The City of the Summer Stars
|Posted on Fri, November 07, 2008 by Dongul
|rasgon writes "On a little-known pocket domain in the Demiplane of Dread with great implications for the history of Oerth, including the disappearance of a certain ruler of Knurl and the origin of the Rhennee.
The City of the Summer Stars (Pocket Domain)
On the Demiplane of Dread known to some as Ravenloft, in Darkon’s Forest of Shadows, one can sometimes come across tribes of
bronze-skinned humans, garishly decorated in cruel tattoos of demons
and beasts and wearing ghostly white robes. Their villages, though
sturdily built, have a habit of vanishing and reappearing mysteriously
- they have been sighted in other forests, too, and even in the wastes
of Cavitius on occasion, and always it is the same hooded figures, the
same tiny population. They are particularly interested in trading or
forcefully taking magical lore of any sort, arcane or divine. They also
have a keen interest in the Vistani, who for their part are eager to
Sometimes they can seem to be helpful. They will sponsor the research
of spell casters when it suits their purpose. At times they trade
fairly, and pay good prices for those with unique magics to offer. They
can be vicious, too, killing and torturing to get what they want.
Unfortunately for them, they suffer a variation of the same curse that
afflicts Darkon, and they cannot research new magics on their own. They
rely on outsider wizards for what they desire more than anything else.
They seem to be living and breathing creatures of flesh, most of the
time, though some have witnessed times when they seem to have faded
away; during those periods, which may be linked to the cycle of the
moon, they are mere phantoms.
On another world, thousands of years in the past, they were a people
known as the Ur-Flannae, or the Necromancers of Trask, though they
specialized in other schools of magic as well. They lived along the
upper Flanmi and Trask Rivers on a world that some called Oerth (but
which they named after the earth-goddess, Beory). They worshipped
fiends, mainly, and evil dragons who ruled as tyrants. Tiamat was
popular as well, and all feared the scarlet reaper, Nerull. The
warlocks and sorcerers of the Ur-Flannae craved power, wherever they
could find it, no matter how depraved their means of getting it.
In a nearby forest that would one day be known as the Adri after a
later race of conquerors was a civilization of gray elves. Their
culture was very old even among a race as long-lived as theirs was, and
their magic and lore encompassed the wisdom of many planes of
existence. Their library compared favorably to any on a hundred worlds.
The Necromancers of Trask wanted the power the library represented, and
they wanted it very badly.
There came a time when they gathered in a great army of their fellow
humans, summoning fiends and terrible spells that no mortal should
know, chanting words of power that none can cast without damning their
souls for all eternity. They made war upon the elves, and it was far
from clear who would emerge victorious.
Darnakurian, prince of the gray elves, turned in his desperation to
dark powers from other planes who whispered to him the secrets
necessary to craft the sword Hunger, an artifact of great and terrible
power. With the aid of his tutor, the sage Eleandereth, he forged the
thing, and so sealed both his doom and the doom of his entire people.
Empowered as it was by the Dark Powers, Hunger possessed Darnakurian
utterly, and once he finished slaughtering the Ur-Flannae he turned on
his own people, murdering even his mother, the Queen. Many thousands of
elves died on that day before they managed to seal Darnakurian and his
sword with a spell that would stop time. The great city of the gray
elves, the City of the Summer Stars, vanished, leaving only the tower
in which Darnakurian still clutches Hunger in his hands. The tainted
glade remains as cold as the deepest winter thanks to the unholy power
of the sword. Gray elves dedicate their entire lives to guarding the
glade, making sure that Hunger is never unleashed again.
In truth, the City of the Summer Stars now lies in the Demiplane of
Dread, where the same Dark Powers who inspired the creation of the
sword claimed the entire city in which it was made. Only Darnakurian
they could not claim, because of the spell of time cast by his fellow
elves at the cost of their own lives.
The City of the Summer Stars is deep in the center of the pocket
domain, surrounded by scattered villages of Ur-Flannae. The two peoples
remain at war; the Ur-Flannae still lust for the secrets of the city.
They have turned away from any gods they may have worshiped on their
old world, and all of their clerics now are fiend-worshippers or
Ur-Priests, though they retain something of the druidic culture they
once knew, now corrupted and twisted to wicked ends. The elves captured
by the Mists were transformed into undead creatures known as wyrds,
with fleshless faces and hands grasping orbs of red and green flame.
The humans remain humans, for the most part, although when they fight
the things that once were elves they take the forms of ghosts.
The ruler of the City of the Summer Stars, and the de facto darklord of
the pocket domain, is none another than Eleandereth, or the wyrd that
was made from him. When he first entered this plane, his dominant
emotion was anguish and regret at his pupil’s corruption and the
horrors he shared responsibility for. Over the centuries this has been
replaced with blind greed for the power that Hunger represents. He has
become convinced that the problem was not the sword, but Darnakurian’s
weakness. He believes that the war with the Ur-Flannae will never end
until he retrieves the artifact from the world he lost long ago. His
primary goal now is to reopen the gate to Oerth and retrieve the
artifact, probably imperiling both worlds. And for this, he needs
someone with the power to manipulate time as the wizards of his people
once could, before Darkon’s amnesia robbed them of some of their power.
And he needs someone with the power to freely travel the Mists. The
rest will take care of itself; the Mists crave the artifact as much as
he does, he is sure. The inspiration for their creation came from this
world, and it is Hunger which must have been the reason that the City
of the Summer Stars was claimed.
What he needs, he has decided, is a dukkar of the Manusa tasque.
Once, centuries ago, he found one. The birth of something as rare as a dukkar
to a tasque that has no children required much manipulation on his
part, including a temporary alliance with the lich who ruled Darkon
(who he knows as Darcalas; this event may have happened before Azalin
actually claimed his throne, and may after all have been only false
history). For two generations, the Vistani managed to identify a dukkar shortly after its birth and kill it before it could do harm. On the third generation, a dukkar
was born to the same family, and this time the would-be killers died
before they could complete their bloody task. The infant ended up,
through complicated machinations, adopted by Vistani of the Manusa, and
he seemed an ordinary enough child. They named him Attla. By the time
his power - which mirrored that of the Manusa themselves - and
malevolence was clear, it was too late; he had gathered together a
group of followers, outcasts from a variety of tribes, and both
Darcalas and Eleandereth - and, seemingly, the Mists themselves - were
intent on using him to fulfill their frustrated dreams. He would fetch
the doomsday artifact for Eleandereth to use against his enemies, and
Darcalas would escape to the world of Oerth, back into the Adri Forest
from which the Mists had once claimed him, either in the future or the
What they promised the dukkar is no longer remembered, but
it must not have been enough, for he would ultimately turn on them.
Bands of Vistani desperately sought to hunt him down and kill him
before he brought ruin into the world; they pursued Attla and his band
of outlaws deep into the Forest of Shadows, deep into the Mists which
opened tantalizingly into a glade cold enough to freeze the soul. Attla
walked through, his followers close behind him; other Vistani pursued
him as well, a great crowd from many tribes determined to stop the dukkar,
the abomination. Attla made it to the tower, he and his followers
battling the guardian elves, who were disoriented due to the mists
suddenly intruding on their land. Yet when he was about to touch the
sword, shatter the spell, and secure the bridge that would pull the
last portion of the City of the Summer Stars into the Demiplane of
Dread - the bridge that Darcalas intended to cross back into the world
he no longer knew - he hesitated. Betrayal still festered within him,
but this time it was the Dark Powers - whose grasp on his heart, in
this world, was just a fraction weaker - that he betrayed. Or perhaps
he did their will, keeping Darcalas sealed within the demiplane and
keeping the elves and Ur-Flannae in their eternal equilibrium. Who is
to say? Attla turned away, and used his powers to banish the Mists,
trapping himself and a sizable amount of other Vistani on one plane
while his erstwhile employers remained on the other.
The hunting Vistani, not comprehending their new situation, attacked
Attla, and in the melee he was killed. As he died, he cursed his
murderers, swearing that they would never find safety as long as they touched the earth.
And perhaps this is only false history. This happened centuries before
the coming of Azalin, and the best minds, free from the Dark Powers’
grasp on their minds, believe that Darkon did not even exist in those
days. Even Barovia had not yet been created. The entire story of the dukkar Attla might be only a fabrication intended to increase the frustrations of Azalin and Eleandereth.
Yet the following is known for sure:
On the world of Oerth, in the Adri Forest, thousands of years before
the present day, the City of Summer Stars vanished after a war between
the gray elves and the human Necromancers of Trask. The only structure
remaining is a single tower in the center of the supernatural blight
known as the Coldwood. The gray elves guard the Coldwood fiercely
against those who would awaken the evils imprisoned within. The lost
city, they claim, now exists on some otherworldly “fading land,” though
none have found the gate.
On the world of Oerth, in the 150th Common Year, a group of gypsies
were first sighted at the edge of the Adri Forest. They claimed to have
come from another world, and they were bewildered by the strange flora
and fauna of Oerth. Although they traditionally traveled the land in
wagons, on this world most took to the rivers and lakes instead. Those
who retained their ancestral way of life were called Attloi, traitors.
And on the world of Oerth, in the 391st Common Year, the Lord of Knurl,
the self-proclaimed “Wizard-King” Firan Zal’honan – better known as Azal’Lan – vanished in the depths of the Adri Forest.
And in the Demiplane of Dread there is a pocket domain in which a city
of gray elves, now corrupted by undeath, hatred, and greed, who fight
an endless war with human spell casters. Outsiders see the humans more
often, seeking out magical lore, sponsoring mages, kidnapping victims
and setting them aflame within wicker effigies when they no longer have
need of them. But the spirits of the elves, with their orbs of eldritch
fire, can be seen from time to time as far away as Azalin’s court, or
ambushing bands of Vistani. The pocket domain itself is most commonly
found within the Forest of Shadows, which occupies a place in relation
to the city of Necropolis equivalent to that which the Adri Forest
holds in relation to the city of Knurl. It can be found anywhere within
Darkon, however, and on rare occasions it has been spotted in Cavitius
and even Barovia. There is good reason to suspect it might have touched
Barovia in the year 542 of that land’s calendar, when the lich Azalin
first set foot on demiplanar soil.
The canonical history of the City of the Summer Stars is as I've shown it here, taken from Ivid the Undying
by Carl Sargent, a Greyhawk supplement that was released on the
internet only due to the line being canceled in the early '90s.
There's a very good PDF version floating around.
I invented the figure of Eleandereth, because it makes Darnakurian
himself - the most logical darklord, the one the plane of Ravenloft
would desire as the darklord - a wild card in all this. If he were
finally freed (and Eleandereth would rather leave him imprisoned,
taking only his sword), how would he react? Would he be content to
destroy his ancient enemies, or would he destroy the entire pocket
domain? Could he actually wrest his mind free of Hunger's grasp long
enough to destroy it?
The date the City of the Summer Stars was lost to the world is disputed, but doesn't much matter for these purposes.
The date and location the Rhennee gypsy-folk first appeared on Oerth is from Greyhawk: The Adventure Begins, by Roger E. Moore.
The name "Attloi" comes originally from the novel Saga of Old City
by Gary Gygax, page 115: "Those dogs in the wagons claim to be Rhennee
too, but they are Attloi - half-breed nothings, vagabonds, liars, and
chicken stealers!" They were also mentioned in the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, page 7: "...their rare, land-dwelling cousins, whom they derogatively refer to as the Attloi." The dukkar Attla and his curse are inventions of mine.
The undead horror known as the wyrd originated in the Elves of Alfheim Gazetteer for Basic D&D, and was updated to 2nd edition in the Mystara Monstrous Compendium Appendix.
To my knowledge, they haven't appeared in 3e. They're immaterial
creatures clad in dark, hooded robes, with skeletal faces and glowing
witchfire spheres in their hands. They're always made from the corpses
of elves. I decided to use them because
the domain of Sithicus already has banshees, but wyrds are something new and different in Ravenloft.
||Average Score: 5