Circe the Deceiver

Circe the Deceiver

In ancient days it was the wanderers and adventurers who fell victim to the sorceress known as Circe the Deceiver, drawn to the island prison by her enchanted disguises of long-lost loved ones, missing sailors, even gods they worshipped and believed they had found.

In the days of the Lost Civilization, Circe grew weak as Man refined his gift of science; he knew all corners of the earth and had no sense of exploration. Circe’s wanderers dwindled, then vanished. The sorceress waited alone on her island for centuries, scanning the horizons for a glimpse of a topsail or debris from a shipwreck.

When a ship finally appeared, Circe did not believe her eyes. The hard iron surfaces gleamed in the sun and looked nothing like the last vessel she had seen, one carved of wood and held together with pitch and rope; this craft soared through the air, though it had no feathered wings. The Deceiver remained concealed as the object landed on her warm sand. She did not trust it, for it defied the laws of nature and could only be sent by the gods, who had exiled her to this island so long ago.

When the craft opened and mortal men stepped out, Circe’s doubts began to be replaced by hope. She followed these men as they explored her island, holding iron boxes with flashing colors. They seemed very pleased by the colors. When the chance arose, Circe lured one of the men into the jungle and enchanted him to gain the purpose of his visit.

The man told her all: he and his fellow explorers sought elements, though the names he gave meant nothing to Circe. But when she gleaned from his mind the purpose of those elements she saw fire and destruction on a scale that would shame the gods. Circe allowed the men to leave with their findings, and for years allowed them to return and extract what they liked from the soil and bedrock of her island. The Deceiver took her share of the workers, casting spells to convince the others that the missing men had been lost to accidents and desertion.

Then the men left, for they had taken everything they could from her prison. Circe was once again alone. But the images of fire remained, and hundreds of years later in what came to be known as Man’s Fall from Light, Circe watched the horizons grow bright with an unnatural glow. Storms of ash swept over her island and massive structures made of stone and shattered glass floated on the tides. Charred corpses washed ashore by the hundreds.

As Circe had foreseen in the explorer’s mind, the waters surrounding her island fell away, evaporated by the unholy flames that spread beneath boiling black clouds. After thousands of years a prisoner, Circe walked off her island toward what remained of mankind, for her island was now the entire world.

The Deceiver thrived during the First Corruption and the Rekindling of Man. The humans clung desperately to hope and were all too willing to believe their eyes when Circe presented them with visions of her choosing. In the days of the Blind Prophet, Circe felt the fervor rising as mankind began to believe as he once had in the ancient gods. This Prophet and his god Sol inspired Man to heroic, unselfish acts—even unity against the Beast hordes—and Circe’s curiosity led her to see how he measured up to the true prophets she had known throughout history.

The Deceiver followed the Prophet and his Five Disciples to a city called Arasunia, where the Prophet cured the diseased and brought fallen heroes back from the underworlds. Never believing herself in danger, Circe moved to the front row of breathless onlookers. Though his vision was seared away from staring too long into the sun, the Blind Prophet turned his face to her and pointed and named her evil, spoke her name—Circe the Deceiver—and ordered her seized.

Circe fled. She disguised herself as one of the Prophet’s followers and escaped, terrified by the Prophet’s abilities, bestowed upon him by his god. If Sol could do that, what else was he capable of? The thought of this god condemning Circe to another prison was unbearable.

The Deceiver kept her distance from the Blind Prophet and his Disciples until the time was right. She called upon her strongest sorcery to cloak her true identity as she took the form of a woman widowed at the hands of the Five Disciples. She arrived at the Prophet’s tents and begged for admission, claiming a desire to repent for her dead husband’s sins in the hopes his damned soul would ascend to the heavens.

The Blind Prophet allowed her to enter. Circe waited for the man to recognize her and speak her true name, but he only smiled and patted her hand, asking if she needed food or water. Circe summoned the phantom of an assassin outside the tent, a shadowy man armed with dagger and poison. The Five Disciples responded, drawing weapons and rushing out of the tent to be the first to defend their beloved Prophet.

It was only then that Circe showed the Prophet her real form. He gasped, and before that air could be expelled to call for help the Deceiver pulled the Blind Prophet’s essence from his body as one draws a curtain to block the light. When the Disciples returned with dry blades to find their master dead, Circe was gone.

The Deceiver was not satisfied, as she had endured enough and more from the self-righteous gods of Man. She carried the essence of the Blind Prophet within her, deep into the Forest of Caldavar, the haven of the Beasts, and there found the World Tree. Circe did not fear the Beast or earth gods, for they did not seek power or control as did those of Man. They sought peace, and for many of them, Man was the undoing of peace.

Circe knew Man was once again on the brink of extinction. She would give the Beasts a leader as powerful as the Blind Prophet—no, more powerful, for this leader would carry Circe’s magic as well as the prophet’s essence.

She took a seed from the World Tree and cast her sorcery upon it, then released the Blind Prophet’s essence into the seed. She planted the seed in the dark, rich soil beneath the World Tree and watered it with false tears for the dying hopes of Man, and from that seed Sylvia was born.

Sylvia
Sylvia

Sylvia emerged from the soil fully grown. As she drew her first breaths her shape shifted, growing wings, horns, and claws. She then shifted again, appearing completely human and stunningly beautiful. Born of magic and the World Tree, she contained the memories of the earth and the skills of savage survival. As Sylvia disappeared into the forest to begin hunting Man, the Deceiver knew her offspring would make her proud.

Sylvia surpassed even Circe’s expectations. While the tribes and clans of Man squabbled among themselves over gods, land, and gold, Sylvia took the form of fierce beasts and led her brethren to carry devastation into the pockets of so-called civilization scattered throughout Caldavar. Only the followers of Arbinger, one of the dead Prophet’s Five Disciples, offered significant resistance with their stealthy tactics and mastery of wilderness survival skills. But hundreds of years passed and Man grew more divided as rumors of terrifying, murderous creatures spread with every attack, and eventually even Arbinger’s scouts retreated from Sylvia’s sorcery.

Circe the Deceiver watched this from afar and was pleased. She enchanted and took men and women as she liked, enjoying her freedom as she witnessed the inevitable death of Man.

Then came Maliken Grimm. Rather than trying to appease the myriad gods to unite his brothers, he used the one god who ruled them all: fear. His battle prowess and strength of arms battered his fellow man into submission. He then led them in a united front against all of nature. Sylvia watched her children of the World Tree fall by the thousands, slaughtered by Maliken’s steel. Those casualties grew exponentially when Maliken wed Andraste and brought the scouts, those descendants of Arbinger, into his fold.

Circe’s horror grew with every victory of Maliken’s forces over Sylvia’s; victories that seemed impervious to any action the Deceiver took. When she learned Andraste carried Maliken’s heir, the one who would become Jeraziah, she foresaw the demise of all that was green and living, the rise of Man and his gods, the death of Sylvia. Circe plucked a single leaf from the Prophet’s Bane tree deep within the Rulian Marsh and carried it to Andraste’s bedside in the guise of a midwife. She steeped the leaf in Andraste’s tea and slipped out of Maliken’s capital, Adkarna, as Andraste’s soul left her body.

But her son survived. Maliken left the rearing of Jeraziah to his advisors and wandered his conquered lands, anonymous and overcome by grief for his dead wife. The Deceiver followed the King, reveling in his misery and disguising herself as priests to hear his prayers and pathetic appeals for release from his mourning. His prayers, of course, remained unanswered.

This entertained Circe for nearly five years, until Maliken’s pleadings to his god grew tiresome. She waited for him in a tiny, filthy village near the edge of his realm, where she planned to kill him as she had the Blind Prophet. His essence was still strong, even if his spirit was not. She would find a good use for it.

The muddy streets of the village were narrow and rutted from wheels and hooves. The Deceiver had no desire to linger long. She took the form of the village’s priest, discarding the man’s body like an empty waterskin, and waited in the shanty that served as a church to the local peasants. As Maliken approached in shabby robes, his hair and beard unkempt, his haunted eyes gave silent appeal to this false priest.

Circe gleaned his sole desire: Please, let this be the man of god to ease my pain.

The Deceiver enchanted him, making him believe it could be true.

Closer, great Maliken. Circe prepared to show her true form, to reveal what she had done to Andraste just before she pulled his essence from him. Then Maliken’s head began to turn, and his eyes somehow slid away from the Deceiver.

Impossible, Circe thought. She followed Maliken’s stolen gaze to a raven-haired woman emerging from the treeline, a woman of such beauty and longing even Circe could not look away. She recognized the woman, and even more, she recognized the magic.

It was Sylvia.

Sylvia glanced at her mother and conveyed a fierce message: Kill him and he will become a martyr, inspiring Man to devastate the natural world. He is mine.

Circe had been too entertained by Maliken’s grief to foresee this outcome. She allowed Sylvia to captivate the King, and Maliken lost himself in Sylvia’s wild passion. They returned to the capital Adkarna, the King and his new Queen, and there Sylvia began to destroy Maliken’s empire from within. She kept his appetite for war sated with carnal pleasures and drained his coffers on lavish palaces and frivolous jewels instead of defences and training. She whispered ill-fated tactics into his subconscious that cost him battalions of veteran soldiers.

The Deceiver watched her daughter’s actions closely and stepped in when necessary, for Maliken’s advisors knew their King had changed. They plotted against Sylvia, and when those plots neared execution Circe intervened, enchanting the conspirators or murdering the leader outright.

As the hidden malevolence toward Sylvia reached its peak, she and Maliken conceived a daughter, Ophelia, and the child brought a new kind of enchantment upon Adkarna, for even those who hated Sylvia felt instant love for the girl. Hope spread that Ophelia would soften Sylvia’s heart and rekindle Maliken’s desire to create a safer world for his child. For all his children.

But this did not happen. Sylvia’s influence on the King allowed the continued slaughter of Maliken’s armies by the tooth and claw of the Beasts. They drove Man into tighter pockets of existence.

In Adkarna, Maliken’s closest advisors and generals knew something evil was preying upon them, and they formed a dozen plots to assassinate the poisonous Queen. Circe attempted to interfere, but the plots were too many.

Sylvia was attacked outside her bedchambers, and in order to survive she revealed her true form, the wild shape-shifter born of immortal magic and the World Tree. She killed her assailants and rushed to the nursery, where she gently lifted the child Ophelia within her jaws. Maliken discovered them there, and the reality of what he had done—what Sylvia was—drove him to his knees, to madness, as Sylvia carried Ophelia into the wilderness.

The Deceiver watched this with joy. Her pleasure continued as Ophelia matured with her father’s talent for warfare and her mother’s spiritual connection with the Beasts. She proved a fierce defender of the wild, a warrior against Man’s aggression. Yet Circe was unsettled, for Jeraziah had taken the absent King Maliken’s place on the throne, and word spread that he was chosen by the god Sol to lead Man against all who did not walk in Sol’s light.

Maliken
Maliken

Circe remembered her island prison, and the gods who had kept her there. She would never forget. Yet Man insisted on raising yet another god to heights that would bring misery to many and destruction to all corners of this Newerth. And so when King Maliken returned, daemonic and insane, to lead the Hellbourne against the combined forces of Jeraziah and Ophelia, the Deceiver aligned with the daemons to ensure the gods of Man would never regain their supreme power.

Circe knew the day would come when she would face her daughter Sylvia on the battlefield, as well as her granddaughter Ophelia. And when that happened, she would take their essences and carry them with her, to begin her lineage anew.

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