THE HISTORY OF HOUSE DAVANALLUS
From canon we know that the Parma Magica was a very strong motivation to join the Order, because by waiving it, a magic user would be at serious disadvantage. Several founders joined Trianoma to get the Parma, and not because they liked the project or wished to share their secrets with other people. So, one may assume that perhaps not all of them were sincere when they swore the Oath. Someone may have thought: “ok, let’s take the boon and keep on like usual”. Canon more or less describes all of the founders as good guys that never doubted or regretted their Oath, but we know that time (and Guernicus) sweetens memories. Instead, in my saga there’s more than one motherf***er among them.
So I decided to have a founder that couldn’t care less about the Order and would repeatedly defy its Code, until a final showdown. Instead of using one of the twelve or inventing a new character, I thought that I could use the Spider. By introducing him from the beginning, the final battle would also have a higher meaning to the troupe.
We already know that the Order uses to erase what it doesn’t like from the records, since much of the lore about House Diedne has been purged from the books. Thus we can think that also the affiliation of Damhan-Allaidh has been intentionally forgotten to make the official history more streamlined and less embarassing. And to paint a prettier portrait of the founders.
In designing this alternate story, I tried to keep as much of the information of the books as possible, distorting them just enough to fit a different outlook. I chose to paint the Spider as a tragic figure, and not just an evil character. The Order says he was evil, but that’s what people always say of their enemies and past enemies. And I also wanted to make sense of a few things that have never convinced me:
- Why did the Order attack the Spider? Because he was powerful and didn’t want to join? Maybe, but I’m sure there were other strong wizards’ organizations in Europe at that time, like the Sahirs in Spain, the Order of Odin in Scandinavia and more. Nonetheless the large-scale aggression against Damhan-Allaidh is unique in the history of the Order of Hermes.
- Why did the Order sent Pralix to handle the wizard? House Diedne was the only house based on the island and it had been quarrelling with Damhan-Allaidh for a long time, so it was a more logical choice.
So here is my take on Davanallus the half giant, based on the fifth edition manuals and the article “Diedne the theurge” from Sub Rosa 13. In a saga run in 1220 this could be “the gruagachan version” of the story, an unconfirmed legend about the war on the Spider.
In the books there’s little about the Spider before 800. But we know this:
“[After 767 AD, the gruagachan] frequently clashed with druids of House Diedne over magical resources and apprentices. In addition, the two were often on opposite sides during inter-tribal conflicts." sup[/sup]
When Diedne came to the British Isles after the Oath, she began to actively recruit hedge wizards, mostly among the druids which shared her magic culture. Her House grew very quickly, putting pressure on the independent wizards. Thanks to the Parma Magica, this new group was suddenly stronger than the rest and began to take mundane and magical resources for itself. The gruagachan needed help and one after the other, they turned to Damhan-Allaidh, another of the founders of the Order of Hermes.
He had chosen a different path from Diedne, and had no interest in expanding his House or gaining power within the Order. He had gone back to Scotland were he lived peacefully among the pictish people. From time to time a gruagachan would come to him asking for help against the Diedne druids, and Damhan would teach him the Parma Magica and then say: “now go and don’t kill the other wizards. And if they ask you, tell them you are of House Davanallus.” In this way he extended the protection of both the Parma and the Code of Hermes to the graugachan. But they were members of the Order only technically, because they continued to live just like they always had, and Damhan-Allaidh didn’t care to be their master.
“By the late 700s, Viking raiders had begun attacking sea-towns and settlements, and these war parties were often accompanied by Norse rune wizards acting as lords and generals (…) And so, in about 800 AD, the most powerful rune wizards in Britain allied themselves with a Pictish sorcerer known as Damhan-Allaidh, or ‘the Spider’. Together they proposed to eliminate all of their rivals from across the sea, the Vikings of the north as well as the Hermetic magi from the south.” sup[/sup]
The Spider accepted to help the british rune wizards as he had helped the gruagachan. Ancient Magic says: “Many have speculated that Damhan-Allaidh belonged to their magical tradition, or at least a similar branch that used writing to produce magical effects, and that from their alliance a new form of rune magic was developed.” sup[/sup] But I think many have been wrong, and the Spider taught his rune friends the Parma Magica instead. Anyway, “their combined magical powers drove the Scandinavian raiders away, forcing them to strike at easier shores.” sup[/sup]
The Order didn’t like this blatant involvement in the affairs of the mundane, and the tension with the spider and his followers grew. According to the core rulebook, “in the early years of the ninth century Damhan-Allaidh (…) led an organized resistance to the Order of Hermes. Rather than face Hermetic wizards in magical combat, his followers cursed and harassed their followers, set traps, and used mundane assassins to halt the progress of the Order. For a number of years these tactics were effective.”sup[/sup]
Actually Damhan-Allaidh didn’t organize anything, but his followers were a little wild. Hermetic Magi (especially Diedne) were moving to their ancestral land and demanding to take a share of its resources, and the gruagachan, the rune wizards and maybe others tried to discourage the colonization of their land by harassing the newcomers, although without engaging in direct magical combat. But the other Houses didn’t like this behaviour. Like they didn’t like several behaviours of Damhan-Allaidh’s followers, actually. For instance, the gruagachan still used to live among mundane communities, as they always had, and weren’t shy to defend them, also by using magic. But most importantly, House Davanallus wasn’t a House as the Order of Hermes had meant. It was a bunch of independant and secretive hedge wizards which didn’t care about the Order, its politics or agenda. When questioned, many of these wizards couldn’t even recite the Oath or tell the names of the other Houses, and were usually totally ignorant of Magic Theory. Most of them respected Damhan-Allaidh for he had helped them and for its renown power, but he wasn’t their leader and didn’t want to.
The Houses couldn’t accept that. These wizards belonged to the Order only nominally, and thus they couldn’t be trusted. They had taken what they wanted but weren’t giving anything back, and they could easily give or sell Bonissagus’ secrets to anyone. Durenmar sent several envoys to Davanallus, tasked with convincing him to lead his followers as a leader, not just as a moral example. To give them proper teachings, to be more collaborative and interested in the common goals, to distance his House from the mundane world. But the Spider wasn’t having that: he just wanted his people to continue living like they always had. Once he was even heard saying that the Parma Magica was a great boon, a protection that everyone should have enjoyed, despite being him a member of an organization or not.
After many failed attempts to peacefully settle the disagreements, eventually, “Tytalus the Founder entrusted Pralix, his most gifted apprentice, with the task of defeating Damhan-Allaidh.” sup[/sup] It must be noted that the Order didn’t declare total war on the Spider, but instead sent a task force on an assassination mission. A declaration of war would have allowed House Diedne to challenge Damhan-Allaidh full scale, and many expected that because they were already there and had been at odds with the Spider for a long time. But I think that this mission had a secondary purpose in sending a message to Tanick, Diedne’s Primus since the death of the founder. In fact, also his House had begun to move away from the Order, drifting towards isolationism and secrecy: only the Primus had participated to the last Grand Tribunal, carrying all his house’s sigils, and no magus was allowed inside Diedne’s covenants anymore (with the exception of Mercere). Tanick wasn’t defiant the same way Damhan-Allaidh was, but he had made it clear that his House didn’t mean to mingle with the others… And Tytalus remembered all too well when Diedne had come to the First Tribunal saying: “I won’t join your Order, but you can join mine”. If left unchecked, House Diedne and Davanallus could really secede, maybe together. By sending Pralix to deal with the Spider without Diedne’s help, Tytalus wanted to make a pubblic statement of the Order’s strenght and determination to uphold the Oath and its meaning.
So, “When the Roman maga Pralix came to the British Isles on a mission to murder Damhan-Allaidh for his refusal to bow to the Order of Hermes, the gruagachan quickly rallied to his side. Together with Damhan-Allaidh’s followers and a group of Anglo-Saxon rune wizards, the gruagachan were eager to fight what they saw as another Roman invasion. The gruagachan and other Picti priests also sought the magical resources held by their longtime rivals in House Diedne.” sup[/sup]
Pralix didn’t embark on this mission alone, though. There were other young hermetic magi of House Tytalus, Flambeau and Tremere, and more british hedge wizards joined her along the way. Among these was “Damhadh-Duidas, who came from somewhere in the British Isles and descended from the same magical tradition as Damhan-Allaidh. (…) He could curse and steal the life from his enemies, healing himself and inflicting terrible wounds upon them in return.” sup[/sup] During the war on the Spider, Pralix didn’t fully trust him, but he proved a usefull source of intelligence nonetheless. Tytalus had met Damhadh-Duidas years before at a Tribunal and brought him to his side also thanks to their common interest in goetic magic. The nature of his magic was actually infernal and even if this was never proven, this suspicion lingered, and also Damhan-Allaidh’s reputation was unjustly stained by it.
Details about the violent clashes between the two factions vary according to each version of the story. You can read about them in Hedge Magic, Ancient Magic or Lion of the North (2nd edition). But what we know for sure is that the upper hand swinged several times, and everyone got his share of setbacks. Once again, the Spider resorted to traps, wards, ambushes and help from mundane people, which were all by his side. But in the end Pralix won it all in the “battle of the false sun”, where most of Damhan-Alladh’s followers died, presumably together with what have eventually become their war-chief. The survivors were chased and exterminated afterwards, and House Davanellus ceased to exist. On that day, the Order Ex-Miscellanea was born… but that’s another story.
- Hedge Magic page 72
- Ancient Magic page 134
- Ars Magica core rulebook page 10
- Realms of Power: Infernal page 137