The Dul Ah’gallan
Of the creatures that bring strife to the worlds of men, the Dul Ah’gallan stand head and shoulders above all others as the most fear inspiring. Known by many names across the lands (Barrow lord and headsmen being the most common), the Dul Ah’gallan were all once human. More importantly they were once people of great power and respect. Unfortunately their pride, anger, and self righteousness eventually took them down a path where they looked to the things in the Twain for assistance and became “Given”.
This process is usually facilitated by K’ui itself. This shadowy, ephemeral Sorrow would eventually lead each of these powerful people down a path that would end in a pact to WaitsBeyond. It is a very final pact for the very symbol of the agreement is the given’s head.
The ritual of sacrifice traps them in a state between life and death and their soul is believed to be absorbed into the Twain, removed from the cycle of rebirth. They are left only as headless beings of spirit and flesh, of pure will and rage. Their ability for compassion and humanity, seated in the soul, are forever removed. In return they get eternal life of a sort, under the control of K’ui and the horrors. They are no longer creatures of free will. This headless body travels around, fostering armies of dark creatures, and bringing chaos and bloodshed to the land.
Where Shivers are the ravenous hordes that prowl the night, the Dul Ah’gallan are the great bogey men. Each has a singular passion, an obsessive “truth” that they seek after, destroying everything associated with it. Well known Dul Ah’gallan include the following creatures of legend:
- Tlaroh’Niya who lost her children and seeks new ones to replace them
- M’trifox who collected wives and murdered any woman who refused him. He now seeks new “lovers” who’s hearts he hungers for.
- S’behgaak who ate her husband who had not provided for her and now hungers for the flesh of all men.
- T’sehus who gathers children to win back the love of his lost wife Tlaroh’Niya.
- The list goes on.
Though they have given up their own heads, each Dul Ah’gallan is still in possession of one. At least one. They each possess a large bloated head with a face like a twisted grotesque mask frozen in a moment of perverse emotion. They have impossibly wide mouths that are usually filled with rows of rat like teeth or other means of devouring. This head (formally called an ite’sica, but more commonly referred to as “bad faces” or “Flying heads”), is actually independent of the body and flies in an eerie time distorted manner. As they fly they human like entrails trail beneath it dripping with putrid bile and blood.
These heads are actually a type of breacher that has been trapped. The head actually comes from a murderer who has been executed (one reason for tradition of burning the bodies of murderers). They are completely mad but possess forgotten, twisted secrets of the Mysteries. They are enslaved to the Dul Ah’gallan, bound to it by a magical chain that goes down into the hole where their head and neck once sat.
If left on their own the ite’sica would fly about the land screaming and killing with wild abandon until the sun came up to destroy them with the withering. Since they are bound however, they are instead forced to obey the Dul Ah’gallan who can call the head to rest on his shoulders for a brief period and use its dark power. Really powerful and old Dul Ah’gallan have multiple ite’sica tethered to them. This is especially true of those who have help others to become Dul Ah’gallan, effectively becoming their masters. They can cause the heads to act for them, or use their power, without attaching. They can even set them free for a brief periods to perform particular deeds.
The evil energy of a Dul Ah’gallan draws the twisted and dark things to it. Such creatures hungers grow to mirror the obsessions of the controlling barrow lord. They seem to have an ability to command lesser shivers, and can whisper to the dreams of men and women who’ve done evil to others. Especially those who have harmed their families. There are, however, shivers more powerful that actually seem to have some ability to command the Dul Ah’gallan.
Though it is generally believed that all Dul Ah’gallan serve K’ui, this is not strictly true. There are some that are believed to be independent. Such creatures tend not to last very long though without the aid of a Sorrow to conceal it. Those that do serve K’ui stalk the night, travelling murderers, acting either singly or with a troupe of shivers, who will murder an entire village or town overnight if given a chance. Typically they will capture and kill people one at a time, dragging their bodies off to their barrows or caves where shivers will be drawn to attach and re-purpose the body. The northern area known as the White is said to be teeming with Dul Ah’Gallan that seek to free the Winter Crone Sorrow. They lead the charge against The Line in every Long Night. BearWalkers seek them out in the long days and try to put them to rest.
In addition to terrorizing people, these creatures will attack the forces of Sorrows that K’ui has deemed to be rivals and betrayer to the cause of bringing WaitsBeyond back to the lands. He is so focused in punishing the “fallen” Sorrows that most Dul Ah’gallan are often so busy fighting other evils that most never get to a human settlement.
If someone sights a Dul Ah’gallan, and lives to tale the tale, the people mobilize quickly to stop it or chase it off. They do not take the threat of these things lightly at all. Unfortunately there isn’t a really good way to kill a Dul Ah’gallan permanently.
A number of the Owls and old tellers maintain that you must find the sacrificed head while the creature is in a dead state. The original head maintains a connection to the energy of the soul and keeps it trapped. That head is basically the vessel of the curse.
If you can find that head, smudge it with sage, then fill the mouth with tobacco, and burn it, the creature will stay dead. The only catch to this is that that head has, most likely, been made into an ite’sica for another.
In effect, to kill a Dul Ah’gallan you must fight his master who is more powerful. Doves are known to have techniques to force them into long sleep once dead. This at least keeps a fallen Dul Ah’gallaan out of commission for a while.
Most Dul Ah’gallan have a “territory” that they roam. They will tend to hide beneath the earth or in caves in desolate places during the day. The powerful among them, however, eventually learn to step into Shadow or The Road to hide. Once there, however, it is hard for them to find their way back. Unfortunately they can always hear their names spoken. People are warned to never say the given name of Dul Ah’Gallan. If they must refer to it, it is usually done with a title (TakesChild, or EatsLove for example). One never knows where the lost creature has wandered to in the traveling lands. Saying its name in the dark near places where “traveling” is easier (archways, reflective surfaces, shores, etc.) could actually call them through. Though it usually requires at least seven utterings of a name to get a response.
Fools play at the danger of calling a Dul Ah’gallan. The wise never try. The “bravest” of the glory seeking Mic’Talan youth on their “testing” have been known to wipe out their entire cluster trying to prove that they could call and defeat a Dul Ah’gallan. Once encouraged, this practice is now frowned upon by many of the flotilla masters.