Phylactery of the Bleeding Heart

Emperor Rashka the Immortal sits atop a lavishly bejeweled throne, eating a leg of turkey while a petitioner rambles on and on. Guards stand at attention, three on each side. In a corner of your mind, they seem to cast furtive glances at the platter in his lap. Even his guards go hungry.

More guards hold you by your arms, less to prevent you from escaping than to hold you upright. You imagine rushing forward to kill the Emperor, but even if you had the will, you haven’t the strength. You haven’t eaten in days.

Or has it been already a week? The Society were mere peasants and children, recruited to root out opposition — your friends, the children of your friends. Hungry for power (and food), they did his bidding for a ration of fish, an extra onion for the pot. Accused of some crime — you barely remember what — you were thrown into a dirty cell in the Columns. Now, weak and starving, you stand in the Emperor’s opulent court, the scent of meat gnawing at your bellies.

Sounds of half-hearted celebration drift up from the streets below. It has been one year since the Emperor usurped the throne — New Year’s Day, by the New Reckoning, and most of the city’s population knows better than to argue.

Again you imagine plunging a dagger into the Emperor’s complacent chest. You have no dagger, nor the strength to hold one. Seemingly aware of your thoughts, the Emperor gives you a cursory glance, drops the half-eaten leg onto a platter and waves it away. His lips glisten, even as his eyes dully glaze.

The simpering fop, announced earlier as Lord Berna, rambles on and on: “… a personal favor, if it pleases the Emperor, to allow them, at the very least, the choice between death and this — hmm — quest.” His words are flowery, droning in their forced melody. "Please do bear in mind that my loyalty to His Immortal Eminence has — and shall continue to be — hmmm — unwavering."

The Emperor finally seems to grow bored of his audience. With a grunt and a wave of his hand, you are released into the custody of this Lord Berna. His guards wear different uniforms. Strangely, it seems you will be allowed to live. In exchange for your lives, Lord Berna requests a favor: Find the Phylactery of the Bleeding Heart.

Welcome to the Phylactery of the Bleeding Heart Campaign

The characters all live in or near a small city called Estlewild. Over the last few centuries, Estlewild has grown from a human fishing village to a diverse and bustling port city of 11,000. It is deservedly reputed as a hub of trade. Your beloved but heirless king died a year ago, and a usurper — known as Emperor Rashka the Immortal — took his place in the city castle. The usurper has laid heavy taxes and controls on everything that comes in and out of the ports or city gates, especially food. Both inside and outside the city gates, many people are starving.

Emperor Rashka has recruited peasants and children into his Emperor’s Society which amounts to unregulated spies and press gangs with the authority (backed by the emperor’s army and city guards) to bully and arrest any citizen (especially those who openly oppose the Emperor). Stories abound about those arrested: friends of friends who were never seen again. In return for their service, the Society receives clothing, weapons, and special ration cards that grant them preferred access to the hoarded food supplies. Thus, while many are starving, members of the Emperor’s Society merely go hungry.

You were recently arrested by one of the Society gangs and tossed into a cell in the Columns, the city’s prison beneath the royal castle. You’ve probably done time in the Columns under the Emperor’s rule — a night here, a night there — but this time felt somehow different. A week went by, in conditions that were beyond despairing. Suddenly, near death and cave-blind, you were released — presumably, your release was bought — by an eccentric merchant lord.


Phylactery of the Bleeding Heart

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