Saturday, June 28, 2014

Six Oval Portraits

The portrait, I have already said, was that of a young girl. It was a mere head and shoulders, done in what is technically termed a vignette manner; much in the style of the favorite heads of Sully. The arms, the bosom, and even the ends of the radiant hair melted imperceptibly into the vague yet deep shadow which formed the back-ground of the whole. The frame was oval, richly gilded and filigreed in Moresque. As a thing of art nothing could be more admirable than the painting itself. But it could have been neither the execution of the work, nor the immortal beauty of the countenance, which had so suddenly and so vehemently moved me. Least of all, could it have been that my fancy, shaken from its half slumber, had mistaken the head for that of a living person...
 The Oval Portrait,
by Edgar Allen Poe

Neither living nor undead things, there are cursed objects, haunted relics and malevolent fixtures that retain some partial impression of a particular spirit, or that bind the tattered vestiges of some unfortunate geist, or that contain the fragile last ectoplasmic remains of some venerated or reviled ancestor. Most such things are destroyed as a matter of course, especially since the passing of the hygiene laws under the Pruztians. But there are those who collect such sordid treasures. There is money to be made. Especially if one is not afraid to deal with those from Nagrothea who have a deep and abiding desire to possess such items.

  1. Ruthilda Krozenrante. A bitter matron in lace-mail glares out from her portrait with a look of utter contempt that took her more than four decades and three failed marriages to perfect...

    Everyone within line-of-sight of this grizzled old harridan's portrait must Save at +2 or suffer a penalty of -2 to Initiative and -2 to Saves versus mind-influencing/morale damaging effects for the next 1d4 hours due to their being distracted by a nagging sense of self doubt. Victims are also prone to taking double damage from Gloomshadows, Gloomswallows and related things that prey upon pointless angst, personal insecurities, lingering doubts and inner turmoil.

  2. Amfeldtrig Dushmallian. Once a gloriously beautiful trapeze-artist in a Worlds Renowned travelling circus that toured the Adjacent Worlds by airship, her career was cut tragically short when she was crippled in a lover's quarrel once it was revealed that she was not an albino hermaphroditic Tsalalian princess after all...but was in fact a legless dwarf in a hoopskirt golem-chassis. This portrait was commissioned by her loving children.

    The frame is heavier than expected and the enamel on it is scratched-up, making it look tacky and cheap. A closer look will show that the frame is actually worth a considerable sum since one of the smarter children melted-down all the ugliest of their mother's medals, trinkets and curios and fashioned the frame from all that gold in order to keep it safe for some rainy day. The family was rounded-up as suspected agitators during the First Pruztian Occupation and the oval portrait was reluctantly left behind by the ones that escaped.

  3. Count Zaleskaniv. The hereditary ruler of an obscure principality in the S-K region of Outer Ruritalia, this blue-blooded Noble is notorious for sealing his enemies within cruel ceramic pots he acquired from his dealings with the Comprachicos. He was eventually deposed and died in exile in Wermspittle after serving out a fifty year sentence in the Tower.

    All images of this vile tyrant have been destroyed by the decree of his successors, making this last remaining oval portrait quite a collector's item...or a possible source of danger from any of the aging and mostly forgotten agents of the crown who were sent here long ago to keep an eye on the bad old king. If you look closely at the oval portrait, especially in moonlight and at a certain angle, you can see the iron mask they forced him to wear for half a century in his cell. Other than that weird little quirk, the painting is pretty normal, though the pigments used were heavily mixed with White Powder, as was the style in certain circles at the time it was done.

  4. Niggliv. One of the Tongueless Warlords who ruled in silence over the Third Avenue Free Zone during the siege by Franzik forces that led to the three year effort by the Red Watch to ban and summarily execute everyone connected with the Butchers and their underground abattoirs. When the Franzikaners were driven out, Niggliv led the reprisals against the Red Watch and is considered by many to be responsible for re-instituting the ancient and accepted Winter Rites of the Butchers.

    This is a very dangerous bit of degenerate art to hold onto, not the least since it will almost certainly attract the attention of the Butchers and what remains of the Red Watch as well as certain other, interested third parties that are not inclined to accept no for an answer. Anyone having this oval portrait in their possession suffers a -2 penalty to all Reaction Rolls due to the reeking stink of rotten blood that rolls of the thing as well as the paranoia it seems to instill within the minds of anyone who looks at it for very long. All Random Encounter/Wandering Monster checks that indicate 'no encounter' get re-rolled, just in case the dice were wrong the first time.

  5. Hermindra Radcliffe-Southanger. Prim, proper and well-armored, as one would expect from a daughter of executioners and blood-scribes, this Grand Abbess fought valiantly against the Zurks during the Battle of Six Fingers where the ancestral estate of the Radcliffes was cast down and became the wrecked and ruined pile now known as The Jumbles.

    Anyone of Zurkish descent must Save or suffer the effects of a Cause Light Wounds spell. In the old days, they would have been struck dead or blind, but time has diminished the effect, if not the virulence of Hermindra's lingering hatred. Close examination of the back of this oval portrait will reveal a glyphic-map that once activated will open the way to an isolated shrine constructed along one of the overhanging shelves of white basalt in the Polar Wastes of Judrang. Unfortunately there are no clear instructions for how one is supposed to active the glyphic-map. Perhaps one of the cartographic specialists at the Academy or one of the acolytes at the well of Saint Krevlisia might be able to help you with that...for a price. Or you could go consult with one of the Yellow Phantoms. They seem to know a lot about the old days and they are bound to the blasted ruins that make up The Jumbles.

  6. Murthiford Lao-Besk. No one knows anything about this Non-Person. But whomever they may have been, their portrait's unblinking eyes seem to be keenly interested in everything that goes on around it...

    This isn't technically an oval portrait as it is an oval mirror that has been heavily painted-over with lead-based and White Powder pigments to bind a six hundred year old Simulacrum within the frame. They can see out, but cannot speak, cannot move, and cannot hear...but they do feel everything that happens within 30' of the front surface of their image thanks to a twisted form of a Clairvoyance spell deeply imprinted within the paints by a group of meddling kids with artistic pretensions whose Movement died with them when they all burned to death during a salon exhibition that featured a juggling dog (either an art-golem or canunculus) formed entirely of black velvet that got too near an open flame.

The Red Watch have issued a reward for any information that leads to the apprehension of a party or parties unknown that have absconded with a prohibited piece of degenerate art recently identified by Mrs. Cave at Schroedinger & Cave Dealers in Discrete Curiosities. Three competing Freikorps Units have offered sanctuary to any and all unfairly persecuted art lovers with a preference for old fashioned portraiture of historically significant figures...


  1. Art can be dangerous business.

    1. Yes. It can be very dangerous, both for the viewer and for the creator, and sometimes for the censors and critics as well...


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