Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Ramundet del Fraysse

Before I begin, let me make an aside--which will later be at least somewhat relevant.  Many players of D&D are big fans of metal.  I don't know how many times I've heard the assumption that D&D players are into Black Sabbath, Molly Hatchet, or more esoteric and poorly known metal bands.  I, however, am not.  When I got old enough to really pay attention to music, I became a New Wave fan.  New Wave, as we called it in the late 80s in pseudo-urban central Texas is slightly different than New Wave as the British music press used to use the label a few years earlier; for me, it mostly meant that I liked a lot of synthpop dance music.

In 1988 when the single "Chains of Love" was released, Erasure came to my attention.  You have to remember back then that there wasn't any internet to get more independent or underground acts to my attention, and since I was a teenager living in a relatively small town, I didn't really have much of any other venue (like happening night clubs, or anything) to get stuff other than word of mouth from fellow fans, or hearing a song on the radio and going and searching for the catalog of the artist.  I could occasionally get reception for more "New Wave" oriented stations out of Houson, which brought more to my attention than the Top 40 and Country (and Oldie) stations that were more local.  But "Chains of Love" was a Top 40 success, and in short order, I ran out and bought The Innocents on cassette tape.  I liked Erasure quite a bit, and got their (still fairly short, at that point) back catalog in short order--but not before picking up a CD player.  So I've always had Wonderland and The Circus on CD.  I also ended up getting The Two Ring Circus as a used CD not too long later.  And when it later came out, I got Wild!, Chorus and the next two albums beyond that on CD as well.

But that was an interesting time for me and music formats.  I also bought Crackers International when it came out, but I got that on cassette.  Sometimes I bought cassettes because I could buy them used really cheap (such is the case with Book of Love's Lullaby for instance.)  But sometimes I got them because you couldn't get everything you wanted on CD yet, and you couldn't listen to CDs just anywhere (it would be years still before I had a CD player in my car, and I had Walkmans for a long time before I had Discmans.)  Sometimes, though, I bought stuff in different formats because that's what it was available in.  I liked remixes, but  you still had to buy 12" singles in... well, on 12" vinyl.  I had actual 12" singles for "A Little Respect," and "Drama" and I had cassette maxi-singles for "Star" and "Blue Savanna."  Seeing that the future was CD, though, I managed to get "Chains of Love" on CD maxi-single, but those were fairly hard to find still in the early part of the late 80s.

And of course I was right; cassettes and vinyl became obsolete (in fact, although I still have some of both, I have no machine that will play either anymore.)  CDs that I bought nearly 25 years ago, on the other hand, still play as crisply as they did the day I walked out of the store with them.  As many people my age or thereabouts have done, I ended up having to rebuy much of my non-digital collection.  That, of course, has become easier now that you can download digital music from Amazon or iTunes (although I staunchly refuse to join the Apple cult myself.)

And the final point, other than to ramble about music that I like but which probably none of the readers of this blog do, I decided recently, after "rediscovering" some of my 80s CDs that I hadn't listened to in quite a while, that the CD format is kinda clunky after all for me.  I listen to a lot of my music these days on mp3 either through an mp3 player or through my phone.  I do, however, refuse to load entire albums on either (most of the time) and because my car (where I listen to 90% of my music nowadays) has the capability of playing back mp3s off of a data CD-R, I decided to archive my entire run of Erasure music on a single CD-R.  I couldn't have done this, of course, if I didn't make a few sacrifices.  I was able to get all of the actual album CDs ripped and archived with no problem.  I had to rebuy Crackers International as an mp3 download from Amazon.  And I cherry-picked remixes that I liked from my 12"s and maxis also as Amazon mp3 downloads.  I took off the live songs from The Two Ring Circus and left off a bunch of remixes that I didn't like and all of the b-sides (none of which particularly appealed to me, so I wasn't missing much.)  When I did this, and ripped it all at 192 kbps, I found that it almost perfectly fit on a standard 700 Mb CD-R.  I may have had room to fit 4-5 more tracks, but what tracks would I have bothered with?

The point of all this rambling is that for music fans, the last few decades have been ones of tremendous technology change that radically redefined how we listen to music, and just with my collection of one artist has me touching no less than 4-5 formats (I completely skipped 8-track tapes, though.)  Because I just made this Erasure archive on CD-R (which includes, for anyone curious, 12 folders--1) Wonderland, 2) Remixes (from the 2003 "Oh l'Amour" re-release on CD), 3) The Circus, 4) The Two Ring Circus (minus the live tracks), 5) The Innocents, 6) Remixes of "A Little Respect" and "Chains of Love", 7) Crackers International, 8) Wild!, 9) Remixes of "Drama" and "Blue Savanna", 10) Chorus, 11) I Say, I Say, I Say and 12) Erasure.  Nearly 150 songs in total.) I've been thinking about this concept a bit, and the rapid technology changes that have overcome my music collecting hobby.  And it occured to me... what if there was some innovator, a prodigy if you will, who did the same for magic in DARK•HERITAGE?

You have to remember that in DARK•HERITAGE magic isn't friendly.  There aren't any friendly wizards like Gandalf or Merlin or Belgarath or Fizban or whomever is familiar to you from high fantasy fiction you may have read.  It's also not neutral and utilitarian, like it is in most D&D settings.  Magic is fundamentally unnatural and almost Lovecraftian--anyone who uses it is already suspect to begin with, at best, and wildly dangerous and inimical to life as we know it at worst.  And like in Lovecraftian magic, advances in the art have come in fits and spurts, with devastating setbacks much more likely than advances.  And even if someone does make an advance, they are unlikely to share their work with others, so the art as a whole remains largely stagnant.  Seminal works like the Book of the Black Prince, Prophecies of the Daemon-sultan, The Pnakotic Manuscripts, The Book of Eibon, Cultes des Goules, the Eltdown Shards, The Seven Cryptical Books of Hsan, Inexprimabiles Cultes and a few others make up the body of work on which most sorcerers today base their art.

However, there's a legendary Terrasan sorcerer, who spent time in Tarush Noptii, Simashki, and supposedly traveled into the Forbidden Lands themselves, crossing the Veil of Pnath and walked the desolate and nearly silent streets of Ib, sandwiched on the shores between Tarqan Lake and the slopes of the Plateau of Leng.  This sorcerer, Ramundet del Fraysse, did more with magic than probably anyone before or since, and is rumored to have wielded nearly god-like powers, beyond the understanding of even the most potent practitioner today.  He disappeared about eighty years ago mysteriously; supposedly having transcended his humanity entirely and passed into a higher state of being through his sorcery.

Ramundet del Fraysse
Stories are also told (and suppressed) of how del Fraysse held off and eventually annihilated an entire legion of soldiers and inquisitors sent by Count Varazze, and how the entire town of Spotorno della Cima was destroyed; every single inhabitant's soul stolen to fuel a diabolical ritual.  Even today, the location--even the very existance--of Spotorno is denied and surpressed.  Be that as it may, the memory of the common people persists, and rumors of del Fraysse and his nefarious deeds remain a popular bogey-man type story told in taverns and around camp fires throughout the Terrasan region and beyond.

Despite his stature as a figure of semi-legendry, the real story about del Fraysse is not his accomplishments is the persistant rumor that his notes and journals yet survive, sequestered in some secret location.  Not only do unscrupulous treasure seekers thus scour places he is rumored to have dwelt for a time, committing no small amount of skullduggery pursuing little more than the thinnest of rumors, but even more dangerously, those who aspire to follow in his footsteps are also seeking this secret cache of arcane riches.  If even a small portion of the rumors of the power del Fraysse was able to research are true, then that information in the wrong hands could be devastating.  And frankly, anyone who would want that information is--by definition--the wrong hands.

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