Adventures in the Age of Dusk: The Rock of Ishar

Deep within the Glass Wastes lies a vast crimson rock massif, honey-combed with caverns. Within it live the ageless Brides of Ishar. Fair beyond the grace of mortal women, they seek to lure men into their lairs with their beguiling songs, which can be carried for hundreds of miles by the desert winds during the storm season. Bound to or even part of the Rock, they crumble to dust if they set so much as a foot outside of its caverns.

Once a Bride of Ishar has entrapped a mate, it induces it to passionate liasons, sings joyously and beautifully whether he is awake or asleep and weaves a funeral gown of the finest silk while he rests, exhausted, upon cushions of the finest silk(or threadbare rags, depending on how long it has been since a travelling merchant caravan came a bit too close to the Rock).

Unfortunately time passes quickly for mortal men within the Rock of Ishar, thus for each day he spends in the caverns a man will age a year. The Bride will tenderly nurse her aging companion as he grows old and feeble, and will wrap him in his burial shroud after he has passed away contently in her arms. Then begins an eternity of mourning, for the Brides love those they destroy with all their heart. Only a new lover will free them from the crushing weight of their grief.

Those that would seek the death of the Brides of Ishar or help themselves to the possesions of the numberless thousands that are interred within the Rock face a challenge nigh insurmountable. Though the Brides will not physically harm males, the cries of agony and woe they emit under duress are of such heartrending nature that they can stop a man’s heart of drive him to suicide. Even plugging one’s ears with wax will not suffice to protect one from their piercing shrieks(though it will prove effective against the singing). In addition, their immortal bodies will regenerate any injuries caused by weaponry of a nonmagical nature.

The Brides of Ishar hate women with an all consuming passion. Though women are not affected by their beguiling songs, the vicious hissing and venomous whispering of the Brides of Ishar will worm itself into their minds, causing a suicidal rage that often ends with them bashing out their skulls against the cavern wall.

Though some have gone to the Rock to search for missing comrades and returned, bringing back tales of a tally of deaths inflicted on the accursed Brides, their number never seems to change. Though individual Brides may die, new ones emerge from deep within the Rock to take up residence in the caverns of their fallen sisters.

Adversaries/Obstacles
– The Rock of Ishar is honeycombed with caverns and tunnels, pits and vertical shafts, not all of which are large enough for an armoured party of adventurers to pass through. Do not forget adventurers age 365 times as fast as normal, therefore timekeeping is essential. This will not affect the amount of food they need to consume, healing rate or the rate at which they burn through torches. Sorcery within the rock is affected however, and any spell with a duration lasts 1/365th of normal.

The Brides of Ishar
HD: 3
AC: 5(as chain)
Speed: As unarmoured man(or woman for that matter).
Attacks: Song only.
Morale: 6
Int: 8 (Song only, no speech)
Special:
– The Beguiling Song of the Brides of Ishar acts as a Charm Person spell and requires a saving throw vs spell to resist. Each day the saving throw must be made anew. Those already under the effect of the song take a -2 penalty for each previously failed save. Stopping one’s ears grants a +4 bonus to the save. A Deaf man is immune.
– The Heartrending Dirge of the Brides of Ishar requires a save vs breath weapon to avoid. A failed save causes either emotion hopelessness or 3d6 points of damage(Gm’s discretion). Deafness does not protect one from this attack, for it is sorcerous in nature. Those that are utterly without emotion will be proof against this spell.
Women are affected as though they are under the effect of an emotion:rage spell, but will always target their companions before the bride. Three failed saves ensure the target will bash its own skull out on the rock walls after her companions lie dead.
– Regenerate 1 damage per round from nonmagical weapons. Regeneration will continue after 0 hit points.

Many of the Brides of Ishar encountered within the Rock will have mates(25%). Sample given below. Mates will fight with a morale of 12 and gain +2 to hit and damage when defending their Brides.
1. Mazhurian Dervish(lvl 1-3 ftr).
2. Fat merchant(0th level human).
3. Greedy Thief(1-4 level thief, will attempt to convince the party of good intentions and backstab if at all possible).
4. Old man(0th level 1 hp).
5. Gal’Alorian Champion(5th level fighter)
6. Lecherous Sorcerer(3rd level)
7. Escaped Slave(0th level)
8. Fanatically devoted Priest(lvl 1-4)
9. Grotesquely muscled Slaver(18 Str, lvl 4 ftr)
10. Adventurer(Gm’s discretion)

-Slain brides(or, more rarely, those brides that are mad with grief and commit suicide by setting foot outside of their caverns) will return at a rate of 1 per day unless the Heart is destroyed. The Heart lies in the centre of the Rock of Ishar, and is a large(human-sized) crystal pulsing with violet light. It has 100 hp and an AC of 8. It is not defenceless however. 1/round it may do one of the following:
– Emit pulse of violet light, causing a character to age 2d10 years(save vs spell to avoid).
– Summon 1d3 brides(40% success chance, brides arrive in 1d4 rounds from nearest tunnel, thjs will work even if all brides within the rock have been slain, because it relies of temporal/spatial manipulation). The Brides will instinctively fight to the death to protect the heart.
– Emit nerve-disrupting high frequency pulse(Attack as 5 HD monster, ignores armour, 1d10 damage+save vs paralysis or be stunned for 1d3 rounds).
Once it has been shattered, the Temporal distortion effect ends and all the brides are reduced to dust. The shards are worth a total of 10.000 gp and would be precious to a Sorcerer attempting to fabricate devices that manipulate time. Stabbing one’self in the eye with a splinter of the heart bestows upon a character the ability to regenerate 1hp/turn(stops at death) at the cost permanent of accelerated aging(x12).

The treasures of the Rock of Ishar consist of the possessions of the thousands that have fallen prey to the Brides of Ishar and may include any number of coins, gemstones, weaponry, sorcerous artifacts or even rituals!

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2 thoughts on “Adventures in the Age of Dusk: The Rock of Ishar

  1. I’ve long been fascinated by the archetype of the destroying muse. Tim Powers’ The Stress of Her Regard is a good historical dark fantasy about the connection between the Romantic poets and vampiric, though inspiring, entities. In Celtic folklore, the leanan sídhe is a vampiric fairy which inspires bards while dooming them to an early grave. I’m getting a leanan sídhe vibe from the Ishar gals.

    Stabbing one’self in the eye with a splinter of the heart bestows upon a character the ability to regenerate 1hp/turn(stops at death) at the cost permanent of accelerated aging(x12).

    Reminds me of an old song about broken beer bottles near Boston’s Fenway Park.

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    1. “I have found always that the pattern of our guild is repeated […] in the societies of every trade, so that they are all of them torturers, just as we. His quarry stands to the hunter as our clients to us; those who buy to the tradesman; the enemies of the Commonwealth to the soldier; the governed to the governors; men to women. All love what they destroy.”

      Somewhere along the way the Destroying Muse has made its impact on popular culture. I recall the god-awful star trek ds9 episode “The Muse” and the much better short story “the Dark Room”(not that dark room) by Theodore Sturgeon as examples. I was dimly aware of the leanan sidhe in little more but name, but that one covers it pretty well. I think the contrast with more commonly known seductive destroyers such as the lamia or the succubus makes them a better fit for the mood i’m going for with Age of Dusk.

      I’ll save the Land of the Glass Pinecones for when im so popular i need a third hexmap.

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