When the Fetid Prince set in motion the rise of Deadhaus, he did so with the patronage of an entity beyond the realm of the living. From the deepest twilight of the realm of the dead, it whispered to him, and a contract was brokered. In exchange for his devotion, the Fetid Prince was granted power over death, and into his service were sent the otherworldly attendants of the ancient one, the Banshees.
Unlike most other undead, Banshees were not once part of the realm of the living. They did not once draw breath, nor were their spirits ever bound by flesh and bone. They are wholly native to the realm of the dead. Before the formation of Deadhaus, solitary Banshees would sometimes cross into the mortal plane, though their motivations, much like those of their master, were unknown. Sometimes they would be heard weeping or singing softly to themselves in the dark. Sometimes they would shriek, as if in terror, but always their presence was an omen of death.
Now the Banshees bring this omen against the enemies of Deadhaus. They are vessels of their ancient master’s power, and through their voices it flows. The song of a Banshee can alter reality, laying terrible afflictions upon the living, or boons upon the dead. Their shrieks can split flesh, shatter bones, and even cleave the soul itself.
Given their origins, they are often sought by other undead for truths or counsel, but they say little of the other side. And if ever a Banshee should be asked of the one she serves, she only weeps, or sometimes sings softly to herself.
OF BANSHEES – I
Fourteenth of Parat, in the year 218 after Deadhaus
Beneath the ruins of Os Kurrox, the darkness conceals a relic of the Old Empire, from a time before Deadhaus. Whatever valuables the ruins above once contained have long since been scoured by Imperial forces or treasure hunters, but the artifact below remains unscathed.
I’d been down those stairs several times, but until recently could never decipher the riddle of the artifact… an obelisk of blackened stone marked with cryptic symbols. I’ve attempted on many occasions to collect a sample of this stone to no avail. No acid nor any number of men with picks and hammers could make so much as a dent in it. Its properties are unlike any mineral encountered or recorded in all of Malorum.
But recently, I received correspondence from a historical scholar who claimed to have decoded the markings. I summoned him to the capital at once, and from there we rode for the ruins. Once we stood before the obelisk, the scholar demonstrated from his own records a series of symbols and arcs he had discovered from anthropological scrolls. By his estimation, these markings represented an astrological calendar. For this stone, the markings corresponded with dawn.
We puzzled over this together, coming to the same conclusion, that perhaps the answer would be revealed by the light of dawn. We both looked to the toppled stonework above. “This must have been open to the sky once,” he said, and his face fell. “It would take a team of skilled men months to clear this rubble. I’m afraid dawn will have to wait.”
“Is that what they’re teaching in schools these days?” I asked. “To live at the whim of nature?” He said nothing, but I saw the glint of curiosity in his eyes. I took us above ground, and we rode to the nearest town. We requisitioned as many mirrors as their shops kept, and then several more from the townsfolk, who eyed us suspiciously, knowing by my badge that I was an Inquisitor.
Back at the ruins, we positioned our mirrors, starting outside and then placing them in intervals into the ruins and down the stairs. We coordinated their angles so that the light of dawn would be sent to the stone when the sun rose.
“Will it be enough?” he asked me.
“Time will tell.”
We set up camp just outside the stone, eager for what dawn would bring, and slept lightly. I awoke to the sound of trickling water. The scholar and I leapt upright. A single shaft of dawn’s rays had fallen upon the surface of the obelisk. Now, instead of a sheer face of impassable stone, a great triangular passage had opened on the side of the obelisk exposed to the light. The material that once occupied the space of the triangular opening was nowhere to be seen, and was instead replaced by some sort of liquid barrier, strange waters that hung suspended, neither flowing nor falling as they should have.
“You were right!” the scholar whispered in awe.
“Well, I am Grand Inquisitor, after all.”
“Should we report this to the Emperor? Return with an escort?” he asked.
“I suppose we could do that,” I said. He smiled, taking my meaning, and we approached the opening. We both knew that this was dangerous. There was no telling what lay inside the stone. In retrospect, it was reckless, but we were men of science, fueled as much by personal fascination as the desperation of a losing war and a dwindling timeline. I collected a small sample of the strange liquid, stored it in my satchel, and then crossed through the barrier.
The liquid chilled my skin as I passed through it, yet left no wetness upon me, nor was my torch extinguished by its touch. Once I stood on the other side, I saw something which should not have been possible. The space inside the stone was an order of magnitude larger than the stone itself. I was suddenly standing in a vast hallway lined with many doors whose ceiling towered above me. The scholar crossed over soon after.
“My gods… how?” he said.
“Perhaps the answer lies further in. But we can only venture for half as far as our torches will burn. There seems to be no light in this place,” I cautioned.
Being young and unable to contain his curiosity, the scholar set out ahead. We traveled down the great hall, and by our small light each room that lined it was a yawning darkness. For a moment we stopped, uncertain of whether to push ahead or try one of the rooms. Then we heard her. Faintly, at a distance, we heard a woman weeping in the dark. My hair stood on end.
“But this stone has stood shut for centuries, there can’t be–” he began.
“Put out that torch!” I whispered sharply, dousing the flame of my own immediately.
“But we won’t see!”
“And it won’t see us!”
He fumbled, hesitated. The faint weeping drew nearer. It was coming from the opening nearest to our left.
“Put it out!”
At last, he drew a cloth from his satchel and doused the torch flame, plunging the hallway into total darkness, but not before I caught a glimpse of her, a pale woman veiled in white. One might have thought her a human if not for her elongated, needle-like fingers, and the flesh of her lower face… dripping red as if freshly flayed. As the light went out, the weeping stopped. We stood unmoving, unspeaking for what felt like an eternity. Then I heard the soft patter of her bare footsteps approaching once more from the room beside us. I dared not risk a whisper, and prayed the scholar knew to back away quietly as I began to. The footfalls were in the hall with us then, and the weeping began, more forcefully now, as if in greater distress. I edged backward, clamping my jaw, heart hammering. I could see nothing, neither where the scholar or the weeping woman stood.
“Alaric?” the faintest whisper of his voice sounded. My heart lurched into my throat. At once the weeping broke into a piercing shriek. I could feel myself scream, but could not hear it over the inhuman cry. It was so full of terror itself, so full of suffering. I broke and ran. I can only assume that the scholar screamed as well, though I could not discern it. By the time I reached the waters that had opened the stone, the darkened hall behind me was utterly silent. I did not turn to look back. I crashed into the room at the bottom of the staircase and whirled to face the obelisk. There was nothing to prevent the creature from following me… nothing except the mirrors. I bolted toward the nearest one and struck it to the ground, shattering it. When I turned to face the stone once more, there was no opening, no strange water. Its face was a sheer wall of impassable black.
– Alaric von Beller,
Grand Inquisitor of the Thacean Empire
Unlike most other undead, Banshees were not once part of the realm of the living. They did not once draw breath, nor were their spirits ever bound by flesh and bone. They are wholly native to the realm of the dead.