The Hall Of Living Statues

Secrets are best kept close.

The better to guard them that way.

But dangerous secrets are best shared with trusted friends and allies, the better to share the danger, and the better to act swiftly and decisively when the secret threatens to burst its bonds and wreak havoc.

Let’s take a look at one of Cormyr’s oldest secrets–one that unfortunately grows with time as more unsuspecting victims are found. It lurks in the Royal Palace, and brings swift doom to anyone not prepared to face it.

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1. Among the more mundane and rarely visited chambers to be found in the Palace is the North Hall of Storage. It is one of many such storage halls located throughout the Royal Palace, which are used to keep furniture, draperies, linens and all manner of objects, much of which is rotated back into the Palace over time as the tastes of new rulers and senior courtiers determines the appearance of the Palace proper.

2. A handful of persons know the true name of the North Hall, as well as its purpose. These including various of the Royal Family, the Mage Royal and Crown Mage, the senior duty wizard assigned to the Hall’s defense, the Purple Dragons that stand guard at the entrance to the Hall, and the blind attendants that maintain the hall day and night.

3. To these persons the North Hall is properly known as the Hall of Living Statues. This hall is not a complete mystery, and like other “legendary” rooms in the Palace it is hidden in plain sight. The stories surrounding such rooms have been for centuries used by fodder for stories told by off duty courtiers seeking free drinks, and to scare the children, doorjacks and apprentice courtiers that live and work within the Royal Court and Palace.

4. This is by design, and so the Hall of Living Statues is known by a thousand stories and rumors, and is one of many places in the Palace (and in greater Cormyr) that everyone has heard about but nobody has actually seen.

5. Within the Hall, one may find over four hundred and fifty lifelike statues of Cormyreans (and not a few outlanders), all exquisitely detailed and lifelike. They statues depict nobles and well to do merchants, their servants, along with a handful of others one might expect to find at any of the exclusive eateries along the Promenade; everyday Cormyreans in the dress of laborers and farmers, with the tools of their trade in hand.

6. The oldest pieces depict Cormyreans from over twelve hundred years in the past. The most recent additions to the collection depict Cormyreans in modern styles of dress.

7. All the statues share one trait in common, for black hoods have been placed over the heads of all the statues. The blind attendants remove the hoods every morning, and replace them in the evening.

8. The Hall is tall, its while walls undecorated, its iron barred windows spaced evenly along one side of the room and standing over twenty feet in the air. The windows are square and small, and little sunlight passes through them. Old enchantments still bathe the windows, and so they throw radiance into the Hall as though the sun were shining directly into it for as long as the sun rides the sky.

9. The attendants greet each statue by name. For the oldest statues, all are addressed as “Lady” or “Lord,” for the names belonging to these statues are unknown.

10. Of late, a woman has visited the Hall, first in the presence of the Keeper and the blind attendants, and lately on her own. She wears a blindfold and speaks in an accent archaic. Her clothing is ancient, but it echoes the styles worn by the eldest of the statues.

11. The flesh and blood eyes of the eldest statues have only started to register her presence. The eyes of the younger statues betray their keen interest in the woman.

12. Her presence is welcomed by the blind attendants, who hope she will find kin among the elder statues, and perhaps remember their names. The other guardians have fallen to gossiping over the provenance of the woman, who is properly styled a Lady, and when not in her presence they wonder aloud if the rumors of her arrival in the Palace are true.

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The Adventurers In Parchment

In my Cormyr sourcebook, I introduce a concept called Turning Points.

Turning Points take the concept of the “Defining Event” (from the Folk Hero background, PHB 131) and expand it into full on write ups that describe THE major event in a Character’s life that put her on the path of adventure.

One such Turning Point that will be made available in my next sourcebook update is called “Adventurer In Parchment”. It describes how several enemies of, and thieves preying on, a merchant of Amn were trapped one by one in a magical book–one that the merchant gloated over every chance he got, by turning the parchment pages and having one sided conversations with the victims depicted therein, one to a page, where he describes how he lured them to their doom. Time eventually caught up with the merchant, and his death by old age set the trap book free in the wider Realms.

Eventually it was scooped up by a mage in Cormyr, who’s been patiently freeing the prisoners of the tome for the last several years (and thus a Player Character at some point) and turning them back out into the world.

Thinking about the trap tome…

1. Perhaps it’s truly a big book, like the ubiquitous reference dictionary found in any decent library, or one of those atlases whose covers are as wide and long as a suitcase or trunk.

2. Maybe it has the power to form itself (via illusion magic) into other objects; immaculate chests, small coffers, shipping crates, keepsake boxes, etc.

3. The trap tome can be set to go off by whomever is attuned to it.

4. He or she need only open it to the next blank page, and then imagine something like a chest or box, and will the trap tome to take on the look of what is being imagined.

5. I think the trap tome’s pages should all be mirrors in frames, with a piece of parchment paper between each mirror page. When you open the trap tome up, you get a mirror on the left and a piece of parchment on the right. Turn the parchment page and you see the back of the next mirror frame, which is covered over in a thin sheet of copper.

6. The frame of each mirror is very thin, and is made of hard metal. The corners are reinforced and covered by metal caps. On each cap is a loop and hook so that one mirror page can be attached to its neighbor.

7. The binding for the book includes two pairs of small L-shaped metal legs that run down each side, and whose “feet” touch in the middle of the binding.

8. These can be folded out to stabilize the book when the trap is set, and its owner looks into the exposed mirror with a shape for the book to take on in the forefront of his or her thoughts.

9. When a victim touches the trap tome, the illusion drops and the mirror immediately captures whomever is closest to it, provided that person is looking into the mirror/sees their reflection in it (note to self: check rules for gaze attacks in the 5E Monster Manual). Once this happens the trap tome closes shut.

10. So maybe the trap tome is really like a rectangular shaped box that’s designed to be opened like a chest, its “lid” consisting of all the empty frames whose magical mirrors have captured an unwary victim and transferred the victim’s likeness onto the extra parchment page that can be found between each frame.

11. This process consumes the mirror and “burns” the edge of each loose page into the frame that formerly held the mirror, so each page displaying a victim appears as an extremely lifelike painting on parchment of someone in the throes of surprise (and probably despair), set in a durable metal frame backed by shiny copper.

12. I figure the trap’s maker designed into the trap tome the option to manually remove each page from the binding, so that trapped victims could be put on display all about one’s residence–this is quite the power statement, and warning, to anyone visiting such a home–but the Amnian preferred to hoard his collection and share it with no one but himself.

That works.