“Where go the Circle of Thorns go the legions of Hell. They know how to pry open the infinite doorways to the many layers of Hell, and they know the forgotten words to command the dark abominations across the void."
– from A Study of the Circle, written circa 1920, anonymous.
Far north of Crimson Cove and Agincourt in the Nerva Archipelago, farther than even the island of Primeva, lies a twisted, rocky spur of land. Stories of “Thorn Isle” go back 200 years, originating from the earliest natives, the colonial soldiers, and the slaves and outlaws that passed through the Rogue Isles – Thorn Isle was a haunted place where the demons and devils of Hell wandered at dawn and dusk.
In the journal of Father Pierre Champlain, he records a story from the first generation of enslaved natives:
“…The men would return from the fields early every day. No matter how much the Patron threatened them, they would rather endure the lash and starvation than work till the sun sets.
They use a word in their base tongue; I do not understand it, but the girl we call Josephine, who speaks some French, tells me it means Terrors of Winter Storms.
Her people believe that unnatural spirits appear, perhaps from the ocean or from the sky, when the sun dies and rises each day. And that these Terrors can freeze the heartiest man’s blood.
In one of her fables a foolish boy is dared to wait on the beach on a summer’s night. All through the evening his friends call to him, and he responds even in the darkest hours. But finally they doze, and when they awaken with the sun shining warmly upon them, they find their friend frozen in a block of ice.
It’s superstitious heathen rubbish, but these stories spread like the plague, and now some of the soldiers are referring to the beaches and outer croppings as haunted…”
For centuries, the Nerva Spectral Daemons have dwelt amongst the tiny islands of Nerva. They center upon Thorn Island, although only the Circle of Thorns knows for certain what keeps them there.
Members of the heroic Midnight Squad have theorized that strong magics might “chain” these beings to Thorn Island, never letting them drift too far.
Another theory is that they have an affinity for this location, perhaps because there is a weakness in the dimensional barriers here, allowing them to more easily cross back and forth from their plane of Hell. Or maybe whatever powers first summoned them simply forgot about them, abandoning them here carelessly.
Many heroes and villains who have probed the secrets of Thorn Island have vanished. But a few have brought back stories of a terrible threat, the giant monster called Caleb.
It is known that the Nerva Daemons that plague the region gibber and mutter to themselves, invoking Caleb’s name with frequency. Sightings of Caleb are rare, in part because he rarely leaves survivors.
But also perhaps because he either cannot pass between the planes as easily as his followers, or it might be that he only makes himself known when it is worth his while.
One report from an Arachnos interrogator reads thus:
“…We again questioned the prisoner from the Circle of Thorns about the being known as ‘Caleb.’ We have lost too many agents in that region for there not to be some truth to the rumors. He laughed – despite the voltage – and stated only that Caleb does exist, but that he is ‘willful, independent, and playful.’
Further hard questioning elicited this response: ‘You can’t catch Caleb. He only appears when it is worth his time – when his minions are caused sufficient pain, only then is it worth his while to rouse himself and come to investigate and wreak havoc upon the mortal realm.’
We do not put much stock in the claims of a member of the Circle, but this report is filed for reference. Please cross-reference Prisoner Interrogation file Gamma-88765, where another member of the Circle similarly put to the question claimed that Caleb was a rebel daemon prince, ‘an uncontrollable force of nature that ravages Thorn Island like the deadliest northern storm.’ The investigation is ongoing.”
As to the relationship between the Circle of Thorns and the Nerva Spectral Daemons themselves, it is a common belief that the Circle worships these outer planar beings.
This is likely a falsehood. Magical experts believe instead that the Circle sees the Nerva Daemons as sentient weapons left over from a previous era, from the prehistoric days of Mu. Evidence suggests that they were not summoned by the sorcerers of Mu, but used against Mu in the final battle.
Whatever the case, they serve the Circle in part because the mystics have learned secret ways to control them, and in part because they revel in causing bloodshed and pain, and there is never a lack of victims when the Circle is active.