Istivin : City of Shadows.
Ages ago, a group of curious wizards sought to pierce the
boundaries of known existence and penetrate to a distant
dimension on the other side of reality. This region, known
to scholars as the Far Realm, is a realm of madness and
nightmare. The explorers felt confident of their abilities
and only intended to stay for a few hours. Unfortunately,
their confidence was misplaced. Not moments after their
arrival in the Far Realm, they were absorbed by a nameless
entity. The explorers transformed into terrible natives of
the Far Realm, becoming the first kaortis.
The explorers went mad and forgot all they knew of the
Material Plane. The gateway between the Far Realm and
the Material Plane disturbed them. The newly formed
kaortis acted without thought, traveling back through
the portal to destroy it. Doing so removed the source of
pain in the Far Realm, but it stranded the kaortis on the
Material Plane—a realm now deadly to the very fabric of
their being. Many of the new kaortis succumbed before
they succeeded in encysting themselves within the
secluded wizards’ school from which they had set out.
From that first cyst, the kaortis have spread out to
menace the world.
Humanoid in shape, a kaorti must dress in form-fitting
armor made of thick resins and tissues grown and culti-
vated by kaorti alchemists whenever one ventures from its
cyst. A kaorti in a resin suit looks like an emaciated human
with elongated arms and legs. It has three long fingers and
a long thumb on each hand, and its motions are slithery
and undulant. Its bulbous head is affixed to its body by a
long neck. A kaorti’s face almost always remains hidden
behind windings of resin.
Outside its resin suit, a kaorti is decidedly nonhuman in
appearance. Its skin, brownish green in color swirled with
livid pinks and reds and purples, seems to be almost trans-
parent and liquid as it slithers and runs over the creature’s
visible entrails. A kaorti’s fingers are little more than bone-
less tendrils. Its face looks like that of a melted spider. Its
palms constantly secrete a thick, green resin that can be
crafted by kaorti “smiths” into weapons or armor or rein-
forcements for their lairs. The average kaorti is 7 feet tall and
weighs 100 pounds.
Kaortis speak their own guttural language and have
picked up smatterings of many other languages during the
interrogation of prisoners. Most kaortis can speak Common
The Material Plane is
painful to an unprotected kaorti. A kaorti wearing a resin suit, or a
kaorti inside a cyst, is protected from the effects of the
Kaortis live in remote regions, dwelling in captured forts,
monasteries, or mines. They quickly coat the entirety of
their lairs with the same resin they build their weapons and
armor from, protecting themselves from the deleterious
influence of the Material Plane. These lairs are known as
Kaortis have little interest in idle pastimes. They are
consumed with one overriding goal: to pervert the natural
world and feed it into the Far Realm. The kaortis under-
stand that realization of this goal is likely centuries away,
and may well be impossible. Nevertheless, they are dedi-
cated to this goal, transforming one creature at a time if
that’s what it takes.
Kaorti greatly respect and admire arcane magic. Sorcer-
ers and wizards are often found as leaders in kaorti cysts.
These leaders are charged with expanding the race’s terri-
tories and making sure the cyst is well defended. This
leaves the bulk of a kaorti cyst’s population free to work
on the transformation of creatures into kaorti or thralls.
Nonhumanoid victims that are transformed into thralls
make up the bulk of a kaorti cyst’s defenses.
When a cyst’s population reaches about five dozen
kaor- tis, approximately two dozen of them
strike out into the world to seek a place to build a new cyst. A few old cysts
have ceased to calve off pilgrimages; the kaortis of these
cysts work to perfect new thrall races designed to function
on the Material Plane without danger.
Kaorti devices are made from resins secreted by the creatures’ palms.
The resin is shaped while fresh, and then (if appropriate) alchem-
ically treated to maintain its flexibility.
The principal use for kaorti resin is to create a
cyst, a space enclosed by walls of resin. Within such
a space, kaortis are protected from the harmful effects of
the Material Plane.
A kaorti resin suit consists of thin straps of
alchemically treated resin that are wrapped around the
body fully, similar to a mummy’s bandages.