Monday, 24 September 2012

Redwyrm


Redwyrm is one of the sacred sites of Balazar, a 100m long artifical mound shaped like a snake about to eat an oval object. The mound itself is turfed over but the whole area has a peculiar form of red ochre under a thin layer of topsoil. The ochre is red when the Red Moon is full, and darkens as the moon darkens to become black. It is dug up from a pit in the oval at the mouth.


According to the shamen there the ochre used to be always red, until the rising of the Red Moon 375 years ago, when its peculiar transformations began. Legends say the Redwyrm was a vast monster that terrorised the land during the Godtime, slain by Foundchild and buried on this site and the ochre was its congealed blood, and he showed the warriors of prehistoric Balazar how to paint themselves in the ochre and gain great power. Later, when the dragonewts and their human servants dominated the land the Redwyrm warriors were their great foes and never accepted their rule, and were suppressed and the site abandoned. When Balazar came the Red Wyrm itself raised itself out of the ground and attacked him only to be defeated once again, and the Redwyrm warriors were re-formed and went with him to Dragon Pass to fight in the Dragonkill War.

The site was a mustering point for the old rulers of Elkoi on their raids into the lowlands, but when the Lunar Empire invaded the Redwyrm warriors allied themselves with them and helped overthrow the Tiger clan (who ruled the city at the time) and install the Black Dog clan. They are allies still, and act as guides and scouts to Lunar patrols, and they hire themselves out as mercenaries to the lowland kings and queens of Tarsh, Holay, Imther and Vanch.

The Redwyrm warriors are great rivals of the Crow warriors, and bands of men from the two warrior societies at least hurl insults at each other whenever they meet and frequently fight.

Follower

To enrol as a Redwyrm warrior one must dance the length of the mound on a night of the full moon painted in red ochre while being avoiding being assaulted by spirit-snakes, a Heroquest of Resonance 40%. The River Snake clan has always been an enemy of the Redwyrm and the resonance is at +10%, and if the person has ever been an ally of the Crow Stone is is at +20%.

He must make the right moves (Dance 20%), avoid the snakes (Evade 40% or Stealth 40%), survive being bitten if he fails (Resilience 60%), and stare the wyrm itself in the eyes without flinching (Persistence 20%). Failure results in the warrior having a mortal fear of snakes until he gets it right.

The Shamen teach followers Speedart, Mobility, Javelin, Club and Shield combat, Spear and Shield combat and Lore (Tribal Warfare). The follower can now see snake spirits, and gets +20% on resilience rolls when resisting snake venom.

He may be called up by the cult to serve for a maximum of 49 days in every year with no pay, and while on operations must wear non-magical black and red warpaint and must obey the commands of his superiors explicitly and without question or face immediate dismissal and cursing by the snake spirits. This is a great contrast to most tribal warbands who fight only if they feel they have a stake in the fight, and may abandon their warchief and go home if they disagree with him with no more than a few harsh words exchanged.

Redwyrm Warrior (Votary)

The Redwrym cult skills are: Stealth, Resilience, Evade, any Ranged Combat, Lore (Tribal Warfare), Lore (Poisons) and Athletics. Any follower with 30% in five of these skills and the Speedart spell can try and become a Redwyrm warrior. There may only be 49 members of the cult at any one time, and when a member dies a competition is held at the Redwym to see which follower will be promoted, or a follower may challenge any existing member to a single combat and take his place.

Warriors get to wear the ochre warpaint of the cult (see below), and bind one snake spirit, and carry the distinctive snake club and shield. This is a heavy baton with a round head with two stone fangs which may carry poison, and a small round hide shield marked with a sinuous red snake.

He must obey the orders of his superiors without question, even if it means taking part in a suicidal attack. Redwyrm warriors are respected for their devotion and any who disobey orders are subjected to the snake bite ordeal. He gets one share of any proceeds in loot or pay.

Redwyrm Captain (Seer)

Must have 75% in five cult skills and may learn Oratory, Lore (Lunar Provinces), Speak Lunar and Lore (Lizardkind). This last skill gives them the ability to know what wyrms, dragons, wyverns, dragonewts and snakes weaknesses are and increases their chance of a critical hit against them in combat. Captains may bind up to ½ their Charisma in snake spirits, with spirits increasing stealth, movement speed and strike rank being the most popular. Fetishes involve snake skulls and snakeskin headbands and clothing. He gets seven shares in the proceeds of any mission.

Captains can quest to bind curse spirits, phantom snakes that sneak up on enemies and bite them and enchant reptile slaying arrows and darts, which does not make them at all popular with the Crocodile and River Snake clans, as these weapons will also slay their clan members due to their spiritual connections.

One of the most famous captains, Cadwallaun is not even a Balazaring, but a Holayan soldier who worked alongside the Redwyrms when he was part of the Lunar garrison at Elkoi and decided to join (or was perhaps ordered to by his superiors, the better to impress this potentially dangerous native unit and get them 'onside'). Another captain, Razadan Longtooth, is a Tiger clan member and a Seer of Jakaleel as well, commanding moon spirits.

Redwyrm Shaman (Shaman)

There is only one shaman, Ulvarang Seven Snakes of the Great Sable clan, and he rules his warband with an iron rod, literally; he has a an iron warclub that was gifted to him by the current head of the Lunar garrison, and wears a Lunar officers chainmail hauberk. Since he can claim 49 shares from any pay or loot whether present on an operation or not, and the Redwyrms have been pretty much taken on full time as scouts and enforcers by the Lunar Provincial army he has accumulated a lot of personal wealth for a Balazaring. He wears a gold ring, dresses his wife in fine linen clothing and jewelled necklaces and indulges himself with imported wine from a silver tankard. He is a friend of King Glyptus, has a house in Elkoi and spends a lot of time at the palace. He also has a well made lodge out at the mound he has been planning on replacing with a lowland style thatched roundhouse.

The shaman appoints his successor from among the captains, and his word is final. Cadwallaun is the current number two, and Ulvarang is confident that his warband will stick to their oaths of loyalty and accept him without question, for all the fact that he is a foreigner. Mutterings among the troops have been ruthlessly quelled with administration of the poison ordeal and in some cases a smart blow to the back of the head with his iron club.

Redwrym Shaman may only serve until they are 49 years old, or until they are too old, ill or wounded to do the snake dance. After that they are ritually sacrificed to the snake spirits and, after sky burial for a few weeks, their bones are interred in the oval earthwork at the snakes mouth. Ulvarang is 47, but still hale and hearty and likely to remain so as he hasn't personally led a warband for a decade or more, so the issue of his 'retirement' and the succession is going to be a live one quite soon.

Hiring Rates

Redwyrms can be recruited for 7 or 49 day contracts, minimum 1 lunar a day for a follower, 7 for a Warrior, 49 for a Captain. More is charged for a known danger and the Shaman will negotiate looting rights and a cut from the ransom of any captives taken. Ulvarang only accepts Lunar Empire minted coin these days, and expects the money to be paid directly to him, up front. The days when they would fight for bundles of hides and right to take a few slaves are long gone. On the plus side the Redwryms are very reliable, and will fight to the death for their employer.

The Red-Black Ochre

The shaman enchants lumps of this in a yearly ceremony at the sacred time, in batches of 49 lumps good for 3+1d3 applications each.

Full Moon (Red) +1 AP, +10% Persistence, +10% Resilience, +10% Combat
Crescent Come/Crescent Go +1 AP, +10% Persistence
Empty Half/Full Half +10% Stealth
Black/Dying +20% Stealth, -10% Persistence, +3 magic points

Favourite Poisons

Sleeping Wyrm
Potency 60+1d20%. Injected, Onset Time 1d3 rounds, Resistance time 1 round, Duration 1d6 hours, Resistance: Persistence, Conditions: Exhaustion
Each failed resistance roll causes one extra step of fatigue until the target is asleep.

Red Venom
Potency 20+1d20%, halved at Black/Dying Moon, doubled at Full Moon, Injected or Ingested Onset time 5 minutes, Resistance time 1 day, Duration 2d6 days, Resistance: Insight, Conditions: Sapping, Confusion, Hallucination
This slow acting poison is a potent hallucinogen, making the victim a gibbering wreck, convinced the snakes are writhing out of the ground, the trees and ultimately even his comrades,and unless restrained he will run away and cower in terror. A favourite for hit and run attacks on large groups, slows advance of enemy forces immensely as they have to care for insane comrades for days before they calm down. If the Rewyrms can sneak into a camp and poison the food, so much the better.

Black Venom
Potency 20+1d20%, Injected, Onset time 1d3 rounds, Resistance time one roll, Duration 5d10 minutes, Resistance: Resilience, Conditions: Paralysis
Affects the hit location only, doing 1d6 extra damage, which is regained at 1 HP per hour after the effect ends. If it hits the chest, breathing is affected causing exhaustion, if it hits the head the victim must roll 1d4; on a 1 they become dumb, 2, deaf, 3 blind and 4 roll twice.

Ordeal Poison
Potency special%, Ingested, Onset time 1d10 minutes, Resistance time 1 hour, Duration 6+1d6 hours, Resistance: Resilience, (Dance, Athletics) Conditions: Death
Taken by disobedient Redwyrms, the effects are mitigated by constant movement, usually constant strenuous dancing, but in fact merely running and jumping will do the trick. The first instance of disobedience is punished with potency 30+1d20% poison, the second by a more potent batch of 50+1d20% and so on. Each hour of dancing will cause a check vs fatigue, and the poison will reduce DEX permanently by 1, even if resisted.