“Alanik, come quickly! I have found yet another one.”
A man in physician’s finery beckoned another to his side. A well-dressed man of elven descent followed, emerging from the darkness and into the lantern light. The two gazed down, a crumpled body laid at their feet, hastily disposes upon a cobblestone street corner. Alanik hunched closer, while reaching for a small viewing glass. His gaze met a symbol etched into the body’s shoulder, revealed through a series of gash marks.
“Indeed, it’s the same accursed occult symbol. But, what does it mean? All of these victims have similar traits in common. Each body was struck down in some means of brutal combat, holds torn up or destroyed parchments and carries this accursed mark upon their flesh. From what I can gather, they are some sort of messengers. Given the common origins of the clothing styles and some adorned belongings, they all likely share a common ancestry in Darkon.”
Joining Alanik the detective, the physician stoops forward with tools at the ready. With tools in hand, he too examines the corpse and does so with medical precision.
“Astute observation, detective. But, the deaths. I must know. From a glance over at the wounds, it seems to follow yet another trend. All of these bodies faced similar slashing wounds from a particularly long blade. The marks indicate a similar fighting style or means of combat. Or at least, it would seem someone is good at replicating them. Did you know I’ve taken up a fair bit of swordplay in my youth? I’ve even had some goes at fencing. And… what’s this? A parchment that hasn’t been destroyed! It’s hidden in an insular breast pocket.”
The physician’s face rapidly changes from excitement to a rather grim shock. The letter addresses a Dr. Arthur Sedgewick, that the body before him was once compelled into the service of a scribe who serves the mighty Wizard-King Azalin. Even when not under control, he feels the tugging presence of magic upon his mind and that he isn’t alone. Countless other glorified slaves have found themselves gathering information in the name of a mad wizard and his lackeys. In the night before his death, he desired to seek the doctor out in hope that non-magical means could break his curse, since attempts from spellcasters have failed.
Author’s Note: Alas, poor scroll trader, now another victim of The Mists. And with that, let’s look at some more canon domains within the setting. Many of these are ones typically overlooked to some degree. Joining them are some new domains, fit around various fan ideas as well. Also, big thanks to the Fraternity of Shadows community as always, especially Ryan Naylor and John W. Mangrum. Likewise, the extra eyes who brought a Philippines horror inspired domain to life. And on that note, this is probably the longest concept for a domain I’ve made. And yes, I used the silly trading card over the goofy looking new art, I’m aware.
The Shadowlands Cluster
Cultural Level: Medieval (7)
The Shadowlands are an epic drama revolving heavily around the Shadowborn clan, for many intents and purposes. Prior to the Mists of Ravenloft, these events took place in the Great Kingdom of Avonleigh, not to be confused with a similarly named domain from later. Lady Kateri Shadowborn was the first major victim of these foul deeds. Years after recovering to her station, having been ravaged by an Ebonbane – possessed monk, she met her doom. She slain by the possessive evil blade known as Ebonbane, in the first of several tragedies tying the clan into The Mists. Her fall and the disappearance of Shadowborn Manor happened in 611 BC, when the Dark Powers claimed Ebonbane itself as the Darklord. Only a few years later, a trusted friend by the name of Elena Faith-hold fell into a dark path without her most trusted ally by her side. Even the child of Lady Kateri was the subject of horrors, conceived by Ebonbane’s foul plans upon Lady Kateri, the child was raised by other family. Ultimately, he became prisoner of the foul blade. Years later, the very same monk who brought Alexi into the world and later slew his mother, thanks to the blade, attempted to train Alexi. He ultimately fell from the blade’s dark power. However, Alexi’s knightly order flourished in memory of him. However, new trauma would arise from Morgoroth the Black in 646 BC. The wizard became obsessed with a commanding knight’s sister, as he failed to battle his own wickedness and past. Aurora Shadowborn was kidnapped, as her brother Ferran was likely slain. The order under Ferran was also destroyed.
But, what of Avonleigh itself? How has it influenced these domains? Avonleigh was a mighty and powerful kingdom, with several provinces including the eponymous Avonleigh province. Despite claims of patriarchal order, several forms of leadership seemed to share more of a balance with power matron leaders and high priestesses within the kingdom. The royal courts were served by the Knights of the Circle, which was reborn within the Demiplane of Dread. 13 paladins arose to represent each of the provinces under the kingdom banner. Their original incarnation was heavily damaged and possibly wiped out thanks to the evil of both Ebonbane and later Morgoroth. Elena Faith-hold, was one of them, dedicated to a War on Evil. However, the Shadowborn family was a major influence upon the knights, less so Alexi for a while due to his cursed creation. It is not known what became of the kingdom after disaster after disaster ruined so much and dragged it into The Mists. Beyond these horrible events, other plights plagued Avonleigh as a kingdom. The Heretical Wars saw forces from the south raiding two of the cities, while the Borderwood resulted in banditry and brutes terrorizing the lands. While the knights are presumably still gone in the Prime world, their Misty incarnation continues under the banner of another. Gondegal, an outlander from Toril, has taken the reigns of the organization in effort to bring justice to the Lands of the Mists. Beyond his fights with Vlad Drakov, the knights continue their crusade against Ebonbane in a yearly pilgrimage to Nidalia. All three of these domains came together as a single cluster several years after The Grand Conjunction occurred, setting plans in motion for Ebonbane.
Darklord: Ebonbane. A dark fiend-bound blade of ill omen. It has long since been the fall of many and the corruption of more. It was by his hand that he manipulated a priest by the name of Lysander to attack the Shadowborn clan, resulting in Alexi being born later. However, despite the attack, Lady Kateri helped repel the possessed monk. Amidst the Heretical Wars, the dark spirit was bound to a weapon. However, this backfired as the newly formed Ebonbane turned upon his captors and turned them into his ghoul slaves. Even Lysander, who had sought repentance for his vile sins, was once again taken by the heinous creature (now in the sword). The reluctant accomplice struck down Lady Kateri Shadowborn, as the Mists bound the blade to Shadowborn Manor. However, Lady Kateri’s ghost returned to haunt the property as well, a fate that the blade cannot escape as of now.
Ebonbane’s story did not end there, even though he remained within the cursed manor for countless years. At first, he was locked in a desperate battle to thwart his foes by slaying and creating more ghouls under his control. His corruptive desires even claimed a unicorn by the name of Addar, one which once allied with the Knights, resulting in the pocket domain of Addar’s Grove forming. A Nightmare serving the fiend sword lured Addar by his pride and vanity, resulting in offspring known as Shadow Unicorn. Another pocket domain is a fallen abbey of formerly pious scholars, turned the ground zero for the darklord’s vicious ghoul experiments. Only the Dolmens, a land blessed by holy stones of Belenus, can truly repel Ebonblade. Even with attempts at defense, the fiend sword eventually crossed paths with the Knights once more. Alexi’s desire to understand the fate of his mother lead him into the Demiplane of Dread, where he formed a reincarnation of the Knights; now the Knights of Shadow. He clashed with Ebonblade, only to willfully imprison himself to keep the sword at bay. Now his knights are forced to work with the darklord of Avonleigh to ensure the seal does not break. It is possible that the sword vessel itself was broken, only for the dark soul itself to be taken by Alexi as he forcefully locked both of them behind a magical cage. However, Ebonbane can still reform a sword body within the mansion, often to do combat with Knights who aspire to keep it imprisoned.
The Chronicles that speak of a Time of Unparalleled Darkness have brought words of warning to the Shadowlands, particularly in regards to the fallen manor. They say that Ebonbane’s ghoulish armies will pull more and more into the Phantasmal Forests that the fiendish darklord can exude some control over. Should Nidalia not prepare, it will be consumed. However, as it stands in the way of Morgoroth’s plans, he opposes the evil of Shadowborn Manor for now. His agreements to help the Knights is only one of convenience, in part against a mutual enemy. Ebonbane is aware of this, regarding the rival as a source of much frustration. But, Ebonbane desires to consume not just the Shadowlands, but spread his influence to other domains. Several of his ghoul creations have even escaped the cluster. A small order of cultists inspired by the order that bound the fiend in the first place have emerged in Har’Akir. They have hid among an emerging colony that has spoke prophecy of their True King’s return to power. It’s unlikely that Ebonbane and Ankhtepot will ever do battle though, but a proxy battle of ideology is far more likely.
Darklord: Lady Elena Faith-hold, Knight of Nidalia. When Ebonbane struck down Lady Kateri, Lady Elena was soul-crushed. For years, she had dedicated herself against the War of Evil. In her mind, forces like the southern lands cabal that brought Ebonbane into this world must be crushed… by any means necessary. Her campaigns and strikes became more extreme, often costing countless innocents that she suspected of wickedness. The body count rose in only a few mere years, but she remained devout to her cause. Her status as a paladin was later called into question, even by other followers of Belenus. Her smiting of all who failed to heed to call of Belenus resulted in her divine blessings and steed to leave her, which she took as a test. This turned to root out any not loyal among the clergy and even non-humans. In a moment of uncertainty and fear, she prayed in hopes Belenus would give a clear answer. Instead, The Mists responded to her cries.
Initially, she observed the wickedness of a village to judge its worthiness. Ironically, she was cursed to always find the worst dregs of society, warping her mind into thinking all in that land were evil. Thus, she’d slay her potentially adoring subjects. Even worse, she is doomed to take offense to those who shower her in praise. Her occasional moments of clarity amidst her obsessions make her torment all the more painful. But in the end, she’ll convince herself that she’s still worthy and not at all fallen. Once every week, when she rides upon her new steed, she is assaulted with the reminders of her failure. Often, she’ll attribute her own carnage and failure to a fictitious monster called Banemaw. The discovered existence of Ebonbane has helped influence this delusion. However, a more existent enemy has pushed her forward. In fact, the genuine evil that the fiend sword poses has only lead her to justify her own evil acts thanks to a new scapegoat.
Despite no longer being a true paladin, she has instead become a mockery of one. Her granted abilities are a twisted perversion more suitable to an antipaladin if anything. While she can still seek out evil creatures, her abilities are warped to detect almost anything that goes against her. And even then, the aforementioned subjects who remain positive are ultimately branded by her powers. Her war horse mount is actually fiendish in nature, a parody of the unicorn that she was once blessed with. Even Caitlin, her magical sword, is a mockery of her paladin past. Touraine sits as both the capital city and the center for her own anguish. The Cathedral of Belenus feels hollow and fake at times, as if the will of the deity isn’t truly there. In rare moments, Elena has had to suspend these thoughts in the times she has visited. Upon Mount Melcrado, The Faith Hold sits, the castle from which she surveys the lands beyond. It is here where her worst thoughts stir.
Darklord: Morgoroth. The last of the cruelties against Clan Shadowborn and the final piece of the original Knights of the Circle saga. Originally from another realm, he sought to escape from his dreadful past by any means necessary. The mage emerged into the kingdom of Avonleigh, where he met an adult Ferran Shadowborn. In exchange for land and continued magical practice, he followed the noble leader loyally. However, upon meeting Ferran’s sister, Aurora, his old wickedness began to creep back. At first, he became obsessed with the high priestess, who was blocked by vow to respond with love. He didn’t understand this and was driven mad. Meanwhile, a knight from his home tracked him down, to the shock of the Knights of the Circle. Morgoroth slew him and reanimated him as an undead servant, which turned hostile against the order. Cornered and panicked, he kidnapped Aurora and slew all paladins who got in his way. The Mists responded accordingly.
Aurora remains trapped in eternal stasis, encased in a glass coffin. Morgoroth can do nothing to awaken or free her, despite the mage’s grasp on magic. His attempt using a powerful magic mirror destroyed his physical body, turning him into a ghost bound to the entirety of his home. He is forced to contend with interlopers and outlanders who get in the way of his mad desires. Besides trying to free the subject of his obsession, he much prefers to be left alone. And often, he is, as only spirits and other undead are common within this land. Otherwise, the wilds drift and twisted in strange ways. The Knights of the Order have met within this domain, often protecting themselves in a sacred circle nearby the property of the phantasmal wizard. They dare not trespass, as others have. However, unlike neutral adventurers, they have no desire to find the shards of the mirror that brought his current state.
Curiously, the Phantasmal Forest of the Mists is not the same as the one on the prime material. In fact, it might not even by part of Morgoroth’s domain at all, but a manifestation of the mists between domains. In fact, Morgoroth barely has any control over it, while the minions of Ebonbane display far more. While the human evil of Nidalia clashes with the monstrous evil of Shadowborn Manor, Avonleigh sits as an ambiguous middle ground between the two. Any help loaned to the Knights of Shadows, the current incarnation, is done begrudgingly. He only agreed to create a safe ageless cage for Alexi, due to Morgoroth’s love for Alexi’s cousin. He is more than aware that the Phantasmal Forests continue to taunt him far greater than they did before, all with less ability to manipulate them to his own ends.
Vasfar (Frozen Reaches Cluster)
Cultural Level: Dark Ages (5) into the start of Early Medieval (6)
Darklord: Nils Ignur. Once a great viking warrior in the lands of Skandaharia, a lost land found within current Northern Skothar by the Nentsen Peninsula, was reduced to a babbling old man who cannot perish. His legends in his glory days were known quite far, well beyond his old home and into Blackmoor, only to be buried and lost by the Great Rain of Fire several centuries later. His raids on Blackmoor and nearby lands were the things of legend. Even his tales of securing magical goods from the Lands of Coot helped him claim true glory. However, this last deed would ultimately cost him, as the Egg of Coot did not forgive. When corruption began to creep northward (as of Pre-3000 BC of the common Mystaran calendar), Nils’ warrior allies quested with him on what would be one of many crusades against the Egg. Many great warriors were struck down, granting them divine acceptance into the gates of Valhalla. Nils sought to complete his task, rather than fall. To him, the glory of heroics were more important than falling as a true hero. What the remainder of his troop encountered was a manifested vision of the egg, alongside its tainted allies. The troops were prepared for all the Horrors threw at them… except betrayal. Dread thoughts from the Vision filled the viking raider’s head. They told him that he alone should be the hero to stop the monsters. Nils became overwhelmed by a fit of jealousy, as his allies were doing more than him, several of which taking down the vision. Nils charged in blind rage, to first be the one to stop the egg and next to cut down his allies for challenging his right to glory. Strange mists funneled into Blackmoor, but not for the last time, as the vision dissipated and its minions dissolved. Only the corpses of Nils’ allies remained to be found by rangers of Blackmoor.
Vasfar resides as a somewhat distant neighbor to Vorostokov, a day’s travel over snowy slopes and valleys. A few villages dot the area, mostly residing by the Oldgard River, which somewhat snakes its way through the revealed western part of the cluster. These villages depend heavily on the hearty “Vas Trout” that swim through the area, beyond often fruitless attempts at farming during what should be summer months. Though, hardier vegetables have faced the tyrannical tundra winds far better. Especially strong root vegetables have proven to endure rather well. Shepherds have also tried to maintain cattle along flatter landscapes, away from the tall peaks. In order to better sustain themselves, bands of marauders have assembled to try to loot supplies from Sanguinia, well aware that Vorostokov barely has much to offer. In the few years where snow has receded enough, there has been some farming success. None the less, village folk often stock up on as much as possible, preserving through the cold temperature, as well as salts and other means. Another specialty is ale, particularly mead and pilsner. While filtered snow has been used for water, contaminants and diseases has made much of the populace reluctant to try boiling water, lest the more experienced try first. However, various types of alcohol remain ever popular, with each territory having at least one active brewer.
The villages of Mondenhart and Elvmork connect to the town of Jongersborg, both along a trade trail called Kyrrvegur. Given the size and larger amenities, Jongersborg fairs better against the cold climate, complete with more capable farms to supply the area. However, the two smaller villages maintain an active trade through their own supplies and goods, many of which artisanal, others being goods from successful raids. Rare raids beyond the cluster have brought back untold treasures and oddities never seen within such lands. Mondenhart, while too small to be a town all to its own, remains very large part of the domain’s culture. Many of the foundational community who wished to expand beyond Jongersborg were given clearance to do so. The small town is the site of several shrines dedicated to the Gods, including a small hillside containing wooden carving posts made in dedication to various divine beings. Elvmork is more based on economic support than its neighbor, filled with artisans, farm markets and ideal fishing spots. This isn’t to say that Elvmork isn’t a place of faithful communion, but it’s far less so than Mondenhart. Surrounding both Mondenhart and Elvmork are encampments for soldiers to look out for both savage wildlife and potential foes. There are aspirations to create a more permanent barracks, to further transition out of old lifestyles of temporarily settling down. This has allowed for different trends among the villages to surface. But, there are still some commonalities from tradition. Both men and women care deeply about hair grooming, including men with well trimmed and sometimes shaped beards. Garb is usually practical, with tanned hides and furs to help the extensive winters in the region.
A mistway along Oldgard River leads out towards an unnamed sea, The Serpent’s Glint, which can carry sailors towards Nebligtod. Its name also come from rumors of sea serpents attacking ships that attempt to cross through the channels and into the murky open waters. Those who travel there in search of wreckage to plunder and strange fish to catch are not disappointed. However, the thick waters and hanging fog conceal mystical predators who hunger for foolish sailors. Those who veer away can still follow a branch of a river, forging a far more stable two-way path to Nova Vaasa. Raids upon these domains are thankfully rare, especially with the former. In fact, most interaction with the former has become rare after encounters with a practitioner of dark arts. Both those connected to the gods, as well as the wise women of various villages have likewise advised against sailing to Nebligtod. The case of the latter claim to have seen visions of the dreadful necromancer himself. As for Nova Vaasa, the noble families have actively put out bounties for these foreign raiders, as well as helped fortify defenses along the waters. These water-bound outsiders have become another source of fear for the land, among its many other problems. Those of the Vasfar raiders who get tired of Nova Vaasa have sailed out to other parts of the Nocturnal Sea, intentionally avoiding Nebligtod if they can help it.
As part of his curse, other tall tales, holidays, legends and supernatural horrors usurp attention and power away from him. His own legend has turned from a lone warrior atop a hill to that of an eccentric and deadly hermit. Meanwhile, yearly horrors of Gryla and her 13 terrible lads have come to haunt the villages. The massive ogre queen and her sons demand tribute, lest all sorts of horrors rain down upon the lands. One of Gryla’s pastimes is kidnapping misbehaving children to use for her own ends, often food. Parents can appease her by proving that their children have not acted out by Jule time. As for the sons, they often steal food and supplies when they are most vital. Likewise, they take great joy in performing cruel practical jokes that often turn deadly. Another icon of the season is the Jule Cat, which is said to feast upon those who don’t take care of their clothing. It is said that they all work together. This isn’t to say that various points of the yearly calendar can’t also bring some semblance of joy. Among the most well known is jule tide. In fact, traditions of giving gifts partially exist to stave off the bleakest parts of the winter, as well as promote good cheer. In some cases, gifts of clothing pacify the massive prowling cat mentioned above. Another celebration comes from the foundation of the land, at the hands of a Jarl Orik Jonger. This celebration recants a mighty warrior and his men setting up a colony that would later develop into the wider territory. In reality, this is a false history made to paint a better hero than the Darklord. Mention of the fake hero infuriated Nils, who learned of the holiday’s true nature. While the warrior is not quick to provoke, mentioning this is an easy way to fling him into violent rage.
Pertaining to the darklord himself, he is often confined to his small property, upon a hill over-viewing Jongersborg from a few miles distance. Few visit the warrior within his small cottage property. He cannot leave far beyond it, lest he gradually become even weaker and eventually collapse… only to be magically taken back again. In truth, his physical form has been drained of most of its strength, outside of his supernaturally changed lair. He now looks like a disheveled old man overseeing a barren hilly property. It looks like cattle could have lived here at one point, but they have long since escaped. Nothing except for the rare traveling mountain goats and migrating chough, ravens and crows that may pass through. While lonely and driven eccentric by isolation, the darklord retains his strength and power so long as he is on his property. The few have have gone to challenge him find themselves surprised as a seemingly meek old man can overpower them. Most of his challengers are outlanders, curious about the tall tale of the deadly hermit. Said challengers who do survive later find out that the man they’ve battled with still survives, even if they thought they killed him. But, for those slain by him, they join a growing issue within the land, Draugr. These undead desire conflict, but aren’t all necessarily victims of the darklord’s violence.
Other native horrors terrorize the countryside. While the great Lindwurm was long stopped, there are those who revere it as a force of rightful chaos against a world that makes no sense. The cultists perform profane rites deep within the mountains, in hopes of bringing it back to the land. The mysterious aelfir are similar to the elves found in various domains like Darkon or Sithicus. However, they have an especially alien detachment to all other forms of life. They can be found hidden by mounds and other earthly formations. The Jötunn Heights are mountainous reaches towards the end of the domain. It is said that cruel jötunn with a love of human flesh live up there, as do nefarious dread trolls. The Jötunn, in reality, are Dread Giants and are creations of the Dark Powers. They are known to pursue their prey just before the safety of civilization. This isn’t because they fear the weaponry of “small kinds”, but rather they would rather the imaginative weavings of their victim spread fear instead. Dread Trolls are more likely to employ tricks to sneak in and cause damage to any of the settlements, even look into other domains. But, as for the Dread Giants, they enjoy their home too much to venture too far. One brave explorer has remarked a terrible sight in giant territory. It’s possible to be spared by a giant if you amuse them enough. While they won’t eat you, they’ll keep you as a pet. In fact, there is a small colony deep within the mountains. It’s an enclosed and gated area of humans under constant observation of their giant masters, all of which treated as pets. For the people within, their life and land is grim reality. For the observers, it’s a pleasant menagerie to enjoy.
Tainted Lotus Cluster
Like petals upon a sickly lake, the Tainted Lotus is a series of domains linked and marred by feuding powers and ancient secrets. Many are too broken from within to notice the wider world, but grim stories stir within this realm; tales of bleak empires, lingering ghosts, hidden undergrounds and more. The waters beyond are cut off by dreadful poison and even worse monsters. Angered spirits bring divine wrath upon both the guilty and the undeserving alike.
Larawang Inukit/Mga larawang inukit sa lupa
Cultural Level: Classical (4) through Early Medieval (6)
Darklord: Paramount Leader Kaligtasan. Isl Ng Talampas was once an island off the coast of Malatra’s steep plateau in Toril. It was here that a rising noble saw potential, ambition and more around the city-states, territories and more. Kaligtasan sought to prove himself among not just his own clan, but around other noble class, or Maginoo. After nearly a year, he quickly grew to develop an animosity for any outside influence on native and folk beliefs. Though, his support for his people was superficial and for his own benefit. Many spiritual leaders took notice, considering him hollow and patronizing when he addressed them. While attending meetings with other leaders, the Datus, they considered him contradictory and providing contrarian arguments in regards to morality and society. Senior leadership within the city state of Tun-doh quickly grew in frustration with the chosen Paramount’s stubbornness and disdain for things not related to him. Other fellow Datus and the Maginoo brought up discussions of his removal from power. Fear of disgrace and lost status prompted Kaligtasan to not only act more rash, but take a more direct approach. For several years, he micromanaged several towns and polities, enforcing views towards anyone who didn’t fit the models of cultural customs. This lead to a revolution, backed by him, to purge at least one of the territories influenced deeply by outsiders, by uniting tribes and others under his banner. The territory of Majrapahti was his first victim and also last. To him, this showcased the glories of the old tribes, helping to bring a new nation in the process. Kaligtasan’s war bands of Maharlika, noble warriors, joined tribal forces to forge a makeshift army, taking the city-state by surprise. Before the Paramount Leader could face blacklash by his elders for his sins, a bank of fog descended upon the shattered and broken city before spreading across the island. Kaligtasan and his armies were gone, leaving a devastated and horrified land.
Larawang Inukit, or Mga larawang inukit sa lupa, is a domain composed of many small, but close islands of an archipelago. Its glistening shores are among the least turbulent surrounding the outcropping of the cluster, typically. Likewise, waters between the small islands (often named after towns or provinces) tend to be calm and gentle… assuming no meddlers are within them. These calm waters provide false security, as many monsters and foul folk enjoy hiding by watery foliage or by shallow waters. In addition, the pollution of the sea sometimes washes into border waters, leading to the deaths and contamination of countless fish and other oceanic lifeforms. Of the impacted, the bayan of Post Ng Mangingisda has been hit the hardest. A former naval outpost on the western reaches of the domain, villages began to build around it in the years leading to The Mists claiming the land. Before then, this emerging town became iconic for fishers of other provinces to deal in commerce or stake their own claim. Extended tourism began a cycle of damage that would only increase thanks to the seeping poisons from abroad. The predominantly fisher and military residents of the town are quick to blame nearby I’Cath, which they suspect of being a colonial power. Despite no proof, many proclaim that the island I’Cath sits on is rightfully theirs, especially due to False History weaved by the Dark Powers. A seafaring guild from Rokushima Taiyoo has also sparked controversy, leading to the “Fisher Post” town uniting in an effort to block and repel them. Many of these rival vessels have taken to active fishing spots for commercial use. Clashes between residents and foreign fishing vessels have turned violent, often from state-sanctioned piracy. The Poisoned Sea has a habit of connecting with The Sea of Sorrows, bringing in pirates from other lands. Likewise, privateers of Post Ng Mangingisda have found themselves raiding those other islands, returning with exotic treasure.
In the land’s local tongue, it refers to the ground carved and changed by the gods to teach the people a lesson. In reality, this was a name that emerged into the minds of the denizens after The Mists revealed them to the Darklord. In the history of the locals, the Gods have given the people a second chance, uniting them together as a nation, while chastising the evil deeds of the fallen Paramount Leader. This is symbolic as the territories around the island are closer than before, but they are still broken up by small islands. Grim spirits manifest and physical incarnations of wrath and hatred fester. Dark tales of woeful encounters in the jungles or heinous trickery even within the safety of towns become more common, as the spirit world remains angry with the living world. Larawang Inukit will not heal until the Darklord makes amends. Given the brash nature of the Darklord, this will never come to pass and the hopes of the land knitting itself back into one island will never be realized.
In truth, the demiplane of dread has scrambled the geography of the land, imposing once separated provinces and villages nearby to spark conflict instead of unity. The semi-independent kingdom of Sol has its roots from tradesmen and missionaries hailing from the continent of Zahkara and a little of Malatra, later integrating into the land after sharing of goods and culture. The religion of Sol better reflects the lands of shimmering sands, to great chagrin of those who follow native beliefs. Sol has become a subject of the Darklord’s ire, something he can never defeat, as all forces of Sol seem ready for him. A reminder of recent conflict lies in nearby ruins, the remains of Majrapahti, a city-state on the furthest tip of the nation’s island chain. This land was once a mixture of Talampas and Mahasarpa culture, blended thanks to refugees of plague and famine seeking new opportunities as well as traders and colonizing efforts. However, when contending with war with other territories, they were incapable of enduring, scattering for their own survival.
Despite being a prominent facet of the domain’s economy, and means for providing through nearby agricultural fields, Post Ng Mangingisda does not hold much in political power. The City-States of Tun-doh and Manyil do, with 7,000 – 10,000 people between both of them. A handful of small bayans, towns, surround these cities. However, the Post offers more in both fisheries and agriculture than both combined. However, it carries a dark past rooted in the fall of this domain. Post Ng Mangingisda is built around the temporary base of operations used by the darklord to plot his campaigns, but False History instead tells of great naval battles with other empires. Many compartments of the old site have still been used for imprisonment. The naval yard beyond the old fort has been converted, alongside the wreckage of various privateer ships. Floating buffers have been made to ward off outside sailors, lest their ships receive various degrees of damage. The wreckage of the Arm of Balduran still hangs by shallow waters as a reminder, heavily looted by the islanders and local pirates. Mostly unfriendly watery spirits like to gather there, claiming the wreck as their new home.
Within Tun-doh, the Darklord sits, using a wide network of allies to bully other tribes, city-states and leaders into helping him maintain his active power. Structures in the land have undergone change, with more grandiose and imposing buildings to reflect this newer approach to power. Despite the mutterings of other dutas and the methods of the old ways, their attempts at foiling the darklord have ended tragically, often through execution. Much like how he is incapable of defeating Sol, he will never see a nation united under his will. His ideals of a collected empire will never come to pass, due to the nation’s residual anger towards him. False History has also warped the mind of Kaligtasan. According to it, Kaligtasan’s father was a figure of unity and inclusion, bringing city-states and bayan together, only for changing influences emerging to drag that away. Meanwhile, the city of Manyil has retained for more original styling and architecture, in subtle opposition to the domain’s darklord. Ironically, they are in many ways truer to the land’s original views and visions. While much of the population follows within the guidelines of the despot, many have worked in secret to depose of him, as has happened to past poor leadership. Manyil often contends with the infighting between territories, as the darklord sees it as healthy competition. However, in rare instances, the various lands can cooperate against outside invasion. Should this happen, the Darklord gets a minor chance to shine, as even hated territories will help fight against the other powers of the Tainted Lotus Cluster and beyond. But, beyond this, such cooperation has become rare.
Life within Larawang Inukit is by no means easy, even during times when the Darklord is not too overbearing. Day to day life contends with the humid tropical climate of the islands, as well as busy politics and drama between villages and towns. While many variations exist, embroidered cloth is the preferred form of wardrobe between men and women alike. However, men usually wear their bottom garb in pants fashion, while women have theirs flowing like dresses. More recently, flowing balong shirts and darker pants have become more fashionable with native men, as have growing mustaches. Meanwhile, hair is often kept short for men, while somewhat long hair is acceptable for women. Outside of populous cities, many varieties exist among tribes ranging from loincloths to formal gowns to shirts made of pineapple fiber. The darklord tends to favor the most luxurious of garb, often embroidered with wide arrange of colors and complex bead work. Likewise, a fashioned crown often rests upon his head.
And even in his less overbearing moments, he becomes neglectful of widespread needs. Outside interference motivates him more than domestic issues, unless someone within the lands were to challenge him. None the less, many relatively autonomous villages and towns operate as they have before, only offering tribute and assistance to larger cities when it is called upon. Despite some grim sanctions, shamans of various tribes and villages are still free to commune among spirits and practice sacred rituals in dedication to their faith. Likewise, common-folk assert that there is a creator god alongside lesser gods that observe over the islands. While Kaligtasan is largely uninterested in religion, he tolerates the presence of priests to help improve morale for the general public. However, his disregard for well-being of body, mind, soul and spirit has drawn much criticism from more than the religious. Several witches have turned to forms of black magic, whether out of a sense of vigilante justice, divine retribution or genuine malice. In the case of the last, these witches are among the most heinous and dangerous practitioners of mystical arts within the domain, perhaps the whole cluster, save for Tsien Chiang of I’Cath. A common practice of this black magic is transporting objects and creatures inside of victims, typically insects. The wrath of ancestral souls have sparked outrage and outcry across numerous communities, fearing that the deceased have been continuously disrespected. In places further away from the darklord’s eye, talks of spiritual attacks are rarer, likely due to more considerable care being taken for dealing with the souls of the dead. Some fear retribution from the otherworld, as more undead monstrosities have begun to manifest in the years since the darklord’s blood drenched campaign. Many of these undead manifest in response to various actions, but they aren’t the only monsters to horrify or shock denizens.
Beyond this harsh and conflicted civilization is a haunted wilderness. This isn’t to say that society itself isn’t haunted by strange spirits too. Lush jungles and glistening bays visually offer the beauties of nature. However, they carry their own grim secrets. Ruins of lands akin to Majrapahti dot the forests, warped into sinkholes of evil by livid spirits and grim forces. Likewise, there are patches of wild land that the independent tribes throughout the island refuse to touch. To them, they are accursed places tainted by malice and hatred, often the sites of costly battles and wide spread tragedies of murder and sickness. Among them is a land informally called The Lusong by travelers, due to its similarities to a brown basin bowl used for rice. The brown crater was the subject of a mysterious explosion that ate away at the land itself, only to leave a lifeless concave shape. Few enter, due to strange life-draining properties it has on the living. Ghoulish shapeshifter women, called Aswang, have been seen hiding in the scorched basin. Kataw, Sirena and Siyokoy are merfolk-like creatures that prowl the waters from their own submerged kingdom… one connected to the pocket domain of Siren’s Call. Meanwhile, the Tikbalang haunt the forests, leading wanderers astray and often to a wretched demise. The Tiyanak are demonic spirits that take child-like forms, sometimes used by Aswang to swap out for real children, making them like changelings. Even traveling omens of death, legions of hooded figures, show up to households of the ailing and elderly. Should one not ward the house with a holy symbol, they’ll emerge into the property as their target dies soon after. Another threat to the towns and cities are vengeful spirit warriors, many of whom were souls of those slain by the darklord’s armies. These phantoms seek to slay anyone remotely related to their death and will pursue them until the sunlight rises. Should the victim escape, the phantom will return in a several months to a year. Even the skies bring danger, as the Wakwak are winged vampires who swoop down towards their humanoid prey. And while the coasts and caves of the islands have faced natural disaster under legends of the Bakunawa dragon, it has inspired shamans as well as fearsome warships.
Cultural Level: Dark Ages (5) through Medieval (7)
Darklord: Haki Shinpi. In life, he was a samurai and powerful clan leader. He built himself up from a noble with sizeable land to the leader of a vast empire. All was carried out through Bushido code, at least as he saw fit. While he upheld honorable virtues within his lands, he backstabbed his allies and ensured that they would fall to treachery, manipulation and other forces. As they fought among themselves, the six sons of the emperor were planning on taking these lands upon their fall. However, they ultimately turned on each other as their father was dying. Two of them quickly fell, as an earthquake devastated the land and put the civil war on hold. The Dark Powers chose to claim the fading soul of the once mighty leader. He returned as a Darklord, a nearly powerless Geist cursed to see his treacherous empire brought to bedlam.
In truth, Haki Shinpi is not the actual name of this once mighty emperor. In truth, his entire clan has forgotten their real name. Part of the punishment faced by the Darklord, and subsequently his clan, is that they cannot claim any honor that belonged to their old name. Likewise, any acclaim and titles that came with it are lost. Likewise, sense of honor has been warped within this domain. Ritualistic suicide was already a practice among warriors within the realm prior, but has been upheld with great important by the conflicting Rokuma states. This coincides with another dark truth about Haki Shinpi, he was originally a minor lord who enabled all means of schemes and cultural exploitation to get what he wanted. He’d hire help to bind beings such as Oni to bring terror and chaos to enemies, enable games of intrigue to bring and dishonor rival houses and much more. And when rival houses were at their lowest, he’d encourage outsiders and outcasts to bring further ruination upon them. As a geist, his ability to interact and scheme has been massively crippled.
An emperor’s children feud among themselves, as countless souls cry out and rise up in anguish. Many horrors arose as a result of such disrespect to the lands, its people and the spirits of the realm. However, most of the supernatural horrors have fled to somewhere more stable to torment. In the year 750 BC, a fallen priest attempted to summon a dark spirit to his aid, in hopes of revenge against all four of the Shinpi sons. The creature turned on the caller, before assembling others like him in conquest. As the parading phantoms roamed through the streets and took countless lives, they were stopped upon reaching the original royal palace. The Mists displaced many of these yokai spirits to another domain, Dai Konran. Not all of these overtly horrifying monstrosities joined the ghostly parade, many chose to continue their own brand of terror within the domain. Other threats, like Warui Yumei Kasumi (or Nightmare Mists), continue to take many who dare to tamper or trespass. However, the horrors of human conflict became more prevalent than the supernatural in Rokushima Taiyoo itself!
Cluster Addendum: Dai Konran
A splinter from Rukoshima. After war become a bother for most yokai, many found a nearby land far more palatable. This move was caused heavily by a demon king who awakened upon the land, only to be sealed back by priests and confined to a desecrated temple. But, this ritual to help consecrate and purify the lands was done improperly. While the mighty monster was sealed back, others were invited in its place. Parades of terrifying spirits materialized soon after, far too many for the priests to contend with. Unlike the current Rukoshima, this is a place of abundant supernatural horror. The domain links three islands by a strange river-like channel that helps it wrap around half of Rukoshima as a buffer. The Darklord is the sealed demon king, never allowed to be aware of the hauntings and horrors he helped unleash. He shall never learn of his success, as even attempts for cultists to tell him are magically snuffed out and they find themselves muted or devoid of magic. In truth, the spirits and monsters that rampage the land are enacting the dreams he desired and attempted to enact in the first place.
Cluster Addendum: Dat Cua Nhen
The Cua Song delta was the site of a trade war between a colonial empire and the Rokuma. After the latter declared victory, the city was ceded as a trading post. Many years later, Ke Le Thanh builds a criminal empire, which he uses in a bid for power against city leaders. This leads to most of his gang and family dying. A new attempt at family is largely unsuccessful, save for a daughter by the name of Ke Meo Hoa. As a reestablished crime lord, he raids and burns down the governor’s mansion, vowing genocide. Dat Cua Nhen forms as a result. It is a bleak place, where market is king and leaders squabble too hard to aid the common people. However, Crime Lord Ke Le Thanh’s troubles on the land have become a focus, with often inept bureaucracy uniting to fight him when he gets strong.
Cluster Addendum: Dokyuumi
The home of a fallen Sea Imperial Dragon, once named Yonggwang. Formerly a great protector fulfilling divine duties, he took on the name of Yongcheon to reflect this change. However, he quickly resented their duties and demanded more services and tribute to fulfill tasks. This came to conspiring to overthrow the Dragon Lord. But first, he found himself trapped in a game of machak tiles after brutalizing peasants. After 100 years, he returns to slay the dragon lord, destroy the land and poison the water. The Mists collected him, turning him into a lowly brine dragon within a poisonous sea. All sorts of aquatic abominations populate this deadly place, many equally as potent as the thick oil that taints the water.
Cluster Addendum: I’Cath
While Tsien Chiang’s reach grew, as did her lands, there was something that she didn’t realize. While occupied with her own issues, her land had joined an archipelago, other domains along a poisonous sea. In the case of I’Cath, much of her lands were surrounded by the tainted forests that few dared to cross. The Darklord and her three wicked daughters were indifferent to this, save for the arrival of the rare outlander. Much of the domain has expanded greatly, with disturbed and toxic trees creating haunted forests that stretch well beyond the four territories and the palace. Sailors on the Poisonous Sea witness the ghastly plants as they enter the domain’s coastline. There are no docks here, beyond natural formations of rock.
The Four Provinces have received some word about outside lands, even outsiders finding their way into civilization. Often, these outlanders are just as trapped as the denizens of the seasonal tortured settlements. Among them is a refugee from Larawang Inukit, following the Paramount Leader’s army storming a “seditious” priest enclave. She has found herself in the settlement blighted by autumn, where her spiritual knowledge does battle with fell beings as the season draws near. Likewise, an estranged fisherman was lured by the dark enchantments of Tsien Chiang, seeking another gullible suitor for one of her wicked daughters. The fisherman broke free of the spell and fled in terror, residing in the settlement blighted by winter.
IMAGE CREDIT: TSR – Ravenloft Trading Cards; JJasso – Castle Interior; Andreas Wonisch – Looking for the Light; JamesJLaingDevArt – Gashadokuro (Japanese Yokai/ Urban Legend 6); Netflix – Trese Promo Image