Friday, July 12, 2013

Making Undead #5: Corrupting Elysia

Time for another "Making Undead", this time I am focusing on the elysia, commonly known as star elves.

Note: Making Undead is part of a blog series. Each post consists of creating original undead creatures from the building blocks of the world of War of the Ages. You can read the rest of the series here.

Warning: Making Undead is not for children or for those weak of stomach or easily offended. Even in a standard fantasy, undead creatures may be horrific and the ideas behind and creation of undead is rarely something that will be pleasant. 

I'm growing bored with just focusing on physical corruption, and I think everyone is starting to get the idea on how it works. Instead, this time I'll branch out and focus on anything and everything that catches my attention with the elysia. This is more useful as well since the elysia are not as fleshed out as some of the previous races I have covered. In Ao, they are mostly a background race, and they really are not prevalent until you start into stories going back or sideways from the main series. (Although there is a half-breed in Book 2).

Quick background, the elysia are the original elves. They are the elves that stayed behind on their homeRealm, Lysia, when their sun exploded instead of fleeing to Ao like the elves that would become the high elves and the wild elves did. The elysia were not unchanged however, and the uncontrolled energies released by the exploding sun warped and twisted them. Overnight, the mystical star citadels of the Lysian heavens were filled to overflowing with magicks and the runoff was channeled into entire moons consisting of nothing but pure magickal power. To this day, the eruption of Nova, the sun of Lysia, is ongoing and being contained by the other star citadels and the prayers of every living being on Lysia. 

Physically, the elysia resemble dark elves or night elves from other universes, but have streams of pure magick running throughout their bodies which manifest in different-colored deposits across their skin. In most star elves, the streams are purely cosmetic and have little to no influence on them (although they believe otherwise), but uncommonly, the streams are more highly concentrated in an individual causing changes to occur. If one of these individuals dies, or if a star elf dies in a way that accelerates/grows their magicks, and we ramp these growths up, we come to our first undead: let's call them gold stars / silver stars / red stars / prismatic stars.

The group of colored stars have different characteristics based on what color is predominant or if they are in balance. All of them become metal-men/women with mineral exteriors, but retaining their high agility and speed. Feral, they seek out sources of magick to consume, especially the mineral deposits of other elysia and other undead stars.This is why they can usually be found in the same area as other stars, as each tries to hunt and stalk the others.

Silver stars are the magickal dynamos of the group, and the metallic deposits of this creature contain concentrations of star silver, a metal that is the polar opposite of the antimagickal cold iron and accelerates elven magicks. Powerful silver stars are able to utilize their magickal accelerating natures to overload elves to the point that they become undead stars as well. Silver stars are the "default" undead star.

Gold stars on the other hand are much more reclusive than the other undead stars and frequently secret themselves away to meditate for years at a time. Over time, they find that the world itself grows around them and their understanding grows so that they are able to influence larger and larger portions of the world. These undead stars become gold giants as they exert their influence on larger and larger portions. Typically, they are content to absorb the magick of the universe and planet naturally, but if concentrations of magick (that is, other undead stars, living elysia, etc) are close by they may be motivated to action. Although gigantic and consisting of massive amounts of foreign inorganic material, gold stars retain their alacrity. It is unknown why an elysia may rise as a gold star instead of a silver star, but popular theories include the elf having reached enlightenment, a repressed trait in their heritage, being chosen by Nova or another star god, or any number of other ideas.

Red stars are a contradiction of sorts. When an elysia of significant magick that might otherwise rise as a silver or gold star dies near a significant source of cold iron (itself very rare on Lysia, so these are more common for elysia that have migrated to Ao), it rises as a teeming mass of chaotic metal in flux. Red stars have both magick accelerating properties and antimagickal properties. They can change their form at will, and usually do this to change their arms into chain whips or blades and are the most aggressive of the undead stars. Their dual nature drives them utterly mad and they are unique amongst the stars in that they will kill without feeding and will kill prey that has no magick. If they encounter dwarves, either the lost dwarves living on Lysia, migrant dwarves on Lysia, or dwarves of Ao if they are on Ao, then they hunt them with the same ferocity undead stars hunt on elysia.

As mentioned previously, undead stars do not get along and will hunt each other with even more prejudice than they hunt elysia. Usually, this results in the stronger star feeding on the weaker and growing significantly stronger, but sometimes the stars are equally balanced in magick (or, more commonly, a weaker red star uses their antimagickal ability on a stronger silver or gold star). The results of these battles between balanced opponents that do not end in mutual destruction are the prismatic stars.

Prismatic stars are wildly chaotic and more akin to forces of nature than a tangible creature. They can cross from their metallic state to pure energy and back again and shoot across the sky like lightning. Gravitating to strong clumps of magick in the atmosphere, they will stay in the sky until they sense a stronger source of magick, which they strike out at, opening with a lightning blast consisting of their bodies before coalescing and attacking in person if needed. This has caused schools of magickers or any particularly powerful magicker to construct magickal lightning rods to protect against the initial blast of a prismatic star (although the unique nature of Lysia's weather is another reason for the protection).

I'd be remiss to go further without mentioning a standard elven undead, the banshee and the atropal. The banshee and atropal undead duo are common to all elvenkind and began with the eruption of Nova. High elves suffered this malady due to their migration to Ao and the alien magicks of that land, while wild elves are the least effected, but still sometimes suffer if taken out of their adapted habitats. The elysia become banshees and atropals due to the overwhelming magickal radiation of Nova on Lysia.

A banshee is an undead elven lady that died late during pregnancy, during childbirth, or killed herself after a stillborn child was born to her. The atropal is the child if it died during pregnancy, childbirth, or was killed by its undead mother after birth. (Note: Atropal is a place-holder name. It's a big bad stillborn undead in D&D and it lets me easily recall the thing I'm talking about. I'll eventually come up with a new name. Banshee is the classic banshee and I'm fine with keeping that name). Sometimes a banshee will attempt to care for her living baby (rarely successfully), and when a child dies after being cared for by a banshee, it may rise as a super-atropal (especially if it fed on the mother's milk), a regular atropal, or it may stay dead.

A banshee that successfully cares for a living baby (whether her original child or a stolen replacement) becomes a quiet banshee and no longer wails and carries on in grief. These banshees can be downright helpful and regain their sanity, although they may begin to hate themselves and once the child grows up enough or they are able to bear parting with it, they may kill themselves. A quiet banshee that fails to care for a living baby becomes a loud banshee (or super-banshee) and actively seeks out entire communities to destroy, in her rage even killing children which are normally exempt from the wrath of a banshee.

All banshees possess a mind-shattering wail, and the more powerful banshees can kill with it, although children are rarely more than unnerved and it helps many children sleep or stay sleeping. Atropals are able to move and develop hardened gums that they can chew/bite through flesh with. Most banshees are not "hungry" undead, but they do indulge any atropal babies they have and regularly seek  to help the atropal seek satisfaction. Although atropals do not develop physically, their hunger grows and they are able to grow larger and stronger (although retaining their shape).

Most banshees begin to fear and hate their child, some even turning to filicide to rid the world of the abomination. Those banshees frequently become loud banshees, but some become quiet, and some even find rest and are able to pass on. Other banshees willingly take part in their child's hunger, even encouraging it, and they become a bansheepal, a dark shadow of a banshee that cunningly traps and destroys everything she can reach. Some bansheepals will even abandon their atropal if they feel it is holding them back.

Elysian banshees and atropals are much more magickally explosive than those coming from high elves or wild elves. The elysian banshee wail can physically stun her prey, and at higher levels causes explosions. Elysian atropals quickly develop physically, becoming much stronger and capable than their high elven cousins (although high elves learn to float faster). Elysian atropals are more prone to mutations (both before their death and after) as well due to the magickal radiation of Nova, and may develop additional limbs, longer, sharpened tongues, and more.

Atropals may stay at a feral state, or they may develop mentally. Super-atropals almost always develop extraordinary mental abilities, surpassing genius levels after only a few decades (very fast when you remember they're elves and elysia do not reach adulthood until ~80). Atropals that develop mentally may abandon their mothers, causing her untold grief and prompting her to hate her child or hate all life. Some abandoned banshees pursue their child for centuries, either finding death at the end waiting for her, granting death to her child, or finally experiencing a reunion with the unholy horror.

Servants of banshees/atropals are those members of their families that were already born or the father/husband. Usually motivated by the atropal, the banshee and atropal hunt them down and turn them. They rarely develop much, but serve as bodyguards to the banshee and atropal. Sufficiently young children may be turned into atropals through feeding from the mother, or from rebirth if the banshee chooses to take them within herself. If the miscarriage/stillborn/death-of-the-mother was caused by the husband, then the banshee will usually pursue the husband even without the urging of the atropal. Sometimes the husband can retain the woman's fear of him even in undeath, but eventually the banshee becomes powerful enough that she can kill him from a distance.

A banshee that attempts to take a grown child into herself to rebirth it may find the child resisting enough to become an unholy fusion of banshee and atropal. An atrocishee (sorry, the joke was impossible to resist) is a dual creature consisting of the banshee above and below, but with the child grotesquely emerging from the center, sometimes just the torso, sometimes with arms, sometimes with arms and legs. Although they appear clumsy, an atrocishee is surprisingly fast and all limbs develop undead strength. They can climb walls, ceilings and trees as spiders, and elysian atrocishees regularly mutate even further so that all aspects of the creature turn into a weapon wholly unrecognizable from its original elven heritage.

Finally, let's examine an aspect of elysian culture: namely, star worship. On Lysia, the elves believe that the Star Gods rule the heavens which consist of great Star Citadels connected by Star Roads (I'm translating here into English from Elysian, so lots of star-this, star-that). The Star Citadels are what one actually sees when they look up into the lights of the eternal night. Each Star God resides inside his or her citadel and influences those creatures below that are born under their citadel. (This is the origin of hume astrology on Ao actually, even though Ao stars are nothing like those on Lysia). Occasionally, an elf is chosen by a Star God to live wholly in their thrall, to do nothing but their bidding, which they understand through strong impulses and instincts they feel compelled to follow. In life, these Star Priests can inspire great followings to their deity and are granted additional powerful magicks to carry out the wishes of their god. However, in death, if they are not purified, Star Priests rise as a Fanatic.

Fanatics still hear the call of their god in their impulses and wishes, but everything has changed for them. More than ever before, they seek to corrupt, pervert and proselytize. They launch attacks against the temples of other deities and weave in and out of the twilight with their impossible magicks. Even the faithful begin to doubt the call of a fanatic and many religious turn away from a god when a priest rises as a fanatic, believing the statements made in life to be false. Some fanatics hold true to their moral compasses and master themselves and their urgings. They become more powerful than ever, but return to their religion to guide and help others. Let's call these the Bishops. Bishops can fall to corruption, but if they can hold true, they are a great boon to the faithful of their god. They are generally more intolerant of other religions, but do not usually lash out personally or violently.

Very powerful fanatics or even wavering bishops may seek to construct the blasphemous ziggurats, outlawed on Lysia by all since Nova's original explosion. A ziggurat is a type of tower that reaches to the sky to harness the magicks of the gods directly. It is believed that the original ziggurat created by Oberon caused the explosion of Nova and opened the First Gate to Ao, creating the Faerie Realms between the two realms and forever tying them all together. This has generally been seen as a bad thing and it is believed that additional ziggurats will only weaken the gods holding back the full explosion of Nova, and that it is possible that Nova is still alive at the center of the explosion, and additional ziggurats may enrage him further. Once constructed, a ziggurat can empower the fanatic or bishop with untold power, or they can grant this power to others as they desire. A fanatic becomes the dreaded zealot while the bishop will become the powerful cardinal. Zealots usually are more focused and tend to plan things out more than a fanatic, while cardinals may regret building the ziggurat or launch into plans that are even larger than before. Even if a cardinal or zealot abandons a ziggurat (or the ziggurat is destroyed), they remain empowered and are forever changed by the power they are granted.

So that is just a touch of some undead for the elysia. I know I cheated a little by using banshees for elysia when they also apply to other elven races (and aren't exactly original on their own for that matter), but I hope that the dual pair of banshees and atropals, and all the things that can happen to them, including the atrocishee and how the banshee can make new atropals was original and new.

I'm still deciding on what the next Making Undead will be of. If you have any requests, please feel free to comment below or on Google+, tweet me @zawota or Facebook me at facebook.com/zawota.