The House of Yspher at a Glance
by Guest Designer
October 28, 2019
The lonely house on the hill is no place to spend the night. Many a weary traveller on the road to Dunstone has sought shelter there from the dangers of the night, only to find even darker terrors lurking inside the house’s crumbling walls. Those who find death beyond the shadowed threshold are considered fortunate, for the few who escape the house’s harrowing halls are cursed to endure a life of madness; their bodies and souls scarred beyond mortal comprehension. Few know the truth. The dreaded manor once belonged to Yspher, a reclusive wizard with an evil reputation who mysteriously vanished many years ago. Whispers of sinister experiments involving black magic and forbidden lore surrounded Yspher’s disappearance, which would prove only the first of many tragedies ...
Unearth the disturbing past of Yspher’s dismal demesne and unveil the mystery surrounding Ashlar’s most haunted manor. The House of Yspher awaits!
The House of Yspher sits perched upon a lonely hilltop south of Dunstone. It can be reached only by climbing a narrow, bramble-choked path snaking its way up along the hill’s rugged flanks. Stubborn thickets of holly and hawthorn surround the old manor, and vines of pale ivy crawl across its crumbling face like veins and exposed muscles. Only the sullen, eye-like windows are spared, behind which lurks an utter blackness, even on the brightest day.
A rusted iron fence rings the remains of a garden where a thin, gossamer mist clings to the ground, lazily swirling around gnarled roots, weeds and poison blooms. Herbalists might recognise deadly nightshade, hemlock, foxglove and wolfsbane growing in and around the garden. Most striking, however, are the scarlet orchids growing in an otherwise barren plot at the back of the garden, marking the missing girls’ graves. A character who spends one hour digging finds a girl’s withered remains buried in the cold clay, matted blonde hairs still attached to the scalp.
- Dining Room: Angry townsfolk thoroughly ransacked this room long ago.
- Kitchen: The manor’s kitchen lies in disarray.
- Chapel: This chapel is dedicated to Morden, god of knowledge.
- Library: The library houses a collection of alchemical and historical treatises.
- Master Bedroom: This is where Elvytta slept, if she slept at all.
- Rookery: Hundreds of cawing corvids nest in this dilapidated room.
- Gallery: Ancient portraits of Elvytta’s baneful bloodline deck these sombre walls.
- Secret Study: This concealed study holds a blasphemous book.
- Basement: Gaining access to Elvytta’s prison (areas 12 and 13) requires demolishing part of the western wall.
- Laboratory: This underground laboratory contains Yspher’s remains lying, amid volatile compounds.
- Poison Cabinet: This secret room was Yspher’s arcane poison store. Only one vial remains.
- Black Ossuary: Grisly trophies of her experimentations and rituals decorate Elvytta’s unholy sanctum.
- Exsanguination Chambers: Here in her own torture chambers Yspher imprisoned his demon bride.
History of the House
Nine generations ago, in the autumn years of Duke Arndul Nenonen II’s reign, a reclusive wizard settled into the old rectory near Dunstone. A tall, lank-haired man with piercing blue eyes, Yspher’s appearance soon earned him the distrust of the townsfolk. It was thus considered no small wonder when, four years later, Yspher returned from one of his lonely expeditions alongside a beautiful, raven-haired bride. Elvytta was kind and outgoing, and would often visit Dunstone to chat with the local folk, though she would never speak of her husband’s alchemical pursuits. When several girls from Dunstone mysteriously disappeared, Elvytta went to great lengths to convince the local lord of Yspher’s innocence. One day, however, she stopped coming to town, and the people of Dunstone became convinced the wizard’s dark desires were the cause of these disappearances. They stormed the manor only to find it abandoned. Yspher had escaped justice.
The truth, however, is far more sinister. The thing Yspher took for his bride was no mortal woman. In the guise of the raven-haired beauty Elvytta, she had put a charm upon the wizard, forcing him to conduct terrible, secret experiments. As Yspher slaved away, Elvytta bathed in the blood of lifeless maidens taken from Dunstone. In the face of such cruelty, the fetters laid upon Yspher’s heart and mind were broken. Realising the full extent of the horror he had brought to Dunstone, Yspher resolved to set things right. Feigning enthralment for several more days, he concocted a powerful arcane poison and administered it to Elvytta. Though it failed to kill her, she was paralysed long enough for Yspher to carry her frozen body to the basement, where he immured his bride inside her own horrid torture chamber. The ordeal had taken a terrible toll upon the wizard’s mind, however, and Yspher soon took his own life. Elvytta remains imprisoned beneath the house to this day, driven mad by decades of darkness and isolation.
Credits & More
Design by Bart Wynants; Cartography by Dyson Logos and Bart Wynants
This article is an extract from Dungeon Backdrop: The House of Yspher which is available in 5e, Pathfinder 1, Pathfinder 2 and System Neutral editions.