There’s an entire arsenal of peculiar artifacts that can used for the Royal Executioner’s «special» tasks. Apart from the journal and a Tarot deck Theodor’s father left him there’s also the Mandrake root preserved in alcohol and the Hand of Glory aka the Hanged Man’s Hand. Why would an honest laborer of the sword and the axe need such curiosities? We’re gonna tell you.
Here’s the story behind the Hand of Glory.
How to become a successful thief? Why by obtaining an occult artifact of course! During the Dark Ages the Hand of Glory was one such artifact. It was basically a chopped off hand of a dead man with candlewicks inserted into the fingers.
Peculiar by by modern standards, sure, but back then people actually believed that thing will light the way of the one who carries it, while others remained blind to that light. It was also believed, that the Hand can open locks, stupefy people who would look at the candle’s light, or make them fall asleep which made it a coveted tool for any thief.
The irony is that the Hand of Glory could only be made out of someone with “sticky fingers”. A thief. Of course if you believed in the Hand’s properties its owner should have been pretty elusive. In practice however the magical candle’s owners frequently ended up with their heads in the noose themselves, providing material for creating new artifacts, continuing the vicious cycle of life on the fringes in the Medieval society.
Depending on the skill if its maker the Hand of Glory might look like a strange candleholder for just one candle or — if the was a master at work — five candles, one for each finger with wicks made out of the hand’s former owner’s own hair, dipped in fat. Quite inventive, right? It’s very likely however that the makers of such artifacts got the privilege of burning alive for witchcraft instead of just being strung up.
In our game the protagonist may take a dangerous but seductive path of the occult, become a master of mystical arts, create a Hand of Glory himself and later learn spells that give the Hand many of its useful properties. With the artifact Grim would be able to see in the dark, enter into locked off rooms, become invisible, make people fall asleep…
At the apex of this path lies the ritual of self-hanging — the warlock turns his own palm into the burning Hand of Glory. This ritual has little in common with an actual handing. It’s more akin to a goetic ritual like what the Norse god Odin went through, sacrificing himself to obtain the knowledge of runes, or the long fasting of native american’s that the boys go through to get their adult names.
During the first part of the ritual the warlock symbolically put the noose around his neck to “become” the thief whose hand is needed as material for the artifact. The hanging is done using the short rope method. On the ground where the end of the rope is tied stands a large candle that’s supposed to burn through the rope and free the warlock before he suffocates. After the exhausted “thief” drops to the ground comes the most difficult part — mortification of the flesh.
We also need to mention that the warlock needs to go through a three day fasting before starting the ritual. During that time he sustains himself with a special herbal brew that brings horrible nightmares at first. Later thought it gives the body everything it will need (numbs the pain, purifies the blood) to survive the second part of the ritual.
It goes like this. The newly minted “corpse” sits at a wooden altar and puts his hand in the middle of a circle painted there. He then nails his palm into the altar, right at the center. After that he can only use his left hand. With a ritual knife the warlock makes a long cut around his right wrist cutting off the hand symbolically, then immediately sears the wound. The brew he drank earlier should help cope with the pain.
Then he makes deep cuts along each finger and stuffs them with dirt from underground and plant poison. After 24 hours of agony the fingers start to die off and lose all sensitivity. That’s when the candles are made: the warlock puts a wick into each finger. Human fat works as a substitute for wax. The skin is then embalmed.
At the dawn of the third day with his last ounce of strength the warlock pulls out the nail and dips his freed hand into a bowl filled with oil infused with nine magical plants thus ending the ritual.
By sacrificing one hand the warlock obtains an artefact that’s a great deal more powerful than a regular Hand of Glory. But isn’t that too high a price for a man who has eyes of the whole kingdom on him every single day and can be easily accused of witchcraft? Not to mention the scientists and the sceptics will dismiss the whole thing as superstition. And not just any superstition, but a dangerous one, since a ritual like that may not only lead you into the fire but cause blood poisoning and painful amputation.
So is it magic or superstition? You will figure it out with Theodor Grim. Decide who’s in the right — the mystics or the scientists!
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