Domain of the Month
A while back I wrote something akin to fan fiction on the Lord of Nosos, Malus Sceleris with the goal of revising the whole domain. I mean, I wrote a fairly expansive (if not a bit silly) gazeteer for it in my old days on the Ravenloft mailing list, so I feel a certain connection to it.
-For those of you who don't feel like reading the whole fanfic, here are the major changes I'm currently toying with (plenty of spoilers):
-Malus Sceleris was born in a druidic enclave/cult to an eccentric father obsessed with reproductive health and the "pure, natural state of man"
-Malus himself is obsessed with Nosos and its growth, wanting his city to be the shining beacon of enlightenment, as well as the economical and cultural hub of the known world. An entrepreneur and former trader, Malus is depicted as a radical self-made man who was given the means to put his harsh theories into practise, for better or for worse. He is cursed to see his beloved Nosos turn into a polluted, misshapen, and stunted parody of his idealized "capital of the world" due to his and others human failings.
-Nosos is much more contemporary than most of the core, with a democratic political system and something akin to a capitalist, "free market" friendly economy. Oh yeah, steam power technology has been imported from Paridon. The Masque of the Red Death elements are worked into some of the founding myths of the city state, with an emphasis on people's long standing fear of the plague and illness being turned into a highly profitable business by suppliers of medical goods.
-Malus rules as an economical rather than directly political force, having secretly bought out almost all of the land and businesses through proxies. Think cyberpunk-esque fear of a domineering mega-corporation.
-As a foil, the Dark Powers gave Malus's druid father dominion over a fairly large, pristine forest west of the city, make that they fused his "essence" with that of the forest, giving it a primitive form of sentience and a desire to expand and assimilate everything it comes into contact with.
I'm not sure I'll ever find either the time or the motivation to go through with a full blown gazetteer again, but I'll be posting bits and pieces as I feel like it.
For now, here's a timeline/history of this revised Nosos.
Preface: The history of Nosos is shrouded in as much strategic reinterpretation and blatant misrepresentation as that of any other domain formed within the mists. Historical records have been tampered with, and sometimes completely ignored in favour of more popular versions of important events, leaving curious outsiders with a very slanted body of work. The following is the “official” history of the island-bound city state as most scholars, historians and experts know it. A few discordant voices can sometimes be heard, but they’re considered a hysterical minority. In italics you can find comments on what really happened or the truth behind certain events.
Historians trace the origins of modern Nosos back to a dark era of noble lords and corrupt aristocratic rule. Some aristocrats deliberately distanced themselves from the court intrigues to rule in peace while others were forced to reluctantly endure life in the furthest reaches of their kingdom against their wills. The hamlet known as Nosos was one of many smaller agglomerations blessed with somewhat more distant ties to the ruling class and acting as stopover for those traveling within an expansive kingdom.
As of current times, it would seem that Nosos once belonged to a far away prime material plane world. The exact date of its arrival in the mists is the year 732 of the Barovian calendar. Most travelling merchants and traders claim quite openly that the existing trade routes date back many years before that time. Furthermore, it is quite clear that Nosos was not an island-bound city before its arrival in the demiplane. The Dark Powers obviously intervened to ease the transposition; only Malus and his Athasian ally have been spared the memory alteration.
Discovery of a nearby ore deposit brought a steady influx of newcomers to the city with intent to exploit its sole profitable resource. Soon, the political and economical elite of Nosos would begin to consider the potential of trade as a source of revenue and vector of growth. A number of peasants from neighbouring villages and towns are reported as having sold their land to live in the growing city at that point, lured by the promises of untold wealth. This first rural exodus is widely considered an important shift in the history of the Nosos as subsistence-level agriculture had always proved difficult to maintain in this region due to unfavourable soils.
While reliable information is scarce and often plagued by vagueness, it would seem as if at least some high standing religious and moral authorities opposed (to various degrees) this exodus. Disgruntled farmers, having lost a son or two to the city, may have joined forces with the clergy during this time period in an effort to oppose this phenomenon leading to a small, but nonetheless determined counter-urbanization movement.
Due to the highly limited availability of historical records from that era, it is impossible to determine what this may have involved. Further research into this matter is still ongoing thanks to the generous donations of the Sceleris firm.
Malus suspects that this may have some connection to his father’s strange powers.
In an unfortunate coincidence quickly labelled as divine intervention, the populace of Nosos began to suffer terrible loses at the hands of a most virulent plague, the first, but not the last, in its unfortunate history. By most accounts, it lasted for well over a year, with little help coming from the King and the capital. Left to fend for itself, the city managed to survive largely thanks to the strong, undying spirit of its people. Although Nosos lived through the hardships, fear of disease and the constant threat of a new pestilence continued to haunt every citizen.
With the help of very detailed post-pestilence surveys of the populace and further research into the local florae and faunae spread over a period of nearly 10 years (but published in 706 BC), scholars now know that the deadly plague’s impact is still being felt to this day. The same man responsible for this survey reached fairly alarming conclusions - all of which were proved wrong in time - nevertheless his contributions remain considerable.
This research belongs to the father of Malus Sceleris, but was not published by the scholar himself - by then too busy with his commune – but rather by a fellow dilettante who accidently stumbled upon the documents and took credit for them. Contemporary interpretations of the data are of course completely bogus; the result of spin doctoring in favour of Malus’ theories. The Great Plague is now blamed for most of the domain’s ills.
Letters from the incumbent mayor to a few local aristocrats point to a growing dissatisfaction at the idea of a King who never once set foot in the city and an equally distant Governor who, by most accounts, shunned his responsibilities.
The noble lords who had settled in Nosos maintained little contact with the royal court save for a few friends and family members in the capital. While some were rather uninterested in involving the King in these matters, others still were afraid that they would be forever denied a chance at returning to the capital if it were known that they had lived near plague-ridden Nosos. Thus, the mayor’s pleas were never even submitted to the King or the Governor. This said, the Governor did visit Nosos during this time, staying at an isolated country residence overlooking the sea, barely on the edge of Nosos’ established territory, and where he would welcome a few friendly members of the local aristocracy to partake in sumptuous banquets and various games. This mansion still exists, however it remains uninhabited. It is a secretive place which no one knows about, with the possible exception of Malus who cares little about such matters.
Advances in technology allowed for more efficient exploitation of their precious metals and minerals and the opening of new mines. With this newfound wealth came a new economical boom: foreigners from faraway cities now established outposts in the city to facilitate trade as Nosos opened itself up to a world beyond the kingdom. Mining would become the main economic activity, although contemporary scholars versed in matters of trade, such as Malus Sceleris, now consider the over reliance on exporting natural resources to have been a mistake which may have slowed, if not crippled Nosos’ proper growth for decades. Again the ruling aristocracy’s greed is generally accepted as the cause of these issues, for ill or for good.
The spectre of the Great Plague continued to cast a dreadful shadow for many years. Combined with deficient medical expertise and still popular superstitions, various isolated incidents were treated as signs of the Great Plague’s return. In one case, bloated, pustule covered bodies uncovered near the docks resulted in an increasing panic among local authorities. Those presumed ill were quarantined for many months until a visiting physician declared the city free of the plague. The aristocracy, wary of the physician, financed the construction of an imposing tower on the outskirts of town. This, they believed, would allow them to escape certain death were the plague ever to return. History would prove them wrong in the end.
In time, numerous experts from exotic lands set up shop in Nosos bringing with them extensive knowledge of mining, explosives, and in some cases firearms. The Bruwiss clan, originally known for their woodworking and clockwork, quickly made a name for themselves as the first local producers of high quality firearms, a reputation they maintain even today. In 714 BC, the clergy began petitioning the mayor for immediate action against a reclusive group, a cult, as they would call it, meeting in the woods and engaging in thoroughly unwholesome activities. Eyewitnesses claimed the noises were “inhuman,” sounding like “wild animals entranced by devils,” yet they dutifully averted their eyes out of fear of corruption, so no actual descriptions of the cult members have ever been made public. The issue would be quickly dismissed as trivial by city officials to avoid offending foreign economic interests.
This cult was actually the druidic enclave lead by Malus’ father. His interest in reproductive health and potency took the form of peculiar rituals. Younger members of the clergy were notoriously eager to spy on these rituals, infuriating elder members...
In 730 BC the population once again endured incredible hardship after a prolonged period of relative peace as a new strain of a highly contagious, virulent disease took numerous lives, causing yet more pain and suffering. This time, however, the mayor took matters into his own hands and allowed for the distribution of a miracle cure from a distant kingdom. His name would be revered for this. Even the reclusive nobility opened their hearts to the man.
In truth, it was Malus Sceleris who brought the miracle cure to Nosos. He offered it to the mayor at an exorbitantly inflated price and in exchange received some freedom during the years of the Trading Act. With the mayor refusing to pay the full price, a segment of the populace faced the inevitability of death from the plague, having been given a useless concoction instead of the remedy. Malus’ reckless profiteering attracted the attention of the Dark Powers, but they chose not to act yet, knowing that the young man had a more personal ambition to fulfill...
By 732 BC, a new era of prosperity would be ushered under the steady leadership of the heroic mayor. The miracle cure that saved Nosos gave way to a proliferation of new remedies, and it seemed as if any ill could be treated. Newly uncovered proof show that the mayor’s secretive inclusion into the ranks of the nobility gave way to aristocratic intervention in the various policies he issued, including the unpopular Trading & Unlawful Profiteering Act of 736.
A noted author, Lord Goode, published a famous tract that same year, in which he openly criticized the important role of money lenders, bankers and other “petty coin handlers” in a perpetually expanding Nosos economy. He kept his most potent venom for those aristocrats who abandoned the old order to dedicate their lives to mercantile interests. He, and a number of fellow aristocrats, having not heard from the Governor in years, decreed that the land was theirs to rule and had a tax collector for the King arrested with the mayor’s approval as a bold political gesture. Nosos would no longer obey a King who dares not show his face, and all those who opposed the new regime met sudden and brutal death.
Popular elation, prosperity and improved health meant a sudden increase in nativity rates and immigration. The volume of trading would increase exponentially with the uncovering of even more profitable ore deposits, along with an apparent war in another kingdom. The city rapidly grew in size with large extended families moving into the city. Pessimistic experts suggest that violent crimes also increased many fold. Rivals waged bitter wars in the streets, and the resulting bloodshed remains a stain upon an otherwise prosperous and peaceful chapter in Nosos’ history.
This is the year Malus was appointed full lordship of Nosos by the Dark Powers following the “death” of his father. The “war” refers to merchants from Falkovnia guided by the mists and quite eager to purchase Nosos’ high quality ores. They made no attempts to hide their military purposes and so locals extrapolated that a war was being waged. Furthermore, the rivals were only rarely from opposing nations, in fact, locals were more often than not responsible for the commotion.
In 736 BC, the mayor and the aristocracy signed the Trading and Unlawful Profiteering Act. The Act was intended as a means to control the violence by conferring a considerable amount of control over economic activities to the city itself, including money lending/banking, as well as overseeing trade in all forms. The economic elite were, understandably, not pleased with the decision.
By the end of 737 BC, Malus Sceleris, a relatively well known and respected trader, penned a controversial, if not subtly moralistic tome of economic theories entitled “Of wealth and upright virtues” wherein he strongly supports “friction free enterprising” and suggests that, while the intentions of the Act are noble, they do more harm to Nosos than good: the free flow of resources is what Nosos needs to achieve its full potential.
Under the sweltering summer heat of 738 BC, reports of plague-ridden bodies raised concerns about public health in the densely populated city. The people turned to the mayor, who quickly found the old cure to be inefficient against this new epidemic. Ironically, he himself would fall ill and die shortly after.
The aristocracy, less than concerned, felt confident that the plague would dispose of the common filth, but their blood would prevail. They dedicated their most recent masked ball to the plague and, as a sign of good will, again invited a number of important figures of growing Nosos’ economic elite. This would be their last as every single guest would fall before the plague. Oddly enough, and for reasons yet to be fully explained, the outbreak rescinded almost immediately following the ill-fated event; a final survey revealed that the majority of its victims were members of the aristocracy or other such important individuals.
The plague was not a natural occurrence but the work of Malus himself using his dark gift. His true intention was to eliminate the ruling aristocracy and replace it with a more malleable system. The mayor was not an intended victim of Malus: the Dark Powers took him for their own purposes.
Needing a leader, a brave man stepped forward to assume the role. A virtuous member of the departed mayor’s inner circle, he was chosen by his few remaining peers and supported by a number of influent individuals, including the clergy itself. In a strange political move, the man refused to hold the office unless he was chosen by the people. The heavens had spared the people, but not the corrupt aristocrats, thus their ruler should be a man of the people. His fiery declarations and public addresses made him a popular figure and a complex voting system was put in place to ensure Nosos’ first elections. He won easily.
Malus privately funded the man’s bid to power and hired numerous agents to secure the cooperation of other important people through surprisingly legitimate means.
With the death of the men responsible for the city sponsored Merchant and Trading companies and the need of a large scale economic restructuration, the newly elected mayor revoked the Trading Act and, with the advice of experts, outlined a series of principles by which Nosos would now be governed. He also gave his blessing to a new Merchants’ Guild – an association representing the interests of merchants and traders in the new Nosos economy. Author and respected world scouring trader Malus Sceleris was nominated as the first chairman of the Guild. During this time, Malus went about buying the competition. He often appeared as a saviour and a godsend to the struggling houses, hence he easily obtained leadership of the Guild.
Unprecedented economic growth ensued. Trading and merchant companies, now privately owned, proved more successful than ever in a new era of prosperity. Taming the land was of the utmost priority and every effort to increase mining output were put in place. Trade would flourish under the economic leadership of the Merchants’ Guild, while local smiths worked diligently to produce high quality goods.
Apart from the economic elite’s influence on political matters, the status quo was maintained. Food was still expensive, and the mines further polluted the already contaminated water. Individual freedom and unlimited potential were guaranteed in theory, but impossible in practise.
In early 739, the respected House of Kerr, a former merchant house which turned to textiles and ownership of factories, petitioned for membership in the Merchants’ Guild but were rebuked. Later that year, the Merchants’ Guild passed a motion to welcome major money lenders and bankers into their ranks. The House of Kerr responded by declaring that it would create a competing guild.
By early 740, the Artisans’ Guild saw light of day, uniting factory owners, artisans and various manufacturers in a bid to protect their interests. In a great moment for Nosos, a meeting between the Merchants and Artisans Guild, despite initial tensions, ended on a very positive note: the two organisations would agree to work in unison for the greater good of Nosos.
Malus averted disaster in extremis as the House of Kerr were set to pose a severe threat to his hegemony. Through the ever nebulous and changing laws, he bought out the money lenders responsible for financing the House of Kerr’s early operations and, through them, bought the House of Kerr itself shortly after the Artisans Guild was officially recognized. It so falls out that his interests are served by all this, although it means even more work for him.
A series of strange incidents occurred in the summer of 740 around the western forest. The few stalwart farmers who had remained faithful to their land went silent following a particularly disastrous harvest. Then, a number of lumberjacks disappeared with those few survivors gravely injured. None of the stout men were able to clearly explain the nature of the incident, and physicians report that the men had apparently been attacked by wild animals. Hunting parties found no trace of the men. A week later, a series of new constructs near the south western clearings were apparently sabotaged.
Everyone knows of the “Western Woods Curse” and no one has yet been able to silence the rumours that something is lurking there. Every attempt to further increase the size of Nosos – and thus to build on the available western land - has been met with failure. Lumberjacks are periodically “devoured” by the woods, never to be seen again, with those who survive often falling prey to dementia. Only Malus really knows that the woods are haunted by his father and only he is aware of the fact that the undeveloped land west of the city is under the full control of the Green Father. Destroy the forest has turned into an obsession; it merely laughs at his attempts.
The year 740 also marks the Great Upheaval, an event which didn’t impact Nosos directly save for an increase in immigration. Scholars and historians are uncertain of the veracity of the actual accounts, especially claims that entire countries were moved and shifted about.
An outbreak of a disease called the Black Cough among miners caused various economic setbacks in 741BC. In a strange act of solidarity and selflessness, a number of miners exiled themselves to the hills to avoid contaminating their loved ones. Years later, their memory is still celebrated and presented as a shining example of the foundations upon which Nosos was built.
More historical tampering as the miners were forced to stay in the mines while the owners caused a voluntary cave-in to trap them in and thus prevent the spreading of the disease. One of the few cases reported, as the rest were kept hidden by authorities from then on.
Tragedy would strike again in 746BC as the beloved mayor, now in his eighth year in power, died before the eyes of his citizens after a masked assailant shot him at point blank. The culprit was never found, but all clues point to a political coup. Some maintain that he never died.
Working to steer discussion away from the “Western Woods Curse”, a social experiment in public grief was attempted. The mayor survived the wound but lost his memories from the shock. He was sent out to distant Darkon to live out the rest of his days with an appointed caregiver and never heard from since. The experiment was considered a success, as fear of supernatural threats turned to fear of violent insurgence and foreign conspiracies.
Coal found a new use as a powerful source of energy in 750BC as steam power is introduced to Nosos by way of Paridon. This new technology brings with it important meetings between the two cities regarding mutual policies and security in an age of dangerous malcontents. Nosos, inspired by Paridon’s public security measures, passed a law to prohibit weapons in public. The Legitimate Armament Act of 750 would prove highly controversial and the Brewiss patriarch publically decried its passing; to him, politicians were simply unfit to handle such issues.
Yaoi Huntress Earth
I had few ideas of my own when remaking it for that contest that might be of help.
-The civilization vs nature conflict having a slight Princess Mononoke vibe where both sides are at each other's throat, but without one being overly glamorized. Think the 1970's version of The Wicker Man for the druids and a Charles Dickins novel for civilization.
-Malus only got the Scelerus name by tricking them into thinking he's the late patriarch's illegitimate son. And now has an angry "uncle" (the patriach's little brother) who feels cheated out of his inheritance and has turn to making pacts with otherworldy creatures for the power and evidence to throw out the man he knows is a fake.
-Malus' curse is to never fully escape his druidic past and enjoy his new status. He's slowly gaining their powers (which sometimes errupt at the worst times), his father's ghost constantly haunts him, and his "uncle" and well-meaning "cousin" (whose trying to seek peace between the two sides) could ruin everything.
I like the idea of "Nature as a heartless force opposed to mankind and civilization". Mononoke did that really well - each side had really compelling sympathetic points, but also some awful, brutal downsides.
The first two Thief video games do a great job of presenting the Woodsie Lord and other fey creatures of the forest as terrifying malevolent spirits. They're bent on disassembling every house brick by brick. The worst thing is, the only thing that can stand up against them is the Hammerites - a cult dedicated to unrestrained development and industrial mechanization.
Does Nosos have canonical Mistways?
Zettaijin : Good question, but keep in mind that Malus - as per canon material - was given the ability to teleport the entire island of terror to the border of any non-landlocked domain.
Is this from a pre-mistway product? I am not comfortable with it either. A solution in terms of mistways has obvious appeal. But we don't want to turn Nosos into Sigil either. The quickest way across the Core should never be Nosos.
Zettaijin : Actually, it was from his original entry in IoT, long before mistways were ever invented.
Yaoi Huntress Earth
I think the Scelerus should be a bloodline as well (see Legacies of Blood) and to really play with Malus, let him in on the benefits. Maybe something like a bonus against poisons and disease, +1 cha and -1 wis (the family is charming, yet their pride sometimes blocks their better judgement at times), and the obligation if one Scelerus is in trouble, the others must come to their aid (so you better be very sick\injured or in another domain where you can't make it back in time). Sort of a "No one messes with my family, but me" thing.
I firmly believe that Malus should be a self-made man who has little need for birthrights and titles. Remember, I'm aiming for something a little more contemporary here, I want Malus to not only be self-reliant, but single minded in his attempt at self-improvement. He feels that Nosos is a reflection of himself and while he tries to better Nosos, he also needs to improve himself.
Most of my inspiration actually came from Ozymandias of The Watchmen and a documentary on Parkour (along with the obligatory neo-liberal übermensch spiel).
I can't say I'm entirely successful in portraying (or even expressing) these ideas in a clear and interesting way, but that's why I'm posting my work here.
Yaoi Huntress Earth
I guess we just see him differently. I see him more someone who wormed his way into things out of survival at first and then more for his own personal greed later on.
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