battlesandbiscuits

Games with friends with food

The Talons of Tzeentch (Andy)

The enigmatic figure known as The Scholar has been a constant threat to the noThe enigmatic figure known as The Scholar has been a constant threat to the northern Empire for almost three decades now; little is known about this hulking sorcerer except that his efforts seem bent toward destruction in its purest form. He has burned libraries and destroyed museums to eradicate the knowledge they contained, he has torched settlements wholesale and broken dams to flood farming valleys, massacring thousands. His allegiance is not owed, as one might expect, to Khorne or Nurgle, but to subtle Tzeentch, and his motivations lie in an insanity so deep seated and cruel that those who oppose him could never understand his motivations or predict his actions.

Nearly five hundred years ago there lived a young Initiate to the Collegiate of Celestial Wizards, a young man who history does not recall but whose fascination with the enigmatic mysteries of the polar gates bordered on obsession. This young scholar had comparatively little in the way of magical talent, but was possessed of an incisive mind and keen intellect that seemed to illuminate the path to important knowledge like a beacon. Within a year of his admission to the great library of Altdorf, the Initiate had successfully made the link between the collapse of the polar gates and the strange hieroglyphic records of the Slann. He petitioned his order to allow him passage to Lustria that he might study this link in greater detail, but thanks to his junior status and paucity of magical talent his requests were denied and his exceptional work of research overlooked…

Despite the obstacles placed in his path, the Initiate continued to study ancient texts and smuggled fragments of Lustrian glyphs, his learning slowly leading him down darker, more revelatory paths. He discovered mention of beings referred to as the ‘Old Ones’ and began to suspect that the emergence of Chaos had been linked to these mysterious beings. The Initiate burned with the passion that only young genius can, sure that in his research lay the seeds of salvation for the whole world from the scourge of chaos. However it was at this vital point that he hit a brick wall; his mentors saw how consumed their pupil had become by his private studies, the unhealthy and exhausting regimen of constant research that he was dragging himself through, and elected to put a stop to it for his own good. How much of this decision was owed to genuine concern and how much the hubris of old men who did not wish their own academic accomplishments eclipsed was questionable, but the senior magi of the Celestial Order forbade the Initiate any further research into Chaos, the Slann, or their mysterious Old Ones.

The Initiate was furious, frustrated beyond measure that his seminal work had been snatched away from him when he felt so close to the truth! Unable to simply accept his elders’ ruling and walk away, the Initiate turned to forbidden lore. Concealing himself in his chambers, he wrestled an ancient grimoire from the hidden space beneath his floorboards and commenced a ritual he believed would call up and trap a spirit of pure knowledge. Instead, roiling into existence within his painstakingly copied pentagram, came a looming eldritch horror, a Lord of Change which was far beyond the Initiate’s power to contain. The greater daemon was, however, intrigued by the exceptional intellect that it sensed this young man possessed; rather than simply devour his soul, it instead enquired politely for what reason it had been summoned. Terrified but defiant, the Initiate stammered that he sought the answer to the riddle of the coming of Chaos and the Old Ones, and that he wished to know how to save the world from the daemon and all of its kind. Amused, the Lord of Change offered the Initiate a wager; it would allow him all the time he would ever need to find the answers he sought. However, if ever the Initiate gave up this monumental task then his soul would belong to Tzeentch for all eternity.

Whether it was courage or arrogance, or a mixture of the two, the Initiate agreed to the wager and with that, as if it had never existed, the daemon was gone, leaving his chambers in disarray. The Initiate was bemused by his experience, but continued with his life and in time became a great scholar, earning many accolades and learning much which was to the benefit of the empire regarding battling the forces of chaos. As an old man he thought back to his strange encounter with the daemon and wondered if it had really occurred, and if so why the fiend had never come to collect after he had accepted that his youthful thirst for ‘the’ answer had cooled into a more reasoned determination to understand and battle the followers of the chaos gods. By the time of his death the young Initiate had become a great wizard and respected lore keeper; he passed away content with his life’s work. A moment after his eyes closed for the last time they opened once again to survey the devastation of his Initiate’s chambers; feeling a horrible sense of panic building, he rushed from the room to find himself stood in the corridor outside, just as he remembered it from his youth. This had to be some kind of afterlife, he told himself, but as he rushed back into his room the sly laughter of the daemon came to him. “Remember our bargain,” it whispered, “all the time you could ever need”. With that it was gone, and the Initiate sank onto his sleeping palette in horror; he had lived a whole, full life, had seen friends and lovers come and go, had achieved important, concrete things that would outlive him by centuries. Only now, of course, he hadn’t. Somehow, by the machinations of the Lord of Change, all of that had been wiped away, erased from existence as if it had never been. Over sixty years of life gone, leaving nothing but the memories, and an overwhelming sense of desolate exhaustion. He had to do it all again; what if he did it differently, what would happen to those he had counted friends? What about the battles he had won, the lives he had saved? If he differed from his path, how many would suffer? But he couldn’t just do it all again the same, or he would never find the answer he sought and be free of this purgatorial loop! The Initiate’s sanity wavered then, but he resolutely forged on and began life once again. And again. And yet again. Dozens of lifetimes, each of them different, each remembered in their entirety, and none successful. As each ended, whether by age or violence or illness, the daemon enquired as to whether the Initiate wished to give up, and each time, though his grasp on reality slipped further each time and his hopes dwindled as the centuries crept by outside of his reality, the Initiate refused.

Finally, after almost five centuries, having completely lost track of the number of lives he had lead, friends he had lost, disappointments he had suffered, the Initiate discovered an ancient device amongst a Khemrian treasure horde. In several previous lifetimes he had sought this device but finally here it was in his grasp; the greatest hope he had for finding his answer. This ancient nest of crystals and wires was a storage device of the greatest antiquity, reputed to hold within it a copy of the Old Ones’ great plan, as well as an account of their final days and the disaster which befell the polar gates. Here at last was the key he sought, the answer to his endless quest. With shaking hands he activated the device and watched with wild, bloodshot eyes as the machine played out its recording. No-one can know what he saw in that tomb, but when he emerged into the desert sun, the man he had been was gone forever; whatever crushing revelations were contained in the device which now hung in smashed pieces from his hands, they had destroyed his last strands of hope and sanity. Dropping to his knees in the shadow of the looming pyramid, he cried out to the Lord of Change that he was defeated. Tzeentch could have what remained of his ancient soul and he would be glad to be rid of it. But the Lord of Change had other plans…

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