“I tell you, we are prisoners! There is no such hope for us! The governor holds us in an endless war against an eternal foe. There can be no salvation in this doomed colony! There is no hope and the divine has abandoned us! Lock me up all you wish, in time you all will know the grim reality that you suffer from! May the rats eat your eyes! I am now lost to your cause, the darkness comes! IT WILL DAMN US ALL!!” – Eustace L. Flanagan, Scholar within the colony of Dawnsveil, upon being sent to Trinity’s Passing Hospital for the Mentally Ailing.
The Demiplane of Dread is a grim place, but its darkest secrets are indeed hidden for the better. Even the doomed and imprisoned are largely unaware of the full details. And those who are? They are drawn into madness and obsession, in hopes of escaping or destroying the demiplane as a whole. However, there is something to be said for ignorance being bliss. While life in the Lands of the Mists is hard, those who don’t know full truth exist within their own lives and internal dramas. But, what is known is that the strange and supernatural lurk just beyond reach. And from those places, eyes stare back at you. Dare you stare too long, you might see even more eyes.
Author’s Note: I’ve been thinking about ideas for the future, but I always do that. If I get ambitious enough, maybe I’ll get around to making an OSR bootleg of some “Dominions of Darkness” or something. I wonder what that would be? But for now, just mad musings. In the meantime, I give you more gothic goodies to greatly enjoy, including my own take on new ideas. By the way, Dawnsveil is a custom domain. Check the Doc’s Multiverse tab above for more. Also, more looks into the future of the Time of Unparalleled Darkness, as potential plot hooks in time are fun. Also, I was waiting to squeeze a reference to Eternal Darkness somewhere.
The Lamentations of Governor Orvird
“I am a good man; gifted with courage by Admiral Brandson, blessed with righteousness by Father Dewfort and his first clergy, pushed ever onward by my family. I cannot disappoint their memories and their missions. In the end, I shall triumph through my convictions and desire for fear to be defeated. But, what do I know of conquering fear? I am enthralled by it. For such a formerly strong man, I feel like a pale shadow. But, who else can stand up to the moral decay of sorcery? Who else can fight back against creatures of darkness? If I can shoulder the burden of this land, perhaps prosperity and happiness will return and our homeland will recognize such hard work. Dawnsveil will be a worthy addition to the nation of Grandglen. That hope, alongside the love of those long gone, push me onward. This colony needs a strong man worthy of bringing this colony out of despair. In time, I shall give the people what they need. I shall prove the naysayers wrong. I am afraid, but I cannot give up. – From the journal of Governor Aaron Orvird
Once the shining leadership of an emerging colony, the very same governor dragged it into damnation. Distrust, alienation and paranoia turned confidence into madness. But, given the harsh realities of the colony already, his hand only tipped the scales. For all of this talk about Orvird’s worrying and flagrant displays of anxiety, few can speak about him feeling differently. This is because he chooses not to, save for his most trusted associates. In truth, Orvird remains a very expressive man. To his highest subordinates, they are met with a man who rarely expresses joy and passion, but is always quick to dwell on mistakes, mourn what once was and reflect on every action taken. And should he not be in the mood for talking, his private journals are gateways into his deepest mind. By nature of curse or boon, there is a strange power over them. His own paranoid fears about others learning his secrets has literally tainted the pages of everything he rights; whether governmental or personal. Only those he trusts can read anything he rights. And should he not trust someone, all words will garble into either strange characters or gibberish. This has backfired, as his detractors feel that their leader is succumbing to insanity. Or worse, he might be conspiring with the very dark occult he seeks to destroy. But, what are these feelings? And what are these deeper concerns?
Try as he may, his largest frustration is carrying on despite the death of his family. And more so, both his reluctance to remarry and the curse making him look too old to be desirable by any of the townsfolk. None the less, he finds himself haunted by the image of his wife and child. Even though there are no true ghosts, he still feels their presence somehow, as if from some spark of dark psychic power. Many of those under him don’t wish to tell how uncomfortable his talks of lost family have made them, out of fear of retaliation. However, the family is not the only loss that deeply troubles the Governor of Dawnsveil colony. Likewise, the losses of Dewfort and Brandson hit the governor almost as heavily. His spiritual advisor and his most trusted military official were his closest contacts for day to day colony life. Those under his thumb prove far more surly, suspicious or genuinely contemptible. If Orvird wasn’t certain, it would seem like several militiamen and reinforcements were merely pirates hiding away from the crown. Without the needed aid of such friends though, the governor has become more solemn, impersonal and hard to approach. Those wishing to speak with him on even political matters find themselves surpassing all means of bureaucratic obstacles. Of course, these were intentionally set up by him, in hopes of keeping others away.
The Curious Fate of Maggie Susan Higgins
AD 1972, Great Britain. It is here that a mysterious cult leader from the dimensional space known as “Gothic Earth” operated. By day, she helped operate a small bakery within a village not far off of Sheffield. To the locals, she is Granny Maggie. By night, the basement was said to illuminate with strange lights at key points of the year. The locals were quickly fearful, but the constabulary denounced at… for a while. After numerous examinations revealed that the water was safe, there weren’t any abnormal diseases happening, there was no tainting of the food (such as argot); an investigation began for what was considered a slanderous moral panic by the bakery co-owner, Gregory P. Townsend. Unbeknownst to him, foul work was at play. He very own friend and co-owner was doing the devil’s work. Under the shadow of night, the true nature of Higgins emerged. Kidnapped victims from other towns were quickly carted, often by car, a distance outside of the town. And each time, a different member’s car was used to avoid too much suspicion. A remote shack was the first site of dark ritual, as the unfortunate soul was sacrificed in an effort to awaken some sort of “energy” within an elaborate device crafted by other cultists. This Gate of Worlds reacted to the touch of fresh blood and the screams of death.
The woes of Maggie came when she became more brazen, practicing rituals below the bakery after meeting and gathering concluded in the woods. It wasn’t until investigations spurred by on Gregory began to unveil some strange information. Residue of strange substance was found in the basement, traces of dirt with glyphs left in them and specks of that curious glow still held in the hours after Maggie left. As it turned put, the olden cottage that hidden the bakery was a perfect spot for her to do her own practices. As to whether or not she contacted the gods she desired is unknown, but likely she caught the attention of the Red Death in its weakened state. Her confidence and carelessness caught up with her, as officers were sent to discreetly trail her. They uncovered the strange cabin, before sending for backup. As the ceremony concluded for that evening, a swarm of cars parked not far away from the camp site. As various cultists filed out to investigate, a fight broke out. Through a final prayer, Maggie somehow channeled a foul energy into the ring-like world device. Testing her mettle before beckoning others to enter, she hurled the energies at the approaching constables, causing them to fall dead on contact. Horrified, the remainder took aim and readied to end the mad witch. But first, she fell into a vortex that emerged from the device. But with her, the vortex closed. More than likely, the other cultists were subdued, as they lacked her strange powers.
She emerged in a land not dissimilar from the English countryside, Mordent, BC 755. When happening upon a town, she came to the conclusion she traveled to another part of the country, while also traveling through time. Her know-how of the 20th century would be a boon, in her eyes. And for a few years, it was. She began to weave herself into this town, providing insight for innovation and revelation. But in private, she returned to her dark rituals and methods, more careful this time. In time, she encountered traders, travelers and storytellers from other lands. All of them were strange and curious. But, what caught her attention was a secretive cultist of a giant fiendish woman upon a mountain. Any business with consultation was from henceforth closed in Mordent, as she took up the company of this Sister of the Sleeping Beast instead. Upon BC 758, Lamordia greeted Maggie. The Sisters treated her well, even helped her infiltrate Ludendorf to continue her business as a consultant expert for artifice, engineering and the like. While she was no expert of mechanics, her knowledge of 20th century technology was enough to be useful for her day job. Plus, her knowledge of baking made her a quick friend of several locals. Both her day job and her secret arcana did eventually catch the eye of a Darkonese spy well rehearsed in the dark arts. In an alley by the office building purchased by Higgins, a voice beckoned. He simply stated that he knows of her “incredible arts”. After some double speak and innuendo, she heard the spy out. As it turns out, an associate of the spy already broke into her office and found a document on her original Gate of Worlds. Initially offended, she heard an offer to aid “Azalin the Wizard-King” in creating a new one. Rather than close her office, she deemed that she was hired for a long-term project in another land. For a time, she operated in Lamordia, sending trusted Sisters hired into her company, to relay information.
In BC 759, she was summoned not only to Darkon, but to Castle Avernus itself. Within the dark castle, she saw the construction of the majestic creation she helped build years ago. An aged man in fine cloak and glistening crown greeted her. This was Azalin, the Wizard King. The sneering king gazed upon Maggie, making it evident that he doesn’t like working with others. After speaking of his preference to work alone, he did express rare thanks for the creation of this ingenious device. By Maggie’s permission, Azalin was granted permission to study the supernatural origins of Maggie, revealing her to be of the world of Terra. For several days, she relayed information on the world and realizing that she herself was in a new one. After months of consultation and days of aiding in the finishing of the construct, it was complete. Upon channeling energy into the device once more, she felt stronger and the flowing source felt far more sinister. Rather than a misty white gateway, the doorway that opened was black and ooze-like. The Wizard-King was amazed. “At long last”, he shouted in shocking glee. In the time Maggie heard of him and spent time with him, no joy was ever shown upon him. In the months to come, more tests were done with the doorway. Maggie moved back and forth between Lamordia and Darkon. Her last visit was later in BC 760, when she received news of another Outlander for the project. Azalin’s gaze proved far more sinister this time with a final experiment. Upon asking who would test it, Azalin revealed the subject to be Maggie herself. In his words, she was no longer needed. He revealed the information of another, a Night Hag named Styrix. Her Rift Spanner creation became the final key needed to complete this project for himself.
As she retaliated with the boons of her own dark sorcery, only then did the foul lich reveal himself in combat. The duel of magic was quickly decided and the wounded Maggie was magically shoved into the murky gateway, which turned white once more after she entered. What became of her? Unknown, save for the witch being lost in The Mists. Perhaps she materialized in Martira Bay to help Styrix get revenge, as spies took the secrets of the Rift Spanner back to Darkon’s Darklord. Perhaps she is freed back to Gothic Earth. Or perhaps she is doomed to some vortex warp deep within the Demiplane of Dread for all time. Traces of her continue in through the Time of Unparalleled Darkness, so it is likely that she continues to plot one way or another. Though, the only documented trace of her since “the incident” is in an underground mage’s laboratory nestled deep within the Jagged Coast. Within is a letter addressed to a mage interested in a cloning experiment.
The Revolt against Ezra, the Grim Future of Nova Vaasa
The Darkonese Sect of Ezra has been trying their luck within Darkon itself. Seeing an eventuality where they must fight to survive or be banished, they have since spread themselves into Nova Vaasa. This has immediately brought conflict with the Church of the Lawgiver, who sees Ezra as lowly compared to their high grimness that is Bane. For several months in 758 BC, this sect managed to operate in relative secret, while spreading propaganda regarding the Time of Unparalleled Darkness. Some quip and word was received by the Lawbringer faith, but this was seen as the mad babblings of heretics to dispose of later. In time, presence of this darker sect grew, as did ire from their revelations. Nova Vaasa is a land that has suffered from poor management, the result of an ineffectual and comparatively very small aristocracy. Beggars and diseased line the streets, with the denizens seeking any form of hope possible. The arrival of this new faith offers little, only fearmongering and damnation. While some of the countless impoverished have thrown themselves to the Darkonese Zealots, most find them despicable; worse bullies than the Bane worshipers have ever been somehow. Many still have some vague connection to their home church, viewing the church of Ezra as deceptions and falsehoods as well.
The arrival of this foreign religion has been rather advantageous to the Lawbringer church. Years of social decline has made it harder to instill dogmatic teachings of divine rites of rule, obedience and absolute order. The recent inclusion of a scapegoat has been used as a means of buffering morale. Thus began what became known as the Revolt against Ezra. The Revolt is actually a series of events, in which the church and allied factions have directly taken action against the faith. However, it isn’t just the Zealots who have been targeted. Any sect that enters Nova Vaasa has been met with gradually escalating hostility. By 760 BC, it will be made legally acceptable to attack an Anchorite or any related follower on sight. By 770 BC, murder of an Ezra worshiper will be rewarded through payment by the state, a glorified bounty hunter service. Family and friends will turn on each other in attempts to get ahead, while ridding any trace of something related to the banished faith. Some grotesque parody of a Middle Class emerges through blood money. The significantly struggling Nova Vaasa will gain horrific boons through terrible acts of rigid nationalism and genocide.
For the nobility, the Revolt is a sigh of relief. For countless years, revolutionary ideas have turned inwards and had begun to blame the wealthy classes of Nova Vaasa for the ills and woes of the land. This recent surge in xenophobia and powerful theocratic propaganda has made the previous mind sets far less popular in the eyes of the public. In fact, segments of collected taxes have been funneled to “informational sectors” of the Lawbringer church to ensure that these phenomenon stays strong. Given how effective this has been at keeping pressure away from the five aristocratic houses, few complain. Even Olthmar Bolshnik is impressed by the effectiveness of this campaign, viewing it as an attempt at national unity he doesn’t need to get his hands in. However, the Hiregaard clan is reluctant to share their distaste for the increased harshness and hatred that has occurred. Sir Tristen Hiregaard in particular is mortified by what has gradually become more socially acceptable. His attempts to speak out have been suppressed by his peers or even subverted by Malken. His attempts to take his own life in despair and failure have been also stopped by the true Darklord. Worse, Malken has become deeply invested in these events, helping to accelerate fearmongering among the public as well as spurring witch hunts against potential Ezra-worshiping heretics. These events won’t go unnoticed by the main sects of the church. Conflicts will heat up as even Borca slowly gets itself involved with the ongoing conflict in an effort to keep the church as a valid control mechanism. Escalating conflict between Borca and Nova Vaasa will only weaken both. However, Ivana Boritsi showed wisdom to use proxies to interfere at first. Several members of the church were initially rescued thanks to various orders, such as The Order of The Crows of Vallaki. But in the end, there is still the Time of Unparalleled Darkness.
Let us speak of The Dark Prophecy of Madame Eva! Of all domains, Nova Vaasa fares among the worst! The Church of the Lawgiver within Nova Vaasa is likely to meet certain doom in 775 BC, after Isolde of The Carnival becomes lost to madness and despair. Her divine wrath and twisting brings righteous flames upon the oppressive religion. Those who see this as a gift of Ezra only flock to the equally crazed sect, now shifting towards CN and CE. This leads many to take to the streets, in acts of holy guerilla warfare. To them, those who can’t be saved should be stopped, lest they tear the worthy down. As the Waking Nightmare would rampage through Nova Vaasa, warping reality in ways that not even memories of The Nightmare Lands could bring, Isolde’s wrath acts as the death nail. The valuable leadership of Tristen Hiregaard is lost after Falkovnian and Darkonese efforts cause him to go missing, making matters even worse. The Time of Unparalleled Darkness is truly a prophecy that the lands will fail to heed, only to suffer from it far worse than they could have. What will become of Nova Vaasa, beyond details implied by Madame Eva, is left to dark secrets and the sands of time. In the case of the latter, much will be revealed. But the full truth? The Dark Powers will always withhold some of that in endless shadows.
The Mad Barber of Port-a-Lucine
The Darklord, Dominic D’Honaire, has another secret behind his curse. There is an unlikely chance that his domination abilities will backfire spectacularly. Should this happen, the victim will go mad from the trauma of the power. And worse, they’ll recall flickers of memory involving the power inflicted upon them. Many will turn violently vengeful, targeting something related to the Councilor; nobles, diplomats, people in advisory positions, members of the Council of Brilliance or many other things. And thus, a plague of serial murderers has been enacted upon the fair land of Dementlieu and beyond. Much to D’Honaire’s own obliviousness, it’s all his fault. In fact, he’s quicker to blame his nefarious rival for these problems. None the less, he has popularized a term used by the council to refer to these unruly types, “The Problematic”.
But, one broken mind hides in plain sight. For to most, he is simply Tristan Sicard the Barber. As a youth, he was fascinated by peculiar things. More than anything, he loved slashing blades clashing in epic battle. But, he was not particularly strong or healthy. Thus, he watched his parents work. His father was a barber-surgeon form Darkon, while his mother was a Port native who operated a fashion salon. This curiosity lead him to follow their invitation to work their magic on the Council of Brilliance in 738 BC. Upon fixing up Dominic for his next dating attempt, he began to instill a charm upon his parents in 739 BC. Still young, Tristan protested and tried to fight back against the large man. Shocked that someone let the child near council ground, he tried inflicting his mind upon the boy too. But, something went wrong, as it sometimes does. At first, he acted like the Obedient zombies that he has willed before. But, when it wore off quickly as the Grand Conjunction was unfolding, something in his mind instead broke. He felt violated and tortured, but couldn’t place what caused this anguish. Over the years, after inheriting his parents’ barber business, he did all he could to learn more. Later a young man, he came across victims like himself who sought to lash out in violence against perceived enemies.
This inspired him to get creative with his craft. In fact, he is often sparse and spaced out with these murders. Often, he’ll kill a repeat client in some way to alleviate him of blame or suspicion. Though, in lieu of him being hired first hand to act for beauty salons and other shops on the road, incidents have drawn ire his way. Following the death of “estranged cousin” Saidra D’Honaire, the whole clan has been in high alert and Dominic has been sent into a panic. While Dominic feels that the mystery woman was a fraudster, he knows that his assailant would have targeted him. While he was ultimately right, as later evidence would uncover that she was a corrupt enchanting mage looking to usurp power, he finds himself succumbing to fear. This was especially an issue, as Saidra was murdered within the D’Honaire estate, with neither her nor the killer found within the building later. This also brought up concerns about attempts to usurp power within the Council of Brilliance, which put Lord-Governor Marcel Guignol on high alert. In the end, Tristan got what he wanted, as suspicion turned from him and focused on in-fighting within the aristocracy and bureaucracy of Dementlieu instead. Also lucky for Tristan, he was in contact with an occultist sage visiting the merchant’s district at the time. Said mystery sage likewise distrusts the aristocracy. Thanks to him, Tristan was whisked away, back to his shop.
His barbershop is now something of a house of horrors to his desired targets. For the everyman who wants a good cut and shave, he is happy to oblige and will treat them with respect. But, for anyone remotely connected to D’Honaire? He has set his sights on killing. Often, he’ll distract them through a song, pleasant conversation and then some. In the end, he’ll often slice them up or numb them with some agent. And from there? The body is dropped down a shoot through a secret door he operates. Out of sight, out of mind, by his decree. Plus, with competition out of the way, he might infiltrate high society and hopefully find out whose responsible. But, he isn’t alone in this. In time, more will rise up to instill unrest and anarchy across the domain. Revolution will unseat much of the Council’s power and leave it wide open for eager invaders and salivating scavengers. Curiously, the crux of this revolution will one day start with the barber himself. A spy from Falkovnia, disguised as a Dementlieuese nobleman, foolishly seeks the assistance of Tristan to truly look the part. Tristan, none the wiser, executes his subject as he had time and again. Only later does he realize his mistake, with word getting back to superiors over the spy’s disappearance. More spies emerged, doing whatever they can to find flaws and spark internal violence, later uncovering the secret of The Problematic. The conspiracies of backstabbers, traitors and usurpers from within the Lord-Governor’s own trusted aid already shall throw order on its head. Through the assistance of Feuers pact-allies, waves of arson helped to kick off the pandemonium that would further up-end the domain in the long run. Only Helenè DuSuis, a councilwoman who worked against D’Honaire, shall manage to escape the escalation unharmed. But, the worst of these events won’t happen until at least 768 BC. In the meantime, he has only one partner in crime.
His accomplice is another victim of D’Honaire who cracked. A cannibal from Verbrek, “Dirty Danielle” was a baker from one of many small villages dotting the wilderness. The Cult of the Wolf God captured her family for sacrifice. But, one member decided to have fun. Rather than infect her, she was forced to consume hunted remains of other humans first. This foul act broke her, while caused her to develop a craving for human flesh. Her escape and lack of infection was only brought upon by Alfred Timothy’s satisfaction. By his orders, the werewolves tore into those who mocked the Wolf God’s sacred rituals and she barely escaped otherwise unharmed. She suppressed these urges and traumas until she took her baking business along a caravan to Dementlieu. After D’Honaire attempted to turn her into a spy, she fled as her dark cravings returned. She later met Tristan, and both bonded over their desires for revenge.
Danielle’s Foods of the Earth operates next door. Thanks to some engineering, both buildings share a secret room in the basement. Bodies, alive or dead, are dropped through a secret shoot next to the barber chair. From here, both maddened killers work to butcher the remains before Danielle prepares another fresh pie. Lately though, something about Tristan’s friend seems off though. She is very much on a monstrous path of corruption, due to her indulgence in cannibalism. For the more supernaturally inclined, she might becoming more akin to a ghoul or wendigo in time. Also, she seems to always look a bit musty and dirty, hence her nickname. None the less, she maintains a presence in more savory parts of the city somehow. And even with her flaws, she has maintained an active customer base who is none the wiser. Her excellence in recipe craft makes it impossible to distinguish what exactly is in the meat pies to begin with. By her word, it’s merely rare and exotic cuts of meat, requiring sale at a much higher rate. But, this allure has wrangled countless curious food fans and taste testers eager to try to understand Danielle’s magical meat pies. To keep attention going, she is one to whip up all sorts of fanciful tales and whimsical stories, often printed on boxes. These tales range from fantastical animals in nearby lands to rare hunting trophies combined with truly exclusive herbs and spices. All of this is merely a sales tactic, with her quick wit and clever tongue doing the rest. To the frustration of many merchants, she has turned down expanding the Foods of the Earth into an enterprise beyond just Port-a-Lucine. Her reasons for doing so are of no surprise, but she proclaims that she wishes to keep a small town essence within a large and bustling metropolis. As for what this widespread sale of cannibalism will do to the city is unknown, but it’s affecting her as previously mentioned.
IMAGE CREDIT: Historic Archives – Bethlehem Royal Hospital; Svetlin Velinov – Mayor of Avabruck; Ryan Pancoast – Kindly Stranger; Stephen Sondheim – Sweeney Todd production photo; Steve Belledin – Innistrad Clergy concept art