Last time on Lore Seeker, we explored the story of Jeska the barbarian woman. She stopped her brother Kamahl’s Mirari-induced rampage, was captured by the Cabal, and was transformed into a new entity known as Phage. Phage was totally loyal to the Cabal, and anything she touched died and rotted away. Her story pits her against an army of mutant centaurs, a man who can shape reality to his will, and an angel from a dream made manifest. Let’s get into it!
She’s Got the Touch
With a touch that could kill any living creature, in addition to all the battle prowess of Jeska the barbarian, Phage was a terrible force to be reckoned with. She was the Cabal Patriarch’s favorite creation, and he decided to use her in the fighting pits to show off the Cabal’s power.
Her first appearance to the public was a fight against an illusionist named Ixidor and a summoner named Nivea. Ixidor and Nivea were lovers who fought together in the pits hoping to earn enough money to escape the Cabal and create their own society together. They had bet all their life’s savings on the fight,1 and if they won they would finally have enough to begin their new life. Unfortunately for them, their opponent was the Cabal Patriarch’s personal death machine, Phage. With her putrefying touch, Phage killed Nivea and easily subdued Ixidor. Having lost all his money and belongings, Ixidor was knocked unconscious, dragged into the desert, and left for dead.2
Phage’s next pit fight was against her own brother Kamahl, now a druid of the Krosan forest (Kamahl, Fist of Krosa). Kamahl had agreed to the fight because he planned to convince his sister to turn against the Cabal and escape with him; what he found instead was that Phage deeply resented the name Jeska, believing Kamahl was to blame for her current form.3 Realizing his sister was not going to leave in her current state, Kamahl stopped the fight and retreated to Krosa.
In order to expand the Cabal’s business and influence, the Cabal Patriarch ordered the construction of a massive city-building called the Grand Coliseum. Phage was sent to oversee construction, and to command the Cabal who were there. When construction was completed, she sent Cabal envoys out across the continent to spread word of the magnificent new arena, and the wealth and glory that it promised to those who braved it.
1. I can’t think of a single way that could go wrong.
2. Sad trombone sound
3. Did I mention that Phage’s mind was deeply twisted by the Cabal? …Well, it was.
Meanwhile, in the Desert…
Left to die in the desert, Ixidor found his life and his sanity slipping away. On the verge of madness, he tried using his skills as an illusionist to comfort himself as he died.4 What he discovered was that his powers were far greater than he had ever imagined; where previously he could create mere illusory images with his mind, his powers could now shape reality itself to his will. He created an oasis for himself first, with food and water to sustain him. Then he tried creating living creatures from mud, and when that endeavor succeeded he began creating a massive kingdom for himself, called Topos. He even populated Topos with people, which he created with his powers just like the livestock and buildings. He also created strange beings that he called “unmen”, empty silhouettes of himself who had lives of their own but who could serve as portals to other places.
Eventually, a Cabal envoy from the Grand Coliseum came to Topos.5 They advertised the Coliseum to the people and then left, but Ixidor was paranoid; he feared that the Cabal, having seen what he created, would soon come for him and his kingdom. One night, he dreamed that Phage had come to Topos to kill him. In the dream Phage managed to grab his arm, which began to rot away. Before her touch could kill Ixidor, however, an angel with the appearance of his dead lover Nivea arrived and stopped Phage. Awakened with a start, Ixidor found that he actually had lost his arm, and beside his bed stood the angel from his dream.6 She explained that her name was Akroma, and that she was created by Ixidor’s dreaming mind to protect him. Ixidor then sent Akroma to find and kill Phage.
4. Yes sir, nothing like sitting with your pretend friends next to a pretend lake to ease you into your actual death.
5. “We must have taken a wrong turn, we were supposed to wander the empty desert”
6. Looks at arm stump – “ah!” – Looks at angel – “aahh!” – Looks back at arm stump – “AAAHH!” – Looks back at angel – “AAAAHHHHHH!”
Now Back to the Good Part
The Grand Coliseum became an instant success; as soon as word spread of this incredible arena, champions from all across the continent of Otaria came to fight in it. Meanwhile, Kamahl had gone to the Krosan Forest and teamed up with an army of druids and mutant centaurs.7 They marched to the Coliseum to overthrow the Cabal and free Jeska/Phage.
When they arrived at the Coliseum, Kamahl was offered a fight: If he could defeat Phage in the arena, she would be set free. He agreed, but told his army to keep watch and intervene if the Cabal tried to pull any tricks. The fight began, and Kamahl quickly realized that nothing had changed; Phage rejected Kamahl’s pleas and declared that she wanted nothing more than to kill him. The fight was underway, but the battle was soon cut short by a surprise from above…
7. The Mirari really messed up Krosa while Kamahl was gone.
Akroma had arrived; the angel declared that she was there to kill Phage, and that she would also kill anyone who stood in her way. Believing that his sister could still be saved, Kamahl fought together with Phage against Akroma. The angel proved herself a formidable foe, but she eventually began to lose ground against the combined strength of the siblings.
Kamahl’s army believed that this whole thing was some sort of trick. Just as Akroma was beginning to falter, they launched their attack on the Coliseum. In the resulting confusion, Akroma managed to escape.
With the angel gone, Kamahl ordered his army to halt their attack. The Cabal made a truce with the Krosan army, and they decided to join forces against the growing threat of Ixidor’s power.8 Phage and Kamahl led the united armies to Topos, where Ixidor lived, and a massive battle ensued. As Ixidor’s forces were defeated, he simply created more from the mud. Even so, his defenses were failing, so he sent out a spark of energy that caused the worst nightmares of every person on the battlefield to become reality.9
When the spark hit the battlefield, many soldiers were killed by manifestations of terrible creatures, or were driven mad by twisted versions of their past, or were horribly transformed. Phage, however, had a different reaction: She regurgitated a swarm of beetles, each of which grew into a gargantuan deathwurm. You see, somewhere deep inside of Phage, Jeska was still there. Whenever Phage killed someone, Jeska felt pain and guilt and loss. When the spark manifested everyone’s fears, it manifested Jeska’s all-consuming fear that those murders were really her fault; thus, each murder Phage had ever committed became a massive, all-consuming wurm.10
8. “Hey Cabal, I know we’re mortal enemies and stuff, but… what the hell was that!?”
9. I believe the author was very high when he wrote this part.
With those fears purged from her body, Phage became Jeska once again. After a brief reunion with her brother, they turned their attention to the battlefield, where the deathwurms were destroying everything in their path. Kamahl and Jeska tried to stop them, but even Akroma and Ixidor could not fight the deathwurms. Ixidor fled from the battle through one of his unmen (the living portals he had created).
The unmen-portals were supposed to close after Ixidor used them, preventing him from being followed. When the portals closed the unmen would cease to exist, effectively killing themselves. Not wanting to die, the unman that Ixidor fled through betrayed him and stayed open. The deathwurm representing the murder of Ixidor’s lover Nivea followed his scent, pursued him through the unman-portal, and ate him.11
Looking upon the destruction on the battlefield, Jeska saw that no one could defeat the deathwurms. Left unchecked, she knew they could destroy the world as she knew it. Desperate for a solution, she found within herself the ability to reabsorb the deathwurms into her body.12 She knew that doing so would turn her back into Phage,13 but she also knew it was the only way to save Otaria. Despite Kamahl’s protests, Jeska drew the deathwurms into her body and once again became the death-touching, Kamahl-hating, Phage the Untouchable.
11. Deep inhale – what if – cough – what if his dead girlfriend ate him? – cough – …poetic.
12. She just… found it. Okay? She just knew she could.
13. Look, we’ve been over this. She just knew, okay?
To Be Continued…
That’s it for the first half of Phage’s story, as told in the novel Onslaught. Coming up, we’ll learn about Phage’s role in the story of Legions: Akroma takes over Topos! Phage gets pregnant! Ancient gods are reborn! All that and more, next time… on Lore Seeker!
The Jeska saga continues here.