Days of High Adventure
Dungeon World: Welcome to the Dark Side

Chris Brackett | 17 Jun 2010 21:00
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The Word Is Spread

In a world where the drudgery of everyday life is the most many have to look forward to, it's not hard to find people to support a belief system that offers not only an explanation of why things are that way, but also offers a way out. The teachings of Phleebx stated that once the World had been freed of the "tyranny of magic," humans would be free to live decent, happy lives. It was therefore every man's duty to strive toward the destruction of magic and other unnatural things, and those who wield or support them.

For over a decade, the teachings of Phleebx spread through the region, with young Malf Sertic as the cult's prophet. The cult was slow to grow at first, but as more followers joined and took up the war against magic, the more people began to listen. The cult's supporters pushed the appealing message of human empowerment, and the farmer's sickle became the symbol of their order.

The cult became the preeminent religion amongst the region's farmers. The local villages shunned adventurers, magic users, and members of other races. Although no reports of violence against these groups were confirmed, several disappearances of the same were.

The Cult Is Dispersed

When existence of the new religion first reached the ears of Medicas VI, Lord Thornberg, ruler of the region, he discounted the Cult of Phleebx as just another "back woods cult worshipping fabricated god." In time, he believed, it would lose its luster and fade away as so many others had during the course of his rule.

However, Lord Thornberg would not be able to ignore the cult for long. Thirty-eight years ago, on a misty midsummer morning on the road west of Thornberg, an elf merchant train on its way to the city was attacked. None survived and no witnesses could be found - the only evidence pointing to the identity of the attackers was the "No Magik" placard hanging about the bloody neck of each of a dozen elf corpses nailed to nearby trees.

Lord Thornberg was outraged. It didn't take a genius to determine who had perpetrated the attack, and later that same day he issued a decree that the teachings of Phleebx were banned from the region, and sent messengers to nearby rulers urging that they do the same. Although only a few pockets of the sect existed beyond the lands of Thornberg, many of the nearby regions also banned the cult and its teachings.

For the remainder of the season, the cult was persecuted and many of its more ardent followers, among them Sertic the Elder, Malf's father, found themselves wasting away in the bowels of Thornberg's dungeons. Most of the followers - nothing more than simple farmers hoping to improve their lot - gave up the religion rather than face imprisonment. Within months, it seemed as though the cult may have been defeated.

However, on Harvest Even - one of the World's largest human celebrations at that time - the cult proved that it was far from defeat. Devout cult members - led by young Malf Sertic, who had evaded capture - infiltrated the celebrations within the city's inner keep. They fell upon the royal family and its guests in the midst of their Grand Harvest Even ball, slew them all, and disappeared into the night.

When the dust finally settled, so to speak, Lord Thornberg and his wife were dead, as were most of his advisors, and so were over two dozen dignitaries and wealthy merchants from around the region - human and non-human - and their guards. The only clue: a lone, blood-soaked sickle left lodged in the Lord's back.

The Lord's eldest son took power the next day, and even though he was only fourteen years of age, his actions were as brutal as they were decisive: All currently imprisoned cult members were burned at the stake, and all shrines or places of worship in the region were burned to the ground. Worshipping Phleebx was no longer a minor crime; it was now punishable by death if convicted, and any person caught spreading the cult's teachings - whether as a believer or simply in casual conversation - would have his or her tongue cut out on the spot.

None of the organizers of the Thornberg massacre was ever caught, but Sertic the Elder was the first to be taken from the dungeons and burned at the stake in the days following.

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