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Vanyel Ashkevron is the main character in "The Last Herald Mage" trilogy of books by author Mercedes Lackey.
Vanyel first appears as the delicate and soft firstborn son of a minor noble. His father, Withen, is extremely homophobic and worries about Vanyel's love of music and delight in beautiful clothing. Withen sends his son to the capital city of Haven to be tutored by Herald Savil, his aunt. There, Vanyel, after realizing he is attracted to other men, falls in love with an older Heraldic trainee named Tylendel; they form a rare mystical "lifebond", a soul bonding between two people that makes them practically 'one' on a spiritual level.
A series of events, which leaves Tylendel dead, forcibly brings about all of the "Heraldic Gifts" in Vanyel: psychic powers as well as the ability to do magic. He is Chosen by the Companion Yfandes, who has not Chosen anyone for over ten years, and becomes a Herald-Mage. Throughout the Last Herald-Mage trilogy, he becomes recognized as the most powerful mage in Valdemar. In the book Magic's Price, he is lifebonded again, this time to a Bard named Stefen. It is later revealed that Stefen is the reincarnation of Tylendel.
Death and legacy
Vanyel dies at the end of the trilogy, while fighting the army of Leareth. He is able to defeat Leareth by using the powerful "Final Strike", but at the cost of his own life. Because of who and what he is, he is offered the choice to continue protecting Valdemar. His spirit, as well as the spirits of Yfandes and Stefen/Tylendel, are joined with Wendwinter Forest (later known as the Forest of Sorrows). In this form, known as "Vanyel's Curse", they protect Valdemar's northern border from those that would harm Valdemar and the Heralds.
It is in this form he "appears" in the book Arrow's Flight, when Heralds Talia and Kris are trapped by a snowstorm in Sorrows.
During the Mage Winds trilogy, Vanyel's spirit is able to hijack the magical power of the Tayledras Heartstone in order to power the Heartstone in Haven. He also redirects the magical Gate of Herald Elspeth and Firesong k'Treva to bring them to Sorrows, before sending them to Haven.
During the Mage Storms trilogy; Vanyel's spirit, along with Yfandes and Stefen/Tylendel, travel to the remains of Urtho's Tower to perform the final "Counterstrike" that negates the Mage Storm. At that time, the trio is "sent on to where they are needed".
Vanyel is also important because he was the first of Mercedes Lackey's main characters to be openly homosexual, though there were other notable gay characters, such as Keren, Ylsa and Sherril from the "Arrows of the Queen" trilogy.
Throughout Vanyel's trilogy, called "The Last Herald-Mage", he is shown as an emotional character, tending towards extreme depression. In the first book (Magic's Pawn), Vanyel is highly misunderstood by his family. This, and the resulting hurt, leads him to repress his emotions, and to deny himself emotional contact lest he be hurt. This makes his romance with Tylendel slow, only taking off after a nightmare reveals to both Vanyel's hatred of his self imposed isolation, and their mutual love. Vanyel is highly dependent upon Tylendel; after his lover's death, he tries to commit suicide twice; once while in a state of shock immediately following Tylendel's demise, and once believing himself to be guilty of causing his death.
In the second book (Magic's Promise), although Vanyel has ceased to blame himself for Tylendel's death, and in spite of the twelve years separating the books, he is still desperately lonely, and misses his former lover. Duty has contested his wish for oblivion, but his fear that those he loves will become targets against him, and his hurt that people fear his power, leads him to withdraw into a cold shell not unlike the one he used as a defense in the first book. The tragic climax of the book results in Vanyel being offered his peaceful end - the death he has wanted for twelve years - but refusing it, because Valdemar needed him and his abilities.
In the third book (Magic's Price), Vanyel's fear of loved ones being used against him nearly leads him to reject the love and lifebonding that Bard Stefen, a reincarnation of Tylendel, offers him. When his beloved aunt, Herald Savil, along with some of his dearest friends, is brutally murdered, he becomes nearly unhinged with his desperate need for revenge, as well as his need to protect Valdemar from the threat of the murdering mage. Stefen accompanies him on this mission, and only his presence saved the day when Vanyel was captured and went berserk, and when he had to summon the guard to combat the dark army he and Vanyel discovered. Following Vanyel's death, Stefen tried to poison himself, only to be prevented by Vanyel's ghost, who said that Stefan could join him as a spirit, protecting Valdemar - but only if he died a natural death.
The underlying emotional theme of the trilogy is the wish for death overcome by love and duty. Although the book ends on a happy note, with Vanyel and Stefen/Tylendel reunited as spirits, the overall tone of the series is emotive and tragic. Mercedes Lackey once facetiously described her plot tactics with Vanyel and with her other main characters as "Drop a mountain on them. Recover them, make them happy again. Then drop another mountain on them."
Vanyel is the son of Lord Withen and Lady Treesa Ashkevron of Forst Reach. He is the eldest son, but upon being Chosen his claim to the Withen's titles went to his younger brother Mekeal. Vanyel was trained by his aunt -Herald-Mage Savil Ashkevron - and the Tayledras Adepts Moondance and Starwind.
Vanyel's nephew is Bard Medren, who introduced him to his lover and lifebonded partner, Bard Stefen.
Vanyel is also the biological father of four children: twins—son Brightstar k'Treva and daughter Featherfire; Arden, the daughter of two retired lesbian fighters, and Herald Jisa, daughter of the King's Own Herald-Healer Shavri and later King's Own and Co-consort. It is through his children that he is also the direct ancestor of both Herald Elspeth and Healer-Adept Firesong.