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Marzhin wrote a report about two little-known Might and Magic novels. While many fans have heard of The Sea of Mist by Mel Odom, there were two other books published by DelRey Books in 1995 and 1996 and written by Geary Gravel. It will be difficult to find The Dreamwright and The Shadowsmith in store these days, but at least you now have a summary of the plot. The third book of the series, The Worldcrafter, has been cancelled.

If you are up for some good reading, you can download the Heroes Fables winning entries here. As mentioned before, they include stories by Round Table members Echo and Marelt Ekiran.

In 1995, right after the release of Might & Magic V : Darkside of Xeen, DelRey Books started publishing a trilogy of novels based on the computer role-playing game, and written by Geary Gravel (the author of "The Alchemists"). Unfortunately, only the first two chapters, "The Dreamwright" and "The Shadowmith", were released. The third book, "The Worldcrafter", was announced but never saw the light of day. Geary Gravel was supposed to tie his books to the world of the upcoming Might & Magic VI, but as the new game was delayed, he created a whole new world and story that still fitted with the M&M universe, and even added depth to its mythology. Even if the world isn't a "true" M&M world (such as Varn or Xeen or Enroth) it certainly has the flavour of early Might & Magic titles with that intriguing balance between fantasy and science-fiction, rich bestiary, mysterious characters, brave heroes and powerful villains.

Back then, New World Computing apparently thought about using Gravel's world as the setting for M&M VI, but finally they decided to use the world of Enroth, which had been introduced in Heroes of Might and Magic. Still, many ideas from Gravel's writings were not lost and managed to appear on later instalments of the series. The world of Axeoth from Heroes of Might and Magic IV even has a shy reference to the books as it features a land called the Wheel.

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Thousands of years ago, many world-seeds were sent through space by beings called the Ancients. On those worlds, their servants, the Guardians, watched over human beings and other creatures accordingly to the Ancients' mysterious plan. But a rebellion occured on one of those worlds : seizing control over the energy network called the Wire, wizards and heroes waged war against the Guardians to free the planet's inhabitants from the Ancients' schemes. They eventually managed to be victorious, and became the new, nearly-immortal protectors of the world, known as the Wielders.

But soon after their victory, one of those Wielders, known as Dubiel, was corrupted during merging with a machine. He tried to eliminate his past comrades to claim the domination over the world for himself. After a terrible war, he was forced to withdraw to the far-south, and his access to the Wire was severed. His power in decline, he became known as the Shadowsmith, the fabled King of Evil.

Centuries passed...

The Dreamwright : ISBN 0-345-38292-7, first printing in february 1995.

"The Dreamwright" opens as the land called the Wheel is striked by earthquakes, firestorms and other not-so-natural disasters. It seems the only one able to find the source of those disasters and prevent the Wheel from destruction is a being called the Dreamwright, the worldseer who lives in a crystal palace in the far north and is said to know everything. One of the kings of the Wheel actually know someone who could get them in touch with the Dreamwright : a powerful sorceress called Amonwelle. This king and Amonwelle had a child together : in exchange for contacting the Dreamwright, Amonwelle asks the king to send back their daughter to her. A caravan is formed for travelling through the dangerous lands between The Wheel and the Unseen Wall behind which the Dreamwright's palace lies, carrying the young princess Diligence.

Somewhere in the mountains, a young boy named Hitch leaves his home village, pushed by dreams of new and exciting adventures. After a disastrous encounter with a giant creature called a stonecrush, Hitch finds himself lost in the wilderness with a blue-jeweled staff he "borrowed" from the leader of his former travelling group.

After a few days of wandering, he witnesses the falling of a giant golden egg in the cold waters of a mountain lake. He manages to rescue a man wearing a strange suit, who somehow escaped from the egg before it sank. Soon thereafter, Hitch and his "hatchling" encounters Diligence's caravan, which has been attacked by some mysterious enemy. They are allowed to join the party on their way to the Unseen Wall. Many adventures and dangers await them, as they discover the Shadowmith has risen again in the south wastes with the help of a new ally that came from the stars with a black ship.

The Shadowsmith : ISBN 0-345-38293-5, first printing in april 1996

(Buy it from Amazon)

The Dreamwright died during the Shadowmith's attack against the Unseen Wall, and Hitch discovers his destiny to become the new worldseer. But following a betrayal inside the crystal palace, Hitch and the hatchling, Jassad Attqua ("Jatt"), go through a magic portal that closes behind them. They found themselves in the Aulmad, once the powerful kingdom of Auldemar, now a cursed land haunted by monsters. Diligence joins the rescue team sent by Amonwelle, disobeying her mother's orders to stay safely behind the Unseen Wall. On their way to the Aulmad, they witness the black spaceship bringing death and desolation, and rescue a young woman named Eil do Mer who seems somehow linked to the mysterious aircraft.

But Hitch, Jatt and their new friends, including a powerful bronze golem named Carverax, are not in the Aulmad anymore. With the Shadowsmith's soldiers in close pursuit, they activated another portal with the blue-jeweled staff, and found themselves under the red sun of a totally alien world. After many adventures and battles, they manage to get back to their homeworld. They reach Jatt's golden ship just before the Shadowmith does, eventually even killing the former Wielder. But then Jatt turns crazy, take control of his ship and launches an assault against the Unseen Wall...

Reunited with Diligence and the rest of the Turn Folk, our heroes finally learn the truth behind the Shadowsmith's power. It turns out that Jassad Attqua and Eil do Mer are explorers for two galactic nations at war with each other, the Arc and the Bright Star. They both came to this world to investigate Ancient technology, but soon afet her arrival, Eil's ship computer was corrupted by Dubiel. More machine than man, the Shadowmith cannot be killed as long as he manages to plant his seed in new, fresh bodies. Now he's trying to take control over Jatt's mind, and plan to use his golden ship to destroy Amonwelle and the other Wielders. As the heroes manage to take back Eil do Mer's black void-ship from the Shadowmith, the board is set for the final battle between good and evil...

***

This second book may be open-ended, hinting at the adventures that would have been told in the third novel, the story started with "The Dreamwright" still comes to a conclusion, so the reader is not left (too much) frustrated by the fact there is no sequel. One can only wonder what Geary Gravel had in stores for Hitch, Diligence and their friends in "the Worldcrafter", a book whose title obviously made reference to the Ancients themselves...

The Sea of Mist : ISBN 0-06-103163-1, first printing in September 2001.

Our hero, Praz spent his early years being trained by the demon Nymus to become a great warrior, and earned as such the title of Praz-El. Then he was sent to the Magistracy of Soronne to study an art of his choice, may it be magic or combat. But Praz refuses to learn a single skill and hopes to become a Master in all the disciplines, much to his foster father's desperation. But Praz' delusions take a sinister turn after the discovery of a mysterious fountain buried under the academy, which some are ready to believe is the key to godhood...

Greedily lusting for power, the seconds-in-command of the Circles of Steel and Shadow, Lenik and Mandel, betray the Magistracy and allow Sendark, the undead lord of the Sea of Mist (who roams the foggy ocean with an armada of ghost ships), to invade the city. His father assassinated, his (wicked) love interest Lissella abducted, Praz and his friends Telop (an elf wizard student) and River (a ranger who has a crush on Praz) decide to pursue the traitors across the Sea of Mist with some familiar heroes (Alagar, Xarfax-- who by the way have no real role, they are just here to allow some name-dropping). But this is no ordinary sea : it is a gateway between worlds, a hole in reality. Fighting Sendark's minions, Praz-El fall overboard and finds himself in a forest where a battle is taking place. He is saved by a dwarf -- another misplaced Heroes 3 character, Clancy -- who has some revelations about Praz-El's past. But Praz has no time to learn much because he is sucked back into his own plane just in time to witness the death of his friend Telop. Going berserk, Praz butchers all Sendark's creatures, frightening the heck out of his remaining companions.

In the meantime, Lenik, Mandel and Lissella have arrived on the Isle of the Dead, where a second fountain is hidden. After bathing in that second fountain, they will become true gods, but for that they need Lissella's magical powers. It turns out they know dirty little secrets about the young woman, namely her interest in necromancy and demon-summoning. While Lissella is performing the ritual, Praz and crew arrive on the Isle of the Dead where they encounter Clavis, Sendark's death knight servant. But Clavis is not here to fight : Sendark has decided to leave Lenik and Mandel to their fate at the hands of the vengeful Praz, his interest caught by the deadly power of our young hero.

During the battle against Lenik and Mandel's troops, Praz and friends find Lissella. But the treacherous beauty, during one of those convenient moments where nobody is watching, eliminates her rival River by pushing her into a chasm. Praz is devastated to lose another good friend, but he at least realize something is very wrong with Lissella. But once again the clock is ticking and Praz rushes inside the fountain chamber to fight against the two felons who killed his foster father. Making use of all the tricks Nymus teached him, he eventually manages to defeat them.

Sailing back to Soronne, he expresses his distrust of Lissella and decides to go to the faraway land of Murlank where he could learn more about the darkness inside him and how to control it. And in his misty realm, Sendark has finally discovered Praz-El is in fact a half-god, and is now looking for a way to use him in his own evil schemes.

And... that's it.

The Sea of Mist is very different from Geary Gravel's two novels, which were leaning towards a Jack Vance-ish kind of SF. What we have here is a pretty dull sword-and-sorcery tale, with average writing and a thin plot. Even the cover art tries to mimic Frank Frazetta's style...

Some "interesting" facts :

- There are never any mentions to places or things from the MM universe as depicted in the games (with the exception of some character names as noted before.)

- According to the back cover, Praz is joined in his quest by "warriors from multiple dimensions". I guess that's for Alagar, Xarfax and the others.

- Xarfax, who is an Inferno hero in H3, is one of the good guys here, and a Follower of D'Rebbik, a "god of war who serves Light". Don't ask.

- Sendark appears to be a servant (or at least an associate) of a God of Death called Necros. Necros is the name of the undead villain of Crusaders of Might and Magic, so there may be a connection here. Or maybe it's just the lack of originality in naming.

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