In the Darkness Bind Them

The Bargainer
Godefridus Schalcken, Wise and Foolish Virgins
There are some who worship the shadows. Devotees who venture into that howling darkness - the screaming silence where the pounding of one's own heart drowns out all else. There are beings there who scream with glee and cut deals with the fools who seek them out. These entities are often greed-filled, and a daring few crawl forth into the world to do trade with mortals in the twilight hours.

What is better in life than to strike a bargain? It is a deal made in good faith. A compact in which both parties stand to gain. There are some who would pervert the nature of a bargain so that they stand to gain at the expense of their trading partner. One such creature that crawled from a darkened hellmouth is known as the Bargainer, or the Bargain Man.

Seven feel tall, but his frame is crippled by malnutrition. Dressed in prim nobleman's attire, but dirty and stained. His spindly limbs terminate in long, clawed digits.

When he decides that someone has something that he wants, he will travel to them by otherworldly means. The Bargain Man prefers lurking in pools of shadow, but he will not shy away from mundane light sources. His typical method of initiating a trade is to stand in a darkened corner and jingle a pouch of coins until he gets someone's attention. When his business is complete, he will leave by subsuming himself in darkness and vanishing.

AN UNFAIR EXCHANGE

The Bargainer has all but given up on traditional methods of trade. The time it takes to negotiate a deal tests his patience to the limit; he prefers his own technique. The Bargain Man will single out the person who possesses what he wants and offer to them a pouch of treasures. He will linger until the marked mortal either accepts this deal or walks away.

The first thing that his bag might contains is currency. Golden coins or sparkling gemstones.

The second is a dark power. A smaller pouch filled with a bleak whisper and a thrumming sense of unease.

The catch is that the Bargain Man's work relies on an unfair trade. He will not explain the cost of his goods. For this reason, he selects his marks with care. He will target those who have a strong sense of curiosity or a reckless drive to gain coin. He will target those who will not question the bargain, or who might relish some gambling. And what he takes will vary wildly as well.

WHAT HE DESIRES

The Bargainer wishes to gain things that he cannot obtain himself. At first, he might start by taking smaller things of little consequence in exchange for a pittance of coin. Later, he might return and take something more precious in exchange for the temptation of dark powers. The things that he truly longs after includes items such as these:

Spells memorized
Saving throws acquired
Techniques practiced
Skills grown proficient
Obscure knowledge gleaned
Languages learned

WHAT HE GRANTS

Gold, in glimmering abundance
Gems, in heaping piles
Wicked power, a trickle of sweat on one's brow and a dark whisper in the ear

Philippe de Champaigne, Still Life with a Skull
THE DARK BARGAINS

Power. What is power? It is the true currency of the Men of Shadow, that gnarled genealogical tree whence the Bargainer came. He is careless with gold and gems, using them as a means to accrue more potent things in life. Dark powers are more valuable still than weregild, but that darkness is also a currency to be traded.

Whispers hint at the corruption that stems from overuse of shadow-granted powers. A murmur on the wind says that once-valiant men have been reduced to husks after gaining this dark power.

1d12 Sample Dark Powers

Any poor fool who is granted a dark power knows instinctively how to use it. They also become terribly aware that there are entities in the dark that leer at them, silently lurking until the faintest hint of weakness is exposed.

  1. Manipulate Shadows
  2. Echoes of the Black Cat
  3. Extinguish Light
  4. Cthuga's Embrace
  5. Mirror Shield
  6. Diminish Soul
  7. Create / Destroy Emotions
  8. Ithaqua's Screaming Flight
  9. Summon Whippoorwills
  10. Lantern of Orryx
  11. Bleak Augury
  12. Mantle of Vorvadoss


Manipulate Shadows
Once per day, the bearer of this power may twist all shadows in a 60ft radius. They may be thinned until they barely exist, thickened until they provide total cover, or shifted about to reveal or conceal any objects in the area.

Echoes of the Black Cat
The bearer of this power may call upon a familiar. A black cat will leap from the nearest pool of inky darkness and follow their master with casual disregard. By focusing on the familiar, the owner may both speak telepathically with the cat and see through the cat's eyes. If slain, the familiar will may return until the next full moon.

Extinguish Light
Once per day, the bearer of this power may obliterate the effect of 2d6 light sources within 1 mile. That light source will never function again.

Cthuga's Embrace
The bearer of this power may summon from shadow a cloak made of pale blue star-fire. Wearing this garment protects completely against heat and cold, and its shimmer repels the undead.

Mirror Shield
Once per day, the bearer of this power may conjure from shadow a wall of mirror-glass up to 30' tall and 60' wide. It lasts for 1d6 minutes and reflects any spell that attempts to pass through it.

Diminish Soul
Once per day, the bearer of this power may subdue the soul in any being they can see for up to 2d6 minutes. While subdued, that being automatically fails all morale saves and cannot muster any hope.

Create / Destroy Emotions
Once per day, the bearer of this power may create or destroy any emotion they wish in up to 4d6 people they can see.

Ithaqua's Screaming Flight
Once per week, the bearer of this power may conjure an ill wind from the open sky. It will transport the user and up to 2d6 other creatures up to 120 miles away. They will land 1d6 miles away from the user's requested destination. The spot where the impact occurs will be coated with a deadly permafrost.

Summon Whippoorwills
Once per day, the bearer of this power may summon up to 2d6 malicious whippoorwills. The birds desire to consume the fleeting souls of creatures that perish nearby, screaming with malign intensity. There is a 2 in 6 chance the creature's soul can escape the whippoorwills, otherwise it is captured.

Lantern of Orryx
The bearer of this power may retrieve an iron lantern from any shadows. The lantern will forever burn with a soft, heatless white flame. The lantern's dim glow dispells all illusions, reveals some secrets and banishes lingering spirits.

Bleak Augury
Once per day, the bearer of this power may cast before them objects of fortune-telling power such as bones, sticks, dice or entrails. They will show the plans of the caster's enemies, and a method by which one can thwart them.

Mantle of Vorvadoss
When this power is granted, the bearer is burned away in brilliant green flame and reborn from the ashes, pure and strong. The old body is cast into the abyss. Should the bearer ever perish, their sanctified body once again bursts into flame, and their soul is sent to that body that lies waiting in the dark.

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