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“The Directives, for the first time in Amaurea’s history, offer us true freedom from the primeval and outdated instincts of our biology. Those who refuse willfully invite the lesser qualities of our physiology to remain, when they could opt instead for harmonious perfection.”
—Ethulian, On Reengineering Willful Physiology
On the edge of the Glistening Sea, the city of Amaranth basks in the water’s soft glow. The luminous sea fills the city with the colors of dawn, gold, pink, and purple. Grown structures rise along the coast, resembling shells and hives. They twist and hang, often emerging from one another. Advances in bioengineering give rise to entirely new possibilities in Amaranth. A city only in name, for there’s no better word for it in the common tongue, Amaranth grows and evolves thanks to the advances made by House Nivenilya and the Superiori. Not all elves in Amaurea or even in the Nivenilyan territories agree with the biological tampering, but it may give them an edge over the Schlecten invaders.
Amaranth resembles a wondrous hive. Each structure blends, curves, and twists into the complex sprawl as if each building is simply an extension of the next. Vibrant-colored chrysalis formations hang from above, in every shape and color. Below them, shell-like structures of chiton and great halls of fibrous pulp house the masses. Entranceways dilate and squeeze shut behind those who pass through them. Translucent membranes thin and change hue as the sun rises and falls. The city is a living hybrid of organic tissue and natural ingenuity.
To outsiders, Amaranth is a bizarre and even frightening place where maps are of little use. There are no paved stones or brick walkways. No familiar architecture. Mossy thoroughfares grow and reknit themselves as the locals walk across them. Amaranth is in a constant state of flux as it adapts to new breakthroughs and adjusts to the cycles of nature. To the elven inhabitants, nothing could be simpler than following the bioluminescent and pheromonal markers that direct their every move. The physiology of each modified elf responds to the unseen chemical messages that fill the air. The Weave, the life force which binds together all creatures, has been shunned in favor of molecular manipulation.
Above the waves, an iridescent tower twists in a corkscrew spiral. Light and color reflect off the tower and across Amaranth. On the shore, day never ends. From this vantage point, Chancellor Gwynilith watches the movements and patterns of life teeming below. Rarely seen in the pearl tower, she prefers to spend her time in the Allsphere and the Stasitorium. Easily picked out of a crowd, her half-shaved head stands as a reminder that she still mourns the death of King Avain, who bravely sought to heal the rift between his people, House Rhuviel, and House Nivenilya. He would have been her father-in-law, but her betrothal to his son Thannor ended when the king tragically died from his Nivenilyan augmentation. Notably, she appears far more like an elf from House Rhuviel than most Nivenilyan elves, though she maintains their characteristically dark skin tone. Like most Nivenilyans born outside of Amaranth, she remains untouched by the augmentations mandated by the Superiori, including the Directives.
This western stretch of coast is known as the Exceptorium. The domed structures are nearly one congealed mass filled with interconnected halls and laboratories where researchers collaborate. The Exceptorium is reserved for the greatest minds of the Superiori and the highest-ranking members of House Nivenilya. In these halls the young genius and Prime of the Superiori, Ethulian, invents the impossible. Often swarmed by curious researchers, he’s easy to spot when he leaves the Exceptorium given the symbiote latched to his head, intense stare, and the many-legged lizard creature that often sits perched on his shoulder.
The density of knowledge and magnitude of bioengineering in the Exceptorium earned Amaranth the reputation of being filled with aloof or unfriendly inhabitants, but this is simply a consequence of their focus and single-minded purpose. With such gifts, who would dare waste even a moment?
In the constant glow, engineers and scholars pursue the inner workings of all living things. Often these researchers stand fixed over their stations for hours. Additional translucent eyelids act as lenses, allowing them to observe what should be imperceptible. When light reflects off their many-lidded eyes, they appear to shine brightly, often in two different colors. This has earned them the descriptor of “cat eyed” This nickname is used interchangeably, either as a derogatory term or one of endearment, depending on context.
These researchers experiment with altering the most basic units of life until exhaustion catches up to them or until the next discovery. Scholars of high regard have pioneered a biomodification that allows them to rest half their brain at once, like many aquatic lifeforms. Their research never ends, not even to eat. They absorb all the nutrients they need from the sun. These advances granted by House Nivenilya and the Superiori contribute to the progress of all life.
East of the shore lies the Allsphere where the least altered members of Amaranth live and gather within their fibrous walls to facilitate the ongoing research. These elves are not unlike those of the other Houses, with only a few occasional augmentations or grafts awarded to them beyond the required modifications. The elves of the Allsphere commonly tend the vats that produce new organs for research, maintain the orchards where lumiberries and foreverines grow, and harvest the crop from the worm farms. Once harvested, weavers transform the silk into sheer scarves, shawls, wraps, and dresses. Though it leaves little to the imagination, the silk can withstand the point of a blade. The silk also produces a warm, trembling tone when plucked as part of an instrument. This makes it a highly sought commodity, even outside the city.
North and west of Allsphere, the Stasitorium sits atop the cliffs on the Glistening Sea and extends downward. This mound of earth and rock appears natural though it’s not quite a mountain, nor is it a proper building. It’s something in between, as if the ingenuity of an ant colony cuts through the cliffside. This is the ideal place for travelers or the impoverished to visit if in need of the local currency.
Within the bare and curving hallways of the Stasitorium, light filters in through giant membrane windows that face the sea. Though eerily quiet and vacant, it’s exceptionally clean for a structure seemingly made of dirt. The inner passages lead to wide-open halls where elven bodies stare blankly out from within hexes of a strange sap. These sap-filled niches in the wall form pods. Suspended inside, each elf connects through a series of roots that sprout from their limbs to the growing network which leads back to the Exceptorium. Attendants monitor those sealed within, ensuring they receive proper nutrients from the sun.
The Stasitorium allows those who’d rather not contribute to the industry of the Allsphere, whether by choice or by inability, to continue to provide for the Superiori. In the earthen halls of the Stasitorium anyone can volunteer for an agreed-upon amount of time within the walls for seeds. Here an elf can donate their mind to running calculations for the Superiori’s leading researchers. Linked together, the suspended elves help solve some of the most difficult problems facing the future of elvenkind, all without knowing it. Depending on the value of one’s mental capacity, the seeds one earns from their time suspended may vary. It’s not clear how time affects those suspended in the amber, but they seem to age far slower than normal.
Instead of standard coins, Stasitorium sleepers earn seeds that never decay. The value of a seed is determined by how much sustenance and beauty its growth brings. Because of this, the lumiberry seed, denoted by its distinct orange shell, is worth nearly three times the value of the deep green mossvine seed even though both are perfectly suitable for consumption.
Outside the Stasitorium, purveyors and crafters call out from the inlets and passages that are embedded into the surface. They make a fortune off those who stumble out of the Stasitorium with newfound wealth and a deep hunger to experience all the pleasures of living once again.
All along the path back to the heart of the city, glittering wares and delicious smells tempt those who pass each storefront as they return from stasis. Many have begun calling this area The Snare. There are stories of elves never returning home after being caught within the interwoven faculties of commerce and pleasure.
Often these shops are combined all in one. A customer might delight in a bowl of worms while receiving an advanced tasting augmentation, each bite growing all the more rich in texture and taste until the customer can even discern exactly where the cook dug up the worms. Worms sourced from the south taste more damp and wooden, while those from the north tend to be more elastic but juicier.
The Snare is home to many hybrid breeders and exotic transpecies collectors. These hybrid creatures fulfill a variety of services. They’re engineered for optimal softness, loyalty, and bold coloring. The common favorite, the clawbeak, resembles both feline and owl. Their demure hoot-meows echo across the Snare. These fuzzy feathered kittens comfort lonely travelers, and will fight to the death to defend their owners once bonded. Of course whisperswallows, toadhounds, and wonderwings remain popular offerings among the many variations and abundant hybrids available.
Naturally the combination of intriguing offerings and services makes the Snare popular with adventurers and travelers in need of supplies and thrills.
On the southern edge of Amaranth, cocoons hang suspended above the criss-crossing pathways. This is where the Quaestum ensure that Amaranth thrives in harmonious balance. In another territory, they might be viewed similarly to a merchant class or lower nobility. They oversee production in the Allsphere. The Quaestum organize and allocate resources to best serve the Superiori. They ensure that the laborers receive their nutrients and shelter in exchange for their hard work. They also serve to inform and advise the ruling house, while maintaining a broader network of Gatherers who travel in search of new specimens for research.
Easily identified, each member of the Quaestum aims to physically emulate the most highly regarded members of the upper class in Amaranth. Subtly different copies of Ethulian or Gwynilith or whomever is deemed worthy of mimicry will roam, often in clusters, and fill gathering halls. If one wants to know who’s in control of Amaranth all they have to do is start counting the Quaestum and tally up how many of each copy they see.
With the help of the surgeons and artists that surround the Sculpted Garden, the Quaestum perfect their anatomies. Perfection, of course, being denoted by how closely they resemble their targets. Even when members of the Quaestum differ in whom they choose to emulate, they still admire one another’s handcrafted bodies. Surgeons slice, mold, and grow entirely new muscles and organs through an excruciating process to craft the physical facade.
After years of this process the musculature may startle those unaccustomed to the Quaestum. Observers may find their gaze sliding away from the Quaestum unconsciously. Others report finding it impossible to look away as if they faced a living doll. Researchers theorize this response is due to the long-term effect of frequent physical adjustments. Depending on the state of Amaranth, their mirrored appearances might shift week to week, month to month, or even hold for an entire year. For the surgeons in the Sculpted Garden this can be both exciting and challenging as an entire class of Amaranth descends on their corner seeking aesthetic modification.
Relationships with House Valurien and House Rhuviel continue to grow more strained despite increased prosperity over the last century. Under the leadership of House Nivenilya, the elves in Amaranth have grown further apart from their brethren in many ways that have drawn criticism and ridicule.
Some critics have dared to say that they are not elves at all. They’re not entirely wrong in this assertion. Members of the aristocracy in Amaranth have distanced themselves from those they call “willfully unevolved.” Glowing blossoms adorn their headwraps and their shimmering, color-shifting gowns tantalize and delight, but they also evoke jealousy and suspicion from the other Houses. If scholars from Schlectenberg found their way into Amaranth they might see that there are shared values between these two cities and that their partnership could be world changing if they could find a way to synthesize and integrate their marvelous achievements.
The lives of most elves in Nivenilya are influenced by an underlying set of cultivated instincts and semiotic transmissions known as the Directives. The three core Directives ensure that life within Amaranth is regulated and safe. The three Directives are the Protection Directive, the Reproduction Directive, and the Conscription Directive. These are the three pillars of culture in Amaranth and explain the oddities of Nivenilyan behavior as observed by other elves.
Linguistically, Nivenilyan elves reduce conversation to its most core attributes. They’ve condensed language into a formula and stripped it of superfluous verbal arrangements. This is most obvious when speaking with members of the Superiori, whose conversations resemble halves of a ratio being balanced. Most of their communication is completely unspoken and for outsiders this can be unnerving. Often they might sound like simpletons when they slice and cleave words together to form more exact language mid-sentence. In truth, all who bear the Directives also have self-controlled pheromonal releases that they use to convey immense amounts of information to one another. This allows them to communicate to all creatures and races. With the release of their own biological transmitters they can conjure the exact image or feeling they need to in a stranger. All at once, a traveler may experience all of Nivenilyan history and customs in a burst of images and sounds conjured within their own heads.
Due to the Protection Directive, Amaranth holds no militia or guard forces. There is no army to speak of. Crime and safety is self-regulated through the network of observers that is the general population. The inhabitants walk freely and violent crime is incredibly rare. Each inhabitant of Amaranth undergoes the first of many alterations at birth at the hands of the Superiori to improve and unify them. These elves are genetically modified to respond and communicate with pheromones, chemical transmitters, and subtle changes in pigmentation. Semiosis, as the Superiori would be quick to point out. Thus the elves of Amaranth are no longer beholden to their emotions like humans or even their cousins under Houses Valurien and Rhuviel.
Under the Reproduction Directive, the elves of Nivenilya strictly regulate their inner physiology so that sexual crime has all but disappeared. Sexual assault and rape no longer exist except when perpetrated by an outsider. The hormonal changes that induce fertility and desire only activate as willed by two or more potential partners, be they heterogeneous or homogeneous groups. These changes often go unnoticed, but a keen eye will observe a soft pink glow emanating from an Amaranthian’s skin when they are courting mating partners or “in blossom,” as it is known colloquially.
Nivenilyan elves typically raise children in broods of a dozen or more. This means that the loss or adoption of new members to these families less adversely affects their offspring. This also allows for more hands to help rear the children. This custom only adds to the confusion that outsiders experience when visiting.
If a visitor commits a violent crime or an outside force threatens the safety of Amaranth, the entire city mobilizes under the Conscription Directive via the release of a powerful pheromone by the Superiori. Quickly and efficiently, the inner soldier in every elf is summoned and put on alert to apprehend the criminal. The very structures of the city morph to prevent the criminal from escaping. To those outside the city, this sort of defense is seen as a gross misuse of power. This leads many to avoid Amaranth. There are concerns that such a defense could be exploited and abused, but the Superiori dismiss them, assuring the public that there are safeguards in place. So far there is no evidence to contradict their claims.
Not far from the Exceptorium, due south, lies an outdoor amphitheater housed within a shell of curving opalescence, shimmering in the light of day and glow of night. Above the stage, the pearly structure curls into a crown-like plumage. Musicians from all over Amaurea travel to learn from masters practiced in the art of plucking the wormstring, sounding the ossishell, and maintaining the competing polyrhythmic measures of the thunderdrums. The music performed here captures the spirit of the wild and expresses the joy of finding the sublime in the remote reaches of Amaurea. Filled with sweeping crescendos and distressing chords, the popular style evokes tension and hints at an ever-present danger looming behind every measure. This outburst manifests in the final third of each piece as is tradition.
Every night musicians fill the amphitheater, students and masters alike put on concerts and improvise pieces in this astounding space. The amphitheater connects to the bardic college Auditoria Fenestra, serving as the only advertisment needed. Once, House Rhuviel attracted the greatest musicians, but since Thannor’s mood and strength of leadership waned, Nivenilya grew into the premier territory for the most ambitious composers of the time.
Within the Auditoria, arched halls twist and turn in labyrinthian coils that end suddenly to reveal great vestibules. Traveling through the college can be confusing to newcomers, but one has only to follow the music to find the chamber in which one is meant to be. Due to its construction, one enters into an entrance chamber that is connected to a dozen paths that branch outward and deep within. Thanks to this bizarre design, the musicians never hear one another as they practice and new students are quick to learn to close their eyes and follow their ears.
Both observational and experimental researchers, the Gatherers travel across the elven territories in search of new and promising specimens to study. Though they are often met with distrust if not outright hostility, their purpose is purely peaceful. Unfortunately, they have been known to get a little overzealous in their collecting, much to the outrage of other travelers. The Superiori assure House Nivenilya that these kinds of events are cultural misunderstandings and nothing more.
Easily spotted in leaf-woven garb and blossoms, the Gatherers hail all passersby. Some say they might be altered to always sport a cheery disposition, regardless of circumstances. Any who are not put off by their reputation will be pleasantly surprised. The Gatherers are welcoming and often give aid to travelers, sometimes even unrequested aid, if they detect that any among them are ailing in any way.
Beneath Amaranth, tunnels cross over one another in a series of labyrinthine burrows, leading to the Infinity Sect. Only the highest-ranking members of the Superiori are allowed below. Despite strict regulation, there are many tales of children and adults wandering below, losing their way, and meeting terrible ends by their own hands, or chancing upon an ancient unfathomable creature. The earth and rock left behind still bears the tooth marks from the Burrowing One. Though Nivenilyan elves are not prone to myths or telling tales, it is said that the Burrowing One originally dug through the earth leaving behind deposits that became the mountains and hills on the surface. It is said the old worm still writhes in deep reaches of the earth.
Nevertheless, the Superiori conduct their most ambitious research beneath Amaranth. Not even House Nivenilya fully knows the extent of their experiments. Ever since the creation of the Children and their loss at the hands of the Sentinels, they’ve locked their boldest experiments deep below the surface. Augmented with roots that pull nutrients from all around them and tap into the underground water sources, the researchers have become part of the vast tunnel network and no longer resemble elves at all. They even communicate along this vast network of roots and stalks, but they are far from the most bizarre and troubling developments below the surface.
The subterranean research center of the Superiori is known as the Infinity Sect. There is no public knowledge of their research, not even by House Nivenilya. Only Ethulian and two others know the true nature of their research. The scientists here report directly to these three and no one else. All the public knows is that the dead and dying are brought below to be recycled and renew the earth, but in truth they are brought for examination and experimentation.
The Infinity Sect operates in secret due to the delicate nature of their work. They seek immortality and, unknown to the public, Ethulian is the first successful result of their experiments. So much knowledge is lost with the passing of each life. Books allow for knowledge to be contained and passed on en masse, but that still requires careful study and instruction. In Ethulian, the preserved brain of the former First of the Superiori, Silneth, lives anew. This transfer allowed him to live on in an all-new body, effectively doubling his life span. Though they’ve been unable to replicate the results, they continue to research the validity of manufactured reincarnation.
The Infinity Sect catalogues and studies every illness in hopes of overcoming them. These pathogens are preserved in case they ever need to be used as weapons. In a bid for biological reincarnation, the Infinity Sect prepares fresh bodies in hopes of preserving the greatest minds of the Superiori, thus retaining theirs knowledge and increasing their abilities well beyond the already ample limits of multi-decade lives. If word ever got out, it might tear Amaranth apart and completely collapse the Superiori. This is far from the worst possible consequence of their work.
The results of their experiments are often terrifying and deadly. The aberrations they’ve created are kept under guard for observation. A select few have even have joined the ranks of the guards and the researchers. If the creatures imprisoned in this underground facility were to find a way to the surface, it could endanger all the elven territories.
Once a completely peaceful monastic order, The Order of the Flying Mind grew militant after the Superiori rose in power. Though religion and spirituality don’t exist in Nivenilyan territories as they do in other cultures, there are some remnants of belief in a higher power left. These monks often gather in circles, crying out in shrill voices while performing their rituals. This order reveres all avian life. They hunt field mice, insects, and other rodents both for sustenance and tradition. They’re mocked and called “buzzards” by nonbelievers. Few would dare make that remark within earshot of their gatherings.
Leading the Order, Cathars pass on time-honored traditions and practices. It’s said that the First Cathar observed a sparrow building a nest with twigs, leaves, mud, and even refuse. In this moment, he realized that the mind formed like a nest and that, for better or worse, you could only use what was close at hand to build it. Therefore he believed that he must surround himself with only those devoted to seeking the Spirit That Soars through all creation. Upon death one’s spirit will fly, but only those who’ve prepared for the journey reach the Everlasting Ayrie.
Though the Order of the Flying Mind resisted the excessively cerebral shift in Nivenilyan culture, they couldn’t prevent the Superiori from seizing Amaranth. When the monks observed how the researchers adapted and infused the populace with augmentations, they departed. The Order moved farther and farther from the edges of the city, but Amaranth thrived and grew. During the Feast of the Ural hundreds flocked to the temple to celebrate. The Superiori sent a force to surround one of the Order’s oldest temples on the eastern border. They denounced the feast and the temples as symbols of ignorance. Many practitioners fled, but the monks refused to move.
They resisted peacefully and formed a circle around the temple. Arms interlocked, they held fast. After three days, those who didn’t move were accused of violating the law and forcibly collected for re-engineering. Those who escaped vowed never to be defenseless again.
These surviving monks fled to the Valurien territories and observed their tribal brutality. The monks added discipline and order to the savage violence. They reinterpreted the teachings of their elders and positioned mind and body as equal partners in the search for knowledge and beauty. No longer having proper temples to defend and maintain, they focused on honing their martial strength.
All members of the Order study a code of ethics and philosophy tied to physical defense and predation, known as the Eight Talons. With mastery of the Eight Talons, one may also unlock the secrets of the Flying Mind. It’s rare even among Cathars to have much in the way of psionic power, but this is the end goal of one’s physical and mental preparation.
The Order of the Flying Mind comprises three ranks. When initiates earn the title of Harrier, they gain their first feather. This feather is typically pinned on the left shoulder. Upon earning a second feather, pinned on the right shoulder, they earn the title of Peregrine. After mastery of the Eight Talons is exhibited, the Peregrines complete a final rite to earn the title of Cathar. During this rite, they each take a hunger vow and journey alone to collect feathers. Once they have enough, they weave together a mantle of feathers that covers their shoulders and chest. Then the Peregrines are finally recognized as masters and elders, and are bestowed the title of Cathar.
House Nivenilya and the Superiori outlawed The Order of the Flying Mind, declaring them a direct enemy and threat to peace. Still they meet in secret and train in the ancient arts of self-defense and necessary offense. Led by Cathar Marrim, the Order continues to outwit and outmaneuver the Superiori as if they can predict their every move.
The Order of the Flying Mind is devoted to protecting the innocent, but they hunt down those they deem guilty. The Superiori fails to realize that it’s due to this martial order that their lands remain largely free of bandits and monsters. If they were ever to succeed in crushing the Order, the Nivenilyan territories would grow hostile to travelers and entire villages might disappear overnight.
In recent years, one member known simply as the Red Kite infiltrated Amaranth with a group of Harriers. Having ditched their feathered robes and traditions, they act outside the Order. It’s said they are searching for the corrupt powers within the Superiori, but it’s not clear how they will enact justice. In Amaranth, a few researchers stopped showing up, but this has been kept hushed by the Superiori for fear of losing influence over House Nivenilya. If someone more critical disappeared, the news might shock the populace and loosen the Superiori’s grip on Amaranth.
The sign of the Order of the Flying Mind, scrawled in hidden corners and ledges, looks like an eye with a pair of wings replacing the pupil. Their mantra, delivered both to those in need and those they oppose, remains as it always has: “In flight the mind cannot be caged.”
The Red Market can’t be found like a normal market. It’s not a place at all. The Red Market is a loose affiliation of merchants operating in the illicit trade of flesh. This network extends beyond Amaranth and even into Rhuviel and Valurien territories. Each week local leaders of the Red Market select a specific flower to signify affiliation. These flowers are used to notify potential customers of the specialized goods within the storefront.
Given the abundance of flowers in Amaranth and their common usage as decoration, this continues to be an ideal method for advertising one’s affiliation in plain sight. The chosen flower might be a single piece in a larger arrangement or tucked behind a merchant’s ear. One week dawnblooms might be chosen and the next dewstalks. Once identified, one may simply ask if they have more of the chosen flower. From there the patron will be led downstairs, around back, or to another location entirely to peruse the illicit goods in privacy.
The types of wares vary significantly depending on the merchant. Often these merchants operate under numerous names and their locations change with each week. One might easily encounter a Red Market associate without even realizing it, and on rare occasion they might be led to an illegal operation if they so happen to accidently comment on the right flower. Typically, Red Market officials operate under one of three common guises: Ticketmasters, Ringfitters, and Soiltoppers. These are the most common ruses, but they are not by any means the only fronts. This is only a record of recently popular disguises and is subject to change at a moment’s notice if suspicions are aroused.
Ticketmasters are said to often be close to docks or near the Stasitorium hawking tickets to the Auditoria, but once identified as Red Market associates they’ll kindly pretend to lead a customer to the amphitheatre. Soon enough the customer will find themselves at a secret location full of caged hybrids and howling beasts.
One might notice polluxapods crawling on the wall of a glass tank. Though seemingly harmless, this bizarre cross between a snail and thumb with a curling nail that twists into a shell has been banned for centuries. When the design debuted, a spree of crimes involving hacked-off and stolen digits followed to increase production.
Commonly, customers seek demivores. The demivore is a crossbreed of nature’s fiercest predators. One might appear ape-like, but scaled and sporting a nasty set of talons and a beak. Another might slither on the ground covered in shifting leopard-spotted fur, while grinning with wicked canines in a distended jaw. No two look the same, but each is equally deadly. Dealing in these creatures is far more dangerous than getting caught by the Superiori. Demivores make for deadly guardians or highly prized champions in brutal pit fights.
Ringfitters take measurements in jeweler’s stores and antique shops, and often enough they sit propped up on the street with a couple of trinkets perched on their knees. Often it’s easier to resize a finger than to meddle with precious metal, especially if it might be imbued with ancient power. With the right question, a customer might find themselves whisked to the back for a private consultation.
Hidden within a secret compartment or inner pocket, the Red Market dealer might reveal a locket with a tiny fish inside that can be slipped into a vein to allow for the host to drink without consequence. Or the dealer might open a jar to reveal a worm the color of a bruise that must be carefully placed in the lungs to allow the host to breathe underwater. A knowledgeable buyer would know the veinfin and the saltwater fluke by name. In many cases, adventurous types seek the octopus-like krell, whose burrowing tongue must painfully pass through the soft tissues and connect to the spinal cord before it binds its tentacles to each limb of the wearer. Once the connection is made, the host is imbued with superior strength and reflexes, but they will find that their memories slowly disappear until the link is severed.
The aforementioned symbiotes and more fetch a high price, but their benefits can be dramatic enough to allow a lifelong Stasitorium sleeper or an Allsphere worker to rise to much higher status in Amaranth. That is if their illicit modifications go undetected. The Superiori maintain careful screening processes to detect symbiotes, but the breeders continue to develop new techniques for hiding their work. Ringfitters will often barter with their customers to have them sabotage the Superiori’s offices or have them pilfer information on their latest screening techniques in lieu of monetary exchange. This way their business continues to expand at an exponential rate.
Soiltoppers frequent the herbalist’s dens and gardening supply shops that surround the Sculpted Garden. They offer topsoil that’s enriched with nutrients that will perk up withering blooms and in many cases make them literally hum with excitement. Upon inquiry of the week’s flower, they’ll be certain to take to you the source of their dirt. Often enough they really will lead the customer to their soil farm where they cultivate rich earth, internal organs, appendages, and more.
Soiltoppers typically maintain their graft-ready wares along with their soil farms and experimental botany. The hydroponics and rich nutrients they infuse into the earth serve doubly for preserving fresh eyeballs, strong hearts, and dexterous limbs. Though they’re proud to document in full all the parts of the body they can replace and improve, they tend to be dodgy about where exactly this season’s crop came from. Some will emphatically tell their customers that they grow them in genetically modified plants. Sometimes that’s even true.
Where Soiltoppers source their materials from is a well-kept secret. Amaranth is not haunted by organ removing crimes. At least, not overtly. The keenest minds in the Superiori theorize that they work with the flesh surgeons to replace valuable organs with lesser, but functional, replacements. Investigations into this phenomenon have been slow, in part due to suspected sabotage of key agents in the Superiori’s ranks. It appears that the loyalty of great minds can be bought and sold as easily as the other fleshy matters that are prized on the Red Market.
Through centuries of engineered evolution, the Superiori transformed Amaranth into a flourishing hub for scientific inquiry. The morphology of the city and its inhabitants bears their fingerprints. This collective of experimental researchers manipulate biological forms with the force of a smith and the precision of a jeweler. While the elves to the north stagnate and decay, the Directives infused in the general population usher in a new future for the elven race.
Within the ranks of the Superiori, researchers vie for the vast resources in the Exceptorium. Each member must prove themselves in order to earn powerful grafts, access to the innermost chambers of the library, and most importantly a direct link to the minds in the Stasitorium. This knowledge network grants researchers the ability to investigate and implement the seemingly impossible.
With Ethulian’s direction, the Superiori rules with enough power to rival House Nivenilya. While the Superiori never directly contradicts the House, it’s clear who controls Amaranth at this time. If these two powers ever entered into direct conflict, it could threaten to undo generations of progress and throw all of Amaurea into chaos.
The Scorned roam the deep southern jungles of Nivenilya hunting as they please, though they call themselves by another name — the Enlightened. These heavily modified elves resemble beasts more than they do their kin. They are natural predators with large claws, chitinous bodies, and insectoid mandibles. In many cases, their bizarre appearance is due to the number of symbiotes hosted on and inside their bodies. They consume the victims of their attacks, believing that the essence of the living is wasted if left to rot.
Once, these fiendish creatures were willing test subjects in the Superiori laboratories. These volunteers joined a failed attempt to craft a military force. They were given an experimental growth-modification serum that allowed them to sustain painful and dramatic grafts quickly without consequence. Grafting demands nearly all the body’s resources for weeks before being finalized, but undergoing the experimental treatment enabled this group to recover in mere hours. Without pause, the researchers experimented with more and more complex combinations of limbs and bodies in startling and bizarre configurations.
The results of this experiment were unparalleled at the time and much of what was learned is still used today. This experiment received frequent praise until one of the researchers was hurled from a window. Genuinely fearing that the wilder grafts brought forth primal cognition and increased aggression, the experimenters began reversing the extensive grafting. They prepared the test subjects for reintegration with a mix of physical therapy and verbal trainings. Many of the volunteers complied willingly, but Test Subject 32 resisted initial reversal procedures and aired his concerns during the reintegration sessions.
During a regularly scheduled reversal session, Subject 32 reportedly broke his bonds and slayed his administrators. He proceeded to free the other test subjects and led the most heavily altered test subjects on a rampage. By the time the Superiori could react, their test subjects had broken free from the facility. Nothing but bones and a few chunks of half-eaten flesh were left. It is believed they perform a ritualized practice that revolves around the worship and devouring of flesh. What is understood of the Scorned comes from conjecture and wild speculation, but they continue to attack Nivenilyan caravans and add more symbiotes to their hides.
Though shame is not an emotion that comes naturally to Nivenilyan elves, mention of the Children always creates silence in a room. The Children were the result of the original studies in genetic modification. They were created long before the Superiori, the Directives, or any of the advances that now characterize the culture of Amaranth. These sentient plants and cultivated flowers acted as support for families and researchers alike. They called no one in particular their masters, but offered help to all who needed it. One might find a perennial on one’s desk assisting in a difficult calculation, while a seemingly normal row of flowers might guide those that lost their way.
Then came their siblings, the Sentinels, first theorized in bloodier times when the protection of Amaranth was a serious concern and the Scorned were raiding nearby villages. These guardians initially began as an experimental flora that protected the quarters of the most advanced research at that time. Soon they were adapted to have limited sentience like the Children and the ability to create natural weapons if required. From thistle hides to deadly spores, they quickly grew powerful and discreet weapons. Their engineers enhanced the Sentinels’ intelligence and modified them to hide as everyday wildlife. These assassins were meant to neutralize threats to Amaranth, but before they could be sent on their first mission they killed one of the Children.
The project was shut down immediately and the Superiori theorized that the Sentinels may have broken free in an attempt to fulfill the requirements of the mission they had been biologicallyprogrammed to carry out. They must have evaluated the modified Children as a threat like the Scorned. Regardless, the Children withered and withdrew from Amaranth overnight. TheSuperiori deemed the Sentinels highly dangerous, but nevertheless they adjusted them to follow Valurien masters. No one knows where the Children escaped to. Some theorize that they simply withered and died. Others believe they slipped into the sea. And still many believe they hide among the flora in Amaranth to this day, posing as normal plants and flowers.
Deep within the Quellevemm Wilds, known by most as the “Quell,” dwells one of the mythical Hierophants. Constructed of wood, stone, and plant life, Ashentyre is bound together by the Weave, the force that all life contains, in the shape of a majestic forest creature. It is a physical manifestation of the soul of the forest. The very air surrounding it hums with the energy it radiates. Its mass shimmers with an ethereal glow emanating from the energy that courses throughout its body. The Hierophant is a terrifying sight to behold. Some witnesses claim it appeared to them as a mighty stag, while others say it looked like a monstrous bear. The very presence of the Hierophant alters the environment around it. Where its feet fall, new plant life erupts out of the soil and carpets the earth in lush, green foliage. Its travels are preceded by great thunderstorms as the power of nature unleashes its life-giving energy from the heavens.
Ashentyre towers over the canopy as it destroys corruption and creates new life wherever it treads. It watches over the forest, its mighty footfalls echoing for miles. It seeks the evil and the corruption contained within a being, and will destroy them utterly, using its immense strength, ferocity, and the Weave’s power. It is the forest’s wrath made manifest, but its true purpose is that of guardian. The Hierophant, like all of its immortal kin, serves a special purpose. Ashentyre is tasked with protecting one of the many conduits that leads to the legendary Dawnspring. While not a true entrance as such, the conduit is a channel that allows the distribution of power from the Dawnspring. These channels are crucial to expel the intense buildup of energy created by the well of power, but they leave it vulnerable. As such, the Hierophants wander near the conduit exits upon the surface. They cannot be killed, only temporarily destroyed, such is the power of the Weave that binds these creatures together.
Many believe the Dawnspring is a source of unlimited power, which could be used for the benefit of the races that live on the surface. Some scholars believe it can be controlled and exploited. While many have tried to reach a conduit and venture deep into the world to explore the Dawnspring, the Hierophants are ever vigilant and fulfill their sacred duty with brutal efficiency. Many who wander deep into the forest in search of the conduit entrance are never heard from again.
Ashentyre, Forest Hierophant
Boss Level 15, Huge size, 50’ speed
Attributes: Agility 4 (1d10), Fortitude 8 (3d8), Might 9 (3d10), Creation 7 (2d10), Presence 4 (1d10), Energy 10 (4d8)Hit Points: 110Guard: 28Toughness: 25Resolve: 22
Boss Edge: 6
Feats: Superior Bane Focus (Forced Move), Superior Bane Focus (Persistent Damage), Superior Bane Focus (Stunned), Potent Bane (Stunned), Multi-Target Attack Specialist V (Area)
Nature's Fury (damaging attack, 40' cube): Energy vs. Guard, advantage 3. Also inflicts forced move, persistent damage, and stunned on 1 damage or more. Resist rolls against stunned are made with disadvantage. As a mighty guardian, Ashentyre's power is almost entirely focused on releasing a massive and devastating blast of lightning that annihilates all but the most stalwart foes.
Regrowth (invoke heal, 15' cube): Creation vs. CR 12 - 24 (PL 1 - 7), advantage 3. Ashentyre calls upon the Weave to flow to allies as a massive healing wave.
In the deep reaches of the Eastern Jungle, the Farseen Grove exists more in legend than in actual experience for most. Without a proper name or exact mark on the map, it’s known mostly as a myth or a downright lie. Anyone claiming to sell a map or act as a guide should be met with suspicion, if not outright hostility. The Farseen Grove lures many gullible travelers into the remote reaches of the jungle every year where they’re robbed and left helpless by opportunists.
The entrance to the Farseen Grove always lies hidden in the darkest corners of the jungle, appearing first as a distant light. Inexplicably, as one nears the light the trees thin and open into a bright clearing. Awash in the light of day or the moon’s beams, a foot-worn path appears. Looking back, an adventurer might realize they’ve been on the path all along. The rustle of leaves punctuates the stillness along this otherwise quiet path. Those who claim to have found the Farseen Grove report feeling eyes all around them, watching.
The path twists and turns for minutes or hours according to different sources before finally ending at a cluster of four trees. Their boughs, twisted and tangled together, form an archway above a pool. Beneath exposed roots, rimmed with a lichen collar dotted with wild mushrooms, the pool is dark and muddy. The water stirs with unknown life, likely fed from a spring deep below the surface. Leaves float on the surface, stirring in the wind. One will not find their reflection here, but that’s unlikely to matter.
Bending down, the smell of moss and earth fills the nose of any who dare to drink from the pool. The first taste, musty and bitter, reveals a moment long forgotten from one’s past in vivid detail. They relive the memory as it happened exactly in that moment. The effect jars and shocks. Blinking and unresponsive, one might pull their head from the pool unsure whether to trust the memory or the moment after when they come to in the copse.
The second sip starts sweet and leaves a fermented taste in the back of the throat. The drink conjures up a vision of history unexperienced by the imbiber. They may recognize some of the people in this vision but they appear youthful or impossibly alive. They may see landmarks and cities, but they appear less developed. They may see Avain slowly choking on air or they may witness the exact moment when the Great Houses split at the Battle of Sunbreak. It’s never the same memory, but it’s always one beyond their lifespan.
The last sip, gritty with thistles and dirt, burns the throat and often causes the drinker to splutter and cough afterwards. The vision this time is again of the imbiber. They appear older and caught in an unexpected or uncharacteristic moment. Sometimes ten years or fifty years might have passed. In this vision they may behold a simple scene of a home with seven healthy children at the dinner table, or they may watch as they set fire to a stake with a friend squirming against the restraints. Whether the vision is troubling or promising, the only thing clear is that whatever the beholder envisions has yet to occur. They may also receive a distinct feeling that what they saw doesn’t necessarily have to happen, but that it could be connected to the two visions from the past.
Those who claim to have found and tasted the water of the Farseen Grove often report wandering out only to find themselves somewhere impossibly far from where they entered. Whether this is the work of weary minds or something more powerful, who can say? The only thing that’s clear about the Farseen Grove is that it can’t be explained. Finding the hidden copse is an easy feat in comparison to making sense of the three visions it grants visitors. Adventurers will find their lives forever changed after visiting the grove, be it for the better or for the worse. Some drink themselves to death to fight off the visions, while others commit terrible crimes against those they love. Others disappear entirely. Don’t seek the Farseen Grove lightly.
On the southwestern tip of Amaurea, the Parched Steppe lies at the foot of the Shattered Peaks. Frequent wildfires stunt the growth of trees, leaving only the most resilient grasses and beasts behind. Tufted and wiry brambles cling to the rugged land, while tussocks of keengrass sway in the wind. A rarity, the silver-leafed keengrass grows only in this arid soil. Barrowskulks skitter through the foliage, thriving on the decay.
The dense jungle surrounding the borders of the Parched Steppe recedes each year. The scorched remains yield blackened trunks and ash behind — ideal conditions for the scaldbacks to rut in. Given their mating patterns, these six-foot-tall birds often lose their feathers in beds of embers. Their blistered and scaly backs gave rise to their name originally. The current breed differs from its ancestors but still retains the name.
Once endangered, these flightless birds now flourish thanks to the Superiori. In order to preserve the creature, they established an observation post in the mountains. From there, the researchers identified exactly what genetic material would need to be crossed with these birds in order to ensure their survival.
They chose the lobster, for the qualities of its carapace and for its ability to live and grow infinitely if not slain or diseased. They failed to realize that this would mean that the scaldbacks would grow infinitely large, too. With each moulting these beasts shed their feathers, revealing more of their protective exoskeletons and deadly protrusions. They stalk the steppe, snapping up barrowskulks and hapless researchers in their beaks.
The breeders struggled to limit the exploding population of the scaldbacks, but they’ve engineered a near perfect predator. The scaldback’s hide breaks arrows and spears. This renders most forms of population control useless. After a century of maintenance, the bioengineers fled their observation post when a scaldback of immense size and covered in deadly spines destroyed their camp. A rival to the mountains themselves in size, this enormous scaldback comes down to feed rarely and disappears for years at a time. When she emerges, the ground shakes and her destructive path carves new landmarks. Where she is now, no one knows, but her eggs might fetch a vast sum preserved or destroyed, if you can find a buyer.
The few who survived her first attack rebuilt their labs in the surrounding jungle. Though they vowed to craft a contagion for the scaldbacks, their devastating losses halted progress. Still they remain. They experiment on the local wildlife to create rare and strange crossbreeds to resist and escape the encroaching scaldbacks. If they ever succeed in crafting a predator that could hunt down the ancient scaldback, they might endanger all of Amaurea.
The remote jungle surrounding the Parched Steppe attracts reckless adventurers who seek one-of-a-kind creatures or hunters who prize the scaldbacks’ hides. If a traveler dares journey to this remote region, these elves will be sure to tell them the tale of Terramanth, the Fiendbeak, and the devastation she wrought to their outpost long ago. These warnings often go unheard by wide-eyed visitors ogling the bizarre and wondrous specimens.
Northeast of Amaranth, where the river flows into the sea, lies a village resting in the delta. River’s Landing, as it’s known, is home to the Flying Fish Inn and Tavern. Its position between Amaranth and the outer lands makes it a common stop for travelers. Aged wooden piers and boardwalks extend across the water. Along the banks, stilted huts and makeshift homes double as storefronts, while raft homes are anchored in the mouth of the river. Their wares, proudly displayed in nets, stir in the gentle breeze. Along with the smell of fish frying, the uniquely friendly nature of this Nivenilyan village entices merchants and travelers alike to stop before they pass into the sea.
Typically found in the center of a ring of fishing vessels, the Flying Fish Inn bobs up and down. The roof is laid atop the framework of a large but weathered ship. Three round masts rise through the reed-hewn roof. The paint is cracked and peeling, where it can be found at all. In its day, it must have been a considerable ship, but its origin is unclear. The deck serves as an open gathering hall, filled with tables and small stage rises from the raised stern. Below, beds and private quarters are found in the hull. A weathered sign hangs from the tallest mast by a frayed rope, depicting a flygill with its dorsal fins extended like wings as it jumps out of an ale stein.
Boisterous voices, both from locals and travelers, meld with the roar of the river. The shrill voice of Nama the Innkeeper rises above the din as she greets new arrivals. In the morning, she can be found hauling up the day’s catch and tossing it to her husband in the kitchen. And in the evening, she serves up Chum Ale to most tables. This drink is only found at the Flying Fish Inn and is both a source of local pride and cautious curiosity from visitors. Chum Ale is almost thick enough to be soup, but has a distinctly fermented taste. It's a hearty drink that serves well as both a meal and beverage. This might explain the large bellies that accompany the otherwise wiry bodies of the locals.
While the sun is out, the women wield nets and catchpoles as they navigate the river’s currents in search of fish and river clams. Bobbing and bending, they weave lines and nets across their boats, working in small teams to create almost invisible traps to snare the flygills as they leap through the air. Their skin is dark with sun, as deeply wrinkled as bark. Traditionally, the men spend their days tending to the gardens and digging up grubs and worms to use as bait. There aren’t more than twenty households in this town, but children are plentiful. They chase each other across the piers, jumping and diving into the river with delight.
During the long hours of a midday meal and in the evening, the elves of River’s Landing sing, dance, and entertain travelers. Perhaps gifted with Rhuviel blood or due to their lack of biological enhancement, the inhabitants of this town are keenly jovial and some of their customs are not unlike those found in many human communities. If one is to partake in a late night of Chum Ales and slurp them down loudly with the matron, she might mention that humans visited her once before. The locals will surely discount this as an old wives’ tale. Her story runs contrary to the records kept by theSuperiori. Nama keenly enjoys hearing more tales of humans and their ways. In exchange for a good story or an exciting new trinket to add to her walls, she'll gladly offer up another frothy mug or a bed for the night.
East of Amaranth where wooded hills crowd the horizon, there is an orchard unlike any other. Tucked in a valley between these hills lies the Unwritten Orchard. The leaves grow to an immense size, curling up into dense clutches amongst the boughs. The trees bear fruit in the summer, which is collected and rendered into ink by elves who protect the trees year round. When the leaves finally drop in the fall, they’re harvested and dried. Once dried, the veins in the leaves all but disappear and what’s left is a medium that surpasses vellum for creating contracts, records, scrolls, or committing one’s best thoughts in writing. These highly valuable leaves and their ink are then sent down the Blood River.
In recent years, bandit attacks on the river rafts grow in frequency. The pilfered leaves fetch a high price if one can smuggle them into Rhuviel. These attacks alarm the Superiori who’ve been observing and studying these trees for centuries. Leading researchers still don’t fully understand how these trees developed and how to replicate them. Subsequently, more guardians were sent to protect these shipments as none can be spared at the Orchard. It’s been theorized that these trees were created by the predecessors of the Superiori, or that by some luck the valley naturally gave birth to these invaluable trees. If anything were to happen to the Unwritten Orchard, the scholars, musicians, and the upper classes of Amaranth would be in an uproar.
An oddity even for Amaranth, Amli wanders and calls to all within earshot, whether they’d prefer it or not. An older and distinctly haggard elf, her message is the same to all. She warns of a fire that spreads, but doesn’t burn. This fire, she claims, will pour forth from a dark and terrible realm and consume all of Amaurea. She claims that the Houses must unite or they will be nothing more than kindling and ash. She’s seen it many times, in her dreams. It is all she dreams of when sleep takes her.Amli’s eyes remain wide and bloodshot at all times when speaking to strangers. Her feet are blackened, likely from her constant travel, though she is quick to say she’s stepped in the ashes of the impending conflagration. Her voice claws hoarsely from her throat. If one is to heed her warning, they may find that she desperately seeks to stay awake, terrified by the visions of fire that come to her each night. Often when she’s raving, she’s been awake for days and is fighting off fatigue. This can make her hard to understand, evenoff putting.Eventually, her conversation will turn to pleading. She’ll beg for the stimulating pollen of thenightpoppy. This is typically when the accosted break free, dismissing her as an addict. A few might offer food or seeds, but she won’t accept those gifts. She only asks that her warning is heeded, saying “the embers of our destruction grow bright. If we do nothing, the fire that doesn’t burn will surround us and then devour us without warning.” To most this is meaningless gibberish, but a small group follows her lead and preaches a similar message along many paths in Amaranth and beyond.
Amli, the Blackfoot
(Level 2, Medium size, 30’ speed)
Attributes: Perception 3 (1d8), Presence 2 (1d6), Prescience 3 (1d8),
Hit Points: 16
Feats: Boon Focus I (Bolster), Boon Focus I (Precognition)
Infuse with Purpose (invoke bolster): Auto-success at PL 3 via Boon Focus I. If someone can convince Amli that they are loyal to her cause, she bestows her blessing upon them, enabling them to see with her insight, granting the bolster boon, so long as they serve her purposes.
Peer Through Eternity (invoke precognition): Auto-success at PL 3 via Boon Focus I. Amli walks through the fires of the future in order to instruct those she meets. Or at least that what she says.
Marrim is only discovered when he wishes to be found. Often he emerges into view perched within the branches of an elderwood on the edges of the Rhuviel borderlands. It’s easy to pass beneath him without even noticing his unmoving form above. He Who Soars Without Stirring, as his name translates roughly, is the current head of the Order of the Flying Mind. He possesses exceptional clairvoyant talents unlocked through hundreds of years spent studying the Eight Talons. His mind flies through the world, discovering its secrets both future and past.
There are no appointments made to visit him. Those who seek him are expected and known well ahead of time. If he means to not be found then he won’t be seen. To some he appears an ancient and bent old man, while to others he appears an impossibly wise child untouched by age. His true form at this point is a guess. His voice blows like the wind through one’s mind. In a blink of an eye he may disappear mid-sentence and appear resting on another branch as if nothing had changed, simply to avoid interfering with the fall of a single leaf to the forest floor.
Though many members of the Order of the Flying Mind are dedicated to unlocking their minds, few have succeeded like Marrim. Many attempt to emulate him, but only a few Cathars ever find some deftness in one aspect of mental projection and manipulation. Truly he is a remarkable figure, but with all his power one has to wonder why he didn’t predict and stop the Red Kite from breaking away from the Order.
(Level 7, Medium size, 40’ speed)
Attributes: Agility 5 (2d6), Movement 8 (3d8), Perception 4 (1d10), Prescience 6 (2d8), Presence 4 (1d10), Will 3 (1d8)
Hit Points: 30
Feats: Boon Focus I (Flight), Extraordinary Defense III, Fleet of Foot II
Transcendent Fist (damaging attack): Agility vs. Guard. With a closed fist, Marrim executes the primary technique of the Fourth Talon.
Empty Body (invoke flight): Auto-success at PL 6 via Boon Focus I. With mastery of the Seventh Talon, Marrim rises with the grace of the hawk.
Time Stands Still (invoke haste): Movement vs. CR 14 - 26 (PL 2 - 8). Marrim enters a heightened state of mind as his surroundings slow to a crawl.
Mind Flight (inflict mind dredge): Prescience vs. Resolve. With his understanding of the Eighth Talon, Marrim’s mind flies beyond the natural world, perceiving thoughts in the unseen realm beyond.
See the Path (invoke precognition): Prescience vs. CR 12 - 20 (PL 1 - 5). Marrim focuses his attention inward as he searches for secrets about the future.
Gwynilith leads House Nivenilya. She is lauded for bringing Amaranth into an era of prosperity. Despite her success, her rule is divisive. Born outside of Amaranth, on her mother’s behalf to keep her free from the Superiori’s influence, she’s never taken permanent residence within the city. The distance weakens her ability to enact her policies in full, but she doesn’t completely trust her supposed allies and refuses the mandatory augmentations that the citizenry must adhere to. This choice has done nothing to improve relations with leaders in Amaranth or to protect her public image.
Gwynilith continually finds herself at odds with Ethulian and the heads of the Superiori. They characterize her as an outsider and work to undermine her rule through their own initiatives. They’ve enacted bureaucratic policies to block or hamper her commands from taking full effect in Amaranth without outright disobeying her orders. Always, these political battles are fought covertly, under the guise of concerns over safety and order. She’s locked in a political stalemate, though beloved by the smaller communities outside the city. She realizes the Superiori hold more power than she does in Amaranth for now.
Weakening relationships between House Rhuviel and Valurien trouble Gwynilith. Once betrothed to Thannor Rhuviel, their engagement fell apart when an operation on Thannor’s father backfired and caused him to deteriorate rapidly. Though she would never publicly accuse the Superiori of sabotage for fear of how it would hurt the populace’s morale, the idea consumes her. She rarely sleeps, kept up by her racing mind. Multiple chambers in her estate are devoted to her mission of uncovering what really happened, filled with scraps of notes, interviews, and her own personal laboratory. She even trained briefly with the Order of the Flying Mind. Her pursuit of these suspicions has caused her closest friends and confidants to express concern for her health and try to ease her mind, but nothing will stop her until she knows for certain what happened.
Gwynilith’s reputation for courage and perseverance has earned her respect even from her detractors. Though she studied as an herbalist and had a knack for developing poultices and poisons, these practices have fallen out of favor as she grew into her role as Chancellor of Nivenilya. The subtleties and exacting methods derived from these former practices inform her abilities as a leader. When she speaks, her assertions carry confidence derived from her methodical habits. Never too quick to act, she is a levelheaded and measured leader. When she speaks, her voice is controlled, but firm. She’s not one to speak needlessly. When silent, it’s obvious that she is deep in thought, working out some unaired problem.
Though Nivenilyan culture is far less inclined to notice physical attributes beyond subtle changes in skin tone and neurochemical messengers, her striking appearance has been noted, especially given its timing. Ever since the death of the Thannor’s father, she’s worn her hair distinctively in grief. One half of her head is shaved, while the other continues to grow well beyond her waist. Many who admire and respect her wear their hair similarly.
Though her legacy is still unmade, it’s clear that she will be remembered fondly given the growth of Nivenilyan territories during her time as Chancellor. If she were to uncover the mystery surrounding Thannor’s father’s death or reunite her House with House Rhuviel there’s no doubt that together they would usher in a historic era for all of Amaurea.
(Level 5, Medium size, 30’ speed)
Attributes: Agility 4 (1d10), Learning 6 (2d8), Logic 4 (1d10), Perception 3 (1d8), Presence 5 (2d6), Will 6 (2d8)
Hit Points: 22
Feats: Craft Extraordinary Item II, Knowledge I (Herbalism), Knowledge I (History)
Notable Equipment: Supremely Rare Nivenilyan Silk Dress (treat as Elven Plate Mail without attribute requirements), 3 Poison Vials (Extraordinary Item: Persistent Damage 8, Augmenting, Expendable)
Peregrine’s Blade (damaging attack): Agility vs. Guard. Though not her first choice, Gwynilith will sully the knife she earned while studying with the Order of the Flying Mind.
Mottlesprig Extract (inflict persistent damage [Poison Vial]): Entropy 6 vs. Toughness. The extract from the Valurien Mottlesprig is especially dangerous in this highly concentrated form.
Swift Salve (invoke heal): Logic vs. CR 12 - 20 (PL 1 - 5). With her knowledge of herbs, Gwynilith always has a life-saving salve at the ready.
A prodigy discovered at a young age in the Stasitorium, Ethulian subsequently spent the rest of his youth within the walls of the Exceptorium. There he solved the Observable Mutability Paradox and answered many more questions that eluded the greatest minds of the Superiori. He proposed the Protection Directives that underlie the bio and neurochemistry of all citizens born within Amaranth. This allowed them to disband their disastrous soldier-making research, and infuse each member of the populace with the instinct to join together as part of a self-policing network of eyes and ears to prevent criminal elements from taking hold of Amaranth and misusing their advances. From there it was not long until he became Prime of the Superiori.
Still incredibly young and unaccustomed to social functions, he avoids most public events. He prefers the company of his peers and the pet he designed, Rota. Rota is a cross between a centipede and a horned lizard, and often curls into a ball. Ethulian spins his pet with one hand as he concentrates until finally the creature unwinds and staggers away. He’s fiercely loyal to the Superiori who rescued him from the slums around the Stasitorium. This has led him to push for more invasive monitoring and evaluation of the masses in Amaranth in order to ensure that more great minds don’t slip through the cracks as he almost did.
Under his administration the Superiori have largely cleaned up the slums and eliminated crime in Amaranth. They’ve evaluated each member of the populace and assigned them roles worthy of their abilities. This policy spurred the unprecedented efficiency of research and production in Amaranth, but has also raised concerns from Chancellor Gwynilith, who believes they’ve gone too far.
Though rarely in public, Ethulian’s spartan appearance, youthful face, and intense focus mark him even among a crowd of scholars. Often Rota is perched on his shoulder or hanging from his back. He speaks softly, but is quick to anger when faced with an argument he finds illogical. His tolerance for rhetoric is low and he prefers to speak in citations, ratios, and formulae. It’s not hard to see why he and Gwynilith can’t seem to meet eye to eye. He views her recent moves as insecure power grabs and lesser tyranny, but he’s not one for direct conflict and prefers to find the loopholes and grey areas in her decrees and exploit them to prevent her meddling in the affairs of Amaranth and the Superiori.
Ethulian, Prime of the Superiori
(Level 7, Medium size, 30’ speed)
Attributes: Fortitude 2 (1d6), Learning 8 (3d8), Logic 8 (3d8), Persuasion 4 (1d10), Will 5 (2d6), Alteration 8 (3d8)
Hit Points: 32
Feats: Craft Extraordinary Item III, Knowledge III (Bioengineering), Natural Defense III
Notable Equipment: Chitinous Skin Graft (treat as Elven Plate Mail), Thought Thief (Extraordinary Item: Mind Dredge 8)
Defense Directive (invoke summon creature): Alteration vs. CR 18 - 26 (PL 4 - 8). Ethulian releases potent pheromones, activating nearby Nivenilyans and turning them into his staunch guardians.
Engineered Defiance (invoke resistance): Alteration vs. CR 16 - 24 (PL 3 - 7). Ethulian’s skin grows fresh scales, which protect him from any number of attacks.
Regrow (invoke regeneration): Alteration vs. CR 12 - 24 (PL 1 - 7). With the secrets of the common lizard, Ethulian regrows lost limbs with advanced speed.
Acquire Knowledge (inflict mind dredge [Thought Thief]): Mind Dredge 8 vs. Resolve. With his strange creature attached to his head,Ethulian pries into the minds of others with ease.
(Level 2, Small size, 20’ climbing speed)
Attributes: Agility 3 (1d8), Entropy 4 (1d10)
Poisonous Sting (inflict persistent damage): Entropy vs. Toughness. Rota’s barbed tail transmits a fast-acting poison that turns the victim’s skin tone red as if they’d been out in the sun too long.
Poisonous Bite (damaging attack): Entropy vs. Toughness. Rota’s mandibles deliver a smaller amount of poison than his tail.
The pride and shame of the Auditoria Fenestra, Luvel is an unpredictable but promising talent. He’s as likely to bring an audience to tears as he is to not show up at all. Originally from Rhuviel, he traveled to Amaranth after growing weary of traditional instrumentation. He accepted the implementation of the Directives and altered his biochemistry to earn his entry into the bardic college. There he studied the wormstring, but he soon found the Auditoria’s strict rules of composition constraining. After three years and a handful of impressive performances the musician stopped appearing for recitals.
Luvel takes refuge in the Stasitorium, plucking his wormstring. His music echoes through cliffside chambers. Experimental and unrestrained, his songs conjure up lost memories of childhood and seemingly join a dozen minds on the same exact thought. Since he never graduated, he’s unable to join the Auditoria performances. At least, not officially. He has snuck into several concerts since abandoning his studies, only to give the audience the unshakeable feeling that hundreds of tiny insects crawled along their skin.
He’s quick to befriend any who approach him, though he’s also fond of tricking unwary strangers. A few unhappy students bemoan learning songs from him that created terrible bouts of flatulence for all who listened. Regardless, he’s happy to share the secrets of the Auditoria. He might even offer to trade an instrument from his collection or a composition to a quick-witted and entertaining guest.
(Level 4, Medium size, 30’ speed)
Attributes: Agility 4 (1d10), Persuasion 4 (1d10), Presence 5 (2d6), Influence 5 (2d6)
Hit Points: 18
Feats: Bane Focus (Charmed), Bane Focus (Dominated), Potent Bane (Charmed)
Ballad of Flatulence (inflict dominated): Influence vs. Resolve, advantage 2. Luvel almost always uses dominated to compel flatulence in an unsuspecting listener
Song of Friendship (invoke charmed): Influence vs. Resolve, advantage 2. With the delicate plucking of his wormstring, Luvel fills the air with an affable quality, encouraging openness and trust.
Crawling Death Dirge (inflict phantasm): Influence vs. Resolve. Luvel creates a hideous shriek with his wormstring, like death itself breaking free of a coffin.
Appointed by the Chancellor, Sepal maintains a delicate balance as a member of the Superiori. Her peers distrust her, and for good reason. Gwynilith sent Sepal to the Exceptorium because of her talents and because she needed another set of eyes and ears on the inside, a fact not lost on her superiors. Her connection to House Nivenilya affords her some protection, but it also makes her a target.
Her connection to the Chancellor is well known, but so too is her distaste for much of that upbringing. She feeds House Nivenilya and the Superiori equal amounts of falsified and true information about one another, playing them against each other. Both unruly and independent as a youth, Sepal only grew more subtle in her rebellion as she grew.
Sepal’s family hailed from a village near the Unwritten Orchard. Growing up there, the Orchard fascinated her, but she was constantly in trouble for trying to take the leaves for herself. With no desire to follow in her parents’ footsteps and tend the grove, she ran off.
Like many runaways, she realized independence came with its own challenges. Half-starved and weary from travel, she found herself one day on the outskirts of House Nivenilya’s estate. A guard found her rooting through the gardens and brought her to the Chancellor’s attention. Gwynilith ordered that the girl join the servants. At the very least she’d have food and shelter.
Despite Gwynilith’s compassion, Sepal never excelled as a servant to the estate. Over the years she attempted to run off in the night and escape in a dozen foiled schemes. The natural defenses and guardians of the estate continued to catch her and put her back to work. Years later while snooping through Gwynilith’s belongings, she noticed that the Chancellor’s experiments were more than academic. She started solving the computational problems that Gwynilith left out, doing her best to mimic the Chancellor’s hand, but the Chancellor caught her in the act and offered Sepal a deal. Sepal would serve as her spy in exchange for a supply of the best scrolls harvested from the Unwritten Orchard.
Of course this was her plan after all. She’ll explain that to any who dare ask. Where her loyalties truly lie is at best a guess.
Attributes: Agility 3 (1d8), Learning 5 (2d6), Logic 5 (2d6), Deception 4 (1d10), Alteration 4 (1d10)
Feats: Boon Focus I (Absorb Object), Skill Focus (Learning), Skill Focus (Logic)
Biotheft (invoke absorb object): Auto-success at PL 4 via Boon Focus I. With practiced ease, Sepal hides objects in her mirrorroot bag.
Anklegnaw Snare (inflict immobile): Alteration vs. Guard. With a single leaf from an anklegnaw bramble, Sepal creates an easily hidden trap for her foes.
The Red Kite’s name was added to the Superiori’s watch list when a high-ranking researcher disappeared and the next day his work vanished too. The true identity of this interloper is still unknown, but it’s clear she’s not alone. In truth she works within a small network of Harriers from the Order of the Flying Mind. This has outraged a number of Cathars from the Order of the Flying Mind who believe that the Red Kite twists and subverts the values of the Eight Talons to justify her cause. Her identity is a mystery even to her Order.
What is known is that one day Peregrine Red left the steps of her monastery on the Rhuviel borderlands in search of her Cathar’s feathers. She never returned. The Order presumed her dead due to fasting or from one of many terrible misfortunes that can claim travelers’ lives. This was uncommon, but not concerning. They set a crow’s body out in the wilderness for sky burial in her honor. Then they sent a Harrier to inform her kin, but the village she’d reportedly come from knew nothing of her.
This alone didn’t rouse suspicions, but when a group of Harriers who were known to be close to Peregrine Red disappeared the Cathars grew alarmed. They sent out a group to find the missing Harriers but they never returned. Alarmed, the Cathars dispersed a message to the surrounding flocks. They added the Peregrine’s name to their list of prey.
The Order of the Flying Mind sent more Peregrines and even two Cathars to retrieve the rogue monk and the members she led astray. As of yet, she evades them and the Superiori. Unlike her Order, the Red Kite strikes without warning to root out those she holds responsible for injustice. Wrong or right in her cause, there’s no doubting that she’s highly dangerous and skilled in disarming all the safety measures developed by the Superiori. Those she trusts she’ll defend to the death, but she won’t hesitate to eliminate anyone who stands in her way.
The Red Kite
(Level 5, Medium size, 35’ speed)
Attributes: Agility 6 (2d8), Fortitude 4 (1d10), Logic 2 (1d6), Perception 3 (1d8), Will 5 (2d6), 4 (1d10), Movement 6 (2d8)
Hit Points: 28
Feats: Defensive Reflexes, Extraordinary Defense I, Fleet of Foot I, Great Leap, Breakfall, Evasive Footwork, Lethal Strike I, Bane Focus I (Stunned)
Three Talon Strike (damaging attack): Agility vs. Guard. Also inflicts stunned bane on 5 damage or more. In quick succession, the Red Kite strikes three vital points, unbalancing her foes.
Fly at the Speed of Sight (invoke teleport): Movement vs. CR 16 - 20 (PL 3 - 5). The Red Kite tosses a feather into the air and before it lands she appears in a new place.
Declaw (inflict disarmed): Agility vs. Guard. The Red Kite swipes her foe’s weapon, often taking it for her own use before tossing it away.
In revolt, the Scorned took on new names. Their leader, once known simply by the number 32, is now well documented by Superiori records. Yarl, as he calls himself, is wanted for massacre and the reward for his return dead or alive is lucrative enough to spur dozens of adventurers and professional bounty hunters after him and his tribe each year, but so far there’s been little success in capturing him. The Scorned relish the hunt and the fresh meat.
Covered in scars from the reversal process, Yarl’s torso is that of a monstrously large elf, but at his waist his body shifts into the large feline profile of a panther. Looking closer, one might notice that his arms are covered in calcified protrusions and hardened skin that is not unlike the carapace of a crab. A thick mane of grey hair falls across his shoulders and down his back. He wears nothing beyond a collection of skulls and trophies across his waist.
Though he would never admit it, part of his success in eluding capture and keeping the Scorned united may be because he has retained more of his elven self than his peers who’ve grown more feral over the years. Unbeknownst to his tribe, Yarl was once a member of the Superiori and submitted willingly to their experiments, blindly throwing himself at the mercy of progress. While he is no longer the Superiori researcher that submitted to these tests, he may yet speak to an interloper bold enough to attempt to reason with him, though there’s no promise that such talk will not end in violence.
Whispered rumors among Nivenilyans suggest that the Scorned reveal sharpened teeth and unhinged jaws when they hunt. Some may even possess multiple ravenous heads and jagged shark-like teeth. With their vicious maws, these savages bite and tear the flesh of fallen foes and comrades alike. Entire arms and legs crunch and snap within their powerful jaws. Chunks of flesh and blood drip and hang from their chins, sometimes even while their victims still have breath to scream.
The Scorned must feed rapidly, before the essence of a corpse’s strength has a chance to dissipate. Entire villages on the borders of the Quellevemm Wilds simply vanish. The struggles are marked by the stains and teeth they leave behind from the gorging. These massacres often go unreported for weeks and months, leaving House Nivenilya far too late to pick up the trail. If the public knew the full extent of these attacks, House Nivenilya might find its power quickly usurped.
Yarl, Fury of the Scorned
(Level 8, Large size, 30’ speed)
Attributes: Agility 5 (2d6), Fortitude 6 (2d8), Might 8 (3d8), Will 6 (2d8), Presence 4 (1d10)
Hit Points: 42
Feats: Battle Trance, Combat Momentum, Destructive Trance, Multi-Attack Specialist VI, Overpowering Strike
Merciless Assault (damaging attack, three attacks): Might vs. Guard. Yarl may also move a damaged target 5’. Yarl rips into this enemies, tearing them limb from limb with his many arms.
Display of Dominance (inflict fear): Might vs. Resolve. Yarl topples over trees, smashes through most fortifications, or otherwise demonstrates his impossible strength to terrorize his enemies.
Savage Trample (inflict knockdown): Might vs. Guard, advantage 1. Rearing back, Yarl smashes his arms and legs atop his target, crushing them into the ground.
Once a highly regarded researcher in the Superiori, Zinueth now operates in secret as part of the illegal Red Market. His passion led him to grow restless and his ambitions soon eclipsed even the grandest work of the Superiori. His descent began when he left the Superiori. He joined the circle of artists that worked in the Sculpted Garden, realizing that they had far fewer restrictions on their work than the bioengineers. He used his technical knowledge to cultivate unbelievable new flora.
He gained fame quickly when he engineered flowers that took flight like birds when they bloomed. These blooms would circle the boughs of their trees in an intricate dance of leaves and petals. And when the sun went down they would land and rest on the branches once again. Still, that was nothing compared to the humming briars he’s created, now known as choirbrush. And it didn’t end there. Next he bent and grew trees into the shapes of House Nivenilya’s greatest leaders. They even spoke and repeated quotes attributed to these historical figures. They still stand proudly in the Sculpted Garden along with all the other most ingenious expressions of botany in Amaranth.
Though he gained great acclaim and fame, he locked himself away in his workshop after meeting with Gwynilith. During this time, he worked feverishly to build something that would garner the attention of all the Houses. He dreamed of uniting them through a bold new creation. Yet he grew frustrated while producing impossibly beautiful and bizarre botany. Crowds gathered outside his workshop to collect the one-of-kind flora he threw away. Then one day that stopped, too.
He turned to elven forms for more inspiration, but soon he couldn’t shake the desire to work with flesh as he did root and leaf. He’d done the rudimentary work of refashioning members of the Quaestum in the fashion of whomever they decided to mimic, but that gave him little satisfaction. He wished to sculpt eleven forms into something new and unexpected. He wanted to create new and better versions of his peers as the Superiori did. Synthesizing all he learned with the Superiori and in the Sculpted Garden he began the work that would forever earn him notoriety. Not wanting to draw attention, he started with his own body.
He emerged a year later with a bold creation. Within a pair of new arms in addition to his original two he held a young girl, while using his two original arms to greet the waiting crowd. The child’s form shimmered and trembled, growing in size and changing in shape. Soon it took the form of a broad-shouldered man. With the eye stalks growing from his head he watched in amazement as the crowd grew terrified. Shrieks and gasps came from the crowd and they transformed into a mob. He grabbed the mutable hand of the man as it shrunk. They fled into his workshop, but the crowd broke through. They destroyed all the wonders that he’d stored inside. Through a window he leapt away, his newly inverted legs, like those of a horse, allowed him to flee the mob. He escaped, but in the process he lost his creation.
Roaming the territories, Zinueth continues his work in secret as he searches for the Formless. His company typically consists of reptiles and other spliced creatures that can be seen in the cages he keeps within his caravan. He survives within the network of the Red Market, where flesh and organs are traded illegally. He’s eager to use his talents to aid travelers and adventurers who are not driven to attack or flee from him. With his extra arms and eyes he works at an incredible pace, all while his focus is split every direction. For those who seek accelerated biological engineering, Zinueth is the greatest source of knowledge and skill in this field. He can regrow lost limbs and turn flesh into armor. But be wary, those who are caught with his gifts may face the scrutiny of the Superiori and fear from strangers. Still there are none who can match the brilliance of this surgeon turned outcast.
The Formless lives on as an urban legend spread by word of mouth. This only makes the xenophobia and suspicion natural in the isolated territory of Amaranth worse. The Formless is said to shadow its quarry before striking, and then assume their place. The tales of this creature are everywhere. The irony of this fear seems lost on any who look up to the Quaestum, but still the tales grow. If there’s any truth to these tales it’s in the fact that the Formless lives in constant fear of being discovered. Little else is known about this strange creature, but it differs little in temperament from any child.
Zinueth the Surgeon
Attributes: Agility 4 (1d10), Fortitude 4 (1d10), Might 2 (1d6), Learning 4 (1d10), Logic 5 (2d6), Alteration 7 (2d10)
Feats: Heightened Invocation II, Sentinel I, Superior Concentration III, Untrackable
Polymelia: Due to his extra pair of arms, Zinueth may make two Major Actions each turn. If he doesn’t, he gains advantage 1 on a single Major Action.
Uncontrolled Mutation (inflict polymorph): Alteration vs. Toughness. Zinueth administers a fast-acting serum. Normally used to spur natural regeneration, he has re-engineered it to instead cause rapid growth into an unpredictable new form.
Rapid Autotomy (invoke regeneration): Alteration vs. CR 16 - 24 (PL 3 - 7). Zinueth’s wounds close quickly. His flesh knits back into place without leaving a scar.
Chitinous Growth (invoke resistance): Alteration vs. CR 16 - 24 (PL 3 - 7). Zinueth’s skin turns hard and shell-like, rebuking his foe’s advances.