“Bring on the multitudes….to nourish the Artist, stretch their skin upon an easel to give him canvas, crush their bones into a paste that he might mold them. Let them die, and by their miserable deaths become the clay within his hands that he might form…”– Maxwell Brock, Beat poet
Creating a piece of artwork can be like a particularly difficult birth; more so if the act of creation has resulted in the birth of an iconodule, a foul and hateful entity that lives within a piece of artwork. Iconodules are born of frustration, despair, and envy, fused with human creativity, imagination, and desire to create: a tempestuously fertile ground. Iconodules have been found in sculpture, in paintings, even in the written word, corrupting first the work they hide within, then their creator, and finally others within their sphere of influence.
What exactly triggers an iconodule’s creation remains unknown; many a frustrated artist goes to their grave without ever creating one, while a jilted lover might birth an iconodule the first time they pick up a paintbrush to distract themselves.
The creation of an iconodule begins with the artist feeling an intense need to create, to produce art. This need cannot be denied, and artists consciously trying to resist or to perform other tasks begin to feel nauseous, losing their appetite and ability to sleep peaceably. They take a penalty die on all actions that are not creating art. They must succeed on a CON roll each day to resist losing 1 SAN/day as the need to create gnaws at them. Upon losing 6 SAN, they must make a successful SAN roll, on a failure, they wake from unsettling dreams to discover they have begun work on the piece of art that has haunted them, losing an additional 1D4 SAN. If they succeed the initial SAN roll, they lose an additional 1 SAN and the process continues until they have lost 12 SAN and must make another SAN roll to resist beginning the work unconsciously.
Once the work has begun, it cannot be stopped. The artist eats at their workstation or forgets to eat all together, suffering migraines and nosebleeds if away from their work for more than an hour. Completion of the work will require 2D10 × 5 days of feverish, round-the-clock work; during this time, the artist grows surlier, responding with increasing frustration (culminating in violence) if disturbed or interrupted in their efforts.
Regardless of medium, iconodules seem to share common traits – juxtapositions of imagery from Classical mythology or the Old Testament with cynical, even mocking commentary on the present day, depictions of stern authoritarian figures presented in ambiguous forms, open to interpretation; iconodules in the written word tend to be dense with allegory and metaphor, alluding to other works and twisting their texts to support new interpretations. In any medium, they are angry, bitter works, seething with misanthropy and contempt.
Once the work of art is finished, the iconodule enters the second phase of its existence; like any other child, it must be fed, and the iconodule feeds exclusively on human misery. Every day, the artist must make an opposed POW roll against the iconodule; on a failure, they are compelled to go out and make life worse for someone else, losing 1D3 SAN in the process. These antisocial acts typically begin small; vandalism, smashing windows, etc. Oftentimes, the artist is not even aware they are doing it, entering a fugue state while under the iconodule’s control and awakening with no memory of the deeds they were forced to perform.
As the iconodule grows in strength, however, the violence of the acts likewise increases, and the artist finds themselves compelled to abuse others, even going so far as to assault friends and loved ones in psychotic fits of uncontrollable rage.
Eventually, the artist is jailed, committed to a psychiatric facility, or even killed if their behavior becomes predatory enough. At this point, the iconodule enters a period of stasis; eventually, the artist’s belongings – including the iconodule – will be sold at auction or given away.
Once in the possession of a new owner, the iconodule repeats the process, pushing them daily through opposed POW checks to commit horrible acts. If it is not recognized and destroyed, an iconodule can pass from owner to owner for years, spreading misery wherever it is taken. If placed in a museum, an iconodule can operate with impunity for decades, selecting victims at random to compel to violence.
Unfortunately, an iconodule cannot be exorcised from the work of art that was created to house it. The iconodule can be banished from earthly reality only by destroying the artwork it inhabits; this will not be easy, however, and the iconodule will manifest a physical form to defend itself once the artwork has been damaged. This physical form commonly appears as a mass of cancerous, rotten organs, not all of them readily identifiable to human observers. In sculpture, these organs appear to fill the body cavity of the sculpted form; an iconodule of painted canvas, if rent or torn, will reveal an extradimensional space behind the painting in which the iconodule’s sickly and tumorous mass squirms and writhes. The iconodule lashes out with gore-slick tendrils of circulatory tissue, attempting to strangle or crush its attackers.
3D10 × 5
4D10 × 5
(3D6+6) × 5
(2D6+6) × 5
(4D6+6) × 5
(4D6+6) × 5
Average Hit Points: 19
Average Damage Bonus: +1D4
Average Build: +1
Average Magic Points: 20
Attacks per round: 1D6 whip-like tendrils.
Fighting 65% (32/13), damage 1D6+DB
Dodge: 32% (16/6)
Armor: Varies depending on the material used in its construction; a painted canvas has none, while a marble statue might have 8 points or more.
Spells: None, typically.
Sanity Loss: 0/1 to be in the iconodule’s presence; 1/1D8 to see its extradimensional true form.
William Adcock is a historian by training and a horror author by necessity.