Of course, I have to start with Kalan. The whole series is about him.
Kalan was born February 3rd, 523 CO4A in the town of Numbelin in the Kingdom of Finlael. His father, Ghreggry Laurelbane, was a scholar from the University of Everspyyre in the Saragôn Kingdom. Niara, Kalan’s mother, was a slave to a wealthy family. Ghreggry traveled frequently around the Empire collecting information about spells and ingredients needed to cast them. Numbelin was rich in many herbs and minerals that were used in casting and preparing spells. The University sent him on many occasions to find rare herbs, spices and minerals that are only found there. Ghreggry met Niara on one of his first expeditions to the area. Afterward, he kept requesting assignments to gather more ingredients. His final trip to Numbelin was wrought with scandal as Niara’s child was revealed to be Ghreggry’s. After Kalan’s birth, Ghreggry took Niara back to Everspyyre to live on the University grounds with Ghreggry, who by then had become renowned for his magical prowess and masterful knowledge of spell ingredients. He was so skilled, he was called upon to destroy the Crown of Souls, the fabled artifacts that was believed to have been the actual item Uustaen himself wore when he created the world. The Emperor came into its possession and used it to dominate most of the world calling it the Aerolian Empire.
Life for Kalan was much better than it was for his brethren outside the walls of Everspyyre. He was still a slave, but at the age of 14 (quite young by Cubrim standards, but older than his peers when they started) was allowed to attend University after his tasks were complete, which often meant he was taking the later classes with the gnome students (whose internals clocks seemed to be all out of whack, BTW). The instructors were never of the highest quality, but that didn’t stop Kalan (or the gnomes) from learning things on their own. Kalan was quite adept at potions. Like his father, he knew ingredients and where to find them. He learned a few tricks from the gnomes as well as their language. He taught those particular gnomes some of what he learned in the classes they weren’t invited to attend and they taught him the lessons that he wasn’t invited to attend.
He was 23 years old when the Coalition of the Fourth Alteration found and collected the Crown of Souls. That was the same day he graduated from the University in a very small, quiet ceremony (at least the gnomes stayed to watch). That was also the day he caused the crown to be destroyed. His father seemed a bit distracted (he had just been informed that Niara had aided in finding and capturing the crown—but Kalan won’t know it for another hundred years or so). After the explosion, Kalan awoke in Telav under the care of ???. Shortly after waking, he took his leave in the middle of the night without saying goodbye as he was too ashamed of himself after killing his own father. He swore off magic from that moment on, though it still rather intrigued him. Each time he attempted a feat of magic, he would have flashbacks of his father looking at him like he was asking “Why?” (he never asked why, but how).
Kalan learned that he had to rely on his own instinct to survive, especially in a world where prejudice was still quite strong since slavery was just recently abolished by the newly elected Emperor of a substantially smaller Aerolian Empire (where there were nearly twenty large kingdoms worldwide. Now they were reduced to one large kingdom, now divided into five.) From Everspyyre, he traveled all over the Empire living from hole to hole.
He tried his hand at thievery and, eventually, caught the ire of the Landyyn Raiders because he was taking from their territory. They forced him to join their group—he refused to use magic to help one of their number, so they held him prisoner for many years pretty much doing what he’d already been doing, except he had more than a few lashings. He doesn’t like killing unless it is absolutely necessary. No one knew that he brought about the end of Emperor Theldor I, they like him because it allowed them to continue their trade. If they knew, they probably would have killed him. Kalan gained his freedom when their leader, Orcane Feldbuilder died in a raid on Numbelin. It was there the guards found him and took him back. The family who owned his mother were still there and even tried to buy him (slave trade, though illegal was still being plied in the areas furthest away from the capital). Many abolitionists argued against it saying it was illegal and declared him a freed man with a certificate and everything. He left Numbelin with new clothes and nothing else. He didn’t know what else to do. He tried getting real jobs in the area, but due to their bigotry, he was never hired. There were very few cubrim in the area by that time. Their distrust in him, despite the kindness of some, drove him to not care about the feelings of those around him. He decided to go to the only thing he knew in the last few years. Though he never participated in any raids, he did learn how to steal quickly and quietly. In fact, his natural ability to be stealthy aided in that immensely, as well as his natural night vision (which was a big reason most cubrim were excellent slaves—they could work at night as easily as in the day.)
When he left Numbelin, he left few friends (mostly because they were abolitionists) and never wanted to return. His memories were never truly good from that place (eventually, though, he will return and live out the rest of his days there…but that is for another time). He also vowed to work alone because, so far, the only people he ever encountered, wanted to keep him enslaved. Even in Everspyyre, he never felt at home. He was mostly working on the ground or in the buildings that made up the University. The place he did call home was a house on the ground where his father kept him hidden while he wasn’t working. There was a tunnel underneath that led to the service chambers in the buildings and he usually went to class from there. No one really ever knew where he lived. The gnomes never asked. Everyone just assumed that he lived in the town of Everspyyre outside the University like everyone else. Besides, no one hardly ever saw him since he took classes whenever he could.
The new Chancellor of the University, Albercon Oaldarfen, perhaps the most powerful mage in history, took a liking to Kalan (he was the main professor for magic studies) and was one of two people present from the faculty at his graduation. Albercon, a Saragonian from Everspyyre proper, knew of Kalan far earlier than anyone else. He saw his great potential as a mage, but Kalan needed more guidance. When Ghreggry died and Kalan ran away, Albercon sent Matlure Pöen out to find him, but Kalan, by then had already been captured by the raiders. Matlure never gave up his search and made it his life’s goal to find Kalan.
Who is Albercon Oaldarfen? He is the current Chancellor of the University of Everspyyre and has been for more than a hundred years. Under his guidance, the University has become renowned for the quality of its graduates. Many were already royalty, but some of the most famous people have come out of it. Many of the most prolific writers of the time, Antius Corimand, is the pride and joy of many of the faculty. The great bard Keronius Prax, creator of the Summer Merchants play, was also a graduate. Three of the world’s best fighters: Hander Yerlin, Aard Frey, and Nicklin Maelten as well. Even Trellin Hurd, perhaps the most infamous of the merchant traders in Aerolia, also from the University. It is also rumored the Lind Zuun of Zäer, perhaps the best-known assassin, also attended Everspyyre in its College of the Stealthy Arts. The University is even home to a Fulyeryeri warrior from the Terrace. He graduated from the College of Martial Arts top in his class (Albercon convinced the Queen that he should stay instead of undergoing the Ritual since it would be a waste of training).
Kalan has been working alone for a hundred years. He’s gained the reputation as a shadow, so much so that they’ve taken to calling Vel-Hrondû, or shadow thief, in Zäeran tongue. After a very long run at that. He grew tired of running and retired from that persona. He made a lot of money and was able to live quite happily, and he did for many years in Numbelin of all places. He made peace with the family that bought him as they were truly kind to him in all respects (with the exception of him having to work for no pay). Most of the family that owned him died, but the ancestors understood given the circumstances. Kalan actually made elixirs and salves and even potions using no magic to make them (which is an extraordinary talent on its own). He prospered for a very long time, nearly fifty years, until Numbelin fell on hard times. Because he was cubrim, they blamed him for their misfortunes. They grew to distrust his wares. The town’s leader, a man by the name of Jarden Mantigôn, was hugely prejudicial of the cubrim people in general because of the fall of Theldor I. His family was the richest in Aerolia, they own half of the slaves used for vast plantations and other operations all over the empire. When the Emperor was overthrown, they lost all of it. Jarden and his family suffered for years after and vowed to get his revenge on any who had anything to do with it. He found other ways to make money, usually unsavory ways that included, but were not limited to, murder-for-hire, high-stakes theft, extortion, and bribery.
When Kalan heard that he was to become town leader, he decided that it was time to vacate before he was evicted. For many years, Jarden hunted down cubrim, especially looking for the one that slipped away from him. Then one day, the hunts stopped and hadn’t continued since. Kalan could only assume that Jarden was either killed or thought he found the right cubrim. Either way, Kalan has been living in the shadows since. He long since swore off theft entirely, though he was good at it. He wasn’t above it, if it came down to it. He just wanted a bigger challenge. To find a way to make honest work.
Unfortunately for him, no one was hiring a cubrim man with no experience at anything. Despite his graduation from the prestigious Everspyyre University, no one really believed it. Many apothecaries wouldn’t even accept him as he was too old to apprentice and you must have apprenticed in order to be accepted in the guilds. So, he started with his sleight-of-hand business.
It came naturally to him, but he had forgotten that some things he did were using magic. He always thought that when he palmed something that it went inside a sleeve or somewhere on his body because when he went to retrieve it, it always showed up. There were many tricks he performed that he suspected were using magic, but he didn’t have a haentstone so he couldn’t do it. Every once in a while, when he was severely stressed or being chased and cornered, he would burst forth a blast of power that he couldn’t control now matter how hard he tried. That was what he feared the most. He feared that he might be in a place where he cannot escape the local law enforcement and might kill someone inadvertently. So, he kept to the shadows until one day, a man and a woman came looking for him in the city of Yuln.
Just a few days before that, he was in a place near the upper boundaries of the Badlands when a courier found him. He was much like him, though not exactly. He was cubrim-ish, and handed him a scroll telling him that his mother was in the north and was expecting him to return to her. At first, he didn’t believe, but the man insisted that he’d been traveling for decades looking for Aeryÿìn son of Soev’ran Calleg. That convinced him because no one ever called him by his cubrim name and no one knew him as the son of the Crown Breaker. Since then, he began trying to gather money to go north to find his mother. He was relieved to find that she was still alive, but given the age of the parchment on the scroll, he couldn’t be certain.