Sunday, 29 January 2023

Hex Crawl 23 #30: The Hope of Zigmunus

Two hexes south, one southwest of Alakran.

In this trackless drift of sand, a traveler may stumble across a single branch from a juniper tree, half-buried, a bracelet of beads tangled in its needles. What's the story?


By the customs of Wahattu, a woman who feels herself wronged or mistreated, and finds no justice forthcoming from a world ruled mostly by men, may cut herself a branch of a juniper tree. Bearing this token aloft, she advances, southeast from Gesshed, into the desert, leaving everything and everyone behind. When she can wade in sand to her hip, she has entered the zone of sanctuary. If she can find the way and survive the journey, she will find asylum in the female city-state of Zigmunus, close by the Scarp, far from the land of men.

Juniper Tree By Plateau Free Stock Photo - Public Domain Pictures
A juniper tree


The hybrid female monsters who roam that desert are constrained by duty to allow juniper-bearing women passage, and to persecute anyone else who follows them or strays into the sands. Still, this duty comes with varied reactions to any given refugee. At times, the guardians will test, frighten, or confuse the seeker. Other times they offer aid, or point the way east.

All those legends, and a likely tragedy unwritten and unheard, will jump to the mind of they who know the ways of Wahattu, when they see that lone juniper branch stuck in the sand.

Hex Crawl 23 #29: Statues in the Sand

 Three hexes south of Alakran.


More of Kallatu's unfortunate male statues (hex #14) arrayed as trophies, as warnings, but the dunes have drifted around each of the statues. Specifically, each statue is d10 feet deep in sand, which may conceal it entirely. Although the sand has eroded them more plentifully than the hilltop statues, long entombment in a deep drift can protect over long years, so there is no net difference.

Perhaps these men can be restored as statues before they are turned back to flesh - never mind if that goal is a good idea? No mundane sculptor or plasterer would do. That would just end up as botched plastic surgery. The magic of stone shape would do it, for sure. Perhaps centuries as a stone statue has made them raving, or bitter, or violent. Perhaps the experience has instead leached those qualities away from them, left them stoic and cold, reflecting on their former existence as a comet looks back on a receding sun.

Saturday, 28 January 2023

Hex Crawl 23 #28: Kallatu

 Two hexes south, one southeast of Alakran.


Yes, the statues in hexes #13 and #14 are the work of a creature whom we may treat as a medusa, Kallatu, She wanders the dunes hereabouts, wrapped in a white woolen desert robe with a peaked hood. Under the hood is a red bridal veil. Under the veil are her terrible long-lashed violet eyes.

Kallatu is one of the female monsters who inhabit the southeastern desert of Wahattu, descendants of the legendary Ekidna. These all join in the mission of the enclave of Zigmunus: to guard that haven for women, south of the desert, or to punish men for crimes and injustices against women.

Years ago, the abandoned village to the north whose name is overblown by the desert sands sent forth a man, a hero he thought himself, who had made a drunken oath to gaze upon the face of Kallatu's mother, and then rid the world of her. Mother, like daughter, had a curse and a weapon of unearthly beauty that turned all who desired it to stone. Unseen in voluminous robes, the hair of these creatures is a single braid and that braid is a mortiferous black serpent. 

Through guile and stratagem learned by long voyaging in the wide world, this hero ambushed Kallatu's mother, turned her own gaze against her, and chiseled off the head of the resulting statue as a trophy. He did not know of Kallatu, almost grown, who saw the whole scene from behind a dune.

The scene in the village is Kallatu's revenge on the man who killed her mother, on all the other men of the village who cheered on his murder and ogled her mother's head in lust. One woman, alas! saw Kallatu on her walk of vengeance, and desired her before she realized it. The medusa still brings, to that one statue, desert flowers of regret every winter and spring.

The other statues in the wilderness were "sculpted" by Kallatu and her forebears, draconian judgments passed on curious men trespassing too close to the sanctuary of Zigmunus. If a larger group of men than two or three is sighted, Kallatu goes in search of her desert allies, whom we will meet some time later this year, and alerts the forces of Zigmunus to the threat. Her own possessions, including her mother's head which can still paralyze if not petrify those who behold it with desire, are cached in secret, to the east near the Scarp.