The Umbra Sprite has tried to create an atmosphere of evil and chaos throughout history, and has occasionally succeeded. He is able to bring about these periods by ritually killing the mysterious figure, the Fisher King. In contemporary times, we find him searching for the Fisher King with the help of his five sons, the Grackleflints. He is opposed by Mirth, the World Mage, and Kevin Matchstick, his champion.
Character Description and History The Hero Discovered
The Umbra Sprite is usually seen in shadows, with his face partially obscured. This lessens as the series goes on, but we never see his complete face. He is a skinny man with white hair.
Thus shadowed, he receives a call from Emil
, who has killed a potential aid to Kevin Matchstick. The Umbra Sprite is glad, but worried to hear that Matchstick has met Mirth: he could be a distraction in their efforts to find the Fisher King.
In his first few appearances, he is a strong and forceful personality and strategist. When the Grackelflints show surprise at the fact that Matchstick survived their attacks, he is not; he is experienced at battling the hero form his past lives. He begins summoning a supernatural threat to take care of him, since he believes that Kevin is now too powerful to be hurt by ordinary means. He sets the Gracs out on the street to find the Fisher King.
However, when Stanis
finds Edsel, the Umbra Sprite is forced to save him by sending his Shade, due to the unexpected intervention of Mirth and Kevin. Mirth then embarrasses and pains the Umbra Sprite by using a banishing spell on the Shade, sending him away from the battlefield. He is not hurt himself, however, and discusses more strategy in relation to finding the Fisher King before completing his summons of the Marhault Ogre
to attack the heroes. Summoning is actually his main way of dealing with his foes; it is very unusual for him to have any direct contact with his enemies.
The Marhault Ogre fails, however, and the Umbra Sprite loses track of Mirth and Kevin. Finally he finds Kevin when he tries to use his power in jail. After Mirth releases Kevin from jail, the Umbra Sprite decides to make his former cellmates his catspaws. He appears to the prisoners as his Shade again, but this time he pretends to be the inner spirit of one of the criminals, Rashem
, and says that the loa (voodoo gods) want him to kill Kevin. Rashem, who believes in voodoo, agrees, and the Umbra Sprite gives him a magical staple gun as a weapon. Rashem stalks the streets for months looking for his prey, and only finds them much later (see below).
It is around this point that Emil, the only Grackleflint with an independent spirit, becomes frustrated with his father. He thinks he is becoming obsessed with Mirth and Kevin, when he should really be focused on the Fisher King.
comes back from a failed attempt on the heroes using a small group of Redcaps
. The Umbra Sprite punishes him by somehow wounding his spurs, leaving him out of commission for 9 days; this shows he is more concerned with their internal order and hierarchy than he is with their ability to find the Fisher King, because only Lazlo is able recognize the Fisher King when he is in disguise.
Emil confronts the Umbra Sprite about this unwise strategic decision, which he ignores, although he does issue orders to continue the search for the Fisher King. We see that he is smoking a rolled-up leaf from a potted plant in his office; the implication is that it is like marijuana. He summons yet another creature to attack the heroes; this time, it is a Leanhaun Sidhe
, or succubus. She also fails, and in the process, Stanis is captured.
The heroes interrogate Stanis, and he finally admits to them that the Umbra Sprite has been able to track them by looking for the telltale green magic that Mirth uses. While the heroes discuss the implications of this (they eventually decide that Mirth must go in hiding), the Umbra Sprite once again sends his Shade to save Stanis by shrinking him and sending him through the water pipes. He is very angry with Stanis, and even considers torturing him with water, but doesn't purely due to expediency. Unfortunately, Stanis dies in a car accident following the escape.
Five months pass. The Umbra Sprite has gained weight, and is smoking more of the week, and having physical symptoms from it, such as coughing. In fact, he now has to use a spell to assume a normal-looking human form. The heroes have been setting up ambushes for the Grackleflints, and he needs to reconsider his strategy. In fact, it seems that Emil has been doing most of the planning recently: he created a new homeless mission to find the Fisher King (whom they assume is homeless), and wants the Umbra Sprite to give a speech about it at their headquarters, the Styx Casino. The Umbra Sprite agrees but clearly his heart is not in it.
The Grackleflints find out that the heroes have infiltrated the Styx. The Umbra Sprite, still smoking, decides to summon more creatures to lure and bind him. In his anger, he loses control of his appearance spell and reverts to his heavier form. Also, in order to summon the creatures, he must postpone the speech about the homeless mission--another sign to Emil that he is on the wrong track. Clearly, while he is still very powerful, he is losing some control, and more due to his drug use and obsession with Mirth and Kevin than because of anything the heroes have been doing.
Finally some of his summoned beings are successful, and Kevin is captured. The Umbra Sprite has him held over a bottomless pit, and stands out on a plank to interrogate him. He seems to once again be self-assured and in control. However, Edsel
breaks in and uses the Bat
to knock Lazlo off the plank into the pit. The Umbra Sprite wants to fight Edsel, but Emil persuades him that they need to save Lazlo. Kevin takes the opportunity to break free himself, and falls on the plank, knocking Emil off too. The Umbra Sprite saves Emil as well, knocking Emil down a peg or two in his superiority complex.
As the heroes escape, Emil manages to stab Kevin with his poisonous spur, leaving him in mortal danger. When Emil returns, the Umbra Sprite looks fatter than ever. He has no real response when Emil asks why he couldn't sense the Bat earlier. But it turns out that his present deleterious condition is due to the pains of summoning the greatest creature of all: Cromm Cruich
, the dragon.
However, Cromm Cruich is too late, and the heroes escape. Mirth brings them all to the faerie realm, where they stay for a year. Back on Earth, the Umbra Sprite has has Emil working to hook Lazlo (who went insane while falling into the pit) up to a radio station, where they can use his powers to search the whole area for the Fisher King. Once the heroes return, however, he pulls them back to the Styx, in what Emil considers cowardice. Rashem, who has been living on the streets all this time, kills Edsel, and Kevin takes up the Bat himself. Only then does Kevin realize that the Bat is Excalibur, and that he is the reincarnation of Arthur Pendragon. Now that the sword/Bat has come into its full power, the Umbra Sprite becomes almost catatonic, even from a distance. When Piet
asks him for help, he can barely reply, and his weight has become all the more enormous.
Kevin invades the Styx, and overcomes all its wards. Meanwhile, Emil accidentally finds the Fisher King, and attempts to kill it, but apparently because he does not follow the correct ritual, he only releases a powerful blast of magical energy that kills Lazlo and scars himself. Emil returns to the Styx and finds the Umbra Sprite before Kevin, but the Umbra Sprite is now essentially in a coma, due to the nearby power of the Bat. Angered beyond reasoning at this failure of their forces, Emil picks up the smoking plant and bashes his father's skull in, apparently killing him. Kevin comes in soon after, to find him dead and alone: really there was no reason for him to come, since Emil did his work for him. In fact, the heroes did very little to injure the forces of darkness, they did most of their damage against themselves. In the absence of the Umbra Sprite's power, the Styx collapses, and Kevin jumps out. The forces of darkness have been beaten temporarily, and Kevin and Mirth leave to seek new challenges. The Hero Defined
In the Hero Defined
, the main villain is Emil Grackleflint, who has become a sorcerer. At the end, however, he is trapped by Wally Ut
, the second Mage, and only manages to escape by possessing his own son, Sigmund, and having him negate the spell. As he escapes, he is attacked by a horde of his own serpents, who wrap him up and merge to become the form of the Umbra Sprite. Angry, of course, at Emil's attempt to kill him, he banished him to oblivion. Before he does, he says that Emil made all the same mistakes that Emil blamed the Umbra Sprite for in the first place--arrogance, and most importantly, ignoring the Fisher King. After getting rid of Emil, the Umbra Sprite melts into a rushing black oil that floods the caverns. Wally says Kevin can't defeat he Umbra Sprite yet, and they escape.
The Umbra Sprite's current state is unknown, but he seems to be primed for a role in The Hero Denied
The Umbra Sprite has two main weaknesses. First, he suffers from an overly-sharp focus on Mirth and Kevin Matchstick. His main goal, as Emil constantly tries to remind him, should be killing the Fisher King, but he often gets too obsessed with the mage and the hero. His own arrogance keeps him from listening to others, and his other sons are but a choir to his intent; only Emil second-guesses him. Second, he becomes addicted to a smoking plant, similar to marijuana. It is clear as time goes by that he loses his focus and self-control, somewhat like a stoner or alcoholic. Moreover, he changes corporeally, becoming more and more obese as the series goes on, until at last he is so corpulent that he can no longer function.
The Umbra Sprite is one of the most powerful forces of darkness. He has apparently existed for millennia, if not longer. His power comes from the faerie realm, like Mirth's, but while Mirth is a natural conduit for that power, the Umbra Sprite must artificially dip into its energy and distort it. Still, he has enough power to make him more than a worthy adversary for the World Mage, especially since Mirth generally does not use offensive magic.
He has used his magic to create teleportation disks, to open a jail cell, to shrink one of his Grackleflint sons so he would fit in a water pipe and simultaneously protect him from the water, to fly, and to create offensive energy blasts. He has also used it to enchant items, such as the magical staple gun he gave to Rashem. He can also send his Shade to appear in other locations, and it can take forms other than his own body. As his struggle against the light went along, he also began using an illusion or shape-changing spell to provide himself with a thinner appearance.
In the Hero Defined
, he seemed to have a more powerful, direct level of magic, creating a huge black presence that grabbed Emil and banished him, and also turned into an ocean of oil.
However, his most powerful magic seems to be his ability to summon other creatures from the faerie realms, including the Marhault Ogre, a Leanhaun Sidhe, innumerable Redcaps, a giant, Rhiannon's Bane, sleep-inducing musicians, and perhaps most prominently, Cromm Cruich the dragon. Summoning leaves him weak for some time afterwards.