Mateljan is a bandy-legged man, from too many years in the saddle and an equal amount of time spent at the dinner table. He is as well known for his rotund belly as he is for his almost sadistic stand against criminals and law breakers. He is a short man with a long black mustache and frequently wears the cap of the local faith. Now getting on in his years, he no longer belts on armor, preferring loose fitting and comfortable robes, giving him the appearance of a cleric, or a wealthy merchant.
While not a cleric, he is a zealously devout man who believes in the Draconian interpretation of the holy texts. He would be quite at home decapitating murderers, disfiguring thieves by cutting off hands and ritually castrating rapists. He is a hard man, but contrary to this, he is also an upstanding member of the community, a sitting deacon at the church, and has no fewer than two sons, and four daughters, all of whom he cares very much for.
Mateljan is no stranger to the vagaries of civic duty and law enforcement. His father and his father before him were city guards, with his father rising to the prominent position of Adjunct Captain, a position only supercedded by the Banner Captain of the Guard. Mateljan enlisted when he was old enough, but his career was drawn up short when the mages guild discovered that he had the talent for magic.
For 20 years Mateljan was apprenticed to the Guild, perfected his art with the hard-nosed determination expected of a man whose father was the 2nd in the City Guard. but unlike many mages, he found the craft to be lacking something, as magic was awe inspiring and powerful, it gave him no sense of satisfaction. He found a new direction when he applied for the Guard again, becoming one of the first Guard-Mages.
Criminals lived in fear of the bull-necked Inspector Mateljan. With his upbringing in the law, and decades of magical study he was a formidable foe for the thieves guild. His connection with the Mages Guild meant that the thieves couldnt even enlist the less scrupulous mages to off the nosy inspector! But after another decade and now in his early fifties, Mateljan was displeased.
It seemed no matter how many criminals he sent to the gaol or the gallows it seemed that two more popped up in their place. Efforts to increase the guard were stymied by the lack of funding from the crown and civic laws prevented private funding for the troops. Mateljan realized that almost half of the cities guards were tied up in maintaining the gaols, some of which were full to overflowing. If he could find a way to make a better prison, he could relocate those men from watching cells to walking streets.
Rather than creating a new prison of stone and iron, at the cost of the city, he thought of a wizard's prison, sometihng that he could make himself. then, the idea grew to become an inescapable prison, albeit one that was safe. There would be no savage monsters to run loose, and no strange magic walls of flame to get out of control, just something very simple...as simple as things can be with magic that is.
The Kerke-Mage Cabal
In his plan, Mateljan enlisted the aid of a fairly inexperienced group of magi who were deemed to be less than adventurer material. Each was selected for a strong sense of morals and civic duty, rather than sheer skill. While these magi were not the tops of their classes, Mateljan knew he could trust them in the coming works, and named them the Kerke-Mage cabal, himself becoming the self titled Kerke-Mage.
Kerke's Keep is the rather misleading name of the stronghold that Mateljan constructed to house his new project. It is principally underground, with no windows, and only one door. The above ground levels operate as a new hall for the City Guard to operate from, with his personal office and laboratory space located on the third floor. The middle two floor are used for interrogations, holding criminals, and other official business.
The basement level can be accessed by a single door that is very stout and banded with steel. A flight of stairs leads to a second door, this one Arcane Locked. A prisoner condemned to spend more than a certain amount of time in the gaol is instead transferred to Kerke's Keep. The prisoner is marched through the building and into the basement. A lab and operating theatre is the central feature of the facility which is off limits to all civilians and even most of the city guard.
By Mateljan's code of honor, no innocent man cen be condemned to death. This lessens the numbers who are sent to the gallows, but swells the ranks of prisoners. There is, however, nothing for the comfort or protection of prisoners found guilty. Thus the prisoner is confined to the operating table and sedated.
Once unconscious, the prisoner is subjected to a potent Reduction spell of Mateljan's own creation. The prisoner is reduced to his essential salts, which are collected and placed carefully in a wax stoppered lead urn. The urn is marked with chalk and placed alphabetically in shelves by the date of their 'release'.
When the prisoner's release date arrives, they are poured out of their urn and restored with a basic spell that is less strenuous than the Reduction spell that reduced them to salt and ashes the first time. Prisoners are reluctant to speak of their time of reduction, but it is generally agreed that they are aware on a limited basis, but not so much as to go insane from confinement. The new parolee is advised to watch their step since multiple applications of the Reduction spell generally prove to be very physically destructive to the body and mind.
Prison Break - The PCs have to rescue a contact/friend/ally from being incarcerated in Kerke's Keep. They might be vital to the plot, or wrongfully accused, etc. The PCs have to find a way to break into a Guard station/barracks, pass through the doors and wards against teleportation and thieving spells and find their comrade before the Kerke-Mages blast her or him into essential salts and ashes. Can they stand to have the vindictive, yet honorable Mateljan as a foe?
Back Scene in Motion - Sitting in the Gaol, the PCs are waiting for their time to be up, but oversee several new convicts, each to be placed in lock-up for a year or more get carted off kicking and screaming. Rumor has it that long term prisoners are blasted to ash and made the slaves of the Witch-Warden...the obviously sadistic Mateljan.
Missapropriation of funds - Mateljan's prison is a success, but some less scrupulous members of the Kerke-Mage Cabal have been restoring some more violent criminals in their care, binding them with oaths and setting them to do their dirty work. Sure it was obvious that Madame Ganoebald was killed by Smarmy Swelterbelt the gnomish assassin, but Smarmy was placed in Kerke's Keep last year, and a quick visual check shows that he is still there. It would be foolish to assume that Vorhees the Kerke-Mage restored the gnome to knock off the Madame to hide his outstanding whore-bill.
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? Responses (8)-8
I like this piece. In incorporates several elements with good description and dramatic content. The number of 'fun' details generate high marks for me. While a bit more 'magicked' than my worlds tend to be, the NPC and his keep is logical and well developed.
We need a prison like that in real life. 5/5
Plot Hook-the PCs are sent to replace some of the urns with Urn Beasts in an attempt either to assassinate the mage, or to discredit his prison in the eyes of the city rulers and have it shut down. They are paid to do this by the local chapter of the Thieves Guild.
(Sorry for plugging my own submission but I coulden't resist.)
I enjoyed everything about this sub. The mage, the prison, and all the wonderful details! Kudos! My favorite bit being the Reduction spell reducing prisoners to their salty essence. I will immediately be creating a gaming session around that idea!
since '5' means...'awesome one! I'll find a way to use it' its a 5!
Sarcasm Ax can do no wrong! Another brilliant submission, and a memorable NPC that I will eagerly steal and insert into my urban setting. I may alter the 'essential salts' a bit to suit my low-magic theme, but everything else shapes quite nicely.
Interesting. The punishment reminds me of more sci-fish variants - freezing people, and the like. Likeable, with a solid amount of detail.
manfred is quite right of course this is a fairly standard Sci-Fi theme I've never seen it done so well for a fantasy setting though much kudos for that Scras
A well developed character with a logical background and a believable motivation
Definitely up to your normal standard 4½ / 5
Another Plot Hook
Revenge of the Thieves Guild One of the Kerke-Mages, deeply in debt to a 'syndicated' gambling hall, has paid off his dues by revealing the details of both the Reduction spell and the revival spells to a local crime boss. The thieves guild now start locking up guardsmen in their own Kerke's Keep, along with members of rival 'families', and anybody else who gets in his way. Can the PCs find out where all the missing people are going. And more importantly, can they bring the criminal mages responsible to justice.
Really good idea! The exact kind of hook, details and background needed. 5/5
Mmm. Freeze dried criminals. Pass the salt-shaker :)
This is actually less severe then being incarcerated - seems like you would not age so imprisoned.
Imagine some prisoner's 'lost' for decades and then restored.