K is for King’s Isles

Approximate time to read: 4 minutes.   

The enigma of Davokar is not confined to the depths of the dark region to the north or the puncture points of ruined towers dotted across the light region of the south. At the northern most point, the coastline tumbles into the grey ocean, but the trees do not seem concerned by the change. For hundreds of miles, the dark spines of ancient trees claw skyward through the raging waves.

To the west of Davokar, the tumbling cliffs run across the northern edge of Ambra. Skeletal and half-rotten boats creak and groan along the quayside, now mostly barricaded against the Faceless Horde that all too quickly recognised the possible means of access into the town via the open water. What was a quayside, and now a wall, once was a channel between the northern and southern stretches of a larger, bustling capital. The majority of that ancient metropolis now lies drowned. Truly brave Seekers have tried – with the help of certain Mystical Powers and artifacts – to access the sunken treasures, but, thus far, the dangers have outweighed the rewards by several degrees of magnitude.

All is not lost to the sea. Some fifty miles off the coast, several islets rise steadfast against the encrouching waters. These have become known as the King’s Isles – and the few who have made the journey to these rocks have reported a litter of structures including, most notable, a fortress of flawless black stone.

What’s in the fortress?

As an adventure environment, the King’s Isle provides a visible goal rendered distant by the environment and the horde. On a good day, when the storm lightens, a character can see the Isle on the horizon. While the folk of Ambria have a lot of lore and a trickle of science to back up their wealth of knowledge, none would realise the impossibility of sighting such a distant object from Ambra; the horizon should be a great deal closer, so perhaps some distortion of magic or leakage from the Ever Realm creates this illusion. Given the Elder Ones twisted the very structure of reality to reach the Ever Realm, it is not impossible or even unlikely that space around Ambra should appeared warped.

What lies on the isles sits with the Game Master to decide, with the possibilities below a matter of rumor, hearsay and uncommon lore.

Zealots of Ta’th

A religious sect occupy the black fortress, where they confine themselves in a state of constant worship, which manifests in acts of ritual flagellation, scarification and excarnation. They claim a direct descent from the Elder Ones and those the Elders left behind and seek to purify themselves through worship and ritual to attain the path to ascendency.

While prayer and pain go hand-in-hand in achieving a state of connection with the one true realm beyond the stricken mortal world, the reverential zenith comes in the excarnation of the face and the ritual bonding with the Mask of the Elders.

Sepulchre of Masks

On first investigation, the black fortress would appear to be vacant, filled with nothing but a soul gnawing sense of loneliness and cold. However, beyond the entrance ways and the outer passages, the inner walls harbor cavernous halls akin to nightmarish libraries, or perhaps pantries, with shelves stretching tall and wide laden with thousands of masks. Every mask is unique, the detail all clearly stemming from different genders, races and ages, with features frozen if a multitude of emotional states from tortured anguish to the pinnacle of ecstasy.

Only in pause, within these grand halls, does it become clear from the occasional sibilant passage of air through portal and passage that the fortress is not deserted; worse yet, it becomes clear that there are worse things than the Collector of Faces.

Island of the Witchlord Moreau

Across the bleak and scattered islets of the chain, the black fortress is not alone. Each spire of rock, fringed with grey-blue grass and frequented by gulls, sports a jumble of wrecked and ruined buildings. On the shorelines, a few rotten hulks perch lobsided and forgotten, possibly left by visitors who chose not to depart or found themselves unable to leave.

Amongst the ruins, existing in a truly desparate and harrowing state, live lumbering and monstrous hybrid creatures, more human than the Faceless, but clearly something less than what they might once have been. From scattered lore and tales passed on as stern warning, it would seem that these hybrids are not confined to humans, but suggest creatures once elf, goblin, ogre, troll, and dwarf – and others less obvious.

The fortress harbor the nerve centre of this pain, a loathsome heart of corrupted artifice within which labors an ancient being intent, it would seem, on recreating some state of perfection. To what end remains unclear…

The Colony

The dim and distant shores of Ambra seem strange and foreign to those looking out from the Colony that lies scattered across the craggy peaks of the King’s Isles. It seems certain that something has changed, that something waits and watches across those grey and uninviting seas, but nothing should divert from the time honoured traditions of festival and worship.

Tonight the merriment will peak with wine, song and the calling of the winged messengers to carry the worthy away. The King is dead; long live the King. And tomorrow? Well tomorrow eyes gaze abroad. The dim and distant shores of Ambra seem strange and foreign to those looking out from the Colony…

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Post is part of the #AtoZChallenge.

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