The Fleshdoll Stage of Madam Sutradhara (cursed)
Aura overwhelming necromancy; CL 21st (artifact)
Slot none; Weight 120 lbs.
This semi-portable marionette stage is made from rich mahogany wood, boasting two elegantly-carved twisting pillars on each end across which rests a polished wooden arch. The arch is engraved with a series of unusual arcane runes surrounding the words, “The Magnificent Madam Sutradhara.” A shiny carmine silk curtain with tendrils of gold tassel at the bottom hangs from behind the expanse. Covering the back of the stage is a slotted board with various painted scenes on thin wooden planks, each depicting a different backdrop that can be swapped during performances. The base of the stage itself is crafted from lightweight pine and polished to a gleaming shine, though a few scuff marks litter its surface from years of frequent use. It’s very old, but as an antique, it is obvious that the stage has been well tended to and cared for.
The fleshdoll stage is a unique cursed artifact, created using a combination of powerful necromancy, pact magic, and demonic infusion. The power of the item is sustained by the spirit of its creator (a necromancer) and an ancient demon (of such power that it could be considered a demigod or demon lord) who both agreed to a mutual pact—the demon would lend to the artifact its dark powers and in return for this service, when the creator dies, their soul freely becomes the property of the demon to do with as it pleases.
The magic of the evil pact causes the fleshdoll stage to act as a reliquary that hosts the creator’s spirit, which in turn is closely guarded by the demon that also dwells within it, bound by its pact to remain there until the dark contract is fulfilled. When the creator dies, the demon, having fulfilled its promise, collects his prize, destroys the artifact, and returns to the depths of the abyss. The curse of the fleshdoll stage radiates in a 500 ft.-radius that affects any intelligent creature that enters into it and remains in that area of effect for longer than five minutes (there is no saving throw). If a creature moves out of and then back into the area of effect, the five minute countdown to activation resets.
When activated, the fleshdoll stage triggers a sort of reverse possession, pulling the spirit of an affected creature from within its own body and into the artifact itself. When an affected creature’s spirit is forced from its natural form, its body becomes lifeless (effectively dead, and subject to all effects of death such as decay and rigor mortis). Though unable to utilize their natural senses, the spirit of an affected creature remains conscious and is automatically aware of what is happening to it (though it may not understand the forces behind the effect). The spirit knows that it has been forced from its living body, that its body is presently dying, and that some powerful force is holding them prisoner and preventing them from returning.
Once an affected creature’s spirit is contained within the artifact, the creator has one hour to preserve (by magical means such as gentle repose) the lifeless body of the affected creature or else the creature’s spirit may make an attempt to escape the stage and return to its body with a successful DC 22 Will save (which can be attempted once per hour). If an affected creature’s lifeless body is preserved within the first hour, its spirit gets no attempt to escape their confinement in the stage. If the saving throw is failed and the creator preserves the body before the spirit can make another attempt in the following hour, no further attempts may be made to escape.
Lastly, the fleshdoll stage can contain an affected creature’s spirit for no longer than 24-hours and it may contain up to a dozen different spirits at the same time. In order for an affected creature’s spirit to be permanently removed from its body, the creator of the artifact must transfer that spirit from the stage and into a new body—to fulfill this requirement, the creator must construct a fleshdoll to permanently house the affected creature’s spirit. The binding of an affected creature’s spirit to a fleshdoll requires that the original body remain magically preserved. If at any time an affected creature’s lifeless body becomes unpreserved, or if the creator of the fleshdoll stage dies, the spirit is freed from the fleshdoll and it returns to the original body (awakening in 2d4 minutes if preserved).
Fleshdolls are animated constructs crafted by a powerful necromancer from the bone, flesh and blood of the recently deceased. They are inhabited by unwilling spirits trapped in the tiny forms bound by supernatural forces to do their creator’s bidding. Mechanically, once a spirit is bound to them, they are both undead and constructs. Typically fashioned into the likeness of miniature humanoid creatures and grizzly in origin, these can be quite beautiful in appearance (depending on the talent of their creator).
The spirit trapped within a fleshdoll remains fully conscious and cognitive with all the memories of its life before becoming bound to the doll. A fleshdoll can actively seek to disobey its master, whom attempts to control it via the Necrotic Puppet Mastery supernatural ability. [More information about Fleshdolls and how to apply them to a PC on Thursday! -JAM]
The fleshdoll stage can only be destroyed by fulfilling the pact made between its creator and the demon dwelling within it. This means the creator must die to destroy the fleshdoll stage. Afterward the demon immediately destroys the artifact in a supernatural pyre of hellfire, releasing all spirits bound in it (or bound to fleshdolls created by it) before summoning the spirit of the stage’s creator and dragging them into the depths of the inferno as it returns from whence it came.
The fleshdoll stage was created by Madam Sutradhara to bind the spirits of her enemies and turn them into playthings. She was once a renowned puppeteer and masterminder, celebrated by many entertainers as the most talented of her kind to ever grace the realm. However, when her lover betrayed her she became twisted with jealousy and rage that eventually drove her to insanity. Determined to never be betrayed again, she turned to dark magic and necromancy—she would control every aspect of those whom she associated with, including whether or not to grant them the gift of unlife. Her zombies proved to be true to her whims, but loneliness still drove her ever deeper into listless sorrow.
In the throes of her dark depression and endless rage, she was approached by a powerful demon who sensed her torment. Amused, the creature struck a deal with the woman, promising her that she would once again perform her craft with the skill of a master puppeteer, and that she could use her art to take vengeance upon all those who scorned her. Together, Madam Sutradhara and the demon created the fleshdoll stage, and the first of her victims were her former lover, his wife, their children, and their entire extended family. After binding their spirits to fleshdolls, she took up residence in the Macabre Manses, where she now directs nightly plays starring her helpless thralls, who perform before her obedient audience of zombie servants.
Those unlucky enough to wander upon her disheveled estate are unknowingly tempting fate, as those who are not cursed to become fleshdolls often become food for her zombies—the leftovers used by the necromancer crone to craft new fleshdolls for potential future performers.