The Burnt World of Athas

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Each of the young men and women gathered in the hot room fidgeted nervously, for this was the first day of their indoctrination into the ranks of the Grand Vizier’s templarate. Each wore a simple white robe, like those donned by all the templars of Raam. Most of them, having been raised in the city’s orphanage, had already encountered the harsh and cruel nature of the templars, but had also encountered their power. They glanced nervously at one another, not knowing which of them would be priests by day’s end, and which would be slaves.

Official Cero let them sit. He watched them from behind a gauze curtain, specifically designed to allow for one way observation. He studied each one of them, with the eyes that a father klar reserves for his male offspring - proud of their accomplishments, yet wary of their abilities. He sipped thoughtfully from a dipper of stagnant water, handed to him by a slave attendant. As he returned the dipper, he noticed another enter his private viewing chamber.

“Are you still watching them?”, asked Senior Templar Grogh-En. “You’ve had them sitting in that room for three hours now.”

“Quietly, Grogh-En, or they’ll hear you.” He waited for his fellow templar to approach him, then pointed out a male half-elf in the group. “You see him? The one with the bushy eyebrows. Watch, he’s about to break.”

No sooner had the words been spoken, than the half-elf stood up from the ground he had been sitting on. “I’m sick of waiting here!” he yelled to the others. “If this is what being a templar means, then count me out!” And with that he turned and made his way to the exit. As he crossed the threshold, two sets of massive arms reached out and grabbed him. A number of blows were rained upon him by the half-giant guards just outside the door, and a set of leather shackles securely fastened to his neck and wrists. As the terrified recruits looked on, the first of them was taken to his new position in the Queen’s faro fields. “That is what comes of disobeying orders”, spoke Official Cero from directly behind them.

They turned as one, Cero noticed. Which was good, for it indicated a measure of teamwork, no matter how small. That was a quality severely deficient in the templarate recently. He stood there allowing them to wonder where he had come from, but before they could reach a conclusion, he diverted their attention to another of their number. He chose a young female from the crowd, a thin human girl who could not have been more than sixteen. “You, girl, who am I?” he asked.

The girl’s voice cracked with the beginnings of her response, but the ordeal she had just witnessed hardened her nerves. “You are Official Cero, High Templar of Administration, Favored of the Grand Vizier, and loyal servant of Badna.” she said in a clear and resounding tone.

“Yes, I suppose I am all that, but what I’d like to know is, who am I?” To a man, each of the students stared at him, dumb struck, as if he had told them he had had dinner with a nightmare beast the night before. He slowly shook his head, wondering if his initial optimism concerning this group was misplaced. He could just see Grogh-En behind the curtain, silently chuckling. “A templar’s second greatest asset is his eyes,” Cero began. “With them he can spot injustices, observe an ambush, and most importantly learn about his enemies. All this is done by the simple act of watching. Now, open your Badna given eyes, and tell me, WHO AM I?”

Slowly, one young man, seated in the midst of his fellows, raised his hand. With a deliberately imperceptible nod of his head, Cero indicated that he should proceed. “Sir, if I may say, you appear to be a man of contradictions.” The response caught Cero off guard, and before he could silence the young recruit, the human continued. “While among the highest ranked templars, and a loyal servant of the Great Badna, whose power none of us doubt, you still carry a bone sword at your right side, which by the shift of your weight you seem to favor. Yet due to the lack of observable scars upon your skin, I would say you have seen no battle experience beyond the training yards. Also, your parental demeanor suggests…….”

“That’s very good,” Cero interrupted. “You’ve shown an, ahh…intuitive, if not rudimentary, grasp of the concept. What is your name, young man?”

“Darius, sir.” The recruit answered, with a bit too much enthusiasm.

“Lest you forget, boy, any number of accomplished healers, found in the templarate, can heal and remove even the worst of scars, using that very same power of Badna. As for the sword, it is more effective at controlling the general populace than any amulet that may hang about my neck. No templar uses his Badna-given gifts lightly.”

The venom in Cero’s words was no more evident than that found in the spider cactus, yet Darius recognized the chastising for what it was, a warning. He took his place upon the floor again, among the others.

The afternoon continued, as Cero lectured and questioned each of the young men and women found in the room. He would create a scenario, drawn from his many encounters with other templars or the populace, and ask any number of students their reactions to it. In no case were the recruits allowed to use their priestly powers to solve a problem. Cero wanted them able to think their way through any situation, because as noted by Darius earlier, his faith in Badna was not wholly without doubt.

Many of the scenarios Cero designed had no right answer, and were simply a way to test loyalty to the Queen and more importantly, the templarate. A number of the students failed, in Cero’s opinion, and would be taken later that night to join the other slaves in the faro fields. But, unfortunately for him, Darius passed each and every one. Had he failed even a single test, Cero could have sent him to the fields, and never worried about the young man again. As it stood, he would have to do something.

As another student took her seat after completing a scenario, Cero called for another volunteer. All hands raised, but Darius stood and approached the front of the room. Cero, with a smile on his face, asked, “I have not yet called on you, Darius. Why then do you approach?”

Confidently, Darius replied, “A man cannot wait for others to choose his path, Official. He must take it when it becomes available.” He stood directly in front of Cero, his demeanor commanding the attention of every individual in the room, including Cero, whose eyes were rooted on him.

“A sound philosophy, and a common one among the templarate.” Cero said. “Now for another scenario. Turn around and face the opposite direction, Darius.” The young man instantly tensed, for he already noticed the animosity that had grown between himself and Official Cero today. His blood rushing through his body, heightened his senses, tightening his muscles. Through the pounding in his ears, he heard himself say, “Excuse me sir. Did you say turn around?”

“Yes. That’s exactly what I said, recruit. Now do it, or I shall call the half-giants in here.” The smile present on Cero’s face suggested that the test he was about to administer could prove quite detrimental to the young recruit’s future position, if not answered properly. The silent faces of the others only heightened the sound of his own heartbeat, and he barely managed to croak out, a quiet, “Yes, sir.”

As Darius turned, he surveyed the crowd gathered in the room. Faces that he had never seen before looked back at him, utterly intent on his next decision. As he completed the turn, his back now to Cero, he closed his eyes, since staring at a blank wall, they couldn’t help him. He strained to hear, any sound, any movement, but adrenaline pushed his heartbeat even faster, drowning out almost every other sound. He stood that way, concentrating for what seemed like minutes. In reality, it was only seconds later that he heard the scraping sound made by bone on bone.

Darius spun on his heel, his eyes still closed, his right hand extended, hoping to intercept Cero’s wrist. As he caught the Official’s right arm in an overhand swing, he suppressed a small cry of joy. His heart raced, and as he opened his eyes, he found himself confronted by only the eyes of Official Cero, for their interlocked arms blocked the rest of Darius’s view. As he stood there, trembling with the excitement of outwitting the scenario, he heard Cero ask, “And the lesson we have learned here?”

“Know your enemies strengths and weaknesses.”, he replied beaming.

“Know your own,” Cero spoke softly as he slid a metal dagger into Draius’s stomach. The priceless metal pierced the flimsy white robe, and the official’s left hand filled with the recruit’s blood. Darius, so full of adrenaline from the test, felt his body betraying him, as it drove his life from him at an even faster rate. He released Cero’s wrist, his hand instantly going to his now wounded stomach. As he stepped back, the dagger slid easily from the wound. Darius staggered backward, and crashed into the wall behind him, eventually sliding to the floor.

Cero cleaned his dagger and replaced it within his robe before stepping over to the young recruit. He grasped his amulet and loudly proclaimed the might of Badna. He slowly reached out and placed his hand, now shining a bright translucent blue, on the boy’s stomach. The power left him and slowly the wound closed itself, leaving only a bright white scar. Darius sat dumb struck through the entire process.

Cero stood, and looked down at this young man lying on the floor, his own blood staining the front of his robes, and recalled a time when he looked up from the exact same scenario. A smile played across his face, and he reached down and helped Darius to his feet. The young man staggered a bit, still amazed at what had just transpired.

“Take your seat, Darius,” Cero said.

As Darius did, Cero continued his lecture. “Now then, this,” he displayed his medallion, “is a templar’s greatest asset. Make no mistake, while it was my dagger that just took young Darius’s life from him, it was only the power of Badna that brought it back. Without it, he would now be dead. Tomorrow, those of you that will be here, will begin to witness the true might of Badna, and the powers and gifts that he gives to his loyal servants. For tonight, you are dismissed.”

Below are a number of spells available to the templars of Abalach-Re before her death. Variations may exist among the templarates of other city-states, but the name of Badna would be discarded. With the death of Abalach-Re and the loss of their powers, the templars of Raam no longer possess the ability to cast spells of a clerical nature.

Badna’s Embrace (Abjuration) 2nd level
Sphere: Cosmos
Range: 0
Components: V,S,M
Duration: 1 turn/level
Casting Time: 2
Area of Effect: The caster
Saving Throw: None
Material Component: Holy symbol of Badna
Badna’s Embrace is one of the primary protection spells learned by every templar who serves Abalach-Re. While under the effects of this spell, the templar is protected from the first surprise attack on his person. A rock from a crowd, a dagger in the ribs, or any such unknown physical attack is given a -4 to hit and the templar is made aware of his assailant. If several surprise attacks happen at the same time, only the first is penalized. This protection only applies to physical attacks. Any psionic or magical assault is unhampered by this spell. The templar must be wearing his holy symbol for the spell to remain effective.

Disperse Crowd (Enchantment/Charm) 3rd level
Sphere: Cosmos
Range: 120 yards
Components: V,S
Duration: 1 turn
Casting Time: 4
Area of Effect: 10 individuals per level
Saving Throw: Negates
Often in their dealings with the public, the templars of Raam are confronted by mobs of people intent on destruction or murder, most times of the templar in question. This spell will effectively negate the “mob mentality” that pushes the crowd on towards such actions. A lone individual is not affected by this spell, only groups and their dislike or hatred of the object in question remains, but for one turn following the casting, they will not act upon those feelings as a group. After 10 minutes have passed, the mob will regain its nerve and may again search out the object of their hatred. This is usually plenty of time for a templar to retreat, get help, or deal with the offending parties. The crowd must make their saving throw as one group, using the average hit dice of the people in question. The following can be used to determine the Hit Die of a group: Slaves - 1 HD; Freemen - 2 HD; Nobles - 3 HD. Any others must be determined as stated above. While under the effects of this spell, PCs might continue to argue about how much they dislike the templar, but will take no group action against him for the duration.

Grip of Badna (Invocation) 2nd level
Sphere: Cosmos
Range: 30 yards
Components: V,S,M
Duration: Special
Casting Time: 4
Area of Effect: One person
Saving Throw: None
Material Component: Two pieces of string or rope, tied into knots The Grip of Badna is used by Raamian templars to immobilize unruly and uncooperative citizens. Upon casting this spell, four arms of mystical energy come into existence directly behind the intended victim. Each arm then grasps one of the victim’s extremities, two arms and two legs. The roll to grasp is determined by the templar’s THAC0, modified by any high Wisdom bonus he may possess. If a pair of limbs is successfully grasped, the templar may make two Wisdom checks to bring each set of extremities together, binding them together.

The arms will last for a number of rounds equal to the caster’s level, unless he manages to bind the victim’s limbs. If this happens, they will last for an additional number of turns equal to the caster’s level. During all this, the templar must concentrate upon the struggle, pitting his mental strength against his victim’s physical strength, though the templar still receives his full AC bonus due to Dexterity.

The arms possess a Strength score equal to that of the caster’s Wisdom. A victim may attempt to free themselves from an arm by making an opposed roll versus the arm’s Strength. If successful, that extremity is freed, and the templar must make a new attack roll to resume. The arms move with the victim and the attack may continue so long as they remain within range of the caster.