When dark magic binds together the earthen stone, and sacrificial souls bring to life a towering giant, Erendorn remembers a fearful time when blood soaked the woodlands and screams tore the air. But Stone Golems are no longer reflections of this evil history. Once the product of a deranged Sorceress, these creatures have since become useful labourers to many civilisations. But the souls contained within Stone Golems may have more hold over these creatures than what was first expected...
The scapes of Erendorn are as deceptive as they are treacherous. Those who venture unaware may hear the deep creak of the High Forest and think it nothing but the sigh of nature, while the wary Rockbark Treeman looms above them with outstretched limbs and an untrusting eye. Meanwhile, perilous terrains have claimed the lives of countless foreign travellers and there are many who have fallen to the fury of a savage bear after underestimating the appearance of a Blue Melmee.
Indeed, in Erendorn even the rocks can be deceitful. Across the expansive plains, creatures known as Stone Golems are often seen travelling in tow of itinerant merchants, carrying belongings all over their impressive eight foot frames. Most commonly made from piles of rock, Stone Golems are anthropomorphic beings that can only be created by utilising strong, intense powers. First wielded by a maddened spellcaster now long dead, Stone Golems are the product of a powerful Sorceress’ deranged experiment.
Umza the Gifted
Many years ago, the figure of a great Sorceress once emerged from the Human Kingdom. Clad in velvet robes, Umza the Gifted was once one of the most proficient magic users of all the Human race. Known to be kind and knowledgeable, many admired Umza despite the fact that Sorcerers were usually distrusted members of society. For her unwavering dedication to the Human Kingdom, and her awe-inspiring prowess with magic, Umza became one of the first Sorceresses to be fully accepted by Humankind.
Adorned with ancient talismans and spellbooks engraved with primordial markings, Umza possessed unparalleled knowledge of the ancient magic that once governed Erendorn. Her wisdom was revered throughout the Human Kingdom, her enchanting spells like resurrected relics of a bygone age. But not even Umza the Gifted could lay to rest the temptation that burned beneath her fingertips - the temptation to go further, to do and be more. Umza followed her temptation right into the mouth of the Void, where hearts become cold and minds become corrupted.
Poisoned by the dark magic she had let flood her soul, Umza the Gifted became a much feared Sorceress. No longer did the graceful streets of her Kingdom home call her name in veneration, nor did they celebrate her awesome powers. Instead, in the dark corners of taverns or the candlelit walls of bedrooms, the name Umza was whispered in fear; and rather than admire this Sorceress’ powers, people now found only distress when they thought of her capabilities.
Rumours plagued the Human settlements, all telling of Umza’s tyrannical reign of power that she inflicted upon nearby woodlands. Hunters spoke of the disfigured corpses of fauna that littered the forest, and of the maniacal cackle they heard echoing through the desiccated trees. Travelling merchants carried word of the maddening Umza skulking in the woodlands like a feral beast, muttering dark incantations beneath her breath while performing what seemed to be a sinister ritual. For many years did Umza stay hidden among Erendorn’s woodlands, seeming to become more deranged and corrupted by the day; until one twilight, when the air was bathed in grey, her secret workings were revealed.
Creation of the Stone Golems
As a group of humble hunters were returning to the Human Kingdom, a fresh kill slung over their unsteady wooden wagon, an incredible noise erupted from the woodland. With knowledge that this was where Umza the Gifted was known to reside, a few of the hunters ran towards the settlement gates to alert the Cityguard while the rest of their comrades hurried towards the noise, fearful that whatever Umza had been planning in those woods had finally come to fruition. The ground trembled, the trees shook, and as the men finally discovered Umza’s hideout, an impossible sight met their eyes.
From the ground burst forth an animated pile of stone, bound by an impossible magic that only Umza could have discovered how to harness. At eight foot tall, this anthropomorphic being towered over the terrified hunters, who remained hidden by the belt of trees that circled Umza’s main site. This creature had arms and legs and although no face gave it an expression, a definite head sat upon its broad shoulders. What they were witnessing was the first Stone Golem ever to exist in Erendorn, a truly remarkable creature that stunned all soldiers into silence when the Cityguard finally reached the hunters.
But the incredible sight took the Humans’ attention away from the horrors that lay on the ground around Umza’s site. Dozens of dead fauna had been bled, their throats or bellies smiling with wide, clean slits. And then, as their eyes moved closer to the centre of this clearing, a familiar body struck them silent.
Lying at the centre of the clearing was a small Human body, motionless as it lay stark against the wet leaves. Blonde curls muddied by the earth, it was clear that the young child was not for food or pleasure - she was a sacrifice. For many years after Umza’s downfall, the spellbook she used to create the first Stone Golem was studied so that its knowledge would benefit Erendorn as a whole. What they discovered in that spellbook was that sacrifices must be made in order to animate a Stone Golem. The dead fauna of the woodland had simply been tests and trials. Unable to use their souls to power the stone, Umza had turned to a frolicking girl who knew no better than to wander into the woodland alone.
When Umza finally noticed that the Cityguard and hunters were watching, her intentions for the Stone Golem soon became obvious. Unravelling into a frantic disposition, Umza began reciting ancient incantations, all the while flailing her arms wildly in the air as she attempted to command the Stone Golem to attack - but it never did. Remarkably, the Stone Golem appeared passive, mindless, and no matter what desperate measures Umza employed, it would not attack the onlookers. This gave a crucial insight into the behaviour of Stone Golems whilst revealing that Umza had ultimately failed. But all was not over yet. One more chapter of Umza the Gifted began to take shape in the following days, a chapter marked by tragedy.
The Fall of Umza
Distraught that her Stone Golem failed to attack her enemies, Umza the Gifted disappeared into the woodland before the Cityguard even had a chance to approach her. Whilst her Stone Golem was already being led away to the Kingdom, Umza had already begun her next diabolical plot. Over the following weeks, many people of a similar kind began disappearing. Reports of missing convicts, beggars and even petty thieves began weaving throughout the city walls. With the vision of the sacrificed child still burned into their mind’s eye, the Cityguard feared the worst; and one night, when the moon was a bright crest, their fears were confirmed.
From the watchtowers that lined the Kingdom walls, a tremendous burst of light could be seen shooting upwards from the middle of the woodlands. When the Human forces arrived at the scene, this time accompanied by veteran Knights and skilled mages, another Stone Golem stood waiting for them in a small clearing - but this one was much bigger than the last. Nearly twelve foot, it was a monstrous sight, and the number of Human carrion that laid at its feet suggested that this time, Umza had used more than one soul to power this beast.
All of a sudden, Umza’s hateful cackle leaked from the mouth of a small cave where she was sitting, awaiting the arrival of her audience. Then, without warning, the Stone Golem unleashed a fury so fierce that it brought ancient trees crashing to the ground and great rocks flying through the air. It was an uncontrollable killing machine, obeying every order of the Sorceress as it relentlessly attacked the brave Humans. Many died and many retreated, but for those who lived through the onslaught, the next chain of events left them in awe.
Out of nowhere, the colossal Stone Golem turned on Umza the Gifted who, in that moment, felt she had become the most powerful force in Erendorn. But instead of obeying her commands to kill the final soldiers, the Stone Golem turned on Umza. Tearing an enormous boulder from the ground, it crushed Umza the Gifted under the same stone she had used to create it. Knights and soldiers watched in astonishment as their sworn enemy was obliterated in a matter of seconds, but they were not relieved for long. The Stone Golem quickly turned back to them, enraged and out of control. It was a gruelling battle fraught with death. But eventually, by combining their forces, the Humans finally managed to destroy the Stone Golem.
With Umza now dead, her spellbook could finally be studied by the great minds at the Mages’ Sanctum. Now that they understood how she had created the first Stone Golem, which was proving to be a valuable resource in the Human Kingdom due its passive nature and ability to perform labour intensive tasks, they began to create more of these creatures. Soon, the knowledge of creating Stone Golems swept across Erendorn until they were a fairly common sighting to most races. Indeed, despite the evil that governed her later years, Umza the Gifted had truly left her mark on Erendorn, and one that was even rooted in good.
Stone Golems of Modern Erendorn
Since their initial creation, many civilised races have become practiced in bringing Stone Golems to life. Their unquestioning obedience make them ideal labourers, and they are now predominantly used by many civilisations.
While Humans often use Stone Golems to perform labour intensive tasks for them, Frost Dwarf and Earthen Dwarf merchants alike use Stone Golems to carry their belongings as they travel from settlement to settlement. But there are strict rules attached to creating a Stone Golem, rules that prevent Umza’s last experiment from ever repeating itself.
Rules of Creating Stone Golems
If a Stone Golem is to be created, three simple yet crucial rules must be followed. The first is that Stone Golems should not exceed eight foot, which has been deemed the optimum height for these creatures. Any bigger puts them at greater risk of crashing down into rubble at a moment’s notice, since the magic that binds them together cannot always support such large quantities of stone.
The second rule is that no more than one soul is to be used in a Stone Golem. After witnessing the monstrosity that Umza created when powering her Stone Golem with multiple souls, this has become the most stringent rule of them all, and failure to follow it has serious penalties. The third rule is tied to the second and it states that no innocents are permitted to be sacrificed. Instead, there are two common sources of souls that can be used in the creation of a Golem.
Before the dead are laid to rest, their souls are sometimes sacrificed if their respective race is in need of Stone Golems. Whether they fell in battle or succumbed to disease, the dead are the fastest way of providing a soul; and the fresher the corpse, the more successful the outcome. But this isn’t the only way of creating a Stone Golem. Over the years, there has been an overwhelming and ever-increasing number of individuals who actually volunteer themselves to be sacrificed. These individuals are often elderly, sick or fatally wounded, and would rather their souls be reincarnated into the bodies of Stone Golems than be left to wane under a slow death.
Whether some do this to avoid a painful death, cheat death altogether or simply because they want to give back to the land from whence they came, these types of sacrifices are always carried out in a painless and respectful manner, and are much more preferred than using carrion. For races who have no volunteers and no dead bodies to spare, there is only one alternative.
While criminals who have committed heinous crimes are banned from being used as sacrifices in the creation of a Stone Golem, the corruption of their souls a far too threatening risk to experiment with, it is still a dark practice that continues to happen to this very day. Those who indulge in this illicit practice are usually involved in some form of bribery, or are interested in creating a Golem that has a proclivity for violence. In these scenarios, the risks of awakening the kind of Golem that Umza once created are very high.
The sacrifices used to create Stone Golems must be selected with extreme care because souls are not just objective entities devoid of identity. Each soul contains a vestige of its host’s former self, and this has led many to believe that there is more below the surface of a Stone Golem than what meets the eye.
Personalities in Stone Golems
Although Stone Golems possess no audible language, show no expression and continue to obey orders with hardly any hesitation, they are not completely mindless or insentient. While little is known about how these creatures operate, it has been confirmed that each Stone Golem has a mind of its own and this hints towards a level of intelligence.
This is displayed when a Stone Golem refuses to obey a command, a rare occurrence that usually only happens when they are commanded to perform harmful tasks. While they will defend their master or companions when under attack, Stone Golems rarely attack something if there is no reason to. However, each Stone Golem has its own unique personality and while the majority of them are harmless and passive, there are those that do not shy away from the gritty business of attacking a group of travellers or destroying a settlement, and there are even those who do this of their own accord.
Many have theorised that this comes down to the type of soul contained within the Stone Golem. Indeed, it has been speculated that this is why the first Stone Golem never attacked the Cityguard all those years ago. Since it was made from a child’s soul, it was far too innocent to perform such abominable actions. Those who led a righteous existence, living in peace and harmony with the world, are said to pass on a similar goodness and morality to the Stone Golem they are used to animate. This belief that a Stone Golem assumes the personality of the soul they carry suggests that every Stone Golem is as individually unique as Humans themselves.
However, parallels have also been drawn between those who possess a wicked heart and the ferocious nature of the Stone Golem that their souls have been placed in. For these Golems, simply obeying the commands of their creator is not enough to satisfy their existence. Instead, these creatures are more drawn towards Erendorn’s dungeons, where they roam in search of trinkets, troves and even battles, their instinct to cause trouble far too powerful to ignore.
In recent years, much has been discovered about the Stone Golems. But even with this knowledge, as well as their proliferation in numbers, very little is known about the inner workings of these creatures, and much more careful research will be needed if their mystery is ever to be discovered.