Chthonic Language in The Morning Realm | World Anvil

Chthonic (/ˈθɒnɪk/)

Chthonic is an infectious and dangerous language that lurks in ancient textbooks and old ruins. Once exposed to it through written works or hearing it spoken at length, learning it is unnaturally simple. It is spoken by demons and some abberations. Very few are aware of the existence of Chthonic, even among well-studied scholars.   Chthonic is purged wherever it is found by the Inquisitors, also known as the Order of Utterance, an esoteric and secretive department of the Bookwardens allied with the archaic knightly order.  

Symptoms of Infection

  Many experience headaches shortly after exposure. Continued exposure leads to headaches clustered in the front of the mind, insomnia and terrible nightmares. Should the infected individual choose to pursue learning the languages, the headaches give way. Advanced learners may struggle to communicate in other languages.   The blood of Chthonic speakers is significantly darker than regular blood. This darkened blood is a tell-tale sign used by the Inquisitors to determine infection.   Chthonic infection is often mistaken for Soulsickness, as they are frequently comorbid.  


  The only known way to unlearn Chthonic is through a secret rite known as Exhumation. Those who have gone through Exhumation are shells of their former self, and must relearn everything from walking, speaking, to basic hygiene.

I am sad to report to you that Ferdinand Sapire is but a husk of his former glory. The brilliant linguist who developed Imperial Common now can't even go to the bathroom unassisted. He speaks, but my four-year-old has a better grasp on language than he does. He understands more than he can say, though, I shall give him that. I swear I saw his eyes glimmer when I told that joke he used to love about the Courdian Horse.  
— A letter home, Mordecai Mallum


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Jul 10, 2021 20:40 by Mochi

I've never heard of an infectious language. This is a fascinating article, I hope you're proud of yourself. Best of luck with the next prompts! ^-^

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Jul 10, 2021 20:48 by Annie Stein

Thank you so much! I can't claim to the first to think of an infectious and memetic language, I'm sure there's a SCP out there, and I remember reading about someones take on an Abyssal Tongue being alive and conscious, attempting to influence people into learning it. It was at least a year ago, so I cannot find the source, sadly. But I am very proud of this iteration on it.   Best of luck to you too!

Creator of Solaris -— Come Explore!
Jul 10, 2021 20:43

You had me with that opening line - that is brilliant. Book wardens? Order of Utterance? I love all of this so much :D   Such a cool idea, so full of plot potential and all sorts of shenanigans. This is an inspiration :D

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Jul 10, 2021 20:50 by Annie Stein

Thank you so much! I am very proud of the names I coined for those to organizations, and I'm very much looking forward to giving them articles of their own down the line. Maybe one will end up being my ancient organization!

Creator of Solaris -— Come Explore!
Jul 10, 2021 20:45 by Caitlin Phillips

I really like the idea of a secret rite to unlearn the language. That's really interesting and would love to learn more about that.

Cait x
Jul 10, 2021 20:55 by Annie Stein

I'm so glad it intrigues you! I left it deliberately vague, but personally I imagine it's not to far off an exorcism.

Creator of Solaris -— Come Explore!
Jul 10, 2021 20:45 by Michael Chandra

Eeeeeep! o_O 'Learning this information will corrupt you' stuff is always real scary.

Too low they build who build beneath the stars - Edward Young
Jul 10, 2021 20:54 by Annie Stein

It is, isn't it? I will be the first to admit this is one of the darker things in the Morning Realm. When something is so bad that even the Bookwardens, the organization all about giving people access to knowledge, is rooting it out, it's *bad*.

Creator of Solaris -— Come Explore!
Jul 10, 2021 21:32

This is really cool and unique. Does the language have any other effects other than making the speaker unable to communicate in other languages? What would happen if everyone just spoke chthonic?

Jul 10, 2021 22:05 by Annie Stein

Thank you! Speakers still suffer from insomnia in some cases, nightmares in others. It changes them physically too, chthonic speakers have darker blood than others. If I ever allow tieflings, I can see a chthonic ancestor being the source.   As for everyone speaking chthonic... There may be reason to believe that the language has something to do with the fall of the Old Ones, and the mystery of why their ruins are so toxic to the soul. Chthonic is found in so many of their ruins, and aside from grafitti it's the only writing found in their ruins.   I hope you can forgive me for leaving some questions unanswered. ^^

Creator of Solaris -— Come Explore!
Jul 11, 2021 08:36 by Wendy Vlemings (Rynn19)

Very interesting take on this prompt! I really like it. Such a unique idea. Well done!

Author of Ealdwyll, a fantasy world full of mystery.
Jul 11, 2021 08:37 by Annie Stein

Thank you so much!

Creator of Solaris -— Come Explore!
Jul 11, 2021 08:39

Whoah, this is amazing! Such a wonderfully scary idea, it'll have your players/characters think twice before reading any document. Speaking of which, is there a way to recognise which documents are written in Chthonic (or not written in it) before being exposed to the language? Otherwise, life would get cumbersome very quickly in your world, I suppose. ^,^"   Either way, awesome work, keep it up like that! :D

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Jul 11, 2021 09:01 by Annie Stein

Thank you! The Inquisitors manage to keep Chthonic contained pretty well, so it's usually only found deep in forgotten ruins.   Very few people are even aware of the threat, but what Inquisitors do to protect themselves is cast Comprehend Languages to have the language immediately translated and therefore defanged. Other spells like silence, detect evil and good, and protection from evil and good are handy too.

Creator of Solaris -— Come Explore!