Sinhus the Mage
Sinhus the Mage
Statue of Sinhus in Settlement Square
Sinhus the Mage (977?-1005) also known as The Spider Prince , The First of the Magi or The Sunwatcher was among the first settlers in the area now occupied by Trellech City, and is widely considered one of the most important figures in human history. He is credited for leading the last slaves of the giants out from their captivity and across the great Ice barrier to the western coast of Trellech, and as such was instrumental in causing the downfall of Ancient Skye and in establishing that The Dream is a sphere. He is often cited as the first human being to converse with Selidie (though this claim is disputed) during the migration across the ice (see below). As such, the accounts of his life offer some of the only available sources In addition, he was the first human to discover the Words of Power, and as such represents the very first person capable of wielding arcane power as a Mage.
Sinhus is the only being ever known to have been simultaneously a Sorcerer and a Mage.
Sinhus was born in Skye, the vast area of steppe occupied by giants. While giants have never conquered the Western Tribes, it is highly likely that they did manage to subjugate weaker tribes in the eastern steppe and kept them either as slaves or as livestock. As no exhibition to Skye has ever been successfully undertaken, it is extremely difficult to confirm many facts about the conditions in which slaves lived in Skye. What is known for certain, however, is that the extreme climate would have made even powerful slaves highly dependent on their masters for habitable accommodation, and later events suggest it is likely that the giants of Skye simply relied on their natural environment to keep their slaves from escaping.
Before the emergence of Skye, giant societies were extremely primitive as giants sustained themselves primarily on human tribes they were able to hunt or conquer. This gave life among the early giants a bitter and viciously competitive edge, as groups of giants lived or died depending on their ability to grab the most humans at the fastest rate. It is believed that some time during the 8th century, Skye emerged as the first giant settlement to attempt a more long-term harvesting strategy: their warriors focused on taking enemies alive, and reserved a portion of their slave stock for basic agriculture in order to feed and produce more slaves without the need for perpetual conquest and struggle.
As a Sorcerer, Sinhus would likely have had a remarkably elevated position among slaves in ancient Skye, as his talents would render him a versatile servant. In addition to agriculture, the young sorcerer may have proved useful in security, warfare, healing, and entertainment. While the details of Sinhus’ life pre-Emigration are extremely scarce, it is known that he came from a family of sorcerers – and thus probably enjoyed a better standard of life among slaves, and also probably a much greater certainty of being kept alive, than most of his peers. Certainly, when he and his followers arrived in Trellech, Sinhus was capable of writing his memoirs very quickly before his death, which implies that literacy may have been commonplace among at least some slaves in ancient Skye.
Discovery of Magic
Sinhus is probably best known for becoming the very first Mage at the age of 17. In his memoir, Through Ice and Fate, Sinhus describes the process as his “Awakening” and in the following terms:
I arose one morning to find myself vex’d and anxious, and I remember that my mother fussed that I would not admit food or water. I became agitated as the day wore on, and often found myself incapable of controlling my own movements – the girls who worked the fields near to my house became alarmed and disturbed by my extraordinary mannerisms and later wondered how their kindly neighbour could conduct himself with such disregard.
Later, I lay in the snow. My nerves had become so frayed that I no longer commanded my own movements. Then, I saw it. Thirty colossal watchtowers arching up into the night: endless and imposing monoliths. My soul departed my frozen body and leaped to them with frenzied abandon, my repressed energies flinging out from my body and hurling themselves violently into the darkened heavens. Inside each tower was written a word, and every inch of the towers’ inner walls were occupied with the expression of each single world. With every one I gained new knowledge, and I understood that these words could shape the Dream itself. I committed every part of every word to memory, and made them part of me.
Today, this bizarre account is treated with suspicion. At the time, Sinhus (and indeed many of his contemporaries) believed him to be the Awakener. As such, not only did Sinhus have a clear reason to use the imagery of waking from a dream to preface his own unraveling of The Dream, but also to suggest that his achievements were gifts from the Spirit bands themselves. Sinhus also seems to have used his abilities to justify and explain his erratic and difficult behaviour (something that contemporaries suggest was a feature of his personality long before his alleged visions).
Attempts to recreate the conditions described in Through Ice and Fate have also caused modern Mages to cast doubt on whether this actually happened. More than one foolish young Mage has frozen to death attempting to recreate Sinhus reclining in the snow, and the earliest Mages after Sinhus frequently believed they needed to be near painstakingly-made stone recreations of the thirty watchtowers in order to learn their craft at all. Indeed, attempts to re-create Sinhus’ story proved so costly and timewasting that the College of Artificiers rendered it official policy that the First Mage’s account was probably fiction.
Nevertheless, Sinhus’ tale is typically relied upon in histories for lack of any other evidence. No exhibition to the remains of Ancient Skye to gather more evidence has ever been successful.
In the year 1002, when Sinhus was about 21, a slave revolt took place against the nobles of Skye. Sinhus never claimed to have led the revolt – indeed it seems unlikely that he would have given his comfortable position. The young mage did, however, become central to it very quickly. According to Through Ice and Fate, the revolt was originally started by slaves who were tasked with fighting hideous beasts in an arena as a new form of entertainment. As stronger and more capable slaves had erstwhile enjoyed security, they now feared they had nothing to lose from resisting their masters – and led a revolt against the class of giants who arranged the tournament. Sinhus’ owner, a giant named Leguin, was certain that her powerful slave would be willing to put down a revolt by his fellow humans, and according to Sinhus committed him to the effort in hope that would earn her favour with her influential cousin.
The Mage, who at this point had been refining his newly-discovered power for some time, responded by annihilating Leguin’s cousin, assisting the revolt, and going on a spree of slave liberation across Skye. Leguin, furious at this betrayal, is said to have vowed reprisal against her former servant and all who assisted him. “There will be no recapture”, she is said to have bellowed across the city. Of course, it is likely that Leguin was actually chosen to lead the response force due to her familiarity with the human wielding strange new powers – and the fact that Sinhus later boasts about having caught the garrison of Skye by surprise and entombing them all under their quarters.
Those slaves who were freed – probably about 500 in total – convened in secret, uncertain of what to do next. Staying in Skye meant certain death at the hands of Leguin, but the surroundings of the city were too hostile to support human life for long. Sinhus, offering a demonstration of his newfound power as proof, offered to shepherd the willing slaves across the frozen ocean, promising to stop only when they hit land.
Voyage Across the Ice
Approximately 300 of the 500 gathered slaves eventually agreed to the young mages’ plan. One slave, a fighter named Kanedias, proved extremely resolute in opposing Sinhus – the remaining 200 stayed in the city with him, promising to fight the giants until there were none left. The fate of Kanedias and his 200 remains unknown, but has remained a subject of poetic speculation ever since.
Sinhus and his 300 followers departed from Skye in early 1003. Having hidden from Leguin underneath Skye, they waited for the ice sheet over the sea to the east to grow, before scaling the cliffs and making their way down to the ice. For weeks they travelled, marching straight ahead in desperate hope of land. Through Ice and Fate describes the conditions as remarkably dire, and Sinhus proved unable to sustain his protections over all of his followers: some 96 of the original 300 are said to have perished at this stage, simply collapsing under the force of freezing winds and quickly disappearing into the white haze. Furthermore, the group was chased by Leguin and a group of giants, who had been alerted to their escape via a scout. Death seemed almost certain.
At this stage, the struggling refugees are said to have encountered Selidie. Through Ice and Fate claims that Sinhus discovered the ancient spider, and communed with her directly – though there is no other evidence that this is what actually happened. Desperate for shelter, his fellow survivors were likely not in a skeptical frame of mind. Whatever happened (or didn’t) between the spider and Sinhus, Selidie lent her aid to the fleeing humans. Great cracks are said to have formed in the ice under Leguin’s pursuing forces, causing the large and heavy giants to fall beneath the surface and drown. Under Selidie’s protection, the survivors of the flight from Skye were escorted to what is now the Trellech coast, and were left there to fend for themselves.
Nevertheless, these new conditions proved far more amenable – and the freed men and women quickly set about mastering their surroundings and building a new settlement.
In 1005, Sinhus died at the age of just 27. The precise cause of his death is unknown, though it was probably some combination of extreme exhaustion and strange new diseases which the young settlement was not yet equipped to heal. Certainly, the young Mage appears to have anticipated his own death – there is little other reason to see why a 27 year old man would set about writing his memoirs so rapidly. The Mage’s power had not just been heavily tested during the escape from Leguin, but it is probable that he was tasked with a huge variety of responsibilities during the first season after the settlement – protecting hunters, creating makeshift shelters, generating warmth, or fending off attackers from the Western Tribes.
Without Sinhus’ involvement, it is highly likely that the slave revolt in Skye would have simply been quashed by the giants. As such, without his influence Ancient Skye would certainly not have collapsed when it did – and may even have remained a viable civilisation today. His voyage over the ice, while daring and extremely risky, would later be used as incontrovertible proof that the Dream is spherical in shape – though this was not realised until the time of the Alliance. His voyage was the founding event in the history of Trellech City, the greatest metropolis in the Dream today and had it not been for his journey over the ice, there would likely be no city on the west coast.
Perhaps the most significant of all Sinhus’ innovations, however, was his discovery of the Words of Power that form the basis of Magic to this day. The origins of this discovery continue to baffle scholars – and have earned Sinhus an extremely hostile reputation among Sorcerers for dabbling in things he ought not to.
Sinhus is celebrated as a hero to this day in Trellech City, and the Feast of Sinhus celebrates the end of winter and the coming of Spring, named in his honour. A statue commemorates him in Settlement Square.
Many of Sinhus’ contemporaries – including the Mage himself – believed him to be the Awakener, and Sinhus made numerous efforts to make this achievement. As he was unsuccessful, however, most scholars believe he was simply an extraordinary individual. Members of the Hess League, however, do not share this conclusion, and believe that Sinhus was indeed the Awakener, that his destiny was thwarted, and that human history must be reversed.
Some revisionists believe that Skye was actually a truly virtuous civilisation that was on the verge of causing the Awakening until it was destroyed by Sinhus. Adherents to this philosophy are highly cautious of magic, as they consider it a potential tool of the Third Band. Adherents to this view dismiss the Harvest of Blood as a fiction.