• Member Since 22nd Jun, 2012
  • offline last seen Jan 19th, 2020

Peregrine Caged


I miss the days--to all my fans and supporters, you were great. I leave a ghost, honest but neglected promises, and just the tip of the worlds I wished to share...

More Blog Posts218

  • 219 weeks
    Something Positive, Yes? A...Fairytale of sorts. The Tale of Jackal and Phoenix

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Aug
14th
2017

Something Positive, Yes? A...Fairytale of sorts. The Tale of Jackal and Phoenix · 12:58am Aug 14th, 2017

So, one thing I have been doing is a lot of homebrewing and world building for my Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting, Alandria. Have a good game, a little over a year old now, going, and it really sparks my creativity. I long to reach a point where I can write stories and the like in my world, like certain others have done in the past. (Haaah, dreams.)

So one of my player's characters has inspired this little story (stylistically, as well, from a pair of books by Catherynne Valente, The Orphan's Tales, which I highly recommend), based upon her personal backstory (and her backup character, who is also tied into it). The first true legend to be fully written for my setting, rather than just sort of generally in my head. I'm pretty proud of how it came out, though this is only a second draft. The first was sent piecemeal, text by text, to a friend who was having a meh day.

Anyways, just thought I'd share. Call it a little make up for last time's stupidity, and to prove I am still doing things.

Edit: Context! Sagrifir Lux is the head of Alandria's pantheon, a god of Light and Fire, Lawful Good. A defender of Reality and an enemy to all that is against the natural order (aberrations, undead, and outsiders who mess with the Material plane). The Marked would be the Celestial (onetime Undying Light) Warlock Pact and the Phoenix Sorcerous Origin, as far as game mechanics goes (with some more flavor and edits for my own preferences). Jackal was originally the name of an evil entity who tempted my player's character as a young child, who nearly killed her younger brother (who is the Marked). She had no details about him, leaving it up to me. So, this is to explain all that!


Let me tell you the Tale of Jackal and Phoenix.

Long ago, Sagrifir Lux, the Light of lights, made many children to guide the souls of dead mortals from the Material to the hereafter. There were many for a multitude, endless in their short times as mortals are.

Most worked alone, and were content. Some were as brothers, sisters. Still others found Love, forming more afterwards for their Great Work.

Jackal and Phoenix were friends, thick as thieves.

When the two were done with the day’s duty, they would romp and play, for both had mischievous streaks in them. They told each other riddles and jokes and both would laugh until their sides felt like to split. They would play pranks and devise tricks, for both, too, had strong wits. Though Jackal was clever and lazy. Phoenix, clever and diligent.

With his great wings, Phoenix would soar, a torch gripped in his beak as a beacon for the dead. And so he would lead them the long journey before returning to the field in which Jackal would meet him.

For a time they would meet at the same moment—as the sun dipped below the horizon. But as they burdens grew, as mortalkind lived and loved and multiplied, Jackal would take longer and longer to arrive.

“Alas,” he said one day, “but if I had your wings! My paws bleed and cry from the long journey that I must trudge, with naught but the gathered hollows behind me.”


“Fret not, my friend,” replied Phoenix. “The duty is hard, but just. Merely pick up your feet more quickly! But no matter how long it takes, I shall always await for your return, so we may play.”

And, for a while, this was true.

But one day, tired and worn, Jackal took so long that, by the time he returned, Phoenix had already departed for the next day’s work. Jackal knew Phoenix was diligent, and did not fault him; though he was pained deeply.

It is the duty, thought he. It has grown too much and takes its toll.

This went on for some time.

Phoenix would wait as long as he could, but inevitably the dawn would rise and the cock call a new day. Poor Jackal, my friend, he would cry within. If only he would not walk so slow. If he would work first, so we might play later.
But never did Jackal show. So, torch held taut, to the sky he would take, the shades behind following readily.

Until one evening, when Phoenix was landing in their field, returning from his duty for the day. A familiar laugh greeted him.

“Ha ha! My friend, Phoenix! It is I, Jackal, who have arrived first.”

Phoenix whooped in joy, tackling and hugging and nuzzling his friend. “Oh, Jackal, I am so proud of you for working so hard!”

“Yes,” replied Jackal, a half-smile on his lips. “Yes, now we may play again.” And so they did. Phoenix, so kindhearted and trusting, not caring to ask what magic Jackal plied.

But soon the night drew long, and the next day’s duty was upon them. They wished each other well, though Phoenix was saddened. He was unsure if his friend would continue to work hard enough to meet at the end of the day’s work.

Jackal, ever insightful, noticed this, and laughed. “Worry not, my friend! You will see me again, before the sun sets. I will return.”

And, to Phoenix’s amazement, this he did. This time, his heart’s curiosity was too strong. “Friend Jackal, I am so pleased we may play again--but tell me, I must know… How is it you may do your duty even before I, with my wings so broad and powerful?”

Jackal gave his half-smile again, saying, “That is my secret, friend Phoenix. For we are both very clever, but in our own ways, and, as such, they must remain our own.”

This answer puzzled Phoenix, but was soon forgotten as Jackal ran and he chased. One of their oldest games. And it never came again, for they were lost in their friendship. Renewed and reveled in.

This continued for some time.

But as time passed, the curiosity in Phoenix’s heart grew and grew, until it consumed his mind on his long flight. He loved his friend, truly, and wanted to trust his words. But that same love told him the truth—Jackal was never one to work hard as the duty required.

So one morning, as the two parted, Phoenix followed Jackal, determined to be proven wrong, to need work harder himself that day as penance for his lack of faith.

But what he found, instead, sickened and enraged him.

Jackal, instead of guiding the souls over the long journey to the next world, simply gathered the souls and buried them. Digging deep and restlessly, then uncaringly kicking the dirt over the lost as they screamed and cried. The mounds stretched on and on. Piles and cairns and tors the only evidence needed for Jackal’s sins.

“My friend, what have you done?!” roared Phoenix, tears rolling down his cheeks to soak his auburn feathers.

Jackal looked confused, but could not entirely hide his guilt as he gave a weakened half-smile. “I only did what was required, to finish the job so that we may play as we once did. They are but the dead—what matter if they are buried and forgotten? Do mortals not already do so with their remains?”

Here, Phoenix recoiled and held back his tears. “You poor fool… Do you not see!? They cannot forget themselves! Do you not hear their pain? Their anguish? Their rage?”

And the souls of the dead could be heard! Loud and terrible was their wailing. And as Phoenix and Jackal watched, the fear of the dead became despair; the pain became insanity; the anger became hatred.

From all around the dead returned, as they never had before. Some broke, souls twisting, existing in a half state; while others clawed forth in bones or rotting flesh. Still others grabbed what items they could to cobble horrific parodies of bodies. And all hungered.

For revenge.

For peace.

For death.

Knowing what must be done, Phoenix turned, saying, “I must tell the Lord what you have done. I am sorry, but there is no forgiveness for such a crime.” And with that, he took wing, flying to the heavens.

Jackal cursed and begged, he pleaded for Phoenix to stop, to return. He tried explaining, he tried demanding—he had, after all, only done it for his friend.

When Phoenix did not turn, he grew angry. He began yelling at the unfairness, of the foolishness of the plan. His envy of Phoenix’s wings, his frustration at his worn and bleeding paws—was this the Lord’s joke, that they were expected to do as much as one another?

He barked and howled and tore into the corpses shambling around him. Finally, he saw Phoenix’s torch, left on the ground. Forgotton.

He gripped it in his jaws, though it sizzled on his tongue and weighed heavy at his jaw. And with a mighty leap, he threw it at Phoenix.

No one knows what cruel silver dice came up for Jackal, but his aim was true, his toss sufficient. The flame caught at Phoenix’s tail feathers, setting him alight. He was consumed, near instantly. Completely.

And with one final, terrible cry, his ashes drifted down, scattered by the winds.

His cry rose to the heavens, and roused the gods themselves. Down came Sagrifir Lux, his Light eternal and blazing. In justice. And in fury.

“Jackal, my child, you have proven a disappointment. In your selfish and shortsighted actions, you have committed one of the gravest of sins. Endangering all of Reality itself!” He gestured to the dust that once was Phoenix. “And far worse… Killing your dearest friend in your anger.”

With a look to match the unchanging bones of Creation, the Lord decreed, “For your crimes, you too shall be buried. For your Sloth, the Seventh Hell awaits. Queen Belphegor shall be your Mistress, for now and for all time.”

And with a short utterance of power—power that had shaped worlds and birthed Life—the ground below Jackal opened wide as the mouth of the leviathan. The mighty corpse-chill of Belphegor’s realm enveloped him as he screamed, cutting his cry to silence. The black of his coat drained to ghastly white as the realm took all from him.

Sagrifir Lux turned to the ashes that once were Phoenix. A lone tear, nearly missed, slid down his cheek. “My beloved servant. Please, forgive me, for my eyes are ever busy.” He gestured to the Lost and Damned surrounding them. “But fear not for these souls. I see now that mortalkind must have a hand in their own guardianship. Slivers of power will be granted to the most faithful, and they will act as warriors, healers, and leaders. Ordained clerics of We, the gods, gifted with power to rest these...of the undeath.”

He nodded. “And for your faith, I shall undo what has been so unjustly done.”

A mote of fiery light then sprang from the greatest of gods into the pile of ashes. But even gods may sometimes be caught unawares, for what returned was not simply Phoenix. Sagrifir Lux’s breath swept through the ash, igniting a brilliant inferno which took the shape of the once magnificent bird. But not to his flesh and feather.

He was now a being of Fire and Light.

And from the ash spread on the winds came the lesser phoenix, beings of a shape and kind of great Phoenix, who would die unto ash before becoming reborn in the flames.

Bowing his head low, Phoenix declared, “My Lord, forgive my blindness to Jackal’s Evil. In penance, I shall continue my duty and take upon my back this new one. These souls must be purged and laid to rest… Though in this form, I must follow your new command, and work with the mortals.”

For now he was no longer a being of the Material, but a celestial true.

And so it would come to pass that the Phoenix, one after another, would choose a mortal to be his vessel. They would be Marked by him, chosen to guide and protect mortalkind and burn all manner of undead from the earth, purifying the tortured spirits within.

And so it was, for many years.

But Hell is not so deep that it never spits its foul denizens up from time to time. And thus returned Jackal.

Tainted and twisted, now fully fallen to Evil. His mind eternally steeped in rage and jealousy, even as his pale face wore an inviting half-smile lie. Cursing his onetime Lord and craving nothing more than proving his way the right.

Where Phoenix dedicated himself to spreading the fire and the light, Jackal desired only corruption and darkness. Against Phoenix, all phoenix, and his followers he declared an endless war.

Always did he seek the Marked, whom he vowed to corrupt and turn to his own service. No matter how long it may take.

Thus is the war waged between pawns, mortals caught in friendship-turned-feud. Thus is the story still told.

This is the Tale of Jackal and Phoenix.

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