Penny Dreadful: Vol. 1

Tavern Tales

The Torch and the Fang

Two days ago, when Tesarla was full and bright in the sky, the body of young Raina Laar was discovered after a search of the Kalenwald. Raina was supposed to be tucked into her bed, safe from the horrors of the outside world behind strong walls and a solid lock. While the official word is that she sneaked out of her home only to be discovered by some forest beast, others point to her new stepmother, Lioba, only a few years older than the girl and no stranger to criminal accusations.

 

Hunters of Men

Recently a pair of bounty hunters have been staying at Rule’s Tavern, apparently tasked by Deadhand to retrieve the hermit Volkard, an infrequent visitor of Kodim who hasn’t been seen in well over a month. Unwilling to discuss their reasons for hunting the man, the two have been asking a lot of questions and have publicly threatened the reeve herself. They have made it clear that they will not be leaving until they find Volkard, dead or alive, and if they can’t find him in a timely manner, Maddox will send a whole squad to scour the place.

 

Impure Thoughts

After the previous Saraten cleric took leave of his senses, a new young priest, Siegmund Reiter, has arrived to preach to the people of Kodim and care for his ailing predecessor. His handsome features and affable attitude has not gone unnoticed, and in his short tenure, he has already been accused of being far too attentive to some of the married women of the town. Meanwhile: others are less concerned about his dalliances and more worried about the steep decline in health of Manfred. The holy man had some signs of dementia before Siegmund arrived, but now he is rarely seen and seems to have become completely mute.

 

Persons of Interest

 

Rosaline Weiss, Reeve of Kodim

The keeper of the peace has been a controversial figure since she first took the position at a young age. Barely into her second decade when she was first appointed, Rosalind quickly proved herself to have more sense and determination than others twice her age. Rosalind is well known for her skill as a marksman and her head for strategy when it comes to defending the town. She is quick to discipline any member of the watch who does not live up to her strict standard. However, now in her early 30s, her body has begun to prematurely fail her for some unknown reason and she has started to experience fits that has caused her to delegate many of her former duties.

 

Eamonn, Blacksmith

Nobody seems to remember a time when Eamonn did not attend to the forge of Kodim. Now ancient by anyone’s measure, he is still tireless in his duties and can be heard all hours of the day hammering away at one project or another. Eamonn is not just trusted for his skill with iron but is also looked to for wisdom, and is often the deciding voice for disputes between townsfolk. As much of a fixture as the Luthander is, nobody seems to know much about his past or why he left the north. He avoids any such questions and seems to want little to do with any of his fellow northerners

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Alvanen

“All of the human races were created with an undeniable will to defy the circumstances of birth and the auspices of nature, and rise to a height reserved for the forgotten gods. We are just the one who have clasped hands and lowered shoulders, so that by standing on the shoulders of our fellows, we may all take turns grasping the sun.” Maik Krieger, First Alienist in Service of the Republic

 

Appearance:

Alvanen, the most numerous race on the continent of Korvast, are a light skinned people who rarely exceed 6 feet in height with men averaging around 5’6” and women 5’2”. Their hair tends towards dark colors and they keep it trimmed in the latest fashion. Their features range but they seem to always convey a certain imperious heir is almost part of their very lifeblood.

With what nature has given the Alvanen they have sought to improve to the very limits of their ability. They dress in the fashion that most affords always with a keen eye to how they appear to others. Personal worth is a constant pecking order, and to avoid demeaning oneself in the eyes of one’s fellows, a constant effort must be made to continually exude an aura of self-command and external power.

 

Personality:

It is said that an Alvanen wrote the book on the etiquette that all should abide by, and Alvanen certainly believe this statement to be true. Most Alvanen pride themselves on their manners, especially to peers and superiors. They make special effort to pick exactly the right word in every situation in a manner that can often seem superior to others but comes from a history where respect must be carefully maintained among all those encountered. The trick to getting to the heart of an Alvanen is engaging their curiosity and expanding their current pool of knowledge. In a life of confining custom, what an Alvanen truly craves is the unexpected.

 

Spirituality:

The Alvanen republic was a great structure supplanting spirituality with philosophical understanding. The superstitions of the past were set aside in the racing pursuit for greater understanding. Since the fall of the republic, many forms of belief have flourished in the south. The two primary beliefs are the Saraten Church, an evangelical group wishing to save humanity from drowning in the rivers of hubris; and the Ghost Pantheon, a revival of the worship of certain powerful apparitions that now walk among us with greater power than ever before.

 

Concerning the Haunted:

The Haunted are figures of superstition in even the most open minded Alvanen settlements. The Saraten Church openly persecutes Haunted as harbingers of the end. The believers in the Ghost Pantheon are more accepting but quick to turn on a Waking Dreamer if they believe she will subvert the will of the spirits with her strange powers. Most of the common folk fall between these two extremes and the majority would like to see anyone with such peculiar gifts departing with the greatest haste possible.

Introduction: The Haunted

There have always been mortals who can claim the title of Haunted or Grave Crossed. Individuals capable of amazing feats who are not entirely of this world. Their souls burn pushing their bodies way beyond normal limits and allowing them to defy death itself with their only true companions being the spirits that surround them. Now, in the age after the rising, when the veil between life and death has been torn- the Haunted may be mankind’s last hope or the harbingers of a worse fate to come.

 

The Soul Wound

While the Haunted may come from many different backgrounds, there is one universal truth to their backstory: all Haunted are damaged. Sometime, usually in their youth, the Haunted’s very soul was attacked by an entity. An entity, be it a ghost, demon, shadowkin or other; attempted to pry the vital essence from the body that it sustained. However, unlike the many that fall prey to these creatures, the soul of the future Haunted fought back in an incredible way, and ever since that day: the soul has become so much stronger.

This mark is still an undeniable part of every Haunted and is refered to as the Soul Wound. It is the origin point that awakened them to a different world and the true extent of their capabilities. Without the soul wound, they would not have the strength of the Burning Essence, nor, in all likelihood, the insight of being a Waking Dreamer, but these new abilities do not come without a cost.

The Soul Wound is a constant background pain that reminds the Haunted that they will never be at home amidst their fellows. They are different, forever altered with a new path before them that could change the very fate of Korvast and possibly all of Voyrune.

 

Burning Essence

All living things in this world have essence, the natural life force that sustains them. Normally, this only provides the energy for a being to operate and emanate a slight spiritual “pulse.” In desperate self-preservation, the soul of the Haunted burst forward with more energy to repulse its attacker. Now, it burns constantly producing an incredible reservoir of internal might.

This excess life force allows the haunted to push the body and mind beyond any natural limitations. They can move faster, hit harder, master new skills in a fraction of the time, and enforce their will on the outside world by sheer spiritual strength. This also allows them to heal considerably faster than a normal person. Haunted are able to sustain wounds that would kill or cripple a common man and by back to full strength in a matter of days.

However, all of these abilities come at a price. For while they were able to fight off their first spectral attacker, their new glut of essence attracts attention to those who are sensitive. The Haunted is surrounded by ghosts, hunted by demons, and sought out by all manner of witches and seers. They must adapt fast, or they will find all of their power means nothing at all in the face of the horrors of this world.

 

Waking Dreamer

With the Burning Essences comes an awareness of the invisible world. They can now see the spirits that walk among us, the creatures that slink through from the near dark, and even the impressions of events from long ago. This is called prescience and having the talent makes one a Waking Dreamer.  

In sleep, the soul is able to communicate with the invisible world and other souls, but the language is a complex thing of metaphor, imagery and memory that occludes meaning. Most people are unaware of visitors in their dreams and shut out the recollections of disturbances as vague nightmares. Being a Waking Dreaming means that a person is able to perceive and interact with the spiritual world while awake and even engage in communication with spectral forms using a language based on establishing a supernatural rapport.

Most Waking Dreamers are not haunted; they are seers, wise men and women, sensitives and mediums. Most avoid their gift and attempt to hide from the attention of a world they can no longer ignore. Others try to capitalize on their gift and seek power or prestige with their abilities, but many that choose this course find themselves devoured by the forces they wish to harness.

The Haunted is one of the people that stands at the crossroads with both the awareness and the power to act, but they cannot win alone. They are still mortal and dealing with enemies whose malevolence has grown over centuries if not eons. They need allies, and to find them they turn to the ghosts who lurk amongst us.

 

Spirit Pacts

While even an uninitiated Haunted is a force to be reckoned with, it is the powers conferred to the them by allegiance with phantoms that makes them the object of so much fear and wonder. The ghosts are drawn by the powerful spectral pulse of the Haunted and see in them a way to right wrongs, complete missions that defined their previous life, inflict vengeance or maybe just get a taste of the living world. Many Haunted run from this ghastly following, but the wise learn to embrace it and forge pacts with which to draw strength.

Most ghosts do not wish to return to rest and need to establish tethers to continue their hold on this world. When a Haunted establishes a pact, they offer to serve as one of those tethers and tie that spirit to them. In return: the ghost allows itself to be invoked by the Haunted in times of need and aids them with all of their miraculous gifts.

Of course, this close allegiance with, and reliance on, the dead make the Haunted a source of fear for the common people. Most lump them in with necromancers and witches who have turned Korvast down a ruinous path. If one is not careful, the mobs will surely string them or up or purge the powers from their body with fire and hatred.

Most would hide knowing everything they face. Most would turn their back on a world that fears and shuns them…but this world also needs them.

 

The Path of the Haunted

The Haunted did not ask for their gift. They did not seek out the means to rupture their soul in some bloodstained grimoir. A large percentage would choose to return that life before the persistant nightmares and days spent surrounded by the dead. But that is not an option.

The world is at war. A war that most people aren’t even aware is being lost. This is a war in the shadows for the future of all humanity. Monsters, in numbers not seen in centuries, return to do battle with mankind. Specters moan in the night for their murders to be avenged and claw at the fears of those who deny them. Strange magics are worked in forgotten places to fill Korvast with curses born by moonlight. All of this is the life the Haunted has been thrust into.

But their fate is not decided for them. The Burning Essence does prescribe a course of action or moral code. What the Haunted has is power; the power to change things for good or ill. They can choose to take up arms against the monsters and drive them back or ally themselves to establish themselves as a lord amidst the dust. They can be hero to rally the hearts of a defeated people or become the creature that others already believe them to be. They have been made anew, but the ability to choose their own fate remains.

With the future of a world in the balance, it is the Haunted who must choose to tip the scales.