Dark Elven Horror Stories
Dark Elven Horror Stories is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.
It is a long held belief that horror stories are an integral part to the proper upbringing of any dark elven youth. Not only are they expected to learn invaluable life lessons and cultural obligations from the stories, but also to pattern themselves in such a way as to avoid the pitfalls, despairs, and follies of their leading characters. The stories differ greatly from culture to culture, and even from family to family. Commonly repeated themes seen in the tales include self-discipline, revenge, demonology, and the fickleness of sorcery.
~As recounted by Ilorn Mirodrath
I am often asked, by those unfamiliar with this story, whether it is true. The answer is yes, it is true, as all such tales are, whether or not the events in them ever happened.
This is a tale from before. Before Sharath, before the Conflagration that bore Sharath, and before the Fall that bore the Conflagration. In this time, the Unbound were still our allies, and the Keening Spire had not yet begun to weep. The First Born dwelled within the City, and within the City dwelled Varen.
Varen was young, as his people reckon age, merely a few years removed from the completion of his Trials, and now apprenticed as a carnifex; one who renders the dead into their useful components, and discards only the inutile portions as carrion.
This was a valued profession, as resources in the far south are few, and there is too much of worth even in the deceased to allow it to rot in the soil or in the stomach of scavengers. More than merely necessary, though, it was a sought after apprenticeship, as who can gain Ascension when one is bound to one's fleeting mortality? The carnifex, more so than even a veteran of the warrior societies, was inured to the flesh, to sentimentality, for they had no choice but to become so.
It was a role perfectly suited to Varen. Nothing valuable escaped his keen eye, and no waste was countenanced by his keen hands and the consummate skill with which he wielded the blades, saws, and mills of his profession. The Masters of his art looked upon his work with quiet approval, and merely a year into his apprenticeship, he was granted the right to work without the supervision of the Elders.
One morning, he pulled back the canvas covering the body before him, and for the first time in the commission of his duties, Varen paused.
Before him lay Anilasa, who had been born nearly to the moment he had, a rare occurrence amongst the people, whose children are few and far between. They had entered the Trials simultaneously, passed them effortlessly, and she had possessed skill in her arts to equal his, excepting that hers lay in the wielding of blades against the living rather than the dead.
They had admired each other greatly - too much, perhaps, but such pride was common in the young, and often faded on its own as wisdom grew. It was assumed by those who observed such things that they would one day petition for and be granted procreative rights, as the union of such blood could only strengthen the First Born.
Her patrol had carried her into the city at daybreak, and had delivered her immediately to the carnifex, for she had been slain by one of the Nameless Children, from whose mortal wounds no liturgy of resurrection could offer solace.
Varen attempted to steel himself and begin the rites of incision, to no avail. He forced himself through all the disciplinary mantras, yet will and focus fled from him like smoke. In the end, he put the corpse aside, and called upon his Master. He requested leave, in order to meditate more fully upon his duty, and it was granted. Such a thing was not uncommon when a carnifex first worked upon one he was familiar with. As was usual in these cases, Anilasa's flesh would be preserved until Varen's return, so that he could prove his discipline when next he wielded his blades.
Returning home, Varen contemplated his next course of action. In his labors, he had wrested many secrets from the dead. He had learned of an anchorite who had once touched the power of Fash'lo'nae, and, resonating with terrible understanding, had left the city for a life of isolation in order to keep his brethren safe. Torn halfway between mortality and Ascendancy, he had become a conduit of dangerous and forbidden knowledge.
Before the horizon had lit, Varen had begun his journey.
The anchorite had foretold his arrival, and what it would mean, and attempted to ward his visitor from his home. Varen, however, knew the Words of Breaking, and was not delayed.
At first, the hermit resisted questioning, for he knew the answers, and the danger within them. Varen, however, knew the Words of Compulsion, and thus the anchorite had no choice but to speak.
He told Varen that the only recourse was to forge a pact with one of the Adversaries, for they held a compact with the Children, and only they could bargain for the souls they kept from the Ebon Gate. Even then, he warned, there would be a price, for none of their race serve others without first serving themselves.
And, in this instance, he told Varen, only Oleani could assist him.
Varen recoiled at that name, but quickly recovered his composure. He demanded to know why it must be Her. Of the Adversaries, few were as dangerous, as eager to bind the First Born to their flesh, to animal instinct, never to Ascend.
The anchorite held Varen's gaze, and explained that none would help a mortal who did not hold something of value to them, and what Varen held in him would slake none of their thirsts but Hers.
He told Varen to remember that her power does not bind us. Her danger lies in seducing us into binding ourselves. That is why, should you succeed in making this pact, Anilasa will live once more, but you must never touch her again. Not once, no matter how lightly, no matter how briefly.
Varen accepted this, thinking it a small price to pay for her return.
The hermit gave him instructions on how to walk the secret ways that led to her realm, and Varen committed them to memory.
He convinced himself that this was needed, that to do otherwise would be robbing his people of her talents, that her children would be strong, even if they could not be his as well. Indeed, with as few children as are delivered to the First Born, could they even afford a loss such as this? If he must feign personal desire to convince Oleani to assist him, then that is what he would do.
And the easiest lies to believe are those one tells oneself.
Varen could not say how long the journey lasted nor how far he wandered, for the path he trod was as much spirit as dross. The passage of the moon and sun soon gave way to a grey empyrean, from which a vague glow emanated, though no celestial body could be seen. Finally, upon cresting the lip of a vast crater that had punctured the deep red stone of the wasteland, he saw that he had arrived.
Before him stood the enemy's citadel, a misshapen thing, a cyclopean tumor erupting from the landscape. As he looked upon it from his vantage, he could see the outer walls flex and strain at points, as if something enormous were held within, testing the resilience of its prison.
He willed himself to move forward, with each step having to remind himself of his purpose for doing so. The closer he got to the citadel, the more his eyes picked up on its methodical beating and the shrill keen it emitted, sounding like nothing less than a legion of discordant birth cries.
There was no entryway, merely a smooth outer skin. As he lifted his hand to touch it, a tear formed in the wall and folded back on itself, allowing him ingress. Stepping inside, the membrane sealed itself behind him.
The interior struck him with an oppressive humidity. No surface escaped the omnipresent moisture, and only the odd texture of the floor allowed him to walk upright. Ahead, more walls parted, beckoning him onwards.
In the shadows writhed forms not meant to be seen by the eye, and within the translucent walls themselves pulsed arcane fluids. From the unseen ceiling hung glistening amniotic sacs, ceaselessly disgorging unidentifiable creatures, which would fall to the ground and quickly scuttle out of sight.
At last, the path opened onto what could only be an audience chamber. Cavernous, it receded into blackness, with only the area immediately surrounding him illuminated by the sourceless sanguine glow. Ahead sat a dais of sorts, polished ivory, rising from the ground as if grown there. Atop it, flanking either edge, were two demons, identical in almost every aspect of appearance and demeanor, including the innumerable thorns that burst from their skin. The sole exception was their eyes. Though both wielded an intense blue gaze, the eyes of one were acutely sorrowful, from which an unending stream of tears flowed, while those of the other were manic, crazed to the limits of sanity in their apparent joy.
A voice, seductive, yet mocking, rose from all around Varen, welcoming the First Born to her sanctum.
From obscurity, a form rose from the floor between the two monstrous attendants, seeming to somehow unfold in front of him. Her tall form dwarfed those beside her, and was both wondrous and terrible to behold. Her features were exquisite, and her flawless skin was faintly luminous, exposed as it was in its entirety, but her movements seemed wrong to him, almost disjointed.
Though he had never seen her incarnate before, Varen instinctively knew that he now addressed Oleani herself.
The Adversary spoke, and though she stood before him now, the words once more reverberated from his surroundings. She demanded to know why he had approached her, as the First Born rarely parleyed with her people.
He explained in great detail why he had sought this audience. As he spoke of Anilasa, he began with his usual reserve, but as he continued, he found restraint harder and harder to achieve. Words flowed from his mouth, effusive in their praise for his dead friend, recalling details about her he had not even realized he remembered. And still he continued, until he realized that he had lost control of his own actions, the fervency of his appeal providing its own momentum. He could feel himself weakening, as the flame of his desire was stoked and fanned until it filled him to bursting, even as it was being siphoned from him.
The more he spoke, the more Oleani's smile widened, until she was wearing a rictus that nearly split her face in two. As his energy waned, hers waxed, and her luminosity increased exponentially.
It was then, on the verge of collapse, that he could see the truth of what stood before him. Now illuminated, the twisted cords that extended from her into the darkness above were finally visible. These myriad, viscous funiculi supported her body, and twitched and spasmed for every motion she made.
This was not Oleani, but merely a marionette of sorts, an organ designed specifically to communicate with lesser beings. And it was then that he realized.
He was not standing before Oleani, but within her.
The power, the monstrosity of this Adversary struck him fully then, bringing him an understanding of her nature that decades of study had not, and indeed could not have. The shock of this revelation proved to be precisely the catalyst he needed to arrest his frenzied monologue, and he was able to finally reassert dominance over his own heart and mind.
As his breath returned, he asked what she had done to him. The voice once again resounded through the chamber, telling him that, in fact, it had done nothing at all, that it did not create desire, merely elicited what was already there.
Varen was incredulous, convinced that she had been controlling his thoughts and emotions. Her effigy, however, merely looked upon him, bemusement painted across its features.
Her voice informed him that the payment had been acceptable, that the deal would now be struck.
Her two most loyal minions, the twin demons Loss and Anathema, known in the Old Tongue as Laethe and Voaris, approached, moving in perfect synchronicity. Each gripped his forearm, then twisted to expose his wrist. In unison, they each took one talon and incised two intersecting circles into his flesh. As blood welled, they both leaned forward and pressed their lips against the mark, the skin sealing beneath the warmth of their touch. And though the laceration was gone, Varen could still feel it, as if instead of healing, the wound had merely sunk beneath his skin, like a predator, lurking.
And Oleani's carnal puppet spoke one final time, telling him that the pact was made, and he was free to go.
As he left the citadel, he passed an area he had not seen on the way in. Through the walls, he could see a row of Her servitors, squat and bestial, toiling over countless anvils. Their hammers rose and fell rhythmically, and Varen could see that each was forging a single link in an immense iron chain. As he strode by the doorway, the thralls lifted their heads, unceasing in their labor, and followed him with their vacant eyesockets, their labored breath drawn hungrily through their leering grins.
The invisible mark beneath Varen's wrist throbbed, and his steps, already hurried, quickened even more until he stood beneath the sun once again.
The fugue that gripped him on the journey towards the Adversary's bastion also gripped his mind on the journey back. By the time he approached the City again, he was not entirely sure that his wanderings had not been imagined.
However, the news awaiting him upon his return belied the phantasmagoric nature of his travels, for Anilasa was alive once more.
Rarely does a body in queue for the carnifex rise of its own accord, and never had a victim of the Nameless Children done so, and thus she was studied for signs of undeath, possession, and any number of conditions that might explain her impossible vitality. Their inquiries uncovered nothing sinister, however.
On the chance that they had missed something, she was kept from her former patrols, for both her and their safety. As the one most familiar with her, Varen was instructed to stay close to her and observe, to watch for any sign that she was not who she once was. She would be assigned as his assistant until such time as she was deemed uncorrupted. If any suspected he was complicit in her new condition, lack of evidence kept them silent.
Her new proximity did not concern him overmuch. After all, he had not forgotten the anchorite's warning, and the taboo itself was simple enough. He was pleased simply to have her near again.
That he even felt such pleasure was the first sign of his erosion.
Varen learned quickly that self-control was far easier to achieve when temptation was not at arm's length. What was simple at first became increasingly difficult. Days turned to weeks turned to months, until every moment near her felt to him like an eon.
He recalled every word of the effusive praise for Anilasa that had poured from him in his audience with Oleani, and this alone was challenging to wrestle with, but it was as nothing next to his realization that even that mania had failed to compare to the reality of the woman herself.
When Anilasa's subtle attentions made it clear that she likely felt towards him as he did her, every second Varen maintained his facade of detachment became an eternity of torture.
His illusion of discipline evaporated before him the more fervently he tried to cling to it.
Even sleep no longer offered respite. Everything forbidden by day raced through his dreams, and he would wake in the morning no less tormented, a dull throb in his wrist.
He understood now, only too late, that he had never truly been tested. He had always been too good, and so every task set before him had always been too easy. Despite his fearsome intelligence and immaculate skill, his will remained stunted and feeble.
And without a foundation of will, no other virtue could stand for long.
When one day she whispered her true feelings towards him, and how long she had held them, the last ragged fragments of his resolve could not make even the pretense of resistance.
As he reached to Anilasa and pulled her into his embrace, he found it a relief to finally surrender.
Moments later, one of the masters found himself walking by the cutting room. As he was passing the door he heard from behind it an ululation, soft at first, then rising in pitch, and then suddenly punctuated by the harsh sound of lashing metal. He immediately pulled the door open.
And he saw them, writhing forms sewn together by rough links of iron, as if by a giant needle threaded through their flesh, their grotesque moans an amalgam of both ecstasy and agony. He had but a moment to comprehend the perverse tableau before the chains pulled taut, and the two-now-one were dragged forever into the dark.
~As recounted by Kashir Anasahr Faendryl
Our story begins, as all stories must, at the beginning. There was born, to a family of once noble Faendryl lineage, a child with the most piercing green eyes. This child was, shall we say, special. Born under great auspices, his birth signs did portend a great blessing, and a great curse. This child, it was said, would raise the family name to great heights, returning it to its rightful place. With such a blessing, however, came ill portents: the death of his family. For a proper Faendryl family, this is rather a small price to bear to know that one's descendants will be great. The child, therefore, was looked upon favorably and given the greatest of birth gifts, as befitted his birthright.
One night, the child having been put to bed, the family held a great gathering, and much of the extended family was in attendance. They wined and dined and spoke of lofty things, threw a family feast in the old style. Amidst the festivities, one of the attendees turned and noticed the child as he entered the Feast Hall. "Oh look! It is the family savior now!" he shouted, rather drunkenly. The child's eyes burned their fiercest emerald green as he walked silently in.
This child, a child of but a few gentle years, strode into the hall, stood before the great table, and merely raised his arms in a small gesture. Those who were gathered stared and marveled as a small flame sprouted at the boy's feet. It smoldered and burned, spreading out in a thin line before him, forming a brilliant circle. The party-goers all thought this was a wonderful trick. What boy was this that could perform such an impressive, if small, magical cantrip at his age? He had barely spoken, and had only just mastered walking, and here he was incanting a ring of smoldering flame.
Suddenly, as the circle drew to a close, all of the doors of the Great Hall slammed shut. Within the ring of fire, ancient sigils of power began to inscribe themselves, and further circles developed within it. Inside the central circle, eight tiny dots of fire began to grow at cardinal and intermediate points. By now, the party-goers were certainly in awe, and some began to grow nervous. The eight dots began to form lines between them, each one connected to two others, and the symbol began to close itself.
The boy stood nearly as a statue, save for a low murmured incantation, his brilliant eyes growing brighter. As the last lines closed, the circle flashed and glowed very brightly. The hues rolled, first red, then orange, on to yellow and, finally, returned to a most virulent green.
Now, some of the guests had, by this time, begun to try to exit the Great Hall. They found the doors were shut fast, and would not budge. In an instant, one that dragged on for an eternity, a great demon appeared within the circle, its eyes wild and ferocious. Such a demon as this had not been seen in many millennia. The Faendryl, as many know, are a curious race. Some were frightened, yes, but all marveled at the great beast as it raged and railed within its confinement.
As surely as he had begun the rite, the child faltered, collapsing to the floor. As he did so, the magnificent circle that held the beast faltered and gave way. The demon slew nearly all of the guests before it crashed through the front wall to the entryway, then further through the front of the house and into the night. It raged through the streets of Ta'Faendryl, taking eight of the city's strongest summoners to subdue it. This child, it would seem, had done what no one summoner had ever managed. Even in the great battle, it had taken groups of summoners to call such creatures.
One of the surviving guests, an uncle, found the boy curled up fast asleep on the floor within the hall. "We shall be great again," he whispered to himself, as he took the boy into his arms.
As there were few surviving members of the family, and as it was his eldest brother's child, none among whom was elder than he, save his own father, he moved into the estate and oversaw its repair. As luck would have it, having been portended to be a great summoner, the child had been registered as a summoner at birth. There were, therefore, no great repercussions. However, as he was not yet old enough to be taught, he was left in his uncle's care. It was to his uncle that the High Summoner came, bearing a proposition.
"We shall be happy to just forget about this whole ordeal," the summoner said, "but on one condition." The boy was to be disallowed from performing any magic, even the smallest cantrips, until he was old enough to be trained, at which time he would become the charge of the High Summoner himself.
And so the boy was to be raised in his own household, under the supervision of his uncle and, to a lesser extent, his grandfather. When the grandfather was away, which was often, the boy was left to be attended upon by the servants. Upon the house was placed a ward of anti-magic, specifically attuned to the boy, that he may not step beyond its bounds, and that he may not therein perform any sort of magic. This assured the keeping of the deal, but did greatly vex the boy.
When the grandfather was present, he would often take the boy aside, in private rooms, to show him a few small tricks that he might be soothed from his own prohibition, and that he might learn to perform them himself, even if only by gesture and not in their completion. This infuriated the uncle, who greatly feared what might happen if the boy managed, somehow, to perform a trick, and he often chastised the old man.
Over the next nearly hundred years, the uncle grew more and more dour towards the boy, and bade him no kindness. As well, he took his late brother's small fortune and began to build his own, increasing their fortunes many times over, but never allowing the child the enjoyment of it. He thought, and perhaps rightly, "So, the prophecy was true. The boy has destroyed much of the family and, in so doing, the family has become great again. We are wealthy, and we are gaining the begrudging respect of the other families." It was true, in fact, the family had grown in power since that terrible night.
Then came the boy's hundredth birthday and with it came the High Summoner to spirit him away. The grandfather lamented the loss of his grandson, and the uncle rejoiced the lifting of his burden. The boy was taken to the summoner's tower and told that he would be disallowed from seeing his remaining family, save for special visits, and would be similarly prohibited from the use of magic, except under the High Summoner's supervision. He was then given a small supply room in which to sleep upon rags and accoutrements befitting of a cleaning boy. There he would toil away his days, cleaning and shining, and spend his nights in the High Summoner's chambers, being experimented upon to find the source of his great power.
It was not unusually cruel treatment that he received by the summoner, just generally a lot of standing still in the middle of circles of chalk, sometimes being made to hold or wear precious and semi-precious stones and symbols. Occasionally, the boy would be allowed a visit by his uncle. These visits were bitterly cold and often malicious. The uncle would tell him of the goings-on of the household, for which the boy cared little, and how the fortune was growing.
One night, the boy recalled a trick that his grandfather had taught him, and swept a pile of dust in his "room" into a small circle, tracing the lines and intoning the words. Suddenly, there was a small image of his grandfather, standing before him.
"Ah-ha!" the senescent little man chuckled. "I knew you would get it my boy. This is a bit of my own magic, not yours, so it is not prohibited within the tower." The boy jumped with a start, tumbling into his pile of rags. "I am sorry, my child, but I know to have the greatest faith in you. Do not lose heart, for one day you will be great," continued the old man.
The image of his grandfather taught him to keep the circle small, that he might keep it hidden, and warned him that he must only use it in times of great need or loneliness, but that he would be there, every morning, intoning on his own end, should the boy need him. This gave the boy a bit of heart as he went about his toil and, once upon a while, he would call upon his grandfather, regaining a little needed strength to carry on.
As the boy grew, the High Summoner had him perform more duties and slowly, very slowly, he taught him some lesser spells, but not too much, lest the boy present a danger. So, too, did he grow tired of attempting to study him, always finding nothing, that he eventually began leaving off for the nights and allowing the boy a little personal time of his own, even occasional use of the facilities. Within the tower, he was taught, there were certain rooms that were warded against the ward that held him in prohibition. Within these rooms he would be allowed to develop his own talent, to a degree, but only at the High Summoner's pleasure. The boy worked more diligently, that he might be given some allowance to use one of the rooms, and his visits with his grandfather became less and less frequent.
The years rolled on, as they must, and one morning the young man, as he was now growing into his age, thought to summon his grandfather's image that he might tell him of the many wonders he had been allowed. There stood before him the image of his grandfather, bowed with age.
"I am sorry my boy, I have grown old, and older still, and I do not think we will speak again. I grow weary and do not have long to live, but I want you to know..." suddenly the image faltered and turned with a start. "No! You can't. You mustn't. I have to be allowed to..." the old man fell hard and quietly croaked out, in his last breath, "thank you, child, for bringing pride to an old man."
Suddenly, the image of his uncle appeared in his place. "I do not know how you have done this, but you will not do it again."
The young man quietly performed his chores for the day, and into the night, when a message came for the High Summoner. Quietly he slunk around the tower, but no word came for him.
The next morning, upon waking, he found the High Summoner standing before him. The summoner asked, "Have I been unkind to you, boy? Have I been unclear with you? I have been a bit lenient, perhaps that is my fault. You are to go to your grandfather's vigil tonight. You will be allowed to join in the celebration of his passing as was his wish and, when you return, we will surely have much to speak on." The High Summoner turned and left, revealing attire befitting the young man's station as a member of a re-emerging noble family.
The young man was escorted to a stately changing room where he was allowed to don the apparel of a young nobleman, of brilliant hues of golds and reds, lined with silver and black, and with a small black boutonnière, to mark his grandfather's passing. Last, he donned his black robe, the mark of a summoner, and was escorted out into the night to a carriage, which bore him to his former home.
Whereupon he emerged from his carriage, he hardly recognized the place. Certainly it was the same house, but much had changed. There were statues of fine make upon the lawn and the curtains of reds and whites were all trimmed with gold. He was no longer a boy, but a young man of 250 years, and as he approached, a doorman bade him enter. So long had he toiled in the tower that he had grown rather cut and lean, fine muscles showing lightly beneath his clothing. As he entered the Grand Hall, hardly a one recognized him.
His uncle announced him before the usher could do so, "...and here he is now! The young master has returned to us from his studies! Look upon him, all. Here is the boy who has returned my fine family to greatness!" All did look upon him, and murmured quietly, if but only politely.
"Come, boy! Your seat is set at my right hand! Come set yourself beside your proud uncle." As he made his way amidst the throng, they all politely bid him condolences upon the passing of his grandfather, who did live such a life, and die a good age.
And so the festivities were begun. All the while his uncle smiled at him, scowling beneath a thin veneer, stabbing at him with words. The feast was delivered, and they feasted. Toasts were made and all the tables were cleared to make room for dancing. The young man remained at his uncle's side, as was proper, but responded not to his cutting remarks and cruel barbs.
"Did you enjoy the feast? I hope you did. Now, surely you will enjoy the dance, for I can assure you they will be the last fineries you ever enjoy here," his uncle whispered coolly into his ear. "You know that old fool never did stop begging upon every morning to be allowed to visit you. For a time, his protestations had nearly abated, and I knew not why. Well, I know now, but that is all in the past. I have the house, the fortune and, were something to ever happen to you, I will have the title. I am the eldest; when you return to the tower, you will be out of my hands forever. Do enjoy this night," he finished with a sneer.
Throughout the night, the young man's eyes had shown brightly green, but with these final words, something inside him broke free. They snapped open and blazed as with a hellish green fire. With that, he walked to the center of the hall and let out a wail that would chill the blood of the damned. The wards upon the house burst into green flame and boiled off of the walls. The curtains flew and the doors slammed shut once more. There, in the center of the floor, the young man stood, not upon the marble tiles, but on the air. Rising slowly, he let fly dark words.
The very air crackled with charged magic, as if it were lightning, and the fires all guttered out. The only light came from beneath him as it stretched out into a large green circle, filling the hall with an unnatural cast. As the circle spread, the symbols and sigils began to reassert themselves within it, yet still it grew.
Floating there ten feet off of the floor, the young man cast about within the void to find the thing he sought, and there it was, waiting for him. He offered it whatever it might want, that it would slay this man that stood before him, and it delighted in his anguish. It emerged in a flash, and yet again the space of forever, tearing at the crowd, ripping some asunder. As the young man stared into his uncle's eyes, searching them for fear and finding none, he became keenly aware that something was wrong. His uncle simply sneered back at him as eight robed figures emerged from the crowd, drawing at equal intervals around the circle.
"Oh, look. Well, now you've really gone and done it, boy. You've gone and damned yourself by your own hands. As a child, no one could hold you fully responsible for your actions, but now you are of age, and they will surely punish you. If only you had any insight, you might have held your tongue, but I knew you couldn't help yourself, so I had the summoners in quiet attendance, waiting. If only you hadn't wanted for all I have gained, and sought to take it by such crude force. Tsk, tsk, tsk," he scolded.
The Great Summoners' words began to ring out in his head, tearing through him with a force he could never imagine. The demon began to fall back within its bounds and fell upon its knees, glaring malevolently. As one of the summoners tilted his head up, his hood fell back to reveal the High Summoner himself, staring down the raging creature. He looked it solidly in the eyes, then glanced back in the young man's uncle's direction and returned the demon's gaze, with a smirk. As he nodded his head, the creature made one last lunge, tearing at the uncle and dragging him back into the void with him. All the while, the summoner smiled.
"I told you, boy, that when you returned, we would have to speak, but it seems you have left me no choice, now must be the time. All of you, OUT!" he commanded. The doors flung themselves open and all of the guests piled out as quickly as they could, leaving only the summoners and the young man, still floating in the air.
"Your uncle was greedy and petulant, but he was also shrewd. He turned your failing family's meager fortunes into one fit for the greatest among our house. Now that he is dead, and you, the only heir, are ineligible to claim it, it must fall to he in whose charge you will be left." A cool smile crossed his face as he let the words sink in. "It really is too bad, you know? You might have been great, perhaps even the greatest among us, given time. Now, we will just have to seal away your power that you may no longer pose a danger to the Faendryl." With that, he rejoined the incantation.
The young man hung helplessly in the air, unable to protect himself from the onslaught of their terrible words. They slammed into him, through him, and tore away at his very being. His brilliant eyes, burning brightly, began to fade and gutter out. Slowly, they sunk away to a tempestuous, ashen grey.
The Thaumaturgically Unsettled
~As Recounted by Mistyflower Danshieer
There are some pieces of Faendryl history that rarely see the light of day.
The XVIth Patriarch built a sanitarium to house those driven insane by the things they encountered during their magical research.
It was called the Elizhabet Mahkra Faendryl Asylum for the Thaumaturgically Unsettled in honor of his sister. Elizhabet was the first sorcerer to ever breach the Veil, but it cost her her sanity. She was also the first tenant of the asylum and lived out the rest of her life there.
My grandmother served as a doctor at the asylum for over six hundred years, and in her dotage she passed on many stories of the place. I'll share with you one of the tales that used to give me chills as a child.
Angevin Leala Faendryl was twelve years old when she became a tenant of the sanitarium. Her uncle had kidnapped her and forcibly used her fledgling powers in an experiment that drove him mad and left Angevin hiding inside her own mind. The uncle was executed, rather than put in the asylum, and Angevin's parents worked with her for months before giving up and agreeing that the asylum was the best place for her.
Angevin would not, or could not, speak. She would either ignore everyone completely, withdrawn into her own world, or she would look at you with an expression in her grey eyes that could break your heart.
Being so quiet and docile, Angevin was left to her own devices. She had a lovely room with windows facing the gardens, a large chest of toys and a never-ending supply of drawing materials. Angevin was a very good artist and would spend days working with charcoals or even painting watercolors. She drew everything she saw, from the other tenants to the nursing staff, the landscaped grounds and the brilliant fish in the fountains.
Angevin had been there for about three weeks when the nurses saw that her drawings had taken a very dark turn. Charcoals showed gaping black holes for backgrounds with a dark, scaled serpentine creature coming through. The nurses were concerned and therapy sessions were added to her daily routine.
The therapy sessions accomplished very little, as Angevin would sit quietly and stare out the window or through her doctor, never a sound passing her tightly closed lips. In frustration, the doctor would order changes to her diet or botanical medicines to be administered in varying dosages, but the strange drawings continued.
One morning a patient was missing. He had been a rather deranged man that was considered a danger to himself as well as others, and was often kept strapped in null magic bindings throughout the night. The bindings were still secure, but empty, and drops of blood stained the bed and floor.
The staff searched high and low for him, finally concluding that he somehow escaped his room and the grounds. A bulletin was sent to the guard, and then he was generally forgotten as the staff fell back into their normal routines.
That night as a nurse put Angevin to bed, she noticed a new drawing lying on the table. This one showed the same snake-like creature, but it clutched a tall thin man dressed in robes, dragging him towards the gaping hole and leaving a trail of blood. The man looked like the missing patient.
The nurse went straight to the doctor on duty that night, my grandmother, and showed her the drawing. Angevin was woken up and questioned for hours to no avail. She said not a peep, just kept staring out the window or drawing on the table with a stick of charcoal. All her drawings were quick sketches of the same monster in various poses.
In frustration, my grandmother sent her to her room with orders that she be locked in until further notice.
Over the next few weeks, more patients went missing. The white-haired grandmother who was friendly to everyone and talked to her dead husband; the deaf young man that played the piano beautifully for hours every day; even the woman who spent every night screaming and scratched her face bloody, trying to gouge her eyes out.
Blood was found wherever a patient went missing, from a few tiny droplets to entire pools of the sticky red stuff filling the hallways outside patient rooms. The nurses were skittish and neglected the patients in their paranoia, trying to look in every direction at once. Clusters of Basilica guards roamed the halls, investigating the disappearances, and all of the normally placid patients were anxious and fearful, crying or hiding in corners from unseen threats.
My grandmother spent most of her time with Angevin. Even locked in her room, the young girl seemed to know everything that was happening. Drawings covered all her paper, the table, the floor and even the walls, depicting all the missing patients being dragged off and torn apart by the creature that seemed half man, half snake. No one thought Angevin was actually involved in the horrors, but she seemed to be the key to figuring things out.
The Basilica sent sorcerers and other types of magic users to examine every corner of the grounds and buildings, but the sheer magnitude of the null magic bindings needed for violent patients blinded them. The families of the patients were demanding answers. They wanted their ill relatives to be safe and secure, to live peacefully with whatever problems they may have, and this situation was unacceptable.
Angevin's pictures were getting more violent and disturbing. They depicted the creature tearing apart the missing patients and feasting. More patients were going missing every few days. Everyone, the patients, staff and investigators, was getting very frustrated and fearful. Finally, things came to a head when one night a scream was heard echoing through the hallways. A nurse was missing...
My grandmother still thought Angevin was somehow the key and she decided to spend every moment locked in her room with her, to figure out how Angevin saw the creature take its victims.
The first night passed quietly, the only sound the scratching of Angevin's charcoal as she sketched the creature across the height of one wall and the guards stomping past in the hallway. My grandmother stayed up all night, even watching Angevin as she slept. The next day she was very tired, but tried to subsist on quick catnaps when nurses came in to bring Angevin meals or to sit with her, making sure the girl was never truly alone.
Late the second night, sometime after the hall clock struck midnight and long before dawn, in those hours when even the tiniest sound makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, my grandmother heard Angevin cry out in her sleep. A low wail of anguish and denial, it was the first sound she had ever known Angevin to make.
Coming fully awake, she sat up in her chair and stared at the girl. It took several moments before she realized there was more light, she could see everything clearly. Looking towards the window, she saw a harsh rip in the air in the very middle of the room, opening onto a scene torn from a nightmare.
Through the rip she could see a dank grey stone room stained with old and new blood, the various shades of red mingling in streaks across the walls and shallow pools on the floor. A faint dripping sound mingled with Angevin's low moans as she thrashed in her sleep. Trembling, my grandmother stood up and stepped towards the portal...
Strange shuffling sounds from the hallway broke her horrified trance, and she flung herself into a dark corner, staring at the door. The door never opened, an awful apparition just... moved through the solid door like it was heavy air. A humanoid torso with four arms and a head nearly brushing the ceiling merged into a long, scaled serpent tail that coiled and writhed as it propelled the creature forward.
A mangled figure was slung roughly over one shoulder, blood streaking across the monster's chest and dripping down to the floor. The demon slithered into the portal, which rippled and vanished, leaving no trace behind.
My grandmother had never seen anything like this, and it took more than a few moments to stop shaking and gather her thoughts. She let herself out of Angevin's room and found the guards patrolling the buildings. It took almost twenty-four hours for the team investigating the disappearances to have everything ready.
All of the null-magic bindings and materials were removed from the areas surrounding Angevin's room. Three master sorcerers as well as a few people with some previously unclassified mental abilities arrived from the Basilica and set up headquarters in the rooms vacated by the patients who were moved to other buildings.
Everyone was linked up and prepared, tensely waiting and focusing on Angevin's room as the late hours neared. Palestra hid in alcoves lining the hallway, quiet as ghosts. Angevin herself had been moved and was unaware of the situation. That night nothing happened in her room. No portal appeared. But a staff member from the building Angevin was in went missing.
Early in the morning a meeting was called among all those investigating the demon. It was agreed that the demon seemed to somehow be linked with the girl, not the room, and plans were made to try again that night with Angevin present. Angevin was given heavy sleeping medication and was put to bed as normal. After she fell asleep, everyone moved into position and prepared to wait again.
Two sorcerers hidden in the girl's room were the first to give the alarm, noting the ripples in the air as the portal started to open at the same time Angevin started to whimper. With the combined strength of all the magic users, they were able to repel the creature and close the hole, but afterwards called everyone together to relate everything they had learned.
The way it was explained to me... the portal was closed, but only temporarily. With the absence of the null-magic devices the sorcerers were able to see a link between the demon and Angevin; a very odd-looking link, similar to the tie demons have to their home planes when they've been summoned to ours. My grandmother related Angevin's history to them, how she was abused by her uncle and came to the asylum, and what happened to the uncle.
This led to all sorts of theories, ending with the sleeping Angevin being carried to a larger room where everyone discussed their ideas and tested the tie to see if it could be severed. Hours later and very frustrated, they were finally arguing out the details of their last remaining theory.
Angevin was used as a focus and power source for an experimental summoning by her uncle. Whatever came through drove them both mad. Her uncle was unable to enter his findings in the Enchiridion Valentia due to his gibbering insanity, so no one knows what happened. They believed that this experiment is how the tie between Angevin and the demon was formed, and they couldn't figure out how to break it. But until it was broken, the demon would be able to come and go as it pleased unless an entire force was waiting to repel it, every time.
No one noticed that Angevin had woken up during these discussions.
With everyone so involved in figuring out a solution, Angevin easily pretended to be asleep until she was lightly shaken to wake her and escorted back to her room. Nurses brought in trays of coffee and word was sent to the Basilica to send more help, specializing in experimental summonings. They settled in for a long day of research.
The staff were so distracted and fearful, no one remembered to lock Angevin's door. Angevin had heard the last fifteen minutes or so of the conversation, including all the parts about how the demon was linked to her, how they couldn't break the link. As long as that tie between them existed, the demon could get into our world and keep feeding.
At lunchtime a nurse discovered Angevine missing from her room. Just a few minutes later everyone was alerted by patients on the lawn screaming and shouting. Angevin's body was sprawled on the gravel path running between the building and the gardens. She had jumped from the roof.
There were no more disappearances after that day.
~As recounted by Rimalon Fledgefoot
- 7th day of Fashanos, year 4762, early evening
I made a most interesting discovery while exploring the local environs today.
I have stumbled across a species of lizard that is wholly unknown to our People. My discovery was largely by accident. I was about to head back to the lab when I heard a strange, high-pitched whirring sound coming from the west. Upon further investigation, and located at the bottom of a deep sinkhole, was the largest lizard I had ever seen.
Including its tail, it measures about five feet lengthwise. It weighs at least two hundred pounds. Curiously, its body is covered with patches of a glowing blue substance. When the lizard is surprised (and it was, when it spotted me) the substance seems to expand outward from the patches to aid the lizard in escape. Within mere moments, the substance formed itself into a pair of blue wings and the lizard flew away. It is quite a fascinating creature. It was getting late. I did not pursue. I plan to head out to the same area tomorrow with my colleagues and subdue this rare lizard for study.
- 8th day of Fashanos, year 4762, early evening
My lab is now home to a most bizarre colony of lizards.
My party journeyed out from the city to the jungle this morning. Once again, I spotted the huge lizard at the bottom of the sinkhole. It attempted to flee. The same two glowing blue wings sprouted immediately from its body. But a mere lizard (even an abnormally large one) is no match for me. I casually invoked a binding spell to hold it in place while my colleagues prepared it for transport back to the lab.
It was then that I noticed something else at the bottom of the hole: more lizards. There were dozens—perhaps hundreds—more. They were of average size compared to the winged one, yet these were not normal lizards, either. Their skin was drained of its natural color, they were barely mobile, and they seemed devoid of all life.
One lizard was unique among them. It was completely covered in the same blue substance the winged one seems to secrete and it was still writhing and thrashing about. I concluded that the large one was in the process of adding this lizard to the ranks of the lifeless and immobile. It seems to me that the blue substance drains something from the smaller lizards. As for what it drains and how it drains it, further study is required. We have transported both the large one and all of the smaller ones back to the lab. We are keeping them in separate cages.
- 15th day of Fashanos, year 4762, morning
It has been an incredible week.
The study of the captured lizards has proven more fruitful than I could have ever imagined. Countless research opportunities present themselves for the future, but what we already have discerned is extremely promising. I feel that I will gain much from my discovery.
We have learned that these lizards have an amusing relationship with each other. The large, winged lizard is Master, and the others are akin to his slaves. The blue substance (we have been calling it the rha’sha’tor, the giver and taker of life) is generated biologically by the larger lizard. It is unclear whether this has been occurring since his creation or whether it was caused by external stimuli. It does not matter.
The rha’sha’tor, when applied to a living organism, seems to drain it of life energy. The “victim” becomes rather lifeless and cannot seem to function as wholly as they could before the application. Our hypothesis was that, in return, the being that applies the rha’sha’tor permanently absorbs a great deal of energy from the victim.
We tested this by slaughtering about fifty of the drained, lifeless lizards. The large lizard thrashed wildly about in pain for many minutes. He then shrank down to about half his current size. He is now just barely 3 feet long. Our hypothesis was correct. We have begun to eagerly harvest the secretions of the substance from the specimen.
- 18th day of Charlatos, year 4762, late evening
A mere month of harvesting and storing the rha’sha’tor has left us with enough to last us for a century, perhaps longer.
As soon as we scrape it off the specimen’s body, more is generated. It is incredible. We have begun detailed examinations of the substance. Unfortunately the process is extremely slow.
In secret I attempted to apply the substance to a healthy lizard, hoping I could absorb some type of energy. It did not work. I am sure there is a critical step to the application process that I am missing. The research will continue. I will make sure of it.
- 27th day of Lormesta, year 4763, morning
It has almost been a year since the discovery of the rha’sha’tor.
I just received word that my colleagues have abandoned the research, claiming it will yield nothing. I do not agree.
I have conducted every test known to me on the substance. It is still largely a mystery. I have attempted application on every manner of creature and there is no effect. My colleagues would have you believe that the substance is rendered inert and useless once it is isolated and removed from the host, thus rendering our efforts during the last year meaningless.
They are fools. I will continue the research alone.
- 27th day of Phoenatos, year 4763, daybreak
It has now been almost six months since I began my own investigation into the rha’sha’tor.
I know nothing now that I did not know then. All of the data I have gathered does me no good. My colleagues laugh at me. They say I am wasting my time, and that the path I am on is the wrong one.
So I am left with only one option.
I ingested a substantial amount of the rha’sha’tor with my breakfast a few minutes ago. I plan to force the same amount into my body at each meal until I achieve some sort of substantial result. We will see what happens.
- 29th day of Phoenatos, year 4763, evening.
I grew a third hand this morning.
A day ago, I noticed that a blue patch was forming on the right side of my chest. It looked similar to the patches from which wings had sprouted on the lizard. I was relieved that my desperate plan seemed to be working.
As I was preparing my breakfast but a few short minutes ago, a jar slipped from my grasp and went tumbling to the ground. Before I could process what had happened, sharp pains shot through my body. The side of my chest began to grow extremely warm. To my amazement, a glowing blue hand tore a hole through my robes and grabbed hold of the jar in midair. As I recovered from the sudden pain, I realized that a slender blue arm was protruding from the blue patch on my chest.
I then discovered that, with small mental commands, I could control both the arm and hand to perform any task I wished. I put the jar down, picked it back up, and even had the hand throw it against the wall. The jar was thrown ten times as hard as I could have thrown it normally.
My progress astounds me, even after such a short time. I will continue to ingest the substance regularly. With any luck, this is merely the beginning.
- 4th day of Imaerasta, year 4763, afternoon
I have a new theory: the substance can only absorb energy from members of the same species.
I cannot absorb energy from lizards, goblins or even the Khanshael. I have tried. I am able to cover their bodies completely with the substance that I generate from the multiple patches on my body, but there is no effect. They simply suffocate.
The last few days have been a blur to me. More patches have appeared, and with them has come power and possibility. If I can imagine it, the patches can make it reality. For instance, I held some of my more reluctant test subjects in place with glowing blue shackles and chains. I summoned a glowing blue glaive to separate their limbs and head from their torso for ease of disposal. It was an incredibly sharp cutting tool. The excessive heat of the weapon cauterized the wounds on contact so as to not make a mess. Unfortunately, I am now at the point where I require a Dhe’nar test subject. I have been thinking about this dilemma since lunch. Life is precious to us, as a People. Our numbers have not yet reached a satisfactory level. But if my theory holds, I will not be taking any lives; I will merely be merging them with my own. There will be no net loss. As proof, the original group of lizards (both the large one and the smaller batch) are still alive and well in our lab. I am convinced that death will in no way enter the equation.
I have calculated that it would not be efficient to attempt to subdue a fully grown and trained member of my race. That would be unnecessary. Draining our children is the simpler possibility. To that end, I have applied to become a Conscriptor, so that I may officially bring children back to my lab to “test their potential for placement in a Caste." Of course, instead of actual testing, I plan to drain their essence and add it to my own. The children may have been the future of our race at one point, but that is no longer the case. I am the future of our race.
- 18th day of Imaerasta, year 4763, evening
My new theory was correct.
I have successfully absorbed energy from a young child.
I can feel the power coursing through me as I write this. I feel as if I could effortlessly crush and rend metal with my hand. I feel as if I could run for miles and not have to stop for breath. It has been at least twelve hours since the absorption. I am not tired, hungry or thirsty. All of these effects, after just one child! It is imperative that I repeat this process tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.
I extracted the first child from his school in the northwestern corner of the city. His teachers assured me that he showed promise in the elemental arts. With credit to the child, he seemed to fear nothing about our encounter. He did not speak, but I could sense his excitement. He has that inborn craving for knowledge that we all have. He wished for me to approve of his talents and to send him off for specialized study. But I had a greater purpose for him. I conducted the first two tests normally. He was able to easily manipulate mana and conjure flame. I told him he had passed the tests. He looked pleased. For the third test, I explained to him that it required complete sensory deprivation. I blindfolded him, plugged his ears, and stood him up against the far wall of my lab.
With a simple mental command I had been practicing, dozens of blue tendrils emerged from the patches on my body and escaped through the sleeves of my robes. They traveled toward the child and first wound themselves tightly around his abdomen. Next, they proceeded to slowly spiral outwards toward his limbs. They began to harden as they wrapped around his skin, encasing the areas completely.
He began to scream as if the pain was unbearable. The sound was quite irritating. For a moment, I felt a twinge of uncertainty. A moment after that, I magically silenced him and continued my work. He was soon cocooned in a large mass of the rha’sha’tor. Before I could ponder what my next move was, a flash of bright blue light filled the room. I shielded my eyes, and I heard the same high-pitched whirring sound I had heard originally in the jungle. Then, in an instant, I felt the transfer of energy from the child to myself. The child was then freed from his bondage.
He had the same vacant look in his eyes that the lizards did. His motor skills were intact and he was reactive to both light and sound, although he could not speak. I believe that his mind is completely active but his body cannot respond to his will.
I told the child that he had failed the third test and led him back through the streets to his school. One of the instructors stopped me and asked me why he seemed so different. I replied that my testing methods were nothing if not unique, and that the child was proven to be weak and not yet ready. I have an appointment with another child tomorrow.
- 25th day of Jastatos, year 4763, late evening
To date, I have drained 30 children.
With each child, I feel my strength growing exponentially. I cannot wait until I drain the next one, or the one after that. The power is exhilarating. I no longer even bother to silence the children’s screams. Their pain will be my glory.
I have heard that there have been rumblings about me in the some of the schools of Sharath. Questions are being asked about what I have been doing to some of the students. I had thought that I had been avoiding suspicion. I never drain children from the same school if I can help it, and I assure their instructors that their odd condition is simply a side-effect of my unique testing process.
My research must remain secret.
- 26th day of Jastatos, year 4763, late morning
It turned out to be an interesting morning.
My latest project was a female child who was touted as a promising mentalist, and I did not foresee the consequences of this. She had linked her mind to one of her instructors. I assume they wanted to discover just what it was I was doing to these children. Shortly after I had begun the cocooning process, the fool instructor and two of his associates burst into the room. The appearance of the three men surprised me for a split second. It is too bad they had no chance against me.
They loosed an array of flame, lightning, and mental energy at me. The attacks charred and mutilated my flesh. Thankfully, I do not have much flesh left. The rha’sha’tor now covers the majority of my body. It cannot be damaged by petty rote magic. I laughed at them, mockingly, and quickly began to generate twelve blue javelins. One by one, the javelins zoomed out of my body and pierced the intruder’s limbs to the wall. All three were soon prone, helpless and moaning. I felt an urgency to finish the job. I made sure the child was watching.
I decided to have a bit of fun with the first intruder. I transformed my entire left hand into a viciously sharp stiletto. I cut off the intruder’s toes, one by one. Then his fingers. Then his feet. Then his hands. Then his ears. Then I gutted him with one slash, from his neck to his bowels. Shifting my focus to the second man, I summoned thousands of small, sharp blue needles and sent them barreling toward his body. They all struck at once, and he began to bleed. Slowly at first. Then the floodgates opened. I was amused by this display. He died in under a minute.
I gave my creativity free reign with the last one. I crafted a small glowing blue orb, held it in my palm, and shoved my fist into the man’s stomach. The flesh parted like I had stuck my hand into a bowl of water. I released the orb and took a few steps back. The powerful device I had just implanted exploded after a few seconds. The resulting shower of gore and bone was glorious.
I had taught these “instructors” a lesson; my research is not to be interrupted.
- 20th day of Lormesta, year 4764, morning
A curious thing just happened. The lizards have died.
I went to their cages to feed them about fifteen minutes ago. It is usually the first thing I do when day breaks. I no longer need sleep, of course. I no longer need to eat or drink, but the lizards do. When I arrived, it looked like the smaller lizards had broken out of their cage and forced their way into the cage of the larger one. There were signs of a long struggle, and the lizards were all dead. Interestingly, I could not differentiate the single large one from the others.
I have a theory. It is likely that he killed his attackers, weakening himself, until all of his absorbed advantages were gone. It is a shame that lizards cannot think rationally. He could have avoided his fate.
I have made official note of this incident, but it does not overly concern me.
- 8th day of Fashanos, year 4764, morning
The children. The children are coming.
I do not understand it. They must be afflicted by the same phenomenon that stirred the lizards to action. I can hear them shuffling into the bottom floor of the building as I write this. There must be dozens of them; I have all but lost count of how many it has been. I had not accounted for this. It is one thing for this to happen with lizards, but not my subjects and I. What am I to do? Destroy them? I would be sacrificing all of the power I have gained. Let them kill me? That is not an option, either.
I can hear them clambering up the stairs. I should not have underestimated the will of young Dhe’nar.
Perhaps they are here not to destroy me, but to join me? Yes. Of course, that must be it. Their minds are joined with mine. They must realize how close I am to Ascension. I will convince them to let me continue my work, and they—and all our People—will benefit. The door to the lab has just been breached. I can hear them in the next room. I believe they sense my presence, just as I sense theirs. I will not harm these children. They are the source of my power, and my future depends on them. I will convince them of this. I must convince them of this.
I will make an entry tomorrow, detailing our encounter. The children are but a few feet from me now, and getting closer. They are quite fascinating creatures.
(A gruesome mixture of blood, ink, flesh and bone is strewn across this final entry in the journal.)