8/30/2014

Icons of the Ashen Coast: The Lady of the Woods and the Red Dragon

The Lady and the Red Dragon both share a special link - they were both part of the first adventure I ever ran, all those years ago. Originally conceived as minor characters, they both grew to be something greater and part of the group's shared history.

The Lady of the Woods shares many similarities with the High Druid and fills a similar niche on the Ashen Coast. I've always presented nature in my games as a strangely familiar but ultimately unknowable force, and the Lady is an aspect of that. Outwardly she is a being of serenity, peace and beauty - but beneath that there is something alien and dangerous. So too with nature. 


THE LADY OF THE WOODS
A resurgent power, the Lady is a force of nature who seeks to purge her home of arcane taint. 

Quote
'A measured kindness is the best way to restore the natural balance. If that fails... there are so few choices...'

Usual Location
A secret glade within The Enchanted Forest, ancient woodland contaminated by an incursion from another realm decades ago.  There the Lady is protected by her centaur wards. 

Common Knowledge
Though now forgotten by most, there has always been the Lady of the Woods. Once worship of this powerful being was common throughout the Ashen Coast, now there are only myths and legends that tell of a beautiful woman who speaks with natures spirits and guides the will of the land. She is a being of serenity and peace, who urges balance and unity from her followers. Yet she lives amongst the warlike centaur and destroys without mercy those who seek to defile her beloved domain. 

Most likely, the Lady is a dryad or nymph, such is her obvious connection to the woods in which she lives. Some say that she is an aspect of Nalfarin, though there is little to support that assumption. Her recent efforts have been concentrated on removing the unnatural arcane taint from the Usmarsh and the Enchanted Woods, which has to some extent prevented her from turning her gaze outwards. Many wonder what might happen when she does. 

Adventurer's and the Icon
Druids, rangers and barbarians are all drawn to follow the Lady. Many powerful tribal lords will seek out adventures in the Lady's name, to perform great deeds that benefit them. 

The Lady's emissaries, a race of sentient trees that call themselves 'the Living Wild', are becoming an increasingly common sight on the Coast, and at least one has been known to join an adventuring party. 

Allies
The Lady is a natural ally of the sylvan elves, and so will stand beside the Elven Baron. 

Enemies
The Ice Titan holds claim to lands that the Lady knows belong to her followers. The Dread Pirate is a monstrous being whose very existence puts the natural balance in peril. The Wizards of Thrinn frequently send invasive investigators into the woods, seeking to harness the strange arcane power for their own use; such beings that would destroy the wild to gain arcane power are not to be trusted. 

History
The woodland that the Lady calls her home was for many years a corrupted, haggard thing with blistered trees and tormented wildlife. Every year its borders shrank away as whatever foul magic that stole the life away from the land surrounding the nearby mountains took a stronger grip. So connected with that land was the Lady that she herself began to wither away and her influence waned. 

This, coupled with the only recently defeated Empire of Turin's policy of iconoclasm, meant the Lady was almost completely forgotten in the civilised lands. The peoples of Ushenge, Usmarsh and the highland tribes remained her sole worshippers.

Nearly two decades ago, things finally and unexpectedly changed. Almost overnight the blasted farmland blossomed with new life, forming meadows and glades of arcane supernatural beauty. The forest too exploded back into life and with it, the Lady's power returned. Her influence has grown and, though she still holds little in the towns and cities, the people of Us and the highlands would march to war for her if she asked. Indeed, many now itch to, and some wonder what the Lady might do with such an army. 

The True Danger
Everything will be alright as long as the Lady sees no reason to create an army of her followers.

It wouldn't be fantasy roleplay without dragons. Even when I tried to create a setting devoid of the beasts it still ended up, ultimately, being about dragons. With fantasy rpgs it's dragons all the way down. 

The Red Dragon is an icon in absentia, which was an interesting challenge. First appearing in my first adventure as a sea shanty singing foe that terrified a party of 1st level adventurers to hide in a cave and live off drop snails for a bit, he had disappeared when the party returned from a parallel world. His disappearance was yet another unresolved plot hook and I felt his influence on the Ashen Coast was too great for him not to be an icon, even if he wasn't actually there. I also wanted to create a different feel to the Devil, who also influenced through followers rather than directly. This was the result.


THE RED DRAGON
The Red Dragon, Fuegalyr, cruel and terrible, terrorised the towns and villages of the Coast but kept the seas safe. Now he has gone those same folk that he victimised see him as their only saviour. 

Quote
'Things were bad then, sure, but at least an honest man could earn a living. Now my family is starving and I risk life and limb launching my boat. I don't blame folks who want that dragon back. A few cows a year seems a fair price to pay...'

Usual Location
Missing. Some say he has entered a long slumber, others that he has business elsewhere, some radical followers say that he walks among them in human form, awaiting a champion. A few dare to whisper that he may be dead - although no adventurers have claimed success at such a deed. 

Common Knowledge
Fuegalyr the Red Dragon, a monster with a cruel sense of humour, is famed for chasing bands of adventurers that are foolish enough to wander into his lands, sometimes pursuing them for days before finally setting upon the tired and weakened fools, searing their flesh and returning to his lair with their bodies and treasure. Sometimes he would follow them, never showing himself, instead singing or whistling sea shanties, knowing that his reputation would put fear into their hearts.

However, in recent years his presence has disappeared from the Ashen Coast and, with it, great poverty and hardship has arrived for the common man. Pirates and worse now patrol the seas, making it impossible for the majority who made their living from the sea's bounty to earn enough to feed their families. As a direct result, bands of vigilantes have risen up across the Coast, calling themselves 'The Red Dragons'. They seek out pirates and thieves wherever they can, liberating them of their treasure and adding it to a great horde that they hope will entice the missing Fuegalyr to return. Like the Red Dragon they have begun to idolise, their favoured weapons are fire and flame.

Adventurer's and the Icon
It takes a certain sort of desperation to believe that an ostensibly evil red dragon is your saviour, but many do. Folk under the banner of the Red Dragon frequently join adventuring parties, hoping to find treasures to add to the great horde. Fighters, rogues and even the clerics from particularly hard hit towns and villages are common Red Dragons. Sorcerers who trace their powers to the chromatic dragons have also flocked to the cause, often treated almost like priests or holy warriors by the vigilantes. 

Allies
A shared desire for gold means that many Red Dragons will willingly work with the cultists of Mammon and the Devil. The King of Thun officially condemns vigilantism, but in truth is eager for any help he can get to remove the pirates from his shores. 

Enemies
The Corsair and the Dread Pirate are the ones responsible for the current treacherous state of the seas. The Platinum Shield, full of lawful do-gooders and patrons of the metallic dragons, often destroy the Red Dragons wherever they find them. 

History
Fuegalyr, the Red Dragon, claimed the lands north of the Enchanted Mountains as his territory. Greedy and prideful, like all chromatic dragons, he terrorised the towns and villages within his domain by swooping in from the skies and demanding impossible tributes in gold and livestock. He rarely let the pitiful begging and whining of his subjects prevent him from leaving with an empty stomach and more treasure for his hoard. 

One trait peculiar to Fuegalyr was his intolerance for piracy (or at least, pirates unwilling to pay a significant tithe to him). For the hundreds of years he terrorised the coast, he kept the pirates at bay, allowing free trade through through the sea-lanes except for a few select pirate vessels.

The True Danger
Everything will be alright as long as the Red Dragon doesn't return and find the pitiful offering left by the vigilantes utterly offensive. 

So, two new icons - both of which have been rattling around in my head for about a decade. Would you follow either of their causes? Or would you work against them?