Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Long Forgotten Tasks

A concept in fantasy monsterhood which I've always liked is the idea of creatures whose lives once had meaning but no longer do.

An example to explain what I mean: the first Viriconium book (I do rather seem to be harping on about the series recently; it must be getting around time for me to re-read it) contained a three-eyed, horribly powerful race of monsters who were discovered hidden in the icy North. The things were stronger and quicker than any human, and once reawakened they ravaged the entire world, killing anybody they came across and always leaving behind a corpse with the top of the skull sliced off and the brain removed.

Eventually over the course of the book it became clear that the things were automatons, created by an ancient, forgotten society for whom war was a kind of game. Part of the rules of that game were that the brains of the dead could be harvested and given new bodies, ready to fight on; the three-eyed automatons were vehicles for that brain-harvesting process. Even though millennia had passed, the society in question had faded into oblivion and the task had lost all meaning, the automatons knew nothing else except their gruesome work and once reawakened from the ice continued to pursue it with mindless efficiency.

At the same time, I'm reminded of the short story I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison. A central facet of that story is that the evil computer, AM, hates humanity at least partly because humanity created it for a purpose which is no longer relevant. It has lost its original purpose and now has no reason left to exist, but it has no choice but to continue to exist, for eternity.

These two different lines of thought have merged with another parallel line in this post I wrote, on Doppelgangers, and given me the idea for a small group of Doppelgangers who were created centuries ago by an evil archmage for some purpose or other. That archmage long ago died, but the Doppelgangers live on, still trying to perform the tasks - assassinations, spying, arson, theft - that he set for them even though they know that he is dead. They do this simply because there is nothing else for them to do and they know no other way to live; the desire and ability to create, to love, to enjoy, is not in them; it is not why they were created. Time has made them increasingly bitter and spiteful, as they have come to hate their dead maker for dying and depriving their life of any real meaning, and to hate the humans they live amongst for their weakness and frailties. At the same time jealousy for ordinary humans' simple and contented lives threatens to consume them with self-loathing.

The Doppelgangers

Flick, the Leader
Chaotic Evil Doppelganger
HD: 6+1
THAC0: 14
AC: 2
Number of Attacks: 2
Damage/Attack: By weapon, or 1d4/1d4

Flick has become the ostensible leader of the group. Stronger and more intelligent than the others, he controls them through a combination of manipulation, cruelty and magnanimity. He takes a horrible pleasure in spreading the chaos that his dead master desired, especially in murder; the power to take life is a heady drug to him.

Gin and Bear, the Twins
Chaotic Evil Doppelgangers
HD: 4+1 / 5+1
THAC0: 16 / 15
AC: 2 / 3
Number of Attacks: 2
Damage/Attack: By weapon / By weapon +3

Gin and Bear were created on the same day by the archmage, and so are called the Twins. They are bonded to each other in some sense, though not by love or loyalty - made from the same stuff, they act like two halves of the same soul, much as they wish it was not so. Gin, the female, is small and quick; Bear, the male, is strong and tough.

Rat, the Runt
Chaotic Evil Doppelganger
HD: 4+1
THAC0: 16
AC: 3
Number of Attacks: 2
Damage/Attack: By Weapon

Rat is the youngest of the four. Bullied incessantly by the other three, he takes his frustrations out on his victims in turn; he is a brutal sadist, even more so than the others, and his worst excesses have occasionally almost led to his discovery.

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