Death's Grip Condition in Destiny | World Anvil
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Death's Grip

Information sourced from the varieties of folkloric tales and allegories pertaining to games of chance leading to a second wind of life

Written by David_Ulph

Blood flowed from the gash in the soldier's chest as he ran from the battlefield. He ran and ran through laboured breathing. He ran until the mud turned to soil and the soil turned to grass, until the smoke turned to fog and the fog turned to rain, and dusk came upon him.   Despite the overbearing weather of that Samhradh day, the night was bitterly cold. Perhaps it was the rain that pounded upon his tunic, or maybe it was the beginnings of a fever, but when the soldier finally stopped running, he was soaked through, shivering violently, and very aware that if he did not find somewhere to take shelter from the elements, he was going to die.   It was at this point of weakness the soldier spied a cave but steps away. It's darkness would have frightened him if it were not for the circumstances. The shadows invited the soldier in with its dry shelter and he was desperate. Though in the end he would wish he suffered in the cold instead. Inside the cave already sat a figure. Hunched over a simple wooden chequered board, at first the figure's face was obscured by the thick robes of a monk. The figure then turned to face the soldier and bore its bony grin.   ''So what will it be?'' The figure rasped, ''Cards or Stones?''
Excerpt from a rare and edited version of 'Folk Tales of Custodia'

Death's Grip is an arcane condition most individuals on the Mortal Realm believe to be a simple folkloric tale connected to the magical figures known as Death's Angels. While the name of the condition has shortened, its full and original name is "That Which Loosens Death's Grip". A condition which allows an individual to cheat death, to step away from the point of no return without the assistance of ulterior magical methods of resurrection. As such, Death's Grip is a favourable wish of most mortals on the Mortal Realm, being unable to pay for the services of those capable of resurrection and fundamentalists of the Holy See who believe manipulating life through non-divine magic will develop a blight on their Soul and thus reduce their chances of being judged into Magus Realm.
The only way to contract the gift of extended life and to skip your untimely death is to be visited by a Death's Angel. The tales speak of these Angels being the heavenly servants of either Sindla as goddess of death, or Effe as goddess of chance and fate. Death's Angels will offer the chance to the dying individual to take their life and win in a competition of wills, as is the most primal Logic of the Gods. This will occur in the form of a game of both luck and logic; Most tales referencing card games, board games, or commonly Deceitstones. The dying individual always has the choice in what they will play for their life, picking what they feel they will be able to cheat death with in a best of three.
While most folkloric tales discussing Death's Grip are positive and something to wish for in case one is faced with a premature death, some instead fear facing Death's Angels. Those who hear enough tales and try to scratch the surface to find any hidden truths between these tales come away either believing the matter to be a natural fiction developed by mortal psyche, or wishing they never attempted to find the truth in the first place. These rarer tales speak of death being the true goal, that winning the game of chance and winning Death's Grip will leave someone a husk of what they once were. A rare few mention the entire system to be a trick of the Death's Angels to bind more servants into their service. Some other tales mention that their Soul will pass on while the Body remains, or that the individual is now cursed in some other manner potentially to an even worse fate than before the gamble.
  In truth, the reality is some cruel fate in the middle.
Death's Angels will pose as angelic beings, manufacturing their title throughout the history of the Mortal Realm so that uneducated or unsuspecting mortals desperate for a second chance will believe the idealised image in their minds rather than truly look at the rotting corpse in rags the Angels present themselves as. The lack of a third middle eye gleaming in the dark too would prove to someone paying attention to the nature of these charlatans.
Death's Angels are not servants of the divine, but a select group of demonic creatures bound to the service of the Great Hag Throff. The offer to gamble the individuals life is the making of a contract between devil and mortal, with the acceptance and first hand played the signature bound in blood. A contract hidden from the mortal only because they never ask what the catch is, believing in the most optimistic outcome.
Only three Death's Angels exist at one time, each preying on the mortality and desperation of the Realm, though each one of them were mortals once. An Angel is bound into this task of gambling with the near dead for eternity until they themselves are beaten. Only then are they released from the contract which originally bound them and they can finally pass on in peace. The unsuspecting soul who believes they won their life only in fact won the ability to not die. As per the details of the contract this mortal who won the gamble will take the place as the next Angel and enforce the next turning of the cycle, hunting out a mortal near death that could beat them in a game of chance. No one outside the highest Barons of Mortis Realm understand the motives of Throff in this trick, but whispers have arisen that She aims to collect a trio of the greatest gamblers of all reality for this purpose.

The game was over. The soldier had stones in his hand while the figure sat empty. He had won his life, ''If you win, you shall not die'' the figure had said before the game started. Though only confusion came upon the soldier as they could feel nothing else, not even the joy that should be coursing through their body. Looking down, the soldier could see their wound still gashed across their chest unhealed but the bleeding had stopped. In fact, his heart had stopped. In panic the soldier looked at their opponent.   The toothy grin of a mocking skull faced the soldier, ''You win'' it claimed in a tone almost happy before a low rumbling laughter emanated from the rotting ribcage. ''You win''.
Extremely Rare

Cultural Significance

Whether someone knows it or not, due to the length of time the Death's Angels have been active across the Mortal Realm, their image has been engraved into the zeitgeist of almost all cultures which spread across it.
Death, or at least the servants of, is portrayed as a grim hooded figure clad in a thick black cloak with polished bone peering out from within, the remnants of centuries dead skin dripping down.
This too can be seen in the folkloric tales of board games being capable of allowing an individual to gamble their ways into a second chance. Wickseekers of the Citadel of Scholars active throughout the Great Desert of Rostau have excavated tombs relating to the Nameless Empire of the Third Era and previous civilisations, almost all of which in the burial chambers themselves will feature Sandstones carved with the holy blessing of Zorza next to the mummified corpses of the inhabitants in case one of Death's Angels came calling.

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Cover image: by Vertixico


Author's Notes

Stories of cheating death through board games have fascinated me for as long as I remember, and they are honestly everywhere. If Bill and Ted can make a parody of the folkloric concept then you know its as cliched as anything! So of course I was going to try and fit something like it into this setting, and what a better way than to blatantly introduce part of the celestial cold war of sorts between Magus and Mortis Realms than some sneaky devilish subterfuge.   The song used here, "Fear a' Bhata", is one used very commonly in times of mourning back home on my isles and is one of the most beautiful laments I have ever heard in Gaidhlig. Due to its association with mourning and the loss of a loved one (it being a mourning song for the sailor who does not return home) I try to add it into any article about this. It's also appeared in Skirmish of the Bloody Ford.

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Time Bender
25 Jul, 2021 18:46

Oh wow, eerie! I like this, but I feel terrible for the soldier who won. I don't fully understand what happened to him, if he became immortal or if he just flat out died, but it makes me sad for him regardless!