Friday, 22 January 2016

Denizens of the Wicked City 9: The Golden Ones

Tuvan girl:

Once there was a beautiful young maiden. Here is how her story goes.

* * *

Long ago, there lived a young woman of surpassing beauty. Many rich and powerful men vied with one another for her hand, each offering greater gifts than the last, so that her father was quite bewildered which of their offers to accept. But while he deliberated, the matter was cut short: for in the dark of the night one suitor more daring than the rest broke into their home, and stole the maiden quite away. This suitor carried the maiden to his hidden home, deep in the darkest part of the taiga. There he wooed her with gifts and music, with fair words and fine verses and rich gowns sewn all over with precious stones; but she would not accept him, and each day she demanded only that she be returned to her home. When she had rebuffed him for the hundredth time, her suitor grew angry: he locked her into her room, and swore that she would not leave until she consented to his suit. But still she denied him, until the fury of his failures turned the young man’s brain.

Seeing her resistance continue, the suitor became convinced that the beautiful maiden must have had some secret lover, whom she preferred to him. He suspected everyone, and not entirely without reason: for the other suitors had not ceased to search for her, and their servants and soldiers were prowling from village to village. So her captor gathered around himself a band of silent and merciless men, and he decoyed these agents of the other suitors deep into the taiga, and there he hanged them from the branches. Soon his suspicion grew so deep that he saw in every stranger or traveller a thief come to steal away his prize; and so he hanged them, one and all, until the woods around his hidden home were full of corpses swaying in the winds. As the fame and the horror of the place grew, legends began to circulate through the far towns that the most beautiful women in the world was being held prisoner there, deep in the pinewoods. Many a gallant young man rode off in search of her, fancying himself a lover or a hero. All of them ended their days choking in the hangman’s noose.


Years passed, and the maiden’s younger sister grew to be almost as great a beauty as she had been before her. She, too, had many suitors; but she swore to marry none but the man who could fetch her sister home again, and those who attempted this task did not return. At last, in despair, she set off to find her sister for herself; and when she went, she was accompanied by her four most persistent suitors, each of whom hoped to win her favour by some deed of heroism along the way. They had barely set foot into the woods when the Hangman caught the first of them, and hung him on a pine tree; they were almost within sight of the Hangman's house when he caught the second, and hung him on a larch tree; and when the three survivors, each from a different angle, tried to creep into the house itself, the Hangman caught the third of them and hung him from the flagpole on the roof. But the sister and her last surviving suitor found their way into the house, and crept through its corridors, sick with horror and fear; for the Hangman’s men were barely human any more, mere silent, mad-eyed ghosts who roamed the corridors with nooses dangling from their hands. At last, they found their way to the entrance of the maiden’s prison-room; and though they could not pass it, they communicated in whispers with her through the door. 

That night, when the Hangman came for the two thousandth time to demand her hand in marriage, she told him that her heart had softened towards him, and that she longed for him to enter her chamber and sing to her as he used to do. He unlocked the door – and as he stepped inside the maiden cast around his neck a noose woven from her gowns of silk and cloth-of-gold, the other end of which hung down over the room’s rafters; and her sister and her sister’s suitor rushed in behind him, and all three of them pulled the rope until the Hangman was lifted from the floor, kicking and gasping until he breathed his last. Then they gathered all the wealth which he had given her and they fled out of the taiga, and they did not stop until they reached their father’s house. Her sister married the last of her suitors, and they lived in wealth and happiness until the end of their days, but the maiden herself had resolved never to marry:  instead, she entered into a temple devoted to the Sage of Gold, and in time she became a great priestess and physician, as famous for her skill and wisdom in her old age as she had been for her beauty in her youth.

After their deaths, the three of them passed into legend: and today the Golden Maiden, the Brave Sister, and the Faithful Suitor are revered as quasi-deific figures, prayed to by would-be lovers and all who find themselves crossed in matters of the heart. As for the woods where the Hangman once lived, it remains a place of appalling ill-omen. Those who enter it often do not come out again; and those who do often speak of seeing corpses dangling from the branches, corpses which could not possibly be the remains of those killed by the Hangman all those years ago. Some say that it is the descendants of his murderous band who still lurk there, practicing the same grim customs which he first taught them; others assert that it is the Hangman himself, so far-gone in evil and madness that even death could not hold him, who now roams the woods with a tattered silken noose around his neck, or else that the ghosts of his victims prowl the forests, dragging others to the same horrible deaths as themselves. Few are so curious as to be willing to risk their lives to discover the truth.

* * *



The Sage of Gold, you will recall, is primarily revered by the Serpent Folk. This means that his cult has something of an image problem. People may respect the Serpent Folk, but they don't like them, and they certainly don't like going into whole temples full of them. There's only so many lines of hissing, heavily-robed serpent-men that you can walk past before you start to feel like a mouse which has accidentally wandered into the snake enclosure at the zoo.

As a result, the legend of the Golden Maiden has been a gift to the cultists of the Sage of Gold. Whenever an unusually attractive young person with a knack for healing comes to their attention, the cultists of the Sage lose no time in producing any number of spurious genealogies and family trees 'proving' that the individual in question is a direct descendant of the Brave Sister and her Faithful Suitor, and proceed to offer them all kinds of encouragements and inducements to follow the example of their famous ancestress the Golden Maiden and join the cult of the Sage of Gold. These beautiful young healers are called the Golden Ones, and the cult values them very highly indeed: they form the public face of the religion, one to which people tend to react much more positively than all those creepy serpent-men. After all, the Golden Maiden is one of the most popular folk-heroes in the region.

In game terms, the Golden Ones are the closest thing that ATWC has to the 'healer-priests' of D&D tradition. Like most things in the Wicked City; they come with a whole load of baggage: the cult they serve is run by the same serpent-folk who control the city's drug trade, most of whom find the current situation so profitable that they're not at all keen on rocking the boat. But the brighter Golden Ones usually work out that they're basically being exploited for PR value, and the braver ones sometimes even decide to do something about it. They're good-looking, they're articulate, they're medically trained, and they're absolutely adored by the common people. It's not a bad package for a would-be revolutionary.

* * *

Tuvan girl:

The Brave Sister Would Be Proud of Me: Playing a Golden One requires Intelligence 11, Wisdom 11, and Charisma 13; they need to be bright enough to cope with a rigorous medical education, and pretty enough to persuade people that maybe they really are the descendents of the Golden Maiden. Game information is as follows:
  • You can only use simple weapons, and cannot use shields, or any armour heavier than heavy leather (+3 AC).
  • You gain a bonus to all your to-hit rolls equal to half your level, rounded down.
  • You gain 1d6 HP per level.
  • Your beauty, self-confidence, and air of untouchable holiness makes it very hard for people to bring themselves to hurt you. When fighting intelligent enemies, you may add your Charisma bonus (if any) to your AC. 
  • You have a disturbingly complete knowledge of human anatomy, which you can use to your advantage in combat. When wielding a dagger-sized or smaller bladed weapon (knife, scalpel, etc) in melee against a living target with more-or-less human anatomy, you gain a damage bonus equal to half your level, rounded up.
  • You are a highly skilled healer. Each day, you may care for a number of people equal to your level; as long as you are able to check up on them every few hours, giving them medicine and dressing their wounds, they will regain an extra 3 HP per day in addition to whatever they would normally recover. If you focus your entire attention on caring for a single patient for an entire day, they regain a number of extra HP equal to three times your level. If more than one Golden One is tending to the same patient, these bonuses stack.
  • You know a wide range of cures for diseases and poisons. After inspecting someone suffering from a poison or disease, you can spend one hour preparing a medicine which permits them a new FORT save to shake off its effects, with a bonus equal to your level. You may only attempt this once per patient.
  • You can perform amazing feats of battlefield first aid. If someone takes a fatal injury, then you have a number of rounds equal to your level to attempt life-saving treatment. If you get to them in time, then spend one round performing emergency first-aid and make a Wisdom roll; if you succeed, they immediately regain 1d6 HP. If this isn't enough to save their life, then they die for real. 
  • You can identify almost all drugs, poisons, and medicines by smell. Especially obscure ones might require an Intelligence roll.
  • You are attractive, eloquent, and widely believed to be descended from a popular folk-hero. You gain a +1 bonus on reaction rolls (in addition to any bonus from your Charisma), and all your followers gain an additional +1 bonus to morale. 
  • Between your good looks, your ancestry, your eloquence, and your habit of saving people's lives, people just really like you. Any ordinary people you meet should be assumed to be friendly, helpful, and well-disposed towards you unless they've got a strong reason to behave otherwise. This isn't mind control - they won't die for you, or tell you their deepest secrets - but you'll always be given the best seat at the concert, the last slice of cake, the first warning that the guards are coming, and so on. If you're really trying to push your luck with what this will let you get away with, the GM may call for a Charisma roll. 

Golden One Summary Table

Level
Hit Points
To Hit Bonus
Fortitude save (FORT)
Reflex save (REF)
Willpower save (WILL)
1
1d6
+0
14
14
14
2
2d6
+1
13
13
13
3
3d6
+1
12
12
10
4
4d6
+2
11
11
11
5
5d6
+2
10
10
10
6
6d6
+3
9
9
9
7
7d6
+3
8
8
8
8
8d6
+4
7
7
7
9
9d6
+4
6
6
6
10
10d6
+5
5
5
5

Starting equipment: Beautiful clothes, bag of medicinal herbs, medical instruments (scalpel, forceps, etc), golden icon of the Sage of Gold, 1d6 copies of a cheaply printed book telling the story of the Golden Maiden (illustrated with woodcuts), impressive-looking documents 'proving' that you are a lineal descendent of the Brave Sister, 3d6x10 sp.

No comments:

Post a Comment