Notes: This story is not for the faint of heart as I focus on the savage nature of war. Do not read it if you are easily offended.
The plot is also exceedingly long. It is not something to be used on the spot.
The story is a part of the Prophecies of Redemption.
The town of Golothei has been a godforsaken backwater for several centuries. The only notable thing about the town has been the Asylum of Karasthyrys, named after the candle mage who lived there prior to the founding of the Asylum and, incidentally, its first patient.
The town lies at the southern edge of the mountain range known as the Cyllerean Mountains and is embraced on three sides by hills and the mountain known as Arakili in the north. The river Pado runs through the town from the waterfalls in the west and southeast towards the lowlands and the ocean. It is from a small river island on the Pado that the black tower of the Asylum soars above the other town buildings.
The town, which produces the blue ornamental tiles one often finds in the homes of the rich, has become the base of the Black Legion, formerly the Emperor’s Legion, also known as the White Pheasants of Cormalth (the fallen imperial city). After the defeat of the empire when the empire became yet another province of the larger Southern Empire, the Caliph-Emperor wanted to disband the imperial legion, the very symbol of the conquered nation. Alas he could not do so without risk of rebellion. So he moved the legion to Golothei instead, hoping its relocation to this remote backwater would disintegrate it from the memory of the people.
Three centuries has passed, and still the recruits come flocking to the call of the legion. The white pheasant was removed from their black uniforms, and it was renamed the black legion, still the recruits come. Among the populace the legends are whispered and they speak of the heroes of the Legion, and the heroics the legion has yet to perform. The legion is the last symbol of their nation and something the Caliph-Emperor desperately wants to eradicate.
The Tribes of the Ugeroth:
In the Cyllerean Mountains several tribes of the Ugeroth live in their secluded mountain villages. The barbarian savages are strong, relatively intelligent and are rumoured to sacrifice humans upon the altars of their chaos gods. The Ugeroth has a grey tinge to their skin, which is wrinkled and weathered. They sometimes file their teeth fang-like and the adults adorn their bodies and face with Maori-like tattoos in swirling patterns.
The Ugeroth prefer two-handed weapons and carry furs upon their shoulders. The use of these weapons is a display of strength and the Ugeroth with the largest weapon is most usually the chieftain of the village. The Chieftain is also the Shaman-Priest of the tribe and is responsible for the rituals and sacrifices to their gods. The Ugeroth is virile and the number of “frills” (female pleasure-slaves) is a measure of their potency and worth, second only to the size of their weapons.
Lately something has stirred the tribes and caused them to gather in ever larger numbers. The villages have united and march under the banner of the Great Chieftain Taurhagus, a warrior with a ridiculously large sword and scores of frills. He is a potent Shaman-Priest as well. (This is directly linked to campaign two (birth of the saviour) and three (the dark war) and foreshadows things to come. The Ugeroth is just one of many peoples one the move.)
The once quiet town of Golothei has become the centre of a fell converging. The tribes of the Ugeroth, the fallen elves, the knights of Sil’Durhon, the Black Legion and the crazed mage Karasthyrys has all chosen this time to unleash themselves upon the town.
While the townsfolk hide in their cellars or have fled to the northern part of town, the tribes are sacking, raping and burning throughout. Women can be heard moaning and screaming as the warriors claims them as their frills with brutal desire, and men can be heard howling in panic as their bowels gush forth and their families are being raped and murdered before their very eyes. Pigs and cattle are being herded or barbequed on the spot.
All the while, the Black Legion is valiantly trying to defend the town, but they are undermanned and cannot withstand the onslaught of the Ugeroth. The Legion has rallied at the Asylum and has fortified the Isle of Karasthyrys and the only bridge leading to the northern part of town. There they have butchered much of the madmen and thrown them out of the windows on the northern side of the tower, where a mound of nude and broken corpses lie.
The town has become a dark and dismal place. Now the air is full of screams of dying men and women being ravaged. Children lie dying in the gutters screaming for their mothers, while parents dare everything to find their small ones. Every once in a while explosions light up the town as the Shaman-Priests call upon their chaos spawned magic and most often the target is the asylum of Karasthyrys.
The townsfolk that hide throughout the town are panicking and the conspirational theories are blossoming. They whisper of the Caliph-Emperor, surely he is the cause of the Ugeroths unexpected assault and they whisper of Karasthyrys and the curses he undoubtedly cast upon the town, when the townsfolk seized his tower and put him in chains all those centuries ago. The townsfolk feel threatened and insecure and feel that the world is against them. Any sighted elves would probably be demons of the netherworld come to consume them.
In the northern part of town, the knights of Sil’Durhon have created a field hospital where they treat the wounded, all the while searching for the blasphemous elves. The knights patrol the town and act as a watch, while the Legion defends the river and the bridge. This part of the town is defended by the sheer steepness of the hills and mountains and thus it was impractical for the Ugeroth to invade from this direction. There are several shepherds’ paths up into the mountains though.
Enter the elves. The elves will arrive by a dimensional gate to the northern part of town where the knights of Sil’Durhon hold sway and hunt them. The priests of Sil’Durhon have divined that the elves will pass through and they dogmatically search the streets for signs of the blasphemous race.
The elves objective will be inside the Asylum, where the Candle Mage Karasthyrys created his candles.
Several rumours can be heard in the town and among the black legionaries.
#1: The riot: One night the patients of the Asylum rioted. They wanted Karasthyrys dead as they claimed he “did things to them”. The staff lost control and locked themselves out of the tower while waiting for the legionaries. After they had restored order, Karasthyrys was found hanging in the attic. A sickly smile covered his face. Beneath him, on the floor, a single, extinguished candle stood. (This story will sometimes be told by townspeople blaming Karasthyrys “curse” for the current state of affairs).
#2: The Shaman-Priests: The Ugeroth Chieftain Shaman-Priests stalks the streets looking for children to sacrifice. Those taken are brought to the statue of the late mayor, which serves as an altar for the time being. Do they do this in his honour? That would surely prove what a blackheart he really was. *spit* (This story makes the rounds among the frightened population)
#3: The Black Legion is what the Ugeroth wants. They are the reason for all this suffering and if there is a way to surrender them to the Ugeroth, it should be done, as soon as possible. Everyone knows the Caliph-Emperor has a thorn in their side. He did not have to go this far, did he?
#4: A little girl is out there, separated from her family and lost within enemy territory. She is a smart girl though and the Ugeroth has probably not caught her yet. Too bad about her mother, being carried away by those barbarian brutes! Poor lass, may the gods have mercy on her soul.
#1: The madman: As the PCs close in on the northern side of the Asylum, they will notice a mound of nude, dead people. They seem to have been tossed out of the windows of the tower and the angles in which they rest after the fall seems painful and sometimes dishonourable. When they sneak past the mound they will hear a cackling from within mound. If they decide to dig into the mound of corpses, they will discover a frightfully thin man with a thick, dirty moustache and broken legs. “I am the baron of Ohenaakar”, he will claim. “I am free at last”. He will then plunge into a rant where he vows vengeance against his treacherous mother. Then he will order the “peasants” (elves) to carry him to the army so that he can assume command of the town’s defences. If the PCs ignore him, he will create quite some noise.
A deeper darkness shrouds the area and a sudden chill is felt through the bones. The “Baron” withdraws within the mound and covers himself with a corpse. “Begone” he whispers, fear evident in his voice.
#2: A man dressed in white robes walk down the centre of the street. Behind him a clustered swarm of white butterflies linger. Suddenly a band of Ugeroth with dripping wet clothes besets him, as they are emerging from beneath the Asylum Bridge. The butterflies fly past him and descend upon the largest Ugeroth who tries to wave them away. Soon they cover the man and he starts screaming and runs for the river. After three steps he collapses dead and the butterflies disperse. The remaining Ugeroth slay the robed man and flee into a nearby building.
Upon inspection the corpse of the robed man reveals him to be a priest of Sil’Durhon, while the corpse of the Ugeroth is full of inflammatory swellings and his face is bluish.
Karasthyrys spent many, many years researching the nature of the human soul. In his studies he explored dead corpses, the human aura and he even served at a temple of the god of the dead. Long ago he studied the nature of sanity, emotions and the soul. In these studies he managed to mutate common flies and enabled them to feed of the emotions of humans, to affect their souls. He soon lost interest in the flies, and he used narcotic candles to keep their numbers down, but he could not destroy them. Now their numbers are growing and they thrive in the tower. For some reason, they do not exit the tower, so they have not spread outside the tower.
When in the vicinity of these flies, humans will grow nervous and fearful. Prolonged exposure might result in a slipping sanity and strange behaviour. The elves might react in a similar manner, or they might be totally unaffected.
The Cellars, where the patients dwell and wherever there are legionaries, are places where the soul-flies thrive.
Sample Journal Entries:
#1: The patients have been calmed, thanks to the centurion and his men. While we found Karasthyrys hanging in the attic, as we feared, something was wrong with the scene. The other patients were hiding in the cellar, and nothing can convince me that they had just murdered him. They were too scared, too disturbed. We could not convince them to speak of it, and even the hermit lasted several hours on the bench.
#2: It happened again. The guard outside my bedroom here on the fourth floor left his post and fell asleep outside the tower. He claims to remember nothing of the incident, just like the previous one did.
#3: The flies bother the patients. Ever since the death of Karasthyrys they have preyed upon the patients with infernal intensity. We are lucky that these red candles of Karasthyrys seem to drive them away. I find the scent most pleasing too. We have gotten orders to stay away from some of the other candles, although the warden was sparse with his comments.
#4: Folgor escaped again, and this time he was found in the bedroom of the warden’s wife. He wore her blue evening gown and was dancing in the candlelight. The night-watch has slipped in his duties several times and my intuition tells me I must keep an eye on him. Each incident has included Folgor and I think something may be going on between those two.
The Asylum tower of Karasthyrys soars above the town from the Asylum Island on the river Pado. Its black walls and the legends about the madness of Karasthyrys have earned it a dark reputation. Its status as an asylum has done nothing to improve that reputation.
Now the madmen have mostly been slain and the first, second, fifth and tenth squad has barricaded themselves inside defending the bridge. The Ugeroth seems to want the north town badly and to get it they have to get across the river, thus the tower is relentlessly attacked.
The cellar of the Asylum is moist, with water three inches above the floor. The cellar has a low ceiling, which is vaulted, and the doorways are arched. Anyone above 5 feet tall would have to crouch to move around in the cellar. The patients’ drinks, bathes, piss and more in the water. Human faeces float around and the cellar reeks of sewage and sweat.
In the cellar are all the remaining madmen, having been locked in by legionaries. There are five remaining madmen, among those “Three in one” who claims to be three legionaries locked within the same body. The cellar is full of the raving of the madmen, whispering, laughing, and running splashing through the water and talking to no one in particular. Particularly eerie is the three tonal screams of “Three in one”.
If the PCs manage to talk to “Hermit Alexander” in his “cave” in a corner of the cellar, he can tell them that “Three in one” was known as Folgor the Maiden just a week ago. He claimed to be a “woman trapped in a manly vessel” as he used to say. When the legionaries expelled the staff, Folgor escaped to the attic and when he came down he had changed to become “Three in One”. “Hermit Alexander” will soon be annoyed with the “woodland nymphs” (the elves) and will ask them to leave his “forest swamp”.
If the PCs talk to “Three in one”, he will howl with panic and claim to be several legionaries trapped within the body of a madman. “Don’t think we are a madman, you have to believe us! Just let us out of here, our friends will know” he will claim while sobbing with strange three tonal nuances. Sometimes his speech will be clogged, as if he has difficulties coordinating his tongue. Then he will scream with a single voice “Shut UP! I am the squad leader, you will obey ME!” When he does this, his eyes will roll up back in his head for a short while.
The Ground Floor/Entrance Hall:
The entrance hall is lavish but has been hastily barricaded, as can be seen from the planks nailed across the iron reinforced double doors of oak. The doorknobs are made of iron and resemble angels with the wings as the handle. The baroque furniture has been thrown in front of the exit as the legionaries neither know their value, nor care for anything except their lives and holding the tower.
A circular mosaic adorns the floor and a stairway climbs both up and down along the eastern wall. The walls have been carved with relief scenes of a procession of hooded men carrying candles and treading upon men and women in a writhing mass beneath their feet.
If they study the mosaic pattern they might realize that the symbols combine to form a text and that if they concentrate upon the text it will prove readable. (If they know the language). It is actually a spell written there, a ceremonial spell of binding (used by Karasthyrys when summoning in this chamber).
The First Floor:
This used to be the floor where Karasthyrys meant to house his apprentices. Unfortunately his reputation kept all apprentices at bay. The staff of the asylum turned these chambers into confinement cells and used them widely to punish the patients. Many cells have wall shackles or straight jackets (made of soft leather).
The first squad has been stationed on this floor and its surviving nine members sleep in shifts in the chambers. At all times two men keep watch armed with short bows, peeking out the windows momentarily before withdrawing before enemy magefire or arrows take them down. This squad has a squad-mage, Mirkosi, who is the strongest of the few remaining mages in the tower. Yet he is still shaking with exhaustion, his gaunt face pale and shining with sweat.
The legionaries seem nervous and a battle seems to be imminent. They will likely not bother the PCs overmuch unless they have done a poor job at hiding their features. Of course, several cloak engulfed armed men moving through the tower will also seem suspicious.
The Second Floor:
This floor used to be the study and library of Karasthyrys, but the staff redecorated and put the correction facility here instead. Thus the floor is littered with small chambers with bookshelves full of instruments of torture. In the main chamber several benches with leather straps stand.
In this chamber the PCs will feel a dark influence “observing them”. The shadows seem to move, and something is definitely wrong in the main chamber. They cannot pinpoint it, but SOMETHING is wrong. (The legionaries think so too and thus the chamber is abandoned).
If the PCs search the chambers, they will find some secret niches in the walls, with the panel doors slightly ajar. In one of these niches, they might find a journal written in the local language and detailing the activities in the asylum prior to the Ugeroth assault. (Se Journal Section)
When in this chamber, the PCs will:
-Hear footsteps in nearby chambers, but no one is there.
-They will see movement in the shadows, but no one is there.
-They will hear the metallic noise of torture instruments falling on the floor, but when they investigate, nothing has changed.
The Third, Fourth and Fifth Floor:
These floors hold yet more legionaries, all the remaining squads as a matter of fact. They will not talk to the three legionaries Karasthyrys has possessed, but will mutter that the tower is cursed and that all who dwell within will become mad. Here the battle will be felt, as explosions will shake the walls whenever the Shaman-Priests of the Ugeroth release their powers upon the tower.
The squad witch, Hueroma of Salagan, will be found here, with half her face burnt away. Her scalp has been exposed and her left side is burnt from the scalp to her waist. Half her hair hangs down on her right side, full of blood and singed at the edges. It is a miracle that she is alive at all. She will be shouting insults to the Ugeroth as she tries to neutralize their magic. All the while, the Black legionaries will be firing arrow upon arrow with exhaustion making their every move painful. They will not likely notice the elves if any care has been taken to hide their presence. They will simply be too hard pressed to notice unless a PC does something foolish.
The Elves will observe a strange moment when passing through one of these floors. Nearby legionaries will be occupied with firing arrows from the southern window room, when a dark presence fills the room. Then the legionaries will cease their firing and whimper for a second, before the presence withdraws and they resume their actions with low voiced curses.
When the PCs first encounter Karasthyrys, he will seem like three very strange men. They call themselves Rhus, Astor and Keros. They have an uncanny ability to talk and move synchronized and actually the soul of Karasthyrys occupies all of their bodies. Rhus and Keros carries short swords and tower shields, banded mail and black legion uniforms. Astor only carry the uniform.
Karasthyrys is actually quite pleased with himself, for he has never possessed three bodies at once. His centuries long existence within a candle ended when the unfortunate madman Folgor burnt some of his candles when he decided to have a “ladies evening” in the attic. Most of Karasthyrys magic is bound within these candles and the third candle Folgor lit contained Karasthyrys soul, which fled the candle through the smoke and entered Folgor’s body through his nostrils. When three legionaries came to fetch the madman, they found a terrible arch-mage instead of a lunatic, and got more than they bargained for. They got trapped in the body of Folgor, Folgor got trapped within the candle and Karasthyrys got three bodies to use and abuse.
Karasthyrys will carry a red book bound with leather. He will seem very protective of it, cradling it in his arms.
By the time the PCs reach the attic, it will be alight with dozens of burning candles. The room has an oppressive feeling, as if the room has drawn its breath and is waiting for something to happen. Karasthyrys is waiting in the shadows of the attic, which is where he abides his time. It is the place where his property was stored after his capture such a long time ago, and. books, scrolls, and hundreds of candles can be seen strewn on the floor. Windows give a view north, south, east and west. The southern window has been crushed and a portion of the wall has collapsed. As the PCs enter the attic, the door will slam shut behind them, and the locks will click into place.
Karasthyrys will be thrilled upon seeing the elves and will step out of the shadows to their right, mumbling about the powerful and otherworldly aura of their souls. Remember that the three possessed bodies often talk in unison. The seer will particularly intrigue him, and Karasthyrys/Rhus will light a candle for her, and should she accept it, her soul will be at risk of being drawn into the candle. If the PCs are friendly, Karasthyrys/Astor will light three narcotic candles, which will possibly knock the PCs out. If they are hostile, he will fight with two of his possessed legionaries and cast spells with Karasthyrys / Astor. His magic is potent and of the soul warping sort.
The burning candles in the room release fumes filled with the essences of captured souls. A creature with a strong soul, such as Karasthyrys, has nothing to fear. The weak-willed must beware, as the captured souls are slave bound to Karasthyrys and if any PC is unlucky enough to be possessed, his own soul will enter the candle, which will be extinguished, sealing it within.
If the PCs withstand the possessing souls, Karasthyrys will attempt to leave. He will bring a handful of candles with him, including the tallow candle of the prophecy.
Scented Candles: Karasthyrys just love candles. The majority of his candles are not magical however, and are ordinary candles with fragrances of rose, orange or lemon. These candles are made purple, dark orange and nauseating yellow in colour.
Candle of the Soul: Karasthyrys has enchanted these few candles. Whenever the wick is lit, it will release any spirit within if it can enter a body through its olfactory organ. Then the soul will “swap place” with the victim, which is trapped within the candle. The wick immediately extinguishes and the soul is sealed within.
Karasthyrys has the magic necessary to enslave the soul within the candle, although that is a ceremony that requires several hours of chanting, as well as some of his blood. (Or of the body his soul occupies).
The souls trapped within the soul candles will be in terrible torment before they are able to possess a body. If they cannot possess a body before the candle has burnt down, they cease to exist and their souls disappear.
These candles have been made black.
Candle of Colours: This candle contains a narcotic substance, which will intoxicate those in the vicinity. The effect will make all colours seem to float around and the affected will be in a state of euphoria. It will make those affected extremely relaxed.
One side effect of these candles is that the soul-flies become docile and eventually die from its scent. These candles usually are coloured deep red.
Tallow Candle: This candle is the zenith of Karasthyrys work. He is quite proud of it and has secured it on (one of) his person(s). It is described in the campaign introduction. This candle has been made white.
A Note about the Candles:The candles do not last very long. They are made of tallow and come in different colours. He made his candles on the fifth floor, where the equipment he used is placed in a storage room.
The Red book of Karasthyrys: This book details Karasthyrys studies of soul warping magic. Within its pages they might find a couple of fell spells and a detailed discussion on the nature of the soul and its connection to the physical body. At the last page a strange rune has been drawn, unknown by any living Rune Master and unwritten in the book of the source. It is the secret rune of Karasthyrys, the very thing defining his power, fuelling his soul. A disruption of this rune would undo Karasthyrys and tear his soul from the fabric of this dimension, sending him to the halls of the dead, long overdue.
Karasthyrys will try to escape, if he cannot warp the elven souls or capture them in his candles. He will preferably do so without having to resort to the tallow candle. He will readily sacrifice two of the bodies he is possessing to make his escape. Once out in the streets he will use his soul magic to snuff out the life force of any Ugeroth who oppose him. Any encounter with a potent Shaman-Priest should prove interesting and Karasthyrys will most likely win. While the Shaman-Priests elemental chaos magic is brutal and highly visible, the magic of Karasthyrys is sinister, unseen and deadly.
The Final Battle:
Karasthyrys might be able to lead the PCs on a wild chase through the town. This chase will end outside the burning Town hall by the Statue of the late mayor. The mayor, proud upon his horse, now wears the corpses of seven little children as a cloak; their faces open in eternal, silent screams of terror. Here he will encounter the Great Chieftain and here the PCs will have their last chance of defeating him before he disappears.