Now, gentle reader, allow me to introduce the protagonist of our story. Lilith de Nemo was once of a respected line, but now she is de Nemo, “of nobody.” Her family, the de Magi line, were powerful sorcerers with command over the elements. They were businessmen, and had thrived under the reign of King Adelbern. Adelbern is not of the line of Thorn. Rather, he married into the royal family, and his bride died under mysterious circumstances soon after the birth of their son Rurik, which cemented Adelbern’s claim to the throne.
Adelbern believed in good business. He opened up negotiations with Orr and even hated Kryta, withdrawing Ascalon from the Guild Wars. For twenty years he focused on rebuilding Ascalon’s wealth and pillaging the Charr to the north for the wealth they had accumulated during the Guild Wars, which was, for them, a time of peace and prosperity much akin to what Ascalon experiences now.
Lilith’s old family, the de Magi, flourished under Adelbern. But Lilith herself was discontent with their money-grubbing ways. To her, the Royalists spun a more appealing tale, a tale of days when carnage and chaos in the name of Thorn covered all the world. Ascalon was poor, yes, but its nobles were rich off the spoils of war and the blood of their enemies. Lilith shunned the study of the elements. Her interest in the black arts was an open secret, and her idol was Prince Rurik.
Prince Rurik was an avid supporter of the Royalist position, if not of their banditry. He was simultaneously a revolutionary and connected with an ancient way of life, one that promised people like Lilith and her family the right to do whatever they pleased. Rurik’s rugged handsomeness, his ostentatious wealth, and yet also the worn look on armor well-used, also won Lilith over. She kept a small shrine to him hidden in her room, and threatened to have the slaves’ eyes gouged out if ever her family found out about it.
Eventually, however, it became clear that Lilith would not grow out of her obsession with the dark arts, that this was no mere phase. They had three other children, and did not need Lilith to continue the line. They sold Lilith into slavery, far from their estate in Rin. Thus she who had been Lilith de Magi became Lilith de Nemo, her name erased from the family records.
One might think that this humbling might give Lilith some perspective, or teach her some empathy. One clearly does not know Lilith very well. She wanders the streets alone, going about her duties, and when the other slaves speak with her, it is often a screaming match quelled only by harsh glares or harsh blows. She is a noble, she declares, and someday the world will know it and regret what it has done to her.
Lilith might have gone on declaring it to the end of the world. She might have spent all her time running errands from Ascalon City to Ashford and back again. She might have climbed out of the wreckage of the Searing and been press-ganged into a work crew, and rapidly worked to death. If she was very lucky, she may have lived long enough to be devoured by Charr or dragged across the Shiverpeaks by her beloved Rurik (or perhaps that would make her unlucky?).
But she didn’t.
Instead, she met a friend. Of sorts.
She was on the road from Ascalon City to Ashford Village, a road she walked often. Once she had tried to run away, fleeing into the river that cut through the wilderness, but at nightfall she was set upon by a pack of Skale. Fleeing them, she ran straight into the guards, who apprehended her and dragged her back to her owner for a stiff beating.
Thus it was that she trudged on towards Ascalon City, having learned not to run away, and having learned to resent it, when she was accosted by a stranger. Dressed in blood red leather plates and carrying a Necromancer’s wand. He stopped and looked at Lilith as she passed, and then shouted “come here!” Lilith ignored him. “Girl, I said come here!” Verata demanded. Lilith froze in her tracks, swallowed, and then turned to see what Verata wanted.
“Yes, sir?” was all she managed to squeak out (her delusions of revenge aside, a slave’s life had beaten a good deal of defiance out of her).
He glared at her. Examined her carefully. “Where did that scar come from?” he demanded.
“It’s a ritual scar of the dark arts,” Lilith says, “I…” she cannot find the words to describe her fall from grace, and instead finishes with “it’s from a long time ago.”
“I see,” Verata said, his voice slurred with menace. “Follow me,” he says, “you’ll enjoy this.” They headed down the road to see a few Skale ambling about. Verata handed her his wand. “Kill one of them,” he instructs. Lilith’s grip on the wand is familiar; channeling Death Magic like this is a basic trick, one she could still remember. Her skill had atrophied, and she had studied little to begin with, but she remained a talented witch, and her the Skale were feeble.
With a wet, snapping noise, Verata raised up a sightless horror, bound to his will. Lilith looked on in awe. Would that she could wield such power again. She searches for words. Is this her chance? Her first and last chance to embrace her destiny? She must beg this man to teach her. She opened her mouth, but nothing came out.
But Verata found the words for her. “Come, little one,” he said, “I will teach you how to command the dead things, the creeping things, the leeches and the carrion. The dark arts shall fester within this nation and then burst from its corpse and spread to others.” And he taught her, taught her to command swarms of insects and to sustain herself on the blood of others. She bit into his wrist and drank from his blood until he ripped her away and proclaimed her lesson complete, leaving her with the wand…And the power.
It was only then that she realized she had been delayed by over an hour.