| Darkness |
|Appearance(s):|| Into the Darkness|
Out of the Darkness
|Type of Appearance:||Direct POV|
Early Life and Service on ObudaEdit
He was originally from Kunhegyes, a village in the Domain of the Hetman of Zalaber in central Gyongyos, an area under the imperfect control of the central government whose inhabitants freely engaged in local clan vendettas with each other. Few Gyongyosians from this region were recruited into the ranks of the national army; Istvan was an exception.
As a raw recruit he was dispatched to garrison duty on the island of Obuda in the Bothnian Ocean. Gyongyos had conquered the island from Kuusamo before Istvan's recruitment, and there was little for him to do except make love to the local women and try to avoid the constant harassment of his superior, Sergeant Jokai. Though Istvan detested Jokai at the time, especially when he was forced to clean toxic dragon pens for a week, he later realized that the veteran sergeant had made him a better soldier and leader.
Istvan's idyll was shatered when the Kuusamans suddenly counterattacked with an overwhelming force and reoccupied Obuda. After Jokai was killed by an exploding egg, Istvan escaped to the island's mountainous interior with several other soldiers. In those days of fighting a desperate guerrilla war, Istvan exercised leadership qualities he'd never suspected himself of having, and turned his ragtag force into an effective fighting unit. Among the raw recruits Istvan gathered to him were the intellectual and sarcastic Kun and the stolid Szonyi, both of whom would serve under Istvan throughout the war.
When reunited with the rest of Gyongyosian Army, officers were surprised to learn that "Istvan's Force" of which they heard a lot of was led by an ordinary private. Impressed with his achievements despite his lack of formal rank, Istvan's superiors gave him sergeant's rank to go with his authority. Istvan came to realize how much he had been emulating his dead sergeant - even if he were less tyrannical - and hoped that the stars watched over Jokai's spirit.
Service in UnkerlantEdit
With Kuusaaman victory on Obuda appearing inevitable, Istvan's unit was transferred back to Gyongyos. With Unkerlant fighting for its life against a massive Algarvian invasion, Gyongyos reignited the war over the disputed border in the Elbrung Mountains, hoping to make territorial gains while the bulk of Unkerlant's army was committed elsewhere.
Istavan took part in the army's advance into the sparsely populated mountains. Despite the atrocious weather and fierce Unkerlanter resistance, he led his squad well. At one point he utilized Kun's meager talent in magecraft to fool a force of Unkerlanters into surrendering without bloodshed.
Eventually the Gyongyosian army managed to break through the mountains and into the vast forests of western Unkerlant, where two incidents affected Istvan deeply. Scouting ahead of the main force, Istvan's squad found an Unkerlanter village so remote and isolated that its inhabitants did not even know that there was a war on. He wanted to enjoy the villagers' hospitality - in particular, the hospitality offered by a specific village girl - but the rest of the company then attacked the village, and its inhabitants' desperate resistance led to their massacre.
In another village, the inhabitants fled before the invading soldiers. Istvan found a pot full of freshly-cooked meat and ate of it together with his squad mates. Offered some of the meat, the company commander Captain Tivadar instead revealed to his men that they had partaken of goat's flesh - the most taboo and impure act a Gyongyosian could commit. Tivadar consoled the men as they had not knowingly eaten goat's flesh, but Istvan felt soiled nonetheless and, together with his squadmates, had the captain scar his palm to purify him.
Istvan soldiered on after this incident, but he kept this shameful secret to himself, feeling sinful and unclean and knowing how many of his countrymen would react. Eventually his unit was transferred back to the Bothnian Ocean to the island of Bechseley. By this point Tivadar had been killed and replaced with Captain Frigyes, and of the 'goat-eaters' only Istvan, Kun and Szonyi remained.
With the war faring badly for Gyongyos, Istvan's unit was asked to provide sacrificial volunteers for Gyongyos' version of "Special Magecraft". Istvan volunteered, but with grave reservations that he kept private. Before Istvan could be called upon to make good his vow, he and his fellow soldiers were captured by the Kuusaamans.
Housed on Obuda in a prisoner of war camp, Istvan resigned himself to spending the rest of his days in captivity. Captain Frigyes was less accepting of the situation; when he learned from Istvan that one of the other prisoners, Major Borsos, was a mage (unknown to the Kuusaman guards), he realized that the prisoners could still stage a sorcerous attack upon the Kuusamans. Knowing that such magecraft would expend lives without affecting the outcome of the war, Istvan resisted pressure from Frigyes and Norandino, an Algarvian leviathan rider, to convince Borsos to perform the rituals.
The ritual was carried out anyway. Istvan's life was saved by Kun, who gave him diarrhea-inducing leaves so that they would be in the camp infirmary when the ritual took place. Istvan and Kun tried to persuade Szonyi to save himself as well but the loyal soldier choose to die hitting Kuusamo one last blow. The sorcerous attack did much damage to the Kuusaman camp, but as Istvan had feared it did nothing to aid Gyongyos.
In the aftermath, he was interrogated by a female Kuusaman mage, who through her magic discovered his guilty secret - having eaten goat's meat - and used it to humiliate and blackmail him. Though not physically tortured, Istvan felt greatly abused and thoroughly hated and detested his overbearing interrogator.
The Kuusumans eventually chose Istvan and Kun to be two of several Gyongyosian captives who would witness the use of their terrible new magical weapon, developed by Pekka and her team. Istvan saw the uninhabited island of Bechsely totally engulfed in enormous flame. The captives were then instructed to convey to their country's decision-makers that a similar fate would overtake Gyongyos' population centers unless they immediately surrendered. Istvan was then sent to the capital city, Gyorvar.
However, the Ekrekek Arpad and his underlings proved completely unwilling to heed the message. The Ekrekek's Eyes and Ears (secret police), arrested Istvan and his fellow witnesses and accused him of being a traitor and a Kuusaman agent. He refused to recant his account of what he'd seen, which the Eyes and Ears did not want to believe, and so he was imprisoned in order to prevent him from telling fellow Gyongyosians what the Eyes and Ears believed to be demoralizing lies.
While being taken to prison, Istvan witnessed through the carriage windows his first and last glimpse of the bustling streets of Gyorvar. Luckily for him, his prison was outside the city. There, looking out of the window at night, he witnessed the city totally engulfed by flame and destroyed, as the Kuusaman government carried out its threat and half a world away Pekka and Fernao launched the terrible new magic they had created.
In the aftermath, Istvan took part in the cleanup operation among the ruins of the city and briefly spoke with the Lagoan mage Fernao, who was inspecting the effects of the sorcery. He was then discharged after Gyongyos finally surrendered. Eventually he returned to his home village of Kunhegyes. Once there he reflected that he would probably never again travel very far, and that the military experience he had gained might help his clan in the constant feuding with neighboring villages
Personality and TraitsEdit
An essentially good-hearted fellow, Istvan eventually demonstrated strong leadership skills as well. Committed to the Gyongyosian warrior code and a soldier who performed his duties to the best of his ability, Istvan nonetheless lacked any real animosity towards foreigners and was averse to pointless killing.
Though his rural background left him somewhat naïve and provincial, especially in comparison with his city-raised squad mate Kun, Istvan was also pragmatic and was not fanatical enough to willingly sacrifice his life for a lost cause. He was also stubbornly honest, even when this proved detrimental to him.