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The Fair Folk 
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Evil Genius
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Post The Fair Folk
Now, those of you who have been following my campaign in the Cafe de Nuit much will have probably noticed that as a DM, I am very fond of Faerie. There's something so inherently weird about them that just appeals to me, a twisted logic that attracts me. They're on the verge of being human, almost, but not quiet. Understanding glimmers at the edges, a light enters the eyes, reason exists... only to be thrashed asunder under the assault of fairy tale madness.

So, since I’m at loose ends for the next week or two, and I’ve never been really satisfied with the Van Richten’s Guide to the Shadow Fey, I figured I’d take the chance to write up some of my Faerie that won’t be getting an appearance in the Eye of Anubis, and also expound on the fairy-tale logic I use. And hey, maybe I can pick up some good ideas from the feedback here, or someone else has a few Fey to post.

First, to wet the thirst a bit, here’s a pleasant chap who stalks the Core and Nidalia from time to time.

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Red Jack

    Seven for day and seven for night
    Seven young girls who’ll die of fright
    Seven young men who’ll feel my bite
    Fourteen souls to please Hell’s sight
    Then perhaps I’ll rest a mite.
    --Old children's rhyme in Mordent

The Levkarest Stalker. The Threepenny Killer of Mordentshire. The St. Nathan's Festival Killer in Nidalia. Old Man Knife of Kantora. Each time, each place, the same, a week of horror and madness and blood.

For seven days, one young man is brutally mauled each day at noon, as though by a great bear, or wolf, or something else. Each day, at midnight, a young maiden dies of some unimaginable shock. And then the killings stop.

These are the manifestations of Red Jack.

Appearance: This old Murder-Fey possesses two forms, and shifts between them at will, though always he kills at night in the form of a man, and during the day in the form of a beast. In either case, however, those who look upon Red Jack know that they have seen something nature most emphatically did not intend.

At night, Red Jack takes the shape of an old man wrapped in a funeral shroud. Tall and straight as a ramrod despite his wrinkled skin, Jack can almost be taken for a human man until one sees his face. You see, in the form of a man, Red Jack has no mouth. Merely an unbroken expanse of wrinkled skin from nose to chin. But even worse are his eyes.

Red Jack's eyes are almost normal, calm and cool and matte black in color, if a little too large for his face, but for each soul he takes, the old Murder-Fey gets a new eye. Each young man he kills he gains a new right eye, each young lady a new left eye. These are the victim's eyes, arranged helter-skelter around the Faerie's own ominous orbs. Filled with pain, sometimes crying, these eyes give Red Jack the appearance of a spider later in the week, and at the end to something altogether unholy.

During the day, Red Jack takes the form of a great beast, a nightmarish conglomaration of wolf and bear and insect. Imagine, if you will, a creature the size of a grizzly bear, but with the muzzle of a wolf, and covered in plates of chitin instead of fur. But this creature, you see, is blind, for it has no eyes. Not that this keeps it from using scent and sound to hunt.

As far as its mouth goes... around this wolfish muzzle, which opens further than any normal lupine's, more the jaws of a shark or a snake than a wolf's, are arranged the mouths of its victims. In expanding lines, men above and women below, the mouths scream and wail and moan their faith, never making intelligible sounds. By week's end, the beast form is surrounded by a veritable cacophany of anguished sound.

Nature: Some things are known, to those that study such things. Red Jack always appears in an urban area, and always on a Monday. He manifests rarely, and takes long periods of rest between these manifestations, usually a decade, though manifestations as little as two years apart and as much as twenty-seven years have been recorded. He never troubles the same Domain more than once a century.

Always, his modus operandi is the same. At noon on Monday, Jack finds a young man, past puberty but not yet married, who is alone. The Murder-Fey then takes the form of the Beast, and rips them to shreds. He doesn't need much time, merely for the victim to be alone for a scant few minutes.

That night, at midnight, he appears in the bedroom of some young women, against past maturity but unmarried. And somehow, he frightens her to death, though some believe that mental magic is involved.

Then on Tuesday, he repeats the process, taking a life at noon and at midnight. And so on, until seven young men and seven young women are killed. Then at midnight of Sunday, with the last death, he disappears for the next hundred years or so.

The victims are never found again. Divinations spells are futile, resurrection impossible. They cannot become ghosts or any other form of undead. They simply cease to exist.

The Truth: What is less well-known is that Red Jack is not a free agent. In order for the Murder-Fey to manifest, he must be summoned by a little ritual, summoned by a mortal of the same age as the intended victims, summoned to wreak bloody havoc upon others.

It always works out the same way. The summoner is a youth who is depressed or unhappy, perhaps spurned in love, perhaps simply angry. And this unhappy youth finds the ritual. The details vary. Some find an old pamphlet or bestiary in the library, others find the ritual scrawled on a slip of parchment in the street. Others find it carved into the floorboards of a piece of furniture, others still find it penciled into the margins of a penny dreadful. In every case, the ritual is written upon something physical, and found in a way that makes sense to the summoner, though the seller or previous owner of the object with the ritual will swear up and down that he has never seen it before.

The actual ritual is fairly simple. One takes a wax candle upon which the wick is soaked in a few drops of blood. One also needs a clay bowl with three gold coins (though really, a coin with any gold content will do). Lastly, the ritual must take place beneath a tree where someone has died, most commonly through being hung. A graveyard tree will also suffice in a pinch. Red Jack isn't too picky, provided the intent is there. Then one merely recites the rhyme and summons Red Jack.

    Red Jack! Dead Jack! Hear my plea!
    Bloody candle lights the way,
    Three gold coins in bowls of clay
    Brave Jack! Grave Jack! Come to me!
    Hangman’s tree my meeting ground,
    Hear my summons, lifeless hound.
    --summoning rhyme for Red Jack


Then the Mists rise, and Red Jack appears in one of his forms, and silently waits for orders. Should the summoner chicken out at this point, Red Jack bows and departs. But should the summoner ask Red Jack for the life of a rival, then the murders will begin. At any point during the murders, the summoner can call Red Jack to direct him against new foes, provided they meet the parameters, but he can no longer call the Murder-Fey off. And if he doesn't set new targets, then Red Jack starts picking off relatives and loved ones of the summoner.

Of course, what the ritual fails to tell the summoner is that Red Jack's victims on the last day are always the summoner and whomever he or she loves most.

Defeating Red Jack: The Murder-Fey is not an easy entity to stop once he has tasted blood. Before the summoning, there is no compulsion laid upon the summoner. After finding the ritual, even after summoning Red Jack the first time but before giving the order, the summoner can back off at any moment. Probably a dozen rituals are found and two or three are performed for every time Red Jack manifests fully.

After the manifestation, however, things become a bit trickier. In beast form, Red Jack is strong, swift, and hard to hurt. In man form, he becomes a sorcerer of no mean might. Furthermore, he only manifests when the victim is alone, or when the summoner calls him. And even if slain, Red Jack merely disappears until the next time the summoner calls him, or the proper victim is alone.

To actually stop a manifestation requires one of two methods. One is simple. One must kill the summoner before the last day. The other is to order Red Jack to attack a true Innocent. The Murder-Fey will try, but the touch of an innocent is toxic to him, their presence painful, and their words torture to him. If Red Jack is defeated by an Innocent victim (though the victim could have some help), then the Murder-Fey will not return.

As for permanently destroying Red Jack? Well, that would require stopping the rituals from being spread. But whatever entity distributes them, be it Red Jack or some Faerie Lord, does so as a twisted moral test. Stopping it would not be simple...

DM Notes: Red Jack is designed as a kind of moral quandary on legs. What makes him so insidious is that he takes a single mistake (summoning Red Jack), and then forces the summoner to degenerate further, since either they order Red Jack to murder people, or else he murders those close to them. And they can't stop the deaths.

The key to a Red Jack adventure is likely a mystery or investigation, trying to find out that there even is a summoner, a common thread in the deaths, and then finding the summoner. Of course, then they have to figure out what to do...

Now, if the DM just wants a good murder investigation and nothing more profound than that, that's perfectly alright. Just make the summoner an evil git who the PCs won't mind slicing open. He's probably racked up a few Powers Checks by now ordering Jack around, so there might be a good fight there.

But what if the summoner is a person in over their head? Perhaps there's nothing really wrong with them that having a few friends won't cure. But Red Jack is still out there, and he's still killing... Stopping the deaths might require the death of the summoner, unless the PCs know of the alternative method and happen to have a handy Innocent they're willing to risk.

Thoughts?

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GM: Eye of Anubis (Complete), Shattered City (Complete), Walking Shadows (Complete), and Final Gate (Ongoing).
Lead Writer & Editor: Van Richten Society Files: Doppelgangers
Contributor: Quoth the Raven #20, #21, #22, #23


Last edited by NeoTiamat on Tue Dec 23, 2008 12:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Tue Dec 23, 2008 11:49 am
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Um, I love you?

Seriously, awesome awesome awesome writeup.


Tue Dec 23, 2008 12:15 pm
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I used to hate the idea of using Fairie-folk and fey at all, but man, that is just plain awesome!
Sometimes I get stuck in that prankster-fairie mind set, but I have to say, you just made fey pretty intriguing. If not really cool!

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Tue Dec 23, 2008 8:56 pm
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Ooh, a very spooky fey. I like it :D


Tue Dec 23, 2008 10:44 pm
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Yes, yes, praise! Praise! Feed the ego!

*ahem* Anyways.

I tend to have a broader definition of Faerie than the SRD. One friend described it as taking the folkloric view, which is fundamentally accurate. I consider all Fey-types, most Elementals, sizeable minorities of Outsiders and Plants, and such Goblinoids or Giants as exist in Ravenloft to be Faerie.

I think Faerie are a way to use very interesting creatures in Ravenloft that otherwise could never really be fit in stylistically, such as the next fellow.

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Brum of the Mound

    "Look, I'm telling you you're not going to find a better bargain anywhere. Genuine Tergish Akce's don't exactly show up on the market often. See? It's real silver, got the symbols on either side. Stolen?"

    "Sir, you hurt me. This beauty hasn't been seen by human eyes since ol' Strahd the First's days. So, want it or not?"

    --Overheard conversation


In the village of Timosi in southern Barovia, if one buys the greybeards in front of the inn a few drinks and asks the right questions, one learns of the Ogre's Mound. This is a hillock in the middle of a field north of Timosi, a perfectly round mound with a flat slab of stone at its summit.

For a few more drinks, the greybeards will tell you even more. If you visit the mound at midnight, braving the Barovian night, then a booming voice will greet you in the old tongue of Barovia. If you're brave, and if you're foolish, then place a single coin upon the stone table and ask the spirit of the Ogre's Mound for its aid. If the spirit agrees, then stay there until the owl hoots twice. And when you return, you'll find the troublesome tree uprooted, or enough firewood to last you the winter, or the field plowed, or whatever it was you asked.

And if the spirit doesn't accept the coin?

Well... the greybeards pause here, and after cadging a few more drinks, admit that no one quite rightly knows...

Appearance: Brum of the Mound is an imposing sight, to be sure. In his natural form, the Earth-Fey is a huge ogre, a hulking, brutish humanoid the size of a barn, covered in thick and matted hair. His face is a caricature of a man's, with a bulging red nose and curling tusks, and small, porcine eyes. His skin is the color of the soil, a tan brown, and the creature is generally dirty, covered in soil.

And yet, the image of the brute doesn't completely fit. The ogre's clothing is crude, but clean, and the tools (hammers, shovels, picks) at his belt are in good condition. As for his axe... it's the size of a small tree, a woodman's axe with a dull grey blade that nevertheless gleams in the light.

Brum of the Mound is also a shapeshifter, though an imperfect one. His preferred form is that of a great horned owl, with a vast wingspawn and piercing orange eyes. Recently, though, he has adopted the form of a caliban in frayed formal clothing, though Brum's knowledge of human fashion is approximately eighty years out of date.

Nature: For centuries uncounted, Brum of the Mound and the people of Timosi have lived in a kind of truce. Brum dwelled beneath the Ogre's Mound, growing and caring for his horde, polishing the small pile of coins till they shone.

For their part, the people of Timosi viewed their neighbor with a curious mixture of fear and possessive pride. He was an ogre, but he was their ogre, and not the violent sort, regardless of the stories they told. Just place a coin upon the stone table, and the Ogre would do what brute strength would do. And if the coin was unacceptable (too cheap, or adulterated, or counterfeit), then the worst he ever did was roar and swear and make the Mound shake until the hapless villager ran in terror, with a few more grey hairs, perhaps, but unharmed.

The Truth: This idyllic existence has been interrupt, though. For you see, someone has stolen a handful of Brum's coins. How, exactly, something could sneak into Brum's mound, and why steal only a few coins, are questions that Brum cannot answer, and ones that concern him. But the fact remains that he has been robbed, and this is something that cannot be tolerated.

And so Brum has sharpened his axe, packed a few tools, and goes now to find the missing coins, wherever they may be. Brum can smell his missing property, and so Brum is going to find them. And once he finds the thieves, they are going to see that thinking Brum a gentle, retiring giant is the height of foolishness.

So far, Brum's nose has led him to one of the great cities of the Core, but now... Despite his appearance, the earth-fey is not stupid. He can smell deceit, smell fear, and has a prodigious memory. But he has only a rudimentary understanding of human society, of all the rules and regulations and laws that bind it. Moreover, the scent of his missing coins has gone faint and confusing.

At the moment, Brum is bravely searching through the cities, asking people if they know where his coins are, and checking through such collections of coins as he can find. But for his (to his mind, eminently reasonable and well-mannered) inquiries, Brum is rebuffed, accused of panhandling or simply ignored.

And the Earth-Fey, slow to anger, is finding his temper growing increasingly short.

Defeating Brum: Should the ogre's temper finally snap, then the results are liable to be... messy. Brum is a powerful, ancient Faerie, and his connections to Earth make him slow, but strong and borderline invulnerable. Spells trickles off his hide, and blows barely do more. And his great, adamantine axe can cleave flesh and stone with equal ease. If the Earth-Fey goes on a rampage, he is liable to level a sizeable neighborhood, or even the entire city. [DM's Note: For higher level PCs, grant Brum some powers over weather, or the ability to cause earthquakes.]

But Brum doesn't want that. He just wants his coins back. He can describe them in loving detail, and can smell them out. But even an Earth-Fey's temper isn't infinite, and Brum's is starting to run out...

DM's Notes: The key question in an adventure using Brum is "Who's go the coin?" The coins could be anything, from rare Tergish coins of museum quality, to an old Dementlieuse copper Constellation. And they could be anywhere, from the personal coffers of Lord Balfour de Casteele to in the pocket's of one of the PCs.

Now, you can use Brum as a pure brute. Place the coins in the possession of an ally of the PCs, and then let an angry ogre find them. But perhaps more interesting, to my mind, would be to use Brum as a source of suspense. In the Alfred Hitchcock tradition, the bomb that explodes is an action movie, but the bomb that doesn't explode is suspense. Brum can be the bomb that doesn't explode.

In this kind of adventure, the trick is to get the PCs somehow responsible for finding the coins before Brum's limited patience gives out. Perhaps Brum confronts them in the street and figures that humans can find what humans have concealed (which, by the way, may not be the worst way to start a new campaign). Then the PCs have to search high and low for coins that can be of any value, of any rarity, could be completely anonymous or could be heavily guarded, and if they fail, or don't do it fast enough, most of the city will suffer. Could be a good exercise for the PC's investigative (find the coins) and diplomatic (keep Brum mollified) abilities.

And afterwards... well, it's not very likely that a few coins are worth having Brum after you. And yet, someone stole them, and in all likelihood, someone planted them on these people, knowing full well that Brum would go after them with an adamantine axe.

So the PCs now have to deal with someone canny enough to steal from an ogre and use him as a personal assassin, and callous enough to not care about all the innocent bystanders that are liable to get killed. Fun, eh?

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Lead Writer & Editor: Van Richten Society Files: Doppelgangers
Contributor: Quoth the Raven #20, #21, #22, #23


Wed Dec 24, 2008 1:38 pm
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Very interesting.

IMC, the players have just met a changeling, as I'm planning to go the way of the feys too.

Joël

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Wed Dec 24, 2008 2:17 pm
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You know, you could REALLY make things nasty by dragging Lucre into this.


Wed Dec 24, 2008 2:46 pm
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Lucre? Money?

Not sure I follow.

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Wed Dec 24, 2008 3:52 pm
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Oh, very neat. I love how you've set something up that isn't necessarily horrifying, or even evil, and yet still generates oodles of plot.


Wed Dec 24, 2008 4:17 pm
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NeoTiamat wrote:
Lucre? Money?

Not sure I follow.


The coin golem from CotN:C.

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Wed Dec 24, 2008 7:44 pm
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Now that is just evil...

I like!

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Contributor: Quoth the Raven #20, #21, #22, #23


Wed Dec 24, 2008 8:02 pm
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You know, I feel like stealing Red Jack's coins or calling Brum from under a tree... er, or the other way around, in my future campaign.

I like to think of fey as "the woods' evil spirits". I like that kind of murky definition, where elves, dwarves, goblins, elementals, beasts and even ghosts are put together on the same entry.

Nice work! I liked Red Jack the most.


Thu Dec 25, 2008 9:16 pm
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When it comes to using the faerie I usually go the way of Changeling: the Lost for ideas. In my 4e Domains campaign I revived Arak as a Domain of Dread; it's basically a bad mirror of the Feywild, where the "true fey" hold court and influence the material world. Sounds crazy, but it works.


Fri Dec 26, 2008 12:02 am
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Ah, the New World of Darkness. I enjoy that setting, particularly Mage and Hunter. Actually, a fair few of the ideas I have for Faerie are based on the Spirits of that setting, particularly the ideas of Conceptual Entities.

I should probably explain.

In my view, most Faerie are a merger of two seperate forms of existence, that together create the Faerie we all know and love (or loathe and fear, as the case may be). First off, they are conceptual entities. Secondly, they are narrative entities.

Conceptual Entities: To my mind, all Fey represent something, are a living embodiment of something. This might be a physical area or object (a Dryad and her tree), an abstract concept (Redcaps and the the embodiment of murder), or most anything in between.

These concepts are the inherent nature of the Faerie, and every Faerie is somehow representative of the concepts at its core, though how it specifically represents can vary. Most water-Fey (such as Nixies, or nymphs, or rusalka) live in water, while murder-fey such as Red Jack tend to kill things frequently.

Moreover, Faerie can be composites of concepts, creating an entity that is not wholly equivalent. This being Ravenloft, many, many Faeries have a second concept that revolves around some sort of evil. A regular water-Fey is a nymph, who is generally harmless unless you threaten her stream. A water-death-Fey is a Rusalka, who tries to drown people who come by, and thus is much more lethal.

Of the two Faerie above, Red Jack is a Murder-Faerie, carrying out violent murder at the bidding of his summoner before slaying the selfsame mortal, while Brum is an Earth-Faerie, slow to anger, ponderous of thought, greedy for precious things, but powerful and tough once angered.

Narrative Entities: If concepts describe the what of Faerie, narrative defines the who of Faerie. Namely, I posit that Faeries gain power from the stories that are told of them. Fame is a very direct measurement of power amongst the Fair Folk. The more people know of a Faerie, and even better, believe in their existence, the greater the power of the Fae.

Furthermore, this explains the presence of 'Faerie types'. While founding concepts lead to certain generalities (murder fey kill, water fey live in the water), nothing prevents a Faerie from being utterly unique. But the presence of narratives means that the Fair Folk gain power by emulating the creatures of stories.

Most everyone in Ravenloft knows of goblins, or brownies, or redcaps, or nymphs. When a water-fey becomes a nymph, she partakes of a tiny portion of that immense wellspring of belief. Thus for lesser Faerie, to take the form of something well-known is a quick path to a guaranteed slice of power. This also explains why a lot of Faerie look like elves. Belief and knowledge places the Fair Folk as elf-like, and so many, many mid-level Faerie take on such an appearance.

The most powerful Faerie, of course, are the ones who are personally famous, something that is ironically made easier by having a unique appearance and style. Fair Folk named in stories or tales gain power from this knowledge.

Of the two Faerie so far, each takes a slightly different tack. Red Jack is an entity that is personally famous. Not greatly, but places he has visited remember him for a very long time, his horrific deeds gaining infamy for decades afterwards. They are not remembered greatly, or famously, but they are remembered, and this gives him power. Brum, on the other hand, is content with his status as a lower-level Faerie, and thus taps into the tradition of ogres and giants for his guaranteed slice of power.

Of course, the idea of concepts and of narrative don't fit perfectly with one another. Brum the Ogre, for example, is an Earth-Faerie. But another Ogre in Tepest might well be an embodiment of anger or destruction.

Helps keep folks on their toes.

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GM: Eye of Anubis (Complete), Shattered City (Complete), Walking Shadows (Complete), and Final Gate (Ongoing).
Lead Writer & Editor: Van Richten Society Files: Doppelgangers
Contributor: Quoth the Raven #20, #21, #22, #23


Fri Dec 26, 2008 12:52 pm
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The Midnight Market

    The Minister asks. "Have you been good?"

    You say yes.

    The Minister asks. "Have you obeyed the Laws?"

    You say yes.

    The Minister asks. "Have you obeyed the Pacts, the Bindings and the Rituals, the Oaths of the Damned and Darkest Promise?"

    You say yes.

    The Minister asks. "Will you serve me as Beast and Slave?"

    You say yes.

Some places... are necessary. They may be unpleasant, they may be unwholesome, they may be evil, but they are necessary. The value of the free market, the value of the truce grounds is something that cannot be denied. Everyone, even the direst enemy, needs a place to be able to shop, to scheme and to plot.

In the sorrowed lands of the Mists, the Midnight Market fulfills this duty, a neutral ground upon which all the Legions of the Night agree is inviolate. To promise violence in the Market is... a poor idea. Why?

Because the Minister of Fear enforces the truce.

Nature: For mortals, a visit to the Market of Nightmares always begins the same way, with an invitation. The invitations always look the same, a beautifully engraved card decorated with images of cherubim and flowers, upon which is written in a calligraphic hand:

    You are cordially invited to participate in Our Market Night upon January 2nd, 761 [or whatever the date is], by grace of God the two hundred and fifteenth anniversary of the Market. Hours of admission are from 12:00 PM to 1:00 AM. A donation of one (1) drop of blood per visitor is greatly appreciated.

    Invitation tendered by courtesy of _______.

The invitations are delivered by tame ravens, attached by a colorful silk ribbon to the bird's left leg. The name at the bottom is that of the current participant in the Midnight Market who has petitioned for the recipient's entry.

In a rare few cases, however, the card is merely inscribed "Courtesy of the Minister."

At the bottom of the card, in a crude, block letters, someone writes the location of the market's gateway for the night in question. The gateway is always a little used door in some dry and dusty corner of a building, a broom closet or an attic bedroom. It might be the door to a mausoleum, or it might be a door still in the workshop of a peasant craftsmen. It doesn't really matter where the door normally goes. For this one hour of this one night, it leads to the Midnight Market.

Visitors arrive at the gateway, which opens silently a moment before they can knock. Inside, they are greeted with a small room, one that resembles an old-fashioned Mordentish parlor, with cozy couches and upholstered walls. Upon a side table are a collection of silver bowls, equal in number to the visitors, each with a small knife, a towel, and a tiny glass bottle of iodine. There is no door except the one they entered by.

Visitors who decline the 'donation' of one drop of blood may spend as long as they like in the parlor, but will be unable to penetrate further into the Midnight Market. Once each silver bowl is graced by a drop of blood, however, the door behind the visitors opens into the Midnight Market.

Appearance: The Midnight Market is the size of a good-sized city block, though it feels much smaller and more claustrophobic. Narrow streets of grey cobbles meander everywhere, while tiny alleyways lead off into the darkness. Tall townhouses, four, five stories in height crowd alongside the streets. The townhouses are dark and quiet, but sometimes shapes can be seen to move inside the curtained windows. Nothing ever comes out of the townhouses, but that's alright. No one who goes in comes out either, which is also alright.

A perpetual light drizzle comes down on the Midnight Market, and the grey sky makes it impossible to tell what time it is. Flickering gaslamps illuminate the streets, but on the whole, the place feels somehow somber, and grey, and muted. Flocks of ravens roost in the upper levels, but the observant visitor will notice that these ravens... they do not breathe.

And are slightly transparent.

The Truth: The only life in the Midnight Market is on the street level, where the merchants of the Market have set up their tents and stalls in alleyways and under overhangs, beneath bridges and in the middle of the street. There, they sell everything and anything. Most of the shopkeepers are small, goblin-like men with beady yellow eyes, Faeries of wealth and greed and desire. They will sell you whatever you desire.

-A beautiful portrait to grace your abode? It can be done. If the woman in the painting screams at times, pray, ignore it. It does that sometimes.

-A herbal infusion to cure a persistent cough? Certainly, here is some just in from Sri Raji. Ah, yes... the periodic burping of serpents is a side-effect. It's quite harmless. Just kill the snakes by night fall.

-The skull of an unshriven mass murderer for a magic ritual? Well, it may require placing an order, but something can be arranged.

No one is quite certain how many of the goblin-men dwell in the Midnight Market. They seem interchangeable, faceless, scheming Faerie interested only in wealth. Unless a visitor asks or seeks one by name, it is easy to believe that the same goblin is never seen twice.

That said, there are usually a hundred other entities in the Midnight Market in addition to the goblin-men. Some are visitors, others merchants, but all are creatures of the night. A sample follows:

    The Clan Karkar: This family of gnomes is likely the most famous group of mortal merchants to do business within the Midnight Market. These black-robed, silent figures are crafters of weapons extraordinaire, reliable, conscientous, and uncurious as to their customers. They have set up shop beneath a bridge near the center of the Market, hanging black curtains to create the semblance of a true shop.

    When one enters the Clan's shop, one is greeted by their spokesman, Malthus Karkar, a squat, large-nosed figure dressed solely in black silk, his face shrouded in shadows. A large orb of light, similar to a will-o-wisp, hangs by his side. Malthus Karkar acts as the customer's guide, showing them a large variety of flails, swords, axes, daggers, crossbows, and other weapons. Their prices are fair, their weapons are high quality and the enchantments are always quite reliable.

    Of course, they also ask for a few pints of blood with every purchase, but one gets used to these eccentricities.

    In truth, Malthus Karkar is not the gnome who greets visitors, but the orb of light by his side. Malthus is an ancient Gnomish Vampire and powerful mage, and has been ruling his mortal descendants for centuries, turning them into blood slaves, and supplementing his diet with the blood of customers. It's a ghoulish little business, but one that fills a niche. And the Clan Karkar does make good weapons.

    Grandmother Thorne: This old Despair-Faerie is a peddler of dreams and nightmares, a buyer of fears and hopes. In appearances, she resembles an old woman, a Barovian babushka with a hunched back and faded shawl over her head. Of course, no one would mistake her for a mortal, as Grandmother Thorne's eyes have been pierced by two massive rose thorns, the size of railroad spikes. Still, this doesn't seem to discomfit her, though a slow ooze of blood stains her dress.

    Grandmother Thorne buys and sells emotions, bottling them in crystal vials on which she scrawls Old man's hope for son or Fear of a vampire attack in her crabbed hand. Mortals come to her, trying to forget evil events and dreadful horrors. Vampires and Liches visit her, hoping to buy the taste of life for just one flickering moment. And the Faerie come to her... best not ask why.

    The old Despair-Fey sells her services not for money, but for misery. For every service she offers, the customer must pledge with binding oaths to make someone unhappy, themselves or others. Mortals often elect to give up some of their own happiness, but others...

    A vampire once engineered the suicide of an entire family of five to pay Grandmother Thorne's price.

    Conall: Even amongst the shadow-dwellers of the Midnight Market, this grim Tepestani stands out. He maintains no stall or tent, offers no goods or magics for sale. Conall sells only himself, never for more than a day at a time. Conall is a mercenary, and if his businesslike manner is to be believed, he is a very good one.

    Certainly his appearance bears it out. Conall stands six feet and seven inches tall, and possessed of the frame and build of a blacksmith or stevedore. He carries no weapons, dresses in workman's clothes instead of armor, but he has no need of either, for Conall is one of the Mountain Loup Garou, a werewolf of unimaginable power, harmed only by the touch of pure gold.

    And for a price, for one day, this engine of destruction will stand at his employer's side, and rend and tear whomsoever gets in the way. And for his price, Conall asks no money or jewels. For one day of service, Conall demands a life. And not just any life, but that of an artist, though whether musician, painter, or what not matters not in the least. Only when the sacrifice is brought to his feet, willingly or in chains, does Conall offer his not inconsiderable might. Those who care about such things presume that Conall sates his animal lusts on his victims in some unsavory fashion. In truth, the story is rather different.

    Once, Conall was an infected werewolf, a maddened beast who upon his first transformation slew wife, parents, brother, and child in one gore-soaked night. Unhinged with grief, Conall made a bargain with an entity best left unnamed. For one hundred and twelve lives, lives of artists, his own life will be returned to him.

    This is something Conall has come to believe with a religious fervor. He needs to believe it, to maintain his own vestiges of sanity. If only he can cover his hands in enough broken dreams, then perhaps his curse shall be lifted, his family returned.

    Those familiar with the bargains of Faerie expect a less happy ending to Conall's tale.

    Greysilk: Sometimes, people come to the Midnight Market not to buy, but to sell. Some things are valuable, assuredly, but only to those in the nocturnal realm of the Midnight Market. A condemned man's last breath? Fresh virgin tears? Soil from a vampire's coffin? For those, no mundane merchant will do. Enter Greysilk the Fence.

    Greysilk is an easy Fae to spot, wandering around the Midnight Market. A short, chubby man in a pale grey, silk suit, Greysilk cuts a fairly ridiculous figure amongst the shadowy customers and goblin merchants of the Market. Eminently friendly, even over-familiar, Greysilk introduces himself as "Charles Emmanuel Grey, Esquire," and has the manners of a court dandy. Still, compared to most of the Fey, he looks completely human, the only proof of his nature his own ready admission.

    The Faerie doesn't buy everything offered to him, of course. There's really been an over-supply of condemned men's breaths ever since Drakov took over. But some things he will buy, and not just the esoterica either. Greysilk will buy jewelry, stolen paintings, most anything, and he pays in good gold and silver for it, though his coins are oftentimes of... peculiar origin.

    That said, one should never, ever accept an invitation to Greysilk's parlor. He's quite harmless to deal with the rest of the time, he truly is. People who try to cheat him may run afoul of the Minister for oath-breaking, but Greysilk himself is quite a nice man, quite harmless really.

    Just... don't visit his parlor.

    Zerachiel Those who see this beautiful figure think him one of the Faerie, or at the least one of the children of the Night. A tall, willowy man with golden-blond hair, Zerachiel conducts his business in the market with face concealed beneath an ivory half-mask, a vision almost angelic.

    In truth, Simon Dupree is quite mortal. He is also a monster greater than most in the Market.

    Ever since his first visit to the Midnight Market, Simon saw a niche for himself. So much in the Market can be bought with human lives, with human souls, with blood and pain and whispers and tears. But not all creatures wish to go to the hassle of kidnapping a mortal merely to hire the services of Conall, or care to drain themselves of blood (if they even possess blood any longer) just to purchase from the Clan Karkar.

    Simon makes it so that they don't need to, for Simon, you see, is a slaver. Traveling through the sunlit realms, the beautiful Richemuloise man places himself as honeyed bait, pretending to be a merchant traveling upon business (which, in truth, he is). To his elders, Simon is a studious young man of business, eager to learn. To his fellows, Simon is the dashing traveler, carrying just a hint of exotic danger about him to heighten the allure. To children, Simon is kind and attentive, always ready with a helping hand and a kind word. And when the time is ripe, when he lures his victim to a secluded spot with soft words and sweet looks, he strikes. A stab of the syringe, the clink of the manacles, and then through the Gateway to the Midnight Market, to await the buyers with their soft gold and bright silver.

    As for what happens while his prisoners are in his care... very few of the denizens of the Midnight Market care whether or not their victims are in pristine condition when bought.

    Jeremy Carter: When the visitors meet this young man, dressed in rags and with a bandage around one arm, he tells a sorrowful tale. He came here by accident one night with his fiance, Emily. At first it was interesting, the strange people, the peculiar sights, but now Jeremy just wants to go home to Mordentshire and his father's shop.

    Except he can't find Emily. The young man is vague and confused, but somehow he's lost Emily, and search as he might, he can't find her. Please, he begs, please find Emily. Young Jeremy is quite desperate, and worried out of his mind about his beloved.

    Try as they might, however, the visitors can not find Jeremy's fiance. Look everywhere, ask everyone, no one in the Market knows where Emily is. Of course, if one were to ask the oldest denizens of the Midnight Market, Malthus Karkar or Grandmother Thorne or one of the others, one learns a curious fact. No one has ever been able to find Emily.

    And Jeremy has been asking for the last two hundred-odd years.

    The Minister of Fear: He is the master of the Midnight Market. He is its lord, its judge and its executioner. He enforces the Market Truce, he enforces the Bindings and Promises. He is fear incarnate, a terror-fey so old and corrupted that even great liches and Faerie lords shudder at his name.

    The Minister takes his name from his appearance. A tall, gaunt man some six feet tall, the Minister dresses like an old preacher, in dusty black with a broad-brimmed hat. His face is stern, with empty eye sockets as though his eyes were pecked out by carrion crows, while his arms are the twisted talons of a raven, covered in black feathers where they emerge from his jacket. The Minister carries a book with him always, from which he reads his judgements in a sonorous voice, and is accompanied by his Hounds.

    Those Hounds are why the Minister is so feared. A dozen strong, these twisted beings were once men, or undead, or other Faeries. But the Minister asked them to be his Beasts and his Slaves, and they agreed, though why shall never be known. And once they agreed, they twisted. They grew razor teeth and sharp talons, black fur and black feathers. Some walk on all fours, others still remember they were once men. They never speak, but at the Minister's command, they attack like a ravenous horde, undying, unceasing, shrugging off wounds that would slay an ox.

    The ghost-ravens of the Midnight Market likewise obey the Minister of Fear, for they are his eyes and his ears. They know everything in the Market, and thus he knows it too. But it is not for the hounds, or the ghost-ravens that the Minister is feared. He is feared for his questions. For the question he asks, one is compelled to answer, and should he ask you to join his Hounds, become Beast and Slave, then you will agree.

    Everyone else he asked has. And he has been at it for a very long time.

    Or perhaps it is not even that which causes him to be so feared. The Minister of Fear enforces the laws and promises of the Midnight Market. His rules are simple. All creditors must pay their debts, all oaths must be honored, violence may not be offered to any unless both parties agree to a duel. That is all. And so many of the denizens of the Market whisper that his is not merely a terror-fey. He is a Faerie Lord of Fear... and Justice.

    And in their darkest hearts, everyone fears justice.


The Actual Truth: The Midnight Market is a meeting ground and shopping location for all manner of strange creatures. Mortals come there, and the living dead, and the dwellers of Faerie. But the Midnight Market is more than that. It's a Pocket Domain, bound by the Mists, and its Darklord is Jeremy Carter.

The Midnight Market, the goblin-men, even the Minister of Fear, all of them are creations of Jeremy's mind. For the last two hundred and fifteen years, the young Mordentishman has been trapped within his own mind, in a mental demiplane of his own devising, searching for his beloved fiance. Only with Emily can he escape the damnation he forged for himself so many years ago.

His actual, corporeal body has been locked in a coma for years, stored away in a side-room of a sanitarium in Mordent. His records were long since lost, the staff has too high a turnover to notice that this one patient has been living for over two centuries now.

Meanwhile, the Darklord searches futily throughout the Market for Emily, trying to make some sense of his shattered memories and the alien reality around him. Sometimes, he thinks he sees Emily in the rain. Which, in the darkness of his heart, he knows is quite impossible.

He killed her two hundred years ago.

The Nature of Time, and Returning to the Domain: Time inside the Midnight Market and that outside it has a very strange relationship. Inside the market, a day passes for every hour outside. One who enters the Market at 12:01 at night and stays there for twelve hours, emerges to find it still only 12:31. That said, the Market only exists for an hour each night. One who stays in the Midnight Market an entire day finds that likewise, a day has passed outside, due to the Market's limited existence.

Those interested in returning to the Midnight Market, meanwhile, need only ask a raven for an invitation. Any old crow on the street will do. And in an hour, a raven will return with an invitation.

As for those interested in bringing others... well, for that one petitions the Minister for an invitation. One finds him wandering the streets of the Midnight Market, the rain dripping off his coat, and the petitioner makes his case. And usually, the Minister will nod, and an invitation will be sent out. It's a simple affair, in truth.

DM Notes The Midnight Market draws inspiration from a whole host of 'Bazaars of the Bizarre', a tradition that has its roots in the stories of Fritz Leiber of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. More recent inspirations include the Floating Market of Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere and of course, Sigil, the City of Doors, which is a city-sized Bazaar of the Bizarre.

Now, the Midnight Market is not for everyone's campaign. People who are sticking to a more traditional Gothic style may find it a little too strange and surreal for that style.

On the other hand, if it is for your campaign style, then the Midnight Market can serve as an excellent place for the PCs to meet with some eldritch informant, or to do some shopping (the prices are strange and the gear disturbing, but very little in the Midnight Market is actually cursed. It'd be bad business to scare away the customers). In fact, one could start a campaign by means of the invitations, having the PCs gathered in the Market by some unknown patron or adversary.

Beyond providing services and meeting grounds, the Midnight Market also serves as a good place to seed some more... unusual adventure hooks. Many of the merchants accept alternative payment, often strange, for their wares. Or what about the drops of blood the Midnight Market collects as payment? Sympathetic magic can be quite powerful, and the Market has collected the blood (or in some cases, bone slivers or what-not) of a great many powerful beings. One could do a great deal with this.

As for Jeremy? He deserves it. Anyone trying to save the hapless young man would need to face down the Minister of Fear and his Hounds, and also the fact that a great many dangerous and unscrupulous beings find the Midnight Market exceedingly convenient. Any PCs who try to destroy it and save Jeremy Carter from his damnation are going to be in for the struggle of their lives.

Is one man's soul worth it?

_________________
GM: Eye of Anubis (Complete), Shattered City (Complete), Walking Shadows (Complete), and Final Gate (Ongoing).
Lead Writer & Editor: Van Richten Society Files: Doppelgangers
Contributor: Quoth the Raven #20, #21, #22, #23


Last edited by NeoTiamat on Mon Dec 29, 2008 12:00 am, edited 3 times in total.



Fri Dec 26, 2008 6:58 pm
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