In this post, we’ll get an in-depth look at another of the 13 Midgard icons: Vermes II, Exarch of the Wastes!
EXARCH OF THE WASTES
Exarch Vermes II is the most influential wizard in the Wasted West, a land riddled with mysteries and horrors. Leader of Bemmea’s Ninemage Council, the Exarch has made that city into the foremost center of magical study in Midgard.
“Mastery of magic is mastery of the world.”
In Bemmea’s Spire Perilous, presiding over the council that rules the Magocracy of Allain in the Wasted West.
The spire that houses the Council of Caelmarath rises from atop the highlands of the Bemmean peninsula at the terminus of the long Mage Road. From here, nine archmages of unfathomable power rule the magocracy of Allain.
Over them all looms Vermes II, the Exarch of Bemmea. Rumors swirl around this ancient wizard. Some claim he is the last pureblooded Ankeshelian. Others call him a half-demon bred from Caelmarath royalty. Old stories hold that beneath his face-shrouding robes is a writhing inhuman form.
Within the Spire Perilous, the members of the Ninemage Council scheme and plot in an ancient dance of unusual rules, obscure transgressions, and bizarre rituals. The Exarch subtly manipulates this collection of egos and eccentricities to ensure that things don’t get out of hand. His influence keeps simmering rivalries from boiling over into all-out magical war—though he turns a blind eye to the occasional duel that occurs as a way of relieving pressure.
Adventurers and the Icon
The Exarch’s missions often involve the weird and horrific, pitting adventurers against forgotten cults and mind-shattering alien horrors. But the Exarch plays a deep and complicated game. Adventurers working for him rarely discover the true effect their quests have on the world until years later, if at all. If they’re lucky, the Exarch’s true opponents never learn their names.
The Gathering of Thoth-Hermes, a midwinter fair of arcanists and bookbinders, draws Midgard’s sorcerers, wizards, and occultists (with a smattering of clerics) to Bemmea each year. The Exarch will sometimes take advantage of this gathering to hire adventurers for tasks he cannot entrust to local mages.
The Exarch sometimes visits the Master of Demon Mountain and the Queen of Night and Magic on matters magical and political and regularly calls upon Baba Yaga at her hut every New Year’s Dawn. The treaties between the Exarch and the Ghoul Emperor continue to grant safe passage through their respective realms for magical research, though his ally the Blood King’s willingness to make traveling Bemmean wizards his thralls threatens to strain their relationship.
The Dragon Sultan has abandoned his predecessor’s designs on the magical city-state of Nuria Natal, taking him off the chessboard as far as the Exarch is concerned. As a result, a rising icon of the Southlands attracts his attention: the God-King has been sending his priests on diplomatic missions across Midgard. A pact between Bemmea, Nuria Natal, and the Empire of the Ghouls would create the most powerful magical alliance the world has seen in ages. What could go wrong?
The Exarch is deeply wary of the Hidden Princess, who claims to be the heir to the throne of the elves. His rivalry with the Oracle of Kammae is long-standing and only intensified when she assumed absolute power.
The Exarch has ruled Bemmea since the days of the Mage War and was vital in preserving and rebuilding the Magocracy. Indeed, the Wasted West would be even more horrific were it not for the Exarch’s efforts. He is no stranger to the dark paths of magic—but there are much worse out there, and the Exarch’s magic keeps them (mostly) in check.
Eighty years ago, the Exarch destroyed the conspiracy responsible for the Hakren Affair in which a cabal of demon-influenced scribes assassinated their master by creating enchanted ink and words that turned against the mage and strangled him. More than half of the Council was killed by glyph magic before the Exarch’s divinations exposed the perpetrators. They burned in arcane fire.
The True Danger
Everything will be all right as long as the Exarch is able to prevent any ambitious wizards from reawakening the Great Old Ones.
There’s an overview of the 13 Midgard icons along with storytelling mechanics you can use to connect player characters with their world more powerfully in 5th Edition, 13th Age, Pathfinder, and many other RPGs.