Thursday, December 10, 2020

Ghouls and Ghasts

This post was like really long and then some occult function deleted everything upon returning to the tab, the undo function didn't work to return my lost text, and all help/google searches on how to fix this returned only the wailing and gnashing of teeth of people who the same thing had happened to

3 paralyzing attacks very dangerous

stinky double ghoul

I suspect my shallow covering of the baseline monsters is the least interesting thing about these posts so I don't feel too bad about feeling too bad to rewrite this part from scratch

A Ghoul is a corpse or living being possessed by a Ghul, but more on that later. They are the second-most common form of undead in the Daylands, the most common being corpses that rise within their own tombs to speak with their descendants/drive off grave robbers. They are especially common in Saresare, as their undead-but-also-disease nature makes Vulch-lullabies unable to set them to rest.

Ghul, by contrast, is a term used to describe the spirits of obligate carnivore somethings from the second solar age. Their relation to the Serpent Empire is unclear, as those records must have burned in the descent of Yg-A the Undersun, as is what relation they have to humans. What is known, for elves alive then are alive now, is that whatever the Ghul were, they and the rising elf hegemony didn't get along and the ghul did not survive into the 3rd age.

However, they didn't stay extinct either. Through exploitation of the elemental covenant of life itself, the ghul persisted as a curse, a disease, a gestalt evil spirit of cannibalism. When certain entities (most notably humanoids such as elves and humans, but also, notably, dogs) eat human flesh (or are attacked by a ghoul), they become vulnerable to, as it is variably called, the Hunger (in Vint-Savoth), the Grinning Plague (Saresare), or most simply, Ghul Fever. It has been studied extensively due to being a potential undead-apocalypse agent rivaled in scope only by the Skull Moon, and so all civilizations that have survived more than a few generations are aware of the signs, symptoms, treatment, and control of this plague.

Stage 0- Exposure
The saliva of a ghoul is, in fact, ectoplasm, liquid ghul-spirit colonies, produced in endless quantity regardless of hydration. Ectoplasm evaporates quickly away from the source, making it unsuitable for use on ranged weaponry or for poisoning food or drink. It causes paralysis by engaging the soul in a battle for the body, and a single bite, lick, or saliva-stained claw or melee weapon causes paralysis for about an hour (2d4 turns) on a failed save to dogs and most hominids, elves excluded. Either way, a burst of healing energy from basically any source of magical healing, or exposure to sunlight will drive the ghul-spirits away, curing the paralysis and the chance of deeper infection alike. Blessings from the gods will prevent the infection from setting in as well.

However, if someone does not receive such a cure before sunrise/sundown, they must save vs paralysis again to see if the spirits have only been fought to a standstill rather than fully expelled. Washing the wound with holy water, breathing in blessed incense smoke, and sleeping in a circle of salt are all measures that allow for an additional save, each, and if any save is successful, the disease does not set in.

The other method of exposure is cannibalism, more specifically, being an elf, human, dog, or nearabouts, and eating elf or human flesh. A decent amount must be eaten- an entire meal of the stuff, basically. Certain cannibalistic cults can reduce or remove the infection rate with certain rituals, but otherwise, a save to see if the disease sets in must be made, and the paralysis will correspond with sleep and troubling dreams and often goes unnoticed.
Knowingly and willingly engaging in cannibalism for non-survival reasons sends the infected straight to Stage 2, no save.


Stage 1- The Hunger
At this point, the infected is moderately possessed by a ghul spirit, and craves flesh. Holy water is uncomfortable and will cause superficial burns, allowing for detection of latent infections, as will most other anti-undead measures. Upon smelling dead human flesh, the infected must save or try to consume it, or save it for later consumption, an irrational compulsion and madness. Though otherwise still in control and sane, the infected cannot be trusted on such matters, and while they will not kill or harm others to obtain flesh, they may trick and lie to those to hide flesh obtained through other means.

Eating human flesh at this point will mark an irreversible progression, so it must be avoided at all costs until a year and a day has passed, at which point the incredibly tenacious ghul are forced out of the waking world once more. Only powerful, esoteric means can cure the disease directly at this stage, (cure disease will not work) and so this period must be endured without any accidental exposure to corpses. For those of means, house arrest is a common option. For the poor, curse-asylums or other prisons may be their best bet, to be locked up with lycanthropes and other menaces to society, until they are cured. For those who must, for whatever reason, continue traveling, mouth-blocking iron-and-leather masks, locked such in the back that 3 arms are required to open them, are worn, and typically a strictly vegetarian diet is adopted by all as a precautionary measure. Properly functioning masks are expensive and well-crafted, but most temples will have at least one in their cupboards for such an occurrence and are handed out freely.

Stage 2- Ghouls
Those who have succumbed to the Hunger are no longer in control of their bodies, the ghul-spirit having taken over. Most souls leave at this point rather than carry on as a helpless spectator, causing the body to die and begin rotting, making ghouls appear similar to drooling, but intelligent and nimble zombies. Those who consumed flesh willingly may collude with the parasitic ghul though, their souls mingling and becoming one, their bodies remaining alive.

Either way, ghouls at this stage should no longer be considered infected people, but undead monsters, and indeed, anti-undead measures have full effect against them. Empathy is lost, as is a great deal of impulse control, and the personality of the ghul-spirit will be a confused, fragmentary vision of the person the body used to belong to, as the ghul has fragmented memories of ancient ages mixed with the recent shared subjectivity of their host's life since infection. The hunger for flesh overrides all else though, especially that of humans and elves.

The reason for this maddening flesh-hunger is that something is growing inside them. Though ghouls can 'starve,' they will instead go into hibernation if flesh is not to be found, later bursting out of shallow self-dug graves or tunnels or tombs to menace the living. If a ghoul manages to get about double their bodyweight in human flesh in one sitting (a rare event given they hunt in packs and have to share) they will advance to the next stage, but otherwise will remain as they are until destroyed, perhaps showing signs of the coming transformation if they are well fed, but not quite well-fed enough for the final metamorphosis.

Various attempts at training/weaponizing ghouls by humans have invariably ended in disaster due to quarantine breaches, and even Necromancers want little to nothing to do with them, as ghouls will absolutely (preferentially over live humans, even) eat other undead. A minor exception to 'nobody works well with ghouls' is ghoul/vampire relations- Vampires suck the blood, ghouls eat the rest, and this benefits both in remaining undiscovered in urban areas as neither accidentally creates more spawn.

don't sue me Jim Davis

 Stage 3- True Ghul
If enough meat can be had, the True Ghul emerges from the husk of rotten flesh like a moth from a cocoon. Though technically living once more, their physiology is so alien that they still enjoy typical undead immunities, and their profane rebirth does little to alleviate the wrath of gods and elements behind most anti-undead countermeasures, and as such are still treated as undead. They have managed to spoof the elemental covenant, however, and so long as they continue to eat dead flesh (including that of other undead) they will be spared the minor elemental wrath of aging and decay and so will live forever... but if they cannot eat flesh, they will slowly rot away and be forced into hibernation lest they crumble to dust.

Ghuls are rubbery, grey-skinned creatures with cartilage for bones, allowing all manner of grotesque contortions and tight squeezes. Most are hairless, while others (ghasts, typically) may have greasy black or white hair with mostly humanish patterning, just in excess hirsuteness. Their eyes do not have pupils and are in sunken sockets, in a bestial head reminiscent of hyena, baboon, and crocodile. Their tongues at this point are a meter long and prehensile, and their feet and hands are large, sharp-clawed, and spadelike, and are used for digging tunnels and scraping flesh from bone. They are as fast on all fours as bipedally, and dog-derived ghuls are identical save for being quadrupeds worse at climbing but faster runners.

They organize in loosely hierarchical packs, age determining position. In this mature phase, they are less of a slave to the desire for meat and will prioritize self-preservation over a good meal. They are sexless, though not necessarily genderless, for they inherit culture from their host species. As such they refer to each other as elder/younger brother/sister/sibling, though they reproduce only via infection. This is not prioritized, as ghuls value larger shares of meat over expanded social opportunities. Indeed, accidentally infected ghouls are rarely welcomed into existing ghul packs unless losses have occurred and more strength is required to hunt prey/dig into catacombs.

Those who willingly seek to become a ghoul via cannibalism have a different transition to stage 3, transforming their semi-living body and keeping their soul, rather than having a ghul grown to replace it. The most notable differences from a normal ghoul are that the normal pheromones of a living(ish) body are turned to a sickening corpse-odor that, while utterly overwhelming to living beings, is a fine perfume to other ghouls and ensures popularity among them. Physically, ghasts turn grey and rubbery but are otherwise recognizable as their original selves. This willing transformation is the only method by which an Elf interacts with the ghoulification process, as they have been engineered to be immune to incidental exposure. In ancient times, this was a way for elves to infiltrate ghul society as double agents, but with ghuls being a scattered and disorganized threat in modern times, the only elves who do such a thing are probably shunned for all manner of equally nasty reasons. These elves would rather reign in hell than serve in heaven, so to speak, and so seek out existing (or create their own) ghul packs to lord over and engage in, well, ghoulish behaviors, the less said of the better.

Referring to elf-ghasts as 'stink twinks' is, I think, only fair

Ghasts have two souls (the original conspirator and the ghul) that are largely indistinguishable, but still, the joint effort makes ghasts stronger than one would expect. Furthermore, with their memories intact, they have considerably more experience than other ghuls and ghouls alike, and so the presence of a ghast typically increases the menace posed by ghouls by virtue of being able to plan and scheme and increase their numbers via intentional infection. However, elves (who don't want the humans to find out that a good many ghasts are decadent elves) and human clergy (who don't want organized ghouls eating all the corpses and causing a riot in the afterlives, let alone an undead outbreak) will almost invariably put together ghoul-busting teams to put an end to any ghast-led ghoul group before it can grow into a problem. However, sometimes the ghast wins against all comers, which can lead to a Dracula type situation, or a 'Night of the Living Dead' scenario, in which case any competent nearby civilization will quickly call their neighbors to arms against the ghouls lest the problem swell to apocalyptic proportions.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Garfield and Rule 34. Also I wouldn't call that Bad Art. ;)