The Exalted of the Void
The Walker in Dead Robes
Chu’uk was a young hunter/warrior of the primitive Forgotten Swamp Clan. Barely a man, nineteen years old, he was tall and gangly but surprisingly lithe for his size. His stealth and cunning made him a perfect hunter and provider. But, in the clan, strength is what matters. The Forgotten were constantly warring with neighboring clans over food, territory or dominance and this combat made his people value melee and might over the more utilitarian virtues. Chu’uk’s weaknesses in these areas meant that he had to constantly compete for his position amongst the warriors and his clandestine tactics made him all but an outcast. This meant he spent most of his time hunting, alone.
In the recent years the clan wars inexplicably died down. Chu’uk remembered them throughout his childhood and reveled in the stories of told by his Gan’um of wars and skirmishes from before he could remember. Now things were eerily peaceful. Stories came back of neighboring tribes vanishing or being wiped out, seemingly overnight. The most logical explanation was that they wiped each other out. So the Forgotten praised their ancestors, expanded and learned to prosper.
On fall afternoon, Chu’uk was returning from a hunt with a fox and a half-eaten rabbit when he heard the sounds of a raid near his village. “The Broken Jaw Clan?” he thought. He loosed his bounty and scrambled toward his home, his family. When his village came in sight, he heard the familiar screams, saw the familiar fire, but what frightened him most was the unfamiliar. Shambling about all that he had ever known were dozens of larger-than-life, desiccated figures that appeared to have been long overtaken by death. They did not revel in the battle, they did not scream war-cries, they simply went about the unspeaking toil of slaughtering and harvesting all that he loved. In the center of this atrocity stood a smaller-than-average man in extravagant garbs of purple and black, adorned with all manner of macabre ornamentation. His less than impressive height was augmented by an animated lion-bone and obsidian scaffolding complete with black silk sunbrella and human-hand drink holders. He was thoroughly enjoying himself.
Chu’uk’s fear was engulfed by his burning rage. His only desire was for the little man to stop his cackling and die in agony. He wanted to be as close to him as he could when it happened. Chu’uk abandoned all rational thought, along with his bow, his quiver and his pack. He loosed the flint knife his father made for him, and gripped it with his teeth. He bound through the swamp, at heroic speed, barely making a sound. He leapt into the crowd of shambling dead, climbing upon them as easily as tree limbs. He was just feet away, directly behind the little bastard. He snatched his knife from his mouth, slightly cutting his lower lip in the process. Within inches, the little man whirled around and raised his eyebrow, halting Chu’uk’s momentum and movement in midair. The man raised his hand and crinkled his fingers. Chu’uk fell from the air, doubled over backward onto the blood muddied earth, joints bent and splintered in ways that not even the strongest of the clan could have done. And, this macabre peacock had done it as easily as crumpling a leaf.
“Well, well. Aren’t you as bold and spry one.” Said the jester of undeath. “I suppose the least I could do is introduce myself” and with an over-dramatic bow and several other posturings “I am the magnificent Isildor Gladflogging, the Soulharvester and Hand of the Mask of Winters.” Returning to his full, unimpressive height, he said “And who might you be? Oh, no no, that will never do! We’ll find a much better name for you in time, but for now, let’s just call you, eh, Mine.” “I’ve just learned Exquisite Undead Aide and everyone’s been dying for me to try it out. Seems as if I’ve found a worthy subject.” Whether from the physical agony or the anguish inflicted by Isildor’s pomp, Chu’uk’s consciousness gave way to darkness.
The following days passed for Chu’uk as a waking dream. Strapped to a table, immobile, moans and screams in the distance, being force fed brine and foul preservatives, cut, poked, sewn, and all in agony and delusion. His left eye was removed, then what must be his very soul. It was taken from him, yet he still lived. It, he, or his soul at least was hammered and molded into a pitch black sphere with writhing silver tendrils. This was then placed where his eye once was. Blackout.
Chu’uk returns to consciousness and to more suffering, he sees a beleaguered Gladflogging toiling over him affixing dead arms to black plates on Chu’uk’s ribcage. Hours pass, and when Gladflogging is done, he performs some arcane ritual;then he staggers. “Nearly done now, Nearly done. Soon you will be the finest work of Necromancy the worlds have seen.” With that, Chu’uk finds strength in his new, unfettered limbs. And fueled by his rage and a the surge of essence and adrenaline, he clasps his new over-sized hands around the neck of Gladflogging.
Needless to say, this was unexpected. Gladflogging is not only unprepared, but he is also exhausted. He has spend himself on his creation and is reaping the fruits of it. He flails, slaps and gurgles helplessly as his vertebrae separate, his trachea collapses and the life drains from him. Chu’uk continues to squeeze, the massacre flashing before his eyes, and Gladflogging has been dead for several minutes.
Finally spent, Chu’uk goes limp. Dropping the Soulflayer, the Hand of the Mask of Winters, in a small contorted pile. His life is ebbing away as well. As the darkness grows, a great Masked figure steps from it. Mask of Winters himself, impressed with the display and hubris laid low. He makes the offer of Dark Exaltation and to sweeten the deal offers Chu’uk the imprisoned soul of the Soulflayer along with his very own exaltation and finally the promise to allow Chu’uk to restore his clan to flesh. The offer could not be refused and Carious, the Walker in Dead Robes rises.