Mindas The Ruined Lands
Zandronum the Rake
Evil with a purpose...
The Rake is a dreadful creature of lore. Once imagined as a spindly, grey-skinned revenant that crawled through the deepest underbrush in search of souls to steal, it has come to colloquially refer to any fearful monster of particular note that intimately haunts a given region, or a man with the blackest of hearts. Now, the age of man has passed, and it is his misshapen descendants that have inherited this malevolent mantle. The most bestial latencies of the living spirit were never so finely described than in the way Zandronum split the chests of man and monster; it was said that the bloody color of the southern swamps was entirely his doing. A towering, sinewy behemoth, it was said that his skin was the deep blue color of a freshly slain corpse, lined with tufts of hair on the trails of his bones and a mane of fur on his chest between shoulders that stretched across the horizon. His fingers terminated as claws, and on his face was a short snout of kinds with glistening incisors always visible for the incomplete flesh of his cheeks, around which fell jet black hair as straight as the arrow. Behind him, the tail of a dragon perpetuated his undulating spine, sickling on the ground behind with leafing scales. As if the godless spawn of a demon and werewolf, it instilled in him an unholy grace and a terrible ferocity to fulfill his codified purpose to slaughter the living.
Zandronum, of course, was merely the simplest utterance of a much longer and more arcane branding, but his promiscuous brutality was surely worthy of the name of “Rake”. By bare claw or with broad and burning blade, his ruthlessness was matched only by the mysterious caprice he showed in selecting his victims. One man spoke of his dying thirst while lost in the woods, unable to drink from a small pool around which Zandronum lurked. Unwilling to die, the man rushed forward and drank until his belly swelled there in the moonlit shadow of the barbaric devil. Too terrified to look, he scrambled away with his life and skin. The Rake’s flame-bound sword came to be called the “Arbiter” for these unexplained reservations. When not in use, its blade was dull and rusted, yet came into gleaming prominence when it drank the blood of its gudgeons; for its sinister selectivity, Zandronum was all the more dreadful. Dangers without reason, unpredictable peril – that is what the common man most fears. He was unlike the blooddrunk fiends that crawled out from the rift, thrashing mad with a boiling lust for violence. Here waiting in the nebulous black was calculated destruction from which sense could not be withdrawn. Too powerful to overcome, too evil for comprehension. These were the grim and naked elements of Zandronum the Rake. It was said that when he cut through living flesh, the eyes of the most heinous planar creatures watched in amusement.
Then, one day, the Rake simply vanished. A blast of force unlike anything the southern regions had ever seen came sweeping out from the swampy woods one night as nearby towns lay in slumber, knocking them clear to their floors and carrying with it a wailing groan that seemed to bellow from the depths of Nerull itself. Just as quickly as it came, the rushing air receded like a violently pulling tide, as if the ground was sucking back something that was never meant to have broken the surface. Swallowing trees and swampland waste, it left a barren crater and a deathly stillness in a place long abandoned by all manbeasts. No trace of Zandronum remained, presumed by all to have been pulled back into whatever nefarious, graven place he’d risen from. For many months, those forests lay in eerie silence, but for the absence of his glowing-eyed silhouette in the dim light of the moon. It was not until the bloodied carcasses of travelers began to amass once again that the people of the south, trembling collectively, let slip from their lips the name which they all too eagerly had prayed would remain buried…