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  • Mac Boyle

The Court of Cicadas

A little extra material for the Court, for visual effect and potential use as a demiplane if you want your PCs to visit such a place.


Description (from the episode):

Imagine a scene much like the marshes of the Carolina Lowcountry. A salt marsh where the water winds lazily through the Spartina cord-grass, and islands where live oaks hang heavy with Spanish moss. The pluff mud crawls with crabs and periwinkles; herons and egrets wade through the shallows; otters and terrapins swim above vast oyster beds. A demi-plane of the Realm of Faerie, existing in a constant state of summer. This is the Court of Cicadas, so called because of the constant cicada song. (Biting insects are banned, though. Fairy magic. I know marshes are a bit more goblin than fairy, but so am I, so whatever.)


At the center of the marsh stands the tower of the Cicada Monarch, surrounded by simple but comfortable dwellings raised on stilts so as to be safe from the tides. These buildings are inhabited by the people who have been collected here from the mortal world and sustained eternally on fairy food. (Or, like, fishing, if they feel like doing it.)


Visual Aids




Maps

I thought about doing this up proper in Hexographer or something, but frankly it would have taken forever and all the little twisty waterways wouldn't translate well.



Inhabitants

  • The Cicada Monarch, a goblin-esque fae noble in worn-out finery, holding a talking crowbar as a sort of scepter. The Monarch stays holed up in the tower, but is aware of any adventurers passing through, as the cicadas (as advertised) and fiddler crabs (not advertised) serve as supernatural eyes and ears.

  • Ailbe and the Hound of Chulainn, two large dogs living their best life, swimming in the marshes, running around the islands, or lying in the sun as the mood takes them. They are often supervised by Basil and Panini, two boys living out a perpetual childhood.

  • Thorbjorg Litilvolva and Fedelm, a pair of prophetesses tasked with foreseeing any threat to the Court of Cicadas. It may be an idyllic little demiplane, but you know how the multiverse is — always a chance of adventurers or weird planar nonsense stumbling in and disrupting things.

  • Sjerlokr Holmsson, Loch Mor, Ferdiad, Lancelot du Lac, and Sigurth, a quintet of warriors frozen at the peak of their prowess. They mostly live in peaceful retirement, but spar with each other now and then to keep their skills sharp just in case of adventurer problems.

  • Valerius Maximus, an ancient scholar engaged in abstruse studies.

  • Tyb the Dear, a cheerful and charismatic peasant girl with a pet chicken. Occasionally visited by her husband Perkin, who somehow ended up owing allegiance to a different Fae Court.

  • King Golden Flower, often seen flying around in his chariot pulled by dragons.

  • Dub da Rinn, druid.

  • Yglais, a noblewoman who holds significant social cachet among the Court’s inhabitants.

  • Pompey the Great and Theodosius II; though they’re just regular people here, they were major historical figures back in the mortal world, so anyone visiting might be interested in speaking with them.

  • The Donestre, a strange creature that prowls the outer edges of the demiplane; rarely interacts with the rest of the court but could be a dangerous encounter to any strangers passing through.

  • Joseus, a hermit who lives in an isolated grove of live oaks.

  • Emily, a noblewoman who maintains a luxurious pavilion on one of the islands, accessible by boat from the main dwellings. Tyb and Yglais are her frequent companions, as are two women whose texts never bothered to give them names: Julian’s wife from the Gesta Romanorum, and the nameless lesbian from the True Judgment of Niall Frossach. Rumors of occasional visits from the Court’s warriors are frankly nobody’s business but Emily’s.

  • Mak, a sheep thief still adjusting to a lifestyle that doesn’t include desperately trying to eke out a living on the bottom rung of society. Like Tyb, he maintains an odd interplanar marriage with his wife Gill.

  • The Crowbar, currently doing duty as the Cicada Monarch’s scepter.

Habbaphon

An original creature for y'all, statted up in Pathfinder 1e. This is a cousin of the griffon, but instead of being a lion/eagle hybrid, this one is anhinga/muskrat. Feel free to put it in marsh settings outside of this little demiplane -- this is actually something I had from a basically-abandoned project on griffon variants from a few years ago. I decided this would be a good home for them, but they're not really an inherently fae creature.


Description:

The habbaphon dwells in warm marshes, where it dives under the water to hunt fish. The hunting is impressive, in a certain way -- a habbaphon will spear the fish precisely through its vital organs with its long, thin, elegantly pointed beak, then bring it up to the surface. At the surface, the habbaphon flings the fish into the air with a twitch of its neck, then catches it in its open mouth, its beak opened unnaturally wide and its throat distended as it swallows the fish whole like a snake.

They can often be seen drying their wings on a muddy bank after hunting -- their feathers are not waterproof, and a habbaphon cannot fly when wet. It does not float on water like waterfowl might, but spends long periods of time submerged, occasionally sticking its long neck out of the water to take a breath.

Habbaphons live in small family groups, maintaining mound-like huts and muddy burrows out in the marsh. In some of the deepest parts of the marsh, one can find whole habbaphon villages isolated from the rest of the world. It might not be wise to seek those villages out, though, because it is rumored that habbaphons commune with strange, malevolent spirits in those remote locations. Thankfully, it is easy to avoid those areas if you know what you are doing -- habbaphons secrete a foul-smelling substance from specialized glands that they use as a sort of olfactory signpost for each other, so all you have to do is turn around and go the other way if you smell it. (Assuming you're able to recognize the smell, of course.) Habbaphon villages can be quite large, up to several hundred individuals. (At any given time, roughly 50% of those are juvenile noncombatants.) The villages tend to be organized around the spiritual leaders of the group, in a kind of loose theocracy -- though "theocracy" isn't quite the right word, as they have neither gods nor a formal government. Let us say that there are some habbaphons who speak to the spirits more than others, and other habbaphons tend to listen to them out of respect. For every twenty(-ish) habbaphons present, there will be one of these spiritual leaders, who will have access to higher-level druidic spells at a higher caster level. In particularly large villages, there may be a few who have access to terrifying power. Habbaphon villages also tend to become home to species of waterbird with whom they feel a kinship -- egrets, herons, storks, cormorants, ibises, and the like. Often these birds are trained to aid in hunting, or to guard the village against outsiders; the druidic spiritual leaders of the village are able to ensure that their training is excellent and their loyalty absolute. This sort of thing is common within even small groups of habbaphon -- the birds in question may be treated, within the rules, as a druid's animal companion, so long as there aren't more birds than habbaphons. Smaller clan groups -- an extended family living by themselves -- will often have one or two members who are more capable than average with druidic magic, like the spiritual leaders of villages. They may also have some trained birds. Few habbaphons live outside of villages or clan groups -- the only time you are likely to encounter one by itself is if it is out hunting, and even then, it might not be that far from home.

There is a habbaphon language, but it is rarely heard. Habbaphons are famously silent, only speaking in front of outsiders when there is no other option -- reports describe the speech of the habbaphon as a sort of deep, slow croaking that sounds almost like the creak of a closing door. Some habbaphons have been known to learn humanoid languages if for some reason they absolutely need to communicate with a non-habbaphon, but they have difficulty producing the sounds given the different vocal apparatus. It is unlikely that a habbaphon will ever talk to you -- but if one is nearby, there is always the possibility that they are listening and understanding.


Stats:

Habbaphon

CR 3, XP 800 NE Tiny Magical Beast Init +4 Senses Low-Light Vision, Darkvision 60ft; Perception +2 Auras Stench (DC 13, 1d3+5 rounds)

-----Defense----- AC 16, touch 16, flat-footed 12 (+2 size, +4 Dex) HP 33 (5d10+5) Saves Fort +5, Ref +8, Will +3

-----Offense----- Speed 10 ft., fly 20 ft. (clumsy), swim 20 ft. Melee bite +12 (1d4-1/x3) Space 2-1/2 ft.; Reach 2-1/2 ft. Druid spells prepared (CL 2, Concentration +4) 1st-(DC 13) Commune With Birds, Detect Animals or Plants, Summon Nature's Ally I 0th-(DC 12) Guidance, Know Direction, Purify Food & Drink, Spark

-----Statistics----- Attributes Str 8, Dex 18, Con 12, Int 6, Wis 14, Cha 8 Base Atk +5; CMB +2; CMD 16 (20 vs. trip) Feats Critical Focus, Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus (bite) Skills Stealth +12 Languages Habbaphon SQ Magical Beast Traits, Stench

-----Special Abilities----- Magical Beast Traits Magical Beasts are similar to animals but can have Intelligence scores higher than 2 (in which case the creature knows at least one language, but can't necessarily speak). Magical Beasts usually have supernatural or extraordinary abilities, but are sometimes merely bizarre in appearance or habits. --Darkvision 60 feet. --Low-light vision. --Magical beasts breathe, eat, and sleep. Spellcasting (Su) Their connection with the spirits of the marshes means every habbaphon who has not in some way deeply offended said spirits has access to a few low-level druid spells. The list in the entry is merely a common set of spells a given habbaphon may have prepared in a given day -- specifically, a habbaphon who is out hunting alone and not expecting trouble. A more wary or aggressive habbaphon may have more offensive spells ready, and the GM should always feel free to give different habbaphons different sets of spells. However, they should only give out higher-level spells to a habbaphon if they are one of the spiritual leaders of their community. A typical habbaphon will only have a few zero-level spells prepared (which, like anyone else, it can use at will), and about three first-level spell slots. Stench (Ex) A habbaphon secretes an oily chemical that nearly every other creature finds offensive. All living creatures (except those with Stench) within 30 feet must succeed on a Fortitude save (DC 13) or be sickened for 1d3+5 rounds. Creatures that successfully save cannot be affected by the same creature's stench for 24 hours. A delay poison or neutralize poison spell removes the effect from the sickened creature. Creatures with immunity to poison are unaffected, and creatures resistant to poison receive their normal bonus on their saving throws. The save DC is constitution based. This ability can be activated or deactivated as the habbaphon wishes, and the stench-causing chemical can be applied to a location or object.

-----Ecology----- Environment Warm marshes Organization Solitary, clan (2-24), or village (50-500). Treasure Little of note, honestly.

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