"Tell me your name and tell me who you were in your life?"
"My name was Ludlov, and I was a witch hunter."
So begins the opening for one of the best audio dramas I've heard in a while. The Witch Hunter Chronicles is a production (episodes are roughly 20 minutes apiece and released weekly) of a Dutch-based group called Audio Epics.
The Witch Hunter Chronicles is the story of Ludlov, the most successful witch hunter employed by the Church of the Goddess. His mission is to stamp out illegal magic use. However, Ludlov is rare animal in the city of Sevenpeaks. He is a witch hunter with a conscience. He entered the order after his wife was murdered by the mysterious cult, the Black Sickle. Of all the witch hunters, he alone seems to be immune to the hypnotic enchantments utilized by the witches. He attributes this resistance to the one thing he possesses fully: his Purpose. Ludlov does not believe that all who use magic are deserving of death, only those who use it for evil. This belief brings him into conflict with the superiors of his order, and leads him to befriend Samina, a young woman who employs magic to heal.
The series is set in a high fantasy world that just seems to nudge over into the Renaissance. Ludlov is armed with a sword, but also a pistol. The writing atmosphere, and plot remind me of something out of Warhammer. Production of The Witch Hunter Chronicles is remarkably high. They are currently on a hiatus so that the drama's musical composer, Peter Van Riet, can put the finishing touches on the pieces for the show. The music seems inspired by 'O Fortuna' from Orff's Carmina Burana, and yet, is still original, and very appropriate for the mood of the series.
What I find most intriguing is the way the show is framed. As the series begins, Ludlov is dead. He stands before Death to give an account of his life. What unfolds from there is a retelling of the events that presumably led to his appointment with Death. The Grim Reaper also shares details that might be referred to as 'the rest of the story,' parts that Ludlov might not be privy to but still informs the direction of the story.
The Witch Hunter Chronicles is dark fantasy, certainly, but we are presented with a complex character who knows his own mind and is determined to follow his purpose, no matter where it leads. And it leads to some very unwholesome places indeed. The drama is full of betrayal, madness, fear, corruption, persecution, and intolerance. Ludlov stands alone as perhaps a redeeming figure in this world.
The series is no "Princess Bride," mind you. It is a serious, gritty fantasy drama that sets the bar very high.