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Spirit of the Wind
Notes: The following excerpts are from the book Elementals, which was found with only pages six and ten intact inside an abandoned general store located next to a partially decayed piece of highway. It has been annotated by several scholars.
The first type of elemental is the wraith.1 It is the stereotypical elemental, with a (usually) humanoid body made up of element it is associated with. Wraiths are almost always elementals of non-solid elements. Most fire, electricity, solar, and air elementals fall into this type. Wraiths typically appear emaciated, almost skeletal, with elongated, sharp fingers and gangly arms and legs. Body shape varies, though they’re usually tall, and, as mentioned above, thin. The definitive way to tell a wraith, though, is that it is completely homogenous. There is no significant change in color or texture.
The abilities of wraiths are primarily geared towards entropy and destruction. Fire wraiths can burn through entire forests, easily producing maelstroms of flame that reduce anything in their path to ash. Electricity wraiths short-circuit complex electrical systems and cause large-scale blackouts. Air wraiths produce tornados or hurricanes. Being made out of the element they are associated with, they of course are immune to it, and indeed sometimes draw strength from being near it. As a result the opposing element is something they are extremely vulnerable to, and two wraiths of equal power and opposing elements can cancel each other out simply by being compacted together.
Unfortunately, wraiths are also the most likely to use their abilities for entropy and destruction.2 Their intelligences can be classified nearly universally as non-human and amoral,3 and frequently appear to consider spreading destruction wrought by their element to be morally desirable. The very few non-humanoid wraiths are even stranger, with their (always predatory) instincts taking hold. Despite this poor record, some wraiths (especially old ones) have been known to be friendly to other sapients. There are also rumors of wraiths being associated with prominent paranormal groups.
Wraith reproduction takes place in areas devastated by the element the wraith is associated with. Other wraiths will spontaneously arise from particularly damaged areas, fully grown. In some cases, however, wraiths will participate in ‘dances’ resulting in all wraiths merging and then splitting into smaller wraiths. James Picout witnessed a group of fire wraiths doing so in 1973 in the Kalahari and described "three narrow pillars of fire, with a deformed human head at the top made of fire, and thin arms and legs made of the same substance” manifest from the flames and "join in a slow, ethereal dance”, culminating in the wraiths "flowing together and bursting apart in a flash that left me blind for a day”.
The second type of elemental is the golem,4 a creature similar to the wraith in that it is constructed of the element it is affiliated with but different both in body type and element. While a wraith is emaciated, composed of energy or liquid, and almost always humanoid, a golem is shaped like a fairly stout humanoid, with a dense body. Naturally, plant, earth, rock, crystal, and ice elementals usually fall into this type.
Golems typically have no facial features aside from two large eyes, though they can usually speak by causing vibrations of their own body or of any of their element that is nearby. The shape of golems differ, usually according to element- while some golems have quite angular bodies, others have smooth body shapes. This division is usually aligned along organic-inorganic lines, with golems of organic elements usually having smooth body shapes and golems of inorganic elements usually having angular ones.
Abilities of golems focus around creating things from their element. A rock golems, for example, can easily create stone structures by merely being in contact with rock. While golems are not normally capable of doing this with any degree of speed, resulting in low combat abilities, they are perfectly capable of being potent in their own way, usually by booby-trapping the area they live in. Golems can also change their own body shape to some degree—rock golems can become smooth or spiny at will.
For the most part, golems are perfectly content to live in quiet isolation, reproducing once every few centuries and spending the rest of their days creating things out of their element. Old golems are often noted artisans, though typical golem isolationist tendencies mean that most golems will never produce something for the purpose of use by someone else. Since golems are rather passive individuals,5 however, it’s not unknown for someone to simply walk into a golem's workshop, take something sitting in a corner gathering dust, and leave without incident.
Golems reproduce by manufacturing copies (which sometimes show significant changes) of them out of their element. Interestingly, their offspring are not always elementals. About forty percent of the time, they are golems, and only ten percent of those display sapience. Golems associating with civilizations will frequently sell their nonsapient offspring for use as labor.
Notes: Page six ends here. Page eight is heavily damaged by water, but the part below was decipherable upon restoration.
The last type of elemental is by far the most common, the most difficult to distinguish, and--usually--the most benign.
There are many creatures that appear to be normal, but are in truth elementals. Whether by genetic chance, by magical or technological accident, or by evolution, these creatures have elemental powers but cannot be physically told apart from their kin. While they are slightly influenced by their element, and often sapient when their species is not, their intelligences are easily comprehensible to the uninitiated mind.
They are elementals, and their abilities are legion, though usually highly limited in scope or weak. I have seen firefighters part blazes with a wave of their hand. I have seen bullets curve around police officers. I have seen gardeners who raised entire gardens from seed in seconds. I have seen priests who called down the power of the sun itself to smite those who opposed them.
Notes: Despite the heavy water damage found in the book, the area in question has barely experienced rainfall in the past century. Investigation of the writer reveals that he was found floating in a newly formed lake, drowned, after a particularly heavy storm. Witnesses all report flashes of lights of different colors, a cold snap, unusual behavior in animals, and a spike in plant growth.
Hand members exhumed the body and did an autopsy. In addition to drowning, the author appears to have suffered curious burn marks on the inside of his skull and had, inside his stomach, a mass of decomposed plant matter identified as briar.
All other copies of the book have been destroyed in unusual accidents. In one notable case, a copy was stored in a private collection and survived not one, but ten fires. The eleventh and final fire destroyed it, despite it being stored in a solid granite box one hundred meters away from flammable objects inside a building constructed of solid rock.
Notes: The following page fragment was given by an ash elemental on December 13, 1987, in repayment for being smuggled out of Foundation custody.
There are other types of elementals, besides the ones that immediately come to mind for most people. Beyond fire, water, ice, electricity, or even the greenfire, there are elementals of space and time, and elementals of emotions.
There are also elementals that do not belong here.
The elementals are at war with each other. Ever since the paths between worlds started opening, forces and substances that warp our reality have been being introduced. And their elementals have come with them. The ones currently in conflict are mostly wraiths, as those have the desire to make our universe like theirs, and their universe is completely alien to us. In other worlds, there is light that sticks to intelligent beings, there is fire that uses sentience as fuel, and there is water which isn’t wet.
No one can be sure when or how the invasion and contamination started. Whoever was there when it did is probably dead. What is known, however, is where, and where in this case appears to be Antarctica. Due to the extremely high concentration of wraiths (especially ones associated with blizzards), the invading wraiths have, for the most part, been contained. The gods also fight them, both out of altruism and self-preservation. No sooner are they found than they are destroyed.
But no system is perfect, and the wraiths do not only attack Earth. It cannot even be said for sure that the wraiths attacked Earth first. Falyx and Those Who Walk have had to organize entire militias to stop the wraiths and other, stranger beings coming from the same worlds the wraiths come from. The Land of the Waking Dreams has been invaded by nightmares from another world. The list of worlds that have full invasions of the creatures may be short, but the list of worlds that the creatures have been found in is long. Alpha Centauri. Utopia. The Sky-Realm. The Floating Mountains of Aschlaach. Lantrani. And any time that a window is opened to one of those worlds where the wraiths have gained a foothold, there is the chance that one of them will slip through to a new world, spreading their corruption.
The opening of the ways between worlds must be controlled. It is not a popular idea, but it is absolutely essential. And there are way to control the ways between worlds. There are machines, grand machines, built to keep the corruption at bay. They reinforce our reality, strengthening the walls between worlds. It is a terrible price, as there is much good that comes from beyond, but I fear there may be no choice.6
Footnotes1. It should be noted that the author ignores the frequent overlap between what he terms 'wraiths' and what he terms 'golems'. It should also be noted that elementals themselves make little to no distinction, and when they do always refer to what are referred to as 'wraiths' in this manuscript as 'xals'.
2. While this is true per se, xals are far less violent, and prits far moreso, than the writer makes out.
3. This depends on one's definition of 'nearly universally'; my encounters with wraiths have been most positive.
4. Or, when elementals make the distinction, a 'prit'.
5. Obviously the writer has never been attacked by an irritated elemental while trying to mine for copper.
6. This is… insane. No one would stand for such an idea. His machines would be smashed to pieces, the plans destroyed.
Written January 2013
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