The Bleeding Phoenix
The Bleeding Phoenix is one of the four Dreadgods on Cradle, a monster of unimagineable power that even Monarchs hesitate to face. Like the other Dreadgods it spends much of its time sleeping, only waking to satisfy its endless hunger. The Dreadgod cult associated with the Bleeding Bird is Redmoon Hall, led by the Blood Sage / Red Faith / Sage of Red Faith.
The Bleeding Phoenix, like the other Dreadgods, is the result of research and experimentation conducted in the Labyrinth beneath Sacred Valley, some millennia ago. Probably about 2,500 years ago, based on comments by Li Markuth
The Dreadgods are about two or three thousand years old. They developed long after the time that Ozmanthus Arelius lived. They are a failed research experiment, unintentionally created by a researcher dubbed Subject One. Dreadgods formed as a result of experimentation in hunger aura and dreadbeasts. Four of the Dreadgods escaped the supposedly secure underground formation, but Subject One is imprisoned there. He invented hunger madra. See more details at Subject One
- Looks like a bird. Huge, crimson red, flying, molting, screeching, filling the sky with spirits to do its bidding:
"Then the crystal song of a giant bird filled the air. Rather than peaceful, it sounded like a war cry, and the sky began to swirl with red." (Bloodline chapter 16)
- Monstrous appearance, powerful, frighteningly sharp jagged edges:
"It was so large as to defy description, swallowing half the sky and stretching into the clouds. Each of its feathers was an oozing, flowing blob, as though it had been made from clumps of crimson gel pushed together. Its beak was curved like a scythe and razor-sharp, and its eyes were shapeless masses of white-hot power." - Chapter 16 Skysworn
Aspects: hunger madra and blood madra.
Techniques: Blood Shadows and Bloodspawn (described further below)
The Bleeding Phoenix possesses great physical strength, able to fight on equal ground with Akura Malice, during which she was using her bloodline ability, and shrug off blows from Northstrider. It also molts Blood Shadows and generates bloodspawn.
But, like all four monsters, Phoenix tires easily and just wants to feed and sleep. Or, as Dross tells Ziel, “Dreadgods don’t fight to the death. If the prey takes too much energy to beat, they back off.” (Bloodline ch 18)
From the author, Will Wight: Some Dreadgods are more intelligent than the others. The Silent King is always aware, he's always self aware, and he's the smartest one. And the Weeping Dragon actually is the second most self aware. The Bleeding Phoenix is third. And the Wandering Titan is just kind of an idiot. (https://www.abidanarchive.com/events/25/#e1860)
A Monarch cannot withstand a Dreadgod. In the apocalyptic Dread Wars, the previous generation of Monarchs was all but eradicated, with only two out of twelve surviving following a combined attack on the Wandering Titan, which woke up the rest of his brothers. (See Ashwind Continent History and see Dread Wars.)
“The Dreadgod gives birth to...a litter, I guess you'd say...of Blood Shadows at one time. They run around like Remnants, looking to find a host before they starve. When they find somebody, they usually drain them dry and take their power back to the Bleeding Phoenix. Every once in a rare moon, you run into somebody who takes them over instead.” (Skysworn, ch 10)
Yerin was only seven years old when a hungry Blood Shadow stole her childhood:
The entire purpose of the Blood Shadow was to steal power by killing or possessing others and bringing that power back to the Bleeding Phoenix, but Yerin hadn’t allowed hers to escape. Not since it had killed her parents. (Wintersteel chapter 16)
In the Cradle series, some few Blood Shadows are actual characters, even though they are blood spirits. The ancient and psycho Sage of Red Faith founded the cult Redmoon Hall and was the first to develop the methodology for utilizing Blood Shadows to gain power and advance. Now there are several Blood Shadow characters in the series.
“Redmoon Hall. Other than wearing red and black, they had very little in common —- some were followed openly by their Blood Shadows, but others did not keep theirs visible.” (Uncrowned, ch 9).
Persuasive & Parasitic
The Bleeding Phoenix is the only Dreadgod that can be physically destroyed. However, it's only a temporary defeat, because the embattled bird molts thousands of its feathers as "Blood Shadows" or parasitic eggs that scatter far and wide. Each Blood Shadow carries a fragment of the Dreadgod's power and consciousness.
When a Blood Shadow finds a powerful sacred artist, it persuades the artist to allow it to nest in their core (like an egg). It promises power and glory. Then it parasitically begins feeding from the host's madra, blood, and life force. The Blood Shadow returns to the Bleeding Phoenix when it is “full” to deliver the stolen power. In this way, the Bleeding Phoenix gets stronger as it rests. This is the basis of power used by the followers of Redmoon Hall, a Dreadgod cult.
Mu Enkai and the Egg
A Blood Shadow tale...
Mu Enkai had been nothing before the egg. He was born a servant, following just enough of a fire Path to allow him to operate a furnace for a low-ranked refinery. He’d spent his days shoveling coals and choking in smoke, making barely enough scales to live on. Then the sky had turned red. He and his fellow servants had taken shelter in the cold furnace, huddling together for days before the earth stopped shaking and the air was no longer flooded with blood aura. When they emerged from hiding, shaking but alive, it had been waiting for him. The egg was a glossy, polished orb the size of a man’s head, waiting among the debris of the refiner’s shop. Unlike the building, it was unharmed. Spotless. Beautiful. He could feel its promise in his soul; the blood aura that had drowned the world for days was concentrated here. Enkai had never considered himself an ambitious man, but in the egg’s sleek shell, he’d seen his future. (Ghostwater, prologue)
Shadows & Hosts
Emissary Longhook -- His Blood Shadow is / was his long bloody hook. He battled Eithan several times.
Sage of Red Faith —- He fed his Blood Shadow life energy and his own blood to control it, like a carrot, but it isn't truly loyal. So, it escaped his control and independently advanced to Herald. It now sits like a king, and dubs itself the Herald of Redmoon Hall. Or just Redmoon. (see book 10, and see Sage of Red Faith)
Ruby, Yerin's Shadow
As far as we know, the only sacred artist to resist a Blood Shadow without dying — which is to say, a Dreadgod -— is Yerin, when she was only a child of seven. For almost ten years, she wore that Blood Shadow as a belt. Eventually, she began to utilize her unwelcome guest. This occurred first at the end of book 4, Skysworn, when the Bleeding Phoenix had passed overhead and her Shadow was trying to escape and attack.
- She was guided in how to use her Blood Shadow by Eithan Arelius and the dream tablets he stole from the Sage of Red Faith (see Underlord, ch 4)
- Yerin fed Her Blood Shadow the Heart’s Gem, blood aura.(Wintersteel)
- In Wintersteel, her shadow adopted the name Ruby (chapter 20). Ruby appears to have a thing for Wei Shi Lindon.
- Eventually, Yerin merged with a willing Ruby, and her power grew enormously. She has blood madra now. And she can employ a huge bloody Netherclaw weapon now. And now she is a Herald, at Overlady. See Herald and see book 8, Wintersteel.
- Fanart by FelCandy, with permission
- The Sage of Red Faith is obsessed with learning how she learned to work with Ruby and yet remain in charge. He's obsessed with Yerin. Stalker crazy.
He took one step closer to Northstrider, hopping from one foot to the other like a bird. “Yerin Arelius has laid the foundation for something extraordinary. This could be a breakthrough, not just in our understanding of the Phoenix and Blood Shadow advancement, but in how we all reach Monarch. We have an opportunity here to revolutionize the sacred arts, and I know you are not the sort of fool to let politics blind you to that chance.” Northstrider nodded once. Then he punched the Blood Sage. (Wintersteel, chapter 6)
“These are bloodspawn,” Eithan said, shaking the last stains off his scissors as the liquid madra evaporated. “They are the least of the Bleeding Phoenix's creations.” (Skysworn ch 9)
Bloodspawn are blood-hungry little agents of the Bleeding Phoenix. Within the Phoenix's miles-wide range of blood aura, natural spirits known as bloodspawn are formed. Vaguely humanoid in appearance, they rise from sources of blood, including open cuts on still-living people. (Skysworn, Chapter 9; Bloodline, Chapter 15) They aim to wound those around them, increasing their own numbers and providing more blood madra for Phoenix, their master.
Blood Shadows appear to be able to control bloodspawn. At least, Yerin could stop them, with her Blood Shadow, at the end of book 4, Skysworn.
As though that single drop of blood had been a seed, a creature sprouted in seconds. It was a doll of pure crimson, formed as though from solid blood, shaped like a man but only half the height. It had no features on its head, but it turned to Cassias like a hunting dog. It loped toward him, using its arms for balance, like an ape. Her master had called them bloodspawn, and they were the stuff of her nightmares. (Skysworn, ch 8)
"Bloodspawn, like little parodies of men constructed from blood madra and the will of the Phoenix. They were red puppets, some of them shifting to take on crude shapes of the madra of those they fed on. When they rose from the Kazan clan, they were mostly blocky clay men. . . Directly beneath Ziel, a bloodspawn’s head opened wide to feast on a fallen man. This was the one common aspect between all the Dreadgods: hunger. Those of them that Forged these spirits did so to feed." (Bloodline chapter 16)