I dreamed a dream
I’Cath is one of the Domains of Dread of Ravenloft and is ruled over by the Darklord, Tsien Chiang. On the face of it, I’Cath is a dilapidated place of mouldy, ruined buildings, but a more sinister secret can be found within the dreams of its inhabitants. Tsien Chiang creates a shared dreaming world for her citizens in which they live in a stunning city of her imagining that never achieves the perfection she desires. Her citizens work tirelessly each day to create the perfect city, but never truly achieving her goal.
Information About I’Cath
|Domain Characteristic||Domain Trapped in a Dream|
|Genre||Body Horror and Cosmic Horror|
|Hallmarks||Endlessly changing labrynth, deadly jiangshi, inescapable dreamworld|
The Palace of Bones
Tsien Chiang’s Dream
Characteristics of I’Cath
Within Tsien Chiang’s dreamworld, she strives to create the perfect city. Golden, elaborate and beautiful, the place is constantly transformed to her cunning and incredible designs, each transformation more glorious and stunning than the last. As a perfectionist though, she is never satisfied. Each day, her citizens must change the city to enhance it further to suit her grand designs.
The people could just wake up to enter the physical world of I’Cath, but it is simply a different, and more horrifying nightmare. The winding, maze-like streets are nearly impossible to navigate and all the buildings have been neglected, turning into little more than mouldy ruins that are falling apart. Worse than this are the jiangshi, Chiang’s undead ancestors that emerge at twilight when Chiang renews her dream magic with the tolling of the Nightingale Bell. These undead serveants move all the bulding in I’Cath’s physical world to replicate the positioning of the buildings in the dreamworld. Any inhabtants that are sleeping are left alone to continue building Chiang’s dreamworld, but any people awake are hunted down and killed. All of I’Cath’s denizens must make this choice, to continue in endless servitude in the dreamworld, or to become prey of deadly undead creatures in the physical world.
For most in I’Cath, this means staying in a state of constant sleep, never needing to eat, sleep (in the dreamworld) or attend to any other concerns, meaning only constant work and labour. Most that have been in I’Cath long enough, struggle to even know which state is their dream state and which is their awake state, while others are too afraid to waken from their dream state.
Darklord: Tsien Chiang
Tsien Chiang is the Darklord of I’Cath. Before she came to Ravenloft, though, her home city was taken by invaders. Chiang was fortunate enough to be able to flee and took refuge with a sympathetic gold dragon. Chiang was but a child and so the gold dragon allowed Chiang to serve him.
Tsien Chiang learnt much from the dragon about medicine and magic, but she always held her grudge towards the invaders and always plotted to one day defeat them. The dragon tried to dissuade her form this desire but Chiang’s heart could not be changed. For this reason, the dragon refused to teach her dangerous magic.
It wasn’t long though that Chiang decided to act on her desire for revenge. She’d discovered among the dragon’s books, a magical bell could be created that when struck, would make its ringer’s desires come true. To create it, though, Chiang would need the scale of a gold dragon; something the gold dragon would never give Chiang.
To ensure she could create the bell. Chiang plotted to steal the scale from the dragon by creating a sleeping potion from a rare herb that could even put a dragon to sleep. Chiang put the dragon to sleep and stole one of his scales, but she’d gotten the potion wrong and it began to decay everything, including the dragon and his hoard. Chiang had not only killed her carer, but also destroyed her new home. Unperturbed, Chiang created the Nightingale Bell and carried it to the city of her people striking it and wishing that all the invaders were gone, which is what happened.
The people of the city were delighted at Chiang’s magic and immediately made her the new ruler of the city. Tsien Chiang created fair, but strict laws. Her rule was sensible and enabled the building of a new and better nation where arts and learning flourished. She even settled down, having 4 daughters.
The years passed and the people slowly forgot of Chiang’s gift of freedom and the people became restless with the strict rules imposed upon the people. Rebellions began to rise and Chiang acted quickly to quell these uprisings, killing the perpetrators. But Chiang underestimated the resolve of the people and these revolutions only grew in size. They were destroying everything she had dreamed of, everything she had worked for. Tsien Chiang showed no mercy, she killed the families of the rebels, only for her family to be killed by assassins who also left her seriously injured, but alive.
Aggrieved and vengeful once again, Chiang climbed the tallest tower of her palace to strike the Nightingale Bell. When she did, however, the bell cracked. It did not grant her vengeful desire, instead, a mist enveloped the city, dragging it into Ravenloft, creating the city sized Domain of Dread, I’Cath.
Now, Tsien Chiang obsesses constantly about creating her perfect city within the dream world she has created. She finds imperfections everywhere and will constantly send new orders for the people to find new ways to perfect the city. The Nightingale Bell recreated her daughters in resplendent beauty, exactly how Chiang had imagined them in life. But their resurrection was more sinister for the real versions of the daughters were brought back in an undead state in the real world of I’Cath. Innocent, yet undead. It is believed that they might hold the key to Tsien Chiang’s undoing.
Locations in I’Cath
Hidden within I’Cath’s maze-like streets is the Gemstone garden. A beautiful orchard of fruit trees and carp ponds, laced with gemstone pathways from which the garden gets its name. Residents long to explore the acres of beautiful nature, but are fearful too, for the garden is also the grave-site of Tsien Chiang’s ancestors, who now serve as her jiangshi; undead serveants that enforce Chiang’s laws.
During the day, when jiangshi are not active, a market operates that sells food at huge prices as food is a desperate commodity few can afford. Often, this food is stolen from the Gemstone Garden or has been smuggled across the misty border from another domain of dread.
Rows of poorly maintained, 4-story houses line one part of the city known as the mansions. It is here that most of the people of I’Cath sleep, staying in the dream world. Why they have all congregated here is a mystery, but it seems that most have been sleeping for a considerable amount of time. It is here that the ghosts of Ping’On tower search for lost homes and loved ones.
The Palace of Bones
Tsien Chiang’s home is a palace built from the bones of those she has killed in her pursuit of perfection and peace. It is mostly unkempt apart from the library that sees regular use from Tsien who plans meticulously within its walls. A garden of poisonous plants also grows within the centre of the palace with the Ping’On tower rising majestically through its centre.
Standing at the centre of the garden in The Palace of Bones, Ping’On tower is an octagonal tower with the images of golden dragons carved into its exterior. At the top of the 14-story building is the Nightingale Bell. Every night, Tsien Chiang will climb the tower to ring the bell and renew the magical dream world she continues to curate. It is at this time that the hundreds of spirits that haunt the tower, flee Chiang to wander the streets of I’Cath, hopelessly wondering why they have been forgotten.