Let us take a journey through our worlds, rewinding time. First, we shall stop to one thousand, three hundred years ago. Here, in the vast deserts of Khal’mahja live tribes of people who live under the rule of powerful gods - biengs unlike any seen before, with beast-like powers. Some show great stamina, others great wisdom. Experts from the modern times who have nothing but wall-paintings and worn out statues to work from have seen these gods depicted and drawn as half-human, half-beasts. Some of the gods appear to have the body of a human and the head of a creature such as a jackal or hawk.
Enough of the ancient times. Let us come forward some four hundred years, now, to the month of first winters chill, at a town situated at the edge of the Draemist forest. It is nighttime but the large, full moon allows us to view what is needed. A canine howl issues forth from deep within the forest - no doubt a forest wolf calling to its pack, as several more howls return the call of the first. But pay little attention to those howls for now there is movement at the edge of the forest. Do you see it? Dozens of shadowed figures are loping from the forests into the slumbering town! Occasional screams - quickly stifled - soon issue forth from houses. There are many howls echoing through the area now - as though every wolf in the forest had smelled fresh blood. In one night, near every citizen from the town of Draetol had been slaughtered. Even the ones hiding beneath their beds or in back alleys were found and slain as though the murderers could smell them out. Those few who miraculously survived told tales of half wolves, half men running through the town with blood-covered hands and bodies. These tales were soon dismissed as ravings of madmen, of course, but since that day - the single largest cold-blooded massacre in the written history of the world - legends of half-wolves, or “Werewolves” sprouted throughout the lands. No reliable source has ever seen one of these creatures, of course.
There have, of course, been other tales of similar nature to the topic we’re talking of now. Many of us have heard the tales of bull-headed men with great size and strength. Of bird-men, living on high peaks of mountains. Of beautiful women with tails of fish luring people to come to them, and humanlike snakes, slithering through ancient ruins. Lets assume these myths as truth for a time. But where do these creatures come from? Certainly, they seem too unique to have been created from the beginning of life with the other humanoids and animals.
Let me rewind time with you once again to just one hundred thirty years before the tales of the desert gods. Look into this quiet study, hidden beneath the ground. Observe the mage lying on the dusty floor:
Elquin gasped in exhaustion and agony. He could feel his heart beating weakly, pumping blood through his veins and telling him he still lived. Even still, he would lie on the floor for nearly an entire day - too weak to move - next to a large stone vat, etched around the edges with symbols of power; Forbidden Arcane runes suggesting at the stealing of souls and the caging of essences.
A wracking laughter echoed through the empty halls of Elquin’s Laboratory. A laughter Elquin barely recognised as his own. He was the most gifted mage in his era - the most gifted mage for five hundred years in past or future. The vat, capable of holding some eighty litres was empty now, though the edges were caked with dried blood as though the liquid had been superheated and boiled away. Resting at the bottom of the stone vat was the object of Elquin’s exalting laughter - a single, unimpressive chunk of grey rock.
Aspect stones are magically crafted items of great power. The process of creating even a single one of these stones is immensly time consuming and taxing. It begins with obtaining a chunk of Imuricum - an extremely rare element which under the right metalsmithing methods can form some interesting properties. One must place the chunk of Imuricum into a pool of a certain animals blood and allow it to soak that blood for a period of forty-three days. While it is soaking, one must boil the blood for a period of at least twenty minutes, twice a day. As such, a great deal of blood is required as much is evaporated and lost. During this ‘soaking’, the Imuricum will lose its crystalline nature and change properties - turning grey and very stone-like. On the final day of this soaking, the mage must magically boil the blood one last time, this time until all of the liquid is concentrated and removed. Whilst boiling this, the caster must incite specific runes which should be etched along the edge of the container of blood, and hold open the power of the runes for the entirety of the concentrating of blood - usually several hours. This requires a large amount of effort on the mages behalf and most who attempt it die. If one is sucessful, however, the stone - absorbed with the essence of the animal whose blood was used - will imbue any who place it against their living skin. A few weeks after bieng in constant contact with this stone, the wearer and those who know him or her will begin to notice slight changes in traits. He will begin taking on aspects of the animal who’s essence is captured within the stone. One drenched in the blood of a lion, for example, will become prouder and more courageous. He will show more fervor in battle and attack unrelentingly. After several months of wearing this item, the owner will become in tune with his new traits and senses, and may even to begin looking slightly like the creature. Perhaps a little hairier… maybe slightly more pointed ears. If one were to wear this item for years, not only will the animal be as much as the man mentally and physiologically, but the animal will be as much as the man physically. Bones will start to alter. Hair, fur, scales or feathers will begin to grow. Eyes may change structure. None can become more than half man and half beast, of course, because even though he has imparted the essence of a creature into him, he also has the essence of a human.
- To create this item, one must harvest enough blood - around eighty litres - from the animal in use. A lion, for example, might have 6-10 litres of blood in its body, and that’s without spilling a drop.
- Only the most powerful of magi will be able to create an aspect stone. Suffice it to say that a player character will NEVER be able to make one. The only way a player might be able to get one of these is to find or obtain one already made. No respectable mage strong enough to make an aspect stone would do so, and no unrespectable mage would ever admit they have made one, let alone hand it over willingly.
- The curse of the aspect stones is that - even though it gives you all the positive traits of an animal, it also gives the wearer all the negative traits.
*A lion aspect will loathe bieng around other strong males, and may even strike out at them. He will become possessive of the females in his group and will defend them jealously.
*A deer aspect may become a lot faster and sensitive to danger, but will also flee instinctively from danger.
*A snake aspect may gain an extra sensitive sense of smell, but lose a lot of sight and most of hearing.
*A rat will become resistant to diseases, and become quite good at staying out of sight and finding food, but will also be more nocturnal and attracted to squalor and filth.
- All changes by the aspect stones are PERMANENT. No magic can change someone back, and nothing wears off over time with removal of the object. The offspring of those changed will also be changed: Effectively, a new race is created. It’s suggested that elves, dwarves and other humanoid races are created by the gods using the same technique as was used with the aspect stones. This is only one theory of the origins of life, of course.
- It is said that the use of such unholy runes and rites of magic - let alone the capturing and containering of the very essence of creatures - is one of the most dispicable acts a spellcaster could perform. It is also said that by using an aspect stone, one in reality loses a part of their own soul and as such, they and all of their offspring are frowned upon for eternity by the gods.
A new person has made residence in the local area, and has set up a bounty for all those willing to hunt the vicious basalisks which live in the forest to the east of the town. The man is paying a generous amount for the blood of these creatures, but what could he want all this blood for!? The mayor is feeling threatened and is quietly calling on people to investigate…
Rumors of were-beasts have been circulating recently in the capital city. People late at night have been disappearing, and the militia have no idea why! It’s up to you to investigate…
And so on.