Verivaltus Prologue Summary
Lara is a 15 year old feline-humanoid slave owned by Ranesh the slavemaster, one of the most powerful men in Verivaltus, a pirate city comprised of interconnected naval ships. She dreams of being free, but is content to live out her life as a slave because she gets to be with her mother Roxa, who is a concubine to Ranesh, and therefore receives special treatment amongst the other slaves. Roxa is young and beautiful, but Ranesh grows tired of her and goes about selecting a new consort. He ultimately decides on Lara and decides to let Roxa retire as his kitchen slave. Roxa does not want this life for her daughter and tries to convince Ranesh to choose another to sate his lust. Guards overhear the argument wherein Ranesh acquiesces to Roxa's wishes. Ranesh later hears his guards muttering about wondering who the real "slavemaster" is. Ranesh, not wanting to appear that he has gone soft, decides to kill Roxa in front of Lara's eyes to show the price of insolence and regain his feared status. Ranesh rapes Lara as her mother's head is sawed crudely from her torso to reinforce his masculinity and control of everything in his domain. Lara is visited nightly by Ranesh for the next month, where his beatings and intercourse are interchangable. Lara retreats inward, reviling herself for being naive enough to think her mother had enjoyed her place at Ranesh's side. She tries to cut herself so that she might bleed to death, but she backs out, cursing herself further for cowardice. One night after Ranesh leaves her chambers, she overhears guards saying that Ranesh is growing tired of his usage of Lara quickly because of her despondence. They say that Ranesh has plans to let all of his guards take turns with her before skinning her for a fur coat. Lara attempts to run away and is caught by Ranesh's guards. Ranesh stabs her in the stomach as his guards hold her still and then has them toss her body in the canals. Lara drifts unconscious through the canalways before she is plucked out by an older woman named Yuta, who helps to hide her from the guard patrols that search for runaway slaves. Yuta brings Lara to her tented skiff that serves as a home in the poorest district of Verivaltus, the Bilge Flats. Yuta nurses Lara back to health using various poultices over the course of several weeks. Lara appreciates Yuta's help but can't answer her questions about what she plans to do after her recovery. After dreaming about it for so long, Lara is paralyzed by the choices that come with true freedom. She also is troubled by a bound black book that Yuta takes with her everywhere, feeling herself drawn towards it. One day, Yuta hurries off to sell her poultices at market and forgets her satchel. Lara, unable to contain her curiosity, opens the book. What she finds within defies reason. It is a hymn book of Aere, the Language of Creation. Lara reads from the book and finds that the words well up in her soul. She feels rage, grief, weakness, and unprecedented confidence from the words spinning around her mind. She speaks one out loud and her hand glows with arcane energy. This rare gift to shape the mana of the world into spells is only possessed by truly exceptional individuals, and it would seem that Yuta, and now Lara, possess this gift. Yuta returns home to find her spell book disturbed. She threatens to throw Lara back to the guards for betraying her trust. It is illegal to be an unregistered magic-user in Verivaltus, punishable by death. Lara's mind swims with possibilities, she begs for Yuta to teach her, and Yuta asks her what she would even do with all the magical power swirling in her veins. Lara's answer comes to her as easily as the words of the Aere did: "I will kill avenge my mother. I will kill Ranesh." Yuta senses Lara's new resolve and agrees to teach her the fundamentals of the Aere. Yuta was a specialist in destructive spells, and sought atonement for the death she had wrought in her lifetime. This is why Lara found her selling poultices to those in need. Lara took to her magical studies quickly and eagerly, imaging the pain she would bring to Ranesh. Lara began to grow impatient, imagining the ways she could torture the wicked man. She drew up plans for meeting him in a dark alley and using a spell to encase his head in water to suffocate him. Yuta cautioned against rash unprepared action, saying that when Lara was ready, she wouldn't need to worry with subtlety. Lara began to use simpler phrases within the Aere to disguise herself that she might travel around Verivaltus. With a glamoured appearance, Lara experienced kindness for the first time, a simple gesture of a street performer giving her a conjured mana-rose. She returned to the skiff and wept, imagining a life after Verivaltus, a life where illusions could rescue her from this cesspit. Soon, Yuta showed Lara what she had been buying with the coin earned by her poultices; papers that established a new identity for Lara. She could leave Verivaltus and seek a life on the mainland. Lara wrestled with idea of leaving without first punishing Ranesh. Yuta warned her that no one would leave Verivaltus if one of the council members was slain, that she would be stranded until they caught the person responsible. But Lara could keep her appearance glamoured and hide from the guards of the city. They would be looking for a 16 year old Cathan, not a human male. She also didn't want to leave Verivaltus before she had more control over the Aere. Finding a speaker willing to coach a fugitive slave Cathan on the mainland would be nigh impossible. Lara wished to learn more from Yuta and decided to bide her time. As the months went by, Lara's anger waned. Her insistence on killing Ranesh decreased by the day. If she killed him and then died, what good would that do her? It was on one of her tours of the upper districts of Verivaltus that she saw something that simultaneously curdled her blood and set her resolve on fire. Ranesh. Wearing a shawl made of Roxa's fur. Lara stole a waterproof casing from a local fisher and went home. She took a powerful scroll of fire from Yuta's supplies and placed it within the case and waited for nightfall. She swam through the ink-black waters of Verivaltus towards Ranesh's pleasure yacht. As she began to scale the side of the ship, she could see through a porthole that Ranesh was joined by a new consort. It was a young girl, fourteen or fifteen, feigning amourous pleasure for her safety. Lara felt nothing but disdain; all the forced moans in the world would not save her when Ranesh grew tired with her. As far as Lara was concerned, the girl was already dead. It was then she noticed that Ranesh's consort was splayed on top of familiar silver-grey fur. Lara abandons her plan and breaks into the ship through the top deck. She sneaks down to the quarter deck where the moaning and grunting has gone quiet. Lara slowly opens the door to see the consort sitting on the bed alone. Ranesh ambushes Lara, wrapping her up in his arms, intending to strangle her. Lara fights him off long enough to make for the bed to grab her mother's fur, toppling over the girl perched on the bed. She invokes the Aere to restrain Ranesh, causing ethereal chains of light to form around his limbs. Lara draws a long dagger, intending to saw off Ranesh's head in the same way that his men murdered Roxa. As she puts the blade to the side of his neck, she feels a white hot pain at her back near her kidneys; the slave girl has stabbed her, intending to protect Ranesh. Lara can't fathom the girl's decision, and shoots a dart of magic into her skull through her eye socket, killing the girl instantly. Lara leaves Ranesh bound, and returns to the deck of the ship, concerned that the noise made will have summoned the dockguard. She bars the door from the lower decks of the ship and uses the incantation found in the magic scroll to engulf the ship in bright flames while protecting herself from their heat. The surrounding ships begin to unhitch themselves from Ranesh's vessel, intending to make a path to let the ship burn out and scuttle away from the rest of Verivaltus. Lara uses magic to conceal herself as she dives into the water surrounding the ship. She watches the blaze and can make out faint screaming coming from the interior. She feels happy. Lara hides out in the canals for the night, not wanting to draw attention to herself. In the morning, she returns home to Yuta's skiff. She finds that Yuta is being detained by the Dockguard, who have identified the magic that killed Ranesh as her handiwork. A crowd gathers to watch Yuta's execution. Lara makes to intervene with her own magic, but a look of dismissal from Yuta stays her hand. As Yuta is given the opportunity to say her last words, she yells, "This is only the beginning, the Cut-Knuckle Revolution has begun!" The captain of the Dockguard beheads Yuta and tosses her body into the sea. Lara shakes with anger and determination. She returns to the scene Ranesh's murder the following night and uses magic to hang a banner. The captain of the Dockguard finds it the following morning. The sigil for the revolution is a hand with three curled fingers, the universal symbol for bidding on a slave at auction in Verivaltus.
Using this space to describe different quest hooks that tie into the revolution. When players arrive in Verivaltus, they have a number of ways to get involved with the Cut-Knuckle Revolution. As no organization is actively looking to align with the slave population, their first interactions will be through the damage inflicted on the government structure of the city of sails. Here are a number of hooks to get players involved in the revolution.
- A criminal guild is finding that their reliable protection scams are no longer being bought into. They hire the players to investigate the cause of the decline in success or to bully the business owners back into compliance.
- The players encounter a number of burnt out husks of ships. Their owners either burned alive inside or conspicuously absent. If the players stay in one of the inn-ships owned by the wheel of command, they might see first hand what is happening to the ships.
- If one of the players in the party has a penchant for being charitable and is seen acting as such, the revolution might leave directions to meet a contact in the Bilge Flats.
- The Dockguards are looking to root out the revolution at its source and are looking for creative solutions to surly and unresponsive slaves. If the party has a distinct turpitudinous nature about them, they may contact the captain of the guard, Cassidy Brengalt to help with regaining order.
- The Cut Knuckles need supplies to keep their war going, and they need to get them from someplace without a large presence of guards.
- The Cut Knuckles are being recaptured by the footmen of the Meatspoke, and being beaten for their trouble, in addition to perpetuating slavery, this is causing slaves to think twice before joining the revolution.
- The Cut Knuckles have begun to doubt their leader, who is young and impetuous. She might be intelligent, but her actions show a lack of forethought. Either reestablish their faith in Lara or find a new banner under which to rally the slaves.
- The Cut Knuckles lack formal training and need weapons and an expert to show them how to use them. The players could either give this training themselves (up to the dice) or pay a mercenary to whip the slaves into shape (pun a little distasteful).
- The Cut Knuckles find that they can't keep up with mouths to feed, and some slaves are going back into service willingly for guaranteed meals. Find them food, scare them into not leaving, or figure out some sort of solution that keeps the revolution going without their numbers.
- The Cut Knuckles have a mole in their midst. Someone is making sure that their attacks are unsuccessful, deterring them from opportunities at exactly the right time. Discover the mole and keep them from leaking more dangerous information.
- The dockguards need help fortifying a flat station that they believe will come under attack. The players must hold the station from waves of attackers.
- The Cut Knuckles are stealing food from ships in the galley district. Come up with a plan to stop them, or everyone will run out of food.
- the dockguards ask the players to infiltrate the ranks of the Cut Knuckles. They could do a couple of the quest hooks above to earn the trust of the revolutionaries, and then figure out a way to bring it down from within.
- Member's of the Rat's Foot see a way to make a profit out of all this mess. If they can capture escaped slaves and resell them to the Meatspoke, they can make a tidy profit. As long as the revolution continues, the Rats Foot can continue to make money off the conflict.