Witch King

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Herkunftshorn, the Witch King of Leithanien (der Hexenkönig), is an NPC in Arknights. He is first mentioned in Ceobe's Fungimist[2] with his dark legacy playing an important role in Rewinding Breeze and Lingering Echoes. He later appears personally as the main antagonist of Zwillingstürme im Herbst.


The pursuit of knowledge is not without its dangers...

Born Otto Dietmar Gustav von Urtica, the Caprinae nobleman had a remarkable beginning and would be destined to become a great monarch under the title of the "Witch King" in the Terran year 969. His family, House Urtica, had been a family of Casters and Originium Arts researchers who had studied in the Ludwigs-Universität that specialized the field,[3] hence promoting it to become the top university in Leithanien. As a talented musician, he personally studied 634 scores of great Leithanian music within three months at a very young age. But the young man was unsatisfied with Leithanien's rigid classicalism and political system, fearing that the culture the Leithanians were very proud of would soon bring disaster to the empire's geopolitics as the nearby Victoria, Gaul, and even Iberia strengthened their might. Being unable to answer the young man's questions, his Elafian mentor was even fired by him.[4] He also befriended Fremont the Lich King in his student years, and he was very satisfied with the Lich King's teaching.

Upon reaching adulthood, the young Witch King started out as the Kurfürst of Kreis Einwald, the Kreis of the Urtica, but he would only be crowned the Kaiser of Leithanien by the age of fifty upon being elected by the Kurfürsten. In the first decade, he was a genuine ruler as he brought prosperity to the country through his extensive knowledge, hence earning his epithet "Herkunftshorn," the "Horn of Genesis." He initiated drastic political reforms by centralizing the monarch's power and diminishing the Kurfürsten's role in politics.[5] Some of his moves were even beneficial in the beginning such as equal treatment between the aristocrats and the commonfolk and the abolishment of the servant system.[6][7] He turned the capital, Vedunien (present Zwillingstürme), into a gigantic Arts device by remolding the capital's belfry, hence strengthening its defense.[8]

The most remarkable achievement the Witch King had ever achieved was his dealing with the Siracusan separatist movement. At the beginning of his reign in Terran year 969, the Siracusan rebellion brought havoc to the remaining nine Kreise, and Leithanien was on the verge of collapse because the separatism violated the magical Güldenesgesatz that bounds the districts together. Nevertheless, the Witch King performed an impossible task to many Leithanian Casters: amendment onto the original manuscript of the Güldenesgesatz by "rewriting" such complex Arts while keeping the pact in tact. He removed the name of Siracusa from the constitution and then rewrote its scores. After the amendment, he formally recognized Siracusa's independence, hence ending an era of chaos.[9]

...because knowledge eventually corrupts, as the Witch King can attest to

However, the Witch King's vision did not stick in the mortal world, as he had an ultimate goal of preserving the "eternity" of the empire. He dived into many knowledges, including ones that are mystic to mortals. From the words of Fremont, he learnt of an extradimensional world on the other side of the mortal world, which he coined the Kargereich ("Desolate Realm"). Through the phylactery borrowed from Fremont, he was able to ascend to the Kargereich where he stores his soul there for further studies.[5] For the remaining 130 years inside the Kargereich, he not only learnt of the existence of the Collapsals that could corrupt the mortal world, but also, he was able to uncover the secret of Originium. By "forcing" Originium to reveal the "truth," he saw a vision where Terra would soon be annihilated by its "Genesis." Seeing the upcoming "Apocalypse," the Witch King vowed to preserve the world to eternity, including his beloved motherland, by personally killing the "Creator."[10]

The Witch King's ascent to the Kargereich and his knowledge regarding the truth of Originium turned him into a totally different person; a vicious, draconian tyrant who sought to fulfill his goal through any means, regardless of morals. He began hiding himself inside his Spire, and many who feared him began to describe him as a monster with ugly, twisted horns. For the remaining fifty years of his reign, his tyranny was marked by violence and atrocities, and the Kurfürsten regarded him as having gone insane.[11] His terror was recorded in numerous stories such as the death of a whole town as a result of his Arts experiment.[12] He even brutally and openly murdered his political opponents by petrifying them into a statue of spiral horns, and he erected these statues in the streets as public warning.[13] During this period, the treatment of Infected and Sarkaz drastically worsened as the Kurfürsten desperately sought more experimental subjects as tributes to the Witch King's Arts.[14] Nevertheless, his charisma had attracted a number of maniacal loyalists, many of whom being benefactors of his early reign, regardless of social status, see him as the greatest Kaiser that has ever reigned, and they are willing to carry out his tyrannical orders to harm the innocent.

The Witch King's tyranny came along with his active participation in geopolitics as he sough to expand Leithanien's influence. He harassed the newly founded Columbian republic by aiding Bolívar's puppet regime, the Singas dynasty, since 1048, triggering Columbia's failed invasion and its stalemate with Bolívar.[15] The greatest moment of his expansion was his preparation for the Battle of the Four Emperors in the year 1030 when the expansionist Gaulish Empire threatened to turn Leithanien into its vassal. Not only did the Witch King respond by petrifying Gaulish envoys,[11] but also he personally expelled the Gallic fleet by creating Catastrophes that struck its menacing fleets.[16] Unfortunately, Leithanien's pyrrhic victory came with a heavy cost as much of its land became polluted by his Catastrophes, and the Witch King continued his tyranny regardless of the lament.

The increasing dissatisfaction with the Witch King's tyranny following the war led to the Septemberrevolution of the Kurfürsten in the year 1077 and the rise of the Twin Empresses who slew him, cut off his horns, and demonstrated his corpse publicly.[17] But despite his reign being over, his shadow still lingers upon Leithanien. For starters, his soul had already ascended to the Kargereich, and his loyalists firmly believe in the perseverance of his reign despite his death in the physical world. Such belief led to the rise of his cult of personality known as the "Remnants," who seek to undermine the Empresses' legitimacy and revive both the Witch King himself and his majestic Arts back to the mortal world. These Remnants seek to bring back the tyrant by studying his forbidden Arts and searching for his distant relatives to continue his bloodline, especially following a bloody purge on them by the Empresses' supporters.[18] Down to the commonfolk, many are still fearful of naming him directly, hence referring to him as "His Majesty" to avoid such taboo.[19] Artworks and stages that record his downfall have become common in the Empresses' reign, yet many of them plainly serve as propaganda that fully demonize the Witch King, and the Empresses forbid any neutral academic discussion regarding his reign. Most importantly, many of the old, ugly practices of the Kurfürsten that was once outlawed by the Witch King were immediately restored, bringing instability to the empire.

Side Stories

Zwillingstürme im Herbst

Notable Arts

As the greatest Caster Terra has ever witnessed, the Witch King mastered basically all kinds of Arts that makes him an almost "immortal" being. During the Battle of the Four Emperors, he personally summoned Catastrophes that easily wiped out the Gaulish legions,[16] and that Catastrophe cloud still stands today in Kreis Strumland which not only acts as the district's symbolism, but also brings suffering to the people there due to Originium dust.[20] As he had uncovered the secret of Originium, many of his Arts are related with its nature such as remotely controlling the Originium shards within the Infected and turning them into his Arts devices by accelerating their Oripathy.[21] He has his specially created black fire, regarded as his wrath by his Remnants, that could devour anything passing by, including the mighty campaign knights of Kazimierz.[16] All these Arts are still widely studied by his Remnants despite the authorities' outright ban onto its research.

Voice of Terra

It is believed by the Remnants that the "Voice of Terra" could recreate the haunting shadow of the Witch King

The "Voice of Terra"/"Voice of Mundane" is a kind of musical Arts in the form of melodies. Originally an abandoned score written by him in the past, it became a vessel that could possess his surviving consciousness after his death, making it one of the possible ways to "resurrect" him as believed by his Remnants. The Voice possesses various tones representing the different eras and emotions of his past, and its effect varies based on the tones.[14] It could only work on those within the Witch King's bloodline, yet it is one of the easiest ways to threaten the Empresses' rule as the "resurrected" figure could become their de facto leader under his name.[22] If reawakened and completed, the "Voice" could literally recreate his power by possessing its victim and turning them into a "second" one.

Following his execution, the Remnants kidnapped some of the descendants of the Witch King's distant relatives and performed experiments on them led by Gerhard Hoffmann as an attempt to "resurrect" him through forced implantation of the "Voice" inside their mind. But due to the Voice's enormous influence, most of the subjects would die, leaving Kreide and Ebenholz as the only survivors. Kreide was implanted with an imperfect tone that "leaks out" constantly whereas Ebenholz's was a weak yet perfect one. After the experiment was purged by the Empresses' forces, the two were under constant watch by the authorities to avoid the reawakening of their "Voices."[23]

Nevertheless, the "Voice," in reality, serves no practical purpose in his grand revival. Fremont described that the "Voice" is merely a burp after his meal. Furthermore, the remaining "Voice" had been extracted from Ebenholz's mind and was handed back to the Empresses, though the side effect will still remain.[24]

Der Herkunftshorn

The false Herkunftshorn manifested in Leithanian soil

Der Herkunftshorn (lit. "The Primal Horn", fig. "The Horn of Genesis"), also known as the Spire of Genesis and better known as the Witch King's Spire, is literally the Spire of his name based on his epithet. Like any Leithanian Spire, Der Herkunftshorn did have magical purposes except being further strengthened by the Witch King' Arts. One of its tricky traits is its ability to erase Arts of all the Casters near his Spire, causing the Septemberaufstand to fall into a stalemate at one point.[16] However, Cora, then a humble servant of his Spire, quietly altered its instrument threats and amplifiers which resulted in creating a weak spot of its defense system, hence turning the tide of the revolution as the Kurfürsten's and Empresses' forces easily breached the building.[6] Thus, "the toppling of his Spire" has become a popular Leithanian term that describes the execution of the Witch King during the revolution.

After the revolution, the Empresses dismantled his Spire, crushed all its bricks, and replaced it with the Empresses' Twin Spires, a political symbol that erased the Witch King's tyranny.[25] On the other hand, the Remnants firmly believe that his Spire has never left the mortal world and that it is the crucial key to revive him, or "invite him back" in their terms. By using the "Voice of Terra" as the medium, they sought to summon it back, as attested during the Ludwig University chaos. The Spire was soon immediately crushed by Empress Hildegard who commented on it as a fake replica.[16]

The true Herkunftshorn had always been around, being hung on the other side of the world

The genuine Der Herkunftshorn was actually inside the Kargereich following the ascent of the Witch King's soul, and Spire became synonymous with the Kargereich itself by becoming the entrance to it. During the chaos of Stimmverlust, his Spire was seen from the dimensional crack above the Twin Spires. Believing that the Witch King's Spire was summoning them, all the Remnants present committed suicide to have themselves ascended to the Kargereich.[26]

Following the banishment of the Witch King's soul, the Spire itself crumbled, creating cracks for the lurking Collapsals. Empress Hildegard then personally stayed back in the Kargereich to set up a new Spire with her Arts that replaced Der Herkunftshorn and his Pavilion.[27]

The Pavilion

The Witch King's Pavilion from the outside

The Pavilion is the magnum opus of the Witch King's Arts in his later years. It is a giant fortification inside the Kargereich that had been constantly preventing the Collapsals from invading reality. The Pavilion preserved all the historical buildings in Leithanian history inside the Kargereich, acting as eternal symbols of the empire. The Witch King believed that it was not built by himself, but by the essence of the whole of humanity and their civilizations. He envisioned the Pavilion to be an eternal monument inside the Kargereich where aftercomers would follow.[10]

The court of the Witch King's throne inside his Pavilion

By the time of the Stimmverlust, the Pavilion was on the verge of collapse as the Witch King could no longer withstand the corrupting force of the Collapsals. Many of the structures gradually crumbled due to his weakening strength. Furthermore, the final battle between the Witch King and the Empresses brought more damage to the building. After the defeat, Fremont "banished" both his soul and the Pavilion altogether to eradicate his influence on the nation once and for all, and the Pavilion was instead replaced by Empress Hildegard's newly built Spire.