Echoes of Heaven
What is an Ulcer?
When the Savior and the Four Prophets Sundered the world into Heaven, Hell, and the Mortal Realm, it left the universe in a tiered pattern. Heaven, at the highest, is the home of God, and God does not come to Mortals, all Mortals must come first unto God. Only when they invite Him into their hearts can he show them the way up. Always up.
But the depths of Hell strive to move up as well. The Devils, the Archdemons, the Dukes, and the common Demons all conspire against Mortality. They strive and they plot and they tempt, and when one is successful, he manages to open a wound in the fabric of the Mortal Realm. He creates Hell on earth — an Ulcer.
An Ulcer is an infection in the fabric of Meridrin. It’s a blight on the land and the people, a vortex of sin and evil among sinners. In an Ulcer Mortals languish and die. The Nopheratus raises the dead and Demons walk the earth. An Ulcer is a center of hate and evil, a nexus of two planes, where the fabric of reality thins and twists. An Ulcer is the beginning of the end. It is a wound on the face of creation.
And if it isn’t healed fast, it becomes a fatal wound.
Inside Ulcers, reality breaks down. The Ulcer takes aspects out of the dreams of the former inhabitants, the Demon who created it, or even those who enter. An Ulcer can be wild and unpredictable, if that’s its nature, but more often the changes are subtle and one doesn’t realize where they are until it’s too late.
How is an Ulcer Formed?
No one is positive how a Devil or Demon creates an Ulcer, but it is known they are connected to sin. Ulcers feed on evil and, once formed, tend to flood with evil creatures. They fester and boil with foul life and a normal Mortal turns from domination of the land into prey.
Ulcers begin subtly. Nothing seems untoward about the region at first. Then there is some hint. The dead rise. The animals turn feral. The sun dims.
It is in these early days that it’s easiest to cleanse an Ulcer. Conversely, it’s also in these early days the inhabitants are least likely to admit something is wrong. Some of this is denial, some superstition about naming evil. Most of it is the understandable fear of what an outsider might do when they’re found out. This fear is justified.
As an Ulcer develops and enters its growth stage, the effects become more pronounced. Often there are magical quirks. Sometimes the Ulcer cloaks itself in illusion. Strange formations might to grow. The Demon or being who has attached himself to the thing typically takes up residence, though he often uses disguises. The land shapes to the minds of the lord, the inhabitants, or both.
If not stopped when it finishes its initial growth spurt, an Ulcer fully develops. At this point it becomes “permanent.” Fully developed Ulcers are only rarely, if ever, destroyed. Entire branches of the Church seek Ulcers, cleansing them before they ever get this far.
One final note. Fully formed Ulcers do continue to grow. The growth stage of an Ulcer refers to its increase in power inside a fixed space. Once they fully form, they spread, taking in land, and corrupting the areas around. Entire nations have fallen to Ulcers. It seems inevitable that one of these will eventually devour the Mortal Realm.
Destroying an Ulcer
Destroying an Ulcer is known as “cleansing.” As long as the Ulcer hasn’t fully formed, the method of destroying one is simple: kill everything evil inside.
Unfortunately, this can be trickier than it sounds.
Since there is no simple way for most people to detect evil (and the evil inside an ulcer can sometimes hide that fact), the easiest way to destroy an Ulcer is to simply kill every living thing. Unfortunately, most people choose this path. It’s the method the Church condones among the questing Orders. This is not a matter to take lightly, after all. While it’s possible to surgically remove the evil from an Ulcer, that evil is tricky and those willing to dedicate their lives to the hunt are relatively few. Those who wipe out entire villages rather than seeking out the core of evil tend to lead much longer lives.
Practically, it takes a great evil to perpetuate an Ulcer. Most of the day-to-day evils of Mortal life won’t do it. Evil lords and grasping moneylenders only rarely help anchor an Ulcer, but sometimes there is another great evil inside. It’s possible to destroy all the orcs or undead in a place, only to discover later that a serial killer or a Demon worshipper has lived there undetected for years.
Destroying a fully formed Ulcer is trickier. At this point, killing everything evil inside is only the first part, and the second is always unique to the Ulcer. Perhaps there is an object inside that needs to be destroyed. Perhaps there is ground that needs to be blessed or a grave that needs to be dug up and its contents burned. Every Ulcer is different and tied intimately to its nature and history. If this is a fallen monastery of the Church, the answer might be in the teachings of the monastery’s patron Saint. If this is the manor of a lord, it might involve the lord’s dead brother. If it’s a city, it might involve the founder, or the mayor, or the person who was most charitable in the city’s history. Every Ulcer is different. Only investigation and empathy can find the answer.
Once they have reached or surpassed the growth stage, destroyed Ulcers disappear violently. Typically, this consists of a rapid decrease of the Ulcer’s radius with tremors and occasionally a strange magical effect. People who destroy a growth Ulcer are typically near the heart when this happens. Anyone too deep in the Ulcer during the collapse will stay there. This means they will end up following the Ulcer back to Hell. The amount of distance they must travel to get out depends on the Ulcer, but halfway to two thirds of the way to the original edge is a good rule of thumb. Beyond that, they can successfully dive out if they see the wall of the Ulcer approaching (or just run out if they can’t). Destroyed Ulcers collapse quickly and spectacularly. There’s rarely time to loot and a dead run is the best pace for escape.