Apr 30, 2013

The Book of Zargo Zar the Sage

One of the artifacts that the archivists at Parn Tandalorn are most keenly interested in locating, and one which has so far totally eluded magical location attempts, is an ancient book of spells and lore concerning the Elemental Gods, by an Old One scholar named Zargo Zar the Sage.

The book was written by a wizened academic over many, many years.  It reads like a chronicle, but at times is hard to follow, because over the time it was being written, Zargo Zar was slowly going mad.  It details the growth of the Old Ones, hints at their origins (created by a forgotten entity, that the Sage refers to as "the Spirit of Man") and also the fascination that so many of them had with the Elemental Gods.

The few excerpts that have survived discuss spells to summon servitors of the Elemental Gods, and also spells to ward off them.  More often, these are referred to in carvings and remnants that are found in other Old One artifacts and documents.  One of the things that supposedly exists is the Lay of Ba'a Zarn - which is an epic poem talking about how Ba'a Zarn, the Builder, battled a powerful entity allied with the Earth Weaver.  The entity was named Corruption, and supposedly it was not able to be slain, but it was trapped, beneath the Great River.  The Archivists at Parn Tandalorn have debated, for many decades (centuries) whether this was figurative, or if the Great River (which was constructed by Ba'a Zarn the Builder) was really built as a prison for Corruption.  Without the book it is hard to know.

Another portion of the book, that supposedly survived, is the Sage talking about the Lord of Fire and his minions.  This has been mentioned, in (presumed) heiroglyphs carved on a tablet embedded into the side of the Altar of the Old Ones (in the far south of Bartaloo region), so although not much is known about the construction of Altar, the Book of Zargo Zar either was in existence before the Altar was built, or came about at around the same time.

Locating the book, or even part of it - excerpts, spells, poems - would make for an admirable gift to the Archivists, but it also might help to save the world.  The ancient book, the Earnish-Amantic has a number of items in it relating to the Lady of the Air (another of the Elemental gods).  These are all taken from, and reference, the book of Zargo Zar.

Lands to the East - Ying, land of Sorcerers

Ying is the name often referring to area to the east of the Valley.  It is actually a vast ocean, that the Great River flows into, covered in Island Chains.

Precisely, Ying is the name of a seaborne empire that exists, ruling from the island Kelewan.  It is the Ancient Imperial House of Ying.  The empire is ruled by a succession of Sorcerers, descending from the original (Ying I) who subjugated a powerful fire elemental and stole his powers, many centuries ago.  The ancient Ying Empire was a contemporary of the Old Ones in the valley.  The grip of the empire over the subjected peoples is extremely tight, and with their ancient magic and their naval forces, this is easy to maintain.  Most of the peoples and nations that have been subjected and made part of the empire come from small island nations, and don't have the resources to stand up against a mighty empire.

One of the things that makes the Ying empire so strong, is of course, the strength of her navy.  The great ships of the Ying navy are constructed from the remains of the massive dragon turtles (larger than typical sized dragon turtles - much larger), using the shell for the hull.  Combined with magical construction techniques (like the forming of the shells through spellwork, and the imbuing of it with magical metals for strength), this makes for extremely tough, and excellently built, hulls.  Some of the ships, of course, last for centuries and centuries.  The oldest are from more than a thousand years ago.  Over time, the sorcerers that work with the vessels find it convenient to bind spirits and elemental beings to the hulls, so that they each eventually take on a personality and become alive.

The society and culture of the Ying empire is such that they are extremely scared of, and shun anything to do with the gods.  Their fear of the elemental gods was what kept them separate from the Old Ones, and their fear of the Three Goddesses, and their whole pantheon of demigods and saints, is what keeps them out of the Valley, and away from the culture of the Westron Baronies.  Still, there will occasionally be one of the massive Dragon-Turtle Ships from the Ying Empire that travels  westward on the Great River, sometimes reaching as far as Suuviz or the Shale March.

Apr 28, 2013

Xander One Eye - Captain of a band of Rogues and Bugbears

Xander One-Eye is the name of a leader of a band of marauders from out of the eastern reaches of the Tiazarr Forest, near the Tiazarr River, in the Wychwood Region.  These Marauders take advantage of the fact that much of the City of Ten Gates (capitol of Gorrem) does not hold much military power this far east, and the reputation of the Forests in the Wychwood Region keeps the Sun King Barbarians far south of here.

Xander takes his name from the fact that when he was a younger man, he took up the career of "Highwayman", and would regularly hold up carriages and travellers along the road from the City of the Ten Gates, down southeast, towards the City of Fire (capitol of the Barony of Lynch).  While a wagon train bearing some of the Baroness' Best beer out of Gorem was traveling the road between the Plum Woods and the Belley Woods, the train made its way through the Greenapple Commonwealth.  While stopped at one of the small towns there, to trade some of the award winning beer to the Halflings that live there, Xander stowed away on one of the wagons.  As the wagon was leaving town, he climbed out and told the driver to "Stand and Deliver".  Well, the driver was none other than a pair of Halfling drovers, from the Commonwealth, and the watchman had been peeling some apples with a small paring knife, and sharing them with the wagon driver.  Well, Halflings being deadly accurate with thrown weapons, it wasn't long before the startled fellow flung his knife, and Xander lost his eye.  He continually tells the story to keep up both his reputation as a brigand with a sense of humor, and also as a self reminder towards humility, and not to take ANYONE as not being a threat.

Brigands of Xander One Eye

These days, Xander as a 9th level thief, has built himself a nice stronghold in the dark confines of the Tiazarr woods amongst the Wychwood trees (for which the region takes its name), and has attracted quite a following.  The main part of his gang, are some 30-40 human brigands (about half of them fighters, and half of them thieves).  Along with that, however, he has impressed a band of Bugbears into joining in his gang.  These shelter separately from the human Brigands, and answer to a Bugbear chieftain named Arpus Ard, who counts himself as one of Xander's lieutenants.  Arpus Ard has mustered a few dozen Bugbears to join the gang of Xander.
Arpus Ard and his sergeant
Here is a map of the region, showing the many forested areas of Wychwood, between Gorrem (and the City of Ten Gates) and the Tiazarr River.

Apr 26, 2013

Wiifandra- Old One Mistress of Ba'a Zarn the Builder

A little known figure from the era of the Old Ones is that of the mistress of the last king of the old ones, Wiifandra.

From the sketchy accounts that still survive, and those that have been pieced together by the Archivists at Parn Tandalorn - mostly from surviving images and translated texts inside ruined sites of the Old Ones, it appears that Wiifandra was imbued with great magic powers, but that she sometimes disagreed with her consort, Ba'a Zarn the Builder, especially on matters concerning the Elemental gods.

Images that have survived that depict Wiifandra, depict her in one of two ways.  Within Old One sites, she is shown riding in a very large chariot (befitting her large size, as of all the Old One race), and it is being pulled by two gargantuan cats, similar (and probably the same) as the great plains cats (of the Shattered Plains) that are allied with, and ridden by, the Aublan Cat Riders.

The Archivists at Parn Tandalorn have surmised that one of the reasons for Ba'a Zarn to have build the King's Highway, was for the purpose of Wiifandra, and others of his clan, to be able to ride their chariots up and down the length of the Valley.

The other depiction of Wiifandra, is that of a powerful sorceress, aiding the Shagmen of the Darkearth Plains against the coming of the Storm King Barbarians.  These images are amongst the oldest of the surviving images in old settlements, and the barrow mounds of Jarls, among the Storm King Barbarians.  In such images, she is shown assisting the Shagmen against the Storm King Barbarians.  Curiously, in the images, the Shagmen are often depicted as being more sophisticated and advanced than they appear today.  In modern times (approximately 1500 W.M.) the Shagmen are quite primitive, much like our modern concept of a Neanderthal man.  And yet in the imagery that survives, they are depicted as tool users empoying quite sophisticated weapons and armor.  This may have been an attempt by the early Storm King Barbarian Skalds to show their enemies as being more powerful and advanced than they actually were; or the Skalds might not have been present at the battles, and only drew warriors in the way they were familiar; or (most intriguingly) something might have happened to the Shagmen from those earliest times, almost two millenia ago, when Wiifandra first fought for them, and then she disappeared (shortly after the disappearance of the other Old Ones).
Wiifandra, helping the Shagmen (right) against the Storm King Barbarians (left)
 It is rumored that as the advances of the Storm King Barbarians grew more and more intense, with their fleets of dragonships coming out of the north, down the various rivers out of the Destriel Mountains (especially the Greywater), that the Shagmen were beaten back.  A single lone strong point survived, and this was around the cliff-side Solitude of Aether - the last home that Wiifandra used before departing the Valley.  It was located along the southern shoreline of the Great River, as it passed next to the Jazzan Mountains, under the Falls of Arning.  There was a transplanted colony of Shagmen living in caves near the River, and they served and worshipped Wiifandra.
The Solitude of Aether, along the southern shoreline of the Great River
When Wiifandra departed, many of her loyal Shagmen departed with her, and the rest were changed in some way.  Some Archivists claim that they became the Shagmen we know of today, in order to hide the memories of Wiifandra and her magic, others say that those located at the Solitude of Aether were changed into something else.

The biggest secret about Wiifandra, and where she departed from her consort, Ba'a Zarn, was that she was a completely devoted worshiper of the elemental god, The One Beneath the Waves.  She not only worshpped the sleeping god, but she used her considerable magic to create and contact followers of his, and also to imbue the knowledge into the Shagmen.  This is not known, currently, to the Archivists, or to anyone in the Valley.

When she left, some of the things that Wiifandra left behind, were a number of spells related to the worship of The One Beneath the Waves, as well as contacting and serving the servitor races of that elemental god.  Also, she left behind some of her personal magic items.  She left behind the Staff of Aether, the Bracers of Deep Knowledge, and the Tiara of Darkness.  The location of these is not known, but they are each of a powerful (artifact) level.  Many of her spells are assumed to be located in copies of the Book of Zargo Zar the Sage.

Apr 25, 2013

Veltin Crimsea - Demigoddess of the Red moon

Veltin Crimsea is one of the three daughters of the Goddess of Magic, Magenta.  As things are in the world of the Valley of the Old Ones, Veltin Crimsea is also one of the three moons of the world, the Red Moon.

She is referred to by many as simply the Red Lady, or the Demigoddess of the Red Moon.  She has a distinct position of being the only member of the pantheon of the Church of the Three Goddesses to have evil worshipers and also evil clergy (neutral evil).

Veltin Crimsea represents the wilder, more sadistic, aspect of magic.  She is the aspect of the night, and of necromancy, and of seeing the value in having evil to balance the good.  Needless to say, the more prosaic of the clergy of the order of Veltin Crimsea have some problems with other members of the overall church, because of this position.  Her worshippers are sometimes open adherents of this order, and sometimes they are members of other branches of the church, drawn to the worship of Veltin Crimsea, as if it were forbidden fruit.

The more urbane parts of the order view their position as a relationship to the other two daughters of magic... The Demigoddess of the White Moon represents militant good, and the Demigoddess of the Golden Moon represents the alluring benefits of "light" magic.  Against these, Veltin Crimsea balances the White Moon with evil, and strong evil worshippers (although, they are balanced, neither favoring law nor chaos); she balances the Golden Moon with darkness and the magic of the night.

The more wilder, some would say "purer" parts of the order view their position as this - the strongest daughter of Magenta - the one that is due to take over as the next Goddess of Magic - is Veltin Crimsea.  She should therefor be above her two sisters, and in dark places it is even whispered that she should be above Magenta herself.

Organized clergy of this order of the church do not have their own Cathedral, and barely have their own bureaucracy.  They often exist in places where general clergy of the church exist, such as at Narn, and in some others of the larger Baronial cities.  When they must be, they are funded by the Magenta branch of the church.

In secret, however, there is a wide variety of Red Lady cultists.  Often, remote gatherings, called Clutches, are ruled by a trio - two women (one old, one young) and a male who has become a sort of werebat.  The famous poem, by Uin Dagavart, called "The Red Moon" has the opening stanza,
All of them bound up tight in the clutch;
Ruled by the crone, the maid and the bat.
Evil has wrought, tho' welcome by such;
Those who hate this, and this who hates that.

 The followers are typically drawn to the wilder aspect of Veltin Crimsea, and they are often organized into bands of thugs, intent on thwarting those who work great works in the name of good.  The Paladins of the White Lady are a particular foe.

Rites are typically performed under the red moon, but are to be shunned when the white or gold are ascendent.  Talk of witches' cauldrons, and drinking the blood of innocents, is MOSTLY the rambling of peasants, and stories intended to scare children.

If there is a single place of power for the followers of the Red Moon, it would have to be the valley along the Two-Moon River.  However, strongholds of thugs and clutches can be found in many remote locations - bogs and fens, dark gnarled forests, and the solitary wind-ripped rocky peaks of mountains.

Apr 24, 2013

Barony of Ungams - And the City of Harp

In the Nightside Region, there is a barony, one of the younger, southern Baronies, settled only a short 600 years ago.  It is currently ruled by Baron Virondis Pulchky, also known as the Music Baron, from the City of Harp.

The capitol city of Ungams is an interesting place, as it contains some very fascinating locations, and also because of where it is located in the Valley.

It is near the Nell Nod forest, and all of the different threats that come out of there, and it is also located near the edge of influence of the Sun King Tribes.  In the plains around the Barony, the Khozaki people dwell, with their great herds of riding lizards, the Fethta.

Along the edge of the Nell Nod Forest, the Temple of Light was built by Padre Kelvin, in the year 603, about three hundred years before the establishment of the City.  At that time, there were only scant and dispersed settlers in the region, often living in fortified hillforts, or they were purely nomadic.  At this time, the Westroners in the area were in a state of constant strife with the Khozaki people, and it often turned into violent raids and small scale warfare between settlements and nomdic groups of the two cultures.  The only thing that brought them together was horrific Mass Frenzy of the Sun King barbarians in the 8th century.

Within the city is the great Cathedral to Saint Horace, called the Stone of Life.  The Cathedral is itself built as a series of tiered semi-circles, the front (outer edge of the circle) of all of them forming a smooth face to the front, forming the face of the Cathedral.  This face is decorated in the typical fashion of Westron Cathedrals - lots of fluted and decorative pillars; stained glass windows; gargoyles along the various levels of roofs and balconies.  The top of the Cathedral, along the front outer edge, has multiple towers and steeples, all topped with gargoyles.  Most of the gargoyles of the Stone of Life Cathedral have the faces of Animals, rather than devils or grotesques.  The back of the cathedral, is as mentioned, a set of tiered steps - 8 stories high - and each story having an open semi-circular balcony.  At the center of a circle that the semi-circle building would form, there is a flat green park, with radial walks covered in decorative white pea gravel.  At the center of the radial works - the center of the park - there is a rising white obelisk coming out of the ground.  All up and down the obelisk are carvings of the various different types of animals (non-magical) of the Valley.  Every point of the semi-circular building is equidistant from the Obelisk.  The Stone of Life, as it is called, is key to the worship services of the Order of St. Horace.

One of the domes at the top of the Palace of Seven Harmonies

The seat of power is the Palace of Seven Harmonies.  This is at the heart of the City, on the tallest of the five Harp Hills that make up the base for the city.  The center hill, called Oldoon, has the Palace built on top of it.  The Harp Hills are what give the name of "City of Harp" to the capitol.  Underneath the hill of Oldoon, however, exist the Dungeons of Suel Sonas.  Suel Sonas was a vizier, then an official title in the City of Harp, in the first century after the founding of the Barony.  It was thought that the growth of the Barony would be enhanced if there was a place to put convicted criminals, including those that practiced crime out among the nomads and settlers.  So, Suel commissioned a group of Dwarves to come and build the underground penal site.  The dungeons were named for him, and although he passed away several years before the dungeon was completed, still it was named for him.

The current ruler, Virondis Pulchky, is 8th regent of the city and the barony to hail from the Aeryfell family.  Within family tradition, each new generational member, and especially those who are considered for the Throne in Ungams, must exhibit some musical talent.   Baron Pulchky, when he came to the throne, was already an accomplished player of the large Hawm flute.  He had done a number of compositions, and his playing is most excellent.  He continues, as Baron, to play whenever possible.  He, more so than any of the early Aeryfell barons or baronesses, patronize the musical arts.

Apr 23, 2013

Tears of Heaven - Enchanted lakes in the Destriel Mountains

Far in the northeast part of the Valley, in the Destriel Mountains, there exist a series of interconnected lakes, known as the Tears of Heaven.

The name, and source, of these lakes remains quite mysterious.  At the center of each lake, there is a spout of water, pouring down out of the heavens, that fills the lakes.  Because of this pouring and the splashing and diffusion of the water vapor, the whole region is constantly in dense fog.  The countryside immediately surrounding the lakes is also home to immense plant growth, and very thick forests consisting of the very tall, Cloudhome Trees, exist in a thin wall around each lake.  These dense forested areas are only half a mile thick, at most points, around the Tears.

The region around the Tears is giant country.  This includes the peaks and slopes of the Destriel Mountains, and all along the valley floors where the Tears themselves are located.  There are several species of Giant to be found here, and even among the same species (for instance, Hill Giants), there are competing groups under different leaders, who constantly make war on each other, as well as making the immediate area quite dangerous for travelers and adventurers, who might be seeking the secret of the Tears of Heaven, or one of the many Old One sites in the surrounding mountains.

Apr 22, 2013

St. Jaspar - Patron Saint of Strength and Rocks

St. Jaspar is a member of the constellation of minor dieties and apotheosized saints that make up the Nadene branch of the Church of Three Goddesses.  In this case, St. Jaspar is the patron saint of Strength and Rocks.

St Jaspar began life as Jaspar Wilderman.  He was a fighter in the service of the Archduke of Scallen, back in the early 280s, when Scallen was the capitol of the Kingdom of Ymnaris.  Jaspar was a captain of a company (100 men) of halberdiers, serving by patrolling the Pellet Water river, and also the Falcon Woods.

While on patrol, he once encountered a strange scene, while separated from his men.  He was traveling with half of the company of halberdiers, tracking a raiding party of Bugbears out of the Falcon Woods, and was separated from his men early one morning.  While he waited for the half company to reform, he was searching an area around a gorge of water.  The water was welling up out of the ground, and filled a small natural rocky basin, before running of in the light woods as a tiny stream.  He came across a young goatherd girl, sitting by the gorge, and tending to a mother goat and her young.  The young girl looked up to see Jaspar coming across the clearing towards the gorge, when a band of Bugbears, led by a berserking Minotaur, came out of the woods and charged the young girl.  Jaspar sprang into action, but only had his hunting knife and a short sword with him.  He immediately charged the Minotaur and grappled with it, stabbing again and again.  The Bugbears were amazed, and stood down to watch the fight, and see how their monstrous leader would fare against this brave soldier.  The girl gathered up the goat yearlings, and retreated to the base of a big tree, just outside the clearing of the gorge.  Finally, Jaspar succeeded in killing the Minotaur, and the band of Bugbears would have charged the fatigued hero, except at that point, a patrol of the halberdiers arrived on the spot, and gave good sport to the Bugbears.  They were soon killed or routed, and the soldiers in hot pursuit.  Jaspar bound a gash on his arm as best he could, and then immediately looked after the girl, to see if she were okay.

That was when the girl revealed herself as the goddess Nadene, the goddess of fertility.  She thanked Jaspar for his bravery, and immediately gifted him with immortality, and great strength, and told him that the stones where he stood would be the basis for his power.  And so, Jaspar Wildeman became St. Jaspar, patron saint of strength and rocks and the earth.

Over time, the great strength of St. Jaspar began to reveal itself, in lots of fantastic feat.  Also, the sages and mystics of the age realized that had become something more than human through his encounter with Nadene.  There were those who began to pay homage, and to worship the relationship between the saint and the goddess. Over time, this grew into the young version of the Order of St. Jaspar.  A home for the order was needed, and the fantastic stone formation at the heart of the City of Shadows, the capitol of the newly formed Barony of Henn, was chosen as the site for this. Work began, on the Cathedral at Earthroot, and it grew over the centuries.  All of it is constructed of stone, and much of it is carved directly out of the great formation itself.  Much of the traditional ritual within the Order of St. Jaspar involves self meditation, and the only communal acts are the playing of slow reflective music, on stone instruments (flutes, mostly, but also a strange sort of xylophone type instrument), and the recitation of ethical oaths of behavior.  Because of the solitary nature of the order, much of the cathedral is given over to individual cells, and small meditation rooms. Much of the meditation has to do with the Way of Stone, which involves the great mystery, of how is stone alive?

The order attracts those from all walks of life, but it has a special appeal for those who make their labor in life through working the earth, especially in trades that require great amounts of physical strength.  This includes masons, stone carvers, miners and even some farmers.  Because of the background of Jaspar Wilderman, and his simple story of courage being rewarded, the order also appeals to warriors and soldiers in no small numbers.  There are even a number of Dwarves and Gnomes in the mix, from those communities where they have taken to following the Church of the Three Goddesses.

 The clergy of the order includes both men and women, although men predominate.  Both are viewed as equal, however.  Strength and acts of strength are seen as gifts from St. Jaspar, and the path from novitiate to full priest is full of different stages of exhibiting personal strength - usually physical strength, but also strength of mind and strength of character.  Outside the single largest concentration of the Cathedral at Earthroot, there are a number of churches and community halls dedicated to St. Jaspar.  There are also a large number of hermitages and abbeys.  Living in community, isolated from the world, is very appealing to the men and women who are attracted to the Order.  Typically, clergy wear white robes, trimmed in geometric shapes of some color or other, reflecting the church or community they are associated with.

A school of clerics, who are not only encouraged to move out among the peoples of the valley, but who also regularly take up arms against evil and injustice, exists.  It is from this school, the way of the wandering stone, that the Brothers and Sisters of the Wandering Stone come from, and also where most clerics (in the sense of the adventuring class) will come from.  The monastic branches of the order will refer to these as the Rolling Stones, and these wanderers (who also, in their way, dedicate their life to understanding the mysterious Way of Stone, but through the application of force to right wrong and thwart injustice) will refer to their monastic brothers and sisters as Mossbacks.

Apr 20, 2013

Current (1534 WM) Regents of the Westron Baronies

In the current era of the Valley (year 1534 since the Westerner Migrations first began out of the Olmart Empire, so it is marked 1534WM), each of the various Baronies is ruled over by a regent of some sort.  Most of these are Barons, at least in the nomenclature of the Kingdom of Ymnaris.  The Kingdom was first established, in the year 26 when the First City was settled (now often called Hogle).  The capitol of the Kingdom moved progressively eastward with successive generations and waves of migration.  Each of the four fiefdoms that originally housed a capitol city of Ymnaris is entitled to the title Duke for their ruler, however they are still commonly referred to as Baronies.  Up until the Neill family assumed the throne of the Kingdom of Ymnaris, several generations back. the ruler of the kingdom was referred to as the Archduke, however with the growing separation from the Olmart Empire, this title was dropped, and the title of King (or Queen) has been in use now, by the Neills at least, for the past 352 years (since year 1182).

Rulers of the Westron Baronies
Hogle - Duke Keevar Silverhand (m, age 54), settled year 26. Capitol of Kingdom of Ymnaris from the year 26 until 165.
Macester - Baron Tyremius Ap Troft of Trofthall (m, age 162), settled year 82.
Ockham - Baron Guiscar the Enlightened (m, age 47), settled year 107.
Scallen - Duchess Safeeny Everlight (f, age 53), settled year 163. Capitol of Kingdom of Ymnaris from 165 until 341.
Kof Karn - Baroness Talena Ap Ironheart (f, age 31), settled year 219.
Khomaes - Baron Aldra Ap Iaggio of Erthos (m, age 59), settled year 231.  The city itself is ruled by a Proctor.
Henn - Baroness Lendara Astern (f, age 32), settled year 285.
Pellorix - Duke Falden the Just (m, age 51), settled year 341. Capitol of Kingdom of Ymnaris from 341 until 642.
Werms - Baron Kilgar Ap Huim, Ne Etro (m, age 45), settled year 352. The city itself is ruled by a Magistrate, typically a magic user (currently, a mysterious hooded person titled the Wizard of Werms).
Huygen - Baroness G'Melan Luce Ap Viellot (f, age 33), settld year 394.
Gorrem - Baroness Catherine Ap Terrasund of Tatelis, also called The Second (f, age 49), settled year 462.
Na Kram - Baron Farris Quar Nev of Borleos (m, age 73), settled year 558.
Lynch - Duchess Tindra Ap Logis of Oakforge (f, age 40), settled year 642. Capitol of Kingdom of Ymnaris from 642 until 1021.
Botts - Baron Pesar Ap Gansford of Tuldis (m, age 51), settled year 728
Ungams - Baron Virondis Pulchky (m, age 59) , settled year 902.
City of Narn - King (Archduke) Alasdair IV (m, age 37), settled year 914. Capitol of Kingdom of Ymnaris since 1021.
Devrie - Baron Huntain Dorren of Ymnar Hall, also called The Miner (m, age 51), settled year 1022.
Futtonol - Baron Rolan Ap Kopf of Kopfheim, settled year 1099.
Kennidor - Baron Hugh Voxely, of Lakecastle (m, age 39), settled year 1186.

A curious  event occurred just over four hundred years ago.  The gathering of Barons in the year 1015 had agreed that a new capitol for the Kingdom was needed, as the Tower-Keep of Oakforge (in the Barony of Lynch at the City of Fire) was under constant threat at the time by an army of chaos creatures out of the western Nel Nod forest.  The new location was to be the new settlement forming between the Erando and Moa Thola rivers, which would become the City of Shale, and capitol of the Barony of Devrie.  However, at the last, just before the Malachite Throne was to be transferred to the new site in 1021, a group of northern Barons made the case for transferring it to the city of Narn instead.  Narn was previously not considered, because it was built on the site of a long dead city, taking advantage of the ruins that were there already when the Westroners came in 914, however it was thought to be a safer location, than another capitol in the wild south, where the Sun King Barbarians still threatened all of the settlements and cities.

The new location, at Narn, satisfied most, except for the southern Barons from Gorrem, Lynch, and Ungams, who have referred to Narn as the Shadow Capitol, and refer to Devrie as the Chosen Capitol.  These tensions have spread to understandings and relations among the various eastern Baronies, but nothing has come to open war.  With the passage of three centuries, the original animosity that accompanied the founding of Devrie, and the change of the Capitol from Devrie to Narn, has been mostly forgotten, but the establishment of alliances (however tenuous the reasoning) between the different groups of Baronies, has proven a strong motivation for mutual support, and trade, ever since.

Apr 19, 2013

Quills of Barthemius - Curious Rocky Formation in the Lost Mare River

At the widest point of the Lost Mare river, where the Nightwash River joins it, running deep and fast down out of the Destriel Mountains, there is a most curious formation of stoney structures.  These are very tall (hundreds of feet) stony pillars, in the middle of the Lost Mare, called the Quills of Barthemius.  The Lost Mare is almost a mile wide at this point, and flows much slower than the Nightwash does, when its fast flowing and frigid waters come crashing into the Lost Mare.  At the base of Mount Estelle, where the Lost Mare flows out from under the Iore Glacier, there is a valley with numerous hot water springs, that not only feed into the Lost Mare, but have a warming effect on the waters, so that although it flows out of the icy heights of the Destriels, it is quite warm for a northern river.

Where the Lost Mare is met by the Nightwash, along a two mile long stretch, there are numerous of these tall stone pillars.  They are often about 400-500 feet tall, and 60 or 70 feet across at the base, narrowing little in their towering heights.  The pillars are thick in the river, and are too close together for all but the smallest craft to navigate through them.  There are channels to the west and east of the pillars where somewhat larger craft can navigate, but the river grows shallower there, so only barges and low draft longboats are often found here.  The space between the pillars is sometimes as narrow as 10 or 12 feet, sometimes as wide as 30 or 40 feet.

The tops of the pillars make for an interesting  There is a breed of curious eight legged goats known as Spider Goats that dwell there.  [gamer's note, these are not the monstrous fanged blood drinking Spider Goats that are found in the game, "Mutant Future", but they are interesting enough as they are].  The goats were joined, years and years ago, by a band of Satyrs that came over from the realm of Faery, through one of the many portals in the Harp hills.  These were led by a Satyr druid named Balthemius.  Balthemius and his brethren, taught the spider goats how to use their latent telepathic ability, and awakened an intelligence in them.  The descendents of the Satyrs, as well as a number of Fawns, have taken up permanent residence on the plateau of stony islands, along with the spider goats.  Northguard rangers that have visited the Satyrs report that their reason for remaining on this side of Faery is by order of King Oberon to keep an eye on the Unseely Court creatures that rise up out of the huge sinkholes to the east, along the southern banks of the Nightwash river.  Balthemius himself is still alive, and it is not know just how old he is, or how long he has lived here, but he was not here in the time of the Old Ones.  The Quills are named in his honor, and he performs a great number of good deeds (although, being a Satyr, he is also known to be mischievious, or certainly his brethren and their telepathic Spider goat companions, are).

It is supposed, by a large number of druids and naturalists, that whatever it is that has given the spider goats the ability to use telepathy, as well as their intelligence, is similar to the similar abilities found in the Great Horses of the Darkearth Plains.

The great sinkholes on the southern bank of the Nightwash river is where parts of the Nightwash disappear in vast waterfalls, deep into the earth.  The region is riddled by layers of underground realms, many with permanent portals to the Unseely Courts.  Without the diligence and watchfulness of Barthemius and his satyrs and goat allies, as well as the Great Khan of all the Horses, there would no doubt be more incursions of the darker, evil races into the surface world.

The spider goats are a curious breed, with a number of special abilities, other than their intelligence and telepathy.  They have the ability to climb sheer walls, and although the Satyrs have constructed a number of bridges connecting the wider separated Quills, the goats have an incredible leaping ability, able to jump 20 or 30 feet, as an adult.  The females have an uncharacteristic development, even for a magical creature.  They have spinnerets, and can generate a web (same effects as the spell) that has a range of 40 feet.  This web is used only for capturing prey and enemies, and not used for building webs or nests.  The thick flocks of nesting black geese provide food for the spider goats, and the breeding cycle of the breed has adapted to this cycle, so that when the black geese come north from the south parts of the Lost Mare river in the early spring to nest and lay eggs in the crags on the sides of the Quills, the goats are also ready with their young, and feed on goose while nursing their young.

Other than in their natural habitat of the Quills, there is a group of Spider Goats that can be encountered abroad.  A successful raid by a number of Drow elves (actual Drow, as per the AD&D race, rather than the more typical Dark Elves encountered in the Valley - proper Drow in this setting usually only occur as temporary incursions from the Unseely Realms, but this group has come over permanently, and lives in one of the underground realms in the nearby countryside) captured a number of young spider goats some decades in the past, and have been raising and multiplying them, imprinting their evil alignment and philosophy on them.  These are sometimes encountered, with the members of the Aa'Lega Coven of Drow Elves, and others.

Name: Spider Goats (Drow variant)
No. Encountered: 2-12 (with a Drow hunting party, or as part of a Drow lair)
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Movement: 90' (can jump 30'; can scale sheer surfaces)
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: 2 Kicks, 1Bite; or 1 charge
Damage: 1d4+1 (kick); 1-4 (bite); 1d6 (charge)
Save: MU2
Morale: 9
Hoard Class:VI (remains on dead victims)
Special: Half of all spider goats encountered can shoot out a web 30', acts as the spell was cast by a 4th level magic user (lasts for 8 turns).  On a successful charge attack, victims Man sized or smaller have to make a saving throw vs. paralyzation or be knocked down.  Against a knocked down opponent, a spider goat that makes a successful Bite attack, will remain attached to their victim, doing 1d6 damage automatically every round, until the spider goat is slain.  The Drow version of the Spider Goat has also been trained to use a psychic shriek attack, based on their telepathy.  This causes all characters below 3rd level (or creatures below 3HD) that are within 80' of a spider goat to make a save vs. magic each round that they want to act.  Spell casters within 80' of a spider goat are particularly vulnerable to the psychic shriek.  They may not employ any spells that requires a Verbal component.

Apr 18, 2013

Parn Tandalorn - The Great Archive

Near the headwaters of the Tandalorn River there is a strange and magical community, high in the mountains, that is dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge.  This is the site of the fantastic Great Library of Parn Tandalorn.  It was settled by a group of monks and priests from the Olmart Empire that accompanied the first settlers to come into the Valley, south of the great river.  They brought with them soldiers, as well as their own families, seeking to establish a new community, in the strange and dangerous land of the Valley.

Parn Tandalorn

It was here, with the various artifacts and ruined sites of the Old Ones, that the Archivists thought they could study and make sense of what the world was like before the advent of Man.  To understand what the Archivists (the original settlers of the Great Library and the community there) understood about man, it is important to understand how they viewed Man's place in the world.  This was, of course, very different than the understanding that the inhabitants, with their knowledge of the three goddesses, and some of the subjected peoples of the old empire - such as the Lass Indol and their goddesses of the Seasons.  The old orders of the Olmart empire see the coming of man as some fulfillment of the element of magic.  The old races were not enough - the Elves themselves are magic, the Dwarves capture magic, the Saurials sing of magic, but only Man can create magic.  Hence, the element itself was responsible for bringing man into the world.  So, they came to study the Old Ones and find out what they could about them, and see whey there were passed over by Magic and why Man was chosen/birthed instead.

In coming into contact with the artifacts, and surviving learning, of the Old Ones, the Archivists learned something very, very different.  The Old Ones were enthralled, and worshipped (largely out of fear) their own elemental god.  There were immensely powerful beings, from another dimension, that were bent on the destruction of reality.  The Old Ones believed that by supplication and appeasement, they could keep them (the elemental gods) pacified until their knowledge of magic advanced to such a point that they could imprison them.  This they did, but at a cost.  Great structures were build by Ba'a Zarn the builder, in order to serve as the locks on the dimensional prisons that the elemental gods are imprisoned in.  These structures are part of the world, in the Valley, and the Archivists are beginning to learn the secrets of the Great River, the King's Highway, Fire Mountain, and the Tears of Heaven.  But not all the secrets, not yet.

The Archivists do know that after the elemental gods were imprisoned, that the young gods and goddesses of the world began to awaken - with the help of The Krunge, and Mika, and Earnissa.  Bronc and Photoss escaped, and became the two Warrior gods known as the Storm King and the Sun King, and their people (the Storm King barbarians in the north, and the Sun King barbarians in the south) have flourished, albeit the tainting of the Sun King by his diabolical mistress has led to a certain strain of chaos and evil that has suffused the culture of the Sun King barbarians.  The three goddesses have awoken, and even the forces of the seasons that the Lass Indol venerated have become goddesses.

Something else that the Archivists realize, that much of the remainder of the Valley (the Westroners, the Northerners, the Southerners and many of the non-humans) is that there is still a taint of power from the elemental gods loose in the world.  There are, in secret, and in shadow, pocket of worshipers who feel as if they can gain power, by serving the four sleeping horrors.  Some, the mad and those deranged by evil, see the bringing about the destruction of the world through the doings of elemental god magic, as a desirable goal.  These are the evil forces that the Archivists are arranged against.

Alas, however, the Archivists, in their quest for magic and knowledge, and their desire to exist as a separate community, has led them into a secluded and isolationist state.  They live, alone in their community of towers, schools, halls of study, and dens of magic, without any real thought to intervention in the outside world.  Let the petty barons fight over lands and holdings.  Let the Elves bicker over the boundaries between Faery and the world.  Let the Dwarves hollow out all the mountains, and make war against the orcs and goblins they find there.  The Archivists have much more important things to do - at Parn Tandalorn.

Apr 17, 2013

Lands to the West - The Omart Empire

To the west, in the lands where the Westroners first arrived from, today there exists a vast, powerful nation called the Omart Empire.

Crossbow Guards of Imperial Priests
The Omart Empire has stood for thousands of years, and is ruled over by an Emperor and his court of advisors.  The current Emperor,  Velaxia Dur, has sat on the Ethereal Throne for nearly 2000 years.  It was his enlightened policies, over a millenia ago, that allowed the men of the Sea Marches to begin their pilgrimage into the valley.  Velaxia Dur is kept alive through the use of magic.  Some - those unfriendly to the throne - have suggested that he may no longer be human, but something else.

The Empire maintains a strong military presence in and around the western entrance into the valley, and are
frequently encountered in the western parts of the Shattered Plains.  Military patrols are common enough, and these are often accompanied by members of the Omart Imperial Priesthood.

Omart military patrols are almost exclusively infantry, usually formations of pikemen, supported by companies of crossbowmen.  Their captains will sometimes ride fine horses, but this is often viewed as an extravagance by those truer to traditional Imperial manner.  There are no horses in the Empire of the Risen Sea (the old name for the Omart Empire, before the structure of the city of Omart), and they are creatures found only in the Valley.
Olmart pike formation, marching south toward the Great River, in the Shattered Plains

The Imperial Priesthood has three orders of Priests - The Sept of the Red Pearl, the Sept of the White Jade, and the Sept of the Black Diamond.  These are different orders within the Imperial magical/religious structure responsible for maintaining magical hegemony over the many conquered islands of the Empire, as well as responsible for the maintenance of the Imperial Court, including keeping the Emperor Alive.

Apr 16, 2013

Nyagam Worm-Smokers - Chaotic Sorcerers of the Sun King Barbarians

Deep in the far southlands, where the chaotic worshipers of the Sun King spread terror and horrors, some of the most terrible and horrible are a group of chaos sorcerers known as the Nyagam Worm-Smokers.

Nyagam is the name of one of the abandoned temples of the Old Ones, thought that at one time it was constructed to serve the worship of their elemental god, the Earth Weaver.

The temple is actually a large compound, similar to our real world temple sites in South America.  The structures at Nyagam are in alignment to predict and observe certain astronomical phenomena - the rising of the Three Moons, the alignment of the Spheres, and the Summer Apogee of the Sun.  But where Nyagam differs from the sites in our own world, rather than being massive stone step pyramids raised high up over the plains, the structures at Nyagam are like inverse step pyramids, each layer dug down into the earth.  The whole structure is lined with stone, and there are doors into the earth at each layer, revealing tunnels and structures going deep underground.  In all there are 13 such structures ranging from the tiniest, nicknamed "The Little Bird" all the way up to the largest, which is called "Temple of the Moons".

Dwelling in the earth surrounding the structure, are a peculiar species of large worms.  They are large, growing to 30 or 40 feet in length, but retaining a body diameter of only 4-5 feet.  They have a light green body that gives off a faint luminescent glow, and are completely legless.  They have a hard chitinous plate over their head, and huge mandibles, reaching out as far as 9 feet wide, pulling victims into their mouth.  There are no sensory organs apparent, other than the vast array of tiny tentacles, forming a cloud of feelers out 3 feet in every direction around the head.  The Archivists at Parn Tandalorn have discovered that the Old Ones referred to these as Infinite Worms, but most simply call them Nyagam Worms.  It is thought that these might be related to purple worms, for their size approaches that of those hideous monsters.  But the worms of Nyagam are a bit smaller, and different. Time around one of these creatures is magically altered, sped up, so that those in the vicinity of of a fully grown Nyagam worm experience reality at a rate sped up to approximately five times normal time.  Physical effects, such as those that require exposure (magic cast outside their time-warping field, any fire, any acid, and so on) do not seem to have an effect on Infinite Worms, they are immune to all of those.

The earth surrounding the Nyagam site is, as mentioned, full of these worms.  Unfortunately, it is also the site of a massive number of Sun King barbarians.  They come because they believe that this is a holy site.  Some of the priest-leaders of the barbarians come here and hold court, and seek oracles and inspiration from the weird things in the temple structures.  But mostly, throngs and mobs of sun king peasants come here.  The ecology is a grisly and sickening one - the weak, slow, infirm or elderly are killed and eaten.  Overall the population is quite ill not very well fed on this horrible cannibalistic diet.

A type of sorcerer that lives among the Sun King Barbarians are known simply as the Nyagam Worm-Smokers.  These individuals almost always appear as tall gaunt men, with their heads completely clean-shaven.  They, as an order, share spells and knowledge with each other, and seem to practice a sort of telepathic communication.  It is not known if that telepathy extends to any other outside their order.   They are immediately apparent, for wearing rich red robes, among the Sun King barbarians which are normally barely dressed.

The order of sorcerers, which refer to themselves as the Brothers of Hazerun (Hazerun is the demon prince son of Photoss, the Sun King, who is the god that these barbarians worship), have a curious relationship with the Nyagam Worms.  They protect the worms, and even help to create new habitats for them.  In return, they steal some of the young born to the worms, and these are ritually killed and their bodies are left to dry out.  Once the bodies are dried out, the sorcerers retain certain parts (the details of this grisly practice are vague), and then smoke them in braziers, while breathing in the smoke, and participating in rites to the Earth Weaver.  (note that the Church does not recognize that the cult of the Earth Weaver is still alive, even in this fashion, so it is only by the word of the Archivists or other sages, that this story is true).  This practice grants the Worm-Smokers (the Brothers of Hazerun) a very strange and peculiar ability.  Up to three times a day, the regular Worm-Smoker, has the ability to warp reality.  He can change one attribute of reality at a time, for upt to a number of hours equal to half his level.  So a sixth level Worm-Smoker sorcerer, could change one attribute of reality (for instance, making his surroundings Hot, or changing the sky to Cloudy, or making Iron soft, etc) for up to three hours at a time, but he could do this three times per day.  This is dangerous enough, but the real horror for those who hunt and fight against the evils of the Sun King Barbarians, is that the Brothers of Hazerun almost never travel singly, but always in groups.   So imagine a group of five or six such sorcerers, each with the ability to change three attributes of reality (either one at a time, or all three at once).  Reality around this group would be completely shifting and unpredictable.

The ability that they can use three times per day can be done all at once, with overlapping time durations, or it can be done at three different times.  In order to consider the ability and its limits, word the change in such a way so that there is a noun that is part of reality (Elves, Sky, Iron, Cheese) and then some modifying word that changes an attribute of that (all Elves are Small; the Sky is Cloudy; the Temperature is Hot; Cheese is Ubiquitous).

The Sunguard rangers are always on the lookout for Nyagam Worm-Smokers, and hunt them down whenever they have word of them being found, they are just too dangerous.  In addition to their grisly cannibal habits, and their ability to warp reality, they are, after all, experienced spell casters.  And they are often accompanied by adult Nyagam Worms, as well as armed bands of Sun King barbarians.  A horrific encounter for any crusading warrior trying to make the south a safer place.

Apr 15, 2013

Mairse Reeds - Dangerous flora along the Moa Thola River

Mairse Reeds are a type of tall thin plan that grow thickly on both sides of the Moa Thola  and Erando rivers - far, far to the south, almost to the Holabrian Mountains.  The area where these reeds grow is located in both the far eastern part of the Nightside region (on the western banks of the Moa Thola, and along both sides of the Erando), and also in the far western part of the Shale March region.  In both cases, along the banks of the Moa Thola, and along the banks of the Erando, the Mairse Reeds grow in the low lands, and also up in to the Shale Hills and the lower slopes of the Holabrian Mountains.

The vast areas where the Reeds grow is curious in that no other vegetation grows there, and although
it is near to both rivers, the ground remains hard enough for there to be vast mounds and tunnel complexes dug out of it.  In that environment live large colonies of Thri-Kreen.  This race of insect warriors are particularly dangerous because of their mastery of their own weapons - the double bladed gythka polearm and the three bladed throwing chatkhca.  In both cases, the Thri-Kreen are keen to employ a particular type of venom that they make combining their own caustic mandible saliva with a type of think sap or resin that they collect from the Mairse Reeds.  This is then deposited in the tunnels of their underground complexes, and allowed to harden and crystalize into a tough form that allows it to be sharpened into blades, and worked into all sorts of weaponry.

Braving the haunts of the Thri-Kreen in the Mairse Reed jungles are various tribes of Sun King warriors.  They go there to collect Mairse Reeds to make weapons out of, and also to harvest large bundles of the reeds to use in making their strange Mairse Boats.  Collecting a few of the reeds for the use of constructing spears is simple enough, and is seen as a rite-of-passage into adulthood by many clans of the tribes, but harvesting enough reeds to make a boat is an operation that will require all the members of several clans to work together.  First is the harvesting and bundling, then the transport of the reeds.  All the time, the group is subject to attack by Thri-Kreen warriors, as well as rival groups of Sun King barbarians.  A typical harvesting operation will take somewhere between 10 and 14 days to complete.  After the first few, attacks by the Thri-Kreen can be expected almost at any time of day or night (the Thri-Kreen do not sleep).

The Moa Thola is thick with Mairse Reed boats manned by crews of Sun King barbarians.  This is the reason why many of the trading and fishing vessels along the Moa Thola have on board armed contingents, and sometimes even rangers from the Sunguard, there to protect against the hungry cannibal crews of the Mairse Reed boats.

Double-prow Mairse Boat, in the edge of the Shale Hills

Apr 13, 2013

The Legend of Longlance Karew

This is one of many legendary stories about the paladin of Scallen, Longlance Karew, and his sidekick the fighter/rogue known simply as The Bluejay.  It is an old tale, as most legends are, taking place deep in the south of the Rising Land region, and concerning the founding of the barony of Kof Karn.

Approximately two centuries following the first migrations of Westroners out of the Olmert Empire and into the Valley, a pilgrimage led by the mystic (Efeck the Jade, formerly of the Azure Court) made it's way far to the south, where the winds howl north out of the Holabria Mountains, into the neck of land between the Two Moons river and the Tandalorn River.  There is a rift there, which became known as The Cradle, and it was there that Efeck the Jade told his followers that the stars had decreed they should settle.

The problem with the location, although this did not seem to trouble either the stars nor Efeck the Jade, was that the area was overrun by a tribe of Sun King barbarians.  This particular tribe was under control of a vile creature of chaos, The Walking Man, and his vile army of followers.  The Walking Man himself was a giant of a man, with six fingers on each hand, and instead of a head, featured a bright red octopus instead.  When he spoke, it was the sound of a dead body being dragged through gravel.  When he went into battle, it was a blur of deadly steel, as he wielded two great curved khopesh blades in his human hands, and another eight axes with his eight tentacles.  As horrible as the Walking Man himself was (and still is, he is still alive, even though it has been 1300 years since this story) his army of Sun King worshipers was even more horrible.  In addition to the usual mobs of flesh-reavers (the near-animal crazed worshippers of the Sun King, who would move around in frenzied mobs, looking for humans - and demi-humans such as elves and dwarves - to tear into pieces, and then consume), the army of the Walking Man also included dozens and dozens of the headless, as well as Nyagam Worm-Smokers, Illithids, and a whole menagerie of nightmare chaos creatures.

In the face of this wretched army that followed the Walking Man, and inhabited The Cradle, the mystic Efeck the Jade had convinced his followers (who were unused to such horrors, back in the civilized lands of the Olmert Empire) that this was where the stars had decreed that they should settle and make a new life.  It was the recipe for disaster.

Illithids in the service of the Walking Man
In the year 214, after the beginning of the Migrations, the followers of Efeck the Jade were following his advice, and the advice of the leader of the main body of Pilgrims - Kof Karn - in building shelf farms (as they would become to be called), on the terraces of the side of the Cradle.  Down in the heart of the cradle, the site that would eventually become the "City in the Cradle" (later renamed Kof Karn in honor of the "first pilgrim" as he is remembered) was being surveyed, but it would be five years still before it would be settled.

With the first shelf farms being constructed, terraces were marked off, crops were planted, and the business of settling the thousands of settlers was well under way.  When the army of The Walking Man descended on the hapless pilgrims.  A sort of a defense was put up, with Kof Karn forming a make-shift militia, and several of the pilgrims having had experience as men-at-arms while back in Olmert, however it had been years now since they left, and these were few were old and tired.  Efeck the Jade, and his acolytes, were trained as warrior monks, and they helped to stiffen the defenses, but it wasn't enough.  The raids became a disaster, and all looked lost, as farm after farm fell to the raiding cannibals, their sorcerer-masters, and horrid monsters of chaos.

Then, out of the north, came help unsought for, and unexpected.  A column of crusading wing-knights, from the City of Birds (Scallen), came riding down into the Cradle, having crossed the Two-Moons River the night before, and riding steadily to the aid of the Westroner pilgrims.  The column of wing-knights was magnificent - the wind blowing through the wings and bells at the backs of the knights; the men at arms all bedecked in the silks and colors of the knights they served, and the bards of Scallen playing the mighty warpipes! The column was led by a paladin lord named Longlance Karew, from the City of Birds, and he had intelligences of the onslaught planned by the Walking Man.

The knights put the flesh-reavers to flight, and pursued them as far as their mighty warhorses would permit, attempting to kill as many of the abominations as possible.  The men-at-arms defended the farms and pilgrims, and the paladins with Longlance Karew pursued the Nyagam Worm-Smokers, who were shifting reality as they fled, and also the Illithids, and the monsters of chaos.  Longlance Karew, and his companion the Bluejay (a dextrous swordsman, who was rescued from a life of crime as a rogue by Longlance), pursued the Walking Man himself.  Long they rode in pursuit of this terrible evil, south, and further south, into the Holabrian mountains.  Pursuit through the mountains continued, even while the noble horses of Longlance and the Bluejay perished (legendary animals known as Black Dragon, and Trotter), they continued in pursuit, far south, untill they reached the Fircarran Peaks, and the lake at the source of the Two-Moons River.  Here, the Walking Man descended deep into the earth, into the ancient Old One dungeons of Spirran Deep.  Relying on the might of Longlance's magic sword Virtuos, and the marvelous magical flute of the Bluejay known simply as the Feather Flute, they were able to bring down part of the mountain on the entrance to Spirran Deep, trapping the Walking Man underground.  As far as the Archivists at Parn Tandalorn are concerned, that is where he remains until this day.

The tradition of the Wing-knights fighting against the Sun King barbarians in the south was not just a one time event, under the leadership of Longlance Karew.  Following this crusade, a number of knights out of Scallen, and some of the other Baronies, formed a loose association known as the Sunguard.  As it grew over the years, it became less a military order of knights, and more of an information and intelligence sharing association of Rangers.

Apr 12, 2013

Knights of Torisch - Knights of the Barony of Hogle

The Knights of Torisch are an order of knights that are headquartered in the First City, of the Barony of Hogle, in the
Shattered Plains.

They are allied with the Aublan Cat Riders.

Torisch of Ockett was the first Prince of the Granite Hold - the castle built by his Father (Sir Tuneyer of Ockett), the origin of the city and Barony of Hogle.  The name of the Barony comes from the name of Sir Tuneyer's family (technically, without his title from the Westron Lands, he would be Tuneyer Hogle; but he was also the lord of the Ockett Fiefdom, that he left when coming to settle the Valley).

Both Sir Tuneyer and  his son Torisch were of the Lass Indol people, and as such,they venerated the four goddesses of those people. In the early days of the migrate, before the understanding of the relationship of the Three Goddesses to the Valley, and the structure of the Church of the Three Goddesses become much more formalized, there were many who were worshippers of the Lass Indol goddesses.  Torisch himself was partial to Neuvirra Oss, the goddess of Spring and Planting.

When the extensive presence of evil creatures (as well as diabolical forces and curious sorcerous monsters left behind by the departed Old Ones) became known, it was decided that an order of questing knights would be formed in order to proactively find evil and vanquish it, before it became a threat to the new Barony and its land and holdings.  The young prince, strong of arms and admired by the fighting men of Sir Tuneyer, would be at the head of the order.

There were no orders of Paladins at the time, so the idea of holy knights of Neuvirra Oss was not in mind when Sir Torisch formed the order, but instead they became a large company of knights, having forsworn personal property, and loyalty to Sir Torisch instead.

The order exists to today, as an example of a non-church aligned order of knights that fighting men of the valley can be associated with.

From the earliest days of the order, however, they had a very important ally.  That was the friendship between the Knights and the Aublan Cat Riders.  These were a barbaric people, by Westron standards.  A group of nomadic clans, that did not build cities or permanent holdings, did not work metal, and did not have learning (either religious or magical).  They did, and still do, have a singular relationship with the great plains cats of the region.  These plains cats are similar to the great saber cats that sometimes roam down out of the Destriel Mountains (especially in the Darkearth Plains region, but really all across the north).  The plains cats, however, instead of the only the tawny color of the Saber cats, are sometimes orange or white and sometimes striped somewhat like a great tiger.  With their friendship with the Westroners, and especially the Knights of Torisch, the Cat Riders now had metal weapons and armor made available to them.  Gifts of this sort where enough to bond a Cat Rider for life.

The Cat Riders were a great ally to the Knights, and participated in a lot of quests and adventures with them. One of the main foes for both forces, however, are the cannibal-cultists of the vampire lands that emerge from the Caves at Groben.

The vampire lands are the name of an underground realm, peopled by cannibalistic human barbarians, and held in sway to a trio of vicious devils.  These poor souls are often thrust into the wars between the Gray Dwarf kingdom of Deep Delving and the vast Black Goblin Empire.  When pressures mount too high, migrating bands of the human cultists and barbarians will emerge, and have to be dealt with by the Knights and their Cat Rider allies.

In addition, the primitive men, the Oordut, who live in and around the icy upper levels of the Groben Caves, sometimes will frenzy (the shamen-chiefs of the Oordut are typically peaceful, but occasionally, for some inscrutable reason, they will begin attacking the more civilized lands around their own icy reaches), and this demands the attention of the Knights and the Cat Riders.  The very small Keepi-keepi people who dwell among the rocks scattered throughout the region are thought to be similar to the Oordut - except that they (the Keepi-keepi) are so much smaller.

The Cat Riders are known as the Aublan Cat Riders for the one thing in their culture that passes for
a permanent holding.  Usually the clans are divided up into two "nations" - the Northern Hunt, in the plains north of the King's Highway, and the Southern Pack, from the plains south of the King's Highway.  The whole region is referred to as the Aublan Valley.  Each summer, for a week before, and a week after the summer solstice, representative warriors from all the clans will gather at a particular spot of the King's Highway, on both sides of the mighty mound.  At the top of the mound, along the Highway, at this point, there is an ancient structure of the Old Ones.  It is a very tall alabaster tower, with a ringed round wall around it.  Written on the wall, in several locations, is the word Aublan. It stands in the middle of the mound of the King's Highway, dead center in the highway itself, with the road passing on either side.  There is neither gate nor door through the ringed wall, but inside there is an opening into the tower.  It is said to be the home to a curious race of dormant gargoyles, yet the rite of passage of a young member of the Cat Rider clans who want to become a clan chieftain, or a Khan of either the Northern Hunt or the Southern Pack, is that they must climb to the top of the tower of Aublan, awaken one of the alabaster gargoyles, and do battle with it.  It is not known what other secrets the tower of Aublan holds, but it might be worth exploring, by the brave and prepared.  But not when the massed clans of the Cat Riders have gathered for their summer ritual.

Apr 11, 2013

Jesting Birds - Encounter on the Tiazarr River

In the Nightside region of the Valley, where the Tiazarr river bows out to the east, almost reaching the Nell Nod forest, there is a very curious relationship among two animals that has developed.

The first is the Jesting Bird.  These are very large, but slim, flighless birds.  They can reach 10 or 12 feet in
height, and are very slender.  They spend their days, mostly, among the slender greywillow trees that grow in small clumps in the riparian earth on the eastern banks of the Tiazarr.  The Jesting Bird has long grayish legs, and a long grayish beak, and would blend in with the tall, smooth trunks of the greywillows, except for the very light colored plumage of the birds.  They vary in color, between white and very pale blue.  During cooler months, this will darken, the white becoming itself a dark gray (much darker than the bare gray branches of the greywillows), and the blue species becoming a dark blue.  This dark color only lasts for a few months, and when warm weather returns, the darker plumes are shed, and lighter ones replace them.  During this process, a light, airy fluff forms on the tails of the males, and it is used to attract the females.  The Jesting Birds are usually quite amiable, and will not be scared off too easily.  They will approach people and riding animals, and they make a strange koo-klucking noise while tilting their heads from side to side.  With their great height, they can look down on a person riding a horse quite easily.  Encountered in the environment they love so much between the banks of the Tiazarr and the Nell Nod, they are often in family groups of 2-12 adult birds, and depending on the time of year, could have half again as many chicks, ranging from two to six feet in height.

With the long thin beaks that they have, it would be natural to think that the Jesting Bird gets meals from the banks of the river - either burrowing creatures, or fish.  This is not true, but to see what the Jesting Bird eats, taking a look at the other animal that partners with it is a necessity.

In the same region of the Valley, there exists a small winged mammal.  It is very similar to a bat, and is
sometimes called the Fool's Bat.  The Archivists at Parn Tandalorn, certain rangers and druids, and other sages will refer to it, however, as the Cenotaph Bat.  These creatures are quite small, smaller than a human hand, even with their wings extended. And they fly almost silently, lacking the flap-flapping common to bats.  What makes them so dangerous is that they have a curious magical effect to their bite (it doesn't seem to be a physical poison, just some magical effect of the creature itself).  This effect will render the victim quite immobile for 1-4 turns (each turn, remember, being 10 minutes).  A saving throw vs. paralysis is allowed, but with a -2 - the effect is quite strong.  The Bats seem to feed off of the warmth and life force of warm blooded creatures, so once they paralyze a victim, a dozen or so bats will come and roost on the body.

Now, what makes the Cenotaph Bat so dangerous in concert with the Jesting Bird, is that the Bats tend to roost in the same Greywillows that the Birds often nest and graze near.  And when a victim comes near by (any mammal, human, demi-human, or humanoid will do), it is often set on by a half dozen or so (1d6 +2) of the Bats.  Once the Bats have had paralyzed the victim, and the body fills up with a dozen or so bats, then the Jesting Birds will come in.  The Jesting Birds, you see, are blood drinkers.  They will use their long beaks to pierce the paralyzed bodies, and begin draining blood.  Once they make a successful hit against the armor class of the paralyzed victim, they begin draining blood at the rate of 1 point of constitution per round.  Given the large size of the Birds, they can only manage to get 2 or 3 birds - at most - feeding off of a man-sized body at one time.  The worst aspect of this habit of the Jesting Bird, is that the victim, although paralyzed, is quite conscious and aware of what is happening during the entire ordeal...

The reason for the name of the Jesting Birds is that once they have drained a victim of all of its blood, then they will do a little strutting dance around the body, and sing a different song.  Rather than the usual "koo-kluck! koo-kluck!" that they do when just roosting or waiting for a meal, once they have fed then they will sing a song that goes "koo-Ha! koo-Ha! koo-Ha! Ha! Ha!".  It sounds, disconcertingly like laughter.

Name: Jesting Bird
No. Encountered: 2-12
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 80'
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 3
Attacks: 1 Kick, 1 Beak Stab (self defense)
Damage: 1-6 (kick); 1-4 (stab)
Save: F3
Morale: 9
Hoard Class:VI (remains on dead victims)
XP: 75
If the Jesting Bird successfully scores with a Beak Stab, then next round it will begin draining Constitution from the victim, 1 point at a time.  It takes 1 full week to recover a point of Constitution lost in this way, although a Cure Light Wounds will restore 1 point, and a Cure Serious Wounds will restore 1d6 points.

The Cenotaph Bats, on the other hand, are completely silent, all the time.  Especially when flying or hunting, however.

Name: Cenotaph Bats
No. Encountered: Swarm of 1d6+2 per mammal larger than a house pet.
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120' (fly)
Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 0 (1hp)
Attacks: 1
Damage: A successful hit does no damage, just requires a save vs Paralyzation.
Save: F1
Morale: 7
Hoard Class: None

Apr 10, 2013

Igo Umblar - Navigator of the Old Ones

Igo Umblar is probably best known today, when he is known at all, as the originator and constructor of the fabled Dungeons of Igo Umblar, located in the north among the River Jarls of the Storm King barbarians (near Icewall).  The Dungeons and the Icewall Steading are both located in the Darkearth Plains region, in the far, far north, near the Destriel Mountains (in fact, Icewall is pretty much at the edge of the Destriel Mountains).

Long ago, when even Ba'a Zarn was young, the Old Ones that peopled the world were hopeful that their ancient and elder gods, the elemental gods, would return to the world.  They did not have a regular religion, as such, but much of their pursuits revolved around contacting and communicating with their four elemental gods.  This involved long and intricate research and studies into magic, strange powers of the mind, understanding of the cosmic structure of the world and the spheres, and other forces that do not have a name today.

Notable and singular among the learned peoples of the Old Ones was Igo Umblar.  He was also called the Navigator.  Igo Umblar's gift was the construction of a cosmic flute, which when played, would create notes that not only could work great magic, but also could create resonances that went out past the sphere of this world, and touched the spheres of other worlds and realities.  In playing his flute - which he did at every dawn, at every starfall, and during every event of cosmic or natural consequence - Igo Umblar was sending out a signal for the elemental gods to navigate by, and to come to this world, returning to their people, the Old Ones.
Cosmic flute of Igo Umblar, with the captured star-being that is part of it

For millenia, Igo Umblar played his marvelous magical flute.  It was constructed out of wood from a bristlecone pine tree that was grown upside down from a floating stone (it is believed it was one of the stones circling the Earthroot at the City of Shadows).  Because the tree grew upside down, the wood from that tree has interesting properties in itself, but the notes that Igo Umblar plays were absorbed, changed, and let out loose again by the small captured star-being that was part of the flute.  The tiny magical creature would take the notes played by Igo Umblar, and turn them into the song of the elemental gods, singing and re-singing each note a thousand-thousand times in the space of the same instant, capturing those notes inside the magical wood of the flute, before letting out into the world.  The magical resonance is how the songs of Igo Umblar could reach out past the sphere of this world, into others.

While the Old Ones were certainly visited by many of the servitors and minions of the elemental gods, they never did return to this world.  Not yet.  However, once the Old Ones encountered the Elves and other folk of the Seely Court, and fought their war with them, Ba'a Zarn convinced Igo Umblar to use his flute to open up a road amongst the spheres, navigating a safe exodus out of the world for the Old Ones.  This was the last time the fabled flute of the star-being was played within this sphere, and the last time this reality resonated with the songs of Igo Umblar.

While he lived here, Igo Umblar dwelt in a magically constructed world underground, that he made with the amazing magic of his cosmic flute.  It was all underground, underneath what is now the massive Destriel Mountains glacier known as the Ice Father.  The underground realm had an entryway to the surface, through a massive castle in the ice and rock, but deep underground it contained amazing, magical dimensions.  Whole vast levels carved out of the rock and full of the stuff of other dimensions, other worlds.  In his magical astral contacts and wanderings, Igo Umblar did manage to contact and draw back many magical beings that were servitors to the elemental gods - the frenetic Gill'ios that worshiped the One beneath the Waves; the body-less star nomads that were mastered by their fear of the Lord of Fire; the mysterious thought-vampires of the Lady of the Air, and also the worm-maidens of the Earth Weaver.
Statue of Igo Umblar, constructed by one of the many magical races in his dungeon

These and many other creatures came back to live among the magic levels and domains in the Dungeons of Igo Umblar.  Many of these creatures came to regard Igo Umblar as a messianic figure, and were happy to serve him, in return for his bringing them out of service to the elemental gods.  Igo Umblar, whose goal was always contact and supplication of those very same gods, did not understand this.  But century after century of the paradox, and his mind began to crack.  In the end, it wasn't that all he did was to play his flute - all he COULD do was to play his flute.  The song took him over, and it was all there was left of him.  The last act he did, was when Ba'a Zarn came and begged him to sing out a path of exodus for the Old Ones away from the world-sphere that the Valley belongs to.

Flooded Keep of the Astromancer - Week of Adventures Location 8

This location was originally written up as part of the River Jarl steading in the Sildur Reaches, along the western shore of the Greywater, south near the Great River. The name of the steading is Northwind. The name of this location is the Flooded Keep of the Astromancer. It was location 8 (bonus location) in the Week of Adventure Locations.

Adventure Location: Southeast of the Northwind Steading, along the road to Na Kram, there is a vale next to the road that was once the home to a small castle, early Westroner construction, that housed a wizard who was very much interested in the goings on of the stars, the moons, and the other interesting bodies in the night sky.  It is said he was called Kassar Nabarns, but usually is referred to as the Astromancer.  At one point he made a lot of pronouncements concerning the deities of the Old Ones, and even sent off for some of the Archivists of Parn Tandalorn to come and visit and review his knowledge that he was amassing.  Before that occurred, however, he was visited by an angry wizard - some say a necromancer - who led an army of dead warriors.  There was, of course, a wizard's duel between the two, and their followers and guards.  Something happened to the astronomer, and his whole home, vale and all, were subjected to a deluge of waters.
Remaining castle tower of Kassar Nabarns, the astronomer
 Only the topmost tower of castle remains above water, but it is widely rumored that the whole area (lake, tower, vale) are haunted by a number of beings.  Depending on which alehouse you frequent, these beings vary from ghosts of the slain, to lake devils summoned to protect the tower and its contents.  The Archivists of Parn Tandalorn never did arrive (they heard about the duel before traveling this far north), but who knows what knowledge or magic the astronomer was able to amass in his castle?  All before being beaten by the necromancer. [This is location 8 in the finally finished Week of Adventure Locations].

Roaming House of the Elkmen King - Week of Adventures Location 7

In the wide and open Fields of Aton of the Sildur Reaches, east of the Greywater River, there is a nomadic tribe of people that have merged with a roaming great herd of Giant Elk.  There, moving across the Fields of Aton, is the site of this adventure location - the Roaming House of the King of the Elkmen.  This was originally described as part of the River Jarl setting, in the writeup of the Steading of Mead Hall.  It was Location number 7 in the Week of Adventure Locations.

Adventure Location: East of Mead Hall, out across the Fields of Aton, between the Greywater River, and the Barony of Na Kram, roam the Mongrelbeast Herds.  These are herds of giant elk, as found in other regions of the valley north of the Great River, but the herds here have been affected by some foul strain of Old One magic.  A long time ago, a savage primitive people, similar to the Sword People north of the King's Highway in the same region, would wander and travel with the Giant Elk herds that have been trapped south of the King's Highway, since it was constructed.  These people, called the Elkmen, would wander with the herds, culling some now and again for food and skins, but mostly living with them in peace, and for protection.  The Elkmen had semi-domesticated some of the beasts to pull their great wheeled huts.  The king of the Elkmen lived in a massive giant wheeled hut called the Roaming House.

Giant Elk, roaming the Fields of Aton during winter.

However, at some point, something occurred to merge the the Elkmen with the Elks.  Now the herd consists of Giant Elks, Elkmen, and all manner of merged beings with attributes of both.  This includes, giant Elkmen, with the heads of elks; centaur-Elkman type mixed animals; giant elks with arms and hands sprouting out of their shoulders; Elks with Elkman type heads - all sorts of mixes.  These mixed beings are called Mongrelbeasts, and are barely tolerated by the tribe.  It is widely believed that the source of the magic that caused this change is an artifact of the Old Ones, and it is kept in the Elkman king's Roaming House.  In addition to merging the two beings - the Elkmen and the giant elks - into the Mongrelbeasts, the change also granted some of them fearsome magical powers, such as the ability to sound a horrid baying noise that has the power to kill, or a hoary breath that melts metal.  Each individual Mongrelbeast is completely chaotic and unpredictable.