Based on The Atlantean Trilogy fantasy RPG system.
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this short story are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
The days were growing dimmer. Or so it seemed to Glennor. Perhaps his eyesight really was failing. That’s what Son told him.
Dear Son. The first and most faithful of his homunculi servants. That was a good 40 years ago, and Son looked as young now as he did then. What a joy it had been to see him climb out of the vat, whole and with no visible defects. The wings of a Zephyr and the fine features of an elf, the amalgam of two of the interlopers the neighboring village had sent his way that year.
There had been ten total, in two groups. Of all the attempts they afforded, only Son had emerged as intended. Ooze was born that year as well…and quickly consigned to the dungeon. There it had lived out only a decade or two, surviving on rodents and scraps. Glennor didn’t like to remember. Nor did he enjoy recalling the shrieking horror of the maiden he crafted that year as well. Somehow she understood her soulless, unnatural condition and within an hour of her ‘birth’ had fallen into raging madness. She was supposed to be Daughter, a wife to Son. That would only come a few years later.
The village provided sufficient fodder for his experiments, though diversity was sometimes lacking. One season only humans found their way to his castle, nestled atop a cliff in the midst of Briarwall Forest. They didn’t go to waste, of course. A few man-beasts still lurked about just beyond the castle walls, slaying and bringing to him the carcasses of those not tricky enough to circumvent them. Wife was also conceived out of that batch. Her donor had been male, but she was every bit the woman he needed. A pity that she turned out to be infertile, though of course with his blood coursing through the veins of all his homunculi creations he had all the ‘children’ he needed.
Nothing was as thrilling as melding together two or more species. Then again, no. Perhaps one thing was better than them all: The birth of Grandson.
Grandson. The child of Son and Daughter (the third attempt was a success, though she had an extra set of arms). Somehow Glennor had managed to make two fertile Elf/Human hybrids. This was no mean feat, especially given the relative scarcity of Zephyrs in the Northlands. In 40 years time he only saw 8, and that many was quite remarkable. Daughter had several failed pregnancies before Grandson came along. Sometimes an egg was produced (as is the way with the Zephyr) but it was sterile. Other times a stillborn baby would come forth from her. It was as though her body didn’t quite know what to do.
Then there was Grandson. Born live and suckeled at his mother’s teat, he grew strong and showed a vigor and creativity that were lacking among his artificial kinfolk. A spirited and curious child, he had shadowed Glennor, who he called Grandfather, from a young age. Those were bright times, when the child would fold his wings beneath a tunic and spend hours assisting Glennor in the lab. He was not as reliable as his father, but he was far more intelligent. He learned quickly, and by the time his long childhood was slipping into adolescence, he had mastered the fundamentals of alchemy and was showing an aptitude for magic. Glennor thought Grandson could become his apprentice.
Then the spirited curiosity gave way to rebellion.
Somehow, Grandson came to resent his life. He apparently had come to these ideas during solitary days alone in the library, poring over ancient texts. Glennor had thought nothing of it at the time, preferring the child busy himself during the short days and frigid nights of the fierce winters. Glennor was somewhat glad at the time to not have him underfoot as he worked with the remains of a band of Nethermen who’d been foolhardy enough to attempt to shelter within the walls of his palace home.
They had put up a terrific fight, and he lost a few of his man-beasts in the struggle. His summoned horrors, creatures he had made that dwelled beneath the castle, in its moat and in the surrounding woodlands overwhelmed them, though. Sadly, some of the Nether-kind were so torn to pieces that he could do nothing with them. In all, he recovered 25 from that tribe and with them was able to create 12 viable man-beasts.
Through it all, Grandson remained holed up in the library, nearly forgotten. When he emerged back into Glennor’s awareness, around about springtime, he was furious. He questioned the ‘ethics’ of what Glennor had done. Called him a ‘monster worse than any creeping about the woods.
“How can you say that, dear Grandson? I’ve only ever given you a good life. Indeed, were it not for me, you would not exist at all!”
“I should not exist, you old fool! How…how could you have done this? It goes against the will of the gods!”
It was then that Glennor realized that Grandson’s reading had corrupted him. ‘Ethics’ was surely the domain of philosophy, and talk of ‘gods’ could only come of religion.
“Grandson, think of all the benefits we’ve obtained from our way of living. We have trees that bear fruit that is richer, sweeter, and more nutritious than those from which they were combined. Our field workers bring in full harvest every year from our hardy wheat. And though our livestock is largely unenhanced, the servants that keep the herds and flocks are capable and dependable.”
“Those ‘servants’ are the monstrous result of your madness! You created them from mixing humans, elves and even dwarves with lower creatures like sheepdogs. Had you stopped with the fruit and crops you could have been forgiven, but when you dabbled in the blood of the children of the gods, you went too far.’
“Do not call me that! I don’t accept this name any more as I am nothing of yours. I deserve a real name, a name of my choosing.” His voice cracked and his chest heaved with emotion.
“Very well then,” Glennor attempted a soothing tone, “what shall I call you?”
Uncertainty passed like a cloud on Grandson’s face.
“I…I don’t know.”
They stood there in the middle of the hall, just outside the lab, looking at each other for what felt like years. Finally, Grandson spoke again, his voice low and dull.
“I have to leave here. Go out on my own. Find out who I can be in this world and try…somehow try, to atone for my existence before the gods.”
“That’s crazy Gran…I mean…don’t do it! There’s nothing for you out there, and nowhere you will fit in.”
“If so, then so be it, but I must go!”
That was not the last Glennor saw of the one he had called Grandson. The young man, who though decades old, was physically only just entering adolescence, stayed that last night in the castle. The next morning Glennor watched him go from his bedroom window in the keep. He was at least dressed sensibly, with wings folded close to his body beneath a tunic and cape. He carried a knapsack, though Glennor wondered how the youngling would know what to take for his long and uncertain journey.
The days were most definitely dimmer now. Light was falling not only at sunset, but seemed to fade day by day even when the sun was at its zenith. His hands and feet were constantly chilled, despite the midsummer heat. Even birdsong seemed to be only a memory, with silence settling about Glennor’s world.
In his bed, attended to by Son (Daughter had died at the hands of ‘adventurers’ only a few months before), Glennor could feel the life slipping from his body. With shortened breath, he thought fondly of his many creations. His early adventures with friends, his first golem, and then his initial experiments with plant hybrids. He didn’t want to let go! And then, with darkness closing around him, he heard voices just beyond the gates.
Not his marauders, back from a successful hunt along the distant highway. They hadn’t done that in years.
Perhaps more aggressors, looking for fame and fortune at the tip of their swords? Yes, that must be. Except, one voice….