A heavy staff of black oak, with the House Crest of Adelheim etched prominently into the platinum topper.Â Seven snakes, each of a different metal, wind up the staff from bottom to top.Â Their jeweled eyes begin to glow with an inner light as each of the other Kings' Items are dedicated to the Cause.
The bearer of this staff gains the ability to cast seven different summoning spells.
- Scatha, the medic (copper): Scatha manifests as a small swarm of tiny snakes that descend upon the battlefield and bite into the flesh of any wounded.Â Their bite immediately stabilizes the victim, and the fortunate soul will slowly regain health as long as the snake remains attached.Â Scatha can initially split into two of these, but the number scales up with the number of other Kings' Items pledged to the cause.
- Ness, the guardian (brass): Once summoned, this snake sits coiled around the caster, often around his shoulders.Â It will guard the caster with its body and spitting venom, entangling incoming weapons in its coils and deflecting arrows to a limited extent.
- Akheku, the key (bronze): A small, fingerlength viper that is capable of slithering into a keyhole and unlocking almost any door.Â Only those doors guarded with the most potent magics stand a chance against this snake, and it will resist many of the most common safeguards.Â Enchantments and poisons designed to kill won't affect it (as it isn't alive), though it may still be slowed or potentially ensnared by them.
- Apophis, the assassin (steel): Apophis can be given a named target within a 5-mile radius of the caster, and will track it down unerringly.Â Once the target is found, Apophis will wait until the victim is distracted before striking out with its deadly poison.Â If caught, Apophis cannot be questioned and will wither away to nothingness almost before the captor is sure of what he's caught.
- Haku & Rahu, the hypnotists (silver): This pair of snakes can charm or hypnotize most targets within a 10-ft. radius.Â Once the target falls under their trance, the bearer of the Staff may attempt to implant a suggestion into his victim's mind.Â The subject remains immobile while in trance.
- Abraxas, the advisor (gold): Enigmatic and highly intelligent, this snake possesses in-depth knowledge of the future and the arcane arts.Â When summoned, the caster can ask it 3 questions before it returns to sleep for a full month.Â It will always answer the questions truthfully, but will use as few words as possible to answer.
- Glaurung, the king (platinum): Over ten feet long, this snake is a formidable opponent that can match several soldiers at once in combat.Â It possesses the ability to swim through almost any liquid, and is capable of transporting the caster across such surfaces safely.Â Glaurung also boasts a large rattle which it can use to intimidate its opponents.
This is a twisted item, with some of the original owner's taint.Â Beware the advisor snake, especially.Â While Abraxas must tell the owner of the Staff the truth, the truths it tells seem designed to cast doubt on the rest of the bearer's companions.Â After all, it knows that if the Staff's owner betrays The Cause it will receive many blood sacrifices in return for its services.Â The same is true to a lesser extent with the rest of the snakes.Â If they have the opportunity to cause strife and mischief between the bearers of the Kings' Items, they will.
Chosen by Linus, the Arcanist.Â A master of the arcane arts and devoted follower of peace, Linus was the first to become concerned over King Verin's ever-expanding interest in conquest.Â He argued often with his brothers over what was to be done about it, but for the most part they were each too consumed with their own duties to take action.Â He consulted with Abraxas often about the future, and became quite worried about Adelheim's eventual downfall.
Increasingly paranoid, Linus blamed his brothers for the imminent destruction of their homeland.Â He began to modify the Staff of Seven Snakes, calling upon his years of experience in the arcane arts to free it from the grips of the other artifacts.Â Adelheim would NOT fall under his watch, he reasoned.Â Not if he had to safeguard it himself.
In the end, it wasn't Verin's death that caused the rift between the remaining six kings.Â In the grey years that followed Verin's death, Linus' mind was further poisoned by Abraxas, and it was at his own hand that many of the remainder perished or were lost.Â In the end, Valenor the Wise and Silath the Skald were able to lure their crafty brother into a trap that ended his reign, though Valenor ended up paying the ultimate price for it.
This is the only one of the Kings' Items that can retain its powers after the bearer has forsaken his Cause.Â After each use, the snake in question must be fed a suitable sacrifice to prevent it from deactivating entirely.Â The sacrifice can range from a little bit of blood for the medical snakes, to a live human sacrifice for the king snake.
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? Responses (11)
Another very good submission from you.
Good description, though the backstory of why the staff is not as strongly linked to the other items as these are, might use an expansion. In a campaign to re-unite the Seven Treasures, the intelligence of the staff (where does that come from, btw?) Would be an inside-job enemy.
Meanwhile, I hope you compile all the lore parts to one storyline, it sounds like a great story.
I'm planning on expanding the 'Kingdom of Seven Princes' sub to provide biographies of each King and to better link the lore together. I might do it in short-story format, but I haven't decided yet. To try to answer your questions:
The intelligence of the summons was always there, from the moment of the Staff's creation. Linus came to rely heavily on the advice and council of the various snakes of his staff, especially when the rift between him and his brothers began to grow. Obviously not a sound idea -- enigmatic magical beings are a poor substitute for one's own family or friends in times of mental distress.
Linus became increasingly paranoid during this time, and it was he himself who began to decouple the Staff from the other King's Items. He was a master of the arcane arts, after all; tinkering with his own item was well within his abilities. The Staff did not deactivate for him before he was through because he never really abandoned his Cause -- he truly believed that he was working for the good of Adelheim, by securing his own power so that he could continue to lead in the event of his brothers' betrayal.
Once the summoned snakes began to be fed sacrifices in return for their services, however, their demeanor immediately changed. They enjoyed the change and wanted to encourage it. The unintended consequence of unlinking the Staff from the other items, therefore, was to provide the snakes with motivation to keep that distance; hence, the desire of the various snakes to cause strive within the fellowship even where none exists before. If they are successful, they get 'paid' for the services that they otherwise have to render for free.
Not sure if that was entirely clear, but I'll try to work it into the sub itself when I have time. Thanks for your thoughtful comments and suggestions on many of the items in this series.
A really cool item with logical drawbacks and such.
Only one quibble - the selection of Glaurung as a snake name. To me it is in the same bucket as naming your wizard Gandalf :)
Great item with some great magic under its skin. The use of snakes is well played for the spells it makes available!
Very nice. The Staff could work nicely on its own or as part of the set, and the powers mean you can put it in the hands of anyone - not too benevolent or malevolent. I could definitely imagine using this. In fact, maybe I will.... If I can fit it into my game, I'll report back.
One problem I do have, minor though it is, is that you talk about powers being linked to a Cause, but that is not described either here or in what I take to be the main submission (The Kingdom of Seven Princes). And I'm not willing to look through six other submissions to hunt it down. It's not that important to this item, though, so not a big deal, just a little nitpick.
Fair enough. The 'Cause' is kind of nebulous, since it will be different for every group. Basically, it is a sort of sworn pact all the bearers must follow. It can be anything from 'We shall defend the city of Valyria' to 'We shall avenge our people by destroying the Empire and its army.' In this case, each prince swore to serve the kingdom to the best of his abilities and to support his brothers in doing the same.
As mentioned, I did indeed use this submission: brought it in as a malevolent magic item in a Buffy the Vampire Slayer game. I thought it worked pretty well, though I did have to rather dramatically alter the lore to make it work.
Still, the powers here are good and dramatic - giant snakes, assassin snakes, tempters, hypnosis, protection - all the stuff you want your villain types to have. Laurang can serve as kind of a nice boss, and Apophis as a solid introduction of sorts. The staff is definitely a neat item - it lends itself to being used stylishly, and it's kind of fun to describe.
On the other hand, using it this way kind of diminished Abraxas's ability to spread discord, even letting him talk without being specifically asked questions, so I not certain that I got the most out of it.
Still, lent itself to a good time.
I'm glad you got a chance to use it in-game. Seriously made my day to hear about it, so thanks for posting back :D
Wicked Staff, love it and will adapt it to be included in my own world.
Thanks for sharing.