A saying existed in Ancient Quatria, which has survived down through the ages: magicians enter not into contracts lightly. And when Morbat long years before promised the wealthy Abdazonian trader Delroy a child in exchange for her eventual hand in marriage, it was no different. Delroy, as humans are wont, believed that by stipulating True Love as a condition in the marriage arrangement, he was getting the better of the deal. The truth would prove to be somewhat farther afield.
While the child Delrin matured, exploring both the streets of the thriving city of Abdazon, and the wilds of the forest, Morbat employed many spies to track his investment, and to ascertain — and neutralize — any threats to its eventual return.
Thus was he well-apprised months in advance of her father’s intent to send her to far off lands, ostensibly to strengthen trade relations, but in actuality to send her far from where Morbat’s magic might be able to reach her as she attained marriageable age.
Being a magician is knowing who to supplicate, and with what offering. It was the power of Anthuor, in his role as Sustainer, which Morbat drew from in procuring the child’s soul in the first place from the Cauldron within the Hypogeum. Delrin thus, was a child of Anthuor, in every way that mattered, and it was evident to all who spoke with her in her delight for the creatures of the wood, and on account of her gentle demeanor. And given this sacred source as the root of the underlying agreement, there was precious little Morbat could do to directly interfere with its unfolding. But Anthuor is not the only Power which dwells within the Hypogeum.
The terms under which Delroy agreed to give away his child-to-be in marriage stipulated that it be for True Love. To Morbat, this was but a trifling challenge. If such a love rose up, there were myriad ways in which it could be stifled and struck down, and in its place employed a course of potions upon the unwitting bride until familiarity finally gave way to something which might be mistaken for love, or at least acceptance.
It was with this manipulation in mind which Morbat withdrew to Edthcheb, the place of the Broken Vessel to seek the Changer. For thirteen days, Morbat attended to the Ruined Altar, where he engaged in ritual sacrifice and mutilation of birds and small forest creatures from Delrin’s woodland retinue which had been captured by his spies. And on the thirteenth night, Wormwood the Changer arrived.
He appeared as a smoke without fire, spiraling up from the Ruined Altar, to a terminal point of a bulbous expressionless mask, which hovered and changed subtly as it spoke, cycling through phases of existence.
“Who summons me?”
“A nameless petitioner,” Morbat replied.
“Nameless, what do you seek?”
“A favor, endless one.”
“Know ye, nameless, that I care not for the affairs of men nor magicians.”
“It is known.”
“Then ask. And if it please me not, your very life shall be the price upon this Altar of Shame.”
“If it please thee, o lord,” Morbat replied, “I seek a deviation.”
“All things in their time. It is not scheduled.” The mask of smoke puffed and sagged then, as if to disappear.
“Hence my petition. One need not seek what is alloted, only wait the allotment.”
“And yet impatience has brought you here. Or is it impertinence?”
“Not impertinence, my lord — or at least, not my own. And my patience is indeed stretched by those who abide not in the Order.”
From the smoke issued forth a laugh, “And now we come to it.”
“Indeed, lord. For while you have lain slumbering, men have abused your gentler brother, and grown proud, storing up riches and treasure which by all rights belong to this Dark Land.”
“Thus you seek the Broken Vessel be poured out upon them.”
“Aye, it is so. As it was in Old Qisuth, in ages past, during the last deviation.”
The smoke brightened and stretched out vertically. “I dwell within my Inner Fire. My name is Rockmelt, and Killing Hail. In the deep and submerged places, that deviation still sleeps.”
“Call it forth, lord. Against the city of Abdazon, the city of man’s greed. Though you care not for the affairs of man, you are a lover of vengeance.”
The column of smoke flashed from white to black, to green, and then red. And the visage of the mask became terrible.
“Indeed, I am.”
The smoke vanished, and in the empty space of the altar, a tiny golden key had appeared.
And the voice of the Changer resounded, “Take then this key. And open the Way. The deviation is loosed.”
Morbat took the key, and hastened from that charred place of Edthcheb, going straightaway to unlock the Traitor’s Gate in the Ederren mountains. Far away, across the Vast Desert, where once lay the Cleft of Suth (now underwater), a form bubbled up from the deep, and crept inexorably toward the land. Making landfall on the rocky beaches above New Qisuth, this seaweed and slime covered form became, in stages, gradually more humanoid, if not quite a man. And though lacking in food, drink, or garment, it wasted no time in setting off into the Vast Desert. To the unlucky few of the fishing village of New Qisuth who happened to glimpse it sloping off thus into the desert, this figure appeared as a blackened and burnt wraith, an apparition. Though they knew not its name, they crossed arms instinctively in the warding sign of Anthuor, and Assenjzu the Betrayer slipped out of sight.