Volume 52: The Xerxes
At a glance: The Xerxes are a terrifying hivemind race that have the ability to possess other living things, and if desired, cause them to explode.
Appearance: The Xerxes vary wildly in appearance but do share many traits in common. They are traditionally round shaped, and covered in eyes, mouths and orifices. The leak a scentless, slippery slime when agitated. They can be punctuated with horns, scales, or hard geometric formations across their bodies. Sometimes they have tentacles or spindly legs that protrude haphazardly from their bodies. Their mains bodies are generally red, purple, blue, black, or brown and usually quite a dark shade of these colors. Their eyes are the most striking feature of them being crystal clear, bright and literally any color of the rainbow. No two seem to be exactly the same. Xerxes come in 4 sizes: small (3’ – 5’ radius), normal (5’ to 7’ radius), Large (7’ to 10’ radius), and gargantuan (10’+ radius).
Powers and abilities: The Xerxes possess many different (and often horrific) powers and abilities. They do possess the ability to speak audibly but rarely ever do. They prefer to speak telepathically. Their telepathy is greatly enhanced so shutting them out when they are trying to speak to you is hard (-2 on all D&D dice rolls attempting to resist Xerxes telepathy) This may not seem like a big deal as they cannot really use their telepathy as a weapon to cause harm, but they do use it to influence others or for other psychological effects (this will be discussed in a moment) They possess the ability to meld with shadows and darkness becoming almost invisible. They also double their movement speed while in shadow or darkness. They have perfect night vision. They will wield either magic OR psionics, either of which will be almost entirely offensive in nature with one or 2 spells set aside for escape or subterfuge. Their most frightening ability is possession. They can attempt to possess any living being. (constitution saving throw for each round possession is being attempted. 2 saving D&D Dice throws in a row must be made to avoid possession. Targets being possessed may take no other action each round than resisting the possession or they automatically fail the saving D&D dice throw. This includes calling out for help or moving. Their entire effort must be put into thwarting the possession.) An attempt takes 1d4 +1 rounds for an unwilling target and a single action for a willing target. Once possessed the victim can attempt a saving throw D&D Dice once an hour per 2 points of constitution at -1 for every 2 attempts made. Once these attempts are expended the victim may make one more attempt after 24 hours at -5. After this the victim is fully possessed and they only way to free them would be with an exorcism ritual or spell. It may be possible to convince the Xerxes to leave one body for another or to leave a victim voluntarily. Killing the victim will kill the Xerxes as well. Sleeping or Unconscious victims are -2 to save and -2 on their second saving throw as well.
Once possessed, the Xerxes will slowly begin to have access to the victim’s skills, memories, and powers. The first 1d4+1 days will be the most difficult for the Xerxes as they acclimate to the new body. But after an additional 1d4+1 days the possession is complete, giving the Xerxes access to everything the victim knows. This possession can be held indefinitely and indeed it is not uncommon for a Xerxes to hold a victim for years or decades if necessary to meet their goals.
Those possessed by a Xerxes are incredibly powerful having all the skills, powers, and bonuses of the victim and the Xerxes combined. The possessed victim is +2 to ALL saving throws, parry, dodge, and resistances.
There are 3 ways a possession can end besides exorcism. (It is rumored that The Trinity is also working on a way to remove a Xerxes from a host with Traxt Magic) First the Xerxes may choose to leave the victim voluntarily. If this is done the body will fall to the floor when the Xerxes vacates, and the victim will be in a deep sleep for 1d4 hours. Upon awakening they will be groggy and very sick and have no memory for entirety of the possession. This is the best outcome. The second way it can end is the Xerxes will cause the body to explode killing the victim. The explosion doesn’t do much damage to those near it (1d4 damage per level of the Xerxes, blast radius 5’ +1’ per 2 levels of the Xerxes) it is more of a distraction. The explosion lets off a blinding light and a very loud noise (those within 60’ must save or be blinded and deafened for 1d4+1 rounds) and will always occur in a way that “splatters” the body over a large area (blood and guts and more can easily fly 20’ or more). This is often referred to (somewhat callously) as “Popping” the victim. This explosion is designed to allow the Xerxes to escape and can be done as a spell action. 50% of the time the head of the victim will remain, mostly undamaged.
The 3rd and final way is the Xerxes can explode the body but with startlingly greater damage and area of effect. This last option kills the Xerxes as well. This explosion leaves nothing behind. It destroys both the victim and the Xerxes on a cellular level. This cannot be done quickly, however. The Xerxes must scratch runes and glyphs in their own language into the body of their victim which can take days or weeks. Often a Xerxes will begin carving these symbols into unseen areas of the body first, like the buttocks, breasts, back, etc, to avoid suspicion. This does give others the chance to discover the Xerxes however if they can catch sight of these bizarre wounds on the possessed. Once the body is fully covered in markings the victim can be detonated as a spell action dealing massive damage in a confined area (10’ radius +1’ per 2 levels of the Xerxes, dealing 4d10 damage + 1d10 per 2 levels of the Xerxes!!!) This explosion is often simply referred to as “The Big Blast” because there is nothing else to call it. “Did the possessed survive? Unfortunately, no. The Xerxes used its ‘Big Blast’ and killed them both”
Many Xerxes do not possess any form of appendage, but all Xerxes possess telekinesis. It is very weak scaling with the size of the Xerxes. Only the largest Xerxes can use it to hold a weapon. Regardless this is what they use to manipulate the environment around them when necessary.
Xerxes with out “legs” can levitate without effort. Usually 3’ to 5’ above the ground. This ability is always on. They can also choose to roll along the ground or “hop” if necessary. Xerxes with leg appendages do not possess the ability to levitate but move surprisingly fast despite the random nature of their leg stalks. Xerxes with tentacles can levitate.
Xerxes can also enter into a “Hivemind” state with other Xerxes nearby (within 100’). They can do this as a spell and when they do so they gain access to the skills and knowledge and senses of any other Xerxes in range. They already possess 360-degree vision but besides the skills, this ability grants them the ability to coordinate deadly attacks as one mind, several Xerxes moving together in an orchestrated, seamless attack is quite a horrifying thing indeed. It is also thought that a Xerxes performing a “Big Blast” can transfer its mind to another Xerxes in range before doing so and then perhaps can transfer their consciousness into a new body later. Whether this is true or not is unknown to anyone but the Xerxes.
Lastly, though Xerxes can and do eat almost anything organic with their many mouths, they gain their real sustenance by vampirically absorbing the life energy of other living beings. They can do this as an attack VIA contact with a victim, absorbing a D&D dice roll of 1d4 +1 hp per 2 levels of the Xerxes per attack or if the victim is willing, the Xerxes can siphon off as much life energy as they desire in a single pass. Xerxes tend to only do this in desperation as an attack, because absorbing more than 12 hp intoxicates the Xerxes, with the intoxication growing stronger with more HP drained. The Xerxes prefer to have a victim immobilized or to have a willing victim, someplace they feel safe before they start draining the life out of them, so they can savor it and enjoy the high it brings them.
Because so little is known about the Xerxes they may possess other powers and abilities we are unaware of. The fact that we know this surprising amount is due entirely to the Trementians, who are seemingly the only race ever to survive a prolonged attack by this species.
History: Surprisingly little is known about the history or culture of the Xerxes. With the help of the Trementians and historical scholars from other races, who have legends that may reference the Xerxes, a patchwork history for them has been pieced together.
They appear to be (claim to be) one of the oldest races. Many legends call them demons or devils, possessing the living and bending them to their will. Secreting into homes in the night to vampirically feast on the life energy of children, the old, the lame, and infirm.
Some legends say there were other ancient races besides the Elves, Tementians, Dark Dwarves and Swafts, but that they were all consumed by the Xerxes leaving only scant artifacts and legends in their place.
It has been considered that the Xerxes may not be a “race” at all, but they are all simply fragments of a single consciousness. That there may be one singular massive Xerxes intelligence and all other Xerxes are broken off from it. These aspects of the Xerxes go and gather information, experience, and life energy and then bring it back to the controlling intelligence to be reabsorbed for a time, giving all the absorbed memories, experience and energy collected to the main being. This may also explain why Xerxes will so easily kill themselves with the Big Blast given the chance, rather than be captured. They are simply an aspect of the Xerxes consciousness and can be replaced. However, let us be reminded that all of this is merely conjecture. Though conjecture rooted in an every growing pool of facts. Xerxes in battle often express a desire to “Absorb the experience of others” to “Add others skills and memories to their own” It has been argued that these are simply examples of a singular Xerxes expressing desire to better themselves, but others see this as direct evidence of the “Single Intelligence” theory of their existence.
It has also been postulated that the Xerxes as a whole may spend long periods of time in dormancy. The historical records that can be accounted to them have massive time period gaps. It would appear that they absorb the life force, memories, and experience from as much of a universe as they can, and then perhaps “pull back” to some secret home universe and digest all of it, learning and growing. It may be also that their loss to the Trementians was a considerable blow to them, and now having learned from that error, and with the Oblivion consuming the multiverse around them, they have now decided to swarm, gaining new skills and information, perhaps trying to discover their own way to thwart the Oblivion.
A lot of information we have about the Xerxes comes from the people that have been rescued from them after long confinement. Xerxes prefer to gather victims like cattle and keep them imprisoned, feeding off them and performing experiments on them at their leisure. The ultimate goal for a Xerxes with a victim, is to have that victim give themselves up willingly to them. This allows them to feed from them easily, and also gives them much easier access to their memories and experiences. They can enter a willing victim’s mind and relive any memory they possess and then alter those memories to perform “thought experiments” and psychological experiments. They will often attempt to convince a prisoner to give themselves over to them through psychological torture, often subjecting their prisoners to constant and unrelenting telepathic suggestion. Victims that give themselves freely to the Xerxes are usually kept alive much longer, years or more, with the Xerxes slowly striping away all of their memories and experiences and adding them to their own. Those rescued from prolonged imprisonment will usually have lifelong mental abnormalities thereafter. Memory loss, amnesia, terrible nightmares, waking visions of horror, altered memories, and vivid terrifying hallucinations are all common. Most never recover.
What their final goals are may be impossible to guess. It would seem they wish to absorb the feelings and memories and experiences of all races, living vicariously thru other entities instead of going out and having experiences of their own. That and of course the life energy they survive on seem to be the only motives that can be attributed to them at this time.
One final, and bizarre note is that the Xerxes seem to keep pets that they actually care about. These “pets” are spiderlike creatures, with a circle of eyes that goes around their entire body and numerous long needle like legs. These have not been seen often but those who have been captured and then liberated say the Xerxes treat these animals much like we would treat a dog or cat, stroking them, praising them, teaching them tricks, and so on. No one knows what they are called, the Xerxes seem to speak to them telepathically or in their bizarre crystalline language but the people who have seen them refer to them as “Spidees” (Spid – eeze).
There will certainly be more to learn about this race as time goes on. The fact that they have so openly made themselves known now, after an eternity of secrecy, is certainly telling. It is no doubt the Oblivion that has played a major part in this “coming out”, with the Xerxes beginning to feel the squeeze of a shrinking multiverse like every other race. Only time will tell.
About the Illustration: Here we have a collection of Xerxes. No two look alike, seeming to be a mishmash of various mouths, eyes, horny growths, and appendages. In their midst we see a Spidee, one of their beloved pets.
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