Friday, 23 March 2018

Sphinx Specimens

Having made this post suggesting a series of Sphinxes as dragon substitutes, I have been meaning to provide some examples. Consider the specimens below those very examples - the equivalent of Skerples' Grand Lair. The Reptilian corollary to the former post is in effect, after a fashion.

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The ancient city of Ophidopolis was built atop the rocky bluffs of the Viprous Rise above the River that bisects the desert. The caverns below served any number of purposes for the residents; sewers, mines, middens, tombs. But they were also quite capable of sheltering other things. Warm-blooded things, that hide from the nurturing sun.

Now that Ophidopolis has dwindled, the bulk of trade and the population moving to the city's former harbour at Pythia's Cataract, they have only become more bold. Five of the greatest are monstrous sphinxes, amalgams of beasts with the wits of men....

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Phalkus

Lair: The Rose-Red Canyon was once the main entrance to the caverns. In the warren of gates, shaft entrances, yards and offices, an Androsphinx has made a home.

Sphinx: Phalkus is the size of a lorry. His fur is constantly serving to catch the sand and dust that settles into the Rose-Red canyon, and has taken on this colour - unless he has been freshly groomed by his Servants, when his colour appears rather similar to tanned, leathery skin. The fur of an androshpinx is less extensive than other sphinxes - his skins is visible beneath the fur, though it is of a hue with it.

Phalkus can breathe out a great cloud to cover himself, so he can move through the canyon during the day without overheating. This makes his presence obvious, but it often disorients or discomforts those around him. Phalkus is willing to take advantage of this.

Desires: a regular flow of tribute and allegiance. Phalkus has no objections to letting folk into the caverns, but notes who has gone though and thus who precisely should be shaken down if they try to leave. He has a number of arrangements with possibly-legitimate businessmen in Pythia's Cataract to exploit the caverns for what can be found. Phalkus would happily deal with the City Fathers for something more permanent and secure, though they have not thought it wise or proper to deal with a sphinx.

Hoard: ledgers, markers, tally sticks. Records of who has passed by; items of their clothing with which to track them. Magic items that assist with the same, as well as enchanted parchment necessary for magically binding covenants.

Followers: a number of dog-kobolds, mostly resembling golden retrievers. They are fine trackers and scouts, often put to this use by the Sphinxborn warriors of Phalkus (and aided by his collection of scent-samples).

Phalkus's Sphinxborn are remarkable human-looking, differing principally in the shape of eyes and placement of ears. Their armour deliberately mimics lion limbs and paws, to get into the proper sphinx-attitude. They are called on more often as guards and bouncers than warriors, but should not be underestimated.

Phalkus's Sycophants tend to serve as scribes and witnesses or archivists, maintaining the ledgers and records. A few are skilled sketch artists, capable of making mug-shots for the archives. Phalkus himself can remember most of those who have passed by, but the kobolds and Sphinxborn need a helping hand. They tend to done rose-red clothing like the canyon. Many are undead or re-animated in some fashion, sustained by Phalkus's covenants and deals. Many are there unwillingly.

Alliances: deals regularly with Khyrsowex, but doesn't trust him. The bull-headed sphinx bruises his pride.

He dislikes the sincerity of Chindasuinth, though has a hidden awe for Gyravagne.

Trade Goods: information, principally. His kobolds make for fine trackers. Phalkus is always good for a loan of one kind or the other.

***
Gyravagne the Grey

Sphinx: A hiercosphinx, about the size of a Church, with the colouration of a peregrine falcon (grey head, back and wings, tawny/dappled belly and flanks). She is an extravagant beast, given to great spontaneous displays of might. The notion of a rehearsed procession or protocol is rather lost on her.

Gyravagne can breath whirlwinds and has almost total control of her environment for the one thing she enjoys best - flight.  Hieracosphinxes tend to be self-absorbed, she is no exception. Do not suggest that she might enjoy flying elsewhere. She has a notion of her limitations in the desert and does not care to consider them overmuch.

Lair: perched on the brink of a chasm, wide enough for Gyravagne to fly in. The chasm is very wide and is said to be bottomless. [It almost certainly leads to the Veins of the Earth.] A series of ramshackle dwellings for her Sphinxspawned circle a wide landing ground. A separate chamber for her moments of rare privacy is actually a naturally occurring opening in the side of the chasm. Some of her Sphinxspawned are digging shafts down to facilitate contact.

Desires: somewhere new to fly in. Some one to fly with. More ways of controlling the weather.

Hoard: flying machines, ancient and modern; an aviary; sphinx-size grooming and physical training devices.

Followers: her dog-kobolds tend to resemble greyhounds or whippets: aerodynamic and slight. Most like to make gliders and flying machines to imitate their mistress. She indulges them, like pets, often summoning the winds for them. However, the loss of one or two into the chasm does not appall her.

The Sphinxborn resemble raptors and birds of prey; for one to be born resembling Gyravagne is considered a great fortune. They are not built for flight and tend to spend their time obsessively patrolling the perimeter of the lair and putting the kobolds in their place. Gyravagne regards them as glum, fussy servants: useful, but rarely entertaining.

Her Sycophants are basically her ground crew: grooms, physiotherapists, meteorologists specialising in the microclimate of the chasm and the effects of her whirlwinds. They tend to have a genuine interest in her. A chosen few have ridden on her back as she flies. This is as exciting and as amazing as you think it is.

Alliances: None that seem lasting. Regards Chindasuinth as sufficiently disinterested in her interests to be a decent ally of convenience.

Gravagne regards Chelloron as insufferably low-minded and Phalkus as a grubby profiteer. However, she finds some measure of ground with the powerful and candid Khyrsowex.

Trade Goods: Gyavagne tends to get by on bluster and bravado. However, she has discovered sufficient seams of precious minerals in her flights, and prompts her followers to excavate them accordingly.

***
Chindasuinth the Confessor

Sphinx: A criosphinx, the size of a barn. His wool-cum-fur is white and fleecy. Obsessed with the correct method of any given process.

A priest of his own church, imitating as perfectly as possible the customs of a major established faith above ground, especially in matters of ritual. (To those venturing into his realm, this is deeply unsettling, like a dragon celebrating mass. It might say grace first, but it is still liable to eat you.) Chindasuinth's customs have naturally diverged somewhat from the orthodox path.

Chindasuinth regards the faith he has adopted as theologically sound and thorough: the right way to go about the matter of existing. He has no (as-such) plan of good works or welfare for his flock, but regards their presence in the rituals and schooling in the faith as the be-all and end-all of his duties (duties which he is incredibly attentive to).

Lair: a series of narrow caverns, honeycombed into one large Church like building. The portals in are watched closely. A number of warren-cloisters have been excavated for his followers.

The plan is very like that of a Church, but the high altar and all the places for the High Priest must be criosphinx-sized, rather distorting the proportions of certain sections.

Desires: converts, alignment with the above-ground hierarchy (whom he would no doubt regard as heresiarchs), the means to expand his church. Theological debate.

Hoard: theological tomes, liturgical vestments and gear, manuals and encyclopaediae from his former searches for meaning and method.

Followers: the kobolds around Chindasuinth are generally collie-like: upright and attentive. The can be found attending to smallholdings of fungus or in workshops when not at worship. Chindsasuinth regards them as lay brethren requiring careful shepherding.

His Sphinxborn bear a resemblance to really muscular fauns. They regard themselves as in training for the Defence of the Faith and are treat this with a very real seriousness: their neatest co-religionists are above ground.

The Sycophants around Chindasuinth fulfil all the specialised roles of divine worship: torchbearers, choir chorus, cantors, thurifers, Church wardens. None are as such mummified, but many cling to life tenuously through the patterns of Chindasuinth-led worship.

Alliances: Chindasuinth has a Don Camillo-Peppone thing ongoing with Chelloron. They are unlikely to work together, except against common enemy.

He regards Khyrsowex as making poor use of his flock; he actively spurns the worldly Phalkus.

Trade Goods: Worked goods: Chindasuinth's previous occupations do him good service in putting his flock to work. Religious art is also in abundance - if the work of kobold paws delights you.

***
Chelloron

Sphinx: a jackal-headed sphinx. She is gregarious, arch and patient. Her pelt is a rusty black. Chelloron is the approximate size of a village marketplace.

Chelloron makes use of all around her. Everything has a use; nothing is to be thrown away. Even her own refuse is considered as in some way an active part of her resources, no matter how worn, pointless or useless any given thing may happen to be. Even noxious substances can be kept and used - possibly as weapons [Germ warfare? She might ask why it is more terrible than other warfare.] She is an active utilitarian - largely divorced from any given code -, an improver - even a do-gooder, with all the negative and positive connotations that brings.

Lair: a former midden. A chasm to the surface, once a pit for all the refuse and spoil of the mine workings and the city above. It is not a foul place, many centuries on. Chelloron tends to perch on a ledge above it.

Desires: Space for her possessions and means of improving them. Whereupon that space will become her possession.

She is pragmatic enough to bargain for (for instance) ingots of steel when it would be to her advantage to have steel, but Chelloron is not discerning.

Hoard: a genuine bounty of objects, put to different uses. You will find very little that serves it's intended function.

Followers: her dog-kobolds are burrowers, nimble chasers, seekers - they resemble Dachshunds and are, relatively speaking,  even worse collectors and hoarders than Chelloron. They must be coaxed into use.

Her Sphinxspawn are not the sturdiest of their kind. They tend to the use of traps, of snipers, of ambuscades. They are patient and might be though more like Rangers than Fighters.

The sycophants around her tend to be fallen lords, failed conquerers and former politicians. They have a desperation, a need to put to use everything around them to bolster their cause. They know quite how fast and far one can fall.

Alliances: Chindasuinth has a Don Camillo-Peppone thing ongoing with Chelloron. They are unlikely to work together, except against common enemy.

She appreciates Khyrsowex's farms, but not his attitude. Phalkus amuses her, in a contemptuous fashion - why make use only of folk? How foolish!

Trade Goods: most any common or semi-rare item, but it is probably broken or defaced.

***
Khyrsowex

Sphinx: a bull-headed sphinx. Overbearing, chummy, thinks he has a winning air. Harsh and ruthless when crossed; generous when obeyed or dealt with in what he deems a respectful fashion.

If you want a real world reference, a Southern Gentleman of cliche. He is about the size of a large Church.

Lair: a tightly run and productive series of underground farms, largely rearing mushrooms. Khyrsowex's own habitual chamber lies at the centre of the many passages connecting them.

Desires: a few really good constitutional scholars, lawyers and teachers. He'd like educated servants and a moderately sophisticated society to run. While at it, an expansion of the amount of folk lucky enough to enjoy his enlightened rule would be nice.

Hoard: crops, contented servants, tools, weapons. Minor luxuries of many kinds.

Followers: Khyrsoex's dog-kobolds have the look of German Shepherds: trim and muscular, obedient. They work the fields and watch the boundaries.

His Sphinxspawn are broad, often horned like minotaurs - and surprisingly quick for such bulky creatures. Stronger than you, swifter than you and dedicated to defending their master.

Those sycophants that surround him tend to be merchants, former or current. They know the value of stability; the uses of a settled land and an obedient populous.

Alliances: not quite self-conceited enough to imagine that Phalkus obeys him, but imagines Phalkus fears him. He hopes to suborn Chindasuinth.

Trade Goods: Food, shelter, protection. As long as you want it. As long as you show that you want it.

However, if necessary, Khyrsowex will dip into the petty cash.

***
Why visit the caverns beneath old Ophidopolis?

Wealth. Magical items of unknown heritage. Desperation. Knowledge. Centuries old cultural artefacts. Obligation. All these might drive you in, but the Five above will drive you out.

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