Honored Scholars, Reputable Donors and Learned Men of Muraska.
I write this message with the full understanding that your faith in our work is, to be blunt, a tad more fragile than the parchment I write upon. Admittedly, I understand that our limited contribution to the arts of war or religious thoughts means that the Scribes of Cultures Extinct and Peoples Deceased might warrant less than enthusiastic support when our fair city faces threats both within and beyond our walls.
But war cannot last forever, gentlemen, and we of the S.C.E.P.D. maintain our hope that there will come a day when we will be required to look at all races and cultures with eyes and hands unburdened by blood and steel. It is for that day that we prepare and it is for that day that we request your funding today.
As evidence of our commitment, assuming kind winds and honest couriers, please find enclosed one (1) journal of unspecified origins. Discovered on a lonely shoreline by one of our junior scribes, we believe it to document the exploits of an adventurer, presumably long lost to the hazards of that particular profession. While we in no way condone or accept the actions of this loathsome way of life, we found this journal to be a reservoir of knowledge that pertain to races, cultures and locales unimaginable. Indeed, it may be the sole record of its kind.
Please, gentlemen, I implore you to look it over at your leisure and the accompanying notes and please, I implore you once more–with earnest and godly intent–to reconsider your donations to our cause.
Thelo Wayabout, Senior Scholar
As a race, we know far less about shicts than they seem to know about us. This, as I understand it, is their main problem with humanity, though by no means the only one. Their other grievances include the usual list: loss of land, incompatible lifestyles to the fact that we simply refuse to die. Our problem with them is, by comparison, rather simple and singular in that they would like us all to die. Horribly, if possible.
“Savage” is the typical term for them and, up until one year ago, I was content to call them by that. It wasn’t until I met one that I reconsidered. It wasn’t until I met one that I realized just how little I knew, personally, about them. I had heard the stories about shicts, same as anyone else who had a grandfather who liked to frighten them. But after I met her, I came to appreciate the more subtle talents of the people: their prowess in the wilds, their expertise in the hunt, the fact that they can belch a full sentence in their own language.
Then again, that might just be her.
At any rate, all that anyone ever told me about shicts seems to be rather useless when actually dealing with them. In part, because no one ever told me how to get rid of them if they choose to follow you.
I didn’t ask her, don’t get me wrong. Kataria followed me out of the Silesrian of her own accord, but not before she informed me how many times she could have killed me while I journeyed through it–six, if you’re wondering. Shortly after, the questions began: where was I heading, what was I doing, what was life like beyond the forest, did humans really spew fire, what did beer taste like, is it true that we eat leaves so we don’t excrete stones. I can’t recall my answers, save that they were apparently enough to convince her that I needed her.
I’ve asked her, once, why she chose to follow me. All legends about them agree that shicts are, to a man…or woman, singularly clandestine, family apparently having the same importance to them as fire and steel have to us. That she chose to leave was a curiosity and I told her so. She stared at me, long and hard, for a moment. Then she punched me in the face. Without a word, she handed me a piece of raw meat.
Now, extend that action by about a year and you’ll have a good idea of our relationship.
The greatest blessing humanity was ever given by our Gods was their sheer multitude, that we may never want for something to kill each other over. Our deities number in the dozens and each ideology handed down by them seems to dictate the complete and utter destruction of the other ones. It was only realized fifty years ago, after centuries of warring with shicts, tulwards, vulgores and couthi, that our numbers had finally grown large enough to stop fighting them and start fighting each other.
One might think that those who announced the death sentences and ignited the crusades would be a little less beloved, but the servants of the deities remain respected above all other castes, no matter the society. It’s for this respect that most priests find themselves sought after by adventurers, as an angry mob seems inclined to wait at least two breaths before lynching you if they happen to see a holy symbol.
After that head start, everything else a priest can do is purely a bonus.
Asper, however, is a follower of Talanas the Healer and thus, everything else she can do tends to be rather handy. As a servant of one of the sole gods not to tack “of War” onto the end of their titles, she’s possibly the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a decent member of society. And being such a person, she has decided to take the not uncommon task of going on pilgrimage to spread her knowledge of medicine and faith to those in need. In another life, she might have been a saint, a woman revered for bringing a light to the darkest corners of the world.
In this life, however, she chose to join us, and thus finds most of her time occupied being wrist-deep in blood, bandaging the not insignificant number of wounds we incur and cause and occasionally pioneering a new cure for diarrhea. That we–or the people we meet–are frequently in need of such wears on her, I can tell. Why she’s decided to stick with us for so long, given that our practices tend to run concurrent to her oath to do no harm, is a mystery. She’s certainly not telling me. Perhaps whatever reason she has is one she’s saving to offer to Talanas when she’s called to heaven to be judged. Perhaps she just hasn’t found a reason to leave yet.
I hope she never does.
Officially, wizards do not practice “magic.” Officially, wizards channel “Venarie,” that extra special spice in their bodily stew that allows them to amplify their natural processes to the awe-inspiring displays of power they’re renowned for. And, just to give you a deeper insight into how in control they are of those displays, the official statistic for “acceptable casualties incurred by loss of control, errant channeling or lawfully-intentioned feats gone awry” is three in ten people dead.
That the Venarium has protocols for this is unsurprising. The Venarium has protocols for everything, after all, to safeguard the Laws that govern their use of magic. From the day their powers first manifest themselves to the day they die and their skeletons and skins are harvested for research, a wizard’s life is ruled by immutable law. Magic is finite; wizards, more so. Magic is the transfer of energy, not the creation. Magic is forbidden in uses of murder, faith or issues of politic. These laws are what keeps the power in the hands of those who know how to use it…and keeps those who can use it in the hands of the Venarium.
To date, there are no laws saying a wizard cannot seek to broaden his horizons and temper his powers by joining a party of adventurers, though it’s strongly advised against.
Dreadaeleon, however, has a hard time conceiving of good advice that does not come from his own mouth. It’s the kind of pretentious attitude you might expect from a man named “Dreadaeleon,” but those are wizards. I suppose you can’t very well be a man who hurls fire, spews frost and channels lightning with a name like “Irving.” In any event, Dreadaeleon has convinced himself of the wisdom of following us, for purposes of honing his craft in a profession with a looser definition of “acceptable casualties.” I might have believed him when he said it, if it weren’t for the fact that, as of this writing, he is a seventeen-year-old boy and I count two mature–sort of–women in my employ.
It might just be that whatever…shall we say “urges” affect a young man of that age are also affected by Venarie. Or he might just be every bit as awkward, arrogant and oblivious as he appears to be. Whatever the case, whatever his age, I can say that it’s better to have a fellow who can spit an icicle into a man’s eye from thirty paces on your side than on someone else’s. And yet, I can’t help but think that I might be making a mistake if he only does such a feat if he thinks any woman of impressionability and endowment is watching.
On the Common Man
With friends such as wizards, priest and varying degrees of monstrosity, one wouldn’t think that adventurers would have a great deal of use for the common man. After all, the common man, on the whole, is the sort of lying, cheating, dishonest and cowardly sort that one wouldn’t want put in a profession that encourages him to lie, cheat and be a dishonest coward, especially where money and vital organs are involved.
Unsurprisingly, amongst adventurers, the common man lives up to his namesake.
And still, there are obstacles that all the magic, religious influence and animal cunning cannot contend with. Mostly these obstacles go by the name of “the city guard,” but they are, in general, the obstacles of mind, of heart and of society where one needs something a little less freakish and a little more subtle. Subtlety being a situational thing to an adventurer, having a fellow who knows how to kill someone with minimal fuss is also a bonus.
Originally, I was intending to use Denaos as a carriageman–as in, the man you throw under the carriage when it comes time to escape. I should have been worried when he agreed to it readily. While I’ve no doubt that he has plenty of things to run from, I often wonder–but never ask–what it was that made him run to me and my band.
That he’s handy with a knife and handier with lies is no great surprise, with him being exceptionally common. What I find a little curious is his apparent religious streak. Money that he lusts after like a woman he readily parts with when a priest begs on the street. A mouth wholly used to any crime that can be committed orally abstains from blasphemies and curses. If he prays, I’ve never seen him do it. But I have seen him staring…at nothing…and talking.
I don’t know to who. I hope I never do.
Dragonmen do not exist. Dragonmen are not real. They are weird, horrifying beasts born out of stories used to–and succeeding in–terrifying anyone from a child to a soldier.
Half of that is true.
I suppose I first realized that dragonmen, weird and horrifying as they are, first existed when Gariath nearly broke my arm five breaths after acknowledging my existence. I would have asked him why, but he was busy trying to tear my throat out at the time. I won that fight, by the way, which is both why I’m able to write this now and why, I suspect, he chose to follow me. I tried asking him the true reason, but amongst dragonmen, “why” is apparently a question for which a fist to the jaw is considered an acceptable answer.
I know barely anything about these creatures that call themselves Rhega. I know less about Gariath as a man…dragonman. I know he once had a family. I know he doesn’t anymore. But, I also know he has arms that can, and have, rip a man apart like a wishbone, so I’m not going to press for details.
Whatever thoughts he keeps in that horned head, he unleashes in battle, always throwing himself toward the fellow with the biggest, sharpest sword in the throng. I’d suspect him of wanting to die if not for the fact that he never just lays there and lets himself get stabbed. No, a man has to earn that right. That no one has, thus far, means he’s handy to keep around if one can excuse his violent tendencies. The least of it, I think, he directs towards me. My fellow adventurers, he hasn’t the same restraint for, and I suspect he only doesn’t kill them out of respect for me. He’ll content himself to throwing them across the room.
Good enough, I say.
NOTE: No entry was found accompanying this drawing beyond the errant scribbles at the bottom. All consultations with field guides of worldly flora and fauna have yielded no insights into what these creatures may be.
One of our recruits from Toha suggests secondhand knowledge of secondhand knowledge of the creatures at the top, citing that they conform to reports of pale-skinned men gathering near the city of Port Yonder before communication with that city was lost.
As for the thing at the bottom…well, no one will look long enough to hazard a guess.
Honored Scholars, Reputable Donors and Learned Men of Muraska.
I write to you in the hope that this letter finds you in both good time and in good health, though I confess that I hope it finds you in that order precisely. Forgive me, honored gentlemen, for keeping pleasantries to a minimum and forgive me further, learned sirs, for admitting that my hope becomes increasingly more desperate with the days that stretch on seemingly and noticeably without end. For with each day that goes on, I find our studies and attempts to delve further into the journal hampered by forces beyond our lack of funding.
Due to the distinct lack of consideration with which a student of high learning and poor decision-making skills was hired, the isolation of our studies have become compromised. Apparently after a night of carousing in a nearby town, the contents of the journal and the nature of our study into them were like and, as a result, we regret to inform you that outside parties of no honorable academic nature have taken an intent, intense and outright hostile interest in our attempts to discern the meaning.
Due to the nature of the journal, the Venarium continually assaults us with legal documents, citing treaties as evidence and proclaiming proudly that they have every right to take what they considered to be “classified documents” from us by force. I highly suspect that they are only prohibited by the sudden interest of one or more religions who lay claim to the documents as evidence necessary for their philosophies and meditation. On top of all of this, and most disturbingly, one “Mister Gray” has been petitioning us relentlessly, one letter per day for the past five weeks, with ever-increasing offers of gold in exchange for the journal.
Though donations remain a distinct issue for our cause, despite the generous allotment of sixty gold pieces offered, the Scribes of Cultures Extinct and Peoples Deceased hold ourselves to a higher, more honorable profession and have yet declined his offers. I lament both to inform you that I fear our time for such selectivity may be coming to an end and to implore you not to open your coinpurses, but to invoke your influence and reputation to preserve the sanctity of the S.C.E.P.D. and its cause. We offer the following notes from our most recent translations for your perusal and hopefully your approval.
Thelo Wayabout, Senior Scholar
On the Venarium
Common knowledge of the Venarium extends to the acknowledgment of the fact that no one knows a damn thing about them or what they know. Amazingly, secret societies founded on the idea that the ability to set your urine on fire sets you apart from the common man aren’t entirely forthcoming with what exactly makes them do that, let alone about their elite branches of wizard-hunters, the Librarians. Thusly, all we know about the Librarians is that they are to wizards what lions are to kittens.
If the lions shot fire out of their eyes and flew around on wings and acted with a widely-respected authority to kill anyone that disagreed with it, anyway.
All wizards are feared for good reason. Librarians, I gather, are intended to be what wizards fear, for better reasons. I’ve heard Dreadaeleon talk about them now and again, amidst all the other things he says about the Venarium: their arcane codes, their bizarre laws and their utterly unfaltering adherence to them. The Librarians exist for those whose adherence is not utter or unfaltering enough for the Venarium’s taste. I suppose rogue wizards are a problem all their own. I suppose some are bad enough to justify having an even worse wizard armed with an assortment of magical devices and all manner of fire, frost and lightning at their disposal sent after them.
I suppose I should be worried that one’s been following us.
At least a little bit.
For a race that, theoretically, resents the knowledge that humanity even knows of its existence, information on the shictish tribes is surprisingly common. A lot of this knowledge, of course, is pieced together mostly from people too drunk to know better than to talk or children who vaguely remember their mothers telling them it when they wouldn’t behave. And so, a lot of it revolves around ideas that shicts eat children and bleed poison and weep black tears. And so, a lot of it is pretty easy to dismiss as paranoid lunacy and not actual fact.
And yet, when it comes to the greenshicts, it’s more than a little difficult to tell the difference.
I know a bit about them, of course: they were the only tribe of shicts to stand up to the humans, thwarting the expansion of the Karnerian Empire into the jungles of the south. And, once they had secured their homelands, they promptly abandoned them, embarking on a long sort of pilgrimage to spread their knowledge of how to more effectively kill their hated, round-eared foes to their sister tribes. To humans, they’re green-skinned monsters that could be lurking anywhere. To shicts, they’re heroes.
Past that, everything I know about them is a story from my grandfather. If I were to believe them, then I’d tell you that greenshicts can speak to each other through a language without words, that they bleed green venom and their feet are strong enough to rip a man’s face off so that he can dry it and make it into a loincloth. I don’t believe them, of course. If I believed them, I’d have to believe that Kataria knows about them. I’d have to believe that, when she thinks of them, the heroes of her tribe, she looks at me and wonders what kind of villains those heroes fight.
If I believed them.
On some level, that these people even exist seems like an affront. Granted, the world is big. Granted, we don’t know a lot about it. Granted, since humanity is divided, the shicts are savages and the inhuman races of the world are scattered to the wind, not one of us could really be expected to keep track of every creature with a claim to being a society.
But really? Not one, but three races of lizardmen? And no one managed to find any of them until we came upon Teji? This seems to be a pretty big failing on our part. Then again, once you get to know them, the various reptilian races don’t seem like they lend themselves to being particularly desirable to seek out.
The Owauku are almost intolerable. Whatever mad god decided to crossbreed a toad with a beer keg probably wasn’t a great fan of mortalkind to begin with and might have sent them in retaliation for some ancient sin we committed against him. Whether he also gave them obnoxious accents, alcoholism, gambling problems and severely creepy eyes or if they just developed those on their own, I don’t dare ponder.
The Gonwa are slightly more tolerable, at least, if only because they adamantly refuse to speak to me. Spares me whatever accent they might have, yet I’m not entirely at ease with the idea of a six-foot-tall walking reptile that doesn’t speak but steadfastly stares at me and blends it seamlessly with his jungle surroundings.
The Shen…well, the Shen want to kill us. Violently. I can understand that, at least.
Still, I gather we’re not the first people to make contact with the lizardmen. Humans once inhabited Teji, long ago, I’m told. They traded with the Owauku, taught them our language and the value of coin. That might explain the reverence the fat little buggers have for us. In fact, that might explain the attitudes of the Gonwa and the Shen, as well.
Huh. I guess Gariath was right. Humans really do ruin everything.
On Netherlings, Female
There is a world not our own. A world where there is nothing. No trees, no dirt, no sky. A world where there is nothing to do but kill. And the people who live there are very, very good at that.
Big, hulking people with big, hulking swords, big, hulking muscles and faces as long as spears. There are lots of them. They come from somewhere dark. They don’t like us. They want us to die. And they’re here. Right here. Right now.
This, essentially, is all I’ve been able to figure out about these…women? I guess that’s technically correct. They have all the right parts to be female, at least—or so I’ve been told, I haven’t bothered checking. And I suppose that, given my choice in company, I’m in a poor position to suggest that bloodlust and ferocity are counter to femininity.
Still, it’s hard to think of the longfaces as women, as anything even remotely like what exists today. They take blows to the head with a grin, they laugh at getting stabbed like it’s a joke they’ve heard a dozen times before and it just keeps getting funnier. Of course, that only happens the first time.
After that, they chop off your head and stomp it under their boot.
The sole benefit to their presence is that they don’t seem particularly choosy about whose head needs stomping. For as much as they have an express desire to kill us, they seem to loathe our other enemies more. It’s generally considered wisdom to move away from demons that can’t be killed by mortal means, but these…women not only throw themselves at them, they actually hurt the demons. They survive. They win.
The fact that we both desire the destruction of the same thing is not so comforting, though. The enemy of my enemy is still a seven-foot-tall woman-man-thing that wants to crush my skull under her boot and write her name in the gray goop that comes gushing out.
As proverbs go, I’ve heard better.
On Netherlings, Male
Given what we know about female longfaces, it seems more than a little ridiculous to think that they might fear anything. But even predators have predators and there’s always something in a forest that a beast fears. I have seen that which commands these bloodthirsty creatures. I have seen they who presume to direct the tide of iron and fury that is the longface female. I have seen that which demon, warrior and monster fears.
And it wears a pretty, black dress.
I suppose the technical term is ‘robe,’ just as they are technically ‘male.’ But if the women of the longfaces are tall, powerful and consumed with a thirst for blood, I suppose it makes sense that their men are short, slender and consumed with a hunger for flesh. It wouldn’t be fair to suggest that longface males are more intelligent than their counterparts, but they are possessed of more patience.
Just enough to grasp the concepts of torture, deviance and a slow, burning death.
It would be folly to say that the males are possessed of any more cruelty than the females–they’re vile in equal measure, they simply apply it differently. Where the females are bloodthirsty and vicious, the males are devious, arrogant and possessed of far crueler appetites.
Not a lot of what we know of the males can be considered fact: they are fewer number, they assume roles of leadership—due, at least in part, to the females’ preference that someone else handle issues that don’t involve stabbing people—and they display a talent for magic and no evidence that the laws governing such power applies to them.
This would be bad enough without considering the rumors surrounding them.
They have a fondness for females not their own, it’s suggested, looking enviously at them as children look enviously at shiny new toys. And like children, they grow bored with their toys and start wondering how much it would take to break them. The stories of torture and violation that surround the male longfaces are not numerous. The rumors of how they use their magic toward depraved ends and nefarious purposes are not well known. The terrified whispers about what they do to women are not wide spread.
And, once you look into their eyes, they’re not at all hard to believe.
On Them, Continued
NOTE: To our continued frustration and disgrace, the author of these pages has continued to leave only cryptic drawings as suggestion as to what these creatures might be and we have continued to fail to understand what they mean. One student, however, offered some insight. I am certain no one needs to be reminded of the Port Yonder Incident, in which a populated, if underdeveloped city under the care of Toha suddenly and swiftly found itself bereft of people with no explanation. This student, who was unfortunate enough to grow up in this city and fortunate enough to have already been in my care once the incident occurred suggested that things resembling the creatures above–the half-formed breed of man and beast, the vile woman with two mouths–were sighted in the days following the incident. What these might mean, we have yet to discern. Our student, unfortunately, passed away a few days after revealing this to us, presumably drowned.
Esteemed Contributors, Honorable Benefactors and Unfortunately-Strapped Dedicators of Muraska.
Fondest last wishes,
It is with a heavy heart that I conclude my studies of this errant piece of literature by way of final notice and final conclusions. While I’ve dedicated much time and even more (generously donated) money to the study of this wayward adventurer’s exploits, it is with great sorrow that I have arrived at the conclusion that there are far too many obstacles to our progress to reasonably draw any meaningful conclusions.
While it is certainly not in the nature of a learned scholar to place blame, one cannot help but wonder, exactly, where my great benefactor’s desires truly lay in their apparent and baffling refusal to intervene on my behalf. When the Venarium came to seize my research on extramagical affairs, none of the aid I requested from sovereign benefactors was delivered. When the various clergies came to condemn my revelations about these so-called “demons” as blasphemies, none of my religiously-inclined donators would speak on my behalf. And when my own staff began to show signs of decay, gibbering and shrieking about eyes peering at them from outside windows and men with foot-long smiles, no requests for medical attention were met.
I can only assume that my generous benefactors’ patience, time or both has dried up. And for this, I am sorry to hear. My staff has suggested that, perhaps, you possess an ulterior motive in keeping this information silent. Rules of decor prevent outright accusation, but…
I will be departing my offices. Of late, I no longer feel safe in them. Enclosed are my final conclusions from this journal, though there is still far too much to learn from it. If you wish to seek me out, I will remain at my usual address in Muraska for another month before leaving. It is with great regret that I cannot offer a forwarding address.
Theo Wayabout, former Senior Scholar
Despite the long-suffering rivalries between individual races, every tulwar, shict, couthi and dragonman can agree on one idea: humans are terrible. Most will tell you that the great stalemate between the races’ bids for dominion over the world tipped in favor of the humans when we had the brilliant strategy to breed like rats and overwhelm everyone else. The truth isn’t that far off, but it is slightly more complex.
Amongst every creature on earth, only humanity has the unique capability to knowingly and willingly works against itself to get what it wants. No other race will eagerly throw away thousands of lives to claim a piece of land. No other race will go out of its way to harm itself as a demonstration of might to others. And no other race will covet power to the point of never using it.
In this aspect alone are my companions paragons of humanity. To say that they act strangely of late is on par with suggesting that the ocean might be a tad moist. They mumble to people that aren’t there. They curse at Gods that have no names. They beg the empty air for a mercy that will never come. I’ve seen twinges of their madness, of course. I’ve seen Denaos whispering poems into one of the four bottles of liquor he drains a day. I’ve seen Asper rubbing her left arm furiously, weeping. I’ve seen Dreadaeleon going to vast and unnerving lengths to conceal his bodily functions.
Perhaps I’m witnessing some new development in humanity. Maybe we’ve reached such diversity in culture and creation that fighting each other no longer seems as exciting as fighting ourselves.
It’s also possible that I hang around lunatics.
More than angels. Less than gods. Between heaven and earth dwelt the Aeons, the divine liaisons between man and god. Charged as servants to extend the wishes of enigmatic creators to subservient mortality, the Aeons dreamt of a life of supremacy. And so they sought to overthrow the Gods and seize creation for themselves. It was only through war that the Aeons were cast into hell and the mortal races were freed from their designs.
This is how the story goes, anyway.
But just as Aeons were more than man, there’s more to it than just a tale of upstart behaviors. They possessed powers of creation themselves. But while the Gods created through design, thought and method, the Aeons did so through pain, joy, fear and other crude emotions. They altered the land to suit their needs and when they were flung back to hell, the land was left as a sculpture half-finished.
The island of Jaga is one such place. Here, the sky and sea are old. Too old to remember anything but the time when they were one. The fish here fly through the air as if it were water. The sharks glide through nothingness on lazy red clouds of their prey’s blood. And the octopuses are…fearless.
This is where Ulbecetonth collapsed. This is where her reign of terror came to an end. And in the final days of her rule, the world ceased to be what we knew and became what she desired.
On the Nether
It appears that my initial generalization of netherlings as violent sub-humans ruled by instinct and their love for brutality was a little hasty. Not that it was inaccurate, of course; netherlings are most certainly depraved and violent, but that’s not all there is to them.
Above all else, netherlings are creatures of capacity. For cruelty, most certainly. For violence, definitely. For hatred, there’s no end. They are a people that perform in excess in every aspect of their lives.
Emotion, as I understand, is a rare and alien thing to them. They prefer things they can see, that they can hold and usually strangle. Things intangible to them, like faith, like love, are things they aren’t sure how to moderate. And still, their hatred seeps into everything they do.
A netherling introduced to faith will burn everything alive in the name of gods whose teachings they don’t understand just because they would want to see that happen if they were gods. And a netherling who loves will go on fighting because they can’t conceive of dying and leaving what they love.
A netherling with hatred is dangerous, but predictable. An emotional netherling is something else entirely.
If there’s something I can’t stand about adventuring, it’s the terrifying realization that every choice I will ever make will somehow lead me into conflict with something that is both much older than I am, knows far more than I ever will and rarely ever wears pants.
The Shen are one such choice gone terribly, terribly wrong.
They lived, originally, as slaves to Ulbecetonth, the tireless hands that built her monuments. They died, however, as liberators. When the war between Aeons and mortals began, they threw their lot in with the latter in a desperate bid for freedom. And in their new allies, they cast their oppressors into hell.
This moment defined them. This moment was centuries ago. And they have not moved past it. The Shen live to die. They are born dead. Only in death do they truly live.
If this sounds insane to you, dear reader, you’ve likely found my major problem with the Shen. To a man—lizardman, anyway—they are mad. Their subsequent generations have lived in desperate urgency to live up to the legacy of their forefathers…forelizardfathers?
Over forty thousand of their people drowning in their own blood.
They may get their chance.
I can’t stop it. Any of it.
Whatever’s happening to me, I can’t stop it. The blood runs cold. The heart stops beating. The steel feels safe and warm in my hand and the voice won’t stop talking. It wants blood. It wants to kill. It wants them all dead.
But I can’t stop them, either.
They’re coming. She’s calling to them. She’s crying for them. And they can hear her from every distance, in every thought, at any time.
And I can’t stop them.
On the End
To date, the identity of this young man remains mostly a mystery. We know little of his past, what village he came from, whether he ever wed or not, what his children might have done. We don’t even know if, when he finally bid farewell to this journal, he was alive or dead.
And perhaps he died shortly after he drew this piece, one of the few in which he ever deigns to draw himself. We can assume that he had access to paint, at least, but we’re not certain whether he owned those and painted this in the heat of the moment or was drawing some distant memory of a long forgotten companion.
But we did know his hardships. We did know that he suffered. We did know that he loved. And we did know that the woman next to him in this piece caused him no small amount of either. Perhaps this was his last memory of her. Or merely one of many.
I, for one, prefer to hope that he found a place to put down his sword. I hope this was but one thing he drew and that there were many more before he finally bid her farewell. I hope that, when it was all over, he found some measure of peace.