Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gore Worms: Rubeon's Guest (Wermspittle)

Hard Luck Life
Rubeon is an outcast among outcasts. A half-breed refugee whose parents were killed by bandits on the journey to Wermspittle, Rubeon arrived in the shanty-camps only to get infected with the Gray Pox. The morlock midwife who attended to the young Rubeon left him on a midden-mound. She was certain that the diseased child would succumb and sought to minimize any further contagion. If the child had not been so hideously disfigured by the Pox she would most likely have kept him for the stew-pot. But even a morlock fears the wasting death that almost always comes with the Gray Pox.

The Kindness of Unlikely Strangers
Poor little Rubeon lay out on the pile of cast-off gutter-mussel shells, chitin and rotting garbage until finally, after hours of bawling in the rain, a leper-harpy swooped down and carried off the infant. Even though she was blind in one eye, the leper-harpy saw something in the filthy little baby she had rescued. Instead of devouring the pitiful tyke, she raised it as her minion.

It has been a harsh life, but with the grudging help of the leper-harpy, Rubeon survived the Gray Pox and has quickly grown into a gangly, thin-limbed waif who scuttles and scrambles across the rooftops of Wermspittle. A crude mask of dirty rags wrapped around his head and face hides the hideous scars left by the Gray Pox. His hands and feet bound in strips of cast-off leather, rough burlap, and a velvet glove stolen off of someone's clothes-line, Rubeon is a peculiar looking young fellow. Skittish, nervous, quick to bolt and a master of hiding amid the chimneys, eaves and gabled windows, few get very close to Rubeon...

Soft and Seductive 
Jilleetha was raised within the perfumed maze of the brothels as her mother and her mother before her had been. An eloi whore with green-gold eyes and the soothing touch for which her kind were valued, she sometimes escaped from the clutch-dens and padded rooms to wander the rickety balconies and attic-spaces of her...not home...never prison. Yes. That seemed like the right word for it. Mostly uneducated, Jilleetha was a very good listener. She learned a lot by simply listening to the private conversations and whispered secrets that went on all around her. That was how she had learned about the strange 'rag-boy' who lived along the rooftops. For weeks she has snuck up to the attic in order to see if she could spot the boy. Last night she saw him. Jilleetha smiled her professional smile and before she was even halfway down the creaking stairs she had most of a plan worked out...

Leaving Nests Both Fair or Foul
Rubeon lives in a dank, half-caved-in attic that Jurgoi the leper-harpy has long used as a nest. It is filthy, heaped with small bones and cast-off bits of rubbish, and the small, pitiful piles of shiny objects that the aged and infirm creature has stuffed into every niche, nook and cranny. Jurgoi will not live for much longer and she is too weak to hunt for herself any longer. Rubeon brings her rat carcasses, birds and anything else that seems edible that he can catch, capture or kill with his crude net, sling or the sharpened bones he uses for knives.

A few weeks ago Rubeon stumbled upon the frightful remnants of a terrible slaughter atop the roof of one of his local haunts. There had been a terrible fight and several people had been dismembered. The grisly mess would have turned the stomach of nearly anyone who hadn't been raised by a leper-harpy. At first he thought to gather-up bits of flesh to feed to Jurgoi...but then...he noticed something wriggling in the blood.

It was a small swarm of Gore-Worms. Only a handful, really.

Fascinated with the squiggling things, Rubeon scooped a few up and carried them back to Jurgoi's nest, along with some hastily snatched bits of meat. Jurgoi ate well that night and while she slept soundly, Rubeon constructed a sort of pen for his pet Gore-worms.

He has been feeding the worms behind Jurgoi's back. They've grown large and pulpy, devouring each other as they are wont to do when not safely ensconced within a host, until now there is only one very large Gore-Worm left in the make-shift pen.

This is where it  all gets interesting...

Jurgoi's Final Days
Rubeon might seek out a midwife or a healer to tend to Jurgoi. Very few would tend to a harpy, let alone a leper-harpy. Should the authorities learn that there is a leper at loose within the walls of Wermspittle, they will send Purgers or Burner-teams in to root out any lingering infection or contagion. Rubeon would quickly find himself all alone in the world with nowhere to live any longer. Of course, the disreputable frauds and down-on-their-luck charlatans who are likely to even consider helping Jurgoi could just as easily attempt to blackmail the naive boy, possibly sending him off to collect 'ingredients,' or to fetch suitable bits of loot for payment so that they do not betray the nest to the authorities.

In any case, Jurgoi is old, sick and won't last much longer than a few (1d4) weeks at most. Should Rubeon actually succeed in bringing some sort of quack or midwife to tend to Jurgoi, her life expectancy will be 1d4 days.

Jurgoi will either die alone and the Gore-worm will most likely feed upon her corpse, or she will expire when Rubeon is present. If Jurgoi dies while Rubeon is with her, her final gift to her young minion is a scribbled shred of worm-parchment containing the recipe for the curative ointment that she used to save Rubeon's life as a baby. It is most likely written in a language that Rubeon has been taught, but his ability to concoct the recipe is fairly limited and he might seek some help in determining what to do with it. The secret of this salve would be extremely valuable to any herbalist, midwife or salve-maker or snake-oil peddler who could easily make a fortune offering a reliable cure for the Gray Pox.

Does Jurgoi pass along the secret to Rubeon alone, or is there a healer there to witness things and maybe interfere? Perhaps the salve-maker has hired some protection, as in a few player-characters to watch their back. Perhaps Rubeon shares the secret with the healer, and that opens the door to all sorts of temptation and unscrupulous conniving. The disposition of the recipe for Jurgoi's Ointment could lead to all manner of double-crosses, lies and outright fighting should any hint of what exactly the old harpy left to its young minion.

Jilleetha's Meddlesome Plans
Jilleetha will begin to set-out food and other inducements to attract Rubeon's attention. There is a base 10% chance each night that she is eventually successful. She might attract something else's attention instead (base 20% chance each night).

If she manages to keep her vigil without raising too much of a ruckus, Jilleetha will eventually catch Rubeon's attention. Using food and her eloi charms, she will quickly learn all about the 'rag-boy' of the rooftops, including his current dilemma regarding Jurgoi, or possibly the secret recipe. If he was ripped-off then she'd learn about the betrayal as well.

Jilleetha will suspect the valuable nature of the harpy's formula almost as soon as Rubeon tells her about it. She will use her wiles and her knowledge of the local authorities, criminals, merchants, etc. to see to it that the secret recipe is recovered and that it comes to her, and to no one else, despite whatever she might tell Rubeon.

She knows a lot of important people, and those she does not know personally, she knows people who know them. Jilleetha can arrange for bully-boys to show-up looking for some stolen trinket, or she might con some adventurer-type to recover an old family heirloom (the scrap of her mother's last letter to her) from some potion-peddler. Jilleetha's list of contacts is extensive and she is devious enough to make very good use of it and she knows this. Her goal is not to escape, far from it; Jilleetha wishes to take over the brothel, first and foremost, then Wermspittle itself. She has ambitions. This is just the beginning of her machinations...

As the Worm Turns
That gore-worm growing oh so big up in the attic-nest has grown to the size of a large dog. It has also begun to acquire a low-grade form of animal intelligence. It isn't going to stay penned-up for much longer, and it definitely won't linger around once Jurgoi dies. The worm will not willingly attack or harm Rubeon, as it harbors something of a sense of loyalty to the disfigured boy who rescued it from the rooftops and fed it regularly up until things got weird and disrupted.

The Worm will wait for an opportunity to escape. There's a chance that Rubeon might set it free if he knows that he can never return to the nest.

But where will the over-large worm go? What will it do? What might it become?

1 comment:

  1. This is full of ideas, and you've set up a wonderfully complex space within a space for interaction. The subversion of the Morlock and Eloi concepts is clever too. There's masses to work with here.


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