Thea is a vast land split into many continents and cultures, and now, after the shattering, it is even more fractured and diverse. Slavya was once a continent where the Cosmic Tree grew and the battle with the Darkness took place. Despite the earth being torn to pieces, the floating islands remain steeped in Slavyan folklore and infested by the so called demons.
In a world filled with ghosts, risen dead, magic and unhumans, it is often unclear how the Slavyans distinguish one to be a demon, but the general definition stands as follows:
‘Demons are creatures born of the weaves of magic and some remain eternally tied to human communities. There are countless types of demons, but their origin can be divided into three main categories: born at the moment of a human’s death, twisted and changed into its demon from due to trauma or fate (porodnik’s are born from unborn children who die before they take their first breath or who are drowned by their mothers, for example); ancient demons – born out of pure energy, a part of the natural world order (the leshy, the tree-like forest guardians represent this type best, one cannot become a leshy by any other way than being made so from the start); and the last – born out of extreme human emotion, a reflection of our natures, a manifestation of our souls (the bies, a dark hound who seeks to posses the living is said to be a manifestation of our darkness, but a dola on the other hand, is said to be born out of our instincts to protect our young);’
A further distinction between a ghost, a demon and an unliving has been recorded:
‘A ghost is the soul of a mortal without a body; an unliving is a corpse without a soul animated by dark magics; a demon is a dead human body with its soul trapped inside, twisted into new form.’
It is written that in the Westerlands of old, demons were seen as a purely evil creation of some devils from their own beliefs. It is not strictly so with Slavyan demons, who can come in many guises. We would be amiss not to say that extreme caution is advised when dealing with any demon, at beast one will turn out to be benevolent and kind, yes, but at worst they can literally devour your soul. To illustrate this disparity, we will talk about the karakandza and the cmock versus the leshy and vily.
First we will note that all four demons fall under the ancient, natural demons. Their origins reach far beyond the birth of mankind, perhaps even before the elder people’s (i.e. the elves and dwarves) Unlike many other of their kin then, these demons do not depend of humanity for their survival and in some ways, this makes them more dangerous for us.
The karakandza is an ancient creature that is said to dwell deep underground, between the earth realm and the underworlds. They congregated under the cosmic tree (one of the eight pillars of the world and the seat of the cosmic tree’s pantheon of gods) and forever endeavored to unravel it’s roots, for what purpose remains a mystery. They would only ever come up during the darkest winter evenings, as they detest the sun. It is unclear what they would do in the times before humanity, but the records we have shown that the karakandza were keen on playing cruel tricks and disastrous mischief on the people they came across. When the tree was burned in centuries past and darkness ruled the lands, the karakandza became ever more aggressive and dangerous to both human and unhuman populations. Holding up bunches of freshly cut wheat or locks of blonde hair tied with a red ribbon were known to discourage the demons as they symbolised the sun. Bright flames could sometimes scare them off too if they thought it could be sunshine. Clerics of the god Svarog were also adept at warding against these nasty tricksters.
The cmock are also known as blood bats, vampiezyce, or souleaters. The cmock are classified as demons of the night, as the prefer the night skies and tend to be weaker or sleep during the days. Some old texts suggest that these bats used to scour the night skies in search of rouge light, when they found it, they would devour its spark, thus keeping the balance of dark and light in check. With the appearance of sentient peoples, both elder and later us, the cmock seems to have changed its purpose. The large winged beast appears at night, silent and deadly. It assails the living drinking their blood or worse, feeding on their very souls. For this, the cmock is said to serve the striga, but seeing its ancient roots, we wonder if it is not the other way around. Now that the world has shattered, the cmock remains as dangerous a foe as ever, being able to traverse the islands without trouble, it can seek its victims wherever it wishes! Like many of the night demons, the cmock dislikes fire and light, and some say it is weakened by the touch of silver.
The leshy – perhaps the oldest of known beings, as old as the giants who sang the world into existence. The leshy is known throughout Thea, under many different names and forms, but every culture seems to tell tales of a forest spirit, powerful and primordial. In Slavya, the leshy has been known as an older man walking the forests, a bear or a deer. But in its natural form, the leshy is a tree-like creature that lives exclusively in woodlands and safeguards its borders. Some older specimens have become one with the forest and can no longer speak or be active in our mortal world, people often believe that ancient oaks are those very spirits and thus they hold them sacred. But many leshy remain mobile, vigilant and ever watchful of their wards. To say that the leshy is a good demon, would be a stretch however. They can indeed provide great wisdom and even aid to those they deem friendly, but if you happen to lite a fire or chop the wrong tree without permission, things can get very bad, fast. The leshy are known to command all other woodland demons and most animals, so an angry forest can be your worst enemy. The natural affinity of the tree-demons to the cosmic tree is perhaps the reason why many Slavyan cultures worship in the forests and will take great care before destroying any ancient woodlands. Naturally, the elves are known to be great friends with the leshy, although the hierarchy of such friendship remains unclear.
Finally, the vily. known both as forest guardians but also wind demonettes. These part bird, part female creatures of the skies are certainly wild and unpredictable, but they also serve an important purpose in protecting the skies and controlling the storms. The skylines protected by vily are likely to be safe from the cmock and other winged malice, which can prove a great advantage. If kept appeased, the vily can also help to control the weather, either casting away or calling upon the storms to come. The vily were never human, but their likeness to our kind has caused the creatures much curiosity towards us, especially towards males. It has been known for a vily to kidnap a lone, wandering fella and carry him off to their nest. Some such men returned unharmed, some were never found again, none remember what has transpired… While most vily will remain independent or in the service of the leshy, some are known to trade favours with human and unhuman settlements in exchange for their protection and good will. It is however unclear what they ask in return.
As evident from this mere sample of demon accounts, these creatures vary greatly in purpose, temperament and attitude to mankind. With our next account, we shall explore the distinction between the unliving and the demon kind in more detail. Stay safe, always carry a red ribbon on you, and beware of pretty ladies by the lake…