Palanoq: Charmer of Flesh

Content warning!
This article contains graphic violence, and mentions of suicide.

When you hear the song strummed on strings of flesh, you run, child. You plug your ears and run as far and as fast as you can.
— A parent's warning
  Palanoq is an undying musician, and one of the few remnants of the Qoliq? people. His left arm has been transformed into a cursed instrument of flesh, which forces him to challenge any musician he comes across— resulting in the horrible disfiguration of all around him.  

Fallen From Grace

Born after most of his people were devoured by Ytzkla,? Palanoq was raised in isolation among his family. From a young age, he showed great musical ability— and soon taught himself how to play various instruments, including those that he had made himself. His music brought some much needed joy to his family, who had spent most of their time either mourning those they had lost, or struggling to survive. Each of them, from his parents, to his cousins, would gather around him as he played, whether he played drums, flutes, or even stones— he managed to captivate them, and help them find peace. His music inspired his family to try making their own, and before long, this became a family activity.

Extra Info

Male (He/Him)
Short, skinny, left arm disfigured into an instrument of flesh
Quiet, yet melodic
Holds his left arm behind his back as often as possible
  Palanoq's music, however, was always something special. His family would constantly ask him for musical advice, or to teach them outright. No matter their request, Palanoq was always happy to help. When it came time to perform, he was almost always at the center, celebrated, and cheered. That was, at least, until his younger sister found a talent of her own— singing. Until now, the only musical application any of them had used their voices for was humming— singing was something new to not only Palanoq's family, but to his people's entire history. Besides being the first singer of her kind, Palanoq's sister also possessed an incredible singing voice. A voice which soothed both the mind and body with no more than a single word, and captured the attention of any living thing close enough to hear it.  
It was beautiful, her voice. It didn't matter what words were said, as long as they were said. It was as if a warm, gentle wind passed through your soul, taking with it all your worries, pain, and thoughts. For several moments after it ceased, a great silence would befall us— as if our hearts had stopped along with it. But, in time, they would start again— we would remember to breathe, and we would go about our business with refreshed minds and rejuvenated souls. I had to know how to replicate this wonderous sound, and decided one day that I would ask her to teach me.   "Sister, might you teach me how to make that beautiful sound?" I was sure she'd accept, after all— it was myself who had taught her everything she knew, up until now. I felt a strange pride in seeing her learn something I hadn't known, and was eager to hear how she had done so.   She smiled an odd smile, and shook her head, before walking away.   This was another change which had come about alongside her new skill. Ever since then, she had stopped all forms of regular speech. Instead, she only communicated with gestures and nods. I had to know— just what was she hiding?
— Palanoq
  Every day, Palanoq would ask his sister to teach him how she had learned this new skill. And every day, she would refuse. Before long, it was her at the center when the family performed. It was her they celebrated, and cheered for— and her that they began to ask for advice, and to teach them. Palanoq grew jealous, and swore to find the secret to her singing. His requests for her to teach him grew more and more demanding, no longer simplying requesting, but insisting upon it.   And every time, she would refuse just as she had before. This only enraged Palanoq— who, in his anger, hit her one day. Before another blow could land, however, the rest of his family pulled him back. After this, her singing no longer seemed to impact him as it had before. Of course, this only made his rage greater— eventually leading him to find a a new talent of his own.  
I know not how, but a song steadily began in my heart. One that was the opposite of hers, rather than calm, it angered. Instead of soothe, it pained. There was no peace, but violence, in it. I let my heart sing this song for many weeks, the rhythm growing louder with each passing night— and as it grew, so did the fire in my chest. It was painful, yet at the same time very much empowering. And so, I let the flame grow.   One fateful night, my heart felt as if it would be entirely engulfed by the flame. For the first time since it had begun, I felt as if I should stop this strange song from playing inside my heart, yet it was too late to do so. The fire travelled up my left arm, before bursting in briliant red flames from my own flesh. I screamed and screamed, rolling around on the floor in the hopes that doing so might put it out. I had been accustomed by then to screaming to myself late at night during my many failed attempts to figure out my sister's technique, and so, no one came to see if I was in danger. Yet as my arm burned, I blamed not myself— but my sister. I thought it would never have happened had she not found that beautiful voice within herself.   I know not how long I burned, but eventually the heat was replaced by a numb pain— and I lifted my arm to find it torn open, and malformed into some hideous instrument of flesh. Was I imagining things? When I reached my other hand towards the wound, and brushed against what appeared to be an exposed tendon, a dreadful sound rung out. Never had a sound managed to pierce the depths of my soul as this had, never had a single sound brought out so much emotion. Feelings of utter dread, hatred, and anger permeated my very being— which reverberated as if it, too, were part of the instrument.   My heart spoke to me. "Challenge her." It whispered. "Your music is greater than hers will ever be. You can win them back— all of them." I wanted to run, I wanted to douse my arm in cool water— to sew this open wound shut. And yet, I found myself unable to refuse. Even as I strained with all my might to run— I drew closer to where my sister slept. "Challenge her." My heart spoke once more, the words repeating with every involuntary step. "It's all her fault." It continued. "Challenge her."   She was waiting for me, the trails of tears fresh on her face. Had she known? Was this something she expected? Was this truly her fault? I wanted to ask what she knew— to scream, to aplogize, and I did none of these things.   My lips moved of their own volition, speaking instead for my heart. "I challenge you." They said.   My sister simply nodded, and began to sing.   My other hand moved towards my exposed wound, and began to pluck at my exposed tendons as if they were the strings of an instrument— producing horrid sounds that made one forget all that was good in the world. Other members of my family awoke, and came to see what the commotion was— opening their mouths to gasp, scream, or protest— before finding themselves too enraptured between the two songs to utter a sound. Then, the changes began. These started simply, with visibly pained and frightened expressions upon their faces, bulging veins, and odd discolorations appearing across their bodies— and there was nothing I could do but play.   Yet these changes eventually began to effect my sister, too, causing her song to waver— and each time she wavered, the injuries of our family grew substantially worse. Their skin began to ripple like water, splitting apart in strange lines before beginning to pull away with their flesh, moving like hundreds of horrid snakes that twisted, slithered, and coiled around one another. The skin from my father's legs began to peel upwards, bunching up to create crimson flowers at his thighs— his face locked in horror as he witnessed the entire thing, unable to do so much as exhale. My brother could do nothing as his arms twisted, their flesh constricting the bones beneath until his upper and lower arms came apart beneath with a sickening pop— allowing the skin to extend so that his lower arms now rested on the floor. Everyone who had come to see what was happening suffered similarly striking injuries as I found myself unable to stop playing.   It was my sister, however, who had it worst of all— and I could do nothing but watch as her transformation unfurled before me. She stared into my eyes and sang until she could no more— her voice straining as the meat of her neck began to open like a curtain, as her trachea began to push itself through the newly opened hole— followed by her lungs, which expanded and contracted with her wheezing words until they were, finally, crushed and twisted into the air before me. The flesh twisting itself into the form of a tri-piped flute, through which her last breaths sang, before it detached itself and fell to the ground with a sickening, wet, thud.   It was only then that I finally stopped playing.
— Palanoq

An Immortal Song

Palanoq fled deep into the wilderness after this incident, where he believed he could do no more harm. There, he hoped, a monster may come to finish him— yet the things avoided him entirely. Starvation seemed more likely, and so, he allowed himself to starve. By the fourth week he began to realize that this, too, would fail to kill him— and so, he took the matter into his own hands. He first attempted to drown himself, and, finding himself unable to do so, then jumped off of a cliff— before walking away unscathed. Time and time again, no matter what he attempted, he would live. And each time, the voice in his heart spoke to him.   "Challenge them." It said. "No musician is your equal." Palanoq refused, and continued to wander the wilderness as he searched for something to grant him death— until, after several years, he came across a village built by the Tuulad.  
They were the first I had seen that were not of my own kind. I found the black tendrils sprouting from their heads strange— what I would later learn to call "hair." Yet I was hungry, and so, I snuck into their village when it seemed no one could see me— and stole food. If I was immortal, I thought, capture would be a worse fate than death— I didn't want to risk being seen as a threat, attacked, and discovered as the monster I am. Instead, I thought I'd rest there for a short while, with easy access to food that would quell my hunger. One day, however, I found a little girl, injured and crying, in the wilderness. I couldn't understand her cries, but I knew she needed help— yet I had no medical knowledge.   After all, injuries were no longer a part of my life— how could I? But I remembered what I could do— I could perform. Keeping my disfigured arm behind my back, I approached, and began to play the little girl a song with a few stones I found nearby. Before long, her cries softened to sniffles, and I approached her with my good arm, scooped her up, and quietly left her beside her village— I felt good, useful, helpful, like I wished to be.   And so my life began anew.
— Palanoq
  Palanoq would begin to perform again, slowly, steadily, for more and more people— deciding that he wished to dedicate his life to improving those of others with music. It wasn't any sort of penance for what he had done, certainly, but it was something. While he would create and play instruments once more— he would never sing, believing he did not deserve to. He was happy, this way— but it was never meant to last.  
One day while taking a walk in the wilderness, the little girl ran up to me, excitedly— followed by what I could only assume were her parents. She gestured, slamming her fist into her open palm to a weak rhythm— she wanted me to perform for them. And so, I did. Later, I would be invited to perform in the village itself— and I began to feel happiness once again.   My music not only soothed those souls, but inspired them! I would only visit the village when no music could be heard, and no instruments could be seen. This way, I figured, I would never learn who their musicians were— thus thwarting the voice's insistence upon challenging them. How could I challenge them if I never knew who they were? But this was not destined to last, it wasn't long until the best of their musicians came to me, excitedly, and began to play. I was unable to stop myself from revealing my horrid arm, and playing a new, soul-wrenching composition which caused their skulls to split open, and curl along the sides into crowns of blood, flesh, and bone.   After I regained control over my body, I ran— as far, and as fast, as I could. And this, I feared, would not be the last time.
— Palanoq
  In time, Palanoq would come across another village— and another challenger. The voice in Palanoq's heart only grew stronger as more fell before him, and he would no longer be able to live in isolation— forever forced to wander from settlement to settlement, performing to help the denizens as best he can, until he is forced to challenge one of them, and run once more. Whenever able, he flees at the mere hint of skilled musicians being nearby, and he rarely stays anywhere long enough to be sought out.  


Like his Qoliq brethren, Palanoq can be best described as unfinished. Auroul birthed his people in a rush— hoping to use them as a living shield to delay the hungering Ytzkla's chase. Palanoq's emaciated frame appears as one that only unnatural forces could maintain, this, alongside his short stature at just 4'3", gives him a rather furtive, unassuming appearance.   His skin is a deep red, being quite thin, and nearly translucent— at a glance, one may mistake him for having no skin at all. There is no hair atop his head, rather, his crimson skin appears to thin at the top of his skull— granting his scalp a striking pink coloration. An arch of bone extends upwards from his forehead, a natural crown into which several simple geometric patterns have been carved. The rest of his body lacks hair entirely— alongside fingernails, and toenails.   The most striking feature of his is none of this, however. No, the most striking, strange feature of Palanoq is that of his left arm. While an open wound, it still appears fresh— the blood within still wet, glistening in the light. His arm appears as if it were cut open to dissect— with a large fragment of his radius twisted horizontally to keep the wound exposed. Several tendons are twisted into tight, string-like bundles and pulled from the other side of his arm, through the wound, and over the twisted radius. The tension of these tendons can be controlled with the movements of his fingers, granting them more or less slack as they open and close.   Typically, Palanoq wanders while wearing a dark red hooded robe, with an extended sleeve for the left, which can be tied into a loop at his back whenever he finds himself near others. This takes the voice a moment to untie, granting those who may be harmed by it a brief chance to run.  

The Legend

It is hard to ignore what Palanoq leaves in his wake, especially for those who are unfortunate enough to witness one of his "challenges." Those who don't die, leave with horrible, life-altering injuries they may never recover from.   It's not uncommon for victims to die a slow, painful death from infections and other complications resulting from their injuries. As such, several cultures throughout Rqet? tell tales of the man who plays his flayed arm as an instrument.

The Flute

Despite it having been made from his sister's lungs— the legendary flute is known today as The Lungs of Palanoq, having at some point been taken from his family— or purposefully left out in the wider world by them.   The flute retains the strange properties of his sister's singing— calming, soothing, and even healing those who hear music played with it. Its whereabouts are currently unknown.
  The Hontualieu? believe him to be a jealous spirit, wishing to steal music from humanity. The Coulqepluex,? however, think he is not a man, but a monster— an ancient, powerful one, at that. The Tollouchi? tell the story as a comedic one of a drunken musician, whose music while drunk is beloved by all, but when sober— is reviled.   The Linnh, having been isolated from the world until relatively recent times, scoff at the tales told by foreigners. How could music— that which protects their people from the maw of the Ahndel Veha?— do something so foul? It's no more than a story, surely. Luckily for them, Palanoq cannot reach their musical lands on foot— though he fears it is only a matter of time before he is lead there by his heart, regardless.   The remaining Qoliq, the remnants of the few who survived his first challenge, revile him. The tale of his crime has been passed down from generation to generation— and should he ever return, he will face their wrath.


Author's Notes

Feedback is very much welcome! Whether on the content, or the formatting! Please, point out typos if you spot any! It's been a while! This was originally intended as my entry for the bard challenge, and then I had to deal with a sudden emergency— which made writing difficult for a while. Of course, a block followed swiftly on its heels, which I believe to now be lifted.   Hope the wait wasn't too long, I'm looking forward to writing more articles soon!

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4 May, 2022 17:34

This is unexpectedly sad. Poor Palanoq. :( I know his jealousy started it, but he still didn't deserve the horror that happened.

Sage Timepool
Garrett Grace Lewis
4 May, 2022 20:04

He certainly did not, yeah. Whatever's cursed him certainly can't be good.

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