The evils that haunt Etharis are many, though few can stand against a party of grizzled adventurers alone. In this series, Villains of Grim Hollow, I’ll draw back the curtain on some of those uncommon antagonists that can go toe-to-toe with your Grim Hollow campaign’s player characters. In addition to the relevant statistics, each article in this series will dive into the villain’s backstories, provide plot seeds to incorporate them into your game, and, of course, survey the sweet loot they drop if your party manages to defeat them.
“You think you’ve escaped the Arcanist Inquisition, do you? We’ll see what she has to say about that.”
There is a legend that in the early days of the Arcanist Inquisition an elderly woman single-handedly catalyzed the organization’s efforts to incarcerate spellcasters. In doing so, she earned Empyreus’ favor so she might serve him as an immortal stone jailer. This woman, named Judhakate, was herself accused of being a spellcaster. Yet unlike many others indicted, she was a sorceress of no small power and a recent convert to the religious teachings Empyreus revealed to Sagrado Valieda. She immediately confessed to using magic and revealed the identity of every other mage she knew. The string of incarcerations following Judhakate’s confession was the largest operation the Arcanist Inquisition had completed at that time.
After she had provided the Arcanist Inquisition with all the information she could, Judhakate was imprisoned in the Cathedral of Embers. Despite her age, Judhakate lived many years in the dungeons beneath the Arcanist Inquisition’s headquarters. She spent every day praying to Empyreus, pleading for an opportunity to redeem herself for a lifetime of practicing magic. When she died, her body was disposed of the same way all other heretics were.
But that was not the end.
Although rare, prisoners in the Cathedral of Embers have occasionally managed to escape. The first time this occurred after Judhakate’s passing, she awoke inhabiting the body of a massive gargoyle that had long decorated the roof of the cathedral. In that moment, she instinctively understood that she had at last been given an opportunity to redeem herself. From that night on, Judhakate has tirelessly fulfilled her divine mission to return all those who have escaped the righteous punishment that awaits them in the dungeon of the Cathedral of Embers.
Judhakate In Your Campaign
If you wish to incorporate Judhakate into your Grim Hollow campaign, consider using or drawing inspiration from the following plot seeds.
Befriending a Fugitive. One night at a tavern or inn, the player characters witness an adolescent elf child hiding in a corner of the establishment looking furtively at the door. If the characters do not approach the child, the child will approach them and ask if they are heroes. If the characters say that they are, or wish to hear the child’s tale, the child explains that they are being pursued by a monster made of stone. The child omits the reason they are being chased by Judhakate or that they were ever incarcerated in the Cathedral of Embers. The child pleads with the characters for assistance in escaping or defeating the stony agent of the inquisition.
Nowhere to Run. Having been incarcerated by the Arcanist Inquisition under suspicion of being spellcasters (or for some other crime against Empyreus’ dogma), the player characters must hatch a plot to escape the Cathedral of Embers. Once free the characters get the discomforting sense that the many statues that populate the local settlements are watching them as they pass. Not long after their escape, they are confronted by Judhakate. If they defeat her she continues to return until they discover the secret to ending her pursuit permanently: a fight to the death at the Cathedral of Embers itself.
Judhakate is a creature of few words and unshakeable resolve. Her burning self-hatred stemming from her previous life as a sorceress has made her adherence to Empyreus’ dogma all the more rigid. If she ever experiences regret about the people she has recaptured, she doesn’t show it.
Ideal. “The world is lost without Empyreus’ truth. Without strict adherence to his edicts, darkness will consume all.”
Bond. “I will kill or capture those who escape the Cathedral of Embers.”
Flaw. “I care not for my own safety, only that Empyreus’ will is done.”
Judhakate in Combat
Judhakate fights without fear of death. When she is attempting to recapture a fugitive, she is primarily focused on subduing, but not killing, her intended target. If other creatures get in the way of her mission, she deals with them accordingly. If creatures in the way of her mission display the ability to use magic, she may capture them as well if possible.
While in her lair, Judhakate will first rouse one or more gargoyles to fight alongside her before silencing the spellcaster she identifies as the most dangerous with her lair action. Although she is aware that dying at the Cathedral of Embers would mean true death for her, she believes that Empyreus will prevent this from happening.
Judhakate’s lair is the headquarters of the Arcanist Inquisition, the Cathedral of Embers. The cathedral is built entirely of granite and includes administrative offices, lodging for agents of the inquisition, and a sprawling subterranean dungeon to house accused and convicted spellcasters. When not active, Judhakate motionlessly watches the comings and goings of the Cathedral from a prominent perch on its rooftop.
The challenge rating of Judhakate is 7 (2,900 XP) when she’s encountered in her lair.
On initiative count 20 (losing initiative ties), Judhakate takes a lair action to cause one of the following effects; she can’t use the same effect two rounds in a row.
- If Judhakate is within 10 feet of or standing on worked stone, she melds into the stone (even if it would normally not be large enough to contain a creature of her size). When she does, she immediately emerges in an unoccupied space within 10 feet of any other stonework in the Cathedral of Embers.
- Judhakate awakens one inanimate stone statue within or on the roof of the Cathedral of Embers, using the statistics of a gargoyle. The gargoyle obeys telepathic orders from Judhakate until it becomes an inanimate stone statue again the following dawn.
- Judhakate chooses a creature within her lair and attempts to eliminate its access to the magical energy that suffuses the multiverse. The creature must succeed on a DC 14 Charisma saving throw or it cannot cast spells for 1 hour. At the end of each of the creature’s turns, it can repeat the saving throw, ending the condition on a success. The effect ends early if Judhakate uses this lair action to target a different creature.
The region around the Cathedral of Embers is influenced by Judhakate’s divine nature, creating one or more of the following effects:
- Within 7 miles of Judhakate’s lair, statues and sculptures made from stone to resemble celestials, fey, fiends, or humanoids can shift their eyes and tilt their heads to observe their surroundings. Judhakate can speak with such stones to learn what they have witnessed.
- Within 7 miles of Judhakate’s lair, homes and other buildings that have at least one statue or gargoyle outside collect dust and dirt slower, stay warmer in cold weather, and stay cooler in hot weather.
- When a humanoid within 1 mile of Judhakate’s lair casts a spell that is not a cleric or paladin spell, a red sigil appears emblazoned on their forehead for a number of minutes equal to the level of the spell slot expended to cast the spell. During this time, the humanoid has disadvantage on ability checks made to hide and cannot benefit from invisibility.
If Judhakate dies, these effects fade over the course of 1d6 days.
If defeated beyond the grounds of her lair, the Cathedral of Embers, Judhakate becomes nothing more than a pile of nonmagical stone. When defeated in this way there is a 10% chance that the rubble will contain a gemstone worth 1d10 x 10 GP. Judhakate always knows the direction and distance to these gemstones.
If destroyed within her lair, Judhakate truly dies. However, the divine magic that animated her remains. The stone that makes up the bulk of her body can be ground into a powder with a successful DC 12 Intelligence ability check using alchemist supplies and 10 GP worth of alchemical reagents. This creates 1d3 doses of a powder that can be scrubbed into the skin over the course of 1 minute, giving a creature resistance to nonmagical bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from weapons that aren’t adamantine for 1 hour. Her body consists of enough stonework to make the ability check 2d6 times.
Within the stone are 1d12 gemstones. Each gemstone is worth 1d10 x 10 GP. In addition to their monetary value, these gemstones are magical. A spellcaster who is holding one of the gemstones and casts counterspell or dispel magic can choose to allow the spell to consume the gem. When they do, the spell is cast as if the spell slot expended casting the spell was 3 levels higher (to a maximum of 9th level).
DC 10 Intelligence (History): Legends tell of a penitent sorceress who was transformed into a gargoyle. The story is told to children who express curiosity in mystic subjects as a way to dissuade them.
DC 14 Intelligence (Religion): The gargoyle atop the Cathedral of Embers is a holy servant of Empyreus, dutifully returning all who escape the dungeons. It is said the gargoyle has a whisper network of statues across the region who inform her of the whereabouts of escapees.
DC 16 Intelligence (Arcana): Judhakate is immortal while executing her holy duty off-site of the Cathedral of Embers. The many magic users who fear the gargoyle speculate that only when she returns to her lair is she susceptible to final death. None so far have attempted to walk into the heart of the Arcanist Inquisition to accomplish the task.