Corruptors and Whispers
A Primer on Psythyros, The Whisper Realm, and Its Interaction With Our World
We all learn from a young age the responsibilities and obligations that come with being a magic-user. “All magic leaves a mark” is among the first lessons taught to children, even before their first manifestation of magic. We learn of the dangers in reckless and hastily-crafted magic, and safety precautions are built into every spell, ritual, and theory that are taught by our esteemed faculty at all accredited schools. An older phrase about these echoes and reverberations of magic is “magic creates whispers.” This concept is literal as well as metaphorical, as magical echoes open Scars between planes of existence. One of these realms is Psythyros, or The Whisper Realm, where semi-sentient entities can seek attachment to us or our realm, and are known as Whispers. By reading this primer, you seek to understand a deeper and fuller understanding of the nature of how many may inadvertently — or intentionally — affect the fabric of reality.
Whisper Realm: a plane of existence of chaotic magic and semi-sentient beings. Also known as Psythyros in the Magimundi.
Whisper: a semi-sentient being that seeks out our world.
Hunger: the term for the drive that Whispers have to enter our world, also called “The Seeking.”
Corruptor: a Whisper that has entered our world and taken material form.
Scarring: a hole or weak spot between realms (such as, but not limited to, The Whisper Realm). A part of our world that is Scarred can never quite be restored to its original state.
Banish: to return a Corruptor back to the Whisper Realm, thus making it into a Whisper again.
Different Planes or Realms
Our realm of existence is surrounded and paralleled by other realms. Some are known, others detected but not directly proven, and many presumed unknown. Magic allows us to cross or influence these alternate planes or realms. One such realm with many stories is Bèlmounae, the lands of the Miroven, or “fair folk,” or “fae.” This realm is uniquely linked with ours, since the fae have control over its entrances to our world and have established long-lasting portals between.
Another outside realm is Psythyros (sigh-thigh-rohce), commonly called “The Realm of Whispers.” Its true nature has proven beyond the grasp of even our greatest wizards, but has been described as a primordial soup of chaotic magic, unformed but with emerging sentience. Forces and loosely-formed spirits swirl, combine, mix, and clash there endlessly. We call these forces “Whispers,” named because of the way they reach out to magic-users (and sometimes mundanes) in a semi-conscious “whispering” through a “Scarring” — a hole or weak spot between two realms.
The poet Emilee Zephyrous wrote in her poem “Shaded Love”:
“Were our hearts Whispers
We would entwine and fuse,
Our shining souls gleaming stars
Amidst all maelstrom and turbulence.”
The Whisper Realm is called Psythyros to the Magimundi, and is known by other names, such as Kaskwe (kahsk-way) to many native North Americans, “Dream World” (mistakenly), “The Inverted Lands,” “Purgatory,” “The Aether,” “The Dark Kingdom,” and still other names throughout history. The Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates wrote that he had “voices whispering in his ear.” He mostly ignored them, and he used them as an antithesis for his sense of morality.
Whispers and Corruptors
Most of the knowledge we have of The Whisper Realm is from Whisper beings themselves. We know the Whispers through their forms they take in our world: Corruptors. Whenever we summon a spirit through astromancy, we manipulate scarring in the fabric of our world, or open a new hole between worlds. It is thus why so much proper training and preparation is required to perform summoning with acceptable risk. The training both ensures sufficient skill to open a hole as well as to keep the Corruptor tethered to their origin world, lest it escape into ours. As Corruptors learn our language (with unnerving speed!) they often talk immediately about their desire and reasons to stay in our world. This “why” has to do with the fundamental differences between our realms.
Beings in Psythyros differ at a very basic level from any beings in our realm. As the colloquial namesake suggests, Whispers aren’t corporeal, nor do they necessarily have an independent identity. Their existence is fundamentally in flux and in motion, and they are mostly indistinct from other Whispers. They do have desires and urges, and natures or affinities that vary from physical (spiky, airy, hard, or even colors like red or blue), to feelings (anger, lust, tranquility, curiosity, mischief) or even intellectual ideals (honor, deceit, equanimity, balance, discord). Some Whispers have an emerging sentience, especially if they have had contact with our world. These semi-sentient Whispers desire to do what any sentient entity does: live. And by that, the most fundamental things about “living” are:
- Having a unique identity
- Exerting will
- Spreading ideas/influence/presence.
Even in the Whisper Realm, those Whispers that have gained a level of sentience have a stronger “Hunger” or “Seeking” — the burning desire to enter our world. Once in our world as a Corruptor, experiencing identity and material form, they don’t like going back.
More powerful Whispers have stronger identities in the Whisper Realm, especially those who have taken corporeal form as Corruptors in our world and then returned to the Whisper Realm. Becoming a Corruptor gives a taste for what identity and willpower is like, and thus returning it to the Whisper Realm leaves it with more power than when it first entered our realm. Though the Corruptor is reduced to a Whisper again, it retains some of its memory and knowledge of our world. Its Hunger for entering our world grows, and its ability to retain parts of its identity and nature strengthens. It will more urgently Seek to become embodied again, often insistently and insidiously seeking to exploit.
Scarring is damage done to the boundaries between worlds, where realms can interact and beings sometimes pass through. As stated above, “all magic leaves marks,” and responsible mages and wizards temper their magic to mitigate the damage to reality that it can do. Minute scars are unavoidable, but generally not strong enough or large enough to create a threat to stability. Scarring is a by-product of reckless, powerful, and/or hasty magic use or, occasionally, horrific acts of mundane violence. A minor scarring allows a faint and tenuous connection from a Whisper to sentient beings in our world, described like a tiny voice in one’s mind. With a greater Scarring, a Whisper may try to grasp onto someone or something of similar nature, and may have influence up to 20 meters from the Scarring. Since the Whisper Realm is constantly swirling, an entity of any nature may approach a Scarring at any time. Scarrings are not fixed in time and space, so the location of a Scarring is not permanent or predictable.
The violence that creates Scarring is not merely conventional definitions of violence like ritual murder. Any direct, powerful act of force, either magical or non-magical can cause Scars. These effects could be sudden or prolonged, with smaller acts accumulating to create Scarring. Widespread suffering over many years can cause serious Scarring of our world, even if no particular act of great magic or sudden release of energy is associated with it. Of course, specific instances of tremendous force also cause Scarring: volcanoes may produce fire Elemental Corruptors, mundane atomic weapons create Scarring — especially in cases where sentient life has been wiped out such as Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since these mundane-created Scarrings affect the Magimundi as well — and are effectively left to us to repair and banish the Corruptors that result — the Edict of Separation and Secrecy is called into question. Some argue that we must interfere in mundane affairs of extreme violence and suffering, for the protection, safety, and autonomy of our world.
Technically, all acts of magic cause a small Scarring in our world. For example, a summoning circle is, by definition, the manipulation of Scarring. However, magic done with planning, deliberateness, and care produces only minute, nearly-undetectable effects. Rushed magic, or magic done with recklessness, will always cause greater Scarring. Additionally, rituals can be marred by a caster’s subconscious mind, such as thoughts or feelings that contradict with the goal of the ritual. Thus, a good wizard puts all of their focus and being into their end effects.
Some Wizards are known to deliberately open Scars for non-sanctioned purposes, in order to taunt the Whispers, or test their mind magic mettle or their own resistance. Opportunistic Whispers seek weak-willed or morally indifferent mages or mundanes, in order to spread their influence or to be brought into our realm as a Corruptor. As mentioned above, Whispers who have previously been summoned and returned are particularly hungry and insistent. In short, summoning of extraplanar entities is dangerous, and is not to be done incautiously.
It is up to each and every magic-user to realize that their casting will have a Scarring effect on the world, and to take into account those risks when performing magic. It is through Scarring that Whispers connect with our world, and Corruptors can enter. The more sudden, powerful, and less-focused the magic, the greater the Scar and thus the greater the opportunity for inadvertently inviting Whispers to our world to become Corruptors.
A Corruptor is a Whisper that has gained material form in our world. Corruptors can have their own form (more rare) or borrow one, such as an object, animal or human that embodies the nature of the “Whisper.” A Corruptor has three key attributes: autonomy, freedom, and willpower. It has both ancient wisdom but also is akin to a newborn baby with a rush of new senses and powers and limitations in our world. These Corruptors take nearly endless forms and have been known by many names across the history of our world. They are born amoral, but the power involved for a Corruptor to form means they tend to look on humans as inferior or even as playthings. Like Miroven, their system of ethics is either alien or undeveloped, and thus, many regard Corruptors as meddling at the least, and malevolent or evil by most.
Banishing a Corruptor back to the Whisper Realm is possible. The difficulty of banishing a Corruptor usually depends on how it got to our realm originally. A Corruptor summoned in a properly controlled circle does not have full presence in our world; it is always tethered to the Whispered Realm, like an animal on a leash. When the summoning is finished, the connection is severed, though the Scarring remains. The longer the summoning lasts, the greater the scarring, and an improperly closed ritual summoning circle creates a constant connection to the Whisper Realm, enabling an even wider Scarring. Thus circle-summoned beings must be handled with great care and for only as much time as necessary. A Corruptor who enters our world unbidden through a Scarring, or as a stowaway on another summoning, will not be tethered, and thus behave like an unleashed and uncontrolled animal. An untethered Corruptor requires a new Scarring to open a route for it back to the Whisper Realm. Generally, Corruptors are banished back to Psythyros in this way. However, an untethered Corruptor can be slain; its slaying takes enormous power and will leave a lingering corruption in our world that takes a long time to mend, if ever.
Categories of Corruptors (Known)
Corruptors are present in our reality in a wide variety of forms. Some common ones are:
These Corruptors’ essence align closely with pure elements, such as fire, wind, earth (often mistakenly called golems), water, frost, and plant. The most notorious contemporary elemental Corruptor in existence today is the fire/toxic Corruptor deep beneath Avernus Prison, which was reported only after the series of underground nuclear tests of the mid-20th century, presumably creating an enormous scarring. Another example of a significant Elemental Corruptor is the plant Corruptor of the Yucatan, believed to have arisen following the downfall of the Mayan Empire and promotes the growth of jungles. Yet another is the Water Corruptor of Bermuda, who feeds on wayward travelers.
Shade Corruptors are non-nemort poltergeist-like creatures such as the Jiwa Setan, ghast, or Night Gloom. They share many common traits to regular poltergeists, and in practice are essentially spirits by many senses of the word, especially in form and ability to possess sentient beings. Often, they focus on one type of human emotion, such as Greed or Sadness or Jealousy. Current research into Wendigoism implicates a Corruptor or Corruptors, passing from host to host. These Shade Corruptors are among the more common Corruptors, and often avoid detection for years, or even decades. Once they latch onto a sentient being, they are tied to its life force. The death of its host will weaken it. The Voice of the Serpent that plagued Imperial’s original Chancellor, Leodegrance, was a very powerful Shade Corruptor.
Great Cryptid Corruptors
These are unique cryptids that are much more powerful and often larger than typical cryptids. There are rumors that dragons are an entire breed of Great Cryptid Corruptors, but given how extensively old dragon lineages are, testing this theory is effectively impossible. Some Great Cryptid Corruptors are truly unique in shape and look, others are actually Shade Corruptors that have merged to form distorted, altered forms of existing cryptids. Cryptozoologists who studied 2017’s “The Grunch” believe it likely to be a Great Cryptid Corruptor, based on its animalistic nature and the chupacabra found sacrificed at The Grunch’s inception point.
Whispers that have embedded their sentience and power in inanimate objects are called Relic Corruptors. Their will can reveal itself in many ways, from subtle manipulation (a magic mirror that grants twisted visions guised as prophesy) to outright direct communication (a talking diary). These Corruptors can be exceptionally long-lived in our realm, mistaken for common enchanted artifacts. In at least one case, a Corruptor had completely forgotten its former Whisper self. Gebral’s Garrulous Grimoire, held in trust at Imperial for the Papegoja family, was discovered in 2010 to actually be a Relic Corruptor. When confronted with this fact, the Grimoire replied — in excessive soliloquy — that it was quite happy with its life as a chatty book. Another such long-lived Relic Corruptor is the Prophecy Pick, whose wielder must already be musically gifted and can readily translate their artistic soul into their stringed instrument. Alas, the holders of this item often come to unnaturally early deaths.
Miroven (Fae) Corruptors
When a Whisper possesses a Miroven of similar nature / desire, it creates a powerful fae that is regarded as a profanity to all other fae. A Corrupted Fae becomes primal and violent and unpredictable. These Corruptors, existing in the fae realm, do not behave quite like Corruptors in our realm. They are often shorter-lived and constantly consume energy around them — whether magic or happiness or mischief. Descriptions of these Corruptors are few and vague, as the fae resist discussing them.
Because time magic is so difficult and rare, these types of Corruptors are infrequently documented in Magimundi history. They are, like time magic, unstable by nature, and have a much shorter lifespan than many other Corruptors (tens to hundreds of years, at most). Some scholars argue that they are relatively frequent, but because of their nature, their presence in our world is effectively invisible as they can alter our timelines, including our memories.
Woe to the person who encounters a Chaos Corruptor! These Whispers manifest their nature into a form unique to themselves. Powerful versions may have large tentacles, spiky appendages, boiling skin, clouds of noxious gas. These are the most dangerous Corruptors, as their control over their form requires a tremendous magic to constantly bend reality. A chaos Corruptor is reported extremely rarely, and often several centuries pass without seeing one. The arrival of one heralds extreme times of changes, such as the Great Bubonic Plague of Europe and the Spanish Influenza, believed caused by the Scarring of World War I.
Traits of Corruptors
Like Seeks Like
Whispers seek out objects and/or people similar to its nature. They will not bond with things that contradict their nature. A Pride Whisper will not become a Pride Corruptor with a person who is very humble. A Whisper whose nature is similar to water will not seek to appear in stone tower.
Through centuries of observations, we now understand that a Corruptor is neither good nor evil when it enters our world and takes form. It is, like all new beings, trying to make sense of its new life. Brand new Corruptors have a clean slate, or “tabula rasa.” Corruptors, even ones who have been to our world and have been banished back to the Realm of Whispers, are adjusting to their newfound power, will, influence, and most importantly, identity. Imagine having only a vague notion of being a self, and then suddenly presented with the separation from everything around you. It must be extraordinarily disorienting! Corruptors who have been repeatedly banished and re-entered our world have a much stronger identity and will adjust to our world with greater predictability and facility.
Corruptors seem to humans as immortal, but in actuality they live very long lives of thousands, or even tens of thousands of years (the exception are Time Corruptors, see above). This was learned through conversations with the Reflecting Pool of Rumination, whose location is a guarded secret of the Council of Five and a handful of trusted researchers.
Corruptors are immune to most damage, physical or magical, except that which directly contradicts their nature (e.g. a fire Corruptor is weak to ice, though it will take more than cold, even extreme cold to slay it). Thus, discovering the nature of a Corruptor is of utmost importance, and powerful Corruptors will not be forthcoming with that information, and will seek to confuse, contradict, and lie in order to protect it. Destroying the physical form of a Corruptor generally does not end its life. One’s best strategy is to create a controlled Scarring through a summoning circle, steer the Corruptor back to the Whisper Realm, and close, ward, or bind the Scarring to prevent its return. As it will latch onto anything similar to its nature, one must rid the surrounding area of anything that resembles it.
Although the word for an entity from Psythyros with material form is “Corruptor,” that simply means that it does not belong in our world, not that all Corruptors have bad intentions. The word “Corruptor” is a category created by the Magimundi, in an attempt to understand and distinguish them from other entities. Often, they are known by titles and nicknames that do not include the word “Corruptor” itself. There are a number of Benevolent Corruptors permitted to continue to reside in our world. These range from mildly annoying (The Laughing Gremlin of Virginia Isle) to innocuous (Rock Sprites of Eastern Thunderbird), to friendly (the 6-legged white stag of Mount Greylock). Benevolent Corruptors seem to seek to aid or have positive influence on the entities and environments they interact with. This could, of course, be our own attribution of ethics and morals on an extraplanar entity, but nevertheless, so-called Benevolent Corruptors are much more tolerated and even defended by magicians.
However, a word of caution: confronting a Benevolent Corruptor and attempting to banish it can be an exceptionally dangerous proposition, as it still has the desire to remain in our realm.
Every Corruptor has a name, which it holds in high regard. Because identity is only gained by entering our world, it is dear to that being. It may be open with its name, or it may keep it a secret. Names are sometimes given to Corruptors by mages and wizards. Learning the name of (or naming) the Corruptor allows a wizard or mage to gain a Corruptor’s attention, respect, or ire; it depends on the nature of that Corruptor how it reacts to its name. Some wizards have used a Corruptor’s name to issue a direct challenge. The nature of the challenge will vary depending on the Corruptor. In the case of Benevolent Corruptors, knowing its name may be used in soliciting the Corruptor’s aid. A banished Corruptor loses that identity upon returning to the Whisper Realm, where it may be combined, merged, and reformed amid the chaos. However, a memory or echo of the name remains, and in many cases, a returned Corruptor can be re-summoned through the use of the name they were known by in our world. The more powerful the Corruptor and the more often it has been summoned, the stronger of a memory of its identity it retains.