"What is this thing?"
"You do not need to know in order to help me deal with it."
"I think I do need to know, and it will take less time if you just tell me than if you argue with me about how I don't need to know."
"Very well. It is a disembodied soul, like a ghost. Only it has never been embodied. It is not supposed to be born yet."
"When should it be born?"
"In the world to come, the new creation. These souls are supposed to wait and watch, but some would not wait, some came after them to return them, and some were brought along unwillingly. Some are rational, some are not. I do not know what category this one falls under. I will tell you what powers it has shown as you travel."
"So it's knowledgeable but alien?"
"Just like you, then."
— dialogue between "Mercator" of the Kerdeans and the spirit claiming to be "Jeriah Killdevil of the Eight Graces"
The above report represents almost all that is known of the Unbegot in general, though it was later confirmed by Sage Indigo of the Chromatics. A little more is known of some individuals and classes. Many of these have only lately been identified as Unbegot.
About 4700 years ago, the Yellow Emperor Huangdi founded Chinese civilization. Huangdi was a formidable magician and inventor, and in his time magic flourished in the newly unified China. His people held commerce with bizzare, surreal creatures that came to them through mirrors. So far as we know, relations were good, on the human side, until the Mirror People launched an unprovoked attack. Huangdi drove the Mirror People back through the mirrors and shut the way with mighty spells. There survives a worrying prophecy that some day Huangdi's magic will wear off; the first sign will be that reflections will gradually cease to copy their casters; then things beyond imagination will begin appearing in mirrors; just before the attack, we will hear the clatter of weapons from within mirrors. See here for more.
Pronounced "TAH-oh-TEE-eh." It is a creature represented in Chinese art by a stylized face of some dragon-like or dog-like monster. Its real appearance is a composition of loops, changing colors from yellow to red, sliding over surfaces, sometimes composing themselves into a facelike arrangement, just before it leaps off the surface to attack. It haunts mirrors. The taotie is a beneficent monster, guarding our world against the Mirror People. At the end of the Mirror War, Huangdi either conjured up the taotie or was given it by an unknown party, to guard the borders between us and the realm of the Mirror People by guarding mirrors. It doesn't just attack Mirror People; it attacks anyone who appears to be making magical attacks through mirrors. The people it attacks usually just vanish. It is powerful enough that some classes of glamour-using vampires are afraid to cast reflections, for fear of it. See here for more.
The Bai Ze is another Unbegot encountered by Emperor Huangdi. It is said that, while the Yellow Emperor was patrolling the east, he ran into a strange beast on Mount Dongwang, the Bai Ze, the White Marsh. He captured it and gave it its freedom in exchange for its dictating a bestiary. This described 11,520 types of supernatural creatures, supposedly all of them in the world, and more importantly, how to repel and avoid them. This bestiary, the Bai Ze Tu, survives only in fragments, at least in the prosaic world. If it contained information on how to cope with the Mirror People, or how to summon the taotie, those parts have not survived.
The Bai Ze looks like a furless white cow with a humanlike face and six horns, mounted in three pairs along its back. Along each flank, it has nine iridescent black spots; these are photosensitive, in fact eyes. As implied above, the creature can speak and is indeed eloquent. It seems benevolent, and warns people of upcoming plagues.
People speculate about the relationship, if any, between the taotie and dagger dogs. Just as the taotie is a danger to those using magic to attack through mirrors, the Tindale's hounds are a danger to people using magic to move through time.
A dagger dog is composed of a dozen or so rounded, triangular plates of what looks like dark, shiny metal, each a few centimeters wide. The plates are paper thin and have hideously sharp edges. The plates hover at fixed distances from one another, forming a roughly dog-like shape, though very flattened – a tangram silhouette of a dog, done in levitating razors.
They always arrive out of corners; any corner of 120 degrees or less will do. They move very quickly, and can climb walls and ceilings without effort, but do not fly. Once a pack of dagger dogs has picked a target, they are very difficult to shake; more time travel, quickly, is the best bet. The victims are terribly cut and sliced, of course, but do not strictly lose blood; instead they rapidly lose only water and die of near-instant dehydration, leaving only mummies.
Chromatics appear as scraps of aurora borealis, always of some very pure color. The can expand and shrink in size, varying from a few centimeters to many meters wide. They appear to be motivated by nothing more than curiosity and, occasionally, a desire to bask in light. They appear to vary in intelligence from bright animal to intelligent person; one in particular, dubbed Sage Indigo by the Kurdeans, has sometimes communicated with humans.
Communications was indirect, because chromatics make no noise of themselves and have virtually no ability to move physical objects. On the other hand, they appear to be able to sense almost any physical stimulus.
A few chromatics are psychologically dangerous. They shine with colors humans never normally see. Some humans find the sight of them fascinating and beautiful, but others find it upsetting. In the worst cases, the fascination can become obsession and the repulsion can become a persistent dread.
At one point, thermals were thought to be nothing but infrared chromatics. However, they have more structure. In modern times, infrared imaging has shown that they manifest as roughly spherical zone in which temperatures are higher or lower than ambient. Sometimes, they show a simple, uniform difference, but they have also shown a cold zone with a hot nucleus or vice versa, alternating cold and hot sectors like the segments of an orange, hot cubes inscribed in cold spheres or vice versa, and so on.
Thermals move freely through matter and appear to spend most of their time deep in the Earth. There is some evidence that they are attracted to high temperature. They appear to have only animal-level intelligence. They are, however, curious, and though they cannot move objects directly, they can heat and cool them, apparently in a spirit of experiment.
The heating and cooling may be extreme enough to burn, shatter, or otherwise damage. Recent Kerdean research divides thermals into two populations, hot and cold. Hot thermals exhibit only slight cooling in their cold regions, but high heat in the hot regions; cold ones are the reverse. They have been dubbed "fire drakes" and "cold drakes" but any connection to dragon myths is conjectural.
Humans have sometimes been able to irritate, please, or frighten them, with heat, cold, magic, or telepathy, but no one is known to have formed a lasting relationship. Some djinn have been known to train thermals as guard beasts or war beasts.
Odradek is a small Unbegot that haunts middle or eastern Europe, making bodies for itself out of household junk. It favors wood, and never weighs more than a small fraction of a kilogram. Its first recorded appearance was as a wooden spool with an axel of some kind thrust through it and a little stick-leg mounted perpendicularly on the axel. Its later appearances are no more coherent or elaborate. It appears to be intelligent or semi-intelligent, and can speak in a faint, piping whisper (in several languages) but is very scatter-witted. It will appear every few days in a house, then disappear for months at a stretch, then return, and finally go away permanently, showing up elsewhere. There appears to be only one Odradek.
This creature haunts religious sites, seeking the presence of enlightened people. It is normally invisible but, when in the presence of someone enjoying mystical union, gradually appears, glowing blue. A Bao A Qu looks like a large comb jelly, the body being a transparent blue ovoid about a meter long. It has four tentacles, fluffy like feather-boas, about five meters long. It floats through the air or clambers about slowly on its tentacles. It can make a noise like the rustling of silk.
It appears to be a bright, if mystically inclined, animal. At least, no one has ever made conceptual contact with it. It has little or no power over physical objects and is equally hard to affect.
It appears to want nothing but to bask in the presence of enlightenment. It has developed the habit of sneaking up on people, since being accosted by a giant aeriel comb jelly, fading into visiblity, tends to distract one from one's meditations.
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Copyright © Earl Wajenberg, 2010