Places of Interest on Oerth, Part Three
|Posted on Wed, June 19, 2002 by Legate
|tamerlain writes "The continued descriptions of interesting places on Oerth, by Finnobhar Aodhin, bard and owner of the Star of Celene in Greyhawk. This installment looks at some places of interest in the Thillonrian Peninsula and in Old Aerdy (west and east).
Places of Interest on Oerth, Part 3
(Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.)
Author's Note: These entries and others were originally scheduled to appear in the never published Greyhawk Hardback, a work of in progress during the tenure of Team Greyhawk. These were all composed by Steve Wilson and may not be reproduced or posted without his permission. All of the sites in this and the previous post are property of Wizards of the Coast. Note that many of these sites are explained in other products, and were included in this section as part of a travelogue of the Flanaess.
Rumors speak of the ruins of a once great dwarven enclave that lie north of Skrellingshald (Tostenhca). It is said these were the Mines of Nalakkhâl. Founded in the mists of time, this great delve was once one of the wonders of the dwur-folk, its tunnels were webbed with rich veins of gold and adamantium, and its halls were wide and pillars strong. Alas, the mines fell under the iron fist of the great wizard that enslaved Tostenhca over a millennium ago.
The stories tell that Khâlad Ironfist, the last dwarven chieftain of Nalakkhâl, fought against this ur-Flannae wizard-king for long, but eventually the arcane forces of the human mage overcame the protection of mountains and earth afforded the dwarves. The wizard, furious at the dwarven resistance, forced Khâlad and his people to forge for him a mighty weapon, a hammer fell and strong. Khâlad did, however, exact some measure of revenge. During the forging of this hammer, the dwarves wedded to it a curse that would cause the bearer of the hammer to never be satisfied, to always lust after more, always strain for that beyond his reach. They wove this curse into the very fiber of the wood of the haft, and the metal of the hammer?s head. The wizard carried this hammer, and felt its curse.
It is said he immediately became aware of both the curse, and its casters. He ordained a terrible response. Calling upon his dark god, Nerull, the fell necromancer cast his own curse on the dwurrofolk of Nalakkhâl. He cursed them to be forever chained to their halls, even after death, each after his own station, picking and tunneling, long after flesh had decayed, even long after bone had worn away. Then with a mighty shout, he collapsed the beautifully wrought gates of the dwarven-hold, sealing it away from prying eyes and from memory.
This mine, if it exists, is said to be among the oddest, and most dangerous, of all dwarven-holds, in the Flanaess. For here, living dwarves, and undead dwarves of all kinds, dwell together. Dwarven skeletons and zombies stand guard, while living dwarves grow lichens to survive, and ghostly counterparts wield ghostly pick and mattock. The population of living dwarves is very small, and they eke out a substandard existence. Khâlad remains the chieftain of the hold, although he has been dead for centuries. The dwarves, living and dead, are highly xenophobic, and a bit mad. The mines are long since played out, but the stores of unrefined gold and adamantine are great, but the danger is potentially greater. Oddly enough, most rumors of this place exist in the Rift Canyon area.
Holy Land of Llerg ---
"Llerg the mighty, Llerg the fierce. May his children know his strength, may his foes tremble with dread." The opening chant to many a prayer to Llerg echoes through the land on the easternmost point of the Thillonrian peninsula. This area, neither the Schnai's, nor the Frutzii's, nor the Cruskii's belongs rather to the wildest of the Suel gods, Llerg. This large wilderness is the holiest site of this god in the northlands, and serves as both a testing grounds for the followers of Llerg, and as a sacrificial site for his priests.
Wild beasts roam the rugged landscape, while those priests or others who would seek Llerg's favor, track the great bears that roam this area. Brown bears are common to this area, while cave bears are uncommon in the interior of the peninsula. Polar bears are uncommon along the coastal areas. One of the benefits for all bears living in the Holy Land, as totem animals of Llerg, each gain one hit die in addition to those normal to their species while they roam in this area. This boon is a special blessing of Llerg. In addition to bears, ice toads, remorhaz, wolves, winter wolves, giant lynx, giant rams, wolverines and giant wolverines dwell here. It is common knowledge that snow and ice trolls roam the area, and some add that Yeti live here. Some even say that there is even a flight of white dragons living in this holy territory. There is one known community in this area. A group of werebear berserks, dedicated to Llerg, have made the holy land their home.
Although many different wild and fell creatures roam the Holy Lands, there are eight individual creatures whom Llerg has specially tasked to watch over his demense. These are the Guardians of Llerg. Each of these creatures was formerly a priest of Llerg of at least 9th level that have been changed into bear guardians. Two former priests of 9th level have been changed into black bears of the highest hit die value (+1 hit die for being in the Holy Land) each still maintains his full spellcasting ability, and human speech. Two 10th level priests have been transformed into brown bears, they too are of the highest hit die, and retain their spellcasting ability. Two 11th level priests have been changed into cave bears, and two 12th level priests, polar bears. Each bear is immune to attack from natural animals and can communicate with any natural animal. The guardians roam the Holy Land looking for those that would mar its beauty, or destroy its inhabitants for pleasure or gain (excepting servants of Llerg who are on holy business). If one of these guardians should be killed, Llerg summons another priest of like level to take the role of his fallen guardian within 1d8 weeks. Priests of Llerg consider becoming a guardian of one of the highest possible honors in life. Killing one in an Ordeal is considered an equally high honor.
While the bears in this area are more difficult to defeat than those outside of the area, it is considered a special honor by priests of Llerg to come here to defeat a bear upon their reaching 5th level. This combat, known as "The Ordeal of Llerg," is a requirement of all priests of the god of beasts and strength. The combat is always to the death, although the priest may carry any melee weapon he may use into battle. Priests of Llerg may decide to venture here for greater honor in their "Ordeal".
In one such recent case, a priest of Llerg, who is also the jarl of a Schnai holding, left without appointing an heir (he had twin sons, and it is not sure which was born first). The two sons have divided those of the holding between them. They threaten to tear the place to pieces in their struggle for dominance. A wise woman, one Migi by name, calling upon her oracular sheep, determined that the jarl had survived his ordeal. Apparently, the jarl was so taken with the beauties of the holy land that he determined to stay until he had seen "all of the wonders of Llerg." She is now looking for a group of adventurers willing to go to the jarl and ask him to return in order to save his kith and kin from destroying their holding.
NOTE: The concept for the Holy Land of Llerg was created by Kij Johnson, the former editor at WotC for Team Greyhawk, and Steve Wilson. Be sure to read Kij's novels including "The Fox Woman." Nifty reads! Also, I would probably increase the level of the guardians and some of their powers taking into consideration the tendency for level increase in 3E. These guardians should not be considered creampuffs!
Old Aerdy West
Legends speak little of the history of Maure Castle. The castle was built sometime shortly after the beginning of the construction of the Star Cairns between 50-200 CY. Scholars are not sure of the actual date of construction, because of the isolated location of the castle. It is certain, however, that neither those in Greyhawk, nor those in Urnst commissioned the castle.
From time to time groups of adventurers have tested the castle. In particular, one mysterious adventurer appeared in the late 550's or early 560's (no one is quite sure exactly when), and spread many rumors about the place. A stalwart group of adventurers apparently made a journey into Maure shortly after this. From this adventure, tales of a mad mage, one Eli Tomorast, student of the priests of Tharizdun, a terrible sword, a powerful tome of magic, and a fearsome guardian spread throughout Greyhawk.
Even though any of these four subjects would be worthy of a song, none is the major mystery of the castle. This honor belongs to a large chiseled eight-pointed star which lies carved in the floor somewhere within the castle or its dungeons. The points of seven of the stars are chiseled out completely.
The eighth however, holds a shimmering grey triangle, the size of a halflings hand. Stamped on this triangle is the image of a cat's head. The other star points look as if they are supposed to hold similar metalic triangles. It is known that yet another mage, Illyessa Starwand, has moved into the castle to attempt to unlock its secrets. It is she that returned the 1st star plate to its resting place.
DM's Note: This castle potentially leads to several planar adventures. The tome called "Black Heart" has gives instructions for the making of the "Dagger Obelisk," a device that allows for transportation to the Lost City of Elders (rumored to possibly be the Lost City of the Mages, or one of the lost cities of the Suel). To use the star, one must utter the proper command word in conjunction with placing the proper triangle. Each metal triangle discovered and placed in the star open a gate to a different plane or demi-plane. Seven of the metal plates are still lost. The one present allows transportation to the Realm of the Cat Lord. The instructions for using the device are given in "The Tome of the Star" However, the tome, along with the other seven plates, are scattered across the Flanaess. (WG5, Mordenkainen?s Fantastic Adventure, 9112).
Ghost Tower of Inverness---
The Seer of Urnst discovered in the tome, "The Eldest Days," a work by noted Flan antiquarian, Renosh Leun, a cryptic passage about the tower, which appears only on dark fog, shrouded nights. The Seer read that this tower was among the most ancient of edifices on the Flanaess. Built long before the Invoked Devastation; built so long ago that even before the arrival of the Flan to the land that bears their name, Galap-Dreidal, dread wizard, had already constructed his tower.
Ages and ages the tower stood, home to one of the most potent of magical items, the Soul Gem. Stories relate that this mighty gem, brighter than the brightest diamond, burning with its own inner light like a small sun, had fallen from the sky into the region of the Abor-alz. Galap-Dreidal recovered the gem, and then built a mighty tower to house the gem. He worked it with mighty magics and arcane spells, until he bent the stone to his will. The light of the gem, reportedly, has the power to drag a man's very soul from his body, and Galap-Dreidal used this force against his enemies.
However, Galap-Dreidal eventually left his stronghold, travelled north up the Selintan, and never returned. The surrounding superstitious Flan overthrew the castle and keep, but, despite its destruction, it still appeared on certain nights.
Although rumors say that adventurers have taken the Soul Gem from the tower these last twenty years, this is by no means certain. Moreover, even if the Gem has been taken, the tower is still sure to house many treasures. The tower itself is said to contain many traps and of its many levels four of the highest correspond to the four elements. The Soul Gem, if it still remains, no doubt is heavily guarded, and still retains its powers to extract souls (C2, Ghost Tower of Inverness, 9093)
Old Aerdy East
Crypts of the Iron Souls (Fading Land)---
Ancient dwarven epics speak of mighty battles that occurred between the dwur-folk and the Oerid and the Suel roughly between -250 and -230 CY on and under the the Glorioles south of Panther Peak, during the time of Oerdian and Suel migrations. The Suel, remembering their dwarven servants in the west in the days of their glory, were especially intent on subjugating the population of the Glorioles. The Oerid sought first to ally with the dwarves against the Suel, but soon the wealth they found in the dwarven fastness enchanted them, and they desired it for their own.
The humans of both races pushed the dwarves deeper into their holds, all the while battling each other. After years of fighting, the dwarven forces found themselves trapped within their deepest halls. The priests of the dwarves then called upon the powers of the earth and fire to cleanse their halls. They also tapped into a quasi-plane and twisted the normal rules of physics and magic that existed under the mountains, and unleashed a portion of that plane upon the Flanaess; A Fading Land formed. Deep tunnels and halls filled with smoke, ash and fire that claimed the lives of attackers and defenders alike. The screams of the dying was deafening, and both the screams, and the dead remain there to this day.
The survivors honored the sacrifice by calling the fallen "Iron Souls" in song and tales. The ancient halls they named "The Crypts of the Iron Souls" to commemorate the deed, one of the few times that demi-humans withstood humans in the Flanaess.
Although magical armor and weaponry exist in great number in the crypts, the danger is so great that only the strongest heroes dare to explore them. Restless dead warriors, dwarven and human, still prowl the halls in ash filled gloom. The dead aren't the only trouble here, though. It is said that sound, itself, is magnified, including the echoes of the screams of the dead; This sound can shred flesh, melt iron, and twist steel, such is its potency. In some areas, the ash itself seems to have a living will, and it moves, almost as liquid to engulf and smother.
The tales also tell of a great golden torc that graces the neck of one of the undead who wander somewhere under these peaks. That torc, named Kinggold, is the rightful emblem of the Dwarven King of the Glorioles, and its recovery would guarantee a hero, or group of heroes, undying fame in the long sung epics of the dwarves. (Source: FtA Atlas)
Coldwood (City of Summer Stars, A Fading Land)--- Perhaps one of the saddest tales of all of the history of Flannaess concerns the passing of the City of the Summer Stars, one of the brightest jewels of elvendom to ever grace the land. Few songs and fewer texts record the beauty of the city, and her fair queen, Sharafere the Golden. Gwydesion, Immonara, and the Sages of Lendore perhaps, know the story best of the treachery of the barbaric Ur-Flan. Those foul necromancers attacked the City of Summer Stars by summoning foul servants of the dark god Nerull, and monsters of all kinds, and by raising undead and hurling them against the fair elven fastness. The city withstood the attack, but the assault destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres of forest, and it saddened and sickened the elves.
Finally, the queen's son, Prince Darnakurian, could no longer stand the depredations. This mighty enchanter called upon the full power available to the grey elves of old. He began crafting a fell sword to destroy his enemies. Darnakurian reached across the planes to augment his power in the task, and was seduced by dark serpentine voices from across the void. The voices promised him power, power to defeat the Ur-Flannae, power to save the forest, power to rule. Even the wise tremble when discussing who or what it was that seduced the elven-lord. Darnakurian worked as one possessed; He did not sleep and barely took time for sustenance. Then, one war shattered morning, he presented to his mother the fruits of his labor; The sword he named "Hunger". Sharafere, horrified at what he had wrought, commanded that he break the weapon. Darnakurian refused, and driven by madness, slew his mother in the Palace of the Heavens. Looking upon her broken, lifeless body, all sanity fled the Prince. He stormed out of the city, and fell upon the enemy. Drankurian killed thousands, his rage like that of a lightning storm. None could stand before him; He slaughtered the Ur-Flannae and their minions, and those he did not kill fled before his wrath. The sword fed on his killing lust, and in the end possessed him, so that when all of his enemies were fallen or fled, he turned upon his own city. He killed all that he could reach and the remnant fled the City. So fell the City of Summer Stars.
The City of the Summer Stars, at the heart of the Coldwood, has vanished. The magic of the elves faded. It is rumored that some aspect of the City remains as a fading realm, but none know the gate to it within the wood. The only existing structure from that time is Darnakurian's own keep, called Bitterness. This duel meaning word not only refers to the prince?s fall, but also to the extreme temperatures surrounding the keep. While Coldwood generally has a temperature below 0 degrees Fahrenheit, however, within five miles of Bitterness, the temperature is much colder; All vegetation here is frozen in a black permafrost, lower level magical spells which control temperature, and magical items which allow one to cope with the cold fail utterly to protect from the piercing temperatures around the hold.
In Bitterness, Darnakurian's form still lives, although his mind and soul are gone. A powerful temporal stasis crafted by the last great elven wizards before they fled, imprisons him. He still holds his sword on his lap, frozen in time. In any case, no one is allowed near the keep. A group of twenty elven fighter/wizards and ranger/wizards (of 20+ levels divided between their classes), called the "Sentinels," guard the place. Each is armed with special magical protections including 80% magic resistance, and complete immunity to illusions and disabling enchantment/charm spells. They also posses magic items like rings of human control. Some of the Sentinels are ancient, having come from the City of Summer Stars before the city's fall. These elves still carry some of the power innate in elves of those times. When a Sentinel dies, or goes to the Lendore Islands, another is sent to take his place, usually sent by the Silverbow Sages of Lendore, although occasionally an elf arrives from Celene or Sunndi.
Many monsters, such as the remorhaz and white puddings roam the permafrost. Ice trolls, ice para-elementals and golems formed of ice, but hard as steel and more dangerous magical creatures live in the wood. The Sentinels warn intruders of the dangers of Coldwood. They know when anyone approaches within a mile of the Coldwood, and they teleport to ward these folk away. The Sentinels are adamant and do not allow entry to the wood, although they are vague about what the dangers are, or their specific role. The magic of the Sentinels block any attempts by planar magic, or teleporting or other magical means. They prefer to use non-violent methods to stop entry in to the woods, but will take any measure necessary to stop interlopers.
If a Sentinel is threatened or injured, he will teleport away from the scene, but other Sentinels will arrive to harass the intruders during the next few rounds. Rumors state that Iuz is laying plans to capture the sword. He has sent a small party to feel out the Sentinels. Many elves would be indebted to the party that attempted to bring the Sentinels news of these plans, or helped in preventing Iuz's minions from gaining access to the Coldwood.
DM Notes: Player characters should seek neither Darnakurian nor his sword. Darnakurian's waking, or the capture of the sword could unbalance the game setting beyond the scope of player's to reverse the action. (Although the new Epic Level characters might well try...) The sword is, perhaps, one of the mightiest artifacts on Oerth, and is both utterly evil, and very powerful. "Hunger's" powers are not specified here, but its strength can be determined, in part, by the destruction Darnakurian wrought with it. It is known to inflict destruction on any it strikes at the very least. Gywdiesin has said this is the least terrifying of its powers; that there are fates worse than death. "Hunger's" evil would unleash those fates on any seeking it. Any character holding Hunger immediately becomes a servant to the sword, and suffers an alignment shift to Chaotic Evil. No number of wishes can prevent this, or release the character from bondage to the sword. Adventures dealing with this area should ideally focus on helping the Sentinels in some fashion.
The Walker's Web and Monoliths---
One of the true enigmas of all the Flanaess is a being in Medegia known simply as The Walker. Legends of this fellow existed in Oerdian camps, before the founding of the Great Kingdom. He is ancient, even though young in appearance, and can be recognized by his small mixed breed dog, and by the small sack tied to a stick that he carries over his shoulder. His sack is full of small trinkets and beeds which appear worthless. However, each of these carries some magic.
Some say The Walker is a demi-god, but this doesn't quite seem to be so, although he does favor Fharlangen, or Fharlangen as he might once have been. He is also said to be one of Johydee's Children. The Walker always travels alone, but is polite to anyone he meets on the road. He speaks, and only in riddles. But he is of good spirits and never harms anyone he encounters.
One of The Walker's traits is that he cannot be attacked effectively by magical or mundane means. Either he simply vanishes, or with a wave of his hand he can dispel magic or turn any weapon used against him into a harmless object, perhaps turning a stave into a thin stick, or a sword into a feather which the holder finds impossible to raise against him. The Walker never attacks in reply.
The Walker travels at normal speed (MV 12) but he never tires, and he can cross any terrain without penalties. He is normally a land traveler, though he can walk on water at will. Oddly enough, his little dog cannot, so The Walker carries him across water.
The Walker is enigmatic. No one knows who he is, or where he comes from, or where he is going. He seems to be undergoing some endless journey. Sightings of the Walker in Medegia might be considered nothing more than the retelling of an old wives' tale if it were not for the fact that his travels have left behind him a growing and developing trail of magical force.
Detect magic shows a faint line of abjuration and alteration magics in the trails left behind by The Walker, and a particularly skilled decoder of cyphers might see that The Walker is building up a spider's web pattern centered on Mentrey in his recent travels.
In 590 CY, the 12" tall stark grey monoliths which sprang up on the nexus points of the Walker's Web began glowing and odd, undecipherable glyphs appeared along their otherwise smooth, indestructible faces. If one stands within 10' of one of the monoliths, he can hear a strange humming sound. The monoliths also have taken a deep grey swirling sheen, the pattern of the stone seems to change as one views a stone, indeed, after staring at a monolith for 1 round, a character must make a save against magic or fall prey to a condition similar to that caused by a hypnotic pattern spell. The magic of the stones is greater than the faint glowing lines of the web-like trails that connect them. Some sages speculate that the Walker has created either a traveling device or that the he could be literally weaving a demi-plane.
The Ruins of Chathold---
The destruction of Chathold was as terrible in its own right, as the Invoked Devastation of old. Rains of fire, acid and lightning fell on the place producing poisonous mists and fogs that still stretch over the land. Humanoids ran in packs, and demons and devils roamed freely.
However, with Szeffrin's banishment, and that of most of the devils and demons plaguing the Flanaess, Nyrond has retaken most of old Almor. Although Chathold lies outside of this area, several forays into the ruins of the city have driven out many of the humanoids that prowled the area.
Although some acolytes of Nerull that were drawn here after the war, few move about openly, fearing death at the hand of Nyrondal raiders. The black-robed priests of Incabulos have also moved out of the city to the south, taking many of the undead they raised in the city with them. However, the vast amount of energies and death which occurred here still have an impact on those living in or near the city. The madness that effected the humanoids and bandits living near the city remains. In addition, the effects on magic still operate, giving an advantage to mages and priests of evil. Chathold's ruins still probably contain many lost treasures. The forces of the Overking were bent on destruction, not plunder. And the dark forces who dwelt in the area afterwards were drawn more to the power of death and magic than to treasure.
Although Chathold is not as dangerous as it was before Szeffrin's removal, it is still a dire enough place.
The 5,000 who perished in the Day of Dust, still haunt this city in body and in soul. Adventurers entering this area are still very aware of the holocaust that took place here. (Ivid the Undying)
DM's Note: All saves against malign necromantic spells are made with a -4 penalty. Undead are turned as if the priest was six levels lower than his normal experience level and reversed healing spells inflict maximum damage allowed. A number of special magical effects which apply to particular spells; e.g., speak with dead has a 50% chance (less 1% per point of Wisdom of the spellcaster) of sending the querying cleric immediately insane. Other spells should be modified to reflect these conditions.
This castle has long been an elven stronghold in Sunndi. Although it now serves as a garrison for the kingdom, warriors consider service in this post hazardous duty. The primary reason for this rests in two specific "hauntings" associated with the Castle.
The first haunting "The Angry Bard of Ilaren" is the result of a curse placed on the castle by an elven minstral denied entry into the castle. The singer was so angered that, by his magic, he tore the stone shield bearing the lord's familial coat of arms away from the wall behind the castle lord?s high seat. He then broke the shield into three sections and scattered them across the realm of Sunndi. His curse ran thus, "any soul passing through the gates of this castle, either entering or leaving, must sing a song apologizing for my mistreatment at this gate. Anyone failing to do this, will, over three days, lose ability to hear any song, or any sound. This curse shall run until all three sections of the shield are returned to the castle and restored to their rightful place." To this day, only one of the three sections has been recovered. This section has the property of amplifying sounds in its vicinity (50') to three times their normal volume.
The second haunting, recorded in the sad ballad, "My Love this Morn has Died," has to do with one of the earlier ladies of the castle. Lady Fiondrilla, elven mage, and daughter of an elven noble who possessed the castle, pined away with grief at the death of Arodriath, a fair elven knight of the realm. After his death, Fiondrella wasted away, day after day becoming paler and more wan, until one day, she simply ceased to exist. It sometimes happens, when a new young soldier of the garrison arrives, a baen sidhe, assumed to be that of Fiondrella, appears and keens her cry. This random event does not seem to correlate with any time or season. The odd aspect of this haunting is that soldiers in the castle have come to believe that the baen sidhe, in some manner, protects them, even though her song has caused the death of no few men and elves over the years. It is said that the only way to appease this sorrowful spirit is to embrace and kiss her, but none have dared.
||Average Score: 4.61