Tan is an evoker, trained in Eustace, but originally hailing from Clemburg in Claysaw. His love for evocation spells is largely unrivaled, balanced only by his distaste for divination spells, which he finds mostly useless, and enchantment spells, which grate against his sense of personal freedom. Though he is rather young, the 18 year old human has been well-trained (though quite unconventionally) and has various skills in scribing scrolls, crafting magical items, and creating destructive alchemical items.
Tan looks rather regular, with a rather average build (perhaps on the thin side) and very typical brown hair and brown eyes, but his speech sounds outlandish, as he has a heavy Claysawan accent, which he refuses to be forced to give up. Though he certainly is the chaotic type who resists tradition and dislikes overbearing “structure,” he is extremely loyal to those whom he respects (though this can be hard earned). While this can be attributed to his Claysawan nature, it is also a central belief of his upbringing by his mother, who worshiped Lotheria.
Despite his occasional coarseness and his perhaps all-too-straightforward statements, Tan really is a congenial person—after all, his parents own an inn called “Hylaeos’s Hurah.” While his patron goddess is Exene, whom he believes has helped him become a respectable wizard, he gives tribute to Lotheria and Hylaeos, whom his parents worship, as well.
If you have ever heard the evoker Tan speak, you would be unsurprised to know that he was in fact born Cleytn Hyl, the tenth of twelve children of those who ran the homely and humble “Hylaeos’s Hurah” in Clemburg, Claysaw.
The formal owner of the inn and tavern was Homy Hyl, an amiable man known for drinking sunrise to sundown and beyond, supposedly so that he might befriend new patrons and amuse old friends, as any good worshiper of Hylaeos would do. Those who found “Hylaeos’s Hurah” to be too low-brow for their tastes sometimes spread rumors that the innkeeper was so constantly inebriated that he even brushed his teeth with ale, but despite the fact that many observed that he did indeed seem to partake of the tavern’s taps even more than the most boisterous of regulars, he never seemed to drink to excess (a feat indeed!) and instead always kept about him the few wits he had, as well as his geniality, of course. He was thus known as an honest and friendly man, who cared about his family, his patrons, his tavern, and his ale—as well as Hylaeos, of course.
Homy’s wife was Marj, a strong and independent woman who many would say actually ran the inn inherited by her husband, from his long lineage of ethanol-enjoying enthusiasts. Many patrons feared her ire (though few ever witnessed it in person), and she was the one responsible for sweeping out the barflies at closing time. Though she, as any other innkeeper, held an appreciation for Hylaeos, she was truly a woman of Lotheria. Marj treated every man and woman with respect, and she raised her children believing that each one had their own special gift. And perhaps this was true, for just before each the birth of each child, she would make the weeklong journey to Lifewell—sometimes alone!—where she would bless each newborn with the holy waters of Lotheria.
Thus it was that each of the Hyl children did seem to have their own gifts. Any, for example, was good with tools; she’d studied with a carpenter and could fix any piece of broken furniture around the tavern (of which there would regularly be, given the drunken merriment that so often graced its halls). Bily, on the other hand, had a knack for handling animals; he could quiet any upset beast, and so there was never any trouble in the inn’s stables.
Cleytn, however, was a bit of an odd one, for he had an unnatural gift of comprehension. Even as a boy helping around the inn, he’d absorb adventurers’ tales, listen in on discussions of Lifewell’s politics, gobble up rumors about the latest scandals among Gideon City’s nobility—and be able to recall them with perfect clarity. When free from work (or rather, when taking a break, for with Marj there was never a time when one was truly “free from work”), he could often be found rereading the town archive’s few books in his bedroom.
Many looked upon Cleytn with skepticism, fearing that he would grow up to be a snobby, fancypants intellectual like those that could be found in Gard’s other realms. He, like the few others in Claysaw who were marked for a fondness of books and learning, was labeled “Bookwyrm.” At first, the boy took it rather badly, and given his sometimes coarse demeanor, found himself in petty squabbles with other youths (which some found unsurprising, given his mother’s feisty temper). Eventually, however, he began to understand how to negotiate his way out of hardship—a skill that many said that he learned from his father, but which he believed was something that he simply understood.
As Cleytn grew older, he became bolder. Unsatisfied with the limited information available to him and hungry for more, he’d taken to using the family’s master keys to access into the rooms of the inn’s patrons, presumably to “help tideh th’ r’om,” but in reality to plunder their room in search for their books. It was easy enough to do, especially since no one actually knew how quickly Cleytn could read. This was how he learned that Exene the Patternweaver was in fact no seamstress (despite popular belief), and he had recently begun praying to her in hopes that he would stumble upon a wealth of knowledge that he could access—something new, fascinating, and interesting.
And just after Cleytn turned thirteen, it did.
Cleytn found himself in fascinated by the beautifully bound books of a quirky wizard from Eustace who had recently come through town. Though many shied away from the sight of a man in strange, blue robes, the Hyl family took the caster in—after all, “The more, the merrier!” Homy would always holler. And this wizard, Sky, had bags upon bags full of books: fascinating books, wonderful books, delicious books.
Little did Cleytn know that Sky had cast and Alarm spell upon his belongings (specifically his treasured spellbook, whose runes, glyphs, and symbols Cleytn simply did not understand), and soon enough, Sky returned from his trip to the market to catch Cleytn red-handed.
Rather than punishing the youth, Sky found the boy’s interest to be intriguing, especially in a place where such tendencies were frowned upon. Upon speaking to Marj, Sky managed to convince her to spare the boy from punishment, and instead allow him to try to teach the boy some of the basics of magic. Marj, at first reluctant, agreed to try—for each person had the right to find their own gifts—and all of them were surprised to discover that Cleytn was a natural.
It was within a few short weeks that Cleytn, under Sky’s tutelage, had learned to understand the fundamentals of arcane magic. He quickly learned to use Read Magic to peruse through various arcane writings, which he found strange and fascinating. For a few gold pieces, Sky had offered the boy a spare spellbook and the tools to copy down some basic cantrips, which Cleytn simply absorbed.
At this point, Sky shyly suggested that Cleytn come back with the wizard to Eustace to be tested at the Collegiate in North Almond. Though the boy was young, he showed much promise, and Sky was convinced that he deserved more. Homy in particular was taken aback, for the family was by no means wealthy and the Hyls had never had an “int’lect’ul” in the family, but Marj insisted that the boy be given a chance. She had been convinced by Sky that the boy would be worthy of a merit-based scholarship, and rather than hold Cleytn back, she had a parting gift for him, a surprise of sorts.
As it turned out, though none of the Hyls had ever had any arcane casters in their family (not even bards, though this wasn’t much of a surprise to anyone having had the bad luck of hearing Homy try to sing), it turns out that Marj’s family did. Though most of the Freydmens had been like any other regular Claysawan (albeit with a bit of a hot temper dowsed only by good ale), she had had an odd uncle, disowned from the family long ago, who had been a “bookwyrm” like Cleytn. Though she knew very little of exactly what her relative’s skills were, she was one of the few who had still tolerated and in fact liked Uncle Jefsen, and so he had gifted to her a special ring, a wonderful silver band with open books, strange pointy shapes with runes on them, and occasional wisps of flame, all drawn in intricate detail in gold. And though the odd ring meant little to her, she kept it in good condition (for nothing should be wasted in Claysaw), and she thus gifted it to her young son as he left for his own pilgrimage—not over the dirt roads of Claysaw to Lifewell like his mother, but over the waves of the Almond Sea to Eustace.
Sky brought his temporary student to the Collegiate. At first, there were complaints from students, parents, and teachers alike—some were offended that riffraff from Claysaw would be allowed to disgrace such fine halls of Eustan learning (for there had not been a Claysawan in the Collegiate in many, many decades), while others were upset that someone so young would be considered (since it was uncommon for students under fifteen to be tested, and rare for those under fourteen). It did not take long, however, for people to realize that Cleytn showed true talent, and as such he would be an invaluable student to have.
The heads of the Collegiate, seeing the young Claysawan’s rebelliousness (and a burgeoning tendency toward the evocation school), decided to allow the boy to study under the tutelage of the old elven wizard Heef Firehands. Cleytn would be supported by a scholarship so long as he obeyed the rules, and they hoped that the older, traditional elf would be able to instill some sense of order and wisdom in the boy.
It quickly became apparent that this arrangement would not do. The stereotypes turned out to be true: the elf teacher’s perception of “structure” involved instituting many limits to his young students’ lives, and a teenage Claysawan would not stand for any such restrictions to his freedom. Within a year, there were a high number of “unacceptable incidents,” and it became clear that the boy could not stay in the Collegiate.
The headmasters would have been happy to see the ill-mannered, heavily accented child go. However, there were other forces at work, even beyond the headmasters….
Arrangements were made for the boy to continue his training outside of the school, with a quirky old human named Cauliflower. Cauliflower was a friend of the Collegiate who occasionally took on students unfit for the school, and though it had been many years since he had last taken a student, the headmasters “were in agreement” that “such magical talent should not be wasted,” and as such gave Cleytn an ultimatum: learn under Cauliflower or go back home.
As it turned out, there was a significant magocratic interest in the Claysawan boy. Those who had the interests of Eustace in mind—perhaps even the Archmages themselves, perhaps not—were slowly reaching out to try to find magical talent in other realms of Gard. There were hopes that the most promising could be plucked out and brought to Eustace, where they would be trained in Eustan schools and convinced that the best hope for the Gardish community would be to throw off the shackles of tyrannical draconic rule. It was for this reason that ambassadors, like the wise diviner Sky, were sent out to various realms, such as Claysaw, where freedom was valued and potential wizards could be lifted without much ruckus.
Such political machinations were of little interest to Cleytn, however, who simply wanted to continue his education. Cauliflower was his last hope, and luckily, they got along quite well. The older universalist was much more liberal and freethinking, and he also showed little respect for the huffing and puffing of the more traditional wizards. Once a Collegiate teacher himself, he left the school after only a few years, instead taking on “special cases” (or, as some might say, “hopeless cases”) like Cleytn, to prove to the school that its rigid views were incorrect.
Cleytn did not know that though Cauliflower’s opinions were true, his allegiance was far more complicated; he was in fact an agent of the Archmages and was in collusion with Eustan magocratic interests. Again, this mattered little to the young boy, who had finally found another free spirit under whom he could learn freely. And since Cauliflower respected Cleytn, Cleytn reciprocated. For though Claysawans are often seen as reckless and fickle, it is simply that their respect is hard purchased. Once bought, a Claysawan’s loyalty can rival that of a paladin, especially if his interests align with yours, and here, both Cleytn and Cauliflower wanted the same thing: for Cleytn to learn.
And Cleytn did learn, and quickly. Though he continued to shy away from the “’mpract’cal Div’natshun magic” and “unpleas’nt ‘nchantin’” (which upset his free-thinking Claysawan, Lotheria-loving views) Cauliflower’s methods were a bit strange. As a universalist, he taught that all magic should be respected, but unlike other teachers, he did not force Cleytn to give up his interest in evocation; instead, he taught Cleytn that scrolls could be used to maintain versatility and access powerful magic without having to give up what he loved. It was here that Cleytn gained an appreciation for scrolls, which he maintains to this day.
Contrary to his previous failure at the Collegiate, in two short years, Cleytn had become a full-fledged wizard. Throughout his training, he continued to write home, reporting his successes to his proud parents, albeit in the “Claysawn spelin” that his family was far more used to. The Collegiate continued to pay for his education until it completed, at which point Cleytn was told to choose a color name for himself, at which point he chose “Tan,” which was “a pract’cal colah.”
At this point, seeing their successes together, Cauliflower offered to continue teaching Tan, who agreed. They continued for another two years of additional training, where they worked together studying spells, scribing scrolls, and crafting magical trinkets. Cauliflower, ever the free thinker, supported Tan’s exploration into using alchemical components to further empower his evocation magic, which pushed Tan into exploring crafting his own alchemical items.
After four years together, Cauliflower and Tan have come to the agreement that their time together should come to an end. When they began, the two joked about the possibility of Tan becoming the next Arch-Evoker. As the years have gone by, however, the two began to truly recognize Tan’s skills at evocation, and now that talk about a new Arch-Evoker has become increasingly common throughout North Almond as the next appointment nears, such jokes have given way to possible seriousness. Cauliflower, still supportive of Tan, recognized that for Tan to truly come into his own, he would have to try again to study under an evoker, as the older wizard simply cannot provide such specialized training.
As such, Cauliflower suggested that Tan study with an old friend of his, a half-elf named Crimson who resides in Gideon City. She shares Tan’s love of fiery evocation and has been working on trying to create new evocation spells—a thought that has piqued Tan’s interest. Additionally, Cauliflower has touted Crimson as a particularly skilled diplomat who might be able to teach Tan some tricks that could help him rise through the magocratic ranks—after all, many Archmages first began as Grand Mages first.
And again, despite Cauliflower’s honest encouragement, there are many, many more eyes following Tan’s back than the young man knows. For Crimson too is an agent of this far greater Eustan interest, whose presence in Gideon City serves more than one purpose. Even while she observes the happenings in Gideon City, serving as the Eyes of the Archmages, she works tirelessly to create an evocation spell that might be used to defeat its draconic leaders. And if she can support the cause by training a freedom-loving Claysawan man into a Grand Evoker who can help her with her spell, well, that’s easy enough, isn’t it…?