5/26/2019

The Seven Vestments of Sutoyar the Mad




In a recent volume of our journal, the scholar Duncan catalogued – with accuracy – the many known oozes associated with Sutoyar the Mad, the slithering legacy of that lunatic some six millennia gone. But Duncan’s work, while impeccable in many respects, commits a childish sin: repeating the indefensible theory (first proposed by Greevers) that Sutoyar never existed, but is some convenient composite upon which to heap historical blame, in the mold of Smithee the Forger or any of a dozen criminal folk-heroes, or of Magus Greevers himself, revealed eventually as a pen-name shared by a dozen Hathira Cult witches in the midlands. Duncan frames this slander as if it were sage consensus, instead of particular to the rantings of an ignorant few. Most “modern scholars and savants” know all too well the reality of Sutoyar … or at least, they know parts of it. Here, I hope to shed my candle’s light on just a little more.


The Maniple of Regret


I should begin by noting that the term vestments is used commonly, but inexactly, when referring to Sutoyar’s ensorcelled garments. In truth, only three of the known items are certain to be priestly garb. At scholarly gatherings, I am often asked: was Sutoyar a priest at all? Indeed he was, many times over, serving as clergy to the cults of dark demigods, devils, vile elemental lords, and eventually, in his later years, to himself, once he declared his own divinity. To this day, there are Sutoyar cults, and in those (each the “true” one), Sutoyar remains both deity and the Grand Pontiff (for ‘twas his title) since his death has never been acknowledged by the faithful.

The Maniple of Regret is among the more sumptuous of Sutoyar’s vestments, fashioned from black damask silk, with bone-white tassels of a shimmering material none have identified. Worn loosely over the left arm (in the manner of a waiter’s napkin), the Maniple is ill-suited for action (a stiff breeze, jogging, or doing anything useful with that arm might dislodge it) but the compromise is worth considering, as the Maniple is a shield of great strength, effortlessly drawing physical blows toward itself. Arrows, quarrels and the like are dissolved in a fetid but nourishing steam that Sutoyar found both delicious and arousing (Belton, p.109,112). Hand-weapons are held fast, used as conduits to pump nightmare-magic to their wielder, sinking them into waking dreams of the vilest sort, until the attacker crumples in terror, and the weapon cracks to ashes (Scavius, Little Songs, book IV).

The last known owner of the Maniple was no priest, but a collector, Rinson the Eager. Rumor has it, Rinson had it stolen for his collection from one of the Sutoyar cults, and that any charitable donation to those twisted faiths (they can be found begging alms in many a village) might serve to pay for Rinson’s assasination. Rinson, it is said, seeks the six remaining vestments, and if he succeeds, he’d be the first to own all seven since Sutoyar himself.


The Blooded Bliaut


Opposite the chased-silk finery of the Maniple lay this humble bliaut, a common woolen garment ubiquitous in Sutoyar’s time. One aspect of the bliaut’s magic is apparent immediately to those who know its age: the many bloodstains spattering the garment, though millennia old, gleam with freshness, and even bear the meaty, metallic stink of blood spilt fresh.

Sutoyar wore the bliaut as part of a disguise, in which he imagined he could “pass as an ordinary man” and hear the conspiratorial whispers of those dwelling near his estates (Hunterman, p.8,11,14-16). In his madness, however, he had no subtlety of disguise, and simply stuffed his more ornate garb under the bliaut, stuck a piece of straw in his mouth (Belsic, p.32), and wandered the grounds speaking in a thick imitation of the local accent. No one believed the disguise, but none dared to admit it.

The Blooded Bliaut, once enchanted, is now haunted, though it’s a fine distinction in this case. In order to have “a commoner’s insight,” Sutoyar had slaughtered a chapman and his wife, and bound their souls (or at least their memories, given voice) to the garment, and they would speak to him as he role-played an ordinary man, whispering to him the right way to speak, the right things to know, and not to know. At some point during the Ninth Spectre War this enchantment broke, and the garment – once washed clean of the blood of the ritual murder – acquired the blood afresh. The spirits, no longer meek consultants on matters mundane, became more driven, more purposeful, and more violent in their desires. At first, Sutoyar embraced this change with delight, until (Yivvers, vol. 8-9 inclusive) he came to realize that the mad ghosts were madder even than he. Soaked with yet more blood, and forced to endure screams too foul to enjoy, Sutoyar removed the garment and never wore it again, except to bed.

The present location of the Bliaut is a matter of some debate, but a clutch of monastic necromancers in the port of Virtog specialize in “ever-fresh blood” magics, so they would be strongly motivated to possess the Bliaut for that, and comparably obvious, reasons.


The Scaled Orarion


Sutoyar is remembered for many things: his menagerie of oozes, his deadly puzzles, his automata, his vast and deadly manse, his casual approach to mass murder, his devotion to children’s charities. Visually, though, he is most clearly remembered for (and depicted wearing) his “scaled scarf,” technically an Orar (Orarian) from the Cult of Black Thalex, believed (Vulnetti, p.60) to be the cult in which Sutoyar learned his earliest spells. Indeed, the Scaled Orarian might be Sutoyar’s first work of enchantment.

But for all its fame, the Scaled Orarion is misunderstood, overshadowed by its own legend. There are many accounts of it being a kind of “turns into an enormous snake” sort of garment, of the sort still popular today (Ninra, p.40, 47). I have witnessed the scarf’s magic firsthand, and I can attest that it does not become a serpent, though it’s easy to imagine – with it’s glistening satin snake-scale design – how such legends might be born. Rather, the Scaled Orarion is more akin to magic rope. It can slither and constrict, bind a target in knots, bear considerable weight for climbing, and in all other ways perform as a supple limb under the wearer’s mental command. We may consider these its primary power, but not its only one ...

The more surprising property of the Scaled Orarion is its ability to defy the shape of local space, wrapping around its wearer, apparently consuming him, and folding itself into a small, neat object easily mistaken for a purse or cloth-bound journal. When thus contained, the wearer is safe in an adjacent universe, impervious to harm and unreachable by most magics. Only the skillful unfolding of the Orarian will reveal the wearer … and release him. For, dangerously, allowing one’s self to be consumed by the Orarian is one-way trip to placid unconsciousness (complete with dreams of snowy meadows, lit with sunset gold, where the dreamer may wander and browse echoes of Sutoyar’s own emotions). If no outsider then solves the Orarian’s enigma of unearthly folds, the wearer will be trapped, unharmed but helpless, forever. Why did Sutoyar want such an option? Unknowable, for he was mad, but my personal experience has confirmed that some of the owners since have made unscrupulous use of the garment, tricking the innocent into it, and leaving them there until they could be discreetly removed and dealt with.

I write with authority on this garment for I have owned it now for years, insuring that it does no harm. I myself was its prisoner, placed there by Humalis the Savage and left for generations, un-aging, resting with the ancient feelings of Sutoyar, while my children and grandchildren grew old and died, and while my libraries were plundered by my students. No matter, for I emerged sane and lucid, as the reader will certainly attest (see also Nugris, Book of Sane Scholars, volume 5). I have allowed many a fellow sage to study the garment while it remains in my care but, Rinson, if you are reading this, my refusal stands. It is mine; there is no price at which you might buy it.


The Carrion Clownshoes of Sang


Unique among Sutoyar’s fabled vestments are the Carrion Clownshoes, for, of the seven, these are the only Sutoyar himself did not craft. Rather, he won them in sorcerous battle from Lung Sang, Master of Dragon Corpses, on the occasion of Sang’s violent death, and the beginning of his servitude to Sutoyar. Indeed, some fringe scholars regard the Mustache of Lung Sang to be a kind of eighth vestment, but this depends on a misunderstanding of traditional folksongs (Burghiss, Merrye Rhimes For Alle, p.82-90) and the manner in which the mustache was “worn.”

Sang’s shoes – exaggerated footwear that spoke of his early days as a fire-juggling dancer in the traditions of his homeland – were not made of carrion, or flesh of any kind (see the Chasuble, below). Rather, they were attuned to it (Runebotthom, Journal of Complementary Enchants, Vol XIX, Scroll 3), to “guide the feet to flesh, flesh that’s rotting, flesh that’s restless, eager to rage.” Sang had built armies with the clownshoes, before he fell, himself, to a kind of soldiery.

The shoes are fashioned from plain, reddish silk, with chasings of gold, and “leering pom-poms of midnight wool,” affixed smartly to the toes (Urlich, p.722). Legend disagrees on whether Sutoyar wore the shoes habitually, himself, or whether he left them on the servile corpse of Sang until which time he required their power. It seems likely Sutoyar wore them during his war against the Lost City of Harronport, destroyed by armies of deceased house-pets from within the city’s own walls.

Today, the Clownshoes are the property of a mountain warlord, Ritharion II. Ritharion has despatched criers throughout the lowlands, proclaiming that he awaits a maiden whom they might perfectly fit.


The Tear-Stained Mask



A mask built for two? One large and one small? If a mask can fit two, can a mask fit us all?

Any child knows the nursery rhyme this item inspired (Gurtham, Things Children Must Know, p.1), and the words are true: the Tear-Stained Mask of Sutoyar was built for two to wear at the same time, Sutoyar and a Dwarf named Hansible, in the early years of Sutoyar’s now-infamous manse.

Sutoyar faced many social difficulties, and was often described as aloof (Aristel, Duncan, Wudderman, et al) but in fact made several game attempts at socializing beyond simply raising corpses and formulating tractable slimes. Hansible is, some would say, the closest the mad wizard had to a “friend,” to the extent that Sutoyar never murdered him, and seemed to respect his value as a summoner of infernal beings, a craft they explored in concert. The mask served them by forming a powerful link between them, one of pure emotion, which they could exploit in rituals of demon-binding. It allowed them to enslave powers beyond what they might otherwise have been capable of, but it rendered them emotionally unstable and weeping, hence the name – and hence the implied trust between Sutoyar and Hansible (Wudderman, What Price Blood?, p.300).

One lingering mystery is how Hansible (a heath-dwarf shorter than Sutoyar’s dogs) stood eye-to-eye with a mad wizard known to be six feet tall. Most presume some form of levitation magic, but a few (notably Yinnikers, p. 890 and Holiday, p. 76) have maintained that Hansible wore great wooden stilts, themselves held to be relics by those enamored of Sutoyar or his era. The scholar Baylean suggests (Riddles of History, page 111) that if one were to collect all the splinters and fragments of the “true stilts of Hansible” held in reliquaries across the realms, they might provide enough wood to rebuild the burned city of Hashmiran (not that anyone – even Sutoyar – would be mad enough to want to).

Stilts aside, the present owner of the Tear-Stained Mask is the Priory of St. Humilius just west of Rettlesport, where it is used in “educational demonstrations warning against the dark arts,” according to correspondence with Reverend Mother Scoline. Given that the mask’s only real power is to create an intimate emotional bond, it is unclear exactly how the Priory might use it in these lessons.


The Chasuble of Skin


Garments made of human (dwarvish, etc) skin are nothing new in the realm of mad wizardry, and weren’t new in Sutoyar’s day, either (refer to Thulcara’s Catalogue of Skin Garments for a treatment both thorough and readable, and upon which this entry depends). Sutoyar’s Chasuble of Skin is unique among recorded examples, however, for being made of Sutoyar’s own skin, during his own lifetime.

The tanned skin, augmented with sections of simple linen and leather fittings, is little more than a wide oval with a hole in the center (for the wearer’s head to poke through) draped over the shoulders like a poncho. The garment’s enchantment is one of slow, gliding flight (the wearer can’t gain altitude, but can maintain it impressively, descending as little as three feet per mile, as desired). The décor is mostly elaborate religious symbolism, all embroidered by Sutoyar’s own hand, and arranged to render the garment symmetrical in design by covering for the elaborate patchwork necessary to achieve the necessary shape.

But under what circumstance was Sutoyar able to skin himself, and survive, to create such a thing? The occasion was that Sutoyar had already replaced his own skin with a superior substitute: transparent, glossy, flexible and strong, boiled down from the brains and nerves of a dozen psychic animals into a plastic sludge, and then painted on his bare musculature until it bonded. In this new skin, Sutoyar was said to be less vulnerable to some forms of attack, and more sensitive to all forms of touch, so that he could sense lurkers by the weakest ripples in the evening breeze (Waterman, p.60,64). This left him in possession his old skin without function, and since he already had a mad wizard’s fair share of skin-bound grimoires, skin-made bookmarks and skin-crafted belt pouches (ibid.), he decided that he would once again wear his skin – a bit less intimately than before – and that it would serve as wings on which he would “drift from his manse in starlight, absorbing the songs of the world” (Elux, vol. 2, p. 19).

The last recorded owner of the Chasuble of Skin was a Sutoyar-unaffiliated church in the eastern islands, where it was kept as a relic and worn by the High Priestess on occasions celebrating the summer hurricanes, on which she would soar in reverence. The Chasuble was lost, along with its wearer, in a storm too vicious to ride. Its present location is unknown.


Sutoyar’s Pliant Ring


Also related to Sutoyar’s skin-replacement wizardry is the Pliant Ring, a garment made from the same reduction of nervous tissue, but as a separate item, rather than bonded to his flesh.

The item’s magic is subtle, easy to overlook: the flow of blood in the area where the ring is worn is enhanced (Bidworth, chapt. 2-6), and the area will redden visibly after a while, and become warmer to the touch (Bidworth, chapt. 8). That seems to be all it does, though some spells cast upon the ring have suggested that there are other, hidden enchantments.

The ring’s size adds to the confusion, because it’s too large to be comfortably worn on a finger (even a thumb), but too constrictive to be worn comfortably on the arm or leg (even worn at the wrist, it’s distressingly tight on all but the thinnest wearer).

A gift of some kind for a small-framed companion (an elvish lover, perhaps? Even in the age of Sutoyar’s transparent, inhuman skin?) or perhaps a tourniquet of some kind (but what’s the use of a tourniquet that increases the flow of blood?)

While the function of Sutoyar’s Pliant Ring is a puzzle, its source is not, since none but Sutoyar knew the magic to create that transparent, pliant substance from rendered nerve and brain … and the softest vibrations in its enchantment are attuned, without question, to his own frequencies (Hollstein, The Second Oscillarium, p.1274-1277).

The last recorded owner of the Pliant Ring was a barbarian, Harnok, who won it from a hoard in the Dryblood Hills. Harnok is aged, now, but has not fallen, and is rumored to own the Ring still, and to wear it secretly, “so none might see.” It is apparently an object the barbarian prizes above all, for he’s butchered men for offering to purchase it. Those seeking a demonstration of whatever useful magic he may glean from such a thing must seek out the man himself – and be ready.





This is the first Web appearance of this article, which I wrote in 2014 for Secret Santicore, a kind of annual mega-'zine community project which ran from 2011 to 2015 (with a 2017 one-off revival). Participating in Santicore was one of a handful attempts on my part to better understand the OSR. I never have quite understood the OSR, but I had a lot of fun writing this piece anyway, and the article got sufficiently warm feedback to let me know that, even if I OSR wrong, I landed near enough to the ballpark that some of the Santicore folk dug it. Among those expressing support was Ray Otus, the original creator of his backwards-namesake, Sutoyar, and the author of the prompt which had been assigned to me:


The 7 Lost Vestments of Sutoyar the Mad. (Wearable artifacts presumed to have once been created/enchanted by this legendary figure, the whereabouts of which have been lost in the intervening years.)

P.S. last year I made a request related to Sutoyar the Mad and Jeremy Duncan added this text to his lore (see SSv3,p62):

"We have no reliable evidence for the physical existence of Sutoyar the Mad, much less the salient facts of his life and by now considerable legend. Most modern scholars and savants consider him a composite figure of several (many far better attested) eccentrics and magicians of the late XXXIIIrd Aeon, given name and form solely to provide a convenient scapegoat for the teeming horde of prodigies and monstrosities that continue to infest the towns, villages, and countryside in the vicinity of the ruins of his reputed manse."


The article's reference to "scholar Duncan" is a shout-out to Jeremy. The prompt, and Sutoyar himself, is Ray's fault, but for the rest of this nonsense, the blame falls on me. If you want to chat about it (or anything else gamerly and groovy), my inbox is open. 'Til next time.

A Chasuble Not Made of Skin