The Origins of Arx Mortis

Abram Covington (Doctor Pravus)

Abram was born of modest means in 1918 to Abraham and Sarah Covington in the small town of Killing, Alabama. His parents owned a small lot of hard clay and rock that broke the back of his father and put him in an early grave just trying to scratch out enough food to feed his family. His mother struggled to keep the family afloat, but there was not enough money to keep the house and soon it was taken by the bank. His mother and baby sister moved to a small mission run by a local congregation, but there was no room for a young boy. He took to picking up odd jobs where he could, living in the back of a local grocery store.

In the summer of 1930, he took a job at the local mortuary up on Ghost Hill. Here Abram’s life took a turn. The Doctor that owned the mortuary had lost his son and wife, and his daughter was mad with fits of rage overtaking her - some so violent that she shattered her teeth and broke bones. The Doctor was mad with grief and had left all the duties of running the mortuary to his partner, Doctor Adolph von Reaper. Under von Reaper’s tutelage, young Abram learned German, Latin, and French. His aptitude for learning came so easily and naturally that Von Reaper convinced his partner to sponsor the boy in school. So, with no formal education, at the age of fifteen, Young Abram went off to Wheeler Preparatory School for young men.

At school, Abram excelled in his studies, earning marks at the top of his class. In 1934, as his final year at Wheeler was coming to an end, a fire destroyed the Mortuary and took the lives of everyone there, including his mentor Von Reaper. The estate was taken by the state and all the money dried up. The school disenrolled him, sending him packing with no money even to make his way back to Killing, AL. That same year, his mother passed away and his sister was found murdered.

Abram found himself all alone and destitute, unable to get his transcripts from Wheeler. Due to lack of payment, he was left with no provable education - so he took to working in libraries as a janitor, and at night he would read the books that lined the walls. Such wonderful books! They filled his life. Inside their covers were the answers to thousands of questions and the beginning of a thousand more.

He traveled from library to library making his way to the New York City Public Library, where he became interested in ancient cultures and rituals. He dug through hundreds of manuscripts and papers, compiling notes and cross-referencing them. Over and over again he found one common factor…the number NINE.

He found that Nine could be found interlaced throughout all the ancient cultures; the Hebrews saw Nine as the judgment and forever tied to the number Six. The equation 3 + 3 = 6, whereas 3 x 3 is 9, and 6 inverted is the number Nine. Nine was known as the judge because by casting out Nine, the truth of a mathematical problem could be determined - thus to ancient civilizations Nine was known as the judicator. Even language has, grammatically, nine parts: the verb, the noun, the adjective, the participle, the conjunction, the article, the pronoun, the preposition, and the adverb. The number Nine in Hindu philosophy was key for teaching. He found Nine nodes of bamboo that the Taoists revered, Nine openings to the male body in Islam, Nine noble virtues in the Odinic rite, and the religion of Asatru (and even Christianity) enumerates Nine fruits of spirit, just as the Chinese dragon is made up of Nine animals. Culminating all of this, Abram found that the Sumerians prophesied that in the end, what could be created in Six days could be undone in Nine. Being that the Nine children of Perdition were born of the angels cast from Heaven (half human, half dark angel), they could not be banished from Earth. The Nine were commissioned with the destruction of order… and the return of chaos.

Intertwined among this singularly odd occurrence of the number Nine, he found cryptic references to a secret society called Arx Mortis, translated from Latin meaning “Death Fortress”. This society had one goal - the summoning of The Nine, and fulfilling the prophecy. But before he could decipher who this organization was and the identity of The Nine, war broke out. He was drafted and shipped to the North African front, where he was a medic.

It was here Abram discovered his true calling – it was as though he was born to mend flesh. The few doctors, over burdened with casualties, increasingly gave young Abram more and more duties. He accomplished each new task with the precision and expertise of a trained surgeon - even performing surgery without supervision, his own survival rates were higher than those of the trained surgeons. In man, jealousy is a terrible beast and he was soon transferred to the front lines.

Hands that had once healed now had a rifle shoved into them and he was ordered to kill. It was here that fate took its final cruel twist. While pushing forward across the desert, his small platoon came upon a German bunker. Inside they found all the men dead. Their eyes were sunken, the veins in the faces were black as if some caustic bile had been injected into them. There was a table in the room with strange symbols, some of which Abram noticed to be the number Nine in different languages. He looked about and, as his fellow soldiers took cigarettes and booze from the shelves, he gathered up the notes and papers he found.

That night as the others slept, he sat up reading the research. It concerned the bones of what the Germans thought was a child of Perdition that had been found in the ruins of an ancient tomb, here in north Africa. They spoke of the tomb being sealed with the symbol of Arx Mortis, but they were certain the society had died off centuries ago. As he read, in walked a young girl. He looked up, startled. Her eyes were like pools of emerald and her skin was perfect porcelain. In her hand she held an ancient book inscribed in Hebrew with the words, “The Book of Nine”. She smiled, and with a wave of her hand Abram Covington felt his heart clench and his lungs spasm for air - but none was there. He fell to his knees, knocking the table and lantern over and the tent caught fire. He grabbed for his chest, his veins felt like liquid fire had been poured into them. He fell forward, griping the sand… his body convulsing.

His fellow soldiers were springing from their beds as the flames leapt higher. Through the tears of blood and pain he saw the young girl’s smile and heard her whisper “mortis”. Abram recognized it as the Latin word for death, and just as quickly as they had jumped up, those soldiers fell to the ground - their lives snatched from them by just a simple word. She stepped forward, oblivious to the flames, gently lifted his head and kissed him on the forehead. Pain immediately seared through his head, radiating from the kiss she had given him, traveling through his body like a rushing wave and bringing unimaginable agony to every fiber of his being. He looked into her liquid green eyes as she gently held his head up. How could such innocence hold such evil? She bent and whispered in his ear “You are now Pravus.” The last thing he remembered were the sounds of death and two large men gathering him up…

He awoke lying on a cold metal floor. He tried to stand, but the floor rocked beneath his feet. He caught himself, and realized his body was wracked by hunger…he tried to steady himself, but found that he was unable to steady the floor. A few steps out the door and he soon understood. He was on a ship! He stumbled out onto the deck, the moon illuminating water as far as the eye could see. He doubled over in pain, feeling as if his stomach would turn on itself if he did not eat soon.

He fumbled his way forward, hunger controlling him. He turned the corner to find a man tending foul weather gear in a locker. Without warning, Abram…no Pravus, fell upon him. He tore at the man’s neck with his teeth, his hands locked onto the poor soul’s head. The man screamed for help, which angered Pravus, so he slammed the man’s head into the bulkhead repeatedly until he was silent. The being that had once been Abram Covington was horrified at what he had done, but the burning inside of him that was Pravus knelt and ate of the man’s flesh. When he had fed, he lifted his head to notice the girl watching him.

“I am Prophet. I have chosen you to fulfill my mission. It has come to my attention that you seek the meaning of Nine… and of Arx Mortis. The truth will soon be revealed. As for now, you must feed. It has been a week since you have eaten and even your undead body needs food…but please, there is plenty of flesh prepared for you in the Galley. Do no harm to the help.”

He did not see her for some time - not until the ship arrived in Mobile and they made their way to his hometown. He was given access to money and fine clothes and told to purchase the estate where he had worked as a child. Once he had acquired the ruins of the old Graystone Manor, he was told to build a clinic and open it to the public. A diploma from Wheeler Prep, a degree from the University of Bellview Medical School, and a doctor’s license were provided to legitimize his work at the clinic.

Prophet knew things about the property - it was as though she had been here before. She took him to the old crematorium and told him to knock out the wall behind it, where he found a corridor to a secret lab. There he found papers describing how to bring a body back to life. Prophet told him to destroy all such research - it was of no use, just the ramblings of a depraved lunatic. Boxes arrived from strange lands, all addressed to him, and soon workers arrived to build and guard the clinic, and more importantly, the lab.

Covington Clinic opened in 1947. By day, Doctor Covington helped the good people of Killen, Alabama (the town formerly known as Killing), but at night he became Doctor Pravus, and he was given the macabre task of creating bodies for the Nine Sovereigns. It was then that Pravus took to writing his journal. Whereas the previous doctor of the Manor had spent his time with dead bodies, Prophet only wanted living victims - the flesh had to be alive, she said. A Sovereign must have a living host, but each would have to be carefully created to accommodate their special needs and desires.

Pravus learned there were Nine Sovereigns, of which Prophet was one - a child of Perdition born of a woman and a fallen angel. The original Nine had been killed, their bodies burned to ash and the ashes scattered across the oceans. She alone escaped with her life, and the body of Lord Mautamus. The secret society, Arx Mortis, hid the body in a tomb where it was protected until the Germans found it and excavated it. From Mautamus’s bones and the flesh of living victims, Doctor Pravus would now begin to create fitting hosts for the remaining Nine and Lord Mautamus himself.