It's said that those of our kind suffer when separated from the pulse of humanity. Entombed in our own meat, encased in metal, endowed with thought and reason but not free will. Told we're 'the heat of the Empire's anger.' Glyphbound slave-knights. 'Immortals.'
Nothing can be further from the truth. Suffering is a distant memory. The misery of long campaign humps, the nightmares of watching your friends die clashing against visions of every man or woman you've killed coming back to get you, all of that went away when I was inducted and given my makeover. From then on, I didn't give a fuck. About anything. While all the other slaves and civics trembled before death; to us, death was a two-bout pushover. The token worship of the death-god always felt like a joke. We didn't belong to him. He couldn't touch us.
It took some time for the Empire to realize that this was, in itself, a problem. Robbed of consequence and emotion, existence lost the sting of relevance. Immortals started going crazy. And since their only skill was causing damage, they became unstoppable liabilities. We called it going hollow or becoming 'hollow men.'
There was no cure for hollowing. So the empire did what it always does and brute-forced a solution. The glyph bindings were intensified, to the point where they could control basic movement. As the Ersatz Ones' ancient technology was refined, it could hold entire programmed combat sequences. Finally, the Empire just threw its hands up and made hollow men their mainstay, while the remaining Immortals were left in command but watched closely. Over the decades, some lost themselves to madness; others gained social status. One was even in line for Emperor. Some like me were sent on long range expeditions, to cause damage abroad and not at home. It was on one such mission that I fell to the illithids, and their own Ersatz tools, which kept me trapped for close to a millennium.
I know not how I kept my sanity through this. But just because the Empire's ceased to exist, it doesn't mean the problem is gone. My bindings were stripped away. And now that the Empire is gone, I truly have nothing to exist for. I could become hollow next week or tomorrow or fifteen minutes from now. And when you eventually strike me down, I will return for seconds and thirds and so on and so on, until attrition reduces your standing forces to piles of meat.
That's what you're tempting with knighthood and service to your tiny province, your 'Transdariania,' your 'Elgaria' and your band of inveterate schemers, your 'Watchful Eye.' So tell me, Lord Protector, can you look me in the eye, which beheld more carnage than twelve generations of your ancestors combined, and speak the words that would give me purpose anew without lying to both of us? That I should lord over a bunch of peasants in a forest whose name literally means "miserable" and climb your banal social hierarchy and kill in your name, and that this should give me the salve of purpose? That a handful of armor suits whose technology you don't even understand should be enough for me to play condotierro?
For I am this close to finding another source of darkness, like the one that destroyed the Empire, or consumed Mhernettla, and pledging my glaive to the closest thing to a godlike force that truly has power. Convince me otherwise or stand aside.
"I am considering it, Lord Protector."
Drache is the present-day capital of the Kingdom of Arangoth and lies at the mouth of the River Darian, surrounded by the city docks all along the waterfront. Click here for information on the various suburbs and areas of Drache. You can also click here to view a sketched map of the city.
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