Rite of the Mask
Rite of the Mask
by Thul, Son of Tae
Deep in the caverns of the Glomdoring, there stands a garden without life.
Barely visible in the dim torchlight, great white constructs stand in mockery of
trees, thick trunks and bare branches built of bone. Flowers of skulls and
phalanges sit in damp, rocky beds. Hollow tones and the squeals of bats echo
through this chamber, as the creatures native to the drafty tunnels make their
nests among windchimes made of ribcages.
It was here, in the place where they laid their enemies to rest, that the
Nekotai gathered with quiet pride.
"We are gathered," the Tenebrous Wrath said solemnly. Tall, imposing, and
utterly enshrouded in his robes. At his side, the Mother of Nightmares stood,
holding aloft the single torch which lit the garden, and before him, a dozen
hooded Cultists stood watching. The Wrath looked over the assembly, and nodded
in approval before continuing.
"On this day, we honor Rijilak, a Bone Collector among our ranks. Rijilak, step
forward, and present the mark of your accomplishment."
From the assembled crowd stepped a young loboshigaru in a green mask. Standing
before the Wrath, he bowed deeply, before pulling a thin golden foil from the
sleeves of his robe. The Wrath nodded, taking the proffered item from Rijilak's
hands, and holding it aloft for all to see. Against the light of the torch,
facial features appeared on the gold: wide eyes and long whiskers and a mouth
twisted in pain. With great ceremony, the Wrath slipped the mask beneath the
hood of his robe.
At once, he seemed to shrink down by several feet, the shadows wrapping
mysteriously about his body to warp his form. Gone were his nekai, gone was his
hood... instead of the tall, mysterious warrior that had stood before the
assembly before, a rotund little furrikin with rodentine features and a long
tail stood before them. When he spoke, his voice was nervous, and comically
"I am Tellevan, formerly of the Glomdoring!" the rat announced, twitching as he
glanced about nervously. "Once I walked among the ranks of the Blacktalon, until
greed and pride led me to leave the great forest." His shoulders hunched as he
looked about shamefully. "I was a fool."
"You are a fool," the Cultists intoned, some solemnly and simply, some with
"Perhaps that would be enough to earn scorn," the rat continued, "but I
compounded my stupidity by stealing from my guildmates. Stealing from the
commune. On that day, I earned well through my crimes the ire of the Glomdoring,
and the ire of the Nekotai." He wrang his tail between his paws, as he hung his
head sadly. "I was a fool."
"You are a fool," the Cultists repeated.
"And then, knowing that the wrath of this great forest would be upon me, I fled,
seeking safety in the cities." The rat looked warily about at the crowd. "There,
I thought that even if they would not welcome me, they would tolerate me,
despite my crimes. There, I thought I might be safe." The last part came out as
a groan, as he shook his head to himself. "I was a fool!"
"You are a fool." A hint of satisfaction flavored the incantation.
"Deep within the Tainted City, I thought myself safe from the predations of the
Wyrd," the rat said, grandly. "There, I thought I might ply my trade unhindered.
But under the guise of a Magnagoran novice, Rijilak came upon me. As I crouched
heedlessly over my alembic, he came upon me, and barred my escape." Wide-eyed,
he gestured grandly to Rijilak. "Long before I understood what was happening,
his blades, his terrible blades dug into my neck. Long before I understood what
was happening, he yanked them free once more, painting the walls with my life's
blood. Long before I understood what was happening, I was dead... and Rijilak
was peeling my face as proof of my timely demise."
The rat paused, looking about seriously at the cultists, and speaking in the low
voice of the Wrath. "And long before help arrived, Rijilak was gone, leaving me
unavenged. Assuming, of course, that Magnagora cared for my traitorous life
anyway." He sneered for a moment, before announcing, "I was a fool!"
"You are a fool!"
"And now, fool that I am," the rat continued, voice high once more, "I stand
before the Nekotai, awaiting my judgment... the judgment of Grandmother
Scorpion, the judgment of Glomdoring, and once more, the judgment of Rijilak. O
Rijilak, great hunter, who walks with the strength of Perfection, I beg of you
the mercy you did not show me before." The rat knelt, pleading. "Please spare my
worthless life. Please, noble warrior, I beg your forgiveness."
For a painfully long time, the rat held an expression of pathetic desperation as
he stared up at the young loboshigaru, who looked uncertain. Finally, the
loboshigaru turned his head slightly to the Mother of Nightmares.
"Anything you would do to Tellevan," she murmured in response to the unspoken
question. "Anything at all."
Rijilak considered a long moment, and then backed up to get a running start. The
rat's terrified expression became a little more genuine as he stared at the
Only the hollow clunk of the bone chimes sounded in the caverns for a long
moment. Even the bats had gone mysteriously silent. Finally, the Mother of
Nightmares coughed softly and edged forward. "Wrath, shall I conclude the
"Grk," the rat replied from the cavern floor, curled up into fetal position.
Teeth grit in an expression of agony, he just gave a couple of slight nods.
The Mother stepped forward cooly. "Thus do we show mercy to the enemies of the
Glomdoring. Humiliation and death await those who tempt our wrath. Praise be to
Rijilak, who brings our foes what they deserve!"
"Praise be to Rijilak," the watchers chorused.
"Go now, and remember his example. Death to the enemies of the Wyrd!" the Mother
cried. The Cultists bowed and began to file out. Rijilak paused, wondering if he
should remain, but he quickly bowed and left the area after catching a glare
from the downed rat. Finally, only the Mother and the Wrath remained in the
"The faith of the Cult grows stronger," the Mother ventured after a moment.
The Wrath grunted, pulling out of the furrikin mask and rising to his feet,
"Finely performed. You're not upset at young Rijilak, I trust."
"Of course not. The intent was towards Tellevan," the Wrath murmured. "In which
case, it is entirely justified. That is the point of the Rite. To celebrate the
humiliation of an enemy. There was nothing wrong in his response."
"Of course," the Mother replied, raising an eyebrow.
"Of course, I can't administer the rite for myself. We'll have to have someone
else take the part of the masked." The Wrath rose, sweeping out towards the
exit. "Someone who knows how. Someone up and coming in the Blood. I'm sure
you'll find someone soon. Do hurry."
"Off so soon?" The Mother smirked.
"Yes. I feel this sudden need to deliver justice."