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Rhavas
Image of Avshar.jpg
Fictional Character
Videssos
Fantasy
Appearance(s): The Misplaced Legion
through
Swords of the Legion
(as Avshar);
Krispos Rising;
Krispos of Videssos
(as Harvas Black Robe);
Hammer and Anvil (unnamed);
Bridge of the Separator (as Rhavas)
Type of Appearance: Direct, frequently as a POV
Nationality: Empire of Videssos, later stateless
Religion: Skotos worship, formerly Phos worship
Cause of Death: Killed by magic
Occupation: Former Cleric, Author of Non-Fiction, Mage, Prince, General

Rhavas was the original name of a Videssian noble who became the prelate of Phos in the city of Skopentzana, in the northern part of the Empire of Videssos. Through mastery of dark arts, he became nearly immortal, and spent the next centuries trying to destroy the Empire.

Rhavas was born in Videssos the city to a well connected family (his grandmother was sister to the grandfather of Maleinos II, Avtokrator of Videssos). This helped him quickly rise in the hierarchy of the church of Phos but he also was a brilliant theologian who was widely respected among the senior clergy. While in his mid-20s, he was appointed prelate of Skopentzana, an assignment which he reluctantly accepted.

Fifteen years later, while still prelate, a civil war broke out in Videssos between the Emperor Maleinos and his chief general, Stylianos. The border and town garrisons of Skopentzana were swept up by the warring factions, forcing the city to fend for itself. Rhavas played an important role in preparing the city for the onslaught of the Khamorth raiders from beyond the borders, but they were eventually able to take over the city. During the preparations, he casually cursed the militia commander during an argument.The militia commander slipped on ice on the stairs leading to the wall and broke his neck. Rhavas dismissed this occurrence as coincidence, but was worried. Because of the violence of the Khamorth in the countryside, Rhavas had argued that Skopentzana should take in the peasants from the outlying farms; the militia thought this unwise, viewing the peasants both as sources of crime and disorder but as potential security threats. During another argument with the replacement militia commander, Rhavas said "on my head be it" should the peasants help the Khamorth into the city.

A dissatisfied peasant opened a postern gate to allow the Khamorth to flood in. Just after escaping the sack, Rhavas cursed the Khamorth sacking the city, whereupon an earthquake struck the area immediately. Soon Rhavas found that he could murder at will, simply by pointing a finger and saying, "curse you.", but only if he said it with feeling.

Along the way to the city of Videssos, he used this cursing power to commit a series of increasingly heinous crimes, culminating in the rape and murder of Ingegerd, the wife of Skopentzana's garrison commander, when she refused to break the commitment to her husband. He would later kill Tryphon, a priest, during an argument over whether Phos or Skotos was supreme. He also cursed the garrison commander Himerios to death when he asked after his wife's fate.

Upon his arrival in Videssos, he attempted to convince Maleinos II of the supremacy of Skotos, but Maleinos forbade him from causing a public scandal. He ignored the Emperor, calling a synod of the priests to discuss the faith, and Maleinos disowned him as a cousin. When Stylianos crushed the Avtokrator's army and marched into Videssos the city, Rhavas attempted to convince him that Videssos' orthodox faith was inadequate, but Stylianos also rejected his arguments.

After Rhavas casually cursed Kameniates, the Patriarch of Videssos, during a tavern conversation, the patriarch died. Later, during the synod, the new patriarch, Sozomenos, made every effort to be fair to Rhavas--but even the suggestion that Skotos might be equal in power to Phos was viewed as heresy by the orthodox majority. Rhavas cursed and struck down a particularly argumentative orthodox priest, which caused the others to be more cautious. His curse failed to kill Sozomenos, as he was just as devoted to Phos as Rhavas was to Skotos.

His powers exposed, Rhavas was attacked and struck in the back of the head. After passing out, he had a vision of Skotos' icy hell, and made a bargain with the dark god for longer life in exchange for service and loyalty. The synod excommunicated and anathaematized Rhavas as a heretic just as the patriarch had warned; at the end of his excommunication ceremony, he was able to escape using a spell of darkness. As he looked back on the city of Videssos he called down a curse in Skotos' name, and another earthquake struck the city. He swore to get revenge on the Empire for rejecting him and his new creed.

Rhavas fled into the countryside, where he eventually met up with the Khamorth once again and decided to try to convert them to Skotos-worship. After defeating the tribe's shaman in a spritual duel by calling again on Skotos, he caused another earthquake to strike the city of Imbros, which toppled several sections of the wall enabling the Khamorth to sack the city.

Skotos granted to Rhavas an unaturally long lifespan, but not eternal youth--Rhavas withered to a near-skeletal state over the centuries--though he still had the enhanced strength and agility of a younger man. Rhavas learned to master both swordsmanship and magic, becoming extremely dangerous in both. He was also a proficient archer and horseman. He repeatedly masterminded plots to destroy the Videssian Empire, including supporting the disastrous warlord Genesios as Avtokrator, and later by leading a Halogai invasion under the pseudonym Harvas Black-Robe (an invasion ultimately repelled by Krispos), and the rise of the Yezd nomads, among whom he was known as Avshar. Rhavas' predilection for creating false names by rearranging the letters of his own name may reflect his deep-seated, arrogant confidence in his own intelligence.

Rhavas's power to deliver lethal curses was made even more pernicious by his mastery of magic, allowing him to animate weapons to attack his foes, to summon down sheets of fire and ferocious beasts, and to imbue weapons with a soul-trapping enchantment. Only individuals protected by powerful spells or intense personal faith in Phos could withstand his curses and magic. He could also summon demons from Skotos' hell, though this was rare even for him as he could "count on the fingers of one hand" the number of times he had done so. He sent a demon to murder Varahran, the Makuraner King of Kings, which allowed the Yezda to conquer the kingdom, and also used one to kill Arghun, an Arshaum chieftain, during the battle between the Arshaum and Varatesh's Khamorth army. He was easily the most powerful sorcerer ever seen in the world of Videssos. 

Nonetheless, Rhavas was not invincible. During his time as Harvas, he was temporarily defeated by the Videssian spiritualist Tanilis, who forced him to abandon his position at the head of the Halogai, though he did kill Tanilis before fleeing.

At the time of the arrival of the Ronams, Avshar was stationed as Yezd's ambassador to Videssos, likely an attempt by Wulghash to remove him from Yezd's court. He encountered Marcus Aemilius Scaurus at an Imperial function when the latter accidentally spilled wine on him. In his fury he challenged Scaurus to a duel, which the Roman commander won, though he spared Avshar's life.

Avshar sought revenge, sending a Khamorth mercenary to assassinate Scaurus in the night with an enchanted dagger. The ploy failed and the assassin was interrogated by Nepos, the head of the Sorcerer's college in Videssos. When Avshar's role in the plot was revealed, he arranged a sorcerous ambush for the forces of the Videssian imperial guard. Scaurus, Nephon Khoumnos, Nepos, a squad of the imperial guard, and a squad of Halogai led by Hemond were caught in a locked room and set upon by enchanted weapons. Hemond was slain, and Avshar himself used a teleportation spell to escape. A few months later he was again spotted on the borderlands leading nomads in raids against Videssos.

Avshar's ploy resulted in Videssos declaring war on Yezd, leading to Avtokrator Mavrikios Gavras' campaign in the westlands. Avshar's forces pinned down the detachment of Baanes Onomagoulos, initiating the Battle of Maragha. Avshar's forces attacked the Videssian army, and Avshar himself used a freezing sorcery to slay Nephon Khoumnos, who was propping up Ortaias Sphrantzes' command on the Videssian flank. Avshar led the charge that routed the Videssian army, and swung into the center to slay Mavrikios. He then pursued Thorisin Gavras before disappearing from sight, only to turn up again, unknown to anyone else, as Outis Rhavas, a bandit chief turned mercenary serving the Sphrantzes family. Rhavas and his band were important supporters of Vardanes and Ortaias' brief rule over Videssos. Their conduct in the city incited a riot that allowed Thorisin Gavras' forces to capture the city the morning after a failed assault on the walls, and Rhavas was exposed in the imperial throne room by Marcus Scaurus, who drew the connection after seeing Rhavas' spell of protection made by cutting the unborn child from a maidservant. After killing Vardanes Sphrantzes, Avshar evaded Scaurus and the Romans through a spell of apparition.

Avshar again disappeared from sight at this point - until reports of his presence on the plains of Pardraya arrived in Prista, the Empire's outpost on the southern edge of the steppe. His spell of apparition took him to the tent of the outlaw leader Varatesh. He ordered Varatesh along with four followers to kidnap Viridovix, a Celtic chieftain who had been leading the Gallic forces against Scaurus' legionaries and who was transported to Videssos by the same event. Avshar tracked Viridovix by his sword's magic-nullifying enchantment, believing him to be Marcus Scaurus. The outlaws successfully kidnapped Viridiovix from the embassy party, but Viridovix managed to escape soon after. Avshar was furious with Varatesh when the latter returned empty-handed. Later, Avshar's bandits slaughtered some of the outlying herds of the Wolves, the clan that had adopted Viridovix, and Avshar took the field himself with the outlaw army against the army led by Targitaus, chieftain of the Wolves. Avshar's sorcery won the day for the outlaw forces, using lines of fire to trap the main body of the anti-Varatesh coalition's army. Avshar convinced Varatesh to release the prisoners from the battle - over one thousand men - after blinding them, but leaving one in fifty with one eye to guide the others. This cruel punishment caused Targitaus to die of a stroke. Soon after, Varatesh's forces slaughtered the remaining Wolves and established Varatesh - with Avshar as his master - as Royal Khagan of Pardraya.

Avshar pursued Batbaian, the son of Targitaus, and Viridovix (both of whom had survived the massacre of the Wolves) to the Shaum River as the fugitive pair had resolved to seek Arshaum help against Varatesh and Avshar. He could not pursue them over the froze river with his heavy armor, but used a freezing spell to cause an intense blizzard which he believed would kill them. He would have succeeded had not the column of Arshaum, marching south toward Yezd, encountered Batbaian and Viridovix in the snow. Viridovix was only narrowly saved from freezing to death by Gorgidas.

Avshar had intended to use the Khamorth of Pardraya to attack Videssos, but the arrival of the Arshaum traversing Pardraya to strike at Yezd changed his plans. Varatesh's riders met the Arshaum at a large battle which the Arshaum won with the help of their superior organization and a strategem devised by Gorgidas to exploit the Khamorth's ritual aversion to frogs. Avshar had been planning to summon a demon swarm to destroy the Arshaum army, but as the outlaw army began to break up in flight he summoned a single demon and ordered it to kill Arghun, chieftain of the Gray Horse Arshaum clan and commander of the Arshaum army. He then immediately rode south to Yezd, using magic to outrun the pursuing Arshaum led by Arigh, Arghun's son, and stealing several horses on his way.

Arriving at Mashiz, he was surprised to encounter Gaius Phillippus and Marcus Scaurus there, having been taken on as guests by the Khagan Wulghash after unknowingly rescuing Yezd's minister of justice from a band of robbers. Avshar demanded the pair be turned over to him, but Wulghash refused, allowing them to leave. At this point Avshar became furious, and used magic to control the Khagan's guardsmen, and ordered them to kill him. With Wulghash apparently dead Avshar took over the rule of Yezd and ordered all Yezda forces available to concentrate on Mashiz. After defeating the invading Arshaum, this army moved east toward the border with Videssos.

Entering Videssos, Avshar's forces encountered those of the Videssian Emperor Thorisin Gavras at a gap in a line of hills. The Videssian army was protected from Avshar's magic by Balsamon, whose intense personal faith in Phos allowed him to withstand the wizard-prince's spells. The two armies joined in battle, and Avshar killed Balsamon with his bow, using a magic that would kill the Videssian army's sorcerors along with a conjuration of biting flies to bedevil the Videssian forces and their allies. Avshar headed a wedge of Makuraner heavy lancers which charged at the join between Marcus Scaurus' legionaries and the Halogai of Thorisin Gavras' Imperial Guard. In the fighting that followed, Avshar was finally defeated for good by Marcus Scaurus and Viridovix. The pair of Druid-enchanted swords borne by the two outworlders unleashed sorcery that swept Rhavas into Skotos' hell despite his best efforts to break free.

Literary comment[]

In "The Ring and I", Harry Turtledove explains that Avshar/Rhavas is modeled on the Lord of the Nazgul, an important secondary villain in JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.[1]

References[]

  1. See, e.g., We Install and Other Stories, p. 116-119.
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