ROLES, WEAPONS, AND TOOLS OF THE MA'LOK:
The Ma'lok fighting style focuses on speedy, non-lethal takedowns, as taking slaves is paramount in the Greylands. As with many such styles, lethality can prove but an afterthought. The flick of a wrist can adjust between the flat of a blade and the razor edge. The difference between an opponent's hamstring versus a vital artery marks the true skill of a warrior.
Blood Runner-Raiding party warriors. Always carry a maquahuitl, but this can vary.
Harvesters- Minor necromancers, control undead, harvest souls. Armed with bladed mancatchers and soul traps.
Pneuma Flint Maquahuitl- A weapon similar to a wooden sword or club with grooves in the side to hold sharpened pieces of flint or obsidian.
Man-catcher- barbed and bladed
Marrow caster-An undead crossbow that uses animated tendons to load and fire bolts at a higher than normal rate.
Also common: barbed spears, paralyzing poison, harpoons, spiked clubs, barbed and hooked nets.
Soul Traps - These are specially prepared and carved pieces of polished pneuma flint and widely used by more than just the Ma'lok. Empty soul traps appear as little more than chunks of obsidian that radiate faint necromantic magic. An empty trap naturally draws in souls within ten feet of it.
Soul traps are often wrapped in oiled cloths and placed in metal containers to keep them empty. These devices have an appearance similar to lanterns. When a soul enters a trap, it crystallizes and the appearance of the stone changes, becoming more like black or red hardened glass that glows dimly.
Trapped souls can be communicated with, though it is difficult. Sometimes particularly powerful souls are placed in armor or weapons in order for them to share the benefits of their knowledge with a wielder. The souls in a trap are not always saved, and most devices allow the user to 'burn' up a soul in order to augment their magics. This empties a soul trap, returning it to its previous state and appearance, but does weaken the stone overtime. Eventually a soul trap that is frequently used will simply crumble to dust.
All Ma'lok are born from eggs; most are infertile males. There are a few fertile males in each clutch, “princes,” and even fewer fertile females as the “queens”. The Greylords control most of the mature queens, which in turn give birth to their armies. Few 'freeborn' colonies under the rule of a queen exist and fewer 'freeminds.' Though they don't have an insectal hivemind, they do imprint to some degree on a single leader, and thus most born in clutches will learn to follow their Greylord from an early age and never question things. Princes are consumed by the queen with whom they mate as soon as fertilization is achieved. Princes tend to be smaller and weaker than the other two sexes.
The Ma'ab are a Matriarchy primarily because of the initial difficulty of achieving conception and giving birth in the new world. The death magic of which they have been gifted by the Greylords at first prevented these most powerful leaders from having any offspring. Only the "low born" Ma'ab with far less inherent death magic were able to breed, more often with the use of the native Humans. Because of this, the wealthiest Ma'ab have never lacked for slave labor and servants.
The first fertile offspring born of the top caste immediately became sacred, and a noble female necromancer's body was untouchable unless she willed it. As the male Ma'ab are notably larger than the female, they do the heaviest work and fight to expand the resources and territory of their mistresses. The divisions of labor are such that all top civic, political, militant, and governmental decision-making is decided by the females, and the males carry it out as tech sergeants.
The only group within the Ma'ab army explicitly named so far arethe Hellhounds, an elite, magic-using, well-disciplined special force that often lead an invasion in foreign lands. They are said to be terrifying and brutal. They have also been known to track down traitors or deserters from their own army by any means necessary.
Magical: arcane, divine, druidic, mystic, other (100%)
Beings from a plane of constant struggle, no order, it is a void of chaos. Appearances vary greatly.
Black skin, white hair, pointy ears,
Magical: arcane, divine, mystic, other (100%)
Greylord and Gavin's Patroness
Commonly known as: The Grey Maiden, The Grave Mother, The Maiden of Shrouds
"I stand upon the crossroads. Past, present, and future are as one to me. My reality is all of time. Life and death, real and unreal. I am the Maiden of the Shrouds, the Grave Mother."
A pale woman standing in an ashen plane, swaddled in grey, tattered shrouds. Her features are elegant and beautiful, save for her eyes...or more exactly, the place where her eyes should be. There are two holes into a black void, the edges of which make it appear like the shattered edge of a mask, even though her face moves and emotes exactly like one made of flesh and blood. Occasionally, obsidian-shelled beetles emerge from these holes.
While Nyx is often worshipped as a demigod or goddess of death, that is not all with which she is involved. She is also tied to birth, rebirth, and prophecy.
Most Greylords are said to be able to glimpse the final moments of the dying and hear their last whispered words. Nyx, however, is said to be able to glimpse the fates of anyone born. If this is true, Nyx has never been generous with her knowledge. While many Greylords have become entrenched in their own petty power struggles or throwing in their lot with the forces of good/evil/law/chaos, Nyx seems to be more concerned with maintaining a balance.
Last Update: May 19, 2019
The Roh’ghast is a species of flying predators of the Greylands. Many varieties exist with variations of size and additional adaptations (such as tails, etc.). They favor the mountainous 'inland' areas of the Greylands and leave the coasts to the Bane Wasps, who viciously attack any Roh'ghast that strays near a hive. The one that came through the rift onto Miurag is one of the common species used as riding mounts by the more intelligent denizens of the Greylands.
Eyeless by nature, they possess a strong sense of smell, though they also 'see' the world through echo location, sending out pulses of high-pitched sound in order to navigate. While this could grant them decent spatial awareness, it doesn't explain their ability to navigate over longer distances without a rider. The best current hypothesis is that they are sensitive to some of the invisible energies of the world, possibly even Ley Line energy.
Roh'ghast in the wild act most often as mated pairs or as lone hunters. Their forms blend in perfectly with the skies of the Greylands as they circle massive ranges looking for prey. When a target is spotted, they circle behind then swoop down and attempt to knock the prey over while releasing a high pitch screech to further disorient the prey. They will then attempt to pin their prey and dispatch them with a single bite. Other Roh'ghast have been seen to pick up prey and drop them from a great height onto the spikey terrain of their homes, alighting onto those craggy peaks to snack upon their skewered and broken meal. Roh'ghast only attack lone prey which is smaller than them; they avoid large prey and pick off from herds on flat areas only if starving.
Roh'ghast cannot take flight from the ground and require some height in order to get a gliding start. They can move along the ground in a “hopping lope” using their winged arms and extended rear talons, but it is an exhausting and inefficient mode of travel to get back to high ground; in the meantime, they are vulnerable to attack themselves.
Aka: Screaming Terrors
Where a Deathwalker is enhanced as a caster, the harrowed focus their magics internally. Like a Deathwalker, further powers and transformation are possible overtime.
Sense the dead-like a Deathwalker they can more clearly see the auras of life and death.
Regeneration-The Harrowed has superior recuperative capabilities to its mortal state. Small wounds and fractures can heal in hours or a day, while grave wounds will take a few days (assuming the harrowed can avoid aggravating its wounds and stay well-fed).
The skin is a black so deep that, without a strong light source, details blur. Each Shae’goth possesses auto-luminescent cells of pale blue that show in unique patterns per individual.
The eyes are dark with large, cross-shaped pupils that can expand to cover up most of the eyes. A blue, nictitating membrane covers the eyes in normal light conditions and prevents the Shaegoth from suffering the light blindness that affects most nocturnal creatures.
The mouth is lipless, showing a wide, ear-to-ear grin of thin needle-like teeth, with the tongue and maw glowing blue as well. What appears to be “hair” atop its head is actually thick tendrils filled with nerve ganglia acting as some form of sensory perception. Their gangly forms feature odd dermal plating to cover major joints.
When using their incorporeal distortion power, they become wispy and indistinct shadows. Often the only 'features' they are attributed to have in this state are eyes and mouths of “blue flame.” A Shae'goth is sexless and does not favor any gender in appearance or temperament.
Shaegoth clothing is minimal but always includes a pale white mask. When under contract a Shaegoth's mask will often be made to take on an appearance of their target. After a contract the Shaegoth's mask will sometimes take on the features of those that have contracted with them.
I have only been exposed to this race in a game I once played. It has needed extensive development and expansion of detail for use in my own story. A great deal of the refinement was hammered out with the efforts and idea-sharing of NecrosisBob, who played in that same game with me and has a liking for necromancers and a talent for developing (very literally) organic concepts. With his ideas came the broadening of the Greylands, the Greylords, the Ma'ab, and Gavin as a character.
~The Ma'ab exalt their ancient necromantic ancestors as god-like entities. As such their descendants enjoy the status of their 'divine' birthright. Unlike most Human-based races, the Ma'ab don't look forward to the afterlife. They believe that the Greylords are usurpers that stole the Greylands from the Ma'ab and turned it into the planar wasteland it is today, and when they die, they will be drawn to their homeland and into the waiting blades of their ancestral enemies.
The latter is true, their essence will return to the Greylands, but this is because the Ma'ab had been created by the Greylords, to be used as a working and fighting force. The Ma'ab ancestors now worshipped were originally the ones to lead the Ma'ab out of the Greylands as escaped slaves.
To avoid the fate of their race, the exalted ancestors developed techniques to imbue the faithful into a sacred shard or even into an effigy by which they can interact with their people still. The nobles practice necromancy under the air of religion (the strong control the weak, so why not the body and soul?) and they go through great lengths to preserve themselves, including becoming liches/mummies. If they should need to devour the souls of the lessers to preserve themselves, then its their right, and they 'saved' that person from a more gruesome fate.
The slum necromancers of the lower caste, on the other hand, is one that often had to bargain and steal for their knowledge. Many of them practice forms of self-mutilation as a means to focus their talents. They often enter into bargains with Greylords, demons, and the forces of Chaos. Regularly, they're purged by the noble class, who in turn study and dissect their techniques. Thus the nobles never sully their hands with the difficulty of experimentation.
Magical: arcane (25%)
Council of Wyrms.
Magical: To'vah, First Language (100%)
Thought flayers of an Elder Mind..
Magical: arcane, demonic (100%)
A Shae'goth can be summoned to the prime material plane by a specific ritual (which can be performed by anyone) in order to slay a single target. The payment is always the soul of the contractor. Even if the first Shaegoth is destroyed, another will take up the contract ensuring that, no matter who the target is, their death is certain once the Shae’goth are summoned. It is possible to negate a contract by eliminating the contractor first.
In a dark room with no windows the summoner lights a black candle. Next to the candle a white mask is placed. In the flame of the candle, the summoner blackens a silver dagger and cuts himself. In his own blood, the summoner writes the name of the target on a piece of parchment. Pressing the wound against his heart, he says the following aloud: “By blood, by shadow, by soul, death to the one I have named.” The summoner then burns the parchment in the candle. A Shae'goth will rise from the summoner's shadow and inspect the mask.
Stories vary on what kind of mask is the correct one. Some place value on the materials, others that it must be made by the summoner, or that it must be made in the likeness of the target. If the Shae'goth accepts, he takes the mask and the dagger and sinks into the shadows again, now on the hunt. If the Shae'goth finds the offering somehow lacking then it instead will target the summoner first simply sinking into the shadows and leaving the mask behind as a clue of the summoner's failure.
While the Shae'goth is actively pursuing its target, the summoner casts no shadow. Once the target is dead, the summoner's shadow returns but appears to be slightly faded. A summoner with a faded shadow becomes numbed to the world and bears a mark on their soul that is visible to those with second sight. This mark heralds eventual physical changes, such as the skin, eyes, and hair begin to lose color, becoming less vivid with time. The time required to affect such changes is not consistent, though often it seems that the summoner prematurely ages. The summoner’s personality also changes as time passes; they become depressed and unfeeling, eventually leading to a violent spiral of insanity and death.
In Yungian culture the Shae'goth are known as hakgwei or 'Black ghost'. Old Yungian tales speak of a hakgwei's grim work and the fate of those that would traffic with such spirits. .
DISTORTION- gains the benefits of an amorphous blur at will
SHADOW EVADE- as a move action, can hide in nearby shadows even if observed. If they successfully hide vs. perception they are 'invisible' to their opponent. They can then teleport to any shadow in line of sight. They use this to flank enemies. A Shae'goth can also choose to simply remain hidden in the shadow indefinitely.
SHADOW STRIKE- If it exits a target's shadow it can immediately make a sneak attack. This initial strike is automatically successful, unless the target has an extraordinary or supernatural detection ability (such as uncanny dodge).
FRIGHTFUL PRESENCE- There is just something unsettling about them that makes even the most stoic heart skip a beat.
SILVER BLADES- Each Shae'goth is armed with a silver blade coated with a poison derived from pneuma flint powder and bane wasp venom. Not only is silver rare but it is deadly to the Greylords and many native creatures of the Greylands. The poison will paralyze prey completely even as their soul slowly decays. .
While the Ma'ab are descended from a slave labor race once devoted to the Greylords, they were not the only servant race to the deathless masters of the Greylands.
The Ma'lok are bred enforcers and warriors whose martial prowess is only matched by their fanatical devotion to their specific master. They speak the Dead Tongue of the Greylands but are better known for two war cries: a mournful shriek expressing the respect for the death of a worthy opponent with the regret that they could not be collected for their master, and the more common, jubilant howl of freshly hobbled prey ready for collection.
Most of what they do is confined to the Greylands. Souls transitioning from elsewhere through the Greylands all take on temporary, corporeal forms composed of the materials native to the nexus, to house their essence and protect it from raw exposure to the many hazards there. Thusly, one has to 'collapse' that form, or "kill" them, for them to revert to being incorporeal souls.
Killing someone in the Greylands still requires a soul trap be nearby. If not, the incorporeal essence of the newly slain can slip through their fingers and become lost, part of the hungry dead forever seeking a new body. Ma'lok will attack souls to 'pouch' them like slavers. They will also take on the servants of gods, devils, or demons that encroach in the realm as guides or defenders trying to protect those transient souls.
Surface-dwelling homo sapiens.
Magical: arcane, divine, druidic, mystic, necromantic, other (8%)
Beings from a plane of lawful, structured fire and brimstone. Horns and red skin common.
~“Born of Shadow”
Nyx is the only Greylord to employ a strange race known as the Shae'goth. They act as her personal guards, an elite fighting force, and assassins.
The origins of this species is particularly difficult to pinpoint and none seem to be aware by what means it is that Nyx can so easily rely upon their unfaltering loyalty to her. Scholars of the Greylands postulate the Shae'goth could be a later metamorphosis of the undead spirit, the Shadow.
Shadows are curious things as, while classified as undead, they do not seem to be the result of any sentient death; they are some sort of spiritual flotsam or perhaps a parasite devoid of a natural physical form. What is known is that the Shadows are normally seen in two varieties, Lesser and Greater.
The Lesser Shadows are minor threats at best and utterly harmless to a healthy adult for the most part, assuming their numbers are low. The Lesser Shadow feeds upon the fear and terrors of its prey and often manipulates its surroundings in an attempt to evoke these emotions. The 'touch' of a Lesser Shadow is an unsettling chill that saps at a victim’s life force but is no more dangerous than a common leech or mosquito.
Over time a Lesser Shadow may gain an excess of energy and grow into a Greater Shadow. Greater Shadows are much more dangerous as their power and appetite have each grown and the touch of a Greater Shadow can now kill a healthy adult in minutes.
Shadows are insubstantial but vulnerable to most magics and will flee from bright light. A Greater Shadow may occasionally split up into multiple Lesser Shadows, but a Shae'goth, regardless of the processes involved, seems to be a further advancement from a Greater Shadow. Unlike Shadows, the Shae'goth become actual physical beings, solid to the touch like many races of the Greylands, though they are also able to transcend those limitations at will and enter an incorporeal state like that of their hypothesized origin.
PNEUMA FLINT OF THE GREYLANDS
This obsidian-like material marks the razor edge of weapons and the soul traps of the Harvesters. Metal is rare enough to discourage it being used for armor or weapons, reserved instead for the specific needs of the Greylords. However, deposits of this black rock hidden beneath the cracked, decaying dust of the Greylands are more than enough reason for mining operations to exist.
Rumor holds that this substance formed from the remains of dead gods, while others suggest that it is made of the tormented souls which were never able to move on, that solidified under the weight of their regrets and emotions. It is often used in weaponry for its keen edge and ability to bolster necromantic powers. Larger fragments of pneuma flint are used in the creation of soul traps.
Pneuma Flint is part of the natural geology of the Greylands; thus, it is a hazard that most transient souls just aren't prepared for. It is the equivalent of wandering into an area of radioactive fallout; by the time you might notice, it is usually too late. As disliked as the Greylords are, they're entirely necessary to the deities and entities seeking passage for their claimed souls through the nexus of planes.
BONUS DETAIL: The Black Shard Containing the Soul of Jacob the Witch Hunter
In the story, Gavin made something of an artificial soul trap. Unlike a real one of pure pneuma flint taken from the earth of the Greylands, this shard is single use only and involves immense challenge with creating it outside of the Greylands in the first place.
Gavin's bones, teeth, and nails are laced with pneuma flint, a transformation his mistress instigated, and Gavin accepted, to strengthen her connection to the Deathwalker. During his ritual, Gavin essentially extracted marrow from his bones to create the Soul Shard, an immensely painful process but something vital to proving he could fulfill Nyx's needs on this world.
The Ma'lok are tall with wiry, muscular frames covered in rough slate gray skin. The backs of males molt black with age, so it can often be easier to note the veteran warriors in a fight if one knows what to look for.
They have hair, though it is often cut and dyed according to the Greylord they belong to. Their hands end in thick wide claws suited for digging and similar utility rather than actually slashing and killing prey. Their long snouts and lipless, toothy skulls lack visible eyes above the fleshy hole of their nostrils. Their ears are little more than holes along the bony ridges on the side of their heads.
Despite the lack of eyes, they seem to have no difficulty seeing. As a reward Greylords will often implant harvested eyes onto them. These usually denote years of service rather than serving a functional purpose (though they may in some, it is impossible for most to tell).
Like most Greyland warriors, the Ma'lok wear only partial armor, relying mostly on their toughened skin. Their suits are made of leather from many sources, bone, and chitinous plates harvested from the bane wasps that nest in massive hives on the edge of the murky, polluted deathtraps that make up the seas of the Greylands. A lack of many essential metal deposits keeps the use of metal armor and weapons to a minimum.
Initially established fantasy races had been introduced in settings such as Dungeons and Dragons (published by Wizards of the Coast) and PathFinder (Published by Paizo). For the Sister Seekers series, I've adapted. In the long tradition of Gamer Homebrew and the collective sandbox of inspiration, this is my "homebrew" world of Miurag.
Within the story's own logic as I grew a continent with a very long history. Below are the main races of the Sister Seekers and God Wars series, which are influencing the story directly. I've added a word or two about what makes them a fantasy race, and to what extent, in my story.
Also a line-up chart crafted by Axelotl to show relative sizes in the story. Thanks, Axe!
~~"What do you know of the Greylands?...it is the natural pathway through which souls migrate. Like a bridge between ours and various other planes. One does not have to take the bridge to cross a river, but it is often the more chosen and easier path."~~Gavin, "Surfacing"
~~The Greylords are the 'gods' of the Greylands, and they have made pacts over the millennia with true deities, agreements to help guide the souls of those deities' followers through the Greylands and to their home plane. Not all sentient races have a God or Goddess with such a pact, and it is even possible for a living body with a soul to enter the Greylands, though returning back out again is not easy.
At the junction of so many planes of existence, the Greylords have an ungodly amount of access to everything in this universe. This leads to the question, why haven't they taken over all those other planes? While the obvious answer might be that the Gods are simply more powerful, that would lead to the question of why the Gods haven't wiped out the Greylords.
One truth is that Gods who step into the Greylands become weakened as they are touched by mortality, thus the Greylands are the one place any God could be slain.
Another truth is that, despite their power, the Greylords cannot leave their plane. They are able to influence and extend fractions of their power across the planes to the proper conduits, but they aren't capable the same feats as a God, often requiring a God's aid to even manage a fraction of such influence that a God gleans from its followers.
The final truth, perhaps, is much simpler: they are their own worst enemies. Unlike true Gods that exist on their own separate planes from each other, all the Greylords dwell upon the same plane. While a Greylord can be killed and is vulnerable to silver and 'holy' powers, it is uncertain how to permanently destroy one. Thus, the Greylords seem to always have been, and always will be present, squabbling and bartering for their own power at a nexus surrounded by Gods.
The Harrowed must still breathe and can suffocate or drown.
A Harrowed does not eat, drink or sleep as a human does. They must meditate as a similar function to sleep; the “newer” they are, the longer they must meditate at once, up to 8 hours. This can shorten over time. A harrowed cannot eat normal foods as they can no longer digest them, but also finds the taste disgusting and uncomfortable. A harrowed can drink plain water without trouble.
A Harrowed does not need to feed day-to-day as most mortals, and can survive up to two months on a single feeding. The harrowed requires replenishing its life essence from mortals; this can be done in two ways.
The Breath of Life is what brought them back and so it is the breath of the living upon which they 'feed'. This feeding process is slow and usually somewhat intimate as the subject must either be willing or restrained in order to properly draw out the breath. This process takes minutes and leaves the person somewhat dazed and tired for a while.
A second source can be gained by ingesting fresh blood, but this method is viewed as unclean and the Harrowed does feel some degree of revulsion from the act. It is as if the breath is a fine wine which one savors, while the blood is taking shots of vinegar. Blood drinking is far more wasteful as well, requiring amounts that may be dangerous to the health of the donor.
A hybrid of Miurag and the Greylands
Loyalties to Nyx and Soraveri
Transformation-Unlike the Deathwalker, the Harrowed only goes across once on its own, an initial spirit journey before returning. They're primarily meant as protection for the Deathwalkers on the prime plane as the Deathwalkers have ample protection in the Greylands.
Changed appearance-The Harrowed are recognizable to those who knew them before death, though now they have pale skin that might seem to have a pale blue 'glow' at times. Eyes have an ice blue iris with black sclera like the Deathwalker, though a gold ring around the iris distinguishes them.
Immunity-to poison, sleep effects, paralysis, disease, nausea, fatigue, exhaustion, and effects that cause the sickened condition.
Unfailing-can function normally even when dying or severly wounded.
Ghost Flame-The Harrowed's signature is the manipulation of its own spiritual energy that can be used for multiple effects. The blue energy appears very similar to a flame, but has a chilling quality rather than burning.
Wraith form—The flesh becomes composed of blue spirit energy and is translucent enough to reveal a black skeleton beneath and their form appears gaunt. The teeth become sharp and their voice now has a whispery echo to it. This state can only be maintained for short durations.
-take half damage from corporeal sources, energy/magic is unaffected
-partially phase through things (can't walk through walls, etc.) mostly allows it to ignore tough terrain or minor obstacles.
-touch carries the chill of the grave which can stun an enemy
-quieter due to partially insubstantial nature
From Beyond-The ghostly energies of the greylands stretches through body and even onto armaments and the harrowed is always considered to attack with a 'magical' weapon for purposes of bypassing defenses and protections. All kills count as being Marked for Nyx.
Light-The 'flame' can be used to shed light.
Future Uses: Form weapons out of Ghost Flame as an extension of 'From Beyond'