Excerpt from the Imperial Scrolls,
The memoirs of Captain Nathan Fyonin,
officer of the Belemarian Fifth Legion,
Knighted for his valour in the battle of Penemore Lake
Our travels had brought us into the lowlands of southern Belemar; a river delta region famed for its fishing villages, mangrove swamps, reed filled sand banks and rivers full of boats. We were travelling in Mekina-rafts; broad, shallow transports used by merchants and soldiers alike.
It was the fourth day on our journey upriver and the men were becoming anxious. The rumours of an Angaoth invasion had circulated for weeks and none among us did really want to discover if the legends of old held any truth.
Earlier that afternoon we had passed Eminna, a riverside village like so many others in this area. It had been totally deserted, only smouldering ruins were left and blood stained the village soil. While ransacking the ruins soldiers of the first squad found a terrified child, no more than five years old. The boy was hiding under a broken cart and his crying could not be stopped. Not knowing what to do, the men had brought the kid along and gave him to an old fisherman’s wife further upriver. While the boy had not spoken a word at all, the old woman told of night time raids performed by the Angoath. They had grown bolder and bolder and launched assaults on small communities ever farther downstream from their damp, swampland home.
I remember it still. Mirloren had gestured wildly and recounted the tale of our last stand at Penemore Lake to the young recruits, this time doubling the actual number of enemies, when suddenly horns blared wildly from the advance raft, about two minutes upstream. It was a forlorn sound, wailing and desperate and it ended as abruptly as it had started. Our men shouted into the darkness, our horns blared in reply, but to no avail. No further sound came from the men upstream. Seconds and minutes passed and the other rafts came alongside our vessel, bridging the river. Archers took up position on rafts behind our first line of defence, and the legionaries had readied their shields and readied their spears. I cannot forget the pale look on my aide’s face, no doubt mirroring my own, for we had heard about the terrors of the Angoath for weeks. In hindsight I recognise what we had let happen, for the stories had got under our skin, and slowly fear had seeped into our hearts, stealing the strength from our arms.
Someone talked on a nearby raft. I seem to recall it was a legionary attempting to joke away the fear, but no one laughed. Then everybody screamed. A huge, lumbering creature had risen from the waters, lashing viciously with sharp claws, nearly severing the head from the body of the failed comedian. The huge humanoid shape was scaly black, glistening with moisture, and a ridge of white spikes went down it’s spine, from it’s head to the tip of the long tail. Then similar creatures erupted from the waters around our rafts, their huge bodies stepping on top of our vessels, their massive bulk tearing through the legionaries like enraged bulls through a flock of children. Their screams were guttural cries, deep, baritone voices that sent a shiver up my spine.
Shaking my head I looked around. An enormous Angoath was holding a young recruit in his hands, his body broken and blood seeping freely from between the cracks of his banded armour. The dead legionary’s head lolled unnaturally; obviously the neck had been crushed. It was amazing how fast these creatures could move and suddenly it lowered its head and charged headlong towards me, no doubt intending to skewer me on that sharp, spiky ridge. All around me I glimpsed similar scenes. The Angoath were washing over us like a wave of black silver, their claws rending us apart, their teeth chewing into our armour.
The beast slammed into my tower shield, sending a shock wave up my arm, sending me stumbling backwards. I managed to slip my spear under its claws, and it connected with the scaly body of the brutish beast, but did not push through. I stumbled and fell, and the beast came rushing after me, its claws raking through my armour, straining the leather strapping that held the banded mail together. The weight of the thing was enormous, and it crushed me beneath it, but its weight forced my spear through its thick scales and into the torso of the beast. How it screamed then, for my spear struck true and it’s very heart was pierced. Still it rose to its feet and ran off into the night, taking my spear with it.
All around me I witnessed desperate scenes. I drew my short sword and plunged it deep into the neck of an Angaoth chewing on the corpse of my aide, whose face looked even more scared in death, than in life. Luckily the archers had been left alone, and their arrows were like a hail of death come to wash our foes away. The battle turned, but at a terrible cost: We lost four full squads that night and when we checked, we had killed no more than four Angaoth, even though a number of them had been pierced through the heart.
In the darkest swamps of the land a mysterious and brooding race exist. The Angaoth they are called and they are huge creatures, easily 8 feet, sometimes as much as 10. These lumbering creatures have scales which are jet black, and always glistening with a moist sheen. Their heads have short necks, seemingly protruding from the upper chest and shoulders. In their skulls are deeply set yellow eyes, and they have a set of razor sharp teeth in their large mouth. Their faces have been described as a mix between Doberman and snake, with Doberman structural build up and serpentine eyes and skin. According to legend their awe inspiring jaws can rip a man asunder, and amongst the soldiers of bordering nations, the tales of the horrors called the Angaoth are well known. These stories have also reached far away cities where they popular among the young, but are considered to be urban legends.
A ridge of sharp spikes can be seen from their brow to the tip of their tail. This ridge is important and the males seem to have sharper and longer spikes than the females. A few Angaoth have great magical capabilities and the colour of the spikes of these powerful individuals turn from dark grey to crimson red during puberty. The Angoath are bipedal and have two arms and a long tail. They are able to lash viciously with their tail and combined with the spikes, this tail is greatly feared among the human soldiers sent to deal with Angaoth uprisings. Among the Angaoth themselves, the length of their spikes and their tails are a source of great pride. The males with the longest tail and spikes is undoubtedly the most attractive for the females, even though the bigger males turn out to be the best warriors. Their spell casters are usually, but far from always, female and are the leaders of their kin. These Angaoth may have as many as three mates (other Angaoth have one) and their powers of divination, spiritual manipulation and possession are legendary.
Society and Culture:
While the Angaoth are considered to be brutish beasts by humanity, they actually have a fully developed social system and value their culture highly. They have a long tradition of oral storytelling and they are extremely adept at sculpting wood and stone. Rarely, if ever, do a human find his way to an Angaoth settlement, but if one ever did, and survived to tell the tale, he would relate tales of crude, but beautiful, settlements on small islands in the swamp. The Angaoth are delicate in their craft and immaculate in their construction. Their decoration is a mix of raided goods and masterfully crafted Angaoth goods.
Angaoth value art highly and a popular form of adornment is scale-painting. The Angaoth put all their feelings into this activity, which is considered an erotic act as well as a show of devotion and faith. Intricate patters are painted on their scales and often they form a web of different stories relating the heroism, intellect and poetic qualities of the Angaoth.
The Angaoth have a difficult relationship with humans. Humans are considered prey and a delicacy among the Angaoth and indeed the scent of a human affect them, as the scent of sugar affect us. In addition, humanity has proven to be a dangerous adversary and many are the tales of young, careless Angaoth felled by human hunters. This has resulted in a deep feeling of fear in the Angaoth, and they almost never venture far from their homes, unless as a pack of ten to twenty hunters. They have also become adept at subterfuge and they never attack a human if it would draw the attention of human armies to their homeland. The exception is in those rare cases in which many Angaoth tribes have joined under the leadership of a powerful shaman or witch, a so called "S’Kaynehn Seer". According to Angaoth religion and tradition the "S’Kaynehn Seer’s" are the chosen of their God and under their rule the Angaoth shall ascend as the rulers of the world, answering only to S’Hanyon, their mysterious and faceless God with seven voices.
In battle the Angaoth wades headlong into the fray, using their claws or wielding sharp sticks or huge clubs which they viciously thrust or swing at their opponents. They sometimes lower their heads and charge headlong into the enemy, skewering them on their sharp spiky ridge. The tail is also a formidable weapon with a particularly long reach and gives them an
advantage against those wishing to outflank a lonely Angaoth. Their tails are also their greatest weakness, as one of the Angaoth hearts resides within their tail. Their secondary heart resides within their chest, much in the same place as a humanâs heart.
Much superstition surround the Angaoth, and some cultures present the swamp dwellers with sacrifice to appease these "blood thirsty beasts". Local custom varies, but prisoners, new born, maidens and slaves can often be found tied up on the riverbed, or bound to a tree in the swamp. Places which are particularly troubled by Angaoth presence exhibit the most devout form of human sacrifice and from these lands hail the myth of the "Screaming Trees", which are sacrificial trees on which ten to twenty living human beings are strung up from their ankles and wrists, awaiting the arrival of hungry Angaoth.
Heroism turned Bad - The PCs wade through the swamp when suddenly they notice two beautiful young girls bound to a tree. If they choose to liberate the maidens, they will show all the proper hero worship and gratitude that rescued maidens are wont to show. The problems start later. If the PCs do not rescue the maidens, the girls are eaten and the heroes will have to
live with their conscience. If they are rescued, the PCs will hear tales of how beasts are rampaging nearby villages, killing or abducting any living being in the area. Then one of the girls will relate the importance of their sacrifice and the PCs will realize they doomed hundreds of people with their little stunt.
To make matters even worse: One of the girls lost her entire family and is now ridden by guilt. She runs away and confess everything to the local community leaders. Whatever her fate, the PCs are now stamped as outlaws and traitors in the region and soon bounty hunters and lynch mobs are on their trail.
Alchemy Run - In the capital an important alchemist is making big cash through selling the incredibly expensive "Angaoth Ointment" to the rich and powerful. This wonderful mixture cures all problems, from hangovers to hair loss to wrinkles. Problem is his supply of Angaoth liver ran out and now he needs someone who can venture into the swamp and get him a batch of Angaoth livers.
Normally this would not have been a big deal, well not THAT big a deal, but in this case the PCs are in store for a surprise.
It seems the alchemist has hunted the local Angaoth population to the brink of extinction. This has made the tribal shaman call upon S’Hanyon, a dangerous ritual in which the shaman forfeited his mortal life in exchange for retribution.
Faced with the lifeless husk of the shaman, now animated by the God of a seven voices, the PCs will have to make a choice: Either they make battle with the abomination, or they tell everything about their employer. If they battle the abomination and succeed, their will find it’s intestines rotting and full of maggots. Luckily for the alchemist, he isn’t that particular… For the liver of the heroes will do well in his potion of heroism, which a powerful Paladin Lord just commissioned…
If the heroes spill their guts and tell about their employer, they will discover that not only has the alchemist been murdered, but so has the entire city block in which he resided. The corpses of the citizens had been found in their beds, their faces bluish-purple and their tongues bloated and sticking out.