The Shorra-Ol- A five hundred year old book concerning something described as The Art. The book is in codes and is very vague about what The Art is exactly. It mentions something about being able to shape the world. And the Ocean of Ocean’s being the key. And dreaming. There is also a ritual described in detail on how to enter something called the Loop. There the Shaool will await. Only they have the knowlegde about the art.
His father’s Hunting knife- Jorran keeps this knife for the ritual he will once preform to once again enter the Loop.
His Grandfather’s old war sword- This is almost an antique. It has an old Heron mark on it.
Grizzled by his years of travelling, he has a great curly beard and long greasy uncombed black hair. His features are square and tough. His body is strong and heavily built. He wears travellers clothes, animal fur and leather. He is grim to look at and has a nervous twitch in his left eye.
Other’s notice quickly only by his way of standing that he has learned how to use his grandfather’s Heron marked sword.
When did it all start? He would never know for sure, although he traces it, like a finger on a map following the broad river back to the invisible thread of the beginnings, to one evening early winter. Outside, he remembers it as cold, dark, full of damp, gusty wind; the rustle of bushes, the creak of bending trees. Inside it was warm and the puddles of brightness cast by the candles made the room seem like a deep cave in the heart of the Moorhills, his home. He dwelt on what might have happened that evening until he could no longer distinguish between what he knew and what he had imagined. That night he illuminated the shadowy corners, poured into mysterious silences the suggestive murmur of their voices, allowed himself to read the words in a hushed whisper; a moment when the Firestones were struck, its sparks licking the at the fry tinder, and nobody had any idea of what was to come. What was to happen because of the book he was reading. And if they had known, would they have stopped it? His family? Blown out the flame, left it at that: a moment of possibility, something they would remember later, if they thought about it at all, with a rueful sense of life’s precariousness.
And what about himself? If Jorran himself had turned the hidden destruction of that evening back on its oiled hinge, closed the book with a neat click, decided that it was madness, would everything be the same?
Jorran grew up in a small rural village in the Moorhills named Oakstone. It is a small village with a smith, an inn and a few scattered farms. From the day he could walk he started helping his father Isaac run the farm. His mother Alia had been ill since she gave birth to his younger sister Seliana. So there was much to do around the farm.
He enjoyed their way off life. He never complained about the heavy labour or their lack of money. They led a simple life. Then, when he turned eighteen his father told him it was time to see the world. He had already aquired another farmhand. It turned out his father had been saving money since the day he was born, to send him to school for five years. In one of the big cities. Antmorr.
He was concerned about leaving his family, most of all his sick mother. But he knew this was a chance most farmboys could only dream of. The years in the big city went well, he was bright, hard working and the academy was to his liking. He drank a lot and had fun like the other students, but was always in class the day after. When Jorran had about a year left of his time in Antmorr his teacher touched upon the matter of dark magic in history. He loved it. The mystery of it.
But the teacher quickly changed the subject. But he urged for more knowlegde about this forbidden theme. He wanted to study it. Not to become a magician himself ofcourse, but for the knowlegde itself. He went trough the schools library finding nothing of interest.
Then he made a list over the different books he knew contained at least some knowlegde on the subject and started to search trough bookshops in the city. After many days he found a shop that looked like it had been there for centuries, but Jorran had never seen it before. He wondered how he could have missed it all the years he had studied the University at Antmorr. Some of his student years were a bit hazy, however. Perhaps he has been here and simply forgotten? Leaving aside the issue of the shop’s origins, Jorran admired the shop’s dusty books and old pargaments. There were some unusual titles on the shelf. Jorran noticed the owner of the shop, sitting in a dark corner. It was a man with one piercing black eye. The other was milky and dead. Jorran handed him a parchment with a list of titles and asked him if he had any of them in his collection.The man scanned the list with a knowing smile on his face. Jorran grew nervous.
Would the man throw him out of the shop? Would he alert the authorities?All of the books on his list concerned the art of black magic. Not excactly illegal books since they only touched the subject. But the shopkeeper might be alerted and call the city guard.
"Come with me", the man said softly, and led Jorran trough the curtains to the back room. The man dug trough a pile of books. Soon he found a tattered old book which he thrust at Jorran. It was a copy of concerning the Old Realms, a classic, but distressingly common. "What about the books on my list?", Jorran asked, feeling rather cheated. "Never mind those," he answered. "I think this edition is closer to your true interest." Jorran flipped the pages open and read, his mind raced. It was The Shorra-Ohl. One of the ancient black books. He thought all copies off these had been burnt five hundred years ago along with the author.
The man grinned, "will you be buying this fine book today?". Jorran considered, if he was caught with this book he would be burnt on the stake. But to read the words no scholar had set eyes on for five hundred years… It was worth the risk. Besides what harm could come of it?
Jorran read the entire book that night. He did not show up for class the next day, and when he woke up he started to read it again. It was full of codes and verses Jorran did not understand. He read it over and over again day and night. Finally, he was kicked out of school and had to travel home. Safe at home he lied and said he had gotten a vacation and continued to study the book. One night he had dream, when he woke up the next morning it was clear to him what he needed to do. That day his family noticed a great change in Jorran, they had seen his behavior as peculiar from the day he returned, but this day it was doubled. He was only reading that book of his, muttering to himself. They didn’t dare to interrupt him however, he was their scholar, their genius boy. The learned one. If he wanted to spend all day getting wiser he should.
When his family had gone to sleep thoughts where thundering trough Jorran’s head. He had made it. He had figured out what it was all about. Or at least some of it, enough to go on with the ritual. He could do it tonight. Jorran was almost mad with the idea of it. He tried to picture the power he would get. Because that’s what its all about; power.
It was not about darkness. At least not as the secret cults knew it. Sentimentalists. Nor was it about death, as a literalist would have understood the term. It was-in no particular order to do with fishes, and the sea (sometimes the Sea of Seas); And three ways to swim there; and dreams. Dreams were important, they guided you. But in the end it was all about power. It was about the end of the world. Which in turn is about the beginning. And it was about the art. Or rather the Art.
All of this could be explained by the Shaool. He went to get his sister, it was about time for the ritual. He silenced her quickly, though careful not to kill her. Not yet. Then he went up to the attic to get his grandfather’s old war sword. He might need it. He used his father Isaac’s hunting knife for the ritual. Jorran noticed how much pain his sister Seliana was in. How she begged him for the pain to stop with those frightened eyes. It was for the cause, it was needed of her to make this sacrifice.
When he had finished and her muffled screams were gone, Jorran Aklia fell into a deep trance. The absence of everything was pleasant, but it didn’t last. A door appeared before him where the fireplace should have been. He got up and opened the door, only to notice that behind him, he could see himself still sitting there before his mutilated sister. He entered.
The door was closed when he came round, but his mind wide open. He was in a great dome shaped room of white marble.
In the middle of the room was a great bonfire. On the other side of the guttering fire sat an old man with doleful, slightly stupid features, like those of a clown who’d worn and wiped off fifty years of slap, his pores enlarged and greasy, his hair, what was left of it, long and grey. He was sitting cross-legged. Occasionally, while Jorran worked up the energy to speak, the old man raised a buttock and loudly passed wind.
"You found your way trough," he said, after a time.
"I thought you where going to grow old and die before you made it. A lot of people have. It takes will."
"Trough to where?" jorran managed to ask.
"We are in a Loop. A loop in time, encompassing a few minutes. I tied it, as a refuge. It’s the only place I’m safe"
"Who are you?"
"My name is Iason."
"Are you one of the Shaool?"
The face beyond the fire registered surprise.
"You know a great deal."
"No, not really. Just bits and pieces."
"Very few people know about the Shaool."
"I’m looking for the Art. I want the knowledge. Or I mean, the Sea."
"There it is," Said Iason. "And you would like to know where to find it, and how to be there, and how to have power from it?"
"Yes, I would" Answered Jorran.
The old man laughed. "And in return for this education?" Iason said. "What are you offering?"
"I don’t have anything.
"Let me be the judge of that" Iason said, turning his eyes up to the roof of the dome as though he saw something in the smoke that roiled there.
"I want to find the Sea," Jorran stated.
"You will, one more time, you will."
"The last night of your life. That’s all we ever get. Three dips in the dream sea. Any less and we would be insane, Any more and…"
"And we would not be human."
"This art, do you have it? Can you do it? Can you teach me?"
"You are one of the Shaool." Jorran said. "You are, right?"
"One?" Came the reply. "I am the only."
"So share with me, I want to be able to change the world."
"You are too much of an ape. I can not give you the secrets in my head. They are too powerful, too dangerous.
You would not know what to do with them. You would end up tainting the Sea with your puerile ambition. And the Sea must be preserved."
"I am not leaving here empty-handed. You can take whatever you want from me. Whatever I’ve got. Only teach me."
"Would you give away your body?"Iason asked.
"What? What do you mean?"
"That is all you have to bargain with. Do you want to give me that?"
"I do not understand…"
"The flesh and blood. The vessel. I want to occupy your body."
Jorran watched Iason watching him.
"Well?" The old man said.
"It is impossible. You can’t just crawl into my skin."
"Oh, but I can, as soon as it’s vacated"
"I do not belive you."
"If you want the secrets of The Art. You should belive this. You should never say; I do not belive. There are loops in time. We are in one now. And you do not belive that I can crawl into your skin?"
"Ok, I belive you. But, what happens to me if I was to vacate my body?"
"You would stay here. As spirit. It’s not much but it’s home. I will be back after a while. And then your body is yours again."
The old man’s manner - his arrogant little smile, his shrugs, the way he half closed his lids as though using all his gaze on his guest would be a waste of eyesight.
Jorran could not trust him. He could not give away his body. He thought of his father’s hunting knife, still in his pocket. How many times would he have to slice Iason’s stringy carcass before the agonies made him speak? Would he have to take off the old man’s fingers perhaps? Joint by joint? If so, he was ready. Anything for this power.
He felt the same madness rush trough him as when stabbed his sister. This lust for power. The scholar in him was gone. He slid his hand into his pocket, and around the knife. Iason saw the motion.
"You understand nothing do you?" He said, his eyes suddenly roving violently to and fro, as though speedreading the air between him and Jorran.
"I understand more than you might think." Jorran answered.
"I understand that I am not pure enough for you."
"I said you were an ape."
"Yeah you did."
"I insulted the ape."
Jorran took the knife out of his pocket. Iason’s eyes stopped their speed reading and settled on the blade. There was no surprise in his face, but there was fear. A small thrill of pleasure coursed trough Jorran seeing that expression. Iason began to get to his feet. He was a good deal shorter than Jorran, almost stunted, and every angle slightly askew, as though all his bones and joints had once been broken, and re-set in haste. Jorran reached out and put his hand around the man’s turkey throat. He gripped hard, fingers and thumb digging into the sinew. Then he brought up his other hand, bearing the blunt knife up to Iason’s left eye. The old man’s breath smelled like a sick man’s fart. Jorran did not want to inhale it, but he had no choice, and the moment he did he realized that he had been tricked. The breath was more than sour air. There was something else in it, being expelled from Iason’s body and snaking its way into him - or at least attempting to. Jorran took his hand from the scrawn of the neck, and stepped away.
"Damn you." He cursed, spitting and coughing out the breath before it occupied him.
Iason did not concede the pretence. "Aren’t you going to kill me?" He said. "Am I reprieved?" It was he who advanced now; Jorran the one retreating.
"Keep away from me." Jorran said.
"I am just an old man."
"I felt the breath." Jorran yelled, slamming his fist against his chest. "You are trying to get inside me."
"No." Iason protested.
"Don’t lie to me. I felt it.
He still could. A weight in his lungs where there’d not been weight before. He backed towards the door, knowing that if he stayed Iason would have the better of him.
"Don’t go. Don’t leave me alone." Iason pleaded.
"There must be other ways to the art." Jorran said.
"No." The old man replied. "Only me. The rest are dead. There is nobody that can help you but me."
Iason tried that little smile of his, bowing his wretched body but the humility was as much a sham as the fear had been. All tricks to keep his victim near, as to have his flesh and blood. Jorran reached behind him and grabbed the door handle.
"Don’t open that." Iason said.
"I’m getting out of here."
"I made a mistake. I’m sorry. I underestimated you. We can come to some arrangement surely? I will tell you all you want to know. I will teach you the Art. You could take it with you. Out there. Back into the world. Only stay, stay with me. I have been alone in here a long time. I need company. Someone to explain it all to. Share it with."
Jorran turned the handle. As he did he felt the floor beneath his feet shudder, and a brightness seemed to appear momentarily beyond the door. It seemed too livid to be mere daylight.
"Do not leave me." He heard Iason yelling.
He awoke in front of the fireplace and saw his mutilated sister before him. Jorran was sickened by the sight of her. She already had the stink of death to her and
her eyes was black with blood from the ritual. He had no intention of facing his father, least off all his sick mother. They would never understand that their daughter had died for a grand cause. He packed some clothes, his grandfathers sword, the black book and the hunting knife and left the Moorhills.
Forty-eight hours later, drunk in an alleyway in Antmorr, he made two momentous decisions. One, that he’d keep the beard he’d grown in the last few weeks, as a reminder of his search. Two, that every wit he possessed, every hint of knowledge he’d gained about dark arts and all his skills would go to possessing The Art. Only when he’d gotten the Art would he once again show his face unshaven.
In the search of other ways to learn the Art Jorran discovered something in his travels. A gift from that night in the time loop. He had the ability to enter other people’s bodies, like Iason. Something he will not hesitate to do if it gains him.(*Strong minded people may counter this if they become aware of what’s happening.)
At the age of thirty he realized that the only way to learn the art was to get back in the Loop and take the knowledge from Iason. The only drawback was that the ritual demanded that he must sacrifice someone he truly loves. This is the biggest conflict he faces;
Trying to find someone to love, when the only reason he is looking for someone to love is so that he can sacrifice them to have a second shot at Iason.
Jorran has vast amounts of knowledge on black cults and the history of magic, but the Art still remains a mystery to him. He has many dreams of The Ocean of Ocean’s driving him on. He will will never give up his quest nor shave his beard before he has gotten the Art.
-Jorran offers the PC’s to join him in his quest to enter the Loop and confront Iason. He would keep back information to get the PC’s to agree on this. promising them great treasures.
-Jorran joins the PC’s group, only to try to fall in love with one of them so that he can use he/she in his ritual.
-The PC’s are given the assignment by a mysterious man to stop Jorran from reaching the Loop again. So that he does not get the power he seeks.
-The PCs discover some tidbits about the Shaool, and trace their way to Jorran as the closest thing to a Shaool sage. Jorran would be interested in what they have learned, and could deal with them, as honestly or dishonestly as he wanted too.
Any ideas suggestions are more than welcome.