Alternate History of the Pomarj and Turrosh Mak
|Posted on Wed, April 28, 2004 by Legate
|bdpenney writes "As a veteren Greyhawk DM I've very seldom been satisfied with the "Post Sargent" articles and supplements released for the world I cherish most. This lack of satisfaction was at its most pronounced with the release of the Slavers supplement. Now, while I enjoyed the vast majority of the supplement I was left vastly under-whelmed by the detailing of the true nature of Turrosh Mak and the whole "Earth Dragon" thing.
Yes, the Earth Dragon is canon, but its true nature was never given real detail. Frankly, I've enough deities to deal with in Greyhawk than to add yet more obscure divine beings to the mix.
Hence, I present to you my personal rendition of the history of the Pomarj, which builds up the framework for my eventual history of Turrosh Mak. This work in no way obliterates the finer points of the Slavers supplement, however. Think of it as a boiler plate that can be set over the less inspiring parts of the supplement, allowing you to use the majority of the product while also making the overall story a bit more compelling.
Alternate History of the Pomarj and Turrosh Mak
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.
History of the Pomarj and the rise of Turrosh Mak: Part I
As with many of the colossal events to occur within the Flanaess, the rise of Turrosh Mak owes itself to great deeds and happenings of the distant past, events even the gods could not see connections between. The story of the Pomarj begins where another pauses…
Of all events ever to occur within the Sheldomar Valley, nothing compares in scope or importance to the fall of Vecna and his dread empire. Paragon amongst wizards for all time, Vecna was brought low via a combination of betrayal from his lieutenant Kas and the direct action of the deities of Greyhawk. Few stories can be held credible concerning the titanic battle between Vecna and Kas, though most agree that in the end Vecna defeated his traitorous lieutenant, though at the cost of much of his personal power. At this point, so the tales tell, the very deities of Oerth put differences aside and combined to strike Vecna down as he recovered from battle within his dread palace. Fearful of his power, the gods could no longer stand aside and allow Vecna to spin his own fate. Legends and ballads sung by the most learned of bards recount that the heavens were rent asunder over Vecna’s palace and a great and terrible deific blast of multi-colored light rained down and obliterated everything within miles. It all came in an instant, and the blast shook the foundations of the world. When the dust settled, Vecna and his works were no more; wiped from the Oerth by power of the gods. All that was said to remain were his legendary Eye and Hand.
Such an event had a dramatic affect upon all things in the world. The gods had not combined efforts since the Imprisonment of Tharizdun, and the cooperation of such disparate entities and their energies caused many things to change at that instant. From this union new magics and ideas were spontaneously born and unleashed into the world. Also from this union, some great magics were brought to an end and beings better left asleep were allowed to awaken once more.
The Sheldomar Valley, only just recovering from the domination and horror of Vecna, was not ready for the insatiable hunger of the monster that arose from centuries of sleep to further maim an already unhappy land. The mighty Tarrasque, long held in slumber by epic magics cast in ages past, arose from beneath the soil of what was to become the very heart of the Kingdom of Keoland and began to sate its hunger upon everything it could find. Agitated by the divine energies that had swept over all of Oerth the Tarrasque went berserk and decimated enormous swaths of the Sheldomar Valley. No amount of consumption could sate the hunger from centuries of forced slumber, and thus the Tarrasque became a blight upon the land rivaling that of Vecna himself. Entire regions were stripped of life and reduced to barren waste wastelands. Whole civilizations were wiped out and consumed. It seemed that the guarantee of destruction at the claws and teeth of the Tarrasque replaced the threat of slavery under Vecna.
The people of the Sheldomar Valley had gone from despair to despair. Nobody knew where the Tarrasque would strike next, and precious few ever survived even seeing the beast. None survived fighting it. Finally, even the spirit of the land came to feel this despair and agony as entire regions were defoliated and reduced to lifelessness. The Tarrasque’s hunger was boundless, and many felt it was only a matter of time before it consumed all.
*(Personal Note: The release of the Epic Level Handbook forced me to re-write the Tarrasque to bring it “up to snuff” with epic rules. I also expanded the very nature of the Tarrasque, making it a physical embodiment of mindless destruction, a creature to be feared even by the gods themselves. In game terms, my version of the Tarrasque has a challenge rating of 60 and is an absolute nightmare to face in combat. Containment of the beast, with the proper levels of power and sacrifice, is the only real option left to mortals and perhaps the gods themselves. The Tarrasque was contained prior to Vecna’s fall (another story entirely) and was freed as a side effect of the enormous magical forces brought to bear upon the arch lich. This does much to explain why the Tarrasque never really had a place in Greyhawk canon: it had been long contained and hadn’t ravaged the world in living memory. Now, back to the story…)
The suffering of the people had quickly become the suffering of the land, and the very spirit of Oerth was being diminished by the endless destruction wrought by the frenzied Tarrasque. No end was in sight, and it seemed that all who took a stand against the beast were doomed to perish. Several attempts to were made to stop the beast; the most notable was by one of Vecna’s ex-generals, a fearsome warrior known as Fellwyrm. Fellwyrm and the remnants of Vecna’s army tracked the Tarrasque to the foothills of the Lortmill Mountains and brought it to battle. In the space of less than a day over three thousand men met their deaths before the fury of the Tarrasque. Fellwyrm was known to escape, finding conquest and plunder elsewhere…
Then, with no hope in sight, deliverance came unlooked for. During Vecna’s rule the arch-lich would tolerate no threats to his superiority and power. To this end he made it a point to slay whatever beings he believed posed a threat to him. Hence, there were few wizards, sorcerers or clerics to be found of any notable power on Oerth at this time. The Whispered One, however, did leave a loose thread in his web of dominion. While he believed he had eliminated all who could threaten him, one very powerful segment was able to avoid destruction by remaining “beneath” his notice: the druids of the Cabal.
The Cabal was able to survive where others perished by actively staying out of the way of the Whispered One and his minions. The evils of Vecna were not their concern: their responsibility was to ensure the continuation of the cycles of nature and life. Vecna, they believed, was only a brief occurrence in the passage of eternity. Thus, by staying within the deep wilderness they were able to maintain their numbers and their power. Both proved to be necessary after Vecna’s fall.
The Cabal itself was a loosely organized council of Oerth’s most powerful druids. Mostly Flan in origin, the members of the Cabal was closely connected with the Oerth and took great pains to defend it. Mysterious and potent, their power was such that could change the face of the world if circumstances demanded it. Such was not their aim, however, and they were content to watch events unfold around them while tending to the needs of the land.
The Cabal had greeted Vecna’s fall with a knowing smile, for they knew that all things passed, however vile. They had watched with some satisfaction when the newly freed Tarrasque ravaged the “civilization” of the Sheldomar Valley. “Civilization” and organization had allowed Vecna to rise in the first place and it was only fitting that it be punished by chaos incarnate. But all thoughts of satisfaction and justice vanished when the world itself began to suffer before the power of the Tarrasque.
The Cabal quickly came to the realization that the Tarrasque and its depredations had to be stopped or the land would be irreversibly maimed. The Tarrasque’s hunger was boundless, and it showed no signs of slowing its ravages. It had been long trapped in an earthy tomb and it had centuries upon centuries of hunger to sate. The land, however, would not survive this and the entire Sheldomar was in danger of becoming something worse than a desert. Knowing they could not let this happen, the Cabal made their decision quickly: the Tarrasque would have to be confronted and contained once again. Slaying it was not in the realm of possibility for them, they had not the power to slay a being that could rival the gods in might. They did, however, possess ancient lore and epic magics that would enable them to put the Tarrasque at rest once again.
Tracking the Tarrasque was easy for members of the Cabal; they could feel the Oerth’s agony as the mighty beast brought ruin upon every inch of land it touched. The chase was short, beginning in the foothills of the Lortmill Mountains and ending in the volcanic highlands to the east. There, amongst the region’s tallest peaks, the greatest of the Cabal lured the Tarrasque to a place of their choosing. Their plan was desperate: the strongest of their fighters were to weaken and hold off the Tarrasque while the most mightiest spellcasters wove an epic spell of containment and slumber.
The battle took place upon a peak that came to be known as Mount Drachenkopf.
Combat with the Tarrasque was long and terrible and many heroic persons were overcome by the beast’s might. As the sun began to dip below the western horizon the battle ended and the Tarrasque stood wounded but victorious. Those sent to fight the monster in melee were slain and consumed, sacrificed to buy their superiors time to weave their magics. The Tarrasque, sensing additional food to consume, began to make strait for the circle of druids chanting upon the mountaintop. Only the steep climb prevented the Tarrasque reaching the druids in time to foil the spell, and even so it was a close thing.
The circle’s leader, the Arch-Druid Ranyon Strongbough could see the beast approach after dispatching those set to delay it. When the spell was begun it was understood that the eight other druids cooperating in the spell’s casting would make the ultimate sacrifice at the spell’s culmination: giving their very souls to power the epic magic they were aiding to cast. Ranyon was only to direct the energies thence, and was to remain to oversee the Tarrasque’s resting place. Ranyon, however, looked into the eyes of the frenzied Tarrasque and knew in his heart that the sacrifice of his fellows would not be enough. The spell was progressing too slowly, and the beast would be upon them before they had finished their incantation. The only way to hurry things along and to assure the Tarrasque would not resist the mighty magics would be to add his own life energy to it.
The decision took only a moment, for Ranyon was a man of duty to his world and knew what had to be done. Throwing his arms wide he gave himself to the magic he and his brethren were weaving. The additional energy of the Arch-Druid allowed the spell to be completed just as the Tarrasque’s hulking form rose above them. The mountaintop was bathed in a dazzling blue radiance as the Tarrasque lunged for the druids, intent on devouring the warm-blooded creatures wholesale. Its lunge stopped short as the radiance washed over it. Lances of green and blue energy began to streak across the Tarrasque and down the mountainside, casting a strange light upon the hillscape below. Then, the Tarrasque began to scream as its claws and feet started to sink into the mountainside. The nine members of the Cabal, each bathed in the same blue radiance, also began to sink out of sight. Utterly berserk, the Tarrasque strained against the forces pulling it downward, shrieking and howling all the way. The sound was horrible and echoed throughout the Drachensgrab hills.
The nine members of the Cabal sank out of sight, the Tarrasque following soon after. The shrieks of the beast weakening as its belly disappeared into the stone of the mountain, and then fading entirely once its head began to disappear. Just before disappearing entirely, the monster’s fierce red eyes closed and all became still and quiet. The blue radiance faded, leaving no sign of what had transpired. The Cabal was successful: the Tarrasque was contained and its violation of the Oerth had been halted. The price, however, had been high: the Cabal was in ruins and no living member was in the know of what had transpired. Peace settled over the hills.
From that time on that hilly range became known as the Drachensgrab Hills, which meant “the Tomb of the Dragon.” Once a rich and fertile region, the Drachensgrabs became blighted and mean, as if the very life force of the land were being drained off. The few primitives in the area who had borne witness to the titanic clash began to spin tales of “The dragon that sank into the earth.” This “Earth Dragon” became a being of legend and eventually an object of worship for the flan people who came to inhabit the region. Though none knew the full truth of the matter, all lived in fear of whatever dwelt within Mount Drachenkopf.
The Sands of Time
In time the world came to forget the horrors Vecna, Tarrasque and the hardships that accompanied them. Two great threats to the world had been stopped in succession, the people of Oerth now needed to rebuild and the land needed to heal. Decades and then centuries passed in relative peace, thus allowing the Sheldomar Valley and its indigenous people time to heal and grow strong again. Then came the time of the Great Migrations and the lands of the central Flanaess became awash with refugees fleeing from the destruction of their former empires. In this time various human and demi-human nations (such as Keoland, Celene, and the Ulek States) were founded and the land was mostly tamed and civilized.
This civilization spread even the to lands of the Drachensgrab peninsula and the indigenous Flan people soon found themselves co-existing with a number of Suel tribes who could find acceptance in no other land. These Suel quickly established themselves as the dominant people and the land was quickly divided into a vast patchwork of petty holdings. Independent and stubborn in the extreme, these divided lands were only too happy to keep themselves separated from the vast kingdoms now spreading across the Flanaess.
It was not until the late third century CY, when Keoland inaugurated its imperialistic phase, that there was renewed interest in the region. The lands of the Drachensgrab Peninsula came to be known in royal circles as the “Poor March”, or “Pomarj” due to its distance from the city of Niole Dra, the Sheldomar Valley’s center of culture and learning. In any event, the Pomarj and its hills were long suspected by the dwarves of Ulek as having great mineral wealth just waiting to be claimed and exploited. In 295 CY, an alliance between the prince of Ulek and King Tavish I of Keoland produced an invasion force that crossed the Jewel River and conquered and subjugated the region within a few short years. The land was carved up into a dozen small baronies and awarded as subfiefs under the protection of the prince of Ulek. Many of the barons were drawn from existing petty rulers within the Pomarj while others were appointed as favors from the Keolish and Ulek crowns. In all cases, however, these barons became extremely wealthy from the mineral riches extracted from the mines over the next several decades. In 305 CY, Highport was constructed atop the foundations of a smaller town in order to exploit this wealth with the rest of the world.
The Drachensgrab Hills, however, remained a dark and dangerous place and only the lower elevations were deemed suitable for the opening of mines. The miners and their foremen felt they had reason to fear, for there were great rumblings within the hills and occasional volcanic eruptions, none of which could be explained. Monsters of the most fearsome nature seemed attracted to the Drachensgrabs and few had the courage to encroach upon the domain of the “Earth Dragon.” Legends of the past combined with this fearful reputation helped to breed a powerful new cult devoted to whatever lurked within Drachensgrabs. This Cult of the Earthdragon was something unique to the Pomarj and its faith took hold in many of its cities. Everyone could feel that something lurked within the hills and the cult took advantage of the fear this of the unknown to gain influence and power…
More than a century and a half later, the power of the Keolish Throne waned after years of conflict. The barons of the Pomarj had no voice in the Royal Council of Niole Dra, instead they were subjects of the prince of Ulek. The Principality later withdrew from the kingdom to gain palatinate status from Keoland in 461 CY, and the barons of the Pomarj broke with the prince of Havenhill two years later to declare their independence. They took the city of Highport as their capitol and banished the dwarven garrisons to begin ruling their petty states independently, even from each other. Some took the title of arch baron, or duke, or prince. The Pomarj, now an autonomous collective, was once again free to rule over its own affairs.
The Pomarj, however, quickly became known as a land that went contrary to the laws of many of their neighbors. It was a place where individual rulers ran their lands at a whim and kept power by sheer force of might or magic. The Keolish province known as the Pomarj quickly transformed into a patchwork nation where slavery, elicit activities, and foul deeds found tolerance, if not acceptance. This brought the Pomarj no favor in the eyes of its neighbors, who came to view the Pomarj to be a breeding ground of lawless selfishness.
Hence, the civilization bred within the Pomarj was anything but exemplary. Greed infected the land’s rulers to their very core and the nation was governed by a group of scheming, covetous men who cared only for enriching themselves. To this end these rulers combined their efforts to bring nearly all of the Pomarj’s fiefs under their control. Brief skirmishes, assassination (a favorite) and bribery were all tools used to allow them to consolidate their power. It did not take them long to tame the Pomarj, and soon thereafter the city of Suderham was founded, a great hidden city built on an island within a crater lake atop an extinct volcano known as Mount Flamenblut. Suderham was built to serve as their true capitol, a redoubt of power and safety.
Suderham’s unusual placement was chosen for two reasons. One, it was an ideally defensible position from which the rulers of the Pomarj could defend themselves from all comers. Second, ancient lava tunnels were discovered within the island, tunnels that lead into the deep Oerth and to contact with a wealthy and powerful new race: the drow. Ever lustful for wealth and power, the rulers of the Pomarj gladly traded slaves (drawn from their own people) and resources to the drow for wealth and magical power.
The hidden city of Suderham became wealthy and powerful beyond anything its original founders expected. Over the next fifty years everything was peaceful and prosperous and trade had begun to trickle back and forth between the Pomarj and other nations. More and more wealth flowed into Suderham and several additional openings into the underdark were discovered and fortified, all of which only increased the wealth of the Pomarj’s rulers. All this wealth lead to Suderham becoming an extraordinarily powerful black market city with that also possessed one of the most notorious assassin’s guilds on all of Oerth. It was a decadent place where vile deeds and twisted fetishes were the order of the day. There seemed no end to Suderham’s growth, and it seemed only a matter of time before the Pomarj became a nation of prominence.
The Cult of the Earth Dragon also grew during this period of prosperity, for it always worked to stay close to the nation’s rulers and nobility. This cult was powerful at this time, for it preyed upon the superstition of nobles and commoners alike. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and landslides were all described as the “Stirrings of the Earth Dragon.” Many believed that only the Earth Dragon’s clerics could placate the deity, and thus they wielded great influence throughout the Drachensgrab region of the Pomarj. Many feared the cult would attempt to sieze power for itself once it had most of the nobility within its ranks.
Then, in 510 CY, everything changed. The Hateful Wars ended, bringing an unexpected invasion into the Pomarj.
Fallout of the Hateful Wars
In 498 CY a long series of battles known as the Hateful Wars began. The combined Ulek states, with the cooperation of Veluna and the demi-humans of the Kron Hills, attacked the various humanoid and giant tribes inhabiting the Lortmill Mountains. The rulers of the Pomarj, for reasons of their own (greed and fear of being re-absorbed by the Ulek States), decided to keep out of the conflict altogether. For twelve long and bitter years the combined demi-human armies slew the disorganized and chaotic humanoids with abandon and without mercy, eventually routing them from the mountains. The tribes scattered, some fleeing north toward the Yatils, but most, having wiser leadership, fled in the only direction not fortified against them: into the Suss Forest. Finding the native humans there to be weak and entirely unprepared for war, the humanoid hordes emerged from the Suss Forest and descended upon Highport in a frenzy of destruction. The city was quickly sacked and must of its population was put to the sword.
The rulers of the Pomarj then made the tragic error of failing to act in unison against the humanoids; political infighting and opportunism kept those forces available to the Pomarj’s rulers separated or idle until it was too late. The great hoard moved quickly and ruthlessly, having learned bitter lessons in the Hateful Wars, and overwhelmed defenders and rampaging southward. Cities and strongholds fell quickly to the humanoids that had little mercy to show to those who fell into their hands. Too late the rulers of the Pomarj rallied themselves to defend their nation, but the army they brought to the field was woefully undermanned and ill prepared for the ferocious horde that bore down upon them. The humanoids quickly outflanked and destroyed the pathetic army of the Pomarj, it was an easy task to the battle-hardened hordes that survived the rout from the Lortmill Mountains. The neighbors of the Pomarj, long weary of war, did not have the will or the forces necessary to assist the Pomarj in its moment of need. Instead, they fortified their borders and watched as the Pomarj fell into anarchy.
In the end, the Pomarj fell in a matter of months. The nation was betrayed by its independent nature when its populace could not put differences aside to defend against a common enemy. Worse still, numerous humans of vile character betrayed their fellows and threw their lot in with the invaders, taking this opportunity to settle old grudges or to gain territory for themselves. Only the city of Suderham remained untouched from the invasion, its natural defenses were too strong to be overcome by ravaging hordes unused to navel invasions. Rioting and panic gripped Suderham however, and much of city’s populace was slain from fighting one another. The Pomarj was lost to the rabble with no chance of liberation in sight…
Rise of the Slave Lords
So began the quick decline into decadence that has continued almost to this present day. The humanoids carved the realm up into small territories ruled by individual tribes and chieftains. Human bandits and privateers still frequented the major cities and towns, but the countryside became unsafe to travel. Several human bandits had retained enough wealth and might to hold their lands, thus establishing themselves alongside the humanoids. These men one again took the title of prince or baron and were only too happy to live life by their own rules.
Life went on there after a fashion within the Hidden City of Suderham and trade continued with the denizens of the underdark. Suderham, however, became an isolationist city-state; the majority of its citizens content to stay safe on their island and to let the rabble that overran the Pomarj keep their prize. Little trade with the outside world came into or out of Suderham, it was simply too dangerous for all but the hardiest adventurers to attempt passage across the Drachensgrabs. Contact was eventually reestablished some of the human bandit lords within the Pomarj, though the rulers of Suderham did feel they could be trusted and were loath to leave themselves exposed to any further danger.
Suderham’s isolationist philosophy continued for some fifty years until an ambitious group arose from members of the city’s aristocracy and the most powerful bandit lords in the Pomarj. This group had learned well from the drow elves with whom they’d had contact and they began to develop a plan where the power of wealth and magic could be used to gain influence over those they wished to control. They were also promised great wealth and aid from the drow if they were to once again provide the dark elves with fresh slaves. Quickly this group began to see the situation in the Pomarj as an opportunity rather than a burden: they were wealthy and secure while the humanoid tribes were disorganized and always at one another’s throats.
Seizing the moment the group staged a quiet coup within Suderham while also making overtures of peace toward the most powerful of the humanoid chieftains. Piles of gold and promises of power cemented an alliance between human and humanoid and a brief campaign of diplomacy, assassination, and magical compulsion brought most of the Pomarj under the alliance’s authority. With the Pomarj made safe for their activities, the leaders of the alliance renamed themselves the Slave Lords (to invoke fear while hiding their identities) and quickly began a campaign of terror and slave trafficking up and down the Wild Coast and along the coast of the Principality of Ulek.
This trade brought enormous wealth to the Slave Lords, for the drow had an endless appetite for slaves and new trading partners began to emerge as their depredations grew. Slaves were sold to buyers from Ahlissa and South Province and also to mysterious scarlet robed buyers hailing from “The Land of Purity.” With the coffers of the Slave Lords beginning to fatten and the Pomarj slipping more and more firmly into their grasp, the Slave Lords began to envision a grand plan of conquest and power. Through assassination and terror they thought to destabilize the governments of their neighboring nations while raising an army of humanoids to spearhead a campaign of conquest.
Everything seemed to be going their way, and the Slave Lords’ Council of Nine believed themselves destined for greater things. It was not meant to be…
The truth behind the Cult of the Earth Dragon
To this point in history the Cult of the Earth Dragon not so much a true cult as it was a gathering of superstitious but very opportunistic individuals who used tales of the Earth Dragon and its works to gain influence over the people of the Pomarj. It is worth mentioning that none were clerics nor did they possess the magical powers of clerics: the Earth Dragon did not exist as they described and thus there was nothing to grant worshipers magical power. Instead the membership of the Cult of the Earth Dragon was made up of charismatic adepts, aristocrats, and experts (NPC classes) who would use the name of the Earth Dragon go gain influence and favor throughout the Pomarj.
Membership in the Cult of the Earth Dragon was a rare honor and only approved individuals were allowed to join. The Cult had some influence on the Suderham nobility prior to the invasion of the Pomarj, and this influence only grew as the people looked to them as saviors and protectors from the humanoid rabble. The Cult, seeing where their bread was buttered, were only too happy to give guidance and succor to the frightened people of Suderham. In time the Cult of the Earth Dragon came to possess nearly as much power in the Hidden City as the nobility, which in some cases were allowed to join the cult.
Then came the day of the fateful coup within Suderham.
At this time the Earth Dragon’s political pull in Suderham was waxing and there was much talk of the city become a theocracy ruled over by the Earth Dragon’s priests. In no way did this fit into the plans of the conspirators bent on gaining control over the city, though they also understood that eliminating the cult would invoke the wrath of the entire city’s populace. Their dilemma was solved when a low-ranking shaman named Stalman Klim offered to join the conspiracy, though at the cost of being appointed Grand Master of the cult. The other conspirators agreed and a number of quiet assassinations ensued, leaving Klim a straight line to ascension as leader of the cult.
Once vested with power he began making immediate changes in the cult’s membership, dismissing some individuals (who were often slain) and appointing others. Within a matter of months Stalman Klim was the undisputed master of the Cult of the Dragon. The full coup against the city’s leadership ensured quickly thereafter Klim found himself a major power player in the politics of Suderham and the Pomarj in general.
This fit exactly into Klim’s plans.
The man known as Stallman Klim was a black-hearted aristocrat who longed for temporal power over lands people and was willing to do anything he could to attain it. He was accepted into the Cult of the Dragon at an early age and had learned many of its secrets in that time. The final secret; the location of the nameless horror entombed within in Mount Drachenkopf, being the very last.
Klim was never a believer in the Earth Dragon (or any other god) was intrigued by this final secret and decided to leave Suderham to investigate. The truth of Stalman Klim was that he was a vile and powerful ur-priest whose soul was as black as pitch. He and his apprentices fed their magical powers on the belief of the fools they preached to. Long he had plotted to take control of the cult, for it would afford him the power and influence to fulfill his ambitions. Finally given the secrets he craved he and his apprentices journeyed deep into the Drachensgrab Hills, to Mount Drachenkopf.
After days of secret travel he and his servants found the magically hidden cavern entrance leading deep into the heart of the mountain. From there the small group came into a colossal chamber filled with enormous crystal formations. At the chamber’s center was one enormous formation surrounded by nine others that looked as if they were standing guard. Bringing his fell magics to bear, Klim spent several weeks investigating every aspect of the chamber and learned the truth about the Earth Dragon: it was no dragon at all, but a horrifically powerful creature of legend. He also learned that it was bound by an epic spell, a spell given its power by the very souls of the individuals who cast it.
Flush with the kind of inspiration that could only be brought on by greed Stalman Klim devised a means to use his dark powers to siphon off the epic energies generated by the spells nine participants and to channel them for his personal use. The ritual he devised was vile in the extreme and required the bloody sacrifice of his apprentices and servants, a price he was only too willing to pay. Soon a great power would be his to control and abuse, just as he’d always done with the energies of the world.
The completion of the ritual, however, was not everything that Stalman Klim envisioned. While Klim was no stranger to raping power from whatever source he could find, the energies he stole from the Tarrasque’s binders was well beyond anything he’d ever felt. Awash with glee at the near deific power at his disposal he channeled the power into the interior of Mount Drachenkopf, transforming the great chamber and the area surrounding into an enormous fortified temple, one paying homage to the pharisaical “Earth Dragon” while also providing defense against intrusion. The central chamber of containment was cut off from the rest of the temple; it became a place that only he was aware of.
Then the Tarrasque stirred.
Great shards of crystal broke off the central formation and crashed to the floor, filling the air with wicked glittering splinters. The chamber began to rumble and great discharges of energy arced from the nine smaller formations into the larger central formation. Dizzily, Stalman Klim saw a great claw slowly stretch out and flex, then retract into the formation. Fear filled him, then faded as crystal re-grew over the places it had splintered off. The shaking halted and all became quiet. The Tarrasque slept still, though it was obvious it was still fighting against its magical bonds.
In an instant many things became clear to Stalman Klim. The power used to imprison the beast was drawn not only from the individuals who cast it, but form the land itself. Hence, the strangely barren nature of the Drachensgrab hills. This also explained the feeling of dread that permeated the land in and around the Drachensgrabs; for all living creatures could sense that something was not right. Seeing the effects on the land of the Tarrasque stirring also drove home another point; while the Tarrasque was contained by the power of the land it also held a connection to it. Thus, the stirrings of the beast sent shockwaves throughout the Drachensgrab Hills, which explained the earthquakes, landslides, and volcanic activity that has for so long defied reason.
Ambition and pride swelled within Stalman Klim at that moment, for he had enormous power to draw upon and bargain with. Satisfied with his gains Klim sealed the complex and returned to Suderham, plotting all the way…
Slave Lords Fall
The plans of the Slave Lords never came to full fruition. A bold beginning coupled with numerous successes gave way to feelings of invincibility and security. The leadership of the Slave Lords (the Council of Nine) began to press their luck too far and began to raid further and further inland until several minor settlements in the Principality of Ulek were sacked and their citizens hauled off to slavery. This drew the attention of all the nations bordering the Pomarj, which began to investigate the Raiders of the Yellow Sails and just who their leaders were.
Also during this time a power struggle within the ranks of the Slave Lord leadership began to form. The Council of Nine’s current leader was a man named Lord Feetla, a charismatic human noble and pirate from the city of Blue. It was he who formed the navy of the Slave Lords and it was he who originally unified the petty human despots outside the city of Suderham and brought them into the Slave Lords’ fold. Lord Feetla was trying to steer the Slave Lords away from raiding for slaves and towards mobilizing the humanoids of the Pomarj and transforming them into a devastating army and navy that could invade places on two fronts at once. His camp was focused on further conquest and dominion within the Flanaess. Lord Feetla’s staunchest ally was a man known as Brother Milerjoi who was an ambassador from the Scarlet Brotherhood and a prominent member of the Council of Nine.
The other camp was headed by Stalman Klim and a drow elf named Eldrave who was an agent of Lolth and was the principal slave buyer for the dark elves. Thus Klim and Eldrave wished to move more slowly, using the wealth generated by the slave trade as a weapon against the nations neighboring the Pomarj. Assassination, bribery, and kidnapping would their favored weapons to bring the governments of other nations low.
The tensions between the two ruling camps within the Council of Nine escalated with no end in sight. Something had to be done to keep the Slave Lords vision focused and on task, and it was Stalman Klim who made the first move. The spies of the Slave Lords began to report that groups of mercenaries had been dispatched from the Ulek States and the City of Greyhawk to investigate the threat of the Slave Lords. The nations of Oerth had little information on whom their enemies were, and the Slave Lords had always worked under a cloak of shadow.
Seeing his chance to act while keeping his hands clean, Stalman Klim chose the most promising of the adventuring groups to be his tools of assassination and began dropping subtle and not-so-subtle hints for them to follow. The group took the bait and was eventually able to penetrate the Aerie of the Slave Lords on the Isle of Suderham itself. The group’s initial attempt to attack and slay the Slave Lords failed, however, as Feetla and his allies were able to stave off their attack and capture them.
The adventurers were tortured, interrogated, and eventually disposed of in the deathtrap dungeons of the Slave Lords and the Council of Nine met immediately thereafter in their fastness of Drachen Keep to inquire about the suspicious nature of the clues the adventurers were following to the very heart of the Slave Lords operation. The meeting was a stormy one, with Lord Feetla accusing Stalman Klim and his associates of plotting to overthrow the rest of the Council of Nine. Klim and Eldrave, however, had expected this and hesitated no longer and launched magical attacks against Lord Feetla. Lord Feetla, expecting a betrayal, was prepared and had several magical wards placed upon him by his ally Ajakstu before beginning the meeting. Klim and Eldrave’s attacks did him no harm.
The meeting chamber of the Council of Nine then became host to a huge melee pitting Slave Lord against Slave Lord with servants and bodyguards also fighting everywhere. The melee, however, quickly slipped into Feetla’s favor, for he and his guards were far the most formidable fighters than Klim and his allies. Nerelas the assassin quickly incapacitated Eldrave and Klim’s favored apprentice Mordrammo was slain by Feetla before either could bring her magics to bear. Even Klim’s trump card of Brother Milerjoi, who was to betray Feetla if a battle ensued, was muted as Feetla matched the Scarlet Brotherhood monk blow for blow and was obviously starting to wear his foe down. Klim had his own problems, for his bodyguards were falling quickly and he was the target of Ajakstu’s spells.
Seeing all his plans crumbling Klim made a desperate grab for victory by reaching out for the power contained within Mount Drachenkopf for only the second time. Years of research had taught him how to harness and channel the epic magics contained therein, but he dared not to for fear of draining the magics entirely and setting the Tarrasque free. Now on the brink of defeat Stalman Klim threw caution to the winds and reached out and took all the power he could contain. Knowing not how the power would manifest he focused his hatred and anger upon his enemies. In the next instant fiery black death rained upon his enemies, destroying Lord Feetla and his allies with ebon flames that consumed them body and soul. Klim fell to the ground, drained from the effort of channeling such energy.
Then the earthquake hit.
Stalman Klim screamed in horror as he felt the beast entombed within the Temple of the Earth Dragon stir and then thrash against its magical bonds. Klim’s connection with the place was such that he could feel every movement, as if they were happening within him. The rumble within the earth increased tenfold as magical shockwaves rippled throughout the Drachensgrabs, causing great landslides and fissures to open within the Oerth. Klim’s bodyguards helped him to his feet, though his eyes did not see nor did his skin feel. Stalman Klims entire universe was centered on the horrible monster straining to be free from a millennium of containment.
Klim’s men tried to speak to him, tried slapping him back into the coherency. Then he suddenly began to scream. Deep in Stalman Klim’s mind he felt the magical bonds fade, and then feebly snap back into place, barely containing the monster. The Tarrasque lashed about one final time, its movements sending an enormous wave of energy directly at Mount Flamenblut and the city of Suderham. In a moment of absolute clarity Stalman Klim understood the implications of what was to happen.
Then the shockwave hit, causing the walls of Drachen Keep to collapse. The rumbling, however, did not cease this time and those few men who pulled themselves from the rubble of the castle were bathed in crimson light as the extinct volcano of Mount Flamenblut began to erupt.
Miraculously, Stalman Klim, Brother Milerjoi, Eldrave, and several other Slave Lords survived the collapse. Using his personal magics he healed those he could get to and declared that he now led the Slave Lords. Confused, frightened, but grateful for his healing magic the remaining Slave Lords followed Klim’s lead and they made their way quickly to and through the now burning and chaotic streets of Suderham. Rioting and terror ruled all around them and they were hard pressed to fight their way through the masses attempting to reach boats.
Bloodied, bruised, and nearly spent the six remaining Slave Lords reached their personal galleon at the Suderham Docks only to find themselves confronted on the docks by the very adventurers they’d thrown into their deathtrap dungeon. Klim and the others readied themselves for a fight to the death, for to loose the boat would mean they’d be trapped on an island soon to be consumed by the volcano’s fury. Before the battle could begin, however, the final betrayal among the Slave Lords came to pass. Klim, concentrating his final magic upon the adventurers storming the docks, suddenly felt cold steel between his shoulder blades followed by the numbing spread of poison from his wound.
He began to turn so as to catch sight of his assailant, but cold laughter stopped him short. Eldrave the drow elf had betrayed him in the end and struck when he was most vulnerable. Klim crumpled to the dock, near death from the wound and paralyzed by the poisons anointing her blood-covered blade. With a sneer Eldrave kicked his rigid body off the dock and into the lake. Klim’s last sight before sinking beneath the sulfur-stinking waters was that of the adventurers engaging the remaining Slave Lords.
Then darkness claimed him.
* * *
The rest of this tale is renown from Greyhawk city and the Wild Coast to the north, to all points in the sea of Garnet and Azure Sea to the south. The intrepid adventurers were able to overcome the remaining Slave Lords and used their boat to flee the Aerie, leaving all upon it to a fiery doom. The small volcano on the Aerie erupted for several hours thereafter, quickly covering the entirety of the small island with molten stone. Hours later the greater mountain began to rumble ominously and some claim they saw the entire create lake turn to steam, covering the top of Mount Flamenblut in a billowing super-heated cloud.
Then, after a moment of soul-numbing silence, the top of the mountain exploded in a pyroclastic holocaust that destroyed everything within miles of the blast. Fountains of lava could be seen for miles, and great rivers of molten stone snaked in all directions from the eruption. The smoke and ash from the explosion turned the skies pitch black for hundreds of miles and all bearing witness to the destruction quailed in fear. Many in the Pomarj claimed it was the wrath of the Earth Dragon. They never knew how close to the truth they were…
The fall of the Slave Lords left the Pomarj more of a mess than ever it was. News of the Slave Lords fall brought rioting and slaughter to the cities of Highport and Stoneheim as humanoids turned upon their human “allies” and re-established themselves as undisputed rulers of the Pomarj. Tribes fell to fighting one another as neighboring countries looked on in relief: the threat of the Slave Lords had ended and the humanoids were destroying one another.
It all seemed a bright day for the forces of good, though the day was short-lived.
From the seething chaos enveloping the Pomarj there emerged a powerful leader who put a stop to the fighting and drew the leaders of the tribes into an iron grip. The world would come to know this leader as Turrosh Mak, and it was his destiny to make the Pomarj his land.
His story, however, begins well before the fall of the Slave Lords. Harken back for the second part of this tale to learn the truth behind the legend…
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|Re: Alternate History of the Pomarj and Turrosh Mak (Score: 1)|
by PSmedger on Thu, April 29, 2004
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This is one of the most skillful weaves of canon and personal campaign material I've seen on the web. Very well done.
Just a question, I've always made a connection between Klim's Earth Dragon cult and Elder Elemental Cults....any tie-ins there in your material? (IMC, the EEG is the "head of a pantheon of inscrutible otherwordly cthulhu-like elder gods of which the Earth Dragon might be one.)
|Re: Alternate History of the Pomarj and Turrosh Mak (Score: 1)|
by bdpenney on Sat, May 01, 2004
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Yeah, it -IS- Bryan. :)
Anyway, thank you very much for the compliment, I try to do my best to work within a "Greyhawkesque" frame when writing anything that isn't strictly canon. There's already some wonderful stuff out there to draw upon, I just felt I had a better story to tell. ;)
The Earth Dragon was always something I refused to take seriously. After looking at the enormous amount of gods already in the original Greyhawk boxed set I pretty well decided that enouth was enough: there was a god for everything and the multiverse didn't need thousands of them.
Thus, the Earth Dragon got canned in my campaign and I replaced it with something much more to my liking. All Greyhawk supplements that I've read allude to "something" within the Drachensgrab mountains, I decided to flesh out just what that something was.
However, making the Earth Dragon a being akin to Cthulu's elder gods would be another very nice way of dealing with the being: an ancient divine entity left over from the primordeal beings that were once the true rulers of the Multiverse (and were replaced by the world's current gods). Perhaps it is locked within a stony tomb beneath Mt Drakenkopf hoping for release and perhaps revenge after countless milenia of captivity.
Sky's the limit, even though I personally choose to limit the number of gods that exist in my campaign.
|Re: Alternate History of the Pomarj and Turrosh Mak (Score: 1)|
by bdpenney on Thu, March 07, 2013
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|Greetings all - it has been nearly a decade since I posted this, but of late I've gotten a couple of people asking me how it ends.|
Sadly, life has swept me up and I won't be writing the second part of this post.
However, I do have my notes on what the story was to tell, and I'll post them here - just so you know what direction I was going...
Anyway, what I can tell you is the direction the story was going to go:
- Turrosh Mak started out as a half-orc slave in an orcish tribe in the Pomarj;
- While strong, he could not compete physically with the orcs and orogs of
the tribe - and was essentially treated like trash;
- He was,
however, possessed of a keen intellect and a drive to conquer - not a
wholesome "I'll show them and then gleam before the world" sort of
drive. It was the kind of drive that drives the dark and repressed
hearts to strive, through blood, what they want out of life - both for
the joy of conquest, and to inflict hurt upon those who harmed them
- After being beaten nearly to death by a chieftain's son
(the two hated one another), he was consigned to serve the tribe's most
ancient (and cantankerous) shaman of Gruumsh.
Rather then use up and slay the young half orc, the shaman decided to
cultivate his learning - to make him into a servant more useful and
eager then any orc (who would rather be out fighting and pillaging) ever
The years passed, Turrosh Mak grew, and during that time learned much
from his tutor and from observing the battle-games of the other orcs.
He did watch as most of the other half-orcs were eventually slain during
their "trials" - the time just after puberty when an orc must prove his
worth to the tribe. The typical half-orc simply could not stand up to
Because of his position as servant of the Shaman, young Turrosh did not
have to undergo the "trials" - much to his relief and
humiliation. That reprieve, however, ended when the shamen died
suddenly (betrayed by another shaman, eager to replace him as spiritual
leader of the tribe).
Seeing his opportunity, the chief's eldest son decided to enforce the
"trial" upon Turrosh - in the form of challenging him to hand-to-hand
Turrosh, to the horror of all witnesses, proved to be far more capable
(and intelligent) a combatant then expected. In the end, using taunts,
higher ground, and defensive tactics, he antagonized the chieftain's
eldest son and heir into a fatal mistake - and beheaded him before the
The chieftain was enraged, but then custom and tradition became a
concern - Turrosh had demonstrated himself the mightier, and would
therefore step into the shoes of the chief's eldest son.
The chieftain, unwilling to admit that one tainted with human blood
could best his favored son, challenged Turrosh to prove himself before
the eye of Gruumsh - that undertake a geas to recover an ancient relic
of the deity from
an ancient orcish clanhold deep within the Lortmill Mountains. This
clanhold was one of the last to hold out during the Hateful Wars, and
the smallish tribe surronding Turrosh was all that remained after most
of the clan was slaughtered.
Turrosh had no option but to accept - to do otherwise was death - and
so he claimed the weapons of his fallen foe, gather his few belongings,
and undertook what would be considered a "vision quest" by some
story was then to detail his experiences, including coming into contact
with a powerful blue dragon who decided to spare him for some unknown
purpose (revealed later when Turrosh reaches the ruined temple within
the ancient subterranean clanhold.
story's climax comes when Turrosh finally reaches the heart of the
ruined temple to find it utterly despoiled - at that point he spits upon
the image of Gruumsh and proclaims him a weak god, and the reason
the orcs were run out of the Lortmill Mountains during the Hateful
Wars. Gruumsh hears this, and an aspect of the orcish deity appears
before the enraged Turrosh, who at long last had let his self-discipline
slip and was acting very orcish indeed as he smashed those few things
within the temple that were not already destroyed.
confrontation then occurs, where Gruumsh claims to have arrived to
punish the impudent half-breed, and the two engage in a battle that can
only end with the death of Turrosh.
Only it doesn't.
finally let the long rage within him utterly drown his reason, lashed
out in a frenzy upon the avatar (just Gruumsh was about to slay him).
Turrosh does not know for how long he rained blows upon the avatar, but
in the end, one finally got through. In his rage and hate-fueled
frenzy, he'd struck and harmed the very avatar of Gruumsh.
Everything stopped, and even the avatar had to re-assess.
orcish champion, no chieftain, no shaman's bodyguard, nobody had yet so
much as scratched the avatar's flesh in the last two thousand years -
and Gruumsh, in his whimsey, had sent forth his avatar to test many an
over-confident or heretical orc.
story concludes with the avatar catching four drops of his divine blood
in a small bowl made from the top of a dwarf's skull (likely riven
during the great battle long before). Turrosh is offered the blood, and
he drinks of it. In an instant the half-orc grows in size, strength,
and destiny - becoming a Paragon (Epic Rules) as well as gaining much
power (experience and thus levels). The avatar sends him back to his
tribe to rule (Turrosh's first act upon returning is to literally rip
the old chieftain limb from limb) and conquer.
a combination of his wits and the raw physical power he now possesses,
Turrosh Mak then goes about making a name for himself during the
Greyhawk Wars, creating an orcish empire that threatens the central
Flanaess. Slaying rival chieftains is childsplay for him, and within 9
months of his "ascension" he is the undisputed first amongst all orc
chiefs in the Pomarj. He works with the Slave Lords for a time, happy
to let them believe themselves to be wiser then he, and uses the
resources they offer to prepare for their eventual fall. With the fall
of the Slave Lords and the subsequent power vacuum, he goes from merely
the greatest of orcish chieftains to a despot who rules most of the
Pomarj. Then, as the Greyhawk Wars raged, he lashed out upon the Wild
Coast and Ulek - creating an empire that hungers to continue growing to
Ok, that's a bit more then a short recap, but that is essentially the direction and conclusion the story was going to go.