Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Inspiring Illustrations - Outside the Khromarium Gate

32). Outside the Khromarium Gate

NOTE: These are adventure seeds and setting work for my own Hyperborea campaign inspired by the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerors of Hyperborea Gazetteer

Kromarium is vast and older than man. Streets and towers and catacombs that wind their way into the bowels of the earth like a wyrm gnawing at the heartstone of the city. So vast is Khromarium that losing oneself in its twisting paths can become being lost in passages of time and space and dimensions not hospitable to man. It is said that the center of the city can never be found, always there will be another tower, ruined manor, gaping pit where the dank sewer waters gush down and down and down, another street or alley to follow deeper and deeper along ways that should not be trodden if there is any wish to return.
But Khromarium is a city filled with life as well and the precincts that surround the walls and its many gates are lit with fires both mundane and magical. Cleanly swept are the corridors of the wealthy and powerful or littered and stinking with the refuse of the outcast poor and discarded souls. Merchant squares abound, strange passengers from stranger lands view wares from coach or palanquin. Street musicians play and thieves ply their trade. Courtesans demurely pass brothels where their less fortunate and less expensive fellow professionals bare their own bare and berouged wares from doors and balconys.

Outside the gates of Khromarium can be found philosophers, beggars and scribes. Soothsayers, hedge-wizards, and shamans can be found in abundance, but any with more earthly goods are shooed away and into the well-taxed environs of the city walls by the passing guardsman and mounted patrols of the city. The business of the mind, the soul, and the mystical is conducted along these thoroughfares by any but the well-established masters of these professions, beggars and mendicants excluded.

Tellers of fortunes, popular among the Kimmerians and people of Rus, have small tents inside the city gates, while a more well-regarded practicer of divination can be found sitting upon a waxed or oiled cloth on the verge of the great road close to the iron and wood portals of the city. There is a hierarchy and tradition among the traders in the ephemeral outside of the gates and woe-betide any who would usurp another's spot of buttocks smoothed grass that may have been occupied for generations or passed down from journeyman to apprentice from time immemorial. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Inspiring Illustrations - The Blunt Monster With Uncounted Heads

31). The Blunt Monster With Uncounted Heads

NOTE: These are adventure seeds and setting work for my own Hyperborea campaign inspired by the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerors of Hyperborea Gazetteer

Deep within the forests of the Coast of Scars can be found the ruins of a small stone tower. Its foundation stones are very old and show the marks of fire and of war. How many times the tower has been tumbled and rebuilt none can say, but a few stories of its latest incarnation remain though the upper most levels are cracked and roofless.

Of late a man has come to dwell within this ruin. He is thin and austere, robed as a priest or a sage or crafter of spells. His name is not known, though some call him 'The Mage' or the more lengthy 'The Summoner of Small Daemons'. And that last name is very apt.

All about this man run the smallest of Daemons, run, dance, fly and cavort about him as if around their heart's desire. Should any approach this man with malice in their hearts these Daemons turn from merriment to a vicious defense. Even the greatest of the Devil-swine which haunt the woods give him and his horde a wide berth for those that have not have met their fates buried beneath a thousand small teeth and claws and a thousand more waiting for their chance to blood themselves on their larger kin.

'The Mage' seems pleasant enough, but his flock of small Daemons deters visitors of a more wholesome sort. With each passing day it seems a few more of these tiny Daemonic forms join the throng which surrounds the old tower though some are always flying or scuttling afar to do their adoration's bidding. And as time passes the fewer Devil-swine there are to be found in the woods, though the nearby City-State of Dorset, long overrun with these foul piggish Daemons and their progeny, seems to be swelling in compensation.

How long it will be before 'The Mage' turns his attention to this Daemonic concentration, if that is his ultimate goal, none can tell, but it has been long years since the Coast of Scars has been as clear and safe from the swine-men or their Daemonic masters as it has become due entirely to this unnamed man and his abhorrent following.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Inspiring Illustrations - The Robe That Terror Wears

30). The Robe That Terror Wears

NOTE: These are adventure seeds and setting work for my own Hyperborea campaign inspired by the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerors of Hyperborea Gazetteer

A cold wind blows from the sea and with it she steps upon the shores of Hyperborea. The storm walks with her and seeking life she brings the frozen death to the land. Her touch is blue ice as are her eyes. Innocent, the curse she bears is a slow moving doom that no spell, no sword can touch.

In the frozen wasteland that she leaves behind her a shadow moves. Her tormentor follows casting chains of ice upon the dead. To save the land is to save her and face what she cannot.

Already the path she has taken is filled with white death. Villages are stilled, silent tombs whose doors are opening as a greater evil emerges into the cloud-wrapped day. All is darkness as if evening had swallowed the noonday sun.

From the northern shores of  Hyperborea comes the call for help as an endless winter begins to swallow the land. A woman walks alone ahead of the desolation, but is she cause or merely, as she claims, related by those few who have survived her encounter, merely a victim chased by darkness, swallowed by madness and running, running, only a few paces before the storm.

The villages along the Striped Gulf beg for help as their neighbors are caught within the approaching darkness. None have returned of all those who have searched for answers. Only the woman who walks ahead of the storm.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Inspiring Illustrations - She Speaks A Scarlet Mist

29). She Speaks A Scarlet Mist

NOTE: These are adventure seeds and setting work for my own Hyperborea campaign inspired by the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerors of Hyperborea Gazetteer

Who can say when the blood of man was polluted with the foulness of undeath. From what blackened and defiled corner of Old Earth where first they arose is unknown. Every corner of the globe speaks of them, Bruja, Dachnavar, Draugir, Chang Kuei, Mara, Striga, Vampire.

In Hyperborea it is the same, though only at Ix of the Black Gulf at the Rim of the World do they find welcome. In all other lands are they hunted and if found slain, though it is no easy task. Vampires are social creatures that form a family with a patriarch or matriarch ruling over them, but these paternal figures feel no love or attachment for their offspring and will use them for their pleasure and their defense willingly sacrificing all those they deem their 'children' for their defense or even simple gain. At times these Hyperborean vampires will tire of their family and will slaughter them all gathering their tainted blood in great casks like wine to be aged and consumed at a later date.

Vampires always choose the strongest or most beautiful or talented humans to be their victims and future 'children'. Around this family are collected groups of ensnared servants or 'thralls' as the Norse from Vikland call them. These are half-drained victims of the vampires who ensorceled into fanatical loyalty to their vampiric masters.

While vampires may be found in ruins, catacombs or graveyards, they often join the society of large cities such as Khromarium or Ptolemides. Some have taken over Norse halls or holdings of the Rus or villas of the Hellenes near to Ptolemides.

There are rumors and traces of a vampiric brood gathering in the vast metropolis of Khromarium and the local guard as well as a cabal of certain powerful sorcerors are interested in finding them. While a small bounty is placed on the capture or heads of any proven thralls, a much greater reward can be gathered for the bodies (living or dead, but living pays better) of any of the Vampiric family. The Lord or Mistress of the clan would garner the greater reward but such a capture or even a defeat of one of these monsters is deemed unlikely.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Inspiring Illustrations - The Great Spirit of the Woods

28). The Great Spirit of the Wood

NOTE: These are adventure seeds and setting work for my own Hyperborea campaign inspired by the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerors of Hyperborea Gazetteer

Amid the dark recesses of Hyperborean forests rests the God-King of ancient days. So old that he is nameless or if named it is forgotten before Atlantis drowned or the passage to Old Earth was lost in the mists which surround Hyperborea. He is known as the Great Spirit of the Wood to his followers and the woodland beasts and sentient monsters that dwell within his green boundaries.

He rarely shows his face beyond the heart of the woodlands, but a few incautious travelers have seen it, dark and brooding, his hair a dirty white entwined with leaves and branches but worn as a living crown. The Great Spirit does not take desecrators of his sacred groves or deep heartland lightly and the doom that may fall upon such are torments that can last an age, bound within the flesh of a great tree, living as the tree lives, but exposed to the pain of all that comes to the woods; the bite of axe, the touch of fire, the rot of age and devouring teeth of insects.

The Great Spirit calls to not only the trees and plants of the woodland, but to all those creatures, including man, who live within. He is no peaceful ruler and roots fight for nourishment from the soil and sunlight from the sky, beasts stalk the weak, the weak burrow and gnaw at the roots of tree and plant, the dead nourish the living, and so it goes on and on, the turning wheel of time, life and death, overseen by the Great Spirit, lord of all that transpires. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Inspiring Illustrations - The Gateway of Cruel Desire

27). The Gateway of Cruel Desire

NOTE: These are adventure seeds and setting work for my own Hyperborea campaign inspired by the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerors of Hyperborea Gazetteer

Cold is the path of the dead and colder still is the heart of the Necromancer. And yet there is a passion that lurks within this twisted breed of mage that drives them forward into the darkest and most loathsome of places; none more so than the tomb-temple to be found on the Isle of Ghul.

The gateway is ancient, older than the Necromancer that rules the isle, and in a language that only the daemon's of the abyss can recognize, though they curse and shun the place, a story of power, lust in all its meanings, and torment is spelled out in the carven entranceway to this labyrinth. Twisted and endless are the passageways of the Tomb, lost is the temple, and lost as well are the souls of all who have fallen within this accursed charnel house. The carven gateway is beautiful and the massive doors of bronze, green with verdigris, sit open, the outer chamber is marble and granite, a dried fountain with sculptures of water nymphs surrounding its bowl, but from the open grill of its drain, too small for any human to utilize, come the screams of the dead, and the massive doors are shut, silently without warning, and no spike or iron or blockade of stone can prevent their closure, not to open again till the sun has set and risen once more.

Hiding behind a marble bench in a room further into the labyrinth will be found a young girl, emaciated, scarred from torture, wild-eyed and clad in rags. She will speak in a language that only the aid of sorcery will make clear, and pleas for help. Her tormentor is within the tomb, he has set her here to hunt down and torture. She has no idea how long she has been within the tomb, she has never seen the temple, but she is of flesh and blood, though weak and starved. She can lead any who would follow her to a secret room entered through a series of levers held as spears and swords among an array of statues that bear an uniformity of look but of no make recognizable to any living in this age of the world since the fall of Atlantis.

Inside the chamber is a clear pool and drinking from it will heal wounds but alleviate hunger any more than the taste of unenchanted water would. This has been her refuge.

Stepping back outside this room will find the scowling visages of half a score of animated warriors. Defeating them, now flesh and blood themselves, will be no easy task, but the rewards are the armor and weapons of these doughty foes. The tomb goes further...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Inspiring Illustrations - This Feast of Battle

26). This Feast of Battle

NOTE: These are adventure seeds and setting work for my own Hyperborea campaign inspired by the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerors of Hyperborea Gazetteer

War has always been a living thing among the Kimmerians and their half-breed kinsmen. The Kimmerian-Kelts are an offshoot of centuries of warfare between the clans of the Kimmerians and the tribes of the Kelts. The mixed breed children born of these wars, the raids, the rapine, the endless chain of murder and revenge, have been rejected by both sides. Sometimes abandoned to nature and never more than starving and mistreated outsiders existing on the refuse of either society these unwanted children slowly banded together and formed their own tribes but as a single clan. Their hatred for their pure breed kindred has welded them into a single sprawling family where every member is a brother or sister regardless of tribe or chieftain.

Recently this unity of purpose has become embodied in the spirit of a single man. Zhalov of the Yellow Beard has become the first of their clan to unite all of the Kimmerian-Keltic tribes under a single ruler. Born of a Kimmerian slave held in Keltic lands Zhalov broke his shackles and escaped his servitude fleeing into grasslands of Vol. Hunted by a warparty of Kelts he turned on his attackers time and again but was slowly forced into a stony outcropping which sat on the verge of the mire that is the Lug Wasteland. At last he was cornered and in his fight among the stones he slew six of the surviving warparty and sent the last few Kelts fleeing his wrath. Wounded and with a storm approaching Zhalov sought shelter among the rocks and found a crevice no wider than his own shoulders which he crawled into.

When the light of dawn touched him Zhalov was surprised to find that he was not alone in his shelter. The crumbling body of some ancient warrior shared his cave. Beside the body was a sword whose edge crackled with lightning when he touched its hilt and a strange weapon that was nearly the death of him. At first he could not decide if the strange device was a weapon or some tool of the ancient man who had died in the cave. Its shape was odd and it had the look of something that might be used as a crutch with a smooth metal end that fit nicely beneath his arm diminishing down to a length of hollow round metal. Peering inside the hollow he could find nothing.

Zhalov was weak and badly wounded, but the cave had the feel of death to it now and he would stay there no longer. With the use of his new found metal stick he pulled himself back through the crevice and into the sunlight. The stones around him were slick and in his descent he slipped, his hand clutched at his metal stick and found the odd strip of metal that projected from its side. Suddenly the stick erupted in a flair of lightning which shattered the rock nearby. Zhalov was sprayed  with tiny flecks of stone but he felt them not and only stared in wonder at this powerful weapon he had been banging against the stones.

Weeks later Zhalov was riding deep within the grasslands of Vol on the horse of a Kimmerian who fell to his lightning blade. He found himself looking at a swirl of horsemen in the distance. It was a dark year for the half-breed tribesman of Vol. The Kimmerians were raiding in force, slaying the old, enslaving the young, riding off with what loot they could find and the horses and herds of their victims. In a blaze of blue fire Zhalov rode down upon the Kimmerians. His thunderstick causing fear and panic as he approached, his lightning sword unstoppable. The prophecy of the great savage fighting man had been fulfilled and the feast of battle had begun.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Inspiring Illustrations - Riding the Wolf

25). Riding the Wolf

NOTE: These are adventure seeds and setting work for my own Hyperborea campaign inspired by the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerors of Hyperborea Gazetteer

When the Rus found themselves transported to Hyperborea many of their traditional ways immediately changed. The Boet, a group of warrior-hunters finely attuned to living in the wild, were possessed by the spirit of the Vukodlak; an ability akin to lycanthropy. While they could not change themselves into the aspect of a wolf they became attuned to the nature of wolves and discovered a monstrous form of wolf lurking on the outskirts of their towns and settlements. Whether these were wolves from Rusland altered by the powerful magic which caused the dislocation from old Earth to Hyperborea or whether these beasts were already in Hyperborea the Boet do not know and these wolves cannot tell them, though along with their gargantuan size the wolves have gained the power of speech, their memories begin with their first encounters of the Rus and their adoption of the Boet.

According to Vas'Ka, the pack leader of all the wolves in Rusland (anywhere the Rus settle is called Rusland) the Boet just smell right and a bond of friendship and even brotherhood has sprung up between the two.

Never much for horses and more at home in the thick forest or the hills and mountains the Boet were always poor horseman, but with the coming of the great wolves they now ride in packs through the forest and steppes that surround Hyperborea's Rusland or scrabble through the stoney hills and inhospitable heights on their borders. The great wolves are as big as ponies, but stronger and heavier, their bodies all muscle and dense bone.  The Boet ride them when there is a need for haste though most often a pair of human and great wolf can be encountered hunting the forest or patrolling the roadways between town and village or camping on some hill, sharing their days catch.

Boets tend to wear a shirt of fine chain sometimes with a sleeveless vest of leather over the metal. Many will wear a cap of iron, steel or leather, but just as many disdain such and grow their hair long which they tie back and tuck under the collar of their armored shirt. They are almost never found without bow or sling, but they tend to favor a spear and a short sword as weapons.

Their new wolfish affinity has given them keener sense making it easier for them to track animals or enemies. They can be killed or wounded like any other man, but heal twice as quickly. The can speak to animals though they speak Rus to the great wolves and the great wolves can growl out a few short words of Rus back to them.

The great wolves of Rusland are several times the size of a normal wolf, the largest are truly the size of horses and even the smallest is big and strong enough to carry a normal-sized Boet. Their senses are slightly less keen than that of a normal wolf but still greater than a man's. They bond with their human companions and will fight to the death against any who would attack them. On the death of a Boet companion the great wolf will pine and grieve, and let its life pass away within three days of the loss of a companion.

The bonding ceremony between Boet and great wolf is called Riding the Wolf and the pair set out on a tour of Rusland. This is celebrated by a massive hunt with dozens of Boet and great wolves participating culminating in a feast where the families, wolves and human, join in to eat what the hunt has gathered.

Most Boet and great wolves are encountered alone, but that is only the cautious nature of the hunters. There will usually be from three to five other Boet and great wolves somewhere nearby waiting to see if they have encountered friend or foe. In any case there will always be at least one pair of wolf and rider that is does not reveal themselves. These Boet are a suspicious lot outside of their own kind, which is the main reason they and the Rus have prospered in this strange land of Hyerborea  that is now their home.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Inspiring Illustrations - The Temple of the Blind

NOTE: These are adventure seeds and setting work for my own Hyperborea campaign inspired by the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerors of Hyperborea Gazetteer

24). The Temple of the Blind

In the Red Desert men have found fortunes in mines of silver, iron and copper, but the cost is often their lives, as the sages have written and the families of the men lost to this cold wasteland will attest. Men do not live in the Red Desert but things that hold themselves as men do. Beast like creatures that ape the ways of men haunt the steppes and high grounds, walk the bottoms of dried out seas where the bones of ships can be found, the detritus of ages past; lost fleets and lone vessels from different times and places. Ships of wood, ships of bone, ships of metal that could never have floated, ships of glass; their shattered hulls flaring like beacons when the sun's rays break through the dismal perennial clouds which roof the wasteland.

Then there are the sightless men and their temple city with the vast blind effigy of their god which sits amid the cavernous homes of their metropolis. Sightless they are with smooth flesh where their eyes should be, but doubly keen are their other senses. They can hear the breath of their enemy, the sound of every move. It is said that the wind which blows across the desert is the dying words of their stone god and with it they can hear what a man could see. Hear shapes and the space between the leaves of a plant, hear the distance between walls of their home and the table where the sit to dinner, hear the roughness of the ground, the edge of a cliff, the half-buried root that would trip a seeing man.

The sightless men are disdainers of magic and have no liking for those who practice the arcane art. They are a pious people and many dedicate themselves to the worship of their dead stone god. They are strong warriors and amazing with any weapon that is thrown, especially the use of the sling. They have an affinity with stone.

Their homes are colorless and dark except where a random streak of some unintended, unseen brightness has been added. They have no liking for fire and seem immune to the heat of the day or the frosty chill of the night. They delve deep into the earth of Hyperborea and trade precious metals and gems with men who dare the wasteland. They are always greedy for weapons or items of metal which they do not produce themselves. They weapons and items that they craft for themselves are stone, crystal or bone.

While they appear almost human their flesh is rough and scale-like, they have no hair and their teeth are a single ridge of bone that grows throughout their life and must be worn down usually by an oblong of stone they use as a file or rasp.

The sightless men are dangerous to deal with though once they have established trade with a man they will deal fairly, but they are constantly looking for men and dangerous beasts to sacrifice to their god. The method of sacrifice is said to be truly horrific as the sightless men eat their victims alive within the confines of their temple, first pummeling them with thrown stones, then setting upon the near senseless captive in a maddened pack and consuming the body utterly till nothing is left but cracked bones upon a blood soaked floor.

A. Merritt - Some Ideas and Descriptions From His Stories - The People of the Pit

A. Merritt - Some Ideas and Descriptions From His Stories


If you have not read this story TURN BACK NOW! or risk losing forever the unspoiled appreciation of A. Merritt 's prose.

Inspired by the rules and setting of the Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyberborea boxed set Forum I have begun sifting through my collection of A. Merritt for ideas.

1). The People of the Pit

Blue Shaft of Light - [MON]
The City in the Pit - [TWN]
Eblis - [NPC]
Fear Dust - [ITM]
Five Peaks - [MT]
Frozen Hand of Cloud - [ITM]
Gate of Ghouls - [PLC]
Gateway to the Pit - [GTE]
Ghosts of Winds - [MON]
Golden Band - [ITM]
The Green Stairway [PLC]
Lao T'zai - [NPC]
People of the Pit - [MON]
The Pit - [PLC]
Sanctuary Caves - [PLC]
Shan Nadour - [NPC]
Snaky Red Trees - [ITM]
Thick White Liquid - [ITM]
The Thing in the Pit - [MON][Deity]
Whispering - [SPL]

Blue Shaft of Light -
Five Peaks -

"North of us a shaft of light shot half way to the zenith. It came from behind the five peaks. The beam drove up through a column of blue haze whose edges were marked as sharply as the rain that streams from the edges of a thunder cloud. It was like the flash of a searchlight through an azure mist. It cast no shadows.

As it struck upward the summits were outlined hard and black and I saw that the whole mountain was shaped like a hand. As the light silhouetted it, the gigantic fingers stretched, the hand seemed to thrust itself forward. It was exactly as though it moved to push something back. The shining beam held steady for a moment; then broke into myriads of little luminous globes that swung to and fro and dropped gently. They seemed to be searching."

Fear Dust -
Lao T'zai -

"My mouth was as dry as though Lao T'zai had poured his fear dust down my throat."

Eblis -
Frozen Hand of Cloud -
Gate of Ghouls -
Shan Nadour -

"It makes me think of the frozen hand of cloud that Shan Nadour set before the Gate of Ghouls to keep them in the lairs that Eblis cut for them."

Ghosts of Winds -
Whispering -

"From the North and high overhead there came a whispering. It was not the rustling of the aurora, that rushing, crackling sound like the ghosts of winds that blew at Creation racing through the skeleton leaves of ancient trees that sheltered Lilith. It was a whispering that held in it a demand. It was eager. It called us to come up where the beam was flashing. It drew. There was a note of inexorable insistence. It touched my heart with a thousand tiny fear-tipped fingers and it filled me with a vast longing to race on and merge myself in the light. It must have been so that Ulysses felt when he strained at the mast and strove to obey the crystal sweet singing of the Sirens."

Golden Band -

""I was filing the band about the waist. It was gold, but it was like no gold I had ever handled. Pure gold is soft. This was soft, but it had an unclean, viscid life of its own. It clung to the file. I gashed through it, bent it away from the body and hurled it far off. It was - loathsome!"

"...I saw that around my waist had been fastened a yellow ring of metal. From it hung a chain and this chain passed up over the lip of the high ledge. I was chained to the altar..."

Gateway to the Pit -
People of the Pit -
The Pit -

""The people of the pit," he said. "Things that the Devil made before the Flood and that somehow escaped God's vengeance. You weren't in any danger from them - unless you had followed their call. They can't get any further than the blue haze. I was their prisoner," he added simply. "They were trying to whisper me back to them!""

""The road passed between two high rocks that raised themselves like a gateway."

The crawling man paused.

"They were a gateway," he said. "I reached them. I went between them. And then I sprawled and clutched the earth in sheer awe! I was on a broad stone platform. Before me was a sheer space! Imagine the Grand Canyon five times as wide with the bottom dropped out. That was what I was looking into. It was like peeping over the edge of a cleft world down into the infinity where the planets roll! On the far side stood five peaks. They looked like a gigantic warning hand stretched up to the sky. The lip of the abyss curved away on each side of me.

"I could see down perhaps a thousand feet. Then a thick blue haze shut out the eye. It was like the blue you see gather on the high hills at dusk. And the pit - it was awesome; awesome as the Maori Gulf of Ranalak, that sinks between the living and the dead and that only the freshly released soul has the strength to leap - but never strength to cross again.

"I crept back from the verge and stood up, weak. My hand rested against one of the pillars of the gateway. There was carving upon it. It bore in still sharp outlines the heroic figure of a man. His back was turned. His arms were outstretched. There was an odd peaked headdress upon him. I looked at the opposite pillar. It bore a figure exactly similar. The pillars were triangular and the carvings were on the side away from the pit. These figures seemed to be holding something back. I looked closer. Behind the outstretched hands I seemed to see other shapes.

"I traced them out vaguely. Suddenly I felt unaccountably sick. There had come to me an impression of enormous upright slugs. Their swollen bodies were faintly cut - all except the heads which were well marked globes. They were - unutterably loathsome. I turned from the gates back to the void.""

"I can't describe those carvings! No human being could - the human eye cannot grasp them any more than it can grasp the shapes that haunt the fourth dimension. Only a subtle sense in the back of the brain sensed them vaguely. They were formless things that gave no conscious image, yet pressed into the mind like small hot seals - ideas of hate - of combats between unthinkable monstrous things - victories in a nebulous hell of steaming, obscene jungles - aspirations and ideals immeasurably loathsome -"

"...the haze began to thicken and glow; the cylinders shine more brightly. I knew that it was dusk in the world above and I felt that with dusk my time of peril had come; that the   thickening haze was the signal for the awakening of whatever lived in this pit."

"...There began to grow around me a murmur. It was everywhere - and it grew and grew into a great whispering. I peeped from the side of the stone down into the street. I saw lights passing and repassing. More and more lights - they swam out of the circular doorways and they thronged the street. The highest were eight feet above the pave; the lowest perhaps two. They hurried, they sauntered, they bowed, they stopped and whispered - and there was nothing under them!"

"... that was the terrible part of it - there was nothing under them. Yet certainly the lights were living things. They had consciousness, volition, thought - what else I did not know. They were nearly two feet across - the largest. Their center was a bright nucleus - red, blue, green. This nucleus faded off, gradually, into a misty glow that did not end abruptly. It too seemed to face off into nothingness - but a nothingness that had under it a somethingness. I strained my eyes trying to grasp this body into which the lights merged and which one could only feel was there, but could not see."

"...Something cold, and thin like a whip touched my face. I turned my head. Close behind were three of the lights. They were a pale blue. They looked at me - if you can imagine lights that are eyes. Another whiplash gripped my shoulder. Under the closest light came a shrill whispering. I shrieked. Abruptly the murmuring in the street ceased. I dragged my eyes from the pale blue globe that held them and looked out - the lights in the streets were rising by myriads to the level of where I stood! There they stopped and peered at me. They crowded and jostled as though they were a crowd of curious people - on Broadway. I felt a score of the lashes touch me -"

"...And now the reddish mottled gleam began to deepen. Outside arose the humming and through the circle that was the entrance came streaming the globes. They ranged themselves in ranks until they filled the Temple. Their whispering grew into a chant, a cadenced whispering chant that rose and fell, rose and fell, while to its rhythm the globes lifted and sank, lifted and sank."

"...All that night the lights came and went - and all that night the chant sounded as they rose and fell..."

"...The red glow faded, the lights streamed out; the whispering died. I was again alone and I knew that once again day had broken..."

"...the lights came again. All through the night the whispering chant sounded, and the globes rose and fell. The chant seized me. It pushed through me until every nerve and muscle quivered to it. My lips began to quiver. They strove like a man trying to cry out on a nightmare. And at last they too were whispering the chant of the people of the pit. My body bowed in unison with the lights - I was, in movement and sound one with the nameless things while my soul sank back sick with horror and powerless. While I whispered I - saw Them!"

"...Saw the lights?" I asked stupidly.

"...Saw the Things under the lights," he answered. Great transparent snail-like bodies - dozens of waving tentacles stretching from them - round gaping mouths under the luminous seeing globes. They were like ghosts of inconceivably monstrous slugs! I could see through them. And as I stared, still bowing and whispering, the dawn came and they streamed to and through the entrance. They did not crawl or walk - they floated! They floated and were - gone!""

The Green Stairway -

""A stairway led down into the pit..."

" seemed not so much carved out of the rock as built into it. The slabs were about six feet long and three feet wide. It ran down from the platform and vanished into the blue haze."

"...I went down the stairway..."

"The steps ran along the side of the rock at a forty degree pitch. As I went down I studied them. They were of a greenish rock quite different from the granite porphyry that formed the wall of the precipice. At first I thought the builders had taken advantage of an outcropping stratum, and had craved from it their gigantic flight. But the regularity of the angle at which it fell made me doubtful of this theory."

"After I had gone perhaps half a mile I stepped out upon a landing. From this landing the stairs made a V shaped turn and ran on downward, clinging to the cliff at the same angle as the first flight; it was a zig-zag, and after I had made three of these turns I knew that the steps dropped straight down in a succession of such angles. No strata could be so regular as that. No, the stairway was built by hands!""

"...A few feet beneath me the stairway jutted out into a Titanic arch, unearthly as the span that bridges Hell and leads to Asgard. It curved out and down and straight through the top of the highest pile of carven cylinders and then it vanished through it. It was appalling - it was demonic - ..."

"...I crossed the span. I went down through the top of that - building. Blue darkness shrouded me for a moment and I felt the steps twist into a spiral. I wound down them..."

Sanctuary Caves -

"At regular intervals I had passed the mouths of small caves. There would be two thousand steps and then an opening, two thousand more steps and an opening - and so on and on. Late that afternoon I stopped before one of these clefts. I suppose I had gone then three miles down the pit, although the angles were such that I had walked in all fully ten miles. I examined the entrance. On each side were carved the figures of the great portal above, only now they were standing face forward, the arms outstretched as though to hold something back from the outer depths. Their faces were covered with veils. There were no hideous shapes behind them. I went inside. The fissure ran back for twenty yards like a burrow. It was dry and perfectly light. Outside I could see the blue haze rising upward like a column, its edges clearly marked. I felt an extraordinary sense of security, although I had not been conscious of any fear. I felt that the figures at the entrance were guardians - but against what?""

The City in the Pit -
Snaky Red Trees -

""There is a city you know. But not such a city as you have ever seen - nor any other man who has lived to tell of it. The pit, I think, is shaped like a bottle; the opening before the five peaks is the neck. But how wide the bottom is I do not know - thousands of miles maybe. I had begun to catch little glints of light far down in the blue. Then I saw the tops of -  trees, I suppose they are. But not our kind of trees - unpleasant, snaky kind of trees. They reared themselves on high thin trunks and their tops were nests of thick tendrils with ugly little leaves like arrow heads. The trees were red, a vivid angry red. Here and there I glimpsed spots of shining yellow. I knew these were water because I could see things breaking through the surface - or at least I could see the splash and ripple, but what it was that disturbed them I never saw."

"Straight beneath me was the - city. I looked down upon mile after mile of closely packed cylinders. They lay upon their sides in pyramids of three, of five - of dozens - piled upon each other. It is hard to make you see what that city is like - look, suppose you have water pipes of a certain length and first you lay three of them side by side and on top of them you place two and on these two one; or suppose you take five for a foundation and place on these four and then three, then two and then one. Do you see? That was the way they looked. But they were topped by towers, by minarets, by flares, by fans, and twisted monstrosities. They gleamed as though coated with pale rose flames. Beside them the venomous red tress raised themselves like the heads of hydras guarding nests of gigantic, jeweled and sleeping worms!"

"...I was standing high up in - I can't tell you in what, I'll have to call it a room. We have no images for what is in the pit. A hundred feet below me was the floor. The walls sloped down and out from where I stood in a series of widening crescents. The place was colossal - and it was filled with a curious mottled red light. It was like the light inside a green and gold flecked fire opal. I went down to the last step. Far in front of me rose a high, columned altar. Its pillars were carved in monstrous scrolls - like mad octopuses with a thousand drunken tentacles; they rested on the backs of shapeless monstrosities carved in crimson stone. The altar front was a gigantic slab of purple covered with carvings."

"...I was out on a street that stretched on into dim distance between rows of the carven cylinders."

"Here and there the red trees arose. Between them rolled the stone burrows. And now I could take in the amazing ornamentation that clothed them. They were like the trunks of smooth skinned trees that had fallen and had been clothed with high reaching noxious orchids. Yes - those cylinders were like that - and more. They should have gone out with the dinosaurs. They were - monstrous. They struck the eyes like a blow and they passed across the nerves like a rasp. And nowhere was there sight or sound of living things."

"There were circular openings in the cylinders like the circle in the Temple of the Stairway. I passed through one of them. I was in a long, bare vaulted room whose curving sides half closed twenty feet over my head, leaving a wide slit that opened into another vaulted chamber above. There was absolutely nothing in the room save the same mottled reddish light that I had seen in the Temple..."

The Thing in the Pit -

""And as I stood I grew aware of something that lay behind the lip of the altar fifty feet above me. I knew it was there - I felt it with every hair and every tiny bit of my skin. Something infinitely malignant, infinitely horrible, infinitely ancient. It lurked, it brooded, it threatened and it was - invisible!"

"Behind me was a circle of blue light. I ran for it. Something urged me to turn back, to climb the stairs and make away. It was impossible. Repulsion for that unseen Thing raced me onward as though a current had my feet.""

Thick White Liquid -

""...I saw beside one of the pillars a yellow bowl filled with a thick white liquid. I drank it. If it killed I did not care. But its taste was pleasant and as I drank my strength came back to me with a rush..."


I have already used some of these ideas in the post titled: Listener to the Sphinx, but there is so much material in this short story that I barely touched on what can be done with it.

In 'Listener to the Sphinx' I touched on the great stairway leading down into an abyss and the caves as both sanctuaries and portals to other times and places, other worlds, other dimensions. After sorting through all the ideas in 'The People of the Pit' I will be expanding on these for my campaign.

The great stairway will lead to the City in the Pit, the Slug-like creatures that can whisper and charm a man to be their slave, and the great Unseen Deity/Monster that they worship. The stairway acts as a portal and leads to a rift between dimensions that these Slug Beasts inhabit. They are constantly seeking slaves and sacrifices to their Unseen god but have been unable to ascend the stairway itself. The wards are fading though, and expeditions of these creatures will soon be seen on the surface of Hyperborea.

The Thick White Liquid is the sap from the Snaky Red Trees. It strengthen and heals any human but weakens their ability to resist the charmed whispering of the creatures.

The Golden Band is both an enchanted item and a living creature fashioned from the body of a living Slug Beast. It acts to enhance the enthrallment of their slaves so that they will do their bidding even at the cost of their own lives.

The Slug Beasts range in power according to the light of they emit from their heads. Purple is the weakest while Red light is emitted from the strongest of these monsters. They have the ability to float, though not at great speed unless close to a surface. They can even float quite fast across a liquid surface, but are very slow if flying above. Their main power is their ability to charm creatures and people. The more Slug Beasts who concentrate their power together, the stronger the charm. Otherwise they are able to conduct physical attacks with the whip like tentacles each possess. Damage is slight but these tentacles have the power to stun or paralyze an opponent. The weakest of the Slug Beasts require multiple strikes with their tentacles in order to stun. Those who project the purple light can only attack with 3 tentacles at a time, but the strongest can strike with 18 tentacles (they all possess 20 tentacles ringed about their body). These tentacles are surprisingly delicate and can be destroyed with very little damage.

Biting is also another attack form. The weaker Slug Beasts are also the smaller, the Purple creatures only 3 or 4 feet high and 1HD monsters. While the Red Slug Beasts are up to 15 feet high and are 12HD monsters, possessing several abilities, including the ability to cast spells.

They are intelligent creatures capable of using tools but they wear no armor and use no weapons except those they naturally possess. They are wonderful alchemists and produce potions and balms of all sorts as well as poisons. They normally keep these in vials made of bone (human and otherwise) or great golden metal storage jars they craft from the living bodies of the weaker Slug Beasts.

There are six known types of these creatures which project light along the primary color (Purple, Blue, Green, Yellow, Orange, Red from weakest to strongest), but it suspected that the Unseen Deity/Monster they worship projects a light that cannot be seen by human eyes, and their young project a light that is also invisible (Infrared and Ultraviolet respectively).

The Great City of The Pit is vast and rests on a plane of existence inimical to human life. There are no mountains but a vast jungle filled with living plants surrounds the massive city on most sides and a wasteland of mud and fens with some open expanses of thick yellow liquid are at its one edge. There are no vertebrate creatures in jungle or wasteland, but life of sorts abound, with abominable creatures of slime and plants that slither and wind like beasts through the distorted and abhorrent growth of the jungle.   

Friday, July 12, 2013

Tale of Brave Ulysses

Tales of Brave Ulysses

NOTE: These are adventure seeds and setting work for my own Hyperborea campaign inspired by the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerors of Hyperborea Gazetteer

The Hellenic people of Hyperborea have carved out small city-states amid this chaotic and eldritch land, but they have not forgotten their past and no legend has greater meaning to a people lost from old Earth than the tales of Ulysses. In the centuries since they crossed the seas and found themselves trapped in this cold hard country countless ships and sailors have been lost striving to find a way to return to their fair Mediterranean home.

Even today a great expedition is being prepared in the city of Ptolemides and adventurers and explorers from all over Hyperborea have come to join the legendary captain Eudoxus in this journey. Eudoxus has ventured further in his galleys than any other captain in Hyperborea, even the vaunted Norsemen of Vikland have not sailed as far... and returned.

Eudoxus is a popular man with the Hellenic people of Ptolemides as well as his crew, but he has never denied a place in his galley to any man who can prove his worth, Hellene or outsider. This expedition is no different and unlikely shipmates are to be found among his crew. Any man strong enough to pull an oar is welcome if the know the sea or the sword for Exodus brings with him a strong warband as well as his sailors. Woe betide the fate of any Viking raider, pirate or slaver who thinks to attack the Phlegethon, Eudoxus' two-decked galley, but the size of the vessel is unlikely to attract the wolves of the sea that so often prey upon the merchantmen of Hyperborea.

While the expedition is formidable and one which many think will finally overcome Eudoxus and his Phlegethon there is a steady stream of volunteers for his crew and many men of renown are said to have already signed aboard and sworn their oaths to Eudoxus. Though he still needs to fully crew his massive ship he has enough men to set out on a shorter journey, the location of which remains a secret known only to Eudoxus and the most loyal or experienced members of the expedition, he has never sailed out without returning with wealth and stories of heroic proportion as well tales of danger and sometimes the heads of his conquests to prove it. It will be only a handful of days before Eudoxus sets sail and those seeking gold and glory must make haste if they wish to sign aboard the Phlegethon and sail into legend. 

Inspiring Illustrations - Tesla and the Unknown Region

NOTE: These are adventure seeds and setting work for my own Hyperborea campaign inspired by the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerors of Hyperborea Gazetteer

23). Tesla and the Unknown Region

"Darest thou now O soul.
Walk out with me toward the unknown region,
Where neither ground is for the feet nor any
Path to follow?"

One day Nikolai Tesla walked out onto his stage between his machines of tamed lightning and in a blinding flash disappeared from Old Earth forever.

The gulfs of space are not empty. No, they are filled with a horror older than time, beings that should not be and are inimical to man. Their gaze which is not sight wanders the galaxy peering deep into the darkness as easily as they stare into the blinding core of a sun. Some have fallen to Earth and the hint of their shadow haunts the dark corners of the mind. Others have crawled between what is and what was and what may come venturing forth in madness and ecstasy. And in Hyperborea many of these dark powers are worshiped as Gods though they care not thirsting only for the souls of men and lusting after torment and despair.

The men of Old Earth have touched they veil that hides these beings delving deep into the grinding spheres too small for the eye to detect or summoning the lighting and chaining the elementals to dance for their pleasure. Nikolai Tesla was one of these men, a powerful wizard that changed the substance of the world by tearing apart the veils and thrusting his mind into the white light of creation. In his hands he wielded the power of light and fire and awoke the beasts which lurk.

In a confrontation that removed him from the world of modern man he broke the spine of the daemon summoned against him and fashioned a gateway from its unearthly flesh powered by its own hellish spirit. His gaze sought a refuge and in the mist shrouded land of Hyperborea that exists beyond time and the geography of any but the mind he stepped from Old Earth and into the ageless realm.

A new Wizard walks the streets of Khromarium. Tesla came upon Hyperborea with nothing but power and with his power he has fashioned himself a citadel in the ancient ruins of the great city. His tower blazes with globes of fire, with chilling lightnings that can crawl across the ground, across the flesh of man without burning, without ending. His power is great but his needs for metal, for this Hyperborean magic he has discovered, for his automations that guard his laboratories, all are great and many a merchant and adventurer has profited greatly in their dealings with striding giant of light and raw power.

Tesla has stepped from Old Earth through the Unknown Region into Hyperborea and shaken the foundations of all. Opportunity abounds, he can be a generous master, a powerful allie or a terrible enemy, but the choice is yours.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Listener to the Sphynx

NOTE: These are adventure seeds and setting work for my own Hyperborea campaign inspired by the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerors of Hyperborea Gazetteer.

Listener to the Sphynx

In Hyperboria the Plateau of Leng holds many mysteries. It is not a place for men or even those who walk as men, but amid its wind swept desolation can be found the ruins of man. No record tells of the men from old Earth's Aegypt dwelling in that terrible place, but the statues and obelisks of that ancient land can be found jutting from the surface of the cold and barren tundra.

A cult of wild-monks, driven mad by their nearness to the dark and malevolent entities which dwell atop the high plateau, speak with the statues of man, God and monster and they listen for a reply which is more than the moaning of the wind. These mad men speak of a lost city, of the terrible otherworldly music that floats down on the wind from the plateau to the low hills, of the things whose shape twists the mind and the bodies which must be gathered and burned by touch since none can see such things and live.

The monks have no name for their order and their dwelling place is usually no more than a hide or ragged blanket used as a cover from the brutal winds and merciless sun of the desolation of Leng slung from the edge of ruined stone, boulder or ditch. There is a secret temple buried beneath the baked earth of the plains of Leng near the foothills too close to the edge of the plateau to protect the sanity of man. The markings are the most ancient of hieroglyphs of Old Earth's Aegypt and the story they tell of the rise and exile of their God-King Sutekh burns the soul of any reader as a surely as a brazier of coals would burn the flesh.

The temple, which the monks call The Hall of Mati, is protected by some terror known only as The Things of the Night. Whether these be the blasphemous soul-rending creatures which haunt the Plateau of Leng or some other foul and wondrous beings brought from the depths of Stygian darkness beneath the sands of Aegypt and transported to Hyperborea no man knows, not even the monks who worship these living nightmares. The Things of the Night have no care for the monks though they do no more than torment them and haunt their dreams rather than devour their souls as they do to any who would profane the temple.

Inside the temple are chambers kept meticulously clean by the monks; chambers for worship and contemplation, a library of scrolls and books of all types and languages. A cadre of blind monks tends the temple and records the knowledge gained from their more wild brethren who wander the desolation around them seeking answers from broken fragments of Aegyptian Gods and effigies of guardian monstrosities that litter the wasteland. The temple descends down into dark gulf by way of a series steps carved from a greenish stone. The mouths of myriad small caves are set next to the steps and on the outer edge, unprotected by rail or balustrade, lays an abyssal pit that seemingly has no end. As the steps are descended the roof of the cavern first disappears in a bluish haze then a darkness which becomes lit by a field of stars that roof no earthly heaven. a whispering is said to descend from these stars, beautiful and enthralling, and the bodies of men who died of thirst or exposure, for the stairway into the pit is colder than the mere chill of ice or snow, can be found staring up at this alien expanse with sightless eyes and the look of ecstasy frozen on their lifeless husks. Only the sanctuary of the caves can protect a man when he is called by the whispering from the stars, and even then he will never be free of the longing for the voices which called to him from the dark.

The caves upon that perilous stair are sometimes no more than a bare chamber but at other times they are portals to other places and other times. The monks are said to have charted hundreds, perhaps thousands of these caves, a chart that varies with the changing of the alien stars seen above. With their knowledge they travel beyond Hyperborea and within Hyperborea. They have visited ancient Mu, Lemuria and Atlantis, Aegypt before the coming of man when the beast-headed Gods walked the deserts alone, they have walked among the stars. They search for items of vast power said to be the sceptre of Horus called the Giver of Winds and a crystal tablet marked by the hand of the Falcon-God himself.

These things not even the wise and powerful suspect of the nameless wild monks of Leng. Though many wonder what they hear from the lips of their broken stone idols or how they survive the mad desolation and eldritch terror of such a cursed and unholy place.