BLFC: Curse of Coeurasa

Reno, NV | May 16-19, 2019

Introduction

Introduction to The Cross

The Cross is a region blessed with an abundance of natural harbors, mountains and valley passes, and a far-reaching and wide array of rivers, creeks, and canals. Trade is lucrative, competitive, and expansive. The main trade hubs cradle accessways and ports of the Karban Sea, the conduit to the rest of the world. The largest natural bays are then understandably the home of the richest cities. Massive deserts surround the inland edges of The Cross, ensuring sea trade is well maintained by all parties. Common interests regulate internally to prevent loss of profit, namely the eradication of piracy and smuggling over the sea routes. Over many generations, an extreme diversity of people, culture, government, commerce, and adventure has developed, driven by disputes on the features of the land, a smattering of strategic river crossings, Spire locations, and areas of natural resource accessibility.

World Features

Dragon's Teeth/Spires

Dragon’s Teeth are gigantic, black spikes that pierce the sky with forgotten purpose. They all angle to point directly at Coeurasa with their tapered tips, sides coming together at the top in an impossibly sharp point. Composed of a dark, black stone across their surface, the Teeth can be seen against any daytime horizon, but from how far depends on just how tall they are. The height of the Teeth can vary from location to location, some being as short as a hundred feet off the ground, contrasted against the staggering lofts of spires that reach thousands of feet above the surface. Many of the inhabitants of The Cross refer to these structures as Spires, a vernacular made for convenience. Legends abound that the Dragon’s Teeth hoard lost treasures, but those foolhardy enough to plunder them are cursed unto their death, perhaps even cursing the entire region around a Spire. There are rumors that some Spires even contain the coveted and extremely valuable crystal known as Dragon’s Tears.

These towering structures have dotted the landscape of The Cross for all of history. Even the most ancient stories consider them an immutable fixture of the landscape. Travelers from afar report likewise in familiar regions, giving rise to the idea that they cover the whole world. There is debate what the Spires do and what they look like amongst different regions of The Cross, as some Spires have a beautiful golden glimmer hidden amongst the black stone. Some are entirely covered in runaway plant growth. Some are thick and some are thin, and the only real consensus amongst people is that they are mysterious, and often, ominous.

Coeurasa

A familiar and unmoving resident of the sky as seen from The Cross, Coeurasa is the primary fixture of the celestial sphere aside from the sun. It is large enough to maybe even be considered a planetoid if it orbited the star instead of the planet. Its orbit makes it both tidally locked and fixed in a geosynchronous pattern. As such, the surface of Coeurasa seems unmoving on its own accord, and the moon always sits in the same place in the sky no matter the time of day or season. Coeurasa is as familiar and permanent in its part of the sky as any other landmark or ocean feature.

Each night Coeurasa slowly comes into view as daylight fades, appearing as a waxing half-moon at the moment of sundown. As the night progresses, Coeurasa’s phase shifts with it, changing from a half-moon to a full moon. The moment of full moon is the exact time between dusk and dawn, and as the moon passes this moment, it will begin to wane back into the opposite half-moon from the one it started as. As the sun rises, the half-moon Coeurasa will begin to fade from view, its silver light overtaken by the sun. Only special lenses and optics allow certain scholars to see the great moon during the day, observing a period where its light fades totally from existence as the brilliance of the sun directly behind it suppresses her beauty. Some cultures revere these phases and the moon itself as a guiding deity, the ever-present watcher in their lives.

Blink

Every year at the coming of Season of Earth, the impending fall solstice brings an end to the shortening of days and lengthening of nights, cooler weather, and the changing of the leaves; it also brings a marked change in the appearance of Coeurasa. At her zenith when she shines fullest and brightest , a massive curved shadow slowly starts to spread up Coeurasa’s surface from below, like a great closing eyelid. Starting about a month before the solstice, the shadow reaches further and further up Coeurasa’s full face each night until, just two days before the solstice, it completely overtakes the silver glow of the moon. When the silver fades, Coeurasa dully luminesces a great muted red color, akin to staring at torch light through a closed eye. For the few longest nights of the year, she looks this way during her zenith, engaged in her massive blink. The red is barely visible to only the most trained eyes when Coeurasa is not at zenith, the fledgling silver light growing at the same time it gets consumed by the Dragon’s Shadow. Festivals celebrating the end of the year, certain religious observations, and scholars fastidiously studying are all abound to mark the event. Then the shadow slowly recedes over another month, Coeurasa’s soft silver ambience at her zenith returning to her face and bathing the night world once again in a new year.

Fate

The smaller sister to Coeurasa, a second moon of the world, is known as Fate. She is far more coy than her primary sibling, and only appears to the Cross for brief moments in the night at the very edge of the southern sky. Stranger still is that the pattern is not consistent from night to night like Coeurasa’s. Fate’s appearance is not marked at any specific time of year or season, but appears for merely an hour or so in Fate’s Nights. She can show all the same phases as Coeurasa can, but only one on any given night. These phases appear to follow the same order as Coeurasa’s do, confirming their relationship to one another. The time of her appearance is never the same from night to night, with her first peek into the world happening just before dawn and slowly transitioning over a week and a half or so to vanish into the setting sun. Few residents of The Cross regularly get to observe this behavior. Coeurasa’s silvery glow is comforting to most people, but many find the orange-tinted Fate to be disturbing in its timing and appearance. This has led to many residents believing that the appearance of Fate at any given significant moment to be a sign of disaster or cursed portent. Others see her brief entrance into the world as a sign of good fortune and tidings to come, as the timing required can only be explained by turns of good luck.

The scholars of the Order of Arcane Sages have kept detailed records of her travels and have compiled a rudimentary foretelling of her appearances. Mathematics, they say, can predict Fate just as easily as the turning of the seasons. Their calculations are not perfect, and for many years have either ended up falling short or overshooting. The common person has no inkling of such predictions at all and find trying to predict her exact behavior is impossible. In extremely rare circumstances, detailed in progressively older and older tomes of the Great Library, Coeurasa can completely fill the area of the sky where Fate would be seen. The mages see it as a natural occurrence and think little of it, but documented history shows that the more superstitious members of society believed Coeurasa was shielding the world from Fate’s influence, averting great natural disasters or society’s end. One such scroll details the account of a mage seeing a massive, infinitely intricate arcane emblem upon the surface of Coeurasa during one such celestial apex, though they all dismiss it as the ravings of a madman.

Locations

Roqueport

Located on the coast facing the Karban Sea, this towering city is built on and around an enormous Dragon’s Tooth shrine. The giant black spire juts out of Roque Ridge, looming over the lapping sea waves, and is a marvel to behold. The more affluent residents along with city officials have constructed lofty and magnificent manors on the actual spire itself. The other buildings in Roqueport radiate out around the spire, all built tall and impressive like the spire that inspires the city’s growth.

For centuries, Roqueport has been known as the center of commerce for The Cross. This is due in part to its central location on the Karban Sea and an ample natural harbor, as well, as its impressive and questionably contemptuous feat of building a metropolis on a Dragon’s Tooth. Many companies from The Cross have their headquarters located somewhere in Roqueport’s business district.

Houses make up the ruling class of Roqueport. Houses are primarily comprised of magnates, capitalists, and trading companies. It is rumored that the governor's palace even has a rare and intact Dragon’s Tear on display, but only for the most well-connected and powerful to enjoy.

Atlas

Located on the western shore of Tartaran, Atlas is the seat of power in The Cross. The city is a sprawling hub of trade, industry, and science known the world around. One can discover information within the near limitless number of books at The Order of Arcane Sages Grand Library. There is always work to be found at the countless guild halls, a wide array of goods to trade at The Kalzar Market District, and adventure in every nook and cranny of this maze-like metropolis.

The remnant of a warring age long past, Atlas was once the seat of power to a mighty emperor who conquered the three small nations that used to inhabit Tartaran. The proper name of Atlas is ‘The Holy Empire of The Crystal Fangs’ named after the three spires that reside upon the island. Most refer to it in the current era as simply Atlas, which was the name of the first emperor to reign over this mighty city.

Many generations have come and gone, but The Emperor's bloodline exists to this day. While mostly a figurehead position, Empress Kai the Fourteenth sits upon the imperial throne. The young rhino has guided The Imperial Senate with grace and wisdom in her short years since her father’s death, and aims to better their society through a progressive and modern approach.

The Imperial Senate is comprised of a number of notable figures throughout Atlas. Most infamous is Senator Mazak, the representative of The Order, who’s said to have used the wide-reaching hand of the organization to manipulate votes into his favor on some issues. Other senators of note are the extravagant crane Herald Demeaux of Perch Trading Company’s Eastern Branch, the staunch and rigid bear Jonas Nevrond who leads The Clergy of Fate’s Light, and a famous equine guild master simply known as Mr. Edward.

With the Empress’ guidance, the senate discusses and enacts many laws and policies that arise within the capital of The Cross. The ideal is that among the thirty representatives they strive to improve and protect the people within their walls, but can often at times get lost in the arguments, discussions, and personal vendettas against their fellow senators. Despite these delays and disagreements, they manage to keep Atlas in good shape.

Atlas enjoys a robust trade district with its massive port, second only to Roqueport in size and structure. Its goods and services extend from the most common to the most obscure, and with the right connections, one can find anything they want, regardless of its legality. Apart from trade goods, the mountains and foothills to the east of Atlas are home to the Einhart Silver Mines which have served as a strong source of labor and industry for hundreds of years.

The people of Atlas come from all walks of life. From the upper echelon noble to the lowly beggar in the filthiest gutter, one can find it all here. Culturally, Atlas has been a very large melting pot of many beliefs and practices from the very start of the imperial unification. This doctrine has drawn people from the world over, and has developed into a truly unique blend unlike any other place in The Cross.

Bisemutum

Bisemutum is a small region set in the northeastern part of Cross. It is isolated from the rest of the land by Coeurasa’s Reach to its east, the high cliffs and rough seas to the south, and The Withered Wastes to the north. With no sea access and only one small land entrance, Bisemutum has been well protected from outside influences. The region is home to four Dragon’s Tooth shrines that are active and well preserved.

A set of five communities reside in this land; four of these travel from Dragon’s Tooth to Dragon’s Tooth as the seasons change. When each of the traveling four communities arrives to their next region, they use the land and provide their specific services to the area before they move on to their next region when the season ends. The communities provide services for each other by leaving behind tools, materials and food and maintaining the land or structures.

Tribes

Pater: The Pater focus on construction and maintenance of the region’s structures along with the fabrication of tools and armor. As architects, fixers, and creators, some of their greatest accomplishments include the Crescent Forge, where Moonweave metal is produced and forged, and the hanging homes on the cliffsides to the east. Their most skilled artisans reside either at A’Mond where they maintain the fort or at A’Paz where they work the Crescent Forge. Most smiths from A’Paz begin their education as leather armorers in Pater.

Mater: The Mater focus on farming with the cultivation of plants and fungi; they maintain the soil of the region. They are farmers, cooks, and herbalists, they teach and provide medicine, helping keep the communities strong. Work tasks are generally harvesting and planting of new seeds. Their greatest challenge is overcoming the sickness from those who spend too much time in The Withered Wastes, a feat they have been unable to accomplish for thousands of years even with the help of shrine Guardians. They work their hardest and are at their greatest during the Blood Nights, where they cook the festival feasts. Their greater herbalists reside at A’Mond and with the Amans tribe, where they learn ancient techniques from Guardians and where their medicines are in great need.

Amica: The Amica focus on herding and land tending along with the training and raising of livestock. They are ranchers, foragers, and providers. Their typical work tasks include maintenance of the rivers and aqueducts of the region and leather tanning. They provide war beetles to the Amans, food for the Mater and materials for the Pater. Their rarest feats are training manipedes for war and riding Nocturn Alas. Their greatest tamers move on to help the Amans, assessing which beasts will be useful as mounts or prey.

Amans: The Amans focus on hunting and gathering resources. Hunters, miners, and lumberjacks, their work relies on obtaining food and materials from animals and the woods in the region. Hunting for animals in the region not only helps provide food and armor but also keeps the population of harmful wildlife under control, keeping the communities safe from beastly attacks. Their greatest accomplishments are the Sunset Tunnels to the west of Bisemutum. Their greatest hunters tend to become warriors, choosing to move frequently to do guard duty in A’Mond.

A’Paz: The residents of A’Paz do not travel and are located between the southernmost three Dragon’s Tooth shrines. It is maintained by a small group composed of smiths, elderly, people who can no longer endure the seasonal travel, and a small support group of clerics, guards, and other experts. The elders teach spiritual communion with the shrine Guardians and Whisperstones, pass down folklore, teach literature, and perform rites of passing. While the community here relies the most on the other four, they provide the great service of maintaining the gathering spot for the Blood Nights festival and teaching advanced smithing in the Crescent Forge.

History

Bisemutum has lived the same for thousands of years with long periods of stability. A valley surrounded by mountains with a single treacherous entrance has provided them with ease in the prevention of invasion. Their location has proven to be a strategic wonder. Their communion with Guardians has provided them with a unique advantage as they have been guided on how to survive natural disasters, plague, famine and taught resource management and medicine. Among the Guardian’s gifts, Moonweave alloy stands out, allowing the creation of advanced tools, weapons and armor.

Before their self-imposed seclusion, the Bisemutum performed expeditions to push for the preservation of Dragon’s Teeth outside their lands. The first few sent out were treated with great regard, almost as royalty because of how they displayed their Whisperstones as jewelry to be seen and admired. It did not take long for these missionaries to realize why they were treated with such admiration; the value of their Whisperstones was coveted more than their friendship. A few managed to make their way back to Bisemutum in the dead of night, but most were not so fortunate. The Bisemutum tried other peaceful methods to teach other cultures their reverence for the Dragon’s Teeth, but overall, they found little success. Bisemutum’s influence did not reach much farther than the Bipusmarsh and even then, it was questionable. The locals altered Bisemutum preservation methods, but at least the missionaries rested easy knowing that the Tooth in that land would be protected.

Spreading their ideology to the outside world proved too difficult. The dependence on Tear shards was strong and deeply rooted into the economic system of the outside world. Asking for such a change would alter the operations of many organizations and companies, bring poverty to many who were rich, and would bring the ire of the more secular governments, who dismissed the Bisemutum’s ideals. Bisemutum garnered the envy of other nations of The Cross. These nations killed emissaries, attempted to trespass into Bisemutum, and even made efforts to invade A’Mond. After enduring such hostile acts, The Bisemutum closed their land to the outside world. They accepted that spreading their ideals would be too costly a task and a losing battle.

Despite all this, the Bisemutum maintain a small relationship with the outside, participating in trade with some of the nearby villages to maintain some positive influence with their neighbors.

Moonweave Alloy

Moonweaving is a technique passed down from the Guardians to the Bisemutum. Guardians gifted a special furnace that smelts Moonstone and copper into a silvery alloy. The resulting alloy, Moonweave, is light, hard, strong, and glistens a silvery gray like the light of Coeurasa. The operation of the furnace turned into a complex ritual taught to most skilled smiths. The Guardians are gifted most of the produced Moonweave as a sign of reverence and excess is left behind for the Bisemutum to make use of.

Moonweave armor is styled to look like chitin armor, giving warriors agility and dexterity unheard of for how thick and hard the armor is. Spears and swords forged from this material slice even the heaviest plate clean open with ease. The Moonweave armor is reserved for elite guards and hunters of the community, turning them into far more formidable warriors able to keep trespassers out and able to hunt down the strongest of prey.

Whisperstones

The stone marks the second gift Guardians provided to the Bisemutum. Whisperstones are decorated and well-shaped fragments of a Dragon’s Tear, generally smoother and oval shaped with an intricate golden symbol inside the surface. The stone holds a dim glow compared to a Dragon’s Tear. They are believed to carry the souls, intentions, and path of the previous holders.

Whisperstones are provided to newborns upon their first Blood Night. The stones are believed to provide Coeurasa’s grace while the soul visits the land and is separated from Coeurasa. The Bisemutum keep hold of their Whisperstone and is a physical manifestation of their soul. Upon death, the Whisperstone is collected and passed down yet again to a new visiting soul.

Whisperstones can provide guidance and visions to their holder. Special training and discipline is required to have direct communion with the stone where the souls within answer the keeper. The success and type of guidance provided by the stones vary as much as the souls contained within. During the Blood Nights, stones are particularly active and may bring their keepers into communion themselves. Practice and concentration must be used to maintain and interpret more lively conversations with the stones.

The Bisemutum are aware of the treatment of Dragon’s Tears as currency outside their land. When travelling outside their land, they usually refer to Whisperstones as “tokens” to diminish their importance. They are kept safe and hidden away from view of others.

The Forsaken

While conversation with Whisperstones is common, there are rare occurrences of those who fail to communicate with their stones at no fault to their attempts. These people are known as The Forsaken. They are considered cursed by Coeurasa, their soul having been driven out of her in disgrace. Should this person not be capable of redeeming themselves, their soul is believed be devoured by the Dragon into the Howling Sea.

The A’Paz are quick to remind everyone that this is all speculation about the Forsaken and remind that they cannot truly understand how Coeurasa behaves and what her intentions are. However, the oddity of the situation does bring concern from those who can listen to their whisperstones and they greet the unfortunate ones with solace. The few Forsaken from the current era believe that pilgrimage will bring them favor, but as to what spiritual significance will cause their awakening it is unknown, as it is unclear if a forsaken has ever been able to regain favor with Coeurasa.

Places of Interest

A’Mond: A fort built into Coeurasa’s Reach, located at the entrance passage of Bisemutum where the mesa meets the cliffside to the sea. The fort’s walls have stood unharmed and unaged from years of attacks.

Bisemutums are assigned to guard the pass as part of their Rite of Night, keeping people from crossing into their lands.

The fort features several defensive benefits, aside from the strength of its walls. Avalanches can be can be started that barrel down and cover the path to A’Mond. As a last resort, the stationed guards have been instructed to destroy pillars supporting the ceiling of the fort, collapsing it over the entrance and, sealing Bisemutum from the rest of The Cross.

A’Paz: The location of the yearly Blood Nights festival, it is situated between three Dragon’s Tooth shrines (Dahre, Vita, and Peperit). The area is a large flat field surrounded by a ring of woods with the many streams from Peperit flowing through it. This city is almost a ghost town for most of the year, featuring countless empty festival abodes and fire pits and paths overgrown with plant matter. The few permanent inhabitants reside closer to the center of the city, where they maintain their community and teach lessons at their small library.

The Withered Wastes: The desert to the north of Bisemutum is accessed by passing through the Tempus shrine region. The land is a mixture of dark sands and a dead forest; decayed and burnt trees dot the landscape. A curse was placed upon the land, causing sickness and eventual death to those who wander through it. A thin trail known as Kromek’s Pass avoids the curse and leads to the Absolvo shrine, however the pass is poorly kept for fear of the curse.

Dragon’s Tooth Shrines

Peperit. Located to the southeast. It is the origin for many of the springs and rivers that flow through A’Paz. It is the highest point of the peninsula, the mountains appearing as if reaching towards Coeurasa.

Dahre. Located to the soutwest. A notable feature of this area is a large cave with a tunnel that runs through the mountain. A forsaken attempted to please Coeurasa by digging a tunnel through a mining cave in the mountain, wishing to add beauty to the landscape by providing his homeland with a second sunset. These caves became to be known as the Sunset Caves. Whether this worked to help please Coeurasa no one knows, but the gesture has been appreciated by all who see it.

Vita. Located to the east, the Dragon’s Tooth is nestled in a ravine. The mountainous region has complex cave formations that partially run down the cliff side, providing for cool shelter during the summer months and flora unique to that area. While most inhabitants reside within the cave formations, a few set their homes on the edges of the rising mountain face.

Tempus. Dragon’s Tooth located to the north, hidden deep in a forest. The shrine marks the end of the woods and the entrance to the Withered Wastes. The shrine itself is overgrown with plant matter and hides well within the forest. Normally the Guardians would keep the shrine pristine, but the Guardians misunderstood a request from a forsaken. What began as graves and planted flowers to remember the dead became a large garden surrounding the Dragon’s Tooth that eventually grew to cover the shrine.

Absolvo: The Dragon’s Tooth located deep in the Withered Wastes. Though only Guardians live here, there is a marked path, so the curse can be avoided on pilgrimage.

Coeurasa’s Reach

From the outside, a long and steep white mesa that rises from the Karban Sea and stretches for hundreds of miles to the north. Several mountains run along the base of the mesa before it turns into a steep vertical cliff, earning it the nickname of The Wall or Sky Reach. It climbs far into the clouds, and it is believed that snow and ice cover the peaks of the Wall due to the constant water streams that combine into rivers that feed the Bipusmarsh. Avalanches are common during the season of water, proving it too difficult to maintain cities or roads along the length of the reach. The surface of Coeurasa’s Reach shines brightly with the sunset from all the snow and ice run-off, however it also casts a great shadow in the morning, delaying sunrise.

On the opposite side of the reach lies the Withered Wastes. A mess of dark jagged spires and mountains run along the base, some reaching up towards the wall. They appear like giant lengths of decayed trees. There is no semblance of order amongst these spires and they are unlike the Dragon’s Teeth. From this side the reach appears to have a slight inward bow. This is a dangerous piece of land during the Season of Water, as instead of avalanches, giant spikes of ice may randomly fall from the sky. During the Season of Fire, the fallen giant spikes of ice turn into pools of water which form a continuous thin waterfall that runs the length of Coeurasa’s Reach. While ice spikes are far smaller and fewer in this season, they are just as dangerous. Travelers to this area carry large chitin shells over their heads to protect them from these spikes. The stream from this waterfall travels south to the fort of A’Mond and feeds into the Karban Sea. The only known passage through Coeurasa’s Reach is through the fort of A’Mond, keeping Bisemutum separate from the rest of the world.

Economic Systems

Sea Trade

From the imposing silhouette of the Roque Tower, clear past the edge of Tartaran and out to the Fang of the Sea, ocean traveling vessels ebb and flow like the blood of The Cross. They carry, the trade that feeds every town and government from one edge of the land to the other. Sea trade is what keeps The Cross flourishing, as it has for untold ages. All of this trade must pass over the mass of water that straddles every shore of The Cross, the Karban Sea.

The Karban Sea fills the interior space of the various lands of The Cross, touching upon the swamps of the north, the plains and forest of the west, the mountains of the south, and the imperial island and sheer cliffs of Bisemutum to the east. While this provides easy access for The Cross’ shores to each other, only two pathways exist to the outer world at large from this sea. In the north sits the channel called the Dragon’s Maw, named so as the Fang of the Sea sits like a beacon, warning of the narrower passage between Bisemutum’s natural barriers that sit like great teeth, and the island of Tartaran. To the south, lies The Gouge. The Gouge sits south of Tartaran’s southern edge, sunken beneath the sheer cliffs of the island that gently taper inward to Snootport. To its own south lies the rapidly rising Dragon’s Spine Mountains, permanently donning bright white snow on their slopes. The shape of The Gouge is thus immortalized, a giant scrape affixed the middle of two imposing sides, with the Snooty Bay providing a large refuge from the rocks. With such features abound and the great dependence of the people on sea trade, there were few who could truly understand or appreciate the scale of the sea’s material wealth, and most of those lived in Roqueport.

Blessed with a natural harbor and near the center of the Karban Sea, Roqueport is uniquely capable of handling the vast majority of the sea trade that passes through The Cross. A safe harbor and some of the most developed docks in the region have also made Roqueport the port of call for many of the international shipping routes that come into The Cross from beyond Dragon’s Maw and The Gouge, far out past the Great North Ocean. While some Cross vessels can indeed be impressive, these titans from across the world shatter the ideas of what most believe is possible. With few exceptions, they can only be maintained by the largest cooperative ventures of massive trade companies. The Perch Trading Company itself even has only one of these vessels, sailing lands afar.

Even the smallest town relies on the vessels that call varied ports their home. The movement of goods between The Cross is vital to fill the lacking needs of each region, as it’s rare for any one place to contain every commodity. In the case of massive trade deals, say the procurement of a good for a whole city over a year’s time, Dragon’s Tear shards are invaluable. Confirmation of their existence is enough to cement such deals past most suspicion right away, or cause immediate subterfuge and espionage. It’s a dynamic that is carefully danced around as shards are traded for goods and services on industrial scales. Of course, the more affluent members of society also trade shards, but usually for more esoteric goods, the kind of things that get tucked away into the dark corners of the other massive shipments that sail the seas.

The most well-traveled route on the Karban Sea is the relatively straight path between Roqueport and Atlas. The two jewels of The Cross maintain regular, well-tracked shipments of commodities, the luxury items of the upper class of Roqueport being traded for Atlas’s magical and material goods. Spreading out from these two massive ports like two great trees growing opposite each other are the trade lanes to the smaller cities and regions. Some intersect, cross over each other, run parallel and even join up to create bigger trade routes. Of course, this draws the attention of those who seek to gain their wealth by taking it from others. Piracy is of great concern to The Cross, as it harms all involved.

Organizations

Perch Trading Company

Founded by the Perchello family countless generations ago, this massive trading company started off as an organized group of fishmongers. Their prowess on the sea, and success with delivering the finest fish in all The Cross led to more and more business opportunities with various transport and trade other than fish.

Currently, the P.T.C. has been focused on marine trade and is generally considered the go-to place to ship goods on the Karban Sea. Roughly eight out of ten merchant ships carry the “P.T.C.” logo. Just recently, Perch has begun leveraging trade deals and their vast wealth to expand their empire into land trade as well, much to the dismay of well-established courier organizations throughout The Cross.

Many towns greet the new trade company waystations and shiny new carriages with open arms. Other places don't exactly appreciate the rumored strongarm tactics used by the company to move into their areas.

The Order of Arcane Sages

The Order is The Cross’s leading authority on all things related to the Dragon’s Teeth, magic, history, and many other academic fields. It boasts the largest library in the region, and contains an archive of information that has been maintained since the founding of the college 300 years ago. It is most well known for its archeological exploits regarding the Dragon’s Teeth, though this is often met with heavy criticism for the Order’s secrecy and control over their findings in many of these projects. Being the forefront of information and history in the region, many still look to them for their expertise in scholarly pursuits.

Another reputable trait of the Order is their mage college. Many bright and upcoming students, and financially endowed nobles, enroll to refine their skills in the arcane craft. Though rare, natural spellcasters such as sorcerers and warlocks are admitted as well to build the groundwork to realize their innate potential. Classes are available in all schools of magic except necromancy, as it is seen as a profane violation of the boundaries of life and death.

Founded by a council of six scholars over three centuries ago, the Order is currently led by Headmaster Okuma, an aging crow mage. He strives to hold true to the principles of the founders in being “A beacon of knowledge and wisdom to The Cross” and does so with a well-structured and time-tested curriculum.

Members of the Order are identified by their cloaks which come in five colors to represent which role they play within the organization.

Those that don the red cloak are part of the archival cloister and are given the title of Scribe. Scribes are responsible for the recording, storing, and distribution of all documentation and information within the Order. In addition to their archival duties, this branch is also tasked with many of the educational aspects of the Order, in both magical and mundane pursuits. Their branch is known as The Lexicon.

Members that wear the blue cloak are part of the support division and known as Makers. Makers head the Craftsmen League which manufactures nearly all of the Order’s goods and equipment, both mundane and magical. In addition to their production services, they also specialize in medical and magical services where needed to fulfill all the Order’s needs.

The most cunning mages in the ranks of the Order are granted green cloaks and known as Shepherds. The Shepherds are a tactically minded group versed in strategy and combat magic, working alongside generals, mercenaries, and whomever needs their aid through their division – The Strategem. While the demands for talented mages in this field are high, the Order uses heavy discretion when assigning these personnel to external activities.

Members assigned the purple cloak are responsible for research, study, and surveillance. They are known as Seers and operate out of a group called The Hidden Eye. Seers are most well-known for their ability to monitor and track people through magical means, leaving most wary of their presence and dealings. In addition to this primary function, they are also responsible for nearly all of the Order’s field research, spell crafting, and internal affairs.

Those that bear the white cloaks are of the highest echelon of the Order. Serving as their administration, The Magistrate is the governing body, managing all its divisions through a council of sages lead by Headmaster Okuma. Its rumored that the Magistrate holds an unending amount of dark secrets they have hidden from the world to serve their own goals, but most dismiss these rumors as the mad ravings of a conspiracy theorist.

Okuma, the current generation’s headmaster, has led his craft in the arcane arts while maintaining the academic legacy of the Order with grace and dignity. He inherited this position from his mother, who inherited it from her father before her. He was taught the ways of wizardry from a young age and grew up on the grounds. He was groomed for most of his natural life to be a worthy successor as headmaster. Since Okuma has no child of his own, he seeks to break the tradition and groom a student of significant promise to take his place when he eventually passes.

The Order typically studies a subject in three phases – Observation, interaction, and dissection.

During the observation phase, everything is monitored and recorded as best to not disturb their subject in its natural state. This phase often includes behavioral studies in the case of a living creature, but with spires this often includes observation of the local flora and fauna as well as studies on any operational devices or interfaces present.

The interaction phase is typically the most dangerous to the research team. At this stage, cautious engagement of the subject begins. In the case of a living creature, this is often done through attempting to communicate, herd, or even attack their subject. In the case of an inanimate object, this is often where doors get opened, devices are activated, and interfaces are manipulated. If something is deemed too hazardous by this phase, the Order often recalls their teams to preserve their findings.

Lastly is the dissection phase, where they extract and disassemble items of note. In the case of a formerly living creature, they are often dissected with full recordings of all their anatomy and any sort of species-specific findings complete with drawings and samples. In the case of an inorganic subject, devices are removed by mechanical or magical means and then very delicately analyzed and disassembled in a laboratory in the Order’s research cloister back in Atlas.

Once the process is complete, all the research is compiled and submitted to the headmaster, and any applicable administrators for review before it is sent to the scribes to be put into books or scrolls for the archive. If deemed for open distribution to the public, said research is then submitted to the library or wordsmith guild for publishing.

The Pirates of Secret Cove

The Pirates of Secret Cove are unofficially the ruling party in Secret Cove and the nearby port city of Crestfall. All of Crestfall’s politicians are either placed by or are directly affiliated with the infamous pirate clan. This large assemblage of ruffians not only rule the cove but the next most powerful entity on the Karban Sea, after thePerch Trading Company.

A major part of their business practice is the offering of protection from themselves. The sea trade of The Cross is bustling and rife with opportunity, but only because the Pirates of Secret Cove allow it. The other major tactic this group employs is pillaging. Ever since the disparate pirate clans came together under one banner, the ransacking of villages and port towns has become an unstoppable, and absolutely devastating experience. Their targets tend to be older less equipped bergs that don’t have the ability to withstand this force of organized villainy.

Crestfallen

The Crestfallen are a disenchanted collection of vagabonds splintered off from the Pirates of Secret Cove. As the Pirates of Secret Cove grew in power and influence, rules had to be imposed so that the power and inherent relationships that became part of it could be maintained. The Crestfallen would have none of this.

Years prior, the world of piracy was without restriction, without politics, and without figureheads. This is what the Crestfallen stand for. Their motto is “No leaders, no rules, no boundaries”. What motivates a Crestfallen is entirely on the individual but generally consists of goals that go against the actions of larger more financially established groups.

What stops a Crestfallen from hurting one of their own is little to nothing. So long as they don’t interfere with each other, they have no reason to distrust within their group.

As an organization, they only support their brethren in their scandalous endeavors and never disallow anything for the sake of status quo or maintaining order. Depending on the situation, they rarely affiliate themselves with any major bodies of government or houses. The group’s penchant for avoiding political relationships does isolate them from having much of any influence. The only sway they can be said to have is that they are considered a formidable wild card in any engagement due to having no ties to any ruling entity.

Notable NPCs

Arden Renshaw

Male Puppo Abjurer

Fifth Scribe and Apprentice Abjurer to The Holy Empire of The Crystal Fang's Order of Arcane Sages.

Mr. Arden Renshaw is a short and thin white dog, no more than five feet tall and one-hundred and twenty pounds with a single black dot on his left cheek. His head is covered by the hood of a wide cloak that drapes over his floppy ears and large round glasses. Seen from underneath those glasses are a pair of wide, deep blue eyes that constantly scan and analyze the world around him.

His deep red cloak is held in place by a cloak pin of a small scroll, that hides a seemingly new and slightly oversized deep navy waistcoat with brass buttons. It’s held at the waist with a belt that carries a similarly new looking mace, potions, and a very worn and dog-eared book on a chain with a rusty clasp keeping it shut. His small paws, adorned with linen bandages, tap upon the book at his side as he thinks and strategizes his moves. He quickly flips the clasp open and draws the book when he needs to take notes or study his craft. Beneath his coat is a close-fitting linen tunic, matched by a pair of spotless deep navy breeches and riding boots seeing their first trot through the mud of the world.

Mr. Renshaw is a Scribe of The Order’s Lexicon faction. He is a refined, studious, and very particular young mage with a heavily academic background. His stuffy, untrusting, and often cold demeanor is a barrier to keep away those that would betray his feelings. At his core, he is a very loyal and caring person for those he holds dear.

Arden’s dedication to The Order is strong, and he believes his sole purpose in life is to serve it. He is driven to prove himself and rise in the ranks through whatever means he believes are necessary. Strategy and planning are his greatest assets. Mixed with a rigid moral code of always doing what he believes right, he strives toward the greater good of the world.

Arden was inducted into The Order at a very young age. While he was born on the frozen peninsula city of Kaoleensos, he calls the shining capital of The Cross, Atlas, his home. He works in the archival cloister of The Order where he fastidiously copies, records, and studies every bit of information coming through their doors.

His peers treat him as a child, as most are twice his age. After an accident that nearly killed Arden some years ago, he feels sorely guilty and inadequate for the second chance he received by the Headmaster of The Order, Okuma. Arden strives every day to prove himself worthy of Okuma's praise.

Arden enjoys discovery above all else. Having a near encyclopedic knowledge of most of the world’s documented information, he wants to discover something that will change the world or shed light on one of the great mysteries of the universe. Despite this eager drive, his accident left him mostly working in the cloister, with seldom the field task.

Tactics: Arden thrives on a good plan and strategy, even if he has to think of it on the fly. He tries to talk down most encounters where he can, though his cold demeanor doesn’t always save him. When conflict arises, he considers every tool at his disposal. He often barks orders expecting blind compliance, and tends to use his spells and equipment in unconventional ways to keep a solid control of any situation. In situations where people he considers true allies are in danger, he is prepared to give everything to protect them.

Therrin Perch

Female Sergal Swashbuckler

Therrin is a dark grey sergal with white chest fluff. She stands roughly five feet six inches and is clad in flashy leather garments for ease of movement. Her particular outfit looks to be better quality than what most adventurers usually wear. Aside from the leather, the sergal dons a loose-fitting shirt of the finest silk to keep some of her movements hidden from her would-be opponents. Tucked into her shirt is a necklace with a signet ring that she keeps hidden most of the time. At her side is her rapier, which she’s named Stilton, that rests in a modest scabbard when not in action. Its hilt is ornate and elaborate to the point that it inherently has a story all its own. Overall her attire is functional, but most importantly, it looks amazing.

Therrin loves adventure and looking cool while doing it. This swashbuckling lass will be the first to jump at any occasion to deal the final blow in battle. While in action, this sergal is a force to be reckoned with, but all other times she is reserved, has something to hide, and always wants to keep moving. You can depend on her in any battle, but not so much for conversation. She will be the first to accept any challenge or job with the hopes it will lead to her next amazing feat.

As a child, the only thing Therrin enjoyed about the family business was the travel. Months at a time she would spend out in the countryside seeing new vistas and new cities to the point where this little girl saw every part of The Cross by her mid-teens.

Aside from seeing the world, young Therrin saw little else interesting about the successful family business, the Perch Trading Company. As she grew older Therrin’s mother, Dominique Perch, tried time and again to show her offspring the ways of the family business. All the attempts to learn business, etiquette, logistics, and bureaucracy felt stifling to Therrin, who only wanted to travel more and seek adventure. Eventually, Therrin grew to hate the company and her mother. The two butted heads on practically everything, culminating to the point where Therrin was sent away.

After a brief stint at an illustrious finishing school, Therrin disappeared for several years. Many rumors circulated, some speculating she’d become a pirate queen ruling Secret Cove, while others had her cavorting with the nefarious Crestfallen, robbing carriages in the middle of nowhere. Others said she’d gone to a Dragon's Tooth shrine and succumbed to the curse.

At the age of twenty-one, the heiress finally reappears at the family estate but the return is cut short. All at once Roqueport’s crown jewel, their very own Dragon’s Tear, is stolen and Therrin Perch goes missing again. Assuming the thieves also took the heiress along with the priceless artifact, posters are plastered from one end of The Cross to the other searching for the sergal’s abductors.

Bata Amica

Male Bear Barbarian

Bata is a towering Bear Barbarian, he’s built strong and covered in lush white fur. His attire is mostly armor made from the large shells of Bupreparda. Namely a pauldron over his right shoulder and vambraces over his forearms, both held in place by large dark belts and shell buckles. Below that he wears rough leather garments that have seen some wear, the edges of which are fringed with dark fur. While his chest is bare, a large garment wraps around his midsection, followed by a long loincloth and kilt. A large cloak covers his back, featuring a large but simple burnt-in symbol that some whisper is from the lands of Bisemutum. He rests a large war hammer at his side, one side of the head has a blunt face while the other has a chiseled end, a weapon suited for fighting beasts. On his left arm is a chitin shield, suitable for a person of his size and perhaps too large for others.

Bata Amica is a member of the Bisemutum. His physical appearance is betrayed by his behavior; he fumbles his manners and is unfamiliar with social queues from outside his homeland. However, he is good hearted, curious, chivalrous, and tends to help others to a fault. Others may rely on him to assist in any way. Members of his community are rarely given permission to leave his homeland. He claims that he is on pilgrimage to explore the world and assist someone who needs aide, but he doesn't know who that is. His reason for leaving his home may sound deceptive, but who will question someone who simply wishes to help and drink some mead?

Bata comes from a ranching community within Bisemutum known as Amica, where Bata herded Bupreparda and helped with maintaining farm lands. He has a respect for creatures of the land, finding it easier to have a mutual relationship with beasts rather than people. His respect reaches to the point where he won’t ride an animal without asking for its permission first.

Bata likes to explore the lands and communities outside of his own, but is wary of adventurers seeking treasures as he assumes that they are likely after Dragon’s Tears. As a result, he can be often found bouncing from farmland to farmland assisting ranchers who are in need of temporary help. As he travels, he cuts a bit of a flag from each city or village that he visits which he uses to adorn his belt. He keeps them as a memento of the locations he has visited.

Tactics: Despite being a barbarian, Bata prefers to avoid physical combat. He puts great effort into suppressing his natural rage, but mistreatment of his friends, beliefs, or being told that he doesn’t belong are a quick way to anger the bear. He will try his best not to rage against a beast unless the situation desperately calls for it, and after defeating a beast he will make proper use of the remains of the creature, preparing the hide or chitin for use or sale. Bata sometimes even attempts to heal an assailant once he’s eliminated their threat.

Dau B. Burrus

This mysterious figure is known throughout the land by many a name. Dau the Strong, Dau the Wise, Dau the Brave, and in some parts even Dau the Seductive. This white tiger began his life as a street urchin on the labyrinthine streets of Altas. As a cub, Dau would only steal what he needed to get by: a piece of bread here, an apple there, living barely a whisper of a life, destined to be forgotten. But, on one fateful encounter, the tiger cub came upon a dying haggard hyena on the outskirts of town. Dau feared the vagrant, seeing in the hyena the future that he was destined for, but before Dau could turn tail, the hyena withdrew a large polished rock that gleamed through the tattered clothes of the disheveled man, a Dragon’s Tear shard so large that Dau could barely even wrap his arms around it. With the yeen’s dying breath he ordained to Dau that his destiny was to take this Tear shard and make the world a better place.

Immediately Dau started chipping off pieces of the shard and selling it for his own gain. By the time he was an adult, Dau had purchased a fine estate for himself with many people in his employ, but… when he had all the comforts he could think of, he grew bored of his life of luxury. When he could stand no more of the boredom, the tiger bought the most gorgeous traveling gear one could find. With his leather cavalier hat, crushed velvet topcoat, and silk breeches, Dau set off for any sort of adventure to satiate the monotony his lavish existence had made for him.

Dau crossed the Karban sea and traveled from town to town offering his services to people in need. His adventures only led to a pretense of success, by quelling or masking people’s problems using his seemingly vast unending wealth rather than actually solving them. Yet still, he was successful enough to gain some notoriety across the land. Dau would usually ask to be regarded by the titles of “wise”, “strong”, or “brave” rather than “generous” if anyone were to tell his tales of “adventure”.

The tiger’s adventures eventually led him to Bipusmarsh, where he was tasked with retrieving treasure from a boat lost somewhere in the Pinicola Swamp. He was never heard from again. Some say he died in the belly of a water spider, some say he succumbed to the spores and is one with the land, others say the curse of the spires finally caught up with him… more say he drowned due to his adventuring gear being more flashy than functional.

Ultimately no one missed the ambitious wanderer, but he did become part of the legends and tales that fill many rowdy taverns. Denizens spread the rumors of what remains of his Dragon’s Tear and the dangers of the swamp that guards it.

Reginald Quod Tarkway

Reginald Q. Tarkway was born and raised in Crestfall to a lowly family. The leopard was taken in during his formative years by one of the many powerful and influential pirate bands that seemingly rule the grungy but lucrative port town. He was quick to pick up a rapier and even faster on his feet, becoming skilled in both fighting and running away, whatever garnered the best outcome. Reginald flourished as an outlaw and relished in the endless challenge and adventure he encountered everyday as a care-free scoundrel.

As time passed, the pirate bands grew along with him and eventually all the disparate groups became a much larger and more influential force to be reckoned with. As the Pirates of Secret Cove became more powerful, politics began to creep into the once free-wheeling band of scallywags Reginald had grown to love. Reginald started to become disenchanted with his chosen family after being chastised for raiding a Perch Trading Company vessel for no other reason beyond “it was not allowed.”

The leopard soon found he was not alone in being disappointed by the new constraints imposed by the leadership within the Pirates of Secret Cove. He helped form a new band of outlaws, the Crestfallen, a collection of bandits and scoundrels that didn’t want to be told what to do by anyone, even within their own group. As the Crestfallen’s notoriety grew, Reginald was tasked with finding new “talent” before the Pirates of Secret Cove could scoop them up. He found the most success as a recruiter by posing as a fencing instructor for an illustrious finishing school in Atlas, due to his skills and his former compatriots having little to no influence there.

Animals

Silkies

Silkies are two-foot-tall, six-foot-long larval insects with twelve legs tucked beneath mottled leathery carapaces. Atop their heads are a pair of fluffy prehensile antennae that are often used for simple grasping and manipulation. Their faces are rounded with beak-like mouths and deep black beady eyes glimmering with life. Their undersides are soft segmented portions which undulate as they skitter with their many feet.

Most silkies have an innate ability to discharge small amounts of electricity through their antennae by rubbing them together, though it is often fairly harmless in most varieties. The Woolly species is capable of discharging a lethal dose of energy by storing a charge in their shaggy fur from simple friction. Once fully charged they are capable of discharging an arc of energy nearly ten feet long, but are often unable to do so again for several minutes while rebuilding another charge.

Ranchers and herders tend to wear protective gear made of silkie hide utilizing their natural grounding capabilities that keep the insects safe from their own electrical charge. Little more than a vest or bracers is needed for everyday interaction, but full suits of silkie hide armor are used in particularly large herds, or during shearing season to keep workers safe from harm. While relatively common to find, their hide is tough and hard to work with, making a full suit often come with a hefty price tag.

Silkies are omnivorous creatures, but tend to stick to vegetation when the option presents itself. They are often attracted to particularly sweet and fermented items, giving them preference to food-based compost, wines, and ciders. Because of this, many of these larval creatures are used to dispose of old food and household waste, as they will eat nearly anything they are presented with if it smells right. Additionally, it’s suggested to keep one’s drink of choice away from these creatures as well.

A number of breeds exist in The Cross. The most common is the woolly species, as their fur is used in most common textiles the world over. A common staple of food is the meat of the chub silkie, which has been bred to have nearly no fur and soft supple carapaces making for the most tender steaks. The plated silkie carries tough carapaces that are used for leatherworking and armor smithing apart from their innate electrical resistance. Lastly, there are the spinner silkies that produce a fine but sturdy thread used in number of fashions and crafts.

Tactics: Silkies are typically docile creatures and tend to only attack when threatened. Singularly, they tend to rely solely upon their electrical attack, and secondarily upon their bites. In a herd, they tend to try to overrun their assailants and release numerous shocks upon their trampled victims. A herd of Woolly silkies tend to be particularly dangerous in large numbers, as they will rub against each other releasing numerous repeated ranged electrical attacks against their assailants.

Bugalus

Bugalüs, (BUG-uh-Looz) are eight foot long, five foot tall beetles with six strong and sturdy legs striding back and forth towards their destination with force. A pair of rich rust colored segmented eyes on both sides of their head rest at the beginning of their long-tapered snouts. These snouts are tipped with several small rounded mandibles designed for eating wood and other vegetation. Adorning these snouts are a pair of large probing antennae, often poking and prodding at creatures and object that are unfamiliar to them. Their bodies are slightly hunched with a pocked leathery carapace that runs the length of their of bodies to shield their soft undersides. Bugalüs come in a wide variety of colors ranging from various shades of black, brown, and greys following a solid color scheme, with the rare mottled variety.

Being natural herbivores, Bugalüs often forage for simple vegetation to sate their hunger. Their food of choice is old dry wood, typically from old fallen trees and the like, but are known to eat treated woods such as those in a barrel or fence in times of hunger. Due to their hardy constitution, these insects are able to work quite some time on a single meal a day provided they are able to eat their fill of food and water.

After generations of domestication the modern Bugalü has become a relatively docile creature used as a means of pulling wagons, tills, and other heavy vehicles. Capable of pulling more than three times their own body weight, these beetles are a common sight on any farm, city, or village. Typically guided by a small leather loop around their snouts, Bugalüs are trained to move by reins just as easily as any stag or mantis would but are rarely used as mounts themselves.

Despite domestication, wild Bugalüs can still be found in the world. They are often times seen in mated pairs foraging together, or slightly larger families raising their young before they strike out on their own. It is rare to see these beetles move in a herd together, but in regions with high amounts of predators they will often stick together out of necessity for survival. A wild Bugalü can typically be found in old growth forests feasting on the underbrush and any fallen trees or logs that may be present in their territory.

Tactics: A Bugalü is a very docile creature and would rather run from danger than confront it. When agitated, or left with no other options, they will retaliate. Their bites do a bit of damage, but their real threat lies in stomping on their prey by rising up on their hind legs and crashing down with feet onto their assailants using the full weight of their bodies. Ranchers have told stories of Bugalüs pulling wagons and carts to sometimes trample their attackers, or deliberately capsize their load in an attempt to crush their opposition.

Bupreparda

A specific type of stag beetle found only in the mountains surrounding Bisemutum. The beetle’s carapace has characteristics of jewel beetles’ chitin, while maintaining the size and strength of the mighty giraffe stag beetle. As such, their hard shells turn most colors into beautiful emerald and amethyst shades that seem to flow along the material. These behemoths stand at only three feet tall on their thin legs but have mandibles that extend over five feet long when they’re fully grown. The rest of the beetle, arguably not quite as deadly as the mandibles, then stretches another twelve feet.

These beetles have the size and strength to down a veteran Bisemutum warrior in one blow just from concussive force, but luckily are rarely aggressive. This is good, because the end of each mandible is sharper than a spear and harder than steel. The beetles like to “boop” threats with the ends of their mandibles, generally resulting in great injury to the area. However, their carapaces and meat are great boons to the Bisemutum, who treat the creatures with reverence for the materials that the beetles provide.

Hunts for a Bupreparda can be deadly, but generations of experience have given Bisemutums extremely effective strategies for downing the majestic beetles. The hide is used to make very durable armor that can deflect all but the most devastating blows, or incredibly fashionable outfits that contain the iridescence of the beetle. The meat resource feeds tribes for days, supplementing their farmed produce.

The beetle itself actually consumes wood, either finding felled trees or knocking them down as it wanders around the mountain sides. While it has no natural predators that can threaten its size or strength, it displays particular prey behavior in that it attempts to hide or flee often. Conflict seems to be its least preferred activity. Most of the Bupreparda are found to be traveling alone, and despite all the time the tribes have had living in concert with these creatures, their breeding habits and gathering locations are still shrouded in mystery.

When it does need to fight, the Bupreparda employs simple scare tactics that ward off would be assailants. It brings its head up, waving its mandibles around, and extends its wings and carapace to appear larger, easily scaring anything that hasn’t already learned to leave it alone. It's this behavior that allows the Bisumetum to complete their hunts at all, as the opening of the shell leaves the beetle’s soft interior vulnerable to flanking attacks.

Water Spiders

Water spiders are as their name implies, large aquatic insects. These insects are roughly five feet long and three feet tall, though with their legs they can make themselves up to seven feet tall when fully extended. They are pale in color with sharp mandibles and an array of eight eyes placed upon their stubby heads. Six long segmented legs come to a near perfect point with small articulated membrane flaps that unfold downward to form flat flippers used for swimming and resting on the water’s surface. Their bodies are slender and bristled with thick hairs that form to a taper on their end where the web weaving spinneret resides.

These particular insects are known for two things - their webs and their venom. Capable of firing their web from up to thirty feet away, a Water Spider has the ability to ensnare their victims in a sticky mass that is very difficult to escape before being dragged into a watery grave. It is often at this time that they will proceed to bite their webbed captives and inject them with their potent venom that saps their strength, preventing them from ever escaping to breathe air again.

Water Spiders are a social creature. Most exist in a communal group anywhere from five to twenty, serving brood mothers in protecting eggs, looking after their young, and most notably hunting their prey in packs. They coordinate through a series of high-tension webs that run beneath the surface of the water in a network that extends from the nest to the furthest reaches of their territory. Through a series of vibrations on these webs, an entire swarm of water spiders can communicate from miles away and react swiftly to any danger that may arise.

Being spiders, these creatures are capable of climbing sheer surfaces, but are much stronger swimmers. Their streamlined bodies and long legs make them swift beneath the water’s surface, allowing them to move nearly four times faster than the average swim speed of most kin. This aptitude with swimming hasn’t hindered their abilities to move on land, so both above and below the surface a Water Spider is a nimble opponent.

These creatures are commonly found in areas of still, deep water such as lakes and marshlands. The lack of a current leaves for more opportunities to hide beneath the silt in wait for prey to ambush, as well as providing more opportunities for their web network to succeed. A more nomadic breed of Water Spider exists in the open sea, but these larger and tougher cousins stay in smaller packs. They are known for attacking smaller sea vessels on rare occasion, but mostly prey on poor souls that happen to fall overboard.

An antidote can be crafted for Water Spider venom by extracting their venom sacs and boiling its contents with horse flower extract and honey. An Alchemy check is required to succeed in making this syrupy substance. Failure renders the venom inert but does not produce a cure.

Tactics: Water Spiders tend to hunt in groups of five to ten. They will ambush vessels by firing their web from beneath the surface of the water to pull their unsuspecting prey off the deck. From there, they will climb the side of the ship and proceed to web and poison anybody left onboard. A similar tactic is used from the shoreline, though if the water is not deep enough where they claim their victims, they will often times string their prey up in trees and poison them so that they can come back to them later once the excitement is over.

Manipedes

Manipedes are large insectoid creatures with segmented bodies thirty feet in length and four feet wide. Their dark armored bodies protect their short and numerous legs. Upon its head is a cluster of a dozen yellow eyes in the center of its face situated above its two large sword-like mandibles positioned to cut its prey in half. While only three feet tall on its belly, these beasts can stand an intimidating twenty feet tall to strike.

Manipedes thrive in environments that allow them to swim and snake through the terrain. Their many legs and innate ability to bend and twist like no other creature allow them a great advantage in non-solid terrain. As such, they tend to populate regions of sand like deserts and areas like marshlands where the water and mud allow them the maneuverability they desire.

Two primary breeds exist. Those indigenous to the desert are known as dry manipedes, noted for their rough, hard, brown carapace that looks akin to dried mud. On the other end of the spectrum, those native to marshlands are known as water manipedes. This breed has a dark blue carapace that is significantly softer than is desert cousin but makes up for it with the increased speed and dexterity it provides.

Being carnivorous creatures, the manipede is a solitary predator. They often burrow themselves beneath the sand or mud and lay in wait for their moment to strike, seeking out individual creatures to ambush by emerging and delivering a mortal blow swiftly with their large mandibles. While their prey are usually targets that won’t fight back, manipedes have been known to attack small towns and villages when desperate.

Attempts to domesticate manipedes as warmounts have been made in the past, but the feat has been rarely accomplished. They can be managed from a small hatchling, but their predatory instincts often overtake any upbringing they receive once they become large enough to no longer fear their masters.

Tactics: Manipedes prefer ambush wherever possible. They will lay in wait for hours to days for a vulnerable creature to approach so it can strike. When attacking, they will prioritize any target they believe they can take down with a single blow. If unable to do so, they will use the full length of their body to encircle and corner their prey so that it can kill it before it escapes. While it is rare that manipedes cooperate with each other, those that hunt together are fearsome beasts to contend with, singling out a target with coordinated attacks.

Beasts

Umbra

Robert, he’s just never been the same since his wife left him; he just won’t pipe up about that goddamn nightmare he had. Really? He wants me to believe that he saw some muggers get eaten by a person who turned into some shadow beast? Guy just needs to cut down on the mead and find a new gal. - Murmurs from some bar.

I know the elders won’t tell you New Bloods exactly what happened, but the Guardians have no qualm warning us with visions of that nightmare. Kromek’s fate had been sealed; upon his stealing of the Tear from the shrine, the Umbra hath woken from its slumber. A dark amorphous amalgamation of a creature began to take shape before him, distinct beasts and kins could be made out in this shadow. From the fringes of this mass, bone-like protrusions turned to fingers which stretched into spider legs before coalescing back to the whole. At the center of the mass, numerous jaws, eyes, and nostrils roiled against each other, they crackled like hard rain pummeling metal. This guardian angel engulfed Kromek in a coffin of fangs and claws, swirling around him before finally deciding on a form to present itself in, the likeness of Kromek himself. This wasn’t an exact likeness; it was. . . off. A nightmarish depiction, a deceased depiction. What happened to Kromek after that moment is beyond what I dare explain to you, it still eats at my soul thinking about it. To say the least, no animal eats another as viciously as this. In the end, Kromek’s soul and body became part of the Umbra and the Tear was returned to its rightful place. – Djembe Amans speaking to New Bloods.

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