The Defiant Five
Every conflict throughout history has its heroes and villains, and often those people are one in the same depending on where your loyalties lie. In the conflict that we now find ourselves in, there are no greater heroes than the ones known as “The Defiant Five,” and conversely no more harshly persecuted for the actions they saw necessary to “preserve the spirit of innate, arcaenic magic and the future of free wizards in Gateway and beyond.”
The Inquisition began in the summer of 1866. It was fueled by a growing fear of what the Chancellor called “dangerous, unregulated magical power, wasted on heathens, terrorists, and selfish greed-mongers who did more harm to the people of Gateway than good.” Gideon’s army of Inquisitors, along with his elite guard, the Golden Dragoons, fanned out all over the city bringing to bear the recently enacted Standards of Acceptable and Limited Magic Usage for Non-essentials (SALMUN) act. SALMUN was a broadly-defined ban on any magic use by civilians and non-essential personnel that was not derived from pre-approved, limited-usage runestones manufactured by licensed and accredited runesmiths, a list of which was posted at various Central Governance facilities throughout the city. It also made it a crime to be in possession of any Class 3 or above magical items, which were required to be relinquished to the authorities within 10 days of the passing of the act. Otherwise, the owners of such items could face stiff penalties, jail time, or even what was mildly termed “public admonishment,” code for public torture and execution.
The Central Governance of Gateway also used magic to fight magic. They erected huge towers, called truthspires, in various strategic locations throughout the city. The spires were topped by enormous darkstone crystals able to detect raw arcaenic magic usage and alert nearby Inquisitors. It came to be accepted that the truthspires were the eyes of the Chancellor, keeping watch over his heretical flock. Non-compliant wizards could even be neutralized in some cases.
As you can imagine, the enforcement of the SALMUN act was brutal and chaotic; confusion reigned throughout the city as to what classified as contraband, and since most arcaenic mages practiced magic without the use of a runestone, they refused to believe that the ban would have any teeth. What they did not expect was the ruthlessness of the Inquisitors and their Dragoon counterparts. Streets and alleys ran red with blood as armed conflict terrorized the citizenry for two horrific weeks. Eventually, as the reality of what was now the law of the land settled over the city, the violence quelled, replaced by a pall of ever-present fear.
But five brave wizards from Marketown decided to take a stand against these actions and inspired fledgling resistance movements to accelerate their attempts to disrupt and dismantle the Chancellor’s draconian regime. These wizards, known now as “The Defiant Five,” began meeting in secret and planning retaliation against the Inquisition. They were not extraordinary wizards; they were simply hard-working professionals who saw what the Chancellor was doing with his Inquisition to be a threat to their livelihoods. In fact, it wasn’t until after their bold and ultimately fateful act that anyone even knew who they were or what they were doing.
Their plan required extreme secrecy. They met in public, in crowded back-alley bars using code-words and visual aids that looked like Runechess pieces. They wore their modest runestones and feigned licensed runework (a sanctioned type of magic-work allowed by law, but with strict guidelines and codes of conduct). They carried with them a small chest that they watched over with care. Whenever a City Guard or Inquisitor would enter one of their meeting places, they would hide the box under the table, beneath a small cloth with a strange black sheen. Some have speculated that this was the very rare and mythical Starcloth of Ornachus, long thought to be lost in the belly of a giant underground slorm.
The day they executed their plan, there was a very high-profile public execution planned in Supplicant Square in Center City. Across the great Marketown Bridge one of the truthspires could be seen rising up over the heart of the bustling, maze-like streets of Old Market. When the truthspire exploded in a plume of green flame it sent shockwaves of arcaenic energy in every direction for nearly three miles. The shattered fragments of the spire seemed to be pulverized mostly into very small pieces, minimizing damage from debris to those below; plus, that part of Marketown was mostly made up of covered alleys and streets.
Shortly after this explosion, a massive swarm of large crabs crawled out of the harbor and onto the Marketown Bridge. People on the bridge fled the scene as fast as their feet could take them, the snapping claws of those vicious inky crabs whizzing inches over their heads. Then, once the bridge was emptied of people, it shook and crumbled into the harbor, along with the crabs. Center City was effectively cut off from a direct route to the heart of Marketown, and it caught the Chancellor completely off-guard.
The Defiant Five, who left a runic note on the stones of Supplicant Square had struck the first mighty blow in the revolution. For a brief time, Marketown residents enjoyed a bit of the freedom they had lost, until the “Night of Ten-Thousand Murders” several months later. But what the Defiant Five had done was opened up our minds to the possibility of resistance and exposed the Chancellor as being fallible. All but one, Poslo Kreen the Fish-Wizard, were eventually caught and brutally executed in Supplicant Square a year later.