Many thousands of years ago, before the Suel had formed an empire, ancient kingdoms of black-skinned humans dominated the lands of Zahind. But as the wheel of time turned, the rulers of the kingdoms grew wicked and corrupt and violence and war filled the land. When the fledgling Suloise nation invaded from across the northern mountains, the rulers of Zahind responded by making pacts with foul spirits, fiendish entities from other planes believed to be personifications of ignorance and rage. Responding to the mortals' calls, the spirits entered the wombs of a generation of women to be born anew encased in flesh.
Within a short generation, little more than a decade, the spirits - rakshasas, as they were known - had grown to maturity. They were bestial-looking humanoids with the heads of tigers, serpents, apes, and other creatures and backwards-facing hands, gifted with powers of ignorance and deception. The generation of rakshasas displaced the humans to become rulers of the land, with the greatest among them, the maharajah Ravanna, leading them all. Under Ravanna's leadership they squelched all opposition, driving the Suloise back over the mountains and killing all those Zahindi who resisted their rule.
For many generations - perhaps centuries - the rakshasas ruled unopposed, treating humanity as slaves and cattle. But then Ravanna stole the bride of an exiled human prince, and this prince gathered together armies from three nations of virtuous beasts to slay Ravanna and win back his bride. After many trials, Ravanna was struck through the heart by the prince's blessed spear and the maharajah's spirit was banished to the plane of Acheron where it remains to this day. Because of the three beast kings who were his constant companions, the prince became known as Tripashu, which means "three beasts" in the Zahindi tongue. The people of the land came to worship their liberator as an avatar of the god of freedom and retribution, who had in various incarnations battled against oppressors since the beginning of time. Tripashu is known in other lands as well; the Oeridians call him Trithereon and have their own tales of his crusades against tyranny.
As for the rakshasas, after the death of their leader they were scattered and demoralized, hunted by their former subjects and by the armies of virtuous beasts. They were forced to live among men in secret, in seemingly harmless guises, and only in the islands to the south did they continue to rule openly, hunting mortals from their swift ships. Some fled across the mountains to the north, to prey on the Suloise people who knew less of their ways and could not be vigilant against them. Some entered the jungles to the northeast, hunting the Olmans and birthing the jackalweres and other horrors. In the present day they can be found in places as distant as the Flanaess, where a group of them have been discovered corrupting a temple of Pelor on the Wild Coast. In the Flanaess they dwell in human cities and among the races of the Underdark, taking over criminal guilds or wealthy merchant clans, often allying themselves with diabolists and the Horned Society. Rumors have it that a merchant prince in the United Kingdom of Ahlissa and a lover of the Sultan of Zeif are both rakshasas in disguise. Some few live openly among the humanoids of the Pomarj and the Bone March. Fraz-Urb'luu has taken some into his service, and these rule as his vassals in the demon prince's realm in the Abyss, calling themselves the Hollow Rajahs. The children of the Hollow Rajahs, the chaotic darbas, have abandoned humanoid form. In Acheron rakshasas serve in the court of their banished master, and in the Ten Hells (as the Zahindi know them) rakshasas teach sorcery in the Three Courtly Schools. Wherever they go, rakshasas seek ever to deceive, hunt, and devour humanity, whom they despise, and to prepare for the reincarnation of Ravanna, their ancient king, who will once again unify their people and lead them to victory.
Statistics for darbas can be found in The Book of Fiends: Armies of the Abyss by Erik Mona. The Three Courtly Schools were mentioned in Beyond Countless Doorways by Monte Cook, Wolfgang Baur, Colin McComb, and Ray Vallese. Those looking for more on rakshasas are advised to read the Bestiary 3 from Paizo Publishing, for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and the Complete Guide to Rakshasas from Goodman Games.
The soul is treacherous and filled with sin. To conquer temptation, one must be willing to venture deep within the dark dungeons of the spirit. And slay dragons. - Cuthbertine proverb.
Dragons are viewed throughout the world as the wisest and most terrible of monsters, guardians of both physical treasure and ancient knowledge and magic. They appear in myth and legend as personifications of primal Chaos that heroes must defeat for civilization to be established and as ancient guardians and sages whose cooperation must be won for their treasures to be shared with the rest of the cosmos.
Because they are not descended from the Animal Lords created by Beory, dragons are not considered to be "natural creatures" by the druids, though many will classify them with the fabulous or talking beasts born in later eras who have since found their niches in the Oerth's web; not abominations, simply not part of Beory's original plan.
Although they are thought by many to be older than the world, dragons are not considered to be alien to the world. Rather than arriving on Oerth from elsewhere, Oerth arrived on them. They keep the same territories their ancestors did, except now there are forests, mountains, and seas where once there was only void.
Dragons are often viewed as timeless creatures who have waited throughout eternity, uncreated and ageless. The dragon or serpent with its tail in its mouth, the uroborus, is a common symbol for this, and the chief draconic god, Io, is represented this way, often as a nine-headed being with one of its nine tails in each of its mouths.
The dragons themselves encourage this view. The gold great wyrm Buelath in the Crystalmist Mountains said to a visiting scribe:
"The world is old, scaleless thing. It is older than you can dream. The dragons have survived many ages; before your age was an age of ice and snow, when the fey lords of mountain and storm became the first giants to take their vengeance upon those who had brought about the doom of the world's First Age. Before that was the age of the great behemoths, and of the fey, when the sidhe lords brought the dragons gifts of precious metals and stones to honor them and there was peace between dragons and the rest of the lands. Before that was the age of chaos, when the dragons fought nameless things in the formless, unmade world, learning how to make the elements part of their nature. Before that was the pure void, when dragons slept alone in the darkness, waiting for light to dawn."
The linnorm Foestel in the Griff Mountains is more succinct:
"Before the world, we dragons lied coiled in the roots of the World Tree, where we had slept since the end of the last creation. When the World Tree bloomed into the Nine Worlds, we flew to each of them, staking out our territories and claiming the treasures we found."
Not every creation myth insists that dragons are older than the world. In some Suel myths, evil dragons are the spawn of Beltar, born as part of a vast brood of horrors that she birthed in vengeance against Lendor. Yet Lendor, too, is portrayed as a dragon in some iconography, having transformed into a silver dragon in order to better battle Beltar's red dragon form, and creating good dragons to battle Beltar's wicked children on Oerth.
Among the Oeridians, there is a story of Kurell, when he was first exiled from the company of the gods. The story goes that he went under the world, in the dark realms where monstrous things dwell, and he copulated with a hideous hag who gave birth to monsters that embodied Kurell's greed: the first dragons. Later theologians, influenced by Suloise mythology, identify this hag as Beltar, but the earliest myths left her nameless.
The Thillonrian barbarians also tell of Beltar, and her sister Syrul, giving birth to terrible worms in the underworld after copulating with daemons, frost giants, wolves, and serpents. Their children bred with one another for generation upon incestuous generation, until they chewed through one of the roots of the World Tree and crawled through the hole they made all the way to the mortal world, where they became known as the linnorms, the worm-dragons of the north. Another tale says that when Vatun imprisoned the serpent that coils around the world, the serpent's tail lashed out and broke a hole in the skull that forms the sky, and the linnorms writhed through from their nest in the world of the dead.
Among the dwarves, the dragons are usually said to have been sparks flying from the forge of Moradin as he forged the world, landing in a pile of unworked gold with which Moradin had hoped to fashion the sunsets. When Moradin blew out the sparks, they were embued with life, becoming long, reptilian beings who eternally craved gold for themselves.
There is an alternate dwarven myth that their god of greed, Abbathor, created the first dragons by cursing (or rewarding) a group of dwarves who attempted to steal from his trove, giving them monstrous forms that reflected their monstrously greedy natures. Others say Abbathor himself was the first dragon, or they borrow from the myth of Kurell (or vice versa) and say that dragons were the spawn of Abbathor and Beltar.
According to the stories handed down from the Flan, dragons are the eldest of Beory's children, born just before the giants and privy to the most ancient of their mother's secrets, heirs to her oldest treasures. The dragons themselves claim to be older than Beory, older than the Oerth she personifies. They speak of long ages in which they dreamed alone in the void before Creation, and the ages of primal chaos that followed when the dragons warred with the elder elemental lords and titans over the pure minerals that formed in the elemental soup. In those ages the dragons learned to make the raw elements part of their own nature, so that they could turn these new substances against their foes. The elder dragons fought, killed, and sometimes died in combat against bizarre elemental beings with names and titles like Caastanmij the Shattered Khan and Erek-Hus, King of Terror. While dragons often appear in the myths and legends of humans and demihumans as if they were personifications of Chaos that needed to be defeated in order for civilization to exist, the dragons themselves have even older myths in which their own deities battle still more primal Chaos.
The elves, in contrast, say little of the origins of dragonkind. The dragons were already on Oerth when the olvenfolk arrived, and some of their early heroes slew particularly vile wyrms in order to make room for their own people. Elven theologians count the gods of the dragons among the descendants of Earth and Heaven, much as their own gods, but of an elder generation.
Dragons are unthinkably ancient; they have been part of the world since at least the Age of Behemoths, when they reigned as kings of the dinosaurs and serpent people. The dragons themselves claim to have existed before the creation of the world, to have woken from a timeless, dreaming sleep when the elder elemental lords spun the first substance into the primal void. As no dragon but the most ancient and godlike truly remembers that time except in the mystical dream-state they periodically slip into for years or centuries at a time, this is impossible to confirm.
When the first of Oerth's giants were born, the dragons were already there, jealously guarding their territories from the sons of Oerth and Heaven who sought to wrest them away.
The Baklunish tell the story of the first dragon, Asgoroth, who was created by Istus to help battle demons, dark gods, and titans before the creation of the world. After the war was won, Asgoroth went to sleep beneath the world that the genies helped create, resting and healing for countless generations. After the Baklunish were created, Asgoroth was stirred by Istus to rise once again and bring the Four Precepts to humanity. These precepts (piety, honor, generosity, and devotion to family) are known as the Four Feet of the Dragon because Asgoroth is said to have inscribed them in stone using the talons of all four feet before leaving again to rest beneath the Oerth.
Dragons, then, are mostly teachers and protectors in Baklunish lore, but the Baklunish acknowledge that some dragons ignore the Four Precepts and behave as savage beasts. The chief among these is Asgoroth's own daughter Tiamat, who murdered one of her brothers and was banished from the company of the gods. From a cavern on Oerth she spawned the five races of chromatic dragons, ruling much of the world as queen until she was banished to Hell by her surviving brother Bahamut.
Some believe that Asgoroth sleeps beneath the Pinnacles of Azor'alq, which explains why so many dragons live there to this day. When Azor'alq passed through the portal beneath the Pinnacles to undergo his trials in the Outer Planes, three of Asgoroth's children, Tamara, Bahamut, and Lendys, guarded the portals to the Heavens that Azor'alq had to pass through after defeating the demons lords Munkir and Nekir, and each had wisdom to teach him on his path to immortality.
Traditionally, the Suloise believe that their god Lendor created all things, including the dragons. Most orthodox Suloise temples consider Bahamut and Tiamat to be among Lendor's first creations, fashioned from words of power to battle elemental abominations at the dawn of time. The goddess Beltar is also associated with dragons, having a red dragon form that she adopted when she soothed Tiamat's wounds after the Dragon Queen's first terrible battle with her brother Bahamut. Deep in the pit where Tiamat was cast, Beltar whispered words of malice and hate into the dragon's ten ears, ensuring her eternal corruption.
Before the Eight House War, when the House of Rhola emerged victorious as uncontested rulers of the lands of the Suel, it was less clear to the Suloise people that Lendor was the creator of all that is. In the old myths, Lendor had been just the most powerful of the gods who battled against the primordial monsters of old before the work of creation could begin. After the Rhola imposed a reformed, universal creation myth on the people of their new empire, this messier creation myth was replaced with one in which Lendor created every entity, god and monster alike, from nothingness at the beginning of time. Beltar, who had been the daughter of the multi-headed chimerical monster that Lendor had killed so that the world could exist (some heretical myths have her as the daughter of Lendor and the monster, with Lendor either taking monstrous form or the monster taking humanoid form in order for them to conceive), now became the creation of Lendor himself, or the daughter of two of Lendor's children. In the revised myth, Lendor created Tiamat and Bahamut to be his steeds, banishing Tiamat from his presence when she claimed too much of his wealth for her own.
Lendor later sent his grandson Kord to drive Tiamat from the world. Kord is said to have personally killed three of Tiamat's consorts, creating a girdle form the hide of the red dragon consort, gauntlets from the white dragon consort, and boots from the blue dragon consort. A variant myth claims Kord dismembered Tiamat herself, creating his garments from the Dragon Queen's own multicolored heads and banishing her spirit to the Nine Hells. Some allow that Kord could not have done this without his mighty sword Kelmar, said to have been gifted to him by Bahamut after a mighty quest to prove his worthiness.
The Fiery Kings were the first great external foe of the Suloise Imperium. In 3114 SD (2,400 years before the Aerdi Declaration of Universal Peace) a cabal of red dragons in the southern Crystalmists (later known as the Hellfurnaces), enraged by the power and hubris shown by the Suloise to the west and urged to action by the counsul of the Pyremius-worshiping Inheritors of the Fiery Gloom, began to send their armies of goblins, hobgoblins, firenewts, kobolds, and orcs against the Suloise to conquer or destroy them utterly. In response Emperor Inzhilem II commissioned the creation of the fabled Orbs of Dragonkind to bind and command the dragons forever. Before the war with the Fiery Kings was over, many of the red dragons had made an awful pact with Shad-Duan, lord of the Plane of Shadow, and the god Faluzure and become the first shadow dragons.
The only breed of dragons common to the southern jungles are the blacks, who infest the Pelisso Swamp and have long been a menace to the peoples nearby. For the most part, however, it is the feathered couatls who take the place of true dragons in Olman society. They are known as guardians and sages much like the metallic dragons of the north, though they are not believed to be related by blood.
The Flan have lived among dragons for as long as there have been Flan. They have always known what it meant to live in the shadows of great winged scaly tyrants or guardians, each claiming vast swathes of their land and demanding tribute. Along the Flanmi River, many of the Flan worshiped dragons (and their gods) as gods. In the Drachensgrab Hills, primitive Flan revered a great spirit of the land as a dragon, and some fell prey to the hidden cult of Tiamat.
In the Griff Mountains the city of Tostenhca was founded by the Golden One, formerly one of the seven golden dragons who serve Bahamut, who retired in the Griffs to raise his daughter. In ancient times, a human ranger rescued the Golden One's daughter, who was wandering the mountains in human form, from a fierce white dragon and its kobold allies. In gratitude, the Golden One invited the ranger to come to his palace to live, bringing his family with him. Training the humans in the arts of civilization, this became the seed from which the city of Tostenhca would grow. When the Golden One's daughter grew old enough to leave the nest, the Golden One returned to his master Bahamut, though the humans of Tostenhca continued to honor his memory.
Although devils have surely been tempting the mortal races for almost as long as they have existed, the first recorded major interference by the devils in human history was the reign of Keraptis in the Griff Mountains. The exiled archdevil Gargoth, sometimes known as Astaroth, made infernal bargains both with Keraptis and with the kobolds of the mountains, who believed the citadel of Tostenhca was the original home of their race before the mines beneath had been collapsed by the gnomish god Garl Glittergold. Keraptis ruled over Tostenhca for some 300 years before Gargoth acted, offering more and more power to both Keraptis and the kobolds, who used the borrowed power to create a sudden upsurge of diabolic possessions, madness, and undead. Gargoth encouraged Keraptis to deal with these greater challenges by being harsher to his subjects, demanding a third of all their newborn children. This was a step too far, and the people of Tostenhca rose up in rebellion, driving Keraptis and his gnomish followers to the lands of the south.
300 years later, Keraptis came to White Plume Mountain, where he discovered a mysterious statuette he called the Null Enigma. This was Gargauth's last gift to him: an artifact that would grant him any wish. He could have chosen immortality, but instead Keraptis chose vengeance, cursing the gold of Tostenhca with a terrible lingering death for all who would touch it. Every living thing in Tostenhca died, finally fulfilling Gargauth's bargain with the kobolds, who took over the city for themselves.
And in a possibly related story, to the red dragoness Infyrana Gargauth gifted plane-shifting magics that allowed her to move her whole mountain and kobold minions from world to world. Gargoth is always said to have a dragon companion, often a blue one, that he uses as a messenger and guardian when communicating with mortals.
The Oeridians know the dragon god Io as Belorissan, a name they also give to a constellation [see Oerth Journal #22] said by the priesthood of Celestian to have appeared for the first time 12,000 years ago.
During the Great Migrations, Oeridian heroes gained hold of many of the Orbs of Dragonkind originally forged by the Suel Mages of Power, using them to command dragons to conquer vast territories at their command. Dragons as a race have not forgiven the Oerids for their hubris, and the animosity of dragonkind played a not insignificant role in the sorrows to come as the Great Kingdom collapsed.
The oldest legends of the elves are muddled and obscure; there are fragments of a great war on another world or plane between rival races of elves and with the deformed giants of that land. By the time the elves first stepped through their mysterious gates to the world of Oerth, the great dragons had already begun to sleep, many of their number victims of wars with the giants. The great heroes of the elves slew more, particularly green dragons, who commanded armies of lizard men and troglodytes against the invaders. The hero Lafarallinn is said to have slain three great wyrms on his own. The hero-deity Gadhelyn the Archer had a legendary falling-out with Lafarallinn, and with much of the elven race, over his war with the dragons and other elder races. Gadhelyn led his people into seclusion rather than continue a war of aggression; their descendants became the grugach.
The draconic creator god Io appears in giantish mythology. As the giantish creator god, Ao, formed from opposites at the dawn of time, Io was already there, coiled around the universe, apparently timeless and eternal.
When Annam created the world, Io placed an egg in its heart that hatched into the Leviathan, an elder dragon that has swam in the Oerth's core for as long as it has existed. It was the Leviathan's presence, as Nystul wrote in his book The End of Anarchy, that inspired the forces of Chaos to choose Oerth as their final assault on the Wind Dukes of Aaqa. They had made some kind of bargain with the Leviathan to use White Plume Mountain as a portal and avoid the barriers the Wind Dukes had placed on the earth, surprising them from their flank. A traitor within the ranks of Chaos told the Wind Dukes of their plans, however, and the forces of Law were waiting for the forces of Chaos on the nearby plains of Pesh.
The Dragon Gods
The first tales of dragons are also tales of the gods. The earliest dragons were equal to the gods in power and majesty, and the gods treated them with respect, deference, and outright fear, parlaying with them cautiously or defeating them only through great effort and sacrifice.
Myths say there were originally four dragons that guard the four gates to the Heavens beyond the four winds. Bahamut guards the North Wind's gate, Lendys guards the West Wind's gate, Tamara guards the East Wind's gate. The fourth dragon was slain long ago by two demons, who guard it still.
Myths say that Tiamat was among the Lords of Evil who played a role in the transformation of Hextor. Some even claim that it was the multi-headed dragon's idea to gift Hextor with extra arms to counter his half-brother's invulnerability, much as Tiamat herself used her many heads to counter the prowess of the Platinum Dragon.
After Hextor's transformation, it's said in the Book of Penitence that his half-brother Heironeous journeyed to the Mountain of Heaven to seek out allies. There he saw the three draconic guardians. At the Gate of the West Wind, Lendys offered to teach him justice. At the Gate of the East Wind, Tamara offered to teach him mercy. But at the Gate of the North Wind, Bahamut offered to teach him both, and this was what Heironeous chose. A variant myth in Embrosius's Tome of True Gods has it that Pholtus and Trithereon ventured up the mountain with him, and each chose a different path.
Olidammara once stole from the horde of Astilabor, the draconic god of aquisition and covetousness. Olidammara only knew where Astilabor's horde was when he was in a blind, stupid drunk, but when he was sober again he forgot and when he was drunk he was in no condition to steal anything. He solved this problem by teaming up with Kord. The two gods drank so much wine that, according to myth, the ocean itself lowered until it was time for the two gods to relieve themselves, thus creating the tides. The myth elaborates that Kord is responsible for Luna's tides while Olidammara, whose divine bladder is rather more resiliant, is responsible for Celene's. While he was drunk, Kord wrestled Olidammara into submission; the thief-god transformed into various elemental and animal shapes to escape, but Kord doggedly refused to let go until the drunken god of wine revealed the location of Astilabor's treasure. When he was sober, Kord was able to remember the way (some say by writing the way in the snow with his urine stream, thus creating the first map, though acolytes of Fharlanghn dispute this latter myth). Together, Olidammara and Kord ventured to the edge of the world, where they encountered the titan that stole fire from the elemental gods (Olidammara picked the lock that held his chains, and in return he taught Olidammara how to safely carry fire in his cloak) and met one of the four titans who holds up the sky at the edge of the world (Kord temporarily took his place while Olidammara snuck into the entrance to Astilabor's cave). In the cave, Olidammara introduced ancient Astilabor to the pleasures of wine, which the dragon had never before encountered (wine being a recent invention of Olidammara's). This time Olidammara drank from a skin of water while the dragon guzzled wine, and with Astilabor passed out drunk the wine-god was able to steal a single coin from his horde.
Hlal is mischievous, shape-shifting companion of Olidammara and Erevan Ilesere depicted as a faerie dragon or a dragon with scales of mercury. He (or she) is often found guarding the Seelie Court under the name Nathair Sgiathach.
Garyx is linked to Obad-hai. In myth, the Shalm was guarding the Summer Tree, which had grown old and dry as the year wore on and Winter neared. The dragon Garyx came to the tree, billowing flame and destruction, but Obad-hai thrust out his Shalmstaff, summoned the Waters of Life, and repelled the beast. Twelve times Garyx attacked, but though the tree's limbs cracked and groaned, Obad-hai prevented it from burning. One final time Garyx swooped down from the autumn skies, and at last Obad-hai faltered; he stumbled a bit beneath the dragon-god's blows, and his staff broke in twain. The dragon's flame was then able to pass its guardian and set the Summer Tree alight. The myth recounts that though the Shalm wept enough tears to fill the Nyr Dyv, he could not put Garyx's fires out. The Summer Tree crumbled to ash.
And yet within the ash, Obad-hai discovered three seeds that had somehow escaped the flames. The fire had cracked them open, and green shoots were already peeking out. Obad-hai realized the Summer Tree had been old and ready to die, but because of Garyx's flames, new life was emerging.
From then on, Obad-hai invited Garyx back to the Tree every year when its natural end neared. The dragon breathed its flame on to the Tree every time, and every time it went up in a beautiful bonfire that cracked open the tree's seeds and allowed new life to emerge. Ever since then, druids of Obad-hai have honored Garyx the Destroyer as well, knowing his destruction was an essential part of Nature's cycle.
Aasterinian, the dragon of pleasure and inventiveness, is the messenger of Io. Because Io himself so seldom appears in the mythology of non-draconic races, Aasterinian is also a rarely appearing figure. She does appear briefly as a guardian whose riddles Boccob is forced to solve before continuing on to learn (or steal) the secrets of magic from Io himself. Aasterinian is one of three dragons whose hoards Olidammara robbed in succession in "Olidammara and the Three Dragons." First he crept into the fabled hoard of Astilabor, the dragon who personifies the draconic lust for acquisition, and stole a single copper coin. Next he entered Aasterinian's lair, winning his fabled mask with answers to riddles he had stolen from Boccob's library of lore. Last, he found the lair of Nathair Sgiathach in the realm of the Seelie Court. The two tricksters played an escalating series of pranks on one another until Olidammara won the greatest prize of all: Nathair's companionship.
Finally, and perhaps most famously, Aasterinian is the dragon the gods send to protect Myhriss from Nerull's amorous advances. In ancient times, Nerull was feeling lonely and bitter in his palace in Tarterus. He was scorned by the other deities, and so he took it upon himself to find a companion. Myhriss, the most beautiful of them all, naturally caught his eye, so first he sent demodand servants to woo her with darkly compelling poetry. She rejected this, so Nerull appeared before her in person to profess his love, promising her that if she would accept him, he would slay all who displeased her. Myhriss sneered, and coldly told him to slay himself. Nerull fell into a rage and swore that Myhriss would be his regardless.
Myhriss fled, calling out for help from the other gods. Pelor hid her away in a specially created refuge, with one of the eldest of dragons, Aasterinian, to guard her. Human myths (dragons do not tell this story) say that Aasterinian was the most serious and solemn of the elder dragons before she met Myhriss, but afterwards she was one of the most winsome and full of delight. A grimmer myth, recorded in the Book of Vile Darkness, claims that Aasterinian took advantage of her status as Myhriss's guardian to exact revenge upon her brother Olidammara for his theft. She tortured the goddess for ages until torment was all Myhriss understood, then extracted the tainted aspect of Myhriss to create Scahrossar, the demigoddess of sadism and cruelty, unleashing her upon the planes as a mockery to all Myhriss stood for.
Nerull, meanwhile, had not given up. He swore he would take ten thousand extra souls a day until Myhriss was delivered to him. Unable to tolerate the suffering of mortals, Myhriss voluntarily gave herself to the god of death.
Some copies of the Book of Vile Darkness tell us that Myhriss actually bore Nerull a child, the corpse-like demigoddess Evening Glory, but with Myrhiss trapped in the underworld, the mortal world suffered. With Myhriss gone, love itself dimmed and faltered. Few children were born, and it seemed as if mortals might die out entirely. The Book of Vile Darkness claims it was Evening Glory who traveled to the world of men to find Nerull a replacement bride to trade for Myrhiss, at last finding the mortal sorceress known as the Raven Queen and killing her so that her spirit would go to Nerull. Other, more mainstream myths say that an avatar of Trithereon killed the sorceress, liberating a nation she was oppressing with her bestial minions (this is interpreted by some as the origin of the rakshasas). Regardless of the truth, Nerull found the sorceress's shade pleasing, renaming her Nera in honor of himself and allowing Myhriss to return to the land of the living.
Nerull traveled to the dragon god Faluzure's lair to learn the secrets of death. A prophecy claims that Nerull will ride on Faluzure's back at the final battle between the gods, while Pelor will ride on Tamara.
Faluzure was responsible for the creation of shadow dragons. During the War of the Fiery Kings a clan of ancient red dragons made war upon the Suloise Imperium with the aid of vast armies of goblins and orcs and a society of Pyremius worshipers called the Inheritors of the Red Gloom. When the Orbs of Dragonkind were forged by the Suloise archmages, the tide of the war began to turn in the favor of the Suloise. Seeking dark powers beyond their own, the red dragons contacted Faluzure, who transformed them into the first shadow dragons, dark creatures of terrible hunger. The Suloise eventually triumphed regardless, and the shadow dragons retreated deep below the Oerth, still worshiping Faluzure as their creator.
As for Faluzure himself, myths say he was ultimately banished back to Tarterus by the ancient Turanians, worshipers of Obad-hai.
Boccob sacrificed his third eye, giving it to Io in exchange for learning the secrets of creation. Of course, it hadn't been Boccob's eye originally; Boccob had won it from the Great Mother of the beholders in a riddle contest, or from one of the other Elder Evils like Bolothamogg or Y'chak.
Sardior [from Dragon #37], the legendary ruler of the gem dragons, is seldom attested to in human myths. The holy scriptures of Zuoken mention that their patron ventured to Sardior's palace while still a mortal and learned from the god as a crucial stage of Zuoken's own complex apotheosis. Dwarven myths mention Sardior as a guardian figure that the two rebellious brother-gods Diinkarazan and Diirinka had to bypass on their way to the realm of the malevolent mind flayer deity Ilsensine. It is not entirely clear if Sardior is a brother of Tiamat and Bahamut or perhaps a mortal gem dragon who somehow became a deity in his own right.
Many cultures are aware of the Crimson Moon, a mysterious celestial body that appears over the skies of Oerth every ten years on the Summer Soltice, Richfest 4. Appearing as a scarlet orb one eighth the size of Celene, this wanderer crosses the heavens along the same path as Celene and Luna before vanishing for another decade. Most are not aware that this is the gemstone palace of the king of the gem dragons, Sardior, who visits the Prime Material Plane every decade before cycling into the Elemental Plane of Air, the Seven Heavens, the planet Edill, and elsewhere. The priesthood of Wee Jas celebrates the appearance of this orb as the Ruby Convocation, a time when the clergy and laity of high status meets in a glamorous ball to exchange knowledge and drink from a goblet with a ruby submerged in red wine. After the wine is passed around, the ruby is cast into a flame as a sacrifice to their goddess.
Needless to say, not all famous dragons are gods. As the gods play hero to the dragon gods, so do mortal heroes define themselves by confronting and conquering mortal dragons. The red dragon Ashardalon is infamous even among other dragons to this day. The dragon Greysnout, who threatened Greyhawk City in ancient times before he was defeated by the first known Greyhawk Dragon and her human companions, is still the subject of songs on the banks of the Selintan.
Dragotha, a former consort of Tiamat who became an associate of the quasi-deity Kyuss, fell into undeath and became the first known undead dragon, staking his territory somewhere near White Plume Mountain.
Ampathzeredes, the Heir of Vecna, was a dracolich who lurked in the Kron Hills until it was destroyed by the adventuring party known as the Six From Shadow. The dracolich is said to have had the Eye of Vecna in its possession for a time, grafted to its empty eyesocket.
Gruaghlothor [from Dragon #170] is the supreme ruler of the ferrous dragons. According to ferrous dragon legends, Gruaghlothor was the first of the ferrous dragons, responsible for founding their society. The Fiery Kings, legendary red dragon lords of the southern Crystalmist Mountains, banded together and destroyed Gruaghlothor, but he swore a dying curse to return for vengeance and not rest until all red dragons are destroyed. As a result of this curse, Gruaghlothor was indeed reborn, but not as the same creature. Should the current Gruaghlothor perish, the great wyrm iron dragons meet to choose one from among their ranks to become the new Gruaghlothor. After a secret ritual, the new Gruaghlothor emerges to lead the ferrous dragons and plot the extermination of red dragons.
According to myths of the ferrous dragons, the Greyhawk (or steel) dragons were originally of their people, but they refused to recognize the reborn Gruaghlothor as their rightful ruler. As such, they are no longer considered part of ferrous dragon society, and were forced to disguise themselves as humanoids in order to escape from the righteous wrath of their former kin. Most ferrous dragons, upon discovering a Greyhawk dragon's true nature, will attack them on sight as traitors to their kind. Ideally, the Greyhawk dragons will be subdued and brought before a court of ferrous dragons to answer for their apostasy, but it is considered regrettable but just if the rogue dies while being apprehended. Fortunately, Greyhawk dragons tend to be good at both hiding and escaping, and ferrous dragons seldom catch them. Greyhawk dragons typically worship only Io as their patron god.
One of the most famous dragons was the green dragon Deception. The dragon had a name in its own tongue, and it had another name by which it was known to the humans of the time. But the people of Verbobonc today remember it simply as Deception.
Many centuries ago, when St. Cuthbert was still a mortal man, the dragon remembered by humans as Deception ensnared the city of Verbobonc in its web of lies. A shapeshifter and a sorcerer, Deception wormed its way to the position of city mayor, and its enthralled minions used poison, illusions, and cunning to prevent the population from resisting its demands or knowing the truth. Yet when Cuthbert came to the town, he saw plainly through Deception's lies; the saint used common sense to reason that a human mayor would never demand as much food as Deception did, or be able to move so much treasure. Cuthbert challenged Deception to a personal duel armed only with a cudgel of stout wood. Deception laughed, thinking Cuthbert a fool, and in its human guise it drew a mighty sword forged (it is said) from the sharp tongues of a hundred serpents. Yet when the battle was over, Cuthbert's thwacks had reduced Deception to a bruised and bloody wreck, and Deception's sword had not landed a single blow. Unable to maintain its ruse any more, Deception swelled into its true, draconic form, in front of the people of Verbobonc, shattering its lies once and for all. Because Cuthbert had fairly subdued it, he forced it to pull all of the treasure and distribute it among the people it had thieved from for so many years. Only then did Cuthbert slay the beast, crushing its skull with his cudgel and spattering its brains across the town's streets, for never could he suffer Deception to live.
The people of Verbobonc never forgot Cuthbert, and even when he left to perform other great deeds in other lands, they honored him as the town's patron saint. It was in Verbobonc that the first church dedicated to Saint Cuthbert was erected, and it was from Verbobonc that his faith first began to spread across the Flanaess. While many other deeds of Saint Cuthbert are recorded, few of them can as reliably be said to have taken place in a specific part of Oerth.
Types of Dragons
The best known dragons are the chromatic and metallic dragons. Between them, these dragon types claim most of the Flanaess and beyond, the metallic dragons endlessly warring with chromatic dragons over disputed territories, treasure, prey, and relations with so-called lesser races, whom the chromatic dragons seek to exploit or destroy and metallic dragons are often inclined to defend.
Many cultures have it that all dragons are descendants of Tiamat, though Bahamut "purified" his chosen ones as the war between himself and his sister began, transforming their chromatic hides to metal. The Baklunish say that dragons are all descendants of Io (whom they call Asgoroth), and only chromatic dragons are descended from the outcast dragon Tiamat.
The rarely seen gem dragons, who hold themselves aloof and neutral in the battle between good and evil, may not be native to Oerth at all. Nystul believes the gem dragons originated in the Elemental Planes, and it is certainly true that many of them can be found there today, particularly in the Quasielemental Plane of Mineral.
Linnorms are an ancient breed of serpentine dragons most common in the extreme north, from Blackmoor to the Thillonrian Peninsula. The northern barbarians believe they were the first dragons, the firstborn offspring of Io (Io who gnaws on corpses beneath the roots of the World Tree) from which all the modern draconic species, metallic, chromatic, gem and ferrous and even the so-called 'primal' dragons, are descended.
The alternate view is that linnorms are not truly kin to other dragons at all, but are descended from human and dwarven gods and heroes - or perhaps older races, like troglodytes - corrupted by greed.
Linnorms once ranged across most of the planet, from the deepest seas to the steaming jungles, but modern dragons have pushed them into the frigid north, where only the comparatively weak white dragons compete with them for territory and prey.
The primal dragons are called this not because they are believed to be the first draconic breeds, but because their powers are tied to 'primal' planes, namely the Elemental Planes and the Plane of Shadow.
The so-called "long," or imperial dragons of the Occident split from the main dragon race back in the Age of the First Folk, when spirits ruled the Oerth. A distant tribe of gods selected dragons to help guard the rivers, lakes, mountains, and skies, and these dragons transformed, becoming more spirit than dragon. Or perhaps they began as spirits and were only given dragonlike forms. A few breeds of dragons in the Flanaess, including the gold dragon and cloud dragon, resemble the occidental dragons closely enough that most taxonomists consider them to be close kin. The ki-rin and the dragon horse may also be distant relatives of occidental dragons, and perhaps even the foo lion and foo dog can say the same.
In the distant West there is said to be a place known as Dragon Isle, but whether dragons are the only sentient species there or merely a prominent one varies from tale to tale. In 590 CY a ship landed in Gradsul with a strange, apparently human crew with a vaguely Baklunish cast to their narrow-eyed features. They claimed to hail from Dragon Isle, answering to a Dragon Emperor, though the veracity of their claim could not be established. They offered nothing to trade directly, but informed the locals that they would accept bids for the right to trade. The humans of the Dragon Isle resemble the people of Sufeng (similar to the Baklunish, but with darker skin and more exaggerated epicanthic folds around their eyes). They seem to accept the dragons as their rightful rulers, but govern themselves from day to day. They are merchants, fishermen, farmers, and poets.
Dragon turtles have been assumed, without much evidence, to be the work of ancient wizards who magically combined giant sea turtles with dragons, or the product of amorous, shape-shifting dragons and their giant sea turtle consorts. The fact that a prominent deity, Xerbo, takes the form of a dragon turtle is evidence, however, that the creature is actually of divine origin. An entire race of similar creatures, the sea dragons, are prominent in the Sea of the Dragon King to the far south.
The Sea of the Dragon King, which surrounds the Dragon King Isles south and west of Zahind, is named for a deity said to physically inhabit those waters, the father of the sea dragons who claim those waters as their property. The ancient Suloise called this body of water the Sea of Xerbo, associating the sea with their own god. In fact, since the Suloise were originally a land-locked people, it seems likely that they first learned of the sea-gods Xerbo and Osprem from the peoples of Zahind (and indeed, there is no evidence of Xerbo or Osprem-worship among the Suel before they began to trade and war with the Zahindi). The people of the Isles of the Dragon King call this deity Ryuujin.
There are many other, lesser beasts often given places on the draconic family tree, including the dragonnel, wyvern, elemental drake, faerie dragon, dragonne, chimera, basilisk, salamander, manticore, dragonet, felldrake, dragon-kin, dragonborn, kobold, hydra, landwyrm, and sea serpent. Various explanations have been given for the wide diversity of draconic species, but magical hybridization, usually initiated by spellcasting dragons themselves, is the most likely one.
The concept of territory and the staking of claims is key to understanding draconic psychology. Dragons, even the most virtuous metallic dragons, believe they have a legal and moral right to all the wealth and resources they choose to take within their territories. They may, through a sense of noblesse oblige, choose to allow lesser beings some of these resources, but this is at their discretion. They define their territories primarily by contesting with other dragons, either violently or nonviolently. Most dragons will respect nondraconic claims on territory if these are properly established with neighboring dragons. This is where the act of "subduing" a dragon comes in. A warrior who challenges a dragon not to the death, but simply to prove beyond a doubt who is the stronger, can get any dragon to acknowledge his or her supremacy over a given territory if they come out the victor. This is how Borin I of the ancient dwarven Kingdom of Urnst in the Lortmils was able to secure from the bronze dragon Tricallioprex the right to the the mines of Kroesus for as long as he lived, which was crucial to establishing an economic base for his new kingdom.
Popular legend among the Flan, Oeridians, and Suel tells of a shapeshifting dragon with brass scales, an exile from its kind who - rejecting its draconic heritage to live as a beast - took the form of a lion and led the greatest pride the world had ever known before being slain by a great hero. Its descendents are the dragonnes, half lion and half dragon. Among the Baklunish, the dragonne is the heraldric animal of House al-Aslad, which holds that the founder of their house subdued the brass dragon Vadhoon and bred her with his prize menagerie of lions, thereby creating the dragonne species through a combination of animal husbandry and sorcery.
Today there are three subspecies of dragonne: the Baklunish dragonne of the Dry Steppes and Plains of the Paynims; the small, maneless dragonne of the Bright Desert; and the enormous, elephant-devouring dragonne of the Hepmonaland savanna. All three groups can be found elsewhere, however.
The Skeptic tradition of the Duchy of Urnst rejects the idea that dragonnes are actual crossbreeds of dragon and lion, and instead suggests that dragonnes are kin to the landwyrms, wingless, bestial dragon-kin found in some parts of the Flanaess, and that their leoine shape is something that it developed as a result of sharing the same habitats of lions, chimerae, and manticores.
When the Age of the First Folk ended and the primal world became covered in frost and ice, the great nobles of the fey departed to the Fading Lands to dwell in twilight splendor for the rest of time. Some daughters of Verenestra, eldest of the nymphs, elected to remain behind, binding their spirits to trees in order to protect them as the great frost began to kill the forests of old.
Today it is believed that dryads awaken naturally from the spirits of ancient trees. Their kin, the hamadryads, are the daughters they bear from congress with satyrs, elves, and men. Hamadryads are not bound to trees unless they choose to be (though some say this is backwards, and it is hamadryads who cannot step far from their trees without wasting away and dryads who enjoy the freedom of the woods).
Dryads are common in forests with great concentrations of fey power such as the Welkwood and Fern Groves in the Gnarley. The dryad Tamara was a princess of her kind who loved a satyr prince. After her death, her spirit empowered Fern Groves, making the location a magnet for those of her ilk.
Verenestra's place in mythology is disputed. One myth has it that she was created by the elder gods or titans to help guard the grove where the fruits of immortality are grown. Another has it that she was the daughter of Wenta and a faerie prince, fostered by the fey when her whimsical mother could not bear to remain in the same forest for long. She is a strong ally of Ehlonna, some say one of her handmaidens.
Baklarren Dwarves: The Kingdom of Berren the Peaceful, founded by Hamaida, daughter of Durin. Destroyed in the Invoked Devastation, but descendants survive in Karakast in the Cairn Hills. Distinctive olive skin, red hair and beards.
Crystalmist Dwarves: Markad, founded by the mythical first dwarf Durin, formerly the spiritual capital of the dwarven race, destroyed in the Invoked Devastation. If any descendants survive, the Sundered Dwarves from the Complete Book of Dwarves might be a good model (as well as the Mordengard dwarves of the far West). Four and a half to five feet tall, but more slender than other dwarves, weighing about 155 pounds. Skin is lighter than a hill dwarf's, more pink than brown. Hair is dark, with tinges of blue. Miserable, dirty, irrationally afraid of both the open sky and the dark. A few surviving descendants of Clan Markad fled to Radruundar in the Yatils, where they hid the Axe of the Dwarvish Lords in the tomb of the patriarch Irontooth. Others survive in Mordengard in Western Oerik.
Duergar: Descended from the legendary kingdom of Damgarath, which was founded by Duegan, son of Durin. Four feet tall, 120 pounds, emaciated, usually bald. Some traffic with devils. Possibly the result of illithid slave-breeding at some time in the past. The frost dwarves of the Abyss are also their descendants. Dream dwarves (from Races of Stone) were originally the Lyrkerami, descendants of Damgarath who did not join the duergar.
Hill Dwarves: Descended from the ancient kingdom of Holgereth, founded by Lorduin, son of Durin, this clan mostly moved to hilly areas. 4 feet tall, weigh 150 pounds, deep tan or light brown skin with ruddy cheeks and bright eyes. Hair black, gray, or brown. Beoll-Dur (described in Dragon #41) is a fortress in the Hellfurnaces containing the souls of the last clerics of Holgereth. The dwarves of Holgereth were also the ancestors of the azer.
Mountain Dwarves: Descended from the Kingdom of Yrden, founded by Yamad, son of Durin. This clan mostly moved to mountainous areas of the Flanaess. Four and a half feet tall, 170 pounds, lighter hair than hill dwarves have, with slightly more reddish skin.
Deep Dwarves: Descended from the Kingdom of Dumderim, founded by Maddain, son of Durin. Four to four and a half feet tall, weigh 120 pounds. Pale brown to light tan skin, with reddish tinge. Large eyes, washed-out blue. Hair varies from red to blond. Female deep dwarves are more likely to wear long beards than other dwarf peoples. These are poorly attested to on Oerth, but mentioned in both the 3rd edition Monster Manual and Complete Book of Dwarves. Their patron god is Dumathoin, and the Urdunnir (who dwell in and near the Mines of Dumathoin in the Stark Mounds) are among their descendants.
Suel Dwarves: The dwarves of the Kingdom of Trimdaïr, founded by Toram, son of Durin, who lived in what are now the southern Hellfurnaces, were enslaved by Suel humans until they were freed through the agency of Fortubo, who became their patron. The derro are in part their descendants, a fact that all dwarves deny. Some survivors of this nation moved to the Isle of Lendore. They have pale, almost colorless skin, light pink cheeks, brown eyes, and light to medium brown hair and beard. Typically 49-53 inches tall. The dwarves of Dumadan are descended from dwarves of Trimdaïr who left their people before their enslavement by the Suel, back when their primary gods were still Moradin and Berronar.
Celestian's Seekers: From Dragon #202 (where they appear as Ptah's Seekers). Resemble golems made of obsidian, with no body hair but sometimes wiry, shining black beards. Their eyes are the same shining black as their skin, with no whites. They worship Celestian and live in hidden homes and tunnels beneath the deserts of southern Oerik and Hepmonaland. Seemingly descended from the dwarves of Trimdaïr, but freed due to their devotion to Celestian some centuries before Fortubo freed the rest of their race.
Korobokuru: Dwarves of the far west, descended from the Kingdom of Berren. They departed long before the Invoked Devastation, inspired by tales of gold hoarded by the great serpentine lung dragons. In modern times they have descended into barbarism and scarcely remember their ancient ancestors.
Mordengard: Descended from the Kingdom of Markard. Their ancestors left long before the Invoked Devastation, following what they believed to be a vision from Moradin. They currently dwell in Mordengard in far-Western Oerik, in the realms of the Shattered Empire.
Finally came up with something that I think is interesting for the origin of the adherer.
Adherer – 1e FF – The appearance of a new type of monster is always a curiosity, especially when it is humanoid in form, and as a result, gives rise to much speculation about its genesis. This was the case with the relatively recent appearance of the creatures known as adherers, whose origin seems to be in the vast Hool Marshes, though they have spread into the Dreadwood, Amedio Jungle, and beyond. Its superficial similarities in appearance to mummies were soon discovered to be just that, but no theories as to its origins were forthcoming until Drawmij began looking into the matter. His first clue was discovering through dissection their vegetative-like nature. The second clue was their method of reproduction, which turned out to be by means of small black seeds, often left clinging to creatures that escape their attacks. These were discovered to be very similar to the seeds of the semi-sentient giant sundew, a carnivorous plant endemic to marshes and bogs throughout the Flanaess. Given their shared excretion of the mucilage that gives them their sticky properties -- though it differs somewhat from that of the sundew – along with the seeds, and the fact that sundews are frequently described as “… mounds of grey-green tarry ropes or rags,” paired with the cloth-like appearance of the adherer’s dirty white “skin,” the similarities between adherers and sundews did seem to beg some connection, though none seemed to be forthcoming. It was only when researching the origins of another creature, that Drawmij produced the most popular current theory; this being that at some point a giant sundew, resident in the Hool Marshes caught and absorbed a doppelganger. As a result of the unique reproductive qualities of that race (see Rasgon’s origin of the doppelganger earlier in this thread) the seeds of the giant sundew produced a hybrid of the two; a much more mobile, humanoid-shaped monster that retained many of the unique traits of the giant sundew.
And, Rasgon, I finally got caught up on reading your latest posts herein. Wow! I love the background you pull together to create awesome descriptions for the origins of the monsters you choose to develop.
An excerpt from the Enchiridion of the Fiend-Sage:
I am known among mortals as the Fiend-Sage of Rel Astra. In my time in this alien realm ruled by the tyranny of rhyme and reason, I have found it diverting to catalogue the inhabitants of this plane and attempt to deduce the causality of their present forms. Many among my kind would think it foolish to concern myself with such things instead of concentrating on tearing down this ordered reality and replacing it with the more sensible and just rule of pure will and power. While of course I share this goal in the long term, is it not the case that one is well-advised to know one's enemies? Personally, I have always found it easier to kill something after I've dissected it. Besides, my once-human patron Drax is amused by my studies, and he provides a more comfortable place for me to nest than I would find among the fatuous politics of Erelhei-Cinlu or Dorakaa.
In this document I direct my gazes toward the beings known in the common tongue as dark ones (my canine eyes prefer the meatier dark stalkers, while my serpentine eyes think the dark creeper is a tastier morsel). The true language of shadows is incomprehensible and, in fact, inaudible to most creatures who have not passed through the gates of death at least once, but when speaking in a tongue comprehensible to ordinary mortals the dark ones refer to themselves as the Shadar-Un, a word that seems to be derived from the vulgar patois of Abyssal and Sylvan spoken by the forlarren, the shadowfey, and a few other races. It can be translated into the Common Tongue simply as 'Dark One.'
That the dark ones are not entirely mortal flesh is obvious to those of us who have experimented on them. Their meat, if carved from them while they are still alive, is cool and dry, tasteless as a shadow. What we in our ignorance call "shadowstuff" is part of their makeup as it is that of a shade. Too easily do they vanish entirely, some alchemy within their flesh catalyzes when too much damage is inflicted upon it and their mingled light and darkness until nothing remains of them but an ephemeral flash of brilliance. I would call this a flaw and claim they were poorly made, but I think someone or something must have wrought them thus in order to conceal the secrets of their creation. They creep, soundless and shrouded, through undercities and sewers and the deep lands because someone intended them to be the perfect examples of discrete minions. But what, then, do they serve? The dark creepers serve the stalkers and seem to desire nothing more, but even the stalkkers do not seem to me to be the true masterminds of their race. They are mercenaries, go-betweens, scavengers, and fixers in the underworld and the shadowlands, but I think someone must have greater plans for them, someone with an interest in preserving secrets.
They remind me, in some respects, of the keepers, a race summoned long ago from an alternate world to protect the secrets of an unknown master whom they promptly destroyed. The keepers remain, attaching themselves to whatever secrets they can find, driven to protect knowledge from all not of their kind even without a master to direct them. As with the dark ones, their flesh destroys itself upon their deaths, leaving behind nothing to study.
Mortals seem most puzzled not by extraordinary features such as the dark one's ability to dissolve in a flash of heat and light upon death (most annoying to those of us who would like to dissect one), but their extreme dimorphism. The dark stalker averages six feet in height, to use the Aerdi imperial system of measurement preferred by my employer, while the dark creeper averages only four feet. Many different theories have been proposed to explain this. One theory, championed by Qort of Dyvers, is that they are in fact separate species united by a common culture. In this tale, the dark creepers were once halflings who fled some ancient threat into the Plane of Shadow, where they made common cause with an established race of human descent. This theory seems sensible enough, if not for the testimony of Darklock Ad-Zol, a shade prince who for a time kept a captive population of dark ones for breeding in the waning centuries of the Suloise Empire (I admit it, I am jealous). According to Ad-Zol, female dark stalkers can give birth to dark creepers, and vice versa. This extraordinary claim not only contradicts Qort, but also Mordenkainen's more widely accepted theory that their racial dimorphism is the result of centuries of separation of bloodlines, with what was once the upper caste becoming taller and the malnourished lower caste progressively more stunted over the generations. The evidence that both castes can give birth contradicts Gorad Drummerhaven's theory that dark one dimorphism is in fact sexual dimorphism; that one caste was male and the other female.
All this is complicated by stories of other, lesser known dark one castes: the dark slayer, dark caller, and dark dancer. If these do exist, they are seldom seen, or at least seldom recognized by other races.
Mordenkainen attributed a Suel origin to the dark ones, believing them to be descendants of refugees of the Rain of Colorless Fire who fled underground after the cities were engulfed in ash and dust. While this, as far as I can discern, is the actual origin of the derro, the Lerara, and the meenlock, it is likely not the origin of the dark ones.
In rebuttal to Mordenkainen, Rary claims the dark ones are descendants of the Ur-Flannae of Caerdiralor, who had fled across the Sea of Gearnat and taken refuge from the righteous Flan in the subterranean realms. While some eventually emerged to tutor the lords of the House of Sulm in their dark secrets, some remained underground, and when the curse of He of Eternal Darkness (forgive me, but I will not name him. Even we tanar'ri have our superstitions. When my kind splits open this world like an overripe grape we will share nothing with that one) destroyed the Sulmi they retreated still deeper, making pacts with creatures from the Plane of Shadow to survive. Or, Rary suggested, it's possible that they had already evolved into dark stalkers and dark creepers when they came to mentor the Sulmi in the arts of darkness. It's said among envious rival sages that the rift between Mordenkainen and Rary over Rary's massacre at the signing of the Treaty of Greyhawk pales in comparison to the war of words they fight over the origin of the Dark Folk.
Rary's theory has its merits, certainly. The priests of Caerdiralor did have congress with the powers of darkness, having formed a cult around a loathsome idol of the Chained God long ago, and some remnants of them did escape to the land of the Truun, where those mounted warriors, in the name of their bright god Pelor, drove them into the darkness beneath the earth, where they adapted to their new environment, emerging only later to council the Sulmi with dark whispers and rites of darkness. Finally, it is certainly the case that Shadows-Crossing, the largest dark one community known on Oerth, is located beneath Dagger Rock in the Bright Desert, where the dark ones act as middlemen between the duergar and beholders of the Abbor-Alz and the hags of the Gnatmarsh, guarding secret portals to the Plane of Shadow.
However, there is no real evidence to link the subterranean sages of Caerdiralor with the dark ones. And neither Rary's theory nor Mordenkainen's explains things like, for example, the dark creeper's hooves.
I propose a different theory, based on some entities I encountered in a marketplace in Azzagrat. Beyond the gates of Dream is a barren plateau called Leng, the site of an endless war between a race of intelligent spiders and a race of hooved, horned man-like creatures. These men of Leng, while notorious slavers, are themselves slaves of an amorphous race of toadlike beings native to a nearby moon. What if, to escape their bondage in the Dreamlands, they entered into another form of servitude in the Shadowlands? And yet, accustomed to slavery as a matter of course, they thought nothing of enslaving one another, evolving a servitor caste, the creepers, permanently subordinate to a race of masters modeled after their own ideal selves? The dark ones share with the denizens of Leng not just hooves but a fondness for bulky clothing met to disguise forms shameful to them and a decidedly nonhuman anatomy. Alas, I can no more prove this theory than Mordenkainen and Rary can prove theirs.
Your faithful servant,
From the personal correspondence of Rary of Ket:
My dear Mordenkainen:
I awaited the publication of your treatise on the underworld denizens known commonly as 'dark stalkers' and 'dark creepers' with great interest. Yes, of course I still follow your work; any disagreements you and I might have had over the events of that unfortunate treaty signing pale in comparison to the importance of the pursuit of knowledge, do they not? Although I'm currently preoccupied with my endeavors in the Bright Desert, my servants were able to acquire a copy of your "The Dark Ones and the Suel Empire."
Of course you'll want to know my opinions on it. While I admire your command of the historical facts, I regret that I cannot agree with your conclusions. I concur that the shade Darklock ad-Zol, of the Suloise imperial house of Zolax, employed two primary classes of servants, an order of warriors and an order of thieves, both of which he equipped with magic items of his creation. You, my dear Mordenkainen, opined that these servants persisted as a distinct order even after their master's imprisonment in approximately 4894 SD and migrated into the Plane of Shadow before the Great Rain of Fire, evolving on that plane into the dark stalkers and dark creepers we know today. Alas, I fear your pro-Suel bias has misled you.
First of all, I have unearthed convincing evidence that the dark ones are far older than you believe, dwelling beneath the Bright Desert and surrounding regions of the underoerth for thousands of years. While Darklock Ad-Zol did have orders of thieves and warriors at his command, they were fully-developed dark creepers and dark stalkers as we know them today; he had recruited them from the Plane of Shadow as part of his research into becoming a shade.
Gathering the evidence was no great task. Our mutual friend Bigby has, I fear, neglected to change the signs and passwords he used to identify himself to his network of associates back when we were all members of your esteemed Circle together. My memory, as you'll recall (heh), is excellent, my notes are extensive, and where memory fails, well, I have a spell or two for that, don't I? Thus armed, I was easily able to convince several bands of glory-seekers in Scant that they were on a mission for Bigby, and there is little that sort will not do for Bigby in Scant.
When the first nine groups died bravely for our edification, the tenth made it back from Scant's extensive catacombs and were able to report to me on their findings. According to my informants, Scant is built above an ancient Ur-Flan citadel once known as the Tal Marith. Deep within its lower levels, they told me, were creatures of liquid shadow and cold flame, variously known as Eirius Ionadh or owbs in the writings they were able to translate. The previous nine parties had simply been slaughtered, but the last made a pact of sorts with them, or perhaps they were merely cursed for daring to speak to their betters. Regardless, they came back to me with all the color stolen from their bodies, complaining that any amount of sunlight left them with horrible burns. They were alive, however, and able to relate to me a story of ancient Ur-Flannae, refugees from the cataclysm that drowned the Sinking Isle to the east, who fled to the Dragonshead Peninsula and discovered a black ziggurat dating back to a previous Age. Around the ziggurat they constructed the labyrinthine city of Tal Marith. Though the original builders of the ziggurat were long gone, or perhaps sleeping near the core of the world, the Eirius Ionadh, created by the ziggurat-builders to be guardians of their treasures, remained, bored with their lot as only very intelligent beings who have been trapped in a very long rut can be. Obviously, I sympathize. And when the high priests of the Ur-Flannae made a pact with the Eirius Ionadh, they swiftly became the precursors of what would one day be known as the dark ones.
It took more than one generation, of course, with the Eirius Ionadh carefully shaping the once-humans in utero to become what their alien minds saw as the ideal minions and servants: creepers, stalkers, priests, dancers, and slayers, crafted to hate the sun, to cherish magic, and to worship the Eirius Ionadh as proxies of He of Eternal Darkness.
Later they would forget, imagine they had been cursed by Pelor himself when the dwarves, hillmen, and their allies buried their city and drove its inhabitants into the sea.
What became of them I was able to learn myself while visiting with my new friend and colleague, the blue dragon Volte, beneath Dagger Rock. I brought him his tribute of meat and gold and we spoke of the news of the day. I mentioned the ten parties I had sacrificed to learn of the Obsidian Kingdom beneath modern Onnwal and asked if he knew anything of refugees from that culture making their way to the spire he had made his domain. Volte nodded, and took me down spiraling stairs to the burrows of the ancients. On an obelisk in what had been a sort of plaza was written the following inscription:
Know this, seekers of truth in darkness:
We are victims of the sun.
The sun shot an arrow into the heart of our kingdom.
And everything was bitterness and salt.
Our home sank into the sea of the rising sun.
We fled the rising sun into the west until we reached the azure sea.
We fled downward into the cool and forgiving earth.
Darkness called us and gave us solace.
Darkness nursed us and filled us with life.
From darkness we rose again.
From darkness we ruled.
For a thousand years we ruled in the dark.
Then the dwarves came from the west, seeking the rising sun.
Lusting for its gold, miserly for its wealth.
They burrowed down with pickaxes and shovels.
Uprooted us from lifegiving dark.
For a century we fought to keep what was ours.
The sun found us and burnt us.
Once more we were claimed by bitterness and salt.
We fled the rising sun,
Across the sea into the west.
We fled back into the nurturing dark.
My dear Mordenkainen, no one thinks themselves a villain. I think, perhaps, even you do not. Even with all your hubris and meddling, and the war and ruin you have brought upon the world, even you think yourself the hero of the story. So it was with the people of Caerdiralor.
Your friend and kindred spirit,
Rary the Traitor
Last edited by rasgon on Tue Dec 01, 2015 3:20 pm; edited 1 time in total
sundews are frequently described as “… mounds of grey-green tarry ropes or rags,” paired with the cloth-like appearance of the adherer’s dirty white “skin,” the similarities between adherers and sundews did seem to beg some connection, though none seemed to be forthcoming. It was only when researching the origins of another creature, that Drawmij produced the most popular current theory; this being that at some point a giant sundew, resident in the Hool Marshes caught and absorbed a doppelganger. As a result of the unique reproductive qualities of that race (see Rasgon’s origin of the doppelganger earlier in this thread) the seeds of the giant sundew produced a hybrid of the two; a much more mobile, humanoid-shaped monster that retained many of the unique traits of the giant sundew.
This is clever, and I appreciate the connection to one of my essays. I meant to reply to this whenever I resumed making these posts, but it happened more slowly than I would have liked.
sundews are frequently described as “… mounds of grey-green tarry ropes or rags,” paired with the cloth-like appearance of the adherer’s dirty white “skin,” the similarities between adherers and sundews did seem to beg some connection ...
This is clever, and I appreciate the connection to one of my essays. I meant to reply to this whenever I resumed making these posts, but it happened more slowly than I would have liked.
Thanks! I really value such praise.
It's great to see the Fiend Sage make a reappearance. It was one of my favorite features in the LGJ. Really interesting take(s) on Dark Ones.
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