The path to becoming a Leviathan is slow, intoxicating, and filled with peril. A spirit who inhabits the mortal plane may feed off mortal fears, empowering himself until he becomes an immense danger to the Known World. This process begins gradually as the spirit haunts the living. After he builds a formidable reputation and collects mortal terror, he becomes a horrible monstrosity: a Leviathan.
All types of spirits are susceptible to this process. Raging spirits automatically move down this path, while gods, demons and ancestral spirits may choose this form of power.
The process begins with a haunting presence: usually a spirit in incorporeal form who senses the living’s emotional aversion to death or harm. All spirits can sense mortal emotions; it is an inherit gift to the dead. The sense works much like the sense of smell, and each emotion has a distinct aroma or flavor. Every living creature radiates these scents, which can lure or repulse spirits. To the dead, mortal love is bittersweet to sickly sweet. Hate is sharp and peppery. Joy is mint fresh. Hope is tangy and sweet. Greed is salty and filled with vinegar. Faith is a flavorful mixture of several emotions which is quite appealing to spirits and gods, but can only gods can dine on it. The most tempting of all emotions is fear, for it smells of roast flesh.
After sensing the emotions of nearby people, a spirit might choose one to influence or possess. Knowing that power comes from the scent of fear, spirits choose people who emit this particular smell—especially if the smell is strong. The first victims of a fear-inducing spirit are usually weak-willed, skittish mortals who live life seeking security. The young and the elderly are susceptible to this state of mind, and evil spirits often prey upon them. Yet the emotions of fear and terror know no age, race, or religion, making everyone a potential target.
Once a spirit identifies potential prey, it attacks. The Known World and the Veil of Dreams are both areas in which the spirits may assail mortals, and the spirits have many possible tactics. Each tactic has one thing in common: It is direct. The spirit intends for the victim to recognize the spirit who torments her.
Some examples of attacking spirits are:
- A poltergeist of an elderly lady, now a raging spirit, haunts a farmhouse, throwing furniture or pottery at the victim at anyone who moves into the house. She feeds on the fear these attacks create.
- An old soothsayer who was executed while telling his king the truth now haunts the kings dreams and the dreams of others living in the castle. Flocks of crows appear repeatedly in their dreams, cawing incessantly, creating trepidation and sleepless nights.
- A trader who died a violent death at the hands of his brother haunts a roadside inn, appearing as a decapitated corpse.
This haunting stage is only the beginning.
Collecting the essence of fear is simple for a malign spirit. Every mortal has the capacity to give off Belief or Terror. When a spirit brings forth the essence of Terror by terrorizing a mortal, this essence leaves the mortal and travels to the spirit. A process of spiritual absorption then transforms it into miraculous power. Dark spirits use these ill-gained miraculous powers to create Miracles. The only Miracles Terror can create are more acts of fear-mongering and terror.
The process of reaping Terror is powerful, toxic, and self-defeating. Once a spirit terrorizes a victim, the only way it can draw forth more Terror is to create an even more terrifying Miracle, until eventually the spirit has no recourse but to slay mortals for Terror—and they cannot produce more Terror when they’re dead.
Once a spirit tastes fear and power, it rarely returns from this damned path, but doing so is possible. Redemption is a difficult process, filled with violent struggle. A Leviathan must first fall to the spirit level, reduced in power before it may try to walk another path. Gods or Fate are usually involved in aggressively taking down such hostile entities. All sides hurl Miracles, and mortals are trapped in the middle.
Though a spirit can attempt redemption, few avoid their destiny of destruction. All Leviathans—or spirits that were formerly Leviathans—stand before Fate to receive judgment. The final path of such spirits is a return to the Well of Souls from where they are reborn again, forgetting their old existence. A few souls who swear binding oaths to Fate might avoid the Well of Souls for a time, attempting to reclaim their former glory of godhood or simply reach their god’s heaven.
Fearful predators abound. Mortals and gods beware!
Written by Richard Leon