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Matchmakers to the Gods: Tarsellis and Ehlenestra

 
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edmundscott
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 23, 2017 3:42 pm    Post subject: Matchmakers to the Gods: Tarsellis and Ehlenestra Reply with quote

For the finale of my new campaign, I would like the PCs to be instrumental in reawakening an ancient romance between Tarsellis Meuinniduin and Ehlonna. Theyíre not going to be super powerful when this happens, probably 7th-11th level or so, but they will have several opportunities to interact with both godsóEhlonna on the Prime Material, her home; Tarsellis on the Plane of Faerie. Right now, I donít have any ideas of how exactly this could happen, and Iím hoping some of you grey sages will have interesting ideas, questions, or challenges that will help me hone this into something epic.

In my prior campaign, the snow elves of the Crystalmists, long isolated from all others, were brought back into contact with humans and other elves and even allied with them against a greater threat; the snow elf leader has willingly became a vassal to the Marchioness of Sterich. This campaign is an exploration of the consequences of this.

In the official lore of the snow elf god, Tarsellis Meunniduin, I noticed how the myth of Tarsellisí doomed love of Megwandir (Lolth) echoes the legendary history of the snow elvesí betrayal by the drow, who sought passage through the Crystalmists in the waning days of the great elven civil war; since that day, other elves and snow elves have avoided one another, and snow elves have hated drow as mortal enemies. So I began to think how the fate of the people and the fate of the god might echo, rhyme, or interweave.

The leader of the snow elves (an NPC) has not only allied her people with the humans of Sterich, but even affected a rapprochment with many of the important surface elves, a tentative exchange begun to relearn one anotherís songs and ways. What isnít known except to the snow elf leader is that this attempt to mend the wounds of the past has displeased Tarsellis himself and he no longer grants her higher-level spells.

So, in my homebrew lore, in the early days of the world, the elven and Old Faiths pantheons intermingled and overlapped. Beory was the Oerth, Pelor represented the sun and the day, Nerull the darkness and the night, Corellon and Sehanine represented the moons. Ehlonna/Ehlenestra represented spring, Berei represented summer, Obad-hai represented autumn, and Tarsellis represented the winter; among these four, Berei and Obad-hai were lovers, as were Ehlenestra and Tarsellis (who, in those early days, was CG or maybe even NG).

But the charms of Megwandir drew Tarsellis from the arms of Ehlenestra. When Megwandir betrayed the Seldarine and became the demoness Lolth, Tarsellis found himself isolated from his fellow gods and blamed for the elven civil war. His heart broken, he withdraw to Faerie in rage and bitterness and offered his services to the Summer Queen and Winter King as Master of the Wild Hunt. For all the centuries since (not so long for a god, particularly in Faerie), on the nights of solstice and equinox when the barriers between Oerth and Faerie are their slenderest, Tarsellis and his Wild Hunt have hunted down any hapless mortals they come upon (except snow elves) and never yet has one escaped him. He has become an entity of self-pity and rage, still wounded by the betrayal of Lolth and his own foolish relinquishing of Ehlenestra.

But Ehlenestra still pines for her lover and believes Tarsellis can be redeemed and will return again to her arms, if only his rage can be appeased, if only the bitterness upon his heart can be lifted.

Obviously, the main goal of the campaign canít be achieved by fighting Tarsellis to the death. However, I do kind of like the idea of Tarsellis and his Wild Hunt pursuing the characters through a long, moonlit night. Could prey evading him somehow mollify his bitterness and rage? Or perhaps the reverse: Maybe the PCs need to convince someone powerful to sacrifice himself/herself to the Wild Hunt and only that blood brings Tarsellis to his senses?

The most satisfying conclusion would be Tarsellis restored to the Seldarine and the arms of Ehlenestra as an echo of the new openness of his people to elves and men. The problem is how do I make the PCs instrumental in that? How do I make a campaign where the PCs are matchmakers to the gods?

(Many of this ideas came about as a result of the new party's composition: 1) a snow elf hunter whose goal is to meet Tarsellis, face to face; 2) a druid of the Old Faith; 3) a love-lorn half-elven archivist of Ehlonna)

Does anyone have any ideas or suggestions?
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rasgon
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2017 11:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What if Tarsellis's bitterness isn't just a bad mood, but a result of him physically removing his own heart and locking it away so that he couldn't feel his own heartbreak?

The quest would then involve not only evading the Wild Hunt, but discovering where Tarsellis's heart was being kept and gifting it, not to Tarsellis (who wouldn't accept it) but to Ehlonna. With his heart in his old love's proximity, Ehlonna would be able to return it to Tarsellis and restore him to what he once was.

There could be echoes of the Huntsman from Snow White, who gifted the Evil Queen with a false heart. Perhaps Tarsellis gave his heart to the Queen of Air and Darkness to hide, or to Baba Yaga. Perhaps the demon lord Kostchtchie might have insights into where it is, if he can be persuaded to talk, or if the PCs can spy on his monologues or steal his diary. If Baba Yaga had it, maybe Iggwilv stole it and took it with her when she left her mother's hut.
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edmundscott
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 24, 2017 1:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes yes yes! That is so good. That is exactly the kind of quest I needed to make this work. Thank you, Rasgon.

The basic gist of the campaign is that the Chief Wizard of Sterich, Verbane, finally instigates his long-term plan to transfer all of Sterich to the Plane of Shadow (which is also Faerie IMC). He does this because he's convinced the world is about to end in the coming Age of Worms (all of the fabled artifacts prophesied to return have appeared except for the Obsidian Eye); but he also does it because he craves power and will become the lord of the whole domain. He achieves this epic-level magic via a pact with the Faerie King of Winter and Shadow (a figure merged from many sources, including Shad-duan from the Tome of the Black Heart), to whom he returns his lost bride.

Sterich becomes cut off from the rest of Oerth, but the PCs find this strange portal in a ruined hamlet in the foothills of the Crystalmists that allows them to step back and forth to Erypt (see my other recent post on these forums), in particular to the holy city of Bast, who walks her streets in her physical body. In my other post, I'd already considered making Bast another aspect of Ehlonna (on the opposite side of the world, she likes cats; on this side, unicorns). So the PCs even have an appropriate place to meet the goddess in the flesh.

I don't know if you're familiar with Kobold Press' Faerie adventures: Courts of the Shadow Fey, Wrath of the River King, Sorrow (from Midgard Adventures), but I'm been toying with the idea of merging, adapting, or pirating stuff from these. I wonder if I could combine the quest for the heart with one of these quests in the Faerie realm.
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edmundscott
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2017 9:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Does anyone have any good literary/cinematic sources or inspiration for the Wild Hunt? As I mentioned above, I'd like to make Tarsellis the Master of the Wild Hunt, but absolutely everything I know about the Wild Hunt comes from rpg sources.

What's the original mythological source for the Wild Hunt? Are there any movies or books I should look at in bringing it to life?

I'd also be interested in any adventures you know of involving the Wild Hunt (from which I might steal stuff). I know of only two: the DCC adventure Beyond the Black Gate, and the Kyle Chenier 5e adventure for Enworld Into the Feywild.
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rasgon
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 30, 2017 2:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I first made my suggestion above, I had the idea that Tarsellis's heart was stored in a locked box or ark, but it might be more appropriate to have it frozen in unmelting ice that can only be thawed using a relic associated with the sun, for example the Cup and Talisman of Al'Akbar. There was a 1st edition adventure featuring the Cup and Talisman, Day of Al'Akbar, but there's also a Necromancer Games adventure, the Egyptian-themed Coils of Set, which involves a relic called the Chalice of Aldren which seems to be an obvious stand-in for the Cup of Al'Akbar. So one possibility, if your players are looking for something to do in Erypt, is for them to hunt down the Cup of Al'Akbar to thaw out Tarsellis's heart in.

The Wikipedia article on the Wild Hunt seems comprehensive and jibes with what I've read elsewhere, beginning with medieval stories of ghostly, diabolic, or fairy hunters.

The Master of the Wild Hunt is sometimes named as Gwyn ap Nudd, who has a story involving the changing of seasons and the removal of a heart.

Wikipedia wrote:
Gwyn plays a prominent role in the early Arthurian tale Culhwch and Olwen in which he abducts his sister Creiddylad from her betrothed, Gwythyr ap Greidawl. In retaliation, Gwythyr raised a great host against Gwyn, leading to a vicious battle between the two. Gwyn was victorious and, following the conflict, captured a number of Gwythyr's noblemen including Nwython and his son Cyledr. Gwyn would later murder Nwython, and force Cyledr to eat his father's heart. As a result of his torture at Gwyn's hands, Cyledr went mad, earning the epithet Wyllt.

After the intervention of Arthur, Gwyn and Gwythr agreed to fight for Creiddylad every May Day until Judgement Day. The warrior who was victorious on this final day would at last take the maiden. This fight may be an example of a putative contest between summer and winter as well as a variant of the putative Holly King myth proposed by Robert Graves. According to Culhwch and Olwen, Gwyn was "placed over the brood of devils in Annwn, lest they should destroy the present race".


Gwyn ap Nudd is also connected to the Horned King from Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain and the Disney film The Black Cauldron.

Sometimes the Master of the Hunt is Odin, and the horse he rides is eight-legged Sleipnir.

The Wild Hunt played a part in Laurell K. Hamilton's novels Mistral's Kiss and Swallowing Darkness (which is mostly softcore erotica, but the Wild Hunt parts were evocative enough). In that series, the Wild Hunt was something tied to the Sluagh, the horrific/lovecraftian branch of the Unseelie Court, and even the Queen of Air and Darkness feared them.

In the Vertigo comic Books of Magic, the Wild Hunt existed as predators of godlings who had grown old and weak from lack of belief, chasing them down and "culling the herd" as part of a divine cycle of life.

The Pathfinder Bestiary 6 has a good take on the Wild Hunt.
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rasgon
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 02, 2017 4:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Terri Windling on the Wild Hunt: http://www.terriwindling.com/blog/2015/10/the-wild-hunt.html
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edmundscott
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 05, 2017 7:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Terri Windling article, and the Berk/Spytma article she links to, are both excellent.

I'm trying to figure out WHEN Tarsellis and his hunt should ride? Do you think he only rides in the winter? or only rides on moonless nights? If the latter, there can't be very many on Oerth, with its two moons--the only one I recall is the Goodmonth one called Dark Night, or some such (from an old Dungeon adventure). Would he ride nightly? weekly? monthly? annually? only on solstices and equinoxes?

It seems to me that Tarsellis and the hunters always pursue human or sentient prey (not animals, but possibly mythical monsters). Part of his cold raging self-pitying arrogance might be that he can't stop riding until prey eludes him, which has never happened; he's always brought in the kill. The PCs will have an opportunity to restore/save two epic-level PCs from a previous campaign, and those two might make prey that even divine Tarsellis can't necessarily chase down.

A friend of mine inquired why Tarsellis' godly senses wouldn't automatically allow him to detect the party questing for his heart, and then intervene (directly? indirectly?) to stop them. Although Ehlonna could grant them some kind of divine mind-blanky thing, another option might be that Tarsellis needs to be distracted with a long, hard hunt (after the two retired epic-level PCs) while the new low-level PCs quest for his heart.

I'd like to avoid using Pelor too much in this campaign, because I've overused him in the past, and would like to give some other deities airtime.

An artifact the party will (probably) recover in Erypt is the Obsidian Eye from Dungeon 120 (the last of the artifacts whose recovery foretells the coming of the Age of Worms). The properties of the Obsidian Eye aren't described in that adventure, so I wonder if the Eye, perhaps in certain conditions, or in conjunction with something else, might be able to melt the heart. Right now the lore of the Eye seems solely connected to rulership of Erypt, but I might change that.

One deity I'm not sure if I should incorporate into my ideas or not is the little-used Grugach hero-god Gadhelyn. He's CN, "once part of the traditional Fey mysteries" and lives an outlaw Robin-Hood-esque life as Lord of the Wildwood.

Part of me is a little afraid my retcon of Tarsellis is too close to Gadhelyn. Another part of me wonders if Gadhelyn would somehow involve himself in any quest to restore Tarsellis' heart. For that matter, maybe Solonor Thelandira (once Tarsellis' companion and underling) would get involved as well.
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rasgon
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 07, 2017 11:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

edmundscott wrote:
I'm trying to figure out WHEN Tarsellis and his hunt should ride? Do you think he only rides in the winter? or only rides on moonless nights? If the latter, there can't be very many on Oerth, with its two moons--the only one I recall is the Goodmonth one called Dark Night, or some such (from an old Dungeon adventure). Would he ride nightly? weekly? monthly? annually? only on solstices and equinoxes?


Goodmonth 11 (Dark Night) is the only night of the year when both moons are new, according to The Adventure Begins. That's during High Summer; if he's god of winter, it seems more likely he'd pick the winter months to ride (perhaps Sunsebb 4 or Needfest 4, when Luna is new).

In Beyond Countless Doorways from Malhavoc Press, the Plane of Faerie is called Faraenyl. On that plane, the Ride of the Barrow Wraiths occurs in the Land of Fall whenever the moon is full.

Beyond Countless Doorways wrote:
Barrows begin to rise in the fields, and on the nights of the full moon, their doors swing open and their inhabitants ride forth, waging their eternal war against each other and any who dare stand between them. During the Ride of the Barrow Wraiths, no one is safe. Even Kalamist, Lord of Fall, remains inside on these nights, for the rules of his land give tremendous power to the wraiths during the three nights of the full moon. It's said that the wraiths are the dead from the wars fought between Fall and Winter, in which Fall invariably fails. It's further said that the leaders of the wraiths are the dead Lords of Fall, each of whom sports the same gaping hole in his chest.


Both Celene and Luna are full on Richfest 4, the summer solstice. Celene is full on Brewfest 4, the fall equinox, and on Needfest 4, the winter equinox. If the Wild Hunt under Tarsellis is meant to represent Winter triumphing over Fall, Brewfest 4 might make sense, since it's when the balance turns from light to darkness and cold temporarily wins against summer. The winter solstice is when winter is at its most powerful, but it's also when it begins to lose, and light begins to gain in strength. Setting the ride at the spring solstice (Growfest 4) would make it a sort of last hurrah before winter loses its power entirely; Tarsellis might be more desperate and dangerous then, but he would also be at his least powerful. I suppose he'd be weaker still at the summer solstice, but that also marks the point where his waning power begins to wax.

I guess the Wild Hunt could appear at all of the solstices and equinoxes, with different results depending on the time of year. In midwinter he's at his strongest, and he hunts the last remaining servants of the Summer Queen. They die only to be reborn in the spring. In the spring, he hunts the newly reborn servants of the Summer Queen, only to have them drive him away, forcing him to take refuge with the Winter King for the next few months. In midsummer, he returns to hunt the servants of the Summer Queen again, fighting them to a draw. In autumn he returns again, and this time he's the one who drives them away, forcing them into hiding, continuing to hunt them until midwinter when once again he murders the last one just as night grows strongest.

Just who are the "servants of the Summer Queen?" Perhaps they're anyone he wants them to be, from the PCs to mythical beasts or whatever. He can hunt and kill whoever he desires on the equinoxes and solstices, but only until midnight on Growfest 4, when he must return to the Plane of Shadow until midsummer.

Quote:
A friend of mine inquired why Tarsellis' godly senses wouldn't automatically allow him to detect the party questing for his heart


In Vecna Lives!, Vecna is specifically unable to sense his hand and eye, which is why he can't just locate them automatically, but has to have his agents track them down.

Vecna Lives! wrote:
He knows not where these are. In the final confrontation with Kas, when they were sundered from his body, the gods (perhaps foreseeing his powers) hid them from his senses. Vecna cannot detect their energies; he can only find them by seeing their effects on others, much like finding a boat by the wake it creates. Too many times he has come close, only to have them escape his grasp.


In 3rd edition Deities & Demigods, gods have a limited ability to sense events involving their portfolios. Demigods can only sense events involving a their portfolios and a thousand or more people, while lesser deities can only sense events involving their portfolios and five hundred or more people. Intermediate deities can sense events involving their portfolios and any number of people, but if Tarsellis is weaker than an intermediate deity, he should have no ability to sense things involving groups as small as a typical adventuring party.

Quote:
One deity I'm not sure if I should incorporate into my ideas or not is the little-used Grugach hero-god Gadhelyn. He's CN, "once part of the traditional Fey mysteries" and lives an outlaw Robin-Hood-esque life as Lord of the Wildwood.


In my history of the elves of Oerth, I made Gadhelyn the one who led the ancestors of the sylvan elves/grugach to the western Flanaess. I decided the snow elves were related to the gray elves (and the valley elves), so they were a separate migration not associated with Gadhelyn's followers.

Quote:
For that matter, maybe Solonor Thelandira (once Tarsellis' companion and underling) would get involved as well.


I think it's best if other gods can't "get involved" of their own accord. If they could, they would have solved the problem themselves ages ago. The PCs might have the option of consulting with them, and Solonor might be able to direct them to the next stage of their quest, but probably if he was asked for direct help he'd say something like "Tarsellis made his choice long ago. He made it clear he didn't want my aid." Any help he gave would probably have to be vague and riddlesome.
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edmundscott
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 08, 2017 7:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My campaign is right now (PCs at 1st level) on Sunsebb 25th, and I'm keen to have the Wild Hunt make an appearance soon, so that sounds like Needfest 4 might be the best.

Court of the Shadow Fey, which I'm going to be extensively pillaging for this campaign, has a (rather evil) Summer Queen and a (rather good) Winter King, who only sleep together on the equinoxes. I'm really divided about whether I should merge the figures of the Winter King and Tarsellis/Master of the Hunt into one fey-elvish Winter God or keep them separate.

On one hand, it feels like a Queen and a King might be served by the Master of the Hunt. The weirdness here is I'm not sure if the Summer Queen and Winter King are actual deities or not; Tarsellis definitely is. Maybe that's okay? There's something kind of evocative about a deity coming to serve in your court because he tore his own heart out and doesn't want to talk about what happened; that would create an uneasy situation which seems perfect for the fey. But then again is the Master of the Hunt Tarsellis too associated with winter to serve the Summer Queen at all? and does that argue for merging him into the Winter King?

On the other hand, if I merged Tarsellis and the Winter King, I'd probably need to make the Summer Queen of equivalent power to Tarsellis. This has the advantage of economy. Since Tarsellis has torn out his heart, would he have ever slept with the Queen at all? Maybe that bit of lore is unnecessary, or maybe he doesn't need a heart for his brief equinoctial flings.

So, on the Prime, if Tarsellis/Master of the Hunt will be hunting maybe once a full moon or so until Growfest 4, I'm still a little foggy on who the Wild Hunt targets. In the myths, doesn't it seem like just staying indoors by the fire keeps you safe? Am I reading the myths right that it seems the Wild Hunt specifically targets travelers who travel at night (or under a full moon)?

I'm wondering if Tarsellis' tragedy and loss of heart compels him to hunt to visit his misery on others, though he secretly longs for prey powerful enough to evade him--which has never happened.

If he were specifically targeting agents of the Summer Queen, it seems to me that would mainly be fey or magical beasts, and the Wild Hunt seems most itself when it's threatening ordinary humans. So maybe the Wild Hunt just goes after random travelers? anyone unwise enough to be out at night under a full moon . . .
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