Thursday, August 17, 2017

Monster Mash: C is for C'Horthid

There are many strange and horrible creatures lurking in the buried tombs of the Ptah-Hamutian god-kings but, perhaps, none are worse than the transformed priests of Khepis the Scarab God. Like many mortals, they feared death and sought a sort of immortality through the Swarm. These foolish priests were misled by their superiors into surrendering to a forbidden ceremony that granted them immortality but stole from them their humanity, identity, sanity and freedom to serve the dead as guardians and to be used as living weapons by the priesthood. The priests called them C'Horthids (Kohr-theedz], which translates to "Butchers of Souls".

Immortal Horrors.  C'Horthids creep in the darkened chambers of pharoahs, untouched by time or the sun for centuries, and lie in wait for tomb robbers that ignore the warnings painted in heiroplyphics on the walls.

Each C'Horthid is clad in armored plates of black chitine with writhing form of over three meters in length, with a multitude of wretched scythe-like legs running along a segmented thorax that attached to an upright abdomen armed with a pair of toothed scythes for forelimbs. Most horrifying is that rather than an insectoid head it has a large grey humanoid head with cruel red eyes, a mouth full of razors and pincers. They make inhuman coughing noises, like the wheezing croak of a thousand locusts, as they choke on death itself. For it is the breath of the C'Horthid that is the true danger: the black gas it emits from its maw paralyzes its prey. It is then that the C'Horthid's horrifying intent is revealed as it will attempt to devour the soul of an incapacitated humanoids.

The only way to release the souls so they can join the afterlife, once devoured by a C'Horthid, is to destroy the beast.

Mindless Servants of the Scarab. The long term purpose of these creatures is unknown and alien as the mind of their god Khepis but it is believed that they will be rewarded by the swarm lord when he returns to pick the desert clean of all life. Until then, they remain trapped forever in their bodies, which act as a prison for the souls as their prey.

It is believed that some priests of Khepis, as well as other evil beings capable of controlling these insane horrors, are able to use these creatures as personal protectors and have a way to extract the souls to be used as a part of dark rituals involved with the scarab god. Only the most wicked of souls would create or use these monstrosities.

Terrible Weapons. And the have been used for more than guarding dungeons: some priests managed to cultivate and grow C'Horthids of monstrous size for use in warfare. These C'Horthid "invaders" were used as siege weapons, unleashed upon the enemies of the Scarab cult, and a few of them could destroy and consume thousands of souls. These legendary horrors and the rituals to create them have thankfully been lost to the sands of time but there are stories from raving madmen of caverns beneath ruined cities holding these horrors in wait for some darker purpose.


Fun Fact: This week's monster's name was inspired by the ancient Roman word for high heels "Kothorni", which were worn by butchers in places like Ancient Egypt to keep their feet from touching the bloody floor of the abattoir.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Monster Mash: B is for Beastmen~ Part 2 Elite Beastmen


ELITE BEASTMEN

The common beastmen are well known to all but the most sheltered of peasants but the elite beastmen are monsters that are a threat to all but seasoned knights, mercenaries and soldiers. From the dangerously powerful bovine/caprine butchers to the mobile equine tramplers to the cunning gnolls and werebeasts that make the Hold a place of untold horrors. A horde composed of common beastmen is a threat but can easily be handled by experienced military. An army composed of the following beastmen are a threat that can wipe countries off the map.


BUTCHERS

Brutality incarnate.

Butchers are the result of a beast hag getting a concentrated diet of quality chevon, mutton or beef and are the meanest brutes of the beastmen. They stand twice as tall as a man, bulging with leathery muscle, and are topped with a bovine or caprine head with cruel eyes and a maw full of sharp teeth made for tearing flesh and crushing bone. Butchers take particular pleasure in seeing the disgust and fear of their foes, reveling for the opportunity to walk into a group of enemies, and making an example of the first opponent: ripping their limbs off, taking bites of their flesh, and crushing them beneath their hooves are all techniques that butchers revel in to soak up the terror of their enemies.

Among other beastmen, their physical strength and sadism often makes other beastmen cower in deference.

 

TRAMPLERS

Tramplers are the cavaliers of the beastmen horde, a cruel mockery of centaurs, with the lower half and head of a horse joined with a human-like torso between. Their mobility makes them excellent scouts and messengers for beastmen groups. In combat they prefer hit and run tactics with bows and pole-arms that take advantage of their speed. They are proud creatures that enjoy showing off their skill on the battlefield.
GNOLLS

A mix of canine and human flesh in a beast hag's diet creates the more cunning and devastating foot soldiers in any army of beastmen. Gnolls resemble humanoids with twisted features of a hyena, dog, jack or wolf with digitigrade back legs and hunched spines. They often have enlarged fangs and some even grown horns. These cackling and barking madmen take more pleasure in the subtle nuances of cruelty, playing with their food, before tearing it to shreds. The nightmares of many soldiers are filled with the laughter of gnolls.

Besides being foot soldiers that are a match for professional soldiers, gnolls are excellent hunters, using their social skills, cooperation and wits to overcome their prey. They are also known to use beasts, particularly wolves, hyenas, and monstrous canines to help them in their hunts and to put fear into the hearts of all innocent men.


Other Abominations

There are as many different and unique subspecies of beastmen as there are animals for beast hags to eat and infused with the fiendish magic of their lord Kalibos. The most feared subspecies are the werebeast:

The werebeast is similar to a werewolf in that they can shift between the form of a gnoll and a human but have a more unique ability: they can transform into any person they've eaten. This means that a clever werebeast can kill a member of a community and infiltrate it. Famously, a large group of werebeasts managed to infiltrate a monster hunting church, taking on the form of pilgrims, before turning on the priesthood and exterminating them.

The most insidious ability of the werebeast is to reproduce via their attacks. If they bite and infect someone with their blood, the person will transform into a werebeast. Most people who suffer this fate go mad from the pain of transformation under the next moon, becoming feral and attacking people, before eventually being drawn to the nearest group of beastmen and joining their ranks.

This is an example of the less natural and horrifying potential of beastmen.


What did you guys think? Any ideas for horrifying beastmen? Do you like my approach to monster creation?

Friday, August 11, 2017

Monster Mash: B is for Beastmen~ Part 1 Beast Hags & Common Beastmen


Orcs and goblins have no home in Sublanarya. Instead, they are host to a uniquely disturbing and dangerous horde of their own humanoid savages; the beastmen.

Less than a millenia ago, Kalibos the Bastard Prince, the god of butchers and cannibals, was reborn in eastern Thule to a barbarian witch. The powerful and hateful brutality of Kalibos's tribe quickly saw The Hold's southern tribes fall to his savagery or join his quickly growing cult. The diabolical and monstrous god infused his servants with blood and transformed them into monstrous shapeshifters able to switch between their human and lycanthropic form. But even a large army of primitive shapeshifters wasn't enough for Kalibos and he intended to tear civilization down and drown it in a sea of blood.

Kalibos's "great innovation" came in the creation of a dark ritual that allowed him to impregnate his priestess with his own demon seed and transform them into the progenitors of a menace that would last long after his second defeat. These priestesses transformed into bloated brood mothers capable of bearing the monstrous spawn of a demonic god. After the ritual, they are able to produce the Cannibal King's offspring indefinitely without repeated ritual. However, they do require copious amounts of blood and flesh to create their spawn. Luckily, barbarian cultists of Kalibos and the beast hag's own children are more than happy to oblige.

While they are hardly picky, cursed with a ceaseless hunger that would see them eat their own children if made to wait to long, the content of their diet is important. In fact, the contents of a beast hag's diet contribute to the exact variety of beastmen formed: a beasthag who is fed rodents, rabbits, and other small woodland creatures produces hobbs, if she eats porcine flesh she produces mobbs, cougars and leopard meet makes prowlers, excess primate and human meat allows them to create orgs, tons of beef and mutton create butchers, horsemeat makes for tramplers, and gnolls are created from dog and hyena meat. This means that raiding for food to feed the beasthag is central to beastmen "society" as the contents of the beasthag's food directly contributes to the creation of specific beastmen subspecies-- the "better" the diet, the better the beastmen a tribe can produce.

Due to their bulk, beasthags are vulnerable in the open and spend most of their time in beastmen lairs to protect them while they spawn more warriors and hunters for the tribe. That doesn't mean they are unable to defend themselves and are not threats on their own: beasthags are capable of wielding devastating magical effects to keep their spawn in line and defend themselves from would be beasthag slayers.

BEASTHAGS
Now, let's look at the beastmen that beasthags spawn in greater detail:

COMMON BEASTMEN

HOBS

Hobs are the common rabble of the beastmen horde and make up the bulk of any group.

Opportunistic, easily-distracted, cowardly, stupid, and nasty are all words that perfectly described this wicked ankle-biters. As they are the result of a diet of rabbits, rats, moles, voles, and other mammalian vermin, they have similar but exaggerated features in the face with uneven ears, bulbous eyes, flat noses and a mouth full of sharp teeth. Hobs are usually about 1-3 feet tall with yellow to reddish leathery skin stretched over the boney bodies that are a mockery of the humanoid form. A trademark and unusual feature of the hob is the small horns or antlers they often have growing out of their temples. Some hobs headbutt each other in silly little games that often devolve into bloody fights between the creatures.

Hunched like apes with short legs and long arms, hobs rely on numbers or ambush to get their better of their prey, as they have neither the size nor the strength nor the intelligence to do much better. They are so common that many farmer's almanacs consider them pests and include handy descriptions on how to deal with hobs poking about your property. Still, like any beastmen, they are dangerous and a large enough group of hobs can go from barn thieves to raiding the villages if not dealt with quickly enough.

In a tribe of beastmen, they are the lowest of the low; hobbs quickly fall in-line under the scrutiny of bigger, meaner beastmen.


MOBS

Mobs have been described as a parody of orcs by loremasters and they're not wrong to categorize them as such. Usually in hues ranging between blue to green to yellow with porcine feature, such as snouts and tusks, mobs are the second most common breed of beastmen and make up the bulk of any tribe's warriors. They are not much smarter than hobs but are clever enough to prioritize, make tools, weapons and armor, and come up with strategies to overcome more than farmers with pitchforks. The biggest thing they have over mobs is size: they are between 4 and 7 feet tall with powerful builds but are prone to fattening themselves up on the spoils of war. They enjoy bullying lesser creatures, especially hobs, and are known to force the hobs to play cruel games for their amusement.

An organized group of mobs can make for a fierce army of brutes.



PROWLERS
Not even predatory animals are safe from the insatiable appetite of the beast hag. When a beast hag has been fed a diet infused with meat from predatory animals, such as mountain lions or wolves, she births prowlers.

Covered in shaggy fur, with powerful limbs and a terrifying fang filled mouth, they are remarkably stealthy for their intimidating builds. They use their natural predatory instincts, enhanced senses and survivalist aptitude to stalk the area surrounding a brood's cave or a beastmen camp for intruders or prey. They are gifted with surprising cunning when it comes to tracking prey and the elite of their kind are infamous for taking pleasure in picking off straggles of traveling party over a several day period before making a more direct move.

Still, they are known to be the most cowardly and lazy of their kind, and are the first to run when things don't go their way.
ORGS
Brute strength incarnate, orgs are the most valuable and difficult members of the common beastmen rabble. Not only does a beast hag require a steady diet of man flesh to birth these huge monsters, they are dull-witted and their power/size makes them difficult to control. Furthermore, their own monstrous appetites can often rival that of the beast hag and, in a pinch, they will kill and eat their own brethren.

Still, you will find at least one org in any band of beastmen. They are used for tasks that require immense strength, like lifting and moving trees or boulders, and in battle they crush all but the swiftest and most experienced warriors with their superior reach and their enormous great clubs. Furthermore, as they develop, their hides becomes so tough that they can shrug off blows from most practical weaponry. While other beastmen are feared for their ability to overrun small villages, a full grown org is enough to terrorize a county on his own.


Next time we will look at the more elite and uncommon breeds of beast men.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Of Lords and Ladies: The Elven Religion (IAURISM)


OF LORDS & LADIES:
THE ELVEN RELIGION (IAURISM)

The story of the elves, as does many creation myths, with the Mother.

In the elven tongue, she is called Ontaria by the Iaur and Aemilia by the Sylvanar, respectively. Her name translates to "mother" or "begetter" and she is the ultimate creator god in the elven religion. And she is believed to have been the first star.

When she washed away the sins of the clay people and fled,  the Mother left behind her sons. Eldest among them was Iaur who created the elves. He saw the creation of the Twilight Realms and was so enraptured with the beauty of the Dawn that he decided to make it his home. In the Forest of Iaur, he built the Starry Vale for the young elven race and guided them from his palace, Silverhome.

In Silverhome, he lived alongside his consorts and his children, who would lead to his ruin and abandonment of the mortal world.


Traditionally, Iaur is depicted as a beautiful elf with long raven black hair, bright blue eyes and wearing either long robes of blue, red and gold. In modern depiction, he has taken on a more militant appearance with silver plate armor, a long sword and shield with a blue banner. He is also often depicted with four black wings.

Personality-wise, Iaur is known to be a champion and advocate for the beautiful, the true and the good. His unequaled mastery of the arts, as an extension of his appreciation, has been passed down as gifts to his mortal children: the mastery of music, sculpture & paint, the expertise in glass/metal works & architecture, and their inherent talent and mastery with the arcane arts has allowed the elves to build wonders that are the envy of the world.


Lord Iaur's appreciation for beauty is admirable but has consequences. He had many beautiful companions and concubines. Their beauty blinded his judgement and allowed them the opportunity to undermine his rule. Their envy drove them to dark and dangerous extremes.

His eldest wife, Lady Rin-Varna, is a goddess of love, life, and light. She is the loremaster and creator of the written language of the elves. It is she that taught the early elves the art of elven rune magic that allowed them to live undisturbed the strange creatures of the Twilight. She is the mother of Kuron and Hurin.

Kuron is a female warrior goddess associated with the hunt and the wild. She is often depicted as teaching martial skills to the elves, such as the mastery of the blade and bow. She had friction with her father for eschewing the finery of his court but was a loyal daughter. Her brother, Hurin, on the other hand, while embracing the finery and manners of court, took great pleasure in embarrassing his father by participating in debauchery from overindulging in fine food, drink and flesh to throwing never-ending and frivolous parties. His libertine attitude earned him reprimands from his father that rebuked by undermining his father by participating in the fey court. While he helped the fey court conspire against his father, he is no one's true ally, and instead takes pleasure in the artistry of deception and betrayal. These "jokes and japes" that he played would allow the twin concubines

The twin sisters, Gwath-Yara and Kytix, were a beautiful pair of grey-skinned elves and they were envious of the attention that Iaur paid his first wife Rin-Varna. They conspired to kill their romantic rival and become the favorites of Iaur so that one day they or their children would rule. Sensing their growing disdain for the court of Silverhome, Hurin, in the form of his fey court alter-ego Masq, sought to help them breed discord for their father by gathering enemies against them.

An army of dark fey, allied with the twin sisters, were led to the Starry Vale and lay siege to Silverhome. They were not ready for war and Hurin had fooled his sister Kuron into an argument with their father and she had left with her warriors on a long hunt abroad in the fey realm. This left Iaur to fight the dark forces while Rin-Varna guarded his people in the walls of Silverhome.

The dark fey had underestimated the might and magic of Iaur, especially in his own home, and his wrath towards their ugliness and evil manifested in a terrible manner:

He turned the dream-like glamor of his realm into phantom nightmares that tore at their minds and bodies and each swing of his blade penetrated the dark horde like the rays of the sun. Still, his fey enemies were joined by more powerful foes: the patron gods of giants, orcs, and goblins, as well as several demon lords, joined in their invasion. He struck down many of them but their numbers and strength overwhelmed him and he found himself transforming into a great feathered serpent as he wrestled with them in the vale in a deathgrip. Without aid, they would overcome even his power and he would die...

Meanwhile, the wicked consorts, Gwath-Yara and Kytix, hid inside Silverhome with Rin-Varna until they could spring their own trap. The elves loyal to them, the Gwathnir (shadow elves), attacked Silverhome from within and the twins attacked and poisoned Rin-Varna herself. When Hurin realized his mother's life was in danger, having been watching the battle from afar, his love for her overcame his desire to sow discord. He summoned Kuron back to Silverhome.

Her hunters easily turned the tide of battle and helped free Iaur. They sent Iaur's enemies, maimed and humiliated, fleeing but promising vengeance. They then defeated and captured the twin sisters, forcing the Gwathnir to surrender, but it was too late for Rin-Varna. She lay dying...

For their betrayal, Iaur punished the sisters and their followers gravely. He banished the Gwathnir and all of their kin, the dark elves, to live in shadow. From that moment onward, the light would sting their eyes, and they would dwell beneath the rock of the mortal plane until they redeemed themselves for their crimes.

Before they could be punished, Iaur pleaded with the twins for a cure for his beloved's sickness. Hurin heart grew heavy with guilt and disgust, as they laughed at Iaur's sorrows and refused to save his mother's life. The two were put in a cell until Iaur could figure out how to get the cure for them and while he attended to his wife. And so Hurin went to their cell and them an offer: the first to share the cure would be completely forgiven for their crimes.

The two sisters turned on each other, Gwath-Yara transforming into a great black spider hybrid and Kytix into a great white spider hybrid, as Gwath-Yara attempted to share the cure and Kytix attempted to stop her sister from betraying her. In their struggle, they broke free from the cell and their fight did great damage to the already ruined palace. Iaur intervened long enough to separate them and Gwath-Yara told him the cure. Hurin had lied. He had not told Iaur of the deal and neither were rewarded. When Iaur heard they had poisoned his queen with spider's venom and, disgusted with their current forms and betrayal of each other, he instead punished them by making their arachnid forms permanent and casting them both into the pits of the Underworld. From there, they manipulate the Gwathnir so that they can escape their imprisonment below.

Iaur saved his queen and together, not long after, they led the surviving elves to material plane to create a new home on the isle of Saesun, home to the metallic dragons, and to protect their home forevermore

They fates of the daughter of Gwath-Yara and son of Kytix are also an important store in elf lore.

Gwath-Yara's daughter Nyeera was Iaur's favorite child for she was the most beautiful, most talented musically, and, despite her mother's treachery, the most kind and compassionate lady in all of Silverhome. When the Gwathnir were cast out of Starry Vale, it was Nyeera who pleaded on their behalf, and convinced Iaur to give them the chance for redemption. It is Nyeera who hears the prayers of the Gwathnir that suffer in the society of the World-Below and it is Nyeera that gives them hope in the form of psalms that promise redemption among the lowliest of the dark elves.

Her half-brother and cousin Assarr, son of Kytix, was the most respected member of the court but he had inherited treachery and wickedness. His morals twisted by his mother, Assarr sought to overthrow his father Iaur and take Nyeera as his bride & queen. Hurin saw the way that his half-brother looked at his half-sister and he knew that he had impure desires. He told his mother that he worried for Nyeera's safety but Assarr's reputation in the court was sterling and crystal-- clean. She brushed off the concern and accused him of being envious of his brother.

One night, while Nyeera walked in the blossoming garden under a red moon, Assarr approached her and confessed his love. Nyeera rebuked him, as mercifully as she could, and begged him to forgive her and to turn his heart's designs elsewhere. He grew furious, having never been refused before, and attacked Nyeera. Luckily, Hurin had been watching from nearby and came to Nyeera's defense. He summoned his sister Kuron once more and together they chased Assarr out of the garden, through the halls of the palace, and into the throneroom of Iaur. The wicked god threw himself upon his hands and knees and begged for his father's protection.

Assarr claimed that Hurin had taken his form and attacked Nyeera to frame him and that Kuron had tried to kill him. But Hurin pointed out the falsehoods in his story and that the blood upon the white-haired lord's lips was not his own. In his lustful attack, he had bitten Nyeera's neck. Rin-Varna banished Assarr and cursed him:

From that day onward, Assarr recoiled from the sun and was filled with unending lust for blood. He made his new kingdom in the Twilight Realm of Dusk and hunted mortals on the material plane. His sons and daughters were the first vampire lords of Narya and their children haunt the night, cursed by their ancestor's desire, to seek out pleasure in the blood of the living.

As a last note, it is important to remember most known version of the elven religion are written by the Iaurdin, who left Saesun at the dawn of the second epoch and their religion, as well as their gods, reflects their values. The Sylanar, the elves who stayed behind on Saesun, often envision the gods in a more naturalistic way as embodiment of natural forces and include the druidic gods, like Silvanus, in their versions of elven myths.

Like the Iaurdin, the Sylvanar value beauty, but in more natural and liberated form compared to the heavily constructed and controlled beauty of Iaurdin society.



Friday, July 28, 2017

Faiths of Sublanarya: House Fortuna: Moira the Spinner, Glamora of the Weal and Dysrae of the Woe

Some old tales speak of fate taking the form of three women: the spinner of fate, the drawer of lots and the inevitable shearer. It is said when a person is born, the spinner spins out their life like a thread. She sets their fate in motion. The drawer of lots duty was to help measure out the life's thread and to tie knots where they would make important choices. Lastly, the shearer's purpose and her pleasure was choosing when to cut life's short. Together these three daughters of the primordial Nyx determined fate for the peoples of Narya. Those are the old stories. Others say all three are one goddess: Moira the Spinner of Fate.


Much like Erys, Moira is often depicted as Grimnir's sister but her true origins have been lost to the sands of time. She is the one who wields the spinning wheel of fate but whether or not these threads can be manipulated are debatable. For one, her very continued existence is debated and some believe her daughters are the result of the Mending tearing her in half.

As for fate, it is argued that, perhaps, when a person is born, they are destined for certain outcomes but perhaps these outcomes can be changed. Some believe that you must take risks to change those outcomes and, to some that is where luck comes in...

In the border between Terra Nada and Mechanis, there is a place that some would describe as a temple, others would describe as a casino and most would describe as the final resting place of many gamblers. This place is called House Fortuna and this where fates are rewritten. This massive golden complex rises of the sand and lures in souls and beings from across the planes. Angels, demons, devil, gods and mortals can all be found here playing games with the souls of mortals and the fates of many at stake. The mistresses of the house are Moira's daughter's Glamora and Dyrae.

Glamora AKA Lady Luck favors the bold, the daring and the reckless. She rewards those who takes risks, often tilting fate in their favor, but, while she admires the skilled and cunning, those who cheat too often or without challenging themselves often find themselves on her bad side. Lady Luck is the roll of the dice when a gambler gambles and a risk-taker takes risks. While she is known to show favor towards her adherents, she is most often neutral in the outcome. She loves a game and is known to especially manifest, leaving the confines of House Fortuna, when the stakes are highest. She finds no greater beauty in the universe than when fate is tempted.

While she is associated with good fortunes, she is neither good nor evil, and would say she favors neither. Her sister Dysrae is associated with bad fortunes and, while she favors neither good nor evil, she certainly enjoys the suffering of others.

Dysrae AKA Miss-Fortune hears the prayers of those who wish ill upon others and manifests when fate turns against the proud and the powerful as well as the humble and the meak. She takes pleasure the more luck turns against the hapless and loves to see the downfall of the high and mighty. She has little sympathy or care. She is the cruel needling whisper, the bitter words, and the envious heart of the immortal and mortal plane alike.

While her sister prefers an iconically glamorous form that borders on the gaudy, with lots of materials, dice & coin imagery, and gold, gems and sequins, like a show-girl or magician, Dysrae prefers simpler dress but often takes the form of a red haired noblewoman. In this form, she is mentioned as witnessing many murders and betrayals at the noble lords of Thule.

Both gods, as well as their mother, are often found depicted in gambling houses, thieves guilds and other places where good fortune, as well as bad, are called upon.