P is for Piroska #atozchallenge

A former coven member of Cadaveria. A kind-hearted but unintentionally dangerous person who has unwittingly murdered countless victims.

With her blessing, Piroska was permitted to leave her service and take care of the flock of ravens living in the Northern Tower of the palace.

As a “reward” for this dedication, she was gifted with eternal youth and beauty… but only while she’s within the tower itself.

Inside the tower, her lovely presence lights up the dreary, shadowy place. When not attending to her duties, she writes poetry and songs that she plays with her lyre (Hecate’s Harp, which is currently in her possession).

Outside, however, her frame is bent and weak, her face that of a grey, elderly woman. Every day she can be seen taking a walk around the palace grounds, conversing with the ravens perched on her shoulders and walking staff.

Her duties with the ravens include:

  • blessing their eggs to a sombre goddess, such as Morrigan.
  • training them as spies and messengers for the Maidens, Desdemonia and the King.
  • casting wards against magical scrying on the palace

Piroska has some curious features that she’s acquired in her time as an occultist and raven-keeper:

  • she cannot remember nor recognize anyone by their face
  • when she sleeps, she becomes a huge white raven and patrols the Grey Isles from the sky, but she does not remember doing so
  • can transform into a Harpy (and back) once per day. In this form, her voice is incredibly enchanting and her claws are wicked: she can cast Charm as a spell-like ability as often as she wants (provided she can sing) and her claws cause weeping wounds that do not heal without magic (the victim will lose 1 hit point every hour until they are healed).
  • can grow feathers from her hair which, if given away voluntarily (once per week), can be used to make powerful magical items. If taken away without her consent, or by force, they have no magical traits. Here are some examples of objects that can be crafted from one of her feathers:
    • an arrow that can instantly kill the mightiest beings (save or die)
    • quill-pen that can create unbreakable pacts between those who sign their names with it (Geas)
    • wand that can dismiss storms or create gusts of wind that can fill a ship’s sails for an entire journey.

While at first content with her situation, she’s begun to yearn for human companionship. Chatting with the servants as an elderly lady helps somewhat, but she longs for the company of youth. She plays her lyre from an open window to lure mortals into her tower. If anyone visits her, there’s a 1-in-6 chance that a servant or stranger is already trapped there, enchanted by Piroska and her music. Unfortunately for them, and for Piroska, the Ravens become jealous and devour these hapless victims in their sleep. The Raven roost is littered with clean, white human bones that Piroska cannot recognize as if hidden by an illusion.

She belongs to the Ravens as much as they belong to the Grey Isles. Neither will ever die or leave that place.

N is for Necrotia #atozchallenge

Death and decay, cadaverous smell,
for us there’s neither heaven, nor is there a hell,
and only the stigmata could be able to betray
the sombre existence of the former days.

Sopor Aeternus – Dead Souls

Necrotia is one of the Maidens of the Grey Isles: powerful and tragic. She mostly keeps to herself and hides from the outside world, ashamed of her monstrous appearance.

When she’s not reading books in the library, she is staring longingly at her false reflection in a magic mirror or spends hours in a gallery full of portraits of herself (from when she was still beautiful).

Unlike the romantic concept of vampires, Necrotia is monstrous in appearance: bald, pointed ears and shark-like teeth. She is tormented by her vanity, occasionally donning a magical mask which creates an illusion of her former appearance; however the magic only works for an hour before fading and becoming useless for 24 hours.

Necrotia’s Mask

As an aside, the mask is a legendary item that has a secondary purpose of great importance to your campaign (up to the GM to decide). It is the key to solving a great mystery or conflict, but Necrotia cherishes it and will not give it up lightly.

Necrotia’s Mirror

The mirror reflects the owner’s idealized form… albeit with its own malevolent sentience. While the owner will enjoy seeing themselves as they desire to be, the reflection will occasionally mock them or try to convince them to harm themselves.

Vampire Powers

Necrotia has all of the standard vampire powers with the following exceptions:

Necrotia can transform at-will to any of the following forms: black ooze, giant black snake or vulture. In these forms, she has the same statistic blocks, but her choice of actions may be limited due to the chosen form (e.g.: a raven cannot carry something heavy and fly, an ooze cannot carry anything, a snake has no hands).

If reduced to less than 1/4 of her total hit points, she will transform into a black ooze and try to escape underground.

What is Necrotia’s relationship with the Grey King?

  1. Wife: she is a wife of the grim ruler. Once upon a time, when she was young and beautiful, her vanity compelled her to win the heart of the lord of the Grey Isles. She was aware of the dark powers of that sombre place… including secret lore that would unlock eternal life and youth. She eventually found something, but it proved to be unlike what she expected… While bitter over her curse, she is pleased with her endless source of dark magic.
  2. Sister: she is the King’s youngest sister. A lovesick and hopelessly romantic woman, she desperately sought out suitors. Against her family’s wishes, she favoured the attentions of a mysterious young noble from an ancient, decrepit family. The stranger convinced her to rebel against the King and elope… which she did. The man turned out to be a vampire with an ancient grudge against the House of the Grey Isles. She returned as a monster, tortured by vanity and shame, terrified of ever leaving the palace walls. She is, however, planning to hire a party of monster hunters to enact revenge against the one who ruined her life…
  3. Mistress: Necrotia’s beauty and grace won the heart of the King who invited her into his palace as a guest and secret lover. Life was good, for a while, until the King’s affections faded and he neglected the young woman completely, as if she ceased to exist. Lonely and bored, she explored the massive library and spent most of her time pouring over dusty tomes. Eventually she found the journal of one of the King’s ancestors: a vampire, who slept in the crypts under the Palace. She sought her out, woke her and befriended her rather quickly. But her frequent visits to the crypt were fraught with danger… one day, a loose stone slipped and Necrotia fell to her doom. To save her life, the vampire passed along her dark gift. Sadly, this put the elder vampire into a deep sleep and Necrotia was left alone to sort things out about her new form…
  4. Daughter: Necrotia loves her father dearly. When his nature changed to that of an immortal being (usually undead) she spent great time and resources in finding a way to prolong her own life. Dabbling in necromancy and other dark arts, she inadvertently changed herself into a vampire, albeit not in the way that she expected. She still persists in perfecting her “elixir of eternal unlife” and has even spread the word out into the world among other occultists and alchemists in the world to seek their aid and assistance…

(Reference image: Anna-Varney Cantodea of Sopor Aeternus)

K is for King #atozchallenge

This being goes by many titles: Emperor of the Void, Watcher at the Edge of the World, Lord above the Opal City… He may not actually be a monarch at all but simply carries the title by self-appointment.

What is he?

Destroyed by a curse, the King has been reclaimed by the Grey Isles and could be any of the following (fact or rumor):

  1. A troubled mortal noble who has been kept alive beyond normal human years. (Mummy Lord)
  2. A ego-maniacal Lich who generally keeps to himself, pouring over ancient tomes of blasphemous secrets. (Lich)
  3. The anguished ghost of a man, tormented forever and prowling the halls of his palace unaware of the passage of time. (Demi-Lich)
  4. A clever vampire who rules over his seemingly lifeless realm, relishing in feeding off of his would-be hunters. (Vampire)
  5. A sardonic Wight who dons a black iron crown and guards the islands with a fierce dedication. (Death Knight)
  6. Nothing but a figurehead: while a lifeless skeleton does indeed sit in the Ashen Throne, it is the Maidens who actually rule in secret. His ghost, however, still prowls the halls, unheard and unseen by anyone on the Isles… except to strangers. (Ghost)

Why was he cursed?

The individual now known as the King of the Grey Isles was once a member of the living world. Something terrible happened to his House and family; the cause of this tragedy was the man’s own flaws:

  1. Lust: he was once a kind, benevolent ruler who worshipped a pagan fertility cult. He did not hide his love of nature, romance and magic. For reasons that were either political or truly fuelled by religious fear, he was investigated for diabolism many times and many times escaped trial because of his popularity and wealth. Eventually, perhaps due to a betrayal from one of his allies, he was eventually caught and successfully tried. In the presence of the King, anyone who has caroused within a fortnight will have a hazy corona of grey mist around their heads.
  2. Wrath: he was a knight from a holy order whose army won a decisive battle for a great cause. However, his would-be allies were wary and jealous of his great strength, so once he served their purpose, they turned on him and had his House declared traitors. In his rage, he went on a rampage to slay those who betrayed him, which sealed his doom. Anyone within sight of the King who has ever killed another (not in self-defence) will have bloody hands.
  3. Greed: his great amassed wealth came at the expense of the well-being of his serfs and country. Like a dragon he hoarded the things that made him happy: treasure, women and fine wine. While not evil, he was blind to how much he neglected the world outside. Eventually rival lords, jealous of his riches, struck at a decisive moment and took everything that they could. In the presence of the King, all metals, precious or not, shimmer and shine brilliantly when looked at head-on, but in a peripheral view, are rusted, decayed and filthy.
  4. Sloth: he began to keep to himself and pursue his own interests, refusing to take up a cause or bother with worldly affairs. Because neither he nor his family exited the  Palace, rumours started to spread that they were demonic and debased. The lack of action eventually led to a investigation by a group of monster hunters. In the presence of the King, all clothes and armour feel like they weigh ten times more than normal.
  5. Envy: he once shared the Palace with his sibling; a more popular, successful man. Resentful that the crown would not likely be his, he and his wife plotted murder. When the betrayal was done, his brother spat an oath at him. Anyone in the presence of the King will perceive their fellows as looking taller, stronger, more attractive and confident than usual.

Those who engage the King in combat will meet a formidable foe: he can instantly summon his companion and guard, Osman the Janissary, as well as his Warrior-Wights. The Ettin will also rush to its master’s aid. The King himself will have different statistics depending on what the GM decides is his nature (see above). No matter what, as long as the Grey Isles exist, the King cannot be destroyed: he will re-materialize the next sunset.

Read more on the King of the Grey Isles when the book is complete!