I'm now ensconced in writing the second half of the Cush/Pwenet hex crawl and, since I'm also fighting off a cold, thought a few previews would make for an easy blog post today!
41.43 Kimbedwe: Kimbedwe is a sizable city-state situated atop a high, dusty plateau that overlooks the rain forest. The plateau is rich in mineral wealth, and highly defensible, and thus has persisted for hundreds of years. By and large, the people of the plateau keep to themselves. They permit no entry into this hex by outsiders, having established trading posts on the edges of the hex to trade their minerals for manufactured goods (especially glass – the sands of the plateau make a very poor quality of glass). The city is constructed of stone, most of it dug up from the depths of the plateau, which is honeycombed with tunnels and mines, and even hides a small subterranean lake from which the people of the plateau pull blind crustaceans that they turn into a delicious stew.
Kimbedwe’s main problem is its isolation and xenophobia, which has led to stagnation. These problems are made worse by (or maybe caused by) the waters of the subterranean lake, which are enchanted. The waters keep people from aging, but also makes them infertile. There have been no children in Kimbedwe for many centuries. The water’s enchantment stems from a strange black stone hidden in its black depths, a stone that attracts the shades of the dead, who haunt the lake and demand tribute from their descendants in the form of palm wine. The lake is surrounded by hundreds of small (and not-so-small) shrines dedicated to these ancestral spirits. The spirits are worshipped by a cult of death priests and assassins, who do their best to keep change out of Kimbedwe.
Kimbedwe’s king, Singado, has ruled for 200 years, having relieved his father of the crown with poisoned wine. He and his warriors oppose (subtly) the death cult. They maintain a large temple to Kokou, the god of war, and keep a flock of arrowhawks which they use to patrol the surrounding jungle. When possible, they kidnap likely mates for themselves and their king, sneaking them back to the plateau in defiance of the assassins.
Following the path to the south leads to a small valley that contains a lake. Overlooking the lake there is a castle built of pale, grey stone. The castle consists of two long, narrow wards and a central keep. The keep is surmounted by a 115-ft. tall tower with barred windows.
The castle is the home of Don Xavier de Penafiel, a duke who hails from the Kingdom of Spain on our own world. Don Xavier is a melancholy man, and deeply religious. His castle, despite its large size, is staffed by a small band of unseen servants that are enhanced by unspeaking illusions. In times of trouble, the castle is defended by 100 animated suits of armor. The only other inhabitant of the castle is its prisoner, one Francis Bacon. Bacon’s tower prison has had a permanent anti-magic shell cast upon it.
Don Xavier leads a lonely life, his primary companion being his memories of lost love and lost honor. Every few weeks he is visited by a small band of friars who bring the duke sustenance and brief companionship. The oldest of the friars, Brother Garza, is an excellent swordsman and accomplished player of at chess and taroka.
[Note - I actually ran a group through this one. Getting into the tower involved solving three alchemical riddles. I might have lost them when my old external drive went down, but if not I'll publish it in a future issue of NOD]
44.25 Tome of the Phantom: A high cave here, dry and cool, holds a tome wrapped in ashen sackcloth. The tome is covered in blue leather, and contains the life story of the adventuring wizard Zaxon. Zaxon visited many of the lands surrounding Cush; he made many conquests and bested many dangers before finally passing away 200 years ago. This tome is possessed by his spirit, and this spirit slowly possesses any person who reads the book. For each hour spent reading the tome, one must make a Will save or be effected as per a magic jar spell.