Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Nightwing Temple, part the first

Fenrecz, lying in a relatively steep box-like canyon, is dominated by a major thoroughfare known as the Serpent Road, hewn from the green stone of the surrounding Viridian Cliffs. The Serpent Road has seven switchbacks, allowing horses and carts to traverse the city. Each switchback is referred to as a "coil", so a destination could be "on the third coil". At each point where the road switches back on itself, there is a large square, generally used for open-air markets, public executions and the like. At the North end of the city, the first coil passes over a series of complicated locks controlled by the Duke of Fenrecz, allowing some amount of control over the passage of the Eel River that flows into and under the city.

These locks open and close on a complex schedule, either through massive automated machinery or a cult-like group of operators (there are rumors about both). Moving on the bridges and stairways in the Locks is extremely dangerous if you aren't aware of the intricate and changing schedule, as massive amounts of cold water can easily sweep anybody in the area off their feet, to be dashed on stone hundreds of feet below, drowned as they are forced through any number of underground channels or worse, flushed alive into the Eel Weirs. There are a large amount of waterfalls that serve as natural barriers to progress until a great grinding is heard, a lock somewhere high above is closed and the water stops flowing, opening up a new, dripping passage. Behind one of these water walls lies access to Nightwing Temple.

Built long ago during the early days of Fenrecz, pre-dating the Serpent Road and most of the structures that now surround it, Nightwing Temple is a dilapidated stone structure dominated by a single slightly askew tower and covered with carvings and statues relating to avians and their worship. The building sits on an island in the middle of a roaring and frothy expanse of moving water, fed by multiple waterfalls, which create a constant roar and a prismatic mist that leaves most stone surfaces (like the single staircase that provides the only access to the temple) slippery and dangerous. Since the Locks are mainly free of the urban buildup common to the rest of the city, a significant amount of natural light filters down here. Great numbers of the city's ravens roost in the upper levels of the temple tower and will often wheel to the air to fly around the temple in a giant squawking flock of 30 or more birds, sometimes streaming upwards into the city proper.

A number of different figures and groups have lived in the temple over the centuries. Currently it is the residence of a particular Corvus Demon, appearing as a tall cloaked figure with the white and polished head of a raven skull. The demon, named Hrafnsmál, uses the flocks of ravens as both an intelligence-gathering device and an early-warning system. He has animated many skeletons of former occupants as a personal bodyguard and gathered the remaining treasures of the temple into a hoard that he keeps in his nest at the top of the tower, save for a Tooth of Vorn embedded in a skeleton in the main sanctum. Hrafnsmál is also attended by two Valravns, Ásmundur and Ámundur, who act as Hrafnsmál's heralds and go into the city and its environs on errands for him at irregular intervals. Valravns are supernatural beasts formed by a raven eating the still-beating heart of a great knight or high-ranking noble. They are capable of taking the form of a giant raven, a giant wolf or that of the humans whose hearts they consumed. Ásmundur and Ámundur's human forms are both knights in chain mail and great closed helms. Ásmundur wields an axe and Ámundur a sword, both with maroon shields with a design in white of three oak leaves over a river. If researched, this will turn out to be the heraldry of a once-great house in Sorten Muld, the manor now empty, although by custom, anybody carrying either of the knights' personal seals can lay claim to the land if they manage to hold it for a year.

Hrafnsmál carries a staff, Fuglur, apparently hewn from a very large bone. Noticeably cold to the touch, if used by a magic-user, it gives a constant effect of Rego Animal for birds, adding an additional D6 die on top of the caster's abilities and any nearby ley lines. It also enables the caster to understand and speak the language of birds. Over an extended period of use, the wielder of Fuglur will develop bird-like traits, including a virulent strain of kleptomania when it comes to anything shiny, as well as the desire to build a nest. In combat, Fuglur can be wielded as a quarterstaff dealing D8 damage and giving anybody hit with it a negative die step to subsequent attack rolls due to an aching chill in their bones.

In the Next Part: floor plans! tactics! intrigue! treasure!

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