Through the halls and chambers of the Court of Dark Memory, the thing lurched purposefully. Hidden within a shifting pool of darkness, none could make out its hideous shape; none witnessed its inhuman outlines. Reaching the servants’ quarters, it chose a door at random; its uncanny powers effortlessly disabling the magical bindings that kept others from passing.
Within, a human girl slept, comely by the standards of her kind. Such beauty was transient at best, the creature reassured itself as it stole the smoothness from her flesh, the vitality from her eyes. These thefts served a greater good, however cruel they may have seemed to the slave girl. Stronger now, the creature was able to reassume its preferred guise.
Mortemayne, the Castellan of the Dark Lady of Destinen, stepped from the servant’s chamber, looking refreshed.
Unique among the courtiers of the Unseleigh Court of Dark Memory, one Aelfen man seems to have been unaffected by the corrupting presence of the Twystened Sidhe. Commanding and haughty, Mortemayne bends all around him to his will, binding both undead and spirits of the land. Nothing shall stop his centuries-long quest to end his dark mistress’ implacable curse.
Image is Everything
Even among the supernaturally graceful fey, Mortmayne is a creature of unruffled poise and flawless grace. Those who see him at the side of his dark liege lady are invariably impressed by his archaically-cut robes of rich fabric, garments more well suited for royalty than for a mere courtier. Whenever he appears in public, his clothing and grooming are impeccable; none are ever invited into his private chambers to observe his unpleasant true form. He wears a flawless façade of cunningly-wrought illusion, ensuring that his appearance is invariably perfect.
None of the fey courtiers of the Twystened Sidhe have ever caught as much as a glimpse of Mortemayne’s horrific true shape. The Twystened Sidhe herself only saw him briefly, after her uncontrolled magic first ripped through him in an agonizing transformation. In the half-light, she could not clearly see as his skin sloughed off, laying bare the tissues below. She never learned of the steps he took to hide his hideous deformity, the dozens of spider-like necromantic symbiotes that crawl constantly over his body, constantly oozing forth a false skin to replace the missing flesh, a layer of undeath to preserve the living tissues beneath.
The other Unseleigh folk recognize Mortemayne as a master of necromantic lore, but his knowledge of illusion and phantasm would surprise them. With the wisdom of centuries, he apprises no one of his full powers. Mortemayne has survived over 1000 years of grim struggles among his people, and he holds his secrets closely. A skilled manipulator, only the wisest see past the necromancer’s enigmatic smile or sense the cryptic thoughts that he keeps hidden in the hooded depths of his pale eyes. This secrecy has served him well of late, for Mortemayne is not a healthy man.
The Necromancer’s Quest
For countless centuries, since before the coming of the younger races, Mortemayne has struggled to free his leige lady, the Twystened Sidhe, from the grim malediction laid on her by the Horned Lord, an Unseliegh monarch of awesome power. The Horned Lord has retreated from the lands known to men, but his curse remains, twisting the Dark Lady of Destinen’s magical talent for transformation into an uncontrolled force of destruction.
Mortemayne’s eldritch researches have plucked hidden magics from the depths of the sea and the frozen heights of cruel mountains. He has bound the merciless Surtone of the Ifrit and consulted with demons; even the dead are not immune to his necromantic lore. These blasphemous summonings have cost him more than any of his kin realize.
The Calling of the Sage Whisperer
A few years ago, Mortemayne divined the true name of an ancient sorcerer of the Serpent Folk, a race of ancient knowledge, filled with lore lost in the millennia since their fall. This antehuman enchanter, Helethisse the Cruel, had briefly claimed dominion over his people, but his reckless magics eventually led to his own downfall. He was reputed to wield powers that no other among his sorcerous people dared consider.
The summoning of the ancient shade went well at first, as the reptilian outlines of the alien sorcerer appeared within the binding circles. Unfortunately, the shade of Helethisse wielded power unprecedented among the phantoms of the dead. Before his fall, he had prepared for the eventuality of his demise, and had completed enchantments of transformation and control that would give him mastery over anyone who dared summon his ghost. These antediluvian enchantments lashed forward from a time before reckoning, tearing into Mortemayne’s eldritch defenses. In the end, what ultimately saved him from falling to the ghost’s scheme was the very curse that Mortemayne struggled to end. The reptilian enchantments of the ancient sorcerer could not overcome the power of the Horned Lord’s malediction, forcing Mortemayne to tap into the very power he sought to overthrow.
The ritual left Mortemayne torn and warped, exhausted and battered. Even his limbs had been shattered by the ferocious magical power that coursed through him. As his arachnoid symbiotes crawled about his body, mending and patching his torn tissues, the necromancer realized something even worse had happened: Mortemayne, the trusted advisor to the Twystened Sidhe, was not the only creature inhabiting his illusion-cloaked shell.
The Intruding Spirit
The spirit of the reptilian sorcerer had been partially successful. Instead of supplanting the mind of its summoner, it had achieved only an uneasy coexistence with him. Unable to control Mortemayne’s actions except through the gravest exertions, the megalomaniacal ghost batters endlessly at his mind and struggles tirelessly to seize dominion over his body. The ghost’s necromantic presence causes Mortemayne to decay strangely, requiring the vitality of others to maintain what health he has. He has been forced to drain others’ life forces merely to survive and continue his struggle against the alien ghost.
Mortemayne knows that he will eventually fall before this onslaught, but he dares not let any of the other fey folk around him realize what has happened. He knows well how some among the Aelfen folk would see his misfortune as an opportunity to overthrow him or the lady he serves. All he can do is redouble his efforts to find the magic he needs, not just for his ruler, but to prevent the thing called Helethisse from gaining control of his body and resuming its insane quest for power.
Additional information can be found in the following areas: The Twystened Sidhe, the accursed Dark Lady of Destinen Wood. The Court of Dark Memory, the stronghold of the Twystened Sidhe and her minions. Haunted Destinen Wood, defiled and warped by the malign influence of the Twystened Sidhe. The Gardein Hwit, the Aelfen personal guard of the Dark Lady, now distorted and terrifying as their mistress. The Horned Lord, once a powerful lord of the Court of the Unseleigh, long gone from the lands of mortals. The Bound Ones, revolting undead that guard the approaches to the Twystened Lady’s stronghold within the forest.