Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Scrying Spire of the Spindly Matron

Cruised past this post today:

Which I liked the feel of and so since during the summer time when I ought to be working I thieve away time and fritter away pencil lead... I give you a smallish area to drop into an otherwise dismal and boring area in your thing.  I have been reading Monsterbrains and looking at P. Bruegel on line and thinking about Calvinism and Class Warfare and Oppression.  Also, the medieval-influenced work of Brian Froud in Master Snickup's Cloak, but I digress.

0: the outskirts of a small remote village that is quiet and genteel. The citizenry are well dressed and make efforts to remain low-key. The pianoforte in the pub (The Black Gööse) has been silenced with silky pillows and the local pipeweed is pleasingly aromatic. Everyone seems to be doing well, financially, somewhat uncharacteristic for the region. Loud noises or revelry draw the ire of the Matron in the Spire, which looms nearby shrouded in mists and smoke. A night visit from the apologetic guards of the Matron (1d20 of them) - see below) will punish offenders but not in a lethal manner - perhaps a fine, or a stern talking-to. Particularly rude travelers will be jailed by the Sherrif, a fat and nervous man who maintains the status quo. There are no children in town, at least on the streets, and the local kirk/kerk has been shuttered and the priest run out of town some years ago. Young adults run to and fro (very quietly) bearing parcels wrapped from local shop owners, toward the spire if they are followed, and up a winding trail that is worn down from foot traffic. As high and dangerous as is fitting for the setting.  The spire is bigger on the inside than out, and a plume of smoke always puffs lazily from a chimney on the northeast face

1) a large handful (1d3 times 3 plus the number of PCs) of cross-eyed and pockmarked youths linger about, here, perhaps on the trail or just below the steps of the cave entrance. Each wears a black dunce cap and a false beard.  They dice or play at cards and smoke pipes (the young men and women) and chuckle silently and write crude notes to each other. Each has a parcel on his or her arm or waist or back. They will intercept those who approach and barter at them, attempting to swindle PCs of interesting items or perishable foods. If attacked, they will run off but if pressed will defend themselves with shaving razors, awls, or slingshots.  Their parcels contain herbs, meat, noodles, local mushrooms, and seemingly valueless trinkets.

2) the paymaster Midas is here, with Che the Lumbering Wood Golem who is partly a chest. There are also spindly Guards dressed in tattered livery - tall and drawn and skeletal, sewn up bulging hide bags of bones and buttons and ticking gears.  They each have a personality determined at random, but all share the quality of apologetic interest in conversation (quiet, and discouraged by Midas). Midas is a diminutive chain golem, made of lockets in which centuries of star-crossed romances can be gleaned: suicides, plague victims, unrequited young love, syphilis, mononucleosis -- tragedies each.  He will purchase with silver any parcels the PCs bring after a quick sniff and rattle. Food is paid for  based on the rotten-ness, herbs are valued highly and trinkets will be paid for with possibly a golden guilder or doubloon. If the characters respectfully inquire, they may be given a request for a rare ingredient which can be sourced nearby at some risk. Three or four of these filled in a timely fashion will earn an audience with the otherwise frantically busy Matron who will take time for her busy viewing schedule to meet with the PCs. Each time the characters fulfill a request they will receive a beautifully penned thank-you note written in a spidery scrawl on the back of a recipe card that bears a cantrip that any character may learn regardless of class or profession (if they can read). Midas will swindle the characters as best as he is able and barter shrewdly to save expenses. Around the corner behind a barred gate there is a pile of mouldering cast offs that are labelled "return to sender" - crawling with bony chitterers and mites and plague-fleas, but possibly having some minor (often detrimental) enchantment. The guards have bardiches for arms and are durable and don't feel pain but will befriend any characters that listen to their complaints of burst seems and aching bones and loose buttons.

3) the Ledge overlooks a chasm that drops into nothingness - possibly a direct route (should the PC survive) into the Christian hell.  The smell is somewhat disagreeable; rotten food, brimstone, notes of decay and corruption.  Large flies (possibly demons, as needed) buzz around.  The Fishers march in a counter-clockwise fashion - these are skeletal forms with their legs replaced by stilts, with wicker baskets/creels on their backs, black dunce caps on their heads, and scoop nets or fishing poles where arms might be.  They plod in circles and their stilts adjust to infinity to bridge the chasm, but as they go to the north, the stilts adjust to about 50 feet or so below the level of the ledge, where piles of bones, tin plates, and snapping jaws are heard rustling and clanging.  The fishers scoop up the tin plates that Mommy drops over her escarpment, and pile them on the edge opposite the entry ledge.  They are quite deft with their fishing lines and can snatch the weapons from attacker's hands at some distance.  They also shuttle parcels over to the other side.  They complain of monotony and dizziness and plod wobbly forever, making circuits every 5 to 10 minutes at a steady clip.  There are always 3 within view from the ledge, one nearby, one arriving, and one departing to the north around the corner.

4) Receiving - Porter is a squat leathery form with a giant frog's skull for a head, receiving parcels and shuttling them to the cook, and bringing request tickets and letters from Mommy.  He is always thirsty and will gladly guzzle alcoholic beverages although no amount will slake his thirst.  Potions requested by Mommy will sometimes not arrive and he will blame the crew and villagers further down the supply chain.  Aggression will cause him to flee immediately, to tell Mommy what is happening and then spells will surely follow.

5) The Kitchen - a giant woodburning oven is here - stoked by an endless supply of wood from a magical hopper and the occasional greasy body of naughty delivery-people.  Cooking is hard work and so the cooks are rotated out, on any given day three are frantically moving hither and thither to the pantry to the southeast, and the Maitre D and Porter shuttle the tin plates to Mommy in her scrying chamber.  The Maitre D always is snooty, and the cooks on staff always exhibit the most outrageous stereotypical accents determined at random; they each remember those with whom they interact but have little time for others.  They give ingredient orders to the Porter, who gives them to the Fishers, who gives them to Midas, who gives them to the Delivery Men and Women.  The food they make always radiates magic, and in addition to other randomly determined potion effects each dish will turn back the ingester's age by 1 year and provide a full feeling that will subside as soon as the eater leaves the room in which it was eaten, and also will make him or her very hungry again a short time later.  They defend themselves with large non-magical spoons, knives, cleavers, serving forks, etc.  The simmering cookpot/cauldron bubbles and roils, and always dispenses a bowl of soup flavored in the cuisine of the Cook that interacts with the PCs, so favors and flattery and group dynamics may benefit the PCs.  The Head Cook on duty always has the serving ladle; the others bear wicked and unclean kitchen tools

6: The pantry holds a staggering assortment of rare ingredients and food stuffs in various states of decay; an alchemist's nightmare since nothing is clearly labeled and if a label is present it's often contrary to the contents...  withered vegetables and hanging meats and fowl and crawling things of all kinds - a PC not paying attention could actually get lost in a extradimensional space unless accompanied by a Cook or the Porter.  The Maitre D will never enter the pantry since he is not trusted by the Head Cook who may or may not be on duty at any given time...

7> Mommy's Scrying Chamber - an enormous, frail, withered, spidery demon-woman with spindly spider arms and legs is nestled comfortably on a pile of pillows before a shimmering silvery mirror in a great carved wooden frame.  The mirror shimmers and shifts and shows scenes from the multiverse, and it literally trickles and drips silver pieces onto the floor that the Maitre D gives to the Porter who then brings them to Midas...  Mommy has a hearing horn, a pad of paper, an inkwell, and an ornate feather pen - she takes endless notes and occasionally jots down a request for a meal or potion or some ingredient.  Her horn allows her to hear bad gossip as far away as the town, and she is angered by loud noises there, as well, including the cries of babes and the pitter patter of little feet.  She is constantly on the lookout for some clue in the mirror and will distractedly converse with PCs for whom she has sent.  One hour a day she leaves the room and journeys up the flue to another dimension and then comes right back to renew her scrying...  The scrying ages her and so she eats plates of food almost continuously and pitches the tin plate over the edge of the eastern drop-off, where they are worried by the Nibblers (see below) and then fished up again by the stilted Fishers.  In a pinch she will cast any spell the dm sees fit but she particularly enjoys paralyzing, webbing, or poisoning rude visitors for inclusion in the pantry stores, since these meals provide surcease from the effects of aging.  She can become a Patron for suitable wizards in DCC.  Smoke curls up from the Chasm, through the Kitchen, where it combines with cooking smells to become quite nice, and then it flows out the Flue...

8... The Flue goes to any of several dimensions; the Christian Limbo, a far-away Space Hulk conglomeration, a parallel reality, and several post-apocalyptic futures.  Mommy is careful only to have the most trusted agents climb The Flue, since what she needs may be scryed there in the mirror.  If an agent or party of agents dies in the far-away, she typically retrieves them and turns them into staff members.  Entering The Flue without Mommy's permission is sure to be punished harshly and may lead to grounding or spankings or worse, but the staff always gossips merrily about these events since they relieve the humdrum monotony of day-to-day life in the Spire.

9.  The Dishes - in the dishpit, that is the pile of bones and scraps and tin plates that mount in the recess below Mommy's bedroom "window", Nibblers clean the plates off and fight for the scraps.  There are always 1d6 +3 Nibblers fighting and playing in the pile of Dishes, and they hate to have their meals taken away by the Fishers, and they occasionally make a snack of the clumsier ones that trip and fall off their stilts on their rounds.  The Nibblers are vicious and bony and perpetually hungry and will befriend anyone who offers them a real morsel of actual food, since what they generally get is spoiled sauce and stale crumbs.  Plates fly down from above like falling leaves; such is the pace of Mommy's eating.  if a Nibbler is killed, then it will be replaced that evening after dinner from the bones that litter the area and it will become more corporeal the more it eats (which is never very much...).  A fully fledged Nibbler will be set upon by its jealous litter mates and devoured; these look sort of like reptilian bird-wolves with beady eyes but the forms vary immensely depending upon the energies from the Flue...

If Mommy is killed or driven off somehow - since she is frail although powerful - the village will face an immediate economic crisis as trade with her will naturally cease.  Food will pile up in the village and rot, since they are plain-eating folks with simple tastes.  Itinerant preachers will return and begin their sermonizing about taking up with sorcerers.  The church will demand participation in weekly and eventually daily services.  This eventuality will likely affect the region for leagues away and the silver she provides will be taken out of circulation, and the normally pious folks will degenerate and become desperate - starting with the younger Delivery men and Women who will take to banditry and rapine and dancing-too-closely.  The Sherriff will begin to plot against Helleborine - the next town over - and will likely begin to plot with that city's Were-rat population to return to illicit narcotics trade.  It was the custom before Mommy arrived to harass travelers and take their belongings on the pretense of some crime, but since Mommy planted her spire this has not been economically feasible nor necessary.  Any surviving staff members of Mommy's will leak out into the environs and beg from passers-by, bore them with complaints, and enter into the welfare system.

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