The Fall of the Fiun
Posted By Ibn on 10-Dec-2004
by Brandon Paul "meanbeard" Salinas
From the journal of Carlo di Cenza
The most difficult thing to get used to in this new world is the varied abundance of sentient life. On Ispar, there are only humans. We shared the world with animals and plants, but we were the only creatures blessed with true intelligence. This new world is far different. In my time here, I have encountered scores of alien societies. Lugians, Drudges, Banderlings, Ruschk, and even the walking corpses of the undead roam these lands. Most of these races are hostile, choosing to engage in bloody combat rather than civilized discourse when meeting a new race. The Fiun, however, are quite a different breed.
When the Fiun first approached our city, we assumed they were hostile. We'd been attacked before. Once by the Drudges of the forest and once by Ruschk raiders from the glaciers to the north. We'd grown understandably wary of strangers. So when we first spied the Fiun emerging from the surrounding forests, we called the alarm and rallied the town's defenses.
There were five of them, a number which meant nothing to me then, but which I have since discovered has a special significance to the Fiun. They stood in a line, bereft of armor and weapon, and simply gazed at our city. Their stillness allowed us a long moment to take in the sight of them, a chance we are rarely afforded in these harsh, blood-soaked lands.
The Fiun are slender, frail creatures. They look very similar to one another; so similar that it is quite difficult to tell them apart. They wear robes of exceedingly intricate patterns and vibrant colors. Their eyes are large and black and quite hypnotic. You have to remember to look away from time to time when speaking to them, lest you lose yourself in those eyes. Their pale, grayish skin has an eerie, mystical quality. And what's even stranger on this world of violence and death is that they carry no weapons.
Even so, their sudden presence on our horizon unnerved us. We've come across too many magic-casting creatures on these islands to suddenly lower our guard when confronted with a weaponless foe. We all stood in position, waiting for their attack. But the Fiun did not move. Sir Bellas had no idea what to do. Normally, he would have ordered an assault, but these five slender creatures simply stood before us in silence. We had no idea what was going to happen or what these creatures wanted from us. The frigid wind froze us in our armor while our two peoples simply stared at one another across the open plain.
After what seemed like hours, the Fiun finally stirred. They pressed their hands to their chests and bowed. They waited five seconds, then rose. The Fiun in the center stepped away from the line and approached us.
Sir Bellas raised his shield and readied his sword. He opened his mouth, presumably to order the creature to halt, but the Duke placed his hand on my knight's shoulder and silenced him. The Duke and Eleonora stepped out from our defensive line and approached the Fiun. I had to stifle a nervous cry. Neither the Duke nor his daughter was armed or armored. Our archers would have to carefully lob their arrows over the Duke should the strange creatures choose to attack. But for some reason, the leaders of House Bellenesse trusted these alien beings. The rest of us would have to trust that our Duke knew what he was doing.
The Duke stopped three paces from the Fiun leader. The Fiun placed his hand on the Duke's chest. The knights around me looked to Sir Bellas. They were clearly uncomfortable with this strange creature laying hands on our Duke. I could feel our knights willing Sir Bellas to order the attack. But Sir Bellas held his ground. He is a skilled bodyguard, but more than that he is an obedient servant to the Duke.
The Fiun reached forward and gently took the Duke's hand. He then raised that hand and placed it against the ornate robes which covered his own, slender chest. They spoke quietly to one another for several minutes. We could not hear their words; could not even hear their voices for the distance between us and them. But we could see their faces. And what we say was joy.
After a long while, the Duke turned to us and said, "Friends of Silyun, do not be afraid." He turned to the Fiun with whom he had just spent so much time talking. They shared a genuine smile. Then he turned back to us and proclaimed, "Welcome Rehgus. Welcome the Fiun. They are our friends."
The next several days were the most exciting of my life. We welcomed the five Fiun into our city, showering them with food and gifts, peppering them with questions about their society and origins. Soon after we accepted them thus, five more arrived. Then five more after that. Soon, we were host to more than sixty Fiun. We had never been so close to such alien life before without having to fight them. They found us as fascinating as we found them. They spoke to all of us, not just to the Duke and his daughter. And they demonstrated a startling command of the Roulean language, though their phrasings were a bit stilted. We found them to be most pleasant as well, full of warmth and emotion. Soon after their arrival, we began to forge very real friendships.
The Fiun I grew closest to called himself Luhjre. We struck up an immediate friendship and rarely spent any time apart. He was fascinated with my tales of life on Ispar. No matter how often I described the lands of Aluvia, Gharu'n, Roulea, Sho, Milantos, and Silveran, he never grew tired or bored. We stayed awake well into the small hours of the night on many occasions - Luhjre pressing me for more and more details about Ispar, myself answering his questions as openly as possible. He loved the idea of Ispar, and I loved sharing that idea with one who appreciated its beauty as much as I did.
But when discussion turned to his own world, our conversations took a much grimmer tone.
The arrival of the Fiun was much like our own. They, too, fled a great evil. They, too, stood witness as their civilization crumbled around them. But their evil - their destruction - was self-inflicted. It was their own pride and quest for discovery that shattered their society.
The Fiun Rehgus was considered by many to be the greatest mage in the Fiun world. He was the one who crafted magical cures for the plagues that ravaged their lands. He was the one who taught others the means by which they extended their lives for centuries. And he was the one that stopped the "fire that fell from the sky." When Luhjre spoke of this last subject - on which I have never been able to coax him to elaborate - he spoke with the reverence I have seen in the eyes of the most ardent Karlun disciple. Clearly, Rehgus was nigh unto a god in the eyes of the Fiun.
But Rehgus' failing was his obsession with the creation of life. Like us, the Fiun were the only intelligent creatures on their world. But unlike us, they lived for incredibly long spans of time. Hundreds of years, from what I can tell. They had much longer to contemplate their place in the world. Much longer to ponder what great meaning their lives might hold.
Rehgus, along with a group of like-minded Fiun, came to believe themselves gods. After centuries of pondering the mysteries of their world, he and his council became convinced that their duty was to create that spark of life which fueled their own existence. They felt that some greater entity had given them the power to create new sentient creatures with which they could share the beauties of reality.
So they crafted a plan to take a common creature, something that appears to have been the equivalent of a feathered Isparian dog, and transform it into a sentient being. To that end, Rehgus led five groups of five mages in a spell that lasted five full days. My friend Luhjre was one of these mages.
Rehgus' council retreated to a secluded valley amongst a chain of low-lying hills. In those days, their cities covered the majority of the world. But there were still some barren areas where they could practice their spells without interruption. And for a five-day spell, such a space was most necessary.
The mages stood in a circle five rows deep and bound the creature with a set of powerful magic spells. The animal slept peacefully for five days, seemingly unaware of the spell which worked its way into its body. For five days, everything progressed as intended. The magics that were expected to take hold, did. The components that were expected to be consumed, were. So when the fifth day arrived, everyone expected the spell to be a success. They fully expected the dog to rise, examine its surroundings, and speak. But, unfortunately, that is not what happened.
When the creature woke it looked at the surrounding mages. It tried to move, but the magical bonds held it in place. The Fiun peered into the beast's eyes, hoping to see a hint of intelligence in the creature's soul, but there was none to be found. It merely looked back at them with the blank look of a dumb animal. The Fiun feared their spell a failure, their efforts wasted. But as they began to despair, some small change did occur.
The beast coughed. It was a subtle cough at first - barely even noticeable - but that cough soon turned into a strangled choke, as though something were caught in its throat. The creature coughed and hacked in an effort to clear the obstruction, but made no progress. The coughing got worse. The creature barked and wheezed with increasing violence until its entire body shuddered and bucked, shedding feathers with the ferocity of its convulsions. The Fiun rose to their feet and exchanged worried looks of concern.
That was when the creature screamed.
The animal shrieked as though it were being ripped apart from the inside. Something was changing within the beast. Something that burned like fire. It was but a moment before that change extended to the creature's outer body as well.
It began to grow. Its torso puffed and expanded. Its flesh began to shred. Blood ran down its sides and legs. It screamed and screamed and then suddenly, its flesh was ripped from its body. The fleshless creature howled as its limbs snapped and twisted. Its jaw cracked; its mouth grew larger. Hundreds of sharp teeth pushed through its gums. Its forelimbs withered and fell from its body, leaving behind great bloody cavities. A new skin began to form, but this one lacked the plumage of its previous flesh. It was mottled and blistered, covered in pustules and boils. The creature thrashed wildly beneath the bonds of the binding spell.
The mages were terrified. They screamed in horror at the destruction they had wrought. They lost their concentration.
The bonds were dropped.
The creature fled immediately. It barreled through the circle, knocking the mages aside, and ran into the darkened hills. The Fiun were left to endure the creature's shrieks as it fled into the night.
Many in the council fell to their knees and wept. They were not simply filled with the shame of failure - they were grief-stricken at the agony they had caused another being. The Fiun may possess something of a god-complex, but they are nothing if not compassionate.
While the council devolved into a confused, wailing mess, Rehgus remained calm. He assumed the creature would die soon enough, but he sent two mages after it to end its suffering as quickly as possible.
Several minutes after their departure, the council heard more screams. But these were not the screams of the animal. They were the screams of the Fiun.
Fear now mingled with the shame of their defeat. They knew not what might have harmed their fellow mages - for at the time the Fiun knew nothing of predators - but those screams filled them with the primal dread that flares up within us all when faced with nature's ravenous hunger. Rehgus went to investigate, and he took the entire council with him. The group fanned out over the hills, searching in parties of two and three.
It was Luhjre's group who found the missing mages. When he told me about the bodies - the condition in which he found them - he dropped his head in anguish. He wept for several minutes, unable to form words. I have never seen anyone so aggrieved. I've met many whose loved ones were slaughtered in battle, many whose misguided actions ended the lives of innocent people, and many who have been so personally ravaged by war that they simply could not comprehend breathing another breath. But I had never met anyone who held himself responsible for the death of his civilization. Not until now.
The bodies were ripped apart. There was nothing left but a mangled mess of meat and bone. At first, Luhjre believed he had found the remains of the beast, but when he saw the tattered robes of the Fiun on the ground nearby, he became aware of the horrible truth. This mass of gore was all that remained of his friends.
The creature, however, was nowhere to be found.
Two days later, the beast made itself known. Somehow - and the Fiun are unclear as to how this happened - the creature multiplied. When next they saw it, there were hundreds of them. They descended on Luhjre's city in a swarm. Gone was the agonized wail of the wounded beast. In its place was a mindless hunger that knew no bounds. These creatures did not merely destroy - they ate. It did not matter what stood in their way; they attacked structures of wood and stone with as much esurience as they did the animals and Fiun who fled for their lives. In a matter of hours, Luhjre's city was lost. Over ten thousand Fiun lost their lives.
Along with a handful of others, Luhjre was able to escape. But the beasts pursued them for countless miles. Eventually, Luhjre lost the creatures, but by that time his band of over one hundred escapees had been whittled down to a mere seventeen survivors.
While Luhjre and his comrades hid in a cave high in the mountains, the creatures multiplied at a frighteningly rapid rate and laid waste to every other city on the face of the world. The Fiun tried their best to fight back, but they had never had need for magics of war. They were healers and creators; they were not fighters. Within a month, the monsters covered the globe. Every Fiun city was destroyed. Seven million Fiun were dead. Those who were not killed either went into hiding or met a far worse fate.
The Fiun have long believed that the seat of their intelligence lies in a gland in the back of their neck. This is where their 'soul' resides, if you care to use such a word. There is something about this gland that the creatures are attracted to - something that sends them into a frenzy. Should the gland be ripped from a Fiun's neck, the Fiun usually dies. But those that do survive the attack are driven mad by the loss of this gland - by the loss of their 'soul.' They become wild, mindless beasts bent on destruction and violence. They are every bit as frenzied as the creatures that ravaged them, though far less physically powerful.
Over the course of several months, Luhjre and his comrades ventured out of their cave and searched for other survivors. It was difficult going. The beasts could sense the Fiun over great distances. They gave chase to Luhjre's band of survivors and slaughtered many of his comrades. But over time, Luhjre's clan grew in size. He found other pockets of survivors and led them in search of still more living Fiun. Eventually, they came across another large band of Fiun, this one led by Rehgus himself.
Rehgus led the great clan into a massive network of underground passages. By this point, they were too large to continue scouring the world as one unit. They made camp in these caves and sent small groups on regular hunts for more Fiun. Few of those groups ever returned.
They debated for weeks on how to free their world from the tyranny of the beasts. Numerous suggestions were bandied about, but none were equal to the threat which ravaged the Fiun world. Even the great Rehgus was bereft of any useful solution. Eventually, the Fiun realized that there was nothing they could do. The monsters multiplied at a frightening rate. And even if the Fiun could find a way to destroy the creatures, there was no hope of rebuilding Fiun society with so few of them left alive.
They fell into a dark despair. They stopped eating; they stopped talking. Many of them left the underground passages to meet their doom on the surface. Few who left even bothered to bid farewell. After a time, Rehgus himself called a meeting to discuss the future of the Fiun. His proposal was grim. They would all enter the wilds and surrender themselves to the beasts. Their time had come to an end. The world of the Fiun was over, and they had brought that destruction on themselves. Death was the only proper punishment for such a transgression as that which the Fiun had wrought.
Rehgus seemed surprised at how quickly the other Fiun agreed with him.
They hugged one another, wept for their fallen world, and began their final trek to the mouth of the barren caverns.
But as they began their journey, something happened. Something they could never have expected. In the cave behind them, a purple ring of energy silently swam into being.