Circles Shattered and Reforged
Shaefric, the Branding Fields
Soul of the Shadow of All Things
It is easy to wander unaware from the streets of Malfeas into the fields of Schaefric. One might be aware of a slight cooling, of a chill about the ankles. Next comes the rustle of grasses, invisible beneath the growing fog; it is here and now that many demons and knowledgeable visitors freeze, and attempt to back away slowly.
All too often, though, whether they seek the Branding Fields or not, they feel one of the countless pieces of vegetation make a small, painful, shallow slice against a bit of exposed skin, and then the visitors belong to him forever.
Really, few escape Schaefric with only a single scratch, but whether it’s one or a thousand, the results are the same: the wounds—rarely more than cosmetic—heal quickly but leave indelible, colorful marks in their wake.
The Branding Fields do have a humanoid form—a towering mix of ram and man, with seven interlocking horns—but this is rarely seen in the demon city. It is said that at the beginning of things—whether in the beginning of Creation or the beginning of the Yozis’ imprisonment, it is unremembered—that Schaefric laid himself to rest in a pool of Vitriol for a hundred years.
When the Aphote emerged, he had been permanently been bleached white, but what remained was perfected. No Exalt or Demon since then has been able to scar him, no colors can dye his wool, and nothing other than his own grass will grow beneath his mists.
Schaefric is not as innately or immediately dangerous as some other demons and/or landscape features of Malfeas, but he is more subtly so than most. The tall, whiplike grasses that lay invisible in the fog will lacerate exposed flesh easily—as will the gentlest touch of his fingers—leaving a multitude of arcing shallow scratches anywhere he can touch. While this rarely causes lasting harm—even those who stay a day or more are unlikely to be more than profoundly uncomfortable—the wounds are permanently marked, leaving arcs of brilliant color in abstract patterns across any skin that dips unprotected into the mist.
Those who have been marked by Schaefric find him reappearing constantly in their dreams. Sometimes their nightmares take place in the same mists where they received their marks, but sometimes he appears more subtly—sometimes replacing a familiar face, sometimes merely there in the background, but always there—in his humanoid form. Regardless of how he appears nightly to his victims, this is usually not actually the demon.
Schaefric can perceive through the eyes of his dream manifestations if he desires, or give his phantom landscape a reality that leaves new and colorful brands on the dreamer when they wake.
Against more thoroughly marked targets, he may possess his image outright, and while he has killed others in their sleep as such, he considers this crass at best. He has also sired more than one demon-blood in this manner. More frequently, however, he eventually spirits those away whom he has marked as his own, disappearing from Creation in their sleep. Those who are taken as such vanish forever, although sharp-eared listeners may recognize the voices of the taken swelling the low and mournful goat-song that emanates from the misty fields of his domain.
Scholars of demonic lore are aware of the protections one can take. Surgical removal of the marks will frequently suffice to remove Schaefric’s touch entirely. If one doesn’t want to brave the pain—or risk the infection—from such a procedure, carefully maintained wards will reduce his nocturnal appearances to harmless background noise.
As a final alternative, Makarios can and has been known to take such dreams, sparing their touch on the dreamer; he dislikes doing so, as this frequently irritates one of the Unquestionable. Even the dreamstuff he gets out of it is nearly a waste byproduct of his services: any goods he creates from them inevitably serve Schaefric’s ends and take shape per the Branding Fields’ aesthetics rather than his own.
The grasses of Schaefric have been exported by the Guild for use as tattooing needles; an expert thaumaturge can sever the connection between the razor stalks and their source, leaving a fine point that for a year and a day makes impossibly vibrant colors against any skin without the risk of demonic abduction.
If summoned, Schaefric can provide these himself, as well as provide such insights as one can glean from the dreams of one he has marked.
Further, he is a masterful sorceror, and has evinced the capability to work strange magics through the deliberate marking of others’ skins; his own skills at tattooing are legendary. He does not necessarily have a place in the dreams of those he has marked so, but he rarely exempts himself deliberately, and never happily.