Three Things

1. Mesonyte

It will start from a single bud of pulsing orange tissue. Ideally, it will be dank, but this is not necessary for its growth. It feeds on human thoughts, non-intrusively, over the course of months, days, or years. After fifty years, the mesonyte can transmit raw images and memories to sensitive humans and creatures. After two centuries, it will know enough to speak in telepathic language, and contain more knowledge than the most learned human sages. After another hundred, it can speak in verbal languages, but it will take another fifty years to learn how to form a mouth, and another decade to do it.

This is also around the time they start growing. In its fifth century, it will grow explosively, uncontainably. By the end of the first month, it will cover a cave with orange-yellow-red bulbs, or fill all the rooms in a derelict castle, or gutted library, or silent mill. Then it will grow over any unoccupied territory – it fills the cave or claims the abandoned mill town. And it will stop. They are conflict averse. It has no desire to trample towns or consume forests. They are hyperintelligent, which means they know better than not to fear humans. After the initial burst of growth, it regains control.

And control it has. The mesonyte’s can change their physical form to almost anything, if they take the time for it. They look like sheets of pustules probably because they think spreading out makes them more survivable. Survival is their main concern – they don’t consider anything else worthwhile. Petitioners crowd their haunts, asking questions. Most questions are ignored. Better not to encourage more visitors, since some may have unwelcome intentions, or take poorly the answers given. A few kings have killed mesonytes, torched them and salted the earth, for the answers they gave, or withheld.

But sometimes, petitioners are answered. No one knows why it chooses to answer the questions. It has naught to do with importance – mundane questions and questions of massive geopolitical importance are answered or ignored in equal measures. Nor is it the manipulations of a god-like being, as they are not omniscient. They know as much as a huge library, accumulated from thousands or millions of humans through passive telepathy – no one knows the range of these abilities, but evidence suggests at least a thousand kilometers for the largest specimens.

Actually, not a whole lot of what mesonytes do makes sense or has any discernable motive. The mutability of their body means they can separate off portions of it, and their skill means they can birth new forms of life entirely. The Thunderbird Mesonyte was famous for this. Every 37 years, almost to the day, it would burst a dozen dozen pustules on its west-facing cliffside, and release hundreds of birds, each unique in form, size, and coloring. People came from miles around to watch the show or hunt the birds for their never-fading feathers. It appeared to do this for no reason other than recreation and stopped after the crowds started congregating. Sometimes, they will birth adult humans, complete with a set of memories. Usually, they’re simulacra of people who lived in the area of few generations ago, but who gets revived is arbitrary. Farmers, mostly, but most people are farmers anyway. To date, none of the revived have had a biography or known witnesses to their life to verify their memories. Most go on to live completely ordinary lives, though many famous cases ended in tragedy and farce.

It’s possible they are doing this for fun.

They seem to have an affinity for cowardly people. Maybe it thinks cowardice is the best survival strategy for humans? Some think cowards are also more likely to get their questions answered as well, but their supposed cowardice may just be a result of the foresight the mesonyte grants.

Some of them have cults of psychics. Well, the relationship is more like an annoying fan club, in most cases. The psychic defenses of the mesonyte are formidable, and piercing them to learn its will is nigh impossible task even for a team of trained psionics. So the cults mostly just hang around and collect fees from petitioners. The exception if the cult of the Furtive Mesonyte, who spend their days chasing their wayward god – as contrary to popular belief, mesonytes are not necessarily immobile. Even catching sight of the Furtive Mesonyte is a challenge – it moves fast and the form of locomotion changes from place to place, to throw off pursuers. It rolls a lot, and can probably fly. Unless it is found, this year will be its forty-ninth consecutive year of eluding worship.

A few cults claim they contact their mesonyte and now enact its will, a claim no one can verify. Apparently, the mesonyte’s will is collecting fees from petitioners.

2. Trochi-Homunculus

Remove some of your flesh. Less than an ounce will do. Feed it to the sacred crocodiles of the estuary Ro-eghda. Do this in the week immediately after the wet season, and the trochili birds will be swarm thick on the deposited sediment bars and feasting on the debris found in the teeth of crocodiles. Wait two months, and then walk along the muddy shores. You’ll find them, crawling in the muck, picking at the silt for the bugs. Smaller versions of the donor, six inches tall, hunched and spindly limbed. Take them, nurture them, and clothe them. They are most loyal to the person from whom they were generated and desire their adulation and approval above all other things.

The people of Ro-eghda knew the fate of those that were eaten by the crocodiles, and considered it a gruesome fate worse than death. The homunculi of the victim were burned in sacrifice, to ensure the victims spirit could move onto the new world. It is thought the homunculi hatch from the trochuli eggs. No one has ever actually seen a trochilus egg. Does this work for other animals? No one has seen spindly legged wildebeest or goats wandering around, either. Myths are conflicting; some say all beasts are reborn, but fed to the cryptic adult trochilus, while others claim the trochilus rebirth humans as an attempt to usurp them, or in mocking contempt. None of the myths trust the birds, that’s for sure. The crocodile is necessary to the process, sure, but the trochilus is associated with sorcery, much like ravens in other cultures. They want something, they scheme. Or so the myths say.

An honest man would strangle any trochilus that came in reach. Only witches and mad men would do this willingly.

A few generations ago the Mad Tyrant of Elmulyt seized power. To ensure the loyalty of the old regime’s bureaucratic elements, he created a whole corps of Trochi-homunculus as spies. They would attend the ministers constantly – they don’t sleep, you see. They were given needles of deadly poison, and their charges forbidden from wearing armor. This practice was so successful at rooting out conspiracy that the Tyrant’s successors instituted the practice, some of the more paranoid lords literally withering away, to be everywhere at once. The prohibition on armor later changed to clothes – the ministers of Elmulyt still go about only in loincloths. One ruler consorted with blood mages to see through the eyes of their homunculi, or command them directly.

Eventually, a war broke out between the heirs of a ruler – but not a war of men. That would come later. The first stages of the war were fought with small band of trochi-homunculi, clad in miniscule armor and tilting at each other with needles. They wanted to control the network of small tunnels passing through the walls of the palace of Elmulyt, passable only to the homunculi, and long used for espionage and assassination. The bedchambers of the princes were like castles and were besieged or relieved without the tyrant ever knowing. The homunculi died in the thousands, frittered away by uncaring god in wild assaults and useless defenses. Eventually, the War in the Walls ground to a halt, and one prince had the idea to butcher the crocodiles, as the source of manpower.

By all accounts, this is when the real war started. No wild crocodiles live in Ro-eghda, anymore.

The Eternal Beauties

Makeup and magic were brought into the world, together. Melsh, Devil Prince of Hell, the Great Tempter, the Pedagogue, taught both at the dawn of civilization. Beauty and power were the first things men begged for.

But how do we guarantee beauty? Endless are the ways we can make someone seem beautiful- how can we make people beautiful? Blood magic can shift skin or knit bone, but only slowly, dangerously, and the hand of blood mages are not always so deft, nor their eye so sharp, as to guarantee beauty.

The blood mages struck upon a simple solution – beautiful people already exist. Transplanting a face is easier than transmuting one and gives more complete results. And so, the first Eternal Beauties were convinced (or killed) and their faces removed and carefully preserved with blood magic.

Helen of Troy by Danielle Byington

They are kept in the Temple of Beauty, and for a sizeable donation, you can have one grafted onto your face. Walk in with a bag of silver and you be under the knife in a week, and fully healed in a month. It even comes with the appearance of eternal youth, though your lifespan isn’t any longer.

Keep in mind, this is a one-way process. Your face will be burnt, or maybe fed to pigs – if it were any use, you wouldn’t be here, would you? The costs are also steep, and not in just gold. For one, they will reclaim the face when you die, and usually take your bod yin the bargain as well, so no open-casket funerals. They used to do fixed-term contracts, but stopped because they are unpopular and usually require calling on collections. And they will, by the way. They will send bounty hunters enhanced by potent blood magic.

Then, there’s the psychological effects. Some people aren’t happy with their new look, even though they are wearing the faces of the most beautiful from each generation. And that’s nothing to say about the dissociative effects of no longer having your own face.

Oh yeah, the faces are also alive, and contain at least some of the memories and personality of the person they were taken from. It’s unclear how conscious they are, but it’s safe to say this isn’t pleasant for them. Hallucinations and night terrors are a common side effect. Depressive episodes can last weeks, months, or years, and mood swings are so common that they aren’t mentioned.

There’s also the possibility that the Temple is using these to spy on people. Certainly, influential persons can have their fee waived, but is this regular political backscratching, or something more insidious. They aren’t telling, but one could believe it from their reputation. As mentioned, the Temple has a ”’tenacious”’ collection agency. They also have a tendency to allow payment in installments and use this to enforce a form of debt peonage. You walk into the Temple and see Helen of Troy on hand and knees, scrubbing the marble floors. James Dean fans the guest of honor. That sort of thing.

Overall, it may be better to learn how to do makeup.

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