Full Item Description
Rather than a single item, the Bloodflower Shroud is a set of war tools crafted by the vain and malicious Ravenlord Marhondal: armor, war pipes, an amulet, earrings and a cloak. An unique sight, it identified the tyrant of Carnterra to all who ever heard of him.
The radiant, bejewelled cloak of finest hair is softer than silk, its gentle touch rivalling the dew of Midsummer’s Night in Averlorn. In its weave, delicate patterns of red and gold meet with rich strands of deepest black and mahogany brown. Always, it bears the scent of the spring, of a passionate kiss and dreamy night, of crushed rose petals and a lover’s breath.
The amulet features a marvelous ruby locked between gold chains, its color dancing as if it were alive, its depths ever-shifting, its light unstable, fading and returning to radiance in an unending play of shadow and light. As it is touched its warmth spills forth , so that if you close you eyes, you could believe that it is a tender hand locked with yours.
The war pipes are carved of polished ivory: On each pipe, carvings depict the portrait of a woman both noble and beautiful. Their sound, though, is nothing like the carvings - enough to send a man running for cover, or plunging into the depths of madness; it is not an instrument played for pleasure.
The armor is a pale peach in color, adorned with red, and carved into the shape of numerous interlocking hands. Supple and light, yet of great strength, it adapts to a wearer soon after he dons it, fitting him like a second skin.
The earrings consist of uncounted tiny gems and diminutive bells, taut wires and tinkling rings, shaped so finely that some of them can be only made out with a magnifying glass. Surprisingly, they have been neither dented nor broken. Soothing and mysterious, their sound and design is bound to catch the attention of any craftsman or musician.
Many years ago, the people of the humble city-state of Carnterra received a prophecy, a promise that greatness would come to them through the birth of a special child. Two children would be born: The first would bring forth a serene, unchanging state, but if the elder was slain, the second would bring power and might. When the marked child was born a few years later, the people slew his twin and gave the infant into the king’s keeping to raise.
Marhondal grew to become a man of regal features, quick of wit and mighty of body. He rose to meet every challenge his teachers presented, ascending the ranks of the military as surely as a phoenix on a morning flight. Certainly one of the most eligible bachelors in Carnterra, he was at the head of many a victorious charge, center of quite a few hero’s feasts and bearer of a treasury of awards. Soon, the King Terenaas named him his first general.
Then, the Collector’s War erupted, as the city-states struggled for supremacy, with today’s friend becoming tomorrow’s foe. Swiftly, they fell to Marhondal, the victims of his cunning. Seven crowns he took, along with the heads of their kings, and subjugated their cities beneath his own. In triumph, the blood on his blade not dry yet, he ascended the Ebony Flight, the stair to the Raven Throne, where king Terenaas eagerly awaited his return.
At his feet, the hero threw down the crowns of the defeated, saying “I think these are what you asked for, Your Majesty.” Overjoyed to have the circlets of so many who opposed him so close, the king bent to pick up the precious spoils of war, only to feel the razor edge of Marhondal’s sword cut through his aged neck. “Those at your feet are worthless pieces of metal. I want but one!” With these words, he picked the crown of Carnterra off the rolling head. “No longer will I tolerate your weakness, Terenaas!”
When he emerged, the blood-stained crown upon his brow, his legions cheered, the black-and-red Raven Banner of Carnterra flew high over all towers, and all celebrated their hero, their foretold savior.
But mention I will the battles that followed, ones that led the once-meek city-state to become the capitol of dozens of nations, with King Marhondal on its throne. The bronze roofs of Nathanir bore his flag, as did the Everoaks of Athromae. The guardian Colossus of Hellesfont was cast down and forged into cuirasses and shields for his army; the burning canvas metropolis of Kether and the drowned Hennevar on the Farlain River became nothing more than offerings on his altar of conquest. From each of the kingdoms his armies felled, he took the queen or princess, to be both hostage and entertainment at his court, to ensure obedience in the provinces, and to delight his eye and spirit.
Fate conspired against Marhondal though; the same fate that gifted him with his throne, for all of his hostages were of a stunning beauty yet valiant spirit, contemptuous of his bloody ascent and fiery temper, oblivious of his advances and defiant in the face of his rage. Soon, no one dared to make a sound around the Bloody Raven, who’s brooding could not be lifted by reports of victory nor heaps of riches; neither gladiators fighting to the death nor serpent women dancing for him clad in naught but their skin and jewels could staunch the fount of darkness within him.
In serene defiance the hostages endured his ever more violent advances. They answered the merciless whip with poisonous words, with mockery his shows of force. Little knew the ladies fair that they too, were but tools of fate, tools fate discards when it no longer needs them. Marhondal’s vision clouded red, his reason a faint memory, and one by one he slew them, the Chained Flowers, as all came to call them. Their chambers ran red with blood, but that was not enough of a revenge for what their mockery had done to the frail temple of Marhondal’s spirit.
The Raven Emperor took their delicate hands, cut off at the wrists, and pressed them against his body, where they had refused so stubbornly to touch him, crying his rage. Coarse thread sewed them all together, supported by the ribs he ripped from their chests.
Their brave hearts, that had refused to be his despite his many conquests, he took and crushed in his hands, still warm. Through his might and fury, they became one, hard as stone, hard as his own heart, as red as blood and clear as the oceans beyond the sea of madness.
From their fair hair, so tempting, whose smell was so lovely, he made a cloak, to ward him from world’s loveless chill. Their voices so harsh and cruel, like cutting knives, yet of such kindness to all but him, Marhondal imprisoned within the earings of Minoira, the most beautiful of them, each voice adding a bell or gem.
Finally, from the bones of their legs, those legs that never wished to dance for him, he made a crude flute, to play all the dances he’d have wished to dance in their soft embrace, their enchanting company.
The flesh the tyrant had stored. Until the end of his days, he’d not eat another meal.
That fateful day, when he emerged from the chambers covered in gore and blood, Marhondal called to the guards: “Execute all the prisoners, none shall be spared!”
That day, thousands died under the axe, prisoners of war, dissidents, surrendered officers, hostages of faraway kings. The grand Victory Plaza at Carnterra was transformed into a sea of blood, yet the emperor did not care, wading through the gore and mocking the piles of heads, clad in his coat of human hands.
As one, the subjugated lands rebelled, marshalling peasants and craftsmen, men and women alike, and descended as one endless host upon the tyrant’s armies. There he stood, at the battle’s front, an apparition of madness, with hatred in his eyes, his teeth red from the blood he’d drunk.
The Raven’s Stand, as the battle came to be known in centuries to come, lasted for weeks, and still, no sign of the tyrant giving up was seen. Having consumed all that remained of the flesh of his loves, he was but skin and bone, sustained only by the darkness within him. Hallucinating, he wandered away, leaving the battlefield for the woods, not that he knew where he wandered.
There, within a meadow, Marhondal saw the fairest damsel of all, clad but in flowers and an enchanting smile. Casting away the evidence of his sins, he stood before the surreal dream in flesh, and was welcomed into her embrace. He little suspected that for love he was not meant, for it was Ithvenen, the spirit of the woods, seeking to bind his rage and evil. She plunged a dagger of heartwood into the tyrant’s heart, its dark wood sprouted roots through his flesh and into the rich earth to bind him forevermore. In this way, the forest could digest and purify the darkness within, for we know well that what was once rotten is brought into new life, bright and pure, under the green boughs of the forest’s heart.
When Ithvenen returned to cast Marhondal’s gear into the flames, it had vanished, spirited away by some malevolent being, its reasons unknown. Long was it absent from the pages of history, only to emerge upon some power-hungry madman or champion of the Darkness, or even a simple fool; staying with the bearer until his inevitable doom, then vanishing again.
While not formally enchanted, these are still items of power.
The armor is surprisingly light and strong, adapts to the wearer’s frame and hardly hinders his movement, the enslaved hands moving in concert to support him even as they have carried the bodies of their fathers, husbands and sons: All the beloved ones slain by Marhondal. At night, it will massage the warrior’s sore muscles, staunch bleeding and clean wounds, as well as keeping him warm.
The amulet is made of the heart’s blood of many, and derives its strength from this, increasing the wearer’s endurance and stamina, as well as allowing him to sleep less and recover more quickly from wounds.
The cloak is able to cover the wearer with a faint illusion to hide some of his depravity through the power of the innocence of maiden hair.
The earrings, captured voices within, can aid the wearer, speaking against enchantment and guile, thus protecting him partially from mages wishing to control his mind, and liars seeking to sway him with words.
When the pipes are played, their tune bears the madness of Marhondal and the wails of the slain women great distances, along with a wave of rage and subtle notes of utter terror: Their tune is one of distilled madness and fear.
Despite their potency, the items’ gifts can mean the wearer’s demise: Should his will be weak, the hands of the armor may suffocate or strangle him, much as the woman wished to do to the tyrant who took their lives. The gory amulet will ensure that its user will often be bloodstained in battle or through accident, and might cause him to slip, attract wild beasts, or just fail in a vital social encounter. The cloak, memory of so many young women’s pride, holds some of their memories and may lead to depression, or desperate longing, so unfit for a dark lord. The earrings might drown out an advisor’s well-meant counsel, and the madness the pipes carry is not reserved for the user’s foes.