The ultimate possession was, in fact, the taking of the life. And then … the physical possession of the remains.
Bryce van Hollmjagen hails from House Hollmjagen, a small knightly house sworn to the Kingdom of the West.
His real name is Brian Greyfallow, ‘House Hollmjagem’ being a covert house to hide the notorious Greyfallow crime family name from the Kingdom of the West. He confessed into being Barry the Butcher, but was, in fact, a regular slayer, the deadliest of his time.
Sentenced to death, he was sent to the dungeons of Cirpal, later taking part in the prisonbreak started by Leovan al’Heartling. There, his mortal body was slain by Tel’Sian Flintshire, and his soul joined the illyrian magical Bloodwell.
A short-lived hero, ser Bryce the Galliant was considered extremely handsome and gifted, and is often described as the archetypical ‘Westernling golden boy’ who arrives poor at the capital and soon becomes one of its most beloved smallfolk figures.
A graduate of the Oaktree Community College of Witchcraft, he is considered one of the finest students of his promotion, even if known for his recklessness by his fellow elda’rei. He is also an able swordsman and a contestant in the Winter tournament.
Through sheer passion and determination, he worked his way to the finals, but most say his career will end when he faces Azriel the Bold, First Sword of the Order of the Rose. However, the smallfolk believes Bryce has a chance, and the gambling community is divided.
The marquis of Rubaron did bet 20,000 dragons and 2,000 phoenix on Bryce, to the general consternation.
During the Introduction Arc, Dantena van Torquaz meets Bryce at an official reunion of the Public Council and admits being surprised with the youth’s presence. He replies a true knight must understand how the inner workings of his nation works to better serve it. Torquaz mocks him and tells him he sees right through his ‘low-cunning’ and deems an arrivist, wishing him to lose to Azriel.
In charge of the Butcher case, Torquaz investigates the City Watch’s archives, and the letter signed Barry. Written in Old illyrian, a cryptic language that guards thought of as gibberish, Torquaz suspects a magi, and a strong one.
When the Lord Commander of the City Watch, Marshall Reishmark, announces his intention to capture the slayer known as Barry the Butcher and asks young knights to assist in the Hunt, Bryce is the first one to step forward, besting seasoned warrior Azriel himself, but is deemed to young by Reishmark.
Torquaz thinks of how vain the boy is.
The Contest occurs, and even if completely outmatched during the third and second ky’ais, Bryce takes the upper hand in the first k’yai, winning by knock out, with Azriel still agonizing days later.
Having won 2 Contests in a row, Torquaz believes the duel wasn’t natural, and Bryce’s magic had effects that sin’dorei struggled to identify, thus crowning Bryce winner.
In order to catch the killer, Torquaz visits the dungeons and experiments a battle of wits with inmate Balgrof, a necromancer, to see what angers him. Torquaz notices that the burning of books and knowledge is a common subject of hatred between magi – but him. He offers Balgrof clemency, in exchange for his cooperation in catching Barry the Butcher.
Torquaz asks the Holy See’s White Cloaks to gather all tomes on conjuration in the city, and starts to burn them in a massive pit, which leads the slayer to become more and more reckless. Being cut from the sources of his knowledge – thus being forced to flee South, towards the only libraries containing magical tomes.
White Cloaks hide at every gate, the most disguise themselves as sellswords and merchants the crowded Southern Gate, in which they find ser Bryce Hollmjagen, in an apparent rush.
They try to stop him to ‘remind him of the imperial palace’s invitation’ and he tries to flee, cutting through two knights before being bonded by Galrof.
Sitting in chains at the House of Wanders, Dantena meets Bryce face-to-face, who denies being the Butcher, stating that his Family is more influential that people think and they have nothing on him if he doesn’t confess. After giving his classical, ‘Don’t give your tourmentor ideas’, Torquaz tells him he knows of his filiation to Baron Greyfallow, revealing he always knew him as Brian Greyfallow, a conman running away from his debts, and the black sheep of the infamous crime family.
Brian confesses despising his father for removing him from ‘family affairs’ because of his ‘dark side’, that’s why he wanted to impress him by winning the Contest, but he pursues by adding the inquistor should know how ‘things work’ and that he will walk free before sunrise, when the House of Black and Red orders his release. Thanking his prisoner for his cooperation, he has him transported to the interrogation room by his two assistants.
After being inflicted an illusion that reproduced the pain of one fo his victims, Bryce confesses in laugher, saying he has ‘humiliated his father and surpassed the Dark Marquis himself’ by animating the dead for his ‘own pleasure’, implying he is a necrophile. Torquaz mocks him saying he was far better than the Marquis in his youth, deems him an ‘untalented brat, a daddy’s boy and an attention’s whore’ and tells him to enjoy the Ashpit, for the miserable days he has left.
Torquaz is left reminiscing on how he wasted his life as well.
Being spared from the Rohanian Gallows, Algrof is sent to serve s Warder at the Ashpit, and taunts a Bryce being bullied by the crowd of angry smallfolk, before thanking Torquaz who wishes him luck. Before letting him go, Dantena starts to speak Old Illyrian to disgraced Bryce, and the latter curses him, not understanding the saying: ‘Good Fortune in the Wars to Come’, the most famous Illyrian verse.
Dantena believes the Butcher is still at large, since two other apostates were also apprehended following the Burning of the Arcane, and hanged on orders of Lord Commander Reishmark.
Facing the commander, he asks him why did the affair took such a proportion before being swiftly buried. He is answered that the orders don’t come from him, and he shows Torquaz the Imperial Palace.
Following Hollmjagen’s arrest and confession, more than of 20 murders were also attributed to the fallen knight. The murders occurred in the Westernlands, in the Riverlands and in the Duchy of Tyria. His killing spree and thirst for dark power made the smallfolk fear the murdering slayers, usually believed to be old and secluded dark wizards, not golden boys in white amours.
In the Ashpit, Leo and his party enter the death row to free Jeod Daegoln, the master lockpicker, and access the Obsidian Vault, in which the Kingslayer is sealed. They meet ser a frail Brian who convinces them of his usefulness, convincing Megara by telling them a fake tragic backstory. After killing two tormentors, he is saved by Tel’Sian from the Tourmentor summouned by Balgrof, the latest Warden. Shooting the former necromancer with Leo’s crossbow while he was warning them against him, he lets Megara defend him to the party, claiming his time here made him change.
During the escape, he kidnaps an already bounded Megara – gagging with magic, by advantage of her broken vial – previously sealed by the tormentors, and rapes her in an upper level cell. Being done, he is on the verge of killing her to reanimate her, but he is faced by Tel’Sian.
Engaging a duel, he tries to cast a lightning bolt at her, before she easily dissipates it, explaining him that ‘blood magic’ does not only damage to his body but does damage to his soul. They engage in a sword fight, in which Brian explains that he won the Contest using ‘blood magic’ so she better considered his soul lost long ago. Stating that losing a soul is not a metaphor, Tel’Sian easily overpowers the rogue with her superior swordplay, and cuts his hand before castrating him, and throwing him into the lava pit. There, he slowly melts, joining countless anonymous villains as the trapped soulgems who failed the ‘ascent’, melting for eternity in their own demons.
Ser Bryce Hollmjagen was the Third Age’s most prolific slayer, even if his ability paled in comparison of Slayer Seraph and his own role model the Dark Marquis, a slayer in his earlier days. He is blamed to have ignited the fondness for hedonism and dark arts during the Late Heretic Era.
In Megara’s Interlude Dream, she dreams of her many captors, the one she reviled the most was Fuyrin the Defiler, while Brian holds the second position, for he was so weak and seemed trustworthy to him. When she suffers from trauma out of Brian’s rape, and lives the event again, she is saved by Norman Daegoln, and not by her sister.
Bryce is the titular protagonist of Lord Jonathan Marlspear’s third plays in his Tetralogy of the Fallen, which was received to widespread critical acclaim, enhancing the fascination for the dark arts in the Crownlands.