Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Jack O'Bears

Chen Durelite Vessel in the form of a Jack O'Bear
Jack O'Bears first appeared in the Great Darkness, when many chaotic horrors roamed the land. Unlike many of these horrors, no single source has ever been found for the Jack O'Bears. Instead, they seem to have just emerged fully formed from the primal wellspring. Despite this, many peoples have come up with their own explanations of how the Jack O'Bear came to be.
The troll lovers of the Kingdom of Ignorance say that when the dark god Tien came to attack them in the darkness, their masters slew and devoured each and every one of Tien's soldiers. Alone and without any protectors, Tien stumbled into a bear-den while attempting to hide from his pursuers. Surprising the bears as they hibernated, he cut off their heads and bound their souls to him, and then raised their bodies as horrific monsters. To replace their heads he had them place a pumpkin atop their neck, and carved a fearsome face into its surface. He then set them loose to plague the world, while he fled back into the wastes.
In the west, it is popularly said that Jack O'Bears are the spawn of a hellish plant, created by the Devil to feed his army. The Jack O'Bears were its seeds, sent out to gather refuse and waste to feed this monstrous thing. The leader of the Black Horse Troop, Sir Ethilrist, claims he met this beast in his travels, and cut his way out when it swallowed him whole. Certainly his description of this devouring monster as a giant pumpkin would suggest a connection, but despite common folklore, the Jack O'Bear an animal, not a plant or hybrid of the two.

Jack O'Bears (Joannursus paralysis) resemble the brown or grizzly bear of western Genertela, at least for the most part. The Jrusteli Naturalist Ocran Everseer believed they represented an offshoot of brown bears, although so far altered by the touch of Chaos that they can no longer breed with any other bear. Certainly they share much of their range with the brown bear, the majority of Jack O'Bears being found in a band from Fronela, through Ralios, to Maniria. Despite this, a subspecies (Joannursus paralysis ignoramus) has been found in the Kingdom of Ignorance, north of Kralorela. Whether these are native, or the result of some chaos cultists spreading them deliberately, is unknown.
The most striking characteristic of a Jack O'Bear is its head, which is completely hairless, lacks external ears or lips, and only has a thin pair of nostrils. Instead of fur, the head is covered with a layer of leathery skin, beneath which runs a network of blood vessels, which gives the head a blood red appearance in infant bears, before paling to a vibrant orange colour when the skin thickens at maturity.
With older Jack O'Bears, the skin has instead been likened to that of a pumpkin or other gourd, giving rise to legends that the beast is part plant.

Found only in the most isolated and desolate of places, Jack O'Bears are solitary beasts, who view even their own kind as enemies and rivals. Only the Jack O'Bears of the Kingdom of Ignorance have been known to ever socialize, congregating along the great coast of Koromondol in great numbers. Magical observation has shown the beasts swaying from side to side and making a great sussuration, which has been referred to as "singing." The purpose of this act is unknown, but knowing their chaotic nature, it can be assumed to be a grave danger to Glorantha.
Elsewhere, Jack O'Bears can occasionally be found in chaos nests, where Broo, Ogres, or other horrors feed them with parts of their victims. It is likely that the Jack O'Bear merely tolerates their presence because of this tribute, while the chaotics feel this is a small price to pay for the protection the Jack O'Bear provides, for while they may ignore their chaotic "guests", they will attack all others who intrude, acting as guardian and protector for the chaos nest.

Although possessing of a certain diabolical cunning, the Jack O'Bear is rarely intelligent enough to worship the Lords of Terror, and so only the most extraordinary individuals have learned magic. This can be seen as a blessing, for they already possess an insidious Chaotic power, to freeze and stupefy their victims, making them unable to resist the Jack O'Bear's attacks. Although commonly held to be the result of meeting the creature's gaze, the Jack O'Bear in fact needs only to think about a nearby person for them to fall victim to their insidious gift.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

The Black Horse County

Black Horse County Cultural Keyword
The Black Horse County is a small civilized culture, derived originally from Malkioni stock. Unlike the Orlanthi, they divide their populace into four castes. The Curelan, or Workers, who toil in the fields, or craft goods in the settlements of the county; the Ridderan, or Warriors, who either fight as footmen, or ride the monstrous black horses; the Zoberan, or Sorcerers, who read grimoires and work acts of terrifying sorcery; and Herrelan, the caste of lords and rulers, whose singular member is the great Lord Ethilrist.
Black Horse County includes a wide variety of people, for Ethrilrist has united blond Sun Domers, olive-skinned Heortlings and Tarshites, clean-shaven Grazers, and even inhuman trolls into one mighty populace. Regardless of their origin, the inhabitants of the county accept each other as brothers, and have adopted a habit of cropping their hair to stubble, as a symbol of their abandoned pasts.
The dominant religion of the county is the Atroxic school of Malkionism. This is an ancient and near extinct school, which pre-dates the dawning, and is viewed as heretical at best by other schools of Malkioni thought. The Atroxic school is defined by its focus on discipline and obedience, and caste mobility is rare, and only occurs when Lord Ethilrist promotes a worker to the warrior caste, to join the ranks of his Black Horse Troop.
Most inhabitants of the Black Horse County speak a language related to Esrolian and Heortling. Only scribes and sorcerers can read; and they use a Ralian derived script.
Sample Female Black Horse County Names: Adelina, Aenor, Hild, Lutgardis, Odilia, Ragna, Solveig, Valdis.
Sample Male Black Horse County Names: Arminius, Berengar, Curelus, Cola, Gervasius, Gislenus, Hermanus, Milo, Rochus.

Common Occupational Keywords: Crafter, Farmer, Herder, Merchant, Scribe, Sorcerer, and Warrior (either Heavy Infantry or Heavy Cavalry).

The Black Horses
A Diokos Demon of the Black Horse Troop
The demonic horses of the black horse troop, also sometimes known as the Diokos, are not especially suited for play, given that they can not speak human tongues and lack the ability to manipulate objects.
They do, however, make suitable allies or companions for a character with the Warrior (Heavy Cavalry) keyword, or the occasional sorcerer.
When taking a Black Horse as a companion, they follow the rules for non-humans, and one of their three starting abilities must be their species keyword.

The Atroxic School
The Atroxic School of Malkionism was founded before the dawn by Atrox the Stern. He was one of the companions of Malkion, and was a witness to the prophet's betrayal and death. Taking the knowledge given to him by the prophet, he wrote a great grimoire filled with these secrets, and of his interpretations of them, and went out among the people to educate them.
Atrox the Stern taught that the most important of Malkion's Laws was Obedience: to the Invisible God, to the Law, to their Lord, and their family. This, along with the ascetic practices supported by this school, has proven pleasing to Lord Ethilrist, who has made every effort to support the school, making the Black Horse County the last stronghold of the school in the Third Age.

Book of Betrayal and Murder
This grimoire predates the Abiding Book, and several sections of that great grimoire are identical to the Book of Betrayal and Murder. It contains several spells based on the Law Rune and Death Rune, focusing on obedience to the Law, and cursing those who defy it. These spells include:
  • Bless Corpse: This spell combines the Law Rune with the Death Rune to properly bury a corpse, preventing them from being raised in monstrous unlife.
  • Blinding Pain: This spell summons the Death Rune within a person, filling them with an agony that renders them insensate and helpless.
  • Burn the Unrighteous: This spell combines the Law Rune with the Fire Rune to fill a sinner with holy fire, burning them from within.
  • Determine Guilt: This spell combines the Law Rune with the Truth Rune, allowing the sorcerer to tell whether someone has committed a crime against the Malkioni laws.
  • Mark of Sin: This spell combines the Law Rune with the Stasis Rune, branding a victim with a sorcerous sigil, visible to all and marking them as a criminal and sinner.
  • Neutralize Poison: This spell dismisses the Death Rune from a substance, removing all traces of poison or other toxins, and rendering it harmless.
  • Prayer of Perseverance: This spell combines the Law Rune with the Stasis Rune, granting someone an inner reserve of strength that they may call upon to refresh themselves, and carry on in the face of adversity.
  • Shrive Sins: This spell combines the Law Rune with the Harmony Rune to cleanse a sinner of their crimes against their caste, allowing them once more to be affected by Malkioni blessings.

The Black Horse Order
This is a martial order, created by Ethilrist from the remains of his old White Horse Society, to be the foundation of his Black Horse Troop. Its members know many spells to aid the demonic seeds and the warriors they fight alongside. Membership in this order is a hard won honour, with prospective members often engaging in magical and physical duels to show their worth, and when accepted must swear an oath of fealty to Ethilrist, while their hands rest inside the mouth of Ethilrist's terrifying hound.

A History of My Black Horse Troop
While nominally associated with Ethilrist's lengthy grimoire, the Black Horse Order usually only studies from volumes VII and VIII, detailing Ethilrist's wars, and his actions taken within them. As these contain many spells related to the battles the order will find itself drawn to. A selection of the spells found within these volumes includes:
  • Cloak of Darkness: This spell summons the Darkness Rune to surround the caster with a cloud of darkness, spreading from him like a cloak, and concealing everything from sight within it.
  • Iron Hoof: This Spell combines the Death Rune with the Beast Rune within one of the demon horses, making their hooves as strong and deadly as iron, and able to crush their foes in a terrifying charge.
  • Lance of Agony: This Spell summons the Death Rune into a lance, imbuing it with the power to slay those they strike with but a single touch.
  • Resist Pagan Spirit: This Spell combines the Death Rune with the Spirit Rune, blunting a spirit's attempts to attack the caster, as armour blunts a sword blow.
  • See in Darkness: This spell combines the Darkness Rune with the Truth Rune to allow the caster to see in pitch darkness as well as he can in daylight.
  • Terrify Foe: This spell summons the Darkness Rune to cloak the caster with an invisible aura of fear, which terrifies beasts, and the weak of mind.

The Order of Damnation
This small order was founded from the remnants of a cadre of Furlandan wizards who accompanied Ethilrist in his journey to hell. Their magic proved invaluable to his plundering of infernal riches and the binding of demons to his service, and by the time they emerged from hell, they had changed. The order's purpose had become focused on the manipulation of the entities of hell, and of turning them to aid Ethilrist's will. The sorcerers of this order provide for the magical protection of the Black Horse County, and some select members accompany squads of the Black Horse Troop into battle.

The Book of Ethilrist in Hell
This is the sixth volume of Ethilrist's "A History of My Black Horse Troop", and is by far the longest. It goes into details of his harrowing of Hell, and the means that Ethilrist used to bind and destroy the enemies he found there. Some of the spells found within include:
  • Destroy Otherworld Foe: This spell combines the Spirit Rune with the Death Rune, enabling the sorcerer to slay a spirit or demon with a word and gesture.
  • Exorcism: This spell dismisses the Spirit Rune, severing the link between an otherworldly being and the material world, forcing it back to its hellish domain.
  • Harrow the Soul: This spell taps the Spirit Rune of its victim, plundering and ravaging their essential nature, causing them agony and providing a source of magical power for the sorcerer.
  • Shield of the Faithful: This spell separates the Spirit Rune from the Man Rune, rendering the sorcerer's target immune to the touch of spirits and gods.
  • Summon Goblin: This spell summons the Spirit Rune, summoning a Goblin, a form of monstrous Dehori from the underworld.
  • Travel Hell: This spell combines the Spirit Rune with the Movement Rune, allowing the sorcerer to travel freely through the infernal otherworlds without being blocked by barriers or guardians.