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The Palace of Ivory and Flame

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The Palace of Ivory and Flame

The Palace of Ivory & Flame
Near the Palace of Judgement, towards the wisdom of the Norns and just leeward of the winds of Curst, lies a realm of a most peculiar and, some would say, perverse nature. The approaching traveller will first see upon the horizon a bright, white palace, low to the ground and somewhat out of place in the wilds of the Outlands. Approaching near, the shimmering mists part and, if the sun is out, the palace is revealed to be a three-story puff of creamy sandstone and lucent marble nestled amidst a geometric grid of French gardens, radiant as a sunbeam and yet unsettlingly empty. It is always winter in the snow-wrapped gardens of this place.

The interior of the palace is a series of comfortable apartments with tall ceilings and spatious hallways in rich rococo and baroque designs, all curling fronds and streaming draperies. What is most peculiar is that everything inside the palace, from the silverware to the frescoes to the furniture, is painted completely white, or rather, seems to be made of white materials, as if some intimate essence had been drained from the object. The metal that forms the silverware tinkles just like silver, but is clearly not silver in colour. The furniture resembles oak, rosewood and teak, but has the pigmentation of blanchwood. It is as if everything had been bleached of its soul.

Everything except the exotic songbirds that sit in cages throughout the grounds and whistle enigmatic tunes to no-one in particular. The songbirds twitter from inside silver cages, soothing the hearts of visitors, but some say that listening to the birds will eventually drive you insane or reveal a mystic loophole in the universe (akin to the ability that some Guvners possess). The palace is enormous and filled with white bedrooms, halls, dining rooms, parlours and cellars....all bleached white, with white furnishings of ivory, lace and pearl. While inside the palace, all the baroque crystal windows open onto a vista of sheer white nothingness, as if the palace was within a pocket plane or on the Positive Energy Plane (without any effects). Stepping through the windows places one back into the gardens, however.

Wanderers within these empty but song-filled halls will eventually encounter two things. The first is a bright tree of flame in a courtyard open to the air, a blaze of fiery leaves burning forever amidst blackened branches. Each branch burns warmly, and a pleasant sussuration, much like that of a comfortable fireplace in midwinter, fills the quadrangle. A hundred different shades of yellow, orange, red and violet roam brazenly across the foliage of this mighty arbor. The magic of the tree is almost hypnotic, and one has to concentrate to resist an urge to plunge their hands into the flames to grasp a mote of fire. Such an act is painful indeed (d6 damage, no save), but if the burning leaf is pulled out of the inferno, it transforms into a red-breasted bird, which promptly flies aloft to find itself a home in one of the empty cages in the palace.

The palace is practically endless, with room after room of white dining halls, libraries full of ivory-coloured books with blank pages, empty pantries, unused bedrooms with every type of white-laced linen imaginable, and drawing rooms with shelf after shelf of empty crystal bottles.

After wandering for several hours, visitors may encounter the master of this place, the Prince of Former Darkness, the Faded Shadow. According to the chant (or is it white ink, cutter?), this once-cruel demon king experienced such a soul-shattering event that he repented all his evil, and was bled white in the process. Did he pass through the flames of the Court of Judgement and survive? He never speaks of it.

With anguish in his newly-found conscience, he tried to expurge the bloody stains from his hands and his lands, but only managed to turn everything white…except for the single burning tree of souls, each leaf a former victim trapped in the fires of perdition. The Faded Shadow tries to free as many as he can, but the task is a hundred times more painful for him than anyone else, for each plunge into the branches forces him to feel the suffering that he once inflicted on that soul. This lonely, inverted prince of darkness has managed to release half of the souls from their torment, and these are the songbirds found throughout the palace. It is said that when he has finished his painful task, he will finally rise to a better place and sing with the hosts of heaven he so dearly wishes to join.

Now he flits from room to room, looking for the many things he misplaced in his former ways. Those who have encountered him say that a tragic love emanates from him, and that he will commits acts of painful kindness for those in need. Some speculate that when all his evil is completely purged, nothing but a tiny spark will remain, for that will be the net total of his goodness. In the meantime, the Faded Shadow takes comfort from his monotonous surroundings and the delicate chitter of his songbirds helps him to forget past events, for a time.

But be careful berk, for some say the Faded Shadow's old comrades occasionally visit the palace to convince their risen demon-king to return to his evil ways, and they don't like curious berks. A small cadre (2d4) of Palrethee (MM2, page 59) roam the ivory halls in secrecy, trying to turn the arrival of any visitors to their advantage. To them, the Faded Shadow is known as Adnarel the Resiler. It is possible to return a freed songbird back into fiery tree, but only a mortal can do it, and the Palrethee are desperately trying to shift the balance of conscience towards evil.

The Faded Shadow appears a beautiful albino man, strong of figure and with burning white eyes, wrapped in the thick folds of a dozen elaborately-scribed samite robes. Both the robes and his body are somewhat translucent, and if one peers closely one can see the skeletal structure. What one notices immediately is that the edges of the robes fade to a blood-crimson colour, as do the Faded Shadow’s hands, which incongruously end in blackened claws. The Faded Shadow will attempt to conceal his hands, but will be truthful in telling his tale. Not prone to extended conversation, he will aid visitors, but his help will be physically painful to him (d6 to 10d6 hit point loss, depending on extent of help).

The Faded Shadow is a risen Shadow Demon of great antiquity. Use the 3E stats for shadow demons in ENWorld’s Creature Catalogue, but double his power. Also, replace the Malevolence ability with Benevolence: once per day can retrieve and free a bound soul, unless the soul is under the jurisdiction of a power. Replace darkness with daylight, and fear with courage. Replace shadow blend with Bleach: at will, can remove the colour essence from an object. This effectively removes the aura of anything, making magical items temporarily unreadable by spells or special abilities, and makes mundane items generic. For example, unique scratch marks, emblems and any good/evil aura (say, that of a knife that was used in a murder) associated with an item all disappear.

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If you have any comments about the mechanics, or if some part of the story seems inconsistent, let me know. I'm not great with rules. What I'm trying to do here is create a "mirror dungeon" where there's no real danger and the monsters help the characters (most of them, anyway), but the character's altruism directly affects the outcome of the hidden quest. Boring, or something new?

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The Palace of Ivory and Flame

Well, I like it, but I'm easily odd to please Smiling

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The Palace of Ivory and Flame

At least part of me wants him to be a former servant or parasite of Graz'zt.

Another part says, hey, the Abyss is a pretty big place. Not everything has to be connected to the famous bashers.

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The Palace of Ivory and Flame

"Kaelyn" wrote:
At least part of me wants him to be a former servant or parasite of Graz'zt.

Unfortunately I haven't read Hellbound, so I'm not that familiar with the hierarchies and machinations of the lower planes. How would this story relate to Graz'zt?

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"Krypter" wrote:
Unfortunately I haven't read Hellbound, so I'm not that familiar with the hierarchies and machinations of the lower planes. How would this story relate to Graz'zt?

I don't think Hellbound would be relevant here. I'm only thinking of the obvious things: the Palace of Ivory and Flame was once in Azzagrat, and the Faded Shadow ruled part of that realm in Graz'zt's name. Or he was a general of Graz'zt's armies, or a courtier in his inner circle.

Graz'zt is called the Lord of Shadows, is what I was thinking.

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The Palace of Ivory and Flame

There's also Rhyxali from the BoVD web enhancement. It'd be a nice hook to bring her into the picture.

On which note, incidentally, wasn't there some canonical fluff about Graz'zt being just one of a more powerful race of early Abyssals? [That might be early Greyhawk, I'm not sure.] I used this idea in some back-stories I was weaving but Rhyxali seemed anomalous enough that I'm wondering if I was wrong. Does anyone know if PS took a position on Graz'zt? Was he more or less the same as Orcus (i.e. mortal, died, became manes, promoted through the ranks &c) or was he of a different breed?

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"Anarch" wrote:
On which note, incidentally, wasn't there some canonical fluff about Graz'zt being just one of a more powerful race of early Abyssals?

The abat-dolor, you mean. That's actually uncanonical, from Gary Gygax's novels Come Endless Darkness and Dance of Demons. The characterization of Graz'zt there was fairly good, but the books were published by Gygax's New Infinities company and not TSR.

From Randy Dorman's notes on the Abyss:

Abat-Dolor. "The Black Ones." A race of beautiful, black-skinned
demons, kin to Graz'zt. They stand 7' to 8' tall and wear red bronze
plate armor and helmets. They wield swords, spears, and arbalests; they
also use tubes which discharge anti-matter (!). The Abat-Dolor dwell in
Iyondagur, the 399th abyssal layer. Formerly divided into thirteen
clans, there are now nine. The Abat-Dolor are ruled by Elazalag.

Elazalag. Female lord, ruler of the Abat-Dolor and former consort to Graz'zt. Wields a chain and hooked star.

Quote:
Does anyone know if PS took a position on Graz'zt? Was he more or less the same as Orcus (i.e. mortal, died, became manes, promoted through the ranks &c) or was he of a different breed?

According to Faces of Evil: The Fiends, Graz'zt is one of the offspring of the ancient demon lady Pale Night. Graz'zt's siblings and half-siblings include such powerful demon lords as Lupercio (described in Faces of Evil) and Vucarik of Chains (described in Hellbound). He was never mortal (though he may have once been a cambion), and I don't think Pale Night's offspring qualify as a "breed." Lupercio and Vucarik are very different from Graz'zt in appearance and abilities.

It hasn't been revealed who Graz'zt's father (or any of his siblings' fathers) was. In order to tie the Planescape backstory in with Gygax's, I speculated that Graz'zt's and Rhyxali's father was a chieftain of the abat-dolor. Lately, though, I've been playing with making Graz'zt's father be Ades (Hades) as interpreted by John Milton in Paradise Lost. At least one fan-made description of Graz'zt had him as the son of Lucifer.

Noncanonical, contradictory descriptions of Abyssal lords written/compiled by me:

Ades. An ancient lord of darkness, now presumed imprisoned or dead. A rival of Demogorgon and a predecessor of Orcus. Thought to be the father of Graz'zt, Lupercio, and Rhyxali.

Chaos. A prince, former consort to Pale Night. Served by four warring children of his and Pale Night's called the Arachnos.

J'sald Xerix. Prince of Nightmares. Father of Vucarik? J'sald Xerix is an ancient entity who claims to be one of the founding Powers of the Abyss - some say he is the nameless one known as He Who Dreams, or a construct of his. He rules from the Nightmare Cage, a lost layer where all desires come to pass in the most obscene manner possible. There he is eternally imprisoned by his own thoughts; all of his dreams of escape mere constructs of the plane. The Nightmare Cage is nothing and everything; thoughts become twisted reality, as mutable as desire. The only permanent inhabitant is J'sald.

Lupercio. A prince, Baron of Sloth. Lupercio, a son of Pale Night and an unknown father, is the embodiment of the strength of darkness. He is the mother of neglect, the father of inaction, and the brother of uncaring. The darkness of his body spills for miles, with only his smiling maw visible to his victims. Shadow fiends cluster around him, eagerly feeding on his limitless shadows. When properly moved, he can strike with his fists for 9d10 points of damage, and cause earthquakes by stomping the ground. He can utter curses so foul that they sear the air and boil flesh. His home layer, the Slugbed, is covered with his filth and dung, but also contains clouds of radiance, beautiful forests and graceful castles - there is no overriding theme. Sometimes his presence oozes onto other layers of the Abyss; Lupercio seems to hardly know the difference.

Pale Night. A demon lady of the Abyss. Lady of Forgotten Horrors, Forbidden Lore, & Evil Sphinxes. Pale Night is an ancient entity of unspeakable power, an ur-demon said to be the mother of numerous princes, including such entropic figures as Lupercio and Vucarik of Chains. Some say she is the Abyss itself (some say the same of Demogorgon and Merrshaulk). Despite her age and might, Pale Night (sometimes called Old Night, especially in reference to her consortship of the demonic force of the six hundred twenty third layer known only as Chaos) prefers to lair within the realms of other demon lords, with whom she often spawns yet more powerful children. Previously she had dwelt in Degrazazt, the 121st layer of the Abyss, where she took the lost and wandering abat-dolor into her care. She took their high chieftain as her consort and birthed Graz'zt, the young Abyssal Lord of Shadows, and his twin sister Rhyxali, who at that time were little more than a abat-dolors themselves. In recent millennia, her consort has been Baphomet. She visits him rarely, spending most of her time in her tower of bone, but she occasionally involves herself in his cults on the Material Plane, offering a final sanctum within the labyrinth of his faith. The Tower of Bone travels throughout the Endless Maze of its own accord, long skeletal legs ensuring it is never seen in the same part twice.

Vucarik. A prince, Liberator of the Abyss. They say Vucarik was everything everyone expected him to be; exactly what his parents Pale Night and J'sald Xerix expected and exactly what his foes feared. A prisoner of presumptions: he would be a new Great One to challenge Demogorgon and liberate his father. And so he was, for a time. He takes chains into himself. He seeks freedom for others and increasing limitations for himself, to avoid the inevitability of his birth wierd. Vucarik of Chains is self-imprisoned in a layer with no opening and no closing. His minions, paedions from Carceri and terrible living siege engines, travel the Abyss smashing all walls and constraints. Vucarik's layer is like a metallic parody of Lolth's: infinite chains, dripping with slime and venom, stretching over a maelstrom of wild chaos. There is no light in Vucarik's realm, and those who plummet through the chaos end up in a boiling sea of foul liquid.

Chaos is from the old Mimir site, and was created by Dave King (and is female in his version; I made the entity male and linked him to Pale Night as a reference to Paradise Lost). J'sald Xerix was from the Netbook of the Abyss, which is generally awful, but J'sald Xerix was salvageable.

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The Palace of Ivory and Flame

That's very interesting. Frankly, I had thought of the Faded Shadow not as a specific demon but more of an archetype that a GM could polish into whatever gemstone he desired, but your descriptions of various demons made me think that perhaps a bit more history is in order.

Given Vucarik's self-punishment and Lupercio's control of shadow, perhaps a link to both of them is warranted. I'll have to think about it.

Do you recommend any of the Dicefreaks netbooks about demons and devils?

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"Krypter" wrote:
Do you recommend any of the Dicefreaks netbooks about demons and devils?

I don't, but someone else might Smiling

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"Krypter" wrote:
Given Vucarik's self-punishment

Which I made up, incidently. Here's the Hellbound description of him:

"Unlike most Abyssal lords, Vucarik rules over no single layer, but instead roams the entire plane at his whim. The sounds of metallic rattling always precede the coming of the lord and his host. Wielding lengths of enchanted chain and covered from head to toe in rust-darkened metal, the battalion scours the Abyss (not to mention adjacent planes), seeking
to inflict the tintinnabulous word of Vucarik on those who will listen.

"In any event, chant says that sometimes Vucarik hires (or at least doesn't kill) those he comes across, and sends them forth as heralds instead."

And it suggests (in the form of a rumor spread by the baatezu) that Vucarik might be related to the kytons. His identification as a son of Pale Night comes from Xanxost's narrative in Faces of Evil. It's possible that he's a son of Pale Night and a kyton consort, but I don't personally see either Pale Night consorting with kytons or kytons being capable of sexual reproduction. Probably a baatezu lie, I think. I trust Xanxost before I trust them.

Quote:
Do you recommend any of the Dicefreaks netbooks about demons and devils?

They haven't released one on demons yet (though they have descriptions of demon lords on their message boards). The diabolic ones are worth looking at, though I don't agree with all of it. The Dicefreaks vision is very personal and ideosyncratic, for all that it's a collaboration.

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