City Backdrop: Languard

Storied Languard—capital of Ashlar and its greatest city—stands hard against Hard Bay’s turbulent, stormy waters. To the north lies the Mottled Spire’s brooding spray-drenched mass, the curse-haunted ruins of Greystone and Gloamhold’s doom-wreathed halls. Ashlar’s greatest—indeed only—city, Languard is a noisy, dirty place. Here, amid broad, muddy streets teeming with life and shadow-mantled, danger-filled alleyways there is little beneath the sun that cannot be had somewhere—for a price.

Few Languardians overly concern themselves with the brooding terrors lurking within Gloamhold’s halls, but for others, the legendary, benighted ruin draws them to Languard as a moth to a flame. For within Languard’s stout walls live, plot and scheme a surprising number of adventurers, freebooters and mercenaries all lured here by the treasures said to lie but a scant few miles to the north.

Village Backdrop: Laewas

 

The village of Laewas is inhabited entirely by ghosts. How did the inhabitants of Laewas die? You can ask them, but even they aren’t sure. From a distance, the village looks completely normal if a little ramshackle and decayed. Farmers, carpenters and housewives roam the streets, carrying baskets of apples or shepherding packs of dirty children. They laugh, gossip and greet outsiders under the heat of the sun. It’s almost easy to forget everybody here is dead. But as the days roll by, the ghosts lose their memories. They are stuck in an endless loop, doomed to constantly relive their final hours. These shades are totally unaware of their current plight. They are convinced they are still living, breathing creatures in a perfectly normal farming village.


Places of Power: The Last Resort

The Last Resort sits on a lonely stretch of nearly forgotten road passing through withered, brambly forest and cracked, barren hills. The collection of inns comprising the Last Resort offers a variety of services, some for more peculiar tastes than others for it is not only a waypoint for living travellers, but is also the interim destination for those who have died without a clear path to the afterlife. These wayward souls have a chance to account for their actions in life to improve their ultimate lot. Those lost souls whose final destination remains unclear, linger on at the inn—doomed to dwell there until their place in the afterlife becomes clear.

Village Backdrop: Masquerade

A troupe of masked actors and comics crew the floating village-theatre of Masquerade. The village—really three rickety barges that visits both riverfront and coastal villages, hides a secret many guests would find unpalatable—most of the performers suffer from leprosy. The infected—generally those with very early stages of the illness—hide behind their masks, costumes and gaiety. Forced to keep moving to keep their terrible secret hidden the folk of Masquerade are on a perpetual pilgrimage to visit holy sites in hopes of a magical cure for their horrendous affliction. The worst afflicted are kept below, treated with kindness and cares as the village floats onwards seeking salvation. However, the true ruler of Masquerade is an even more unpalatable guest—a vampire—but no ordinary queen of the night, no simple bloodsucker is the so-called Silent Queen for an ancient vow binds her more tightly than the stoutest chain….

Village Backdrop: Lady Cross

On what was once the lonely crossroads of two rarely used roads sits the village of Lady Cross, a tight community of stone houses surrounded by a high stone wall. Now a popular rest stop for travellers and merchants alike, Lady Cross is known for the heady spirits distilled in the village and sold at the local inn, The Lady’s Rest. Unknown to most, it is a different type of spirit the villagers fear—a sinister secret wreathed in foul treachery and hysteria that speaks to the darkness and greedy lurking in men’s souls.

Places of Power: Khla’Akear

Once the home of a violent clan of rakshasas, the holy stupa of Khla’Akear is now the monastery of the Yellow Dawn. This order of clerics, monks and wizards defeated the rakshasas, entrapping their souls within Khla’Akear’s dome. Today, the order harnesses the rakshasas’ spiritual energy to perform feats of healing, curse breaking and exorcisms of evils spirits. Khla’Akear’s wizards plumb the depths of new research into enchantment and illusion magic, the forte of the imprisoned rakshasas. Meanwhile, the Yellow Dawn’s monks continue to train, developing new techniques and strategies to defeat supernatural threats. Visitors come from across the land to learn from the Yellow Dawn, explore the stupa’s famous library and train with the fierce warrior monks. Yet, the rakshasas, removed from the cycle of reincarnation, yearn for freedom and a chance at revenge on the Yellow Dawn.

Village Backdrop: Oakhurst

The village of Oakhurst squats deep in the gnarled boughs of the Tangled Woods. The Lonely Coast’s smallest and most isolated village, only the most daring or the most desperate call it home, surrounded as it is on all sides by monstrous denizens and half-goblin tribes. Its dilapidated buildings sink into the squalor of the streets, presenting a loathsome and unwelcoming appearance. Oakhurst’s villagers are no better. Mostly trappers and hunters, the grim folk of Oakhurst distrust outsiders and keep to strange ways and customs. Visitors are strongly discouraged from overstaying their welcome.

Yet, Oakhurst’s darkest secret lies in a cave situated in a nearby cliff. On full moons, the villagers lock their doors and shutter their windows, pretending they do not hear the incessant flapping of wings in the sky overhead. Oakhurst’s oldest family, the Wearnes, long ago made a pact with a fell god, gaining the power of lycanthropy. Years of inbreeding to keep the line pure have driven the family of werebats to the brink of madness. High in the cave, the Wearnes participate in vile rites to their dark god, offering worship to one of its hideous servants. As the family slips further into insanity and their devotions more heinous, Oakhurst has become more dangerous for the unwary than it ever has before.

Village Backdrop: Hosford

The quaint village of Hosford rests along the Cliffway of the Lonely Coast. The industrious folk of Hosford diligently work the area’s largest mine, digging deep into the cliffs for ores and gems. However, decades ago, a large section of the mine suddenly collapsed into the sea, taking a chunk of the cliffs with it along with a handful of small homes. Out of this tragedy was born opportunity as the collapse created a sheltered cove and natural harbour for small fishing boats. Thus, in addition to their mine, the citizens of Hosford ply the coastline, narrowly avoiding the sharp rocks just below the water that would doom a larger ship.

Yet, terror now grips Hosford. Folk have recently gone missing, including the former village reeve. A sea drake secretly stalks the coastline, fed on fresh human sacrifices by a senile old druid who believes the creature to be some sort of god. The fortress of Caer Syllan has dispatched a new reeve, an ambitious, inquisitive young man to look into the disappearances but so far all he has uncovered are old grudges as neighbour accuses neighbour of these recent crimes.