable reasons during the age before as well as the cause of Aramur Forean’s transformation. Of course, any mention of Necromancy would be remiss without mentioning Jaston and his re-animation by Imaera from the corpse of a Sylvan Elf. The Arkati were the first -known- source of Necromancy, although speculation due to the Book of Tormtor could conclude that the Ur-Daemon are the truest source.
The Book of Tormtor is another famous piece of history that is always associated with Despana. It is always featured in the stories and histories, yet it is unclear whether is taught Despana Necromancy or merely increased her knowledge to a point where she became a threat to the entire Empire. Necromancy, as a subsect of Sorcery, touches on energies that pierce the valence. The first beings known to perform such a feat was the Ur-Daemon. This makes it likely that the Book of Tormtor was a relic of the war in some capacity. This is collaborated by the grasp of Necromancy that ancient extra planar powers have displayed such as the Vrael, the Vishmiir and Althedeus. It is likely the Book was in possession of the Dhe'nar at some point, which explains their rudimentary grasp of Necromancy, but was lost and then found by Despana.
Despana fought using a weapon that was highly unorthodox. The Elven Empire was entirely unprepared for an unliving, untiring enemy that skill alone could not defeat. The undead numbers kept growing with every battle. They beat the Empire right back to their doorstep with her undead and then animated the corpses of both sides to push them to the sea. The Faendryl operated the same way, out of desperation to survive. It was in Despana that we saw our folly, the folly of mortal flesh weaponized by the careless, ignorant use of profound power. It was this realization that led the Faendryl to Sorcery which necessitated our ascension to a different sort of society. We have always embraced change, and it was that attitude that let us bend our entire society to one will. This society’s first goal was to destroy Despana and her forces. To wallow in the past was to invite destruction. After we would bend our society to survive, to thrive, and then to obtain transcendence.
Despana continues to affect a geopolitical perception of Faendryl culture as a powerbase. While Faendryl life is indeed long, there are none left living who remember the strike on Maelshyve. Here we see the folly of the argument against Sorcery by the other Elven Houses. Demons are always a reminder of the war, something that overshadows the victory over her. This prejudice is easily seen when new magics are discovered and introduced, such as mentalism, which was easily accepted by seemingly everyone. Both these facts being the case, we must ask; can a race of people be held to the supposed “sin” that stained their ancestors.
Much of the remaining modern prejudice against the Faendryl is pushed by other political powers that wish to remind their populations to remain united against the enemy without; the so called “Dark Elves”. Most egregious here is the Turamzzyrian Empire, who likely uses such propaganda to make sure the wedge between House Faendryl and the other Elven Houses remains deep.
In closing, Despana may be a figure of myth and legend yet she had a very real impact on not just the Faendryl, but the entirety of Elanith. We may never learn the truth of Despana’s history or how she came to find the Book of Tormtor. Yet may we keep the lesson she taught us in our hearts, to kindle ambition enough to accept and overcome any challenge. Despana showed us that this world is fragile. Let our ambitions carry us beyond.
Remember: Our Discipline Rules All Worlds.
May Patriarch Korvath Dardanus Faendryl lead us to greatness.
~ By Maltreis Eilindel Faendryl, Sorcerer of the Clerisy, and loyal servant of the Patriarch.
- References and thanks to:
Lord Silvean Rashere - for his extensive writings on Transcendence
Professor Xorus Kul'shin - for his explanations of the minutiae of the timeline for the development of Sorcery
Ysharra Nagorn - for her insights into mythical stories and their patterns
“A Disciple of the Lich” - for his insights into greater political realities