Spoken only in legends and even then in hushed whispers, PochÃ¢??Agoura is a name that sends children scurrying into their parents beds. Most people do not believe the old legends that the Dread Walker once subjected the entire world to an endless dark, a mindless machine of destruction that corrupted all in his path. But you see there is always a little fact in legends and myths and this is no different.
Ages past the Woodking fell into a deep and terrible slumber, and from the fever of his dreams and nightmares the wooden dungeon of Limberlost grew.
Nestled between the towering cliffs of the Zorian plateau, lies a vast cavity that is wide enough to swallow an adult bull elephant with enough space to spare for a small herd of draft horses on either side. There you will find gold, an abundance of it. But what is that you say? That the natives tell you that it is a place of death and home to hideous monster that will devour you? Ignore the savages. They only seek to protect what they are too indolent to grab for themselves.
-A Khanate offical assuring a bunch of miners.
In a prison without walls, without guards, and without law; what kind criminal would choose death over a prison such as this?
One destined to go to Hellgate Prison.
As with any eco system, there is a pattern of life and death. Unfortunately when there is death, there is often trapped emotions, suffering, and other things that “complicate” the process of transition. Add to this mix the presence of magic and gods and the chances of complications multiply. These complications are known to the mortals as Ghosts, Spectres, and various forms of material Undead.
Dungeons, should make sense, in an ecological way. However, to have life, you need to have a physical place to use them. This expands upon the ecological dungeon, giving it a framework to exist in.
We have all seen articles on how Dungeons don’t work. I’ve seen such articles before. But this time, an idea struck me: Why not do a dungeon that really works? Where creatures live their lives in harmony; just the right ecological way?
Nine times out of ten, it’s the undead that do the running.
Not strictly animal or vegetable, the Corpse bud is a peculiar individual that shares characteristics from multiple kingdoms and species. In appearance, all corpse buds bear a shape of a large rounded top bud divided into four lateral segments, and a much longer, narrower bottom bud, also divided into four segments. Between the two halves are a set of four radial limbs, rounded on top and flat on the bottom, covered with tiny serrated hooks facing towards the body. In overall size, it’s limbs reach as wide as a spread hand, with the body being as thick as a fist. It is as long as a human hand from top to bottom.
Internally, the top bud of the corpse bud contains a bacteria filled membrane that produces the hydrogen that the corpse bud uses to stay aloft, and a series of fungal gills for the dispersal of spores for reproduction. The lower half of the bud contains a number of fine filaments, as well as a sharp barbed stinger containing a powerful local anaesthesia.
The Corpse Bud mobilizes by inflating its top bud, and steers by rotating its arms rapidly about its body. The corpse bud ordinarily drifts with the wind, orienting towards the scent of recent decay and death. It preys on the recently dead, burrowing the lower bud into the victim, using the anaesthesia in case the victim is dying, and not truly deceased. Once embedded, it releases its filaments into the body, replacing the current nervous system. This gives it full animation of the body, and allows the corpse bud to direct it.
Corpse buds are not a malevolent species, being primarily concerned with breaking down the host body for food, and infecting the reproductive cycle with spores in order to mate with other corpse-bud bodies. To preserve the corpse for this purpose, Corpse buds will seek out dry locations to prevent bacteria from destroying the corpses. This often causes a large number of corpse buds to gather in a single location.
In culture, Corpse buds are used to repair broken spines or degenerative diseases, as the sentient mind will easily overcome the mind of the non-sentient corpse bud. Once infected by a corpse bud, however, removal is usually fatal, and the infected individual cannot reproduce, or risk infecting another. Thus, it is a technique often reserved for the elderly, or a last resort.
Necromancers and other dark sorcerers will often preserve the corpses of their victims magically, and infect them with corpse buds, creating traditional undead as well, so as to seed their lairs with undead both offensive and non, in order to throw their enemies off balance. They will also enslave the rudimentary minds of the corpse buds, and transform the docile things into a plague. There have also been accounts of magically transformed corpse buds with stronger minds and a taste for living flesh, but thus far all accounts are unproven rumors.