(This was brought on by reading through the excellent Book of Creatures and its entry on the Bakunawa of Philippine myth)
The world used to have seven moons. This is common knowledge among anyone who has studied astronomy, and can occasionally be stumbled across in folk tales, children’s games, and nursery rhymes. Among average folk it would be equivalent to knowledge of non-Pluto trans-Neptunian objects.
There’s only one moon now. Here’s how the story would be told:
Long ago, but not so long ago that men and gods do not remember, the great gray serpent Bakunawa lived in the eastern ocean. In those days there were seven moons, as brilliant and beautiful as gems on a velvet cloth, and Bakunawa rose from the sea each night to watch them pass over his head; He loved beauty and beautiful things. Each night, he loved the moons a little more, and in time it came to be that he loved the moons so much that he wanted them for his own.
On a summer night, when the air was still and the Folk played with the lightning bugs and the moons were bright and full, Bakunawa rose up from the depths and flew up into the sky. He flew higher and higher and grew bigger and bigger until he soared above the sky and could be seen by the whole world like a silvery ribbon. He opened up his great whiskered mouth and GULP! He gobbled up the first moon.
The people below saw all this, and were frightened. They rushed out of their homes into the streets and fields, shouting and stamping their feet and banging on pots and pans, trying to scare Bakunawa away. But the great gray serpent did not hear them down on the ground, and gobbled up the second moon, and right thereafter the third.
The people cried out to the gods, saying “the great Bakunawa is eating the moons one by one and we cannot scare him away! Come to our aid, O gods of man!”
The gods heard the pleas of the people, and a great number answered them. The gods went forth above the sky to deal with Bakunawa, but by the time they arrived, the great gray serpent had eaten all but one of the moons!
The gods did battle Bakunawa then, and they fought through the night. No matter how hard he was struck, he would not spit out the moons. But he was so full from his meal that he could not fight the gods off. Bakunawa was chased out of the sky and back into the depths of the ocean, so deep that the gods could not follow him. There in the darkness he coiled around himself and fell asleep. He sleeps there still, dreaming of the moon that escaped him.
If you ever see his shadow come forth a-gobbling, run out into the streets and shout and stamp your feet and call on the gods to scare his shadow away.
- The First Moon (Gold) – A city-world of kings and crowns. Its mummified inhabitants know the true secret of Royalty.
- The Second Moon (Mahogany) – A puzzle box of a trillion wooden pieces all shifting and locking and turning about in a constant computational dance.
- The Third Moon (Porcelain) – A most beautiful orchid-world of purest white. Rivers of blue and red form traceries on its tectonic petals. The prisoners are too tall and too sharp by half, and their hands are like knives.
- The Fourth Moon (Verdant) – A tangled jungle of twisted helix-towers gone green from verdegris. Electric arcs between copper flowers, acidic mists turn to rain. The inhabitants bottle lightning in their electrocytic tumors.
- The Fifth Moon (Blood) – The sunward side is a scabrous slurry, the nightward is jagged spikes of flash-frozen ichor. Leukocytic colony mats bob atop the ocean, sailed by proboscis’d natives.
- The Sixth Moon (Blue) – A world of lapis lazuli monadnocks, migrating sapphire dunes, methane thunderheads. Its inhabitants were nomads, each tribe chasing a beast it would never catch.
- The Last Moon (Gravedust) – A gray tomb, scarred and broken from the battle between Bakunawa and the gods. Bears a massive, twisting wound across its daylight side. Empty moon beast hive-cities cling to crater rims. The ulfire towers of the New Gods spread slowly across its airless surface.
Visiting the Moon
Currently, the only way to visit the moon is by taking the ship Diamondwing out of Meredat. The ship’s captain, the archmage Balathrysti, is an agreeable but utterly barmy fellow (not particularly surprising, considering he is both a wizard and a natural philosopher) and is willing to take passengers to and from the Moon for a reasonable fee of magical items and spellbooks.
It takes 1d4 days to reach the moon via the Diamondwing (one must take into account the solar winds, radiation currents, perigee/apogee and astral parasite migration patterns). As it is safest to land on the moon when it is full, the Diamondwing will depart an appropriate number of days before the full moon, with its cargo of magical supplies and pilgrims.
Descent takes less than a day, as falling down a gravity well is relatively easy.
Time and space being what they are, the six prior moons are not completely gone. Physically they rest in Bakunawa’s stomach, but metaphysically they still cast shadows upon their old orbits. They phase in and out of entanglement on their own, seeming to replace the Gravedust Moon but rarely appearing for more than a few minutes at a time. A high-level wizard sufficiently trained in quantum metaphysics could potentially anchor one of the six devoured moons in place long enough for the Diamondwing to land upon it.
There is a school of conspiracy that claims that, not only have wizards never gone to the moon, but that there has only ever been one moon at all and Bakunawa does not exist. Their primary argumentative points (as found in their literature) include:
- Wizards, being wizards and thus not caring for things like ethics, would have no compunction about lying to the masses to inflate their ego.
- Woodcuts of wizards on the moon can easily be faked.
- The gods use it as a cover story to hide the horrible truth of their grand murder-orgy.
- Space travel in a magical universe breaks cosmic narrative conventions.
- The entire hoax is just projected illusions by the New God Order, which lives on the moon.
Spawn of Bakunawa will occasionally rise to the surface, to terrorize coastal villages on the eastern sea. These spawn are of animal intelligence, and act so out of hunger or curiosity.
Bakunalings are found in groups of 1d6, and are equivalent to a dragon wyrmling. Instead of a breath weapon, they may swallow an individual whole (Player may avoid on a successful save). Those swallowed by their starless inner void take existential crisis damage every turn. Killing a bakunaling will allow the unfortunate individual to be cut out of its stomach and rescued.
The Serpent Itself
If Bakunawa were to wake, he would rise from his abyssal home and make way towards the moon. Upon emerging from the water, he would be equivalent to an ancient dragon with a swallow attack. Those swallowed will feel even greater existential dread, and take damage accordingly.
Bakunawa will most likely ignore attacks and head onwards to the sky. If critically injured, he might turn his attention to anyone attempting to stop him.
After five turns, Bakunawa will double its Hit Dice and size. This will repeat every 5 turns / 30 seconds, until he has reached proper moon-devouring size.
It is very important to make sure that Bakunawa does not wake up.