Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Foresthome: Tarston-Wall & Llynsey

Continued from the previous section.  Click HERE to go back.

Mystara Alphatia Foresthome Tarston-Wall map
County of Tarston-Wall, map scale: 8 miles per hex

As they ventured south, Foresthome settlers from Tirenios and Weilat ran afoul of Bettlellyn troops pushing north.  The theocracy had monitored the expansion of the sylvan realm with mounting annoyance.  Wessith’s ability to defeat the onslaught of monstrous tribes was a wake-up call for the theocracy.  Even more so, the multiplication of trading posts on the west bank and the growth of settlements convinced Bettellyn this wasn’t a fluke.  The theocracy mustered companies of pioneers and sent them across the woods beyond Deacon’s Rock.  Problems started almost immediately.  Pioneers ran afoul of the woodland clans inhabiting the nearby forest.  However skillful at surviving in the wilderness, these pioneers weren’t a match for angry actaeons.  After sustaining significant casualties, pioneers stumbled out the forest’s north side where they regrouped and built a series of small wooden forts, torching any farmsteads they found.  Tarston-Wall at the time was a borderland that hadn’t yet joined the sylvan kingdom—or from Bettellyn’s point of view, a virgin, lawless, heathen expanse at risk of being “conquered” by the Greenwood renegades.

After a number of skirmishes with pioneers, local settlers began organizing their fight.  These people had some experience dealing with forest clans since most already came from settled areas of Foresthome.  It wasn’t long before they established good relations with actaeons because they fought the same fight.  Repeated attempts from Bettellyn missionaries to sway actaeons only served to push them closer to the settlers’ side.  A merchant guild chimed in as well to protect its trading posts, loaning cash, supplies, and arms to settlers, and blockading with its own fleet the narrow gap between the lake’s western bank and the Principality of Llynsey.  They also faked a murder attempt upon a visiting Randel dignitary to incriminate a Bettellyn spy they’d recently captured.  Immediate reprisals across Bettellyn’s southern border turned the fight in the north into a minor issue from the theocracy’s point of view.  Meanwhile, the guild negotiated the use of royal rangers as combat advisors for the forest folk and for mercenaries it had hired privately.  One by one, pioneer forts surrendered and control of the river fell back to the settlers.

Mystara Alphatia Foresthome Tarston-Wall heraldry
After several more years of sporadic fighting, Bettellyn gave up.  There wasn’t enough wealth there worth fighting for.  The region became peaceful once more, and settlers enjoyed a good relationship with nearby woodland clans.  Alas, returning outsiders had become heavily indebted to the merchant guild.  Their situation was bad enough they became known as “debttlers.”  Most lost whatever land they’d fought for, becoming serfs serving the guild.  To guarantee these gains against Bettellyn aggression, the guild convinced the Greenwood monarchy to claim the land and establish it as a new county—a bulwark against Bettellyn to cover its southern flank while pushing westward to the Snake River.  To help in this endeavor, the guild financed the development of its main trading post in the area, which grew to become the Town of Tares (pronounced TAH-ress).  It strengthened the guild’s stranglehold on the region.  With the founding of Tares, the merchants adopted a new name for their enterprise, known henceforth as the League of Eight.

The monarchy named a count, settled official borders with Mersey & Weil, and enfeoffed remaining lands from there to Bettellyn.  Royal troops sailed in from Lakim  and reinforced the town’s fortifications.  The count and his family showed up when all seemed safe, only to be handed a bill by a league representative.  And a stiff bill it was.  Since much of the land had become property of the league, the count had to compensate the “investors.”  Part of the reimbursement came from the count’s own wealth.  Loans from Greenwood, including the monarchy, helped cover another part.  The count obtained from the merchants mortgages on rural lands while the league retained ownership of the port and many buildings in Tares, all at a profit for the league.  Merchants used these assets to house their local businesses, or collected rent and port fees, locking out any competition.  To this day, the count’s descendants still pay interest on loans and mortgages, having failed so far to eliminate the principal.  In other words, league merchants are free to impose their wishes upon the county authority.

Mystara Alphatia Foresthome League of Eight heraldry
At the present, the League of Eight uses Tares as its headquarters.  Mercenaries from the county’s formative years became full-time troops serving the league, nowadays mostly Yannifey immigrants.  Tares also houses a fair amount of royal troops, the county’s household banners, and the town’s own militia.  The old pioneer forts have long since rotted away, and small stone fortifications replaced them along the river’s northern bank.  Rangers use them as rallying points.  It’s how the river earned its name.  The whole county is seen as a southern bastion facing Bettellyn, at least on Foresthome’s western half.  Should an invasion take place, and there are clues alluding to such an eventuality, woodland clans form the first line of defense.  If need be, rangers have arranged for them to withdraw north of the Wall and fight alongside settlers there.  The Tower of Fyrpoint stands as a forward vigil should an invasion come from Corona Castle.  Tares and Oakstaff are both fortified and sit on the river’s northern bank.  Both feature ferry barges (no bridges.)  From Tares upstream, small galleys and longships can navigate up to the edge of the woods west of Oakstaff.  From this point on, the river flows through a rocky ravine ideal to hold off an army.

Actaeon: AC3, HD 11**, MV 150’ (50’), AT 2 spears/1 antler or breath, Dmg 1d6+6/1d6+6/2d8, Save C11, ML 10, Int 12, AL N.  Special defenses: camouflage (as if invisible), surprise (1-5 on a d6).  Special attacks: breath weapon once/day (cloud 10x10x10), save vs. dragon breath or be polymorphed into a random forest animal; if the save was successful, transformation only lasts 24 hours; can summon 1d6 creatures arriving 1d4 Turns later (1. Boar, 2. Bear, 3. Centaur, 4. Griffon, 5. Chameleon, 6. Treant).  Magical abilities of spellcasting actaeons are equivalent to 8 HD druids or wokani.

Actaeon population in the woods is actually somewhat limited, considering their sizes and the land area they need.  They share the forest with blink dogs, crones of chaos (Creature Catalog), and small, slender, flower-like humanoids known as florians.  While actaeons distrust crones and neighboring wood imps from Mersey & Weil, they act as protectors and representatives for wildlife and all forest clans.

Florian: AC9, MD ½*, MV 90’ (30’), AT sword, bow, or pollen, Dmg 1d2 or special; Save NM, ML 6, Int 10, AL varies.  Special defenses: look like large wildflowers when bunched in a shrub.  Special attacks: pollen (effect varies with individual florian colors); cloud size 1’ radius per flower of the same color.

Twin-legged, florians stand about a foot tall.  They can conceal their facial traits located at the center of their flowers, between their petals.  A florian’s face becomes visible if someone leans to smell the “bloom,” at which point the florian open its eyes and blows a small cloud of pollen into the victim’s face.  Clans of florians harbor a multitude of breeds with different colors and shapes.  When threatened, florians bunch up in a tight group and can hide their weapons under their leaf-like limbs.  They could easily be mistaken for shrubs  Like roses, they also feature sharp thorns causing 1d2 pts of damage if picked up or fallen into.  They’re usually found in groups of 10-12 individuals.  When secure or sleeping, florians grow roots so they may feed and repair any damage sustained during the day.  Florians are dormant during winter, hiding their stem-like bodies amid brambles or dense bushes (petals fall off in late fall and regrow in spring). Florians are thought to be the result of magical experiments conducted in Shraek some century past.  Neutral and Chaotic florians often decorate the cottages of crones who nurture and protect them.

Florian Colors & Effects

  • White: AL L; sleep (as the spell)
  • Pink: AL L; charm (as the spell)
  • Yellow/Gold: AL N; dispel magic (as the spell)
  • Red: AL N; victim falls in love with the next creature of opposing gender encountered (other than a florian).  The victim must leave immediately in search of a “lover” if none is immediately available (the last one seen being the primary target); permanent until dispelled.
  • Blue: AL N; allergy—save vs. petrification neg.  If the saving throw fails, the victim is disabled while sneezing uncontrollably.  Sneezing inflicts 1d2 pts of damage per round, for a number of rounds equal 20 minus the victim’s Constitution score + 1d4.
  • Purple: AL C; hold person, animal, or monster (as the spell)
  • Black: AL C; poison—generates an intense sensation of pleasure while inflicting 1d6+1 pts of damage per Turn for the next 2d12 hours.  Once initial saving throw vs. poison negates the effect—no other saves afterward.  While in a poison-induced dream state, a victim also suffers from addiction, seeking to breathe more of the pollen every morning until the poison is neutralized.
Although one save per victim is sufficient to overcome one type of effect, the number of flowers of the same color determine the area of effect (generally one victim per flower, except as described by the spell).  Rare double- or triple-color hybrids exist and are spellcasters equivalent in ability to level 4 druids or wokani.

Mystara Alphatia Foresthome Llynsey map
Principality of Llynsey, map scale: 8 miles per hex

Soon after east bank counties were established, permanent settlements cropped up on the nearby island.  Its previous occupants had departed a long time before as earlier realms fell, leaving nothing but wilderness.  Forests were few and very light, with high grass, reeds, and marshy banks ringing the shores.  As they had done earlier, the merchants guild of Llyn Lake (the future League of Eight) invested in port facilities and a trading post at the site of the future Town of Lakim (pronounced Lah-KEEM), attracting more settlers.  Seeing the island’s strategic value, the monarchy claimed it and established it as the personal domain of the direct heir to the throne, thus making it a principality.  It was intended as a naval base where royal troops could be safely garrisoned and easily dispatched to any theater around the lake (nearby Tutleby in particular).  There was also a wish to entrust to heirs a land that they could learn to rule, as a preparation for their royal duties later.  It was a convenient solution since apparently there were no local clans with which to contend.  The royal garrison would also provide ample security to the ruling heir.  If none was available, or the heir was too young, a steward would rule in the heir’s place or as a regent.

Mystara Alphatia Foresthome Llynsey heraldry
Placing an heir on the faraway island was also a measure ensuring the monarchy did not keep all its “eggs” in the same basket.  Although palace intrigues in Greenwood (see the Queen’s Lands) weren’t deemed auspicious to princely youth, it wasn’t long before cohorts of ne’er-do-well aristocrats would flock on the island and turn it into an expensive resort area.  The relatively warm waters of the lake, rich in healing minerals, were another attraction.  Steam and mud baths are now all the rage there.  Tiara and Princestone are examples of “jewel-villages,” with varnished cobblestones, gilded streetlights, and white-marbled villas.  Colored pebbles were shipped in and dumped on local shores to cover the marshy beaches.  Quaint and small though luxurious, these properties huddle together and overlook the idyllic lakescape.  They were built on the ruins of older settlements.  Commoners live on the outskirts, in hamlets dotting lowlands surrounding the hills.  The eastern side is the poorer area, where workers depend upon employment in the copper mine recently excavated there.

Mystara Alphatia Foresthome Navy heraldry
The truth is that non-human clans did actually live in the area.  In particular, a race of frog-like people had claimed the thick, marsh-like reeds lining the eastern shores.  They return to the reeds when it is time to release their spawn into shallow pools.  Known as broggas, these odd people look like five-foot-tall humanoids, with webbed hands and feet, and facial features reminiscent of batrachians (wide mouth, bulgy eyes, small nose, small ears, etc.)  Perfectly amphibious, they maintain villages near the shore, just below the lake’s surface.  When they were discovered, a ruling princess offered a bargain, granting them parts of the coast they had used to raise their progeny in exchange for accepting the protection and authority of the princes.  The attractive offer was readily accepted, considering the broggas’ issues with a colony of kopru (Creature Catalog) dwelling deep under Lake Llyn roughly northwest of Tiara, near hot water springs.  At first eminently proud of herself for her first act of statesmanship very much in the spirit of Foresthome’s monarchy, the princess later realized she had gotten embroiled in a fight with kopru.  Water-breathing wizards were dispatched and indeed helped the friendly broggas, but their ancestral enemy responded with raids and abductions along Llynsey’s coast.  Since then, the shores and villages are carefully watched, while royal vessels patrol nearby waters.  Before winter, broggas leave their watery realm and burrow under the shore where they go dormant.  Entrances into these lairs are carefully concealed with mud and silt held together with gooey saliva.  Part of the lake may freeze, especially near the banks.  The kopru live at a greater depth, where the water is warmest, and they do not hibernate.

Brogga: AC 5, HD 3+1*, MV 90’ (30’)/120’ (40’) swimming, AT 1 tongue or spear, Dmg 1d4 + glue or by weapon, Save F3, ML 7, Int 9, AL any (usually N).  Special defenses: water-breathing; underwater can blend among algae or silt (1-4 surprise on a d6); above water can leap 15’ vertically or 40’ horizontally once every other round.  Special attacks: tongue can reach 10’ away and capture small prey or snatch small objects (25% chance targets are caught off guard and something taken right out of their hands); +2 to hit when leaping over a foe.  Clan leaders can have as many as 6+2 HD.  Spellcasters are equivalent to 6HD druidic shamans or 4HD wokani.

Kopru: AC 3, HD 8+4*, MV 30’ (10’)/150’ (50’) swimming, AT 1 bite/1 tail or charm, Dmg 1d4/3d6, Save F9, ML 9, Int 10, AL C.  Special defenses: +2 bonus on saving throws vs magical attacks.  Special attacks: charm (once per day; 30’ range; lasts until dispelled); a victim obeys its kopru’s mental commands (a kopru knows all that its victim is thinking or can remember); only one kopru can charm the same victim; with a successful saving throw vs. death ray, a target becomes immune to all further charm attempts from a party of kopru.  Spellcasting kopru are equivalent to 8 HD shamans or wokani.

During midsummer nights, kopru may visit to their blackroot allies, swimming up the Darkmoss River and its tributary.  Muddy lairs under the surface allow kopru to take shelter during the day.  Some actually connect with unnaturally warm, steamy dungeon levels beneath Shog (see County of Ashbury).

To be continued.

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