Underwater topography is greatly misunderstood by the common
layman. The variety and breadth of the
undersea land is as great as it is on our surface world. Through terrible perils and countless hours,
Keoish intelligence agents managed to compile some information on the most remote
and mysterious locations on Oerth.
Report from the Azure Sea Part III
This, being the last of a three part series, now describes
the peoples and locations below the surface of the Azure. Underwater may be the most dangerous
environment on Oerth. Putting aside the usual
dangers of crushing pressure, breathing, temperature, and darkness when one
travels the depths, there is the unmistakable fact that when under the surface,
humanity is by far the weakest creature in the Azure. Creatures both animal and intelligent rule
these areas. The information I have
obtained was done at great risk, so I beg my fellow agents of the Lion Throne
to use this knowledge wisely.
Sahuagin Empire. First and foremost of the undersea empires is
that of the sea devils. Their empire
dominates the Azure Sea and no significant power realistically challenges their
rule. But their will is not absolute,
and there are many areas that are beyond sahuagin control - due to isolated
geography, hazards of the area, neglect on the sahuagin's part, or other
factors. The grand capital city of the
sahuagin lies in the middle of the Azure Sea, on the edge of the deepest trench
- the Mirodian Deep. The trench itself
is far deeper than the sahuagin can safely go, but they constantly send war
parties into the depths to challenge the monsters within.
Some notable plots of the sahuagin include establishing some
sort of experimental seabase in the vicinity of the town of Saltmarsh. The sahuagin baron that rules this portion of
the Azure is a notorious four-armed brute by the name of K'thstraam. Aside from planning this seabase, there seems
to be some special attention he is giving to one of our island colonies, Angler
Island. Some investigation is on order
to determine why this sahuagin noble has such interest in this area (Note 1).
Another troubling development are reports that some sahuagin
priestesses are working on perfecting magical spells that would allow sahuagin
to temporarily survive in fresh water.
This would most likely lead to sahuagin raiding parties moving up rivers
to catch unprepared human habitations further upstream of major riverways.
Finally, I have a theory that the Scarlet Brotherhood and
the Sahuagin Empire have some sort of alliance or mutual understanding. I believe that the blockade maintained by the
Brotherhood is being supplemented by actions of the sahuagin. The sahuagin must pass on information to the
Brotherhood ships on blockage runners for the blockade to be effective. I have no proof, but I believe that the sea
devils may actually assist the Brotherhood in taking the vessels
themselves. This action is significant
in legally challenging the blockade. Assistance
from an organized nonhuman empire may nullify certain aspects of the Pact of
Greyhawk regarding the Brotherhood's "navigation enforcement" claims. Getting evidence of this conspiracy would therefore
be of highest importance to the Keoish navy.
The Pomarji Badlands. It has been theorized that, when it comes to
evaluating undersea life, "as goes above, so goes below" - meaning
that any land based phenomenon will have an aquatic equivalent. Nowhere is this theory more profound than the
expanse of the continental shelf located south of the Pomarj. This stretch of undersea topography, starting
just east of the city of Gyrax, is known to mariners as the "Pomarji
Badlands", due to the many tribes of aquatic humanoids that have made
their homes there, mirroring the humanoid occupation in the lands above. Tribes
of koalinth, merrow, and scrags dot the shallow waters of the continental shelf
here, forcing even war parties of the sahuagin away (Note 2).
Koalinth are the far majority race here, and they focus most
of their attacks on other competing koalinth tribes, using the rarer merrow and
scrag tribes as mercenaries. Tribes such
as the Blood Tridents, Shark's Jaws, and Hammerheads constantly vie with each
other for dominion over small patches of territory. Currently, there is a huge underwater holy
war going on between three major factions of koalinth.
This war has taken on an element of importance far beyond
the usual goblinoid skirmishes, involving most of the goblinoid tribes in the
Badlands. Thus, from a surface dweller's
perspective, the southern coast is safer than the northern and eastern coasts
of the Pomarj. The war between
goblinoids keeps them from mounting effective surface attacks . Even so, surface travelers usually try to
keep a wide berth around the Pomarj out of general principle (Note 3). Troubling signs have been noted in that each warring
faction is bringing more allies and creatures to fight on their behalf. Strange creatures such as sea lions, sea
serpents, and even terrestrial mercenaries have been spotted in battles between
these forces, with further escalation likely (Note 4).
Eye". In the deep waters south of Port Toli lies the lair of a great
and powerful kraken known to old sailors as "Old Slash Eye". It controls a wide range of territory in
Jeklea Bay and is a constant threat to any ships passing by. One dogged rumor surrounding this beast is
that in its horde lies some sort of powerful artifact, this has been the death
of many would be treasure seekers (Note 5).
Ghost Shipyard. An
ugly expanse of water located north of Jetsom Island is known as the "Forest
of Broken Masts" - referring to the timbers of the sunken hulks of
countless pirate battles strewn about here.
These unhealthy waters are swarming with undead - lacedons, zombies,
drowned ones, and other undead populate the sunken ships and occasionally sally
forth to raid the coasts. In the middle
of this area is a tall stone spire, surely artificial, that extends from the
sea floor to just poke out through the surface.
Called the "Gargoyle Spire" as many kapoacinth are observed
circling the spire in an endless patrol.
Careful observation of the spire reveals that there may be some windows
in the edifice, suggesting that it is the home of some powerful evil entity
The River of Ice and
Ice Cylinder. Water in its solid
form, ice, is less dense than liquid.
Hence, it floats. That basic fact
is turned on its head when a traveler along the sea floor encounters the River
of Ice. A trench line on the seafloor is
frozen solid, radiating an intense cold in the waters around it. The icy river is slowly expanding outward. If one follows the river to its source, it leads
to a strange construct, the Ice Cylinder.
A 40' tall perfect cylinder of absolute cold, it radiates chill, magic
and evil in the waters surrounding it. Clearly,
there is nothing natural about this! There
seem to be many similarities between this alien construct and the notorious
Icespire, making it a mystery probably best left unexplored (Note 7).
Castle of Solid
Water. There are several locations in
the Azure Sea where land dwellers have established some sort of undersea
abode. The air filled caverns that the
Archmage Dwamij occupies is one such example.
Another oddity of underwater construction is this fortress. Invisible to normal sight, this is an edifice
that is apparently a normal terrestrial castle made of blocks of water that are
strong as stones. These blocks are not
glass or ice, they are simply - water that has been magically solidified. There are walls surrounding a tower with no
apparent doors or openings. Because the
architecture of this building closely resembles old Aerdy designs, it is likely
that the designer/resident of this place is some sort of Great Kingdom wizard
who sought an underwater base of operations.
The explorers who discovered this castle could only generally ascertain
the outline of the building, they could not discover a way into the structure. The magic that makes the castle transparent
does not reveal anything in the interior of the castle, the only way to learn
more would be to somehow force ones way into a tower or within the walls. There is no indication as to who is behind
this marvel of construction or what its purpose could be.
The Battlegrounds of
Smoking Waters. The boundary between
the sahuagin empire and the ixitxachitl kingdoms is a section of extreme
volcanic activity in and around Amedio Bay.
Indeed, the demon rays dominate the shores of the Amedio from the Olman
Islands to the far south and represent a true challenge to sahuagin supremacy
in the southern seas.
Just a few miles north-east of the lost city of Tamoachan is
a section of the Amedio Bay that is constantly bubbling and churning on the
surface. Old sailors refer to this as
"The Boiling Shore" but to the subsurface races this area is roughly
translated as "Smoking Waters".
On the seabed there are rifts that gout forth superheated minerals that
look like chimney smoke - giving this place its namesake. Volcanoes are constantly rumbling and plumes
of boiling water erupt from geysers that can scald the unwary in a moment.
While the natural hazards of this area are bad enough, this place is also
marked by constant total war between the sea devils and the demon rays.
The Smoking Waters are the practical demarcation zone
between these two evil races. Each side
sends a constant stream of warriors to clash amid the deadly heat. The ixitxachitl currently have the upper hand
in the war. Spotted under the surface
are strange ziggurat like structures that reflect the architecture of nearby Tamoachan. Evidently, the ixitxachitl use these
structures as some sort of magical channeling for their priests. Vampiric rays are commonly encountered here
as war leaders and there are rumored to be ixitxachitl "liches"
conducting mystic rituals in the ziggurats to aid the war effort (Note 8). For the sahuagin part, the local baron has
been sending in wave after wave of troops to no real effect and has been
pulling in resources and soldiers from the neighboring provinces to use as
reinforcements. This area is a true
drain on the Sahuagin Empire. May both
The Hunting Grounds
of Sekolah - aka The Emptiness. This
stretch of seafloor is an exception to the geologic diversity that is normal
for the Azure. It is a flat, empty plain
along the sea bottom, devoid of life of all sorts. Sahuagin legend has it that their deity
Sekolah once hunted there and so killed every living thing in a broad swath of
territory. Surrounding this blasted
seascape are particularly jagged sea mountains, making a ring around the empty
lands. These mountains are called
Sekolah's Teeth and may hide all manner of exiled or isolated creatures, though
the fact that nothing lives in the nearby plains would keep the number of any
refugees from the sahuagin to a minimum.
One noteworthy aspect of this area is that scattered about on the sea
floor are nodules of valuable metals that have precipitated out of the water
and formed on the floor here (Note 9).
The sahuagin regard the plains and the metals therein as off limits as
they "belong to Sekolah". This
may be an opportunity to do some undersea mining! Provided, of course, that some sahuagin
avatar does not really prowl these eerie waters.
The Mysterious Murk. This is a section of seafloor that houses a morkoth
infestation. Canyons and trenches are
carved into the sea floor in crazy, dizzying patterns. These horrid creatures can even make their
excavations into mindbending optical illusions that can mesmerize creatures
passing over them. Furthermore, these
creatures seem to have some sort of connection to the surface world, as there
have been incidents of false treasure maps popping up in coastal towns that
have led some hapless treasure seekers to these hypnotic caverns. The waters in and around these tunnels are
especially murky and the visibility problems no doubt amplify the morkoth's
hypnotic magic. A singular report from a
group of survivors relates that the morkoth have a rare clan of huge, salt
water vodyanoi (umber hulks) continually expanding and changing up the hypnotic
The Blue Void. Suspended in the depths of the sea is a 100
foot wide column of bright blue water which, evidently, extends from just under
the surface to a bottomless hole in the ocean.
Throughout this column of water, the water pressure, light, and
temperature is consistent with that of approximately 10 fathoms, regardless of
the actual depth. Sages suspect that
this phenomenon is in essence an underwater version of a "fading
land" phenomenon that occurs in certain areas of Oerth. In support of this theory, tritons are often
seen coming in and out of the void on missions known only to them. This void can be a haven for terrestrial
adventurers, as it can provide a respite from the hazards of deep diving. However, some stories relate that those who
enter the void may find themselves gated away to some other location, maybe
even other planes of existence, such as the Elemental Plane of Water itself.
The Dark Forest. In spite of the ominous sounding name, this
is actually a haven for good aligned folk under the sea. It is a wide kelp forest on the top of an
undersea plateau, approximately the size of the Axewood, located just off the
Naerie coast. Kelp need light to grow,
so it is a mystery how such a forest can exist in waters that regularly get over
200 feet deep. Even accounting for the
plateau, it should be too deep for kelp to exist there.
The answer lies with the tending of the aquatic elves, for this
forest is a haven for them, sheltering an entire city within the kelp fronds
and sea weed. These folk show far more
skill with magic than is usual with these peoples, creating wondrous items that
allow the kelp to survive great depth, conceal their location from outsiders,
and replenish food sources, among other fantastic effects. The city itself is a wonder, with buildings
made from rock, coral, and magically treated glass. There are suggestions of terrestrial elf
magic in the architecture of their buildings, all carefully hidden within the
As the sahuagin are a violent and rapacious species, the
forest also attracts all manner of fish and sea life. The forest teems with natural and fantastic
animals, and great mineral wealth can be found amid the rock croppings of the
base plateau, along with giant sized mollusks with huge pearls. Brightly colored fish swim about the forest
while the upper reaches of the kelp (some of the tallest kelp reach the
surface) hold sea otters and dolphins.
Local legend has that the deity of the sea elves, Deep
Sashelas, made some personal protection wards over his chosen capital. Regardless of the source, there are powerful
protection magics at work here. The
sahuagin have made forays into the forest before, but have been routed each
time by protective magic and local fauna.
It is unknown whether or not the sea devils are aware of the sea elf
enclave. It seems that because of the
hazards of the forest and the need for war bands elsewhere in the Empire, the
sahuagin have given up on further exploration of the area.
The elves themselves are typically insular and wary of
strangers. But a significant proportion
of them subscribe to a philosophy of cooperation with other good aligned
intelligent races. This faction provides
what help it can to any who oppose the sahuagin, providing a safe refuge for a
small tribe of mermen, some locathah, and even a few sea sprites (who avoid the
city and stay in the forest). The forest
and the city are magical places, filled with wards and wonders. The interior is a riot of color and fantastic
vistas, with fish, elves, and plant life cooperating together to shield
themselves from harm. Even a rare human
can find refuge on a temporary basis, and this location may be the source of
legends of fisherman who disappear at sea, only to return after many years with
curiously altered memories and not having aged a bit. With all that it implies, the Dark Forest is
indeed an underwater fairyland.
A final mystery. A final note from the notorious troublemaker
Xavier Yanquis Zerton (aka XYZ - although this is the third variation on his
name I have been given. I fear this
knave is now just toying with me.) is
that he has come across some artifacts from what can only be described as an
ancient Suel cache. XYZ outrageously
claims that there is a lost city of Suel migrants in a huge dome under the sea,
and that somehow he managed to sneak under the dome and recover a coin
collection and remarkable armor and weapons from the place. He refused to give any precise location on
the city, but after a thorough check of the items he retrieved, they are
certainly Suel inspired and of recent make (Note 10).
Maybe it is worth the time of some adventurer to plunge into
the depths to seek this place and the others described. But for the time being, I must leave this
report. But exploration is never ending. Keoland and others will always be sponsoring
groups to push back the wilderness and increase our knowledge of things
unknown. May fortune favor those bold
As always, your faithful servant of the Lion Throne,
Admiral Stoutheart, Keoish Navy
1. The Empire of the
Sahuagin has been detailed in the article "Sahuagin of the Azure Sea"
on Canonfire. The current political
state of the Empire is in flux, see the 2e adventure "Sea of Blood"
for details of a potential coup in the sahuagin leadership and some explanation
of the gaps in their statecraft. Baron
K'thstraam was introduced in the Monstrous Arcana series of adventures starting
with "Evil Tide" and could also retrofit to be the identity of the sahuagin
baron from module U3 "The Final Enemy". From the Monstrous Arcana module "Sea of
Blood" the sahuagin capital city was known as The City of Abiding
Hunger. I place it, and the Mirodian
Deep (the trench that runs up against the city), in the very middle of the
Azure approximately at hex U3-115).
2. The sahuagin are
content with simply containing the koalinth tribes to this continental shelf,
and only occasionally raid into this area, focusing their forces elsewhere. To take over this part of the Azure, the
sahuagin would have to mobilize their entire empire to the task. This, perhaps
counter intuitively, makes the Pomarji Badlands a potential good hiding spot
for those fleeing the sahuagin, as the koalinth tribes spend so much time
fighting each other that it is possible to find shelter within the many sea
gullies and caves in this region.
3. The undersea
humanoids and their surface cousins have cooperated before in the past in the
original taking of the Pomarj (see "See the Pomarj and Die" by Joseph
Bloch in Dragon Magazine Issue 167)
and in various raids on shipping lanes and coastal towns. More so in the eastern and northern parts of
the Pomarj, where raids by sahuagin and sea zombies are more common. The southern coast of the Pomarj has a major
humanoid war occurring under the surface, giving passing ships a respite from
their normal depredations (see Note 4 below).
4. The majority of
the koalinth worship an undersea version of Maglubiyet, but another tribe found
favor with a dark god of underwater outcasts - Panzariel. This blasphemy could not stand among the
orthodox hobgoblins so a war broke out.
The resulting conflict had lasted for months with no real resolution until
a singular event caused the unholy war to spiral out of control.
One tribe, the Red 'Cudas, had been defeated in a battle by
the Panzariel worshippers (a tribe known as the Doomseekers). In a rage, the Red 'Cuda Sub-Chief made some
vile curses against the goblinoid powers.
To everyone's amazement, nothing happened - he was not struck down by
the goblinoid gods for his blasphemy.
The Sub-Chief, thus emboldened, rose up and slew the tribal chieftain
and his shamans and took over the tribe.
Now styling themselves as the "Godkillers", this faction of
undersea hobgoblins is now militantly atheist.
This has turned the unholy war into a three way jihad between the
Doomseekers, Godkillers, and the orthodox koalinth led by the Hammerhead
The largest tribe is the aforementioned Godkillers. They are led by the exceptionally strong and
charismatic Sub-Chief (now known as the Warlord) Xavag, who has built up his
tribe and their allies to become the most powerful of the koalinth. Due to Xavag's continued military successes, he
has assimilated many smaller tribes to his own.
Warlord Xavag has been compared to an undersea Turrosh Mak, as he is
charismatic and clever far beyond the average goblinoid. These hobgoblins occupy a wide swath of
territory across the central portion of the Pomarji Badlands (their center of
operations is at roughly hex B4-107).
The Doomseekers and their allies are the smallest in numbers,
but as Panzuriel worshippers, they have a variety of monsters from the deep that
they can call on for assistance. Some octopi,
morkoth, and other unsavory creatures are nominal allies of the Panzuriel faction. Their territory begins at the very
easternmost edge of the Pomaji continental shelf. Over the tip of the continental shelf is a
sharp cliff, known as "The Drop" (approximately at hex U3-107) where
the Doomseekers call to their vile deity for assistance. From these depths, come monsters. Indeed, the leader of the Doomseekers is an
exceptionally powerful Eye of the Deep that came from such a summoning
(exceptional in that these foul beasts usually cannot survive in shallower
waters - some powerful boon of Panzuriel must be protecting it).
The Hammerheads and their allies (a few scattered minor
tribes of koalinth who still follow the goblinoid deities) are facing the brunt
of the Godkiller's attacks, and are getting desperate. Rumor is that they are even attempting to
make allies of air breathers in an effort to regain the initiative. Their base of operations is near the mouth of
the Jewel River near hex F4-110. The
Hammerheads lost their chief in battle and are now ruled by a council of priests,
shamens and witch doctors from the combined loyalist hobgobin tribes. All are fanatical servants of Maglubiyet and
press their followers on to more and more engagements with the blasphemous Godkillers.
Full scale battles are now becoming more and more common
throughout the Pomarji Badlands. Passing
ships report seeing blooms of bloody water as they pass near the coast. Sharks are constantly attracted to the
battlezones as well as sea serpents and other monsters seeking food from the
remains. Usually koalinth conduct simple
raids for small amounts of territory or treasure as their method of waging war. This war is far different, this is a war of
5. This rumor is
true, the artifact in question is an Orb of Dragonkind. The kraken only knows that the orb is
powerful and evil and is trying to ascertain the powers of the artifact. See Dragon
Magazine Issue 230 for details.
6. Indeed, a powerful
necromancer mage and a priest of Nerull make their homes in the spire (hex
M4-118). There are attending acolytes,
guardians, laboratories and traps all crammed into their headquarters in order
to oversee a grand project. They are
gathering enough material to create a fleet of undead hulks out of the sunken
ships in the area, making the Forest of Broken Masts an undead shipyard. Their goal is to spread Nerull's will
throughout the seas with a massive undead fleet. Junior mages and priests have the job of
going out into the ports of the world and spread false treasure maps and rumors
in order to lure in more potential ships and crew for this undead navy. Currently, the evil necromancers are keeping
the undead raids and forays to a minimum, in order to gather in more victims, and
that plan is steadily bearing fruit.
One agent for this group is the notorious necromancer Yedis,
who currently operates out of Monmurg.
This foul mage runs a series of laboratories and a prison complex known
as the Necrohazard in a rundown part of the city. See "Keoish Intelligence Report on the
Sea Princes" on Canonfire for more details.
7. See the series of
articles by Tauros on Canonfire detailing the horrific Icespire. The Ice Cylinder itself is near hex S2-104
and the River of Ice is moving in a general northward direction from the base
of the cylinder. The ice river is now
over ten miles long and growing. It is
unknown if the river has a particular destination or what would happen should
the river reach an inhabited shoreline.
8. The ziggurats test
positive for necromantic and evil magic.
From the carvings in these mysterious structures, it is unclear whether
the natives of Tamoachan were their architects.
It does appear that the original builders were human, but the hieroglyphics
suggest that these people had a very unconventional and unnatural relation to
evil creatures of the sea. Ghastly
rituals of human sacrifice to sea creatures is a prominent theme, as well as prophesies
of doom. The main battlegrounds between
the sea devils and the demon rays are located at approximately hex Z3-134, near
the ruins of an extensive temple complex and many fissures spouting boiling hot
9. Principally, large
hunks of copper, cobalt, nickel, and manganese are the most common
nodules. But the dwarf oceanographer,
Zeth Blackhands of Irongate, theorized that some precious metals like gold and
even adamantite could also be mined from these nodules. The fact that a dwarf came up with this
theory is commonly cited as further proof that the dwarfish mindset is so
ingrained into their psyche that it manifests itself even when the dwarf in
question chooses the most unconventional of professions.
10. This city was
first described in Part II of this series of articles on Canonfire. A future article will go into more detail on
this remarkable find.
For underwater adventuring in general, see Dragon Magazine Issues 48, 235, 250 and
Modules and supplements include: Slavers, The U series, the Sea Devils
Monstrous Arcana series, Of Ships and the Sea, the Savage Tide Adventure Path
in Dungeon Magazine
Canonfire article "Sahuagin of the Azure Sea" with
map of their territories available in the downloads section. See "The Undersea Alliance Adventure
Path" by Wolfsire on Canonfire for more adventuring ideas in conjunction
with the U series of modules.
For additional reading regarding goblinoid deities for the
goblin holy war - see the "Monster Mythology Update" by Auld Dragon
for inspiration on Sekolah, Panzuriel and Maglubiyet (and other nonhuman
Suggested locations for the mysterious places referenced in
this series of intelligence reports are (locations are as per the Darlene map
coordinates): The Castle of Solid Water
is more in the Densac Gulf at M3-124.
The Hunting Grounds of Sekolah are near P3-116. The Mysterious Murk is in the middle of
nowhere, hex C4-128. The Blue Void is in
the space of a very deep part of the sea, although it may be, in effect,
bottomless, hex L3-109. The Dark Forest
is on an underwater plateau centered near hex Y2-100.
The Island of Nomen is south of hex L3-101. The magically hidden Emerald Isle is off the
coast of Keoland at hex R4-120. The
Storm Eternal was last seen headed toward a Scarlet Brotherhood fortress on the
Amedio coast, mariners worry it may be travelling towards Sasserine or the Sea
Princes next. The Drifting Isle was last
seen near the coast of the Scarlet Brotherhood.
Other referenced locations are unknown as of this writing.