Artephius

A figurative monster who turns into a literal one

Description:

A serial killing, cannibalistic, brain-damaged mummy tiefling covered in eyes and bandages. Told the insane necromancer Skindancer where the gods would be during the ambush on Vecna, who subsequently stole them away, to the bafflement of both Vecna’s forces and the Vanguard. Artephius left soon afterwards to parts unknown.

Bio:

Backstory

Artephius was the tiefling spawn of an abysmyth in a time when tieflings were looked upon as little better than their forebears. Born in a land whose name has been lost to history, Artephius wandered from village to village, being driven out for his cursed heritage each time, until one day he came upon a great golden city. Sneaking in one night, he sought shelter and a place to sleep in the loft of a slightly dilapidated tenement building filled with strange jars and chemicals, but was discovered by its owner. This was a man named Ostanes (‘(H)uštana’), and he was possibly the first true alchemist, pioneering many of the great discoveries that would be sought by those who came seeking knowledge after him, along with the secret to smelting iron. Ostanes was also a progressive man and chose to look beyond Artephius’ heritage, taking him in as a student. Artephius was naturally brilliant and excellent in his studies, becoming one of Ostanes’ brightest pupils, though more focused in the fields of biology and medicine than those of chemistry and bomb-making, which were favoured by his peers.

Art initially practiced his research and honed his techniques on cadavers, when he could acquire them, but soon there was little more that could be learned without living test subjects. To remedy this, Art opened up a series of hostels (with Ostanes’ blessing and no little trepidation from potential patients) and healed the sick for a while, before again determining that he could not make more progress without more… esoteric methods. As he was regarded as a great healer by this time, it took little effort to recruit volunteers for more experimental surgeries, but again, more progress could not be made without more warm bodies. Soon the volunteer requirement was waived entirely, and Art started operating on any and all of his many patients as well as vagrants picked up off the street. This continued for many years, and Art made great strides in his research, eventually learning how to induce spontaneous mutation, preserve his own organs, and even partially mummify himself by way of a special diet, several rare extracts and replacing his blood with a black ichor.

Around this time, however, Art started to get careless in his disposal of failed experiments, and many of Art’s test subjects were found – typically with precise incisions and missing organs. This prompted a great manhunt for the so-called ‘dread harvester’ – a serial killer hated and feared for preying on the weakest members of society and harvesting their organs. Naturally suspicion soon fell on Art, but Ostanes was quick to defend him, reaffirming his reputation as a healer and not a murderer and decrying the idea that he was a slave to his fiendish ancestry. To support this, Ostanes said, he would put another one of his students on the case of the murderer – one who had been pioneering several new techniques of empirical investigation. Unfortunately for Art, the evidence the student turned up led straight to him, and with a heavy heart Ostanes took a cadre of his finest students to put Art down. Art’s last memories of that time were of his door being kicked in as he was packing his specimen jars, and then several barrages of explosives and incendiaries flying towards his face and the room filling with smoke and fire, and then only burning and pain.

His next memories were, he later determined, several hundred years later. As he was being burnt at the stake by a howling mob. His innate resistance to fire prevented his execution, however, and he soon blacked out again. Art regained consciousness amid the butchered remains of the mob, while tearing into the ringleader’s insides. Subsequent travels and tavern tales confirmed Art’s hypothesis – barely clinging to life after Ostanes’ assault due to his mummification, he had somehow reflexively shifted into a mutagenic form, and his mind split off a second psyche – one that had the will to survive, and which identified itself as Harvester, after the moniker given to him by citizens of the golden city. Furthermore, Harvester had apparently been active for at least several hundred years, its lifespan artificially extended by Art’s experiments on himself.

His mind afire with… fire, specifically that delivered by his mentor’s bombs, Art decided to keep a low profile as a travelling alchemist for a while. After all, his mentor had been working on the secret of immortality back when Art was still his student, and knowing him, he’d probably succeeded in the intervening period.

This continued for some time, with Art occasionally being attacked by bandits or superstitious townsfolk, passing out, and then waking up with vague memories of butchering them and consuming their flesh; around this time, he became a vegetarian whenever he wasn’t in his mutagenic form. His travels ended, however, when a pirate crew landed in town demanding a doctor. The villagers, awed by his skill yet disturbed by his continued presence, volunteered Art to perform the procedure.

The surgery proceeded quickly and cleanly, with their bosun being brought back to the land of the living despite a festering gut wound and no less than a dozen venereal diseases. As the crew lacked a doctor, the captain, a half-elven woman of dark affect called Avery, invited Art aboard her airship Ship.

One thing Art noticed about many of the crewmembers was that they had small animals that they kept as pets, so in a misguided attempt to fit in he thought he’d have the same. Art cultivated a tumour in his shoulder, and then crafted it into a monkey-like shape. This he infused it with solutions to encourage intelligence, skill and dexterity, and before long his familiar, known as Reginald, was born. The reaction of the crew was largely one of disgust, however, and Art was often told to ‘keep that shit out of sight, by Melantir!’ Reginald nevertheless became his constant companion, a personal valet who could do fine work with machines and even make potions while Art slept.

Art also met a young reaver called Shai Cruxis, who was uncharacteristically trusting and naïve for a member of Avery’s crew, and they struck up the closest thing Art had had to a friendship in a while. It seemed that Shai had left his last job as a mercenary after entering a rage and tearing his commander in half, and in so doing had expressed some draconic characteristics that had been heretofore absent. Art offered to help Shai find out more about this change, and through a combination of alchemical therapy, hypnosis, and some experimental surgery, unlocked Shai’s magical potential and latent draconic bloodline. On the one hand, Art felt a certain perverse kinship with Shai over their respective bloodlines expressing themselves through physical transformations, and on the other hand, he was an excellent physical specimen and test subject.

Avery’s crew were a fearsome lot, and for a while Art’s eccentricities were tolerated; he was a masterful surgeon, and many a valuable crew member that would have fallen to ailments resistant to conventional healing magic and been fed to Ship was saved at the end of his scalpel. Art also got his fair share of the booty plundered from ships from all throughout the planes, including several powerful magical items, often obtained despite fierce competition from Avery’s ‘rival’, Nima. This situation could not last, however; Art had already been severely reprimanded for taking gratuitous tissue samples from his patients and storing them in jars of formaldehyde for later research, and the crew were becoming increasingly spooked by Art’s paranoid habit of covering his body in dozens and dozens of eyes (the better to see his enemies coming) and of his wandering Ship while everyone else slept. Shortly after the death of Nima at the hands of Vecna, Avery had him walk the plank while in the blackest mood he’d seen her in yet (he was almost fed to Ship, before Ship expressed that he didn’t want any part of Art inside himself), ostensibly for being deeply unsettling to everyone and destroying the crew’s morale. Unbeknownst to Art, Shai followed his exile…

Harvester

The Harvester isn’t necessarily a bad person, but he originally based his identity off a caricature of a serial killer, doesn’t discriminate with his appetites and is almost always called upon during times of great stress and violence. Harvester would just as happily go to an inn, drink all their ale and sleep with a barmaid as kill everything in sight, except that he appears to be a horrible monster out of a madman’s darkest nightmares and so tends to end up consuming the flesh of sapient beings instead.

Mutagen

  • Mouth takes on abysmyth characteristics, becomes shark-like
  • Scales harden and become more prominent
  • Claws on hands and feed become much larger and more prominent
  • Batlike wings sprout
  • Nose becomes batlike
  • Normally while not in mutagenic form, Art’s abysmyth heritage expresses itself as strangely shaped (webbed and clawed) hands or feet; which one of those are in effect is occasionally switched around by the mutagen

Artephius

Dark sun that isn't actually dark sun. SamHeymans