The trip was a painful one - the Provosta were anything but gentle handling the prisoner as they made their way. Jharun was trussed like a pig and bounced against the horse’s side. More then once the Provosta openly mused about dropping him into a stream instead of delivering him to the Twelve. Jharum was ‘saved’ by the explicit orders of their superior - he was to be delivered alive to the twelve and serve out a year sentence. He bore the brand bearing his sentence, and if fate smiled upon him, he could expect the cancelling brand a year later.
The Twelve is now a place of punishment for those whose crimes did not warrant immediate execution.
The Twelve are a dozen massive statues from the Theocracy of Theos’s pantheistic days, before Thoes engineered the fall of the eleven.
All but one statue (That of Theos himself) are surrounded by rickety scaffolding, where day in and day out, the condemned chip away, slowly, painfully and with little effect on the ancient statues. Safety is not a major concern, and many find that they still had a death sentence even when they were sent here.
Surrounding the circle of twelve are countless plain gravemarkers of prisoners that died in accidents or killed by guards.
For two miles in all directions of the circle, not a single plant or large stone provides any cover, and any person stands out against the featureless plains. Easy prey for the mounted commissars who frequently patrol on horseback.
The stone used in the creation of the statues is unnaturally resistent to damage, and some say it actually heals over time.
The statues are an embarrassment to Theos and his church, a constant reminder that he has yet to completely expunge the eleven from his lands. It is said it is the residual faith in the 11 which prevents the destruction of the statues, and one of the reasons his commissars search so fanatically for heretics. The day the statues fall will be one of great joy to Theos.
Condemned to work here is a man known as the Last Heretic.
He is a priest of one of the 11 gods whose statue stands here, the ones now denied by Theos and his servants.
The Last Heretic is immortal - he has been maimed many times but death eludes him. Injuries heal, though gradually, and he always bears gruesome wounds - either the result of accident or attacks by the guards at the Twelve.
Unknown to the guards, even as he chips away at the statues, he has left inscriptions upon the higher points of the statues. These are writings sacred to the old gods and are left for other workers to find and read.
Most crimes against higher ranking persons are punishable by death in the Theocracy of Theos - the credo is absolute subservience to ones betters. Lesser crimes - those between members of equal level, or rarely, performed by higher against lower, are punishable by varying periods of hard labor. Those cases are often sent to the Twelve if no suitable task exists at the place of sentencing. The prisoner is brought to the the Twelve by Theosian Commissaries. It is not unknown for prisoners to die ‘attempting escape’ en route, sometimes simply because the Commissars could not be bothered to make the trek to the Twelve.
Crimes of higher vs lower usually only are punished because someone even higher then the perpetrator has an interest in the case, converting it to an indirect Lower vs Higher case.
When condemned to labour, the prisoner is marked with a brand bearing the number of seasons they are to labour - no sentence is less then one season. Once they have completed their sentence, they receive a cancelling brand.
The brands are delivered by high-ranking Provosta and are magic in nature, primarily allowing tracking by the Provosta and allowing Theos himself to look into the victim’s mind.
Campaign Use and Plot Hooks
This place can be adapted to other lands with harsh religions, or by substituting old kings statues for the gods, a harsh secular regime attempting to erase history.
A campaign could be started with the PCs all being prisoners working here, and planning a ‘great escape’. They have to survive informers, the Provosta, and finding some means to remove the brands, should they not escape the country itself.
Among the scrawlings of the Last Heretic, there is information of great importance. The PCs have found out about it though divination, divine message, etc, and now need to go to the Twelve to obtain the message. Getting in is difficult, and getting out all the more so. Especially since the powers that be would most certainly oppose this action. Once here, they would need to search all 11 statues to find the information. The possibility for a pitched battle on rickety scaffolding is there.