Man, I need to hire a cleaning crew.
Dead Dick’s Tavern is a sight. Looks like I left the tap dripping, and the scent of stale beer has mingled with the smell of cobbler’s wax, sarcasm and vomit. Looks like someone threw up in the corner. Wasn’t me (this time). I’d say I must have overlooked that on my way out; but TBH I didn’t really feel like dealing with it back then, and I didn’t expect to be gone for over a month. Guess what? It’s still here.
It is nice to be missed, though; and apparently my uncharacteristic absence from the blogosphere was concerning enough that a couple of you reached out. Thanks for that. I am fine, just buried and beset at all sides by real life stuff.
I’m back now, though; with a new Character of the Month. This time, it’s a Warlock.
Put simply, she would not be owned.
Karsa was six when the armies of the human Duke invaded her forest, destroyed her home and enslaved her people. The Duke put most of the elves to death, as he correctly feared they would never stop resisting the yoke of bondage until they were free. Elves were magical, ancient, and quite dangerous; and they live very long indeed. Why take the chance? The children, though; that was another matter. Most were sold into slavery. A few were given as gifts to other nobles. Others died, either from neglect, starvation or from an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. But not Karsa.
Karsa found herself the possession of Melek, a wizard; one who had done the Duke a service once and asked for her as payment. The Duke acquiesced, assuming Melek wanted Karsa for the usual, depraved reasons old, evil men want young girls. But Karsa was spared that much, at least; for whatever dark magics Melek practiced had left him unmanned, if not physically then practically. He had no base interest in her, even as she grew to be uncommonly beautiful, even among a race as known for beauty as the elves. For several years, Melek used her as a mere house servant. She chafed and rebelled as best she could. Each time she did, he made her suffer for it; but in her mind, at least, she was her own master.
Although he used her as such, Melek did not require a servant. His true intentions were quite specific: it was her blood he wanted. The blood of an elven maiden is a powerful arcane reagent; one used in magics and rituals most foul. Melek bled her regularly to obtain it; and, although he could have done so painlessly, he made certain to make it hurt as much as possible, for such was his cruelty. Karsa endured this and all his other petty torments, vowing one day to be rid of the old man one way or another.
Melek was always keen to acquire more power at any cost; thus his experiments and rituals turned from the hermetic, which he found too slow, to the demonic, which promised quick (if costly) reward. In preparation for a grand summoning, Melek bound a lesser demon–a quasit named Raze– to his will. For a time, Raze joined Melek in tormenting Karsa; for Raze had no other diversion when not assisting his master. Like Karsa, he was Melek’s creature and he could not strike back at the wizard directly; but Raze soon formed a plan to free himself from Melek’s control. For that, though, he would need Karsa.
It was quite simple. Melek was to summon Belphegor, Lord of the Pit, to bargain for more power. The circle was drawn. All that was left was to anoint it with Karsa’s blood; freshly acquired; something he would do the following night, at the time of summoning.
If Karsa was no longer a maiden by then, Melek would not likely notice. But Belphegor certainly would.
Raze put the proposition to Karsa. If the summoning ritual was sabotaged, Melek would meet a grisly fate; freeing both Raze and Karsa from the wizard. Although the thought of Raze touching her horrified and revolted her, she would endure that and more to be free. She agreed. “Then, it is done.” said Raze, practically dancing with joy. Karsa prepared herself for the worst, but Raze looked at her with amusement. “Be assured, elf-girl,” the quasit said, “the mere thought of us coupling is as repugnant to me as it is to you. Mercifully this bargain of ours has no need for physical consummation. It is enough that you consented willingly. You are no longer of any use to Melek.”
It may seem that Karsa had made a bad bargain; that with Melek’s death, Raze would be released from bondage. When that occurred, what was to stop him or Belphegor from doing what they wished with her? The grinning demon thought he had hoodwinked her; that the miserable elf-girl knew no better.
But he was very wrong. Karsa was no fool, and she had a plan of her own.
The next night, all went as planned. So intent on his ritual was Melek that he didn’t take the customary pleasure in bleeding Karsa as was his wont, nor did he notice anything different about her that would give him pause. Anointing the circle with her now-tainted blood, Melek summoned forth Belphegor, Lord of the Pit. And he paid dearly for it.
Melek had no time to realize his mistake before the summoning chamber was showered in his own blood. His body died quickly and brutally, consumed in seconds by the ravenous demon lord. His soul, however, was doomed to eternally suffer all the tortures a Lord of the Pit can devise; and those are many indeed. Still, Belphegor was far from sated. Ignoring the cackling quasit, it saw the elf-girl for the first time. But something was wrong. She was not cowering in fear as expected. Rather, she met it’s gaze defiantly, without flinching. She wanted something of Belphegor.
The demon lord was intrigued long enough to stay its hunger. “Ask,” said Belphegor.
“What was Melek’s bargain?” she asked.
“Melek pledged to serve me body and soul until his death, in return for the powers I will bestow. Then, he was to be mine.”
“I will make the same bargain with you as Melek sought. With one provision.”
Belphegor considered. It was free and uncontrolled. There was nothing stopping it from simply devouring the elf girl here and now. In fact, the thought was somewhat appealing. But she would live much longer than that fool Melek would have; and they could do so much together over so many years. In the end, she would be Belphegor’s, too. There seemed no good reason to refuse.
“Name your condition,” it said.
Karsa turned and stared at Raze coldly. The quasit had been watching this exchange with interest, but now realization dawned. In a split second, he remembered every insult, slight and suffering he had inflicted upon Karsa.
“Wait! Raze started to beg.
“Done,” said Belphegor. Then the quasit was no more, his existence utterly obliterated by Belphegor’s will. “You are mine, now, Karsa. Body and soul.” With that, the demon lord disappeared.
Karsa took a deep breath. It would appear she had traded one form of bondage and servitude for another. Why, then did she smile?
Put simply, she would not be owned.
Karsa was no fool. In exchange for great power, she was bound to Belphegor for the next several hundred years, until her death, when she would be eternally at the demon lord’s mercy. That meant she had several hundred years to use the power to find a way to destroy Belphegor, or perhaps some way not to die.
Karsa is a pretty famous miniature: the original Dark Elf Sorceress from Games Workshop, circa 1998 or so. I never played Dark Elves, and I never bought this miniature. Rather, it was a gift to me from a relative who lives in England. She came across it in an estate sale, of all things. It was still in the blister when she sent it over the water to me.
Astute observers may note that once again, I am late for my Character of the Month. Rest assured, Karsa was painted back in November with days to spare, but I had no time to write her backstory before the end of the month. November stretched into December, and here we are. It’s a good thing I don’t miss deadlines like this in my professional life, or I’d be out of a job.
So, what’s to come? Well, I have one more Character of the Month to do before the end of the year; and it’s one of my favorite D&D classes, to boot. Plus, I’m gonna try to do a very special Christmas AAR, just because I haven’t done one in a while. Traditionally, December is my month to clean up the Side Pile; but to be honest I’ve been so busy with other stuff I don’t know if I’ll be able to do that this year.
Oh, and I’m turning 49 soon. Imminently, in fact.
I asked one of my (younger) employees today: “Remember when Amazon only sold books?” Then I asked her, “Remember when Amazon was a rain forest in Brazil?”
Times have changed, and I am old.