By Jonathan Wojcik and Rev Storm


We get to talk a bit more about the Scarlet Rot! An infectious deterioration associated with eruptions of fungus, most creatures associated with it are merely its victims, things that were once normal before they were corrupted by the pestilence. The Kindred of Rot on the other hand, sometimes referred to only as the "pests," show no sign of the disease themselves but appear to worship it, or at least worship the current "goddess" of rot, Malenia, who is believed to have created these creatures.

A Kindred is a crustacean-like being at first glance. It has a hunched thorax and a long, flattened, segmented tail that drags behind it, the entire body lined with dozens of thin, bony little human arms that give an impression almost like a house centipede! They wield their weapons with four much larger but otherwise identical corpselike arms, and despite all these limbs, they walk on just one pair of long legs. The back of the thorax also bears a thick coating of slimy looking soft flesh and tufts of black hair, but it's unclear whether this is part of their anatomy or merely filth that they're caked with. They also attack with "silk strands" that launch like homing missiles from their carapaces!

The heads are especially cute. They're very small, eyeless and similar to termites, with prominent mandibles and one more pair of tiny, dangling arms where an insect would have manipulative palps. Their heads also look a lot larger at first glance than they actually are because they almost all wear a big, conical snail shell as a hat! For some reason, I haven't seen many other reviewers point this out.

An item, the Kindred of Rot's Exultation, gives us one of our only glimpses into their culture, reading: "Rot for the scarlet goddess. O scarlet blossoms, flourish in distant lands, and return to us, the unwanted children."

The Scarlet Rot is thought to be an aspect of an outer god that has been sealed away, while Malenia is merely a demigod who was born afflicted with this cosmic entity's "curse," becoming the Goddess of Rot in the being's stead. It's possible that the Kindred more closely resemble the original entity, but they at least believe they are the abandonded children of Malenia specifically, and they seek to perpetuate the rot in an effort to win back her favor. If they are correct, then perhaps their existence or at least their physical form is an accidental by-product of Malenia's "human" demigod blood tainting the rot's presence in the Lands Between, or perhaps they were an early attempt by Malenia to create something before she fully embraced the rot and learned to control it.

But what if they're wrong? This is just my own hypothesis, but what if everything about the Kindred was deliberate, and they're functioning exactly as intended? Their world is full of humans and humanoids, races that look much more like the demigods who share their blood, but this is the one sapient race or "civilization" in the setting with the very least human physiology. They are, perhaps, carefully designed to be shunned by other races, and when their own mother is so much closer to those races than themselves, they're all too easily convinced that they're unworthy failured; that they "came out wrong" and must earn back her love. Nothing fuels devotion like that desperation for approval; we see it in everything from unhealthy interpersonal relationships to fanatical religious cults everywhere.

Maybe the "pests" are just what they appear to be on the surface - rejected "abominations" born from an unnatural corruption - or maybe they're just an entire race of lonely, confused children naively carrying out the will of a deadbeat mom.