This particular page is an attempt to archive unprinted material created for the Sword and Sorcery Studio’s Java-based Chats game setting. This was an online environment wherein you could take part in the Ravenloft 3rd Edition campaign world. The online setting used the decadent and dangerous city of Rookhausen. The web pages where it was originally hosted are no longer active, and people are therefore forced to dig for their original condition at places like the Wayback Machine. In fear that even that illustrious resource might someday lose or cease to carry the information, I wanted to save it here.
Chat Game Introduction
The city of Rookhausen stands on the shores of the Nocturnal Sea in the empty quarter near the border of Darkon and Nova Vaasa. Knowledgeable travelers of the region claim that it was not always so, but there is no denying the city’s gloomy presence now. Citizens of Rookhausen say that their city has always stood on these shores, and that it is only the outside world which has changed around them. Warily the two eye each other, newcomer and native, curious and cautious. The black birds of Rookhausen sit upon the city’s towers and walls, gnawing at bones stolen from the market square and watching as though they sense death on the wind.
An Introduction to Rookhausen History
While the city of Rookhausen originated in the same lands as Barovia and its evil Count, Rookhausen was not to be found in Ravenloft until it was sacked by the young barbaric warlord Janisar the Terg as he vengefully sought Strahd, the terrible ruler who drove the Tergs from Barovia and had slain so many of Janisar’s forefathers. For long days and days, Janisar and his soldiers combed the lands where Barovia lay, searching for the Barovian people and their wicked count. They could find no one, not a single villager.
Finally one evening they came upon Rookhausen by the sea. Janisar’s Terg scouts suggested to him that the city was not part of Barovia. Janisar flew into a rage and declared that it could not be so, this must be a trick of the devil Strahd (Janisar and the Tergs thought of Strahd as a devil even though they had no clue of his fate once the Mists took him due to his reputed necromantic powers and his terrors upon the Terg people). He declared that he would taste the blood of his enemies ere he saw dawn again and ordered his troops to assault the city. As the battle raged on, bloody atrocity after bloody atrocity being rained upon the people of Rookhausen, the Mists rose up around Rookhausen.
Janisar should have been slain in battle by the many grievous wounds he suffered in the battle, but the Dark Powers saw the deep rage and cruelty in his heart and sought to torment him. He became like unto Strahd, though he knew it not yet, and became a devilish vampire also. In addition, in the night to come, he found that Rookhausen rested in a realm eternally surrounded by mist, from which he could not escape. On occasion outlanders would stumble across Rookhausen in the mist and sometimes they even told stories of Barovia and Strahd. Janisar became convinced that Strahd had bound him somehow in a terrible trap. For the years since then he has ever sought some way to escape the trap of Rookhausen and finally get his revenge upon Strahd and the Barovian people.
While Janisar was a potent conqueror, he was an incompetent ruler. As the city grew due to a gradual absorption of outsiders and the culture they brought, as well as a rebuilding and slow rise in the culture of the people of Rookhausen, he became more and more out of touch with those who pulled the strings in his domain. While Janisar could easily bully or kill anyone who stood against him, he was not prepared for the times to come. For one thing, Janisar still could not learn to read, and the education of more and more of the citizens of Rookhausen led them to greater degrees of free thinking. Finally this was put to deadly use by the bourgeois nobility of the city. A number of them led a coup against Janisar, taking advantage of the natural divisions that existed in the domain.
While the true division upon which they seized was one of classism, the physical tool employed was the terrain feature of Rookhausen known as the Breakwall. A long shallow cliff approximately 35 to 40 feet in height divided the city into an upper and lower city. The lower city sat close to the crashing waves, and hosted sailors, dockworkers, poor tradesmen, beggars and all those the nobility considered lower class. The upper city was reached through carved stone stairs or the Causeway, and held the palatial houses of the nobility, the fine houses of rich merchants, and the new neighborhoods of the thriving middle class.
During a parade of Janisar’s soldiers in the dock district, whilst the warlord slept, the private mercenaries of the nobility collapsed the Causeway and seized the upper city. Brutal fighting broke out, and Janisar’s tiny but formidable keep was shattered. Most of his soldiers were kept at bay, unable to successfully mount the Breakwall against the assault from above. The nobles took control over the city and appointed one of their own as Lord Mayor. Little did they know that Janisar’s vampiric powers allowed him to escape to the dark ground in the lower city which should have been his grave so many years before. The very next night the raging warlord rose from his sleep to turn his full wrath against the nobles who cast him down, only to discover that he could no longer enter the upper city. The Dark Powers of Ravenloft closed the trap even tighter upon Janisar and he determined that the nobles must be in league with the devil Strahd somehow.
In the score of years which followed, the city of Rookhausen turned in upon itself in a grim internal war. The nobility of the upper city merrily poisoned and betrayed their brethren as one after another made their bid for the position of Lord Mayor. Always the new Lord Mayor has been he who could subtly silence his enemies yet retain the support of his fellow noble houses, especially those with the clout and money to contest his rule and the sense to keep to the shadows.
Meanwhile, the deadly Janisar turned his nightly attentions to the lower city. Slowly he settled into despair, disappearing from the public eye and becoming little more than a historical footnote dredged up only by commoner superstitions. Rookhausen might have become little more than the forgotten tomb of an undead warlord were it not for the shifting of the Mists east of Darkon in 750. For the first time in centuries, the Mists which surrounded Rookhausen cleared away, and the city found itself open to the world beyond. Cautious explorers learned that the mists had revealed that Rookhausen lay in southeastern Darkon, relatively near to its border with Nova Vaasa and that its seashore joined with that of the Nocturnal Sea.
The new trade with other realms quickly led to an unparalleled prosperity which began to attract visitors from as far away as the Sea of Sorrows. One of those who came to the city in 751 was the paladin Argen Wolfsbane. The powerful holy warrior of Ezra joined the city guards of Rookhausen and rapidly rose in the ranks. He gained sponsors to rebuild the crumbling city walls and turned the broken keep of Janisar into the bailiwick of the city gates. Argen tirelessly led patrols to drive away bandits and other miscreants who flocked to the countryside surrounding Rookhausen to prey upon its caravans and growing nearby villages. For humble farmers who eke out a living in the hard soil, the lands between the outlying moors and the city walls are known as Ezra’s Promise and Argen Wolfsbane as its defender. After 7 years, Argen Wolfsbane has earned the title of Lord Protector and is seen by many as equal in rank and power to the Lord Mayor of Rookhausen.
The Lord Protector no longer strays farther into the city than its defensive walls, outworks and barbicans. For his part, he sees no reason to dabble with the decadent bourgeois of the city when he has grim work to do keeping the surrounding lands safe from evil. Just last year, Argen Wolfsbane was wounded by a ravenous wolf during his patrols, and while the wound has healed to leave only a vicious scar, some whisper that it has left a mark that runs deeper than the once unmarred skin of the Lord Protectors handsome face. If any other outward change might be noted, however, it is only that he has redoubled his efforts to root out the treacherous wolf cult which hides in the outlying moors. The soldiers who patrol the villages of Ezra’s Promise carry silver tipped crossbows and routinely shoot anyone who violates curfew on the nights of the full moon.
It is 758 by the Balok calendar (BC). The Lord Mayor of Rookhausen claims dominion over the city, though he constantly faces treachery on the part of lesser nobles. He fears that the people will throw their support to Argen Wolfsbane, however, and thus publicly praises the Lord Protector while attempting to arrange for some hideous scandal with which to discredit him. The lower city slides into further decline as its streets are deadly to walk by night and dismal to see by day. Pirates occasionally are so bold as to walk the streets openly, and the scent of dead fish is omnipresent. Worse still an odd blood cult has arisen in the lower city, one which appears to bear a dark hatred of Baloks and Barovians which has resulted in more than one merchant’s gruesome death. Investigations by the city watch have not cracked the cult’s code of silence nor stopped their depredations. In the moors outside the city, a generation of young followers of the Wolf God has grown up to regard the White Knight of Ezra’s Promise and his anchorites with a seething sense of rage and hatred. The bourgeois nobles of Rookhausen party late into the night and play deadly games of Machiavellian politics. Magnificent masquerade balls descend into hellish pits of debauchery where duels, poisonings, forbidden pleasures and obscenely expensive works of artistry vie for attention. Welcome to the broken dream of a bitter conqueror and the twisted realms which slough from its decaying flesh.
The Noble Houses of Rookhausen
All political power in Rookhausen is held by the Nine noble houses. These aristocratic bodies combine the best and worst of family, merchant empire and squabbling lords as they vie for control over their city. Every guild is part of one of the Houses, and every employee of the city owes allegiance to one or more of the House members.
What follows is a bit of the more public lore regarding each of the nine houses:
Floretti – A smaller, younger house, the Floretti line does it’s best to avoid conflict. Consummate negotiators, arbitrators, and courtiers, the Floretti’s do their best to remain neutral in the schemes that envelope Rookhausen’s aristocracy.
Gorkoski – A Terg house, the Gorkoski stubbornly cling to the old ways. Known for quick tempers, big builds, and a predisposition toward violence, the Gorkoski’s own the majority of Rookhausen’s smithies, and also provide the best security outside the standing military of the Knight Protector.
Mirari – Artisans and Courtiers, the Mirari are one of the most well established and liked houses of Rookhausen. Setting the trends for fashion and society, the Mirari often have a hand in how the city is governed, though they rarely achieve the coveted position of Lord Mayor.
Parfonte – Another young house, the members of House Parfonte are well known for being diplomats on par with the Floretti. Walking the line between all the houses, the Parfonte currently hold the Lord Mayorship. Lord Mayor Sydney Parfonte and his family also control many of the city docks of Rookhausen, and pull their income from the bustling sea trade in the area.
Sergevski – A house for the heart of the people, the Sergevski’s are the largest patrons of religion in Rookhausen. Many of their younger members join various religious orders, and currently the house has an alliance with the Knight Protector. Extremely devout and pious, the Sergevski do their best to ensure the spiritual safety of Rookhausen’s people.
Szechski – An older house, the Szechski house is responsible for the care of Rookhausen’s sick and insane through their donation of Whitehall Asylum to the monks who tend it. Espousing ideas of self-reliance and personal improvement, the Szechski’s are often at odds with the Sergevski’s.
Tarok – Responsible for Rookhausen’s livestock and the majority of hunting in the area, the Tarok are another mostly Terg household. The Tarok’s also control the majority of Rookhausen’s stables. Respectful of the Knight Protector, the men of house Tarok occasionally aid the Knight Protector in his duties. House Tarok is also on good terms with House Gorkoski.
Wyrog – Recognizably the best scholars in Rookhausen, the Wyrog family rarely leaves its libraries and holdings, preferring study to social life. This focus on academics has caused the house to fall out of favor with the Sergevski’s, though the Wyrog’s show no remorse over this state of affairs. The Wyrog also serve as tutors, scribes, and clerks for the various noble houses in Rookhausen.
Yaroslav – Perhaps the oldest house in the city, the Yaroslav are distinctly Balok in origin. They are also extremely wealthy, controlling the agricultural aspects of Rookhausen’s economy. Focusing on tradition, the Yaroslav also have a history of Lord Mayorships.
Culture Level: Medieval (7) for the peasantry & lower classes of Rookhausen as they seldom see the luxuries and wonders of the higher classes. Chivalric (8) in the aristocracy & higher class areas of Rookhausen’s upper city.
Landscape: Rookhausen lies in the southeastern empty quarter of Darkon, near its border with Nova Vaasa. The city lis on the shores of the Nocturnal Sea along a long low cliff known as the Breakwall. The Breakwall averages about 35 to 40 feet in height and divides Rookhausen into a lower city, predominantly inhabited by its lower classes, and an upper city, ruled by the noble houses and their merchants, servants and minions. To the southwest of the city lie the Grey Moors, inhabited by remnants of the savage Wolf Cult. Northwest of the city are the fae-haunted Creeping Wood Fens. These wet rugged lands are pierced by the western road as it curves past the mysterious great Wight Hill. North from the city runs the northern road towards the more populated areas of Darkon. Far off to the west are the Dnar River and the Mountains of Misery
Major Settlements: The city of Rookhausen (pop. 12,000+), Village of Anchor (pop. 500), Southmoor (pop. 300), Northfen (pop. 300). [Note – The city population here was one of those which we listed when we thought the chat might become as popular as the World of Darkness chat New Bremen. We originally had it even higher, at 25k. In reality, I believe that the population should be much lower than this, particularly it should be significantly lower than that of Il Aluk.]
The Folk: Population – 12,000+. [See population note above.] Humans 75%, Halflings 10%, Half-Elves 5%, Elves 4%, Dwarves 4%, Gnomes 1%, Other 1%. Languages – Balok*, Terg*, Darkonese, Vaasi. Religion – The Lawgiver*, Ezra, the Eternal Order.
The two dominant human ethnic groups are the Baloks and the Tergs. Baloks tend toward thick, stocky builds with broad shoulders and wide hips. Balok skin tones run from pale oliver-tan to light brown. Dark hair and eyes are typical, the former ranging from light chestnut to nearly jet-black, the latter from pale hazel to deep brown. Tergs are taller and large of limb. They share the dark hair and eyes of the Balok, though their skin tends to be ruddier in tone.
The official state religion of Rookhausen is the Lawgiver. Since the coming of the Lord Protector Argen Wolfsbane however the church of Ezra has grown more and more notable in recent years, and the Eternal Order from Darkon is also growing in strength. In the Grey Moors, it is said that the remnants of the ancient Wolf Cult lurk, emerging only to harass villagers and travelers.
The Law: Hereditary Aristocracy, Feudal hereditary aristocracy. In the city of Rookhausen, as in most its size, one is born into their station. Rookhausen is ruled by nine noble houses: the Floretti, Gorkoski, Mirari, Parfonte, Sergevski, Szechski, Tarok, Wyrog and Yaroslav. The houses select the Lord Mayor from amongst their own number, though the political wrangling and backstabbing which precedes this is a byzantine morass beyond the ken of most common folk. The current Lord Mayor is Sydney Parfonte.
Law and order are maintained within the city by a paid constabulary simply called the City Guard by most people, or other less pleasing terms by those who hate them. They bear a red and black standard with the city coat of arms, and most of them also wear the badge of one of the noble houses as well.
The city walls and outlying areas fall under the purview of the Lord Protector, Argen Wolfsbane, and his troops. The Lord Protector’s soldiers are trained to dispatch bandits and invading forces. They patrol regularly, and often clash with the Wolf Cult near Southmoor. They bear a white standard with an upright sword, reminiscent of the symbols of Ezra. Indeed many of those most loyal to the Lord Protector refer to the lands outside of Rookhausen’s walls as Ezra’s Promise.
Trade and Diplomacy: Resources – fish, wheat, cattle, beer, usury, culture. Coinage – solar (gp), lunar (sp), penny (cp).
Rookhausen has established strong trade with the surrounding areas since its emergence from the Mists in 750. The near regions of Darkon are relatively empty and unforgiving, but ready access to the sea allows easy trade with the elves of Nevuchar Springs and the merchants of Egertus. Overland traders from Sidnar, Barovia and Tepest also make the journey.
Relations with neighbors so far have been polite if strained. Darkon sent an emissary whose underlying words seemed to suggest that King Azalin saw Rookhausen as part of his lands, but simply allowing a branch of the Eternal Order to break ground in Rookhausen seemed to mostly pacify his dignity. The ruling houses of Rookhausen worry about potential future problems with Darkon, however, and have been steadily currying favor with other states, particular Nova Vaasa. The Lord Protector’s men have many tiny fortifications in place across the surrounding landscape in case of invasion, though many fear the reputation of the sorcerous king of Darkon. The Lord Mayor seems confident that so long as Rookhausen is beneficial to its neighbors that the city will find tolerance and acceptance in the politics of the land.
Characters: Classes – bards, fighters, rogues and aristocrats are especially fitting classes for Rookhausen. Experts and commoners also abound of course. Barbarians and druids are not usually comfortable in the city, as it has long ago lost the uncivilized edge. Skills – Gather Information, Profession (fisherman, sailor). Feats – Skill Focus.
This is a list of the official permanent chat “rooms” in the Sword & Sorcery Rookhausen RPG chat. Other rooms were created on a temporary basis by Game Masters and even players, but these are the backbone of the city’s theme.
Blackiron Gunsmithy: Located in the upper city, this strange shop is the only maker of guns to be found in Rookhausen. The craftsman is said to hail from Mordent perhaps.
Causeway Guardhouse: As the only part in the imposing Breakwall, the Causeway serves as the sole way to travel between the Low and High streets. The Causeway’s ramp-like roadway cuts through the cliff side at a somewhat steep incline, and is surrounded by the grim walls of the City Guardhouse. It’s well known that passage through the Causeway is prohibited after nightfall and few wish to test the guards for fear they might join the unfortunates under lock and key.
The Breakwall is approximately 35 feet tall for its entire length within city limits. The cliff divides the upper city from the lower city below. Atop the cliff is a 5 foot tall wall at the very edge, meant to keep children, runaway horses and the casual drunk from falling to tragedy.
The Causeway Guardhouse acts as the main barracks for the city watch, and as primary jail as well. It’s stone chambers are cut into the Causeway sides or built of sturdy stone blocks and iron bars either at the top or bottom of the cliff face. Citizens of the lower city must pass through the Causeway to gain access to the upper city, and to travel towards the Lord Protector’s Gate. They will not be allowed to carry heavy weaponry or armor should they wish to do so, nor will they be allowed to carry firearms of any sort from or into the lower city unless they are clearly nobility or the employees of such.
Devil’s Rock: This barren but large rock is said to have been the bane of sailors until the current lighthouse was built upon it over three centuries ago. It remains uninhabited except for a twisted and accursed leper colony, and a strange old lighthouse keeper.
Dockside: Where the lower city reaches the water, the edge is lined with docks in various states of disrepair. Night and day ships both fair and foul ply the waters of the Nocturnal Sea and many do trade with the city of Rookhausen.
All manner of ships which sail upon the Nocturnal Sea can be found on port at the docks of Rookhausen, from the rowboats of solitary fishermen to the galleons of traders.. Fishing and whaling have long made up some of the backbone of the city’s economy, and thus over time the docks have grown to span the entirety of the drowned wall. Outside of the crumbling, eroded masonry of the drowned Wall or the arches of the Lord Protector’s Gate, the docks are the only real way into the city.
Fish Head Row: Sandwiched between the dirtiest of the docks and the most run down and questionable of warehouses near the shore, this ratty lane is home to a number of hole in the wall dives wherein illegal gambling, prostitution, desperate drinking and even occasional bloody murder thrive. The lower city watch barely patrols the area, and often when they do they are up to no good themselves.
Floretti Cabaret: Located in the upper city, this hall hosts fine performances by beautiful exotic dancers of both sexes and a number of inhuman races as well. Run by the Floretti noble house, it is the public place to be seen if you are part of the aristocracy. Only the private party of one of the nine houses could possibly be more socially important.
Harvest Moon Inn: Known throughout lower Rookhausen as a safe haven after nightfall for those in the Low Streets. The Harvest Moon has earned a reputation as a place for a road weary traveller to rest his head and fill his belly for the evening. Located relatively near the docks the Harvest Moon has long been heavy laden with all manner of seafarers.
High Market: Located in the center of the higher city, this market hosts all of the finest merchants and their shimmering wares, each eager to capture the delight and attention of the nobility’s eyes.
High Streets: Streets of the upper city. Rookhausen’s better quarter is a place for the civilized folk of the city, and as any city it’s size Rookhausen has no lack of wealthy merchants nor ruling nobles – albeit the wealthy merchants almost all work for one of the noble houses in one fashion or another. By day the High Streets are abuzz with with business of merchants and consumers as well as the footfalls of the city’s many guards. By night the High Streets are almost wholly abandoned save the many guards who patrol after having closed off the Causeway at nightfall.
Linden Catacombs: These somber stone tombs lies mostly in cold tunnels carved beneath the carefully guarded iron and stone walls of the graveyard. Nine great underground halls divide into numerous lime dusted grim galleries housing centuries of nobility and their dead ancestors.
Lord Mayor’s Hall: Located in the upper city, this grand but utilitarian structure serves as the official second home to whichever noble happens to currently be Lord Mayor. As such it is the center of the magistrates and officials who serve the nobility of Rookhausen in administering their rule over the city.
Lord Protector’s Gate: The Lord Protector’s gate is the only legal means of entrance into the city of Rookhausen beyond the docks. Massive and imposing displays of craftsmanship, the walls of the gate are cut from all manner of stone and have long ago grown over with patches of ivy here and there. The gates are also known to house the city guard, serving as both a barracks and the city’s first means of defence. After sunset the Lord Protector’s gate remains closed regardless of any who would come until daybreak.
It is said that the Lord Protector’s Gate was built from the ruins of Janisar’s Keep, which he in turn built from the ancient Lord’s fortress which he sacked during the Terg invasion of Rookhausen.
Low Market: Even the poor huddled masses of Rookhausen must eat and clothe themselves. This sprawling open air market hosts everything from fishermen hawking their fish to tailors, cobblers, and bakers crying out to prospective customers. It is loud, dirty and raucous, and only rarely does a noble slum it to visit the Low Market. Nevertheless, much of the business here is done by those who turn a profit somehow through the houses, and visiting taxmen are not an uncommon, if unwelcome, sight.
Low Streets: Streets of the lower city. The streets of Rookhausen’s peasant’s quarter are riddled with crime and vice. The sick, the crippled and the beggars line the streets by day, along with peddlers of all manner of wares, both legal and criminal. By night however the Peasant quarter’s gutters lay cluttered with drunkards and all manner of miscreants removed from the city’s taverns as the back alleys gather errant whores and criminals throughout the night.
Northfen: This village lies perhaps a day’s travel (if one pushes their horses to ride hard without stopping) to the north of Rookhausen along the edges of the Creeping Wood Fens. Unfortunately for the villagers, the Fens are said to hold any number of wicked fair folk.
Public Bathhouse: In the lower city, cleanliness can be a godsend, and can be difficult to achieve. Most people must settled for bathing in the ocean or with captured rainwater. This large building holds a number of naturally warm pools settled into the rock. Nobles maintain their own private bathhouses on their estates in the upper city.
Southmoor: This village lies perhaps a days travel to the southwest of the city. It lies all too near the Grey Moors which are a known haven for members of the Wolf Cult, and reputedly for terrible wolves and werewolves.
Temple of the Lawgiver: This grand structure rests along the edge of the High Market in the upper city. It is the official temple of the city, and holds the “coronation” of each new Lord Mayor. Commoners are welcome to attend public mass provided they remain respectifully silent at all times. Church guards will not hesitate to whip sense into a “lesser man”.
Village of Anchor: Half a day’s journey from Rookhausen via the Western Road, the small village of Anchor is a waypoint for many who are caught outside the city gates after nightfall. Composed primarily of humans, Anchor is a quaint, simple gathering of farmers, hunters and their families. Within the bounds of this quaint village lies the Temple of Ezra. The Lord Protector refers to all of the land along this strip as Ezra’s Promise and encourages devotion to the god. Certainly citizens are happy to receive the protection of the strong right arms of the Lord Protector and his men.
Whitehall Asylum: The Szechski family donated land and a large building they owned in the lower city to an order of monks who specialize in the care of the mentally disturbed. Rumors say that the Szechski needed to hide a member of their own family from discovery and shame. Whatever the truth, the Szechski technically still own the land, and while the monks demand the right to care for the penniless madman, those of means must pay for the finest treatment known to the minds of Rookhausen. It is said that the Asylum even has a renowned hypnotist from the West who can ease many of the burdens of the soul. Most people never recover from the terrors of Rookhausen, however, and few return from the Asylum. It is a fearful phrase to hear, “We had to send little Emilia to visit the monks of Whitehall.”
The Laws of the City State of Rookhausen
A. Brandishing of any weapon within the city limits of Rookhausen is forbidden and shall be punished with a week’s time in the city jail and the weapon shall be confiscated.
B. All weapons capable of doing so are to be peace bound while within the city limits.
C. Any member of the City guard or the Knights of Ezra is exempt from these laws.
A. The assault of any citizen of the city of Rookhausen is forbidden, and punishable by one month’s time in the city jail.
B. The assault of any member of the City Guard or the Knights of Ezra is a crime against the state and thusly punishable by one year’s time in the city jail. Death at the hands of the defending guard or soldier is more likely.
C. The assault of any member of one of the noble houses of the City State of Rookhausen is a crime against the state and thusly punishable by death by hanging.
A. The murder of any citizen of the city of Rookhausen is a grievous crime punishable by death by hanging.
B. The murder of any of member of the City guard or one of the Knights of Ezra is a crime punishable by death by beheading.
C. The murder of any member of one of the city’s noble houses is a crime punishable by death by hanging. All of the murderer’s worldly possessions shall become property of the noble house of the victim.
Sorcery & Witchcraft
A. The practicing of the Dark Arts in the city of Rookhausen is a crime against our fine city punishable only by purification by fire, burning at the stake.