Aye, of course I’ve a tale for you, traveler, that is what we troubadours do, is it not? And since you are so interested in my music, I will tell you a story about a most strange musical instrument indeed.
Near the beginning of the Scourge, many name-givers throughout the land of Barsaive were retreating into their kaers and sealing them behind them to wait out the long centuries of the Scourge. Save for some of the Elves and the long-lived Obsidimen, those who entered the kaers knew that they would never see the outside world again. They could only hope that their great-grandchildren would be able to emerge safely from shelter into a world free of the horrors. This brought many people to despair and the sealing of the kaers was a time of great loss for all of the name-givers.
One such kaer was Named Kaer Talloria, after the magician who helped to build it. Talloria worked unceasingly to excavate the shelter for her people and create the orichalcum runes and wards that would hold the horrors at bay for the centuries of the Scourge. She was tireless in her efforts, working long into the night only to be up the next morning before anyone else to begin work again. She was driven to protect her people.
As the first horrors infested the land, Talloria studied them carefully, gathering all of the information that she could about these creatures. She began to grow increasingly concerned as all of the reports of the horrors indicated that they were terrible in strength and power and that the worst was yet to come, for the first horrors to appear were weak for their kind according to the Therans. Talloria began to fear that the defenses provided by the Therans would not be enough to protect the people.
She began researching the horrors, and carefully examining the remains of the horrors that could be recovered, to formulate another means of defense against them. She also delved deeply into the arts of nethermancy, studying the ways of the netherworlds in hopes of learning more about the nature of the horrors and how they could be defeated and kept at bay from the feast of name-giver flesh and souls they desired. Talloria worked even harder than ever, locked away in her laboratory, consumed with a fierce passion to discover a way. Many people of the village grew concerned for her welfare but they respected their magician and feared the horrors, so they said nothing and waited.
In time, Talloria began work on something in the central meeting area of the newly constructed kaer. Her work was concealed behind a misty curtain of elemental air, so none of the people knew what it was that she was building. But they all trusted Talloria and so they waited and watched until the time came for them to seal the kaer.
The horrors had grown too numerous on the surface for the people to remain there any longer. Word had come that even mighty Thera had sealed themselves behind their dome of True Air and Fire to wait out the long night of the Scourge. Attacks from ravening horrors were coming almost daily and the people of the village retreated into their kaer and Talloria enacted the rituals to seal the portals of the shelter and activate the magical wards given to them by the Therans to keep out the horrors.
Not long after Kaer Talloria was sealed, the sorceress revealed to the people the artifact that she had so carefully constructed to keep the forces of the horrors at bay, should the protections of the kaer fail them. It was a great bell of bronze woven with True Earth and Air. The frame, structure and clapper of the great bell were carved from bone – the bones of the victims of the first horrors, bones that still resonated with the terror of the coming Scourge. At first the people of the kaer were wary of such a gift, touched as it was with the power of blood magic. Some feared that the bell might be tainted with the power of the horrors, but Talloria was steadfast in her insistence that the bell’s enchantments would help to keep the horrors away.
It was only a short time after the sealing of the kaer that the bell was first used. Some kind of powerful horror attacked that kaer, so mighty that it shook the whole of the mountain where Kaer Talloria was dug. It was as if the horror intended to uproot the entire kaer. While the people huddled in fear of what might be outside their shelter, Talloria rang the great bell she had created and it sent forth a peal that was like the crying of tortured souls, the screams of those victims of the horrors. The peal of the bell echoed all throughout the kaer. In a matter of moments, the terrible sounds of the creature outside stopped and all was still once again. The people hailed Talloria as a hero and gave many thanks to her for saving them with her creation.
Many years passed, and Talloria passed the guardianship of the Bone Bell down to her successors. The magics of the bell were carefully maintained, for the people considered it their last line of defense against the horrors. The bones of many of their kaer’s dead went into repairing, maintaining and strengthening the bell’s enchantments to make it a lasting weapon against the horrors. The magicians who maintained the bell became an Order whom the people of the kaer knew and respected for their great power, but also feared for their dabblings in nethermancy and blood magic needed to maintain the artifact. The bell was used several times over the centuries to drive off horrors that threatened to breach the kaer and threaten its inhabitants.
After generations had passed, the end of the Scourge predicted by the scholars of Thera failed to come about. The sphere of true earth had stopped its descent towards the bowl of true water and had held steady there for years. The people of the kaer were greatly concerned. Was the Scourge over? Was it safe for them to emerge into the sunlight once again?
The magicians of the Order of the Bone Bell thought not. It was a trick, they said, a foul deception of the horrors intended to make the people believe that they were safe while, in fact, the horrors lay in wait for them outside of the safety of their sheltering kaer. The magicians declared that the people would have to wait and be patient while they ferreted out the meaning of this omen.
More time passed and with each passing day, the people grew more and more restless. Dark rumors circulated and resentment against the magician-priests grew. Many said that the magicians sought only to maintain their power over the people, that they knew that the Scourge was over and they had stopped the progress of the sphere of true earth themselves so that they could rule over the closed kaer forever. The time had come and surely the horrors were long since gone. Open talk of rebellion began and the ruling magicians were forced to take harsh measures with those who spoke treason against them, but this only stoked the fires of rebellion higher.
Eventually, the people of Kaer Talloria rose up against the Order of the Bone Bell and killed them all in the center courtyard of the kaer where the bell stood. They then threw open the gates of the kaer to emerge into the outside world. It was only then that they discovered that Talloria’s artifact did not work quite as she had planned. The horrors that were supposed to have been driven away by the bell over the years were in fact a single horror trapped in astral space near the kaer by the power of the bell. With the doors of the kaer open and the magicians slain, the horror took its vengeance on the people of Talloria and left the kaer a haunted monument to their folly.
I heard the tale from one of the few survivors of the kaer and she told me that the Bone Bell of Talloria still remains in the ruins of their kaer. I’m sure the horrors would not want such an item to fall into the hands of other Name-Givers, but who knows if they were able to destroy it?
That is the tale, for such is the truth.
The gamemaster can decide if the Bone Bell of Kaer Talloria still exists and, if so, whether or not it can still be found in the ruins of the ancient kaer. Perhaps the bell was removed from the kaer by horrors (or their agents), robbers, or explorers such as the player characters. If so, it might have traveled the length and breadth of Barsaive to come to rest in some hidden lair or some scholar’s collection of artifacts. If the bell has remained hidden in the ruins of the kaer, it will no doubt be guarded, perhaps by traps laid by various horrors to keep name-givers away from the power of the bell or by a horror-cult devoted to protecting it from outsiders.
If the characters do discover the bone bell, they will need to decide what to do with the artifact and if its power is worth the high price that it carries with it. The Bone Bell is an item that would be of great interest to those involved in studying or hunting the horrors (such as followers of the Horror Stalker discipline and the Lightbearers).
The Bone Bell
Maximum Threads: 2 • Spell Defense: 18
The Bone Bell of Talloria is a large bronze bell of about half a human’s height, growing greenish with age. The outside of the bell is decorated with a complex web of delicately carved bones and the clapper on the inside is made up of many bones strung on a fine copper chain. A heavy metal ring is attached to the top of the bell, allowing it to be hung from a support frame or the like. When sounded, the bell gives off a deep shrieking and moaning sound that echoes for a great distance.
Rank 1 (Cost: 300)
Key Knowledge: The character must know that this the Bone Bell of Kaer Talloria.
Effect: The ringing of the bone bell provides +1 Spell Defense for all Name-Givers within hearing range against the powers of Horrors and Horror constructs.
Rank 2 (Cost: 500)
Key Knowledge: The character must learn who created the bell and what discipline she followed. Talloria was a human elementalist who also practiced the arts of nethermancy.
Effect: The sound of the bell provides +2 Spell Defense against Horrors and Horror constructs.
Rank 3 (Cost: 800)
Key Knowledge: The character must learn the location of Kaer Talloria and the fate of its people.
Deed: The character must travel to the location of Kaer Talloria and ensure that all of its people are given a proper burial, after which the kaer must be sealed and the true fate of its people carved upon its entryway. If accomplished, this deed is worth 1,200 Legend Points.
Effect: All horrors and horror constructs within earshot of the bell are considered Harried for as long as it is rung. All name-givers within earshot gain +1 to their Social Defense against the attacks of Horrors and Horror constructs.
Rank 4 (Cost: 1,300)
Key Knowledge: The character must learn the names of those Name-Givers whose bones cover the bell.
Effect: The ringing of the bell can ward off horrors. The ringer can make a Willpower or Willforce test while ringing the bell. This becomes the difficulty for a Willpower test required by the horror to come within sound of the bell. This effect lasts for as long as the bell is rung.
At this rank and higher. the sound of the bell also affects name-givers who hear it like the Arcane Mutterings talent (Earthdawn, p.97) at Step 15. This effect occurs automatically when any of the bell’s powers above Rank 3 are used, despite the wishes of the bell ringer. All characters within hearing range are affected.
Rank 5 (Cost: 2,100)
Key Knowledge: The character must learn the Name of the Horror that destroyed Kaer Talloria.
Effect: At the cost of 3 points of Strain, the character sounding the bell can force any horror that can hear the ringing of the bell into astral space by making a successful opposed Willforce test against the Horror’s Willpower or Willforce. If the character is successful, the horror is forced back into astral space for a number of days equal to the level of success.
Rank 6 (Cost: 3,200)
Deed: The character must learn the fate and whereabouts of the horror that slew Kaer Talloria. This deed is worth 4,000 Legend Points.
Effect: At the cost of 6 points of permanent damage and a successful Willforce test against the horror’s Spell Defense, the bell-ringer can trap a horror in the vicinity of the bell. The horror is trapped in its present form (physical or astral) and cannot leave earshot of the bell for a year and a day. The character who sacrificed the blood magic may then renew it at then end of that time to continue the effect. The horror can escape only by the death of the sustaining character or the destruction of the bell. The horror’s powers are not reduced or limited in any way.