This particular entry isn't just one covering some PCs, but my whole Empyreum setting. As such it's divided up into sections. Yay for sections!
The Empyreum is an earthly empire ruled over by the Priests, servants of the Celestial Emperor. This deity is rather busy and so relegates most heavenly duties to his faithful Archons, ascended mortals with god-like powers.
Opposing the Celestial Emperor is the Lady of the Hunt, the other side of the dualistic deity. Where as the Empyreum is founded on the concept of righteousness, piety, and civil service those following the Lady of the Hunt value strength, ambition, and personal empowerment.
Those serving the Emperor tend to be urban or agrarian where as the servants of the Huntress are often tribal and nomadic.
While the two gods aren't technically at odds with each other (they're just two reflections of the same being after all) their servants usually are without question. Citizens of the Empyreum see worshipers of the Huntress as evil heathens who tempt away the morally weak with promises of easy power. The followers of the Huntress view the worshipers of the Emperor as fanatical bigots hell-bent on subjugating or destroying all that won't bend the knee. Both views are exaggerated in some ways and true in others.
[PCs, NPCs, and Notable Locations]
Fredrick 'Freddie' 'Winifred' Barrelson
Gender: Whatever lights your fire
Race: Five-tails Huldra
Appearance: Like all Huldra Freddie's natural form is that of a wolf-sized blue and black fox with a back covered in mossy oak bark. He's often surrounded by wisps of fox-fire and a crimson Orb that contains his original human soul. He (or she if the situation calls for it) is able to take the form most pleasing and handsome (or beautiful) in the eyes of the target person. As such s/he'll usually appear supernaturally attractive whilst in humanoid shape, though the exact form s/he takes isn't at all fixed.
The oak-bark remains in human form, though can be easily hidden by clothing. The Huldra's tails, however, are another story. They are usually hidden by glamor, though if Freddie is suitably distracted or startled they might become visible.
Personality: Freddie is incredibly conflicted. Due to fortuitously acquired Random Encounter Lewt he was able to retain his human soul after getting Huldra'd. This means on the one hand that he still has the personality of a kind-hearted peasant from a small village who had a desire to become a heroic Inquisitor and play the exalted role of a hero! On the other he's a demon of Dissonance that aches from his lost humanity and hungers to fill the void left inside with the souls of hapless victims.
While his dream of becoming an Inquisitor has been dashed Freddie still has some hope that he can play the hero. After all, it isn't as if Dissonance could corrupt him any more than he already is. Just don't sleep with him (or her).
Abilities: Freddie is a Huldra, with all the weaknesses and powers that implies. Being a Dissonant Demon-Fox grants him the following boons and banes.
Enhanced strength, agility, and durability: Huldra are strong, tough, and fast. They can shrug off most any attack that doesn't target the hollow in their back and are strong enough to bend iron bars with little effort. They're incredibly resistant to heat and move with supernatural alacrity.
Aversion to water: A Huldra completely submerged in water quickly becomes water-logged as their hollow body is filled. This snuffs their fox-fire and weighs them down tremendously. A Huldra so encumbered can't use any of their supernatural abilities and becomes nearly helpless until they dry off.
Beguiling Illusions: A Huldra can take a humanoid form. This form is usually based on the desires of a target creature and creates the most spectacularly attractive body possible with which to seduce the Huldra's prey.
Fox-Fire: A Huldra can create wisps of Fox-Fire, semi-autonomous amalgams of the souls that they have devoured and corrupted. Fox-Fire can be used to horrifically burn targets or create illusionary people and objects with actual substance. The more tails a Huldra has the more powerful their Fox-Fire can become. It's said that a Nine-Tail Huldra can completely enrapture crowds of people in a wholly illusionary world.
Essence Drain: A Huldra is able to drain away a creature's memory and personality in a number of ways. The most common is to steal it a little at a time through kisses or quite quickly through intimate contact. This deadly embrace is often used against sleeping prey to make sure they can't resist. If seduction doesn't work and violence becomes an option a Huldra will rip out a creature's liver and devour it, draining all essence in the process. A fully drained creature has their soul stolen and corrupted into Fox-Fire. Creatures without souls pass into a vegetative state and die quickly unless fed intravenously. As with a Huldra's illusions most generic methods of defense against draining effects offer no protection against this ability.
Aversion to Violence: A Huldra can not take violent action against another sapient being unless one of the following criteria is met. The creature attacks the Huldra first (or threatens to). Or creature makes a direct comment regarding the Huldra's tail(s). In any of these cases there's a strong chance that a Huldra will respond violently and remove the offending being's liver for consumption. Other Dissonant beings can be attacked at any time if a Huldra so desires.
Weakness to Allheal: Allheal is a small purple weed common in most any lawn, field, or vacant lot. A being with allheal on their person can not be drained by a Huldra and can see through their lies and illusions. A Huldra can't remove allheal from someone directly, though they may entice others to do so. Fox-Fire still burns, however.
Claw of Chatturgath: A potent artifact of the Primordial Chatturgath, the Claw looks like a two-bladed glaive fashioned from crustacean shell. The Sigil of Power smoulders with a dull red glow between the blades. The Claw is a potent melee weapon and has a number of strange abilities that can influence matter and energy. Most commonly it can fire beams of microwave radiation that quickly cause most targets to burst into flames. Alternately it can spew streams of pure kinetic force to batter foes. Any time it is used there's a 10% chance that it will instead create some random silly object rather than having the desired effect.
Templar Gregoire: Currently soul-nommed by the above Huldra. He was previously assigned to oversee Fredrick's metamorphosis into a Huldra and then deliver him to Bishop Bartholomew in Ironkeep for assigning to an Inquisitor. Unfortunately for him he met an unfriendly Sliver giant and caught a nasty case of the deads.
Priest John: The Priest in charge of the parish in the village of Riverford, Fredrick's home town. He seems like a really kind, nice old man. Who could probably break your neck with one hand.
Priest Luke: The Priest in charge of the parish in the village of Applevale. He's a relatively young guy, very bright and happy to speak with his flock about the finer points of the Emperor's Law.
Inquisitor Thomas: Nobody expects the Imperial Inquisition! Despite the usual reputation Inquisitors have Thomas is friendly, empathetic, laid back, and generally an all around cool guy. He has a tendency to nod off during villainous speeches. Despite his personality he gets the job done and he gets it down well.
Zaaldunvah Bastion: A penitent Ebony Demi-Dragon under the command of Inquisitor Thomas, Zaaldunvah is polite and proper. Though thankfully not to the stick-up-the-ass degree. He was a knight previously. And his bitch of a princess went and turned into a dragon and then ate him. He became cursed, princess was killed, he was freed, and then realized that he had been in a pretty terrible relationship.
Wiggums: A penitent Boggart under the command of Inquisitor Thomas. Wiggums is crass, mean spirited, and generally obnoxious. Though his ability as a spy and cut-throat is peerless. He and Zaaldunvah really don't get along very well.
Sister Agatha: One of the Nuns living in the Abbey atop Mount Anthor. Sister Agatha is adept at the Devotion of Joy and her bubbly, friendly personality makes that abundantly clear. She's friendly loyal to and protective of her friends. Make her friends sad and face the raw power of the Words of Creation.
Mother Martha: The Matron of the Mount Anthor Abbey. She's a portly, elderly woman wise and intelligent far beyond what her appearance suggests. She could probably have a throw-down with Yoda so don't under-estimate her.
The Wanderer: A nomad from the northern desert who was traveling through the Fiefdom of Baron Archibald when the land was uprooted out of the Empyreum and dumped into the Nexus. A powerful Sand Shaper, he's a follower of the Huntress and in search of glory and fame through honorable combat. Careful, we've got a badass over here.
Maarsukaal: An ancient Air Dragon imprisoned on Mount Anthor who knew her life span is drawing to a close. She tried to feed her spirits into a woman named Hildur in an attempt to corrupt her into a new dragon to take her Name. Thankfully Hildur was cleansed of the possessing spirits and Maarsukaal perished without corrupting Hildur, though her Name was still passed on.
The Fiefdom of Baron Archibald: The chunk of the Empyreum that was gobbled up by the Nexus and dumped into Outside. This land includes Mount Anthor, Ironkeep, The Thicket (spoooky forest!), a number of small towns and villages. Villages include Riverford and Applevale.
The Marches: A marshy stretch of plains-land that belonged to Baroness Elizabeth before it got yoinked into the Nexus. The land is crisscrossed with rivers and lakes in addition to a number of small towns and villages. Since the Baroness' capital wasn't brought to the Nexus Baron Archibald is attempting to annex the land.
[Priests of The Emperor]
The Priests hold the power of the Empyreum. While the royalty may not consist of Priests, it is without a doubt the Priests that ultimate pull the strings upon which the various feuding lords and ladies dance.
Priests begin their training at monasteries where they are give rigorous exercises, both physical and spiritual. Discipline in emphasized, both martial and mental. At the end of the training the learner is ritually endowed with a divine spark, causing them to gain the power of the Priest.
A Priest begins their service in the office of Templar. A Templar's duties are simple. To destroy monsters and servants of the Huntress wherever they lurk. Once this duty has been completed they are provided with a parish to watch over or continue the crusade against the enemies of the Empyreum as an Inquisitor.
The divine spark of the Priest gives them a wide range of mystical abilities ranging from healing wounds to calling up flames from the earth below. The abilities of the Priest usually center around the concepts of warmth, light, earth, and fire.
Good ol' Nuns! Known as The Sisters of Silence to those familiar with their function in the Empyreum. Whilst Priests gain powers and abilities of a more magical inclination the Nuns are far more martially inclined. Where the Priests are as the sun shining in its strength the Nuns are a moonless night, tranquil, still, and deadly.
While all Nuns are far faster, stronger, and more resilient than a normal human each focuses their divine spark toward specific schools of combat. The martial arts of the Nuns are divided into nine Devotions, each Devotion a different application of the divine spark invested in them upon ordination after sufficient training at an abbey. It is not uncommon for a Nun to master three Devotions. The Matron of an abbey, however, must be a master of at least seven of the nine Devotions.
Love is the Devotion of healing, focusing divine power to mend wounds and raise spirits.
Joy is the Devotion of song, employing the Words of Creation toward a wide degree of often spectacular effects.
Peace is the Devotion of silence, weaving together shrouds of moonlight and shadow and stillness to evade detection.
Patience is the Devotion of fortitude, hardening body and will to shrug off any assault.
Gentleness is the Devotion of touch, amplifying incredible divine power through the lightest contact to devastate a foe.
Virtue is the Devotion of speed, pushing one's self to dizzying heights of alacrity though mastery of the divine conception of time.
Faith is the Devotion of foresight, seeing not with one's eyes, but with one's spirit.
Meekness is the Devotion of humility, by knowing one's limits and the limits of one's foes attacks can be turned back on an attacker.
Temperance is the Devotion of self-control, the ability to press one's self beyond the limits at which the mortal body should fail.
[Sages of the Huntress]
Roughly equivalent to the Priests of the Emperor the Sages of the Huntress function as the spiritual head of whatever tribe they are associated with. Unlike Priests who require years of dedicated study before gaining their position Sages are simply chosen by the Huntress provided the individual please the goddess sufficiently.
Sages guard those under them from both forces of Dissonance as well as the Empyreum. Their abilities usually focus on cold, darkness, sky, and water.
[Forces of Dissonance]
Dissonance is the tension, disunity, disharmony, and contention between the Emperor and the Huntress as given form in the world. While Dissonance isn't a god (or even a being) many of the mortal followers of Dissonance treat it is as if it were. There are many practices and rituals carried out by Priests and Sages to keep Dissonance at bay, but that is sadly not always enough.
Most often Dissonance takes the form of monsters, disease, and natural disasters. Humans that draw on the power of Dissonance and worship its concept are known as Witches or Warlocks. The forces of Dissonance are seen as evil by both followers of the Emperor and the Huntress, one of the few things they agree on.
[Monsters and the Rituals]
There are a number of rituals used by humanity to prevent themselves from being seized and warped by Dissonace. All monsters that result from these warpings generally come in two forms, first and second generation. A first generation monster is usually more powerful and results from a human failing to uphold the proper ritual. A second generation monster is generally an innocent human that has fallen victim to an existing monster.
It is possible for a monster to be penitent, to still attempting to serve whatever god they served while human. Though unstable and extremely dangerous such creatures are considered valuable tools and weapons by the Empyreum and many Sages.
[Ritual of Naming and Boggarts]
The Ritual of Naming is simply a ceremony carried out when naming a newly born child. Children that die without being named properly are likely to rise as Boggarts, ashen tricksters that sour milk, sicken animals, break tools, lead travelers astray, and generally make a nuisance of themselves. Using a Boggart's old name in its hearing causes the monster to become violent. Boggarts can often be bribed with offerings of food to keep the pranks to a minimum.
Boggarts, given the opportunity, will steal away sick or naughty children to burn them alive and transform them into new Boggarts.
Boggarts appear to be made of fine black soot with two white pinprick eyes and a wide crescent-moon grin. Their body and head are generally proportioned like an infant's, though their arms and legs are impossibly long and spindly. Boggarts represent the sin of Envy.
[Ritual of Feasting and Weredeor]
The Ritual of Feasting is a communal meal taken on a regular basis. Those who abstain from the Ritual for too long may begin to crave flesh of other kinds as Dissonant animal spirits burrow into their psyche.
Should a person succumb to The Hunger they will transform into a weredeor, a man-beast. Human and animal spirit fight for control of the body, resulting in a creature that is violent, unpredictable, and often insane. A weredeor that consumes OTHER weredeor becomes a Chimera, a horrific protean beast of shifting form.
A person injured by a weredeor will be stricken by The Hunger themselves, transforming into a weredeor if they consume human flesh. Those slain and devoured by a weredeor will soon grow off the parent monster's body in the form of a disgusting tumor that eventually bursts open, spilling out a new weredeor.
Chimeras are altogether worse. If they devour a person they will bud off a new weredeor in a matter of seconds rather than days. Likewise the bite of a Chimera will cause the victim to rapidly mutate into a weredeor.
Weredeor can be kept way by hanging dried Wolfsbane around one's home or off fences. In places where weredeor are common it isn't unheard of to keep a pouch of dried Wolfsbane on one's person at all time. Weredeor represent the sin of Gluttony.
[Ritual of Wedding and Huldra]
In the Ritual of Wedding two pledge their love and devotion to each other under the watchful eye of a Priest/Sage and various witnesses. Children born to those under such a union are protected from the ravages of Dissonance.
To those unlucky children not so guarded there's a chance that they will become a Huldra some time between their thirteenth and eighteenth birthday. In their natural form the Huldra appears like an enormous blue and black-furred fox with between one and nine tails, bark growing over their back, and wreathed in blue fox-fire. Should the bark on their back be broken it is revealed that they're hollow inside like a rotted out log, filled with nothing more than wisps of fox-fire.
Huldra can also take the form of supernaturally beautiful women and uncannily handsome men, though they're often unable to hide the bark on their back and their tails. In these forms they seduce the unwary and drain their souls. For every 100 souls a Huldra devours they gain another tail. And it's said if they can consume 1000 souls they become fully human again. Those unfortunates who have had their soul eaten may be left to rise as Wights or, at the Huldra's pleasure, twisted into a new Huldra. First generation Huldra are born with two tails while second generation Huldra are born with one.
Because a Huldra loses their soul when they're created they likewise lose all memory of who they once were. All Huldra are driven by the emptiness inside them and seek desperately to fill it with humanity to replace what they have lost. Should a Huldra ever manage to recover their original soul they are flooded with human emotions, including guilt for all the evil they have done. Such Huldra usually go insane as a result.
Keeping dried allheal on one's person allows one to see through the illusions and lies of the Huldra. Hanging allheal over one's bed prevents a Huldra from paralyzing a person in their sleep and devouring them. Huldra represent the sin of Lust.
[The Ritual of Cleansing and Hags]
The Ritual of Cleansing is simply the confession of one's sins before a Priest/Sage. The act of the Ritual removes the taint of the evil. Those who instead covet and take pride in their sin, who allow it to fester within their heart become warped and twisted beings of Dissonance. Hags.
Hags appear to be old and hideous men or women with vulture-like qualities. They spread hate and contention to whatever people they are near as they wish to see their suffering heaped onto the heads of others. Most outbreaks of disease among people or pestilence upon crops is the working of the cruel and twisted hags. Despite their frail looking forms hags are terrifyingly strong and durable. A single scratch can send even a seasoned warrior into fits of hysterics and trembling with fever.
Eating apples on a regular basis is said to ward off the pox and hexes of a hag, but fresh fruit is often difficult for commoners to come by. Unlike the other monsters of Dissonace hags are unable to create more of their number. Hags represent the sin of Pride.
[The Ritual of Alms and Dragons]
Over the course of a person's life Dissonant spirits will cling to them, drawn by acts of greed and selfishness. Every year the Ritual of Alms is practiced to cleanse a person of these spirits by sacrificing an object of value to the person. Those instead choose to embrace their greed may be warped into Dissonant dragons.
Dragons appear as huge quadrupedal beasts with a blend of reptilian and mammalian traits, each with the elemental inclination of her original spirit. The body of the dragon is quite literally made of the corresponding elemental material. Aside from these traits dragons are incredibly varied in their appearance, even among dragons of the same element.
Dragons are driven by overwhelming greed and thirst for power. They horde valuables and devour people to enslave their spirits and increase their own power and size. Should a dragon hold a particular person as valuable they may instead transform them into a drake, binding them to serve their new parent's greed unquestioningly.
Dragons are repulsed by willing acts of generosity, finding it absolutely abhorrent. Offering them a gift of great personal value will cause them to flee back to their lair (with gift in toe of course). Dragons also find riddles irresistible. If a dragon is unable to answer a riddle it is forced to grant a single request to the riddler, though it can decline anything self-destructive. Dragons represent the sin of Greed.
[The Ritual of Service and Wraiths]
Every day the Temple is ritually cleaned by those who attend it in the Ritual of Service. The work is hard, though quite simple and often times people are placed on a rotation so they don't do the same work every day. While the work is done the local Priest (or Sage) will often provide spiritual advice and recount stories of saints and heroes. It is a time to tend to both spiritual and physical work.
Those who consistent shirk their spiritual and physical responsibility risk falling into a horrid state of apathy, eventually wasting away until they become Wraiths. Wraiths are horrible bodiless undead that retain both their soul and spirit as well as their slothful demeanor. Usually a Wraith will not manifest in an obvious fashion, but will instead sap a person's will to continue living. People who aren't rescued from the cloying depression will often find death in the end, rising as a new Wraith.
Souls violently torn from their bodies, or souls of bodies that have been utterly destroyed before burial, often become ghosts. Merely imprints of the memories of the living, ghosts are not truly aware of their surroundings. They can often utter a few phrases, enough to give the impression of still being conscious. Though more often than not they simply re-intact the last hours or minutes before their death endlessly.
Tea made of Klamath (Saint John's Wort) can dispel the doldrums caused by Wraiths. Wraiths are a manifestation of the sin of Sloth.
[The Ritual of Burial and Revenants]
The Ritual of Burial is just that. Laying down the dead to their eternal rest. Dead not provided with a proper burial may rise as Revenants, horrific walking dead that harbor deep hatred for the living as it reminds them of their own tormented existence. Both soul and spirit are bound to the corpse of the Revenant, giving it full insight into the horror of its state. Revenants can rend the soul from the body of others with their bony claws.
A person slain by having their soul removed will often rise as a Wight, a souless cadaver with no memory of who or what they once were. Vile Dissonant rituals can be used to issue simple orders to a Wight that they must obey. Without orders a Wight will often times remain motionless, mimicking a corpse, until something living to soul-flay happens by.
Garlic repels these restless dead and performing the Ritual of Burial on their remains can put them to rest for good. Revenants represent the sin of Wrath.
[Witches, Warlocks, and Dissonant Spirits]
Witches and warlocks are humans have devoted themselves to the power of Dissonance. Some see it as a means to an end, others as an end in and of itself. Some even believe Dissonance to be a third divine manifestation, stronger than the other two and worthy of worship.
A witch or warlock uses rituals and fetishes to focus the power of Dissonance, striking down their foes with disease or plaguing an area with poor weather. Followers of Dissonance are immune to Dissonant mutations unless they allow themselves to succumb.
Sickness, madness, ill-luck, and the command of twisted monsters that were once human, these are the main weapons of the followers of Dissonance. What's more, Witches and Warlocks will often employ a Dissonant spirit, a familiar that posses the body of a small animal and whispers blasphemies and plots into the mind of its 'owner'.
Dissonant spirits without a body are more or less harmless, though they mindlessly seek to destroy the works of both the Emperor and the Huntress given the chance. They often act out through causing disease and bad luck, though if a more subtle approach is frustrated they may even possess an animal or inanimate object to assault the target of their hate. Things so possessed will often times transform into trolls, brutish beasts that live only to sow Dissonance.
[The Soul, the Spirit, the Body, and Life]
In the Empyreum the Soul and Spirit are very specific things. The Soul is a being's memory and personality. The Spirit is a being's consciousness and capacity to be aware. Life is, of course, the animating principle that distinguishes a living being from a corpse. And the Body is... well... the body. A person without a Spirit would become machine-like as their ability to experience new things is removed. A person without a Soul would become mindless as their personality is gone.
Each of these four elements of a person is a composite of three of the four Cardinal Elements, created by the Huntress and refined by the Emperor before being invested in a new being.
[The Cardinal and Sidereal Elements]
Each person is ultimately a union between all elements, though all people are born with an elemental inclination imprinted on all aspects of their being. See the elemental chart below.
Each Cardinal Element is represented: Earth, Fire, Air, and Water.
Through a binding of two Cardinal Elements the six Sidereal Elements are formed: Metal, Wood, Ice, Mist, Sand, and Lightning
A person's inclination can be toward any one Cardinal or Sidereal element. Most people don't even discover what their inclination is simply because the tools needed to do so are rare and expensive.
In order to discover a person's inclination a touchstone is used. Touchstones are crafted from natural gems composed of a perfectly balanced composition of all four elements. When held the gem will change color to match the Cardinal or Sidereal inclination of the holder.
[Elemental Foci and Shapers]
Each element has a special substance associated with it, a substance that can amplify and enhance the elemental inclination of a person. People who invest enough time and practice into use of a focus can warp and bend their element to their will of their Spirit in a practice called Elementalism. A practitioner of Elementalism is known as a Shaper. A touchstone can function as a weak focus, but for a serious student of Elementalism a properly aligned focus is required.
The more powerful the Shaper and the greater the quality of their focus the more spectacularly they are able to manipulate their element. Elements can be controlled, formed, and even manifested if the Shaper is skilled enough.
The various elemental foci are as follows:
Earth: Adamantine is a dark green stone of considerable strength and density. It can be honed with great effort and is dreadfully difficult to break. Adamantine is far harder than any other substance.
Fire: Orichalcum is a brassy, red-tinted material that can be worked like metal. However, it becomes softer when cooled rather than softer when warmed like a normal metal. The hotter Orichalcum becomes the more solid it gets.
Air: Gossamer is a soft yellow crystalline material that is nearly weightless. When worked like metal it will compact when stuck, but actually sundering it is virtually impossible.
Water: Mithril is a silvery materil that is mercurial in nature. It flows and shifts like a fluid, that most blows will drift through it rather than breaking it.
Metal: Ebony is a black metal of incredible stiffness and hardness. Slightly denser than steel it is significantly stronger. Ebony blades are prized even by people without the elemental inclination to fully utilize them.
Wood: Petra is a rare wood harvested from the heart of a tree with the same name, a wood filled with glistening opal-like bands. With both the flexibility of wood and the hardness of stone petra is sought for both its beauty and its utility.
Ice: Blue Ice is exactly what its name implies, ice that is blue. Blue ice is harvested from the bottoms of glaciers and is metal-like in its qualities. Blue ice retains its coldness regardless of temperature.
Mist: Stratus is a piece of the sky fallen to earth, a solid cloud. Under normal circumstances Stratus is akin to a very thick clay in composition and can be worked as such. When heat is applied it hardens to a steel-like quality.
Lightning: Plasma is born of collecting and refining lightning bolts. Though tamed, plasma still harbors the fury of the storm and has almost unparalleled destructive potential when utilized as a weapon.
Sand: Holos is a crystalline substance, clear as glass, composed of many smaller crystals. Heat is used to fuse the sand-grain sized crystals together in order to work it into a usable shape. Even when shattered holos can quickly re-assume its previous form.