The Ornithomancer (or birdmancer)
Magic that deals with the summoning of, commanding of and communication with birds and flocks of birds is called ornithomancy. There have been many ornithomancers of note in the past few centuries, but in recent times, one has stood out as a stalwart ally in the struggle against the oppressive regime of Chancellor Gideon – Kento Vess.
The Vess’s are an ancient family of Gateway, the name (formerly VanVoos) appears in historical documents dating all the way back to 577, when Gateway was a cluster of medium-sized fishing towns. The family was not, however, inducted into the Barony during Unification, which is when they changed the name from VanVoos to “Vess”. It was then that Kento’s Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandfather, Oldo Vess, took up an apprenticeship with an Avari Ornithomancer, and thus began the family tradition.
One of the main sources of income for ornithomancers was in the message and package delivery industry. At times the skies over
the city would be choked with tens of thousands of birds of every shape size and color flying in every possible direction, nearly half of
them were summoned and commanded by an ornithomancer under the employ of one of the many hundreds of messaging services
that once thrived in the city.
Kento Vess’s outfit specialized in sensitive documents and bank fund transfers. If a bank had to move vast sums of money, Vess would be called in to handle the job. He would start by transforming the currency, whether coin or bills, into seeds, berries or nuts, then summon an enormous flock of very small birds, all marked with an identifying sigil (a different but related one for each bird so as to not give away the nature of the transaction to potential thieves). The birds would then pick up each individual enchanted seed in their beak, and fly them to the intended location. To witness one of these transactions was really quite a beautiful site, especially seeing the delivery fulfillment – hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions of birds, their golden wings flapping furiously as they descended on a location, dropping the seeds which reverted to their former currency then each bird disappearing back into the arcaeic ether, it was a miraculous site to behold that illustrated perfectly the beauty and importance of magic to the world.
Vess’s work was always more thorough and exacting than other ornithomancers. He would spend time with his own bird-familiars
learning f Gods and cosmic intelligences. The more personally connected to the birds he was, the more they would respect him and the
more effectively he could summon and command them. And it was that mutual respect that allowed him to ask birds to put their lives
and reputations on the line in the name of the Resistance.
Like so many other revolutionaries, Kento was inspired into action after that fateful night known as The Night of Ten-Thousand
Murders. So appalled by the brutality of the Chancellor’s forces was Kento, that he began summoning bannerbirds – huge condors,
arch-eagles and megafinches, to carry long banners displaying messages of resistance and revolt across major City squares and marketplaces
throughout Gateway. Kento carried out these missions from a secret location, a small warehouse in Smoketown where he could not be traced to. The messages served their purpose in fomenting small pockets of protest and resistance throughout Gateway and even beyond.
Of course, this angered the Chancellor to no end, and his Inquisitors were tasked with tracking down the wizard who was responsible for
these acts of treason. All over the city, City Guard began shooting down the bannerbirds in an attempt to either lessen the perpetrator’s
flock, or find some clue as to the culprit. During this time, it was not uncommon to find yourself the near victim of a fallen bannerbird, or
for your home to sustain damage from the same.
But the messages kept flying. Inquisitors riding on small airships or in squid-chariots tried following the bannerbirds to their place
of origin, but this failed too because these enchanted bannerbirds would simply disappear back to the bird-planes from whence they
When Bird-monk consultants from the Great Avari complex of Avarus were brought in, Vess’s luck changed. The Birdmonks
were able to disrupt the Bannerbird’s enchantments and turn them against Vess. They revealed to the monks Vess’s identity and
whereabouts. Inquisitors and a battalion of City Guard marched directly for Vess’s Parktown Aviary.
Luckily, when they arrived, Kento was long gone – for, quite literally, a little birdy told him of the impending brigade. So Vess freed all of his birds and disappeared. Some say that Vess actually turned himself into a bird (no easy task) and flew off towards the high peaks of the Arcane Mountains, but what is for certain is that he is out there, for every now and then one can still spot the occasional message of dissent, scrawled in Vess’s handwriting, snaking its way through the sky. Many believe that as long as these messages keep coming, then there is still hope for the Resistance.
13 x 19 limited edition (250) SIGNED print. Printed on high-quality acid-free paper using archival inks. This piece is featured in the "Gateway: The Book of Wizards" - which is also available for purchase!