Excerpt from the Carnivore Codex,
Tome III: Stories of the Flock,
As written by Kheniam, First Scribe
There have always been the immortals of the sands, the guardians of the tribes. These are men and women of masterful skill that guides and protects their mortal brethren, and it is not uncommon for tribesmen to carry trinkets resembling the guardian immortal of their tribe. Their hatred of the God-Vulture is legendary and ever since the schism between Haknu, the Patron of the Eternal, and the Vulture, they have been stalwart in opposing his doctrine. During the great insurgency these immortals played an important role, though not in the way one would normally think: The immortals are distinguished and honoured among the peoples of the sands, and their names are preceded by the honorary form 'Hak', meaning eternal. During the Night of the Great Uprising, the actions of Hak-Urmakhin, the legendary master thief, would prove to have fatal consequences and ultimately unsettled the balance of the Nesseraum Empire. Listen then to the tale of Hak-Hakunin: A hated foe and reluctant ally.
In the streets of the Twilight City of Nesseraum, Uminar Ka'ang, in later times referred to as the Dark Majesty, leader of the insurgents and pretender to the crown, led his men in the final assault on the Royal Palace. Escorted by his Greymen, he approached the Red River Bridge, unaware that the Royal Numenian Spearmen lay in wait on the other side. Many were the glories of that night and Uminar single handedly vanquished Suhl-Sengar, the hero of Trybine Pass and minutes thereafter his bodyguard Minarck, the great man-bull. Uminar waded through the blood of his enemies, his magics felling wave after wave of men and he did not fall, even when he was pierced through the shoulder by a crossbow bolt. At his sides his loyal Greymen chanted and they crashed into the enemy lines, their spears digging deep into their ranks. The insurgents were battle tested and loved Uminar, willing to walk with him into their very grave. Alas, though Uminar did not know it yet, his men were about to do just that, and soon they would lie dead on the ground and the Grey Banner would be outlawed for all time. But at that moment although the city was ablaze and men cried in pain and horror, triumph seemed within reach.
The citizens had a more grim perspective: Blood ran in the gutters, and the streets and alleys were riddled with the bodies of the fallen. Smoke billowed over the two to three story buildings, and was given an unnatural shine by the full moon and infernal fires. From the walls of Mount Heraos, which people call Temple Mountain, the scene seemed unnatural, almost beautiful. No insurgents had breached the walls of the Holy City, and the atmosphere seemed oddly surreal. The priests and priestesses stood arrayed on the walls and watched, some crying as they witnessed the carnage in the lower city. The blazing inferno stretched from the outer plains, all the way to the Twilight City and occasionally mage fire detonated as the Greymen of the Insurgency made their last stand on Red River Bridge.
At the Temple of the Vulture another scene was played out. In the main hall, where marble pillars soared into the darkness above and wafts of incense drifted about, the Disciples of the Vulture prepared a long awaited ritual. In the inner sanctum which was located at the uppermost floor of the temple, laid Kalinna, the Temple Dancer. Her flesh was fully exposed and her mind numbed with narcotics and rare drugs. For years she had served as an exceptional temple dancer, but the auguries of the Patriarchs grew ever darker, their visions filled with images of Kalinna, her body ripe, her soul pure. The old men sweated and their dreamlike visions grew ever more perverse and it became clear to them that the Vulture himself wanted her. Years had passed since that discovery. Years filled with divinations and stellar readings, all leading right up to this very night. The acolytes of the Vulture whipped themselves in religious frenzy, the Patriarchs chanted in their baritone voices and the Temple Warriors stood silent vigil, for the stars were right and all was as the ancient texts described. The night of blood and fury had arrived, and the Vulture would descend to claim his bride.
But how easily a vulture wanders astray on a night of blood and carnage, and as the incarnation of the divine lord feasted in the streets, Hak-Urmakhin, the master thief, breached his temple, evaded the plated warriors, the thief's bag ever growing with silver, gold and temple relics. He dashed from shadow to shadow, his pulse raced as adrenaline rushed through his blood. Then he came upon the Kalinna in a room where rose petals covered the floor and riches adorned the walls. Her body was partially swathed in white silk, her drugged and lustful moaning beckoning him forward. She believed him to be her lord, the Vulture, and she whispered a short prayer of relief, for he had arrived in the shape of a comely male. Hak-Urmakhin, never one to turn down a lovely woman, put down his stolen goods and slipped into her arms.
Consider then the puzzlement evident on the priests' faces, when a vulture winged warrior soaked in blood strode through the gates of the temple, come to claim his prize. Their smiles withered and the blood fled their faces as they realized that the screams of pleasure had not been caused by the vulture, and as one the warriors and priests ran towards the sanctum, the confused vulture striding in tow. They found Kalinna asleep, her body drenched in sweat and the room filled with aromas of incense, rose and human sexuality. And the vulture screamed, for Kalinna had been meant for him and him alone. Yet he could not harm her, for strange as it may be, he loved her and had always done so. But the thief he could harm and so it came to be: He cursed him and his bloodline and this he told the infant he could sense inside the belly of Kalinna: 'You shall never die, like your father before you, nor shall you ever know peace. Your friends will die as you still live, and those you love shall suffer. Only by cleansing the desert of the line of Hak, the bloodline eternal, can you ever know peace. And this I promise: Your final victim shall be Hak-Urmakhin himself: The deceiver, the thief, the accursed foe. Only then shall you know my mercy and be released' and with a final scream of fury, the man-vulture ran out of a window and soared into the sky.
In the deep desert of Nesseraum, in the dusty alleys of its cities, and through the rowdy taverns of the empire, an accursed being stalks. Years under the searing sun has darkened his skin to a deep bronze hue, and always he wears the same white, hooded cloak, covering his facial features and hiding that which is hidden beneath. This is Hak-Hakunin, the only son of Kallina, a woman devoted to the Vulture God, and of Urmakhin: The Master Thief who stole her innocense and desecrated her ultimate sacrifice.
Hak-Hakunin makes his abode at the Athranine Pillar, the Spire of the Sands, a place which is considered taboo amongst the tribes. This is a thin spire, eighty feet tall, that can be found in the Empty Desert, close to the foothills of western Nesseraum. The Athranine Pillar is an edifice of black marble, erected centuries ago as a memorial commemorating the victory over the rebels during the Great Insurgency. These halls were once filled with glorious books describing the victory in vivid detail, but in latter years the worn diaries of the different incarnations of Hak-Hakunin have filled the shelves of the Spire. These diaries go into great detail about the eternals that Hak-Hakunin has hunted, whether they are infants or ancient sorcerers.
As mentioned the Athranine Pillar is the home of Hak-Hakunin, if such a thing can be found. At the topmost floor his Harem of Harlots are housed. These are his women and are sometimes referred to as the Spire Concubines. Amongst the desert tribes rumors are whispered about the fey storms that rage through the desert and how young women sometimes disappear during these storms. Unbeknownst to the tribes, these women are captured by Hak-Hakunin and serve as his concubines, being freed, or forced to leave when their eldest child reach the age of 12. The laws of the tribes are strict and the lives of these women would be forfeit should they return unmarried and with children, so most end up on the streets in the cities.
At the roof of the Pillar the conjuring circle can be found. This is where Hak-Hakunin dabble in the darker arts, though his mastery of said arts is minimal at best and mostly used to protect himself against the infernal and deadly magics of some of his more potent adversaries. Still it is an eerie place and the stench of the dark arts is ever present. Combined with the howl of the desert winds the result is a truely forboding atmosphere.
'The Infant Slayer' they call him, for he reads the stars, ever predicting the birth of another immortal. Fearful of this slayer swathed in white, the tribes hide their pregnant women several months before they are due and it is forbidden to reveal their whereabouts. But still he comes and often he finds his intended prey, and the blood flows and the mothers cry.
Hak-Hakunin, the accursed and undying spawn of Dancer Kallina is no true abomination, not physically speaking at least, excepting the vulture wings, a legacy of the curse. The wings allow him limited flight and he is capable of gliding vast distances, and may jump as high as 30 feet.
His countenance is very much that of his mother: beauty beyond words, though an eyesocket is empty and at all times covered by a patch. His remaining eye hints at wisdom and old, old age. Unlike the other immortals, Hak-Hakunin cannot be slain as long one of his direct descendants live, for he shall always be reincarnated. This happens when one of his descendants next give birth and the new incarnation will always lose its left eye, one way or the other. While the first incarnation lost his eye to a vulture when he was but a baby in the crib, unattended by his mother, the second incarnation lost its left eye in a sword duel. It seems to be a part of the curse and none of the Hak-Hakunin incarnations have ever retained eyesight in the left eye for more than ten years. As for the right it provides nighttime vision and indeed, some survivors have claimed that Hak-Hakunin can only be spotted by the soft, fiery glow of his eye at nighttime. The wings do not grow before puberty and when fully developed at the age of 20, they span 2.5 metres.
The Real Hak-Hakunin:
Of course he is no monster. He finds no joy in his work, though there is a sense of pride. Hak-Hakunin is a man scorned, shun by his mother and outcast of society. Much like the Frankesteinian monster, he is met with fear and hatred, for men easily scare by the vulture winged young man.
For a while he can walk amongst men, his white cloak hiding his wings to a certain degree. This never lasts for throughout the years he has gained powerful enemies: Not only has several immortals aligned and forged an alliance against him, a cabal of eternals, but there is currently a huge reward on him and his face is depicted on most major city squares and in some small town gaols.
Truth to be told, Hak-Hakunin is often inactive and is repulsed by his own actions. He is facing an eternity of scorn, even the faces in his harem showing fear, discomfort and distrust: He wants an end, but finds none. If he takes his life, he is birthed again, and his mother driven mad as his powers manifest. Even worse: Should he retreat from humanity and try an eternity of solitude, a darker aspect of the curse manifests. There are times when he lose consciousness and when he awake things have been done by his hands, but he cannot remember what. He is not of a sundered mind, but if he does not kill his intended prey, the black outs increase in frequence. He has done some horrible things while under their influence and desperately fears succumbing to the curse.
So he can be encountered in the Spire, playing chess against himself whilst brooding, or walking the library softly sobbing and bemoaning his predicament. He truly feels sorry for himself 'and', he reasons, 'no man should suffer as I do'! At times that self-pity becomes murderous determination, and he hunts regardless of who or what his prey is, but at other times he is horrified of what he has become, and spends a lot of time weeping in the candlelit darkness of the Spire.
The Slayer Within:
On occasion Hak-Hakunin wanders too far from his appointed path and when sufficient time passes, he will faint and fall to the ground. While he will rise at once, he is not entirely himself when he reawakens: The curse has been activated and Hak-Hakunin now truely has the demeanor of a vulture. In this state he is animalistic and murderous, killing at will and eating the remains of his fallen prey.
When the Slayer Within has been awakened Hak-Hakunin has the ability to launch sharp, serrated black tendrils from his body and arms, even from his mouth, and these tendrils will thrust into flesh of his prey, becoming almost impossible to remove. In addition to doing severe piercing damage, he will often take flight and the unfortunate victim will follow as he recklessly glides through the landscape, slamming the attached unfortunate into solid objects on the ground. The black tendrils are strangely rigid and can be retracted by Hak-Hakunin, or cut off by the pierced individual. They will regenerate in a matter of weeks.
The Slayer Within is a mindless raging beast and Hak-Hakunin is nearly oblivious to pain in this form. His strength is nearly tripled, but his stealth skills is severly diminished. While in this form, the master of guile and cunning has truly become a mindless raging beast. In spite of his increased strength, this is Hak-Hakunins most vulnerable form. If he survives his state of accursed rage, he will awaken drenched in blood, remembering nothing except that he has done things. Horrible things.
Combat Tactics (Normal form):
Make no mistake: Hak-Hakunin has not become successful by blindly assaulting his intended prey. Rather he is a devious foe, always striking when his enemy least expects it, using bewilderment and subterfuge to win the day. His favored weapons are the twin daggers, one in each hand, and with these he is a true master. He will not engage in a duel unless he has no choice.
Thus he will attack at dusk or dawn, while his opponents are getting into or out of bed and no guard is set. He will use his daggers, herbal poisons and alchemical elixirs, as well as his limited mastery of the darker arts.
In the name of the Father - Hak-Urmakhin has long witnessed the actions of his son, and he can take it no longer. While the master thief is no match for his accursed son, the PCs are, and he hires them not only to kill Hak-Hakunin, but to butcher his progeny, assuring his ultimate demise.
The Hidden Employer - The PCs are approached by an agent of Hak-Hakunin and they are promised an ample reward if they can locate a particularly elusive high mage for him, one certain Hak-Armaghul, the Royal Diviner. Problem is that the high mage is difficult to find and has friends at court. Not only that but he is true and gentle person, personally championing a number of charities. Can the PCs find and mark the Royal Diviner, or will they refuse and earn the ire of the hidden employer?
The Silent Vigil - While travelling the sands, the PCs encounter a tribe of rather aggressive tribesmen. After several bouts of shouting and angry talk, the tribesmen are finally convinced the PCs ain't infant slayers and are allowed into the hidden camp of the tribesmen. Whilst the PCs are allowed to go to sleep, they will notice anxiety and nervousness in the guards. Whatever they choose they will soon be alerted by a scream cut short. Hak-Hakunin has arrived and most of the guards are already dead. Can the PCs outwit the infant slayer, or will his guiles lure them away from the newborn child?
Champion of the Elder - Hak-Yulath, an ancient and withered man is also the Master of Clan Yulath, a large band of mercenary warriors for hire. While his martial skills are elite, he just barely escaped an assassination attempt by the legendary Hak-Hakunin, and he now fears for his very life. While the PCs are guarding the venerable eternal, they witness dealings both shady and suspect. Will they be able to deter Hak-Hakunin and, if so, will they live to tell the tale, or will Clan Yulath bury them for their knowledge?
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? Responses (9)-9
Citadellians and fellow Strolenites!
Help me improve upon this post! I request your advice, comments and questions.
-Changed the title as per Wulfhere's request
-Changed some grammar errors, some remain
-Describe the dark side of Hak-Hakunin, the Slayer within
Updated: Updated the sub as requested by the Strolenites.
Thank you for your help: Scrasamax, Wulfhere, CaptainPenguin and Murometz! I appreciate your replies and advice.
Another fine submission from AG.
Another excellent one! The deserts have been full of strange wonders lately, haven't they?
Man, there is a LOT of evil going around these days :)
Every AG piece has that certain foreboding feel of morbid, guilty pleasure. This is a fine example of that. Always a quality read. Always a step above the 'derivative' and mundane.
Very well done!
Interesting in most aspects. There are still a number of odd spelling and grammar oddities. Still, an interesting being.
I am unsure this should be a unique lifeform, rather than an NPC. The rebirth and monster components make it closer, but I am unsure.