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Postfest II: The Altar of Dhawar
Posted on Tue, April 06, 2004 by Farcluun
mortellan writes "“The ferocious peoples of Ull have always been notorious for their degenerate inclinations towards worship but these questionable practices likely predate the Uli occupation to a time when the tribes of the Yorodhi claimed the sheltering southern Ulsprue Mountains as their own. Within this remote range, tales of a certain unholy site still evoke a chill in the hearts of highland ogre tribesmen and lowland traders alike.”

The Altar of Dhawar
By: mortellan
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

The Altar of Dhawar

by: mortellan (bluesrule14@hotmail.com)

Prophecy of Devastation

A thousand years ago the Baklunish-Suloise War was about to come to a cataclysmic end, yet before this, many Oeridian tribes wisely began migrating away from their ancestral lands rather than be killed as innocent bystanders. However, not all Oeridians chose to leave their lands behind and chiefly among them were the Yorodhi tribe. Legends passed down through time by Yorodhi elders and corroborated by dervish campfire tales, say that within the Yorodhi society existed a deeply seeded doomsday cult that revered one if not more demon princes for their unique insights and divinations. The cult conducted their unholy rituals at a carved stone altar in the southern Ulsprue Mountains atop a remote peak that faced out toward the horizon where one could gaze upon the distant strife in the Baklunish Empire.

According to legend, the cleric who founded the cult was an Oeridian pariah named Dhawar. Dhawar claimed he was led to the site by visions and whispered voices that forewarned him of an impending doom. For a few years Dhawar collected like-minded followers who could help him in averting this possible cataclysm or at least keep it from spilling over into the lands that the Yorodhi resolutely refused to abandon. While most of their clandestine gatherings involved grisly live sacrifices to gain knowledge and minor aid, none in the cult knew the lengths to which Dhawar would go to change fate.

The Final Sacrifice

It was on the hour of the Invoked Devastation that the cult was sinisterly persuaded by Dhawar to become the final sacrifice to their baleful demonic patrons. One by one their blood was spilled upon Dhawar’s Altar even as the threat of the Devastation roiled towards them on the horizon. What became of Dhawar after his cult’s demise is still shrouded in speculation to this day for there was only one witness. A single cultist doubted Dhawar in the end and hid among the crags while his brethren offered themselves in sacrifice. The vile horrors the cultist saw manifested that day were enough to paralyze him in fear and when at last the Invoked Devastation shook the region, Dhawar fell, or in later accounts, was pulled by something into an abyssal fissure that opened near the Altar. While the Yorodhi did barely survive the cataclysm, only Istus knows what Dhawar’s cult truly accomplished that day.

The Altar Revisited

Over the centuries the tainted Altar would still see more hapless visitors. Local worshippers of other evil deities like Ralishaz and Incabulous became attracted to the Altar of Dhawar by the legends and sought to reap rewards for their own sacrifices there. Other times lost pilgrims would find the peak on accident during their journeys to similar hidden holy sites within the Ulsprues. Eventually rumors spread to the ears of adventurers about treasure at the Altar of Dhawar either left by cultists in sacrifice to their gods or lost by unwary pilgrims. Even more speculation abounded over what wealth could be found in the dark depths of the peak top crevice. What ever their intent, travelers kept easily returning to the Altar, at least until the ogres moved in.

Ogres Affected

The ogre population in the Ulsprues steadily grows each year and two decades ago one of these highland tribes chose to settle in a cavern system along the same pathway that leads to Dhawar’s mountain. The barbarous ogres knew of the tainted Altar atop the peak and at first thought it to be a sign by their god to settle in the area. Unfortunately their shamans found no favor in using the Altar for many were suddenly stricken with diseases and dementia. Many other times they spoke of a shadowy form dragging one of their own into the fissure. To add to these fears, the tribe experienced several uncommon visits through their territory by evil cultists that repeatedly resulted in disappearances of several ogre women or children. The ogre chieftain had enough and decided to bar the way up the peak. Ogre shamans marked the trails around the mountain with skulls and flayed skins on poles so that all would know the area was taboo. While the ogres were superstitiously afraid of defiling the Altar, they were bold enough to destroy parts of the trail leading up to it with rock falls and tools. Finally as a last measure to dissuade other trespassers from coming into this accursed area, they created many hand-made pitfalls and traps. Despite their crude hindrances, the tribe knows it will not completely deter outsiders from seeking this site. As a result they are ever wary to ambush or turn away anyone moving through their lands that they do not trust.

Survey of the Altar

The peak is a flattened area about 200 feet in diameter that has an unimpeded view of the Dry Steppes. The ground here is uneven and excessively weatherworn from being flanked by two taller mountains that create a powerful wind tunnel. The Altar of Dhawar itself is a 6-foot long slab of carved stone that is inconsistent with the local rock. How it was brought to this remote location is a mystery unto itself for nothing is written about its construction. The Altar is stained with the blood of innumerable beings, a stark discoloration that even the elements haven’t been able to wear away. Besides setting at the center of the peak, there is actually nothing else outwardly remarkable about the Altar. There are no symbols or inscriptions that would indicate the Altar’s original religious affiliation, nor any perceptible aura to lead one to assume it is magical. The entire area does however radiate an aura of powerful permanent evil that enhances vile rituals to whichever deity it is currently attuned. Careless priests, who have neglected to first consecrate the unholy Altar, have experienced horrible curses or dubious fates.

Five feet to one side of the Altar is a fissure that nearly bisects the entire peak, giving the impression the whole area could fall apart. This tear in the peak is ten feet across at its widest, tapering towards the ends. The deceptively deep crevice leads down into the inky depths of the mountain’s cavernous heart. This is where the true danger exists and possibly the greater reward. Whatever still sleeps below the Altar of Dhawar is old indeed and strong enough to take down a fully-grown ogre. The true nature of this unseen monster from the shadows has yet to be revealed and is confounded by contradicting stories. The creature typically only emerges when the Altar invokes a curse on someone or if some great upheaval attracts its attention, otherwise it invisibly remains in its cavernous lair. If there is any treasure still to be had, it is hid within these lightless caverns where further secrets from a time well before the Twin Cataclysms are waiting to be discovered.

"
 
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Re: The Altar of Dhawar (Score: 1)
by Valkaun_Dain on Wed, April 07, 2004
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Wow! I think the true measure of this submission is the readers inability to distinguish canon from the authors creations. Excellent research and detail.



Re: The Altar of Dhawar (Score: 1)
by Abysslin (abyss@canonfire.com) on Wed, April 07, 2004
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Sweet! I really like what the Ogres have doen with the place hehe. Nah, really, I was envisioning walking up a pass marked with such items as you described them.

Very enveloping submission. It was nice that the altar was described as rather mundane in appearance. Its nice when not everything has to be extravagant and glorified.

Nice work!



Re: The Altar of Dhawar (Score: 1)
by cwslyclgh on Wed, April 07, 2004
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Mortellan,

This is a great piece, good job. Just reading it made me try to think of ways to use it in my greyhawk campaign.



Re: The Altar of Dhawar (Score: 1)
by WightNight on Thu, April 08, 2004
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Very spooky submission Mortellan. I like it! It gives me all sorts of fun ideas to give my players nightmares! :)
-wn



Re: The Altar of Dhawar (Score: 1)
by Argon on Sat, April 10, 2004
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Very good article indeed, heck with all of these great submissions we probably could of had another Oerth Journal. This article reaaly peaked my interest and it is really well written. Besides it kind of gels with an article Abyss submitted not too long ago which also takes place around Ull. Nice piece of work!



Re: The Altar of Dhawar (Score: 1)
by donimator on Mon, April 19, 2004
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Sounds like a place to avoid...but what would be the fun in that? An excellent adventure seed to draw a party into areas of Greyhawk I think are quire under-developed. Great work!



Re: The Altar of Dhawar (Score: 1)
by Muscles on Sat, September 11, 2004
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Hey mortellon,

I join with others to praise your work. I can easily visualize this ominous alter , fissure, and mesa. I haven't developed ull and hardly any of the paynims. When I do I will include this crimson gem up in the ulsprues.

Good work,

Muscles




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