Background

Aeons ago the Fay discovered a system of caves under the area now known as the Harrain Hills. They used their slave races (humans, dwarves and others) to excavate and adapt the caves into a large subterranean complex. For many thousands of years slaves toiled in the complex, creating artifacts and devices to enable the immortal Fay to continue their ceaseless pursuit of beauty. This ended some time during the great revolt and the complex become involved in creating the devils and demons. These were terrible, powerful creatures designed as weapons to obliterate those races which the Fay had once called slaves, but the great Fay civilisation finally collapsed before this terror could be released. During these final years the subterranean complex was captured by some of the free races and a massacre took place.

After the remaining Fay left this dimension or returned to their original spirit forms, the complex was abandoned and forgotten. For a few thousand years it was occupied only by animals and some of the darker, stranger creatures the Fay had unleashed. Slowly those free races which preferred to live underground, dwarves, orcs, goblins and more, grew and eventually their tunnels linked up with the old subterranean complex. Repeatedly the free races would try to occupy the the Bone Cavern [4.7 - 4.12] but the place was cursed. Every tribe or clan which tried to claim the complex was eventually overtaken by internal fighting and civil war.

Korvak & The Three Knights

Around one thousand years ago the humans in this area were living a tribal existence on the surface and worshipped devils and demons. A priestess called Korvak found a way into the subterranean complex and discovered treasure from the time of the Fay. Not gold or magic but a list of true names of devils - names which would give her control over some of the most powerful and dreadful creatures in existence. As a priestess she knew the dangers of dealing with such creatures who do not appreciate being summoned and controlled. Instead she selected a devil known as Strata and made a deal with it. She would give names of devils and demons, one at a time, to Strata so it could use them in the hellish politics of the lava pits to build its power base. In return, Strata would help Korvak destroy her enemies and build her own power base on the surface.

The pact worked out well for both Korvak and Strata. In time she had the power and wealth to build a temple [2.9] in the underground complex, but her list of names was also diminishing. She feared that once Strata knew every name on the list it would see no reason to help and might even decide to destroy her. To strength her protection from the demon she created a Circle of Betrayal, inscribing Strata's true name in to it. To sanctify and empower the circle she needed to commit an act of gross betrayal and she choose to break one of the deepest and most primal of all trusts. Korvak sacrificed her only child and used its blood to seal the circle. The next time Korvak summoned Strata, the demon was enraged. Not only was this human daring to control him but also his true name was engraved on the floor for all to see.

On the surface, a new power was growing. Knights, dedicated to honour and chivalry, were slowly claiming the surface land and destroying the devil-worshipping tribes. Korvak's rise to power was noticed by three knights, brothers-in-arms against demonic creatures. They explored the underground complex and discovered secrets even Korvak did not know, including a route to the temple which bypassed many of her defences. In the final attack they gained the element of surprise when by chance her normally trustworthy bodyguards were tempted away from their posts to drink wine and play a game of dice. What role Strata had in this is unknown. Even with this advantage the knights struggled to defeat Korvak, but with a element of luck they captured the priestess. Believing death would be too easy a punishment for one so foul, they placed her in the cells [4.4] to face an eternity of punishment. The knights attempted to destroy the Circle of Betrayal to prevent others summoning the demon but its magic was too strong.

A few hundred years ago, a goblin tribe drifted into the dungeon complex. Shunning the undead-filled lower caverns they occupied the temple and made it their home. One particularly bright goblin shaman realised what the temple and its circle could be used for but had the wits not to use it herself. For several centuries the goblins have sold access to the temple and the demon Strata to anyone with gold. The paying guest is guided into the temple, shown the circle and how to use it, then left alone. Whatever happens next is of no interest to the goblins who use the gold to trade with surface folk for fine weapons and luxuries. This arrangement angers the demon Strata but he is powerless to destroy the circle or attack the goblins.

The Baron Makes a Pact

Two years ago Erica De'Souf, the much-loved wife of Baron De'Souf, died and left the Baron heartbroken. He was never a popular figure, being withdrawn and awkward with people, but his wife was well-regarded and had handled much of the day-to-day business with ordinary folk. Without her he was lost, and became paranoid. Desperate for some way to return his wife to life he explored the dungeon, inspired by a half-remembered legend about the three knights, a priestess and a deal with a devil. He found the goblins and, using their instructions, summoned Strata. The demon realised that the Baron was mad enough to do the unthinkable. He promised the Baron his wife would be returned to this world but the Baron must remarry, father a child and bring the child to the temple. Strata also demanded a prisoner from the cells be brought along with the baby.

For the last eighteen months, Baron De'Souf has been putting the plan into action. Finding a suitable bride was not hard. In the complex and uncaring politics of the 100 Baronies there are plenty of people who will marry off their daughter to a baron without an heir. Fertility blessings from the priests and a few draughts of a potion procured from a witch ensured a swift pregnancy. As a final preparation the Baron dismissed some of his staff, people whose loyalty he could not be sure of, and hired some new people. The new retainers were outsiders and little more than ruffians but had less scruples than the old staff.

A week before the adventure starts, Baroness Pollyanna De'Souf went into labour. Mrs Miggans the midwife was called and, along with Mrs Stevens and Annabelle from the castle, attended on the birth of a baby girl. One of the Baron's men secretly sent word to the goblins in the dungeon that a changeling (a baby with strong goblin features) had been born and could be collected from one of the outbuildings near the keep. For the goblins this was not unusual. In the rural and wild baronies there is more contact between human and goblin than many suspect and plenty of humans have at least some goblin blood in them. The goblins duly collected the baby and the payment in gold coins which was left with the child. Only when the goblins returned to their home [2.7] and the baby examined that they discovered it was a perfectly normal human child. However, plenty of money had been left with the child and the goblins simply accepted it.

The next day the Baron 'discovered' the theft of the baby and one of his retainers also 'found' goblin tracks near the castle. Baroness Pollyanna was distraught and still weak from childbirth. The Baron ordered that she be kept in her room for the sake of her health with only Mrs Stevens and Annabelle allowed to tend to her. The Baron posted a reward for the return of the baby, but it was so low that no one would risk their life for it. After a couple of days he announced that if no one would save the child, he and his loyal retainers would have to do it.

Baron De'Souf ordered all the minor staff out of the castle and instructed his two remaining guards to seal the gates. This was for everyone's safety and no one was to enter or leave until the Baron returned. In full view of the town, the Baron and his eight retainers set out on foot for King's Vale [1.1]. They entered the tunnel leading to the entrance [1.2] and then stopped, waiting until nightfall and making sure no one was following them.

The Baron returned to the castle, entering via a secret tunnel, and reached his private chambers without the castle's two remaining guards noticing. The Baron told Pollyanna, Mrs Stevens and Annabelle that the Baroness must come with him but could not explain why. Though confused, none of the women objected, having no reason to distrust the Baron. The two staff likewise did not question their instructions to keep this secret and to pretend to everyone that the Baroness was still in her room.

A Personal Hell

Baroness Pollyanna did not suspect anything was wrong until she and the Baron were some distance from the castle. Only with the arrival of the retainers pulling a handcart with a coffin on it did she become scared and demanded to know what was happening. On a signal from the Baron she was bound, gagged and placed on the cart next to the coffin containing the remains of Baroness Erica De'Souf. The group headed into the dungeon, distracting the centipedes near the entrance with fresh meat [1.3], a trick the Baron learned from the goblins. As they pushed deeper, the group abandoned the handcart [1.4] and Pollyanna was made to walk while the coffin was carried by the retainers.

Taking the most direct route, the group reached the cells [4.4] and pushed Pollyanna into the one remaining empty room. His men then stormed into the cell containing Korvak, placing her in manacles as well as a gag and a hood. With retainers now carrying the coffin and Korvak, the group headed to the temple [2.9]. The goblins were somewhat surprised by the arrive of the Baron and his strange baggage train and even more surprised when he demanded the return of the baby. After some haggling, the Baron paid the goblins for the child and went into the temple itself.

Korvak was confused by her sudden kidnapping after a thousand years in a prison cell, but only when she heard the Baron invoking the rite of summoning and Strata's name did the panic start. She knew that even after all this time the demon would want its revenge. Her panic subsided when the hood was removed and she found herself in her own temple looking up at demon Strata. The Circle of Betrayal would protect her, the demon could not harm her while the circle was in place. Then she saw the baby and the look on the Baron's face as he lifted the child in one hand and the knife in another. She knew that expression. It had been on her own face as she did the unthinkable and murdered her own child. The circle was broken, Strata was free and the temple became hell for Korvak and all the mortals in the room.

Demon Strata had never enjoyed dealing with mortals. In fact it hated them and the inherent insult of being forced to trade with them as equals. However, the demon took great pleasure in fulfilling its side of the deal with the Baron. The pathetic mortal had been so desperate for the return of his wife that he had paid no attention to the wording of the pact. Strata could have done almost anything and still been within the terms of the deal. Bringing the dead woman back as a vengeful, bile-filled draug imbued with magic powers was an act of pure revenge on the mortal for daring to disturb the great demon. However, turning the Baron into one of the living dead — a creature whose soul would never die but whose flesh and bones would rot away until only a disembodied spirit remained — was an act of schadenfreudean pleasure. Then there was Korvak, who Strata immensely enjoyed killing and reanimating. Even the servants and the goblins had provided a brief but pleasurable distraction. His name was now obliterated from the temple and he doubted there was a mortal creature alive who knew it. The demon Strata smiled as he returned to the lava pits.

The events of the temple left the Baron's mind broken. He knew he was alive but could sense his body already starting to rot, plus his beloved Erica terrified him with her glowing red eyes. He wanted to run, wanted to escape the horrors around him and the crimes he had committed but something was pulling him further into the dungeon. The Baron knew the surface world was no longer open to him and that their new home awaited deep below the ground in a place as cursed as he was [4.10]. Loyally, his wife and retainers followed.

Dramatis Personae

Characters of Note:

De'Souf, Hanson (Baron of Mandelton)
The Baron was never a good man but he was at least an adequate one. Unbalanced by the death of his first wife, the Baron made a terrible decision and can now be found in the Great Hall [4.10].
De'Souf, Erica (Baroness of Mandelton, Deceased)
A kind and considerate person in life, much mourned by the people in the barony on her death two years ago. Her remains are now reanimated as a draug, a devilish undead creature, found with her husband in [4.10].
De'Souf, Pollyanna (Baroness of Mandelton)
A capable and strong young woman overwhelmed by grief and her husband's betrayal. She is trapped in [4.4].
Korvak (High Priestess)
A once-powerful figure in the region who was defeated and captured by the three knights. She is now undead and roams the temple she once built [2.9].
Strata (Demon)
A powerful devil within the deep and dark lava pits of the underworld, a position it gained through deals with Korvak. After settling some old scores and ensuring its name remains secret, the demon is once again back in the lava pits.
Three Knights
Three knights, whose names have been lost to history, defeated Korvak. The remains of the Knight of the Cup are in the Burial Chamber [2.5]. The Knight of the Staff's remains are in the Tomb [1.11]. The Knight of the Gem stands guard in the Machine Room [4.3]

Townsfolk:

Any of these people can found in the vicinity of the Three Knights Tavern:

Alderman Arnold
Plain-speaking farmer, she has a sharp eye for business.
Alderman Granville
Slightly pompous and well fed man of about 50. As leader of the town's Aldermen he is well versed in the local politics.
Alderman Southwell
Well-dressed and cheerful, he runs a shop providing clothes and materials to the better off and is always willing to gossip.
Anders Mence
Over-the-hill big-man and trouble-maker who is rarely outside of a tavern. As a young man he once went into the dungeon.
Angus Klakram
Dwarven trader who travels on a regular circuit around all the local settlements.
Hanovan Family
Hardworking family owners of the Three Knights Tavern. James (father), Mary (mother), Delia and Sam (teenage children) know most people in the town.
Mrs Miggans
The town's best midwife, present at the birth of the Baron's baby.
Tom Dour
Priest of the a local fertility goddess Fenig, and unofficial town historian.

Castle Staff:

Hardy
Officially a man-at-arms but he is nearly sixty and decrepit. Normally he is the nightwatchman but has found himself in charge of the entire castle since the Baron's departure. Not very bright but loyal to the De'Souf family whom he has served for most of his life.
Thomas
The youngest man-at-arms in the Baron's service. He is barely fourteen, painfully thin and still growing. Though enthusiastic he is not smart and has only had the most basic training with the sword he carries.
Mrs Stevens
For most of her fifty years, Mrs Stevens has worked in the castle. Like Hardy she is very loyal to the family, but she has more sense. She could not believe the baby was stolen and when she saw the Baroness being taken away she knew something was wrong. Only her oath to the Baron is keeping her in the castle.
Annabelle
At eighteen, she is only a couple of years older than the new Baroness and has taken on the role of big sister. She helped the midwife with the birth and like the Baroness was heartbroken when the child went missing. After five days of waiting for news she is despondent and despairing about the child and the Baroness.

Dungeon Denizens:

Augar, Joseph
Former Baron of Easterling, also known as the Tyrant of Easterling. Prisoner in [4.4].
Bak-Bak-Rak
Leader of her goblin tribe [3.10].
Denite Thunderstone
Dwarven mine priest [3.8].
Fak-Kon
Luckless goblin, prisoner in [4.4].
Salasi-Salas
Entropian pond chief [2.4].

Other Names:

Baron De'Monfit
Ruler of Upper Cresswell, a neighbouring barony.

Geography

Easterling
A old barony near to Mandelton, previously ruled by Baron Augar but now a wild, lawless place.
Fenlay
Largest town in Mandelton and the location of the Baron's keep.
Harrain Hills
An area in the Mandelton barony and home to a dwarven mining settlement.
Hundred Baronies, The
The common name for lands in this region. Nominally ruled by a King, the area is populated by numerous barons who each has absolute rule over a small area.
King's Vale
An entrance to the dungeon, only three miles from the town of Fenlay.
Mandelton
Barony ruled over by Baron De'Souf.
Nearfarthing
A barony a few days ride away, birthplace of Pollyanna De'Souf.
Upper Cresswell
A barony neighbouring Mandelton, ruled by Baron De'Monfit.

Fay Magics

In the dungeon there are a number of Fay magical devices still operating, including teleport doorways. These allow the characters to move quickly between fixed points. All the doorways are the same.

Automatic
A glowing, shimmering doorway filled with pale blue light. Above the doorway are strange writings.
Easy
The language and even the alphabet of the writing is unknown. — The doorways have a strong magical aura of an unknown type.
Moderate
The magic controlling the doorways relates to warping dimensions and space.
Hard
The doorways might be some form of teleport. — The style of magic and the writing hints at the doorway being a relic of the ancient Fay civilisation.

The doorways only work when someone has stepped wholly through them. Inanimate objects thrown or fired into a doorway come straight back out of the same doorway directly at the character. The writing above the doorways cannot be deciphered but anyone taking the time to check will notice that each pair of doors has the same symbol on them. For simplicity these are known as alpha and beta.

  • Alpha goes between the doorways in [1.11] and [1.7].
  • Beta goes between [4.11] and [1.7].
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open/oneshots/demon_strata/backstory.txt · Last modified: 2014/03/03 13:15 by darth_tigger
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