In an era of intense volatility and protracted strife, certain extraordinary personalities emerge from the quagmire and attempt to alter the course of world events. Below is a description of eight such figures, each prominent and influential in the ongoing hostilities that continue to plague Entrath.
|His Majesty, King Gabriel Boldheart||Eurig the Robomancer|
|Ozawa, Cosmic Elder||Lixil the Deathless|
|Puck, the Dream Bringer||Uzume, Grand Concubunny|
|Zoltog||Xarlox the Brood Lord|
King Gabriel is the supreme monarch of Carloth, which encompasses all three of the human realms. He is intrinsically bonded with his great wolf companion, Boldheart, and together they adamantly serve as exemplars of honor, courage, and strength for the human kingdom as well as for the Ardent alliance.
Gabriel is the oldest of three brothers, all born in Adamanth (as were the previous kings of the human realms dating back 187 generations). As a child he was sent to Cerulea to receive his education, then as an adolescent, it was off to Gawaine for formal military training. Upon returning to Adamanth on the eve of his 17th birthday, he wed Lady Grace Rose, the eldest daughter of Chancellor Delphin Rose of the Academy of Cerulea. Soon after, he ascended to the throne when his father, Henry XLIII, abdicated.
Despite the marriage being arranged since they were barely toddlers, Gabriel and Grace soon formed an enduring bond and quickly gave the kingdom three children. Princess Victoria, the eldest, is a fighter of estimable prowess, though her parents wish she would concern herself with duties more typical of female royalty. Prince Malcolm is currently an Air Captain in the Phoenix Guard, the branch of human civil service that patrols the skies of Carloth on giant songbirds. Prince Stuart, the youngest Boldheart, is an apprentice in the clerical order of the Ancient Kings, where he is learning to cultivate his strong inherent connection with the ancestor spirits of past royalty.
Though he must deal with the occasional skirmish, the three decade reign of King Gabriel has been relatively placid, in that the Ardent coalition has not endured an all-out assault on multiple fronts from the Underworld in some time. However, Gabriel understands his duty is to remain ever vigilant to preserve the existence of his people and those of his allies, as the period of calm from below must only mean that the Underworld is likely preparing for an onslaught of unprecedented devastation.
Many call Ozawa the “cosmic elder”, but he waves away that lofty title like a pesky mosquito. If he must be called anything other than his name, he prefers to be called “the Wanderer”. Carrying his only possessions (a thick feathered headdress, a walking stick to help his balance during his wanderings, his pipe, and a blanket to stave off the chill of the night winds on the Plains), Ozawa roams seemingly at random from place to place: the coyotle city of Wakuna, to the Ambling Mesa, to the edge of the human city of Adamanth, to the Vale of Whispers, to the borders of the Feralroot Woods, with no discernible destination. Ozawa believes he has never truly departed from anywhere, so he can never really arrive, either.
Nobody knows how old Ozawa is. The eldest of the coyotle remember hearing tales of Ozawa’s wanderings when they were mere pups. He typically appears at a cluster of teepees at night somewhere in the Howling Plains, shares his stories and his wisdom surrounding a cooking fire, and is shuffling off before the dawn, taking nothing with him but his meager possessions and an evening’s warm fellowship with his kin.
Some believe Ozawa is not a coyotle at all. There are whispers that he is a Primal, or something even more powerful that cannot be fully understood. There are many tales of Ozawa’s “wanderings” through time itself, and that his capability of appearing at any moment from the past or future gives him the illusion of immortality.
From Ozawa’s occasionally cryptic stories of meeting strangers in distant lands and his knowledge of languages that are not spoken anywhere on Entrath, many coyotle are convinced that the “cosmic elder” can walk amongst the stars themselves, and has visited countless worlds that spin in the unfathomable depths of the inky night sky.
There are even whispers amongst the coyotle and their allies that Ozawa is the only mortal in existence that knows the true purpose of Hex. Whenever he is asked if this is true by a coyotle bold enough to ask, Ozawa merely smiles and puffs on his pipe.
Puck is a world-renowned playwright, classical composer, gourmet chef, classically trained baritone, and virtuoso flautist … according to Puck. Nobody has ever actually seen the elf cleric lift a quill, chop up so much as a carrot, or open his mouth for any reason other than to expound at length on his prodigious wonderfulness.
The one unimpeachable talent Puck actually demonstrates is his ability to create mesmerizing melodies with a variety of woodwinds, primarily the flute. Puck is able to weave Wild Magic into his musical performances, so that the tones he conjures seem to emerge from the earth itself, each note a living entity unto itself, as dense as a tree branch but lighter than a dandelion seed lilting on a spring breeze. Some claim to be able to hear wisps of Puck’s flute hundreds of miles away, days after a performance.
Puck was a youthful 120 years old (an adolescent in elf terms) when the Underworld Incursion erupted simultaneously from beneath several areas of the surface world, including the Feralroot Woods. Puck was a persuasive advocate for the typically isolationist elves to accept the humans’ offer of forming an alliance of surface races. Despite initial resistance to the idea from the Aryndel Council, once the elves agreed to unite with the Ardent alliance, they quickly became one of the fiercest adversaries the Underworld would face in their savage but ultimately doomed attempt to obliterate the surface societies.
Puck would become known as the “Dream Bringer”, a moniker he earned during the Incursion. His role was to use his Wild Magic-infused music to sneak beyond the battle lines and infiltrate the dreams of sleeping enemies the night before significant battles, conjuring realistic nightmares that showed them being slaughtered by Ardent forces. This prevented the Underworld aggressors from achieving a restful slumber, and implanted notions of imminent failure into their subconscious as they would launch themselves into battle the following morning.
Zoltog was born in a filthy Ayotochi alley to a prostitute who bled to death while screaming curses at Kog’Tepetl. Entering the world tainted by multiple egregious blasphemies, the shrieking infant was given his first tattoo: a misshapen triangle on his chest, symbolizing a rat’s tooth, informing the world that he was little more than gutter vermin and should be left to starve to death and be quickly forgotten. However, despite this branding, the tiny, squalling orc was taken by a band of outlaws and sold to a contingent of rangers stationed near Mazat Crater. Their numbers had been so decimated by incessant vennen attacks, the rangers were willing to raise the unwanted orphan if it would mean bolstering their ranks by training one of their own.
The moment he grew strong enough to lift a spear or axe, Zoltog was throwing them at squirrels (and hitting quite a few). When he was four, he was brought on his first raid, and he was a mere eight years old when he killed his first vennen. He quickly mastered trap-making and skinning. He would often hunt blindfolded, so he could learn not to depend solely on his sight and hone his other senses.
Despite his youth, Zoltog’s unceasing aggression and determination to enhance his acumen as a hunter inspired the other Mazat rangers to see him as a natural leader. In addition to their duties in guarding the Crater against Underworld strikes, his rangers are responsible for raids that would provide food and weapons, as well as capture a variety of creatures to be brought to the gladiatorial arena for battle.
Whenever he makes the trek to Ayotochi with a group of captured ogres or gnolls in tow to be handed over to the gladiatorial council to be used for arena fodder, Zoltog is always struck by a dizzying sense of unease, mostly due to his origins as an urban gutter rat, fit only to be starved to death. Though he now has a multitude of tattoos covering his body, he keeps a margin of un-inked flesh surrounding the rat’s tooth to keep it prominent as a reminder that he is not supposed to have lived at all. He survived to become a creature of the open ranges, a leader of the orc rangers that hunt and sleep under freezing mountain skies, and a vigilant sentinel forever watching for enemy infiltration into the sacred lands under Kog’Tepetl’s domain.
Soon after they are crafted, all dwarves are required to choose a specialization dictated by one of the guilds of the Builder’s Triad. Eurig was immediately drawn to the Construct Guild, a consortium of engineers dedicated to crafting and refining autonomous machines of destruction.
Most bot-makers prefer to view their creations as senseless apparatus, walking tools that are programmed for various functions but are incapable of making their own decisions or having an awareness beyond their coding. Eurig believes this kind of thinking is regressive and demeaning.
If dwarves, who are crafted from stone, are self-aware and capable of independent thought, then why can’t robots, forged of metal, be capable of consciousness as well? Eurig gives each of the bots he creates a name, for he believes that identity is the foundation of self-awareness. He speaks to them as if they were equals. Though the responses they give are pre-programmed, Eurig argues, isn’t that the way all sentient beings respond to stimuli? Robots understand cause and effect, have a sense of self preservation, and are capable of making contextual choices based on a combination of predetermined options and learned behavior.
Eurig is an evangelist amongst a small but growing order of dwarves, known as the Amalgam, who believe that dwarves are a primordial version of their race. The Amalgam preach that dwarves were specifically designed for the primary purpose of creating robot kind, and that eventually, robots will become the dominant species of the planet. At that time, dwarves will merge their consciousness with robots. These hybrid dwarf-bots will be more powerful than any mortal race that has ever existed, and will challenge even the Primals for dominion over all existence. While the official determination of the Builder’s Triad is that the beliefs of Eurig and the Amalgam are inexplicable and bordering on treasonous, they have yet to officially sanction the group or oppress the distribution of their teachings.
Lixil was awakened into the corpse of Queen Deborah, a beloved human monarch who died centuries ago. The necrotic soon developed an affinity for moving between shadows and poisoning the tips of her daggers, so that any lunging stab from the shadows would prove fatal to her prey, regardless of whether she pierced a vital organ.
Nobody knows what the typical lifespan of a necrotic is, not even the necrotic themselves. Awakening new necrotic by placing diamond gems into the eye sockets of human corpses slows down the decaying process significantly, but does not halt it. Eventually, when necrotic are slain in battle or their bodies become too decomposed over time to remain useful, the diamond gems are implanted into a new corpse and re-awakened. When this occurs, the “new” necrotic typically takes a unique name and often assumes new personality traits that can range from subtle quirks to an entirely different persona.
Lixil refuses to accept the inevitable. She believes that if a pair of Hexing gems can halt the decomposition of a necrotic’s physical form, then perhaps a multitude of these gems grafted directly into the skin can imbue something approaching immortality. Her fellow necrotic do not understand her obsession with the preservation of her individual form, for all of their kind are fragments of a single intellect, and the bodies they inhabit are mere vessels that give mobility to their consciousness. When one form withers, they merely take another and move forward.
Lixil believes that dismissing the usefulness of the physical form is a mistake. She feels that if the necrotic were to coalesce their intelligence into a small cluster of immortal physical forms impervious to damage, decay, or destruction, it would be a more efficient use of resources than spreading themselves thin across a wider legion of diverse but frail remains of former human bodies. So, she fervently experiments with her own form, grafting various combinations of Hexing gems into her body in an attempt to find the flawless arrangement that will grant her immortality.
One of the most powerful practitioners of Wild Magic in the world began life as all shin’hare do, as one of a litter of anonymous rabble. Shin’hare kits are not given names until they are six months old, so as not to waste time on the ones that do not survive (who do not deserve to be identified because of their weakness, according to shin’hare culture).
Not only did little Uzume live long enough to receive her name, she thrived in an environment that rewarded ruthless ambition. Shin’hare gender roles are fairly egalitarian, in that all of their kind are equally entitled to be hurled into battle in massive battalions of expendable troops. Females do have one advantage over males, in that if they are lucky enough to survive into sexual maturity, they have a remote chance of being selected to become a concubunny, where they will be forced to produce innumerable litters, but also enjoy a degree of luxury and social privilege rarely experienced by any shin’hare of common birth.
When Uzume discovered that she, along with half a dozen other young females, were being considered for a lone concubunny opening, she murdered the other candidates. This not only eliminated her competition, but earned her a level of respect amongst the Concubunny Council, overseen by the Grand Concubunny, Akako. Of course, earning her spot amongst the concubunnies was not enough for Uzume, as her ultimate ambition was to sit in Akako’s chair, and she wasn’t willing to wait decades for the current Grand Concubunny, her life unnaturally extended by pervasive Wild Magic, to die of natural causes.
With aggressive political manipulation and her natural capability of producing abundant litters that had exceptionally low mortality rates, Uzume worked herself into a position to be selected as Grand Concubunny upon the death of Akako, which occurred when she ingested a poisoned rutabaga provided by a Milky Eye assassin contracted by Uzume.
Now that Uzume has lobbied and killed to get to the position of power she always craved, she has no intention of relinquishing her chair. She actively identifies females that appear to have a glint of ambition and gets them shipped out to the front lines. She does not want to make the same mistake that Akako did, and ensures that the concubunnies under her command are docile and politically inert.
Xarlox spent the first few decades of his life as a member of an infiltration team that would attempt to assassinate important officers in the orc military. As satisfying as it was to tear out the throats of heretics and burn their blasphemous bodies in purple fires of cleansing Blood Magic, Xarlox felt his true purpose was amongst the young as an educator and role model.
The role of the Brood Lords is not only to care for the vennen young shortly after they hatch, but to instruct them of the essential truths. They are taught of the “just war” against the heretics, a group that mostly includes all living creatures that are not vennen. A specialized, intensified hatred is reserved for the orcs, who the vennen believe are the living embodiment of sacrilege, and that their very existence is a profanity.
Xarlox tells his young students of the atrocities he claims to have personally witnessed in his time as an assassin. Such as how the orcs build meticulously detailed effigies of Xentoth only to burn them down as they dance around, spitting and cursing and fornicating. He tells his wide-eyed students of the orc arena, where they hold depraved ceremonies and eat their own babies in wicked orgies of unrestrained bloodlust. Xarlox would admit that perhaps these tales are a touch exaggerated, but they serve their purpose: when the young vennen leave the care of the Brood Lords, they take with them a unbridled hatred of all orcs, despite the fact that they have never seen one.
Xarlox also oversees the incubation slaves, captured enemies of the vennen who are bound by webs and used to nurture a variety of spiderspawn. Keeping an incubation slave alive requires a delicate application of Blood Magic that Xarlox learned from his time as an infiltrator, in those instances when he had to keep interrogation subjects alive long enough to extract essential information.
There is little glory to be earned from being a Brood Lord, but Xarlox doesn’t instill zealotry, hatred, and fanaticism in his students for praise or gold. He does it for the children.