Dicember 2021 – balefire

Not all dabblers in the arts of death confine themselves to flesh and bone, or even to the rarified essence of the restless unliving soul; a rare few find themselves enraptured by the rarest of manifestations, the unique intersection of death and soul and prayer and emotion that comes to a head when a beloved one is laid to rest on a funeral pyre.

Sometimes that pyre burns so fiercely — carries so much of its burden to mingle with the grief and the yawning finality of the afterlife — that its flames absorb all, and in the depths of the dancing fires something else catches alight.

That something is pyreflame, and its pale strange fires are valued and abhorred.

A strange substance, it is. Flickering like flames, it casts off a foxfire phosphorescence like a sheen across its bright blaze; and it blazes in colours of pale green, greenish golden, faint blue or a ghostly white. There’s an eerie solidity to pyreflame, a sense of clinging, syrupy presence, an almost jelly-like consistency that nonetheless slips through the fingers — and slip it may, without harm, because pyreflame does not burn living flesh. It feeds on bone, and only bone.

A swift harvester may count themselves lucky if they recover more than a thimbleful or two from any given fiery altar, gathering the clinging tongues of pyreflame into iron or crystal or stiffened silk. Of course, the gathered mourners may not approve of this behaviour …

But what does it do, this strange amalgamation of essence and prayer and spirit, of afterlives fair and foul?

– A dram of pyreflame will fuel any magic that involves the soul, the spirit, prayers or petitions or calls to higher (or lower) powers, instead of relying on the caster’s own reserves.

– Perhaps paradoxically, it will both fuel necromantic magic likewise, offering a greater animating spark to the unliving produced by such rites, and will cause any weapon smeared with at least a dram (more, for larger weapons) to cause critical and irreparable injury to the undead.

– A dram of pyreflame will also grant great restorative power to the healing arts, which will be cast at their maximum potential without fail.

– One may consume pyreflame, with unpredictable results:

01. Gain partial memories of the deceased
02. Gain one of the skills or talents of the deceased
03. Purge all impurities and weaknesses but be vulnerable to banishment or castigation as the unliving are
04. Attract the attention of one or more powers to whom mourning prayers were addressed (but sense the content of those prayers)
05. You now sense the presence of the newly and the restless dead
06. Develop the need to feed on at least a pound of human bone each week
07. You can, if you exert yourself, open the way to the underworld, but must pay in consumption of bone and blood
08. Burn out half of your allotted lifespan in a blaze of frenzied, aethereal enlightenment

Of course, there is also the rumour that, if enough pyreflame is consumed — and one is not overwhelmed or driven mad or mummified while living or any number of other whispered possibilities — one may catalyze the prayer-stuff and soul-stuff and lingering life-and-death and become a veritable small godling in one’s own right, capable of hearing prayer and snatching them the very air to, perhaps, grant, or to feed on as your rightful repast, or fuel your sorceries, or all of these things.

One does have to wonder what existing powers may think of such a thing.

Or, for that matter, the loved ones of those whose final travels you stole your quickening flames from.

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