Other Names: Untamed Kethet of the Swarm
if Creation knew who she was the Dowager of the Irreverent Vulgate in Unrent Veils would be the most notorious murderer in Creation’s history. As chief architect of the Great Contagion, she remains bitter she didn’t get them all. Her anger only burns hotter when she contemplates how the Contagion’s failure resulted from betrayal by her own peers. She has no proof, but the Dowager knows the hunted, furtive looks of foolish boys who think themselves men. All her instincts tell her that the Contagion failed because the First and Forsaken Lion and Eye and Seven Despairs, tried to steal her glory.
But the Dowager also knows patience. Her master, the Abhorrence of Life, promises her she will be the last thing in existence to enter the Mouth of Oblivion and, before she does so, the First and Forsaken Lion will be hers to torment until doing so ceases to amuse her.
The other Deathlords think the Contagion’s failure broke the Dowager. She no longer attends the intrigues of Stygia. she seldom leaves her citadel, the Mound of Forsaken Seeds—which lurks within a misbegotten swamp called the Noss Fens at the Eastern edge of Creation. The other Deathlords think her seclusion means that she has nothing left to offer Oblivion’s cause.
In its ghastly tomb, the Abhorrence of Life thinks differently.
Since the Contagion’s end, the Dowager has spent centuries studying the Well of Udr whence she summoned that dire plague.
She once believed the Well led directly to the Mouth of Oblivion. Now, she thinks it leads beyond Creation, beyond the Underworld, the Wyld, beyond… everything. It is the singular point of intersection between all worlds, all states, all possibilities. This realization haunts the Dowager as she wonders what could possibly exist beyond the utter nothingness of Oblivion. At times, she wonders whether she might find other universes within the depths of the Well, perhaps even one where she could be free of the Neverborn and their taint. But then, the soft whisper rises up from the Labyrinth:
No, my sweet. You’ve danced your dance. Now, you must pay the piper.
The Dowager knows her master speaks the truth, and she knows what she must do.
Within the infinite depths of the Well, other universes do indeed lie. Given an infinite number of such universes, it follows that one universe must be the perfect antithesis of Creation. And so, the Dowager sits, staring into the depths of the Well of Udr, searching for the Anti-Creation. When she finds it, Creation will join with its equal and its opposite, and nothing will be left in the wake of that joining.
The Dowager knows the other Deathlords have learned her plan through their spies, and consider her mad.
Well, of course she is.
The Dowager accepted that the moment she made her pact with the Abhorrence of Life. But that doesn’t make her wrong.The Dowager’s appearance varies with her moods if not more frequently. She had a Lunar mate once whom she loved dearly. While she no longer remembers his name, much less the warmth of his caress, she often takes the form of animals or beastmen in her hunts. As much beast as woman, the Dowager delights in stalking and slaughtering the mortals whose bodies and souls she repurposes for her own use.
Some of her fellow Deathlords wonder if she could have been a Lunar Exalt instead of a Solar. Those with clearer memories of the First Age simply shake their heads. The Lunars epitomized the brutality of nature, but their Solar mates often ran with them and just as often grew to love the hunt even more than those born to it. The Dowager is what she is.
On the hunt for flesh, blood and souls, the Dowager typically wears the form of a tall and powerful naked woman with dark skin, eyes of burning yellow and writhing black snakes for fingers. When she encounters challenging prey, her face becomes that of a lioness, while her body covers itself with bristly black fur that glistens with ichor. When she sits upon her throne contemplating the Well of Udr, she rests naked save for flowing veils of translucent black silk and body-paint of red and yellow ochre. In all these forms, the Dowager appears cloven-footed, and ram’s horns adorn her head. Yet she has one other form, quite unlike her others.
Sometimes the Dowager leads her army of zombies against a poor, doomed village. mortals captured in these hunts, young and old, are caged and transported back to the Mound of Forsaken Seeds. Everyone over the age of nine is brutally slain. Their ghosts receive a brief opportunity to say goodbye to their children before the Dowager’s servants forge the ghosts into soulsteel. The children observe this entire process, then live within the Mound with the Dowager until they come of age, at which point she sends them out to repopulate deserted villages and the whole cycle begins again. In the meantime, the Dowager wears a human form without horns or hooves when she interacts with her adopted children, her face becomes a mask of compassion and motherly concern. It is a lie, the children know it, but also know enough to pretend otherwise. they call her “Mother” and the Abhorrence of Life “Father. The Dowager is not their mother and does not pretend to be. She is a mad, sadistic governess whose charges were orphaned by her hand. She is the icy headmistress in an academy of shadows and tears, where whispers from below sing her children to sleep each night.
THE DOWAGER’S DOMAIN Edit
The Noss Fens is a large inhospitable swamp stretching about 250 miles across, located in the far East near the Bordermarches of the Wyld. Despite its proximity to Creation’s rim, the swamp never becomes the target of any Fair Folk incursion. The Noss Fens do not seem to have resulted from some massive loss of Creation-born life. Not only were there no battles in that region, there were virtually no human settlements at all. Rather, the Noss Fens seems to have erupted spontaneously out of the Well itself for some unfathomable reason not long after the Usurpation. The fens stayed unpopulated throughout the First Age, and the few Solars who knew of the strange pre-human ruins within the swamp found the place too unwholesome to remain. After learning the shadowland’s history, the Dowager felt intrigued enough to erect her citadel in the Noss Fens.
Parts of the citadel predate the Usurpation possibly even the First Age. At first glance, the Mound of Forsaken Seeds looks like a large but otherwise unremarkable burial mound standing about 100 feet at its highest point, with a small structure at the top. In fact, the mound is a later attempt to bury an ancient ziggurat that some long-forgotten race used as a place of worship. During her initial excavation of the Mound, the Dowager assumed that early Dragon Kings built the temple-manse. Now she suspects that it might be the work of some even older species incompletely erased even from prehistory. She suspects the Abhorrence of Life knows who built the ziggurat and for what purpose but keeps this knowledge from her.
The Noss Fens terrify all animals, and they will not enter the shadowland without being caged or magically compelled. native animals all seem dead and more than slightly decayed… but such is the fertilizing power of the nearby Elemental Pole of Wood that even dead things can mate and give birth to equally dead-seeming offspring. It’s even worse near the Mound. Only the bravest mortals—even Exalted—can approach the Mound without constantly trembling.
Spirits are immune to this effect but suffer severe mental disturbances while within the Fens. Fair Folk do not enter the Noss Fens for any reason. They strive to resist any magical compulsion to do so.
The Mound itself is full of twisting corridors that look almost as if some great worm gnawed them into the earth.
The tunnels lead to chambers lit by soulsteel lamps and appointed with the finest soulsteel furniture: chairs, beds and even eating utensils. Here dwell the children captured on the Dowager’s latest hunt. Condemned to reside in the Mount until they come of age, these children play with soulsteel toys, eat with soulsteel forks, sleep on soulsteel beds and pray before soulsteel altars. They pray for their dead mothers and fathers, now condemned to an eternity as a toy, a fork, a bed or an altar. They pray that they do not, someday, share that same fate.
At the heart of the Mound, at the base and center of the buried ziggurat, lies a great open chamber whose walls bear symbols of long-forgotten gods who were ancient when humanity was new. This vault holds the Dowager’s great throne, at the foot of which lies the Well of Udr. Mortals who enter this fetid chamber are doomed, and even the mightiest Exalt risks death or madness at this ultimate nexus of the unthinkable and impossible.
THE DOWAGER’S PANOPLY Edit
The Dowager’s principle weapon is her soulsteel long powerbow, Root of Scorn.
Arrows fired from Root of Scorn transform in midair into soulsteel harpoons. Upon striking a victim, the arrowheads clasp onto the victim’s bones and cannot be removed without first severing the magical cord attaching the harpoon to Root of Scorn.
Those slain within a shadowland while attached to the powerbow’s cord instantly become ghost-slaves to the bow’s owner.
Even her fellow Deathlords consider the Dowager to be the best necromancer in all Creation. Her libraries include almost every text on necromancy ever written, including many she wrote herself during her living days.
As a necrosurgeon, she specializes in combining body parts from different species. The zombie armies who attend her number in the thousands, most of them grotesque amalgamations that make conventional zombies seem almost quaint in comparison.
SERVANTS OF THE DOWAGER Edit
While many of the Dowager’s mannerisms perturb her fellow Deathlords, none do so more than her strange refusal to make wider use of her Monstrances of Celestial Portion.
The Dowager owns several of the devices, yet never empowers more than one, and only one, Dusk Caste deathknight—invariably a young girl, usually no more than 10 years old at the time of Exaltation—whom she always names the Shoat of the Mire. This practice baffles the other Deathlords, who cannot imagine why the Dowager would waste Exaltation on a mere child.
The Dowager cares nothing for her peers’ curiosity or scorn. she considers them fools for granting Exaltation with only the most cursory thought to what their servants would do with such a gift.
To the Dowager, each Shoat of the Mire is an experiment and nothing more. She chooses them from the children who reside in the bowels of the Mound of Forsaken Seeds. Indeed, the Mound takes its name from these children, tiny seeds who, watered by the love of Oblivion and nurtured by the Dowager’s own boundless hate, can grow into mighty trees indeed. Everything the Dowager does, both for and to her children, she has calculated to teach them the pointlessness of existence and hatred for the cruelty of life.
Her experiments in child-rearing approach their end. Having applied all she has learned, she intends to create a full circle to, whose members will probably be between the ages of eight and 13 members .”The Dowager knows all about the attempts by the Bodhisattva and the Lover to convert Solar Exalts to the service of Oblivion, and laughs at their failures. If a Solar Exalt comes to the Noss Fens, she will slay him or die in the attempt. The former far more likely than the latter.
DOWAGER’S COMBAT TACTICS Edit
The Dowager considers virtually everyone in Creation beneath her notice, a flaw that might bring about her undoing.
Assuming an attacker can get through her army of patchwork zombies, assuming he can defeat the Shoat of the Mire, assuming he can resist the baleful power of the Well of Udr—then and only then does the Dowager resort to personal combat.
The Deathlord relies on Root of Scorn as long as ranged attacks seem practical. In close-quarter combat, she adopts her leonine war form. The Dowager has mastered both Tiger Style and Lunar Hero Style martial arts.
SERIES IDEAS Edit
Any series set in the court of the Dowager will be an unusual and challenging roleplaying experience.
They have lived most of their lives in a dark and gloomy crypt in the Mound of Forsaken Seeds, their only companions being each other and an assortment of toys forged from someone’s dead parent, which whimper in misery when they play with them. As victims of Stockholm syndrome combined with nearly unimaginable psychological torments, such Abyssals almost certainly must be child sociopaths. Then again, they might not be. Perhaps these Forsaken Seeds retain enough innocence that once they get a taste of actual life in Creation (or even existence in the Underworld), they reject the Whispers of the Neverborn and flee the Noss Fens to seek their own destiny elsewhere… with an army of zombie abominations and one angry “Mother” hot on their trail.