Visit the secluded home of the Phoenix Monks under the cloudless skies of the Sky Isles. A breathtaking place where loyalty and discipline r
Recommended Tier: 3
Few have ever seen the earth motes that make up the Sky Isles thousands of feet above the ground, but those fortunate ones will never forget the sight. Reaching this amazingly beautiful place is a challenge; a visitor must climb the tallest mountain and from there, make their way upward from one floating rock to another. Shining white clouds mostly obscure the land beneath the Isles, although a few openings allow stray sunbeams to reach the earth. The largest earth mote is home to the little village of Neverdark; surrounded by luminous clouds and other smaller earth motes, Neverdark is constantly illuminated. Brilliant sunlight streams through the crystal clear skies above the Isles by day, and at night moonlight and starshine bathe them in soft radiance.
Centuries ago, a small group of monks was looking to restart their lives after having had their monastery burned down by a bakeneko. Resembling black cats, bakenekos are sadistic neko yokais—cat demons—who are especially fond of arson. Many monks tried to fight the fiendish, ash-covered cat to no avail. Many perished in the attempt, and their place of meditation and training—made primarily of wood—quickly succumbed to the vile powers of the bakeneko, who laughed while sowing chaos.
The survivors traveled far away from their homes with the goal of rebuilding. Having climbed to the top of the highest mountain they could find, they found that there was still a way to the skies—quite literally. Following this path took them to the bright floating isles touching the crystal clear skies. There, they settled, using as much stone and metal as possible for building materials instead of wood.
They created the Way of the Phoenix as part of the Clan of the Phoenix so they could be prepared if any similar evil would find them again. The training is brutal, involving being subjected to fire and resisting as long as possible. With time, the Phoenix Monks, as they called themselves, perfected the practice, learning not only to resist the fire’s power but to turn it to their advantage.
Under the extreme dedication and discipline of the Phoenix Monks, Neverdark prospered. Their new home being unknown to most of the rest of the world surely helped. On rare occasions, the monks received visitors skillful enough to reach the Sky Isles. A few of these travelers wanted to stay and live there, which the monks didn’t object to as long as the newcomers followed their rules and way of life.
The monks live and work on rice plantations as well as growing other types of vegetables and fruits. Game is rare, with only the occasional mountain goat reaching the Isles, so they rely on trout and eggs for their protein intake. The rocky cliffs that hug the village are rich in quality stone and ore. Most trees have been felled and used to make small kitchen utensils such as bowls and plates.
Few things threaten the village; only a single attack has occurred since the bakeneko tragedy. Around a decade ago, a blue dragon hunting for the rare winged leopards that inhabit these lands tracked one to the monks’ home. The dragon tried to negotiate the monks’ lives in exchange for the beasts, which resulted in a ferocious confrontation. Mounted on the very beasts the dragon wished to eat, the Phoenix Monks triumphed; a sanctuary around the dragon’s bones commemorates the day they stood strong for their home.
“The strong shall respect life with unending serenity.” Because of what the founders went through in the past, Phoenix Monks made sure to pass on their history and values from generation to generation. This created a small society with strong ties, its members respecting and valuing each other. The rare acts of disrespect are severely punished by leaving the offender tied by their feet upside down, pointing at the clouds below the floating island.
Calm and patience are cultivated and are qualities that most monks possess and pride themselves on. They learn to hold anger, hatred, and fear in check, only to be released during a life or death fight, which makes them fearsome combatants.
Because of their past failure, they strive for success, which makes most of them intolerant to weakness and mistakes. Everyone is allowed to make grave mistakes… once. Further failures and errors will result in the monk in question being subjected to the Test of Truth. The price of failure is death, as Neverdark has no room for weaklings.
Sidebar: Isolated Location
Unlike most of the other locations presented in this supplement, the Sky Isles are difficult to randomly come across. Because of this, the first three encounters are connected and linked, assuming that a party will find it precisely by chance. There are other ways to plug this location into your game: