Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Hyacinths of the Mad King Undumiel

Once upon a time, in what is now the Forest of Fog (so called by the natives, who shun it and force exiles into it), there flourished an elven city. To call it a city is something of a misnomer: elves rarely live in communities larger than 300. The Forest of Fog is the remnant of that city.

Elves prefer to carefully sculpt their chosen environments (usually forests, but sometimes mountain valleys, river plains, prarie, etc.) to provide the comforts of civilized living while still appearing to be 'in harmony with Nature' by elven standards. One of the things this means is that elven settlements tend to decay quickly once the Elves move on.

 The Forest of Fog is roughly three miles by three miles, circular in shape. It looms over the surroundings on a plateau 200 feet up. This is the traditional boundary among those tribes who use it for exile. The guilty party is force to climb up at spear-point (there are plenty of easy ways up and down from the plateau for even a mediocre climber, but you'd have to leave ponies behind). Sometimes the climber chooses the spears, for legend has it that no one ever returns from the Forest of Fog.

But foggy

It is called the Forest of Fog because it is continually covered in a cloudbank

The first thing you will notice upon entering the Forest of Fog is that it is warmer than the surrounding land. It never snows here; the fog's warmth melts all snow before it hits the ground. The second thing you will notice upon entering the Forest of Fog is that there is no animal life. No birds. No squirrels. You can look, but you won't find any deer, or wolves, or anything like that. Even bugs keep a low profile and are hard to find. The reason for this is the hyacinths.

A fictional example, placed in a desert to confuse onlookers. Note the lack of leaves.
 If you travel into the forest instead of staying near the cliff edge, you will eventually see the reason for the fog and the lack of animals: a hyacinth, sticking out of the bark of one of the trees. If it's large enough, it will try to kill you.

 Hyacinths in the Forest of Fog

The hyacinths in the forest of Fog were created by the mad sorcerer-elfking Undumiel in the search for the perfect plant. During the cataclysm that ended elven civilization here, the nursery was broken open, and they have since spread through the forest.

These plants are shaped like multiple small flowers in various states of opening, ranging from the size of a human hand up to the size of a fir tree. They attach themselves to trees, rotting logs, the ground - any stable non-rocky surface will do.

When a non-elf first sees a hyacinth roughly the size of a dog or larger (smaller hyacinths are not yet mature), he must make a save vs charm or approach the plant. This effect is completely mundane; the hyacinth is the most beautiful thing you've ever seen. Beautiful enough to make an angel cry. Beautiful enough to take your breath away. You simply must stop and admire it. Those who have seen the hyacinth try to eat someone, made the save, or seen truly sublime beauty before (e.g. glimpsed Aphrodite in her bower) are immune. It's still beautiful beyond description, but you don't have to approach.

Elves are immune because they're jaded assholes who have seen it all before and it's, "just a flower, nothing to compare to what my grandmother grows in her window box at home." (But with more pretentious language.)

Each hyacinth has a profusion of flowers. These are its digestive organs. The ones at the top are usually closed because bugs are stupid and easy to catch. The ones at the bottom are often open. If a flower is open, and you're the right size, it will attack when you get within range - usually about 20ft for a human.

A tendril will emerge from the flower and seek to rapidly twine around you. The tendril bears a contact euphoric - save vs. poison each round if it hits or be paralyzed in ecstasy. The plant will then attempt to drag you toward the flower that houses the tendril and engulf you at a rate of 5ft/round. A tendril has STR 12 and 3 hit points, but can be hurt only by cutting weapons. Incidentally, this also makes the plant immune to arrow or sling fire - tendrils from the smaller flowers dart out and catch the projectiles to ingest them, only to spit them out a few moments later.

Elves are immune, because they've felt it all before and aren't that impressed.

Once engulfed in a flower, you take 1d6/round until dead, and will dissolve over several days. By accounts of survivors (or the ghosts of former victims) it feels like being in the womb. You don't even notice as your flesh sloughs away; all your cares and concerns are dissolved with it.

They look so happy right before they die
A combined STR of 30 is required to pry someone out of a bud in 3 rounds. A combined score of 40 will drop that to 2 rounds; a combined score of 50 will drop that to 1 round.

A hyacinth uses water pressure gradients to move, and each one has a small mass of water bladders buried shallowly into whatever surface they are attached to. Since pressure gradients are required, when moving the plant lets off a constant trickle of escaping water vapor, which is the cause of the fog. This means that a hyacinth will generally only be able to move for 1d12+7 rounds before it depletes its water supply and goes still.

Once the plant has digested its victim, it will eject any inedible bits (over-large bones, metals, woods or cloth of plant material), meaning that plants old enough to digest people will probably have a small cache of treasure scattered on the nearby ground.

The pollen of the hyacinth is a strong euphoric. It loses a little of its potency when taken out of the flower, but kept in an air-tight bottle can be shelved almost indefinitely. It could probably sell for around 25gp/oz to the right buyer; a plant will have a number of ounces of pollen equal to its hit dice. One ounce contains 20 doses. (Pollen is light.)

Hyacinth of the Forest of Fog

This is an example plant capable of engulfing a human. At any time it will have 1d6 open blossoms of the appropriate size.

HD 4 AC 8 ATK no damage, save v. poison or be paralyzed MV -- Save 14 ML 12 CL/XP 5/240 Special Engulf for 1d6/round; also, immune to sleep, charm, etc because it's a plant.

Edited to add: made things a little clearer above; specifically, the plant can't simply be shot from a distance with non-magical projectiles, and it requires a to-hit roll to touch a victim. The tendril never misses, but it can't poison a leather breastplate.

You can't have a post about carnivorous plants without Audrey.

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