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Week Without Magic vs Day of Dread

by The Stalker

The Week Without Magic (WWM) and the subsequent annual Day of Dread (DoD) have been discussed on the MML before, but I must admit that I still feel there are a lot of loose ends and paradoxes associated with it. To reconcile several factors and points that have come up over the years, I tried to put all the information together. I decided to post my conclusions to the list, so that it might serve as a foundation for debate and so that others might consider the matter. I note, however, that the comments here reflect my own interpretation of what has occurred, and that I naturally accept that others will not agree. Even so, this is still a topic open to discussion, of course, and so I've tried to base my interpretations only on established facts in canon (I give numerous references below).

The thing is that though we've discussed this before, the matter still seems a bit of a confusing affair in canon because there are contradictory descriptions about it in the WotI boxed set.

On the one hand, we learn from the Timeline chapter in WotI (Book II: The Immortals' Fury, p.89) that the WWM took place in the fall of AC 1009. The timing is significant because it caused several important events:

1. All magic fails all over Mystara, even Immortal magic.

2. Since Immortal magic fails, the sun of the Hollow World is dark for the entire week.

3. A storm is released over Sundsvall that destroys the city.

4. Empress Eriadna the Wise of Alphatia is killed during Sundsvall's destruction.

5. Immortals on Mystara are trapped in their mortal identities.

6. Members of magical races, such as elves, grow ill and lose their strength.

7. People with magically extended lives, such as Eriadna, grow old and die.

Now, why is this important? One reason is the description of what will take place after the "Phase III: The Great War" adventure ends, as noted in the same book. The book actually states the following (on p.70):

"The week following the events described above will be totally without magic; no spells or magical items will work (except Immortal-level magics, of course), and magical creatures will feel drained and unable to move."

The first obvious contradiction lies in the reference to whether Immortal magic fails or not. There are several arguments both for and against.

A strong argument against the failure of Immortal magic is the fact that the magic of the islands of Floating Ar in Alphatia does not fail and cause the islands to plummet to the ground below. This is obvious due to frequent later references to Floating Ar, not least the fact that the floating islands of Floating Ar are the single part of the former continent of Alphatia to not sink into the ocean and later be recreated in the Hollow World (unless we also count the kingdom of Aquas with its capital, Seashield, but which was built on the bottom of the ocean off the coast of the Alphatian continent to begin with).

However, it is also obvious that Immortal magic must fail since the red sun of the Hollow World goes dark, which is the basis for the "Milenian Sceptre" adventure and a well-documented fact in the subsequent Almanac series.

So how can those two very obvious contradictions be reconciled? One possibility might be to suggest a second Week Without Magic, but I would agree with Hervé Musseau and others that there cannot be a second WWM, both because the WWM is consistently described as a singular event of Mystara's history in all of canon, and because a second WWM would violate the rules for use of the Nucleus of the Spheres, as described in both the G:KoM Grimoire (p.118) and the original Gaz3.

But if there is only a single WWM, then the above contradiction obviously remains. How can the islands of Floating Ar remain while the Hollow World sun goes dark, thereby proving the cancellation of Immortal magic? A clever suggestion (which is by no means mine, though I must shamefully admit to have forgotten who thought of it) is to say that while Immortal magic could not be cast, it did not actually fail, and so continuous magic would remain while new or replenishing magic would fail. Since the Hollow World sun is described as a constantly opened portal to another plane of existence, it can be assumed that this portal would simply close (as there was no magic to keep it open), whereas the magic of the Floating Ar is a permanent spell effect and so would remain. The islands would be unable to reposition themselves during the WWM, however, and could not move back to within the designated area during that week, but would reposition themselves after that. This allows us to have the history of Mystara remain consistent, even while it explains away the contradiction, since it means Floating Ar really was affected by the WWM, though not in a way that matters after the week has passed, and which so serves the purpose of allowing us to explain how seemingly contradictory canon can be explained away, so that Mystara's established passage of history remains unharmed.

A lesser problem is that of point 7 above, which explains how people who magically lived beyond their lifespan died, Eriadna among them. Personally I tend to ignore the reference since I find it creates a lot of problems, though I'm naturally outside of canon when I do so. Not that it matters much. Simply put, such an effect would also kill other important NPCs, such as Terari and Mylertendal (in Alphatia), while other important NPCs like Teldon (in Karameikos) and Demetrion (in Thyatis) are also in the danger-zone. Teldon was 110 and Demetrion 105 in AC 1000, according to Gaz1 and the DotE gazetteer respectively, so by the end of the war, Teldon would be 119 and Demetrion 114, which is pushing the natural age limit of humans rather far.

Although the description in WotI says they (meaning Terari and Mylertendal) could later be Wished back to life, it just seems redundant somehow. Besides, who would wish Teldon back, given that ninth level spells like Wish are unknown in Karameikos at the time? Teldon is clearly still alive in PWA1 during the construction of the Karameikan School of Magecraft, though he vanishes and is presumed dead after his fight with the mechanical beholder, as described in Dragon no. 207 (p.42). Besides, if the idea is to kill Eriadna, then you can either decide that the aging effect was limited to Sundsvall (which was, after all, where Rad centred the effect), or you can simply rule, as I did in my own campaign, that Eriadna was helpless without her magic anyway and so was crushed under several tons of marble in her palace. She will be just as dead, and then you won't have to worry about other consequences of this as a DM (and she will remain just as dead either way, since Zandor isn't going to have her brought back to life). After all, the individual DM might have singular characters who have lived similarly magically extended lives elsewhere, and for whom it would be too problematic to find an excuse for someone to Wish them back to life (as in the case of Teldon). There are a good many NPCs, inside or outside Alphatia, who should not die as a result of this, or there will be a lot of problems with canon, especially in Thyatis and Glantri, which is the reason for my above comment that the aging effect creates more problems than it solves. I tend to avoid such drastic effects with consequences all over the campaign world because it is difficult to foresee what all those logical consequences might be. But I don't deny that my position is in violation of canon (for however little or much it matters).

Even so, another problem arises that is not so easily solved. As noted above, the WWM is said to destroy only Sundsvall and leave Mystara without magic for a week, yet the description at the end of Phase III in WotI suggests that the WWM does not take place until the final showdown between Ixion and Rad when the Nucleus of the Spheres goes beyond control and destroys Alphatia.

Now, it is clear that it is the out-of-control Doomsday Weapon, powered by the Nucleus of the Spheres, that destroys Alphatia and causes it to sink, as described at the end of Phase III as well as in the timeline's description of how the conflict ends (p.90, "The War Ends"). There is and can be no question about that.

Okay, so then the WWM just takes place at the end of the war, right? No, that cannot be either. The problem here lies with Eriadna's death, which has consequences that dictate how things evolve at the end of the war. Upon Eriadna's death, Zandor assumes the throne of Alphatia and declares himself emperor, as described under the heading, "Thousand Wizards Convene" (p.89). This is important because he, not Eriadna, is the one who orders the Thousand Wizards (aka the Grand Council) to assault Glantri and destroy it, an action Eriadna presumably never would have taken, given how the surviving wizards expect Zandor to react under the same event. Basically the plot progresses as per the following:

a. Thyatis makes peace with Alphatia to survive and so quits the field (p.88).

b. In response to losing Thyatis as an important ally, Rad activates the Doomsday Weapon which destroys Sundsvall, thereby killing Eriadna, and causing the Week Without Magic.

c. Once the Week Without Magic is over, Alphatia is in turmoil. With Eriadna dead, Zandor declares himself emperor of Alphatia.

d. Zandor orders the Thousand Wizards on an assault on Glantri.

e. The Thousand Wizards magically Teleport to Glantri and attack it.

f. To protect Glantri, Rad again activates the Doomsday Weapon or else it is activated in response to the magical energy released by the attacking Alphatians (either is possible according to WotI).

g. The Doomsday Weapon goes out of control and destroys all of Alphatia, sinking it beneath the sea.

Again, the problem obviously lies with Eriadna's death, as it is clear that she must be dead before Alphatia is destroyed. She obviously died during the destructive storm over Sundsvall, and even in the recreated Alphatia in the Hollow World, Sundsvall is still in ruins, which firmly establishes that Sundsvall could not have been destroyed at the same time as the rest of Alphatia. If that had been the case, then Sundsvall would have been recreated by the Immortals just as the rest of Alphatia was, and it wasn't. This is also consistent with the timeline listed in WotI (p.89), which places the WWM in the fall of 1009, but the end of the war and Alphatia's sinking during the winter.

It is also clear that Eriadna died some time before the sinking of Alphatia from the descriptions of how the various rulers of Alphatia reacted to Eriadna's summons in PWA1. After all, they would not have been surprised to learn she was alive, if they had been killed at the same time as her, so clearly her death, and so the storm over Sundsvall, took place some time before Alphatia sank. Again, this is also consistent with the chain of events as described in the history of Alphatia in PWA1 (p.10).

Of course, it could then be argued that while we need a storm to destroy Sundsvall and kill Eriadna, that may not require the Week Without Magic to take place at that time. The WWM could take place later when Alphatia sinks. However, we do know that even the Immortals cannot use magic during the WWM, and in the description of Alphatia's history in PWA1 (p.10), it describes how Alphatia was created in the Hollow World:

"The Immortals were unable to stop the destructive force from sinking Alphatia; those events were already set into motion. So they took other measures to save the nation which had served them so well. They magically swept the whole population, living and dead, into a pocket plane and put into an enchanted sleep all those millions who still lived."

Clearly the Immortals would not be able to do this if their magic had failed, and since their magic did fail during the WWM, then the WWM must naturally have taken place at another time. The only other time possible is clearly when Sundsvall was destroyed and Eriadna was killed.

There are even references to mortal magic working when Alphatia sank. The description of Aquas in PWA1 (p.15), for example, states that:

"When Alphatia began to sink, earthquakes rocked all of Aquas, and in spite of the protective magics cast all over the cities, every dome cracked and water roared in. Zyndryl, a powerful mage, used up his spells casting Wish, Force Field, and Stoneform enchantments, among others, in a heroic effort to save his city. Unfortunately, a collapsing tower killed him. His efforts succeeded, and many of Seashield's residents owe him their lives. 'Emperor' Zandor survived the sinking of Alphatia, casting a Teleport to get to safety."

From this description it seems clear that magic was not nearly as compromised by the time of Alphatia's sinking as it was during the WWM, which further suggests that Alphatia sank well after the WWM. And since at least some mortal magic worked, it is obvious that Immortal magic would also work. Since even Immortal magic must have failed during the WWM (or else the Hollow World sun would not have gone dark), Alphatia's sinking cannot have happened during the WWM.

But obviously that reference is in utter conflict with the references at the end of Phase III in WotI (as stated above). It does seem clear, though, that magic did indeed fail in most cases upon the sinking of Alphatia, or else more Alphatian wizards would presumably have escaped its destruction through the use of Teleport spells or similar, as Zandor apparently did. Since they did not, it seems fair to assume that mortal magic worked only randomly or occasionally, and that Zandor and Zyndryl were simply lucky to have some or all of their spells succeed.

Instead it might be reasonable to assume that the sinking of Alphatia marked the first Day of Dread, though it was a 'reduced' Day of Dread in that some spells actually succeeded.

A description in PWA3 (p.150) is interesting: "Since the first Day of Dread in AC 1010, magical research and clerical Communing with Immortals have revealed that the Day of Dread will be an annual occurrence". The note is interesting because it establishes that the first Day of Dread as taking place in 1010.

On the other hand, the description for Kaldmont 28 in AC 1010, the first Day of Dread, says (PWA1, p.237): "For the last several years, this has been a day of ominous portents and strange occurrences. The sky changes colour all day or glows eerily all night, causing fear and disorder among the population (3% chance for each community). All magic is ineffective during the day." A similar comment is found in connection with the calendars in several of the gazetteers.

Naturally the latter suggests that the Day of Dread has occurred many times before and is already a well-established regular event. The description in PWA3 obviously contradicts this, and is stated in a later publication, though this could be taken to mean that the day had been as described in PWA1, except that magic did not fail completely until 1010. Obviously this would be due to the drain on the Nucleus of the Spheres in 1009. When Rad used the Nucleus of the Spheres to power his Doomsday Weapon and destroy Sundsvall and so cause the WWM, it drained the Nucleus of the Spheres so much that magic in Mystara became subject to an entire week without magic each year. However, the end of the war restored much of the lost energy when the Nucleus of the Spheres was reprogrammed to drain its power from the Entropy instead of Energy. Not all the lost energy was restored, however, so Mystara would have to suffer a single day without magic, the Day of Dread, each year after that. It did not happen to the full extent that year, however, because of the restoring process and because the Week Without Magic had already occurred the same year. The changes of colour in the sky could still have happened for many years prior to the failure of magic, however, as a warning that magic was slowly being drained away by the Nucleus of the Spheres.

Obviously this solution suggests that Alphatia sank on Kaldmont 28, AC 1009. Canon seems to both support and contradict this possibility, though. WotI places the Week Without Magic during the fall of 1009, but "Thousand Wizards Convene", "The War Ends", and "Alphatia Sinks" events during winter of 1009. Kaldmont is the only winter month this could all have happened, because the other two months of winter are Nuwmont and Vatermont, both of which would subsequently be in 1010, and PWA1 tells us quite clearly that Alphatia has already sunk by then. The "Son of Dawn" novel, however, describes that Alphatia has already been destroyed for some time when it starts and has the Thyatian new year's day some time after the beginning of the book. However, since WotI clearly puts Alphatia's destruction during the winter months, and certainly before 1010, this seems to push the timetable too far.

Incidentally, the "Son of Dawn" novel establishes that some of the Thousand Wizards who assaulted Glantri might have survived, since Struth the Shaker, the villain of the book, is obviously one of them.