"Learning their names as I eat and I sing - these are a few of my favorite things"
Real Name: Ezra Strix (Supposedly)
Aliases: The Count, Black Owl, Mad Strix, Owl of 1,000 Faces, Many Faced Stag, Horned God, Dread Owl, Black Stag, Madweaver, Count of Mania, Father Fear, Mother of Madness, Soul Eater
Height: 6'2" (Varies)
Hair Color: Raven (Varies)
Eye Color: Unknown (Varies)
Gender: Male (Varies)
Alignment: Irredeemable Villain
Birthplace: Black Hallows
Relationship Status: Married (Estranged)
Base of Operations: The Strix Pomest'ye (Abandoned)
Patriarch of the Strix Family
The Madweaver - Origin/Background
Beyond what is certain and secure, there is the Black Hallows, a murky unknown never meant for the heart and soul of man, a place between the borders of danger and safety, where the limits of knowledge, trust and security are never clear. There is only terror and impersonal nightmares filled with all that is not known - the worst things imaginable, the void of non-existence. In the Black Hallows, man's basic helplessness against nature is contorted by forces unknown and impersonal into a place where terror, uneasiness and otherness are given form. And if legend is to be believed, Ezra - brother to Marzanna - is one such terror, one such otherness, an otherworldly monster who resurrects a basic fear in the heart of man; that man knows nothing of the unknown, and has no control of when he will know more. Little then, is known of what Ezra truly is. But in the Black Hallows, he is the Madweaver, brother of Marzanna the Deathweaver.
Folklore in the Black Hallows tells tales of the two siblings as things from times too ancient to remember. Some claim them to be the nightmares of arcane scholars given form. Others disagree and say they are of a race of strangers known as the "Strix" from uncharted corners of the Black Hallows. Many claim they were once arcane experts who ventured into the Dire Halls of Phantasmagoria in search of unknowable truths and revelations, and were twisted and corrupted by what they found, becoming monstrous beings no longer resembling what they once were. Perhaps there is truth in one of the tales - or none.
The Mad Strix - Psychological Profile/Personality
The Horned God knows no conscience, no feelings of guilt or remorse, and no limiting sense of concern for the well-being of others. To him, moral responsibility is a burden foolishly accepted by the gullible spirit of man. As the Madweaver, Ezra preys upon the sanity of others, twisting and torturing until the mind and soul are broken. He is sardonic and sadistic, often taunting and mocking as he peels apart the psycho-spiritual stability of his victims. He is cannibalistic, biting into the flesh of his prey and chewing till the sickening crunch of bone drowns out the scratching, screaming and begging of those he then swallows whole. And yet, the Mad Strix operates invisibly in society, appearing and acting just as any ordinary man does. Confronting society with a convincing mask of empathy and humanity, Ezra is never displaced, never daunted by questions directed toward deeper personality levels. Under psychiatric investigation and in technical tests meant to pluck out evidence of derangement, his thought processes appear normal and rational.
He fools the heart of man, making all judgments of value and emotional appraisals seem genuine and true. And yet, the Horned God is monster instead of man. He is supernaturally calm, oddly magnetic - and indifferent to the pleas of a desperate husband as he slowly swallows a wife whole by the legs. He cannot be reasoned with, only bargained with, a deal for a soul. Yet he smiles, and answers begging with dark humor, song and sardonic wit, teasing that behind his corpse's face there lay someone who might listen. But there is none. Only a patient predator that studies his prey and maddens them with fears and derangement forged to the specifications of their minds and histories. But he is the Madweaver, his calmness is only here and there, at times shattered by a glimpse of an otherness, of something far too alien for man to make sense of beyond an all-consuming dread.
The Count - Knowledge & Skills
|| Intellect & Master Manipulator ||
The long-lived owner of ancient books and unknown texts, the Mad Strix's knowledge spans an insurmountable number of fields and areas. Be it the philosophies of man or the Black Hallows, the history of man or other, literature, biology, chemistry and so on, it matters not. Ezra can draw upon complex bodies of knowledge. He is a speaker of languages known and unknown, an expert of literature from man's world and others, and a master of the supernatural, of alchemy and sorcery and the esoteric. He articulates his thoughts with perfect clarity, exhibits near-flawless information retention and recall, and is supernaturally calm. And he is a predator who can balance persisting on long-terms goals while simultaneously adapting to the always-changing conditions of a chaotic and maddening environment. The Mad Strix however, is known most for his skill in manipulation. Traveling back and forth between his native Black Hallows and the world of man for longer than most civilizations have lived has enabled his observation of many different social behaviors from many different people.
And as a result, Ezra is supernaturally skilled at manipulating the behaviors of others to serve his own ends. He can perceive the motivations of others with clarity to make better judgments to succeed in social situations e.g. deceiving his estranged human wife, Megeara Strix, that he was human and fathering a dynasty of blue-bloods in Gothic City's golden era. He understands the ways in which people unconsciously like other people, as well as the mere-exposure effect, reciprocal liking, persuasion, social power dynamics, emotional abuse and how to harness all their effects. And as all manipulation is based on calibration, Ezra is a master at cold reading, at reading not only facial expressions but body language as well. His expertise in reading others enables him to adjust his course of action while simultaneously analyzing his social environment. He is therefore able to accomplish tasks such as disarming politicians with superficial charm. And the tools he has at his disposal are many. Tools such as the ability to fake authentic intuition and insight by acting like someone completely different, all in the name of manipulating values he himself does not even have.
The Mad Strix takes every chance to learn how foolish people can be in their observations and responses. So he will make deals with them, say something false to observe the reactions of others, or behave differently to simulate power.
The Horned God - Powers & Abilities
|| Mother of Madness ||
As the Madweaver, Ezra's dominion is over madness, over the lunacy and maddening visions of the deranged and psychotic. Among the Horned God's powers as the Madweaver, is detecting mental illness and inducing madness in others through physical touch. With a mere touch, he can mangle and tear asunder one's sanity, dividing mind with paranoia, dementia and any disorder of the mind. However, even in the absence of physical touch, Ezra can cast presence of madness in the air. With his very presence, the Mad Strix emits an otherness, an intangible psycho-spiritual phenomenon that lightly shuffles the order of the mind, renders it loopy and infects it with paranoia, feverish visions and sensory hallucinations. Many in the Mad Strix's presence claim to have heard a chorus of voices in their minds, commentating about them, conspiring against them, mocking them with threats to take over or consume their mind and soul.
This however, pales in comparison to the maddening lengths of Ezra's powers over the forces of lunacy. Through physical contact with one's head or an uninterrupted five second gaze, the Horned God can psycho-spiritually (both the mind and soul) trap his victims in an illusory world of his making. This illusory world is a disorderly mess of chaos, confusion and absolute bedlam, constantly shifting and leaving an entrapped victim unable to adjust to the ever-changing environment bent to Ezra's own will. In addition to his ability to cast maddening hallucinations and visions that twist and maim the sanity of the mind, the Madweaver can call upon the power mental illnesses e.g. schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, depression, dissociative identity disorder, amnesia etc., any of which he can induce in a victim's mind through physical touch. Furthermore, through the power of physical touch, Ezra can choose to cripple the neurons in the central nervous system to cause a host of neurodegenerative diseases that prey upon the victim's sanity. Due to this dominion over madness, Ezra can both create and take the form of maddening things thought to unsettle the mind and drive it to madness.
How Ezra creates maddening things is by infecting inanimate objects with the lunacy at his fingertips, twisting statues and other objects into abominable things that he can bring to life. As a result, Ezra often leaves behind odd looking objects that people, through their sheer interest in said objects' strangeness, are likely to touch and thus be driven mad themselves. At times however, the things he infects with madness may themselves not be made infectious by him due to the pleasure he derives from torturing and organically turning a sane mind mad. Among the Horned God's preferred actions is to infect a victim's entire home with a partially sentient madness. Doors open and close by themselves, bookcases rattle as though shaken by invisible hands, scratching and knocking is heard behind the walls, foul and wet smells linger in the air etc. As previously mentioned, the Mad Strix can take the form of maddening things e.g. manifesting as visions depicting the most traumatic events in a victim's life, or using his shape-shifting power to take the form of deranged monstrosities and nightmare abominations. Be it height, weight, his gender, the length of his limbs etc. there are no limits to his shape-shifting.
Ezra is able to stretch his limbs as much as he is able to grow a second set of arms or turn into a basilisk with a human brain for a head. And as the Madweaver, Ezra grows stronger in the presence of the deranged and mentally ill. Finally, as is the opposite of the maddened mind, Ezra's own mind is abnormally strong and therefore incredibly resistant to psychic assault, but principally, immune to madness. More often than not, those attempting to peak into his mind will instead peak into a rising tide of madness that will infect and mangle the minds of psychics treading where they should not. All things touched and twisted by his madness fall under his control, and even madness not weaved by him is incredibly susceptible to bending to his will. As previously stated, the Mad Strix himself is more powerful the greater the madness around him. As a result, he is significantly more powerful in the Black Hallows where madness runs rampant.
|| The Stranger ||
While Ezra often takes human form, he is far from it. Physically superior, he is significantly stronger, faster, more durable etc. than the ordinary human, capable of throwing grown men across rooms and through walls, tearing out their limbs, is immune to all known diseases and afflictions, and needs no air, food, or water. However, among Ezra's principal physical powers is his shape-shifting. While his dominion over madness enables him to take the form of insane monstrosities and disturbing nightmares, the Horned God's base shape-shifting power is owed to his ability to freely manipulate his own body structure. He can take the physical appearance of anyone he imagines, regardless of gender, height etc. and even anything as Ezra has taken the form of things such as statues, houses and animals in the past. Furthermore, the power to manipulate his body structure allows him to form appendages and weapons from his own body e.g. sharpening his own biomass to turn his hands into blades etc., as well as stretching and contorting his own limbs, fitting into small spaces or sliding through the grate of an air vent. When prompted, the Mad Strix can absorb objects unto himself, sucking them into his flesh and shooting them back e.g. bullets, arrows and so on.
Additionally, while he uses his shape-shifting powers to facilitate his cannibalism by enlarging his mouth and growing a powerful jaw or otherwise taking a monstrous form, Ezra's "cells" can also release a digestive fluid that consumes the physical tissue of his victims, enabling him to consume and digest his foes through simple physical contact. Few are aware of it, but the Horned God's blood is unique. While he does not age, he has, in the past, claimed that roaming beyond the Black Hallows for too long will result in him "dying", in him being returned to "not being him anymore", to a permanent existential prison. To counter this, Ezra captured and engaged in the ritualistic consumption of the living flesh and blood of a descendant of legendary Irish witch, Gráinne. The result of this consumption is physical immortality, allowing him to resist the impersonal forces of the Black Hallows trying to reclaim him every time he ventures beyond it for too long. The same forces preventing his sister from venturing out the Black Hallows. This however, can be undone and he will "die" if harmed by one weapon and one weapon only, Gae Buidhe, wielded by Abigail Aensland. The blood of Gráinne also enhances his physical healing, enabling to regrow his limbs etc. in hours as opposed to weeks. However, even prior to having the blood of Gráinne, Ezra's blood was strange.
It carries a perversion, a physical corruption transmitted through physical contact with his blood or objects corrupted by his blood. Depending on the strength of one's immune system, the corruption can be warded. Still, even those with great resistance are at risk of sickness. The symptoms vary. At times, the corruption manifests as a wasting illness of excruciating pain. It consumes the body from the inside, decaying the organs till they become sacs of pus. The bones thin and push out violently against the skin, and the skin itself loses it's elasticity. Death is tortuous and slow, as the corruption swarms through the body eating and rotting with patience. However, those afflicted with the corruption do not always die. Some instead, "turn". They become conduits of this corruption, bound to Ezra's will by his blood. Their flesh becomes cracked and grey, their skeletons elongate and contort, their faces emaciate, their eyes disappear, and their teeth become harden and sharpen, and their strength and speed become bestial like the largest of bears. With a bite and a scratch of their dagger-like nails, these violent thralls can transmit Ezra's corruption, a black rot that wastes the body.
|| The Dread Owl ||
First and foremost, Ezra possesses no soul of his own. Instead, he has a Black Soul, a well of all the souls he has consumed from others, including Grimmwald's. Where there should be quantum information comprising his soul, there is a prison for the souls of others. An abyss. That which harms the soul does not harm him as there is nothing to be harmed. Furthermore, Ezra - like the ghouls of the Grim Pasture, which he controls and is responsible for - can exude dread, and is himself immune to it. In his presence, the environment grows incredibly cold and frosty, color and sound fade and is haunted by a traumatic force that feeds on the cheer, joy and all positive emotions of those nearby. Those who linger near him will find their minds plagued by worsening depression and an overwhelming sense of dread and hopelessness. And if they linger for too long, all positive emotions will be permanently stripped from their emotional selves. Longer than even this and Ezra's victims begin to relive their worst and most traumatic experiences over and over again until their emotional being is so horribly mangled that nothing remains but absolute dread and depression, and a suicidal desire without the mental energy to carry it out.
Through physical touch, the Horned God's ability to feed on the positive emotions of his victims can be so violent that it even the courageous and strong-willed are at risk of losing their will to fight and become overwhelmed by dread and hopelessness and rendered emotionally inert husks that cannot even cower before him. This power of his is often misunderstood as it attacks neither the mind nor soul, but instead preys upon the deepest parts of one's emotional self. Perhaps Ezra's cruelest power is one manifested through enormous black hands or tendrils that he uses to physically squeeze the soul out a victim's body in his physical grasp. Or alternatively, a smaller hand or arm, such as his usual ones, can stretch down the victim's throat and tear out their soul for him to consume. To tear out and consume the souls of others means to rob them of and gain their experiences, personality, skills, capacity to feel and "self". Those stripped of their souls are left alive but unfeeling and empty. And after physical death, they pass on to nothing, instead remaining prisoners of the Mad Strix for all eternity. Among Ezra's strangest abilities is the power to create horrifying trees made of black wood scarred with the faces of the souls he has consumed.
These trees are extensions of his Black Soul, and their purpose is simple; to allow Ezra to physically see through and speak and hear from the drawn faces on their black bark. With these trees, Ezra is always watching, listening and talking. Though he typically grows these trees in remote forests, he has been seen planting them in public parks in large cities. Similar to his abilities surrounding madness, the Horned God grows in power the more dread there is around him. And because the Black Hallows is an abyss wherein dread runs unrestrained, Ezra is at his most powerful in the Black Hallows.
The Dread Owl - Paraphernalia
|| Ring of Gethwine ||
A unique artifact, the Ring of Gethwine is, as the name implies, a ring of power that once belonged to Gethwine the Matriarch. Though an untalented sorceress, Gethwine, a Matriarch or head priestess of one of the now crumbled chapels in the Grim Pasture of the Black Hallows, was ingenious. Whereas the now ruined chapels of the Grim Pasture largely worshiped magic and sorcery, Gethwine - dissatisfied with her unrewarded faith in magic - turned to anti-magic and founded the Hollow Chapel. There, she became head priestess of a following of those with no talent for sorcery and no insight for magic, and revealed to them an unknown, the Newtonian opposite of magic; anti-magic. And it was blasphemy. Yet Gethwine continued her teachings and her chapel grew. She forged artifacts and relics uniquely sensitive to the properties of anti-magic and used them as stable receiving and transmitting tools for it to ward off the fervent protests of sorcerers devout to magic. But the protests escalated, grew violent, and her chapel was persecuted.
And in her moment of desperation, Ezra came as an answer to her pleas. Believing him to be a physical manifestation of anti-magic, Gethwine pleaded that he lay waste to the Grim Pasture's chapels. And so, the Mad Strix accepted, asking only that Gethwine give him her most prized relic as a show of faith and for him to bless - she gave him her ring. With her ring in his possession, Ezra did as he was asked and slaughtered all chapels and all followers - beginning with Gethwine's. And in the wake of his deed, nothing remained of the Grim Pasture save for the strange trees Ezra grew as prisons for the consumed souls of those he'd slaughtered. In his absence, burial chambers and mausoleums were built for those buried there, and eventually, the Grim Pasture became a mass graveyard where the lowest citizens of Blackpool were buried. Ezra had his ring, and none knew the truth. As an anti-magic relic, the Ring of Gethwine emits neutralizing frequencies that reinforce the "reality" and established state of nature prior to being altered by the flow of magic. The ring therefore, does not so much interrupt a spell, incantation or magical artifact as much as it reinforces the pre-magic reality or state of things so that a spell, magical artifact or any effect decreed by magic cannot be used in the first place. The ring however, is not an absolute instrument as it cannot neutralize all magic.
The more powerful the magic, the more difficult it is for the ring to neutralize. So while the Ring of Gethwine itself is powerful, equally powerful magic can resist it's neutralizing frequencies to exert a weakened influence. Exceptionally powerful magic however, can completely overcome the ring's anti-magic effect and would require the presence of multiple anti-magic relics to neutralize. Other such relics however, are not known to exist as the Mad Strix destroyed all other relics made by Gethwine and her followers. The ring's effect is not always active, and must be awakened by it's wearer via conscious thought. It is often disguised as his wedding ring.
|| Ring of Strix ||
A ring forged by Ezra himself, the Ring of Strix is an arcane artifact that grants him access to five unique spells discovered from the last of his visits to the Dire Halls of Phantasmagoria. The spells are as follows:
- Blackmire: A useful but costly spell, Blackmire is a spell that is cast via uttering the spell's name while maintaining five seconds of uninterrupted eye contact with the victim. When successful, Blackmire enables Ezra to manipulate his victims by granting them false experiences and making it seem as though the actions they are being manipulated into performing are things they are doing of their own free will. Because of this, Blackmire is an outrageously difficult spell to break out of as victims rarely ever realize they are under it's effect. And though it leaves the victim completely unaware that they are being manipulated, Blackmire comes at a price. When casting the spell, Ezra's body is used as a catalyst, and the consequence of doing so is that he will remain in physical paralysis at the onset and for the duration of the spell.
- Bewitch: Like Blackmire, Bewitch comes at a cost. When successfully cast, it grants the Mad Strix the power to seize control of the five primary senses of a target, allowing him to manipulate any of those senses for whichever effect he can imagine. The effects range from causing a victim to misinterpret visual stimuli such as the form, shape or color of a physical body, altering their sense of smell, or changing the feel or physical sensation of touch e.g. making something hot feel cold. Unlike Blackmire, Bewitch requires no incantation. Instead, it requires a specific hand gesture to cast the spell power. Furthermore, the spell will only be successful if the victim sees the hand seal. In addition to this, every time Ezra targets a specific sense, he must temporarily concede one sense of his own. For example, if he targets a victim's sight, he must temporarily lose a sense of his own choosing. If he targets two senses simultaneously, then he must temporarily lose two of his senses as well. And because one of the spell's conditions require that a victim see the hand gesture being performed to cast it, blind people are immune to Bewitch.
- Antecedent: Quite possibly the Mad Strix's most peculiar spell, Antecedent is not costly like his first two spells, but it does come with one condition; it can only be cast via the use of a large dagger that the Ring of Strix manifests for him. The dagger itself is able to cut and pierce through most materials save for the likes of adamantium and vibranium or materials of comparable strength. Like the first two spells, Antecedent requires a hand gesture to summon the dagger. The effect of the spell itself is splitting the past of whatever the dagger cuts or pierces, be it objects, places or people. Antecedent however, does not work by manipulating time and memories, instead it literally physically inserts Ezra's presence into the history of whatever has been cut or pierced by the dagger. Victims of his spell thereby recognize him as someone closely connected to their personal lives depending on what he chooses, be it a family member, close friend or lover.
With this spell's power, the Horned God can even usurp the roles of other people in a victim's history, as well as gain knowledge of his victim's memories. Once the cut on a victim has completely healed however, the spell effect vanishes and whatever changes to history made by the spell are reversed. As a result, the wounds dealt by the dagger are stubborn to heal. He often uses this spell to cut an object to claim ownership or stab the ground of a specific place to insert himself in it's history, perhaps setting future traps. Furthermore, it is almost impossible for a victim to realize that their altered history is different as as the spell makes it seem as though the victim's past was always what it had been altered to.
- Canvas: Another one of Ezra's more unique spells, Canvas is a spell that requires both a hand gesture and incantation, and for the victim to be within ten feet of him. When successful, Canvas traps both Ezra and his victim in a color-based game. Both he and his opponent are forced to wield spears, and by the rules of the game, they are prevented from using any means to harm one another with the exception of thinking of the name of the color one wants to pierce with one's spear. If the color one thinks of does not exist on their own body (clothes etc.), then the damage dealt to one's opponent is minimal, even if the attack would normally inflict a severe wound. Damage therefore, is dealt in proportion to the amount of the same color on both participants. So in order to maximize damage, Ezra attacks colors that maximizes the risks to both himself and his adversary.
By wearing a red suit and thinking of the color "red", he inflicts enormous damage on his opponent even if the blow itself would normally be a simple scratch. Unfortunately, if his opponent is also wearing red clothing or the opponent's skin is red, then they too can deal serious damage to Ezra. The Mad Strix's success in the game is largely based on his victim's not knowing the rules.
- Umbra: The last of Ezra's spells works by extending his shadow on any surface, even water, as far as he requires so long as there is enough area. Once his shadow comes into contact with someone else's shadow, the two shadows merge and the victim is forced to imitate Ezra's physical actions. The Mad Strix often tries to use better light sources to increase the size of his shadow or rely on preexisting shadows for his own shadow to tether to in order to reach a target that is out of range. Furthermore, the Horned God can split his shadow to trap multiple people. If his victim for example, is armed with a sword, Ezra will perform a stabbing motion, forcing the victim to stab themselves. Or if the victim is one who breathes air, Ezra will hold his breath until his victim dies from lack of oxygen.