Origins of Amasalen

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Origins of Amasalen is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.

Foreword: This document was discovered among a collection from an anonymous Magical Burrow donor in 5120. Contemporary documents establish its age at over 150 years. Its author is unknown, but it was contained among the personal effects of Redbriar family members.

The Fall of Amasalen

In the days before the Faendryl fell into darkness and corruption, there lived a lord named Amasalen.

The name of his precise bloodline has been lost to time, but he was a member of the Agrestis with a meager fortune. He had performed a service, once, for a patriarch of House Ta'Faendryl, and had been awarded land and servants. But it had not been a great service, and so the bequest had been a small one: funds to support two score of armsmen, several dozen laborers, and a few house servants. The lands were at the extreme south of House Ta'Faendryl's vast domain, but they were fertile and green and temperate.

None of these things--not land, servants, or even his lordly title--were so important to Amasalen as his consort. Her name was Kelsha. Kelsha was dark and beautiful, with eyes the color of alexandrite stones and hair as black as a raven's wing. Like Amasalen, she had been common-born. But while he had been an armsman steeped in battles, she was an artist, and had such skill with brush and pigment that it was said Jastev himself smiled upon her.

Amasalen had seen one of her paintings through the windows of her studio in the great capital while escorting his liege lord. When he returned that evening to purchase the piece, he discovered that the artist was somehow more lovely than her art. Then and there, he asked her consent to court her, and she had given it. The two had been as one for centuries.

She had not the refinement of even a provincial lady, but Amasalen loved that about her. She cooked with the house servants, helped the farmers and the laborers weed, and carried water out to the family's armsmen as they trained. In the evenings, as the shadows grew long and the world became drenched in the honeyed gold of sunset, she painted.

Kelsha painted landscapes and portraits. She painted still lifes and scenes that seemed born purely of imagination: a city consumed by a wall of water as high as the Dragonspine, four strange men squabbling over a sword, a veiled man with rounded ears wandering through desert ruins. Amasalen often marveled at the fantastical thoughts his consort must have, to dream up such strange scenes.

But one day, he found Kelsha on the bluffs overlooking the home they had built. Her paintbrush, smeared with red pigment, lay in the green grass at her feet, and the canvas before her was blank. She was pale and trembling, her eyes unfocused.

"What is wrong, my consort?" he asked, going to her. He thought to draw his blade, but could see no threat that might explain her evident panic.

His voice seemed to draw her from her trance, and she threw herself into his arms and wept. "I do not wish to paint this evening," she said.

In the subsequent weeks, she grew distracted. No longer did she cook with the house servants. She stayed indoors while the farmers and laborers weeded. The family's armsmen drew their own water. She only spoke to Amasalen, and when he asked what was wrong, she changed the subject and told him all was well.

There came a day when she received word that her youngest sister would be wed in the capital. When the letter came, she shut herself in the quarters she shared with Amasalen. When he sought to comfort her, she would not allow him entry.

He sat and spoke to her through the door. Kelsha said only that the news of the wedding had taken her by surprise. Sensing that there was more, Amasalen told her that she did not need to attend. But she protested that she had not seen her sister in many a year, and that there was no way for her to refuse.

Night came, and at last she allowed him entry. One of her canvases stood in the corner of the room. It was covered in a drape of cloth.

"Is this why you have kept me from our quarters?" Amasalen asked, making a joke of Kelsha's strange behavior.

She would not let him see the artwork, saying only, "It is not finished yet."

There was no sign of a malady to her, but Amasalen's concern had crested with this latest bout of strange behavior. Even in those days, greatness and madness seemed to travel hand in hand among the Faendryl. He worried perhaps that Kelsha had been too long gone from the city, and that she might be ill-suited for the country life he had given her. But he did not say so, for he feared upsetting her further.

That night, as they lay together, she asked him, "If something were to happen to me, what would you do?"

He looked into her eyes and said, "Nothing will happen to you. Our lands are safe, and I would defend you to my last breath." As a jest, he added, "Then I would be dead. What would you do?"

But she did not laugh. Instead, she repeated her question, looking him straight in the eye.

Amasalen's humor withered beneath her tone, and he said, "I would march to the Ebon Gate and vanquish Gosaena herself in her den. There is nothing I would not do."

He thought that promise might comfort her, but Kelsha looked ill at the words. It took her time to find her own. She said, "Promise me instead that you will live and be happy, no matter my fate."

He tried to protest that he could do neither without her, but she insisted. Amasalen, at his wit's limit from her increasing unreason over the prior weeks, decided instead to placate her. "I swear it on my soul," he said.

To his surprise, the oath seemed to comfort her. It was not long before she fell deeply asleep, leaving the lord to wonder what unsettling fancies were tormenting his consort. He resolved to go with her to the capital, in hopes that time with her family and friends might put her mind to right.

When he woke the next morning, Kelsha was gone. The servants told him that she had left at the first winking hints of dawn. She had taken journey food and a fine Ardenai mare, ordering that Amasalen not be disturbed.

Now, Amasalen could not restrain himself from answering his consort's bizarre actions. Every shred of his being told him that something was wrong. When he returned to their quarters to seek from her some sign, a note to explain her rapid departure, he recalled the painting.

He pulled back the drape and had to still his stomach at what he saw. Kelsha had drawn herself in the throes of death, her neck at an awful angle. Her eyes stared from the painting as if pleading.

Amasalen cast the painting from its stand in horror. He fled their chambers. He ordered that his own stallion, a great pale beast, be saddled. With neither food nor accompaniment, he rode off after Kelsha.

It did not take him long to find her. He had ridden to the verge of a dark moor when he heard a sound coming from the brush off of the roadside. It was not a sound that he had heard before: a series of coughing gutturals pierced by shrill screeches. Amasalen rested his hand on the pommel of his sword.

He plunged into the brush, and found that the vines there were wet and tacky with blood, still warm in the gathering daylight. The sound came again, closer, from beyond a grove of thick trees with black wood and drooping branches. He plunged forward.

There, on the other side, he saw Kelsha. Her eyes were wide and turned toward the entrance of the grove, but her head was turned in an unnatural direction. Nearby, something feasted on her horse. These were the days before the undead had become commonplace in the East and the West, and he had no name for the milky-eyed monstrosity gnawing on the belly of the dead beast.

Amasalen became death. He lunged for the creature, howling obscenities, his blade flashing free from his scabbard. Over and over he hacked into the thing's necrotic flesh, but no sooner did he cut into it than did the rotting muscles and skin pull back together. The creature slashed and bit at Amasalen, but it was a clumsy thing.

"It's called a zombie," supplied a voice, faintly sibilant. As Amasalen drove the thing back with another flurry of attacks, he noticed a robed man kneeling by the corpse that had been Kelsha. The man did not move to help him.

Realizing that his blade was no use against the thing, Amasalen cast it aside. As the so-called zombie advanced upon him, Amasalen uttered a single sharp syllable and thrust his hands forward. Flame erupted from the air around the zombie, and its dry flesh lit like a cord of old wood. It fell to the earth, smoldering, and Amasalen turned upon the robed man.

The man seemed unfazed. He looked past Amasalen at the crackling flames and said, "How sad. It traveled so very far from where it was born."

Amasalen snatched his blade from the ground and advanced on the man. Swift as striking lightning, his weapon bit into the man's neck. But to his shock, it drew no blood. Howling with rage, he raised the weapon overhead for another blow. It was then that he glimpsed the man's face. The skin there was scaled as a snake's might be.

"I see you know of me," said the man, and through his teeth protruded a tongue that was forked like a snake's. "Know you, then, that I am the God of Death, and your weapon is meaningless to me."

"Why have you taken her from me?" Amasalen demanded.

"I have done no such thing," said Luukos. "This thing is not my creation, but it fascinates me, and so I followed it all the way from its birthplace in the utter south."

Amasalen knew naught of what Luukos spoke. He did not know of the Book of Tormtor, or Despana, or the era of unleavened darkness to come. And had he known, he would not have cared. All that mattered to him was Kelsha.

"If you are the God of Death, then surely life must be within your grasp," he said, staring down at his beloved. His hands shook, but his voice was steady.

"Some might say so," Luukos answered.

"Return her to me, then, I beseech you," Amasalen said.

Luukos rose from her side. "And if I do, what would you do for me?" he asked.

Amasalen had never aligned himself to one of the Arkati, but his lips curled in distaste at the answer he found. "I will go to Ta'Faendryl and tithe all my wealth to your temple there."

"What need have I of mortal wealth?" Luukos asked. "My priestesses will feast well and drink their fill on your coin, but they sustain me not at all. I have hungers far beyond your ken."

He opened his mouth. Past his forked tongue and fanged maw, Amasalen glimpsed something impossible. It seemed that Luukos's maw stretched wide and vast, and all beyond was an inferno of viridian flame. He felt that his skin might blister and his eyes might burn out from looking at it, but the Arkati closed his mouth and smiled.

"Souls then," Amasalen said. "Mine for hers."

Luukos said, "That seems a poor exchange. What good would trading one for one do for me?"

Amasalen knelt by Kelsha's body and began to weep. That the god seemed so unmoved by his misery only heightened his desperation. He thought about what might sate the God of Death, and could find but one conclusion.

"I will give you all that is mine," he said, his voice hoarse.

"I have told you already that I have no need for mortal wealth," said Luukos.

"My servants. Every last one in exchange for her," Amasalen insisted.

"That sounds a fair demonstration," Luukos said.

He took a step away from the corpse, his body seeming to elongate and stretch, and the Arkati became a serpent. Its coils were so green as to make emeralds look like crude stone. They flashed and glittered as he slithered off into the wood.

There was naught else to do. Amasalen lifted Kelsha and carried her to his horse, and rode home. The deepening chill of her body in his arms hardened his resolve toward what he had to do.

There was great mourning upon his return, for Kelsha had been good to all of them. She had been loved by the house servants, and the farmers and laborers, and the armsmen. Some told Amasalen that Kelsha had gone to be with the Arkati of Liabo. Their words brought him no comfort at all, for he knew the truth.

He ordered that a feast be held in Kelsha's honor. He proclaimed that all of the house servants and farmers and laborers could drink and eat their fill, and that he would spare no expense on the feast. And so it was. He had all of the wine brought up from his cellars, opened the larders to his cooks, and allowed them to prepare. Meanwhile, he told the captain of his household guard what must be done. The man was aghast, but he could not betray the orders of his liege lord.

On the day of the feast, Amasalen's servants grew drunk indeed on his largess. They celebrated Kelsha from the morning of the feast until the moons were high overhead and bleak Lornon was at its zenith. By then, most were insensate from all that they had consumed--most, save for the armsmen, who had been allowed to sup, but not to drink.

Amasalen looked to the heavens, shut his eyes, and gave the order. With Faendryl precision, his armsmen fell upon the guests. Swords hissed from their scabbards as the armsmen butchered every last servant, young and old. By the end, the floor of Amasalen's hall was red with blood. As his men looked on with horror, Amasalen stepped down from his high seat and knelt amidst the gore.

"Luukos," he said. "I have honored my part of this bargain."

"But have you?" The voice came from behind him.

As Amasalen turned, he saw the Arkati sitting in the high seat. He looked unimpressed by the display of carnage.

"All that served me are dead, and I offer them to you," said Amasalen. "Now return her to me."

Luukos laughed, and it was a humorless sound. "Do not these armsmen serve you?"

The armsmen in the hall quavered. Their Faendryl training had taught them ruthlessness and relentless obedience, but it had not killed their instinct for self-preservation, nor their fear of the Lornon Arkati. As one, they began to race for the entrance of the hall, their boots splashing in the blood they had spilled.

But Amasalen's voice was faster. "I offer them all to you. They are sworn to serve me to the death, and I forfeit their lives to you," he said. "Anything for my beloved."

As one, the armsmen fell to the ground, stone dead. From their mouths, cinders of green light flowed, drifting toward the smirking Arkati. He snatched the motes from the air and held them tight.

"An impressive display of devotion," said Luukos. "I thank you for it."

"And what of Kelsha?" Amasalen asked.

"What of her?"

"Our bargain," said Amasalen.

"We had no such bargain. I told you only that this would be a fair demonstration. I said nothing about returning your Kelsha to you," Luukos said, his voice cold as the grave. "Nor could I. Deceivers and monsters like you might come to me, but she was a blameless soul. Most likely, she has passed beyond the Gates of Death to whatever lies beyond."

A scream tore from Amasalen's throat. "You lied to me," he cried.

"Never," said Luukos, stepping down from the high seat. He lifted Amasalen's chin, forcing the elf to look him in the eye. "I never waste a lie. I save them for those who interest me. I deceive, sometimes, as when I sent your beloved a vision that she assumed to be from her patron. At others, I will let a listener hang themselves on a misunderstood truth. But with you, I scarcely needed to nudge at all before you were willing to do all of this for me." Luukos turned Amasalen's eyes forcibly toward the carnage that he had wrought.

"No," said Amasalen.

"Almost, I think I might make of you a servant," said Luukos, a smile displaying his fangs.

"Never," said Amasalen.

"Not never, just not now," Luukos said. "You have not proven your dedication yet. But you will be mine, one way or another, after this. You are beyond the Lady of Winter, and forever damned. But when you are ready to submit to me, come to me in a place as cold as your heart has become, beyond high mountains and low caverns, and I will make you mine forever."

As before, the Arkati became a vast serpent. He slithered through the blood on the floor of the hall, scarcely disturbing it at all. With one last, sneering glance backward, he writhed from the hall and left Amasalen alone with the atrocity that he had done.

In the subsequent days, Amasalen did not move from the hall. At turns, he screamed and wept, until no more tears would come and his mouth filled with blood from his own raw throat. At first, he willed himself to die, but the elven body is a resilient one, and some shred of his mind knew that his mortal torment was but a pale shadow of what awaited him beyond the grave.

He left his home and burned it. He set the fields ablaze, too, and the servant quarters, until nothing remained of his crime but the guilt that ate at his mind when he closed his eyes. And he wandered.

At first, he wandered with no guiding intent. He walked through the fields and the forests, and watched without comprehending as armies of his elven cousins marched southward to war. He found that he could barely feel grief any longer, but he knew terror so intense that it burned the color from his hair and ate the spare flesh from his bones.

And then, when even terror could not sustain him, he had hatred. It spread, cold and crimson, through his blood and bones and tissue, until there was no space for any other emotion. It was that hatred for Luukos that drew him, one day, toward the Shining City of Ta'Illistim. It pulled him toward the city's endless libraries, for even in his fugue state, some part of him knew that knowledge there might help him get his vengeance upon the God of Death.

He found what he sought in an ancient book bound in flesh. It had passed through many hands, and contained the words of a fallen priest who claimed to have stolen from Lorminstra herself the means of forging a weapon that could bring death to an Arkati. Amasalen was no smith, but he had an elven span of years, and so he set to work. Infused with glorious purpose, he left Ta'Illistim and traveled far and abroad.

Amasalen sought among the dwarves for smiths to forge him this weapon. He traveled to their ancient holds in Kalaza. The plague spreading through the city had caused chaos, and he easily moved among the dwarves, learning the names and homes of their greatest smiths. Amasalen had neither coin nor allies in the city, so he secured the cooperation of these smiths through lies and coercion, and even played upon their desperation for a cure to the disease that had come to be called the Red Rot. He had no cure for such a thing, but Amasalen did not hoard his lies as Luukos did.

As the city died around them, he forced the smiths to work for him, compelling them with spellcraft and threats and promises he had no intention of keeping. By the time the moons had marked a month's passage, the weapon had been crafted: hilt and quillions and pommel and blade, forged separately as the book had bade. When the dwarves presented it to him assembled and demanded that he fulfill his promises, Amasalen quenched the blade in their blood. That, too, had been demanded by the book.

The weapon, shining and golden, drank in the essence of its smiths. Its blade became the black of dried blood, and its quillions grew red as a raw heart. It had been a beautiful thing, but it became hideous to look upon, as perverse and twisted as its wielder. Amasalen took book and blade and left the failing city without remorse.

He went west, traveling over the Dragonspine, into the forests and low hills and frosts that waited to the north of that land. Luukos had claimed that he would wait for him in a place as cold as the elf's heart, but no snowstorm could rival the unfeeling ice that had consumed Amasalen's heart. As if by instinct, he went to a place not far beyond the mountains where the wind howled and lightning ever split the sky. It was there that he found the Arkati.

"And so you have come," said Luukos, a secret smile on his face.

"I have," said Amasalen. "And I have brought with me your doom."

He drew his blade on the Arkati, who merely laughed. Amasalen settled into a warrior's stance and lunged, cutting the Arkati as he once had with a far inferior weapon. Luukos's laughing ceased and pain twisted his features. A single drop of divine blood fell from the wound.

Amasalen laughed an empty, cold laugh and pressed onward. Luukos was prepared for his second strike, catching the elf's swing with one hand and throwing his opponent to the earth. He rose over Amasalen, skin sloughing and shedding, and became an adder with eyes of emerald flame. Hissing with pain and rage, the snake struck.

But Amasalen had prepared for years to have his vengeance. He struck upward with the tainted sword, driving it through the serpent's skull and cleaving it in twain. He reached up and grabbed the snake by its neck, letting its blood fall over his hand and eyes and lips, until all he could see was red and all he could taste was the vile Arkati's blood. The blood flooded through his veins, turning ice to fire, and he felt a change come over him. Heat such as the burning of a volcano's heart spread through him, and he was dimly aware of the weapon he held melting away beneath its intensity. Even the snows that bent the bleak place pulled back against the fire within him.

Then he felt the serpent's corpse twitch in his hands. He looked down in horror as the two halves of the snake's head began to writhe and reform, each becoming its own separate entity, until a two-headed serpent looked upon him. In Luukos's voice, it spoke.

"Did you think I would be so easily defeated?"

Amasalen shuddered as the Arkati's blood roiled in his guts. He could feel it becoming part of him, burning away his elven mortality. "What have you done?" he demanded.

"Always, since our first meeting, I have been a step ahead of you. And this was always how it would end," said Luukos. "Did you really believe you could defeat me? I, who have warped and molded you as a sculptor molds clay?"

"The book and the blade," Amasalen cried. "You were to have been undone!"

"Ah, the book. Who do you think it was that led its writer astray, speaking corruption into his mind and turning him against his god? And who then placed the knowledge in your way, knowing that it would drive you even further into depravity? The weapon you forged was but a pale imitation of the one that will be mine, one day."

Amasalen clutched the serpent, torment fueling his strength, but he could do it no harm as it coiled around his blood-drenched hand. With his other, he sought the weapon so that he could end his own miserable life. He found only molten slag melted into the parched earth at his side.

"Think of all you have sacrificed, only for me to best you," gloated Luukos. "And now you have drunk of my divine blood, and are bound to my will until all passes into cold darkness." As if to prove his point, he made Amasalen rise from the ground, his movements jerking and jangling like a marionette on tangled strings.

Defeated, Amasalen asked, "What will you do with me? Will you cast me into your gullet for eternal punishment?"

The serpent laughed through both of its mouths. "Hardly. The punishment for your defiance shall be service. I command you, Amasalen, drinker of blood and avatar of sacrifice, to go forth into the world and spread misery and devotion."

Sealed with blood and divine word, the geas settled upon Amasalen. He felt the compulsion grow within him until it drowned out most other thoughts, but not all. He still despised Luukos.

"If you can command me so, and make your will my law, why not command me to serve you faithfully and love you as other servants love their gods?" asked the newborn immortal.

Luukos hissed, his coils tightening around Amasalen's arm. "Try, if you wish, to resist me. Ally yourself with others, if they will have you. But I will always outwit you; ever outlast you. Knowing that shall be your punishment. Now, go and do my will, servant."

The two-headed snake writhed free and became a viridian inferno, but Amasalen scarcely felt its passage. Weary as only one damned can be, he rose to his feet. He eyed the place around him, the hard land of ice and snow, with an especial hatred, and vowed that it would never know rest from him. But then the command of his master tugged at his limbs, and he began his evil work.