The basements of Motavia Academy were dry and dusty, used for
storing items that might be of value someday but were not desired for
immediate study or display by the Academy's professors. Many books
were stored in the three-level cavernous vaults; thankfully Motavia's
arid environment kept them free of damp and mold. The ancient advanced
civilization that had existed in Motavia prior to the "Great Collapse"
of more than seven hundred years ago must have had its own methods of
storing and retrieving information, but those means had been lost along
with its technology. The printing press was a new, or perhaps more
likely rediscovered, invention and any manuscript from the
intervening centuries was a minor treasure worth keeping by the
Any book revealed traces about the culture that produced it, and one
of Professor Karl Hoffmann's habits was to select a new book from the
archives every so often and read it, making notes as he did about the
underlying cultural assumptions and how they augmented--or conflicted
with--the Academy's understanding of the book's period. It was the old
scholar's principal hobby.
The flame in Hoffmann's candle-lantern guttered as he strode through
the stone halls in search of something new. He wanted something, this
time, that would stir his imagination, something more connected to his
studies than most of his choices were.
A glint of reflected light caught the professor's eye. He glanced
in its direction and found a heavy, leather-bound tome, its metal
fittings unrusted and untarnished, beckoning to him from a laden shelf.
Curious, Hoffmann took it down. Inset in the cover was an unusual
sigil made of the same metal as the fittings, likewise untarnished.
Hoffmann thought at first that some colleague had polished the volume,
but then realized that the metal was in fact laconia. Laconia was a
mineral not native to Motavia, thought to be the most precious
substance in the Algo solar system. There were said to be mystical
influences over laconia, and it was believed to have an affinity for
the power that was manifested through techniques.
Some of Hoffmann's colleagues believed all such stories to be no
more than old wives' tales, products of the superstition and fear that
had gripped the shattered remnants of Motavian society in the wake of
the Collapse. Yet, there was evidence of magical legends dating back
not just a few centuries but thousands of years, to the days when Parma
was a planet rather than a ring of asteroids around Algo.
The sigil in laconia was an intricate arabesque of sweeping curves
and sudden, sharp angles that beckoned the eye to follow along its
pattern almost hypnotically. It was only with a great effort that
Hoffmann tore his gaze away and opened the cover. The frontispiece was
illuminated with an inch-wide border of more of the same patterns,
though these did not possess the compelling qualities of the rune on
the cover. The title was written in bold, even arrogant calligraphy,
and read: The Testament of Xayn.
Eagerly, Hoffmann began to leaf through the pages. The handwriting
was easy to read, even though the ink had faded and the sentence
structure was reminiscent of six centuries ago. The content,
though...superstitious cults had flourished during the past centuries,
and this work appeared to be an autobiographical work by the high
priest of such a cult!
For a man like the professor, a find like this was of immeasurable
value. Hoffmann was a folklorist; legend and superstition were the
meat and drink of his studies. Learning how the belief system set down
in this book was created, and whether or not any of it had lingered on
into modern culture, was a task he relished. Tucking the
Testament under his arm, the scholar hurried out of the dark and
After securing the antique volume in his study, Hoffmann checked the
archival records. Motavia Academy kept careful records of where all of
its finds had come from; it was vital to proper scholarship. The
Testament, it turned out, had been a gift from a wealthy
Kadarite forty years ago, a large number of other items of antiquarian
interest belonging to her uncle. The town of Kadary and its environs
were well-known in the annals of myth for being especially hag-ridden
with ghosts and spirits, often of an unusually malign nature. This, of
course, only piqued the professor's interest more. Could not, he asked
himself, cults such as the one the mysterious Xayn had belonged to
explain why so many bogey stories endured in Kadary to this day?
At some point chemical tests would have to be performed on the paper
and ink, perhaps even the binding, to verify that the Testament
was in fact of the era it had purported to be, but those could wait.
Professor Hoffmann was too eager to wait any longer; the urge to delve
into the secrets of the book was upon him in its full glory. He
returned to his office, sat down in his comfortable, overstuffed chair,
and opened the book.
The pages of the Testament were in remarkably good condition,
flaking a bit at the edges but no more. The book was in vastly better
condition than might have been expected, which might have meant that it
had been stored carefully by previous owners, or might mean something
less pleasant. Still, who on Motavia would use the nearly priceless
material laconia, which wasn't even found on the planet, to create a
forgery? Forgers worked for money, and it would surely have been easier
and more legal to simply sell the laconia! Perhaps it was not a fraud,
but a copy, done to preserve the knowledge of an older edition.
Then, the professor was caught by the text. He forgot all his
speculations about the Testament's origins, and instead delved
into its content. The book appeared to be a mix between scripture and
autobiography, telling the story of how the Xayn of its title had come
to experience the revelations that led him to his belief in
superstitious rites and what the nature of those revelations was.
Hoffmann was familiar with many occult beliefs of the past, from the
transcendental to the apocalyptic, but what he read in the
Testament had a strange, compelling nature to it that he had
never encountered before. He read on eagerly, the words burning
themselves into his brain, pausing only to light a lamp as the sun sank
below the horizon.
The substance of Xayn's beliefs were ghastly. He spoke of an
immensely powerful, utterly evil god or race of gods that watched and
waited beyond Algo. Apparently, this dark force had been sealed away
by some other deity eons ago, but when the stars were right it could
reenter the dimensions of the living and strive to tear away the seal.
The Dark One or Dark Ones (Xayn was disturbingly vague on this point)
was, moreover, served by minions that partook both of mortal nature and
its own, and while these minions were not free either, through the
proper rituals a doorway could be opened to bring small numbers of them
Most frightening of all Xayn's claims, though, was that part of
the seal had been destroyed already! When next the stars turned and
the darkness rose again, it would be able to shatter its damaged prison
and would emerge at last to reign supreme over the universe! The great
mass of all the people in Algo would be exterminated, save, or so Xayn
claimed, only those who turned to the worship of the Dark Force. The
time it would come was unknown; it might be decades, centuries, or
millenia away, but it was coming.
Why Hoffmann found this message so chilling he could not say.
End-of-the-world beliefs were common in that period; the series of
disasters that marked the Great Collapse were enough to convince anyone
that the final doom could be at hand. Any number of raving prophets
had gathered large cult followings by preaching apocalyptic terrors
that, of course, only they knew the secrets to combat. So, Xayn's
message shouldn't have been notable, even though it was in his own hand
rather than filtered through a historian's perspective.
Yet notable it was. The imagery of the great inhuman wizards called
Le-Faw-Gans, ghoulish risen corpses, twin-headed demons, worms that
writhed in the spaces between dimensions, the insectoid Gy-Laguiah and
Lw-Addmer...the litany of monstrosities made his mind reel. The notion
that such horrors could underlie Algo's past...
Then Hoffmann turned the page, and came to the Testament's
TO THE UNBELIEVER
Should there be one reading this Testament who doubts the
truth of these revelations, then I say unto that one, repeat ye the
following chant, and let the scales of ignorance drop from thine
Hoffmann trembled as he read the words, which appeared to be in some
ancient tongue not spoken by Parmanian tongues for centuries.
Did he dare?
Common sense told him no, that only a fool would probe into such
dread knowledge willingly. His fear, though, drove him onwards. The
professor could not get Xayn's words out of his head; he feared for his
sanity if he could not find some way to expel those thoughts. The
ritual could be a way--if it failed, then surely it would prove that
Xayn's tales of Dark Force were no more than a lunatic's ravings.
But what if it did not fail?
Hoffmann rose from his desk and shut the door. The heavy book in
his hands, he began to chant. His voice naturally fell into a sonorous
rhythm as he spoke the words, which had been spelled phonetically. It
was in an eerie tone that hinted at hidden things, lurking and watching
from the shadows. Hoffmann could feel the mounting anticipation in his
blood; he felt as if he were standing on the brink of some great
Then, the chant was done. Nothing happened. The professor's heart
pounded rapidly, but slowly the tension began to ebb, the nervousness
that had eaten at him from the very moment he found the book slowly
leaving him. What a fool he'd been, to believe there might be reality
in these crazed stories!
The flame in the lamp seemed to shrink in upon itself, nearly going
out. At first Hoffmann thought it was only that the oil reservoir was
empty, but then he caught sight of the shape manifesting itself in the
center of the room.
It was a monstrous, hideous thing, its flesh a nauseating mauve in
places and a sickly corpse-white in others. It stood on two legs, but
its feet were huge and birdlike, with two splayed, taloned toes
pointing forward and one behind. Its left arm ended in a two-food,
sickle-shaped blade of some substance that seemed more smooth and
polished than bone should be. There was no apparent head, only a ridge
that ran down the center of its torse, unless its bulbous right
shoulder was in reality that head, for it had no right arm. In place
of that was an open maw surrounded by short, writhing tendrils. The
fiend had no eyes, but it turned to face Hoffmann, sensing his
The Testament of Xayn fell from the professor's nerveless
fingers. He took a shaking step backwards, then another, unable to
tear his eyes from the thing he had conjured. It half-turned, its
tentacled "mouth" facing him, and then the lips drew back and the
creature spewed a gout of caustic liquid over Hoffmann. The professor
screamed as the acid ate into flesh and bone, but only once.
The creature shuffled towards the windows, unconcerned with the
thing that lay on the floor. Another native of Algo was dead, another
potential Protector fallen. A creature of Dark Force had been
unleashed to haunt the world.
Somewhere, the spirit of Xayn laughed.
His sigil on the cover of his Testament glowed redly, but
only a pair of dead eyes were there to see it.