(Champion Spotlight) Halloween Champions 2019
Teleria has always been rich in nightmares and things to be terrified of. Raiders and brigands, Siroth and his minions, ever-plotting the downfall and subjugation of the Mortal Realms, Undead that stalk the land on the darkest of nights in search of victims to feed on or enthral. But there is a being that true primal horror, made manifest. The superstitious peasants of Kaerok - where that being first appeared - call it ‘Harvest Jack’.
In truth, references to an evil spirit nigh-identical power and appearance can be found in cultures far more ancient. But, for whatever reason, he disappeared from history and remained dormant until about three centuries ago. The name is no coincidence, for Harvest Jack had first been sighted during Lozrayn, a harvest festival originating in Kaerok. His motives and goals are unclear but always malicious one way or another. Jack has been known to play tricks on the unwary, seeking to scare them - some say that all of his victims die of fright and Jack devours their soul, which is not exactly correct - or manifest in the midst of the revelry to send the peasants scattering and stampeding in all directions. On occasion, however, this can turn into a slaughter without any rhyme or reason. Scholars theorize that Harvest Jack feeds on the fear of mortals and will do whatever it takes to bring about nightmares that will sustain him.
The spirit always coalesces as a whirlwind of arcane energies or, perhaps, twisted animae pulled together into a single dark consciousness. His birth is described as a flash of blinding light, followed by the ghastly form materializing slowly. His pumpkin head twists and carves itself into a leering sneer of jagged teeth, his scythe burns with the cold flame of death, and his power twists benevolent magic until it withers and turns to harm those it was meant to empower.
The last appearance of Harvest Jack had been widely reported upon, though details are scarce. Witnesses say that the malicious entity burst out of a pumpkin patch in the midst of a town fair and went on a rampage. Had four brave warriors not intervened, he would have caused a massacre of terrifying proportions. Yet even these noble souls were no match for the dark spirit, whose strength had grown boundless as Shadow reigned across Teleria. It took the personal appearance of the Arbiter who had resurrected her Champions and crossed her sacred sword with Harvest Jack’s wicked scythe to drive the revenant back.
Since then, Harvest Jack often appeared beneath the full moon of cold autumn nights, ever hungering, ever searching for hapless mortals to sustain him. It is unclear if this kind of power can be trapped in a Shard, though if it can be, then the revenant’s dark powers will certainly be useful in the fight against Siroth.
No one knows exactly how the twisted creatures known as Skinwalkers came to be. Some say they were abominations created by Siroth out of envy of Lumaya’s children, others maintain that it was a mighty curse of some sort that first turned humans, elves, and even orcs into werebeasts. Indeed, in most known legends, the first Skinwalkers are cursed to take the form of a beast under specific circumstances. It is only later that their descendants are born with beast-like bodies that can never change back to whatever original form their ancestors possessed. One thing that can never be denied is the unnatural strength that flows through Skinwalker veins. And this strength has long tempted heroes across Teleria.
Brakus was once a warrior of great renown. Hailing from a norse Barbaric tribe, he made a name for himself in battles and raids alike, serving whoever offered him the most silver and the greatest chance at glory. He was obsessed with becoming stronger, faster, tougher - anything that allowed him to be a better warrior than his foes. In his travels, Brakus came across ancient folklore that spoke of part-men, part-beasts, whose strength was so great not even a dozen mortal opponents could match them. Mesmerized by the possibilities, Brakus set out to find a way to harness that strength.
For decades he wandered the lands, seeking magic-wielders from all walks of life. For decades he found nought but disappointment. It was not until Brakus came across a half-mad hermit who lived in the dark heart of the Durham Forest that he finally had some luck. The old man was strange, to say the least, but he knew the tales of the days long gone like the back of his palm. And he promised to grant Brakus the strength he sought - for a price.
Eager to finally seize what which he had sought for so long, Brakus agreed to anything. And even when the hermit demanded his heart, the obsessed warrior cut it out from his chest without hesitation - or so the tale goes. However, the Hermit remained true to his word as well. Spreading his crooked, skinny arms, the old mage intoned an ancient incantation that kept Brakus from the brink of death. Thus gripped by arcane power, Brakus’ body twisted and deformed, bringing out his true nature. Before long, a vicious creature, more wolf than man, stood on the cold soil floor of the hut.
Alas, power never comes without a price. The heart that Brakus had offered the Hermit was both a blood sacrifice and one of great symbolism. Though he had obtained the strength he craved, he also lost his humanity in the process. At first, he maintained a sliver of his old self, even his human form during the day. But, gradually, this control slipped, and Brakus descended deeper into bestial madness. Until nothing but a vicious hunter remained - more wolf than man both in body and soul.
A long, long time ago, there lived a woman in the capital of Aravia. Born to an Elven noble line, she knew neither hardship nor want. Serris - for that is what she had been named by her loving mother - was a shrewd child and greedily consumed whatever knowledge her private tutors could provide. It was not long until her magical aptitude manifested, and the young girl had been granted an education in matters arcane.
In time, Serris grew up to be a great mage. She was talented, daring, and fiercely intelligent. But no matter how far she pushed her talents, it was never enough. Her ultimate goal was simple, crude even, but so very desirable - eternal life and youth. And to achieve that, she delved into the forbidden lore. Carefully at first, cautious of what horrors it might unleash. But as the answer eluded her, Serris lost count over the lines she had crossed.
A lesser practitioner of the Dark Arts would have been long caught and banished or worse, yet Serris remained a step ahead of her would-be persecutors. Ever-friendly and charismatic, she managed to frame several rivals and escape the consequences of her crimes. And so, as years passed, she slowly puzzled small pieces of lore together, crafting a ritual that she believed would grant her unfading beauty.
It required a great deal of preparation, exotic ingredients, and, worst of all, the sacrifice of her own blood. Deep in the darkest night, Serris gathered all the required reagents and went about brewing her wondrous elixir. Sadly, not everything went according to plan. The moment Serris took a sip of her brew, a great flash of light seared across the chambers of her tower, setting it ablaze and destroying centuries worth of knowledge. Serris herself had been burned by witchflame, and though she remained unscathed in body, her skin had forever turned a greenish colour and her eyes blazed a bright yellow. Marked thus, she had no choice but to flee the capital, Adjudicators and even Templars of the Sacred Order hot on her heels.
And although her beauty had been forever preserved in this malefic way, Serris soon realized that it only went skin-deep. Her body would still wither and die if she did nothing about it. Thus Serris, having taken the title Madame, travels Teleria now, searching for a way to complete her scheme. Her mastery of magecraft is impressive, to say the least, and her lack of morals ensures that the witch is likely to ally with whomever she pleases. As long as it suits her own designs.
It happened many years ago in the city of Arnoc. A talented young mage by the name of Alvano sought to unravel a mystery that has long mesmerized scholars and wizards alike - the enigma of Creation. Indeed, for all their efforts, no mortal could replicate the creation of a soul that truly animates a living being. Souls could be manipulated, preserved and bound to a body in the limbo of Undeath, but never conjured into an artificial vessel.
Alvano was an incredibly gifted man, whose intellect allowed him to study in the most prestigious Academy of Arnoc despite his humble origins. Affected by the deaths of his parents, Alvano sought to use his affinity for magic and his knowledge to defeat death once and for all. Alas, for all of his genius, he was also obsessive, unable to see the big picture. Thus throughout his research Alvano never once questioned his goals or methods. The result was all that mattered to him.
Though his talents were not enough to make Aether coalesce into a living anima, Alvano reasoned he could take advantage of echoes and shreds. As bodies resurrected by the necromancers still possessed vestiges of their former skills, he suspected that some form of imprint lingers after the soul’s passing. And that these imprints can be forged together into something new.
Thus Alvano’s morbid obsession with the dead had begun. He would spend days and weeks in mortuaries and cemeteries, observing and, when possible, experimenting with the recently passed. Eventually, he devised a ritual of his own making. By sewing together pieces of flesh that, in Alvano’s mind, resonated the most with the “imprints” of the soul and placing a precious magical gem in place of the heart, he sought to craft a vessel capable of withstanding the massive force of arcane energy that would be required for the soul to burst into being.
He started the ritual at the height of a raging storm, positioning the artificial body in one of the highest towers of the city, chanting passages from ancient grimoires and directing the stolen power of lightning that struck the tower’s spire. Arcs of electricity struck out from the bound vessel, glowing brightly as Alvano poured his own magic into the same focus gem. Finally, with a howl full of pain and misery, the creature lurched forth and broke the enchanted chains keeping it in place.
In a moment of trauma and shock, the monster struck out wildly and flung its creator off the raised dais where the ritual was taking place, killing him instantly then stumbling out into the streets. Terrified townsfolk speak of horrid massacres and blood running in rivers, though those are nothing but tall tales. The hulking monster did cause panic among any who crossed its path, albeit few dared to walk the city in heavy storm, and none of them were fools enough to approach a raging monstrosity that rampaged towards the nearest gates. It did grievously wound several guards that tried to bar its passage, then burst out into the wilderness outside.
From that day, the creature had barely been seen. Tavellers do occasionally talk of a misshapen giant stalking through forests and fields at dusk, but thus far no one has been able to say for certain what had happened to Alvano’s ambition creation and, indeed, if he had succeeded in giving it a soul or if this is merely another Undead animated by the power of magic.