The Quest of the Searing Skull was a narrative released on the official Killer Instinct website to serve as a rebooted backstory for Spinal in Killer Instinct (2013). It was released in a news post on November 30, 2015.
In clearer moments, when the insanity of his ancient bane isn’t fully in control, Spinal remembers snippets of his previous existence, before he was cursed, when he was human, feared, and rich….
Recruited by a scheming vizier in ancient Babylon, Spinal and his bandit network were hired to disrupt the city’s flow of resources—one small move of the Vizier to lessen the King’s power by constricting his wealth. The monarch proved too wise however, and the conspirators were rooted out, captured, and subjected to sorcery. Each was burdened with a curse that would unravel their bodies and minds in unique and diabolical ways.
As punishment for his rebellion against rule, Spinal was shackled to a powerful artifact of control: the Mask of the Ancients. This accursed veil turned Spinal into an unthinking arm of the King’s will, bound to protect and serve the potentate, with no ability to question even the most suicidal of orders. The Mask did not prevent rebellious thoughts and free will; but it overrode any attempt to disobey the King’s commands.
Trapped inside his own head, Spinal went mad as his body carried out more and more brash and dangerous tasks at the behest of the king. He felt every cut, break, and wound his body endured, but he could not act against the all-powerful will of the Mask. He had become a mere automaton wielding dark magicks.
After a time, the King grew bored with this torment and ordered Spinal to burn himself alive as a final rite of purification in penance for his crimes. While his flesh melted away, Spinal’s skeleton remained, and even when the Mask was removed from his seared and smoking skull, there yet persisted a will and a force that moved the bones, however feeble it might be.
Fearing that this punishment would backfire on him, the King ordered the wretch’s remains sealed in a lead coffer and the Mask thrown into the sea. Over centuries of isolation and imprisonment in that confined space, Spinal slowly gained control of his body, able to once again exert a will on his bones and form them back into a human skeleton, held together by ghostly sinews.
The cost on his undying mind, however, was grave; and most of what was the man was now burned away to insanity and unquenched desire. But he was finally strong enough to break out of his coffer, and Spinal wandered beneath the oceans and seas, searching fruitlessly for the Mask, scouring the wrecks of ships for any trace of it.
Washing up in the Caribbean centuries later (and drawn by a pull he could not understand) Spinal took up a pirate’s life as a way to track and plunder precious items moving around the continents, always focused on finding the Mask. Many stories were told of the skeletal pirate and his dread galleon sinking vessels full of treasure and gold without ever looting a single coin—the demented marauder laughing with mad glee as he preyed on his victims. For Spinal had finally embraced his insanity…and he felt a primal joy as he wreaked havoc and chaos with rediscovered magicks.
What he did not know was that the sought-after relic had not been thrown into the deep as the Babylonian King had commanded. Through the years the fabled Mask of the Ancients had moved from collector to collector until finally, it had fallen into the hands of Ultratech and ARIA. Researching its origins, the AI gleaned its connection to this strange undead creature wandering the seas, and used it to lure Spinal to her side. ARIA dangled the Mask as a reward for entering the Killer Instinct tournament…and so Spinal agreed.
While ARIA did indeed manipulate Spinal to serve her needs, she granted him the Mask once the tournament had ended. Spinal donned it with an insane glee, hoping to augment his power and spread pandemonium throughout the world. But he found the Mask’s power had been utterly stripped.
Knowing there are greater powers at work, Spinal sets out to find what robbed his relic of its faculties, hoping to defeat that entity and absorb its might so that he can infect the world with a glorious and maniacal frenzy.
Spinal’s ability to curse his victims has been diminishing, and he suspects it is due to the Mask’s loss of power. His control over the magicks that bind him, however, are increasing. His instinct tells him to embrace his life as an agent of chaos and to do anything necessary to master these magicks and grant himself insane new abilities.