Sunday, April 21, 2013

Scions of the Craft

A furtive student of the Most Ancient Art.


Followers of the old ways - those who entwine their beliefs and goals with the ancient magics which surge and roil beneath the surface of the Wampus Country - have many names for their worldview and skills.  Some call it the Most Ancient Art; outsiders and wizards may deride it as a warped kind of Shamanism or Druidism; but most often, practitioners know their ways as "the Craft".  The secrets of this movement involve binding oneself to forgotten and dead deities, some of which no longer have names or faces; the initiate consumes the remains of a dead god, preserved in powdered form, and is thus changed.  Rainbow wizards know the powers of this art to lie somewhere between the vermilion and saffron portions of the infinite spectrum of magic.  Constant manipulation of this form of power stains the skin of the Crafter - first the fingers, from which most spells emanate, then the hair, and eventually the entire skin, which presents itself with an unnatural titian glow.

Masters of the Craft resemble striga, or land-witches, in that their magical powers are broad and are noted for shapeshifting and control of the elements; but whereas the striga are inexorably tied to the physical land, and the cycles of life, death, and the seasons, the Crafters are instead linked to magically-preserved dead gods, divorcing themselves completely from normal magical cycles.  Manifestations of the Craft better resemble clerical magics than arcane ones, but in truth these eldritch emanations probably predate both modern styles of magic.  Although children of the Craft occasionally gather in covens or cults, they typically are found as singles.

As the Crafter grows in power, he or she learns not only to fling preternatural spells and tame tempests, but also to rearrange their mass and take on mock animal form.  Unlike workers of proper nature magic, a student of the Craft does not attune himself with animal spirits in order to change shape; instead they merely move bits of their flesh and bone around at will, to attain a hideous bestial form. Repeated use of this ability will eventually turn the Crafter into a shambling, boneless imitation of its original form, with flesh "as velvet".  Dr. Runcible has suggested that, in time, a master of the Craft may devolve into something resembling an ochre jelly, and that there are connections between this chaotic magic and the city of Djelu.

Let there be no doubt that there is something inexorably wrong about the Craft, despite how tempting it might seem; it is a manifestation of Chaos which pretends to be order. Its very nature is contradiction: while associated with the north, its origins lie elsewhere; while it seems natural, it is unnatural.


The Lord of Wyrmcastle -- This insidious schemer, trained as a wizard, came to the Craft late in life.  Commanding a small army from his fortress northeast of Frogport, he had nearly achieved his apotheosis as a master shapeshifter when he was killed by local hero Sir Vallasen.  The Lord's castle is being rebuilt, but the tunnels and sepulchre beneath may yet hide Craft-related secrets; it is at this time not known whether his soldiers, who did not wear the traditional blue livery of a cultist, were also initiates of the Craft, as they were slaughtered to a man by Vallasen's band.

Cackling-Bull -- A monstrous minotaur, exiled by his highland clan, who turned to the Craft for power in aid of his revenge.  He wears gaudy jewelry, dyes his skin with the blood of his enemies, and works as a sell-sword on the extremes of the northern frontier.  By some reports, he singlehandedly destroyed a barbarian freehold, then laughed nonstop for hours as he burned the scores of corpses - thus earning his name.

Czestur -- A sinister rogue who has no qualms about subtle murder or open slaughter, as suits his needs, and has on several occasions recruited bands of brigands to serve as his 'muscle'.  Czestur is quick to warn new recruits that life in the Craft cult is fraught with difficulty and dangerous, but in truth, he revels in the challenge of being an outsider and a wanted man.  After exploration of the ancient feline monument of the plains, Czestur has himself adopted a rather feline form, although whether this is a side-effect of ancient magic or an affectation of his shapeshifting is unknown.  When in public, the fiend wears a set of magical spectacles which dispel fear and protect him from being mentally dominated; Czestur is known to carry a compliment of triangular, golden shuriken as a favored weapon.

The King-Beast -- One can only speculate how a large snollygoster could become familiar with the workings of the Craft, and gain sentience - or whether those events even occurred in that order.  Yet the fact remains that there have been multiple sightings of this creature, known as the King-Beast, and all observations confirm that he is in the late stages of transformation into a scion of the Craft, as his lumpen, waxy skin so ably demonstrates.  The King-Beast, in addition to his already-intimidating size and snollygoster qualities, is said to possess the ability to conjure forth a massive torrent of molten chaos-stuff which pours forth and destroys everything in its path.

The King-Beast, towering over the battlefield, signals its approval of the coming massacre.

The blackguard Czestur has been known to ally himself with all manner of dark and sinister forces.

Hearing the lowing chuckles of the minotaur Cackling-Bull can mean only one thing: your doom.

Editor's note:  "Mascot Mondays" will no longer be marked as such in the title, and may actually appear on Sundays.

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