Heroes of the New Day
Defeating Our Darker Selves
Collected Stories from the Assembled Host of Ayrkashna
It is with a heavy heart that I find myself putting quill to parchment, for the purpose of this tome is the killing of immortals… of those who were once deva. No matter how many times many of us have tried to redeem the dark tricksters known as Rakshasa, our efforts are never long-lasting, and within a few lifetimes those souls seem to find their way back down the meandering lush paths to Xanadu once more. Therefore, I have gathered stories from as many battle angels and other upright deva as possible to collect the best ways to deal with our dark sisters and brothers in a final, irreversible manner. Gods forgive me.
Yur-i-al, Servant of Pelor
[Many of the tales in this book recount actual hunts of specific Rakshasa. Some of the highlights & more important entries are listed below.]
Sher Khan, the Elderly
I, Janariel, servant of Civilized Thought, record this account of my efforts to slay the Rakshasa who called himself Sher Khan. The difficulties arose because of Sher Khan’s positioning of himself. In one of the cities of the Bane-held lands of the Dragovar Empire, Sher Khan had set himself up as an elderly war veteran, a general of such experience that every warrior who met him took special efforts to serve his needs and curry his favor. Thus, in seeking to overthrow (and kill) the Rakshasa, I had to try to defeat his military “friends” as well. So completely did he fit the ideal that these men were willing to die to protect him, and I became known as an Angel of Death on the final night when I slew his last bodyguards. I am not happy that I had to kill these poor, charmed soldiers, especially as they thought they were defending a respected elder.
A Remembered Dream
I’ve awoken from a dream, a dream of a horrid past life, and this rhyme lingers in my mind:
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And ’mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!
A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ’twould win me
That with music loud and long
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed
And drunk the milk of Paradise.
Forgive me, but my thoughts reach out to drink that milk once more, like a kitten from a dish.
~Zarantha the Down-Looking
In the waning days of the Dawn War, one general gathered many Deva to his banner. This Deva general was called Temujin, and he sought to defeat a primordial with his own army. He riled them up into such a fury, telling them of the glory they’d experience in slaying this horrid beast, promising that they could regain their angelic natures by defeating the Primordial. He lead them into battle, through endless waters and flaming acid, into a deep realm where darkness was not a vision, but a mentality. But Temujin “fell” in the charge, and his forces charged ahead of him, into the waiting maw of Dagon. The general then stood up, watching the Dark Lord revel in the power of consuming the souls of so many former angels (which could not reincarnate), and accepted his payment of power from Dagon. Though many of us work spells regularly to keep the once deva Temujin from re-entering this plane, the Rakshasa now known as Genghis Khan has quite a following in the Elemental Chaos, and is said to have a home in Sigil itself.
Panthera Tigris, the First Rakshasa
While there have been deva for as long as there have been fallen angels, legends among the Rakshasa trace their origins back to the fallen angel of Oghma, the first god killed in the Dawn War. Panthera was eager for Knowledge, as her previous god had been the symbol of all Truth & Knowledge, but the shock of Oghma’s death and the crushing abandonment that she felt lead her to discover darker “truths” about the universe. While it is unknown exactly what sorcery she practiced, she is said to have discovered a way to transcend her lawful nature as an angel, to become something she felt was greater, was freer, was more complete. By coincidence (or fate, some say), she was near a jungle where a pride of primordial tigers had been doing battle with some early mortal forces, laying waste to them with wreckless abandon. Panthera took these creatures into herself, transforming her nature into one more closely aligned with what we now know the Rakshasa to be. Worse, though, was that she took this raw idea and began singing it in the tongues the gods used before the Dawn War, so that every creature of angelic descent could hear the concept and accept it as a possibility. From that time forward, the potential for Rakshasa existed within each and every deva and angel. The angels of living gods had less of a problem, as they had their gods’ might to drown out any Rakshasic thoughts. But those deva who felt the hollowness in their souls from their dead gods… many of them answered the enticing purr in the back of their minds. And thus, Panthera’s dark gift to reality was the concept of the Rakshasa, which we all now deal with.
Learakra, Betrayer of Ayrkashna
It is often thought that a deva must die with darkness in her soul to reincarnate as a Rakshasa, but there have been unfortunate incidences where death was not a required component of the transformation. Take our sister in battle, Learakra, who served with our armies to hunt down Rakshasa and remove their blight from the world.
After one of our raids, we were beset upon by human bandits who were looking to take advantage of our weakened post-battle state. They didn’t dare to attack us directly, but instead stole our supplies and many valuables while we slept. But these humans did not know with whom they had trifled. We tracked them down to their village, and began slaying them in ways only the people of the gods had the imagination to conjure. Having once been an Angel of Vengeance, I also reveled in the memories of my former task as I took to slaying the thieves. Learakra was less enthusiastic about this just retribution, watching quietly, and sometimes even hiding as the rest of us put our flaming swords to the righteous uses they were created for. We found her later, trying to help a human mother and her youngling escape the attack. Though she protested, claiming the child was an innocent, our warriors pushed her aside and took their rightful vengeance upon the human thieves.
That night, while I was out on patrol, someone from within our camp slit the throats of all our troops. Learakra’s was the only body I did not find. Burying the dead warriors, I looked up to see the eyes of a tiger staring at me from the deep woods with a hatred I had not seen before. I have been gifted with the blessing of wings, being a proper deva true to my angelic nature, so I took to wing and fled back to Ayrkashna. But we never saw Learakra again, though patrols would occasionally go missing while out on raids, their bodies found days later with throats ripped out by vicious claws.