“This is the Alleigosto Exploration Team, is anyone out there? Anyone on the Cog Auditory-Wave Line, please respond! We are lost on the Ichthyan Sea. We’ve observed and overheard terrible creatures. Send help immediately. These waters are dangerous, arm yourselves by all means. I repeat, arm yourselves. Air waves will remain open, in hopes of response.” – The distress signal of Her Heavenly Embrace, sunken wreck
It is time once again to gaze into the mists and see what gazes back. I bring you tales and people traversing the mists, woes of the occult, crime never paying, schemes of a warmonger and rising spirits assembling a demonic gallivant.
Author’s Note: More ambitious conquering for Drakov, Victorian spiritualism, Japanese ghosts and more on a thieves haven homage to Yojimbo. That is what to expect from this post! Also, I know I’ve griped about it before, but I feel like I should cover and flesh out my own worlds. I don’t really want to play D&D anymore, even though I like pondering about the settings. It’s this weird paradox for me. I have more posts I want to do, so we’ll see how quick I can get over this funk.
Occultism and Strangeness of the Broken Cog
The Broken Cog cluster is a realm of paranormal-tinged super-science. As such, interests in the occult prove far less potent. None the less, these forays into the supernatural are just as existent as the strange phenomena that occur within the domains themselves. As it is, so-called “cemetery guns” have been installed in cemeteries to contend with not just grave robbers but reanimated dead as well. What was dismissed as superstitious has proven useful, as the traps have been good at dispatching unwanted guests and movers within a graveyard. But repurposed weapons are only the beginning of strange tales within the Broken Cog.
Spiritualist Muriel McDunnough is part of the force to drive back the night. Settled within Wilbury Street in Paridon, her office and apartment would be otherwise unnoticeable save for her sign exclaiming her as “Spiritual Extraordinaire.” While most cases would warrant this as blowhards boasting, her skills have become well known within the domain. Her talents have even put Sodo in danger, as her strange gifts have lead her on the trail of “Old Flickerflame” more than once. However, she is more content with dealing in the ways of spirits. The many restless souls of the current Rockbaecche colony have only grew angrier, especially thanks to those new lords of the land. Disturbances in haunted houses seem to be a specialty of Muriel as well. Despite her weakened strength in her advancing age, her grasp on mystic arts and medium talents bolsters her on. However, her greatest challenge yet could very well cost her own life. She has taken interest in a troubling case of the supernatural, the fiery ghost train known as the Hell Coal Express.
Alleigosto is the domain where the supernatural often converges with the technological. However, one incident that has troubled occultists was the result of the bombing of a machinery warehouse/factory. The ensuing explosion was empowered by a supernatural force. Rather than merely destroying the compound, it had a horrifying side-effect. The souls of the murdered found themselves bound to the various bits of contraptions, machines and scrap that filled the building. And thus, soul-bound constructs were uncovered from the wreckage not long after. The existentially horrified cyborgs were thrown into violent psychosis, destroying anything in their path and unable to cope with their current state. Rampaging through the lower quarter, the horrors were ultimately stopped and their spirits were put to rest. Ever since, there has been a more watchful eye for dark magical practices leaking into artifice and invention. However, many who witnessed the tragedy of the haunted machines have desired to make their own. And thus, the circle of tragedy and torture continues.
Despite its origins in Ichthyos, alien horror now visits Phyresha. The village of Arvoskev, a trade stop on the way to the city, has secretly been infiltrated by a horrific parasitic entity. The Puppeteer Parasite is best described as a cross between a simian and an eel, with mantis-like scythe claws. The creature burrows into the neck and back of a victim, before locking into parts of the slain body and taking over. Many of the citizens are supernatural corpse puppets, infused with eldritch power to stave off rot. Their goals are currently unknown, but many of the controlled have garnered an interest in the shadowy council of the primary Phyresha City. The parasites also channel a strange psionic hivemind, which has furthered their awareness of the shadowy network exuded by the darklords of the domain. Some of these creatures can disguise their boons through hijacking the bodies of sanctioned mages, tapping into the victim’s brains to disguise their own works as magical spells. Their gathered intelligence seems to feed back into something still in the Ichthyan seas, an unknown entity of substantial power.
The Ichthyan Beasts is a term given to serpent-like creatures that haunt the seas. Curiously, they have been more so spotted near the territories of Rockbaecche, Zherisia and even Nosos far more than Ichthyos. This has lead Ichthyans to cry in outrage against the mislabled title. None the less, the sea serpents have been the bane of countless sailing vessels, including the tourist steam vessels that have found otherwise safe channels and waterways into Lamordia. Ichthyan Beasts are blue, slimy and squamous crosses of eel and snake that slink in the depths below. Sailor stories of the awful monsters began to surface long after tales of Old Man Elos and the strange coastal town of Ichthyos began to spread. In fact, the first few were in 757 BC. They’ve only grown in severity and number by 759 BC, prompting direct action to be taken. Groups of “serpent slayers” have been deployed to quell the beasts to some degree. It’s too soon to say how successful they are.
Alleigosto, while technically inclined, has its share of far more pastoral reaches still. Malgiallo is a large town less than a day’s travel from the main city. Its original name was lost, with its current one named after the phlegm like plague substance vomited by villagers after eating tainted meat decades ago… if false history can be believed. The name is treated as a reminder to stay diligent in dealings with “trade stock”. It is here where a lot of cattle, meats, leather and more are supplied to the main city of Alleigosto. The place, due to its many slaughterhouses, reeks of death. Stenches of waste and blood flood the streets. As such, city exports of gas masks are common. The locals often spot outsiders by their willingness to take their chances with the miasma. However, some embrace the foul death and decay of the town. After druid circles attempted coups of the royal houses, alongside Duke Olbsodt, some shifted means of continuing their goals. Their attachment to life forces within nature made them feel weak, instead shifting to an obsession with entropy, disease, decay and more. The Necrotic Circle formed as a cabal of necromantically inclined druids deep within the town. They claim to follow a god manifested in cobbled flesh, an amalgam of animal and human corpses bound and melded together. This creature, called “The Crawling Agony”, is what the cult considers a divine avatar to help bring deathly ruination upon the domain. It dwells deep within a secret tunnel below the Elos Ancestral Farm, a name eerily similar to the darklord of Ichthyos. Despite being made of several animal parts, the Crawling Agony is intelligent. However, its unwieldy form has kept it confined to the underground chamber to commune with its followers.
The wastelands beyond Nosos are mutated lands of horror and the folly of industry. But, something has been attracted to the blight. A creature previously seen in Falkovnia, known as “The Green Maiden” has made the journey from the domain and through Lamordia into a new dominion in need of her efforts. This creature, an eldritch abomination pulled from the planes beyond, brings extra-dimensional corruption upon an already tainted region. Animals and plants previously harmed by toxins and strange radiation are worsened by the entity’s malignant influence. While traces of her power linger in Falkovnia, her essence is far more horrid within Nosos’ outer limits. The wasteland creatures have become heinous monsters of eldritch proportions. Even wastelanders, refugees from Phyresha and nearby lifeforms drawn to the Green Maiden’s sinister charisma has been reshaped into unspeakable horrors that barely resemble their base forms. These newly formed Elder Form Horrors are something truly different, something in tune with the Maiden’s energy.
Even the Hive Tunnels have begun to weave their own foul arcane powers. Old Timor ruins have unearthed a magical artifact that is of great value to the hive queen, a knife that “cuts a hole in the fog” to create a portal. This gateway only works within the cluster, but allows a few of her Marikith minions into a random place in the overworld… as long as the tunnels touch it somehow. Considering how that makes up more than half of the cluster, it’s a wide range. While caravans all over countrysides have been easy picking for the awful things, this magical discovery has made matters worse. Innocents vanish and supplies are nowhere to be seen, now more than ever. As the Hive Queen learns of new inventive ways to bring wrath upon Paridon, she has likewise expanded her network. Even Alleigosto has begun to experience problems “from below”.
Finally, a ritual gone awry has brought a new station stop along the railway of Paridon. This is none other than Mithras Court. Such a domain has its origins in Gothic Earth, haunted by Sir Lucius Knight. This grim and sudden stop is haunted by its darklord, who is eager to make deals as long as it benefits him. A prior encounter with the phantasm involved Knight tricking a grieving soul into closure, in exchange for the darklord manipulating his new assistant through all sorts of wicked schemes. His end game is the expansion of his twisted little empire. While he prefers to manipulate denizens of Gothic Earth, he has turned more and more focus on the Broken Cog, so that his pocket domain can further expand upon there as well. Now he awaits for another train to go awry, stepping away from the Broken Cog proper and into his diabolical pocket domain.
Parade of Ghosts
Dai Konran is a place marred and haunted by foul spirits. While Rokushima’s supernatural plights have eased up amidst civil conflicts, this newly revealed island has only gotten far worse. All of this came about when a priest, corrupted by spirits and later obsessed with them, arrived to this island in search of a fallen temple. The people were instantly weary of him, thinking him a fool or madman. He was indeed prepared to face a captured demon from within, bound by various seals and incantations. But, that wasn’t enough for the mad practitioner. He undid the protections and faced the foul demon on his own merits. While the priest did manage to defeat the demon, he underestimated the fiend’s ability to bring about allies. In the end, the priest fell, but his own abilities imprisoned the foul spirit far worse than ever before. In a sense, both parties succeeded. The temple, which held means of contending with other spirits, was leveled in the fight. This made the yokai of the realm emerge to run rampant throughout the land. The Parade of Phantoms had begun, terrorizing the land for all seen future.
These incursions of the paranormal can manifest in different ways. The people of Dai Konran suggest that all things have souls or are at least capable of such. Thus, almost anything can fall under sway of a malicious spirit. Many have been able to possess mundane objects and bend them to their will. Lanterns have been especially popular for this. Some are less subtle, preferring to materialize anytime and anywhere to wreak havoc upon the populace. Some are vindictive, some are morbidly curious, some enjoy the sheer insanity their presence causes. No matter what the case is, the vast majority of the beings that emerge her do not act in anything remotely good.
The Falkovnian Warmachine
The Dukkar Pact wasn’t always completely in place. For countless decades, Drakov struggled to manage his ambitions for conquest against superior allies. He would never fault himself, always blaming those within army ranks for weakness or betrayal instead. Among his greatest enemies is Darkon, home of Azalin Rex. Even one of his allies began their introduction as an ironically invading force. King Fuhrer Gunter Drachenblut is a maniacal despot not unlike Vlad Drakov, a parallel in many regards. Upon learning of Falkovnia, he initially saw the land as a challenge to test his mettle after losing faith in his own land. Stealth, tactical and direct war units to invade and seize the lands of the Falcon. In 755 BC, an invasion was staged, but not by Drakov. Rather, a misty passageway emerged from the edge of the Feueren town of Syndergard. Legions of troops marched through, emerging outside of Lekar to contest Drakov. The sudden emergence of the well-armed and trained troops took Kingfuhrer Drakov by surprise. For 5 days, an onslaught erupted as the rival soldiers quickly unveiled their supernatural abilities. The Ministry of the Arcane gained an upper hand after capturing enough of these soldiers for experiments. Counter-measures were rapidly produced and the battle turned into a stalemate, thanks to the help of Invidian forces loaned to Falkovnian aid.
Several months later, Drakov was alerted of a diplomatic mission entering his kingdom. As it turns out, the very same forces that previously attacked Falkovnia wished to deliver an ultimatum of partnership. This enterprise was spearheaded by second in command of Drachenblut’s forces, Heinrich Eintmann. While Eintmann holds reservations against Malocchio Aderre of Invidia, he retains a great deal of respect for Vlad Drakov, even likening to Fuhrer King Gunter Drachenblut of Feuers. However, an attempt at friendship with Vigo Drakov has been rather strained for reasons Eintmann does not yet understand… Likely, this is for the same reason as Malocchio. This partnership drew initial problems. In order to further establish a presence through Invidia, the Feueren Infernal Knights had to literally burn through Verbrek, drawing the ire of the Darklord Nathan Timothy and the werewolf residents. Likewise, the semi-living nature of the knights made them a viable threat to Borca. From both Invidia and Falkovnia, these forces made threat to the Dark Twins. However, this was before learning of the Treaty of the Four Towers, forcing Drakov and his ministers to advise against combat at this time. However, the flaming knights were given the ultimate test in 757, where they were deployed to scorch as much of Darkon as possible.
Assisted with only a few Falkovnian forces, they burned away through the Forests of Shadows, making their way towards an enclave by Martira Bay to establish a base of operations. Ultimately, it wasn’t the undead that thwarted them, so much as leagues of mages assembling to defeat the men made of flames. Overwhelmed with magic, the Feueren knights were exploded in a font of flame, slaying the Falkovnian soldiers among them by roasting them to cinders. Unlike with previous campaigns, an illusionary visage of Azalin himself appeared to chastise Drakov’s efforts, now angered by his bold new steps. In reality, it wasn’t just mages gathering to defeat the new army, but members of the Kargatane gathering in secret to assist from the shadows. This humiliating defeat brought his new allies into question. However, the agreement to train Falkovnian troops, bolster ranks and repel invaders remained. Likewise, Falkovnians would train and aid the military of Feuers. A spy defector from Darkon was what ultimately tipped off Drakov of the proceeding battle. As someone of Darkonese descent, the spy was not trusted and was ultimately forced to be impaled while the kingfuhrer watched from his dining table. The joined unity between the two forces also inspired Drakov to become more ambitious.
In 758 BC, a new campaign was prepared from Feuers. A path lead Falkovnian warriors alongside the fiery knights into the domain of Nidalia. Elena Faith-hold saw before her true evil, giving herself a true purpose once more. For a brief moment, new powers akin to a true paladin were bestowed to her. This moment of glory was temporary, the source of her own pain later on. As her own forces began to falter, the impossible occured. In the forests beyond her domain, the horrors of Ebonbane overran the invaders before Faith-hold helped push them back with the aid of the Knights of the Shadows. While this once again infuriated Drakov, he overheard plans of Malocchio and became deeply invested in that. Likewise, he heard rumors over the revival of another despotic ruler, Duke Nharov Gundar. As such, he began to craft new plans. A new campaign awaited. However, Feuers grows quickly impatient with Falkovnia.
Fright and Hatred in Ylar
Ylar is a wretched hive of scum and villainy, it has quickly become a warning tale within the domain of Pharazia, since it materialized to the northeast of it some years ago, in 752 BC. These warnings are for good reason. While not the most tainted and vile places, the thief city is still a place of extreme danger and high stakes. Besides charging into nearby settlements, the thieves of Ylar aren’t against attacking each other for a little extra coin. The land is one of instability, barely held together by its darklord, as the rival family vies for power. Still, should one need to escape Pharazia and seek shelter in a land full of people worse than you, you’ve come to the right place. It is indeed a shadowy haven for the miscreant, the misfit, the ne’er-do-well, the degenerate and so much more. From petty crooks to full blown pirates, the range of occupations is surprisingly diverse as it is morally dubious. History says that this ragtag group attempted to fight with itself for supremacy, only for Ahmed Malefdeshar. The Bandit King unified everyone, but it was clear that he trusted no one. This only grew worse when a rival clan emerged and took many under their own fold. The growing schism has since divided the town into two. Gang war looms over the horizon between the two crime families.
Clan Kalzafred are a mysterious family of nobles, all of whom claim to have heritage to Pharazia. In truth, this is not the case. Likewise, Alhazared (or more properly “ah-Hazred”) is not a nickname but their real family name. Anything to say otherwise is accepted False History. Originating in Gothic Earth, Clan al-Hazred had a history of wicked deeds and grim esoterica. Dark sacrifices, communing with eldritch powers, utilizing wicked sorcery and more define the crimes against reality caused by said clan. The future mad scribe, Abdul, would inherit the madness of his bloodline and pen the Necronomicon. Their history is lost within their own world, but in their capture by the mists, they were cursed. The Curse of Lycanthropy made the clan subsumed by ravenloft mists into werejackals. For much time, they suffered and faced persecution within Pharazia. But, the promises of a vile city of criminals felt enticing. And so, they crossed over to find a new dominion to take power from. They vanished late 7th century A.D., leaving behind few family members including a young Abdul. Coincidentally, all of this happened days after Ylar was revealed by the mists. But, the pains of Gothic Earth are nothing compared to the pains of Mystara.
The Emirates of Ylaruam have a long and complicated history, many of which has been poorly documented over the years. The reason for the strange weather and elemental powers within this land dates back to the original Empire of Nithia, who exploited much in the land and suffered accordingly. In the end, said empire vanished from the world and all traced were banished from the public consciousness by the Immortals. Much time later, Alphatian and Thyatian colonists attempted to take the land, before Suleiman Al’Kalim united the future emirates and drove them out, with Abbashan being a last stand in many cases. The Emirate of Abbashan itself housed Ahmed and his gang prior to his own developments. The Abbashan Oasis is said to be the life blood for the various towns not immediately by the coasts. One of the territories bolstered by this way of life, as well as the coastal trade ports, is Jaboor. While Ahmed claims to have come from the Nithian region, along with many of his gang, the majority of them settled with Jaboor for several years before being expelled. In the year 994 AC (Mystaran Calendar), Ahmed and his bandit gang were exiled to roam the deserts between the far more tolerable coastline and oasis, as an alternative to execution.
The dream of Ahmed’s bandit oasis was a blight from the beginning. Other territories around Abbashan and beyond quickly became worries by the sudden gathering of reprobates, outcasts and brigands upon a small colony due several miles southwest of Jaboor. The more insensitive dubbed it “Little Nithia”, assuming them to be Nithian rogues trying to claim outside territory. Despite these claims, a number of Nithian bandits did make their way to the enclave and assimilated well enough. Another nickname stuck for the town, Misted Eyes. The mages under Ahmed’s wing mastered a craft to kick up concealing dust storms and even strange mists to keep away prying eyes. Somehow, this became corrupted and condensed into the current name.For years, Ahmed and his gang became a terror for the Emirate, and even the capital itself! Many would pose as followers of Eternal Truth in an effort to extort and exploit those around them for gain. And for others, traditional burglary and caravan robbery were in order. However, life within the enclave was as harsh as their actions. Many bandit gangs tried to rise up and claim power from Ahmed. Time and again, they were put in their place and their leadership was eliminated. However, this lead the Bandit King paranoid. His personal council included his best friend, Karim Al’Merrik, who tried to assure him and keep him together. However, Bandit King Ahmed’s anxiety continued to grow.
As this occurred and refugees found themselves clinging to the desert town for safety, life continued towards a grim path. At first the Dwarven quarters helped to build and fortify the town against the harsh conditions. After all, dwarven settlers were an accepted part of many Ylari towns. Those who came after were not as fortunate. Many of these subsequent residents were considered lesser citizens, abused and tormented like the victims of a dictatorship. Word began to spread to other emirates, reaching the greater capital of Ylaruam City. Meanwhile, Karim plead Ahmed to stop, fearing retribution. By 998 AC, the Ylari town of Misted Eyes went from a thieves haven to a dystopia of no escape. The only one who tried was Karim, off to Jaboor to gather help against his former friend. Needless to say, Ahmed found out and the rest became history for the Demiplane of Dread. The few scholars left in the thief town surmise that the “mist craft” from the enclave mages was a harbinger of the doom to come. In fact, Karim’s ghost sometimes materializes in a mist like form, when he isn’t busy trying to stop both ruling clans.
IMAGE CREDIT: TAE_ – Sea Zombie 2; 1897 Book on Magic – Apparition; Met Museum – Night Parade of 100 Demons; Alan Rabinowitz – Vlad Tepes (VtES); Bernard