The Pinnacles of Azor'alq, part 1
Date: Sat, November 03, 2001
Topic: Beyond the Flanaess

The following campaign background, detailing the region of the Dramidj Ocean where rest the Pinnacles of Azor'alq, is adapted from various sources, including Greyhawk Adventures.

Author: Aeolius.

The following campaign background, detailing the region of the Dramidj Ocean where rest the Pinnacles of Azor'alq, is adapted from various sources, including Greyhawk Adventures.

By Aeolius. This information is reprinted with permission, from Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

Beneath the Pinnacles of Azor'alq: Background

I. The Age of Elements

Three eons past, in the Epoch of Legend, the mighty wizard Al'azoraq bore witness to a dark and dire omen. In dreams and portents, he beheld the volcanic destruction of the secluded isle of Almat, upon which his fortress and the shrine of Azor'alq rested.

Almat, one hundred miles south of the Ataphad Isles, enjoyed the bounty of waters kept temperate year-round by unusually warm currents. The isle sported lush vegetation, a bounty of wildlife, and rich mineral wealth. Farming, fishing, and the husbandry of exotic birds and flowers formed the staples of the Almati lifestyle.

The isle secured its rightful place in the scrolls of history, when the heroic Azor'alq battled against his greatest foe, upon the beaches of Almat itself. Encircling the shrine of Azor'alq, a community of noble paladins established their stronghold.

Gathering his mightiest magics, Al'azoraq, a potent conjurer, forged an alliance of water, stone, and fire, which transformed the volatile undersea volcanoes into massive pillars of stone. After the death of his beloved Hala, an enchantress whose ancestry dwelt in faraway planes, Al'azoraq vowed to protect his newfound family. The isle and its inhabitants, including the wizard's young wife Chrysa and infant daughter Syliah, were raised upon these pillars, safe from harm far above the ocean's wrath.

Or so thought Al'azoraq.

In his haste, the wizard had summoned armies of elemental minions to do his bidding. A host of fiery magmin and earthen pech tamed the undersea volcanoes, protected from the depths of the Dramidj Ocean by Sa'luosh, a powerful marid; a genie born of elemental waters. To appease the vassals of fire and stone, the wizard granted unto them the untold treasures they had unearthed during the construction of the pillars. The marid, bound to servitude by means of a mystic artifact, was gifted with no such reward. Enraged, Sa'luosh, a powerful pasha among his kind, broke free of his bonds and exacted his revenge, slaying Al'azoraq and transforming Chrysa into a living whirlpool.

In the days that followed, the magmin returned to the rivers of magma which surged beneath the ocean floor. The pech likewise returned to the folds of stone and clay, sculpting the inner walls and chambers of the pillars as they descended.

II. The Time of the Ocean

For a time, the skyland of Almat knew peace. It's inhabitants, known as Almati, were to be ruled in proxy by an aged knight until Syliah came of age. The isle had developed a symbiosis with the sea and its inhabitants.

For twenty years, the Almati flourished. Their wizards were charged with training young Syliah while adapting a host of hybrid sea creatures to do their bidding. Their warriors, skilled both with riding winged dragonne and the aquatic hippocampi, kept a constant vigil over and under the skyland. Their scouts unlocked the ancient secrets of lycanthopy, to create the first of the weresquid sentries. Their druids becalmed giant water spiders, to create air-filled nests of webbing far beneath the surface of the ocean. These they hardened, along with the spiders' egg sacs, using mystic spells.

The pillars served both to warm the surrounding waters and to provide a source of heat to light the forges of Almati blacksmiths. The unnaturally warm waters often cloaked the pillars in a blanket of fog, protecting the skylanders against the attentions of outsiders. In addition to harvesting the bounty of the sea, the Almati were skilled in crafting items of electrum, an alloy of gold and silver.

III. The Dawn of Demons

Upon her daughter's maturation into womanhood, the living whirlpool Chrysa returned to Almat. Syliah, having honed her powers out of hatred for the marid, watched as her mother, driven to insanity by the elemental transformation, devastated the surrounding seascape. With sorcery stolen from ancient scrolls, the daughter forced her mother into the depths of the sea, two thousand fathoms below.

The action proved to enrage Sa'luosh, who returned to slay the progeny of his hated foe, for in the time since her transformation, he had taken the wife of Al'azoraq as his own. Their children, known as the raptures of the deep, are demonically-infused elementals that roam the depths beneath the pillars. Many have chosen to honor a new patron; Olhydra, princess of elemental evil. The children of deep raptures, half-elemental creatures known as tydes, have themselves produced a race of outsiders known as genasi. Touched by the planes, many of the genasi have denounced the evil of their ancestry and can often be found living in the shallows.

Having spent her life in preparation for his return, Syliah took her revenge, calling upon ancient evils to destroy the marid.

It was Dagon, demon lord of the Abyssal Sea, who answered her plea. Dispatching Sa'luosh with ease, the demon instantly turned upon she who had summoned him. As the marid had taken the wizard's wife, so to did the demon turn his attentions to the daughter. Casting her into the sea when he had tired of her, the demon transformed the beautiful young woman into a loathsome sea hag.

Retreating to the darkness of the depths, Syliah expelled the unborn offspring of Dagon. While many of the half-breed demonspawn survived by fleeing to the chill of the deep, others were gathered by Syliah. The sea hag transformed her captured offspring into larval eels of scarlet hue. Many of his progeny were later seized by the minions of Dagon, to mature within the stomach pouch of the demon lord himself. The creatures which emerged had been distorted into a host of demonic monsters.

For ten years, the Almati fought against the demonspawn of Dagon, to no avail. Unregulated by the magics of Al'azoraq or his daughter, the isle fell prey to the whims of nature. The wizard's premonition unfolded, as a mighty rift opened beneath the skyland and its pillars. Massive earthquakes shattered the island into shards of rubble and ruins, while magma rose within the pillars, filling the lowest reaches of the hollow spires with molten stone.

During the destruction, two of the pillars were swallowed into the gaping trench. With them vanished the shrine of Azor'alq.

Those Almati which survived fled into the safety of the pillars’ upper reaches.

IV. The Shallows: The Fall of Those Above / The Rise of the Thal

Thousands of years have passed, since the skyland fell. In those years, the descendants of the Almati first degenerated into a savage people, then developed into a society of peaceful seafaring folk. Above the waters of the Dramidj Ocean, they lived upon the circular shelves of stone which rested between the regular series of steeply rising cliffs. The lower of these shelves are often cloaked in either a forest of conifers or a tangle of mangrove trees, depending on their proximity to the water's edge, while the upper reaches are home to countless sea birds and exotic flora. The highest ledges have often served as a haven for dragon-kind, aarakocra, and the legendary phoenix.

The descendants maintain several distinct settlements, travelling between the pillars upon massive flying insects. Their fear of the denizens which dwell in the depths prevents them from utilizing more conventional watercraft.

Over the years, a new society laid claim to the lower reaches of the pillars. The aquatic races, known collectively as Thal, discovered the spires, even as massive forests of coral encrusted the submerged stone. The lower reaches of the mangrove roots, immense forests of kelp, and lush fields of sea grass often shroud the shallows of the pillars, while drifting swamps of floatweed partially cloak regions in shimmering shadows. The Thal rarely travel above the surface of the Dramidj, for they hold the surface to be sacred, referring to it as Synsaal, the barrier between worlds. In the eyes of the Thal, the air-breathing descendants are spoken of as Those Above.

V. The Depths: The Elemental-Demon Wars / The Secrets of the Bloodless

Within the depths of the Dramidj, untold evil lurks.

The remnants of the weresquid sentries, having escaped the wrath of Dagon and destruction of Almat, still lurk within the darkness. Their human nature having degenerated over the centuries, they had become less human and more squid-like in nature. Their human form had mutated into a separate race which bore amphibious attributes.

The daughters of Dagon and the sea hag, their lower halves resembling those of seahorses while their upper torsos retaining the appearance of green-skinned women, became known as sea succubae. Each succuba had been instilled with a hatred for the elemental offspring of Chrysa and the marid.

The deep raptures and tydes in turn wage an endless battle against the demonspawn, for they seek the lost prison of the living whirlpool. They are often pursued by tritons, who view them as elemental abominations.

Syliah herself had managed to thwart the throws of time, embracing lichdom through unknown means. Proclaiming herself the abyssal hag, she seized the region of the trench as her own. The abyssal hag is said to cause violent storms to emerge, on the nights of lowest tides. Syliah is known to keep company with other sea hags and is credited with the formation of salt hags. Ruling each resulting coven, she is known to steal the dead from Those Above.

The forgotten children of Syliah, many having been transformed into seafaring fiends by the demon lord Dagon, have transformed over the ages to resemble the evil deep-dwelling races which they chose to exploit. The unbound larvae which had escaped both the attentions of Syliah and Dagon had not gone unnoticed by the sahuagin and ixitxachitl. Their priests and priestesses had channeled the energies of their dark gods through the hapless larvae, giving birth to new races of water-breathing devils and daemons.

Through it all, the Bloodless waited. Having formed their original ranks from the Almati which had fallen from the skyland during its destruction, the sea zombies replenished their numbers from the pillar's human inhabitants who foolishly ventured into the sea. The Bloodless had discovered the means to enter the lower reaches of the spires, where they dwell in number. Their numbers are kept in check by the legendary Thousand Immortals; chosen paladins of Azor'alq.

Stories abound, regarding a race of red-skinned water dwarves that have adapted to life within the depths of the volcanic Firewater Trench. Perhaps the lure of abundant geothermal forces lured the dwarves beneath the waves. It seems more likely that they seek the source of the "Waters Which Burn". The presence of black diamonds and the metal known as silvershade are treasures closely guarded by the water dwarves.

VI. The Darksea

In a seemingly unrelated event, the hero Stormalong opened a shaft between the region of the pillars and the fabled subterranean Darksea, home of the aboleth and other creatures of legend. The warmer waters of the Darksea have increased the temperature of the surrounding ocean, thus augmenting the curtain of fog which envelops the region. As a result, the dwellers of the pillars have grown quite xenophobic, choosing to distrust the lands beyond the haze. The depths of the Dramidj in the region of the pillars have also become turbulent with abyssal storms of massive currents, in part due to the unpredictable fluctuations in temperatures and salinity.

The Darksea, whose waters host not only the alien aboleth, but the amphibious kuo-toa and insidious morkoth as well, is a vast body of briny darkness. The aboleth have established numerous settlements, here, driving the kuo-toa from their homes in an unending battle for supremacy. It is worth noting that the ilithid, air-breathing allies of the aboleth, have taken to the sea in their search for the egress to the Darksea.

The topmost entrance to the Darksea shaft is rumored to rest in a forgotten pillar deep within the Firewater Trench. It is guarded by a succession of snake-like water naga.

VII. The Age of Amalgamation / The Emergence of Heirs

Three decades before the time of the Twin Cataclysms, a woman, wife to the Caliph Talna-bin-Namesh, foresaw the Invoked Devastation. She shared this vision with the wandering prophet Arish-ben-Alif, who convinced a full six families to move east, into the Northern parts of the Flanaess, to evade the oncoming disaster. When Arish returned to the court of the Bakluni Empire, attempting to convince the Caliph to flee eastward, he was put to death. When the source of his prophesy was unearthed, the Caliph's wife was denounced as a heretic and drowned.

Yet her daughter survived. Years later, when the Invoked Devastation was called by the Suel and the Baklun countered with the Rain of Colorless Fire, she fled, with the last royal house of the Bakluni Empire, in a ragtag fleet of vessels sailing into the sunset. Disheartened by the loss of their Empire, the royal family sought refuge in the forbidden tombs of the First Dynasty of the Bakluni, that which became known as the Pinnacles of Azor'alq.

While many newcomers chose to intermingle with the Almati descendants, a select assembly cloistered away from the others, choosing to remain steadfast and pure in their quest to discover the lost shrine of Azor'alq. They claim that the lost shrine is not lost to the depths, as the legends decree, but that it rests high atop the tallest spire, unseen by all who do not hold the Banisher of Darkness as their patron.

During this age, new alliances were forged between human, sea elf, and merfolk. As a result, half-elven and half-merfolk ambassadors began to emerge. They are joined by two additional hybrids, the half-dragon warriors, offspring of the bronze dragons which often inhabit the upper reaches of the pillars, and the half-elven opinaku; offspring of sea elves and weresharks.

Rising to recognition, the Sorcerers and Psions became known at this time.

The Sorcerers, claiming to be descendants of Al'azoraq and the otherworldly Hala, have seized the cloud-enveloped upper reaches of the spires as their home. There they have forged an uneasy alliance with the mysterious uphlum, a race of sky-dwelling benevolent jellyfish.

The Psions, having stolen the secret of psionics from the aboleth, chose to live in the air-filled lower reaches of the pillars. Such regions may be identified by the presence of the incarnate astral constructs which guard them.

Though a thousand years have passed, the bloodline of Talna-bin-Namesh remains, diluted within the veins of Those Above. The daughter of the Caliph, guided by unseen spirits, had secured one of the mystic Binders of Geniekind and, upon her arrival at the spires, concealed it in an unknown location. A select assemblage of wizards calling themselves elemental savants now seek the binder, in the hopes that it may be used to control Chrysa, the living vortex. Their elder savants have interpreted omens, foretelling of the time when Chrysa will escape her confinement.

VIII. The Joining

Unknown to all but a handful of protectors, a massive underground river of saltwater, known as the Underflow, connects the Dramidj Ocean to the faraway Oljatt Sea, some three thousand miles to the southeast. It is suspected that the more intelligent sea mammals use this route for migration, to avoid detection by whalers and other predators. As the majority of the Underflow is completely submerged, travel in the Underflow, by the inexperienced, is all but impossible.

Within the Dramidj, the Underflow emerges in the depths, in an illuminated region known as the Deep Reef. Nearly two miles beneath the surface, the Deep Reef is home to the elusive race of translucent-skinned abyssal elves. Descended from sea elves, these gentle beings protect the secrets of the deep. Unique corals, fish, and other creatures are all found within the Deep Reef.

To the southeast, the Underflow emerges in the Oljatt Sea, in an area known as Turucambi. An interpenetration of land and water, Turucambi is a limestone formation featuring islands, reefs, and lagoons. Home to the ixitxachitl, shalarin, and other aquatic races, Turucambi is shunned by local islanders, due to numerous rumors and legends regarding the region. The alien appearance of the shalarin heats the debate regarding the origins of the limestone formation.

Travel between the Deep Reef and Turucambi, by way of the Underflow, is a journey of over three weeks in length, by means of special vessels created for the purpose. The intense shifting currents, layers of poisoned waters, and indigenous sea jellies make this a journey fraught with danger for the unprepared.

Among the captains skilled enough to make the journey, a shared secret is guarded. The ruins of the sunken city of Almat are all but identical to those found upon the mysterious Sinking Isle, north of Turucambi.

(continued in part 2)

Bakluni, Dramidj

This article comes from Canonfire!

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