The servants of the King’s palace unwittingly share a dark secret: a demon named Vermiscerax.
Each night at the Witching Hour (3 a.m.), the demon leaves one body and possesses another random one. The demon wishes nothing more than to experience earthly pleasures and so indulges its host’s vices, whatever they may be. So other than being more indulgent in their particular bad habits, there are two other signs that the individual is possessed:
- The person’s irises, when viewed in a mirror or other reflective surface, are bright, gleaming red.
- The person will exhibit an increased sense of piety. They will be seen, at least three times a day, passionately praying at an altar. However, those keen of eye will notice that there is always something “off” about the religious arrangements: a cross pendant will hang inverted, a few dead flies will lay on a host wafer or a bible will be opened to a page featuring one of the more bloody, violent passages. These are mostly subtle, requiring an inquisitive- and religious- eye to notice.
If confronted or threatened with exposure, Vermiscerax will utter a blasphemous word that will make a bright glowing rune appear in the air. All who witness it are wracked with spiritual and physical pain: they must make a Wisdom saving throw or take their total hit dice in damage and pass out for an hour (providing a chance for the demon’s host to escape).
The demon can be exorcised with the right rituals, but Desdemonia will not permit any harm coming to her staff. She will interfere and have any holy rituals interrupted and any participants apprehended and flung from the palace. She doesn’t believe in demons and can’t be convinced by any evidence.
Vermiscerax will always be able to possess another servant each midnight. The demon is intrinsically tied to the Grey Isles and cannot be banished permanently.
There are still many secret, sinister phenomena on the Grey Isles. When the moon is at its highest or when the sun is eclipsed by Frostgrimm Mountain on the horizon, one of the following encounters may occur to a visitor of the Isles:
- Paintings and statues whisper warnings and ill omens, but they only move in one’s peripheral view: when examined directly, they are still.
- Plainly visible footsteps of an unseen being walk from a character’s room to an obviously freshly bricked-up doorway. What lies beyond?
- An old journal is being written by an invisible person: the current entry, penned by an unseen hand, is dated over fifty years ago. It details the emotional troubles of a young noble lady in love with Laszlo, one of the servant staff. Despite his cruelty and coldness, she is madly in love with him. If investigated, Laszlo is still around, but is very old and pretends to be senile. The girl’s remains can be found in the garden, Laszlo’s name written all over her bones.
- A huge wooden cupboard full of ancient fur coats. Entering it on New Moon nights (when the Flaming Stair to the Opal City appears) will reveal a secret passage to the Queen’s former room, which is still fully furnished and decorated with beautiful and morbid curiosities. The single, narrow gothic window is made of blood-red glass. An important quest item or highly-sought substance can be found here.
- There is a fountain in a courtyard full of dead roses. At night, it sprouts rose-scented water. When the basin is full, a key appears. It is made of black crystal. It will fit the lock of the next locked door that they attempt to open. There one new key every week; it opens a different door each time (or the same one, if it gets locked again).
- In a dusty corner of a forgotten room is a small child’s doll. It has curly blond hair and incredibly life-like glass eyes. Despite the somewhat creepy appearance, holding it makes a person feel safe and content. Holding the doll grants the owner an advantage to checks to resist fear. If kept in one’s bed at night, it will awaken the owner if danger is present. After a week of owning it, the character’s eye colour with change to match the doll’s (blue in the left eye, black in the right).
The ruins surrounding the palace are rife with dense, tangled vegetation. One is likely to find long, crawling vines that sprout violet flowers, carpets of grey moss and a dense maze of black rose bushes.
They can be found everywhere among the crumbling walls, free-standing archways and dramatic statues of maidens, dryads, satyrs and sphinxes.
The thorns on these bushes are extremely sharp and emit a faint toxin. Whenever a character rolls a 1 on any dice roll while they’re in the ruins, it means that they’ve been pierced or scratched by a stray thorn and will be feeling their effects in 1d6 minutes.
Roll to determine how this affects the Player Character (PC):
- The PC will feel a strong obsession with a painting or statue of a young man or woman. They will dream of this person frequently for the rest of their lives. If they ask about the identity of this person to any of the palace staff or inhabitants, they will find out that they were a tragic relative who died of a broken heart. At this point, the obsession will become much more intense: a profound lovesickness. The character will be resistant to all charm effects, magical or mundane, but will never feel content with any other potential romantic relationships.
- The PC will see the ghost of a lost loved one lost in the rose garden maze. If they dismiss the vision, they will hear the person call to them at night incessantly, weeping and crying for help. This will cause some consternation and distraction: the PC will be at a disadvantage to all Intelligence and Wisdom checks during their stay at the Grey Isles until they investigate. If they follow the ghost into the maze, they will find a skeleton half buried in some loose soil by a stone statue. Giving the skeleton a proper burial will end the hauntings.
- The PC will feel an incredible urge to carouse. This becomes so intense that they will only be able to recover HP if they are drunk, drugged or exhausted from love-making. Fortunately, their demeanour becomes irresistible to the younger members of the servant staff, or even of some of Cadaveria‘s coven (the PC’s Charisma rises to 18 if it isn’t already that high). This lasts as long as they stay on the Grey Isles.
- The PC will feel terribly ill: have them make a few fake Constitution saving throws each day until they fail. At that point they will become bed-ridden and unable to move except tossing around in a feverish haze. One morning, they will find a strange diary under their pillow. The symptoms of their strange sickness will lessen if they read the pages. If they read the entire diary (takes about 6 hours) they will be completely cured. The diary belonged to a troubled man whose beloved was dying from an incurable illness. He was so upset and tortured by this that he eventually died before she did from exhaustion and stress. Reading the entire diary will reveal the location of all of the secret doors and passageways of the palace.
- The PC will notice the terrible, mournful songs of the Lemures from a garden well. Taking the time to listen to them for at least three separate occasions will grant them a terrible insight about the Grey Isles: they will know the true nature of one of the three Maidens: Cadaveria, Necrotia or Yeuthania. However, they must make a Charisma saving throw each night during their stay on the Grey Isles or be irresistibly drawn to the well and the Lemure-songs. If they go to them on three separate nights, on the third they must once again pass a Charisma saving throw (at a disadvantage) or throw themselves down the well and into the terrible embrace of those hideous creatures.
- The PC will notice a vine-covered fountain with a statue of a beautiful mermaid. If they approach it, they and they alone will hear a faint, ghostly singing in the air. In the fountain’s water there will be a dim glow. If they look into it, they will see a cloudy vision of a city at the bottom of a lake and a stone staircase descending to it from the shore. It is framed by green flames. There is no moon in the sky. At that point, two fiercely strong arms will come out of the fountain and try to drown the PC. They must make a Strength saving throw or else begin to drown. Unless someone else is nearby, they will surely die. If that happens, their body will be found on the shore a few days later.