Hello, readers mine–unlucky thirteen, eh? And in keeping with that theme which I just decided would be the theme as I type this (sometimes I have the ideas for these entries listed in the draft’s title the previous night, but today wasn’t one of those times), I’m bringing you three entries full of regrets, woe, and violent abandon. Upbeat? Nope. Interesting? I sure hope so!
Snippet #1: Tlapract the Sage (World: Creation’s Fringe)
It’s a lonely existence, and a frustrating one, for Tlapract the Sage. In his own words, “It is one thing to have wisdom, but another to have it heard. I have become so used to going unheard that I no longer believe I have any wisdom.” An invoker of the Latren-Laprani, Tlapract departed his people’s surface-level settlements upon the Fringe centuries ago. It’s believed he did so out of heartbreak at the Latren-Laprani who supported the Krunweil Iron Electorate, which he saw as a brutal military dictatorship overtaking one of the Fringe’s most peaceful regions.
Somewhere before this, Tlapract made the fateful decision to seek immortality. In his case it doesn’t seem to have been an arduous quest, but the results have proven just as taxing as most myths about eternal youth would have one believe. Tlapract lives now at an arcane island near the dead center of the Inverse–that region of hollowed-out cities and igneous archipelagos set into the cracked core of Creation’s Fringe. Tlapract’s estate, in fact, moves upon the currents of the Uncanny Marrow itself as it surges towards this or that portion of Creation’s Fringe.
Thus, even to reach Tlapract’s island requires a grueling voyage upon specially-designed ships. The only reliable craft for this purpose are planar-sealed vessels from some prior era; there are exactly three of these still in service, and each belongs to a major power which hoards it jealously. A lesser ship may make the voyage, but it had best have a mighty party aboard it–the Deep Marrow pervades the space around Tlapract’s estate, with every eerie monstrosity and god-mocking abomination that entails.
Those who arrive can at least be assured of speaking with the lonely sage.
Whether given insight by the centuries he’s spent looking out on the Marrow from his warded island’s windows, or simply because of many years with naught to do but think, Tlapract has acquired a vast archive of lore and possible lore. He busies himself with investigating the Fringe’s many mysteries, and has developed a sprawling network of connections who report their findings to him through scrying stones and other such tools. Thus, though Tlapract is physically isolated, he’s not isolated from the Fringe’s events.
“Wise or not, you do not learn anything about the world from leaving it,” as he told the adventurer Vanki Laramae and her companions when they came to seek his insight. “But if you still have a way to learn of it, and use it well–perhaps being detached helps give one a clearer perspective.” The last part of the quote is too often discarded by those seeking a punchier phrase:
“Or perhaps it’s just easier to tell ourselves that than to ask whether we’re cowering from the suffering of others.”
Snippet #2: the Bitter Siblings (World: Canno)
The Bitter Sibs started, and in many ways persist, as an attempt to mass-produce War-Adherents–though they’re now sought out mainly for their supply of top-quality, loyal, and helplessly indoctrinated soldiers. The approach: replicating the circumstances which the organization’s leaders view as integral to the stories of most known War-Adherents. This view was, as will be seen, greatly distorted. One might expect this to include a heightened emphasis on martial training and perhaps some careful use of isolation.
Meandering compounds of isolated cells filled by people who are allowed exactly one comfort aside from training in martial arts, military history, tactics, and strategy would not likely be the guess. This policy of “two solaces” underpins all Sib methodology–martial training and the eventual chance to kill being the first solace. The other could be the finest food, carnal pleasures, one and only one class of art to appreciate, and so on. Those foolish enough to join the Bitter Siblings thinking anything would be worth it for those first two options were swiftly freed of their delusions.
Membership in the Bitter Sibs is voluntary; while in the organization’s infancy this decision could not be reversed, a few major debacles involving angst-ridden noble scions being “beguiled and enslaved” by the Sibs put paid to this policy. This has benefited them in the long term, as they’ve been able to shout down contemporary criticism by pointing to past compromises.
It’s likely that the Bitter Sibs’ founder, Baldassarre Vallone, was a sadist who saw an opportunity to merge mercenary commanders’ demands for War-Adherents with the chance to indulge his cruelty. The life of a Sib contains every torture which can be applied without permanent physical damage–at least, of bones and muscles. Their diet is intentionally sickening, always some form of gristly slimy slop formulated to provide excellent nutrition and maximum misery. If they cannot keep their servings down, they do not eat again that day.
Disobedience of any kind, including violating the policy of “two solaces”, is met with physical and arcane torment ranging from locking the rebellious Sib in a black chamber filled halfway to the top with teeming vermin to forcing every nerve to experience the sensation of burning alive. At random intervals, Sibs will be submitted to these tortures regardless. “After all,” Baldassarre is supposed to have claimed, “Hardship and its hatreds are what make the best soldiers!”
The Bitter Sibs have never produced a War-Adherent.
Snippet #3: War-Adherents (Worlds: Canno, Creation’s Fringe)
It’s impossible to fully understand how Canno’s people could have accepted conduct like Baldassarre’s without seeing a War-Adherent in action. Hurtling through the battlefield at superhuman speed, their weapons or even their bare hands punching through plate armor and wards alike as easily as flesh and bones, a lone War-Adherent can destroy an army under the right circumstances.
War-Adherents are spectacular fighters regardless of their origins, and none can fully quantify what makes them this way–aside, that is, from training. No War-Adherent has ever lived whose training did not sooner or later become their life’s defining feature. That and battle itself, of course! None fully understand what pushes a driven fighter over the brink to develop an Adherent’s powers; as a class of people, Adherents are defined by obsessive perfection in their crafts. Yet the final step seems to require something else, something subtler.
Regardless, there’s no mistaking a full War-Adherent. Direct spellcraft cannot affect them unless they wish it to do so, and panicking mages often create a spectacular display around a charging Adherent in their desperation–lightning arcing wildly to one side, fireballs exploding far ahead of the target, and so on. Yet a War-Adherent is not invincible against magic; once applied to an object, kinetic energy created by spellcraft is no different from any other kind, and a wily mage can still be a great threat by hurling the right projectiles at the right time.
On the other hand, War-Adherents are infernally difficult to kill–Tervud Jatar, for example, is supposed to have been completely disemboweled twice. After killing the last of his enemies each time, he stuffed his guts back in and healed fully within two days: on the second occasion, just in time to take a ballista bolt to the collarbone during the next day’s fighting. He survived this as well. War-Adherents aren’t wholly invincible, though; two or three such wounds in a single day are the cause of death for most War-Adherents.
Mundane fire and acid still consume them, often killing them by the exhaustion of continuous healing if not by the damage itself, and fatal brain trauma by way of sword or spear will put them down instantly just as it would any other. This last makes cold comfort; War-Adherents can either find or afford very, very good helmets.
War-Adherents have a final range of capabilities which aren’t as well understood. They seem to possess a preternatural instinct for danger, and sometimes can perceive the actions of opponents without directly looking at them, as well as knowing an ambush has been laid despite there being no signs of its presence.
No War-Adherent has ever died peacefully.
That’s it for Day Thirteen. As promised, it’s been a dire ride, but we’ll be back into cheerier, more vibrant material on the Morrow! As always, leave a like, let me know your thoughts down in the comments, and share this post with your friends. You might follow me On Twitter if you wanted a bit more nonsense from me.