Helkey 31 — Battle of Sunken Crag, Desperate Moves

My little ragtag army of Mottles, Urdrakes, and Plumacats is ready to go. Sure, they’re scared witless. Who wouldn’t be facing down the worst Hell has to offer in the form of scores of heavily armed devils?? Fiendish Drivers who want to nothing more than to kill your corpus, rip out your wisp, then force it to serve as a slave in a torturous worb. All led by terrible Overseers profiting from the horrible wisp trade. But our little force is fresh from two big victories against the devils of Overseer Tower. They’re also serious badasses. It’s starting to dawn on me that the Urdrakes and Plumacats are both some kind of uber predator. The Urdrakes are mini godzillas as giant snapping turtles — with the ability to shoot beams of killing light out of their frigging heads. Plumacats remind me of some tiger-velociraptor hybrid. Mottles, though not carnivorous, are like a badass mash-up of a giant bat with a cloaker from D&D. Yeah, after all the fighting, I’ve got D&D on my mind today. Deal.

I ride the nasty Vortex up to the canyon wall, my company of uber predators and other misfits following along in the Hell machine’s stinking wake. Its banshee-wail engine rips at my ears. Poor, tortured wisps churning inside a ring of spiritual teeth — spitting out soul-juice to spike the fossil-fuel crud devils burn in their engines. Clouds of noxious smoke rise around me.

I climb over the canyon’s lip, stare out across hills spilling into the Wisp Fields. Mists from earlier are now clear. Lights and shadows play together beneath a fractured night sky. At first, it’s tough to make out what I’m seeing. Though I’m pretty sure most of the lights are wisps, there’s a huge group of devils tooling about down there.

Grimjaw pads up beside me, points with a clawed hand into the lands below. “See them,” he growls. I follow the tip of his claw to a large force of devils churning across stinking lands. They’re still many miles away. A plume of back-lit smoke rises from their Vortexes which swarm around hulking scorpions — tail tips blazing in red-orange orbs from stolen wisp energy. They’re tough to miss once I know where to look. Still far off, so it’s understandable I overlooked them in omnis scientia. Grimjaw shifts his claw lower. “There too,” he says again in more of a whisper. I have to focus. After a few seconds, I catch a smoke plume against the night. Following it down, I see a cluster of flickering worbs. They’re close enough for me to hear the faint sound of Vortex engines wailing now that I’ve briefly throttled down my own nasty machine.

“I see them,” I reply. Mottle quivers as he shares in my senses. He’s excited, afraid, anticipating what’s to come.

Grimjaw shifts his hand a final time. He points above the wisps fields. I focus my sight. I can’t see shit. Closing my eyes, I shift to omnis scientia, then use its enhanced sight to follow Grimjaw’s claw to the point he’s indicating. At last I see the Uktena — its red-ribbon form threading through the night sky.

“Fuck!” I say as I recognize the devil-snake. I’d heard Grimjaw’s earlier report of the sighting. But I hoped the big Plumacat was somehow mistaken. The Uktena’s flying right for that big force of devils. It’s a rather slow flyer. But judging from its path and speed, it’ll meet with the larger devil force in about a half hour. I stare as Plumacats and Urdrake climb up onto the ridge beside me. Mottles glide overhead. Our scouts are already on the next ridge about a half mile away.

Theri and Zel pull up beside me on their own stinking Vortexes. Zaya’s flying overhead. The two wounded Plumacats wail in on their Vortexes behind us. “I want all of you to stay close to me,” I say to them. “Zaya, I’m going to need you again soon. Do you think you’ll be ready to change more wisps in about an hour?”

The Hell faerie hovers close, she has to shout over the wail of the stupid Vortexes. “I’ll have to rely on you more! But yes!”

“Fanfriggingtastic!” I turn to Zel and Theri. “What can you tell me about the scorpions? We took that one out really quick. But I don’t think I got a chance to see what it was fully capable of.”

Zel looks at Theri who replies. “The scorps are great machine monsters. Close in, they can shred about anything with their burning claws. The tails, are the bigger threat, though. They can steal raw wisp energy to throw glowing balls of destruction. Much larger than the fireball rounds. But slow. You’ll see them coming if they do. Better get out of the way.”

Fucking great. I was worried about something like this. Zel took out the tail of the first scorp we ambushed quick. So I didn’t get to see it in action. “How far can it throw its hell balls?”

“About ten miles. But like I said, they’re slow. You can see them coming. If you move, you can get out of their path.” This creates a new complication. The scorps are about eight miles out. Within range if the devils spot us. That’ll probably happen soon. Although one thing’s certain. I don’t intent to sit still.

“Frigging Great! Now follow me!” I gun my Vortex over to Zorfang. He’s got a cluster of Urdrakes near him. They’re walking in a shambling line along the ridge. Their pace is slow but steady. The measured movement is something I’ve thought about as we climb up to the ridge line. Soon, the larger devil force will see us. I’m going to need to move quick. But I’ve got to make sure I employ these Urdrake effectively or we’re all pretty much effed.

“I need to know what you’ve got, Zorfang,” I say to the massive godzilla turtle thing.

He tilts his giant reptile head down toward me giving a quizzical expression. It’s cute, even on a beast I know could bite my friggin arm off with one great snap of his serrated beak.

I point to the crystal formation at the top of his head. “How far do those shoot? Can you run out?”

Zorfang scratches at the crystal formation with a large claw. “Shoots as far as I see. But gets weak with distance. Up close, it cuts. Further, it heats. Further still, it will blind.”

I point down to the large group of devils in the Wisp Fields’ center. “What can you do to that?”

“If some look this way, we can blind them, perhaps.”

I point to the Uktena. “That?” I ask. I’m using omnis scientia to see it. I can’t fracking see it with my own eyes. I’m wondering if Zorfang can.

Zorfang looks in the direction I’m pointing. He casts about for a moment. Then, he closes his eyes. He tilts the crystal structure a little, then a small beam shoots out. In omnis scientia, I see the Uktena momentarily light up. Neat trick.

“Ahhh…” Zorfang hums. “Though closer, it is small and bobs around.” He seems to consider a moment more before replying. “Blind it. Three, maybe four of us can heat it.”

This is new information. “You can combine your beams?”

Zorfang nods.

I’m impressed. This is a hell of a capability. The Urdrakes may be slow, but they could lay down the literal heat over long distances. I felt like a commander of a laser artillery battery. Last of all, I point at the scouts closing in on their Vortexes. “And those?”

Zorfang doesn’t even hesitate. “Small cuts. We can heat the machines to explode.”

Amazing. “OK, Zorfang. That’s really helpful. So I’m going to take these Vortexes, the Mottles and the Plumacats out into the wisp fields. We’re going to be moving crazy fast. I want you to get your Urdrakes to hit that Uktena now. If you can, get him out of the air. But try not to make too much light, if you can.” I point to the next ridge line. “Then I want you to run to that ridge as fast as you can. You might have some fire hurled your way from those giant scorps.” I motion down to the larger force of devils. “So I want you guys to shoot, then move, shoot again, then move again. Keep ’em guessing. Get all the Urdrakes up there and be ready.”

Zorfang nods. “Yes father,” he says in his deep, musical tones, then begins to shuffle off.

“Wait a sec. I’m not quite finished.”

Zorfang pauses. I reach out a hand to touch his forehead. Casting my curse magic out, I connect him to omnis scientia. “Una!” I incant. Now he can see and hear through the sensor. I direct it to hover down next to me. “This is omnis scientia. It’s a sensor I’ve crafted out of magic. I’m taking it with me. I’ve just set it up so you can see me through it when you concentrate on me. Close your eyes. Try it out.”

Zorfang closes his eyes. “I can see Myra,” he says. “It is clearer than crystal sight.”

“Fantastic! Now, when I touch the sensor, you will also be able to hear me.” I reach out, drag my hand through the sensor’s curse-shaped body. “Like this,” I say as I touch it.

Zorfang shuffles in surprise as my voice is transmitted to him twice — once through regular sound and once through the sensor. “Yes! I hear!”

“OK. So you know what your first mission is, right?”

“The red snake in the sky. We try to heat or blind it. Then, on to that rise! Shoot, then move!” He sings the last bit loudly. He seems to be getting riled up.

“Excellent! After that, we’ll be in touch.” I tap my ear. I pause, look behind me at Rookfang. For a moment, I muse about their names. Neither actually has any real fangs. Just serrated beaks. I shake off my moment of bemusement. Grabbing Rookfang’s, arm, I slide him gently off the bike. Takes a lot of effort. The guy is huge. Weighs hundreds of pounds. He plunks down to the ground beside Zorfang. “One more thing. I’ll need you to take him with you. Get two of your stronger Urdrakes to carry him.”

Positions of Forces and Recent Events During the Battle of Sunken Crag

Zorfang looks down at Rookfang, then harrooms and affirmation. With a smile and a thumbs up, I ride off in the direction of Featherstar. She’s got ten Plumacats lined up. Eight of them have finally teamed with the remaining Mottles. Grimjaw, Shade, and his scout team flow into them. Theri, Zel, and the two wounded Plumacats on Vortexes ride up. Zaya hovers overhead. My stomach tightens as I take in this motley assortment. Together we number a mere thirty-seven. Including the scouts running out ahead, that’s forty-nine. Pretty thin. But I’m counting on the twenty-three frigging laser artillery Urdrakes I’m leaving behind to give us some heavy support. As I look over my force, I feel like I’m about to take a big drop on a huge roller coaster. But this rollercoaster is diving me straight into heavy combat. Stuff is about to get real brutal.

“The chips are down. It’s time for some desperate moves,” I say to them. “We’re heading out together. Our first objective is to take out that scout company.” I point in the direction of the ten devils on Vortexes heading toward us fast. “Next, we circle back to eliminate their main force. I’m counting on you to be swift and fierce. We’re going to punch ’em in the nose, then draw them into a fight they won’t make it out of.” I sound a lot more confident than I feel. But I’ve got to make them believe it’s possible. Otherwise, it won’t be. “The Urdrakes will set up in these hills to rain barrages of blinding and heating lights down on them. Don’t look back toward the hills.” I point to my eyes, then point back at them. “Eyes to the enemy.”

I ride to the downslope, summon my moonshadow blade, then point it at the leading force of devils. “Now charge!”


Corviss flies through the air as swift as he can. It’s infuriatingly slow.

He’s not a fast flier — more a swimmer of air currents. While near the Vortexes, he can catch a slipstream and glide along. Carried forward by the bike’s motion.

His teleports are crazy-quick, but short distance. At most, his jumps cover about five hundred feet. Making such swift jumps is highly exerting. He’d panicked when the fireball blossomed around him above the canyon. The sudden expense of energy needed to escape its blast drained him. He might be able to jump once or twice more before succumbing to exhaustion. So he’s stuck coiling slowly through the air toward Lavross’s lumbering force. It’s frustrating. Lavross must know about the mage’s large and deadly gathering of Plumacats, Mottles, and Urdrakes.

“Lavross, Lavross… See me Lavross!” He laments, hoping the Overseer will spot him and send out his Vortex riders to scoop him up.

He rides toward a current of falling air he hopes will carry him to Lavross when his skin suddenly becomes blazing hot. He shrieks, JUMPS!, then spins to see where the fireball round came from. There is no fireball round! Just a painful burning sensation all over his body that lets him know the heat he felt was real. He spins in a spiral. His teleport brought him lower, but he still has the advantage of height for perspective. He looks toward the Razor Hills. It takes him a moment to make out the distant forms of Urdrakes in a line along a ridge. Then, a barrage of brilliant flashes shoots out from the Urdrakes. He feels another searing pain — this time over his face, his eyes. Darkness and burning swallow him. He JUMPS! again. Falls through a well of black. Slams into the ground.

All goes dark.

When Corviss wakes, he finds he’s lost all sight except his peripheral vision. A great black hole eats up his gaze. He tries to fly, but can’t gain perspective and slams into the ground again. Popping up, he tips his head to try to see the land around. There’s a nearby rise. He scrabbles atop it, tilts his head. The rim of sight is maddening in its illusiveness. He coils and spins as he tries to see. At last, he makes out the blurry form of a scorpion lumbering about five miles away in the corner of his gaze. Hissing in pain, frustration, and not a little fear, he begins to slither across the Wisp Fields, hoping some land predator doesn’t spot him in his damaged state. Now exhausted, his body aching, battered, stinging all over from burns, he wants nothing more than to sleep. To heal from the terrible damage done to him by the Urdrakes. Each twist of his body feels like it’s doing more damage. Regina did value him enough to grant him a healing infusion of wisp energy. Should he survive. A tickle of fear runs up his spine. Did she? Corviss crawls faster.


Lavross snarls at the stupid psychic. “What the fuck are you telling me, then??” He yells. His fanged mouth bites off each word. He imagines they are chunks of this spineless wretch’s flesh.

The psychic, its long horns more like antennae than regular devils’ horns, wilts — its flesh turning from red to a light pink shade. Myzlic the psychic rides behind a hoary, burly Driver atop a Vortex. Though the machine’s wailing is enough to make Myzlic’s ears ring, somehow Lavross’s yelling seems even louder. “It’s a sending from one of Dressler’s psychics! Nymkat!” Myzlic shouts back. “She says the mage has Urdrake! You need to be careful! Regina’s sending a second group to reinforce yours!’

“I know about the fucking Urdrake! I saw their fucking lights! You think I’m a lemure? I’ve been an Overseer in these parts for a fucking hundred and twenty years!” Lavross shouts back. Stupid psychics and that bitch Regina pointing out the fucking obvious. And she’s sending a damned follow-on-force… That means one thing. Regina’s lost confidence in his ability to take down the mage. “Reinforce?? Felldust!! Who the fuck are they sending?”

“Nymkat says it’s Dressler himself!” Myzlic replies, trying to keep his voice neutral. He knew all too well what it meant, sometimes, to be the bearer of bad news. And Lavross looks furious.

“Look! You tell Regina and Dressler to sit fucking tight. A couple of Urdrake aren’t going to change that damned mage’s fate one notch. His wisp is good as taken!”

“I’ll tell them you received their message!” Myzlic says evenly, then thumps his Driver, motioning for him to slow down. The Dark Psychic drops back, but is treated to a parting barrage of curses coming from Lavross.

Lavross turns away from the cowardly Myzlic. Damned psychic. One of Asmodeus’s supposed all-knowing faithful. Worthless and weak! He should’ve sent him forward with Amagash or Talith. Now he has to suffer Regina’s insistent mewlings. He blows out a frustrated breath from between his jagged teeth. “Fucking Dressler.” Regina’s favorite Overseer is a tall devil with skin so dark red it borders on black. He has a snide, self-assured air that Lavross finds both insulting and effete. Yet Regina had chosen Dressler as her high commander for military situations just like this one. If she’s moving Dressler onto the field, that meant this wouldn’t be his shit-show for very much longer. Lavross looks at the lumbering scorpions in frustration one more time. If he plays a strong hand now, maybe he can keep ahead of Dressler’s meddling and still take credit for taking the mage’s wisp.

He just needed an opportunity.

Then, a ridge-line to his right erupts in bright flashes of light. Lines of white streak out from the Razor Hills and illuminate a region of sky to his front-right. There’s a second flash. The light allows him to zero in on its source. Then he sees them! A row of Urdrake on a hillside about eight miles away. At least five of them are emitting light. He looks for a moment toward Talith. But her Vortexes are well below the beams. He scans the sky. “What in blazes are they aiming at?” He shakes his head. No matter. They’d just given away their position. And none-too-soon with Dressler and Regina breathing down his neck.

“Ranthvar!” he shouts back to his fourth in command.

“Overseer!” Ranthvar shouts as he drives up beside Lavross and gives a sharp salute.

“Take your Lance and stick with the scorpion crews. Make for those hills! There are Urdrake atop that ridge. Put some fire on them now!” Lavross points toward where he glimpsed the Urdrakes’ light beams.

“Yes Overseer!”

Lavross always appreciated Ranthvar’s ease with taking orders. A bit thick. But intelligence is often over-rated. “I’m taking the remaining five Lances! We’re going ahead to charge those hills! If you see any more targets. Don’t hesitate to bring devastation down on them with our scorpions.”

“Very good, Overseer!”

“For the glory of Asmodeus!” Lavross says, giving the customary send off.

“For the victory of Minos!” Ranthvar replies.

Lavross spins off to shout to his other Lances. It takes only a minute for the command to run through the ranks. With a shout of “Forward!” Lavross presses the red and golden button on his Vortex. The worb-engine wails as wisps are ground down — injecting their spirit juice into fiery combustion within the engines. The vehicle leaps forward — shooting out and away from the collection of towering scorpions. The five Lances line up on Lavross, forming a great sweeping V with him at the center. His hand itches to reach for his weapon. His rifle. His Night Axe. “Soon now,” he growls to his axe. “Soon you will taste blood. Soon.”

As he speaks these words of violence-intended, behind him the Scorpions each fling an enormous ball of black and orange into the Hell-night. Casting a dark and fiery light, they rise ponderously toward the hills where he sighted the Urdrakes.


The stupid Vortex is rattling my brain with its banshee wail. I shoot down the slope. On either side of me stretched out in a line are my thirty seven — Mottles, Plumacats, Theri, Zel, Zaya, my Mottle and last of all me. The Plumacats eat up ground in long bounds. The ones teamed up with Mottles can lope as fast as my Vortex so long as I don’t press the evil, spikey red-gold button. They can also frigging fly for short bursts. I’m counting on that mobility to save our bacon. We’re going to run out toward the enemy scouts fast and make ourselves a frigging target. If being a target doesn’t sound bacon-saving, wait around a while, clue? I’ve got tricks. Speaking of targets, I look up at Zaya. The luminous, green-skinned Hell-faerie’s born aloft on translucent wings like those of a giant dragonfly. Illuminated by lux, they become iridescent — casting little rainbows around her. As we reach the valley and start up toward the next ridge, I extend a hand to Zaya.

“I want you to ride with me!” I shout up to her. “Sit here!” I pat a spot on the Vortex’s seat in front of me.

Zaya looks with distaste down at the Vortex. “Must I?”

The Vortex bounces over some rocks, then shoots up the slope. It spits rocks and spews out more of its foul smoke. “Yes! If those devils see you, it might give away my plan! Worse, they could try to snipe you! Then we’d all be screwed!”

Zaya keeps flying near me but makes no move to land. She turns her face forward. I know she’s still listening, though.

“Look! You’re going to like what I’ve got planned! Just hang in there with me for an hour! Maybe less!”

“What’ve you got planned?” Zaya asks, drifting a bit closer.

I grin despite myself. Yeah, she’s hooked. “‘Keep your plans dark and impenetrable as night! And when you move — strike like a thunderbolt!'” I’m quoting Tsu Su here. It’s something Mori — Dad — used to say all the time. He’s fucking right.

“Oh, the secret thunderbolt plan!” Zaya replies. “OK, I’m in.” With one last disgusted look at the Vortex, the Hell Faerie flits down to enfold herself between my arms and behind the Vortex’s handlebars. Mottle quivers pleasantly at the faerie’s arrival. Yeah, Mottle, I like her too.

With Zaya safe, I focus on the slope. The Vortex pounds up toward the second ridge line. Atop it are my scouts. They see us coming, then leap forward, ghosting out ahead of our larger group. I keep the Vortex throttled back a bit to allow all the Plumacats to stay with me. It’s still a pretty stiff pace. I don’t have time to spare.

Before we hit the rise, I see the sky light up with the Urdrake’s frigging white laser beams. There’s a red flying snake with horns on the other end of those beams whose day just got a Hell of a lot worse. I grin wickedly. I shouldn’t be happy. But this is war after all. And that bastard is part of team ‘I’m going to kill you and enslave your effing soul.’ Yeah, count me happy the little bastard’s taking some serious heat right about now. I draw up short of the rise, allow all the Plumacats and Mottles to catch up. I look back to the Urdrakes, pushing my senses to omnis scientia. Through it, I clearly hear his deep, song-like commands. They’ve finished their barrage. Zorfang is moving them down the hill now. Good. They’ll take about two minutes to reach this ridge. Should work out just fine.

Then the night lights up as huge black-orange balls loft toward us from the Wisp Fields. They remind me of giant charred and flaming marshmallows tumbling through the sky. What a weird time to start thinking about smores. They move lazily. They’ll cover the distance to us in about two minutes. I don’t intend for him to be there when they effing land.

I reach out to omnis scientia. “OK, Zorfang, can you hear me?”

“Yes, father, we are moving as you asked. Shoot them move.” His voice is labored, huffing with exertion. Around him, I hear similar noises along with the sound of scrabbling. From what I’m hearing, those Urdrake are seriously halling ass for things so large and typically slow.

“Good. Get the Hell out of there. You’ve got effing meteors heading your way. Did you get the Uktena?”

“It fell from sky. Burned. Probably blind.”

“Perfect! Now, I have another instruction. When you reach the ridge where I am now, I want you to focus all your fire on the group of scouts heading toward us. It’s the small group of about ten devils on Vortexes. By the time you do, we should be engaged with them. Hurry! We’re going to need you!”

“I shall do this!” Zorfang roar-sings.

“Fantastic!” I say, then I shift my senses back to myself and the thirty-six other souls with me. Without another pause, I shout “Forward!” In a great spray of dirt, noxious smoke, flapping of Mottles and scrabble of claws we are shooting up over the rise. I glance at my horologium watch. It’s 4:41 AM, Hell time.

Above me, the giant blazing marshmallows begin to fall toward the ridge Zorfang just vacated. Below, the flat expanse of Wisp Fields opens up, illuminated by deadly lights passing overhead. About a mile and a half off, I can clearly see the ten devils on their Vortexes. They’re coming straight for us. Must’ve seen the Urdrake’s laser beams. They’re following the giant orange balls in toward us. Noise of their screaming engines mixes with my own. Yeah, they’re fucking close and coming in hot.

I turn toward the second, larger group of devils. What I see makes me grin despite the tormented screams of souls being ground up by devils’ engines for fuel tearing out my ever-loving ears. It’s a massive group of about fifty devils riding their Vortexes in my direction at full speed. They’re about seven miles away and running flat out. Must’ve pushed the evil spikey red and golden button. Time to put some heavy fire on these bastards. It’s also time to test the power of all the scores and scores of wisps filling up my energetic vessel.

I point my Vortex toward the scouts and gun the engine. They’re opposite the larger group. If I head toward the scouts, I buy myself a little time. So I race toward them. Plumacats teamed with Mottles fly down the slope beside me. The remaining Plumacats race behind. They lag a bit. But that’s OK. I want a follow-on force. My own scouts are up ahead. I see they found a gully to run and fly through on their way toward the ten devils on Vortexes. If I’m lucky, they’ll come at the bads from the left at about the same time I’m ready to hit them from the front.

My immediate worry is the fact that the goddamn devils have me outgunned. Only Theri, Zel, and I have firearms that can be used with any real skill. Sure, there are two Plumacats with rifles that got about five minutes of training. Enough to give away their positions, but little else. The ten devils rushing toward me are all armed with rifles. I can see them lifting their weapons from saddle holsters on their Vortexes, aiming toward us as our groups converge. These rifles probably have a maximum range of about a quarter mile. Fireball rounds — about the same. Given our closing speed, they’ll be coming into range really damn quick. I don’t want to give them a chance to use those weapons effectively.

I’m lifting my hand when all Hell breaks loose behind me. The giant burning marshmallows are finally landing. WHUP! WHUP! WHUP! WHUP! Four massive explosions tear the air. I don’t see any strike points. I’m blocked by the ridge. But burning material flies high and shrieking rocks rain down hundreds of yards away. I hope Zorfang’s long gone. I can’t afford any delay despite the frigging cataclysm practically coming down on my effing head. “Vexare! Verberare!” I incant, bleeding a crap-ton of energy from my rapidly refilling vessel to increase my missiles’ range. Five bright sparks shoot toward my enemies. As they rocket out, I shout “Una! Lux!” and bleed another excessive plug of energy into my incantation. The missiles swell with brilliant light. Each blazing like a sun, five five huge lights converge on the devil scouts. Range is excessive. Three miss altogether. But two strike a Vortex — causing its spiked tire to unfold like a ripped soda can. Its rider is flung about fifty feet before landing with a thump I can hear a mile off. Lux continues to spill out brilliant light. The devils hold up hands to shield their eyes as they skid to a halt.

They’re shouting in confusion. One is pointing at the larger force of Vortexes closing fast. The others recover as the blinding lights fade. They rev their engines. In a spray of dirt and rocks they rush forward again. More cautious, this time. I’ve bought us about thirty seconds. Pushing my focus back toward omnis scientia, I shout to Zorfang — “How soon ’til you get in place?”

For a moment, I don’t hear anything from Zorfang. Oh fuck! What if the giant marshmallows took him out!? Then, I hear the reassuring rasp of his labored breathing. “Thirty heartbeats!” he shouts through omnis scientia.

“Good!” I pour on speed and hurl another volley of over-juiced and lux-enhanced “Vexare Verberare!” at the scouts. This time, I intentionally aim short, lighting up the land to the riders’ front. One missile strikes a lead devil who’d broken away from the pack — blasting off an arm. He slams into the ground and is swallowed by churning spikes from a following Vortex. The nasty machine grinds the devil into hamburger before it skids to a halt in front of my blinding displays of lux.

“We are here, father!” Zorfang sings to me through omnis scientia. As the lights from my barrages fade, Urdrake lasers begin to rain down on the scouts. We’re still rushing them. By now we are in rifle range. Theri and Zel lift their weapons.

“No fireballs!” I shout.

Zel drops his weapon, exchanges the fireball round he was about to use. Theri shoots with her weapon, misses. Then I see shadows flying up from the crevice to my left. Six Mottles and six Plumacats crash into the devil’s flank. They tear two devils from their Vortexes. I don’t see everything that happens. But I hear the sounds of screaming, of chaotic rifle reports, of bones crunching, of flesh ripping. A Plumacat falls to the side, bleeding from a bullet wound. Its Mottle flaps off to engulf yet another devil. By now, lights from the Urdrake are raining down on the devils. One manages to get off a fireball round. It streaks toward us. I lift my hand. Sparks shoot out of my name curse as I shout — Confractus! The fireball round dissolves in mid-formation. Ten Plumacats and Mottles pounce on the remaining devils — many of which are now blind or surrounded by glows of raging air as they burn.

In a moment, all is silent. We’ve crushed another scout force. This time head-on. But with fifty more devils breathing down my neck, I’ve got zero time to celebrate. Out in the wisp fields, four more massive balls blossom from the scorpions’ tails. Four more burning marshmallows rise up. I reach out to omnis scientia. “Zorfang! Get the Hell out of there! Down the rise this time!”

“Shoot and move!” I hear Zorfang sing out again.

“Good! Stay alive! And when you get to the bottom, I want you to shoot at those scorpions. Try to blind those fuckers. We can’t continue to have this crap raining down on us.”

“Yes Myra!” Zorfang sings out. His voice is strained, his breathing labored. But there is no complaint in his tone. I plow on toward the downed devils. I see some Plumacats actually devouring their frigging corpses. I can’t take time to deal with that now. Besides, Plumacats gotta eat. Pulling up to a cluster of idle Vortexes, I shout “Lunen! Svert Umbra!” My moonshadow blade leaps out. A darkness in my hand. Soft light spreads all around. I turn to Zaya. “Are you ready?” I ask.

Her eyes twinkle. Her iridescent wings flutter. I think she’s guessed what I have planned next. “Oh yes! Very much yes! It’s thunderbolt time!”

(New to the Helkey multiverse? Haven’t yet read the first chapter? You can find it here: Helkey 1 — The Memory Draught.)

(Looking for another chapter? Find it in the Helkey Table of Contents.)

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Helkey — Curses

During the 13th through 17th Centuries in Europe, the Church declared all magic blasphemy — calling it cursed — in an effort to permanently confine demons to the outer realm and devils to hell, to reduce their influence, and to remove their ability to harvest wisps. This declaration and the genocidal war against mages that followed had the opposite effect, however, generating numerous temporary hell gates through which demons and devils feasted upon earthly humans. It also created unnecessary confusion and fear regarding the use of magic. Eventually, the word curse was used to describe any socially taboo or offensive language – i.e. curse words, or to describe any solemn utterance aimed at invoking supernatural power to inflict harm.

To mages, curses are quite different. Whether they inflict harm or are used for benevolent purposes is determined by the intentions and acts of the mage who uses them. Curses are thus the means to unlock a mages’ magical abilities and span healing, invocation, summoning, divination, transmutation, exorcism, along with other more rarified or specialized magic. They are both a mage’s art and the bridge by which a mage accesses universal wisp energy — called many things including multiversal spirit, mana, wyrd and more — channeled through their unique being. These channels are set through intention and often come in the form of chants, written words, or symbols. Mages choose words and languages that have power and meaning both to them as individuals and to larger society. Older words and languages often bear greater force in association and are therefore typically ideal choices to serve as vessels for intention in magical curses. The most common form is Latin. But any language can be used so long as it creates enough significant weight of intention to cause the curse to form an effective bridge with wisp energy.

List of Curses in Helkey

Amplio — An alteration curse used to enlarge or intensify another curse’s effect.

Bene Sevetur — A personal transmutation curse, that cleans and mends cloths while sanitizing the body and bushing the hair.

Confractus — A breaking curse that attempts to interrupt or destroy the operation of magical constructs. Confractus is often used to break diabolical magic. However, it can be used to target long-functioning magical curses. More permanent and powerful magical constructs are less likely to be affected by Confractus. Confractus can also be used to break non-magical, technology related constructs. For example, Sadie uses confractus telefari to disrupt phone signals.

Clypeus — An invocation curse that briefly conjures a field of protective energy.

Duplici exemplari An alteration curse that duplicates a simple substance, such as food or water, over time. Often used to expand a basic resource. Not useful for complex materials like manufactured materials or volatile chemicals.

Exorcizamus – An exorcism curse that involves a long incantation to develop the curse energy needed to expel a demon from a human body.

Faetor oculorum – A divination curse used to detect other curses, see the otherwise invisible presence of demons and hell gates, sense heat as visible light, and otherwise visualize various forms of radiation.

Horologium — A chronomancy curse that allows for the telling of time through a multi-functional magical time-piece. Often-semi-permanent.

Ignarus – A long lasting, easy to maintain, and sometimes permanent suggestion to ignore the presence of specific people, objects, sounds or activities. Most mages operate under some form of contingent ignarus curse which is often used to mask their implements and activities.

Indespectus – A light-bending curse that renders the subject temporarily invisible.

Infernum clavis – A Helkey curse to send the recipient through a temporary Hell Gate. Also one form of Myra Helkey’s name curse.

Interpretor — An alteration curse used to translate spoken or written language.

Lanuae — A transmutation curse that vanishes a mage in blinding flash of light and smoke, casts out a spark to a point within sight, then causes the mage to appear in an equally blinding flash where the spark lands. Essentially a short-range teleport.

Ligamen Malum — A binding curse made to trap and contain demons and other evil spirits. Often works best when the vessel used for containment contains a powerful aura of good.

Lunen Svert Umbra – Moonshadow blade which is a summoning curse. This is a unique curse crafted by Myra Helkey. It produces a blade formed of light and shadow and is linked to her name curse.

Lux — An evocation curse that conjures light to illuminate an object or to infuse another curse with light.

Name Curse – A curse that becomes a channel to universal wisp energy which is a kind of oversoul (multiversal spirit). It is a signature curse that determines the nature of a mage’s curse expertise and her level of overall power. Each mage possesses a unique name curse that expresses its magical curse energy in its own particular way.

Macto – An invocation curse used to smite demons, devils, and undead.

Mobilis — A curse that adds motive force to a physical or magical object.

Omnis scienta – A divination curse that allows a mage to project an invisible magical sensor through which she can visualize a subject – usually a person or an object. This sensor will then track the subject.

Praesidia — A protective curse that shields allies or objects from physical and magical harm for a brief period of time. Praesidia can also be patterned into clothes or implements to trigger a protective magical field when damage occurs. Mages like Mori and Beatrice, who often encounter physical and magical danger wear clothes and other objects to generate overlapping protections. Praesidia is ablative. So its effect degrades as more damage accrues.

Pluma – A transmutation curse that slows the rate of fall of the subject. Often used when jumping off tall buildings.

Qaue Mala — A binding curse that sets up a sphere of divine energy focusing inward. Typically used in association with holy ground to imprison devils or demons.

Revelare — An incantation that removes the effects of Ignarus to show the workings of permanent or semi-permanent magics.

Salire — A transmutation curse that enables the subject to make extraordinarily long jumps.

Sana Carnes – Healing curse that repairs damaged flesh.

Scriptum fictus – An alteration curse used to insert forged script into physical or electronic writing.

Somnos – A curse that causes induced sleep in a subject. It’s one that can be resisted, but becomes more difficult to if the subject of the curse has a higher level of physical exhaustion.

Suggero – A suggestion curse used to erode the will of anyone through the use of language. Beatrice is an expert practitioner of suggero.

Teneo – An alteration curse used to hold barriers open.

Una – A channeling curse that allows numerous people to share the effects of a linked curse.

Venenum sa – A healing curse that removes poison from an afflicted creature or person.

Vexare Verberare — An invocation curse that hurls a barrage of destructive magical energy typically focused into three or more explosive projectiles.

Visus capitis – A curse that changes a sensor’s perspective to that of the subject’s head or eyes.

(Want to read the first Chapter of Helkey? You can find it here.)

(Looking for something else? Check out Helkey Contents.)

Helkey 9 — St Mary’s Healing Angel

Mori clenches his jaw in worry as Beatrice leans against him. Together they hobble away from Furze Bank even as police cars rush in – lights flashing, sirens wailing.

She’s putting on a brave face. But God only knows what kind of poison Ivan as demon wolf injected into her with that bite. Ivan, meanwhile, is still following them like a lost puppy. Thankfully, the ignarus curse on Mori’s leather jacket – now draped over Ivan – is obscuring him as well. They’re not drawing much more than the odd confused glance. Cops rushing to the scene give them little notice. Mori focuses for a moment on Ivan. He seems surer of himself. The shock is wearing off and Mori imagines infernal pistons starting to fire up again behind the Russian’s eyes. Fucking great! Beatrice’s left legging, meanwhile, is now red and black with blood and poison. Three tooth-shape serrations have ripped through the fabric – making a mess of the flesh beneath. It continuously wells blood. At least it’s not spurting.

“Wait a minute,” He says to Beatrice after they’ve moved about a half block on and edged into a side-street. Already, ingarus has handled most on-lookers. They’ve forgotten the odd little trio and are staring instead at the light show still going on at the top of Furze Bank HQ. Beat cops run past them on foot with barely a second glance. A helicopter flies over them, but trains its spotlight on the damaged sky scraper. The broken glass glitters with all the various lights. Its jagged edge looks a lot like an open maw to Mori. “Give me your pouch.”

Beatrice fumbles at her belt and unhooks a pouch made of some soft-yet-durable material from her home world. She pushes it toward Mori. He quickly rummages through it – pushing aside an intricate silver pen, a small living bulb filled with flickering lights, and a miniaturized book of curses, to produce a Maxi Pad and a handful of green moss. In a few swift motions, he unwraps the pad, presses the moss onto Beatrice’s wound and seals the Maxi Pad over top. She makes a little noise of pain, but nods in appreciation. The kindre moss has already started to take the edge off. The stuff is heaven-sent. Literally. It’ll help dull the pain while slowing the bleeding and drawing away some of the poison. Not that it’s a cure. But it will buy them some time.

“Good idea,” she says, cracking a waifish half-smile as she adds her own pressure to the make-shift bandage. “Aren’t you forgetting something?” She nods at his weapon. He’s still getting odd looks from people on the street. Ignarus is dealing with it. Kinda. But better not attract too much damn attention. He pushes a button on the rifle’s hand-guard. There is a whirring as the rifle does its dance back to briefcase mode.

They start walking again. Mori has his phone out. He is calling his special Uber driver Stefan even as he watches Ivan out of the corner of his eye. The guy is obviously starting to get spun up. His eyes growing big at first and then narrowing to slits as his pupils roam around. Mori helps Beatrice sit down on a nearby bench. Stefan is 3 minutes away. Ivan suddenly springs up and lunges to make a run for it. Geez oh crap! But Mori expected something like this. His hand shoots out and grabs Ivan by the collar. The Russian does a little spin and lands on his butt.

“Let me go! I am kidnapped!” Ivan shouts as he kicks and grabs at Mori’s hand. This is enough to attract the unwanted stares of a few puzzled onlookers. They quickly lose interest as ignarus throws them off the scent.

“Like Hell you are! We just saved your ass up there! Without us you’d still be 100 percent wolfie. Hell, you’d probably be nom nomming on those guards right now.” Mori points to the lights still searching the wreckage of the Furze Bank HQ executive water closet. He thinks about showing Ivan his undercover badge and reading him his rights. But it’s not time to play that card yet. Hell, he isn’t even sure the electronic surveillance suite running in his briefcase collected enough to book ol’ Ivan. Almost certainly. Almost. But there was such a thing as standard of proof, after all. Furze Bank is a hive for shady and probably illegal deals. Ivan was high up in that corrupt pecking order. Mori forces himself to take the diplomatic route. “But you’re safe now. More important, they’re safe from you. So shut the fuck up!”

“That was real?” Ivan says, still kicking a bit, but clearly giving up for now. Dazed disbelief shows plainly on what must be one of the best natural poker faces in all the worlds. Ivan looks up at the broken glass atop the tower where he lorded over everyone in a most disgusting manner. Mori can barely imagine what the guy is thinking. He’s a real piece of work. Definitely sociopathic. So he’ll be more trouble later. Lots of damn trouble. But Mori figures he can at least put an effort in to delay the inevitable.

“Look – you can come with us and I’ll explain everything after I get help for my wife here. You know, the one you just fucking took a bite out of?”

“Da, OK. So where are you taking me?” Ivan asks – somewhat mollified if still suspicious. Damn, the guy still has some of Beatrice’s blood on his teeth. He coldly considers Mori through those narrowed eyes. Mori stifles the urge to punch him.

“We’re off to St Mary’s Church. We have a friend there – Sadie – who has the skills it takes to treat the kind of unnatural wound you inflicted on Beatrice.”

Ivan grunts but seems satisfied for now. A normal person would have apologized for what happened to Beatrice. Sure, the demon took control when it possessed him. Dominated him and drove him to bite her. But Mori is willing to bet serious money Ivan didn’t fight too hard against it. Sick fucker probably enjoyed it on some level. Ivan nods in his calculating and still somehow feral manner. The quid-pro-quo game is working, if only temporarily. Time in exchange for information. A transactional arrangement. Back to the kind of bullshit game this blood-sucker understands. Mori gets a momentary sense that Ivan’s still a demon-wolf who’s staring at him over slavering jaws, contemplating.

Beatrice waves a hand. “Yeah. About that treatment. I’m starting to chill. My sight darkens. Soon I think I won’t be able to see a thing.”

“Ten minutes Bea,” Mori replies. “You’re tough as nails. I know you can make it.” She’d better make it or I’ll kill that fucking Ivan — Asmodeus baiting or no.

The black Tesla model X arrives with a futuristic whirr. Its left x-wing door pops open. Mori gives Ivan a nudge. “You first,” he says. Ivan shrugs, stands up, and slides into the Tesla. Mori helps Beatrice up, takes the middle seat and lets her flop down beside him. Stefan watches them through the rear-view mirror. Once they’re all in, he guns it. The smooth and soundless acceleration pushes them back into their seats with pure g-force. Stefan already knows where to go. Mori gave him the info by text. He’s also a master driver. Buildings blur by. The chaos surrounding Furze Bank shrinks from view.

“You got water?” Mori asks. Stefan pops the center consol and tosses back a cold bottle of Voss. Mori cracks it open and hands it to Beatrice. She grabs it with her dexterous hands and takes measured sips. She’s keeping it together. But just barely.

“What were those… those things?” Ivan’s cool look is puzzled. Mori can tell he’s torn up about asking the question. Like admitting he doesn’t know something somehow takes life points away from him. Mori allows himself a moment to enjoy the Russian’s confusion.

“You mean the Pride Eaters? Yeah, those guys are real pieces of work. Demons. And, Ivan, here’s the kicker – you summoned them.”

Ivan purses his lips at this new information. “Pride Eater?” Mori can tell he’s struggling to believe it. “But… how did I summon?”

“Well, those guys absolutely love to slurp up some pride. And you, when you do your thing every day at the golden throne on top of the world… Well, that is like a gourmet meal to them,” Mori stifles a laugh. It shouldn’t be that funny. He looks down at Beatrice’s leg. The bleeding has slowed. Good. He turns back to Ivan. “Look, I told you I’d fill you in on everything after I get Beatrice some help. So just shut up for now. Got it?”

Ivan’s hearing what I’m saying but it’s pretty clear it’s not completely registering yet. He’s getting a glimpse of the world as is and it’s not at all adding up to what he though it was. For someone like Ivan, that’s a really tough thing to process. Of course, he wasn’t much good at processing ‘normal’ reality either. So no surprise there.

St Mary’s Church in Berlin as seen from above and at first floor level. Note that this is not an exact replica of the real church. It is a re-rendering for the Helkey series.

The Tesla rumbles to a halt in front of St Mary’s Church as it passes over cobbles. Mori is greeted with red brick-work, gothic architecture, and lights twinkling through stained glass windows. A stern statue of Martin Luther glares at him from atop a marble pedestal.

“I’m calling Sadie now,” Stefan says, picking up his cell.

Mori reaches out to give his shoulder a pat. “Good man,”

The Tesla’s x-wing door is already open. Mori is helping Beatrice stumble out of the Tesla and across the stones. Ivan reluctantly stands to follow. They make their way to the red-oak doors. It’s dark. But the church is well lit and its striking red appearance seems somewhat ominous to Mori. Stephan gives a thumbs up from the Tesla, then drives off. A couple seconds later, there is a rustling at the door. It squeaks open.

Behind the door is a diminutive black-skinned woman wearing a multi-colored dress and shawl. Her face beams as she ushers them into an enormous cathedral area walled in white with flying buttresses swooping up overhead. There is a warm and comforting energy surrounding her. She’s from Beatrice’s home. And like Beatrice she’s got the whole angel mojo going on. Mori imagines her as some ancient and noble Libyan queen strait out of antiquity. “Come in! Come in! Allow me!” she says as she scoops up Beatrice’s other arm – helping the wounded angel-girl limp across the flag stones. “Stephan got word to me just a little while ago. I’ve made ready for you in the basement. Now, let’s keep off that leg, dear.”

Beatrice grunts in reply. “Thanks… Sadie…”

Mori has Beatrice’s other arm. Between him and Sadie, they’re practically carrying Beatrice. They make their way to a spiral stone stairway and descend. Ivan follows, glancing around like he’s on tour. They go down a floor, cut through a hallway covered in flag stones. They pass a crypt of some old dead German general, turn right, and enter a doorway.

Inside is a whole other world. Bulbs of dancing lights like the small one in Beatrice’s purse are in the corners, providing gentle light. Their living green fronds have sweetened the air, made it clean, more wholesome. A stronger blue-white light shines from a crystal mounted on top of a candle holder beside a cot. To Mori, this light feels kinder than Earthly illumination. His skin drinks it up as if its touch provides sustenance. Somewhere above, someone’s playing organ music — adding to the whole celestial vibe of the place. Beside the cot is a table with more kindre moss, a basin of water, some surgical implements, and various sterile bandages. They rest Beatrice upon the bed. She’s gone white. Her lips and finger tips are starting to turn blue. But her green eyes are still moving. She lets out a sigh of relief as that heavenly glow touches her and takes a deep breath of the good air. Ivan glances about with a bemused look on his face. Mori notes Ivan’s confused expression. You ain’t seen nothing yet, bud.

“I’m sorry for the informalities, Mori. But I’ve got no time to waste,” Sadie says as she lifts a set of surgical scissors and cuts away a chunk of Beatrice’s legging. She pulls off their make-shift bandage and observes the wound. “Tsk. Tsk. Someone has been a very bad boy.” She glances at Ivan. “Demon possession, I take it?”

“Yes, Sadie,” Mori does his best not to sound too reverential. But this is that most famous among mages Sadie Dextera after all.  He glances at Ivan reminding himself he can’t talk too freely in front of Asmodeus’s chosen, even if he didn’t know shit for now. “There were Pride Eaters at the Hell Gate. One of them had already tethered Ivan. Forced him to take the form of the Wolf of Wrath. He bit Beatrice.”

Sadie’s kind-but-sharp eyes focus intensely upon him. “Good thing it wasn’t you he bit. Wouldn’t have made it back here.”

“That’s why Beatrice does the close work. I’m too fragile for it.” Mori’s not shy to admit it. Angels like Beatrice are much tougher than humans like him. Though Mori knows a few magical tricks for staying alive if poisoned, he sure as hell doesn’t want to test Sadie’s theory.

Sadie picks up the crystal atop the candle holder. She holds it over Beatrice’s wound. Waving a hand above the crystal she blows at it. The light beaming from the crystal seems to swirl with Sadie’s exhalation. Its beams flow more brightly even as they extend and undulate – forming fingers that reach down to Beatrice’s wound. They touch her flesh gently, probing with slow care into her torn and wounded tissue. Sadie’s eyes are closed now. But Mori knows she can keenly sense what she’s doing through her light-fingers. She is far defter than any earthly surgeon. Arching her back she raises one hand and curls her fingers into a crescent. The fingers of light mimic the gesture.

Venenum sa!” she incants. The light-fingers probe into Beatrice’s body. Mori can see them moving beneath her skin. They travel up her leg, into her torso, around her hearts, through her shoulders, up her neck and beneath her eyes. All of it is glowing through her skin and clothes. Her eyes shine with the healing radiance. Darkness pulses down the light fingers. It’s the venom – drawn out drop-by-drop. Sadie holds out a silver basin to catch it. The black stuff hisses as it pools in the container. After about twenty seconds, the venom is all removed. Sadie carefully places the basin on her table. Then, she starts to move her fingers in a kneading gesture. The light fingers again mirror her motions.

 “Sana carnes!” she chants as her second curse begins to knit Beatrice’s flesh back together. The light fingers have moved back to her leg now. They gather into a tangle of flowing blue and white light. Sadie molds the light into various shapes. It steadily shrinks layer by layer. And as it withdraws it leaves behind pink, perfect flesh. Unbroken skin. Pulling back slowly into three silver round marks where Ivan’s teeth struck. But even these scars are faded and hard to see now. With Beatrice’s regenerative capacity, such slight marks will be gone in a month or so. Mori lets out a sigh of relief. He didn’t realize he was holding his breath.

Sadie drops her hand, inspects Beatrice’s leg with a critical eye, then turns to her table. She picks up a syringe, pops the cap, and injects some serum into Beatrice. “For the tetanus and other crud that was probably in his wolf-mouth,” she says with a glance toward Ivan. She then picks up a second syringe and makes a gesture for Mori to roll up his sleeve.

“What the hell?” he says. But he’s already rolling his shirt up. He sure as hell knows better than to cross Sadie.

“It’s your SARS COVID 5 vaccination. You were due and it just arrived. I thought — what better time than now?” Sadie injects the vaccine into Mori’s arm. He’s used to it. Doesn’t even flinch.

Beatrice starts to sit up. But Sadie stops her. “No. No. Time for you to take a little nap. You need to rest to recover from your trauma. I know. You’re a tough girl. Now let’s make sure it stays that way.” Beatrice is starting to open her mouth to protest. But Sadie just lifts her hand and chants “somnos.” Beatrice’s head falls back onto the pillow with a flumph! sound. She’s out like a light.

“That was… I don’t … It was spectacular.” Ivan is having trouble finding words to describe the second supernatural event he’s witnessed in a single night.

“Yeah. That’s our Sadie. Pretty damn amazing. Good thing too.” Mori says as he lowers his brows at Ivan. The Russian gets the look and holds his hands up in a calming gesture. Mori just plows on by. “So I told you I’d explain. Now that Beatrice is safe you, Sadie and I are going to have a talk. It’ll probably be the most important talk you’ve ever had in your slime and sludge filled life. So, listen up good. It’s a literal come to Jesus moment.”

Ivan shrugs in a noncommittal way. “Yes. You owe me explanation.”  

Mori is damn sure he doesn’t owe Ivan squat. He lets it slide and turns to Sadie. “My good lady, is Beatrice safe resting here?”

“Yes, dear. You can be assured that all the necessary protections have been placed. There are watchful friends here to help protect.” She looks at Beatrice. “She is stable now and quite strong.” She turns her sharp eyes to Ivan. “I am eager to talk to you – Ivan the Wolf. We have much to discuss.”

Mori almost feels sorry for the bastard. Almost…

(Haven’t yet read the first chapter? You can find it here: Helkey 1 — The Memory Draught.)

(Looking for another chapter? Find it in the Helkey Table of Contents.)

The Blood of Oesha — Rules and Races

The Blood of Oesha is a homebrew Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition Campaign. It is set in the fantasy world of Oesha, and based on the fictional series — Luthiel’s Song. Players and Game Masters need not have read Luthiel’s Song to take part in this FRPG. However, having read the series may allow opportunities for added depth, storytelling and character development.

The events of Blood of Oesha are not strictly Luthiel’s Song canon. They occur approximately 500 years prior to Luthiel’s birth and 500 years after Vlad Valkire’s death. That said, this game, as described in this blog, may include some hints and teasers related to the upcoming book — The Death of Winter. So gamers interested in the further events of the Luthiel’s Song series may receive a delightful hint of foreshadowing.

Other than described below, the Dungeons and Dragons rules set remains unaltered and the game can be played using the core materials for Fifth Edition. The Blood of Oesha homebrew game borrows a little from The Princes of The Apocalypse campaign and adventure sourcebook. So game masters may wish to have that setting available.


(Vyrl are one of the original races in The Blood of Oesha homebrew campaign. Image by Sandara Tang. Please help support her fantastic artwork.)

Ground Rules

As mentioned above, the core game rules are mostly unaltered. The exceptions are listed below. Readers will note that some of these rules (Shot Clock) fall under the typical definition of a House Rule. Other Game Masters may take or leave these rules as they see fit. The remaining rules are game balance and theme related (Grace and Defilement), so it is highly recommended that they remain.

Feats — The Blood of Oesha uses the optional feats rules provided in the Player’s Handbook with minor modifications. The first modification is that the Great Weapon Master feat is not allowed. The feat presents serious rules balance issues with regards to the Fighter class and its synergies with weapon style, multiple attacks, accuracy and magic items. It has thus been removed. The Sharpshooter feat has been modified such that optional attack penalty and damage bonus are reduced to -3 and +5 respectively. All other feats remain unaltered.

Point Buy — The game uses a modified version of the point buy system. 29 points are available for use. No single ability score can be set to higher than 16 prior to racial modifiers being added. This point buy system sets starting characters at a high capability with base attributes that are superior to their peers.

Grace and Defilement replaces Inspiration — Characters receive Grace points when role playing exceptionally well according to background traits, when acting in a heroic manner, when contributing to the story development, and when being exceptionally helpful to their peers. Grace points are removed for selfish, narcissistic, or base acts of evil and corruption. Negative Grace becomes a point of Defilement. A Game Master can use Defilement to impose Disadvantage on a single role. A Game Master can also use a high number of Defilement points to inflict a permanent alteration on a character. Use of certain items, including Ichor, generates Defilement. The particulars of these alterations described more in detail in the Defilement section to be further described in another post.

Movement still includes the shift action. As part of any move action a character or monster may shift 5 feet without provoking an attack of opportunity. This movement still provokes other special reactions as normal.

Shot Clock. Each character has approximately one minute to complete a turn in combat. If combat is running smoothly and swiftly, then the Shot Clock can be ignored. However, if a player spends excessive time quibbling, pouring over the rules, angling for advantage by arguing with the Game Master or otherwise dominating the time at table, then the Game Master will set a 60 second clock on the player’s turn. Failure to complete actions in that time will subsequently result in forfeiture of turns. Allowances will be made for new players who are honestly attempting to familiarize themselves with the rules.

Wyrd. In the World of Oesha, all magic comes from dreams. This concept does not mechanically impact the various classes. However, it does provide much more flexibility regarding color. Divine magic often comes from the dreams that result from a deep and abiding belief. Belief in and dreams of a god or an ideal grant magic, rather than the gods themselves. Though gods exist, they are simply ancient and powerful beings — some of whom are often uninterested in the worship they receive. Arcane magic comes either from the deep dreams of self or the world (sorcery), the Eversong (bard), or belief and dreams that ritual chanting and formula tap into magical forces (wizard). As a result of this distinction, the magic using classes have a bit more liberty in describing where their magic comes from and how they tapped into that power. For ultimately the source is the same — Wyrd which means the deep and powerful dreams.


Allowed traditional races for The Blood of Oesha campaign setting include Humans (Romas), Ithildar (High Elves), Valemar (Wood Elves), Halflings (Humans born small but raised by human society), Dwarves (Hill Dwarves only which are enclaves of small humans) and Changelings (as Half Elves but with a dark twist) all with stats identical or nearly identical to the typical Dungeons and Dragons races. Racial color and backgrounds, when they depart from traditional Dungeons and Dragons, are described below.

In addition, the following new races are added — Gruagach, Sith, Half Troll, Werewolf, and Vyrl.

Humans — this industrious and versatile race hails from a lost continent that sank into the Middle Sea long ago. Romas is the last enclave of a race that once built a thousand empires. Humans, though fast breeding, ambitious, talented and clever have fallen prey to a series of calamities. Currently, their numbers continue to be thinned by the Sith who have effectively isolated Romas and its out lands while continuing to spirit away human children and turn them into Changelings. Of all races, Humans are most destructive to the natural environment. They are also the most likely to fall into corruption and become undead after natural death. In the past, humans left vast wastelands in their wake and often attracted the influence of the denizens of The Black Moon Gorothoth. It is this inherently destructive nature that has likely led to their decline as well as a proliferation of enemies. Ironically, individual humans can be counted among some of the greatest heroes in history. A paradoxical contradiction that may well be their saving grace. Despite their isolation and continued decline, humans are still one of the most numerous, adaptable and widely varied races of Oesha. Two subsets of humans include Halflings and Dwarves.

Halflings — Halflings are humans born small. At first, only a few Halflings could be found among humans. However, during recent years, and as stress on the human population increased, more and more Halflings cropped up. Halflings are short, about 3 feet tall. They are often witty — making surprisingly good leaders and entertainers. And they possess a measure of good fortune that their taller fellows seem to lack. Often underestimated, Halflings can find themselves living out the lives of unfavored sons and daughters only to come out ahead as a surprise underdog. They have an innate talent for thievery, which can get them into trouble, but a good number also find fame as silver tongued bards or sorcerers with a talent for crafting Wyrd.

Dwarves — The bearded people, like Halflings, were born from human couplings. However, Dwarves posess some markedly different traits. Unlike Halflings, they can no longer breed with Humans. Nor do they find them in the least bit attractive. Dwarves hear the call of earth and hills and mountains and so inevitably leave their human parents in search of their own kind who have taken to constructing hilltop citadels or carving miniature cities into the sides and hearts of mountains. They are both clever farmers and artisans. Their respect for the earth means they have very little harmful impact to the land around them and they often find friends among the elves. They are masters of cold forging and of crafting stone and jewelry without the use of heat. Having learned the Elfin runes, they have made a derivative magic that is based in the dreams of depths, of great natural caverns and of growing things. Dwarves and trolls are, strangely, compatible. The offspring of these couplings are the mighty Half Trolls.

Ithildar or High Elves are a tall and proud race. Golden haired and clear eyed these immortals possess a racial memory going back to the first days of Oesha. They are friends of the Arhda — the angelic spirits of Oesha — and many whom humans would call gods were companions to the eldest Ithildar of the first days. Ithildar stand 6 to nearly seven feet tall. They are thin, graceful, quick and intelligent. They do not suffer the effects of age or death by disease ( mechanical change — immune to aging and disease). Their meditations do, however, include rich and powerful dreams ( mechanical change — meditation provides no benefit and Ithildar must ‘sleep’ for 8 hours like humans). In the region of Romas where this campaign is set Ithildar are few in number. However a few captains sail their living vessels to trade with the humans there and to gather news. So a player wishing to run an Ithildar could be a member of a ship’s compliment or even a traveler drawn to Romas by one of its many mysteries.

Valemar (Vale Elves) or Wood Elves hail from the lands surrounding the Vale of Mists. They are quick, cunning and very perceptive. Of all elves they are, perhaps the most adept at living in the beat of nature. They craft homes from trees (like their Sith, Ithildar and, sometimes, Gruagach cousins) but they also know the language of plants, beasts and growing things (mechanical change — empathic bond with plants and animals). They do not speak to them, per sey, so much as sense what animals and plants are thinking and feeling. Shorter than their Ithildar cousins, Valemar stand between 5 and a half and six and a half feet tall. Their skin is fair, though not the blanche shades of the Ithildar and their hair ranges from golden to orange to green and occasionally blue. Of late, Valemar have come to live in the Shadow of the Vyrl of the Vale of Mists. Of all elves, Valemar have the most potent blood — which Vyrl find desirable.

Changelings use the same base stat block as Half Elves. However, that’s where any resemblance ends. Changeling were kidnapped by Sith as human children. In the depths of the Dark Forest, fertility magics, blood sacrifices, and rites of changing are used to transform these abductees into fey beings. Possessing fading human traits and ever more prominent Sith like traits, they are branded Changelings by humans who thereafter view them with fear and suspicion. The Sith, in their dark way, treasure Changelings, considering them children and heaping both wealth and attention upon them. Changeling children are often pre-selected by their Sith parents. They are watched and often receive ‘visitations’ by forest spirits until the day they come of age. At that point they are whisked away to the Dark Forest, perhaps never to see their human relatives again. Changeling tend to be deeply conflicted souls. On the one hand, they feel sadness for the humanity and family they have lost. But they have also had a glorious and primal spirit awakened within them. They have been granted gifts of Wyrd and immortality and they have stood in awe of the mighty Gods — Elwin and Chromnos who rule over the great Dark Forest. Changeling posses powerful personalities and are among the most versatile of all races. Their human past allows them to relate to that unnatural race while at the same time living in the heartbeat of the primal wood. Upon reaching their one hundred and first birthday, Changeling complete their transformation and become full Sith.

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Gruagach — Flesh of wood and blood of sap, the Gruagach are a family of fey directly bound to the land. Hailing chiefly from the woodland realm of Ashiroth, they have, increasingly, fallen under the sway of Zalos. Ironically, Zalos has aided in the breaking of the Gruagach’s traditional bonds with the land — teaching these elves the more human-like living methods of cutting down trees, mining ores from the earth and burning every variety of fuel for heat, energy and light. Ashiroth is not, as yet, entirely ruined by Zalos’s influence. And there are many Gruagach who cling to the old ways. Tribes of these voluntary exiles have crossed the Drakken Spur Mountains to inhabit some of the wilder lands not under the influence of Romas or the The Dark Forest. Gruagach are wolf-riders and are thus tightly bonded to the branch of intelligent dire wolves known as Urkharim.

Ability Score Increase Your Constitution increases by 2 and your strength increases by 1.

Age Gruagach, unlike Ithildar, are not immortal. They do, however, live an exceedingly long span of years. Most Gruagach age only slowly, wrinkling like great and ancient trees. Most live about 800 years. But it is not unheard of for the most land-connected Gruagach to live to 1,500.

Alignment Gruagach are both tribal and loyal, tending toward Lawful and Neutral alignments.

Size Gruagach are stocky. They tend to stand between 5 and one half and six feet in height but often support strongly muscled frames.

Speed Gruagach are not as swift footed as their Valemar cousins. Often relying on their Lupine friends for added speed. Base land movement speed of 30 feet.

Flesh of Wood Unarmored Gruagach are still tough to hit, having a base armor class of 12 rather than 10. This base armor class does not stack with any armor worn, though it does stack with a shield.

Blood of Sap Gruagach are resilient to bleeding and harm. Gruagach are immune to ongoing damage from non elemental wounds. If reduced to below zero hit points they use their proficiency bonus on any death or excessive damage saves. When resting, Gruagach gain one extra hit dice to use for recovery.

Darkvision Gruagach possess Darkvision out to 60 feet.

Dire Wolf Companion A Gruagach may start play with an Urkharim Dire Wolf animal companion.

Fire Vulnerability Gruagach flesh burns like wood. They are vulnerable to fire.

Languages Gruagach speak Common, Elfin, and Urkharim.

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Sith are the fey who inhabit the Dark Forest. They are lithe and quick possessing green skin, yellow eyes and hair that ranges from black to midnight blue. Among all Fey, they, perhaps possess the strongest personalities. Elder Sith are fearsome forces of nature not to be trifled with and even the younger breatheren — the recently changed — possess Wyrd lore well outside the kin of mortals. Like Ithildar, Sith are true immortals — suffering none of the ill effects of age or disease. They vary wildly in height ranging from 4 and a half feet to as tall as seven feet. Sith are among the most innately magical of the Fey. The power of dreams comes easily to them, even if these dreams are often dark and wild. It is also the Sith’s sacred trust to continue to expand the borders of the Dark Forest. They worship the great world tree Anaturnar and demand that any passing the boundaries of the Dark Forest offer up a sacrifice of blood and silver. The Sith then use this sacrifice to water Anaturnar’s roots from which all trees of the Dark Forest spring.

Ability Score Increase Your Dexterity increases by 2 and your Charisma increases by 1.

Age Sith are immortal suffering none of the ill effects of age. Elder Sith grow into primal spirits with a kinship to the vital elements of Oesha, with the life blood flowing through the world, or with the Wyrd itself. These volcanic spirits often serve or work among the Arhda of the world.

Alignment Sith tend toward Chaotic in alignment. However, they willingly serve Elwin, Chromnos, and the great world tree itself, setting aside their quixotic nature to aid these powers.

Size Sith’s size varies wildly from 4 and one half to seven feet tall. They are lithe, rangy, and light-boned.

Speed Sith move at 30 feet but are not inhibited by natural growth nor do they take a penalty to speed due to jumping and climbing.

Innate Magic At first level Sith can cast light, dancing lights, blade ward and minor illusion. At third level, they gain the ability to cast faerie fire once per long rest. At fifth level they can choose one of the following — cure wounds, speak with animals, or misty step — to cast once per long rest. If a Sith does not gain levels in a caster class, she is considered to be a level 1 caster.

Darkvision Sith can see out to 60 feet in pure darkness.

Sith Weapon  Proficiency All Sith gain weapon proficiency in Longsword, Longbow, Shortbow, and Scimitar.

Immune to Disease Sith do not suffer the ill effects of magical or non-magical contagions.

Bound by Word A Sith that states he or she will do something cannot go back on his or her word. A Sith who willingly attempts to break his or her word is subject to the effects of a geas until he or she completes the promised task.

Unnable to naturally reproduce A long time ago, Sith fell under a curse which rendered them unable to reproduce. They have since been stealing human children and subjecting them to the Changling creation ritual. All young Sith are now Changelings. Some Sith feel this child-theft is amoral. They are embarrassed at being forced to abduct the children of others to perpetuate their race and have foresworn the practice. These Foresworn quest for a means to break the curse under which all Sith have fallen.

Languages Sith speak Common and Elfin.

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Half-Troll are a result of the unions of dwarves and trolls. Of trolls, most have fallen under the curse of the Black Moon, Gorothoth. These must return behind the warding stones during times of daylight or be turned to stone themselves. However, a small group of trolls broke free from the Black Moon’s yoke and returned to their happy lives among the rocks, rivers and trees — far away from any of the powers. These Unbound sought their own way in the world and were, mostly, gentle giants — unless stoked to rage by abuse, enslavement or other ill treatment. When humans settled in Romas and their Dwarven off-spring took to the hills, the trolls approached them with gifts of water, wind, and the songs of the rocks themselves. The Dwarves saw them as kindred spirits and some fell in love with these gentle giants, forming families all their own. Half-Trolls are tall with gravelly skin, a stoic disposition and possess great physical strength and endurance. They have both the clever hands of their dwarven parents and the deep, abiding connection with earth and stone of their troll parents. Half Trolls can make mighty warriors but they also often find themselves dreaming the dreams of the world — feeling a deep connection to the frailest of things such as flower petals, dew drops, and butterflies.

Ability Score Increase Your Strength increases by 2 and your Constitution increases by 1.

Age Half Trolls live to be about 300 — after which point they go to rest in the hills, their bodies falling to stone with crystalline hearts.

Size Half Trolls are the largest of the humanoid races — usually towering 7 to 7 and one half feet in height.

Speed Half Trolls are able to lumber along at 30 feet.

Flesh of Stone Half Trolls add 1 to their armor class regardless of the variety of armor they use.

Living Earth Half Trolls gain one additional hit point per hit die.

Song of Stone A Half Troll can sing with a voice of the earth itself. This song has the effect of a calm emotions spell on friends, allies, and animals. A Half Troll singing in this way to a wild animal or hostile beast gains advantage on Persuasion and Handle Animal checks related to the creature. Song of Song can also be used to heal rifts in rock objects, acting as a mending spell. A Half Troll may use Song of Stone once per short rest. The effect has a duration of Concentration.

Vitality of Earth Half Trolls brought below zero hit points for the first time per short rest are instead reduced to 1 hit point.

Tool Proficiency Half Trolls are all proficient and wood carving and stone working tools. They know the Dwarven runes and the most skilled among them are adept at scribing these Wyrd signs into both weapons and tools.

Trusting Half Trolls have disadvantage on insight checks to tell if someone is lying to them.

Rage at Betrayal Any Half Troll finding out they are betrayed or lied to by another gains the benefit of expertise when using Athletics to pursue to grapple or to break objects and gains one extra weapon damage dice on each physical attack against the betrayer.

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Werewolf are typical humans transformed by Wyrd into great lupine beasts. These magical creatures are large and bestial. As they maintain their lupine form, their memory of being human slowly fades. Few know exactly how or why humans are transformed into wolves. Some believe that it is the very spirit of Oesha herself trying to reclaim her wayward children. Others blame the affliction on wolf-bites, but this is mostly known to be superstition. Still others believe that the great powers of the world have chosen humans who are fated to live out their lives as wolves. Sometimes, a werewolf will undergo a reverse transformation, to become human again. They do not age while in bestial form and so, can tend to become legends in their own right. Often forests and places that werewolves haunt bear the name of the creature. For example, Othalas of the Vale of Mists. Werewolves are solitary and will not suffer another of its kind in its territory. They are often protective of the wilderness lands they call home. And due to the fact that they are terrible predators all but the most fierce creatures give werewolf lands wide berth. A creature gifted with Wyrd and Wyrd lore may sense the vague form of a human nestled within the body of the werewolf. But to all others the werewolf is a giant magical beast. A terror to behold.

The Werewolf Othalas

(The Werewolf Othalas. Artwork by Sandara Tang.)

Ability Score Increase Your Strength increases by 2, your Constitution increases by 2, and your Dexterity increases by 1.

Age Werewolves do not age while in their bestial form.

Size Werewolves are large creatures. They have a reach of 2 and a space of 10.

Speed Werewolves move at a rate of 50 feet.

Darkvision Werewolves have darkvision out to 90 feet.

Bestial Form Werewolves take the form of giant wolves. In this form they gain the bite natural weapon attack with a base damage of 1d10 + strength or dexterity modifier (whichever is higher). Werewolves cannot wear normal humanoid armor or manipulate weapons or tools. Werewolves are unable to change form and are locked in giant beast form unless powerful magic transforms them back to human shape.

Keen Senses Werewolves are proficient in the Perception Skill and are considered to have expertise in that skill. The range of werewolf hearing is triple that of a typical human, sight is double that of a human, and sense of smell grants it both a tracking sense and the ability to target nearby invisible creatures (blindsight 20).

Devour Magical Items Werewolves can devour magical items to apply their properties as if they were worn or held. For example, a werewolf may devour a +1 dagger and apply the enchantment to their bite attack or a werewolf may devour a magical suit of +1 armor to apply the enchantment to their armor class. Only non-artifact items may be devoured in this way. Only up to five items may be devoured in total. The items are not considered destroyed and if the werewolf wishes to trade enchantments, they may vomit up an item to exchange.

Natural Armor Werewolves have an innate armor class of 13 + their dexterity modifier. They may wear barding but most are loath to — feeling that it confines them.

Toughness Werewolves start play with the toughness feat.

Regeneration Werewolves regenerate hit points at the rate of 1 per minute.

Silver Vulnerability Werewolves are vulnerable to silvered weapons. Hits by silvered weapons prevent regeneration until after the next short or long rest.

Class Limitations Werewolves are only able to advance in the Fighter (Champion, Battlemaster), Ranger, Barbarian, Rogue, and Monk classes. Werewolves of the Ranger class consider their eyes a magical focus and have no need of gestures or spell components instead howling in order to summon the Wyrd to their aid.

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Vyrl are ancient spirits of life who once fed on the dreams and nightmares of living creatures. They were cursed long ago by Gorthar Lord of Death and have, ever-after, been forced to feed on blood instead. This form of nourishment is not ideal to them. So simply feeding on the blood of animals will result in an eventual fall into madness. The blood of sentient creatures with a deep connection to the World of Dreams is most desirable and the mere presence of a creature powerful in dreams and Wyrd can be a heady intoxicant to Vyrl. Over time, the potency of their blood requirement has grown. During the period of this campaign, feeding on the blood of one humanoid creature equal to half its hit points is enough to keep a Vyrl from falling into a maddening hunger for one week. Half this amount from any fey creature or sorcerer, cleric, druid, bard, or wizard will do. Valemar elves’ blood potency is enough to support a Vyrl for four times the usual period. And the blood of one just come of age (15) is doubly potent again. Vyrl often seek to bond (see below) with a creature of potent blood. Such a bond results in obligations both on the part of the Vyrl and the blood bond. Being bonded to and fed on by a Vyrl can be a dangerous situation as the Vyrl sometimes lose control and seek to completely drain a creature of all its blood. However, as Vyrl often wield great influence and possess hoards of wealth, a bonded individual may see this as a risk worth taking. On very rare occasions one of potent blood may bond to multiple Vyrl. Such was the case with Vlad Valkire before his own father slew him. Vyrl are almost always lords of remote lands, vales, secluded forests. hillocks, seaside grottos, or mountain peaks. They possess an ability to compel the actions of others far outside that of any other race. Vyrl are also physically powerful, making mighty warriors and Paladins. Vyrl are very rare with any major settlement now only including a handful of often secreted individuals.

Ability Score Increase Your Strength increases by +2 and your Charisma increases by +2.

Age Vyrl are fallen Arhda and, as such, do not age or suffer the ill effects normal diseases. Vyrl, unlike Ithildar and Sith in their fallen state are vulnerable to magical diseases.

Size Vyrl are medium size ranging from 5 and one half to seven feet tall.

Speed Vyrl move at a rate of 30 feet.

Darkvision Vyrl see 60 feet in darkness.

Blood Drain A Vyrl gains a bite attack based on either its Strength or Dexterity. The attack does 1d4 damage and drains one point of Constitution from the target. The Vyrl regains hit points equal to the amount drained plus 5 for each point of Constitution devoured. If the Vyrl is at full hit points, the Vyrl gains half as many temporary hit points. Unlike usual temporary hit points, these hit points stack with other hit points gained by blood drain. The temporary hit points last until the next short rest. If these hit points are drained from a child (age 15 or under), a Valemar Elf, a sorcerer, a wizard, a cleric, a druid or a paladin the Vyrl adds two additional healing points or one additional temporary hit point. To initiate a blood drain attack, a Vyrl must lower his guard. Such attacks provoke an attack of opportunity from an unwilling target. If using blood drain to prevent madness, keep a tally of hit points to determine if the total is sufficient. A Vyrl may forgo Constitution drain from a willing opponent but must succeed in a Wisdom save (DC 10 for humans, DC 13 for Fey, DC 15 for Valemar and spellcasters, Spellcasters and Valemar above level 10 are DC 19). Lost Constitution points return at the rate of 1 per short rest and 2 per long rest.

Compulsion Vyrl are adept at commanding others. When using the Persuasion skill, a Vyrl may declare to compel. When doing so, he or she gains advantage on the roll. Alternatively, a Vyrl may impose disadvantage on one creature’s saving throw to resist a command, geas, charm or other compulsion related spell. Focusing its will on other creatures is taxing. A Vyrl may use this ability once every short or long rest.

Blood Bond Vyrl may form a bond with one creature who agrees to be its source of sustenance. Bonded creatures share the Vyrl’s thought’s and senses. They can communicate telepathically over the distance of many miles. And, by concentrating, they can see through one another’s eyes. In extreme situations a Vyrl may share hit points with a blood bonded creature by allowing it to drink the Vyrl’s blood. This requires a self inflicted wound equal to the hit points healed.

Madness Vyrl who do not receive the blood of a sentient creature once a week equal to the allotment above fall into madness. A Vyrl in this state becomes hyper-active but loses mental acuity. Vyrl gain a +2 bonus to Strength but suffer a -2 penalty to Intelligence and Wisdom. Vyrl in this state must make a saving throw equal to DC 10 +1 for each hour under the influence of madness. A failure means the Vyrl begins a blood hunt, seeking out the nearest sentient, dreaming creature to feed from. This saving throw occurs once every hour while under madness. When feeding on a sentient creature while under madness, a Vyrl suffers a -2 penalty to resist draining Constitution. During madness, a Vyrl’s senses are heightened and it is able to detect sentient creatures within a 100′ radius simply by closing its eyes and concentrating.

(Further Edits Pending)

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