The Vocran Palimpsest
A palimpsest is a manuscript, usually of papyrus or parchment, on which more than one text has been written with the earlier writing incompletely erased and still visible.
Full Item Description
The Vocran Pal. is a cumbersome and large book made of 128 pages of very worn vellum. The animal hide was cured more than six centuries before and it's original text has been partially obliterated to make room for new text and illustrations. As a result, the pages are dirty and smudged, the text no longer in neat lines but bunched into blocks and columns that follow the contours of the illustrations.
There are hundreds of illustrations within the book, each would be considered both heresy and blasphemy to the holy Kingdom of Trinistine. In full and morbid detail are drawn the muscles, veins, arteries, bones, and nerves of the human body. Judging by some of the rust colored stains the drawings were made by observation. The organs, especially the heart are given a large amount of detail in the work.
Should a bookish type with skill in restoring old texts get a hold of the book, he or she would be able to recover about half of the previous text by impressions in the vellum. The original Vocran Manuscript was a guidebook for assassins and detailed methods of effectively and efficiently killing people.
Despite the similarity in subject, the Vocran Palimpsest is a reference tome for physicians.
The original Assassin's Book came into the possession of one Thelo Dellurdan. The man was a scholar and was curious as to the nature of the body and was unsatisfied by the explanations of the Humourists, Elementalists, and others who proclaimed to know the workings of the body. He had seen things done on the battlefield that had saved lives but had gone against some of the tenets of those other schools. From gruesome firsthand experience, he had seen the muscles flayed open, arteries severed, and organs ripped open.
Reading the manuscript gave him an odd idea. If an artery could be cut, could it not be sewn back together? He spent the next two decades working on these questions, practicing vivisection on cadavers. He explored the various pathways of blood vessels and groups of muscles. He also worked, studying under a seamstress for a year to learn how to make near perfect stitches and smallest knots possible.
While others like Clef Cramoisi would later push the questionable art of vivisection to new heights, Dellurdan was content to keep his workings to the dead. He used many of the things he learned in his studies and attracted a body of followers. These learned men and women were stunned by the dichotomy of simplicity of organic design and the complexity of the human body it supported. This was an affront to everything they had been taught through years of hearth medicine and Ecclesiastic training.
The Vivisectionist School
Soon, Thelo had enough students that he opened a school to help train those who were interested. While only a small few followed his path into vivisectionism, the rest rest were content to learn of his findings and how to apply them in regular situations. With this training these new physicians learned how to deal with war injuries, perform cesarian sections and other physical ailments.
While not a large school, the Vivisectionist School drew benefactors who had benefitted from its teachings. Nobles who survived duels from timely stitches, and soldiers who survived battles with limps instead of stumps supported the school as best they could. When cadavers were in short supply, the school resorted to teaching on the cadavers of pigs, the animal most physiologically resembling a human.
While on tour of Ankara, Thelo was apprehended by Ecclesiatic authorities and taken to the Red Cathedral. He was there tried for crimes against the Faith, and against the teachings of St. Gray of Galen the Healer. Despite his own brilliant defence, Thelo was found guilty of heresy and blasphemy. As punishment he was to be executed by fire though he escaped this fate but using a pilfered knife to sever the femoral artery in his thigh. He bled to death peacefully before the guards could respond.
Dividing Lines - How long has the healing potion and the healing spell been the coin of the faith to control the adventuring population? On one side the clerical elite have the ability to cure disease and suffering, but not enough to sate the tides of humanity. For this they charge tithes and chimage for their arts. To the commoner many of these costs are excessive and they grow to resent the faith for its seeming greed. Enter the alternative, medicine that though laced with pain and not as sure as healing magic is less expensive, and can be more prevalent as it requires only study and a steady hand as opposed to years of church service, devotion, and oaths. The Faith sees the nascent art of crude healing as an affront to their beliefs, and as a threat to their monopoly over healing. An inquisition? Certainly possible...
Wire in the Blood - A demented would be physician has taken to vivisecting live victims in his search for knowledge. The Low Level PCs are tasked with finding this killer and bringing him to justice as well as finding the Palimpsest that is guiding him. Perhaps the book has a voice of its own?
It's Just Medicine - Despite the allegations of the Church, the Palimpsest is nothing more than a medical text book written over an assassins manual. Can the PCs bring themselves to destroy something that could save hundreds of lives even if the ministers of the Faith fear it?
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? Responses (12)-12
5/5 Now this I like.It makes me think of the time of the Inquistion.
VERY well detailed. I love the historical significance and the parallellism with real-world medical practices and knowledge-garnering. This tome is a good way of pushing your players into a bit of conflict that may not otherwise be of any interest to them (magic/faith vs technology/medicine), or which might come across as corny or forced(suddenly inventing a steam engine or other technological marvel with no real background to it). I will be on the lookout for a good time to spring this on my players.
I find this to be a very nicely done piece of work. Weaving it into the storyline of any campaign wouldn't be hard, and it'd certainly make things interesting.
I added this to the book codex. There are others that it might be added to.
I like this piece. It has history material that is adaptive to many a setting, dramatic tension, and all in all a very good presentation.
I am enthralled by this piece! Morbidly fascinating! I love it!
I second the other compliments. Good work.
Plot hook: Sabotage
The PC's have to compromise the whole school of medicine, which is gaining popularity. May include smuggling and 'discovering' the Palimpsest in the propery of criminals and killers (or, say, necromancers), providing evidence that the doctors like to do vivisection on living people too much, etc.
If this is too dirty work for the group, make exactly this happen, with the PC's having to find out who is doing that, and stop them.
One of my game's grave robbers is about to improve his education...
Only problem is that Vivisections are only performed on live subjects, not corpses..