V is for Vermiscerax #atozchallenge

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:

  1. The person’s irises, when viewed in a mirror or other reflective surface, are bright, gleaming red.
  2. 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.

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.

L is for Lemure #atozchallenge

In the crypts below the palace, in the natural tunnels in the earth, at the bottom of forgotten wells thrive the Lemures.

These pale, ghoulish creatures were once human: trespassing adventurers, punished servants or captured enemies of the King and his Maidens who were lowered into those dark places. There, in the dank, mouldy sepulchre, they are caught by these wretched creatures and slowly transformed into one of their own.

The physical transformation is dreamlike and disturbing: the victims are cocooned and undergo weeks of horrific change. Their bodies become corpse-like and pale, their heads hairless and black-toothed and their minds turned to quivering mush. They learn to weave shadows into thread which they use create constricting webs and cloaks to hide their twisted bodies.

The Lemures drink shadows, chew on old bones and gather to weep and shriek at moonlight when it streams down from above. The banal songs of their own kind are their only comfort: a constant humming and chattering of infantile melodies which relieve their pain and anguish.

The first Lemure was once a member of Cadaveria‘s Coven; a witch named Stregharia who was chosen for her cruelty as much as for her beauty. Unfortunately she directed her ire toward one of the other Maidens: Necrotia, a vampire who is bitterly tormented, beyond reason, by her monstrous undead form. Necrotia was particularly hurt by the young witch’s insults and so as punishment she kidnapped her, shaved off her hair, pulled out her teeth and threw her down a well.

However, the Grey Isles did not let her die. They warped her into a creature from nightmares and gave her the gift to make others like her. Henceforth, whenever anyone is punished for a petty crime (i.e., not punishable by death), the Grey Isles encourage the King, the Maidens or Desdemonia to send them to the Lemures.

Anyone exploring the underground places in the Grey Isles are likely to encounter swarms of these creatures. Their main goal is to subdue any potential victims by spitting streams of sleep-inducing webs at them and then wrapping them up into cocoons. If a victim is ever freed from a cocoon before a week (seven nights), they will emerge unchanged (except emotionally: nightmares will plague them for many years).

(Use the stats of a Ghoul or Ghast with a short-ranged paralysing attack).