August 12, 2008

The Dead Queens of Morvena (Part 1)

This is the first part in a series on The Dead Queens of Morvena. After the series is completed, I will repost a combined (and likely reedited) version that will serve as my own entry for the RPG Blog Carnival that I am hosting. I want to encourage critical comments, opinion, advice, or praise (might I deserve it) for each part of this series. Your input will no doubt influence the final product.

The Dead Queens of Morvena (Preface)
The Dead Queens of Morvena [1] are intended to be used as source material for DM's looking for some fresh ideas, or maybe a new pair of BBEGs that can drive an ongoing or new campaign's storyline. This series will be broken down into four sections. First, I'll discuss the background I've developed for The Dead Queens and comment on my sources for the idea. In Part 2, I'll go into some possible hooks on how The Dead Queens may be incorporated and adapted into your existing campaign, or how they could be used as a seed for an entirely new campaign. Part 3 of the series will cover 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons specific stat blocks for The Dead Queens, as well as their minions and other various lackeys. Thus, for those of you who play 4E I'll be leaving you with something you can work with right away.

My goal is to provide everyone with some (hopefully) useful source material, that is largely system independent (save for the last part). If I succeed in crafting something useful, and you enjoy this post, then please leave a comment and let me know. You may even choose to consider contributing something of your own to the RPG Blog Carnival. If this post doesn't "do it" for you, then let me know as well : this is my first attempt at posting a creative work (if it can be called that) so any and all criticism is welcome - even from trolls, but especially from lurkers.

Centuries ago, a maleficence hunted the valleys and hills known as Fetherruin, a wilder land that served as a trade route for the hardiest and most courageous merchants of the day. They braved dangerous, rarely traveled routes through Fetherruin so that their goods might reach their destinations days or even weeks sooner.

In the earliest days of Fetherruin, the men who travel its paths were unaware of any specific or pointed source of evil. The occurrences of misfortune were thought of as just that: bad luck. But as the years passed on, and the hidden paths through Fetherruin became better traveled, the baleful nature of the region grew. The merchants who survived the dangerous route through Fetherruin began to suspect the ill fortune that befell many of the travelers in the region had a name, and that it was intent on claiming the land as its own. Thus, as news of the growing evil spread, so did the calls for even braver souls willing to destroy the source of this unnamed evil.

Brave souls did come, and many died seeking the rid Fetherruin of its resident evils, but these loses did not come without any fruit. It was revealed that the hills and valleys of Fetherruin were indeed home to a sentient evil: Incabus, a primordial demon that fell from the celestial heavens [2]. After some time, years some say, one hero did make his way into Fetherruin and for the first time Incabus was met with a force greater than its own.

Erushai "Maghammer" Dismas was the champion of Lathner, God of Truth & Light. He had a long and colorful career as an adventurer and herald of his faith, tirelessly seeking to crush false godheads and demons wherever he encountered them, and Fetherruin should have been different. This time, however, Erushai was reaching the end of his career, and was looking for retirement. He saw the lands of Fetherruin, once freed from the malignant will of Incabus, as the place he would make his home. So alone, and in the dead of winter, Erushai set out to destroy the demon that ruled Fetherruin. No stories are told as to how he succeeded, but word spread that Incabus had been evicted from Fetherruin, and that Erushai had been the who who drove it out. It is also said that the spirit of Incabus was held at bay only so long as the bloodline of Erushai desired to keep it that way. Some might have even forseen what was to come next.

In the years following, Erushai recruited a small following and built a church along one of the more common trade routes through Fetherruin. It was an ideal way to spread the word of his faith, as there were no other rest stops in Fetherruin and soon the merchants looked forward to the clean beds, hot soups, and (for some) the powerful sermons delivered at his parish. The land was rough, but resources were plentiful. With hard work, Erushai's people tilled the earth and built farms and pasturelands. A village grew up around his chapel, and this village soon grew into a small town. He named the town Morvena, after his mother [5].
Erushai married and fathered six children, and his small town continued to grow into the tiny Kingdom of Morvena. His people, devoted to his faith, knighted him their king and thus was the birth of a new monarchy. Little would anyone have suspected his lineage would come to an end so quickly.

Erushai's first born was his son Mindenáron Dismas [3], and at the age of 19 he assumed the throne of Morvena after his father's death. There was a brief time of strife while the people of Morvena struggled with accepting their new, and very inexperienced, king. Mindenáron, however, had a sharp mind and a skilled tongue and soon his people's fears were put at ease. He was not his father, but neither was he full of greed or hungry for more power. He loved the lands in which he was born. Mindenáron sought nothing more than to protect the Kingdom of Morvena, and to raise a family who would continue his father's lineage. To this end, he chose a wife who was also born in Featherruin, a commoner named Avildena.

Unfortunately for Mindenáron and Avildena, after ten years of trying, they were unable to bear any children together. So, on the advice of Avildena, he took on a second wife: her younger sister Nemala. The king and his two queens lived in more or less happiness for two years. Then, Mindenáron realized that is was he who was unable to father children, and this drove him mad. Unable to cope with his inability to father his own children, he placed the throne into the hands of Avildena and fled the country in search of a solution. After three years of traveling and chasing false hopes, he eventually met a man named Amel [4].

Amel claimed to represent an exiled sorcerer who was seeking a place to live out the last of his days in peace & quiet. Amel's master, Cabunis, offered Mindenáron a magical elixir that would restore his vitality if, in exchange, Mindenáron offered Morvena as the place where he could "take permanent residence". Mindenáron agreed, consumed the elixir, and extended an open door to Amel and his master whenever they should arrive in Morvena. He then promptly returned to Morvena to share his good fortune with his wives.

But Amel and his master Cabunis never arrived in Morvena, at least not in the way Mindenáron thought they would.

Less than a year later, both Avildena and Nemala were with child. As the day of births drew nearer, terrible long-standing storms passed over Fetherruin, and much of the kingdom's yearly harvests were destroyed. As it became clear that the two queens would give birth at nearly the same time, the number of natural disasters befalling the tiny kingdom could no longer be attributed to bad luck. There were murmurs and whispers of the return of Incabus among the people. Mindenáron slowly pieced together his trail of errors and suspected that he had been tricked by Amel and that his children may show obvious signs of infernal blood. Wanting nothing more than to clear his name and protect his once fair kingdom, he made plans to murder his queens and the children soon after the they were born.

The queens gave birth on the same day, minutes apart, during a flood like no other than any living Morvenian had seen.

The children bore obvious signs of being infused with the blood of the abyss, most notably they had tails and tiny horns on their heads. The sister-queen's surprise was, however, overshadowed by their strong maternal instinct to protect the newborns; demonic or not, they were their children. So, Avildena named her son Agrona, and Nemala named her daughter Maeve. The two sisters also made a pact to protect the children at any cost. Using powerful ritual magic to switch the identities of the newborns with two other newborns born in the kingdom on the same day, their children were be safe from the angry, righteous mobs of Lathner believers.

The plan worked. The queens' children were sent into the homes of two unsuspecting, ordinary families and appeared as normal human infants. The infants taken from the new foster parents of Agrona and Maeve were made to appear as half-demon children. Thus, Cabunis's plan, or rather the demon Incabus's plan, had succeeded.

Mindenáron knew his people would never accept half-demon hiers to the throne. So, in his madness, he decided to carry out his own plan, and ordered the murder of his the sister-queens, the newborn children, and everyone involved in their devlivery. His most trusted knights did as they had been commanded, and they were all executed before they had time to flee the royal lodge. The king then announced to his people that his wives and their stillborn children had died in childbirth.

A state funeral soon followed. The bodies of the queens were buried deep in a set of royal tombs that had been dug for his father, Erushai, high up in the hills of Fetherruin. The day after the funeral, the very grounds of Fetherruin shook as a second natural disaster befell Morvena. The town was laid into ruin, and a massive landslide buried the tombs forever.

Afterwards these disasters, many of the people of Morvena fled the region to seek safer lands until better times. Mindenáron, his mind shattered and his heart broken, did what he could to repair the temple his father had built. The townsfolk who remained slowly rebuild the town, but it was never as pristine as before. The kingdom seemed to be, once again, a source of bad luck and ill fortune.

Mindenáron never married again and never fathered any heirs. He died not five years later, only to have his throne fought over by distant cousins seeking a stake in the family fortune. Within a decade of his death, the entire Kingdom of Morvena had fallen to infighting and civil strife. Then, the fields began to go foul. The local lakes began to dry up and turn into marshland. Rumours spread that a pair of demon children lived among the people. Some claimed to have seen the ghosts of The Dead Queens searching the towns and villages at night for their children. Sightings of ghosts in the hills overlooking the valley became commonplace. Soon, the Dead Queens' Omen became legend and a deep, sourceless feeling of fear and anxiety crept into the hearts and minds of all who lived in Morvena. Afraid of what the future might bring, the people started moving away in droves and the kingdom slowly slide back into ruin, Fetherruin.

Within a few decades, the lands had been nearly abandoned [6]. The fields had turned back into the rocky, windswept scrub land first seen by the pioneering merchant trains before Morvena's time. The lakes then turned into deep swamps, thick with bramble weeds and razor grass. After a century, only two families remained living in the lands of Fetherruin - and they both shared some uncommon physical features: tails and small horns on their heads.

Footnotes & Art
[1] The image at the start of the document was drawn by Phil Gonzales. ( )
[2] The name Incabus is a variation of the word incubus, a demon said to impregnate mortal women with half-demon children.
[3] Mindenáron is a Hungarian word that roughly translates to "by any means".
[4] Amel is the name of the demon, who in Anne Rice's vampire novels, is the source of the curse that brought the quickening to Queen Akasha (The Queen of the Damned).
[5] Picture of
Eilean Donan in Scottland (
[6] The inset photo is taken from some random Google Image search (

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  1. Awesome. I like how you referenced the inspirations for the names and characters. Can't wait to read more.

  2. Thanks for stopping by! Glad you liked it. For the next part I'm going to go into how this whole ball o'wax could be incorporated into a new or existing campaign. Of course, people can do with it what they want - if anything I hope that it helps stir the reader's imagination.

  3. That castle...isn't that the McCleod clan castle? I was there a decade ago...looks familiar.

    Excellent story so far!

  4. @Donny : The castle is "Eilean Donan in Scottland" as noted in the footnotes. I've unfortunately did not make it there when I was in Scotland myself for a conference (I did go to Edenborough though, that was real nice). Glad you like the story! At least two other souls are reading it! =D


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