NPC, iconic; Ilkuthsra, the Autumn King

author: Ari "Mouseferatu" Marmell
date: 2003-01-14
status: finished

Ilkuthsra, the Autumn King, is easily my favorite of all the villains I've yet created for a published project. He's appeared, albeit it only briefly, in the first two chapters of the Serpent Amphora Cycle from Sword & Sorcery. He'll be in the third as well, and hopefully in many more projects to come.

Unfortunately, neither of the modules provided me with much opportunity to really describe him, and the artist who drew the only existing picture didn't really get him right-- though that's NOT in ANY way the artist's fault, since, as I said, he didn't have a complete description to work with. Thus, I threw the following together, for those who want to have a better picture of the Autumn King. I'm more interested in your reactions to the imagery, but please feel free to comment on the writing itself if you feel so inclined. This was, like I said, just thrown-together, so I'm more than happy to field any suggestions.

The chamber was silent--no, more than silent, for it seemed as though the earthen walls sucked the very sound from the throats of the observers before they could even shape it into words. Occasionally one of the roots that protruded from those walls, from the ceiling, from the floor, would quiver slightly, passing along some great noise from aboveground, but never quite strong enough to be heard.

Only at the far end of the room, on a raised mound of thick loam beside a pool of stagnant water, was the silence broken. For there the Autumn King sat upon his throne of briars, and as he shifted the thorns would scrape lightly, somehow soft yet shrill at once, against his bones. Against the wall beside him leaned a tall staff, carved of finest wood, capped with teeth and bone and garishly bright feathers. Draped over it was a baldric of thick leathers, made from the flesh of no animal known to any man present, from which hung in turn an ancient leaf-bladed sword of polished bronze.

Slowly, as though prying himself from the brambles' grip, Ilkuthsra, called the Autumn King, leaned forward. The light from the single dancing torch fell first upon his bare skull, sharply illuminating the intricate designs of Albadian knot-work that covered most of the age-yellowed bone. He slowly rested his chin in an equally fleshless hand, and surveyed those gathered before him with eye- sockets empty but for faint glimpses of plant-matter within. Thorn-covered vines that intertwined with the bones throughout his entire body shifted and bunched around his ribs, creating obscene bulges in the oak-brown robe that hung open to his waist. There it was cinched tight with a belt of woven grasses, and its hem rested in folds around skeletal ankles covered in dark leather boots. The Autumn King had chosen not to unnerve his guests too much this day, so he had donned thick brown trousers beneath the robe. Had he felt less magnanimous, he might instead have worn his favored leather loincloth, leaving far more of his skeletal, vine-embraced body for all to see. Had any of his visitors drawn near enough, they might have noted that the thorns on the Autumn King's vines protruded here and there through his clothes. Too, they might have seen that the knot-work patterns on his skull actually continued, in far smaller figures, across the bones of his shoulders, his sternum, his ribs, his arms. But none had either the courage or the constitution to stand so close.

For another long moment, more than sufficient for Ilkuthsra to have drawn several deep and measured breaths if only he yet breathed at all, he gazed at those who had assembled before him. And then, in a voice like the splintering of snapping branches and the grating of jagged teeth, he spoke...