Faction: The Beloved of Imyya
Those who bear the serpent’s kiss will have no fear of death/
Their hearts will beat for their homeland*, or not at all/
- Translation of an archaic verse from the annuls of Tolv,
*translators note: above, the word “Homeland” can alternatively be translated as “ Mother” and “Philosophy/Creed”, damage to the original document prevents us from determining the true meaning through context, as the word is used interchangeably throughout documents of that era.
Setup: Formed in opposition to successive waves of conquerors looking to carve their homeland into pieces the Beloved of Imyya ( or simply “The Beloved”) are at once a mystery cult, an assassination guild, and a political movement in equal measure.
Once Relegated to the shadows, the group has earned itself a prestigious role in the current government after they helped to oust the most recent warlord and help to stabilize a native government that better represented the will of their city’s populace. Now the Beloved are recognized in the street and lauded for their service, taking up privlaged positions in the administration of their polis and performing lectures of their philosophy to the adoring masses.
Still, these assassins have not lost their edge, and their warrior priesthood still practices the alchemical mysticism that made them famous: imbibing the venom of sacred serpents and secret concoctions that grant them preternatural foresight, speed, and a total absence of fear in the face of death.
While arriving in port, the party’s ship is boarded by a band of the Satrap’s spearmen, led by a Priest of Imyya. Despite the protests of the captain and quite a few of the passengers, the search the vessel top to bottom, eventually dragging a inconspicuous passenger ( who the party may have conversed with during the voyage) with them at spearpoint. As if to disrupt matters further, the priest seems to have taken a shine to the party, and asks them to stop by one of his order’s temples for a discussion on philosophy.
Tea with a noble patron is interrupted when they suddenly collapse into unconsciousness, followed quickly by one or two of the heroes needing to save against poison. veiled assailants peel from the shadows with the intent of subduing the party. They awake in a darkened cave, hallucinating, stripped of their items and equipped with only a (drugged) waterskin and a murky lantern. A voice from the shadows interrogates the party about their patron’s political aims and spouts philosophy at them while they are forced to wrestle phantasmal serpents.
A rash of poisonings and the appearance of numerous venomous creatures escaped into the wild puts the party on the trail of an alchemist and leads them to a fortified laboratory. Exploring this workshop reveals a prisoner, exhausted from experimentation and wasting away in her bonds. She reveals that the alchemist is in service to a cruel local lord, who’s family once participated in raids upon her homeland. On a mission to reacquire sacred relics and exact some petty vengeance, she was captured, and has been interrogated repeatedly ( though unsuccessfully) with the aim of discovering her order’s secrets.
The Beloved have a problem. Namely one of those tyrants they helped to defeat was very fond of plundering the lands that she conquered and ended up hoarding all her treasures in a death-trap dungeon she built under the city. Tunneling into it could collapse it and bury numerous important cultural artifacts within (possibly one the party is seeking). Breaching the vault is a job for adventurers, but the leadership of the order is hesitant to trust sellswords with location or access to the vault. An ambitious historian aligned with the Beloved seeks to sponsor the player’s initiation into the group.
Ideals: The Beloved hold three things sacred: the sovereignty of their homeland in the face of oppressors, their mystical teachings, and their dedication to their patron Imyya. Less an actual goddess and more poetic and philosophical ideal, the long forgotten folkhero Imyya was said to have been courted by a tyrant for her beauty, but refused him due to the cruelty he showed his people. As punishment, Imyya was dragged out into the desert and staked to the earth outside a snake-pit, who would be attracted by her body-heat and would strike at her struggling from should she escape. Imyya was calm, and spent many days roasting silently in the desert sun and nights enveloped by scales. Eventually she freed herself, and returned to her home to strike the tyrant down and free her people.
Rejecting abundance and power that originates in the suffering of others
Patience and fortitude in the face of great trials
Returning the land to the people who live there, not those that would exploit it.
Though a vested interest in seeing the Beloved’s homeland stay free may be a prerequisite for imitation into their mysteries, outsiders can also join the group should they prove their understanding of the factions ideals and demonstrate that their aims are aligned with the Beloveds’ politics.
Alchemical knowledge: From poisons to potions to poultices, few groups know the mortal body like the Beloved, who have assembled a vast library of semi-practical, semi-mystical research. If you’re looking to cure a sickness or figure out just the toxin to bring down the mightiest foe, the order can oblige.
Unseen Beneath the Sand: There is nothing that occurs in the Beloveds’ homeland that they do not know, and because their homeland happens to contain one of the most prosperous ports in the region, their circle of influence spans as far as the trade-winds. Unassuming informants pass along critical information regarding the intrigues of their neighbors, and one can usually find an acolyte warrior priest williing to deposit a few drops of venom to the right cup should the need arise.
Stilling of the heart: Just like the faction combines politics and mysticism the Beloved’s teachings are a combination of fighting style, alchemical experimentation, and esoteric meditation. All of these are designed to hone the body and mind into a fang-sharp impairment that can deliver the order’s will. Adherents can find training on how to wield and resist poison, how to strike in combat with the swiftness of a serpent, learning techniques to wick blood (and toxins) off their blade to blind their opponents. More advanced practitioner will even receive “The Serpent’s Kiss”, a highly guarded practice that will allow the user to both negate the effects of the “poisoned” condition and replace them with the effects of the “haste” spell.
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