Heathen Mar was young and seen by the others of her order as too slow to ever amount to anything as a witch. She knew it, too, but was never one to form opinions quickly. Even about herself or her limits. One day she asked what others saw as a rather stupid question, typical of the stupid witch: 'Why don't we just make a wand that kills whatever we point it at?' The high priestess of the coven was at least kind enough to inform her that such magics were impossible, even for the gods, because all energies must exist in balance.
Heathen was not ready to simply accept this as true, however, and after a few months of thinking about it decided to create such a wand. She didn't discuss the matter with anyone else, not particularly to keep it secret as much as to avoid their ideas. Their ideas were limited to accept that such a thing was impossible, so their ideas could not help her. She simply accepted that it was possible. Heathen knew she could be wrong, and as slow as she was she knew it was a likely end, but she wasn't ready to decide yet.
When she completed the wand, she made up her mind. They were wrong.
The wand's creation in secret was almost as great of a feat as the wand itself. Heathen found the dying everywhere she could, those in incredible pain and despair, and she gave them painless deaths with a razor knife made of ebony. Their desperate desire for death fed the wand a desire to free all life. Her appearance in a house of suffering and sickness, cloaked in black robes covered in black raven feathers, riding her slow tortoise, became a symbol of death and compassion for the dying. Many still say that a kindly death comes on the back of a tortoise meaning that death is too slow for those in pain.
Raven Feather Wand
The Raven Feather Wand is exactly 13' long. It's shaft is made of blood red mahogany carved from the heart of a tree grown only in compost from the dead and watered with their blood. The handle is wrapped in the cast off skin of a snake goddess and glistens like a rainbow in direct moonlight but looks ashen and dead in any other light. Three raven feathers adorn the wand, tied on with a dried, leathery chord.
The three feathers come from familiars of the three fates, gifts given freely to Heathen for a service she did for each of them. The leathery chord that ties the fate's feathers to the wand, however, is the one thing Heathen stole to make the wand. It is a small piece of umbilical chord from a child born when one of the lesser gods raped a mortal woman. Heathen drugged the girl's midwife and took her place during the birth; Heathen helped the girl to flee with the child, sending her to hide in the forest. Heathen took the piece of chord cut from the umbilical chord and finished the wand. When the god came and demanded his child, Heathen refused to help. When he threatened to kill not only Heathen but every man, woman, and child for a thousand miles if she didn't lead him immediately to the baby, Heathen raised the wand for the first time and killed the immortal.
It's command word is simple, 'die,' spoken in the Ancient Common Tongue. It shoots forth a bolt of pale white that kills the first living thing it contacts.
In one battle, Necetar the Wild Witch stole the wand from Heathen. The dark witch tried to kill Heathen with it, but Heathen used a simple jar of river water filled with water beetles to block the bolts of death. Shocked that the death bolt had failed, Necetar lowered her guard for a moment and Heathen slit her throat with her ebony knife.
Heathen grew to understand why such power should not exist in the world even as she worked to create it. She saw the abuses of power by mortals and gods and knew that this power over death was more than should be. Even she began to feel the pull of the wand, its desire to bring death to all living things. She knew that the wand could not be destroyed, so she chose to add to it a new desire. She trained the wand, imbuing it with a soul of its own, a soul that demanded balance.
The wand now demands its wielder give life, cultivate it, restore it, grow it before it will work. The life the wielder creates must be equal to (or greater than) that taken. For instance, if the wielder plants a garden, the wand may grant killing of a single vermin; if the wielder heals the wounds of a dozen dying people, the wand will allow the killing of a single person. Unfortunately, Heathen could not get the wand to make further moral choices. In terms of game mechanics, healing or growing one HD of life allows one HD of death.
Near her end, Heathen determined to hide the Raven Feather Wand, deeming it too dangerous for mortals and gods to hold. She built a small tower on an island in the center of a lake shaped like a tortoise. She took the eyes of the god she first killed with the wand and used them to create a ward upon the island: only one who rides the back of a tortoise may see the island and the tower. She placed four guardians upon the island as well: a wind elemental that can make winds as strong as hurricanes to drive ships from the shores of the island; a water elemental than can control the entire lake, making it fight any who would approach; an earth elemental that walks the island and creates pits and quicksands to suck in those that come; and a fire elemental that stands as the last guardian inside of the tower.
She also placed a curse upon the wand so that any that does take it and use it may only do so once, after which they must create a new and even more powerful hiding place for the wand. Should they fail to do so, the wand will kill them following the second time they use it.
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? Responses (6)
While a generic idea, the devil's in the details. At first I thought it was going to be terribly unbalanced, but you seem to have got that covered, even though not all systems use Hit Dice, in fact maybe you nerfed it a bit too much with that last section. If say a party of 5 found the wand, would they get 5 kills then, or just the one?
Good point on that. In my mind the wand would need to be hidden by the individual, and the hiding place must be better than the last place. Eventually this should make it impossible to find. However, a group working together on this could circumvent the curse by helping each other. I'm good with that, however. Think of the drain on their resources. They also need to bring life to use the wand.
I am always concerned with using terms like HD or such, but I figure it's a generic enough term to allow anyone to translate it into the system of their choice.
Great use of the laws of magic--similarity, contagion, etc. Well-crafted back-story and ingenious limitations. I like it.
Like Gossamer, I immediately thought that it was going to be ridiculously overpowered, but you predicted our argument and balanced it well :p
The whole 'Death comes too slow for those in pain' is great - and im sure Heathen has gained a cult following as some kind of goddess of compassionate death.
keep em coming, Dusty! You should introduce yourself in the forums, too! :D
As others have said, the details are what make this work. I especially like the description of how the wand was formed.
This would make a good item for facing off with the Big Bad as the PCs would need to locate the wand and prep it for the final confrontation.