| The Shadowy Hat
| Security Level:
| Personal Data
| Real Name:
|| Carmen Salas
| Known Aliases:
|| 5ft 11 inches
|| Not enough
| Eye Color:
| Hair Color:
| Biographical Data
|| Hispanic American
| Place of Birth:
|| Sweetwater, Texas
| Base of Operations:
|| Paragon City, Steel Canyon
| Marital Status:
| Known Relatives:
|| Too may to list
| Known Powers
| Known Abilities
| No additional information available.
"Reckless were we, servants of Hequat, and in that, so much was undone. No more. I will give my soul, here, that shadows may serve light." -Thaelaset, at the final days of the war on Oranbega
At the pinnacle of Mu society, 14000 years ago, they were the most dominant magic force on the globe. Their word was law, and their word was the word of their goddess. Hequat lorded over the Mu, and they worshiped her. They went to war for her.
Thaelaset was a ranking general in the Mu military council. It was he who oversaw the infiltration and interrogation of their sworn enemies, the Oranbegans. Numerous were his deeds in Hequat's name, and greatly terrible they were. As many in command with him fell under the rush of power they felt, executing Hequat's orders, Thaelaset grew oddly lucid. The Oranbegans were not a benevolent society, but neither were they one to be eradicated. And if this was the wish of Hequat, then perhaps Hequat did not have a proper perspective.
Interestingly enough, Thaelaset's initially good view grew into one of prideful arrogance. He began to feel superior to even his own goddess, and would oversee a great magical ritual that would bind the Mu under his new, glowing outlook. He would sacrifice his mortal body to transcend even death. He would become a beacon of good, and the Mu would have a new god to worship and obey.
The plan was set in motion, and Thaelaset, and those loyal to him, set about creating the ritual that would make his ends possible. And the day came, when the great sorcerer stood within the majestic Great Vault of Mu, and the spell was completed, sacrificing Thaelaset, and all of his followers. His essence was bound to one object, a symbol. A glittering crown of silver and gold, and through this crown he would command all, and be loved.
Yet, as with all great plans, something had gone amiss. This was, of course, the fact that his arrogance had made him into the thing he opposed. Thaelaset was no better than Hequat, and the moment he took the lives of those loyal to him for his own glory, his fate was sealed.
Thaelaset had not become a god.
Thaelaset had become a lich.
Records so ancient were rare, so it was not possible to verify, but many scholars suspected Thaelaset had become the original lich, and that the ceremonies for later transformations were refined variations of the ceremony performed that day at the great vault.
Regardless, Thaelaset had not become a god, but had stumbled into undeath. His shining crown became tarnished and grey, and in his misery, he fled deep underground. There he dwelt for a thousand years, self pity becoming anger, and anger eventually pushing him to madness. He returned to the surface, and visited his wrath upon any he deemed to be the filth of society. He would still bring about his shining vision, even if he himself had become a dark, shadowy thing!
For years, the lich terrorized both Oranbegans and Mu, until his attacks become so cataclysmic, that the great powers of the world united and battled Thaelaset. Hundreds fell in that battle, but at long last, the lich's body was destroyed. All that remained was his tarnished, blackened crown. It was taken, to be a symbol, and a warning: Remember our sacrifice. Remember why we made it.
But like all things great, and evil, Thaelaset was not so easily destroyed.
Scholars would later understand that the crown was his phylactery... the object to which his soul was bound. A lich binds himself to such things, so that if his body was destroyed, as long as the phylactery survived, he would reform and live again. The crown was different, though. Thaelaset's soul was still bound to it, yet the phylactery could not be destroyed... though nor could he reform a physical body.
The lich would live on, for eternity, but always be trapped in the crown.
His powers were still vast, but with no body, he could not act. For years he did dwell, locked away in some forgotten chamber of some ancient tower. He could see everything around him, but visitors were rare. During this time, he learned he could communicate with some... not comprehensively, but as a sibilant, urging whisper. Soon, he was able to focus his power into these whispers, and could often manipulate passing mages for brief periods. They were never aware of it, but it was distinct, and growing in effect.
A day came when an apprentice by the name of Tolu, whose duty it was to clean this ancient wing, strayed close. The apprentice, a mere boy of no magical talent, was poor, dressed in rags and a ratty pointed hat. He found himself oddly taken by the ugly, battered crown, and decided to study it closer. He had no idea that he was under the influence of an ancient evil, and soon fell to Thaelaset's plan. Tolu had put on the crown.
The lich immediately overwhelmed the apprentice's mind. Anything that remained of Tolu's mind was destroyed, his soul swallowed by Thaelaset's expansive power. The lich escaped the tower, to continue his work. Yet, having learned from the experience that ultimately destroyed his body, he relied now more on shadows and deception. He would destroy the evils of society, oh yes, but he would be more calculating this time around.
Thaelaset controlled Tolu's mind until the end of the boy's natural life. The lich had expected the apprentice would transform into some form of undead as well, but this was not the case. The lich's power had eaten away at Tolu's body, until nothing remained. The apprentice died, alone and spent of life. The crown fell from his head, and Thaelaset was once again a prisoner of it. But he had a technique now, and all the time in the world.
Yet a curious thing happened as the crown fell from the dying boy's head.
It took on the form of the old, battered headwear he had worn in his final days of freedom, that of an apprentice, though it was now blackened and fell.
It took the form... of a shadowy hat.
For untold millenia after the death of Tolu the Apprentice, the hat moved from body to body, every time taking the form of some type of headwear appropriate to the past owner as that owner died.
Thaelaset grew still in power, and in madness. He used those he controlled for his greater good... destroying the souls of those he considered evil. This definition grew vast, though, and any from serial killers, to children stealing food just so they could abate starvation, were victims. Another thing occured though, that the lich had not anticipated. The soul of every past wearer would also become absorbed in the hat. Thaelaset's will was strong, and even as the number grew to the dozens, he maintained dominant control.
He also learned other oddities, such as the fact he could not properly control the body of any with Mu blood.
This he learned from Koren Whitemantle, the Roguesoul.
Koren was a Mu tradeswizard, a mage who specialized in more practical, everyday enchantments. He was a good soul, but not a particularly potent mage. He was taken by the lich, and the hat, but Thaelaset found something he had not before... Koren could fight the lich's will.
Immediately, Thaelaset tried to free himself from Koren, but learned the bond was permanent until the tradeswizard's death. For years they would struggle, the lich seizing control, Koren taking it back, until Koren sought help. He gained the help of a good wizard and friend, Belqui, who tried to help wrest the hat from the man. In the struggle at the good wizard's tower, Belqui was killed. Koren, stricken with grief and rage, cursed the hat as he threw himself off of the tower.
Koren was dead. The lich would merely wait, and be picked up by a new bearer. He had learned from his mistake, and would not make it again.
Of course, Koren was not gone. He was now a soul within the hat. For decades he remained quiet, trying to keep his sanity, trapped with the tormented (and now, mad) spirits of previous bearers. Time went on, and the hat passed from wearer to wearer, and it became filled with more screaming, anguished souls. Thaelaset's control over them grew weaker as their number grew. He sought to slow down the changing of bearers, to find a way to extend their lives and perhaps limit the influx of new souls, but his control was no longer absolute. The mass of minds soon started to drown him out, and the hat became something altogether different. Still bound to his "vision", but no longer bound to his will.
Still, Koren remained, and mostly sane. He would bide his time, learn the hat's secrets, and plot. He himself was doomed, but he could perhaps stop the hat, or in the very least, avert the dark path it was taking. But how?
His plan formed when he learned why he had been able to fight it. He would need to find another bearer of Mu heritage, deceive the hat into binding to them, and then aid the new bearer in resisting. This would take time, which he had, but also power... power enough to fool hat. Years turned into decades and into centuries, and the hat went on and on, absorbing new souls. Koren waited.
At the end of World War II, the hat's owner died somewhere in Virginia. His possessions were collected, and those that did not go to family, were sold. The hat found itself in a box for decades more, before being sent to an antique shop, once again forgotten for years as it gathered dust on a shelf.
Until the day two girls decided it would be fun to try on old, silly hats.
Koren Roguesoul would have his revenge on the old lich.
Carmen Salas was raised to value family and loyalty, above all. As a young girl, she was sweet and strong hearted, but incredibly shy. She relied heavily on the presence of her big brother, Eric, for strength, yet it was not to last. Eric, who had discovered he was a mutant, was cast out by their conservative family.
Carmen had entered her first turning point in life.
Torn between her unwavering love for her brother, and her loyalty to her family, she grew more introverted. It impacted everything. While she was a good student on a scholastic level, her inability to interact with others had become nearly debilitating. Things may have spiraled down even further, had it not been for a death in the family, and her second major turning point.
The death of her aunt thrust Carmen into a position of being relied upon. Her uncle had become crippled, and thus needed help to raise his daughter, Esperanza. Carmen began a brutal stretch of school, work, and essentially raising a nine year old girl, all while she was sixteen. Perhaps this is where her tremendous willpower developed, or revealed itself. Nonetheless, the day she became an unwitting bearer of the Hat, she was ready.
She just didn't know it.
Salas and the Hat
Salas encountered the Hat in a Steel Canyon antique shop, while with her young cousin. The Hat had become oddly docile, because of Koren's manipulations. Roguesoul had focused all of his power on holding the Hat's urge to dominate back, until the right bearer came near. Another, like him, with magic who could resist the Phylactery to a degree. Carmen Salas had weak, undeveloped Mu blood in her, but it was there regardless. Unleashed only a moment, the Hat fused with Salas, dooming her... and itself.
For weeks, Salas struggled with the Hat. It was powerful, and angry, but she had just enough magical power to keep it from taking over completely. She went days without sleep, scared, tired, but strong enough to keep fighting. When she found her brother again, he was able to steer her towards help. Carmen met Simi'Kraz and Arroan, who would aid her, and also become friends. Carmen focused on her magic, and seemed to be getting stronger. Strong enough to develop a life outside resisting the Hat. She joined the LSI, dealt with her sexuality (as a very reluctant lesbian), got into a relationship with Sylvia Rumare, and flourished.
But the Phylactery was powerful, and cunning. It had been "playing possum", luring Salas into a state of false security. And one day, it struck back.
Salas was immediately overwhelmed, and struggled with the Hat to keep what little control she had. Her grasp was failing though, and the lich stood ready to dominate her, and devour her soul.
Koren Roguesoul had one more plan, and spoke it secretly to Carmen Salas even as she fought for control of her own body.
They would trap the lich.
Castillo and the Trap
The magical mechanic for the Hat's enduring was nearly flawless. Control a body, consume a soul, and go about it's work of scouring evil from the land until the body was used up. In eras dominated by magic and mutants, this was fine. For 14,000 years, the Phylactery sustained itself this way.
The lich did not account for technology though, or alternate dimensions.
The Hat, at this time, was bound to Carmen. Carmen had meager magical powers, but a strong soul, and was able to fight... but only so long. Koren pondered, in the vast expanse of dimensions, couldn't there be another Carmen with the same willpower, but a greater control of magic? If so, while different people, their soul would be the same. If they could somehow trick the Hat into thinking Carmen's soul was missing, have it look for her, then find this new, more powerful, Carmen, they could trap it. Possibly.
Venturing into the Abyss, Roguesoul was able to baffle the Hat long enough for Carmen to retake control, and cross a leyline. Upon emergence, the Hat and Carmen's body remained, but her soul was gone, hidden by Koren's magic.
Originally unperturbed by the loss of the girl's soul, the Hat returned to it's work. It had been close to taking over her, now it didn't have to. It still had a body, but... something was wrong. The lich still couldn't do what it wanted. Carmen's imprint of good was still on it. Furious, the Hat realized what it had to do... seek the aid of soul trackers, find the girl's soul, and dominate her once and for all.
The trap was ready, all it need was... the trap.
Enter Carmen Castillo.
Castillo was the Praetorian version of Carmen Salas. The same will, the same look, the same trace magic. Salas had a weak ability to manipulate magical energy. Castillo's ability was spotted early by Powers Division and enhanced immensely by technology to a point where she could pull magic from almost any source, and focus it back rather explosively. Later in life she would be freed by, and then join up with, the Resistance. With her power to absorb and control so much magical power, she was ideal.
Quietly manipulating and aiding the girl, Koren lured her to Primal Earth. The Hat, by then, was at wits end, struggling to find Carmen Salas, or anyone, and dominate. Simi'Kraz carried the crown that truly was the Hat, near Castillo. The object leapt for the girl, only realizing too late, it had been tricked. Try as it might, it was linked to this soul, even one from another dimension.
The trap was sprung.
The trap was not without repercussions, of course. Carmen Salas was gone. Her soul, hidden all alone within the Phylactery by Koren Roguesoul, would eventually merge with Castillo's. While some of her memories and personality would blend with her Praetorian self, Salas had effectively sacrificed herself in the hope of ultimately stopping the lich by containing the Hat in a much more powerful version of herself, and stopping the cycle. For the time being.
The other loss was, of course, Carmen Castillo's life as she knew it. Recently a Resistance fighter seeking to free her people, now here was this ancient evil magic in her head. Coupled with having left her own dimension, and living in the shadow of her primal version, there was a risk she would crack to far different conditions.
The trap itself though was a success. Castillo was able to absorb anything the Hat threw at her, and took complete control in her own, and "spooky" form.
Whether or not the Hat is simply playing possum again remains to be seen.
(work in progress)
Powers, and Limitations
Carmen herself has furthered her Mu blood to become a mage of low to middle power, but in this section we will focus on the powers of the Hat alone.
The amount of magical knowledge the Hat has gained over 15,000 years is possibly unsurpassed. Very little arcane trickery can fool it, and it can recall most facts or spells nearly instantaneously. The problem is, of course, convincing the Hat it should share any of this knowledge, or act on it. The Hat's concern for any mortal beyond Carmen is middling at best, and it has only ever shown concern for her, or people close to her, and always very briefly. If this lore could be tapped, though, it would be a valuable asset to any research into the arcane.
Hand in hand with its magical knowledge, the Hat's array of wards and defenses is, in a word, staggering. Able to recall enchantments that are thousands of years old (some of which have been forgotten by spellcasters for ages), the Hat constantly maintains layer upon layer of complex defenses. While it would be daunting to list them all, it is assumed Carmen is safeguarded from most physical and mental attacks, either in her normal form, or as the Hat. She is also protected from a loss of oxygen, toxins, temporal shifting, teleportation, illusions, sleep attacks, extreme temperatures, and various other types of assaults and environmental hazards.
Physical Descriptions & Auras
Though she is loath to admit it, and covers it up well with a plain look, Carmen is a rather attractive young woman. Her physicality keeps her in shape, and she is tall (5-11), with dark skin, eyes and hair. Carmen manages to keep on the edge of skinny and in-shape, a lean girl of subtle curves. She doesn't possess a bust line of exception, but has the notably curvy derriere famous to some latin women. Aside from that, her legs seem to be the feature most noticed by those who notice such things.
Carmen's face has been noted to be exceptionally symmetrical, which is what caught the notice of the people who sought to employ her as a model.
Carmen is definitely shy, and carries herself so, complete with glasses and somewhat poor posture. She does quite enjoy dressing in bright colours, and in a variety of clothing based on the seasons and her taste
As the Hat
In transformation, the Hat alters Carmen's body to suit its needs. The physical change is slight, the body becomes a touch more muscled and heavier. The skin goes pale and hair goes white, and Carmen finds herself decked head to toe in black leather. The most prominent features are the ultra dark cloak, and of course, the shadowy hat. Not much else stands out, aside from the constant burning of the eyes in this form.
In Both Forms
Whether the Hat, or Carmen, there is always a potent magical aura to those who can sense such things. Further insight reveals it is a necromantic power of significance. The most powerful of magic users and magical creatures can even see the crown upon Carmen's head, even in her usual human form. It appears battered, tarnished and translucent, but is easily recognized by those sorts as an object of immeasurable power.