Subject One

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Subject One is/was a scientist who long ago swallowed his own potion, figuratively, and unintentionally became a beast, a powerful and nearly immortal Dreadgod. He’s imprisoned in the Labyrinth beneath Sacred Valley. We first hear about him in book 2, Soulsmith, when Lindon finds some of his research notes in the Transcendent Ruins.


His Names

Subject One doesn’t recall his birth name — he’s been more beast than man for too long, a Dreadgod consumed by endless need, raw hunger. He goes by many names. The Devourer itself. The Slumbering Wraith. Subject One. “The Father of Hunger” (Reaper, ch 1)

The being that some called the fifth Dreadgod, and others called the father of the Dreadgods. Their progenitor, the original, from which they were all formed. Subject One. (Bloodline ch 13)

In Brief

Subject One is (was) a scientist. Long ago, but after Ozmanthus Arelius ascended, he delved too deeply into hunger aura. To test his theory, he swallowed his own potion, figuratively, becoming the first test subject, and unintentionally became a beast, hungry, powerful, and nearly immortal. He’s the first Dreadgod, and the progenitor of the other four Dreadgods. Because he’s a monstrously hungry and powerful beast of a man, hard to kill and nearly immortal, he’s kept bound in the Labyrinth in the power-suppression field covering Sacred Valley. However, despite his imprisonment, he still has the power to attack anyone who enters his domain, using his powerful hunger madra. He is the Father of Hunger Madra.

His Corrupted Bloodline

Subject One is a Dreadgod, though few realize it. He is the first of his corrupted bloodline, followed by The Bleeding Phoenix and the other three beasts. He is the origin of the warped bloodline and the Father of Hunger Madra:

The last chunk of masonry rolled away, revealing a towering stone door. It was carved with the image of a gaunt, sunken human with many grasping hands, its eyes hollow and mouth open unnaturally wide. This was Subject One, at least as he had appeared long ago. A Dreadgod, though few knew that. The man who had become warped by hunger aura. The origin of their bloodline.’ (Bloodline, ch 20)

His Research

Unnatural Hunger Aura

Hunger aura was a serious problem warranting research. It was the direct cause of dreadbeasts. See Dreadbeasts

"Hunger aura drifted all over the world, and where it moved, all other aura weakened. It corrupted everything; Remnants, natural spirits, sacred beasts. Even humans." (Subject One, in Reaper, ch 21)

Dreadbeasts Multiplying
So much of it was hunger aura. Dreadbeasts
would be born or empowered every second.

-Reaper, chapter 9


As Subject One and his research team knew, hunger aura is not a natural substance. It is a by-product of overweening ambition and greed — Monarchs. Hunger aura is a corrupting force. Anything and anyone it touches, it corrupts. And it ranges freely all over the planet. Hunger aura corrupts sacred beasts, warping them into dreadbeasts.
These researchers sought to deal with Cradle’s problem of hunger aura.

His Research

Subject One is known as The Father of Hunger Madra. About 2500 years ago, roughly, Subject One was a researcher and soulsmith. He invented hunger madra, cycled from hunger aura, while experimenting with Dreadbeasts and hunger aura. His work had unintended consequences when it resulted in the rise of the monstrous dreadgods. He unintentionally became the first Dreadgod, dubbed the Slumbering Wraith. He is powerful and kept imprisoned in the Labyrinth.

Researching Hunger Aura

Hunger aura was a serious problem warranting research. It was the direct cause of dreadbeasts.

"Hunger aura drifted all over the world, and where it moved, all other aura weakened. It corrupted everything; Remnants, natural spirits, sacred beasts. Even humans." (Subject One, in Reaper, ch 21)

Dreadbeasts Multiplying
So much of it was hunger aura. Dreadbeasts
would be born or empowered every second.

-Reaper, chapter 9


As Subject One and his research team knew, hunger aura is not a natural substance. It is a by-product of overweening ambition and greed — Monarchs. Hunger aura is a corrupting force. Anything and anyone it touches, it corrupts. And it ranges freely all over the planet. Hunger aura corrupts sacred beasts, warping them into dreadbeasts.
These researchers sought to deal with Cradle’s problem of hunger aura.

Research Goal: Fix Hunger Aura

The research team wanted to deal with the problem of hunger aura. According to Subject One:

"Hunger aura is not a natural force. It is a corruption of the natural order of Cradle. A manifestation of ambition, of selfish desire, created by the presence of Monarchs.” In the time before the Dreadgods, "hunger aura drifted all over the world, and where it moved, all other aura weakened. It corrupted everything; Remnants, natural spirits, sacred beasts. Even humans."

He took a rattling breath. “We came to this Labyrinth as a secure location to perform our research. We were looking for a way to control the hunger aura.” ...“This site was old beyond memory, even to us. We used it as a trap to focus all the hunger aura in the world. Instead of running wild, it would be concentrated here, controlled by ancient seals. We researched fusing hunger bindings into animals, whose power would be suppressed by the great formation.” He laughed quietly, until Lindon couldn’t tell the difference between laughs and sobs. “We thought we had it under control.”

“The dreadgods will die only when there are no more Monarchs... Monarchs are too much for this world. A great weight. Sages like yourself are only half-ascended, which is within the scope of a world like ours. But when your body and your spirit have both grown too great for this world to contain, you must escape to a place that can contain you.” (Slumbering Wraith / Subject One, Reaper, ch 21)

Goal 2: Remnant

According to research notes discovered in the Transcendent Ruins, the researchers also wanted to create a sacred beast with a viable hunger madra Remnant, supposedly to use when Soulsmithing new constructs (Skysworn, ch 7). For more details on this, see hunger madra.

Why in the Labyrinth?

Subject One and his colleagues conducted their research in the Labyrinth under Sacred Valley. They needed a place big enough and secure enough to trap and contain all the free-roaming hunger aura in the world.

“He took a rattling breath. “We came to this Labyrinth as a secure location to perform our research. We were looking for a way to control the hunger aura. ...This site was old beyond memory, even to us. We used it as a trap to focus all the hunger aura in the world. Instead of running wild, it would be concentrated here, controlled by ancient seals.” (Subject One, Reaper, ch 21)

Hunger Madra

In the process of studying the corrupting nature of hunger aura, and its horrifying effect on everything, including dreadbeasts, the researchers created a new kind of madra — hunger madra. “They say he virtually brought hunger madra to life.”(Reaper, ch 1).

Perhaps the research goal was to find a use for all the nasty hunger aura drifting around the planet, to contain it, so it could no longer corrupt the world. Perhaps hunger madra seemed a possible solution.

“Generation Fourteen shows all the qualities we’d hoped for,” they read. “It demonstrates the capacity to devour and process madra with a high degree of efficiency, though each individual contains only one binding. If a sacred artist could cultivate similar techniques, our efficiency may double. . .” (Soulsmith, ch 17)

The Birth of Dreadgods

It gave off waves of hunger aura, and a level
of significance that at least matched the other
Dreadgod pods. The birthplace of Subject One.

-Reaper chapter 18

The research was going fine, and then. . .everything went wild.

“We researched fusing hunger bindings into animals, whose power would be suppressed by the great formation.” He laughed quietly, until Lindon couldn’t tell the difference between laughs and sobs. “We thought we had it under control.” (Subject One, Reaper, ch 21)

The next page had been scribbled in haste, judging by the carelessness with which the characters were slapped on the paper. “The failed specimens may be the key to success. Their auras alter as they devour one another, growing faster than we’d ever predicted. Theoretically, there is no upper limit on this growth, but the spirit warps the flesh.” (Soulsmith, ch 17)

Power, Ambition, Gluttony

The Allure
“You understand the allure of hunger madra, I see. Endless power.” He
gave a humorless chuckle. “We were wrong about virtually everything.”

-Subject One, in Reaper, ch 21

Subject One and his research team created hunger madra. It is powerful and empowering. They apparently fell victim to its allure. They put the binding in themselves. At least, Subject One did. (As apparently will Reigan Shen, perhaps).

In book 4, Wei Shi Lindon’s prosthetic arm gives him a good sense of the nature of hunger madra.

“He studied the arm. What he called hunger wasn't just that. It felt similar to hunger, but it was more textured, with deeper layers. He felt ambition, greed, gluttony, an endless desire to reach for more and more.” (Skysworn, ch 12)

Hunger madra is a force, virtually alive, always taking. Consuming. In book 10, when Lindon and the team had been in the Labyrinth for a while, they felt weakened. The hunger madra in the labyrinth was sucking their power. “How much of this weakness was the suppression versus the constant effects of being fed upon by hunger madra?” (Reaper ch 9)

Subject One’s Hand

At some point, Tiberian Arelius came into the possession of Subject One’s hand, cut from his imprisoned but still kicking body. Who cut it off? Possibly Eithan. The mummified white hand can be used as a key to access the Labyrinth. Tiberian loaned it to Yerin’s master, the Sage of the Endless Sword, because he wanted to find out how to separate Yerin from her Blood Shadow. When he died, Elder Whisper kept his void space open and preserved the hand (a key). Eventually he gave it to Lindon:

Eithan swept a bow. “Eithan Arelius, at your service,” he said, though he’d met Elder Whisper before. “I am a humble scion of the ancient House Arelius, which is the symbol I bear. This key that you have shared with Lindon was once the property of my clan’s leader and Monarch, Tiberian.” (Reaper, ch 9)

SPOILER: The Fate of Subject One

Spoiler for book 10, Reaper

SPOILER

Spoiler!!

From Reaper, especially chapters 21 and 24:


It’s pretty much impossible to kill a Dreadgod, and Subject One is a Dreadgod. The Monarchs cannot kill him and his four Dreadgods. The only way to kill them is for every Monarch to die and/or to ascend from Cradle, thus starving the beasts, because Monarchs create hunger aura as a byproduct of ambition, greed, etc. And the beasts consume/ cycle hunger aura into hunger madra.

But in book 10, Subject One allows lion Monarch Reigan Shen to kill him, after Shen promises to end the Monarchs, so all four Dreadgods might finally be weakened and allowed to die. Shen kills Subject One, but he has no intention of keeping his oath — he just wants his power. So the Monarch took Subject One’s core binding, thinking that he’ll have the power of Dreadgods.

However, Lindon makes a promise to Subject One’s ghost, to deal with the problem of Monarchs, which is actually the problem of hunger aura, hunger madra, dreadbeasts, Monarchs, and Dreadgods, all rolled up together.


Lindon also takes the dead man’s arm, for his prosthetic. It’s the hungry arm of a powerful Dreadgod, the “Father of Hunger Madra” and the First of the Five Beasts.