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A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste - Morelen, Rise of the Runelords

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A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste - Morelen, Rise of the Runelords

Post  Penelope on Fri Jul 30, 2010 12:51 am

The small, wind-driven vessel slinked silently along the darkened shores of the Varisian Bay. There were four passengers aboard. Two smugglers had docked at the Friendly Merchant the evening before to unload some of their illicit wares for sale at the Bazaar of Sails. One woman had convinced the pair to take her meager funds as payment to smuggle her out of the city. One crow had joined them shortly after setting out, and now stood perched upon the rail staring at the cloaked woman as if it was waiting for something. Morelen knew what it wanted, but she had no intention of catering to the crows tonight...

She also had no intention of catering to the treacherous boatman, a man by the name of Renry, who now stalked towards her with a sickening sneer on his face.

"Say there missy," he began, breathing a fog reeking of Rum n' Rat Stew in her face. (The daily special at the Friendly Merchant Inn!) The woman was obviously nervous about something and perhaps that...plus the rum...emboldened the man, but she reacted neither to his approach nor strangely, his breath, instead keeping an eye on the crow who seemed to be watching it all with amusement. "Dob n' I was thinkin' that, yer silvers? Well, t'ain't 'nough after alls... Naw, we's thinkin' that you might be makin' up the diff'rence with a nother form o' payment."

Unfortunately for him, while Morelen was indeed nervous, that anxiety stemmed only from her swift departure from Magnimar, and not the company she currently kept. Without turning to look in his direction, she simply replied quietly. "The price for my passage was agreed and shaken upon. I expect that the two of you will live up to that arrangement."

"Yeah... See, we ain'ts never been accuseda bein' men o' our words er nothin'... Ye'll jest have t' take this as a case n' point!" Renry made a move to jerk open her oversized traveling cloak to get a better look at her, and the lewd expression on his face left little doubt as to the man's intentions.

That, Morelen did react to. Quite suddenly, the smelly smuggler found himself looking eye to eye with the woman, who didn't seem nearly as nervous as he thought her to be a moment before.

"Ahh, goods! I like 'em wit a lil' fight in 'em, don't ye D--" The menacing grin fell off Renry's face when the woman pulled back her deep hood.

Renry was not a small man, but there was no need for him to bend his neck to be fixated by the woman's strange, nearly translucent light blue eyes. The too-pale skin of her face was topped by stark white hair that fell just past her shoulders. Not aged white, nor a color granted her by mixed blood, but the kind of white one might wear after experiencing a trauma of the worst kind. On top of that, she was beautiful... Cold, as if never a summer had dared touch her porcelain features, but beautiful all the same. Far more so than the type these smugglers were used to 'dealing' with in the filthy streets and brothels of the Shadow.

The crow cawed and ruffled his feathers, drawing a twitch from Morelen and breaking Renry's moment of shock.

Before the man could continue his intentions, an unnerving smile crossed the woman's face and strange whispering noises began to be heard flitting around the boat. Sounds of chisels on stone. Muffled screams. Even a voice echoed in chilling strains about the four passengers. I have prepared a new one for you..., the voice whispered. ...a better one... Doors slamming. A deep creaking sound.

Then...

Only the innocuous ripples of water against the hull of the skiff.

When the sounds died, Morelen pulled off one long glove and stepped within inches of the man, who was by now completely unsettled. "I expect that the two of you will live up to our arrangement," she reiterated softly, before raising her bare hand and grazing her pale fingers along his jawline.

Renry sucked in a sharp breath as the icy digits drew lines of frigid fire on his skin. It was as if the woman leeched the warmth of life from his body and the man was shaken to his very core. The smuggler staggered back to his accomplice Dob, who even without the touch had been similarly frightened by the display. After that, the pair chose to remain in their place there at the other end of the small vessel for the remainder of the voyage.

Morelen lowered herself slowly onto her crate and turned her attention back to the watchful crow and the slowly diminishing view of the moonlit City of Monuments.

***

The woman was deposited rather unceremoniously a little less a day's journey southwest of Sandpoint. With shouts of 'witch' and worse, the smugglers made no secret about being ecstatic at the offloading of that particular passenger, and Morelen was assuredly just as pleased.

While the unsavory gentlemen believed her a witch, there was no confusion in Morelen's mind as to what she was. She was created. Not in the usual sense, well...not this body anyway, but created as an experiment born of dark intentions and even darker acts. Who she was however, was an entirely different and much more hazy matter.

Over the last four months, bits and pieces of her former life had been coming back to her with help from her employer and creator, Jaedan Noenn. Morelen was the name given her at creation. He'd never revealed to her what her true name had been, probably in an effort to keep her from seeking out any family she might have. She had no memories of them anyway...

Morelen had been told that she'd served as Dr. Noenn's assistant in the Golemworks of Magnimar, where he worked under the employ of Toth Bhreacher, founder of the Works. Once an expert in the dead language of ancient Thassilon, she would aid her employer in the deciphering of Thassilonian runes and tablets that were uncovered during the excavation of stone from the Irespan. The Giant's Bridge as it was also known, was believed to be created by the ancient empire, evidenced by the many runes and glyphs that adorned the structure. Mr. Bhreacher was the one to discover that the stone taken from the monument, was easily enchantable and he used this knowledge to build a business of stone golem construction, which quickly made him a very wealthy man.

Jaedan Noenn was hired on to assist not in the carving of the golems, but the enchanting of them. He was a Mystic Theurge of some renown within certain circles and a man of many talents as well as many excesses, though his thirst for knowledge was at the forefront of his voracious appetites. He hungered for power gained from magics of all kinds. Noenn began secretly as a priest of Urgathoa and was accomplished in many scientific forms of healing. Now he was also a practitioner in the arcane and along that vein, he'd turned his sights on the powerful and intricate rune magic practiced by the Thassilonian wizards of ancient times.

That was where Morelen came into the picture. The woman she once was, was a valuable commodity to the doctor both in research and translating, but his assistant was on borrowed time. Due to a degenerative disease, she'd been confined to a wheeled-chair contraption for the last few years and her body continued to waste away.

She was told that he had fixed her... Created for her a better and stronger body that wouldn't bend to the ravages of disease, and that could be useful to him for many, many years longer than she'd expected to live. Dr. Noenn never went into details about how he'd done his work, but Morelen remembered waking up. She felt nothing at first, as if her brain wasn't registering the signals the body was sending it. On a large table next to her lay an atrophied body of a middle-aged woman, whose skull had been sawed open and her brain removed.

Hours later she finally realized that she knew the woman's face.

It was hers...

Had been hers...

Morelen had to be taught to walk again, to write, anything that took coordination of mind and body. During that first month after rebirth, she had little memory of anything. Memories are delicate things housed in an even more delicate casing, and the damage suffered by her brain in those minutes between bodies had taken it's toll. They were coming back, albeit slowly, as the healing continued.

It wasn't until well after the first month that she was allowed to see herself in a mirror. The new body was as unfamiliar as a complete stranger standing before her. Her hair was very short, as if it had been shaved before the creation process had been completed. Thin white scars, difficult to see against her pale skin, lined her body. One just above her hairline, one at her neck. One on each of her arms above the elbow, one on each of her legs below her hips, and one cutting just below her ribcage to her sternum. Upon the flesh covering that sternum was a dark...mark. A tattoo or a rune of some nature that looked as if it should have been familiar to her though she could not place its origin and the doctor wasn't at all forthcoming.

He had done his healing well, and the stitches had left little scarring. Being the exacting perfectionist that he was, Dr. Noenn had also very carefully chosen the pieces for his new creation, and it was quite some time before Morelen realized that she was in fact an ensemble created from seven bodies! Tiny differences began to become apparent. The fingers on her right hand were slightly longer and thinner than those on her left. One knee appeared a bit more knobby than the other. Minuscule differences in skin color, lessened by the pallor taken on during creation, could be seen on one side of each scar as opposed to the other.

At that point she realized the depth of her creator's depravity. It was no coincidence that these...parts...matched each other so closely! Dr. Noenn must have chosen these people BEFORE death...murdered them for the purpose of creating a new shell for his assistant! Not because he cared for her as one person might have feelings for another, but because her mind was valuable to him! He saw her impending death as a waste, not as an inevitability, and set out to fix the problem.

The Golemworks stood in the Bridgeward section of Magnimar, but the doctor lived and did much of his extracurricular...work, in a ramshackle building in Underbridge, or the Shadow as it was oft referred to by the city's residents. A dangerous and squalid district, the Shadow was a place one could conduct business of a darker nature without drawing much attention. No one asked questions. If you started poking your nose around asking questions in the city beneath the bridge, you were likely to lose more than your nose for your efforts. It was a perfect place for Jaeden Noenn, and his newly recreated assistant to live out of sight of prying eyes.

Morelen quickly relearned all of the basic skills of life and then moved on to the things most important to the doctor. The reading and writing of Thassilonian to start. During the day he would return to the Golemworks where he received considerable pay for his work, while Morelen stayed locked in the cellar "for her safety" studying and translating and leafing through texts of magics of all kinds. It was during one of these days that she came upon his journal. She discovered that she had not been his first experiment, though she was the first that Noenn determined a success. He also went into much detail about collecting the "elements of the shell", and the detail he put into choosing them... Dr. Noenn had saved her life, but at the cost of six others. On one hand she felt grateful for this second chance, but on the other...she was mortified at the cost!

Unfortunately for all parties involved, as exacting as the great Jaeden Noenn had been with Morelen's creation, it soon became apparent to him that he had failed in this most recent experiment as well. Something had gone wrong, and the magic binding her wasn't stable. She was, in essence...leaking magic. The first sign was the strange disembodied sounds that were occasionally heard in her presence. Whispers, laughter, screams, doors slamming, the sound of footsteps on wooden floors... It wasn't until Dr. Noenn heard his OWN voice in one of those whispers that he realized these Ghost Sounds were coming from her damaged mind. Magically projected memories that hadn't yet been awoken. He also became increasingly leery of touching her, as the necromantic magics holding her together seemed to crave the absorption of life and warmth. That was when he started gathering parts for his next experiment...

Morelen was kept in the dark about her condition. She knew somehow that she was somehow doing these things and during the days locked away in the Shadow district, she eventually learned some modicum of control over the mysterious magic. She could sense magical emanations about her if she concentrated and after much work, managed to summon or squelch the ghostly sounds that would occasionally plague her. By far, her favorite sport was picking off the crows that constantly pecked at the little half window near the cellar ceiling. With the window open, the bothersome birds would sit on the sill and watch her and she would take aim at them with her index finger and loose a thin, blue bolt of frost. Sometimes missing, sometimes turning them into crowsicles. Much to her annoyance, there were always more to replace those that were lost... Their shiny black heads cocking spasmodically to one side or another while the tried to determine if she was something to eat. Eventually Morelen guessed that the birds were sensing an aura of death around her...

Four months after her rebirth, Dr. Noenn came to her again and brought her into the laboratory that he'd always kept under lock and key. Morelen was ushered into a room with two tables. On one table lay a body recently sewn together by the look of it, as the sutures had yet to be as expertly healed as hers had been. She realized that this body wasn't complete... It was waiting for a brain. A living brain was one way of transferring that fragile spirit of life that was essential in the animation of a golem of flesh, and the doctor didn't want just any living brain, he wanted hers!

He tried to coax her onto the empty table, telling her that she would be placed into a new body. Gently explaining that the one she resided in currently was malfunctioning, and someday the magic holding her together would fail completely. He honestly wasn't sure what would happen to her then, but he had every reason to believe that she would be truly lost at that point.

Morelen was only just regaining some of the memories of who she was. Hints of a personality. Likes and dislikes. A life that she only partially remembered before her brain had been stuffed into this shell! There was no certainty that her mind would survive another trauma like that, and she was not willing to risk oblivion! Would she remember anything? Be able to learn anything? Perhaps she would become nothing more than a mindless automaton that served the will of her creator. She was FINE with death, even if it came sooner than she would hope. Death was natural... No, Morelen was not afraid of losing her life, she was afraid of losing herself!

The woman whirled around suddenly and took aim at the large, startled man with her index finger. A scintillating black beam shot from the digit and hit the doctor square in the chest and he found himself unable to support his own bulk, his knees buckling under the weight. Morelen pushed past him and ran. Slamming the door of the laboratory shut and sliding the latch over to lock it from the outside. She only had a few moments and she knew that the meager door lock would not long hold a man so knowledgeable in the ways of magic. With full knowledge that she was running away from a chance at perhaps generations of life, Morelen grabbed a cloak off the wall, burst through the door of the dilapidated building and out into the darkened streets of Underbridge.

The Friendly Merchant Inn and Tavern was serving Rum n' Rat stew that evening, and using some coins found in the pockets of her creator's cloak, she purchased a helping while keeping an eye on a couple of men she hoped would be willing to spirit her out of the city. A loud squeal of a large rat from the kitchens followed shortly by a sickening crack, made Morelen realize that she was fortunate that this stew, like all else she put in her mouth, tasted only of ash.




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Penelope

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