They very definitely cannot be treated like any other undead; even the liches of normal high fantasy are easier to handle than a Hollow One. The closest thing to one of these creatures is the rare instances of a lich that takes the time to work its way into society, gaining social prestige and power as it does so. A Hollow One, on the other hand, is seen as an asset by rulers in Kuramen, as they are spellcasters who don't risk a thaumaturgic backlash that could level the city. More than one medium-size city-state or moderate-sized nation has a Hollow One serving as adviser to the ruler across multiple generations, considering their access to knowledge and their magical capabilities more than worth the cost in spiritual energy they require, usually relying on prisoners or a special cadre of servants for that purpose.
For other worlds, you could indeed vary the damage their touch inflicts, and how long the effects of a feeding last; without the stolen spiritual essence, a Hollow One can only learn in a detached way; the visceral kind of learning that lets people develop learned reflexes and instant recall of knowledge is only possible with that 'charge' present. A Hollow One who steals entire souls and gets merely a day out of such wanton consumption would be a juggernaut, rampaging across the land in a frenzy of hunger; one who merely dazes the victim for an hour or so and can get by for a day or more would hardly raise curiosity; perhaps it could pass itself and a voluntary victim as someone with a spouse who has 'vapours'.
I'm glad you like that turn of phrase. The notion of magic and unnatural things having colors not known to us is one I've been fond of since reading The Colour Out of Space, and was reinforced with Discworld and the color octarine. The Hollow Ones are basically vessels of raw magic, sustained in a terrible half-life by energies beyond the ken of normal minds... It seemed fitting. Go to Comment
That's pretty much it; deprived of their living soul, they can gain an academic understanding of things, but there is nothing within them to allow the interaction to 'take hold' and root itself in their psyches.
When they feed, they gain the ability, for a brief time, to truly learn once again. This alone provides a motive for those tales of the 'dreadful undead wizard' that conquers a settlement and enslaves the populace; rather than a workforce, it requires a steady supply of soulstuff in order to be able to grow at all, rather than slowly collecting the dust of centuries. Without this, their learning is, at best, a distant thing that they have to concentrate on to recall; it is entirely possible that with enough time unfed, they would begin to lose what they had learned while alive, eventually having their sense of self decay away into mindlessness. Go to Comment
The steam-guards and the tinker-trains are some of those derivatives of Kuramen's "steampunk gone wrong" vibe. Kuramen is dangerous enough that most trade tends to be done via armed and armored caravan, and the very best of those are thaumatech-based, without any need for animals to pull the wagons along; instead, you get a line of armored wagons, each one venting plumes of steam as they roll along their set trails, each one usually packing at least one or two people who can operate the weaponry on the wagon itself, and maybe one in three or one in five having a guard outfitted with what amounts to a steam-powered exoskeleton. It's much safer to use the thaumatech to boil water than to drive the armor and wagons through straight thaumatech; sometimes even a single rune is sufficient, while driving the entire wagon or armor by itself would be at least a glyph, and more likely a full script, with all the hazards attendant to such 'dense' collections of energy.
The arrowheads are the result of a conversation with Siren about the trolls. He has informed me that my notion of cancer arrows is just rude. I agree with him, but the notion seems fairly inevitable. I could see something similar in the form of a siege engine that flings a load of organic garbage laced with some fragments of trollflesh; it would seem at first like a typical plague-spreading shot, until you had a troll or three drag themselves out of the heap and come after the inhabitants. I'm sure there are other similarly nasty uses for these monstrosities.
Kuramen is getting a lot more of my attention right now, as I intend to write a story in it come NaNoWriMo at the end of next week. I may post some of the component bits involved in it, like the thaumic meters, or the City Spirits - a kind of Small God that is effectively the living soul of a settlement or city district. Go to Comment
You always hear stories of trolls putting limbs back on, or about how a troll can grow a new limb/body/etc. This is just the extrapolation from that notion and filtered through the lens of Kuramen's steampunk-gone-wrong nature. Honestly, I woke up a few days ago with the rough idea in my head, no idea why it spawned, and haven't gotten it to leave me alone until I finished writing it down.
Frankly, these things would scare the hell out of me if they existed in our world. Go to Comment
Thank you. It's not much more than a logical extrapolation, I feel, using the rules of the Kuramen universe. (Can I really call it a universe, the way it's split between True and Far? Then there's the way it's starting to tie into the Realms I mentioned elsewhere, with Soreen and his Gloom...) Go to Comment
Very, very nice. I especially liked the part about infusing arrowheads with troll-flesh - a great inspiration piece, that!
Also (with my love for steam-punk) I thourgoughly enjoyed the steam-mecha train guards. Great imagination and impressive presentation. I cant *quite* go 5/5, but its not far off.