Monday, 26 December 2016

Forgotten Archive

I am going to cover Coldsnap until... I dunno, sometime next year. But there is one thing that happened close to the release of that set that bears mentioning now. Back then there was a post on the MTGSalvation storyline boards where we tried to figure out what exactly happened with the College of Lat-Nam, the City of Shadows and the School of the Unseen. Please don't go and read it, it has posts from 19 year old me in it and it is all very embarrassing.

The relevant bit is that suddenly Brady Dommermuth, then head of the Creative Department, popped in and shared a number of entries from "an ancient database maintained by Pete Venters and others". Presumably it was part of Pete's work on either the coffee table "Encyclopedia Dominia" book, or the Magic RPG he talked about when he was interviewed by Matt Cavotta. It's all unreleased, and pre-revisionist at that, so it is by no means supposed to be canon, but as always seems to happen in the storyline community all the stuff that wasn't directly contradicted by published sources was accepted as fact anyway.

That alone makes this stuff worthy of a look, to know where some of the "facts" thrown around in storyline debates come from. But it is also relevant for that history of Lat-Nam article I keep promising you all, since it more clearly shows what was considered to be canon at one point, and just how much Jeff Grubb changed. Oh, and it is of course interesting, and rather curious, to see just how much unrevealed lore stuff WotC has kept behind the scenes over the years.

So let's jump in and see just what was "secret" canon once upon a time!

Most of the entries that were shared come from the already mentioned MTGSally post on the history of Lat-Nam.
School of the Unseen (Isle of Lat-Nam) (n.) Land, colorless. ALLIANCES. “After the terrible retribution visited upon Lat-Nam, this school of mages chose to hide from the eyes of the world.” School of the Unseen (n.) Place, institution. During the Ice Age, a secretive conclave of illusionists and magical scholars gathered together near the old site of the School of Lat-Nam on the Isle of Lat-Nam. Before the school was destroyed by rampaging Phyrexian war-machines (see Epityr, College of Mages, and Isle of Lat-Nam), this serene place was located on the farthest western coast of Terisiare, and was protected from outsiders by huge, illusionary walls of ice cliffs and impassable glaciers.
This clearly shows that originally the School of the Unseen and the College of Lat-Nam weren't the same thing, just located at the same place. It's interesting to note though that the flavor text of the Alliances card suggests a much more direct link, as if the School of the Unseen hid in reaction to the destruction inflicted during the Brothers' War on the original College (as seen in Final Sacrifice) by hiding. Reading these entries though, it is clear that they were just inspired to be secretive by the historic destruction of Lat-Nam.

Epityr College of Mages (School of the Unseen) (n.) School. While their sister-school, the Argivian Universities, is well known for its archaeological and historical knowledge, this school of wizardry is best known for its master of water magics. The college was originally stemmed from the School of the Unseen, a place of study built on the ruins of the Isle of Lat-Nam towards the end of the Ice Age, and sealed off from intruders by a great illusion of a Wall of impenetrable glaciers. After the college was later destroyed by Lim-Dul’s spell-legacies (when the necromancer Lim-Dul left Dominaria for the plane Shandalar back during the Ice Age, he cast some spells that would eventually lead to the destruction of the School of the Unseen - by infusing its mana-lines with a huge amount of black mana. Incidentally, the Phyrexian Artifact creatures that tore their way out of Soldev after being awakened by the Soldevi Adnates went straight for the School of the Unseen - as a major part of the Warbeasts’ programming was to seek out the largest black mana source available, clear out all competitors, and defend the site until the Phyrexian Priests arrived to give them new orders. With Lim-Dul’s mana-infusion spell, there was enough black mana being pumped into the School of the Unseen to act as a beacon for these ravaging machines even when they were thousands of miles away...) the surviving wizards and sages came inland and founded the College of Mages in the region that would eventually become New Epityr. / Primarily enrolled with illusionists and tricksters more than serious scholars, it is a school where one learns the mental arts and the magics of deception, illusion, phantasm, and a touch of artificiery.
Again: the School of the Unseen is described as build upon the ruins of Lat-Nam. "At the end of the Ice Age" even! That all went right out the window with Jeff Grubb's Ice Age cycle. The idea that some Scholars of the Unseen went to "the region that would eventually become New Epityr" is still very possible though. Sure, at the end of The Shattered Alliance Jaya takes the survivors far more eastern, but it could very well be that some of them wanted to stick around on Terisiare instead.

It is also very interesting to see just how much of this story Jeff Grubb retained. Sure, there is no mention of the bottomless pit to Phyrexia, but apart from that... Lim-Dûl's "spell legacies" infusing Lat-Nam with black mana, the Adnates activating the Phyrexian War Beasts, those Beasts then destroying the School... all of that went straight into The Shattered Alliance!

By the way, we know from The Duelist #14 that "the region that would eventually become New Epityr" is actually Darien's Roost, a Kjeldoran outpost also mentioned in The Shattered Alliance. There, and in the story "Versipellis" from The Colors of Magic it is just called "Epityr", not "New", but that could just be a colloquialism. Adding the "New" does explain why there was a Tablet of Epityr, thought to be a creation of Urza, all the way back in Antiquities when all other references of the place were post-Ice Age.

(New Epityr, New Argive, New Sumifa... either the people of Terisiare just have no imagination, or Jodah has been going around naming stuff after places of his childhood!)

Gerda Aagesdotter (n.) Person. Leader and founder of the School of the Unseen. A master of blue magics, and a researcher into all matters of illusionary and phantasmal phenomena, including the summoning of dangerous creatures from the Dreamrealms. She had many difficulties with a fellow wizard named Zur, and dueled him a number of times regarding their difference in magical philosophies, but no real result ever came out of their magical fights - just more hostility towards each other. Some of her students gossipped that she actually was in love with the charismatic Zur, and that her constant arguments and duels against the enchanter was her only way for showing affection towards him.
Again: Gerda is the founder of the School of the Unseen here, so the School is not a direct continuation of the College of Lat-Nam... okay, I think everyone has got the point by now, I wont bring it up again. What is more interesting is how much of her story here was incorporated into Jodah. In the published version of events he is the leader of the School, and he is the one said to have dueled Zur. No idea if he was also in love with the crazy enchanter though.

The bit about the Dreamrealms is a reference to the flavor text of Phantasmal Forces. No further info is known about it.

Gustha Ebbasdotter (n.) Person, Kjeldoran Royal Mage. A wizard loyal to the nation of Kjeldor, and is allied in some way to the royal house of Kjeld. She was a staunch fighter for her country and an outspoken voice against the barbarian Balduvian Nations whom threatened the borders of ice bound Kjeld in the years before the truce between the two countries. She is a very good wizard, and knows a lot of spells that make her a very versatile opponent in duels. She despises a certain wizard who goes by the alias of Zur, a rebel-enchanter who teaches his apprentices a manner of spellcraft that is very philosophically opposite from what Gustha teaches - illusion, phantasm, and deception. As result of their disparate teaching styeles, Gustha has fought in many magical duels with him, none of which were truly lethal or conclusive in any way except as an exciting conclusion to an otherwise heated philosophical debate on the philosophies of true magic.
Not much of note here, just that it's interesting that there is no mention of Gusta and Gerda being related. Clearly Jeff Grubb was just inspired by their similar names and decided to make them cousins.
Zur (n.) Person. A wizard that dueled occasionally with Gustha Ebbasdotter, the Archmage and Founder of the School of the Unseen. While he may have had some alliance with the School of the Unseen, the differences in magical philosophy drove Zur and Gustha to spell-combat on a number of occasions. He taught his students the ways of enchantment rather than phantasm, and while Gustha was researching for the good of Kjeldor, Zur had turned his back on the “corrupt culture of Kjeldor” as a lost cause.
Interesting, but nothing we didn't know already from the previous two entries.

City of Shadows (n.) place. The City of Shadows is a fabled place amongst wizards, a place made entirely of volcanic black glass, shaped by sorcery more ancient than the world. Laid out like a wagon wheel, at the heart of the city is a huge black glass spire, while the spokes are roads surrounded by buildings and alcoves. Every wall, every surface of black glass casts a twisted reflection, and the dwoemer of the place seems to devour light and muffle sound - and motes of light dance amongst the heart of the glass, in endless cycles, casting endless small reflections. Some of those who sleep within this ghost-haunted place will be granted visions of the past, present, and possible future, while others will die of fright, or be tortured psychically to the point where they are no longer capable of coherent thought. When Vervamon and his crew slept in this haunted place, Vervamon had dreams of his own greatness, while the rest imagined themselves being attacked and devoured by terrible creatures, or suffering memories from the past turned dark and twisted.
This one is a bit disappointing. It gives us barely anything that doesn't directly come from the City's appearance in Dark Legacy. Its presence there is a complete non-sequitur, so I was hoping on more info. But other than it being shaped with sorcery "more ancient that the world", nothing new is revealed.

College of Lat-Nam (n.) Place Drafna and Hurkyl’s fabled school on a large island continent off of the west coast of Terisiare. Therein, the Mages and Sages endeavored for years to come up with ways to defeat the Brothers Urza and Mishra before they destroyed all of Terisiare with their war-machines. Unfortunately, the Brothers discovered the plans of the College before they could succeed and razed the school into the ground with their artifact machines - the survivors headed across the waters on ships, and eventually founded the Institute of Arcane Study on Jamuraa. / Drafna and Hurkyl also created the Stone Brain, an artifact that strips a wizards ability to wield magic from them, and “Tags” them so the wizard who controls the Brain knows where they are and can summon them magically when they wish. A side effect, and the undoing of the Stone Brain, is that all the wizards tagged by the Stone Brain gain knowledge of each other, and are able to communicate with each other as well.
Now this is cool! It really shows all the connections Pete Venters and his team were making at the time. The destruction of the College of Lat-Nam and their creation of the Stone Brain are of course from the Greensleeves cycle, but what is added here is that survivors of the Brothers' War era destruction created the Institute of Arcane Study! The Institute of course originated in the flavor text of Prodigal Sorcerer, and it was featured in the novel of that name as well, and was mentioned in several short stories from the Distant Planes anthology. (Though those sources renamed it "the Institute of Arcane Studies", a name that stuck around and was eventually used in the flavor text of Prodigal Pyromancer)

What is also interesting is that the Institute is said to be on Jamuraa. The novel The Prodigal Sorcerer only talks about "the valley of Tamingazin", but in another MTGSally thread Pete Venters shared some information about the place: according to him Tamingazin is a continent of its own, but very close to Jamuraa. There have been some people who suggested there might be two Institutes, one on Tamigazin and one on Jamuraa, but I prefer to think there is just one and that Tamigazin might be so close to Jamuraa that it is sometimes considered part of the super-continent. However, both the entry saying the Institute is on Jamuraa and the post saying Tamigazin is a continent are unpublished material shared by one-time WotC employees on a fan site. Neither can make a claim to be hard canon, so you are free to make up your own mind.

The map Pete Venters references in the posts linked above. According to him Tamigazin might actually be so close to Jamuraa that it should be seen on this map, if it hadn't been removed since it has nothing to do with Invasion.
Lat-Nam (n.) Place. A college founded by the artificier Drafna and his wife Hurkyl. It was a huge, five pointed structure that looked something like a giant white starfish, with one “arm” broken off and lying under hundreds of feet of water off the coast of the isle. The surface of the star is covered with carvings of the ancient legends and tales of the Domains and Dominaria. After the Brothers destroyed the College with artifact machines, the surviving wizards went west, and eventually founded the Institute for Arcane Study on Jamuraa. / During the Ice Age era the School of the Unseen was founded on this cursed site, and a few decades after the institution was founded, and the Ice Age was turned, the Phyrexian Warbeasts released from Soldev came to this island and killed nearly everyone on it. The Phyrexian machines, after clearing the continent of all sentient life, settled down and went dormant while waiting for a Phyrexian Priest to arrive and give them new orders. Even when Greensleeves turned the land back into a lush paradise in 4077, the Warbeasts still sit and wait in dormancy - though buried beneath feet of topsoil and plant life. In the modern day, there are a few small sea-villages on its edges, though there are few inhabitants beyond that.
This is a very important entry, as this gives us a precise date for Final Sacrifice: 4077 AR. From which I calculated the dates of Arena, Whispering Woods and Shattered Chains. Now, this is an unpublished source, and I've already mentioned a lot of stuff from these entries that has been contradicted since. However, as nothing contradicts this date, and it matches very well with the assertion in the Pocket Players' Guide timeline that the Harper Prism novels take place 4000 years after the Brothers' War, I feel this date has enough corroborating it to accept it as canonical and to use it on my timeline.

Other than that there is no new information, but I think this is a good place to bring up that clearly in the Pete Venters days it was already canon that Lat-Nam was repopulated by the School of the Unseen during the Ice Age, and then devastated again. In the Greensleeves trilogy it seemed as if the land had been laying fallow since the Brothers' War era destruction. My next task on this blog is to figure out how to integrate the post-Jeff Grubb continuity of Lat-Nam with the island's appearance in the Greensleeves cycle, so it is good to know there is already official WotC precedent for suggesting multiple destructions at Lat-Nam. That will make my theories seem a lot less out there!

Not that Dominaria was ever short of devastations...
Battle of Lat-Nam (n.) Likely one of the most war-torn places on Dominaria, (save for shattered Argoth) is the Isle of Lat-Nam. Originally home to the mages Drafna and Hurkyl and the College of Lat-Nam, they were destroyed by waves of artifact creatures, and their island pockmarked with areas that had been blasted into black glass by explosive devices. During the Ice Age another school was founded there, the School of the Unseen. These unfortunate wizards eventually had their mana-lines cursed so that they generated black-mana instead of blue, and the Phyrexian War Machines that had been released from Soldevi went right to the College - as it was the largest available source of black mana on the continent - and went about killing everyone in the area, razing most of the buildings stockpiling everything that seemed valuable, then shut down and waited for their Phyrexian masters to appear to give them more instructions. Centuries later, when Greensleeves and Gull’s Army came to this cursed island to search for the truth about the Stone Brain, a great series of battles were fought on the southern part of the island (thankfully away from the slumbering Phyrexian Machines), where hundreds upon hundreds of people, creatures, and summonings died, along with most of the resident guardians of the isle, (the Duler Angels and the Merfolk of the Copper Conch). At the end of the Battle of Lat-Nam, the Arch-Druid Greensleeves burned out her planeswalking spark in order to heal the land of all the damage that had been done to it over the millennia, and turned the isle back into a lovely paradise (and unknowingly buried the dormant Phyrexian machines beneath feet of sod).
Hrmmm... apparently the slumbering War Machine were not on the same place that Greensleeves visited. This suggests that the School of the Unseen was build elsewhere on the island. That doesn't square with the earlier entries saying the School was build upon the ruins of the College, but if it is true, then we don't have to find an explanation for why Greensleeves found Brothers' War era artifacts (like a Dragon Engine) in the ruins she visited.

This also solves another potential problem: Greensleeves mentions Lat-Nam has been poisoned by the Brothers' artifacts, but there is no mention of this in the Ice Age cycle. It would be odd that the School would settle there if it was. And while we can have multiple destructions, we can't have multiple poisonings: Vervamon already mentions the land being poisoned in Dark Legacy, which happens prior to the Ice Age. We thus can't say the poisoning was also done later, by the War Beasts. But if the School and the College were on different locations, then maybe just part of Lat-Nam was poisoned? Comparing the map of Terisiare during Antiquities to that during Ice Age doesn't give a very clear image, but it does seem like the School of the Unseen was actually build upon land that was still under the sea in the days of the Brothers. And in The Shattered Alliance Jodah does think that his studies will soon be reclaimed by the sea... interesting possibilities to explore next time, when I try to make sense of the whole Lat-Nam thing.

The final two entries from the Forgotten Archive come from another old MTGSally post, again from the days of Coldsnap.
Freyalise (n.) Person, a very powerful planeswalker who influenced much of Dominaria during the Ice Age, and was responsible for breaking and turning the unnatural Ice Age with a powerful spell. Once the Court mage of the ancient kingdom of Storgard, student of the red-mage Zilgeth died, she becomes the champion of Clan Ruby after Zilgeth was killed when he gave his life to destroy a rampaging Johtull Wurm. When the issue came before the Stone Council on whether the people of Storgard should leave their ancestral home, Freya argued against Oriel Kjeldos (who would eventually become the founder of Kjeldor) that they should stay rather than go. Freyalise and Jason Carthalion dueled to decide the verdict, and at the end of the duel she ascended to planeswalker status after learning a valuable lesson about the true power of green-magics and nature (while other stories point to her already being a planeswalker, and merely taking on the guise of a mortal wizard). This eventually resulted in her ability to cast the world-spell that turned back the Ice Age centuries later. She is a supporter of humanity, but knows well that sacrifice must be made in order to support the greater good. She is worshipped as a green-mother all over Dominaria, has worked with the Llanowar Elves for centuries teaching them magics, and is a very powerful planeswalker. A hardened warrior to a protector who values life, protector of Fyndhorn, goddess of the Druids of the Juniper Order, savior of the Llanowar Elves from humans who wanted to raze their forests for woodfires. (See Llanowar Elves) After the initial battle with Leshrac and Tevesh Szat, Freyalise appeared as a thin, slim woman with short-cropped blond hair (occasionally dyed bright colors) and facial tattoos or markings of some sort. She tends to be a loner, and rarely befriends anyone, even her followers. Although she is on good terms with Taysir and Kristina among others, none of them count her as a close friend - and the feeling is mutual.
Probably the most interesting thing we learn from this entry is that this encyclopedia was clearly a work in progress when it was abandoned. Once the student of Zilegeth dies she becomes the champion of Clan Ruby after Zilegeth dies? That sentence is just a pile of words in dire need of an editor!

Other than that there is nothing here we didn't already know from either the Ice Age comic or the Freyalise and Llanowar entries on the Encyclopedia Dominia website.

Lovisa Coldeyes (n.) Person. A noted Balduvian chieftan during the time of the Ice Age, very well recognized by her people and respected by the leaders of Kjeldor. Was one of the strong, true chieftans during the time of Alliances, (especially in the face of General Varchild slaughtering whole tribes and laying the evidence on Kjeldoran war parties), and was instrumental in setting up the peace between her tribes and the doomed country of Kjeldor. She had a daughter named Tolsa who was destined to lead Lovisa’s tribe, as age was beginning to grow on Lovisa during the time when Kjeldor was suing for peace. Her daughter had gone through all of the ceremony needed to attain adulthood, including killing a Pale Bear single-handedly. But after a freak avalanche buried her when she was hunting in the high mountains, Tolsa was disfigured and lamed so that she could hardly walk, and never fight. The unborn child Tolsa carried within her was unhurt, and she was still sound of mind and heart - but it was obvious she would never be accepted as the next speaker of the Balduvian Tribes, and likely not even as the next leader of her own Coldeyes tribe. So, Lovisa is fighting a battle against time, waiting for her grandchild to be born, and hoping that she can live long enough to pass on the mantle of leadership to them - for if she died before that point, all of her life’s-work would likely be for nothing. (On a side note, Lovisa did survive, and her son Greywolf Coldeyes did lead the Balduvians bravely into the new era.)
And we end on an entry of which pretty much nothing survived into the canonical version. The general character of Lovisa is still there, but Tolsa and Greywolf are completely excised from canon. Instead Lovisa had a son, Lothar, who married princess Alexandrite, the two of them leading New Argive into a new era. Brady posted this entry in response to someone asking about Lothar, and he explicitly says there is no entry for him in the document, so it seems Jeff Grubb made him up from scratch.

The one detail that did survive is the ceremonial killing of a Pale Bear, as in The Eternal Ice Lovisa brags about being "the youngest of my family ever to slay the pale bear and gain her true name". It's such a specific detail that it pretty much proves Jeff Grubb had access to this file when writing his books, but also that he, presumably alongside the rest of the Continuity Department, considered it non-canonical, making him free to change whatever he wanted.

And that is all we have... I'd love to see the whole file one day. Who knows what other stuff we will find in there? Even if it is no longer in continuity it makes for fascinating reading for hardcore storyline fans!

And with that we've finally exhausted all known sources that talk about the island of Lat-Nam and the various wizard schools that were build upon it. Check back next week when I finally try to puzzle it all out.


  1. Given that Lovisa's daughter is addressed in the flavour text of at least two Ice Age cards, wouldn't she be still partly canon? It's not like Lovisa having a son rules out her having a daughter.

    1. I'll be honest, I forgot about those cards :P

      I guess we should say that Lovisa was calling someone "daughter" during Ice Age, but it seems unlikely to have been Tolsa. In The Shattered Alliance Jodah is surprised to hear Lovisa has kids now, and Lothar reveals she was pregnant with him during the final battle against Lim-Dûl. So when could Tolsa have been born? If it was after Lothar the whole succession thing would be moot, and why would the flavor texts about her be in Ice Age rather than in Alliances? If it was before Lothar, and her existence had somehow been excised from public knowledge for some reason (because of her handicap?), then Lovisa would have had to been ridiculously young when she had Tolsa. And either way the whole "Lovisa as an old woman trying to live long enough for her grandson to take over"-stuff certainly didn't happen.

      I think it is easier to explain the flavor text of Pale Bears and Sabretooth Tiger by assuming that Lovisa calls random girls from her tribe "daughter", than to try and squeeze Tolsa back into canon somehow.