Myrke, House of Fear
“We are the lone candle providing light in the darkness. Our light may not always burn brightly enough for others to see, but it is the only interruption to the pervasive gloom that exists within our world. Though we cannot dispel the darkness utterly, our light shall at least define its limitations.”
Elizaveta the Truthsayer, Primus of House Myrke
Of all the Houses of Magic in Mellorian, none sits lower in the opinion of the people than House Myrke. No other House has earned such opprobrium despite the murky past of a number of the others.
The difference in perspective is due to management of the public’s opinion. House Acedia, for example, goes to great lengths to promote a picture of the House that is at stark contrast with its real ambitions. House Feylyn hides the fact that it has caused pestilence to thrive in the land. House Durant shrouds its militaristic propensities behind a veil of well-meaning security measures. Of all of them only House Myrke makes no attempt to hide its rough edges – in fact the very opposite. They make their grizzly work abundantly obvious; in order to increase the fear of those they are hired to seek.
The House is subject to an ongoing contract with the nine Princes of Mellorian, an agreement known as the ‘Covenant of Justice’. This scrap of parchment ensures that Myrke’s coffers are filled at regular intervals in exchange for their efforts in apprehending and punishing criminals or deviants. In addition to this, House Myrke offers a private service of a similar nature to those of significant means, which allows the wealthy to place a contract upon an individual.
The pride and self-belief of Myrke Wizards is such that they do not accept themselves to be assassins, and so any target must be under suspicion of crimes that are supported by hard evidence. In reality, such evidence is easy enough to fabricate by men of means, and so the House often finds itself involved in feuds and reprisals.
When a body is discovered in a locked room, its face contorted in a rictus of terror, the people know that House Myrke is involved. When a score of people are found hanged by their own hands from the same tree, the influence of Myrke is clearly seen. Subtlety is a concept that is lost on the Wizards of Myrke, for they care for little more than seeing justice done and their contract closed.
There have always been individuals that for some reason left those around them with a feeling of discomfort or concern. Few suspected, and even fewer knew, that the Root of Fear known as Shemk had touched these individuals with its power. The unnatural aura surrounding such people, the alien feeling that sets them apart from others, is the mark of Shemk.
Few Roots of the World Tree draw on the power of mortals to such an extent as the Root of Fear, and in this particular case strong negative emotions feed Shemk and lend it the immense power from which Wizards can draw. Shemk is not a conduit of love, or of hope. It is a funnel for fear, pain, and suspicion; the emotions that override rational thought and see it replaced with panicked whim.
The Wizards of Myrke are saturated with this power and so their abnormal aura is even more pronounced. Many find it particularly uncomfortable to spend time in their presence, and some experience this as an intense feeling of pain merely for being proximate to a Myrke Wizard.
With such an effect on the public, it is no wonder that the avenues of employment and of use available to House Myrke have been curtailed. They do not have the luxury enjoyed by other Houses, to display or hide their power as their whims dictate. They do not enjoy the peoples love for making the crops grow, or building safe cities to raise their families in. It is true that House Myrke catches many criminals, but even that useful act has been tainted by their acceptance of contracts and the manifestation of their power. House Myrke is thought by some as a ‘necessary evil’ but the people focus only on the last word of that description.
The Wizards of House Myrke travel extensively, rarely staying in the same place for long. They wear long cloaks with large, oversized hoods that obscure the features of the wearer. Although House Myrke would point to the pragmatism of a robust travelling cloak for the multitude of climates across the continent, the design they choose certainly does not help them to be seen as anything other than impersonal and mysterious.
Wizards of House Myrke always travel with a group of retainers, guardsmen, and advisors to assist them with the legality of their actions. The paperwork involved on meeting the demands of the Covenant is laborious and complicated, and the Wizards consider it beneath them to account for the mundanities associated with their work. Even within their own circles, Myrke Wizards are considered aloof and condescending, but they pay very well and there is always a job to be had for those that can tolerate their presence.
With the groundswell of opinion against them, House Myrke has simply given up trying to appease their detractors. The Wizards of Myrke are a stubborn and single-minded lot. That the people do not recognise the value of their work wounds them immensely, but the Masters have come to believe that they alone recognise the steps that must be taken to help Mellorian. This is a dangerous position for House Myrke to adopt, because all acts are justifiable if one’s only consideration is the end product. The Masters of the House are now indifferent to the real worries and concerns of Mellorian; for they have decided on a course of action they believe to be true and will see it through regardless of the opinions of others.
It is important to stress that the Wizards of Myrke are not evil, rather that they have pragmatically accepted that they must do harm to the few in order to save the many. They have sacrificed their lives in the pursuit of the absolute worst offenders that Mellorian society has to offer, preventing countless acts of barbarity and depravity through their own brand of dispassionate brutality.
Mellorian has no official code of laws outside of the Covenant of Justice, so lawlessness abounds, especially in the far flung places of the continent where the rule of the Princes is tenuous at best. Banditry, murders and, larceny of all types are on the rise across the continent. Some point to a growing darkness in the land, afflicting the people and corrupting them to evil acts. For many thousands of people, perhaps hundreds of thousands, the only thing standing between their lives and deaths is the threat of House Myrke’s retribution upon the unjust.
For House Myrke, justice is a promise always paid in full.