Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Frisland: The Duchy of Wyllareth

Continued from "The County of Västheim"

Once ravaged during the fateful Crusade on Ancient Orzafeth, an easy mark thereafter for those dastardly Qeodim raiders, Wyllareth struggled to rebuild itself. After its rebirth as a duchy, its ruler played a new card to solve her predicament. . . or did she?

Mystara Alphatia Frisland Hex Map
Duchy of Wyllareth -- Map Scale: 8  Miles per Hex
This oblong province runs nearly 400 miles east to west, and 168 miles north to south at its widest spot. Save for the Baalbeth Vale, Wyllareth is as hilly as a flounder stuck under Thor’s hammer. . . and about as joyful. It is a sinister land, overcast, cold, windy, devoid of much population, and marked with scars of war still visible to this day. Wrecked towns and strongholds altogether fail to qualify as ruins, but more as ruins of ruins, following the vicious de-Orzafething campaign to eradicate all things harking of Outer Beings. What Alphatian inquisitors did not raze had already been desecrated, crushed, and desecrated once more by the fiends of Orzafeth. What little was left was hastily buried or scattered.

Wyllareth offers little or no natural defenses. Rivers are shallow and muddy, except for the Fris River marking the eastern border with Ar. The latter forms a wide delta, an unfreezing quagmire cursed and forbidden to visitors from both sides. Of late, unseen events have stirred souls haunting the swamp. These are the brooding remnants of a massacre that took place during the Age of the Yanifey. Those in the know have observed that unrest seems to be on the rise when Ogam shamans celebrate religious rituals in their faraway hills. The reason for the undead’s turmoil remains unclear, for they seem divided along opposing factions with varying attitudes toward the living—from dire at best to horrific. The departed resent being put to rest, for they have unfinished business among themselves.

The Baalbeth Vale extends southward from the western edge of the duchy. Lying between the Frislandic Range and the Baalbethine Mounts, the so-called valley is a hilly area, mostly forested, which runs along the Morbek River. It is Ogam territory, although Wyllareth officially claims it as a part of the duchy. The stronghold of Adkazi (pronounced ad-KAH-dzee) locks the pass leading to the great plain of Wyllareth. The hated nomads dwell in caves, which often connect with each other through a network of tunnels. Some descend deep beneath the surface, leading to ancient horrors left there to bide their time until roused to war and chaos.

Weather conditions around Mafertat are similar to those prevailing in real world Stockholm, Sweden—temperatures average between 19°C./66°F. in the summer to –8°C./17°F. in the winter. It qualifies as humid continental. Conditions tend to remain cloudy, especially during the warmer months. Average temperatures drop farther east along the coast as the result of an increasingly cold sea current. Sea storms are frequent. Prevailing winds blow from the west, but northeasterly polar winds aren’t uncommon in winter, driving down temperatures well past averages, and provoking massive snow storms along the coast.

Population: The majority of a population of 291,000 lives along the coast, save for the inland Ubdazi area near the border with the County of Hosseta. Wyllarethian commoners are of mixed Antalian, Alphatian, and Yanifey ancestry, the latter being strongest in the eastern half of the duchy. As with neighboring provinces, aristocracy remains exclusively Alphatian. Elves and dwarves are few in this land, and halflings rarer yet. The main town, with 9,300 inhabitants, is Mafertat and home to the duchy’s ruler, Her Highness Elyasatham. Other urban centers include the old kingdom’s fallen capital, Ydroyas (pronounced yee-DROY-as), with 7,700 townsfolk, Gowola (about 6,200 people), and Ubdazi (pronounced oob-DAH-dzee), home to 5,100 inhabitants. Rural Wyllarethians are essentially cattle-herders. Harvesting crabs in the fall, fishing, and whale-hunting in spring and summer are also major activities. Farming yields mostly barley and oats to feed livestock. Ship-building, however, remains at a minimum due to the lack of an adequate source of lumber. As a result, most structures are made of stone, often recovered from the scattered remains of ancient ruins. Quarries are otherwise active in the foothills of the Beatha Spur and Baalbethine Mounts.

Challenges: Wyllareth suffers from the same troubles as the Grand Duchy of Frisia, namely banditry and the proliferation of toxic plants. Another gnawing and nagging problem lies in remains all-too-hastily-buried centuries earlier, now unearthed by fits of inclement weather. Tainted bones emerge that ought to have been purified and taken away long ago. Other things that should never have been forgotten find a way into the hands of innocent and wicked alike, furthering the causes of the Outer Beings well after the demise of Orzafeth. As in Frisia, the Fellowship of the Ancients is active in Wyllareth and supports ancient Yanifey cults. It stands behind many a mercenary company having turned to banditry, either as the result of greed or the effects of illicit substances.

Battle of the Stone Golems: [by G.G.] This desolate field outside the former capital (which once lay inside the old walls of Ydroyas—the city having been much larger in earlier times) is littered with what appears to be cracked, moss-covered fragments of once-magnificent marble and granite statuary. Some of the larger pieces are still recognizable as fragments of arms, legs, and torsos, all magnificently sculpted to resemble athletic men and women. To most locals, the site is a convenient place to grab a nice piece of stone to patch a wall or fence, while some educated artists have been known to travel from as far away as Haven in search of "stone with a story." But it is only when one visits the Mound of Faces, a 20-foot-tall pile of half-smashed golem heads rising from the middle of the old battlefield, that it is possible to appreciate the scale, and desperation, of the battle that was fought here.

During the dark kingdom of Orzafeth's ascendancy, a horde of Ogam warriors laid waste to the old kingdom of Wyllareth. The queen, Drydythya, valiantly tried to save as many of her subjects as possible by opening the gates of Ydroyas to all who could reach them, but her act of goodwill created a crisis. The beleaguered port city's population swelled from 16,000 to 32,000 people within a matter of weeks, bringing starvation, disease, and frequent riots. Drydythya begged the emperor for aid, but unbeknownst to her the Imperial Court had recognized that Ydroyas, and by extension Wyllareth, could not be relieved in time. In his response, the emperor saluted the queen for her courage and sent 50 stone golems. Drydythya ordered all of the remaining ships to carry away as many people as possible, and marched with the golems against the encroaching Ogam. The ensuing battle lasted six hours, during which the golems smashed hundreds of Ogam warriors and dozens of loathsome servitors of the Outer Beings, while the queen, avenging her dying realm, unleashed volleys of deadly magic.

Population Diagram: Purple = Suburban, Red = Settled, Blue = Borderland

Ultimately the golems fell during the assault, and Drydythya's magic was exhausted. No one today knows for sure what happened to her, but the most commonly-told tale is that she was sacrificed atop a pile of golem heads erected by the victorious Ogam. Regardless of what really happened, none of the locals will set foot near the Mound, and those sensitive to magic (divine or arcane) often claim to feel a pall of sadness descend on them if they draw near. The long-dead queen does in fact haunt the hill—either lost in sad reveries or writhing in fury over her loss. If a reasonably powerful people of Lawful Alignment were to approach, she might urge them to take up her cause and destroy the Ogam once and for all. If they pledged to do so, she would reveal the location of her most prized possession: the Royal Crown of Wyllareth.

Royal Crown of Wyllareth: [by G.G.] This simple crown, the symbol of the monarchs of Wyllareth, is a one-inch-wide silver band inset with twenty thumbnail-sized moonstones, plus one more, palm-sized and star-shaped, mounted above the brow. When worn, the crown radiates an aura of calm (all fear spells are neutralized within 20’; the otherworldly effects of the Outer Beings are nullified within 5’). Each of the twenty small moonstones acts similarly to a ring of spell storing, and can hold one spell of up to third level. The wearer will instantly know what spells are stored in the crown. The main stone, however, will absorb up to fifty levels' worth of magic directed against the wearer (absorption is automatic unless the wearer wills it otherwise). Each level of absorbed magical energy may be discharged as a magic missile if the wearer desires. This counts as an attack, although the wearer may discharge as many magic missiles as desired in one round. The crown may be used by any character class. No creature of Chaotic Alignment may touch the crown without suffering considerable pain (1d6 damage per round of contact).

Baalbeth Monolith: [by G.G.] Also known as the "Dusk Spire" (a rough Alphatian translation of the Ogam name for the landmark), it is a hundred-foot-tall green obelisk, whose sides are covered with strange runes (a debased form of the old Carnifex runes) made of inset obsidian. The Dusk Spire is always cold to the touch. It is surrounded by a brownish fog that dims all light within a 20’ radius, so it seems to be late evening near the monument during daylight hours. The obelisk stands in the midst of a small, spring-fed marsh that forms part of the source of the Morbek River. Alphatian wizards have been studying the Dusk Spire (and other monoliths) ever since the realm of Orzafeth was defeated. After centuries of intermittent research, however, the only things known for certain are that the obelisks are designed to store magical energy that is not native to the Prime Plane, they were fashioned of stone that is not native to Alphatia or the Known World, and that they pre-date the Ogam themselves by hundreds or thousands of years.

Ruins of Ogamai: [by G.G.] Although marked as ruins on the map, this site is a hundred-foot-wide blast crater fringed with broken shards of superheated glass. It is the remnant of an Ogam fortress blown to oblivion roughly thirty years ago by a skyship "loaned" to the Librarians under the authority of Empress Eriadna—the crew thought they were simply testing new magical weaponry. The fortress itself had been little more than a collection of squared-off boulders piled in a rough pyramid, but the Librarians knew it concealed the entrance to a warren of tunnels that crisscrossed the mountains, and served as a meeting place for several Ogam clans. Destroying it during a known Ogam festival, they reasoned, would sow chaos among the degenerate hill tribes, sever lines of communication, and likely kill several of their more influential leaders. While the fortress was indeed destroyed (along with several dozen warriors and a couple of chieftains), the attack simply spurred the Ogam to dig deeper into the mountains. This forced the Librarians to send agents into the tunnels themselves, a much more perilous and uncertain endeavor.

Recent Events: Both Antalian and Alphatian temples are present in Wyllareth, competing for supremacy. They’re not alone. Obscure faiths dating back to the original Yanifey natives still exist, despite efforts from established temples to root them out. Since the Orzafeth Crusade, another pantheon has also made its appearance in the duchy: the Archons of Bettellyn. Since before the old kingdom’s catastrophic debacle, Wyllareth has had difficulties attracting settlers from the south. Mercenaries were paid to hold the land, but most eventually turned to blackmail and banditry. Bettellyn troops were subsequently sought to enforce peace and order once and for all. They succeeded. It became an honored tradition for certain Bettellyn military, paladins and fighting clerics in particular, to serve "up north" for a number of years. These zealots beg for assignments at the stronghold of Adkazi at the Baalbethine Pass, for they hope to drench their Ineffable Glaives of Faith in Ogam blood. As the result of this military caste’s lasting presence, temples to The Seven have been erected in many places in Wyllareth, which compete strongly with the older cults. People trust paladins, because these knights get the job done. And they all look really good too. Locals in search of worthy spouses fall on top of one another to gain the favors of a knight. Many have married and are raising children, adding a growing layer to the duchy’s ethnic, religious, and political mix. Ubdazi hosts the largest concentration of Bettellyn troops, which attracted population to that region but also altered its original character. Save for the Adkazi stronghold further west, this local town is a traditional starting point for major expeditions into the Beatha Spur and the Baalbeth Vale, via Baalbetha Tower.

Mystara Alphatia Frisland Heraldry
Armies of Wyllareth: The duchy’s army and navy count 3,500 troops, mostly holding towns—1,000 in Ydroyas, 770 in Gowola, and 500 each in Mafertat and Ubdazi. Land forces own a limited number of giant bears mounted by one or more riders on saddles or in leather-lined nacelles like those strapped to war elephants elsewhere. These fierce and treacherous beasts do reasonably well in hilly terrain while conventional cavalry works best in the open plains of Wyllareth. The latter explains why Wyllareth prioritized their equine-opportunity business: the duchy is a major supplier of warhorses to Bettellyn. Making up about a third of land forces, Bettellyners aren’t fluent in the local patois. They rely on standard Alphatian to communicate. Wyllareth’s love of cavalry resulted in only a tiny household fleet—three submersibles and a large sail ship, all based in Gowola. Known respectively as the Haileabó, Tuinnín, Ochtapas, and Míolmór, they patrol the coastline in search of Qeodim raiders. The duchess also commonly hires private vessels to assist her ships in their mission.

Diplomacy: Wyllareth’s present military situation determines much of the duchy’s politics. Being largely unpopulated and subject to internal banditry and Qeodim raids, the military is the province’s greatest expenditure. Still smarting from the region’s historic devastation, the successive dukes have paid a substantial part of their seigneurial budgets for household forces, mercenaries (now Bettellyn knights, their retinues, and auxiliaries), as well as new stone fortifications protecting the main towns. Relations with Wyllareth’s liege, King Edjer, are as cold as can be as a result of the duchy’s refusal to dismiss its Bettellyn banners. The king sees the knights as a threat to his authority, as they swore to serve the duchess alone. It was an affront he never forgave. With good reason, he remains uncertain of defeating them should he decide to launch a punitive raid into the defiant duchy. Instead, King Edjer uses blackmail to turn his other dominions against Wyllareth. As astute observers might have expected, the king strongly opposes the betrothal of the duchess’s daughter to the Count of Västheim. Likewise, Queen Aberria of Foresthome has been a staunch critic of the duchy, as have Ambur, Floating Ar, and Randel. Azafeth officially opposes the presence of Bettellyn knights, being a pawn of the Great Council, but secretly remains envious of such a formidable cohort—the marquess’s paranoia against foreigners would probably spoil it all, however. The situation in Wyllareth fits perfectly with Bettellyn’s long term goals and, therefore, the two states are tacit allies at the expense of King Edjer. On the diplomatic side, Bettellyn claims that these troops are not part of its army—technically, these are independent mercenaries who went to Wyllareth on their own accord and at the duchess’s behest. The Great Council in Vertiloch finds Bettellyn’s thinly-veiled ingerence in the duchy’s domestic affairs entirely regrettable, but Empress Eriadna—knowing what's really at stake—has declined to take action. When all is said and done, it’s really just another day in Merry Old Alphatia.

This order of knights was created when the duchess began looking for mercenaries outside Frisland. A successful missionary from the Temple of Ardoryl—a consummate opportunist—saw the prospect for a private war against evil and its many benefits. He’d found evidence alluding to the existence of the Ogam and their Outer Being patrons written in ancient scrolls hidden at the Grand Basilica of the Magisterium. This prompted him to organize a company of knights and make an offer to the duchess that she couldn’t possibly refuse. All with impeccable service records, these elite troops had spent a significant portion of their careers in Bettellyn’s armed forces, yet they required minimum payment. The Temple of Ardoryl quietly bankrolled their equipment, additional horses, and sea expeditions to faraway Wyllareth. A fair bit of medieval marketing painted an aura of sanctity over the mission, which struck a chord among Companions of Ardoryl—mostly paladins, war-clerics, and proselytizers. Since the order was established, it has become today a mark of distinction for young paladins and clerics to "do their bit" in the name of their patron immortal. A tour of duty lasts ten years when volunteers sign up. Before they leave, entire banners receive blessings at the Grand Cathedral of the Shroud in the Archdiocese of Quanfax, during a glorious ceremony performed in honor of their devotion and sacrifice.

Mystara Alphatia Frisland Heraldry
With the permission of the Duchess of Wyllareth, the Right Reverend Monsignor Azrathalem, Vicar General of the Order of the Light—the knights’ Grand Master—established his headquarters in Ubdazi soon after his first few banners arrived there. Individual lances (tactical groups of three to six knights and their retinues) were dispatched where needed to take over required law-enforcement responsibilities, in accord with the agreement between Azrathalem and the duchess. The remainder, the best of the best, was split between Ubdazi and Adkazi. As years went by, the order erected a cathedral to Ardoryl in Ubdazi and a citadel in which to settle for the long term. Thus began the Second Crusade against the minions of the Outer Beings.

Though rank and file warriors are unaware of the existence of the Scions of Antalia, suspicions are growing in the wake of the disappearances of some of their comrades in arms. Upper echelons, however, have not only identified but clearly linked the Scions to abductions in Wyllareth; Bettellyn equipment bearing personal marks of those taken, if not the latter’s mutilated and desecrated remains, turned up in Ogam territory, inferring a connection between the goat herders and the dissident Västheimers. Officially, the Order considers the Scions dangerous spawns of chaos and rabble-rousing traitors to the empire who will be summarily executed if captured (after some predictably lengthy scorching of their anatomical extremities).

Top leaders of the Scions, however, adopted an exceedingly ambiguous attitude toward the Order. In a more immediate sense, the knights are Alphatians and therefore fair game as regards the ongoing bargain with the Ogam. When the final phase of the Scions’ plan kicks in, however, the Scions will support the Order instead, at least indirectly. They view the knights as key pawns in their insidious game, setting up circumstances leading the Order to score critical victories against the Ogam—yet claiming credit for the crusaders’ achievements. The Grand Master of the Order, whoever this may be at the time, may reluctantly become partial to this change of heart, but not the rank and file (should they ever discover the extent of the Scions’ crimes against the Order). Everyone knows that harming a brother is tantamount to a personal challenge to the entire brotherhood, a gesture that will never be forgiven and will sooner than later be avenged. As a final word on this topic, it dawned on Scions that capturing a Paladin of Ardoryl is no idle business, for where a brother stands one or two more lurk nearby, watching each other’s backs. This sort of endeavor has become more dangerous of late, as knights have been forewarned and sometimes set up ambushes.

The Ark of Ardoryl: In truth, the knights came to Wyllareth with a bit more than their swords and their faiths. Along with them arrived a holy artifact, obtained from the deeper vaults of the Grand Reliquary of Bettellyn just outside Citadel. The ark is carried to a battlefield only when confronting the greatest of evils. It comes in the form of a large chest about 10’ long, 5’ wide, and slightly higher, containing seven six-foot-long feathers of Ardoryl. An intricate pattern of overlapping eagles carved in silver and gold adorns the artifact. Large wings hold a circular mirror on the top, and sturdy poles extend on both sides to enable a worthy dozen paladins to carry it forth. All knights and clerics chant a battle hymn to summon the artifact’s powers. A part of their own vitality is sacrificed in the process (in game terms, a tenth of their hit points, rounded up). A blinding light then shines, defeating any darkness, natural or wicked, followed by bolts of divine fire striking all that is evil within 300 yards. The overall damage inflicted upon the opposing army is equal to five times the knights’ sacrificed hit points. For example, a hundred Level 4 warriors could inflict:

100x5x4/10 = 200 hp (sacrificed by the knights)
200x5 = 1,000 hp (inflicted upon the enemy force)

The damage is then divided equally among opposing troops and their monsters (no save). On an individual basis, however, any foe sustaining at least 50% damage must save vs. Death Ray or be disintegrated on the spot. Foes who aren’t evil (taken here in a general sense) are stunned instead of being disintegrated. The chanting requires one Turn to effect the relic’s holy powers. The blinding light lasts during the final 1d4+2 rounds of the incantation and illuminates all within a 300’ radius. At night, foes incur a –2 penalty to hit, to their Armor Classes, and to their saving throws while blinded. Damage is otherwise instantaneous. The relic can only be used this way once per year, and therefore the knights aren’t likely to squander its power on a skirmish, or take the risk of carrying it into hostile territory without good cause.

The artifact also inflicts 3d10 passive damage per round (no save) to anyone coming within 30’ if they aren’t faithful to Ardoryl, except for horses and other four-legged companions associated with the knights. Animals, unless accustomed to the ark, do not willingly approach as they can sense its aura of power. Anyone of Chaotic Alignment or who is intrinsically evil must save vs. spell each round; their eyes melt if they fail. The lid of the ark can only be removed with the proper prayer. Paladins carrying the artifact are chosen from among the most pious and valorous (seventh level minimum), and are tasked with protecting the holy relic with their lives. If detect magic or dispel magic spells are cast upon the ark, spellcasters must save vs. spell with a –4 penalty or fall on their backs; footwear and socks are also knocked off and flung 3d10 feet away. The ark does have one weakness: it does not affect the undead at all.

Monsignor Azrathalem,
Vicar General of the Order of the Light

Mystara Alphatia Frisland Heraldry
This Bettellyner is first and foremost a missionary cleric for the Temple of Ardoryl. He bears no ill feelings toward anyone, as long as they eventually adopt his faith. His grand project—the Order of the Light—merely is a tool to achieve his goal: the complete conversion of Wyllarethians to the Cult of the Seven, and the establishment of the duchy as the point from which to further spread of the faith into Ar and the rest of Greater Frisland. It can be said that Monsignor Azrathalem does not wish an end to the mission against the Ogam, for it would invalidate much of the reasons for the Order’s presence up north. Therefore, a complete military victory remains undesirable. For the sake of the Greater Good, he will quietly scuttle any scheme by Scions of Antalia to facilitate a military triumph on the field, should he become aware of their game.

As the conflict with the Ogam developed, the Vicar General became disappointed with the goat herders’ impermeability to the benefits of honoring Ardoryl. How people could possibly prefer the Outer Beings to his patron remains entirely beyond his comprehension. Yet, he hasn’t given up on swaying to his views whatever pitiful Ogam his knights drag back to his citadel at Ubdazi. Captives are taken to the dungeons, locked up, and healed for the purpose of undergoing extensive experiments in proselytism. All avenues are explored, from torture to psychological warfare, re-education/indoctrination, drugs, alcohol, demonstrations of Ardoryl’s magical prowess, carrot-and-stick tactics, alternating periods of magical charms, medieval brain-washing, and the use of whores of either genders. Hired help was quietly secured to study methods used at the Lighthouse Penitentiary in Ar’s Upper Harpy District. Monsignor Azrathalem promptly discarded the idea when he discovered the technique implied using harpies, a concept entirely sickening to Bettellyners worth their holy salt, even for the sake of the Greater Good.

Meanwhile, the Vicar General has forged a lasting relationship with the duchess. He’s taken every conceivable step to be of service to her, knowing that his mission is fully predicated upon her decision to welcome his order of knights—against her own liege’s demands. The duchess is therefore the weakest link in his plan, and he worries about this day and night. Slowly and skillfully, Monsignor Azrathalem has begun the task of swaying her to the Cult of Ardoryl. A talented prelate and his ecclesiastical retinue have been dispatched to Mafertat, officially as a liaison between the duchess and the Right Reverend, but mostly to gradually expose her to the benefits of honoring Ardoryl. In his opinion, only when she becomes a true faithful will the holy mission be guaranteed to continue. Her conversion to the Cult of The Seven would be a momentous event in the duchy, one requiring a solemn and very public ceremony at the Cathedral of Ardoryl in Ubdazi. It would be a decisive political statement. This also is the reason why the Vicar General issued a statement to his troops that adopting Wyllarethian spouses is an honorable and praiseworthy pursuit, as well as a duty to the Temple of Ardoryl. Cash is dispensed for newlyweds, which further attracts candidates among the local population. If enough of her subjects adopt Bettellyn’s faith, then the duchess would greatly enhance her popularity by doing the same. Alas, such a decision may very well provoke a civil war in Greater Frisland, which is guaranteed to escalate into a larger conflict (a possibility that hasn’t escaped the keen minds of Ogam shamans).

Appearance: [by J.D.P.] The Right Reverend Monsignor is tall, stately, magnetic, and in his mid-to-late 40s. He has typical white Alphatian skin, and startling bright blue eyes that appear to see to the foundations of one’s very soul. As with all knights of his order, he keeps his head shaved except for a round swatch of black hair on the back tied into a short pony tail. Azrathalem’s features are regular and very handsome. His short manicured beard begins under his ears and ends beneath the cleft in his chin: it shows a few silver hairs amid the black. The Grand Master’s baritone voice owns the facility for bellowing battlefield orders, then softening moments later to comfort a frightened child. It is whispered that he requires only three sentences to convert unbelievers to Ardoryl. The diplomatic talents he employs are exceptional, and Azrathalem makes certain every individual he speaks to receives the full force of the dynamic personality behind that puncturing blue gaze. He wears the colors of white, gold, and deep purple. Azrathalem is highly religious and devoted to his immortal benefactor. Yet, he fights an internal conflict between what his heart tells him about goodness and the needs of his functions as the leader of a military order. Between where the Greater Good ends and where evil starts sometimes lies a fine, tenuous line.

Monsignor Azrathalem: C21, AC–3, hp44, MV 90’(30’), AT 1 sword or spell, Dmg 1d8+3 or by spell, Save C21+5, ML11, AL L; St13, In15, Wi17, Dx10, Co12, Ch16. Magical Items: +2 plate armor of holiness, +1 shield of grounding, +2 chaos slayer, and +2 medallion of incorruptibility, and ring of Equus. Special Abilities: Turning Undead as a cleric; as a Companion of Ardoryl: Adeptheal, minor contrition, protection from evil; Discipleardor, cure affliction, exorcism; Witnesscure greater affliction, Ardoryl’s blessing, major contrition; Messengercure minor magical disease, immunity to poison; Heraldgalvanize, rally; Prophetcure greater magical disease, Ardoryl’s fortitude.

Note: Clerics of Ardoryl may wield swords only against foes known to be inherently evil or of the Chaotic persuasion. They are otherwise required to use a mace (Azrathalem’s is a +1 magical weapon).

Armor of Holiness: This suit of plate armor generates a 30’ aura that bestows any inherently evil or chaotic foe within range a –2 penalty to hit and to saving throws. Open hand contact by these same foes also inflicts upon them 1d4+2 damage per round (no save).

Chaos Slayer: If wielded against an inherently evil or chaotic foe and an unmodified score of 18 or better is scored, this sword causes the inflicted wound to ignite. Flames cannot be extinguished with anything less than a dispel magic, and last 1d4+1 rounds during which they inflict 1d6 points of additional damage per round (no save). The burn wound may bear lasting consequences (10% per round the fire burned). Its location is determined as follows (d%): 01-10 sword-bearing arm, 11-26 opposite arm, 27-58 torso/abdomen, 59-74 left leg, 75-90 right leg, 91-00 head. Adjust/reroll as appropriate for non-human creatures or as common sense dictates. Multiple hits to the same spot extend the duration of the burn. A burned arm or leg is permanently withered (–1 penalty to Dexterity and Strength) A withered arm cannot be used in combat; if the sword-bearing arm is withered, the victim must gain the proficiency to fight with the opposite arm or suffer an additional –2 penalty to hit. A leg injury reduces speed and results in a pronounced limp. With an injury to the torso or abdomen, the victim incurs a –2 penalty to Constitution and a permanent loss of an additional 1d6 hit points. With a head injury, the victim suffers a –2 Charisma penalty. A cureall or wish is needed to restore injured parts to their former glory.

Shield of Grounding: This magical device diverts energy from electrical attacks, such as a lightning bolt, a blue dragon’s breath weapon, and similar powers. The electrical energy is entirely absorbed, including its area of effect, and harmlessly dispersed. The shield only needs to lie within the attack’s area of effect to function.

Medallion of Incorruptibility: This magical device provides a +2 bonus to Armor Class and saving throws, and blocks mind-controlling effects including charm spells, fear, and innate mind-bending abilities of Outer Being minions. Whosoever wears this medallion shall be stricken by a fiery bolt (20d6 damage; save for half) if knowingly transgressing expectations of Lawful behavior, although allowances can be made for the sake of the Greater Good. Once it is worn, this medallion cannot be removed from a living person short of a wish spell. An analysis spell only has a 10% chance of revealing the part of the enchantment about behavioral requirements and the need for a wish spell to remove the medallion. A detect good spell will evidence an aura of utter Lawfulness beaming from the device.

Ring of Equus: This magical ring is carved from hoof material. On command, it summons a warhorse from the Ethereal Plane. In bright sunlight, it appears white. In dim conditions, the horse glows slightly and seems somewhat translucent. In the Prime Plane, the creature is equivalent to a warhorse of good value, although it can only be hit with +1 or better magical weapons. Twice a day, it can be made to ride into the Ethereal Plane, where it may fly at twice the speed of a normal warhorse, or return to the Prime Plane. When dismounted, the steed vanishes and its essence returns to the ring. If the creature is destroyed in combat, the ring disintegrates. This mount does not ever tire, require food, leave hoofprints, or produce a clattering sound like a normal horse, as it glides just a hair above the surface upon which it treads. It does, however, nicker, chuff, and snort like a living horse. If damaged, the steed can only heal when returned to the ring; it does so at the rate of 1 hit point per hour during which it cannot be summoned.

Her Highness Elyasatham, Duchess of Wyllareth
Mystara Alphatia Frisland Heraldry

It so happens that the illustrious duchess and those of her House bear a dark secret. A distant forebear was made the object of a powerful curse for spurning the feelings of a ruthless sorceress. He died in the process, and the remainder of this line was left to suffer the consequence: every first born in his blood line comes to this world as an incubus or a succubus, as the case may be. Terrible creatures these, for they can quite easily conceal their true nature from divination magic and show themselves for what they are not—neither would they wish to, being perfectly content with their fates and the games they play with unsuspecting humans.

Lady Elyasatham is the first born of her generation. There was no other issue, somewhat unsurprisingly. She succeeded her parents to the ducal throne when they inexplicably abdicated and retired from public life to somewhere in the Kingdom of Blackheart where they held property. Soon afterward, she married the Count of Hosseta’s younger brother. She became pregnant during their honeymoon at Nautilus Manor in beautiful Arogansa, but suffered an accident a few months afterward amid circumstances that to this day remain unclear. Her unborn son was, alas, lost. She had a daughter the following year, thus her first born. Her husband disappeared less than a fortnight later, the evidence pointing at his abduction during a bungled military raid in the Baalbeth Vale. Jewelry that had belonged to the late duke was subsequently recovered from a captured goat-herder. Again, circumstances surrounding the duke’s abduction remain confusing, a fact compounded by the premature execution of all those more or less responsible. The Count of Hosseta, suspicious about his younger brother’s death, made thinly veiled accusations, but wasn’t able to prove anything. Relations between the two neighboring dominions have suffered appallingly since this incident took place.

In the wake of this event, Her Highness Elyasatham obtained from an undisclosed source a scroll inscribed with a powerful curse. She unleashed its magic against the Ogam as a gesture demonstrating her grief and anger at the hated goat-herders. The public reading of the spell was done at the seigneurial palace in Mafertat, amply advertised among Wyllarethian aristocracy. It provided the closing for a masked ball of epic proportions, which no member of local Alphatian society wanted to miss. The recitation from the strange scroll, fashionably entertaining to watch, invoked deliciously wicked language and ominous shadows that thoroughly thrilled the wizardly guests. Its magic did cause an enormous amount of anguish among the targeted shamans and their people hundreds of miles away. It killed every first born among their livestock, of which they own plenty, for it is currency among these nomads.

From an Ogam point of view, this "goat magic" was a very "naughty" thing. First born goatlings and lambs are sacred animals that are offered to Outer Being patrons. Tribal shamans promptly held a parlay, at the end of which they issued a decree calling for revenge against the duchess and her first born. The Ogam mounted a series of attacks against Adkazi and Ubdazi, and raids deep into the duchy. The ducal army nearly collapsed, and civil unrest raged. Mercenary companies rebelled and took advantage of the lawlessness to turn to banditry, making it even easier for Ogam raiders to get through. A few attacks on the palace almost succeeded, were it not for the duchess’s skill in holding her own keep.

Lady Elyasatham knew full well what she was doing when she cast her spell against the Ogam. It was all part of an elaborate scheme. Her first move was to entertain her daughter’s betrothal to the Count of Västheim, because the neighboring county seemed to have the uncanny ability to prevent Ogam incursions into its lands. It was the safe place to be, and the duchess quickly sent her daughter there. It also was shrewd business on her part, for a marriage would seal an alliance with a worthwhile party, one with the money she lacked. By then, Her Highness was already negotiating with a Bettellyn prelate for a reliable mercenary force. She henceforth welcomed to her lands the new Order of the Light and its so-called Vicar General. It was the second step of her plan: by openly associating with these knights, she clearly aligned herself politically with Bettellyn—another ally, one with the army she lacked. A phalanx of paladins sworn to protect her with their lives also came off as an irresistibly arousing prospect.

Having achieved her two preliminary goals, it is now a matter of time before events escalate into civil war. The duchess understood that her royal liege, King Edjer, would never accept her deliberately defiant attitude toward him. She now expects him to attack the duchy and confront her knights. Considering the king’s fiscal abuses of Västheim’s wealth, she’s nearly certain the count would join her in opposing their liege. Bettellyn, all too eager to protect their presence in Wyllareth, would inevitably intervene, widening the conflict to Randel, Foresthome, and finally Vertiloch. And the price for peace? Surely the restoration of Wyllareth to its pre-Orzafeth royal status could be negotiated in the face of the Ogam attempting to exploit the ensuing chaos. The duchess had long ago foreseen that the Scions of Antalia would play their "secret" card in her high-stakes gamble, unlocking the diplomatic impasse of a full-blown war in Alphatia—her grandfather, an incubus, had seen to it that an obscure follower of Loki suggested such an idea. If so, then all forces involved would suddenly turn on the unsuspecting Ogam. Empress Eriadna would ill afford to ignore such an opportunity, should word of its possibility reach her at the right time. This master plot had prompted the duchess’s unfortunate injury earlier in her married life because she needed a daughter as her first born to secure an alliance with the House of Sidharram. As to the ultimate fate of cults in Wyllareth, Lady Elyasatham couldn’t care less. She has no interest whatsoever in immortals, and Lawful victims are sweetest of all—thus, all the better for her troubles!

As a side note, the duchess has been seeking for years the legendary Crown of Wyllareth. Alas, her efforts have failed so far. Somehow, the spirit of Queen Drydythya trusted neither her distant successor, nor those in her service, regardless of their Alignments. Their failure to yield clues from the Mound of Faces puzzled many a paladin of her personal guard. The duchess feels her victory would not be complete without this symbol of authority and legitimacy.

Appearance: [by J.D.P.] Duchess Elyasatham is a gorgeous voluptuous woman with long, wavy, midnight black hair and sparkling deep green eyes that give no hint of her dual nature. She maintains a healthy, vivacious appearance centered around 45 years of age. Her white skin contrasts most effectively with black and dark red clothing; she wears her hair fastened with red jeweled clips. Delicate features call attention to her seductive full mouth. Elyasatham’s reputation as a tragically bereaved mother and spouse brings her sympathy from some, and helps cover the Machiavellian side that continuously plots and plans. The duchess has, so far, been able to pull the wool over the eyes of a powerful prelate and his paladins; at the same time, she has also made a mockery of an entire theocracy. It’s anyone’s guess what she’ll do as war approaches: but wise bets should be placed on Elyasatham to come out of any debacle relatively unscathed.

Lady Elyasatham: HD18, AC0, hp70, MV 120’(40’)/240’(80’) flying, AT 2 claws or 1 sting or spell effect, Dmg 1d4+1/1d4+1 or 1d6+poison or by spell, Save F18, ML9, AL special; St14, In19, Wi13, Dx16, Co n/a, Ch17. Magical Items: +2 dagger of ethereality, scarab of protection, ring of invisibility detection, talisman of the abyss. Special Abilities: as a magic-user level 18; else, see below.

Succubi and incubi are malicious spirits born in the bodies of humans or elves of great Charisma. They gain experience levels in a character class as a normal character would. Succubi, used here as a general term, can adopt any character class during their youth, but cannot change after making a choice (only an inherently evil or Chaotic patron can be honored as a cleric, ruling out druidism). They have the ability to completely mask their true Alignment if divination magic is cast upon them, displaying instead an ethos of their choice. Likewise, once they reach maturity, their bodies cease to age, although they can give themselves the appearance of aging. At puberty, succubi learn to access their true form, which includes red skin, a pair of large batwings, a forked tongue, a tail with a sting, wicked claws, and twisted horns.

In addition to normal class abilities, once per day succubi in either forms may send dreams to known victims during their sleep to influence their feelings. A successful Wisdom check or immunity to charms and mind control negate such dreams and block any further attempts. If the check fails, another dream may be sent the following night. As long as the checks fail, the dreams’ influence builds up, each time adding a cumulative penalty to the roll. If a victim meets the succubus in person while influenced, a final Wisdom check is made with a penalty equal to the number of dreams. If this check fails again, the victim will seek a romantic liaison.

Succubi in either forms can cast a special charm during physical intercourse with a partner. This charm is powerful enough that it does not permit a saving throw. If the victim happens to be immune to such abilities at that time (such as wearing a magical protection, for example), the victim suffers an arcane death instead. Children born to incubus fathers or succubus mothers will remain permanently charmed by the malevolent spirits. Nothing short of a wish will undo this type of spell. During physical intercourse, succubi can also peruse at will the minds of their victims as they would open books, and implant false memories. If the charm is broken, a cureall is still required to restore original memories. A successful exorcism will expel a spirit from its host who then retains all memories of past events and class skills; Alignment on the other hand is likely to be the spirit’s opposite—undeniably Lawful.

Though ancient succubi have plenty of skills related to their chosen classes, they cannot implant into someone’s mind a skill they do not possess or a skill conflicting with the subject’s class limitations. Once a skill is implanted, it will be remembered after an exorcism. Suppressed skills always return after an exorcism.

Although succubi in any form can only be hit with +1 or better magical weapons, they remain able to get past a protection from evil spell. Their innate powers in any form also include: at will—ESP, infravision, clairvoyance, clairaudience (as the potion); and twice a day—hold person, wall of fire, and teleport object. Succubi are immune to charm, poison, fire, or lack of air. Poison from their stings is of the paralyzation type (as a ghoul’s). Succubi cannot heal naturally or with magic. However, while in their wicked form, they have the option of draining a level of experience from a victim during physical intercourse (one per round of exposure). Each drained level heals 1d8+1 points of prior damage to a succubus. Worn armor and magical protections do not modify a succubus’s defenses, unless they exceed natural Armor Class when combined.

Dagger of Ethereality: On command, this finely wrought dagger enables the owner to shift back and forth to or from the ethereal plane, or cause someone wounded by the blade to be sent there (saving throw negates).

Talisman of the Abyss: This device looks like small black sphere which the owner can conceal in a pouch. If thrown on the floor, the device shatters and creates a gate to a negative plane. Within 1d4+1 rounds, an appropriate number of 10HD screaming fiends come out and attack anyone they find. The gate closes when the last visitor is killed or escapes back to its home plane.

To be continued. . . Coming next: "The County of Hosseta"

Special thanks to Geoff Gander for his gracious permission to use his work on the Ogam and Outer Beings, and to Janet Deaver-Pack for character appearances and her editorial contributions.

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