The Isle of Forgotten Dreams
Oracle of Darkened Spirits and Keeper of the Last Word
Corvus spent his early years with his family, a group of tengu bandits known as the “Blackbeaks”. They raided successfully, using the border between two enemy kingdoms to avoid pursuit by guard patrols and personal skill to outwit adventurers seeking a bounty. Corvus was considered generally unremarkable. His interest in history and the dark arts wasn’t considered terribly useful to a group that lived by and respected the sword. He was content to patch up the wounded and claim the occasional looted texts for further study. All that changed one day, after a disasterous raid on a small, but well defended caravan.
The survivors returned, severely wounded and far fewer in number than expected. The group leader was most displeased by the haul taken in: a small chest of gold, a wooden staff and a heavy tome. The caravan guards had proven to be moldering corpses, animated by fell magic. The only living person, a robed human, had screamed threats in a strange language seeming less afraid and more angry when they killed him.
Corvus was immediately drawn to the book. Even with his rudimentary skills, he could tell that it radiated power. The staff as well, though to a much lesser degree. Unfortunately, since the raid had proven so costly, it was decided that everything was to be sold as quickly as possible. Even still, Corvus eyed the book greedily and made plans to secretly leaf through it during his turn on watch.
The book proved to be a diary of sorts, written in a strange language that Corvus could only read a little at a time. Staring at an entire page gave the impression of a jumbled mess of complex characters, but as he focused on each one individually, meaning began to unravel from the text. The story spelled out in those weathered pages told of a powerful woman, versed in magic darker than the blackest night, and how she finally rose to be the ruler of a distant land. A cursed place, where the dead walked and the sun never touched more than briefly with feeble light.
Corvus lost all sense of time as the woman’s accounting of her struggle and final victory drew him in completely. She had been born a slave, given to a nobleman as a plaything barely in her teens and finally wound up in a royal harem after catching the eye of a decadent ruler. As the years wore on, she took to studying magic and found it came to her naturally. Her story grew darker and more twisted as she made every sacrifice imaginable, performed unforgivable crimes, giving herself completely to unspeakable entities, all in exchange for knowledge and power. The end result was absolute authority over the nation. Her power was so great that she openly deposed her former master and smote all who rose in opposition. She called forth the dead both recent and ancient in untold thousands. They clamoured to do her will. The very earth beneath her feet changed at her wim. She took the title of “Empress” and ruled that distant land furthermore without challenge.
Corvus failed to notice the calls and cries of his brethren as the pages turned. Even as the final screams of the dying were cut short, he did not rise. His eyes remained fixed on the final page. With a mind lost amidst a swirling maelstrom of possibilities, Corvus didn’t even notice the sound of the tent flap opening. Soft footsteps approached him casually and a hand came to rest on his shoulder. Another hand, decidedly female, slowly closed the book cradled in his claws, finally breaking his reverie. He turned, blinking several times and met eyes of green and gold. Eyes that read his life in an instant and measured his worth with cold calculating accuracy.
“The magic in that book….It called to you.” His voice trembled.
“It is my song. Only the chosen will hear it. Only the willing will read it.” Lips parted into a sardonic smile. “And perhaps one day, you will understand it.” The woman turned to leave. “Come along Corvus. There is much more for you to learn and the night is young.”
Without thinking, Corvus rose on shakey legs and embraced his new destiny.
“Yes, my Empress.”