Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Jek

A marrow river runs through these Jek hills.
The Jek inhabited this land when it was young. Identifiably Jek objects show up in the deepest mines of every country on this continent. Their ancient trinkets wash ashore on beaches and the shores of the deepest lakes. When Karanok, the great mountain, erupted and concealed the sun for a year, fire-impervious Jek statues were carried up amidst the pyroclastic flow. In short, we know that the Jek have existed for a long, long time. But they are absent from recorded history. Why?

According to the priests (who asked the gods) the Jek were driven beneath the earth by a storm that did not end for a thousand years. The priests do not say what happened in the deep tunnels. But the wizards do: the Jek found and paid obeisance to strange spirits: Cave Owl, Moon Centipede, and others. Perhaps they worshipped these spirits before they were driven below, and the gods sent the never-ending storm to punish them for it. Perhaps not. Did the spirits make the Jek mad and evil, or was it the other way around?
Jek initiates perform an unknown ritual.
The Jek revere their shamans. Without the shamans, the Jek would starve. At some point during their time below, a spirit taught the Jek shamans to vomit a vast, roiling pool of edible putrescence. The Jek subsisted on this for thousands of years. Now, they cannot digest anything else. When a shaman announces that the feast is immanent, it is a cause for great celebration: entire tribes will organize their receptacles to catch the revolting spew, dancing and singing with gladness.

Entire rivers of a similarly emitted (though less nutritious) substance course over the Jek lands, most resembling oily eddies of pale, liquescent bone marrow.

As a people, the Jek appear to be disfigured albinos. Their skins are covered with sores.  Many Jek lack fully-formed faces. Their shamans always wear masks. Beneath these masks, the shamans have no discernible features at all. Despite this, they are capable of respiring, speech, devouring the bodies of deceased humans or their own shamanic potions (but never anything else), and expelling the questionable foodstuff mentioned above.

Most Jek live in shallow caves or in the trunks of great trees, though there are a few Jek cities. These cities are mobile: every structure in them is carried or dragged by either the Jek or some sort of creature cultivated by them. Their greatest city, Tlel Washke, is built atop a vast stone slab that is chained to the towering reanimated corpse of Washke, who once styled himself to be the king of giants. Tlel Washke is dragged across the ground by this festering ex-king, following a nonlinear path according to the Jeks' inscrutable wishes.

The Jek do not have much in the way of appreciable metallurgy. They weave baskets and clothes, carve statues and render them indestructible, make amulets, and build strange dwellings from wood and stone and cloth.  The shamans produce a certain number of finishing goods by devouring humans and then regurgitating that material in a new form. For example, Jek swords consist of impossibly intricate human scrimshaw. A tribe preparing for war will feed dozens of prisoners to their shamans, each day, while those shamans laboriously vomit up sword after sword with seemingly no limit to the amount of material they can store inside their person. The Jek do not possess a written language, nor do they seem capable of learning one.

Near Jek, things are not as they should be. Their presence causes dreams to superimpose over reality. Large groups of Jek often appear to have the same face. Water droplets rain upwards from pools and rivers into the yawning sky. Birds cry out dire warnings in diverse languages.

A Jek emissary might appear as your best friend, you, a deceased pet from your childhood, or a horrid shimmering image in your dreams. The message relayed will not make sense. However, the Jek's intent will be obvious: hostility.