The following is a compendium of the Hyadese Legend of The Flayed King. It was compiled and translated into common in recent years by the Pandaren Lorewalker Wenxi, who recovered numerous copies of the story from the Seat of Knowledge. While many deviations exist from telling to telling, this is currently believed to be the most accurate version available to those outside Hyad, as the stories were compared to eachother and with the few historical documents that exist from the era.
The last of the Juren retreated to the subterranean dungeon of the royal palace as his one once loyal and lawful subjects drenched the ground with the blood of the defenseless praetorians and torched the ancient, carved edifice. He was closer to the Dark One there, and the whispers that had once brought him such pain in fear were now a comforting contrast to the retribution that lay ahead.
They were at his door after a moment, casting aside his robes and beaded crown and breaking his bones in the process. They dragged him, the once son of heaven, through the carefully polished tile floor, clapping rusted irons around his wrenching hands and ankles. The very chains that the Emperor had used to imprison his opponents were the only things that now hung over his over his scarred, naked form.
The royal concubines and servants were torn asunder, the court jester beheaded as his smiling mask lay broken on the ground. The townsfolk poured over the Emperor's treasures, wrestling amongst each other to take as much as they could, but the wiser men of the city, the scholars and artists, fled the kingdom, leaving everything behind for they knew what the things in the palace dungeon meant. They learned that the Emperor did more than torture
out of corruption and indulgence, but he followed something much darker, something long forgotten that they wished they could erase. The tomes and idols reminded them of the ancient god of the abyss, the one that their grandparents had spoke of that undulated beneath their beds. A cloud serpent, once the Emperor's pet, was now but skeleton covered in carvings that they could not unsee, and the imperial guards, once sturdy, young and resolute had been reduced to waifish husks that wilted beneath the peasants’ dulled blades. It was clear to them that the Emperor sacrificed not only his own soul, but the souls of those around him. The uneducated did not cease their celebration, throwing filthy things towards the Emperor and whipping his bleeding back with young bamboo. The emperor crawled through the mud on broken knees, hissing unholy words although his jaw was broken. The crows gathered on the branches nearby, and they made noises harsh and shrill, as if mocking the men below.
The climax of this parade of madness came when the Emperor was taken through the long streets of the capital to the market square, where upon a wooden platform stood a lone post. There he was forced to quivering feet and chained, naked and filthy, hardly resembling royalty anymore. For his crimes, his treason against his kingdom and the theft of so many innocent lives, he was to die by a thousand cuts, the most severe punishment known to Hyad.
The flesh from his body was cut methodically and sparingly as to keep him alive and conscious. They took their time, savoring the pain they had inflicted on their cursed sovereign. Slowly the headsman worked, carving piece by piece from his quarry’s arms, legs and torso, selling them to the onlookers as a butcher would on a day of feast. The crowd stowed the strips of his meat for alchemy or consumed it with rice wine, ravenously indulging in the bloody fruits of their victory. Commoners, nobleman and criminals alike cheered and cheered at their triumph. Small children, who knew little of what this meant, joined in, throwing rocks and spitting at the old man. Even the corrupt ministers and murderers who had served as the emperor’s accomplices stood alongside tortured innocents taking their revenge. The people had forgotten what had led them to this mad revolt, just as they had forgotten the dark one below. They were but vultures, feasting upon the dead body of a giant who had been weak and sinful.
They cursed and spat at him, but no one would dare look in his eyes, jeering as loud as they could to hide the unsettling feeling in their minds as the filthy king continued to murmur things that they did not want to hear. He did not ask for forgiveness, nor did he curse his rebellious subjects for he knew they had already been cursed.
Three days passed and over three-thousand cuts were made, but mere flesh was not enough. They sliced off fingers, then toes, then hands, and lay them beside him in ritualistic fashion, and still they dared not meet his gaze. Someone suggested that he die at last, and so they took his head by slowly cutting his neck with that same knife. Still, through soaked teeth he gurgled inhuman words that came from dark places, laughing all the while until his head was held aloft.
The fevered cheering, which had continued day and night, at last died down. His bloodshot eyes, now lifeless and wide, still seemed to be staring at them. The courage they built up when taking the palace was gone, the pride and the triumph they felt now reduced to void and fear. The Emperor was in pieces, yet it seemed as though his laughter still echoed.
The heavily carved body of the Emperor was to be put on parade once more. Then, as a final act of humiliation he would dumped in the square to rot, fed to the crows and dogs. The crows did come, circling the Flayed King, but they did not land. They just laughed and laughed with their ugly voices as if mocking the crowd once more. And the lifeless look of the king was so resentful and disgusting that none wanted to gaze upon his ruin a second longer. It was decided that he would be buried beneath the earth, unmourned and forgotten. They brought his quartered corpse to the city outskirts, with the heavy chains tighter than before, as the people felt it unsafe to take them off. They buried him as shallow as they could, for everyone wanted to get out of the place as soon as possible. A sobering stillness fell over the crowd, and they returned to the comforting monotony of their lives, indulging in the treasures they had looted and hoping to forget what they witnessed.
On the first day following the burial, a homeless man reported hearing strange noises coming from the hill, and crows gathered around the Emperor's grave. These were dismissed as the words of a madman.
On the second day, many residents of the city found themselves ill, coughing, bleeding and trembling on the floor as if they were bound with heavy, rusted chains. The river that flowed through the city ran red, smelling of blood, and those who had partook in the flesh or treasures of their emperor burst from within, their skin pierced by their own tangled bones.
Those that survived to the third day found themselves able to move again, but they stood up only to flay their own bodies with knives or to scream while ripping their faces off. Blood streamed out of houses, and all of the animals except for the crows fled the city, who watched the madness, now uncountable in number.
Meanwhile, the soil on top of the Emperor’s burial rustled. The crows laughed with their harsh tone as the Flayed King climbed out of his grave, with chains around his hands and ankles and the rope around his neck. He had bargained the souls of his people to avoid the path of death, and he made his way back to his palace. He moved past the streets where he was dragged along not a week before, now flooded with blood and watched by dark crows, where people kept screaming until they could scream no more.
He walked slowly towards the smoldering remains of his ancestral palace. Where once there was magnificent splendor, all that remained were discarded corpses and their broken weapons. The King moved past a broken mask, which was once worn by his favorite jester, but he paid no attention. He walked towards the dungeon where a throne covered by sharp, rusted spikes was placed. The ones who had taken the palace thought it was meant for torturing, and did not bother to move it. The Emperor, leaving a blood trail behind, stepped upon to the throne, and placed his body through the cold metal spikes, which impaled his dead body and his soul.This was his rightful throne, but he was there to suffer forever. The palace began to shake, the city trembled, and the skeleton of the cloud serpent stood up and roared.
The flames of the palace rose once more, but more of a phantom of the past, and the blood in the river started to boil. The crows had taken off and they circled the city, searching for those who were not yet dead, pecking them with their beaks until they bled out in horrifying forms, while the city sunk beneath the earth and collapsed in on itself along with everything in it. The city and its inhabitants were now in another place, transformed and remade into something twisted and inhuman.
The dead jester, wearing his broken mask, approached the king with a silver cup filled with blood. He offered the cup to the king, speaking words that weren't quite his. The Emperor took the cup, but his hand was broken and pierced by the sharp blades of the throne. The scarred hand trembled hard, and it was too weak to hold it. The cup then fell on the floor and the blood spilled on his new court.
The crows laughed with their harsh voices, and left the city as the dead stood up again, putting on masks to cover their ripped faces. The people began to cheer, parading as they did when they were alive on the day they took the palace, laughing and laughing as the King silently screamed. And so, the city is ruled forever by the Flayed King, while the masked dead celebrate and parade until they rot. Those that had fled the city, the scholars and artists, did not find peace, however. They were haunted both in waking moments and in dreams with whispers from the twisted city. They were given visions of the Flayed King's court and his cursed city, and the thoughts took root in their minds. They would go on to write dramas and poems, composing songs and paintings or what they had seen. Some tell of the Flayed King, vile and scornful, swearing to his scholars that he would return to take the throne of the living once more. His chains would shatter, uniting his unearthly realm with Hyad under his broken shadow.