Characters of Cimmeria: Jevaninada II

Time to talk about the BBEG (Big Bad Evil Guy), King Jevaninada II,  leader of the evil Xorians and first of the draconic vampire Dragovinians.

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King Jevaninada II leads the Xorian people both as their monarch and as the living avatar of Blendegad’s divine might. Jevaninada II grew up under the feminist regency of his mother, Queen Anajakaze. Blendegad attacked and turned Jev into a Dragovinian on the same night that he became King. Jevaninada spent twenty years undoing his mother’s reforms and spreading his condition to those he deemed worthy within Xoria. Over the last five years, King Jevaninada led an invasion into Eastern Cimmeria against the Second Alliance. Continue reading

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Phoenix

The original concept for this city was created by one of the players in my group. His internet pseudonym is Middle_Snu, so he should get some of the credit for making Phoenix what it is. I expanded on his ideas to write what you see below.

Phoenix

At the merging of the Curving Stream and Delain Tribute lies Phoenix, a city of some 120,000 inhabitants. Phoenix has always revolved around guilds. Every Phoenixian worth their salt belongs to one of the influential guilds of the city. Guilds are legally allowed to kill unlicensed professionals who fall under their jurisdiction if those individuals refuse a position within the guild. As a result, being blacklisted from a guild generally means a move to a new city or a change in profession. Strangely, even the thieves of Phoenix have an official guild. In actuality, “thieves” keep the streets clean acting as a police force, assuming that a sum of protection money is paid to them. Unlicensed thieves, in the meantime, are tortured for days upon being captured.

Phoenix is a major trade center between Western and Eastern Cimmeria. Many things can be bought in Phoenix, including people. The Slaver’s Guild is a major force, though there isn’t much traffic in newly captured slaves. Phoenix imports a lot of metal from Jord, and grain barges moving upriver for the Dwarves are not an uncommon sight.

Spellcasters have a special place in the guild system. Sorcerers and wizards must register for the Mage’s Guild in order to be able to cast spells legally (costs 50 gp), but clerics, even those of the Titans, may cast freely. Because full members of the Mage’s Guild are required to create a certain number of magical items for sale every year, Phoenix has a booming trade in magical items. Arcane scrolls, potions, and magical items can generally be bought here for as much as 10% below market price. On the other hand, selling magical items without being a member of the Mage’s Guild or a member of the local clergy is a capital crime.

The Mage’s Guild and the rights of clergy were recently upset by the Xorian takeover of Phoenix. All resident clerics of the Olympian pantheon were given a choice, convert to Dragoviniysm or face execution. Most of the clerics chose to die rather than betray their gods. The members of the Mage’s Guild were given a similar choice, but they accepted. The majority of the mage journeymen were turned into Dragovinians to become the new elite of Phoenix.

There was an Adventurer’s Guild in Phoenix prior to the Xorian invasion. The members were simple individuals for the most part who hired themselves out to the highest bidder. Groups of six or more adventurers could be hired for contracts, although prices were steep. There was a ill-defined barrier between the Mercenary’s Guild and the Adventurer’s Guild as to the proper jurisdictions of each. This disagreement had sparked street-fighting in the past, but the difference between the two guilds were set aside when the Xorians approached the city. During the Battle of Phoenix, the Adventurer’s Guild was wiped out. Many of the mercenaries fought on to the last while the guild leaders of Phoenix escaped. Those who surrendered were given the choice of turning to Dragovinians. Many accepted this offer. The two headmasters of the Mercenary’s Guild, Gradorian and Junai, escaped and are rebuilding a military force in Jipangu to combat the Xorians.

Prior to the Xorian invasion the Thief’s Guild oversaw the day to day business of the city and, with the assistance of the clerics, arbitrated any disputes between the guilds. The laws of the city fluctuated based on what guild a person belonged to. Nonmember visitors to the city fell under the Thief’s Guild jurisdiction leading to a high pickpocket rate in Phoenix for people without guild membership. Since the invasion, the militocracy of Phoenix has taken over. King Jevaninada II has made Phoenix into a base to quarter his troops for the coming winter. Blendegad has also moved his throne to the main temple of Phoenix. Blendegad and Jevaninada II personally oversee the activities of the city.

The city’s supplies were already stretched thin during the protracted siege, but now they are forced to provide for thousands of additional Xorian soldiers who were once the city’s enemies. The Xorian supply chains alleviate some of this problem, but those same supply chains are also under attack by the Rebels in Gazeara. Not wanting his own troops to suffer, King Jevaninada II has taken food, clothing, and homes from the people of Xoria and given them to his own soldiers. Thousands of Phoenix citizens are left on the streets with food or shelter. The execution of most of the clerics in Phoenix has only exacerbated this issue. Winter will come soon and many malnourished people will die once the temperature drops.

The Innkeeper’s Guild continues to maintain only one inn in Phoenix, the King’s Rest. Spanning some three blocks, the King’s Rest has everything from a hard floor and gruel to the most luxurious suites with gourmet foot on demand. Prices range from 1 cp-100 gp a night. Stables are an additional 1 silver per night per horse. The Innkeeper’s guildmaster is Bernarda, a Human. The King’s Rest was used to house hundreds of Alliance soldiers before the invasion and now it holds a complementary amount of Xorian troops. Bernarda has taking a liking to Dragoviniysm. She attends services every week and hopes that her actions as the Innkeeper’s guildmaster will earn her immortality as a Dragovinian.

-GoCorral

Nox

Nox

Nox, the jewel of Xoria, boasts a population of over 200,000 people and the largest collection of magical artifacts. The artifacts are kept at the Museum of Power in the center of the metropolis. Because of the destructive potential of these various weapons, visitors are only admitted to the museum by petitioning King Jevaninada II himself. The collection includes the Sanguine Belt of the Night Mother, the Mace of Slaughter, the Invisible Ring of Cats, the Crescent of Wrath, the Fork of Horripilation, the Ten League Boots, the Face of Gods, the Ring of Impervious, the Prismatic Blade, Sin’s Mask, the Shadowstaff, the Staff of Not, the Ring of Draconic Wizardry, the Orb of Omniscience, a Hammer of Thunderbolts, a Deck of Many Things, and a Staff of the Magi. A few more items would be in the stockpile if the king himself was not using them. The possible depredations these items could commit led to the gods themselves granting aid for their protection. Hades allowed the resurrection of Argus from the dead if he would keep his hundred eyes upon all the artifacts in the Museum of Power. The museum is one large hall with Argus standing in the center of it, eternally watching and guarding the items to make sure none of them go missing.

Nox is the capital of Xoria and is ruled by King Jevaninada II, patriarch of the Xorian royal family. While Jevaninada II’s official duties include the administration of  Nox, he is far too busy with the ongoing war between Xoria and the Alliance in Eastern Cimmeria. Daily tasks in the city are delegated to Firotoshan, one of Jevaninada’s friends from childhood with a great head for numbers. Nearly every day he can be seen leading some public works project to benefit the upper class, executing criminals, or welcoming new Dragovinians into the fold. To many citizens, Firotoshan is the symbol of Xorian oppression. The Rebels have tried to assassinate him several times, but failed in all attempts. Firotoshan was the one who suggested the practice of using Dragovinian beasts to monitor the commoners and crush dissent.

The Kingdom of Xoria began its true expansion under King Demotinira. He conquered the cities of Jeutontic and Cecilia and setup the successful colony of Petar. When Demotinira died he left his throne to his eldest child, his daughter, Tarigananata. His son, Jevaninada I, rallied the nobles of Xoria against Tarigananata, claiming that she was possessed by a demon. She was exiled and Jevaninada I took control of Xoria and Nox. He continued the expansion of the Kingdom, taking over Dradalden, Colchis, Makotako, and Semanarie. As his invasions threatened more and more of Cimmeria, the First Alliance was formed by Princess Tarigananata to reverse Jevaninada’s actions. The First Alliance took several cities and killed Jevaninada I. Jevaninada’s Amazon Queen Anajakaze took control of the growing Empire and ultimately crushed the Alliance.

During the last months of the war, Anajakaze gave birth to Jevaninada II, the son and king of Xoria. Until he turned eighteen and could take the throne, Anajakaze ruled as his regent. She continued the relentless expansion, taking over Gazeara, Danar’s Swamp, Crafterton, and Sheerzen. Anajakaze implemented a matriarchal system of leadership, placing women in positions of power to undermine the traditional patriarchy. Jevaninada II resented this system and wished to return to the old ways. Anajakaze, aware of this, did not surrender her regency when Jevaninada II came of age.

Both Jevaninada II and Anajakaze were in for a surprise. After months of insisting that his mother step down, Jevaninada II attacked her in an attempt to force her compliance with his wishes. Their battle was interrupted by the arrival of Blendegad the Reaper, vampiric red dragon. Blendegad slew the queen and drank the blood of Jevaninada II. The vampiric dragon blood mixed with Jevaninada II’s divine royal blood creating a new form of vampire, Dragovinians.

A new religion was created for Xoria, Dragoviniysm. The deity, Blendegad, and his avatar, Jevaninada II, asked for service from their subjects and the immortal status of the Dragovinian was gifted to the faithful. The matriarchal reforms were reversed. Jevaninada II spent twenty years securing his power within his own Kingdom. Then in 400 BCE, Jevaninada II mobilized the Xorian people to attack the Second Alliance city of Phoenix. After several years, the city was taken. Jevaninada II splits his time between directing activities on the front and performing his duties in Castle Xoria at Nox.

Originally all the buildings of Nox were contained within the city walls, but more and more people immigrated to the city over the years. Now less than twenty percent of Nox’s population is actually protected by the walls. The rest of the city sprawls outwards to the west and north. After a large fire within the walls decades ago the city was rebuilt with orderly straight streets. The fire also allowed the nobles of Xoria to cluster their estates around Castle Xoria in the center of Nox.

Although Castle Xoria is not as physically strong as Colchis Castle or Sheerzen, it does have the advantage of being a complete maze. Most of the inner passageways are only two or three feet across. Guests often get lost if not accompanied by a member of the castle staff or a noble. There was even one noble who was thought dead for ten years who resurfaced in the castle. He had lost his way and survived on rat flesh and moss for a decade. The problem is so severe that some visitors to the castle are sure that magic is at work.

The nearby wood is called the King’s Copse because only Jevaninada II and his guests are allowed within the forest’s borders. He goes there occasionally on hunting trips, but the copse is used for nothing else. Any who venture into it are never seen again. The wood that Nox uses for fires, buildings, and furniture is acquired from the thin Royal Forest to the northwest or imported from Makotako.

Nox’s main export is food. In the past this was sent to Persia, Scythia, or the rest of Cimmeria. With the war underway, all excess food is sent to the front to feed the troops. This is especially necessary due to the shortage within Phoenix due to the prolonged siege. Nox continues to import luxury items for the many nobles in the city. With the explosion of Dragovinianism among the nobles, rare bloods are now in high demand.

The high concentration of Dragovinians in Nox has also put a great deal of pressure upon the common people in the capital city. The nobles and others gifted with Dragovinian status don’t spend all their time drinking exotic imported blood. Usually they gain their sustenance from the weekly ceremony where citizens are forced to gather in Dragovinian churches to “donate.” Bloodletting is spread throughout the populace to prevent injury or death, but the practice remains demeaning. Coupled with the everyday depridations of the Dragovinians due to their naturally evil disposition and the people of Nox are ready to revolt. The Dragovinian beasts prevent direct action within the city, so many people have fled the city to join the Rebellion in Bigby’s Forest.

-GoCorral

Dracula Untold Review

I saw Dracula Untold the other night in theaters.

It was decent, but not as good as the trailers made it seem to me.

The movie attempts to juggle a lot of different themes and ultimately fails on most of them.

The movie attempts to unify the historical story of Vlad the Impaler with the mythological story of Dracula. It does a decent job.

The historical story is heavily condensed, turning a three year war into something that takes about a week, but that’s to be expected when making a movie. The personalities of the participating characters are changed as well, but that was necessary for the story the script writers wanted to tell.

The mythological story is compromised to make Vlad seem more appealing to the audience. This is an origin story, so Vlad doesn’t start off as a horrible bloodsucking villain. He’s a family man who fights the Turks to protect his country as well as his son. He’s all but turned into card-carrying monster by the end of the movie though.

But if Vlad is a good person, how does he become a vampire? The “evil vampire” is a monster that is trapped by a curse within a cave. The vampire can turn someone else into a vampire. If that person does not drink blood within the next three days then they will turn back into a human. However, if they do drink blood then the original vampire will be freed from the cave to do horrible vampire things to people.

Vlad takes this deal with the devil to protect his family from the coming Turk invasion. The three days don’t prove to be enough to stop the Turk invasion, mostly because Vlad wastes his second day doing nothing of significance. Vlad chooses to extend his gift into eternity by drinking blood. He then shares his gift with a few of his loyal soldiers and they wreck the entire Turk army. The tactics employed by the vampires reminded me so much of the short story Out of the Dark by David Weber that I’m sure the script writers read the short story as well.

There’s lots of actions and special effects. A few wonky camera angles that mess up the movie, but those are fortunately rare.

I think my main issue with the movie was the multiple different personas Vlad has. We all act differently in different situations and around different people, there’s nothing unusual about that.

My problem was that there was no obvious transition between Vlad’s different personas.

Vlad comes back home after encountering the original vampire. This is before he makes a deal with the original. The vampire killed two of Vlad’s most loyal soldiers.

Vlad returns to his family, puts on a happy face, and kisses his wife. She notices he seems distant and he says, “I was only distracted by your unbelievable beauty.” Vlad then goes on to play and joke with his children before tucking them into bed before having sex with his wife in the bathtub.

But he just saw two of his men killed by a demon a few hours before this? It is possible that he transitions this quickly. He probably needs to do so often as he is a military ruler of his country with the nickname, “The Impaler,” but the audience does not see this transition. All the movie needed was to show Vlad outside the door to his family room before going in. He could sigh and shake his head before entering, having mentally prepared himself for hiding the brutal murders he just witnessed from his family. Nothing like that is in the movie. It goes straight from a discussion with a monk about the vampire to him reuniting with his family.

That’s not the only issue. When Vlad first accepts the curse of the vampire he understands that it might cost him his soul. He realizes that later on while praying in a church. Yet when he’s about to lose his power if he doesn’t drink blood, he doesn’t remember. The person who he drinks the blood of doesn’t remind him either. There should’ve been some discussion of whether his soul was worth expelling the Turks from Wallachia and saving his son’s life, but there isn’t! We at least get an anguished scream from Vlad after he drinks the blood, but that’s all. No traumatic battle between good and evil within him over becoming a demon. Just a battle over the sin of cannibalism.

Who would I recommend this movie to? Probably not fans of the historical Vlad the Impaler. Too much of the story is changed to truly match the real version.

It feels more like a typical action/adventure movie. If you liked The Mummy or Raiders of the Lost Ark then this will be a good movie for you to watch. Not as good as those classics, but a decent movie with fighting and special effects to entertain you. The characterization isn’t great and the plot… Well we all already know what happens in the Dracula story.

-Mister Ed

An Overview of Gurutama Part 8

The elves of Gurutama live in the Lower Maw.
The elves of Gurutama live in the Lower Maw.

Previous: An Overview of Gurutama Part 7

The elves of Gurutama joined the dwarven invasion of Najar, but when their beachhead at Cyflenwi was captured, the elves abandoned the cause.

What happened to the elves after that?

A dark presence entered the Halusho Forest (more specifics on that later when I pick apart the timeline of Gurutama as a whole).

The darkness joined several of the “evil” races together. Hobgoblins, orcs, trolls, and giants all started ranging through the wood.

The elven cities of Prestounasi and Shianosoth were overrun.

The remaining elves retreated to their capital at Crodolan and hid behind the city’s magical defenses.

The elves feared the evil races, led by the Hobgoblins, would penetrate their defenses, so an escape route was built.

The elven constructed Freedom Road connected the western sea of the Lower Maw to the eastern canal.

Freedom Road was protected by the same magic that kept Crodolan safe.

The elves then built the Homestone Bridge over the Great Canal.

On the Bridge the elves placed a powerful enchantment, preventing any Hobgoblin from ever crossing.

The elves built a new city south of Hykma named Rotandean.

Rotandean developed a good relationship with Hykma and eventually joined the Hykman League.

The elves who stayed behind in Crodolan petitioned for aid against the Hobgoblin menace.

The Hykman League sent a stunning force that defeated the Hobgoblins at Crodolan, recaptured Prestounasi, and rebuilt the city as a western port for trading with Hearthland.

The Hobgoblins were amazed by the Hykmans and asked to join the League. Their request was swiftly granted.

The elves argued against this decision, but the humans in charge of the League insisted that building alliances was wiser than keeping enemies.

Some elves could not accept this judgement and split off to form a rebel faction known as the True Arrows.

After this the situation became quite complicated as more forces influenced the growing Hykman League from the outside and from within. I’ll talk more about that when I start posting the timeline of specific events in Gurutama.

Only three descriptions of races left to go. The Rana (Preservers in the Trimurti), the Grez (Destroyers in the Trimurti), and the Hobgoblins (an extra race created outside of the Trimurti theme).

-Mister Ed

Next: An Overview of Gurutama Part 9