Monday, August 13, 2012

C is for Cannibal Island

For to the east and north lies a large body of land called Cannibal Island.  It isn't far from the mainland, although it is far from any "civilized" location recognized by citizens of the land of the Three Empires.  Qizmiri sailors exploring the northland have occasionally stumbled across it, as well as curious and foolhardy explorers from Baal Hamazi.  Because it is buffered from the land of the Three Empires by other locations that are collectively known as the "Forbidden Lands", however, little traffic goes to the island.  It is known as a rumor and a byword amongst travelers and those who like strange tales, as well as in esoteric circles where forbidden, heretical and illegal knowledge is sought.  And, perhaps surprisingly, there are more inhabitants of the Cannibal Island who come to the land of the Three Empires than vice-versa.

Cyclopean architecture on Cannibal Island
At about a quarter milion square miles, Cannibal Island is a significant landform, almost the size of Madagascar.  Much of it is covered in tropical jungles, but it also has significant areas of high elevation that are cool and foggy.  Cities, ziggurats, temples and villages dot the area, and it boasts a significant population of decentralized yet architecturally and technologically fairly advanced people of unknown original extraction.  Yet these people are cursed, in ways both overt and subtle.

People from the Cannibal Island are visually very easy to spot.  Of course, few in the land of the Three Empires know what they look like, so they are instead considered to be merely albinos, or non-hamazi hellkin, or simply pale-skinned people of some other race when they are seen.  Many of them are careful to avoid showing their faces, and thus their features are not obvious even when one has been met.  Their skin-tone is a chalky pale gray or almost white, a most unnatural color for most humans.  There is no trace of pink or flesh-coloring, as one would expect in a true albino.  Hair can be either silvery white or jet black; only turning something else artificially, or perhaps going iron gray with age.  Their eyes are also extremely pale--beyond the lightest gray eyes normally seen amongst the balshatoi or other northerner races, verging on completely colorless.  The pigmented cells of the iris look like finely etched silver lines on a white background against the whites of the eyes--again, not a feature associated at all with true albinos.  Many Islanders also feature dark tattoos on their face, giving them stylized skull-like visages.  Those who leave the Cannibal Island are often assassins for hire, or cultists making pilgrimages to the strange and fell spirits whom they worship.

As the name of the island suggests, the inhabitants of Cannibal Island are, in fact, cannibals.  Normally they raid each other for "long pork" since they have few visitors and few outsiders live within easy striking distance of their island, but some of them do indeed travel farther afield in search of their ghoulish repast.  There are even rumors of an entire pirate ship crewed by Cannibal Island natives, who's search for treasure to loot is less important to them in search of captives to add to their larder.

Feral cannibal
As a matter of fact, the corrupted and fell environment of the Forbidden Lands has caused the inhabitants of the Cannibal Island to become cursed, and their cannibalism is a direct result of that curse.  If an Islanders does not indulge in an anthropophagic repast, over time his body will become corrupt, his mind will wither, and he will devolve into a savage beast.  Twisting painfully, his body will become emaciated, yet hard and strong as iron, his teeth will grow and develop points, his eyes will become sunken and sharp.  His mind and behavior will become feral and uncontrollable.

In d20 game terms, this curse can be treated as a magically induced disease (similar to Mummy rot) with a save DC of 15.  Every month that human flesh is not consumed (incubation period 1 month), the targeted character's Intelligence drops by 1 if they cannot make the saving throw.  If the targeted creature's intelligence drops to 0, the character becomes a ghoul.  It is impossible to treat this malady except magically--restoration or lesser restoration can restore lost ability points.  To eliminate the curse completely, the curse must first be broken with break enchantment or remove curse (requiring a DC 20 caster level check for either spell), after which a caster level check is no longer necessary to cast healing spells on the victim, and the disease can be magically cured as any normal disease.

Keep in mind that in the DARK•HERITAGE campaign setting, however, which does not have "regular" spellcasting classes, access to these spells is much more limited than in D&D, and may not be available at all.  For this reason, inhabitants of the Cannibal Island who come to other lands or regions almost always turn to the hunting and eating of other people.  It is not necessary that a new victim be hunted each month--a person can provide enough meat for several months assuming that the meat can be properly preserved somehow.  They either prefer rural areas where missing victims are unlikely to be missed for some time, or seedy urban areas where missing victims are, again, unlikely to be missed due to the activities of criminal gangs, or other reasons that would cause the poor, destitute or disenfranchized to be unmissed and unwanted.  There is a thriving albeit small population of cannibals living in the slums of Porto Liure, for example, and they even operate semi-openly in Sarabasca.

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