Legends of Belariath

Duessa

“…If anyone unwarily draws in too close and hears the whispers of the Duessa, his wife and children will never welcome him home again, for they sit in a green field and warble him to death with the sweetness of their song. There is a great heap of dead men's bones lying all around, with the flesh still rotting off them. Therefore pass these Duessa by, and stop your men's ears with wax that none of them may hear…”

They go by many names, to the elves they are known as "Whispers" and among the Cat-People they are called "Shades". For the humans, a young and simple species at best, they are referred to quite mistakenly as "Dark Nymphs". Oh, the physical resemblance is there, of that there can be little doubt, but that is where any similarities between these beings and Nymphs end. While Duessa (doo-es'-ah) is the formal name for this race, the more familiar and descriptive term "Whisper" is commonly used and the two terms are interchangeable.

Duessa are Nature Spirits, formed from the first chaotic breath of life, which spawned all of Gaea's Children in the dawn of creation. But somewhere along the line these fragile creatures took a different path, or heard a different, darker voice urging them forth. They are female, delightfully so, taller than their sister Nymphs by a head, but no less beautiful for it. Duessa have a distinctive Elvish cast to them, so that they will appear almost half-Elven, with finely angular features and pointed ears. High arched brows above a narrow aquiline nose. Their hair is luxurious and black as the darkest night. Their flesh pale, often with a faint bluish tinge, as if bloodless beneath their smooth flawless skin. Their full pouting lips as well seem drained of color, touched with the same pale azure of their finger and toenails. Only the Whisper's eyes are warm, uncomfortably so with bright humid colors, primarily reds and yellows, flickering like dancing flames, or a penetrating crimson, like embers smoldering beneath their dark locks.

Character Creation

Starter Classes: Mage, Shaman, Thief, Bard, Artisan, Entertainer

Advanced Classes: Necromancer, Seductress, All Elemental Mages

Armor Allowed: None

Weapons Allowed: Class A

Special Restrictions: May not take a life

Starting Stats:

STR INT AGI RES STA SPL LFE
Basic Stats 2 6 5 4 5 0 5

Roleplaying Note:

Duessa have motivations, abilities, and restrictions that should be carefully considered and understood before choosing to role-play one. They are best suited for players who desire a more subtle approach to interacting with other characters. Duessa are not combat-oriented, nor are they a true victim race in the same sense that Nymphs are. It is my hope that this race will provide both a different perspective and an enjoyable role-playing experience.

Thank you – Beyle

Background

When we consider Nature, it is often to remember the pleasant warmth of a spring day. The world around us bursting with new life, filling us with hope and beauty. But there are other things, other...aspects we acknowledge only reluctantly. There is death in nature, deceptive and hidden, most often revealed through our own errors, our own false pride. The cold, beautiful sleep of being lost in winter snow. The tireless embrace of the ocean's unplumbed depths. The Tropical Fevers carried on seductive, humid airs, imbibed while dreaming of a future forever lost. Out of this aspect were the Duessa formed, from that part of Nature against which all other Children of Gaea struggle.

Duessa are loath to speak of themselves and when they do, which of us could separate the truth from deception? They have no written histories, no myths or legends of their own device. What we know of them comes through the other races, through supposition and stories told late round the evening fires. What appears on these pages is incomplete at best, but accurate and enough to paint a rough portrait. We venture now, not into the lush verdancy of spring, but into the chill heart of winter.

As a race, Duessa most closely resemble Nymphs, in stature and beauty. They are known for a certain amount of vanity, even jealousy in this regard, and a Whisper will pride herself on her appearance. Likewise, she will rarely tolerate unfavorable comparison between herself and another. Legends are replete with stories of foolish knights-errant who have unknowingly defended the honor of a Whisper who felt herself slighted in this way. They do not share in the wide variance of pigmentation skin, eye and hair coloration, typical of many other Nature Beings, but have a rather more uniform appearance with pleasing but somewhat more subtle distinctions from individual to individual.

Their countenance is of a more serious nature, given to a calculated grace and a deliberation of action, which is once again atypical of Gaea’s Children. Where other Nature Spirits are happy, carefree and naive, the Duessa are more somber, with a cruel humor for things best forgotten. They have a penchant for irony, imbued with a fatalistic hedonism to live in the moment, but at the same time, they are anything but spontaneous. Duessa may be considered the consummate actors, capable of masking their innermost thoughts, and outwardly projecting a pleasant, capricious attitude such as a Nymph might exhibit. It must always be remembered, however, that they are very different races. Never confuse a Whisper for a Nymph - such carelessness would doubtless precipitate a period of very bad luck. It wouldn't necessarily anger the Whisper. She may, in fact, be delighted in the deception, but never-the-less a Whisper thus trusted would inevitably find a way to turn it to her lover's disadvantage.

Duessa are drawn to the dark emotions; the touch of the whip and shrill cry of terror bring their hearts to quicken. To the Elves these cold maidens are the soft voices in the night, filling the lonely hours with plots and schemes. They see hidden meanings in every phrase, veiled insults and dire threats behind every glance. For this reason, perhaps, they are favored by the Dark Elves, prized slaves kept not only for their charms, but also for their affinity for deception and betrayal.

A natural disdain for all other Nature Spirits is fairly common among the Duessa. They will generally avoid coming into contact with their cousins and even with each other unless the circumstances are in their favor. They will not physically engage in combat, but will rather seek to humiliate or discredit other Children of Gaea and assert their own superiority through the actions of mortals who might be present. A Whisper will never become a slave to someone who already has a collared Whisper, but they do seek owners of other Nature Spirits, especially Nymphs, and take perverse pleasure in turning such relationships to bittersweet pursuits.

Duessa have a natural tendency to attach themselves to individuals they find attractive in personality and ideology, rather than simply those who are appealing physically. Such persons are often malicious, wielding their power for self-gratification and amused at the pain and fear they instill in others. In some sense a Whisper could almost be considered a familiar, a creature subservient and devoted, longing as much for the kiss of her Master's whip as the caress of his fingers. It is said they sing when they're punished, their voices rising to unearthly beauty as the tortures increase. Duessa are rumored to have amazing powers of healing, their bodies recovering very nearly overnight from injuries that might have killed a lesser being.

Like all of Gaea's Children, Duessa are under certain restrictions. The most important of which being that the Duessa themselves are unable to take a life. They cannot kill at will and perhaps this explains the seeming lust to witness such events. They are equally fascinated by suffering and mental anguish, finding great pleasure in another's sorrow to the point that they will often pretend interest, even sympathy as they listen carefully to another’s despondent, weeping voice. The Shade speaks softly then, holding herself close, as if to comfort, but her words are barbed with malice and dripping with venomous vitiation. Many are the guilt-ridden victims driven to rash and ill-considered action by a Shade's advice, only to find too late that they have been led to their doom. Such prowess at the manipulation of emotion and self-perception can often make them the ideal Mistresses for those who thrive on self-flagellation or those who have a deep masochistic streak.

Duessa are selfish and manipulative, rarely remaining in any relationship where their Master or Mistress is weak and easily dominated. Kindness is often considered a weakness to be exploited, much to the chagrin of the unwary Owner of such a slave, who finds themselves betrayed to their enemies, usually at the precise moment it is least expected. Occasionally a Shade will find herself in the company of someone not given to the darker thoughts, a proud warrior serving justice, or a priest of one of the Gods of Light. Someone drawn to the physical beauty and believing the Whisper can be changed, or at least brought into reconciliation with the morals of love and compassion. But such intentions are misplaced at best; the Whisper enjoys the corruption of such persons possibly above anything else. Turning the hopes and dreams of her lover into scant memories buried beneath the primal lust to dominate.

Religion, Life, and Relationships

None of us are truly able to fathom Gaea's eternal plan. How Duessa serve Nature, or if they even truly do, are metaphysical questions best left to the bearded philosophers. It may be enough to simply say that they exist, unintended and unguided. As Nature Spirits, albeit of the darkest sort, Duessa are free to travel the world unimpeded. They do not wage conflict on air, sea or earth, and neither shall a plant restrain, nor animal bar their conduct. Duessa do not share an affinity for any specific natural sphere, but neither do they suffer the consequences. Like their cousins, they are recognized as true Spirits of Nature and instinctively even the most aggressive of animals will resist harming a Whisper. They are immune to natural poisons, and unaffected by extremes of heat and cold. They do not require food or drink, or even sleep, but are able to partake of these as they desire. Their relationship with other Nature Spirits can be described as distant and cold, but not hostile. Duessa may be regarded with a touch of fear and suspicion by their cousins, but as with all things, the Nymphs, Fae, Satyrs and the rest understand better than any of us that everyone serves a purpose.

Duessa do not have a hierarchy; there is no leadership or fellowship. They serve themselves and do not require the friendship or support of another. If the Master they serve should accept another Whisper into his household, inevitably one will have to be turned out. They will instinctively begin calculating ways to be rid of their competition, for that is how they see it, and such paths are ever destructive. There is an ancient saying among the Dark Elves that the largest house in the world is not large enough for two Duessa. Legend has it that this saying comes from the tragic fall of House Vi'uyssa when the Matron was unable to decide between two equally cold and beautiful servants.

The life span of a Whisper is completely unknown, for they are privy to a cycle quite unlike any other. No one is able to say if the cold, ethereal beings are ever truly born, nor do they appear to age in any way; retaining the shape and physical characteristics of young adulthood throughout their lives. Their bodies do bleed; however, bones break and pain is perhaps the only sensation they truly experience. Despite the rumors of immortality that had plagued their existence, even death is not completely beyond their grasp, though such an experience often has far reaching effects on the Shade’s sense of self.

Skills and Abilities

Duessa share the same general characteristics of all Nature Spirits, being gifted with a natural intelligence and agility, although physically weak. Shades have a natural affinity for magical classes, or even the ways of the thief, though they almost never take a true combat class, preferring to wield their strengths in a less straight-forward, and likely more manipulative, manner.

All Duessa are gifted with the ability to speak two (2) languages in addition to their own tongue and the common speech of Belariath. The choices of languages must be made at the time of character creation and noted in the character's background text.

Duessa's being the distant cousins of the Nymphs inherit their shield of defense. Duessa's take on a Defense shield of +1 def (phys/mag) per two levels. The defense shield will come to them in a whisper of a shadow.

Duessa heal faster than normal creatures; even for Nature Spirits it can be remarkable. A full day of rest will recover 40% of their life, double the normal rate. Any mark, blemish, or scar, which may appear on their skin, will heal within 24 hours, whether they desire it to or not. A day of rest for a Whisper does not require sleep, but does generally exclude any activity more strenuous than soaking in a hot bath.

Advantages

Whisper's Clay:
The duessa can change her form more effectively than any other known race or spell outside of some powerful items of magic. This allows her to become the ideal spy, slave, or to simply hide in plain sight. This ability grants the whisper the power to change their size, weight, and physical characteristics, to that of any playable humanoid race; however, this does NOT include races such as Wolven, Sithian, Minotaur, Centaur, Wembic or any other animal-hybrid race. Duessa have been known to slip into the private chambers of powerful men disguised as a new girl, lover, or simply hidden, in order to plant dark whispers into their powerful lover’s ears.

Mechanics: This racial ability works similarly to change self, but they can do more exact changes with facial features, they can decrease or increase their height, weight, and build up a fifty percent difference. They can cast it at any time at will; the ability costs 4 stamina and lasts until canceled, even throughout the day. This ability takes a relatively low level concentration but if the Duessa is damaged too much, or hurt too deeply, such as down forty percent of their life points, they will lose concentration and the spell will dissipate. The only tell-tale markers of a Duessa under guise is their eyes, which will not change appearing as twin coals- always burning, and the unnatural cold of their body, which they cannot disguise. While this ability is in use, the character’s stats do not change.

Shadow's Blessing:
Duessa heal more efficiently than any other race, including other Nature Spirits. They can heal in a day what would take other beings days of constant bed rest, healing surface wounds within seconds; however, this only stops the bleeding. Whispers have been known to survive near fatal wounds, though if it is bad enough, they will often retreat to their chosen lair to ‘lick their wounds’ and rest up for the next encounter. However, this unnatural healing does come with a cost. A duessa will heal of any visible marks within 24 hours, quite literally, overnight, however they are unable to seek solace for their wounds in magical form. Healing magic finds them unaffected, though the more mundane arts can quicken their own natural ability. Anyone wishing to mar the perfection of a duessa’s flesh can do so only with the use of mithril ink, though the duessa must first be dosed with ‘The Necromancer’s Kiss’, a special blend of herbs and venom made specially to suppress the race’s enhanced healing for a period of one week, during which time the tattoo will be allowed to heal at a normal rate and when the poison works its way out of the body, the body art will have bonded with the flesh and remain in place. Any other markings gotten during that time will disappear in the usual fashion.

Mechanics: The Duessa heal at a rate of 40% a day. It should be noted that they can not be healed by normal Healing magics, only traditional non-magical means for outside healing, such as the First Aid skill, will be able to help the wounded Shade.

Disadvantages

Shadow's Taint:
Though they are blessed with inhuman healing, their body is also possessed of an unnatural chill that can never be covered up, not even with a spell such as Warmth, subtly giving lie to their mortal disguises. The source of this frigid nature, whether their malevolent spirit or something else is unknown, but they are able to focus it as a bone-chilling caress. This touch causes no physical damage, but seems to momentarily drain the victim of any warmth, causing intense shivers that will startle most victims for 1 turn. Not usable in Combat as it is for RP effect, only.

Whisper's Rebirth:
The whisper can be resurrected like any other denizen of Belariath, with a notable condition. They are, in essence, the same as they were before; skills, class, and statistics; however, something inside them changes, intrinsically. Memories lost, sometimes their appearance changes, their mind is warped in the chaos of the abyss. To the extent that often the person brought back from Gaea’s breast is not the same person that fell; as if they had been reborn. They can no longer remember everything the same as they had, some memories lost forever, others twisted and changed so that they often remember things that did not happen, or perhaps simply happened differently. Strong, and definitive memories may stay like the thoughts of a Master or lover, but smaller memories are prone to the distortion of Gaea’s darker heart. A Whisper that experiences too many deaths back to back can be prone to a shift in their very essence and personality.

Duessa, as mentioned previously, are unable to cause the death of any creature, animal or human. This includes all the playable character races. They may learn injury-causing spells and, indeed, they may even enjoy causing pain a great deal, but cannot kill even in self-defense.

They are unable to wear heavy armor, nor may they carry weapons other than daggers, whips, etc. (Class A weapons and armor)

Duessa do not receive the normal four spell slots available to other races. Those stats are not lost, but have been added to Int, Agi, and Life. Duessa will receive the additional spell slots normally awarded for the appropriate class selection. Additional spell slots may be purchased at higher level as detailed elsewhere on the website.

Combat Modifiers

Disabilities and Their Mechanics
Type: Attack Defense Init
CloPhy RanPhy CloMag RanMag CloPhy RanPhy CloMag RanMag
Sight -30% -100% -30% -100% -30% -30% -30% -30% -50%
Hearing N/A N/A N/A N/A -25% -25% -25% -25% -25%
Speech N/A N/A -100% -100% N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Hands/Arms*** -25% -25% -50% -50% -25% -25% -25% -25% -20%
Legs/Feet*** -25% -10% -25% -N/A -25% -20% -25% -25% -25%
* Attack/Defense Enchantments are not effected, penalties apply to base stats.
* Those temporarily blinded in one eye will receive half penalties for blindness to all attacks.
** All penalties are cumulative.
*** Penalties are cumulative per limb.
* Those temporarily blinded in one eye will receive half penalties for blindness to all attacks.

FAQ's

Do Duessa have belly buttons?
No, they do not have belly buttons. They are not conceived nor born in utero.

Why can't my Duessa be a Healer?
Their nature is totally unsuited to the more beneficial aspects common among other Nature Spirits. They do not possess the concern for life or for the well being of others necessary for devotion to that class.

What happens if my Whisper character kills someone? What if it's an accident? Does the rule on animals extend to flies and mosquitoes?
As with any of the Nature Spirit races, if your character kills another PC, NPC, or even a large animal, you will be given a choice: Delete that character, or reset it and you may select a different, more appropriate race. You will not play that character again. This applies to accidents as well. We will overlook swatting flies and mosquitoes, but don't make a habit of it. Flies and especially mosquitoes avoid Duessa like the plague.

If Duessa can bleed and die, why don't they feel too hot or cold, or need to sleep or eat?
These are traits common to all Nature Spirits. It is representative of their respective place, somewhat mid-point beyond true immortal beings out of mythology, and the all too mortal realm of men. They have benefits and drawbacks from both sides, and like nature itself, this sometimes presents a paradox.

Can I say that my Whisper character is 17,623 years old?
Yes. But I won't believe you.