Monday, October 5, 2015

Xill Matriarch

Answering a reader’s question this weekend, I compared xills to the xenomorphs from the Alien franchise.  And while the films have never played too much with this, the Dark Horse comics/graphic novels have often implied that the aliens, especially the queens, employed some basic level of psychic communication/connection.  At its most extreme, this mental connections could even bleed over into humans, explaining some of Ripley’s dreams in the movies and the activities of various xenomorph-obsessed cults in the comics.

Now xills aren’t simply Alien analogues (at the very least they’ve got plenty of Predator in them, too) but their matriarchs, like the alien queens, have some mental powers under their skulls.  In particular, they are able to dominate and scry upon anyone implanted with their eggs—across both the Ethereal and Material Planes.  Which by itself is a potent and terrifying ability…but imagine what would happen if they could somehow manipulate their eggs’ gestation period to last longer than 24 hours…

Adventurers are hearing a bard’s last tale.  A family curse prevents healing magic from working on her, and now that she has been implanted with xill eggs, she assumes she has less than a day to live.  She is trying to pass on both the oral epic she recently completed (which grants morale bonuses to those who hear the whole work) and enough details about the xill attack so that others may succeed where she failed.  If she takes too long in the telling (and every nonmagical healing attempt counts as an interruption), the xill matriarch behind her suffering is likely to spy on her and then force her to attack her friends.

Xills travel across Ethereal seas in lateen-rigged skiffs.  Xill matriarchs captain these skiffs, judging when they are near enough settlements on either the Ethereal or Material planes to attack.  Usually these are two-pronged assaults.  First the xills implant as many eggs as possible, after which they flee to the Ethereal.  The xill matriarch then forces her implanted, dominated slaves to foul rigging, throw open gates, and otherwise pave the way for a second attack 24 hours later, when the xills collect their newly-hatched young and plunder food and supplies with abandon.

The duchy seat is in the throes of arachnophobia.  A new cult has arisen dedicated to fighting spiders of all kind.  This is not an unpopular move this close to the Skittering Halls, where giant spiders weave webs throughout the hilly forest.  But it is surprising how quickly the cult has taken off, and just how many young initiates have donned the red cloak of the cult and left home to fight the spiders.  The truth is that these eager young recruits are being manipulated by an Advanced xill matriarch.  She has learned to slow the gestation of her eggs to upwards of a week, giving her time to make full use of her puppets and get them out of town before the xill young devour them from inside.  The fight against the Skittering Halls is real, though—the forest is infested with phase spiders as well as more mundane varieties.

Occult Bestiary 60

For my Blogger readers (or my Tumblr readers who were busy): I hit 4,000 followers this weekend, so I celebrated with some Q&As.  Find them here and here.

Also one more Q from catdragon: Do you ever take guest posts? You know, having someone write for you when you were too busy or on vacation?

I have only done guest posts as part of a contest.  Otherwise (while I totally appreciate the kind thought behind the offer) reading/vetting/editing reader responses would be just one more thing for me to manage…and if I had time for that, I would have time just to write the post.  (That’s the nasty secret of editing—it's a full-time job.)  I also don’t want to be in the position of having to judge or pick and choose from my readers.  (It felt weird enough doing it for the contest.)  Better to have you guys add your own comments and commentary (like dr-archeville and so many others have done) or post your own seeds on your Tumblrs (or even start whole new Tumblrs like dailycharacteroption!), and then let us know so we can link to and share them.  Thanks!

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