All right, I admit it. Writing about Maelryn is tough. Not because he’s hard to get a handle on. That I have under control. It’s because telling his story without giving away more secrets than I care to is difficult. I can tell you this. While teaching at the University, I often highlighted the Vizier when discussing nature vs. nurture’s impact on an individual’s heroic composition. Are heroes made or born? What about villains? Those are questions for the ages.
Maelryn made an intriguing case study. Using him as a guide, you could make either case. Biologically speaking, it’s split right down the middle. His mother, the Swan Princess, was the biggest sweetheart of the Elder Days, a real Barbie doll. Everyone who saw her fell in love with her. She took it in stride, with nary a harsh word for those she rejected. Even her turndown of Maelryn’s father was kind and without malice. He didn’t take it that way, but that was entirely his fault, not hers.
Dear old Dad, on the other hand, was a rare breed, especially back in the Elder Days, when those not following the straight and narrow path were rare as a perfect game. I don’t like speaking poorly of people, but the sad fact is Daeryss had few, if any redeeming features. Jealousy consumed him, weak character made him susceptible to dark influences and, worst of all, he showed absolutely zero remorse.
With that sort of parentage, you can see how Maelryn makes an interesting subject for the debate. He had the best of genes and the worst of genes. Does that mean nature nets to zero and nurture wins?
Ilyana and Emerre’s adoptive father, Aeris, smothered Maelryn with love to [over]compensate for his paternal gene pool. Though neither would admit it, they harbored doubts and hoped surrounding him with love would do the trick.
It worked. Maelryn grew up nice as apple pie. He cleaned his room, made his bed and did his homework on time. Oh yeah … He also took to lore like a fish takes to water and became a terrific sorcerer. When Kandol asked him to go to Sangrithar, Maelryn easily agreed, out of loyalty to his king and because he genuinely wished to help.
The love Ilnaya and Aeris heaped on Maelryn wasn’t without consequences. Poor Emerre received precious little love and attention from his parents. After Maelryn, there just wasn’t enough left to go around. Aeris blamed it on Emerre’s wings, or lack thereof, inadvertently leaving Emerre with a lifelong inferiority complex.
Emerre’s parents didn’t consciously favor Maelryn over Emerre. They professed to love both boys, but actions speak louder than words. They couldn’t even admit the truth to themselves. Aeris’s condemnation of Emerre’s wingless state represented a subconscious defense mechanism. Needing to rationalize his behavior, Aelynar vilified Emerre just so he could sleep at night. Despicable, wasn’t it? A father shouldn’t treat his son that way.
It was also sad and more than a little ironic. In the Elder Days, Aeris rebelled against his father’s isolationist policies. Aelynar wanted to keep Mist Elf blood pure and undiluted, so they’d always have wings, but Aeris fell in love with Ilnaya. Most dads would be happy to learn their son was marrying up in the world, but not Aelynar. He couldn’t see past his feathers to see his wings.
As a young Elf, Aeris knew better and spoke out against his father’s bigotry. By marrying Ilnaya, he shouted his renunciation of his father’s bigotry and yet, in the end, Aeris proved to be his father’s child, with all of his prejudices.
So, back to nature vs. nurture. We’ve looked at biology and explored Maelryn’s upbringing. Based on what you know so far, between Maelryn and Emerre, which would you expect to be the good egg if nurture was the dominant factor?
For centuries, Maelryn played the part of the good son well. The people of Sangrithar, and Gwynna in particular, greeted his arrival with enthusiasm. The Elf Lord of Pel Aesylle, as they called Kandol, was a legend to the people of the thriving fishing village and they gave his envoys a joyous reception.
Not much changed until Emerre let his guard down that day on the battlefield with Korak. After the barbarian killed Queen Avara, everything changed for the two Elves. Emerre retreated into the dungeons, becoming the Gloryngael Ghoul, and Maelryn stepped more into the public eye, becoming the new Priest-King’s Vizier.
For the next thirteen hundred years, the Vizier’s fame spread throughout the land and people everywhere sang his praises. He was the golden Elf and could do no wrong. Nurture had triumphed! All that smothering from Ilnaya and Aeris paid off.
Then the Shadow Lord invaded the capitol. For a while, it looked like the unthinkable might happen, but Ataryl came down from the Dael Vyrnyn to save the empire and claim the long lost crown of his forefathers. Ataryl nearly didn’t survive his battle with the Shadow Lord. A spell of shadow would have taken his life had Maelryn not interceded and taken the bolt meant for the first God-Emperor.
No one knew it at the time, but the Shadow Lord’s spell worked insidious magik upon Maelryn, slowly corrupting him from within until he belonged to the Dark Lord, body and soul. By skill and reputation, Maelryn hid his change from any and all curiosity seekers. He maintained his position as the God-Emperor’s Vizier for centuries without ever giving a hint of how much he’d changed.
Well, during Hali’s grand adventure, the truth came out, all of it. I’ll spare the details for now, but suffice it say that Maelryn’s cover was blown in a big way, granting Emerre long sought vindication.
Summarizing, Maelryn’s heritage was split down the middle, with mom on one side of the fence and dad on the other. He’d been raised in an environment filled with love and taught all the right things. Examples of his heroism abound – from his early years at Pel Aesylle, from his time in Dol Meleriith and of course, from his centuries as the Vizier, but at the end, he showed a different side.
At this point, my students would get excited and proclaim nature the victor. It was just a matter of time, they’d argue, until the blood of the father asserted. I’d just smile and let them explain their logic before allowing the opposing side to trot out a host of counter arguements.
I’d let both sides have their say – a professor should never interrupt an engaged classroom – and then them with the whammy. How many choose nature, I’d ask. How many nurture? You’re both wrong, I’d say, after the show of hands. Only two students ever avoided my sucker’s choice trap, in all my years of teaching that class. One, a girl named Alathasia born to a cobbler in Danfarthing who’d saved every silver he’d ever made to pay for his daughter’s education. The other, a nephew to the Emperor of Endiron, who’d have made a better ruler than his idiot cousin.
One year, to lower the boom, I brought in Midan Jelsinari, a wizard. To impress the point upon my students, I had him transform a bouquet of daisies into a large, spotted frog. Was this nature at work, I asked. Did these flowers bloom knowing their destiny included ribbeting, hopping and snatching flies out of the air? Silence. The students had no idea where I was going. Then I asked an equally absurd question. Did the environment cause the flowers to change? Was transforming from flower to frog some sort of learned behavior?
One brave student ventured a guess, proclaiming loudly that since flowers aren’t sentient, they couldn’t have a destiny. Therefore, he reasoned, the transformation was a result of nurture. Nice try, but his logic was flawed. Disproving theory A does not automatically prove out theory B, that’s basic. The look I shot him must have said it all and then some. The entire class burst into laughter, which I hadn’t wanted. At least the boy had the guts to answer.
After the guffaws quieted down, I told them the answer. I was a professor, after all. The university paid me to teach, not to torment. Now, I don’t believe in just handing out answers. I taught my students to think, not memorize rote answers, but they’d stumbled long enough on this one.
Nature vs. Nurture. Which is it, I asked again. This time, resounding silence answered me, the remaining students completely unwilling to follow their classmate into the Hall of Wrong Answers. After a dramatic pause, I offered a new theory, one that none of them had considered. Neither nature or nurture, I postulated, had the upper hand, not in a world where magik was prevalent. Magik was stronger than nature or nurture. Chew on that for a while. Then, if you’d like, we can debate. I love debating!