Black Jack Rackham
From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
Black Jack Rackham (originally named Skull-Jack, but since retconned) grew out of the idea of having a "spirit" within Jolly-Roger's sword, which empowered him to overcome tough foes, or when he was suffering from XP Debt. Eventually the character concept grew into a workable character which was part reformed-villain, part mentor.
Black Jack Rackham was created during CoV Beta and has remained a Necromancy/Dark Miasma Mastermind since then. It is the "evil" verison of the Skull-Jack character, and much closer to the original concept I had behind Jack. Since I didn't want to delete the original character, the idea to have two versions of the same character existing at the same time was appealing for practical as well as RP reasons; one acting as a hero in Paragon City, the other as a villain in the Rogue Isles.
At one point, I also had Jack of Torment and Jack of the Void, but the concept was getting stretched thin, and the additional incarnations weren't very interesting. Thus Jack was reduced back down to two 'avatars', and his role on both sides of the hero/villain fence remains unclear to most of his associates. Over time, the original (hero) version fell by the wayside, and the villain version of Black Jack Rackham became my main character.
A Unique Condition
Black Jack Rackham is in a peculiar state of life (or unlife, as the case may be). Here is an explanation of the different parts, and associated terms used to explain Jack's existence. Hopefully they will allow the reader to understand the inflections intended.
"Soul" or "essence" refers to the core personality or... well, essence of a person. For Jack, this is the part that is bound to the Sword of Ages. This is Jack, in the truest sense - his thoughts, feelings, and will.
"Spirit" refers to the anima or life-force, ectoplasmic energy which powers living beings. This is the part which was sheared away from the body, and became Jack's wraith form. It has no physical substance, but through Jack's focused will and power, it can affect physical objects.
Jack's lich form is his old physical body. His soul empowers the body to walk again, even though Jack's essence resides in the Sword of Ages. Jack's body was entombed until recent years.
Throughout the years, Black Jack Rackham has been affiliated with a variety of organizations.
Supergroup: The Seekers
- Black Jack was a member of The Seekers, primarily through his ties to Jolly-Roger. For a time he was tasked with leading the new recruits under the Seekers' Night Watch division (which was later dissolved).
Supergroup: The Seekers of Oblivion
- Former right hand of the Overlord Abyst, later appointed to Despoiler (leader) once Abyst joined the Corruptors of Paragon. Jack retained this position until the group's dissolution.
Supergroup: The Corruptors of Paragon
- Only loosely affiliated, via fealty to Abyst. Jack was never actively on the roster of the Corruptors.
Supergroup: Stygian Corsairs
- Jack and his followers have come to be known as the Stygian Corsairs. Their current base of operations is Heresy's Hold, but they are also commonly found throughout the Rogue Isles.
Faction: Circle of Thorns
- Jack has been seen working with Diviner Maros, a mystic respected - and feared - by his fellow cultists in the Circle of Thorns. Jack also managed to steal some of the secrets of the Death Mages, the Masters of Death among the Circle of Thorns, as well as obtaining valuable tomes from the depths of Oranbega's secret libraries. Needless to say, this earned even greater enmity from the Circle of Thorns, and rumors have begun to circulate that a cadre of Circle sorcerers have come together to deal with Jack.
Black Jack Rackham is an undead sorcerer, necromancer, and kenomancer ("void mage") whose spirit is imprisoned within the Sword of Ages, the mighty cutlass carried by the legendary pirate-hero Jolly-Roger. Jack is (understandably) grim, though possesses an odd sense of humor at times (as if the last remnants of his humanity momentarily show themselves). Jack always has several schemes underway; these are not the flamboyant and world-threatening plots that many villains enjoy, but rather are the quiet, generally unnoticed ones.
Few people have had any considerable contact with Black Jack Rackham; he typically attends to the task(s) at hand and ignores most average individuals. His contacts in the Rogue Isles (and beyond) have a much greater insight into Jack, but even that tends to be restricted to the "business at hand", as it were (though this is the norm for most "professional" relationships in the Isles). He almost never backs out of a deal or pact, once made; as such, he is viewed as relatively trustworthy (as much as one in the Rogue Isles may be considered such) by more villainous sorts. On the occasions that Jack works within Paragon City, many question his motives, but they cannot argue against the tangible aid he lends to the cause of justice (at least when it serves his interests in doing so).
Almost all of Black Jack Rackham's powers are (or originally were) derived from various magical artifacts he has obtained. Some of these artifacts have in a sense "merged" with him, due to the centuries of use.
Most prominent is Black Jack Rackham's control of "negative" energy. This is presumably based on drawing such energy from some type of "netherworld" dimension, but this is speculation. Jack can use such nega-energy in the form of blasts, as well as various means of confusing and weakening his foes.
While closely related to the command of negative energy, Black Jack Rackham is rumored to have control over death itself. While not capable of bringing the long-dead back to life, he has been seen to revive severely wounded allies, and even the recently deceased. Jack has trapped many powerful spirits (see below) during his long years, and calls upon these as needed. He also summons and empowers lowly zombies to act as cannon-fodder in battle.
The Curse of Black Jack
While Black Jack's essence is still bound to the Sword of Ages, he has two separate parts driven by the same will: the lich (his body) and the wraith (his spirit). This allows Jack to act independently in two separate locations. Jolly-Roger's growing power initially helped Jack in breaking the first stages of the binding enchantment which kept Jack's wraith imprisoned in the Sword of Ages. Later empowerment by the Overlord Abyst further heightened Jack's power and allowed Jack's lich form to break free of the tomb in which he was sealed in the Rogue Isles.
Due to his long years of existence, Jack has accumulated a considerable amount of lore. He has an impressive collection of tomes and artifacts, and with time to research, he can be an excellent source of information on the arcane.
Before he became truly undead, Jack Rackham was a vicious pirate who sailed the Seven Seas. The bulk of his "pirate" essence was absorbed by the pirate-hero Jolly-Roger during his initial encounter & subsequent training with Black Jack (while the latter was still trapped within the enchanted cutlass). Still, Jack retains memories of his many adventures, and a certain cunning when it comes to raiding long-lost tombs and stealing away with arcane treasures.
Weaknesses and Limitations
Black Jack Rackham is a lich, a powerful undead mage, and as such does not eat, drink, or breathe. He is resistant to cold and poison, due to his lack of biological functions, and his powers protect him from similar negative energies. Jack's long years dealing with unnamed horrors have made him highly resistant to mental attacks and fear of any kind. He is slightly more susceptible to flame - after all, fire has long been a ward against darkness.
His spirit is bound to the Sword of Ages (see above), and as such he can survive the destruction of his physical form. However, the full implications of his link to the artifact are not known.
Furthermore, Jack often stands alone. While he has a network of contacts, allies, and minions, he has very few peers upon which he can call. Black Jack can work with other metahumans quite well, but such relationships almost always remain distant and goal-oriented. This does leave Jack somewhat vulnerable to larger organizations.
Recently, Jack has begun to miss his humanity on a few occasions. It is unknown how this will affect him in the long term, though he did temporarily seek asylum in Paragon City as he struggled to reconnect. His efforts failed, but who knows if such feelings may resurface, and what actions they may drive Jack to?
Jack has a large collection of various magical artifacts he has gathered. Almost all of his powers are derived from these artifacts, though some have "fused" with him through the centuries of use. The following is a partial list of these artifacts.
(Interestingly, the artifact must have been known to Abyst, as Jack was bestowed the title "Lord of the Ebon Fist" by the Overlord. The reasons for this are unknown, but Jack found the title appealing, and has accepted it.)
An ancient book containing various dark rituals in a variety of tongues, many of which are either lost or nearly so. Jack stole the Tome from the Legacy Chain's vaults at the behest of the Archmage Tarixus. Before turning the Tome over to the Archmage in his quest to recreate the dreaded Blackwand, Jack had the Librarian Mnemosthenes scribe an exact duplicate for his own collection.
At the direction of Archmage Tarixus, Black Jack Rackham has forged for himself a Blackwand. Utilizing the Abyssal Tome, the blood of a Mu descendent, mystic coral shards from Sharkhead Isle, and the soul of a hero, Jack forged the mighty Blackwand at the Obelisk of Yendor deep beneath Potter's Field in Sharkhead Isle. The Blackwand fires out potent bolts of negative energy at the wielder's command.
Twin-bladed swords enchanted by Black Jack for use by his Grave Knights. The blades contain powerful enchantments which enhance the combat ability of the wielder, as well as enable the wielder to launch blasts of negative energy. Jack is capable of wielding a Graveblade, and is a competent swordsman, but he very rarely does so as his swordsmanship is out of practice due to long years of neglect.
Servants, Allies, & Patrons
Jack has gathered many spirits, summoned entities, and extraplanar allies during his long existence. Some of the more notable ones are listed here. Note that, due to the limitations of power usage imposed upon FBSA-licensed heroes, Black Jack does not generally summon or command the undead in public.
Azilgrit is a small imp which was originally imprisoned by Jack, though has now become comfortable with his new master. While he is far from powerful, his small size and otherworldly nature make him incredibly resilient (particularly to fire). Azilgrit primarily serves Jack as a spy and messenger, though he is sometimes assigned other tasks. When not accompanying Jack, the imp is usually wandering the depths of Heresy's Hold or aiding Mnemosthenes.
Captain Azhir the Mad
Jack Rackham's First Mate, long ago during his days of piracy. When Jack was first free to walk the world once more, Azhir the Mad was one of the first spirits he contacted. After freeing Azhir from a curse which bound him to the island of Barbados, the former First Mate once more pledged allegiance to Jack. Azhir now captains the Abyssal Gale, a revenant (and semi-sentient) ghost ship whose services are at Black Jack's command. Azhir fights with either his trident or a Graveblade, depending on circumstances.
Once a Tsoo martial artist of the Lightning Blade style of fighting, he was slain by his own lightning-charged blade by Black Jack. Since then, his blade has been reforged by Jack, though it still channels the lightning of its owner. Broken Night formerly served as one of Jack's Grave Knights, but has since gone rogue.
Dark Servant of the Void
Only those with extensive knowledge and mastery over the Netherworld can summon and bind these creatures to their will. The Dark Servants are native to the Void, and make powerful minions. Unfortunately, they cannot stay long in our realm, as it is toxic to them. Still, the Servants' dark energies are useful in a fight, both weakening foes and healing allies.
An entity of Ice and Death which rules over an Underworld in another realm, the mysterious being known as Grenth is consulted by Black Jack on rare occasions. Grenth has vast knowledge of death- and ice-related magic, both of which are utilized by Jack. Jack has performed services in exchange for such lore, and currently owes a debt to Grenth. When exactly payment will be due, none can say, save Grenth....
Green Fist Clan
Black Jack Rackham has made use of the services of the Green Fist Clan, a group of ninja mercenaries. While the true leaders of the Clan are unknown, all of Jack's dealings have been through Silent Tide. Of all the Clan, Silent Tide has most often worked for or alongside Jack. The Green Fist has been employed for a variety of tasks, from kidnapping to theft.
Recently Black Jack has negotiated a long-term contract with Silent Tide, who has assigned Paper-Tiger to serve Jack. Paper-Tiger is an accomplished ninja with weather control abilities, who has risen through the ranks and been given the opportunity to lead a detachment of ninjas. Exactly what task Black Jack has obtained his service for is unknown, though the sum payed to the Green Fist Clan was sizable indeed - no less than three large chests filled with gold.
The Iron Spectre is an ancient spirit which serves as Black Jack's Captain of the Guard in Heresy's Hold. At times, the Iron Spectre is brought forth into the world to aid Jack in combat, though he is usually dismissed before too long to maintain the defenses of the Hold. The Iron Spectre also assists in training Jack's minions, as he has a variety of combat experience. He appears as an ethereal spectre, clad in partial armor and wearing a helm. In combat, the Iron Spectre can fire spectral blasts, as well as fight with a large axe.
An eccentric Oranbegan spirit, Mnemosthenes is a willing ally of Jack. Unwilling to play the political game of the Circle of Thorns, and disgusted at how the Oranbegans had lost their way, the Librarian was somewhat shunned by the powers-that-be. Mnemosthenes stole away several rare tomes from the great Oranbegan libraries, presenting them and his services to Jack, in exchange for staging Mnemosthenes' destruction. Freed from Circle pursuers, Mnemosthenes serves Black Jack Rackham by aiding in research and keeping the myriad tomes and artifacts organized.
Mnemosthenes is a Lich, able to conjure up the Netherworld-based magics used by the Death Mages. He is also a master sage and scribe (hence his title). He creates exact duplicates of any magical tomes Jack obtains in his travels, before the original is used for whatever purpose it was intended. This ensures that Jack's library is constantly expanding. It's true size and contents are unknown; indeed, few even know of the library, and assume the Librarian Mnemosthenes is simply another captive spirit.
Recently, Mnemosthenes has been utilized by Jack as an additional combatant, summoned from the hidden library when needed. While he does not have very impressive direct-attacks, his ability to entrap and weaken foes is of considerable power and usefulness. Regardless, combat is not his true calling, and his power is not as great as his master's.
Recently, Black Jack has captured and bound a will o' wisp from Croatoa to his will. The red wisp is a rare variation of the more common blue wisp. Instead of protecting and revitalizing allies as the blue wisps do, the red wisps grant a minor mystical enchantment which enables its allies to do greater harm to others.
T'Gaar was a Storm Shaman of the Banished Pantheon, and excelled in weather manipulation. Jack has imprisoned his spirit for future use and study.
Vhentiir, the Painbringer
Vhentiir was a Corrupt Spirit of the Banished Pantheon, one of the disturbing "spirit masks" that aid their Shamans. Vhentiir was a particularly strong Spirit of Pain, which Jack encountered during one of the Banished Pantheon's attempts to use the Scroll of Tielekku to free their dead gods. Vhentiir was captured and imprisoned by Black Jack, and later forged into a Grave Knight by merging its essence with a corpse, and infusing it with the powers of a weaker Corrupt Spirit of Death. Jack used pieces of Corrupt Spirit and Totem masks to craft enchanted armor for Vhentiir, and equipped him with a Graveblade.
Base of Operations
There have long been rumors of Jack having a hidden interdimensional "base of operations"; the sheer number of tomes, scrolls, arcane devices and mystic artifacts gathered over the centuries would fill a great many rooms. Few have ever located this hidden sanctuary, much less actually breached its wards.
However, rumors coerced from restless spirits and damned souls will reveal its name: Heresy's Hold. While much in the way of detail is lacking, some idea of it has been pieced together from fragments of information gathered.
Within is a great Library, kept ordered and expanded upon by the Librarian Mnemosthenes (see above). The exact contents of this library are unknown, though its size must be truly immense. It is expected that a great number of rare tomes (and likely even some unique lore) is contained within.
Similarly, there is almost certainly a great Vault (or perhaps even several vaults) to hold the uncountable numbers of artifacts Jack has gathered over the years.
Whatever other features are present are unknown; as an undead entity, Jack has no need for sleep, food or drink, and so the entire Hold is likely dedicated completely to his work. It is perhaps best that it remains undisturbed; woe to any being who breaches the defenses of such a place uninvited, as they would surely suffer an eternity of torment for such effrontery.
Aside from his private stronghold, Jack wonders the Rogue Isles and takes advantage of the numerous resources there. He has a keen interest in Sharkhead Isle and Cap au Diable; the former holds the power of the entombed Leviathan, and the latter is a strong hub in the Isles (as well as the prison of the mighty Bat'Zul).
The Curse of Black Jack was the result of incredible malice, a torturous mystical curse, and an unexpected conflux of magic energy. The original Curse was intended to shear Jack's body and spirit apart, essentially destroying his essence and leaving him in a tortured half-existence. However, due to an unexpected and unknowable chance occurrence, the Curse went awry. While his body and spirit were sheared apart (which caused an unspeakable amount of agony for Jack), the essence (or “soul”) was still intact, somehow connecting the two entities. It took Jack some time to come to terms with his new existence.
His body, already infused with necromantic magic, was transformed into a lich, and the skull mask he wore fused to his essence, leaving him with a bare skull. His spirit was blasted as well, and took the form of an ethereal wraith. Initially it was fully immaterial, though in the following years he learned how to affect solid objects. It was some time after the Curse that he learned that his essence had been bound to the Sword of Ages, the cutlass he wielded at the time.
Black Jack's full history is not known even to those closest to him, and he prefers to keep it that way. It is known that he manifested himself as a sort of "alter-ego" in Jolly-Roger during the earliest parts of the pirate-hero's career. Primarily, Black Jack would empower Jolly-Roger when he was in grave peril (such as near death). Eventually Black Jack's pirate persona transferred to Jolly-Roger.
In time, Black Jack became able to manifest himself outside of the cutlass which held his essence. It was some time later that Black Jack had gathered enough strength to empower his wraith to any appreciable degree. At that point, he registered as a hero in Paragon City. This was done for convenience more than anything, as Black Jack intended to take what he could from the various villainous mystic groups, such as the Circle of Thorns and the Banished Pantheon. It also allowed him to move freely about the city, as well as use the resources available to heroes (such as the MAGI vaults).
Unknown to all his hero allies, Black Jack had a second form in the Rogue Isles (his physical lich form), where he served as the Overlord Abyst's lieutenant. A handful of heroes have suspected Jack is playing both sides, but as yet they have not discovered any proof. It is not known whether Black Jack is playing one or both sides to his own ends, or if there is some deeper motive. Likewise, no villains are aware (at least publicly) that he is a wraith in Paragon City acting as a hero.
Black Jack distanced himself from Jolly-Roger and the Seekers during Abyst's arrival. Presumably this was done to protect both The Seekers and himself, as Abyst was expecting Jack to still be imprisoned within the Sword of Ages.
Jack served as Abyst's lieutenant in the Seekers of Oblivion, and was eventually promoted to Despoiler when Abyst joined the ranks of the Corruptors of Paragon. During this time, Jack did very little direct leadership, and merely utilized the resources to his own benefit. Towards the end of the conflict between Arachnos and the Corruptors of Paragon, the Seekers of Oblivion were disbanded after heavy losses, having served their purpose for the Overlord Abyst. Jack's essence was banished by Scirocco, prior to the latter's battle with Abyst. The effects (if any) of this banishment on his wraith (in Paragon City) are unknown.
Rumors abound that Jack has been seen in the Rogue Isles once more. If such is true, it could well mean he used his "banishment" as an opportunity to escape the Overlord's gaze and strike out on his own....
With Abyst's absence, Jack became free to operate as he wished within the Isles. All but withdrawing from Paragon City (though his wraith still haunts the city, it has not been involved in anything of note), Jack has moved several pieces into place within the Rogue Isles. Of note in 2008:
- Regathered his essence from dispersal at the hands of Scirocco, and aided in the subsequent banishment of Abyst (both as a hero alongside the Seekers, and his lich self working independently in the Rogue Isles).
- A contract with the Green Fist Clan has been negotiated with Silent Tide, which resulted in the assignment of Paper-Tiger and his ninja warriors to Jack.
- Jack has been tentatively accepted into the ranks of the High Mages of Death within the Circle of Thorns. Almost unheard of with the xenophobic Oranbegans, Jack is certain they're attempting to bind him or steal his secrets. Regardless, it presents a great opportunity to delve into the Circle's lost libraries.
- Tension is already high between Jack and the Circle of Thorns. Their "arrangement" will not last long, and the fallout will be doubtless be brutal.
- So far, the Circle seems either unaware or uninterested in Mnemosthenes, the Oranbegan Lich which serves Jack. This is unexpected, given the lengths the Circle goes to regarding the traitor Akarist.
- Freed Captain Azhir and the Abyssal Gale, further strengthening his allies and his resources. In the process of that adventure, word of Heresy's Hold leaked out. Jack expects incursions into his hidden bastion will begin, and has begun preparing the defenses.
- Ouroboros' secrets are slowly being revealed by Jack. Though none know why, he has made several efforts at Mending past events. The truth is that he is trying to keep Abyst off-balance, as he knows the Overlord's return is only a matter of time, and his fury for being betrayed will know no bounds.
- Jack's network of contacts has extended throughout the Rogue Isles, and even into Grandville. Magus Mu'Drakhan's debt to Jack was repaid in the form of accolades in Ghost Widow's ear. As a result, she has taken on Jack as his Patron, and has begun to teach him some of her dark secrets of power.
- With the rebuilding of the Midnight Squad, Jack's extensive knowledge of things dark and arcane has been sought out. While not exactly welcomed by the more altruistic members, some of the Midnighters who walk a darker path routinely consult with Jack.
- Jack has visited Cimerora via the Pillar of Ice and Fire in the Midnight Club. His actions there have been limited to date, though he has started to make contacts in the area.
- Sister Airlia has been working extensively with Jack. Her ties with Ghost Widow are known, though the nature of such ties remain a mystery. Whether or not Ghost Widow's Patronage plays a role in the matter is unknown, as well.
Jack is well positioned for whatever may come in 2009. He knows there are many threats moving in the periphery, and his network of plans continues to be laid and altered as needed...
- The newest form of entertainment, that of the holo-missions provided by Architect Entertainment, has been embraced by Black Jack. However, this is not idle merriment; AE's resources go deep, indeed, and their seemingly innocent programs can provide valuable information on various groups of importance worldwide. Jack regards Architect Entertainment as an indisposable source of research.
- In mid-2009, Jack managed to capture and bind one of the will o' wisps in Croatoa. The magical entity grants a minor enchantment to Jack's strength, as well as any allies and servants near the wisp. In particular, this has made his undead henchmen even more dangerous.
- Following extensive work with the Ouroboros Menders, Black Jack has been awarded the rank of Chronologist. It is still unclear what his purpose in altering time streams might be, but the continued absence of Abyst still gives credibility to the theory that it is intended to keep him at bay. With his extensive experience in time-travel, he is now one of the few granted the title of Time Lord. Exactly what power of time he holds is unknown, but is the cause of great concern to those knowledgeable of such things.
- In the late summer, Broken Night (one of Black Jack's Grave Knights) used the aid of an unknown group of metahumans to break Jack's hold over himself. Imbuing himself with magic from ancient spirits of the Far East, the former Grave Knight has become substantially stronger. Discarding his Tsoo warrior name of Broken Night, he is now known as Feng Bao the Broken. He has also gathered many undead Tsoo to his side, his former brothers who were betrayed and sacrificed during the breaking of Jack's enchantment. Black Jack has thus far allowed Feng Bao to go his own way, for reasons unknown.