Friday, June 8, 2012

The Demon-Queen of Dharijor

So, spent a this week night with friends, eating curry and watching the Queen's 60th Jubilee Concert.  We are not committed royalists, but seeing increasingly aged singers from past decades get wheeled out for a few hits was entertaining.

If you've followed any of the media around it, you'll know that Grace Jones made a big impression.  Especially when you consider she's 64 years old. And rather mad, but in a nice way...

It would be amiss not to us THIS for inspiration.

Hence, any PCs in my campaign that head to the far southern lands, across the Pale Sea, past the land of the Neogi Slavemasters, where the Tharsk Tribes defend their lands to the death, and the Plains of Tarkesh, may find the mysterious realm of Dharijor.

All that has been known about this land, to both me and my players, is that the occasional tall, limber, muscular androgynous warrior of impressive skill, with ebon skin and hair, and strange fish-like helms, will roam the known lands, seeking work as a mercenary or fighter for not insignificant amounts of gold. They speak little of their home lands, except its name, and give no information about whether they have been exiled, sent on a mission, escaped or are seeking their own fortune. None work for more than two years in any one location or for one employer, and they are known to vanish from public view for long occasions, making determining anything about them difficult.

What has been pieced together from long years of investigation, rumours from lost or mad sailors, and the garbled stories of escaped slaves and other travellers from the south, is a strange story. Dharijor is a fair and green realm, with the Theocracy of Tarkesh to the north, the mighty mountain range called the Peaks of the Dead to the south, and vast forests to the east and west. It is cut off from the sea by a Tarkesh city, but twisting tunnels pass through the mountains to the Singing Desert beyond.

The realm is civilised, and all citizens work hard from dawn to dusk, building, processing, transporting goods and farming. Each has their place and profession, and none will leave their allotted tasks unfinished or be satisfied with sloppy craftsmanship. One traveller, Marlesse Frogfriend, who escaped the realm magically, said it reminded her of the endeavours of ants.

Aside from providing a somewhat higher quality of life for all citizens than anywhere else on this world, some of the effort is directed to building onto a vast, white walled Tower that looms over the central plains. It houses enough people to be a city, and is ruled by the Demon-Queen, whom all are devoted to, despite her benign madness and her need to eat the heart of a virgin daily.

What is not known to any outsiders, and very few inhabitants, is that the industriousness was established by an ancient demon who discovered the land and its sparse population over a thousand years ago. It cloned the strongest and most obedient of the tribespeople, and infused them with a need to work for the good of their ruler (i.e. the demon). This need manifests as a subconscious group mind, where the pressure of the thoughts of many can overwhelm the random thoughts of rebellion or escape. All worked to provide the demon with comforts, slaves and sacrifices.

640 years ago, somehow a small group of the demon's most trusted guards turned on it and attempted to slay it. Although seven of the elite warriors were slain, one managed to pierce the demon's hearts and so banished it. In doing so, she absorbed the earthly essence of the demon, and a fair degree of its power.

This has made her immortal, and ordained her as the ruler of the realm. Slowly the industry of the land has changed to reflect her wishes and views (less sacrifices and more free will) but she is bound by the demon nature of her power (hence the need to consume hearts) and her people are constrained by the fact that their nature and civilisation were designed to support their immortal ruler.

She is mad, but aside from speaking at, rather than to people, laughing at nothing, seeing imaginary servants and not understanding no, it does not affect her at all. She is also still a fearsome warrior and her falchion is coated with acidic demon bile. Visitors to the realm are escorted to the central tower, where they will await an audience with the Queen. They may be executed without warning, treated to an exquisite dinner, quizzed or even tasked to entertain the Queen with stories or riddles. Any who manage to capture the attention of the Queen may temporarily restore some sanity, and she will task them with a Gonzo quest to help her people break their indenture. This will involve dimension crossing, time travelling and playing with God-like figures. Good luck.

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