United We Stand
Twilight Caste Solar Exalted, Sijanese Necromancer, Chief of the Bureau of Secrets for the Kingdom of Ugartia.
A ghostly pale man, perhaps in his early 40’s, with long straight hair the color of midnight, Yochanan Zimri often can’t help standing out in a crowd. He wears a suit of armor that’s obviously been lacquered and stained black, and a huge Grand Daiklave is strapped to his back in a solid black sheath, with a long velvet cloth wrapped around the hilt and pommel. An even six-feet tall, he walks slowly with heavy footsteps, and can occasionally be seen wincing when he twists his torso.
Yochanan’s anima is a dazzling sunset, full of reds, purples, yellows, and blues, partially obscured by a mighty and dark thundercloud which crackles with electricity. Shafts of light pierce the cloud at points, to illuminate the ground just in front of him.
From Yochanan’s journal, 1st Ascending Air, RY- 767
[editor’s note: This journal was burned to ash a few weeks after these entries were written. It would seem that the author was not entirely comfortable with its existence.]
It has been more than five seasons since I left Sijan, and only now do I put ink down to record what happened there. I am a different person now, in many ways, and perhaps I feared that recording my deeds would somehow awaken that which brought me to that dark place.
The Calcagan Library was my preferred branch, living in the far southeast of town, smaller than the main, but a shorter walk from home. I had long since exhausted the catalog of those tomes which interested me personally, and I had taken to the habit of checking the returns rack, to see what was popular. Perhaps I had missed something.
That day I found something I had indeed overlooked previously. A handsome text, bound in leather, with a warped, twisted reptilian creature on the cover. It bore no title, and had no cover page. It began its insidious scrawl immediately once the hardback had been peeled away.
This is what made it hard for me to believe what was written inside of it at first. At the start, it was filled with blasphemy; the first chapter was a story-description of the ritualistic torture and murder of a young woman, for the explicit purpose of producing a hungry ghost upon her death, one that had specific properties. I was alarmed and disgusted, but mostly I was embarrassed for my friends who curated Calcagan’s collection. If an important functionary caught wind that such a book was found on their shelves, one that had been recently taken out no less, their punishment would be severe.
That’s what I tell myself now. In truth, I was perhaps a little intrigued, like a man watching a crow’s feast, at just how far the depravity would go. I received more than I had bargained for as I took that book home that night, expecting to flip through it, confirm that it was, in fact, worthy of destruction, and dispose of it properly. I did the first, but failed to do the second. Had I cast it into my hearth that night, I might have lived out my years, and be buried alongside my parents on the low hills of Sijan.
As I read, very little happened outside of my study as a consequence. At first. I sat in my little room, away from prying eyes, a layer of salt coating the ground inside of the walls. I sat and I read. I tried to wrap my mind around the words, the pictures, the acts…it would be my undoing over the coming months.
I will finish this, but not tonight. Great Forks sings a sweet song in the night air, and I don’t wish to miss even one note…even if I only plan to spectate.
From Yochanan’s journal, 2nd Ascending Air, RY- 767
I sat in that candle-lit study for weeks. Reading. Analyzing. Trying to understand. I even sketched a few of the less repulsive pictures; mostly sigils, diagrams, yantras. Just because no one was depicted being eviscerated, or dismembered, that made it seem alright. I kept the sketches in a locked drawer hidden under my main bureau. Fortunately, the flames consumed these, along with most of my other possessions.
The descriptions of the Underworld were perhaps what fascinated me the most. As I aged, I began to feel more detached from my own emotions, and what the book said about the lot of the dead resonated with me. It is well known in Sijan that the dead do not sense things as the living do, but to know that my loss of interest in the taste of food, the vibrancy of color, the touch of another…that these things were the experience of those doomed to the Underworld made the distinction between the two further blur in my mind. My excursions across the Bridge became more frequent and for longer durations. It was not uncommon for a seasoned Mortician to do this for various reasons, yet some of my peers no doubt marked this as the beginning of my downward spiral. It was on one of these marches through the gray land that I met Liowere, a very old ghost, and I would later learn, an accomplished Necromancer. He claimed he had noticed me tarrying in the dark without purpose for weeks, and knew I hungered for something that mortals were not normally permitted to taste.
He showed me facets of the Underworld I had not understood until that point. Liowere explained to me the true nature of the Hekantonkhire, the Neverborn, and the beings known as the Deathlords. I was further intrigued by his knowledge, and met with him regularly. All the while, he asked for nothing in return, for many weeks. I now suspect that it was him that somehow placed that foul tome in the Calcagan return cart, waiting for a naive Mortician to find. I should have known better…
From Yochanan’s journal, 4th Ascending Air, RY-767
When I was a much younger man, I had a lovely wife, whose name was Asila Rulanoe. She was beautiful, clever, and held a fierce belief in me, in the future we might have together. In a short time after our wedding, she was with child. My success as a top graduate of the Mortician’s Academy, a son or daughter on the way, and a new home, these were the things that surrounded my life with hope and joy.
Asila died in childbirth…the best physician in Sijan could do nothing for her. I lost them both, and so could not bear to live in that house any longer. I moved to the residence which I would later burn. Why do I recount this? Perhaps it will help to explain my callousness with Jashyi, whom I was betrothed to in my 39th year. A widower herself, though some ten years younger, her father, a wealthy merchant and an acquaintance, thought it would be tremendously beneficial for both of us. And it would have been, had my life not taken the course it did. Jashyi was handsome, worldly, and very practical. Some of those things, I believe, rubbed off on me, for we did live together for three seasons, before my betrayal. The wedding was a beautiful, almost extravagant affair, very high profile.
All this time, I kept my association and activities with Liowere a secret. Perhaps I did not give Jashyi as much attention as I would have, had my head been more clear, more focused on my duty as a husband, and as a mortician. Yet this would pale in comparison to what Liowere would ask of me, in exchange for the power of Necromancy…
From Yochanan’s journal, 7th Ascending Air, RY-767
It all came down to a single conversation really. Looking back now I can see the course of our interactions and how I was manipulated into buying a host of lies. Liowere played me like a fine An-Teng viola, and I bought into it. Living a life preoccupied with the nature of death drove my curiosity, and Liowere’s extensive experience with newly formed ghosts drove my fears as well. I was certain that when I passed through this life, no matter the arts of my fellow Morticians, I would remain in the Underworld as a ghost. Yet the idea of passing into Lethe, and forgetting this life seemed just as hard to accept. I knew my life was comfortable, I knew I was surrounded by convenience and luxury. And I understood how rare that was throughout Creation.
So when Liowere showed her to me…my Asila, pale and translucent, but speaking to me just as she had so long ago. The idea that she did not enter Lethe crushed me, and this charlatan spent the better part of an hour soothing me, and promising the beneficence of Liowere, due to his powers…the power of a Nercromancer.
I know now that it was not Asila. How I know this…I can’t say. But I am convinced that it was a ghost in Liowere’s service who molified themselves to appear as my dead wife. It chills me to think on how they might of known her visage so well. The impostor left, leaving me to speak with Liowere. He told me how all this was possible, and he told me a way I might get it. He spoke of the five stations I would have to pass…the sacrifices I would have to make. Yet what he held before me was the promise of power. Of control and knowledge to help me to withstand what I feared the most.
I feared death.
[Editor’s Note: The final two entries of this journal have yet to be recovered. Our Agents here at the Bureau of Secrets are working diligently to obtain them.]
From Yochanan’s journal, 12th Ascending Air, RY-767
[Editor’s Note: The diligent work of the Bureau of Secrets has uncovered the two lost entries of this journal. We reproduce them here for your consumption.]
The Draught of Blessed Respite cost me a week’s pay, and for another week thereafter it sat in a chest in my study. Its potency was guaranteed, for the Alchemist I purchased it from catered to several friends of mine who lived in the upscale mansions of Sijan’s wealthiest districts. He did not ask why I needed the elixir, and I did not volunteer that information.
Liowere told me that I would need to make a fitting sacrifice. One that would stay with me as I passed through the stages of initiation. The only thing I had in my life at that time that came close to that measure was Jashyi.
I can’t say now what was really going through my mind at that time. Some nights I think perhaps Liowere placed some enchantment upon my mind. It is possible I could determine the truth of my aptitude, but I feel little desire to do so. Whatever my motivation or state of mind, one moonless night during Ascending Fire, I slipped the draught into her wine at dinner. Within minutes, she was unconscious. I had already prepared my tools the night previous. Rope, knives, ritual items. Placing her into a coffin, I rode my wagon into the woods, to the spot Liowere had arranged.
He was there, waiting for me.