Difference between revisions of "Byakhee"

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==Heresies and Controversies==
 
==Heresies and Controversies==
 
<!-- Optional.  This is a good place to include non-canon and controversial aspects of the creature's mythos.  Suggested Alternative Theories include:  Derleth's elemental scheme; pseudo-science interpretation; "fanon" interpretations; unofficial humorous or eccentric versions; identification with "Real Life" mythological, religious, folklore, natural, and historical phenomena; rumor and speculation contribute some flexibility and ambiguity to the mythos. -->
 
<!-- Optional.  This is a good place to include non-canon and controversial aspects of the creature's mythos.  Suggested Alternative Theories include:  Derleth's elemental scheme; pseudo-science interpretation; "fanon" interpretations; unofficial humorous or eccentric versions; identification with "Real Life" mythological, religious, folklore, natural, and historical phenomena; rumor and speculation contribute some flexibility and ambiguity to the mythos. -->
* There are believed by some Mythos scholars to be at least two separate species named Byakhees (or two sub-species of Byakhees) but there is no confirmation of this (Lovecraft's unnamed hybrid monsters, and Derleth's bat/bird-things, which first carried the name "Byahkee"). What differences may exist between the two is also unknown.  (fan speculation)
+
* See the Discussion tab for fan theories and suggestions.
* Lin Carter in "Litany to Hastur XX! The Unspeakable" appears to have been the one to link Byakhee directly to Hastur, Carcosa, and Hali, apparentl inspired by a brief mention of Aldebaran in Lovecraft's story.... ([[Lin Carter]])
 
** August Derleth's portrayal of a rivalry between Hastur and Cthulhu and Hastur's rendering assistance to humans in the form of Byakhee servants for quick get-aways might also have played into this.  ([[August Derleth]])
 
** Byakhee might once have been members of the Carcosan Royal Guard, transfomed from their natural shapes into Byakhee through the corrupting influence of Hastur.  ([http://www.yog-sothoth.com/topic/30283-monster-make-over-iii-what-can-you-do-with-the-byahkee/#entry318755 YSDC Forums])
 
** Byakhee might be associated with Hastur, and less directly the Dreamlands, specifically the Dreamlands of Aldebaran and not that of Earth. Bit like the Hounds of Tindalos in their immaterial nature, though moving freely only though space, not time. A mount that takes the form its viewer expects or at least can relate to, or perhaps more accurately the viewer sees such a form. What a character sees and what is real are not always or even often the same thing.  ([http://www.yog-sothoth.com/topic/30283-monster-make-over-iii-what-can-you-do-with-the-byahkee/#entry318814 YSDC Forums])
 
** Beings of entropy (like the [[Delta Green]] portrayal of Hastur and Byakhees) promote chaos and the breakdown of order and predictability. When a byakhee transports one from dimension to dimension, location to location, that's what happens... if they disintegrate your being and haphazardly resemble a similarity of your existence in another dimension. So is the you in Carcosa really the original you in your world? Or did you go to Dreamsland and view the afterimage of Many Pillared Irem before the byakhee slipped out of the folds of mathematical equations and embraced you into the shores of Hali? How sure are you that you are You, and not a shadow, an afterimage, a flawed of a flawed of You? Do other yous exist after that little nauseating step through bent space with the byakhee? ([http://www.yog-sothoth.com/topic/30283-monster-make-over-iii-what-can-you-do-with-the-byahkee/#entry318910 YSDC Forums])
 
** In a modern setting, there might be a mobile app for calling freelance transportation, called ''Yello''.  It calls up a map of your current location, with a large, yellow, blank button at the bottom.  For most, this does nothing, but if you have seen the Yellow Sign, ''Yello'' breaches the walls of reality, allowing an entropic, chaotic mass through to serve as transportation:  a Byakhee.  ([http://www.yog-sothoth.com/topic/30283-monster-make-over-iii-what-can-you-do-with-the-byahkee/#entry318910 YSDC Forums])
 
* August Derleth in ''Trail of Cthulhu'' seems to have been the one to introduce Space Mead into the Byakhee mythology, and might have been the one to introduce the Hune organ as well (needs verification).  ([[August Derleth]])
 
* Trolls:  A Byakhee in its role as transportation for cultists and wizards as they travel between worlds might be thought of as a variation on the "Troll at the bridge" legend, as creatures that lurk beneath the "bridges" between worlds, appearing when summoned to escort travelers to the other side, perhaps for a price....  (theory proposed for [[Troll]]s in the Mythos)
 
* "...The Magic Points you sacrifice for a summoning are kind of an offer. The Byakhee basically minds its own business, flying around between the stars when a depeche comes in with a gift attached and the offer to pop over if interested. You basically make a mini-deal with the creature to get it to come over and then (if everything goes well) you are a terrible host and subdue and enslave them.  Come to think of being a mythos monster often ends with you being enslaved and maybe eating the person who does it..."  ([http://www.yog-sothoth.com/topic/30283-monster-make-over-iii-what-can-you-do-with-the-byahkee/ YSDC Forums])
 
* They might actually be hybrid creatures born through a process similar to that creating the giant worms that summon them... ("out of corruption horrid life springs, and the dull scavengers of earth... swell monstrous to plague it").  The fact that they are "tame, trained, hybrid" strongly suggests a domestic animal specifically bred and raised for the purpose of transport. What they have been hybridised with and why (presumably to make them more docile and manageable) is a good question....  ([http://www.yog-sothoth.com/topic/30283-monster-make-over-iii-what-can-you-do-with-the-byahkee/ YSDC Forums])
 
* Mothman:  Byakhee don't truly fly; they rend reality by tearing open the spaces in between... the appearance of being winged creatures is just the result of the best efforts of human witnesses to put a shape to something we cannot directly comprehend.... Perhaps one of the best way to think about this is modern stories of the [[Mothman]]. And that's partly true too. Because, see, the byakhee can be described as consciousness made manifest. Some theorise they are entire consciousnesses ripped free from their mortal bodies and passed beyond the realities of the known world. How that is achieved, you perhaps have to ask a byakhee....  ([http://www.yog-sothoth.com/topic/30283-monster-make-over-iii-what-can-you-do-with-the-byahkee/ YSDC Forums])
 
* There comes one of the pulls of having a byakhee... Companion? Consultant? Conspirator? I'm not too sure what word would best describe that rather queer relationship. Being sentient beings of unknown lore and information, particularly of the dimensions between space and matter, one can see the academic benefits of befriending a byakhee. Besides, they can bring you to other places. Well, kind of.  Byakhee amicable to the calls and to requests, may bring people to other realms and dimensions.  ([http://www.yog-sothoth.com/topic/30283-monster-make-over-iii-what-can-you-do-with-the-byahkee/ YSDC Forums])
 
* One might call them "mounts", but since having a byakhee render you down to your simplest subatomic energies and collapsing your entire existence into a pulsating cloud of quantum fluctuations, "mount" might not be quite the right word. In other words, when you travel with a byakhee, it destroys your existence only to recreate it elsewhere.  Byakhee are not too concerned about parallel universes or timelines, as you can understand. The.. Travel, can collapse your existence into a different parallel universe or alternate timeline from where you started - another reason why lore masters that deal with a byakhee always have one handy - they hope to either get back to their own original universe or to skip this universe.  ([http://www.yog-sothoth.com/topic/30283-monster-make-over-iii-what-can-you-do-with-the-byahkee/ YSDC Forums])
 
* On the nature of byakhee a, since they are unfettered consciousness, it's best to think of them as beings with their own needs and desires. A fellow I knew associated with one whose desire was companionship, so it spent days and weeks skinning the man and grafting it onto itself to 'feel his closeness'. While not quite pretty to look at, the acquaintance is still very much alive I assure you. Yet as you can see, there can be those who's desires can be a lot more malevolent or fatal.  ([http://www.yog-sothoth.com/topic/30283-monster-make-over-iii-what-can-you-do-with-the-byahkee/ YSDC Forums])
 
* Byakhee as Hunters:  The "hunters", as we are told by reliable sources, are fragments of consciousness brutally ripped from their hosts. Most render into noise and latent waves, but on occasions, such fragments congeal into malignant colonies that develop its only unique cognition. They respond to byakhee calls but the colony instead of conversing and dealing as sentient beings, seek only two purposes - survival and reproduction....  ([http://www.yog-sothoth.com/topic/30283-monster-make-over-iii-what-can-you-do-with-the-byahkee/ YSDC Forums])
 
* A Byakhee is described in terms that hint at a relationship with Liminal symbolism and Psychopomps.  Some traditional characteristics associated with those traits but not usually with a Byakhee might include Shape-Shifting, Divination, the Trickster archetype, Sprit Guides.... These might suggest some interesting unexplored sides to the Byakhee that a keeper might expand on.  ([http://www.yog-sothoth.com/topic/30283-monster-make-over-iii-what-can-you-do-with-the-byahkee/ YSDC Forums])
 
**  Shape-Shifting:  There are hints of shape-shifting ability among the folklore surrounding the animals Lovecraft mentioned, and perhaps hints of it in the vague, nebulous, conflicting description itself....  The nature of their work in crossing borders seems to make it a requirement among Psychopomps that they be "liminal" creatures that belong in no clear-cut category, but straddle the grey areas between:  "neither fish nor fowl"....
 
** Divination:  Several of the animals listed by Lovecraft are associated with Divination:  they carry messages between the gods, or the spirit world, and humans.  (Are investigators ignoring important messages from cultists, but you're not quite ready to send an avatar to talk some sense into them?  Perhaps you can send a byakhee to have a little chat with them instead....)  Divination also suggests that Byahkees might be privy to many secrets and bits of forbidden knowledge that they might be induced to share with wizards and sorcerers....
 
** Tricksters:  What can you do with Byakhees who like to play little pranks and tricks on people to teach them important lessons or otherwise get them to the destination that's in their best interest whether they want it or not?  I don't know, but it sounds like it could be fun!
 
**  Spirits and Spirit Guides:  Psychopomps normally carry or lead spirits between worlds, rather than physical bodies....  They also play the role of "spirit guides" who can lead, teach, instruct, and protect a medium or psychic during astral projection as the medium travels through space and time among the spirits of the dead and demonic spirits in the [[Astral Plane]]....
 
* Byakhee seem to get a sort of role as hired taxi drivers in the "Cthulhu Mythos" (especially in Derleth's portrayal in ''Trail of Cthulhu''), suggesting a byakhee opening conversation with its passenger by saying "Here, you'll never guess who I had on my back the other day..."  ([http://www.yog-sothoth.com/topic/30283-monster-make-over-iii-what-can-you-do-with-the-byahkee/ YSDC Forums])
 
*  The Byakhee have been deliberately tampered with or engineered for this purpose... the weird, unlikely juxtaposition of so many disparate comparisons to animals almost suggests the result of a design-by-committee sort of thing you see with basic military equipment:  like a dozen different people tacked on their own ideas for what the creature's features, functions, and specifications should be, with no eye toward a balanced, pleasing form that would appeal to a commercial customer.  Perhaps that's because Byakhees were the equivalent of Jeeps or AK-47s of some bizarre alien war, left battered and abandoned across some weird astral battlefield?  ([http://www.yog-sothoth.com/topic/30283-monster-make-over-iii-what-can-you-do-with-the-byahkee/ YSDC Forums])
 
* The Byakhee does not literally carry a human body into interstellar space and transport it to another world.  Rather, the Byakhee is a refined biomechanical equivalent of a Mi-Go "brain jar":  the uploads the human intellect into an organic storage drive, disassembles the now-useless body, travels to another destination through hyperspace or some other exotic method of travel, then produces a new body, one designed to live in the environment of the destination world, and then downloads the "passenger" intellect into the new body.  Alternatively, the Byakhee simply uploads the intellect of its "passenger", transports it to the destination, and facilitates a mind swap into an alien body.  In this way, the Byakhee is sort of a "spirit guide" through the "[[Astral Plane]]" for "walk in" spirits traveling through space and time.... ([http://www.yog-sothoth.com/topic/30283-monster-make-over-iii-what-can-you-do-with-the-byahkee/ YSDC Forums])
 
* Perhaps we don't summon A Byahkee, we summon OUR VERY OWN Byakhee, which is, perhaps, as much an individual extension of ourselves and our subconscious as our Dreamlands body.  Some people have mild, faithful, brave Byakhees that might defend their human selves with their lives.  Others might have wise, studious Byakhees which might not always take their humans directly where they want to go, but instead drags them off through the "scenic routes" to mysterious libraries on strange worlds or to alien tombs where powerful artifacts lay buried.  Still others are strangely malevolent... perhaps not outright dangerous, but... peculiar, in some vague, threatening way....  ([http://www.yog-sothoth.com/topic/30283-monster-make-over-iii-what-can-you-do-with-the-byahkee/ YSDC Forums])
 
* A Byakhee as a very subjective thing:  it's not a "real" object in the traditionally human sense, and the minds of different people fill in the blanks they feel should be there in different ways.  Perhaps, the same person sees something different every time he/she looks at the same Byakhee:  it's something slippery, fluid, uncertain... it's reminiscent of a great, leathery bat or vulture when it's in the air, but more reminiscent of a horde of tiny ants when creeping about on the ground, and then you blink, and you're face-to-face with someting more or less humanoid in form when it tries to "speak" to you as if you were its equal....  A bystander might prefer to instead see a shadow, or a ghostly mist that suggests unsettling shapes without ever quite looking like more than just mist, or a dim and purplish flickering light accompanied by a headache....  ([http://www.yog-sothoth.com/topic/30283-monster-make-over-iii-what-can-you-do-with-the-byahkee/ YSDC Forums])
 
* A Byakhee might be summoned unconsciously, in a fugue state forgotten consciously by morning, with the creature proving helpful at first, but becoming troublesome, threatening, and even dangerous later on, leaving mysterious bruises, scratches, and other marks upon the summoner to find in the morning.... ([https://www.yog-sothoth.com/forums/topic/32224-doors-of-darkness-ties-that-bind/ YSDC Forums]):
 
**  Traditionally, the Byakhee is summoned to take a character somewhere.  Maybe the Byakhee is trying to take the character away somewhere that is supposed to be "safe" - some strange, eldritch other-world far from the troubles of this plane....  The Byakhee's idea of "safe" does not necessarily mean it's a better place to be, and maybe on some level the character realizes it, maybe the character glimpsed this "safe" place while in the first fugue, and does not want to be taken back, while the Byakhee tries subtly to coax or trick or force the character to go....
 
** The shape-shifting Byakhee is a form of doppelganger:  it manifests as a duplicate of its "summoner", at first being helpful, but soon attempting to replace its summoner.  Maybe our shape-shifting version of a "Byakhee" started off with a more neutral and less threatening appearance, but now appears as a copy of your player's character, and has been trying to steal her life from her, walking around wearing her face.  (For it's true face, refer to the standard book description of a Byakhee....)  The Byakhee's problem now is what to do with the original character:  there's only room in this world for one of her!
 
** I can read something of the vampire legend into our character's relationship with her Byakhee... it comes to her at night, pretending to be her friend, and, once given entry into her world, it comforts her for a time, before taking something precious from her - a little bit of her life, her vitality, her reality -  and then fleeing and leaving her weak and broken before the dawn.
 
** Sometimes, I think that Byakhees are incredibly lonely things, which are happy to be summoned into our world to spend time with their summoners... their summoners need something from the Byakhees - travel somewhere usually, but maybe protection in this case - and view them as resources to be exploited... the Byakhees, for their part, really need the company and novelty of their summoners, and are far more dependent on their summoners than their summoners are on them.  The Byakhee, summoned to take the character to safety or to act as a bodyguard against further trauma, has served its purpose, but, having never been properly banished and dismissed, now follows the character around like a creepy stalker, desperate - sometimes violently desperate - for your PC's attention....  
 
  
  

Latest revision as of 23:43, 9 February 2020

Byakhee, also known as "Wind Spirit", "Ice Demon", "Spirit Guide", "Whispering Guide", "Lesser Air Elemental", "Gargoyle", "Demon".

Origin: H.P. Lovecraft, "The Festival (fiction)" might be the first appearance of what the RPG calls a Byakhee, though the name "Byahkee" was actually never used by Lovecraft, instead being an invention of August Derleth in his book Trail of Cthulhu.

A Byakhee is an inter-dimensional being described by Lovecraft as a combination of bat, bird, and insect, a vaguely humanoid creature with an insectoid, segmented body, membranous batlike wings, and taloned birdlike legs. Cultists and others with access to the right information and spells are able to summon Byakhees for the purpose of intersteller or interdimensional travel.

Description

Not altogether crows, nor moles, nor buzzards, nor ants, nor vampire bats, nor decomposed human beings....

"Out of the unimaginable blackness beyond the gangrenous glare of that cold flame, out of the Tartarean leagues through which that oily river rolled uncanny, unheard, and unsuspected, there flopped rhythmically a horde of tame, trained, hybrid winged things that no sound eye could ever wholly grasp, or sound brain ever wholly remember. They were not altogether crows, nor moles, nor buzzards, nor ants, nor vampire bats, nor decomposed human beings; but something I cannot and must not recall. They flopped limply along, half with their webbed feet and half with their membraneous wings; and as they reached the throng of celebrants the cowled figures seized and mounted them, and rode off one by one along the reaches of that unlighted river, into pits and galleries of panic where poison springs feed frightful and undiscoverable cataracts."
— H.P. Lovecraft, "The Festival (fiction)"

Byakhees appear to be the favored mounts of wizards, witches, and cultists: summoned to carry passengers away into the night sky, traveling through time and space into other worlds in alternate dimensions such as the Dreamlands for the cultists own mysterious and nefarious purposes.

Possibly the first appearance of a Byakhee-like creature, typically used as the best example, comes from HPL's "The Festival", where it is described: "There flapped rhythmically a horde of tame, trained, hybrid winged things... not altogether crows, nor moles, nor buzzards, nor ants, nor decomposed human beings, but something I cannot and must not recall." However, the word "Byakhee" to refer to a bat-winged flying monster comes from August Derleth, who may (or may not) have meant it to be the same thing Lovecraft was describing.


Connections to the Hastur Mythos

By some accounts, generally inspired by Lin Carter's story "Litany To Hastur XX! The Unspeakable" and by August Derleth's portrayal of a rivalry between Hastur and Cthulhu, Byakhees are servants of Hastur and are instrumental in many of his rituals, and nests of the Byakhee can be found on the planet Carcosa.

Connections between Byakhees and Hastur, Carcosa, the Lake of Hali, and the King in Yellow can consequently be found throughout Call of Cthulhu lore regarding the creatures.


The Hune Organ

According to Sandy Petersen's Guide to Mytos Monsters, Byakhees have an organ in their abdomens called a Hune that is "attuned to the galactic magnetic field", which guides, propels, or otherwise allows the Byakhees to travel vast distances in space. It creates a space-time-anomaly called keim, in which the Byakhee could move "up to 400 times the speed of light"; this happens so quickly that it may appear to be teleportation to some observers. It is unknown whether the keim is actually the opening of a wormhole, bending of time and space allowing interdimensional travel or travel in hyperspace, or if it instead somehow gives the Byakhee the literal ability to break the light-speed barrier.

The Lovecraftian Science blog (link) explores the way that this organ might function in greater detail.

Space Mead

According to Derleth's version of the Byahkee, the rider has to drink space mead before he calls a Byakhee in his dreams through whistles and chants. Then the creature carries him to another place or time. Apparently, space mead protects the rider from the negative impacts space or interdimensional travel would have on the human body.

Quotes

  • "Out of the unimaginable blackness beyond the gangrenous glare of that cold flame, out of the Tartarean leagues through which that oily river rolled uncanny, unheard, and unsuspected, there flopped rhythmically a horde of tame, trained, hybrid winged things that no sound eye could ever wholly grasp, or sound brain ever wholly remember. They were not altogether crows, nor moles, nor buzzards, nor ants, nor vampire bats, nor decomposed human beings; but something I cannot and must not recall. They flopped limply along, half with their webbed feet and half with their membraneous wings; and as they reached the throng of celebrants the cowled figures seized and mounted them, and rode off one by one along the reaches of that unlighted river, into pits and galleries of panic where poison springs feed frightful and undiscoverable cataracts." - H.P. Lovecraft, "The Festival (fiction)"
  • "...a great bat-like bird..." and "...monstrous black-winged bat-like creature..." August Derleth, "The House on Curwen Street" and "The Watcher From the Sky" chapter-stories from The Trail of Cthulhu
  • The Byakhee is described as bat-winged, black-furred, iron-beaked and with "eyes of hell", dwelling upon the "cloudy shores of Lake Hali"; whilst in Carcosa Story About Hali, he mentions nests of the Byakhee on the planet Carcosa.. - Lin Carter, "Litany To Hastur XX! The Unspeakable"
  • "A devil from the Outer Dark... they lurk thick as fleas outside the belt of light which surrounds this world. Some find their way to earth, but when they do they have to take on some earthly form and flesh of some sort." (a line from a Conan the Barbarian story, possibly "The Vale of Lost Women", or perhaps not one of Robert E. Howard's but one by Lin Carter or L. Sprague de Camp?)
  • "A Great Winged Beast from ye void which did sore Crowde my place of Busyness" (CoC, ed 5.6, p.93)
  • "The summoned byakhee will flap down out of the sky, still icy from space...." (CoC, ed 5.6, p.215)
  • "...Asteroids live and breathe and planets fall in love / Bat-beings groan and seethe and fit you like a glove / Traverse Orion's leg in the blink of an eye / Warm hands at dying suns and boiling midnight skies..."
    - "Slave Ship" - The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets
  • "Byakhee, Byakhee, fly me through space, take me away, far from this place; Byakhee, Byakhee, what must I do, to go for a ride with you? Byakhee, Byakhee, now heed my call, I've done the spells, I've done them all; Out of the Tartarean darkness appear, and fly me away from here. Byakhee, Byakhee, I hear your wings, I smell - a smell? What are those... things? Byakhee, Byakhee, what have we done? This suddenly isn't fun. I don't know how to describe you; To see you is a mind-blowing thing. Not moles, crows, nor ants are quite like you, nor partially decomposed human beings! Byakhee, Byakhee, now that you're here, I've changed my mind; I'm filled with fear: People who go with you don't reappear, So leave me alone, I'll stay at home, I will forget we ever met - I must not and won't recall."
    - "Byakhee, Byakhee" - The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society

Heresies and Controversies

  • See the Discussion tab for fan theories and suggestions.


Keeper Notes

  • Chaosium's stats for the Byakhee put its intelligence at human levels: it should (theoretically) be able to feel, think, understand, reason, communicate, create and use technology, create art and learn science and engineer great works, form and follow and lead religions and governments, philosophize, mastermind plots, choose to do the "right" and "decent" thing as well as evil things or neutral and conflicted things, conspire and cooperate and love and hate, etc. at a level that is equivalent to (but of course not necessarily the same as) that of human beings. Byakhees can be thought of as "people", after a fashion.... (Chaosium; YSDC Forums)
  • What do Byakhees normally do, while perhaps plunging from one dimension to another through deep space and time, when Harvey Walters and his friends and enemies aren't summoning them to do Call of Cthulhu dirty work? Do they resent, or look forward to being summoned and compelled to help human beings travel between worlds? Do they realize they have been summoned, or do they think that arriving on Earth at that exact place and time was their own idea? Are Byakhees at all curious about the strange little people of Earth, or have they seen so much on their travels that human life is trivial and dull? If they could talk to the cultists that order them to travel to sinister planets on dubious quests, what would the Byakhees say?
  • "I have used Byakhee twice in convention games that I have run. They can be surprisingly challenging opponents. In the first scenario, which took place on an isolated movie set, the creature played an active role in the plot by killing and replacing the reclusive writer, slipping mysterious script changes under the door for the actor PCs to find." (John A. "NeferSutekh" Almack)


Associated Mythos Elements

References and Appearances