(These are excerpts from Petal’s Book of Shadows – her own personal spellbook and research notes. That book’s in Petal’s hands, and you can get your claws on it by asking – but it is wholly in Pandaran.)
It was with some surprise that I managed to get close enough to a few of the demon-hunters – they call themselves Illidari, apparently in honor of their founder – to perform a somewhat in-depth examination of the markings that are on their skin. These aren’t native to their particular breed of elf; rather, they’re incredibly intricate statements of the arcane given physical shape through tattoos engraved within the Illidari’s flesh.
They’re built like a cage, with words of binding and statements of Naming apparently intended to contain the consciousness of a demon, and bind the demon’s spirit (Which would otherwise escape back to the Nether) into the elf’s body – sort of like a vessel for holding almond cookies until summer. Of course, demons aren’t really as tasty or useful as almond cookies. Not that I’ve eaten a demon.
(drawings of Zetera’s tattoos – in surprising detail, as well as several of Ana’s, are included with the writing.)
Outwardly, these tattoos are very simple, with recurring whorls and cuts that make themselves into stylized portions of runes – there’s really no single complete room on the exterior of the design, but each line is deliberately placed. It’s the internal workings that are most interesting – it isn’t just enchanted ink. Rather, each line is woven with bindings directly; you can -see- the words woven around the ink. Despite their simplicity, this must have taken hours to do, and been excruciatingly painful.
Interestingly, the bindings are sort of like what happens when a scroll is copied by an illiterate scribe, as was common during the early rule of the Mogu, when writing was outlawed among the Pandaren. Small transcription errors creep in when a character is rendered inexpertly, and then there’s no literacy to enable a scribe to validate the intent of the original passage. The runes within the lines themselves seem to suffer from this particular problem – like each one of these tattoos is derived from an original that was far more expertly made, by those with an imperfect understanding of the original intent of spells behind the binding.
Obviously, I can’t pretend to know what the original spells were – they’re incredibly complex; my own limited skills really can’t unravel them to any great detail. But … I think it would be possible to modify these imperfect bindings, to change how these Illidari see, or how their fel traits, inevetable with this kind of entrapment, are expressed. The danger would be, of course, that marring the language in the bindings themselves could weaken the bindings – and I can understand why one of the Illidari might be worried, and wouldn’t want someone poking and prodding at the only thing that’s probably keeping them sane.
If they’re sane. I worry that this kind of binding would make that pretty much impossible. There’s no way, in these runes, to protect the mind from the influence of the other entity contained within the binding. In fact, the mind of the Illidari seems to be set up to be a sort of ‘jailor’ for the entity. The implication is that it’s force of the Illidari’s purpose that holds the bindings in place – and they can’t slip, or the entity inside gets a little closer to getting out.
I certainly wouldn’t do it. I can’t imagine what would drive somebody to do that kind of thing. But, Uncle said repeatedly that “understanding is key to all purpose – ” he’s right. If I can understand these things, as old as they are… I’ve already witnessed raw arcane chi being used to recharge these runic markings. What if they could be rewritten? Rebound? If they can weaken to the point they need renewal, then they’re as living an entity as the poor creature wearing them.
The Illidari bind their eyes. I don’t know why – but it doesn’t seem to bother them. Perhaps that too is a function of the markings? I’ll have to see if they’ll let me look closer. Or.. maybe talk about it. They don’t talk much. Mostly they growl and sort of use as few words as possible for /everything/.
(The notes continue – rambling through details of theoretical changes to the bindings that would enhance or change the expression of an illidari’s wings, or even affect their perception, removing or improving the connections between the inner demon and the illidari’s vision.)
I begin to understand why Fel has so powerful a draw for so many casters. Humans and elves and others who touch Chi don’t really use their own, for the most part. They reach outside of themselves, tapping into Azeroth’s ley lines and other power sources. It’s different than what Uncle taught – in the Temple, using the Chi of the arcane is about absolute control, flapping butterfly wings to move mountains by understanding the problem completely, and trying to apply the very minimum amount of force to achieve whatever goal you’re hoping to find.
There’s a lot of reasons for it, I think – philosophically, it makes sense. Why bring a bonfire when you just need to bake a cupcake? Lots of power always works, but it’s not elegant. It … kind of leads people to think that more power is always the best solution for everything. “When all you’ve got is a hammer, then every problem is a nail.”
In magic, it kind of is. You can shove power at something, with enough will, and it will eventually do pretty much the thing you’re hoping to do. And when you spend your life tapping vast reserves of power, it makes sense that if you’re having problems doing something, then you just need to get your hands on a bigger bonfire, rather than rearrange or rethink the one you have.
If you think like that? Fel is really seductive. It’s … like turbocharged magic, just at a glance. Small amounts of it can do massive things, and when you collect huge amounts, you can pretty much bend things to the limits of your imagination and desire. The thing is – it’s antithetcal to other magic. Annihalative. Using Fel makes it impossible to use any other power source in the same working. It’s like your internal connections just … flip for the duration. Polarize. And eventually you can’t or won’t use anything else.
Fel is life energy – but it’s more than that. It’s the raw potential hidden within the being that gave up itself to become the power.
(There’s a drawing of a soul engine here – in too much detail).
That’s what demons do – they stuff living creatures into these furnaces, and render their lives as they are now and everything they could ever be into raw potential. It doesn’t just end lives, it removes people from being. Then, all of that potential is used for everything demons do – and the byproducts are toxic. A bit of fel, uncontrolled, can express itself in a thousand ways, and every one of those ways seeks to make itself bigger, to take more. The green sludge in their strongholds isn’t water – it’s fel leaching through the water, removing all of the life it has, stealing all of its potential, trying to grow. It’s caustic to skin and fur and the soul inside.
Personal experience shows that even external contact with these byproducts hurts, sure – but it also adds bad temper and rage, and leads to lashing out, like something inside got seared from the momentary external contact.
The point is, though, that the draw of Fel comes from the idea that power can do anything, if you just get enough of it. But that way is insanity. It’s just madness.
You can lift a rock directly with your muscles, or you can use a lever. Both of them move the rock. One of them uses a lot less power, and leaves you less sore in the morning.