Wednesday, 12 June 2019

The circulair continuity of Legends I, Legends II and Greensleeves

During the Legends I and Legends II reviews, and heck, all the way back in the Greensleeves trilogy reviews from 2015, I've said that I would eventually do an article about the multiple incarnations of the Legends Legends set that appear in the Magic canon. Time to cross another long promised project off the list!

I must warn you though, if you're hoping for another Lat-Nam Kerfuffle where I try to make all of this fit together somehow, do temper your hopes a little. It's simply impossible to make all these references fit without creating some sort of circulair timeline where one character appears first in Legends I and then in Legends II, while another character goes the other way. Even with less egregious examples you can end up with characters who have apparently been around for thousands of years. To solve this without making up a whole lot of fan fiction involving outlandish time travel plots we need to assume there are multiple characters with the same name in the canon. Madarans especially seems to have a habit of naming their children after ancient legends in this fix. It's probably a cultural thing.

As for why this happened... well, Clayton Emery and Scott McGough have pretty much told us. Calyton has said several times, most recently in the comment section of this blog, that Xira was a late addition to the book, originally another minor character that was changed to incorporate more Legends from the set. Only nobody told Scott, who was putting the same characters in his own story. There was no editor keeping this straight, so it should come as no surprise that there was also no one making sure the new books worked with the old Harper Prism stuff.

I have speculated before on why continuity was such a mess at the time. Remember that the two Legends trilogies were published at the same time as the Otaria Saga, which was also a complete continuity trainwreck both internally and with regards to the rest of Magic's continuity. We'll probably never learn exactly what was going on inside WotC at the time, but this was clearly a time when the storyline, and especially a consistent continuity, were very low down on the list of priorities. Well, at least it's left us with an interesting puzzle...

Tor Wauki & Ramirez DePietro
Let's start with probably the most problematic example, the one that really causes the circulair continuity.

In Hazezon Tor Wauki is an archer aboard the ship of pirate Ramirez DePietro. In Emperor's Fist Tor Wauki meets Halfdane in the guise of DePietro and has no idea who the pirate is. Halfdane later reveals he killed DePietro two years ago. So Tor somehow ends up working for someone who died before he met him? Huh?

In a thread Scott McGough once said that Halfdane only thought he killed DePietro but that the pirate secretly survived, but this still leaves other problems. For example, in Hazezon DePietro looks about 15 (he claims to have drunk from a fountain of youth), but in Emperor's Fist Halfdane portrays him as older, with dyed hair. And even if we believe that DePietro survived his supposed murder by Halfdane, and that the shapeshifter did a shoddy job impersonating him, there are still timeline issues to deal with. Legends I happens 400 years after the Ice Age, around 3330 AR. As we discussed last time, Legends II happens at 3600 at the earliest. Moving Legends I beyond 3600 creates all sorts of problems with the plot, as Tirras's expansion was caused by the changing climate of the Flood Ages and thus can't take place centuries after the climate stabilized. Moving Legends II back before 3300 also creates problems due to dependencies it has regarding Kamigawa and Homelands.

To smooth over a continuity issue I am more than willing to entertain death-faking pirates and incompetent shapeshifters, but I'm not breaking the entire timeline over it!

So. Two Tor Wauki's it is. One sailed with Ramirez DePietro back in ~3330. The other, perhaps named after the first, was Tetsuo's apprentice in... whenever Legends II takes place. There might even be a third Tor Wauki, as the flavor text of the Fifth Edition version of Ambush Party talks about a "Tor Wauki, Bandit King". Either of the two Tor's could still become a bandit king later in life of course, so pick your poison. Do you prefer limiting things to just two Tor's, or should there have been a whole Wauki dynasty with loads of Tor's through the ages?

If DePietro did drink from that fountain of youth he mentioned he could be the same character in both stories, sailing the seas with Tor I in Legends I, and then dying (or maybe just appearing to die) two years before Legends II. The 300 to 900 years between his appearances would explain why he no longer looks 15 in the end, he was just aging very slowly.

Lady Caleria
In Legends I there are archers who worship Lady Caleria as a goddess, in Legends II she's the leader of the island nation of Argenti. Here we could go two ways. The Caleria from Legends II is an elf, so she could be very old. We have multiple sources saying Dominarian elves live for about 1000 years. So if the two trilogies are closer to 300 years apart than to 900 years, it could be that the real Caleria made such a name for herself in southern Jamuraa that she became deified. Or, perhaps the mortal Caleria was simply named after a goddess. I think the second option is a simpler solution.

Back in the Greensleeves trilogy the saying "On Caleria's Ears" is used. This trilogy happens between 4073 and 4077, so if a Caleria was already worshiped back in 3330 this does not require any further explanation, unlike some other similar exclamations which we will talk about below. But I thought I should mention it for completion's sake.

Perhaps she could even be named after a benevolent goddess at birth? Or was that somebody else's origin story...?
Xira Arien
This one is trickier. In Legends I Xira Arien, nicknamed "the Glass Mountain", is a human minion of Johan. In Legends II she's a eumidian working for Ramses Overdark. Clearly these are two different people. But while naming someone after a goddess is not that strange, and the Tor's could perhaps all be related, why would a society of creepy humanoid wasps name one of their kind after an extremely minor human wizard? I can only assume that the Glass Mountain didn't actually die in the destruction of Shauku's lair (she never appears after that in Legends I), ditched Johan and became an exceptionally famous wizard in her own right, who was even celebrated by homicidal bug people.

In the Greensleeves trilogy someone says "On Xira's Wings" at one point. It seems unlikely the eumidian Xira became famous enough to enter the vocabulary of people living a continent away, so this also points to the Glass Mountain becoming very famous later in life, although those wings must have come from a spell if that's the case.

Or perhaps both of them were named after some other, even earlier character? Heck, maybe "Xira Arien" is the southern Jamuraan version of John Smith. Who knows?

I wonder what the original concept for Xira was. She has flying, suggesting a non-human origin, but her flavor text mentions a masquerade, suggesting her art shows her in some sort of costume, so who knows what is underneath that?
Marhault Elsdragon
Now another weird one, as it actually ties in to that other big continuity snarl, the one surrounding Lat-Nam. In Final Sacrifice, when the good guys are excavating Lat-Nam, they find a bunch of fresco's. One of them is of Marhault "crawling from a burning ship shouting bloody revenge". Obviously that is supposed to be Marhault Elsdragon.

Now, if those fresco's were made just before the School of the Unseen was destroyed in The Shattered Alliance, there is actually a chance the this could be the same Marhault that we see in Legends II. He is half-elven after all, so he could be quite a few centuries old. However, as we discussed in the Lat-Nam Kerfuffle article, the School of the Unseen was probably located on the bit of Lat-Nam that is now submerged in water, while the rest of the island, including the bit where the fresco's were found, were poisoned land ever since the destruction of the College of Lat-Nam back during the Brothers' War. And to assume the Marhault from Legends II is actually around 4000 years old is... let's say a bit of a stretch.

The fact that only the first name is mentioned in Final Sacrifice helps us here. Clearly this was intended to be Elsdragon, but who knows, maybe it was Marhault Ifdrake, or Marhault Thenwyvern. We are already creating enough characters with exact duplicate names trying to keep these stories all in continuity, it's nice to have one where it is just the first name that is repeated.

Boris Devilboon
in the Greensleeves cycle someone curses with "Boris's Balls", but this isn't a problem, as it could refer to any Boris (even though it is clearly supposed to be Devilboon, considering so many other curses in those books involve Legendary Creatures from Legends). No, the real problem actually comes from Dual Loyalties, a story from the Distant Planes anthology. There Devilboon is called a boogeyman that demon mommies use to scare their demon babies. In Legends II he's just a sycophant that gets turned into a zombie by Overdark.

So this is another case where we need to assume two characters have the same name, but at least the sniveling Boris from Legends II is exactly the type of character who would assume a nickname based on a creature that even demons are afraid of. He probably heard the story from the minor-demons he summons and thought it was really cool.

Oh, and I guess that curse refers to the balls of the original, demonic Boris Devilboon.

Barktooth Warbeard
In Whispering Woods Gull recalls a legend about Barktooth Warbeard fighting a hydra. This is actually not much of a problem, but it is interesting since it is an argument for an early date for the Legends II cycle. If we want to keep the number of duplicate characters to a minimum (and it seems unlikely that BARKTOOTH WARBEARD is a very common name on Dominaria), this reference would mean Legends II has to happen before 4073, when Whispering Woods takes place. I've currently got it at ~4000, which fits, though perhaps pushing it back a little further to give the legend of Barktooth a bit more time to spread would be nice.

Ragnar & Stangg
Two more curses from the Greensleeves cycle': "On Ragnar's Rocks" and "Stangg's Stones". Lot's of testicular exclamation in those books! These cause no problems though, but again, I mention them for completion's sake.

The only other reference to Stangg is in Legends I, where the ship Adiara Strongheart and Hazezon Tamar used to sail on was called Stangg's Talons. If Stangg was having ships named after him before 3330, people could certainly be using his balls as curse words in 4070-something. I mostly just bring it up because in preparation for writing this article I re-read a bunch of old forum threads where the Legends I/II continuity issues were discussed, and those said Stangg was the captain of the ship that Adira & Hazezon sailed on. That's a mistake though, as that was Hunding Gjornersen.

No mention of his twin though, curiously.

Ragnar was a healer working for Gosta Dirk in Legends II. As discussed in the Barktooth Warbeard section, as long as we put Legends II before the 4070's it could be the same character that is referenced here. The only weirdness is that a random healer from Madara doesn't sound like the sort of person who would become part of a saying on Aerona. Perhaps he had a very exciting career around the Whispering Woods before moving south? Or perhaps there are also multiple Ragnar's. It is not that unique a name.

This is the one seeming continuity error between the Greensleeves trilogy and the Legends I cycle, both written by Clayton Emmery. In Final Sacrifice Greensleeves dumps the Ur-Drago into the Abyss after an evil wizard summons it to attack her. In Hazezon Jedit is faced with the creature when he visits the Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale and kills it. So the thing is killed in 3330, but around again in 4077? This can easily be hand-waved though. There seemed to be weird magic at work in the Tabernacle anyway, as Jedit somehow mystically became the first Ojanen while fighting Ur-Drago, and the creature was a creation of Terrent Ammese, who might have given it the power of resurrection. We could even supposed the one Greensleeves faces was just some aether-copy summoning. Plenty of ways to get out of this.

The old calendars mention it having pincers for hands, which isn't true in its other incarnations, but it's in the calendars only as something "that is said", so it can easily be discarded as an in-universe mistake.

Gosta Dirk, Jasmine Boreal & Hazezon Tamar
Speaking of those calendars, they mentioned some other legends as well, though mostly they are given such short descriptions that there is simply no space to contradict anything. Gosta Dirk apparently once killed a whole crew of pirates attacking his village. That could very well be in the backstory of the Gosta we see in Legends II. Jasmine Boreal left a trail of destruction in her wake as champion of good... well, that doesn't seem to match the random druid from Jedit, but who knows. Maybe she had a secret past full of rampages, or maybe she started doing that after she left Adira's crew at the end of that book. These versions of the characters are fairly easily merged, so I prefer to keep just one Gosta and one Jasmine.

The only thing that doesn't fit 100% is that Hazezon's warriors are human nomads, called Sand Warriors because they are numerous as grains of sand. In the Legends I novels they are literally summoned creatures made of sand. That's such a minor detail though, I'm not inventing a second Hazezon Tamar to explain that away. Just call it a mistake, or a ret-con, or whatever, and ignore it.

Lord Magnus
Finally, we turn, as this blog so often does, to Jeff Lee's The Legends of Magic site. Most of the legends he talks about we've already covered, since he took a lot of information from the calendars and other pre-rev sources. Some other legends are given write-ups that are just to vague to mention. For example, about Lady Caleria he really only mentions she's a good archer, which you could've guessed from her card.

There is one point of interest though: Lord Magnus. Who according to Jeff Lee is an avatar of Llanowar. I've never been able to find a published source for this, so I'm guessing he got this from Pete Venter's inside information. In fan circles this drifted from "an avatar" to "THE avatar" over time, making him essentially Llanowar's answer to Multani... at least until Invasion introduced Molimo.

The Magnus in Legends II has nothing to do with Llanowar as far as we know and it seems unlike he originated there, so this version just replaces the old version. Since it was never in any published sources, I'm not going to make up a second Magnus to make both stories fit either. Remember that WotC had no problem ignoring other unpublished ideas from Pete Venters, like, say, Lovisa Coldeyes's whole family for example. It's always cool to get a glimpse of what was once thought of as canonical inside the company, but until it hits print it can be changed at any time, so don't put too much stock on information like that.

So the final count is...

  • Two, or maybe three, Tor Wauki’s
  • One immortal Ramirez DePietro
  • Two Ladies Caleria (one of which is a goddess)
  • Two, or maybe even three, Xira Arien’s
  • Two Marhault’s, of which at least one is called Elsdragon
  • Two Boris Devilboons, (one of which is a scary story for baby demons)
  • Possibly one but probably two Ragnar’s
  • And one each of Barktooth Warbeard, Stangg, Ur-Drago, Gosta Dirk, Jasmine Boreal, Hazezon Tamar, Lord Magnus, and all the other Legendary Creatures from legends which I didn’t mention in this article.

It's not the cleanest fix, but actually not nearly as bad as I feared before going into this.

Up next I'll review The Monsters of Magic to wrap up all pre-Mirrodin, pre-Planeshopping Era (pre-Modern?) stories. And after that... well, I guess it's time for some more catching up on recent stories!


  1. Fantastic - I love detailed breakdowns like this!

  2. If you're going into speculation territory, might as well go full hog. What if the Eumidians don't really grasp the concept of names? What if 'Xira Arien' is more of a role named after a misunderstanding of individuality during an interaction with the original Xira? Maybe Xira was the first Sapient host for Eumidean offspring and it left a taint of an independent streak.

  3. For that matter- who's to say Xira's species has the same lifespan as humans? She could very well live to a few thousand before she might die of natural causes.

  4. *cough* Guff tampered with some of his very special books in his very special library, as tests. Renaming some people, sometimes maybe even copying them and putting in new circumstances to see if they achieve fame again...
    Well, at least that may be one theory to deal with such problems.