Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Tarn Apart: Myrkrannia and Magnus Karlok

Art by Sandra Duchiewicz

 week I dreamed of a lake that spanned between the realms of two vampires, each dead set on the other's destruction. This is a powder keg set in Ravenloft inspired by that dream. Part one, detailing Bordel and Countess Yulia Iscarion, is here.

Art by Gerry Arthur
Count Magnus Karlok
Count Magnus Karlok rules Myrkrannia from the seven-towered castle known as Siebenhurst. He is a bellicose traditionalist; Count Magnus believes that martial valor is the mark of noble character, and as such he encourages the vampires who serve him in House Karlok to pursue the arts of war. He values military rigor and expects the vampires of his house to display bravery, honor, and excellence in battle to prove their superiority over the living chattel they rule. Tournaments and contests of arms are common in the court of Karlok. The Count has fostered an atmosphere of stoicism among the people he rules. Myrkrannians are noted for their imperturbable and cold-blooded meins because they aspire to the indifferent and passionless demeanor of Magnus Karlok. 

Myrkrannia is a town of industry. Black clouds of smoke perpetually hang over the town, most of which is due to the many active forges and smiths who live there. Myrkrannia is known as a hub of weapon and armor production. Indeed, it would please Magnus Karlok greatly if his town were to become famed for the fine quality of its armaments. Fencing—particularly a brutal form using sabers that leaves the participants bearing horrific facial scars as badges of honor—is popular among the townsfolk of Myrkrannia as a way to emulate the warlike ideals of the vampires who govern them.

The farmlands surrounding Myrkrannia are also particularly rich and verdant. Every year during the sowing season a peculiar rite takes place. Count Magnus emerges from Siebenhurst and visits each farmstead under the cover of night. At each farm, the Count sheds his blood upon the soil, which is believed to establish an unbreakable connection between the vampire lord and the prosperity of his land. When the Count is pleased, crops grow hearty and hale. The people fear that if Magnus Karlok is ever slain, the land will sicken and wither without him. Whatever the true nature of the Count's connection to his territory, he does possess a supernatural awareness of intruders and dissidence within the boundaries of his realm. 

The Brides of Count Magnus Karlok
Count Magnus’s greatest allies are his three monstrous brides. Each of them is a erinyes. Melaina acts as Magnus’s spymaster. Phaenestra acts as his private assassin. Maxima assists him in drawing battle plans that they hope will allow Magnus Karlok to annex the town of Bordel. Rumors abound about the origins of these three brides and how they came to wed their husband. In truth, each was sent by the archdevil Zariel to assist Magnus Karlok. Zariel’s aim is for Karlok to become reliant on his brides, and by proxy reliant on Zariel’s aid in his war against Yulia Iscarion, and thus more open to making a diabolic bargain.

The Knights of Draghul
Count Magnus Karlok maintains an elite band of warriors known as the Knights of Draghul, who direct and lead his militias. The membership of the Knights of Draghul is mostly comprised of human fighters and the scions of the dragonborn families that Count Magnus has allowed to settle in Myrkrannia. Count Magnus trains each of his knights personally; they tend to be fanatically loyal to him, some even going so far as to view him as a demigod of war. Although their faith in Karlok is not a proper religion, and the worship of the Lawgiver in Myrkrannia is widespread as a concession to Nova Vaasan custom, the Knights of Draghul do practice formal rituals that invoke their master’s name as a quasi-divinity. The leadership of the Knights of Draghul are all vampires created by the Count. Induction into undeath is considered a promotion and a mark of honor bestowed only on the most loyal knights. The Knights of Draghul are immediately recognizable on the battlefield—each Knight handcrafts his or her own iron helm in the style of a grim, diabolic visage.

Who’s Doomed in Myrkrannia: Count Magnus Karlok
Count Magnus Karlok is the vampire lord of the noble House of Karlok and the ruler of Myrkrannia. He is stiff and often unforgiving—he is also a man of little patience with failure, weakness, or cowardice.
    • Appearance. A towering man of rigid, militaristic demeanor. His black hair, beard, and mustache are kept immaculately trimmed. The Count’s gaze is piercing and judgmental. When battle looms, he dons blood-red armor and wields a fearsome greatsword. 
    • Abilities. Genius for military tactics. He is an exceptional swordsman.
    • Traits. Respects discipline and valor. Demands honorable behavior from the members of his family.
    • Ideal. To bring glory to the House of Karlok through martial victory.
    • Bonds. He still mourns the loss of his first wife, a human woman named Ekaterina.
    • Flaw. The Count’s assumed superiority blinds him to danger. Also, deep below his controlled exterior is an urge to give in to wanton violence and bloodlust.

Dread Possibility: Irreconcilable Differences
The feud between the House of Karlok and the House of Iscarion dates back uncountable generations, originating in another world that was decimated by the hostilities between the two vampire clans. In truth, neither Yulia nor Magnus understand why they pursue this vendetta; they are driven by the weight of tradition to slay each other. The war between Yulia Iscarion and Magnus Karlok is simply a case of irreconcilable ideologies. In Yulia’s view, Magnus represents an outmoded old guard that needs to be swept aside in the name of progress. In Magnus’s view, Yulia’s pleasure-seeking frivolity is an affront to the proud martial traditions of the true vampire aristocracy.