Muir is an inter-dimensional passageway. A means of getting from here, to there. It is a secret that is known to some mages and priests throughout the known world, and they use it primarily to travel long distances, or between continents. It can even be used to travel to the realm of the Gods, and to the very Three Hells themselves.
Pilgrim is a City within Muir, and even if the ancient texts describe Muir as an eternal wheat field without any settlements or intelligent life, there are those who know better. Those who have been to Pilgrim, or read about its existence, or who have heard of another settlement within Muir, not to be detailed here.
Getting to Pilgrim is then a matter of finding a portal; a rift of some kind that ends within Muir. Once within Muir the traveler has to figure out how he will get to Pilgrim.
Those who have read the Scroll of Vylius, or who have studied at the Monastery of Ketange-Ishatal, will know that to travel within Muir, one simply has to focus and mentally visualize the desired destination. Travel then will take far shorter than walking.
Walking while in the eternal wheat field is an exercise in futility; for the distances are unimaginable. Focusing will take you from one edge of Muir, to another within an hour, with only a rustle of wind blowing through the wheat as indication of travel.
Hazards of the Eternal Wheat Field
The eternal wheat field is mostly empty, but it does have a few hazards to be wary of:
1. The Three Headed Silver Dragon of Muir
The three headed silver dragon is an ancient entity that eternally floats within the realm of Muir. Some says it is the very soul of Muir itself, and as such its name IS Muir. Others say that it is a demonic being from the Three Hells, the Gatekeeper, and it only flies to meet those wishing to enter the Hells through Muir.
Whatever it is, it is dangerous if provoked, and its fury will match the greatest of Wyrms in any of the bordering worlds.
Furthermore, the dragon is at all times accompanied by an immense murder of crows - The Dathlingara; sentient, sorcerous birds whose piercing eyes see all, and who lives in the cracks of the scales of the Silver Dragon.
It is rare that the Dragon notices wanderers, but not so rare that a small detachment of Dathlingara Crows break loose, and harass travelers with their deadly lightning magic.
2. The Sown
The sown are the zombies of those fallen within the realm of Muir. With their sickening smell, their sown lips and their growling, guttural sounds they attack in packs of no less than four.
Sometimes the Sown are accompanied by a foul, crimson colored spider, about the size of a German shepherd. These are called "The Seamstresses" among the population of Pilgrim, and are responsible for the Sown, whom they animate with their black saliva. It is also they who sew the mouths of the corpses shut.
Muir has an Aoktholian Swarm, ravenous from the lack of food. Best to warn the adventurers of such a swarm coming long before its arrival, as it is a difficult foe to vanquish. * Click the title above to learn more about the Aoktholian.
4. Infernal Gusts of Wind
Muir is often tormented by gusts of wind that reach hurricane strength.
5. Torrential Ice Cold Rain
Beware the rainfalls of Muir, as they arrive swiftly and rain for days at end.
6. Wheat Field Wildfire
It is said that once every thirteenth cycle, the Dragon enters a berserk rage and with its monstrous breath it torches the eternal field as it flies above it. The residents of Pilgrim call it the Shoala - "The Razing", and during these horrendous days all the bell towers of Pilgrim toll without stop. Some of these fires continue on for years after the rage has subsided, and sometimes, albeit rarely, travelers encounter parts of Muir that are still aflame. And sometimes even the fires themselves come alive, as the spirits of fire dance and frolic amongst the ravenous flames.
7. Pilgrim Caravan
Imagine if you will; an ancient city with a skyline full of domes and spires. An ancient city where at all times jet black crows float in a giant spiral over the city; flying outwards from the soaring needle-like spire known as the Halae.
When the adventurers walk down one of the winding, narrow alleys of this city, Crows will sit perched on the edges of the rooftops, and they will follow the adventurers with their stares. All the while, their beaks move and an eerie whispering can be heard. These crows are the same that can be found nesting in the great silver dragon, and according to some legends Pilgrim is the birthplace of this species of crow. The natives of Pilgrim consider these crows holy and it is a crime to harm one of them, punishable by public flogging regardless of rank.
One thing travelers learn early on, is that in Pilgrim you are weak if you are on your own. The majority of the population owe their allegiance to one of the city's many guilds, or they belong to one of the Great Temples. Few people walk the streets without the mark of a guild or temple, and those who do are considered fair game for Pilgrim's many slavers.
Note that travel within Pilgrim is not by thought, but by foot. For some reason the laws of physics are restored within Pilgrim.
The Prison of Salt
At the heart of Pilgrim; close to the Halae, is the prison of salt. This is a circular building, without a roof, almost like a Colosseum where angelic white statues are perched on the top of the ring. These statues are called the weepers by the local population, and criminals are sometimes brought here by one of the three Dark Magistrates of the city. Only the Dark Magistrates and their personal guard are allowed to enter the Prison, and only they can bring prisoners here to be taken by the Weepers.
Within the Colosseum are myriad white salt statues; the prisoners of the Weepers. Once set loose within the walls, the captive will typically panic and run between the statues until one or more of the Weepers catch up. Then their tears will drop down on the victim, and he will freeze in place, slowly turning into salt.
The Weepers attack from above, which is why most of the statues hold their arms defensively into the air.
The Couali is race of birdmen - winged humanoids with birdlike heads - that do not exist in the mundane world that the PCs came from, but who inhabit Pilgrim and trade therein. They do not speak any common tongue, but rather their language is full of chirps and whistling sounds. The Couali are shrewd traders and know well how to squeeze coins out of their customers.
Some Couali tradesmen specialize in magic and the magic you can buy from these tradesmen is more intense, and expensive, than anything found in the mundane world.
Meeting the Couali is an outlandish experience as they trade in rainbow-colored furs, whistle and chirp while dealing and own positively preposterous items. Seeing one of these with some sort of helmet that mimic a miniature planetarium, with stars circling its head is not unheard of. Other favor armor from which thin, metallic arms protrude, holding flutes and bagels, spying glasses and frost covered scrolls.
Talking, treacherous rats
The rats of Pilgrim are renowned throughout the city as untrustworthy, but useful servants. Often they are the second thing adventurers notice about Pilgrim, after the immense murder of crows spiralling the Halae.
As adventurers arrive, they will typically be met with a rat, perched on a rock or a crate, offering to guide them through the city. Initially it will prove quite useful as it explains to them the basics about where to go and where not to go, but often they are in the employ of some slaver or a guild leader, and ultimately they are bound to serve the adventurers into the hands of these masters.
The Aclopi are four armed, one eyed humanoids standing roughly 9 feet (3 meters) tall. They are the elite bodyguards employed within the city of Pilgrim, and often the bane of adventuring parties. Typically slavers travel with an Aclopi mercenary and more powerful guilds and factions have more than one Aclopi in their employ. They are rented from the tent full of mirrors called the "Circus of One Eye", at the base of the Halae.
The Great Temples of Pilgrim are the reason for the city's name. Each district of the city belongs to one of the temples, and there are many, many temples. One feature of note is that it is customary for the temples to feature a wall of runes, upon which one or more spells are inscribed. For instance the Temple to the God of the Sun holds numerous powerful fire spells, and Invoker Battlemages can sometimes be seen here, meditating and studying at the base of the wall.
Pilgrim features numerous Guilds such as the Kraas, the Orsachi and the powerful Haluus, whose prowess in necromancy and shadow summoning is mentioned even in the Scrolls of Pictaryos (where it is said that "the Haluus shall emerge from the city of legends, and they shall descend upon the Imperial City and all shall flee before them. Thus spoke Halthorn the Seer at his death bed").
The guilds govern the city politics and it is they who appoint new Dark Magistrates every 200 years. The different Guilds embody different political views, and utilize different techniques to achieve their goals.
Traversing the Streets
Newcomers to Pilgrim (and Muir) will often be flabbergasted by the alien and outlandish nature of the City.
There are few main roads and mostly narrow, winding alleys. Walking down one of these, the adventurers might emerge onto the Spice Market, where all kinds of exotic, sweet or pungent smells mix. One booth may be occupied by an elderly lady, with the tattoo of the Kariss Guild branded upon her forehead, while the next may be occupied by a Couali, cackling and whistling in its alien tongue. Seeing a serpent-man trading there, followed by his ten slave eunuchs will be an unsettling experience for sure. Entering a Couali Magic Shoppe, while Crows are whispering from the rooftops, and then barter for a true Frostblade might soothe the unease from the Spice Market.
Then, when Oublad the Rat betrays the party and scurries under the robes of its Enchanter Slaver Lord and two Aclopi mercenaries engage the party warriors, the PCs will finally feel the full depth of treachery that can be found within Pilgrim.
Pilgrim is a place where adventurers search through attics full of eye burrowing flies in search for a powerful artifact in the shape of a silvery spoon, or where pious pilgrims are beset upon by vile slavers as they travel in pilgrimage towards the temple of their god.
It is a city full of mysterious wonder and dark secrets.
Additional Ideas (8)
A huge blue and white marble building
The baths are co-ed and truly decadent. But the steam room is where all the excitement is. On first entering steam room the overwhelming heat will be stifling. But as you stay in the steam ,you will have the urge to add more and more heat and the smiling attendant will be happy to oblige.The room becomes more and more steam filled until you can barely see the hand in front of your face.Then shapes will form in the mist, some more solid than others. Historical figures will come from the past and think you are among their closest friends.
They will tell tales of the old days and give clues to further mysteries of the city. They will be oblivious to the pc's true identities
These men have dominoes for eyes that will match up when 2 are standing side by side, clad only in garish loincloths that glint off their silvery skin.
Normally they will be moving around the city(in large groups, mouthing cryptic and monstrous phrases. Upon trying to leave the city ,they will assault the individuals possessing artifacts they feel are of note from the city. They scratch, bite, kick and headbutt the individual.Until they are unconscious or give up the item..
The pc's will be greeted by the pleasant aroma of apple pie, as they get closer they see a small cottage with a very large bath tub and wash hanging on the line.When they get closer they see an old but spry grandmother type. She greets them warmly."Take your stuff off and get in the tub, while the pies cool down Ill wash your duds" any sort of detect or scrying of her will automatically, provide one word. Harmony.Once they get in the tub she will visibly remove part of their souls and give them a good scrub. The characters will be left in the meantime with their primal essence. Causing all secrets and disharmony to surface in their thoughts. Until, they must discus their differences., until granny is satisfied.They don't need to solve them but they must be aired. She will then give them back cleaner souls and clothes.She and every thing but 3 very tasty pies will disappear.
Unlike the sober nature of the rest of the city this Bar/Inn is loud and wild. A hang out for the seedy and adventurous.Wizards trading spell share the floor with thieves picking pocket and prostitutes of a wide variety.
Puke Chugs, Scorpion Painting(with 2 inch brushes) and wizards always willing to show off summoned creatures for a spontaneous pit fight are just a few of the revelries found here. Beware the room at the very top right of the stairs,it is said to be a nexus of weird and monstrous nature.
Xathrus was a major god of machinery and technology, the plane he was on devolved into barbarism.He lost his worshipers and ended up in the streets of the city. Due to his technological nature , he developed a weakness and became addicted to eating flowers.He maintains the ability to replicate himself, so several of him will accost passer bys in attempt to get them to buy or gather flowers, regaling them with tales of his glory days. He will suffer any humiliation for a rose or daisy.His duplicates will not wander far apart and will talk over each other. The locals love to torment him by doing Puke Chugs at the Spent Seaman, then throwing him out.
Similar to "rooster" fighting, the brixstok is a flightless bat about the size of a small dog. The fighting rings are found all over the city and are all the rage.Money can be made by owning, betting and hosting events.Problem is the brixtoks will flap into the crowd of spectators and claw and bite everyone in addition to coming back to fighting each other. Their bite is mildly poisonous, causing really bad rashes among non-brixstok. These rashes are akin to the shingles and are contagious.
The Wax Guildsmen
In an isolated section of town where the streets seem deserted and the houses without any light or signs of use, they will stumble upon a townhouse from which flute music can be heard and a warm light shines from within windows filled with flowers.
They have arrived at the Wax Guild, where three old women stir pots that simmer on top of the stove.
The old women cackle and laugh, and depending on the GM, several things may happen.
1. Nothing much happens. A while after spending time there, one of the PCs melt, revealing a hollow interior. Apparently he was but an empty shell made of wax! The real PC is in stasis in the dungeon below the Wax Guild.
2. The old women offer the PCs to buy their services: Wax clones of anyone they would like.The real PC will be stored in a stasis chamber below the Wax Guild while his wax clone travels on. He is just like the real PC, and the PC will feel like he really is the wax clone, even gaining experience like him. However, the clone has half the hit points of the PC, and heat deals triple damage (melts the wax).
3. The PCs have come to question them about the melting of one Geroush Fandash, the head of the Invoker's Guild. The crones seem anxious and the PCs may learn that Geroush is in stasis below.
In the depths below the Wax Guild are the Dungeon of Kkorah. Kkorah is a serpentman sorceror and his weeping wax mask is the relic responsible for the wax clones.
Within Kkhorah's Chamber they will find many potent treasures, including a silver mirror that mirrors thoughts (visible as shadows playing around the head of the PC), a wise, singing Cod that lives in a kettle of beer and a jar of Crimson Beetles of Wax; crimson beetles made of the magic wax, that will swarm around the holder of the jar, and obey his wishes. They can do things like lift him into the air, or cloud the vision of enemies. Like all wax magic they are severely vulnerable to flames and fire.
Reasons for Traveling to Pilgrim
Pilgrim holds temples to deities both obscure and powerful. Indeed, some of the shrines are to deities long forgotten. Some of these temples hold powerful relics, and others hold strange and mysterious lifeforms. Some examples are the Temple of the Earth, where a swarm of weird, translucent insects function as the priesthood, and where virgins are offered for sacrifice - and the priesthood burrow below the eyes, into the sockets of the virgin, and lay their eggs. There is also the Shrine to Athlank, a former God of War, now all but forgotten. Athlank, now a murderer for hire and a beggar in Pilgrim, is only kept alive by the shrine and the relic hidden within; The Sword of Athlank.
Pilgrim have some of the most exotic shops in existence, thanks primarily to the Couali, which possess shrewd acumen and an acute sense for magic. In Pilgrim, the rarest of substances and the most powerful of artifacts can be found. And if it cannot be found therein, information leading to it most certainly can... for a price.
3. By Accident
The city is circled by rifts leading into and out from it. While invisible while inactive, the rifts lead to various worlds. Such rifts are likely to be claimed by powerful sorcerors at some point in time. Some are still active, guarded by the sorceror, while others are inert - hidden within old ruins.
Travelers arriving in Pilgrim by accident; fleeing into the portal, to escape an arcane overlord or dark sorceror, will be most astounded by the glories and horrors of the city of domes.
4. In Transit
While traversing Muir, they might be set upon by raiders, and those raiders might flee into Pilgrim. It often serves of as the base of the predators that prey upon those wishing to travel within Muir.
5. On a Quest
The PCs are on a quest, and for that quest they need to enter Pilgrim.