Third Kingdom
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ID: 5374


October 26, 2008, 8:54 am

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Cheka Man

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The Hollow Ones


The dead, imbued with the divine essence of magic, walk again, ever hungry for the missing spark of a living soul.

Full Description

The Hollow Ones are the undead of Kuramen; born when mages overreach their powers and die without destroying themselves entirely in the process, they are an understandably rare kind of entity. The raw power of magic pouring through them sustains the body as the soul slips away, leaving behind body and mind. The Hollow One is wracked by a kind of hunger, a need to fill the vacant space within itself. It is both more than mortal and less, for it is the force of magic flowing through the emptiness that sustains it, yet it is not truly alive, unable to learn and grow as a living creature does. They are driven by this hollowness and the need to fill it, preying on the truly living and stealing scraps of their spirits to temporarily sate themselves.

The Hollow Ones resemble emaciated versions of their original race, their skin drawn taut and their flesh seemingly withered away. With sufficiently loose clothing, however, they could almost pass for living mortals; their eyes, however, give them away, the once-soft orbs having sloughed away to be replaced with motes of raw thaumic energy that blazes in colors that lack names. Their voices are dry and soft, as if a gentle breeze were carrying the words rather than a true voice, and they inevitably have a subtle scent of decay about them, even long years after they have become little more than skin-wrapped skeleton.

The Hollow Ones are excellent spellcasters; drawing upon the stuff that sustains them, they have achieved a degree of control and power that mortal mages can only dream of. They almost never risk their spells going awry, instinctively able to draw the most power they can safely handle, although they may deliberately overreach themselves in calculated gambles. However, this mastery of magic is the only way they grow as time passes; in all other respects, their levels of skill are frozen as they were when the creature’s mortal soul slipped away. They are still able to acquire knowledge, but it is a distant thing, something they must focus on to draw forth, much like searching in a library for a book. The exception to this is things learned within a few hours of the Hollow One feeding; during this time, as they sublimate the soulstuff they have stolen, their ability to learn knowledge is almost as adept as it was when they were living, and they may later recall things learned in this time quite easily.

Hollow Ones rarely follow the pattern of the undead in other realms; rather than dwelling in dusty crypts and decrepit towers, many move into bustling cities, either becoming criminals or seeking out honest employment that affords them the chance to sate their needs. More than a few major cities make use of the incredible longetivity of the Hollow Ones by giving them condemned prisoners to feed upon in exchange for either their superb magical skills or their endless memory when well-fed. The city-state of Unual, in particular, relies on a trio of Hollow Ones who effectively rule the city; they are the only beings with full knowledge of the intricate and convoluted system of laws in the city, having dwelled there as it evolved around them. Another infamous Hollow One leads a band of raiders from a base within the disjointed bounds of the Thaumic Wastes, ambushing steam-wagon trains that travel too close to the edge of the broken reality.

Additional Information
-They are undead, in that their living soul has passed on, leaving the body and mind behind.
-They are soul-eaters, able to survive indefinitely without sustenance, but unable to truly learn unless fed.
-They do not feed on an entire soul; their touch instead draws off scraps of soulstuff, leaving their victims feeling weak and disoriented for a time. Repeated feedings can eventually be fatal, but a small group - a minimum of a dozen - can sustain one of these creatures indefinitely without lasting harm.
-Unless they deliberately choose to do so, they do not risk magical backlash; being much closer to the stuff of magic than mortals are, they understand their limits intuitively.

The circumstances under which a Hollow One is created are quite rare; it requires a mage to suffer a magical backlash sufficient to kill him, but not in a way that destroys his body. Most often these are mages attempting to tap one of the six Elemental Gods, as the power of the three Primordials is such that simple exposure to it will wreak unpredictable havoc on the mage’s form, and the power of lesser entities is generally insufficient to enable the transformation.

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Comments ( 7 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted Cheka Man
October 26, 2008, 14:57
Do they have any memory of family and friends?
October 26, 2008, 17:19
They do; they can recall anything they knew while still truly alive easily. Mages, owing to the ridiculous dangers of their profession, rarely have close relationships with anyone save for other mages, however. It happens, but when you may explode in a wash of energy capable of decimating the entire town at any time you do the signature behavior of your profession, it tends to put off potential friends and lovers. Many mages are even estranged from their family for the same reason.
Voted EchoMirage
October 27, 2008, 4:14
This is an interesting idea. The Hollow ones are dangerous - they are soulles, yet sentient, and can plan for centuries ahead. Also, they cannot be treated just like any other undead monster.

Their ability to fit in with society can be adjusted simply by how much damage their 'feeding' does to a victim.

"motes of raw energy that blaze in colors that lack names..." -> cool formulation.
October 27, 2008, 10:01
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.
Voted manfred
March 7, 2009, 18:21
There is a subtle irony here, that I didn't notice at first. These wizards have learned their lesson forever, but are prevented from learning anything else (normally). Now that's the ultimate lesson!

I would think, that without feeding they would appear a bit more detached from reality, flat and emotionless; and more human when fed. Without this contact with human souls, I suspect they will lose whatever remains of their own soul. There has to be a price for immortality.
June 8, 2009, 22:11
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.
Voted valadaar
April 5, 2013, 12:00
This is a great idea for building and motivating a villain, or for that matter, a patron.


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