Preparations for the battle with the kobolds continue apace.
I mentioned previously that I came into possession of a Tract of Teratology, given to me by the maiden Teldicia. Like much of Finnot’s work, the tract focuses on the summoning (and possibly controlling) of horrible extraplanar entities. While Finnot’s Book refers to fairly simple acts as part of the summoning—sacrificing doves and pigeons or obtaining bits of a devil given freely, the kind of things a magician of my caliber would expect to be dealing in. The Tract of Teratology goes to much more extreme lengths—requiring rare components and the sacrifice of sentients to generate the massive magical energies to call forth the creature.
Winona made some mention of the possible legalities of such sacrifices, depending on jurisdiction, but I would like to enumerate, for the sake of my own distraction the types of sacrifices described in the text.
“At a Sharran temple in Cormyr, at certain seasons of the year, the court is set round with pictures, which pourtray in a fearful manner the sufferings of the dead. Some are sawn asunder; some are gored with pitchforks; some are thrown into a cauldron of boiling water; others are burnt. The artists, under the gifted instruction of the priests, succeeded in representing every sight that is terrible to the eye or revolting to the senses. In the recess at Mongha before-mentioned a few of these choice subjects were displayed with an edifying effect. The presumed existence of a place of torment brings a revenue into the coffers of the priest, who is assumed to have the power of appeasing the wrath of the judges.”
Dehydration: The victim must be restrained and denied water, which may necessitate a wait of 3 or more days. During this time, the victim may try to escape, or to call for help; steps must be taken. This is by far the least gruesome option, but may be the most heart-wrenching, as one would have to keep tabs on the subject to make sure that the death happened in the proscribed way and would involve prolonged contact—and thus the risk of losing that emotional detachment which is necessary of a great mage.
The Wheel: A victim is lashed to a wheel and beaten with a cudgel or hammer, so that the gaps in the wheel allow the limbs to break. This process takes 1-2 hours, and is very noisy. A large wheel is required. Winona described this method of torture and sacrifice at some length in her discussion of the Melvauntish legal system, which I have recorded here:
“Melvaunt, in whose jurisdiction we are now or soon will be, allows for a wide range of punishments, including torture by means of a Catherine Wheel as both a means of execution and post mortem punishment—both only in cases of aggravated murder, that is, murder committed while in the midst of another crime, or perpetrated against a family member of the accused. Firstly, the delinquent is to be placed belly down, on a cartwheel with their hands and feet bound, outstretched out along the spokes, and thus dragged by a horse to the place of execution. The wheel is then hammered onto a pole, which is then fastened upright in its other end in the ground and made to revolve slowly. A large hammer or an iron bar is then applied to the limb over the gap between the beams, breaking the bones. Twice times on each arm, one blow above the elbow, the other below. Then, each leg gets the same treatment, above and below the knees. The final ninth blow is given at the middle of the spine, so that it breaks. Then, the broken body of the accused is unbound and woven onto the wheel between the spokes. The criminal is then to be left dying ‘afloat’ on the wheel, and be left to rot. The broken man can last hours and even days, during which birds are invited peck at the helpless victim. Eventually, shock and dehydration cause death.”
Cautious Slicing: the body is tied to a wooden frame, and flesh is cut from the body in multiple slices. This execution takes 1-2 hours, and is very noisy. A wooden frame is required.
Slow slicing, also translated as the slow process, the lingering death, and death by a thousand cuts, was a form of torture and execution used in Thay and Impiltur from roughly 900 DR In this form of execution, a knife was used to methodically remove portions of the body over an extended period of time, eventually leading to death. The term “língchí” is derived from a classical description of ascending a mountain slowly. Lingchi was reserved for crimes viewed as especially severe, such as treason, or killing one’s parents. The process involved tying the person to be executed to a wooden frame, usually in a public place. The flesh was then cut from the body in multiple slices in a process that was not specified in detail in Thayan law, and therefore most likely varied. In later times, opium was sometimes administered either as an act of mercy or as a way of preventing fainting. The punishment worked on three levels: as a form of public humiliation, as a slow and lingering death, and as a punishment after death.
While it is difficult to obtain accurate details of how the executions took place, they generally consisted of cuts to the arms, legs, and chest leading to amputation of limbs, followed by decapitation or a stab to the heart. If the crime was less serious or the executioner merciful, the first cut would be to the throat causing death; subsequent cuts served solely to dismember the corpse.
The esteemed historian James Elkins argues that extant pictures of the execution make obvious that the “death by division” involved some degree of dismemberment while the subject was living. Elkins also argues that, contrary to the apocryphal version of “death by a thousand cuts”, the actual process could not have lasted long. The condemned individual is not likely to have remained conscious and aware (if even alive) after one or two severe wounds, so the entire process could not have included more than a “few dozen” wounds. In the Tam dynasty of Thay, one hundred cuts were inflicted, and the Zulkir Szass Tam holds the records at three thousand incisions. As an official punishment, death by slicing may also have involved cutting up the bones, cremation, and scattering of the deceased’s ashes.
Boiled Alive: A large cauldron is filled with oil or water and brought to a boil. The victim is slowly lowered into the liquid. This requires at least 1 hour, and is noisy. A cauldron is required, as is some way to lower the victim into it.
Executions of this type were often carried out using a large vessel such as a cauldron or a sealed kettle that was filled with a liquid such as water, oil, tar, or tallow. Depending on the intended cruelty, the victim was either immersed before the liquid was heated or plunged, usually head first, into a boiling liquid. In some cases, the executioner could control the speed of demise by raising or lowering the victim by means of a hook and pulley system.
An alternative method was to use a large shallow receptacle that contained oil, tallow or pitch. The victim, who was then partially immersed in the liquid, was fried to death. Death in these cases was by severe scalding caused by the hot liquids (water or oil). Immersion burns would form on the arms, torso and legs. Prolonged scalding would result in anything up to fourth-degree burns of the skin. The epidermis and the dermis are destroyed, leading to the complete breakdown of subcutaneous fat. Eventually the heat would expose muscle, leading to breaches in major arteries and veins.
Blood Eagle: The victim’s ribs are cut and broken near the spine, then pulled out so that they resemble wings. The lungs are tugged out through the wounds in the victim’s back. This process takes 30-60 minutes, and is quite noisy. The blood eagle method of execution is sometimes mentioned in northern saga legends. It was performed by cutting the skin of the victim by the spine, breaking the ribs so they resembled blood-stained wings, and pulling the lungs out through the wounds in the victim’s back. Salt was sprinkled in the wounds. Victims of the method of execution, as mentioned in skaldic poetry, are believed to have included King Ælla of Northumbria. The victims had to suffer in silence if they wanted to reach Valhalla. One scream and they were condemned to never feast with the gods.
With a butcher’s aplomb
they spread out your lungs
and made you warm wings
for your shoulders.
Hung and Cut: The victim is hung upside down and sawed in half vertically; this method takes a good 30 minutes, and is noisy. The term “death by sawing” indicates the act of sawing a living person in half, either longitudinally, or transversely, through the central body mass, either sawing the individual in half across or along the body length. Thus, decapitation by means of sawing, or dismemberment by means of sawing are merely tangential sub-themes, though some ambiguous cases might be included.
Different methods of death by sawing have been recorded. In cases related to the Chondathan Emperor Caligula, the sawing is said to be through the middle. In the cases of Calimshan, it is stated that that the sawing was lengthwise, both from the groin and upwards, and from the skull and downwards. In only one case, the person is explicitly described as being hung upside-down and sawn apart vertically through the middle, starting at the groin, with no mention of fastening or support boards around the person, in the manner depicted in illustrations. In other cases where details about the method, beyond the mere sawing act, are explicitly supplied, the condemned person was apparently fastened to either one or two boards prior to sawing.
I recall one particular incident described in a lecture on religion during my time at the academy:
Stabbed: The victim is pierced with several blades, and must be stabbed at least once by each caster prior to succumbing to injury (meaning that if the first stab is fatal, then the other participants are unable to contribute to the death, and the ritual must be started over). This execution only takes a few moments, but can produce a degree of commotion.
Poison: After the victim ingests poison and dies, the ritual is complete, which means that this part of the ritual could conceivably be completed in public, in short order, without attracting much attention at all.
It’s all quite fascinating really. I imagine one might learn quite a bit about the anatomy of the body and the limits of endurance from such procedures, even if there was not the tangible benefit from the act of summoning.
The possibilities of additional components are also quite fascinating, ranging from the mundane, to the extremely expensive, and many require some prior preparation of the body before enacting the execution. Some examples:
- A sapphire, a ruby, and the victim’s most prized possession.
- A bar of silver and the victim’s kidneys (removed from the still-living victim before beginning the sacrifice).
- Three longspoons of white crystalline arsenic and the victim’s esophagus, which may be removed and burned after the execution, though there are some references to removing it prior to the act—I cannot imagine how this would be accomplished.
- Two scruples of ambergris and the victim’s feet.
- An ounce of aloe succotrina and the victim’s fingernails.
- Six grams of gentian and tormentil plus the victim’s scalp.
- Three drams of root of dittany and the victim’s eyes.
- Ten grains of musk dissolved in rosewater plus the victim’s spinal column.
- A handful of sand and a lock of the victim’s hair.