Monday, August 31, 2015

Children of the God of Teeth

An excerpt from The Carcass of Noon;

Down in the dusty vale the impalers ply their trade - making upright citizens of those who have broken the law of the sainted dead. Few trees remain but slender saplings, carefully tended that they may grow tall and straight the better to correct the wayward.

 In that vale the children of the impalers are taught early that their teeth belong to the oldest of rats. By his permission are they allowed to erupt from baby gums. By his permission also the little borrowers are allowed to gnaw such portions as they find suitably delectable but only for their allotted time. When their time is up the teeth grow weak and fall out, as it were a sign of the senescence of their infancy and burgeoning into what passes for adulthood among the impalers. These adult years, the years between the ages of eight and their inevitable death by thirty-six from teeth gone rotten and poison in the blood, are held to have been purchased by the offerings they make of baby teeth and of teeth stolen from those they execute.

There is among them a trade in teeth chiselled from the mouths of the impaled and the-yet-to-be-impaled. Favour may be gained from the children of the eldest that scamper in the walls of the world by the right offering of the right teeth, though it is argued among them a great deal about who knows the correct procedures to contact and placate Those Who Gnaw Beyond. It is said by some that those beyond care not about the status of the one to whom a particular set of teeth belonged, more than that, it is not known precisely whether they can know, it is the case that they may be bargained with as to what manner of circumstance and heritage may be accepted to be embedded in each handful of teeth. The elders who engage in these bargains rely on a sophisticated and poetic form of lying that tests skilful rhetoric and plausibility against an otherworldly cunning;

Those that come in the night from the riddled dark beneath are appalling, but are dutiful servitors of Him That Gnaws. The ones who have pleased him smile broad and yellow at the twitching recipients of their expertise long into their fourth decade, until the inevitable cankerworm that grows in the ancient jaw claims them in the writhing sweaty death-beds it bestows.

They are knowns as fellers of wood and all the trees about are well-hewn to coppicing stumps and dank mud among which bristle spinily their nameless hamlets. Seven families dwell across a league of valley floor, the lookalike Skenchbacks, the impertinent Skelpies, the Skenetons as thin as sneering switches and Skenydougars with thunder in their voices, the grotesque loping Skerrimudges, the Skoomits of sickly hue and the rampant Skelters running before all.

There are 4d6 in each of the seven hamlets, of which 1d4 will be amenable to becoming hirelings in exchange for the right to chisel teeth from fallen and captured foes in addition to normal fees.

All are as Normal Folk without armour but with a clotting beetle, a tendle knife or a meathook. 

Their Laighlander heritage blinds them to the Darkness in the North. From the vale it can be clearly seen that a portion of the sky has fallen. Dread constellations glitter from beyond.

For Skenchbacks only roll hit points for one, all others are alike
For Skelpies assume the most antagonistic demeanour as standard
For Skenetons assume they secretly plot to impale whoever they meet on whatever trumped-up charges they can imagine.
For Skenydougars negate all attempts at stealth, they bellow and shriek like boreal tempests
For Skerrimudges allow a +1 bonus to surprise for they delight in ambuscades
For Skoomits assume a maximum of one hit point but an active alliance with the Eldest of Rats
For Skelters double movement at all times

Forenames and associated traits are determined by a d20 roll

  1. Trasimondo – pestiferous
  2. Ursine – hirsute
  3. Cateline – rancorous
  4. Harrowjack - staring
  5. Jehanne – mouldy
  6. Gormlaith - haughty
  7. Agrippina – skittish
  8. Eleazar – avaricious
  9. Grigori – merciless
  10. Ephrath – lascivious
  11. Ailill  - capricious
  12. Ashling – dazed
  13. Corvus – hungry
  14. Benedikt – secretive
  15. Egon – vicious
  16. Antje – unyielding
  17. Ulfberht – watchful
  18. Gerlinde – sly
  19. Hedwig – warlike
  20. Pherick – mumbly

When a favoured impaler dies (1-in-6 is favoured, as are all Skoomits) a Rattenkönig bursts forth from the earth in a hideous swarming mass to enact vengeance upon the slayer according to the bargain of the teeth .

Rattenkönig: AC 13 HD 2+2 #att: 4  dmg: 1 + bloody flux mv: 40’ ML: 11 AL: C

Daunting: hirelings check morale on sight.

Bloody Flux: Save vs. poison or contract diarrhoea, vomiting, cramps. Save vs. poison each day or lose a point of constitution. Three consecutive saves indicates recovery.

Benighted as they are and inured to atrocity by their calling, the impalers have dark prejudices and a predilection for the brutal imposition of penalties upon those they deem, by the fickle whim of their violent instincts, outlawed;

D6 determines prejudice of visited family;

1. Any diminutive and rotund individual with clever feet is obviously a Grummuck o’ Grundlestoan and should be dragged naked through brambles before being skewered transversely upon an iron spike

2. Any lankily fey and wanearthly personage is probably a Neugle from the Wild Black Yonder who covets the tears of the innocent and should be impaled upright upon a thorny branch and burnt after death in a furnace.

3. Any stooped and gravelly person is thought an Ambulant Worm crawled hence from its millennial encystment in the dark earth’s bowels. For such a thing only the inverse impalement through the wretched maw will ensure its demise. It is customary to shatter the limbs prior to the enactment of the sentence.

4. A clever-looking bloke with cumbrous tomes is in all probability a Dwimmerthane in the service of Uncle Withershins, who keeps a ledger of the minor iniquities of right-thinking folk that he may the more effectively tempt them from the road to Neorxnawang. For this crime he should be impaled backward through the lower ribs and pelted with all manner of refuse.

5. A weird woman with pets has in all probability tempted the Ounkin Wights from the Middle Airs into bestial form that she may indulge with them in manifold debaucheries. Such a one need be buried alive with her familiars and pierced with a dozen stakes of rowan wood.

6. One who moves with practiced poise, cowled and cloaked and lightly-shod, is of a certainty a Malign Funambulist who seeks to steal the salvation of sleepers through their nostrils. The punishment for such is to be gaunched at a rampart upon an iron hook.

Each year comes a hundred captives from the town of Strokannet in obedience to a law that seeks to suppress the Cormorantine Heresy that died seven generations since. The quota still exists by the unchangeable law that thrives among them and subjugates their native will to the performance of meaningless slaughter in the name of those that are dead. For those of Strokannet and Routhercocke are subjects of a thanatocracy whose hierarchical positions have long been held by the dead of seven hundred years gone. The will of the dead manifests in reality as edicts handed down to be heeded above all, such that the living aristocracy in those towns have been demoted over the centuries that they are reigned over now by, respectively; a Seventh-degree Underslave’s Verminhandler and a Thrice-banished Scullion-hags’s Groom of the Unmentionable Exudate (in common parlance, they are still referred to as the Handler and the Groom but the awareness of the ignominy inherent in all in these latter-days is ever-present, even unto grovellings and prostrations that punctuate everything). These potentates and all their even more ignominious underlings are obedient to the tracts their ancestors bestowed upon them but above-all to that bestowed by the seven chief tracts in all their gnarled poesy and in their crippling opacity of ancient syntax. These tracts are; The Margrave’s Tract, The Tutelary Subdeacon’s Paradoxes Reconciled, The Burgrave’s Brief commentary on the Margrave’s Tract, The Haberdasher’s Appendices Re-examined, The Apertures ‘twixt Gelding Days by her Grace the Slattern-Keeper’s Mistress et cetera . Their names are beside the point, their contents are such that the enunciation of psalms and platitudes from each will summon forth an obedient citizen of either the Branks of Strokannet or of the Bulwark at Routhercocke whose willingness to heed the Tract-holder’s interpretation of the Tract necessitates their servitude in the most circumstances (Morale is governed by charisma as usual)

Lost tracts are to be found in troves in place of various grimoires at the GM’s whim. Read aloud from a tract in the Language of the Dead and after 1d12 days arrives one whose rank is beneath that of ninth-degree underthrall (Summoned individual is a level 3 henchperson);

D10 determines

1. Lutwidge: An Amanuensis of Strokannet In customary ink and sackcloth arming-jack and wooden teeth, lang-pike of seven-yards length. Believes that carrots inflame the passions (AC +1, lang-pike d8 dmg)

 2. Morwenna : A Carpentaria of Routhercocke in jangle-sark, a caged songbird upon her helm and a billhook (the songbird dies when evil is nigh, the jangle-sark provides +1 AC but -1 chance to surprise, Billhook d10)

3. Tripping Nestor: A Dredgerman of Strokannet with Hewing-hods of tarnished bronze, whose fighting-style resembles a demented hornpipe jig (strikes twice for d3+1 dmg each time)

4. Braam: A Lime-kilner from the Routhercocke Ovens with blood in his spittle and ancient barking-irons (barking-irons [pistoles] d6 dmg, ROF ½ backfire on a 1 for full dmg, ignore armour)

5. Tristram Goad: A Destrier’s Concubine from the stables at Strokannet with high helm and horsehair plumes and flail and no mercy in his heart (Flail d8, ML check to prevent pursuit of fleeing enemies to the very end)

6. Atropa Glandrankle: Imperfect Stranger of the Lost House of Strokannet* in green battle-smock and bearing a green Morgenstern and a flask of lindwurm bile that blazes with venomous fire when exposed to air. (AC +1, Morgenstern d10 dmg, Lindwurm Bile: 2d6 per rd. for 1d4 rds + save vs. poison to all within 20’ or swoon from the fumes for 1d4 rds)

7. Corporal Griskin: A Leatherhead from the barbican at Routhercock in rancid gambeson and rusty iron jackboots, wielding bastinado and bullwhip with exuberant abandon (Bastinado d4, Bullwhip d3, AC +2)

8. Erszébet Snood: Carrion-Hunter from the Routhercock catacombs with sevenfold wig and capacious black robes within which are hid a flesh-axe, a garrotte and a latchet crossbow. (Flesh-axe d6, garrotte d2/rd, latchet crossbow d6 ROF 1/1, AC +1)

9. Salomon Grist: Zelator of Strokannet, wheedling stammerer, blinky and vile, swathed in dusty shrouds and bearing a pile of bundled vellum on which are writ condemnations for trifling infractions (Condemnation 1/wk , 1d4 bane-thralls [as skeletons] emerge from the ground to drag the condemned into foetid abysms)

10. Piroska and Gullet: Dog-whipper of Routhercocke in russet cowl with hulking vicious pitcher-dog in ringmail coat (Pitcher AC: 15 MV: 60’ HD: 3 #att 1 bite Dmg: 1d6 )

*The Imperfect Strangers are aelves who of old dwelt nigh Flambergast and know of the Great White Horse of that ruin

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