Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Tarn Apart: Bordel and Yulia Iscarion

Art by Sandra Duchiewicz
Last 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.

Tarn Apart: Bordel and Myrkrannia
Lake Sombra, a tarn fed by the Trished River, separates the towns of Bordel and Myrkrannia. Although the towns are nominally located within the borders of Darkon and Nova Vaasa respectively, they actually exist within a pocket domain that has trapped two darklords in a twisted contest for dominance of the lake, its towns, and the surrounding farmlands. Residents of Bordel and Myrkrannia tend to stay on their side of the lake and rarely interact with citizens of the other town—for they know that the vampire nobles who rule them are engaged in a subtle war against each other. Thus far, the enmity between the rulers of Bordel and Myrkrannia has resulted in minor skirmishes and a few assassination attempts, but it is only a matter of time until the vampires’ forces clash against each other in earnest.

Art by Noah Thatcher
Countess Yulia Iscarion
The vampire Countess Yulia Iscarion rules Bordel from the elegant, gleaming Castle Trevania. She considers herself a woman of taste and culture, as well as a patron of the arts. Her court attracts musicians, painters, and poets of talent—though the Countess is prone to mercurial shifts in mood, and artists who lose her favor sometimes disappear without a trace. Yulia Iscarion promotes her rule as enlightened and chivalrous, but the vampires who comprise her inner circle of courtiers are just as likely to be cruel and capricious as they are to be mannered and measured. No matter their true inner natures, the courtiers in Iscarion's realms are required to be fashionable and hedonistic. Recently, the Countess has declared that powdered wigs are de riguour and lavish masquerade balls that end in orgiastic bloodletting are the favored form of revelry.

Under the Countess's watchful eye, Bordel maintains a facade as a bustling town where the streets are swept clean, the buildings are well maintained, and the streets are kept in good repair. Though most common professions are practiced in Bordel, one quickly notices that the town hosts more than the usual number of brothels, opium dens, and other places of bawdy entertainment. Indeed, Bordel has garnered a reputation as a town amiable to pleasurable debauchery for those with the coin necessary to indulge their jaded appetites. Despite its remote location, Bordel’s notoriety draws wealthy sybarites from across Ravenloft—and particularly from the nearby Nova Vaasan city of Liara.

The reason for the prominence of its licentious establishments is a simple, but well kept, secret: the vampires of House Iscarion are fanatical members of a cult devoted to Malcanthet, the Demon Queen of Succubi. Countess Iscarion demands that every house of ill fame—including the private chambers of high-class courtesans, maintain a secret altar to Malcanthet. These shrines, especially the ones located in brothels catering to the most base and depraved tastes, gather energy that tears at the fabric of the world. Eventually, the cult hopes, this magical accumulation will result in an abyssal incursion that allows Malcanthet entrance into Ravenloft. 

Countess Yulia Iscarion’s Allies
Countess Iscarion’s most powerful allies are Grezik von Skarnstein and Lizavetta Iscarion. Grezik is a handsome artificer who has been given an extensive laboratory in the catacombs of Castle Trevania. He uses his magic to create new weapons of war to confound Count Magnus’s forces. Lizavetta is the Countess’s lover and a recent addition to the vampiric House of Iscarion. She is a high-ranking member of the cult of Malcanthet able to harness the arcane powers of black magic at her mistress’s behest. Lizavetta is also a charismatic leader who can persuade the hedonistic vampires of House Iscarion to risk their unlives to fight on behalf of the Countess.

Art by Wojciech Zwolinski
The Host of Malcanthet
Most of the traditional warriors used by Countess Iscarion are drawn from the ranks of mercenary bands under her employ. However, the Countess prefers to use inhuman monstrosities to bolster her private army. She is favored by Malcanthet, who whispers the secrets of summoning cambions from the Abyss while the Countess slumbers during the daylight hours. Yulia Iscarion also uses the more subtle fiends to wage her favored form of war against Count von Kalok—intrigue. The Countess uses succubi and incubi to seduce the Count’s advisors and generals to glean the details of his battle plans—all the better to counter them with stratagems and betrayals rather than brute force of arms.

Who’s Doomed in Bordel: Countess Yulia Iscarion
Countess Yulia Iscarion is the vampiric head of the noble House of Iscarion and the ruler of Bordel. She is a hedonist and a gleeful devotee of Malcanthet.
    • Appearance. A tall, but willowy, woman with long, straight red hair. Her lips are unnaturally crimson and her skin is a perfect alabaster. She prefers to dress in slinky, tight-fitting gowns that bare her slender shoulders.
    • Abilities. She has a true talent for espionage. She is seductive and her words are poison.
    • Traits. She favors quiet assassination over direct aggression. She appreciates witty conversation.
    • Ideal. To defeat Count Magnus Karlok through stratagem and add his territory to her own in the name of Malcanthet.
    • Bonds. She is an especially generous patron of the arts. She also has a harem of intellectuals she keeps to stave off the boredom of immortality.
    • Flaw. Her vanity can be manipulated.

Next time I will tell you of Magnus Karlok and the town of Myrkrannia...