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Humanity and the Curse of Flesh [Short Story]
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We are the things with shapes to come...
If you are reading this, it means– actually, it doesn’t really mean anything. It could be that you found this journal in the ruins of my Temple, you dirty looter you. It could be that I gave it to you myself, which implies that a lot of time has passed since I sat down to write these lines, and a lot could have changed. A lot should have changed, in fact, starting with the tiny bit where I am sharing my thoughts with you. As I sit here with a quill in my hand, I’m not sure with whom I could discuss this: Hannah is too down to earth and no-nonsense, Lucien is too busy parenting… It could be I am rereading my notes myself. Hi me! Am I still thinking that talking to myself doesn’t really make me heartily insane? Apparently so. In any case, a warning is due – this is not a story as much as it is a disjointed collection of ramblings written in a hurry; I had to trust this to paper because I could no longer hold it inside myself, so hold back any complaints about me leaving you hanging after you’re done.
As long as humanity existed, we have been painfully aware of our own mortality. I suppose that the moment a human sorcerer learned about the dwarven golems for the first time, one of the thoughts to cross his mind was, ‘Can I transfer my essence into this construct? Can I discard the limitations of my frail body?’ Numerous attempts have been made over the ages, with varying degree of success; what they had in common was, undoubtedly, the scorn with which they were met from the more conservative elements of society. All too quickly they were likened to fallen magi seeking lichdom. The notion that by changing our body forcefully, we inevitably stray into something abominable, staining our soul and becoming less human, if you will, has been deeply ingrained into the mindset of most scholars – probably ever since we began using smart words like ‘mindset’ and ‘scholar’.
And then – then, we found out about the Curse of Flesh.
Could all those explorers in the past have been guided by their genetic memory? Were they, without conscious awareness of the fact, seeking to return to their metaphorical roots? We will never know, now.
What chafes at me more, though, is the thought that, for all our boast about freedom, about uniqueness of the human race, we may very well end up haphazard, slipshod copies of mindless automatons with pitiful semblances of individuality created for one purpose: to serve the outworldly beings we know as Titans. Could it be that free will itself is but a side effect of the Old Gods’ machinations? A result of a malignant ritual gone awry? Could it be that, in fact, we have no free will to speak of, and are still guided, without our knowledge, to some purpose? I have devoted a large portion of my life to wisdom, to collecting and systematizing knowledge for future generations, but there are questions I’m not sure I want to know the answers to. I’m not sure we will ever be ready to know these answers.
I choose to think that for me, it all began several years ago, when I witnessed the Djinn Siamat undo the Curse of Flesh ‘afflicting’ several members of the Neferset tol’vir. Whatever doubts I had about these leonine centaurs being connected to the Obsidian Destroyers were gone the very moment their hides turned into stone.
It is ironic, really. I suppose I, like a great many others, had believed until that day that the djinn are creatures of children’s fairy tales, making wishes of whoever stumbles upon their lamp come true. And there I was that day, witnessing a ‘fairy creature’ turning out just another Air Elemental – and, at the same time, fulfilling what was, as I was about to find out, the most intimate wish of the tol'vir.
But what was it that Siamat did? Was it the same dark ritual that had turned the stony constructs into creatures of flesh and blood, done in reverse, or could it be something completely different? Something that could work on other former Titanic constructs, or their descendants?
“ As a testament to their tenacity and fearlessness, Ner'zhul adopted the nerubians' distinctive architectural style for his own fortresses and structures.”
This is a widely known excerpt from the perhaps most popular recount of our world’s history that existed after the Three Wars. This is what we used to believe, until we found out about the tol’vir. Now we have every reason to suspect that this ‘distinctive architectural style’ was in turn adopted by Nerubians after their precursors, then still known as Aqir, migrated North and enslaved the titanic constructs to their will. (This leads me to another question – how come the Nerubians are to this day locked in ruthless combat with the Faceless Ones, who are supposed to be their fellow servants of the Old Gods, while their southern cousins, the Qiraji, gleefully – if the term is applicable to these insectoids in the first place – obey their many-tentacled master’s every whim? I hope we’ll find out, one day.)
I have spoken to the survivors of the Battle for the Frozen Throne, where the Traitor Prince Arthas Menethil thwarted the efforts of the demonic lord Kil’Jaeden’s minions to destroy the Lich King – survivors from both sides. (Another question and more disturbing implications: why did the mighty Eredar wish Ner’Zhul’s doom so? Purely because his creation had betrayed him? Or could it be – and I shudder to think so, but the possibility is there – that the Burning Legion considers the vile Scourge an obstacle that could impede their next invasion of our world?) While it was Arthas’s dark cunning that allowed him to overcome the odds and crush the forces of Illidan Stormrage while being outnumbered – a situation the Scourge commanders are probably unfamiliar with – both the surviving Blood Elves and the higher-ups of the Cult of the Damned I have interrogated agree: the Obsidian Destroyers were integral to the Death Knight’s decisive victory. Their dominion over magic undermined the efforts of the sin’dorei arcanists, berefting them of this crucial advantage.
“Obsidian Statues and Obsidian Destroyers fight without thought or tactic, using their mystic blasts to pummel those foes close to them,” – this is another opinion the cultists and the elves shared. I was the one to call the titanic constructs mindless automatons myself, yes, but this beastly nature is something unheard of. How were the tol’vir reduced to this by the Nerubians? Is it because the Destroyers we have seen are indeed constructs – only built by the insectoid race, a crude imitation of the once proud leonine creatures they had enslaved? I believe this theory is supported by the fact that we explicitly see only Obsidian Destroyers, when I have personally witnessed the Neferset of other material, if you will. The alternative – that this kind of power over magic can only be achieved by sacrificing one’s higher cognitive processes – is just too depressing.
After all but securing Arthas’s triumph, the Obsidian Destroyers of the Scourge faded into oblivion; they were nowhere to be seen during the War that led to the Traitor Prince’s downfall. Still, I doubt that they had all been destroyed prior to the Horde’s and the Alliance’s invasion of Northrend. We have delved into but the uppermost reaches of Azjol’Nerub – countless secrets still wait down below, secrets that some might think are best left undisturbed.
The Curse of Flesh can be removed, that much is certain. The task that has attracted my attention is greater than simply duplicating Siamat’s feat; I intend to find out if it is possible to walk between the world of flesh and the world of stone, belonging to both and neither. I intend to master this so-called Curse and turn it to serve my purposes.
No doubt you, the reader, have already come to the same conclusion as I had some time ago: if the answers to my questions exist in the first place, odds are I’ll find them through studying the worgen. Their condition just happens to be close to the problem I am studying; the affliction that turned them from my fellow humans to what they are now made them both less and more than what they used to be – just as the Curse, while weakening our precursors physically, has made the birth of individuals like Magna Aegwynn possible. I have yet to discover any titanic construct coming close to rivaling the fabled Guardian.
Another route to consider would be the savage gargoyles of Northrend. Precious little is known about them, and there is little surprise that, for all the peculiar properties this species possesses, few are willing to study it. Why do they react to divine magic in much the same manner as undead and demons, while being alive in the most basic sense of the word – they feed, they breathe, they have a self-preservation instinct, they procreate; how did they come to be in service of the Scourge, and could they, like the tol’vir, have at one point been enslaved by the nerubians only for the Lich King to gain control over them in turn; what do they feel when they assume their stone form – that they are at least aware of their surroundings cannot be questioned; why did statues of ferocious winged humanoids adorn our churches and cathedrals for centuries preceding the Fall of Lordaeron – these are just several questions that spring to mind when one is to think about the gargoyles, a tip of, I am sure, a much greater iceberg.
I know for a fact that I am not the first to take steps down this path – an individual we only know as Kirtonos the Herald has surfaced sometime after the Third War, in service of the Scourge. Whether he was a gargoyle that had gained some semblance of intellect and an ability to turn into a humanoid, or a high-ranking cultist bestowed with the power to shift his shape, whether he was seeking answers for the same questions I have been asking is yet unknown. Getting my hands on the journals of both him and his underling, the infamous doctor Krastinov was costly, and I hope I will find at least some clues in them, precious little stepping stones on the path to knowledge.
The world shudders as the worm gets its wings.
Rare is a human that as a child has not dreamed of flying. An image of a stately man or a beautiful woman, in ornate armor and with large feathery wings has existed for some time in our folklore, tied closely to the concepts of a herald, a guardian, a bringer of divine justice.
When I first witnessed a paladin of the Silver Hand calling down such being to assist her in her righteous quest, I was nothing short of astonished. The battle was short, if fierce indeed, and after the winged messenger of the Light departed the scene, I approached Its servant and asked her, ‘What was that?’
She answered thusly, ‘The Guardian of the Ancient Kings; he comes to the chosen of the Light in their darkest moments.’
I wonder, was she herself realizing the implications of her words? I suppose it was enough for her that she prayed to the Light, and It send her a helping hand. The word ‘Ancient’ caught my attentions foremost; my thoughts jumped akin to a frightened mare from the terrible Val’kyr of the Scourge – transformed vrykuls that are, as we know now, related to us closer than any other mortal race – to the mystical Spirit Healers to the stories of Light’s miracles; rare though it is, it is far from unheard for a human to have been brought seemingly from the brink of death after fervent prayer to the Light – from the brink, or perhaps from beyond.
Though I was forced to let it slide at the moment, the memories of the event came back to me shortly after I entered Uldum for the first time. Consider this: none of the tol’vir of flesh and bone possesses wings – unlike their stony counterparts. What if the Curse of Flesh deprived the humanity – in whichever form our ancestors had existed before it – of wings?
The surfacing of worgen; human-gargoyle hybrids; lifting of the Curse of Flesh – all happened in such a short time span, compared to the history of our world, these events could have just as well been simultaneous. Are they but a peculiar coincidence, or is something more sinister beyond them?
* * *
The unthinkable is about to become reality. I’ve found willing volunteers to undergo the experimentation process. I’ve come this far, and I can’t stop. I'd be lying to myself if I said I'm not doing this to satiate, first and foremost, my own thirst of knowledge and power that comes with it, but I choose to believe that, should I succeed, this can and will change the world for the better. Light help my assistants, and Light forgive me should I fail.
Ahriman Ashwood, the Keeper of Knowledgethe Hinterlands, 48 ADP
Lots of Tinfoil Hat stuff going on here. Though it's written from an in-universe perspective, I'm hoping there will be at least some discussion about the questions brought up.
Hrmmm... interesting. It seemed a little meta-y with how much he knows about certain events that I imagine wouldn't be widespread knowledge, but I figure it's possible to ignore that.
Very well written, I found, especially coming from a journal standpoint. Instead of being static, its obvious his thoughts are jumping around a lot and the writing is fluid enough that those jumps aren't awkward and everything does seem to connect together.
Though I do have to agree with Atik, there's a lot of odd meta-knowledge going on here that's sort of scratching at my skull.
Hmm, interesting enough. The meta bits I noticed were explained - if somewhat awkwardly - and it really didn't bother me all that much, with all the books lying around speaking of such information it's not a surprise, to me, that he knew some things, and anything else could have merely been him speculating. I don't know if you're looking to turn this into a series or expand upon this in some fashion on the board, but I'm most certainty interested in reading more.
While the meta knowledge is a touch awkward, I think that can be rather simply solved with a bit of citation, from existing books or just ones you make up, it would add a touch more depth to the story.
Kinda makes you think though, huh?
Your assertion of it being somewhat speculative is certainly sound. However, you managed to frame it in such a way that it wasn't particularly odd to see it as it was. You had an interesting voice given to the narrator. Speculative as you wanted it, but still rather curious and no small thirst for discovery. I liked the way you structured it, one point jumping off the last and enlarging the entirety of the theory by building on previous facts gathered. Though many of the points was probably just in-game lack of models, it still stands at least until Blizzard revamps them.
My only real suggestion involves the last line. When he said Light have mercy on my soul, I didn't really buy that. There wasn't so much a slip into such a state of mere inquisitiveness to straight on experimentation. There was -- to me at least -- a constant undertone of intent to do this, and not so much as though he was compelled against his will or good sense to do it, but that he was always aiming for that result. I think if you want to make him slip from study into performing these experiments, he will need to become gradually aware of the repulsions for what such a process would entail, and has to feel that. He sees that he's basically doing the same thing as the old gods did, is aware of that, and he hates himself for it. But can't stop.
So, good story. The structure is good, the logic is fairly sound, and save the last line it's quite consistent.
I've been reading a lot of Lovecraft and Poe recently, and this definitely fits their style. It's more Lovecraft than Poe, but it shares enough similarities that I'm going to put it in both categories.
I love any sort of first person writing, and this was done extremely well. I agree with a few of the others that his meta knowledge seemed slightly out of place; however, it was more fridge logic to me, as I didn't really notice it until after I had finished reading and before I had started the comments.
I also like how it was split into three obvious sections, which were then woven together. They fit nicely.
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