Rutherford Heathcliff was born the second son of the respected Heathcliff household. The Heathcliffs, a minor noble family of good repute, were well-respected, and although their holdings were comparatively small due to centuries of family wealth squandering and liberal dues-paying to the local magical academies, they boasted many accomplished academics and mages in their seven hundred years of landed status.
Rutherford’s parents, between the two of them, endowed young Rutherford with an upbringing befitting his station. His mother, Rosemary, was fairly indifferent to him for most of his life, although she did provide all of the standard instruction in grammar-correction and character-assessment that any good mother should. She was a famous beauty in her youth, but bad genetic stock caused her to grow thin and pale around the age of 30. Rutherford, for his part, respected her on the surface, but this was not the measure of his true feelings. Rosemary, of course, had always favored Rutherford’s older brother Fairweather due to Fairweather’s resemblence to her youthful self, and thus was the one responsible for Fairweather’s effete court manner, primmed flaxen-curled locks, and fondness for strawberry snuff. Rutherford, who even from youth fancied himself a GREAT MAN destined for epic feats of glory and renown, detested them both with a quiet passion.
However, it was Rutherford’s father, Bullsworth, a glory-seeker and spell-caster of mild accomplishment (but large physical and social stature), who served as Rutherford’s role-model and benefactor. Bullsworth was a self-styled renaissance man in his youth, being endowed of both strength and intelligence, and had, in his late teens, endeared himself to the regional Duke by saving the life of the Duke’s favorite horse in the Third Battle of Creekblood (a feat which netted Bullsworth the hand of the Duke’s third cousin’s neice, Rosemary, and a minor endowed seat in Slaughter-magic at a local university). While Bullworth sought glory in battle in his early years, the comforts of his new academic chair and charms of his wife turned his muscle to flab and his thoughts of battle-glory to noble renown. Bullworth, while he bragged a good game, could no longer support the reputation of his family on his accomplishments alone, and he began to live vicariously through his second son, Rutherford.
Rutherford was, by all accounts, a brilliant and hardy child from the first. He memorized the entire heraldry of the country by the age of 6, and could sketch it out with a 3-pound quill pen known to the local studentry as the “Fat-mistress”. He could list all 257 Great Feats of the Heathcliffs by the age of 9, in prolix detail, while doing chin-ups. And, by age 12, he had already thrown his first fireball in the midst of a bloody pitched peasant-battle thrown for the amusement of the local nobility.
Thus, Bullsworth recognized in Rutherford the makings of a GREAT MAN, and rightly he should, for Rutherford was a man after his own heart (unlike his simpering first son Fairweather and his god-aborted unnamed miscarrage of a third son). Bullworth encouraged Rutherford’s talents, and in the process, also spoiled him rotten. To ensure that Rutherford would lead the Heathcliffs to glory, Bullsworth pulled strings at the university, and had young Rutherford admitted into the tutilage of the “most esteemed”, “most prestigious” headmaster at the university, Doctor Whimton Spinstrum III.
Spinstrum, a wispy, spindly arachnid of a man from a particularly esteemed family, styled himself of the OLD SCHOOL of mages, for whom magic was art (both figuratively and literally). Spinstrum had, as part of his doctoral thesis in Spellology, sought to carve out a niche in the magical world through the art of “spell-spinning,” and in order to enhance the prestige of this “wholly original”, “uniquely beautiful” method of spellcasting, he secretly vowed to take only three pupils. Although his methods were, initially, deemed curious and over-complicated, the social lure of the exclusivity of his art eventually overtook a more level-headed assessment of its practicality, and studying under Spinstrum became a goal of many glory-seeking students.
Spinstrum’s first pupil was Roger Fendowns, who later went on to found his own equally-pretentious school of “Spell-spinning” in a nearby dutchy. His second was Mellancamp Hostetler, who made a sizable fortune performing his beautiful magical art for various noble courts. His third, and assumedly final, student was a certain Thomas Plympton, of the Rivervale Plymptons, who had gone on to die of auto-erotic aesphyxiation after only one lesson. Plympton was, it was discovered, a secret Arachnophile (for whom spell-spinning had more than an academic attraction), and to avoid scandal, Spinstrum sought the help of Bullsworth, his fellow professor, to cover up Plympton’s death. Bullworth, recognizing that all record of the third student’s pupilage would need to be erased to save Spinstrum’s reputation, and seeking to glorify the Heathcliffs through his favorite son, demanded that in exchange for his help, Rutherford would be substituted as the true “third student” in the university records.
Rutherford, at first, objected – he was to be a GREAT MAN, winning glory in bedazzling arcane combat, not weaving spell books for some self-styled academic aesthete. Also, “spell-spinning” was the sort of thing that his mother and older brother would find beautiful, which further enhanced his distaste for it. However, his father’s persuasions about the glory that it would bring to their family, and his own realization that the pupillage would uniquely enhance his own social status, led him to reconsider his earlier stance. Rutherford took to spell-spinning with a furious passion, and in time, his vociferous proclamations about the superiority of his craft and the brilliance of his teacher led him to become Spinstrum’s favorite pupil.
Now, note this of Rutherford: while he was a boy of strong constitution, incisive mind, and not un-tidy looks, his father’s influences, his own aggrandizing passions, and his willingness to brag long and loudly of even his smallest accomplishments, combined with the real envy of his peers, led him to be the single most despised student on the university campus. Even after Rutherford’s matriculation ceased and he was taken on as a battle-magus with the Duke’s company, he engendered both awe and violent hatred wherever he went. However, far from being chastened into a more humble or self-reflective individual, Rutherford took this vitriolic reception as a sign of his preeminent superiority – to his mind, he deserved every bit of praise and pomp, whether from his own mouth or from the mouths of others, and provoking heated reactions of any sort indicated that he was, in every truth, a very GREAT MAN.
Thus, it was that Rutherford engendered the hatred of none other than the Duke’s own son, Danewyn Lordfellow. Rutherford, following a particularly bloody battle in which he had managed to slay two men single-handedly with one bolt of fire, had set to bragging in the Duke’s inner court, and after drinking five flagons of rich ale, began to contrast, in lyrical and painstaking detail, all of Danewyn’s meager accomplishments to his glorious own. Rutherford then, in a burst of folly, approached Danewyn’s betrothed, Farah Finegarden (to whom Danewyn had proposed earlier in the evening), and made a counter-proposal. Farah, like any fine lady, fainted dead away on a conveniently-placed nearby bench, and Danewyn, incensed and insulted, but tempered, held his tongue. However, that night, five of Danewyn’s strongest retainers kidnapped a sleeping and vomit-smeared Rutherford, and had him immediately and ignobly shipped off to summary banishment in the worst, most degrading of potential punishments: the prison of wood and woe known as Chestworld.
Now, Rutherford seeks to return from his ignoble exile, to slaughter his exiler, Danewyn, to succeed with finality to the spell-weaving craft, and, above all, to ensure the everlasting glory of the Heathcliff name by becoming its single most accomplished and respected descendant.