The Old Ones
Nameless Queen Yama
Heresy can be defined as knowledge which corrupts merely by being known, even if that knowledge is never spoken aloud, acted upon, or even consciously thought about. In heretical times it becomes necessary for the Church to excise the most pestilent elements.
For blasphemy and written heresies, Obliteration is easy: burn the books, then silence the people who know the contents (also, possibly by burning). Smart witch hunters never read the books that they are tasked to destroy. Most of the books that have been Obliterated by the Church are history books.
For small things that are not written down (embarassments, moments of papal carelessness) it is even easier. The bureaucracies of heaven have many levers by which to subtly rotate the world.
But that’s books. It is more difficult to Obliterate famous people, to say nothing of a powerful and well-liked queen. There was a dark time in the Empire when the Electoral Monarchy broke down, and a hereditary dynasty ruled a great part of the fractured Empire from its seat in Wissenland. Though some monarchs of this age were just and fair, there is a great black mark on history as a result of just one. This time is not spoken, nor written about.
Nameless Queen Yama
After her Obliteration, she was the Nameless Queen.
If the church had their way, she would just be a blank spot in the list of regents, an empty line between her husband and her brother-in-law, the two kings who bracketed her own regency.
But Queen Yama can never be truly nameless. How can the Empire forget the name that it knew best?
They called her cold, calculating, and ruthless. All of these things were true, of course, but what her detractors ignored or omitted was that she was intensely committed to her people’s well-being. Her spider-like machinations were woven selflessly.
She did not weep when her people starved; she negotiated grain imports.
And when grain merchants tried to inflate the prices to exploit her kingdom’s desperation, she had them quietly beheaded. She would feed her people at any price.
And when grain merchants tried to charge her fair prices for the grain, a few of them were found without their heads as well. The Empire was poor, and couldn’t afford even a fair price.
The wilderness was beaten and plowed. Homesteaders buried the corpses of decapitated dragons and giants. As much as her census-takers could tell, life was objectively better for her subjects.
She was deeply unpopular.
Not that she cared. She would drag the peasants into a new golden age by the heel, kicking and screaming, whining and uncomprehending. Such was her nobility and her arrogance.
In her campaign to stamp out nepotism, she removed local authorities that people knew and trusted. The process of optimizing agriculture meant forced relocation before famine followed the land’s wasting. And she practiced international politics with Machiavellian hyper-aggressiveness; while there was never an open war during her reign, there were many brutal skirmishes and preemptive strikes.
The undead were a point of contention between her and her private bishop. She believed that they could be put to good uses. Undead soldiers would save the lives of the living, and undead laborers would work without tiring.
Her bishop disagreed with her, along with nearly every other person that heard her speak such ideas in private. Even as speculation, they bordered on heresy.
In the end, it wasn’t the church that brought her down, it was politics. She was found guilty of falsely prolonging her remarriage or abdication. Women were not allowed to get too comfortable on the throne.
She was arrested, tried, decapitated, and her brother-in-law was installed on the throne.
Nine days later she returned as a lich, committed the mortal sin of regicide, and sat back down on her throne.
It took another four years, a crusade, and countless additional deaths to topple her. The Brotherhood of the Conduit finally slew her, pinning her to her throne with a half-dozen holy swords. The Order of Kites destroyed her castle. Some of the stones were blown as far northward as the shores of Perenos Lako.
Queen Yama had been practicing magic since the age of nine, when she stole the spellbook from the court wizard. Lichdom was merely the logical conclusion to her life; there was too much work to do, and only a single lifetime to live it.
Normally the Church has no trouble permanently destroying a lich, with their great power over the soul and the afterlife (where they are perhaps more powerful in the afterlife than they are on the mortal plane).
So, the Nameless Queen did something very clever. She stopped being a lich. She would reincarnate.
This was another backup plan, a contingency to a contingency. She would be reborn as a new baby, complete with all of her memories, personality, and deadly intent.
But the Church discovered this plot as well, and it was quashed.
Or at least, halfway quashed. It couldn’t stop her soul from reincarnating (too many backdoors in hell, too many tunnels through the afterlife), so she was merely divided.
Since her death of impalement atop her throne, Queen Yama has been resurrecting in pieces.
Somewhere in a dusty barn, a child is born with her liver.
Somewhere else, in a frost-rimed tower, another child is born with her eyes.
Aboard a leaky barge, another baby is born with her delicate hands.
And in a misty forest of tall oaks on a distant island, a newly born gnomish infant lets out a piercing cry with her voice.
If all of her parts are ever allowed to join together in one place, they will rejoin, and Queen Yama will live once more.
Nationalist necromancers, mostly led by the Queensisters.
These are women who each contain a different part of the Nameless Queen. They eventually learn to recognize each other upon sight, but remember nothing else of their past life as the lich-queen. They are of all ages, and of all walks of life. They are all capable of sorcery. Many of them are necromancers.
Although they would never describe themselves as such, they revere the Thrice-Killed Queen as they would a god. (She herself spurned religion, and was fond of mocking it, a crime that would have resulted in death for anyone save a queen.)
In the style of a goddess, her symbols are:
- the guillotine that she used to bring order.
- the scythe that her people used at harvest.
-the old flag of Wissenland, the country that will return.
-the tiger’s eye necklace that she wore.
St. Cascarrion’s Eternal Hunt
The Church does not think that the return of Queen Yama would be a good idea. To ensure that this event does not occur, they have dispatched St. Cascarrion, leader of the Third Lantern (the official arm of the witch hunters).
St. Cascarrion is the only “living” saint. While the title is normally only bestowed on the dead, Cascarrion is allowed an exception because he is also among the dead: he is a vampire.
He has led the Church’s witch hunters for centuries. He teaches his students how to destroy the creatures of the night (and he teaches his new recruits to fear them).
His mind and body are bound by over a hundred separate enchantments, each maintained by a different monk in a different monastery (most of these are doubly and triply redundant). His mind has been erased on multiple occasions. There is not much of the original Cascarrion left.
His history has been taken from him, part of the punishment for his heinous crimes. However, when the Church feels to need to bait him with an extra incentive, he is sometimes allowed to look at small items from his past. A pocketwatch. A locket. A war banner. A woman’s brooch.
According to his contract, he has four thousand years of servitude left. He intends to finish that contract.
Most of his time is spend hunting down and eradicating the pieces of Yama.
He carries with him a portfolio containing hundreds of sketches of Queen Yama. When he finds a young woman whose nose matches that of the Queen, he will carefully inspect her body. Once his inquisition is satisfied, he cuts off her nose.
Sometimes the Church is successful in saving the life of the host, cruelly parasitized by soul-pieces that they never invited into their body. Sometimes the lungs can be excised and new ones grown in their place. Sometimes the girl walks away without any scars. Usually they do not.
St. Cascarrion mostly catches the Queensisters when they are very young. Girls. They are the least cautious.
If he finds this distasteful, he does not offer an opinion. He never offers an opinion on anything.
It is rumored that the long centuries of obsessing over the Nameless Queen has caused the ancient vampire to fall in love with her. He has nothing to look at but her portraits, and no lifelong acquaintances except her. Thus it is reasoned.
The Astrologer Incident
The Astrologer was a ship, chartered by Pope Stochastic III. It was attacked by by the Lich Queen in the waters outside Cauterus.
While she has never succeeded in fully collecting her disparate body parts, in this case the Queen managed to collect most of them. The pope was killed by the limbless, eyeless, incomplete resurrection of the Nameless One.
She lived for another three days before her lack of kidneys became unsurvivable, and her own blood poisoned her.
And incomplete soul cannot become a lich, since lichdom is already the process by which a soul becomes incomplete. She is stuck with this resurrection scheme.
Yet, war stirs in Wissenland, and its people bleed.Some have the faintest glimmer of a memory of a time in which this was not so….