Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Baleful Sky: Muse

...sing in me, O Muse...

From soul and mind to hand these arts are created, for love, for hope; for hate, for futility; in urgency, as if a birth, or the careful consideration of commission. The arts of this world - the song of the lyricist, the statuary of the sculptor, the odysseys of the mythweaver, the towers of the architect - all unique to this orb; in all the grand Cosmos.

And for that, they hold value - from trinket to prized possession, the arts of this world adorn the demesnes of creatures we would barely comprehend as life.

No human artists leave this planet; no laden ships, heavy with stonework, lift towards the skies.

This trade is the purview of the Muses.

Unknown in number; spoken of poetically by the people they haunt, the Muse provides inspiration; companionship, drive - an anchor in the stormy seas of creation. The artist is impelled onward, a compulsion, an obsession, sometimes a madness, in furious perfection of their craft.

An artist driven by a Muse often dies - sometimes early, sometimes violently - often strangely. Some wander off, never to be seen again; others are apparent suicides; self-maiming gone horridly wrong; leaps from heights, any number of deaths. Very few die in their sleep.

And the Muse reaps the reward.

Muse are, in their natural form, oddly segmented snakes with the torsos and heads of humanoids. They are sexless, but appear variably in whichever sex gives them a perceived advantage, They will almost always have two arms; sometimes more - sometimes many more.

A Muse may conceal their form at will, appearing as whatever the local form of humanoid happens to be. It will locate prey, often by impersonating a noble and infiltrating the courts, presenting itself as being interested in patronage. It will stalk various prey for some time, choosing the right victim.

The Muse will then secret itself near the victim, often under their workshops or homes. It will telepathically contact the victim during dreams, and begin it's work.

It is, surprisingly, a very cooperative affair. The Muse wants creativity, invention, uniqueness - it will not simply impose patterns on a victim's mind. This is a long-term project - as the cultivation of a bonsai tree - not some urgent haunting, out for blood.

Some Muse will lair together if their victims are close; or they may bring them together in a collaboration.

This will go on for years, decades - at some point, the artist will reach his or her peak, and then cultivation begins.

In each segment, the Muse has three features - two fleshy sockets, on each side. In the center, a hooded sphincter. At...harvest time, the Muse carefully removes the arms of the artist at the shoulder, cleanly cutting nerve ends, muscle, tendons, and keeping the ball of the shoulder bone. The arms are slipped into the sockets on each side. Into the center cavity goes the brain of the artist. All is integrated fully into the Muse's anatomy.

These methods vary based on the biology of the victim.

With this, the Muse now takes into itself the talent of the artist - the mind and hands, the memories of mind and muscle - everything it needs to replicate and build upon what has been done.

Some Muse specialize with the art of certain worlds, and their...armature reveals this. They often reserve their topmost sockets and cavities for defensive purposes - on this world, they are very fond of the bladedancing tradition of the Arcan Isles, for example, as it combines martial prowess with the grace and art of dance - so are often found armed with swords.

Without arms, they are referred to as Naga, and are exceedingly dangerous, as they are weak without limbs. They will be desperate for prey, and will take a mediocre, easily charmed artist and burn him or her down to nothing in a frenzy of creation. Muse may lose their appendages to debts, contest, or combat. They will often detach and secret their arms away during travel.

With arms, they have many names - Lamia, in some realms, Marilith, in others. The more arms the creature has, the more successful it has been - the most valued artists in the Cosmos are Marilith. The Thaumaturges know the names of 9 of the Grand Masters and Mistresses of the Muses, and they are fell creatures, almost centipedal with dozens upon dozens of pairs of limbs.

% In Lair: 70%
Dungeon Enc:  Solitary (1) / Exhibit (1d3)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 120’ (40’)
Armor Class: 15
Hit Dice: 7 + 6*****
Attacks: up to 7 (6 weapon, constrict)
Damage: By weapon/2d4
Save: F7
Morale: +1
Treasure Type: P ×2
XP: 2,500

Muse have the upper body of humanoid and the lower body of a giant, segmented snake. They may have any number of paired arms. They stand 7 feet tall and measure 20 feet or more from head to tip of tail. 

A muse usually holds a sword or other weapon in each of its hands (A Muse can only effectively utilize up to 6 arms in combat) They can attack with their arms and with their tails to constrict all in the same round. Muse without arms may only constrict.

Muse take half damage from cold, electricity, fire, and gas, and are immune to ordinary weapons. 

In addition infravision and telepathy, they have the following spell-like abilities, usable at will: charm person, darkness 10’ radius, detect invisibility, levitate, polymorph self, project image, pyrotechnics, and read languages. They may also grant a single creature the temporary effect of another proficiency in their specialty, for example, lifting a Journeyman Artist to a Master Artist, or a Master to Grand Master. They may lift a Grand Master one step higher as well, though the Grand Master must save vs spells once per month or fall into a catatonic state and require 2d4 weeks of bedrest.

They are accomplished artists and craftsman. Muse with more than two arms usually have multiple ranks in multiple Art, Craft, Performance, Engineering, or Profession proficiencies. These are most often at the Master (3) or Grand Master (4) ranks. 

It is said that for the right price, they are available for commission.

Muse stats modified from the Marilith statistics in Dwimmermount (ACKS). Replaced the demon summoning with the proficiencies. Modified some of the text to account for variable arm number and length. Increased % in Lair, decreased number encountered.

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