Corky & Stefano Romano


(True name: unknown) Though frequently selfish, deceitful, and manipulative, the demon known as "Corky" is not strictly evil. Drawn more from Mesopotamian mythology than Judeo-Christian beliefs, a comparison can be drawn to a race of infernal beings known as the "udug," which are mentioned in some of the oldest exorcism texts known to man.

Although morally ambiguous, the demon Corky has many traits in common with the popular image of a demon. He is capable of possessing people, animals, and objects, although once anchored, he can only be safely removed by an exorcism or another host's invitation. He is also capable of extracting, moving, and feeding off the souls of others (but only with their permission). Fortunately for the host, Corky need not devour the soul to gain nourishment; if he remains in close proximity to a promised soul, he can nibble away at it for many years without causing serious harm. One major difference between Corky and other kinds of demons is that Corky cannot occupy a body at the same time as the owner's soul. In order to transfer himself, Corky must first move the occupant's soul to a receptacle. Non-living receptacles such as jewelry or weapons make the best homes for these souls as Corky slowly leeches off them. Corky requires soul energy to inhabit a living body; if at any time he were to be cut off from his food source, the host body would gradually reject him. Although this is a very slow process, it would end with his mortal shell deteriorating around him until it crumbled to dust. Without a worldly disguise, Corky would soon be located and taken back to the underworld by his master demons, the Gallus. In his true form, Corky manifests as a darkness beyond darkness, ever shifting and changing, but tangible. When he occupies a host, there is only one clue to his true identity: a shadow that is always pitch black, regardless of the lighting or time of day.

A few years ago, it was this tip-off that alerted a priest to Corky's presence in a nearby village. Corky had possessed a local barfly, having won his soul in a game of cards, and the priest could tell by the way he was rubbing a brightly colored poker chip exactly where the demon had stashed the man's soul. Using a powerful spell, the priest restored the man to his body and banished Corky into an ancient oak tree. This oak tree would likely have been Corky's prison for several decades, had a toymaker not found it in his search for lumber.

Personality-wise, Corky is not terribly malicious, but his avarice often makes him selfish. He loves the surface world and all of the stimuli it contains. He is happiest when meeting interesting people and experiencing new things. This is rare for him, as he has lived a long time and done many things.

Stefano Romano

(Born Larian Darill) A high elf from a long line of wizard nobility, Stefano was always the black sheep of the family. Although he had the genes and upbringing to be an accomplished magic user, Stefano's lifelong dream was to be a famous entertainer. Having lived around wizards his entire life, he found true magic to be the mundane result of research and experimentation; stage performers, on the other hand, crafted their illusions using cleverness and skill, which to him was far more impressive. Therefor, the young noble focused his studies on learning the arts of misdirection, trickery, and acting...his chief educators ranging from crooked politicians to petty criminals. It was ultimately this disreputable company he kept that led to the young man being disinherited by his parents.

Without his familial wealth to rely on, Stefano's search for fame took on an urgency that led to many ill-advised decisions. Rather than taking the time to refine an act or focus on any particular stage craft, the young noble chased fads and sought out any shortcut he could find. He'd play parody songs on a tavern piano one night and swindle tourists with his card tricks the next. His most momentous turn, however, was when he decided to take up ventriloquism. Never having the patience for classes or books, Stefano was able to pick up the basics from a tavern keeper who gladly traded them for a night of free music. Although most of his voices sounded like they came from gritted teeth, Stefano soon felt he was ready to purchase his first dummy. That dummy, found heavily discounted and tightly bound in a run-down curio store, would change his life forever.

The Duo

There were early signs that the dummy (whom Stefano had named "Corky") was more than it seemed. For one thing, despite Stefano's limited studying and rehearsal, the dummy performed its act flawlessly for every audience. And yet, although it was saying the lines Stefano rehearsed in the same cadence and tone he practiced, there were times when the dummy spoke louder than expected, or the timing was slightly off somehow. It was as if someone else was speaking using Stefano's voice. One night, the young performer dropped a punchline entirely, as a test. Sure enough, the dummy spoke the words regardless.

As the handful of patrons filtered out that night, Stefano took the dummy up to his room and sat him down in a chair. He confronted what he knew to be the entity possessing the doll and demanded it reveal itself. Corky, capricious as ever, stood up and danced, before singing a profane chanty with Stefano's trademark tight-lipped/gritted teeth delivery.

The dummy then made the bewildered Stefano an offer: in exchange for the young man's soul, Corky would make him part of the most famous ventriloquist act of all time in only a few years. Having exhausted all of his finances on securing his room for the night, Stefano was more than eager to take the dummy up on his offer. What was one more shortcut on the way to the top? As it turned out, neither Stefano nor Corky gave this arrangement the proper amount of thought. When making contracts of such eternal consequences, the devil is always in the details.

For Stefano's part, he failed to realize Corky never mentioned which part of the act he'd be. It was therefore a rude awakening for Stefano when he found himself in a chair several times too large the next morning. Although he had limited control over his arms and legs, they felt heavy, yet thin and rigid. His terrified screams awoke the figure sleeping in the bed next to him, who wore a very familiar face. It was his own. It smiled and wished him good morning in the same forced, grumbly voice that used to come from the dummy. The dummy that Stefano now occupied.

For Corky's part, he failed to realize that promising Stefano he'd be the most famous ventriloquist act of all time meant he actually had to make Stefano the most famous ventriloquist act of all time. Should he fail to keep up his end of the bargain, Stefano's soul would reconstitute within him and evict him from his new body by the end of five calendar years. Corky had never even written a press release before, so it was a daunting task.

One thing that both of them realized is that the act worked much better with the roles reversed. Stefano, ordinarily the "straight man" of the pair, looked even more awkward and hapless as the dummy. Corky, always the irreverent scoundrel, got to flex far more muscles as a full-sized elf, and was much better at lying and threatening his way into a bigger paycheck for a night's work. Although Stefano wasn't exactly in love with life as a small wooden man, it was a small price to pay for the realization of a lifelong dream. Truth be told, he was always secretly jealous of the attention his dummy used to receive. Now he was the one getting the applause. He was the one getting the flirtations. He was the one getting the fan mail. He was the star now. And it wouldn't take much work for him to be the biggest star. There really weren't that many famous ventriloquists to compete with. Bugsy and Baker were probably the biggest superstars the stage had ever seen, but they'd (he'd) been dead for several years. Soon Stefano and Corky would take their throne. Today it was small town taverns and dives, but Corky was making plans to book them in big city venues. It was their time now.

Backstory by Stephen