The King In Yellow

By Moe Lane


How Sorcerers grow quiet when they hear of this blasphemous book. It's hard to tell whether it's the quiet of fear, or the quiet of utter greed: both reactions would make sense.

The fear is easy to understand: it is said that reading even one page of The King in Yellow will doom the reader into poring over the forbidden tome, never resting until he or she understands the true nature of the universe - or else goes utterly mad. Most suffer the latter fate: no Sorcerer anywhere knows of anyone with occult power that has read the book without having their brains burned. Indeed, most disappear without even a trace. One paragraph is said to be enough to cause nightmares for a week. In short, The King in Yellow is a deadly, deadly danger.

But the utter greed ... well, that makes sense, too. It is also said that mastery of The King in Yellow is an indisputable indication that one is worthy of being a member of the Dozen, and it is certainly true that they all prominently display their personal copies in their libraries - again, so it is said. All it takes is an act of Will - and all Sorcerers know that their Will is, of course, capable of anything. So they continue to reach out to subtly poisoned fruit, each quietly confident that he or she will be the one to triumph where the rest have failed - and each proved wrong.

Which is, of course, the whole idea.

Eli doesn't get too involved in this Sorcery nonsense, normally: there are other Archangels that specialize in worrying about that sort of thing. However, there was a certain three-week period in 1965 where he just kept getting bugged and bugged and bugged by the egotistical bastards, and eventually the Archangel of Creation got tired of it.

Never annoy Eli: guess what adverb can best describe his acts of punishment?

That's right, and he certainly lived up to it this time. There are about 500 or so Kings In Yellow floating out around there (Eli can be a bit testy when he hasn't had his first cup of coffee in the morning), and they've all got some interesting enchantments on them. The first, and simplest, is that only those who have both the capability and the inclination towards Sorcery can really see them: anyone else will just see a dusty book written in a language that he or she doesn't know. The second enchantment makes them effectively indestructible. The third makes the text thoroughly irresistible to anyone who can perceive the book for what it 'really' is; legend is quite accurate in saying that one page is enough to trap the reader (well, Sorcerous readers).

The fourth enchantment is, of course, the one that systematically and permanently strips the reader of all rituals, skills and Attunements (including, of course, Sorcery - but not Infernal Pact). Every cumulative 8 hours spent reading strips away 1d6 character point-equivalents: alas, avoiding the reading of The King in Yellow, once started, requires a daily Will Roll at -3. Needless to say, the victim doesn't notice that this is going on - or dismisses it as 'burning away of dross blocking the way to true power', or some other pretentiously pseudo-solemn balderdash. Eventually, when the last Sorcerous character point-equivalent is burned away, the victim is left looking at a book written in a language that he or she cannot read and vaguely wondering what the fuss was all about.

Again, don't annoy Eli.

It should be noted that most Sorcerers have no idea of the Divine origins of their designated Grail-alternate, and would refuse to believe in such a lie anyway. A few do know about the actual situation (including, indeed the Dozen), and have even mastered The King in Yellow.

They have mastered the book by never, ever reading the damned thing, no matter how curious they are about it. They go to great trouble to get a copy, of course, then display it prominently in their libraries. With any luck, any potential Sorcerous robbers will go for it first and eventually short-circuit their brains with the book - thus eliminating potential rivals, and boosting their own reputations, in one fell swoop. It also makes for a wonderful birthday gift for annoying apprentices. Oddly enough, Hell uses captured copies of The King in Yellow for roughly similar purposes: it's an amazingly cost-effective way to 'retire' Hellsworn sorcerers who have outlived their usefulness. Hell, you can outright tell them that the book will burn out sections of their heads, and they'll still demand it from you. Needless to say, these relics are never willingly destroyed: everybody in the know knows someone who really deserves their very own copy.

Everyone in the know also takes to heart the indirect lesson that Thou Shall Not Perturb Unduly the Archangel of Creation...


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