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Monday, March 9, 2009

"The Realm": The Story of Arvaltarus, the Dead Sorcerer

[What follows is the background of the biggest mover and shaker of my home-brew campaign setting ("The Realm"). I doubt if this will ever get played, so I'll post it here even though I know that at least one of my players reads this blog. Warning: if you're expecting some epic, high fantasy background, prepapre to be... confused?]

Nobody who knew him would have guessed that Harvey Walters would one day be the savior of humanity and a creator of worlds.

Well, the savior of some humans, and the creator of one, very small world, that is.

By all accounts, Harvey Walters was an ineffectual man. His life was, during its most exciting moments, humdrum, at best. It's a surprise, really, that Harvey didn't die of fright the night he encountered the shantak.

The encounter in question was entirely accidental - the result of Harvey's straying from the group with which he was hiking through the foothills of the Swiss Alps. But that one encounter - which ended with both parties fleeing terrified from one another into the night - was Harvey's first glimpse at the universe beyond the ken of most mortal men.

Harvey never discovered why the beast was roaming the Swiss countryside that evening, but the incident spurred him to lines of inquiry that would take him to vistas undreamed of. At first, he quested only to discover the nature of the beast he had encountered; but in doing so, learned more than he bargained for.

Harvey came to realize, in a way few ever do, just how tiny and insignificant the human race truly is. Mankind, he found, was not alone in the cosmos; and, much to his ever-growing terror, most of man's neighbors are at best ambivalent to his existence - if not downright threats to it.

Thus Harvey embarked on a crusade to save mankind - in the same dull manner he embarked on his daily trip to the mailbox, true, but at least his motivations were more noble than simply picking up the mail.

Harvey's Crusade lasted for eighty-five years before coming to a sudden end. However, not from the man's death at the hands of age, as one might expect. Harvey was, by this time, in his early 100's - but didn't look a day over forty. He had personally taken note of his lack of normal aging some time in what should have been his late fifties. It was yet another of many phenomena for which he was hard-pressed to produce an explanation.

He had several theories, of course, the foremost of which were: his ill-fated first attempt to brew a batch of Leng ale, the product of which left his tongue and gums stained yellow for almost a week; or, the blessing placed upon him by that pretty Romanian gypsy (well, she was pretty to him at least - despite the abnormally large gap between her top two front teeth, and the large, hairy mole that protruded from her forehead); or, the inhuman words the Cthulhu-worshipping Peruvian shaman yelled at him before he died (Harvey couldn't make them out, but he was fairly certain it was some sort of eldritch curse).

Whatever the reason, it seemed that Harvey's aging had slowed to roughly one day for every Earth year that passed. For many people, this would be a blessing; but for Harvey, it was a curse. His slowed aging meant that he could continue his Crusade long after most men would have been forced into retirement. This, in turn, meant that he was exposed to "things man was not meant to know" longer - much longer - than any man should be.

This exposure took its toll on Harvey. He slowly slipped into a state of clinical paranoid obsession. His every waking moment, and most of his sleeping ones, his thoughts were bent on his Crusade to save humanity from the Horrors Beyond. He scheemed day and night to find a way to keep his fellow humans safe from Their depradations.

Finally, in a feverish dream, a solution came to him: he would use Their magicks against them. He would study every arcane tome, every occult parchment, every anitquated tablet, until he had the knowledge necessary to forever lock Them out.

Harvey spent five more years immersed in the writings of occult scholars and madmen. His researches led him to locate and translate the crumbling Tablets of Tharkil, the sanity-stealing Letters from Antaci, the whithered Livre du Froumage, and scores of other works of arcane lore. Finally, though, his quest led him to the fabled university in the witch-haunted Massachusettes city of Arkham. It led him to The Necronomicon.

Within the moldering pages of this infamous grimoire, Harvey believed he had found that for which he had so long searched: a means to forever protect humanity from the terrors beyond its knowing. Like a man possessed, Harvey tore from the book the pages he needed and secured a room at a nearby boarding house. There he began working the powerful, ancient magic that - he surmised - would remove the Earth to a place hidden from Them.

A week later, Harvey completed the ritual. He collapsed, nearly dead from starvation and dehydration, as the world around him shuddered and heaved. The throes lasted only a few moments, during which the sound of buildings being torn asunder and screams of terror fell upon his ears, and the room that had been previously lit by the bright spring sun was plunged into darkness.

Harvey knew, even in his weakened state, that he'd screwed up.

[More to come, but right now my fingers hurt from alll the typing...]
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