Heroes of the New Day
A Bard's Tale
These are summaries of the various legends and stories you may have heard bards singing about in the taverns. Some may be truth, some may be fiction, some may lead you to items of great value, some may lead you to certain death. Take from these what you will. Also, should you choose to quest after any of the items, locations, or individuals described here, I do actually have potential adventures ready for each one. Of course, some are aimed at levels that may be WAY beyond where you’re at now; but maybe we can scale some, or maybe it’ll just take you a really long time to get there. It should be noted that the information below is not fact. For that stuff, you need training in History, Religion, Arcana, or Nature… but these tales have persisted for so long that they are often better-known than the actual “truth” of what really happened, so maybe they’ve become their own flavor of “true”. At least it’s true that they keep the bards employed.
And speaking of bards, check out the (currently under-construction) page I’ve started on music styles in this world.
Many of these tales may relate to mysteries & quests that are listed on the newly-created Quests & Mysteries page. There may even be some answers that can be figured out. If what you’re looking for isn’t here, check out the INDEX.
When the Arkhosian Empire was first united from the disparate dragonborn tribes of the northwest, their first emperor, Borysnikov Tyriskova, was known by all to be the strongest, most powerful Dragon Sorcerer on the planet (though see also “Borys the Butcher”, below). Some say he taught magic to dragons, rather than just channeling the power of dragons through a sorcerous connection. He crafted and wore 10 rings of power (and yes, everyone who knows anything about magic items realizes that shouldn’t have worked), each of which was said to contain the essence of magic associated with a different dragon type… 5 from the metallic dragons, 5 from chromatic. There is occasionally debate on which particular dragon type was associated with any given ring, but the general powers of the rings were similar, boosting breath weapon attacks of the type that matched the dragon’s type, granting enhanced communication skills with the associated dragon type, and enabling the wearer to declare the glory of the Empire to all who could hear. It is said that the Emperor lent a ring out to particular generals, scouts, and ambassadors when they were sent on missions of high importance, though it is also said that he could innately feel where in the world each ring was.
After his death (about which very little is written… he sort of just retired & disappeared from public life), the rings remained, and were said to have been given to the 10 founding families that supported Tyriskova in his initial bid for power… the 10 families that headed the largest tribes that made up Arkhosia. Some say the Emperor put some of his own essence into the rings, and that if anyone were to bring them together again, they would reveal many of the universe’s secrets that only he knew. But since the days of the Great Cataclysm, only scant tales have been told about finding individual rings. While they would be an impossibly valuable collection to own, it is unlikely that anyone will ever possess them all.
There are rumors that the Yuan-Ti, the snakelike mutations of normal races, are created by a set of evil artifacts of the assassin god Zehir… the 13 Coins of Killing. Each is said to contain the soul and essence of one of Zehir’s exarchs, and each is said to have the ability to corrupt a region, making anyone with an inkling of killing more likely to become an assassin, and making bodies of the weak-minded or particularly killing-minded warp into Yuan-Ti. There are many stories of heroes fighting against infestations like this, only to grab a coin themselves and then have to struggle personally with the corrupting energies. Some tales of the dragonborn hero Arnd list this as his final fate, while some dwarven tales talk of how these coins are buried deep in the ground, hidden by Dumathoin for the good of all.
In-game, the party experienced one of these coins at the monastery in Dambrath, and the Popess of Light took it into her custody. It likely is still in a vault somewhere in the Palace of the Sun in Solaria, overseen by the new Pope.
Just as Nerath was falling, a Mithral dragon named Aelmedrion was hatching. His egg had been protected for its 50 year gestation by an order of paladins located in a monastery of Erathis in the northeast of the empire, and he quite easily took to their ideals of law and order (as most mithrals do). As the Nerathi forces fell to the undead armies of Atramor, and Aelmedrion’s paladin companions were slaughtered by an army of wight blackguards, Aelmedrion got a crazy idea (or just went crazy, according to some stories)… use the undead’s power against them. Aelmedrion took the forbidden books sealed away in the vaults of the monastery and learned necromancy, then raised up all his fallen paladin allies to fight as his own undead army. It is said that they actually made some progress, for a time… though there was so much chaos in those days that it is hard to be certain. It was not a good long-term situation, though, and soon it became clear that Aelmedrion would fail at the task of pushing back the forces of Atramor. In his final military act, he and his undead paladins charged pursuing forces, slowing them down so that fleeing Nerathi could escape (and eventually head north, where they’d gather together to create Pax Humana). It is unknown what happened to Aelmedrion, though most assume he died horribly. Some say his ghost still haunts the plains of the Nentir Vale, though others say that it is nothing more than the wind…
There are tales that in the days before the Great Cataclysm, the very fiber of magic was different in the world. It was not as fleeting as it is now, and spell effects lasted longer. In nowhere was this more evident than in the great fleets of airships, magical boats that flew through the sky with magic. On these ships, great humanoid nations waged war in the skies, taking down flights of dragons and filling the sky with their own glory. The Wind Mages, the legendary creators of the Rod of Seven Parts (see below), each had fleets of airships prior to the cataclysm. And just as with modern-day wizardry schools, there were even different schools of airship design: Dwarves who used Levi-stones, Gnomes who devised technomantic machinery, Elves who grew living crafts with flapping wings and bulbous gas chambers, tieflings whose infernal sky chariots left trails of fire across the clouds, and even dragonborn who reined-in wyverns or smaller dragons to pull their air sleds made of star metals.
All of that changed when the Cataclysm hit, though.
While no one knows exactly what happened, the shockwaves across the magical Weave and dimensional borders were felt everywhere. The various powerful magics used to create sustaining flight suddenly weakened, so that they required constant feeds of magical components (residuum) to keep the power going constantly. This has severely limited any attempts at sustained flight. While some large chunks of rocks, known as earth motes, have begun floating since the cataclysm, no sage can agree what energy it is that keeps those “islands” aloft, and certainly none can recreate them. So these days, tales of sky ships and air vessel fleets are mere fancy, floating on the breezes of distant memory like leaves on the wind.
In the days just before Ionia became a nation, it was a collection of mining operations. One such mine was owned by a wealthy mine baron… a human who had more money than compassion. In the taverns after hours, his workers would complain of the harsh conditions, the lack of appreciation, and the frustration of doing back-breaking labor for another’s benefit. Loudest among these complainers (perhaps because they were often the drunkest) were the dwarves. One night, their dragonborn, human, and goliath companions told them to actually do something instead of complaining all the time.
And do something they did. A group of 3 dwarves went into the caves with a human, a dragonborn, and a goliath (all drinking buddies of theirs), seeking their own mother lode of ore. Instead, they found Lolth-bound goblins and giant spiders. Using their dwarven knowledge of dungeoneering and spelunking, they were able to craft traps and weaponry that defeated the foes. Looting the corpses, all in their party realized that adventuring was a much more lucrative trade than mining ever would be (even if it was a bit more dangerous). As the six continued their delves deeper and deeper underground, and eventually into the Underdark, the dwarves realized that their allies were at a distinct disadvantage: they weren’t dwarves. Eventually they three gathered together to try and brainstorm a fix to this problem, and eventually came up with a set of items that would work together to make their companions more dwarf-like. Those magical formulae have since found their ways into the spellbooks of many a dwarven mage, and into the schematics of many a dwarven smith… but whenever this set is made (or collected), it still goes by the name of the original group that commissioned its existence: The Aleheart Companions’ Gear.
[OOG Note: see set items “Aleheart Companions’ Gear,” AdvVault2, p. 94. Armor of Dwarven Vigor (chain,scale,plate armor), Clear Blood Baldric(waist), HammerShield(any shield,arms), Rousing Hammer(hammer). Also, there are swordshield/rousing sword and axeshield/rousing axe versions of the set available, too.]
[performed to the tune of Billy Joel’s ‘Always a Woman’] It should be noted that certain bards replace “Umberlee” in this song with “The Bitch Queen”, usually while playing the tune in a harsher manner.
She can kill with a storm, she can wound with her waves
She can ruin your faith about good fishing days
And she only reveals what she wants you to see
She takes like a child, but she’s always Umberlee to me
She can lead you to love, she can take you or leave you
She can leave you shipwrecked, and might never retrieve you
And she’ll take what you give her as long it’s free
Yeah, She steals like a thief, but she’s always Umberlee to me
Ohhh… she takes care of herself
She can wait if she wants, she’s ahead of her tides
Ohhh… and she seldom gives out
And she never gives in, she just changes her mind
And she’ll promise you more than the kingdom of Cormyr
Then she’ll carelessly drown you and laugh while she’s stormin’
But she’ll bring out the best and the worst you can be
Blame it all on yourself ‘cause she’s always Umberlee to me
She’s occasion’ly kind and then suddenly cruel
She can do as she pleases, she’s nobody’s fool
And she can’t be ignored, but she’s earn’d your prayed pleas
And the most she will give you is life on the seas,
But she’s always Umberlee to me.
It is relatively well-known that the creatures called Deva do not die and pass on as normal mortals do. Instead, they reincarnate as someone else in someplace else. The details of this process are known only to them, but generally the newly reincarnated deva loses much of the memory of her previous life, and has to build-up a new life while remembering only bits and pieces of the past one. One Deva, Anohk, decided this was not for him. Though he served Ioun in life as an Invoker of Knowledge, Anohk became convinced that he had at one time been an angel to Ohgma, the fallen goddess of Truth (from whom Ioun received her power in the Dawn War). As Anohk approached old age, he began to fear the forgetfulness of reincarnation, and steeled his soul to subvert the process. As an Invoker, he wielded raw divine energy, and he arranged contingency spells to affect his soul at the moment of his death. Finally, as he felt his life force failing, he said a prayer to Ioun, explaining what he intended to do. Whether or not Ioun blessed this plan is unknown, but something strange happened anyway.
Anohk awoke after death, but not as a deva. He was one of the rare creatures known as a Revenant, and he had no memory of who he had been. Throughout the course of his new pseudo-life as a chaos sorcerer, he had many hints of who he had been, but it wasn’t until he remembered how to access his memory of a thousand lifetimes that his past came fully back to him. From that time forward, he became a being who sought out Knowledge where ever he could find it, and has become known as a true Sage of the Ages, able to answer questions about virtually any topic of the past. Finding him is another matter, as it is said he moves to guard unfound troves of Knowledge from evil forces. But should you ever happen into a lost library, he may very well be waiting at the lending desk, ready to stamp your card, the Deva who stopped reincarnating. [Of course, many Deva will decry this story and the idea of Anohk as heresy to all that it means to be Deva, so be careful where you tell this story.]
High in the mountains around what used to be Arkhosia there is said to be a peak known as the Hoarfrost Mountain, wherein lives a great silver dragon warrior named Sephitherax. Sephitherax judges the greatest dragonborn warriors who climb to his castle, and those he deems worthy are inducted into the Argentum Alliance, a worldwide group dedicated to the ideals of the Dragonborn hero Arnd: protect the weak, end injustice, give aide to those in danger, and give death to those who would do evil. Supposedly, Sephitherax was a wyrmling when Arnd walked the world, and they became allies for a time before Arnd’s strange disappearance (see below). But there are many tavern tales of the selflessness and valor of the Agents of Argentum, equating them with divine emissaries, paragons of goodness, and four-color comic book heroes. This tales are quite popular in the west of the continent, especially in the regions around the former Arkhosia.
In one of the few stories of ancient Arkhosia to maintain popularity, this tale is still sung in taverns the world over (though often taverns with high adventurer and/or dragonborn patronages.
As the tale typically goes, an evil (tiefling) wizard named Virtos was seeking to rule the land, but was fearful of attack from his enemies. He ransacked several temples of good gods (often this is told as “he fiendishly sneak-attacked temples of Bahamut, killing the guards in their sleep and/or holding orphans hostage to force the priests to obey him”) and forced the priests into slavery. He had a suit of armor crafted, and he demanded that the priests enchant it to make it invulnerable. Virtos then summoned a great demon warrior (whose name may have been Belgos or Tan’nar or something else entirely… the tales vary), clad the demon in this new armor, and made it his champion.
The demon ravaged the land at Virtos’ bidding, slaughtering armies without suffering any wounds. What the demon and Virtos did not know, however, was that the priests had done more than enchant the armor… they had put their prayers into it, and the gods (or sometimes just Bahamut) had heard, giving the armor sentience. While it served its wearer as an epic suit of armor, deep down it had a desire to overthrow tyrants like Virtos and be worn by a true hero of legend.
A young dragonborn page named Arnd went with the human paladin he served to fight against Virtos’ demon, to avenge the fallen temples and free the priests. They charged the demon, the paladin atop his steed, with Arnd riding behind on his pack mule. Though the paladin fought bravely, he could not stand against a foe so great as the demon. As he fell, Arnd found himself standing alone against the demon warrior. As the fell beast swung its flaming maul down at Arnd in a killing blow, Arnd found that the blow did not damage him. Looking down, he saw that he was wearing the demon’s armor, which was reshaping itself to fit him. Arnd was still knocked to the ground, but he found himself uninjured. Picking up the sword of his fallen paladin lord and rising to fight the demon. The battle was epic, and lasted, depending on the tale, a full day and night or up to a week. Eventually, though, the demon was defeated, and as it died, it called out to its master, Virtos. As a haze of brimstone and evil smoke coalesced above the demon’s body, though, Arnd struck his sword into it, so that Virtos’ chest materialized on the blade. The impaled Virtos looked helplessly at the hero who had defeated him and before he died asked in incredulity “How?” Arnd replied “Insert Catchphrase Here”. What he actually said varies by the bard telling the tale, but it’s usually something about righteousness, justice, or how the power of Bahamut cannot be commanded to serve evil.
Arnd himself has many other heroic tales as he became a great hero of Arkhosia. No one knows what eventually happened to him… some think he died in the Great Cataclysm, others think he serves at the side of Bahamut in the celestial realms. Tales of the Invulnerable Coat of Arnd persist, though, and rumors of this artifact armor cannot be silenced.
While red dragons are never easy to ignore, few have reputations as great as Ashardalon, an ancient Red Wyrm that has supposedly been alive since the Great Cataclysm itself. Rumored to be Tiamat’s Red Exarch, head of her Red Wing, and lord of all Red Dragons, it is difficult to determine what is legend and what is fact when sorting through stories of this horrifically evil dragon. There are rumors that members of the Church of Kord convinced Ashardalon to help them attack the Dragovar Empire just for the fun of it, which helped to tip the scales against Bane’s nation. It is also rumored that the entire Cinderscar Valley is a result of Ashardalon’s rampage. Some say he is a demon dragon, or that he made a deal/defeated a demon lord to gain immortality. Of course, no precise data on his current whereabouts has emerged for more than 500 years, so maybe he’s dead, or maybe he’s off in some fiery realm of his own, or maybe he was never more than a legend to begin with. Ashardalon’s horde is a common location in other tales for long-lost artifacts, including the Rod of Seven Parts and many items forged by the gods themselves. There are some who theorize that “Ashardalon” was actually a group of Red Dragons, all operating under the same name (and they all look alike to burning peasants), trying to build up fear. There are others who say that the original Ashardalon gave all of his children his name, so that his legacy would continue. There are also some who say that Ashardalon died when the Great Cataclysm happened, and became some kind of Dracolich who has continued since then (explaining his impossible age).
Stories of Atalantea are many and varied. What is known for sure is that it used to be a great continent, or maybe an island, that was off in the eastern ocean… or maybe the western… or maybe the middle of what became the Great Sea of Cataclysm… or maybe somewhere else entirely. What is known for sure is that it was full of great Evocationists… or maybe necromancers… or Invokers who challenged the gods… or maybe the fabled Wind Lords who created the Rod of Seven Parts… or maybe extraplanar beings. But the one absolutely positive thing that everyone agrees upon is that it fell into the ocean… or was disintegrated… or got pulled into the Abyss… or maybe flew off to another world… or maybe it’s a sentient island that just moves around and is invisible. But at least everyone can agree on the name: Atalantea, and the fact that if you had some hard data about what was going on there, you’d be pretty awesome. Also, there’s probably something or things there that are amazingly powerful (below are some sample legends)…
Atalantea, the Gnomish Invention Atalantea was a great island full of tinkerer gnomes. They built the most wondrous constructs and devices, until one day their devices turned on them, and the elder gnomes had no choice but to blow the island up to keep their mechanical wonders from destroying the world.
Atalantea, Foes of Umberlee Atalantea was an island full of powerful water sorcerers who ensured the prosperity of the fishermen and traders by forcing the ocean to be calm all around the island. This angered Umberlee, who destroyed all traces of the island in a massive tidal wave that crushed every stone and slaughtered every life on the island.
Atalantea, World Beneath the Waves Atalantea was full of arcanists who practiced forbidden extraplanar rituals. Eventually, they discovered strange natural portals to other worlds (effectively, wormholes). Summoning one of these portals, they accidentally sucked the entire island through it, and the only vestige of connection is somewhere deep in the ocean where the portal once appeared. And now the descendants of those initial arcanists can only look to the alien sky of where ever they ended up and see images of the ocean where their island once floated.
Atalantea, the Twilight Kingdom Atalantea is where Sehanine fell during a fight in the Dawn War. Her blood splattered all over the island, though her brother Corellon was able to save her life. However, the island now exists only under the light of the full moon, when Sehanine shines down and remembers the island that broke her fall from the heavens.
Tiefling culture, like many others, is not without it’s end-time stories. The word “Atomos”, to tieflings, is synonymous with “apocalypse”, and usually describes a being of some sort of inherent contradiction who will bring about the end of the world, either by enacting a forbidden ritual, or leading an army of demons across the land, or killing the gods, or destroying all the dragonborn, or becoming a huge ultra-demon, or eating the sun, or something else very bad. Various evil tiefling warlords & warlocks through the ages have taken the name “Atomos” as an honorific to try and strike fear in the hearts of their enemies, though (obviously) none of these has successfully brought about the end of the world. The odd thing, though, is that it is rumored that for some reason demons fear to say the word, and their hesitation has given some weight to the end-of-days stories about someone bearing this name.
This is basically a D&D version of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. Scrooge’s race varies, depending on the bard, but generally he starts off following the teachings of a lost sub-cult of an Erathan priest named Ferignar, who said that finance was the key to civilization. Scrooge becomes a head among the Ferengi, and lives a miserable life with no joy (but lots of money). He learns of an inheritance he needs to claim from a dead business partner (Marley) west of Farmville, and begins a journey that teaches him the value of his fellow man, and of caring for those around him instead of the money in his pockets. By the time he reaches the site of the inheritance, it is actually atop Avandra’s Plateau, and Scrooge makes the climb, where he meets Marley’s ghost and completes his transition into a follower of Avandra. When he descends, he makes a point to constantly give away his riches to those who need them, and is frequently blessed ten-fold in return. Some dragonborn skalds tell this story with Scrooge starting as a tiefling, then becoming a dragonborn when he returns from the plateau, while elvish bards will have Scrooge start as a Drow (or sometimes a dwarf) and return as an elf or eladrin. There’s also a variant of this story (often told by female bards) where Scrooge begins as a satyr who sleeps with women and uses them before leaving them with nothing, then ends as a caring person who realizes that a heart is a precious thing to be cared for, and that a woman’s virtue is not something to be taken lightly. In this variant, Scrooge meets many of the souls of prostitutes and other women he’s slept with who died of broken hearts and/or in misery after he left them.
This is a very uncommon tale, but a persistent one, always told by Deva bards. The story is always varied, depending on the deva telling it, because different flickers of memory float in the heads of different deva who were there. The basic idea, though, is that just after the dawn war, the deva came into being. Whether they were created by the gods or were fallen angels of dead gods or or were the essence of a fallen god or were some other weird side-effect of magic the gods and/or primordials used is unclear exactly, but many of them gathered together to create their own civilization. They all had troubling dreams and deja-vus in their lives, and they all somehow knew that they had once been something else. So they gathered together to try and remember together. They wrote their memories down. They prayed to the god of Knowledge to give them guidance. They interviewed other ancient beings. They experimented with memory-enhancing herbs and hallucinogens. Nothing gave them a 100% clear answer, though. They formed different camps around different theories of their origin. The massive city of Ayrkashna Prime was a marvel, though the architects did not have any one unified style to draw from. Each sculpted his buildings after what he remembered buildings should look like, and certain groups of deva gravitated towards those areas that felt most familiar. It is said that “Xanadu destroyed Ayrkashna,” but what that means exactly is also unclear. Most interpret this to mean that Xanadu was a nation of Rakshashas that attacked Ayrkashna, and the two societies destroyed one another. Others have said that Xanadu was a nickname of a disease that killed off most of the nation, or that Xanadu was a leader of some sort who either lead deva away from Ayrkashna or killed them. There are as many stories about what happened as there are deva telling them.
Many a deva, though, has dedicated several lifetimes at least searching for the lost library of Ayrkashna. Therein are the memories of the first deva, and likely the key to understanding the mysteries of reincarnation, existence, and divinity inherent in the deva people. It is said that there are artifacts in this world, called the Armor of Ayrkashna, which will lead a Deva to the lost library… but they are either myths or have been lost so long that none would know them if they had them. [NOTE: See set item “Ayrkashna Armor”, AV2 p.112: Weapon of Evil Undone(weap), Helm of Vision Unclouded(head), Crest of Vigilance Eternal(arm/shield), Armor of Essence Inviolate(armor), Sash of Vitality Ceaseless(waist)]
Those close to forests know better than to speak her name too loudly, but the archfey known as Baba Yaga is perhaps the wisest, or perhaps the craziest, or perhaps the most powerful witch in the known worlds. Some say she is the first witch, or that when witches die, she gets a piece of their power. Some wizards of the witch persuasion even offer tribute to her and/or worship her. But the powerful creature known as Baba Yaga (“Baba” is a term of respect for a village wise-woman in a language older than Draconic, though Draconic did adopt the term with a similar meaning. Don’t listen to the Commoninguists who claim it just means “grandma”). Anyhow, this powerful creature is known to travel from plane to plane, often near large forests, collecting magical curios and following an agenda of her own. Some say she eats children. Others say she defends the forest. Others say she has enchanted her home to dance around on chicken legs to some mad tune only she can hear. There are those who say she was present at the Great Cataclysm, and knowing those horrors drove her crazy. Others say that some god of madness died in the Dawn War, and where that god’s blood fell on the forest, Baba Yaga rose up. Still others say that if interacted with properly (and carefully), one might even manage to bargain with the mad witch of the dancing house. None can say for sure. Her appearance is alternately described as a horrifically old hag or a beautiful (if eccentric) young woman (Lady GaGa).
NOTE: This tale is always told during a frenetic song that includes lots of choruses where listeners (often children) are encouraged to spin and dance around wildly. But no matter which bard or which instrument, it’s always the same tune.
This is a tale often told to young kids having nightmares. It involves a creature (or sometimes creatures) called Baku, who travels the dream realms looking for nightmares to eat. Legend says that these creatures used to be more plentiful, but the Great Cataclysm trapped many in parts of the Feydark that they could not escape from… or maybe there are just so many nightmares there that have become bloated and never leave. In any case, there are several nursery rhyme/lullabies about the Baku eating away all the bad dreams so that nothing but pleasant sleep remains.
Centuries before the Great Cataclysm, a horrific beast rampaged through the area now known as the Verge Wilderness. It slaughtered the city of Talgora, and killed many heroes who tried to stop it. In a hunt that lasted decades, a group labeled “The Black Call”, a rare combination of wizards from Bael Turoth, warriors from Arkhosia, and druids from Illefarn, hunted the creature and slowly wore it down. When they finally slayed it, the creature crashed down dead on the banks of Melora’s Womb, sending ripples of its bestial energy across the lake. After the Great Cataclysm, though, something caused the creature to rise again. It is now thought to be an undead creature that rampages through the Verge Woods, slaughtering indiscriminately. The Beast has been called by many names… “Tarrasque”, “Dragon-Eater”, “Primordials’ Hound”, and even “Godbane”… but the more simple name, The Beast of Talgora, is enough to send chills down the spines of any who know of it.
It is said that some time ago Murasume, the exarch of Kord, walked the eastern nations, seeking a companion who could stand up to him in battle. He defeated all who stood against him in combat, until one day he met a goliath woman who stood in his way as he walked to the next scheduled fight. He asked her to move, and she only smiled at him. He tried to walk around her, but she moved to block the path. He tried to move her out of the way, but she would not budge. And yet she would not stop smiling. After several failed attempts, their interaction turned into a bit of a wrestling match, which turned into an all-out melee. However, the woman would not strike back at Murasume, only turn aside his blows and remain unmoved by his advances. They fought for a week straight, but Murasume could not overcome the smiling, silent goliathess.
Finally, when strength finally left Kord’s General, he opened his mouth to admit defeat to this immovable woman warrior. However, she did not let his lips form the words, but instead occupied them with her own. That night, thunder rang in the mountains and the earth trembled. Nine months later, an elderly monk at a shrine to Kord heard a knocking at his door late one night. As he opened it, he found an infant girl in a basket, with a note in Primordial asking that she be taught the ways of the Father of Battle.
The girl, Bhavani, took to the teachings quite naturally. She was quite skilled in combat, but her true genius appeared at the forge. It is said that many of the named blades wielded by warriors of legend over the past century or two were forged by her hammer, tempered in her fires. Few have seen Bhavani recently, though reports generally agree that she probably retired to a hermit’s life somewhere out-of-the-way.
The rumors of her lineage, though, are the stuff of legend. Many goliaths believe that the immobile goliath woman, Bhavani’s mother, was an avatar of Adamanta, their goddess of stone and strength. Though the child was not immortal herself, her skill at the forge remained almost divine. The quality of her blades was withouth equal. She is often considered a saint among the Goliath population of Borovia, where her forge was located. Though she shunned those who would worship her, there still arose cults of goliath kensei warriors who saw their blades as holy relics from their goddess’s daughter. Then there were the Kordians who sought Bhavani’s blades as proof of Kord’s blessing upon their military endeavors. And there was even a very small group of dwarves and goliaths who, despite her personal denials, put forth that Bhavani was a new goddess of military hardware.
Local legends about her still abound, but the last blade she is known to have crafted was forged more than 60 years ago, and was wielded by the Human Rogue Mirt, a member of the Wheels of Progress and once-rumored Lord of Waterdeep, as he and his companions helped to clear out the undead threats in the shattered kingdom of Atramor, then assaulted Dragon Mountain, freeing the nation of Ionia.
One of the greatest heroes of Nerath was the wizard Bigby, who focused on force-related conjurations. Most arcane schools these days utilize his spells and theories in their teachings, and many of those spells involve hands (Interposing Hand, Crushing Fist, etc). Personality-wise, Bigby was more of a “let’s separate everyone and talk things out” person than a direct combatant, but he didn’t shy away from using his powers to isolate enemies who were then slain by archers or other attackers. It is said that he died defending Nerath from the vampire lord Atramor, and the way the tales of that battle typically go, Atramor’s ability to turn to mist and/or shadow allowed him to get past Bigby’s many interposing defenses. It is unknown what happened to Bigby’s body and personal effects, though they were likely looted and used by the undead lords of the kingdom of Atramor once Nerath fell.
In the world of bounty hunters, there are many names that come and go. One that has persisted over the past 5 years or so, though, has been “The Black Hand”, and the stories about him seem to be popular because of their variety. In most tales he’s a dwarf, and in most he’s a decent person hunting down evil criminals… but no one seems to have a consistent story of how he got the signature limb from which he takes his name. Here are a few varieties of the origin story:
- Black Hand was a cleric of Moradin who plunged his hand into molten metal to receive a dwarven artifact that was trapped there, which eternally turned his hand into metal.
- Black Hand is actually a Warforged who has figured out how to (mostly) become a dwarf.
- Black Hand is a powerful monk who has punched so many armored men that his fist took on the qualities of the metal he was punching.
- Black Hand was unjustly imprisoned (alt story: he went into prison on purpose to track down a foe), and the metal that now makes up his hand is what was left of the bars of his cell after he called down the fury of whatever god he was serving (some say Kord, some say Moradin, some even say Bahamut).
- Black Hand actually doesn’t have a metal hand at all, but just wears a glove to trick criminals into fearing him.
- Black Hand’s metal arm case actually hides the Hand of Vecna.
While these stories (and more) can hardly all be true, what is true is that the tales of the heroic hunts undertaken by The Black Hand always play well in taverns. And since no nation has officially claimed him as their own, this is another tale that’s great to turn into a “hometown hero” story of whatever region you’re performing in.
While dragonborn will speak endlessly about the glories of old Arkhosia, the tieflings have a different tale to tell. The few tiefling accounts that remain of the early days of Arkhosia tell of its first emperor, Borysnikov Tyriskova, and his nickname: Borys the Butcher. Tieflings will claim that he gained his power not through skill or personal advancement, but by slaughtering tiefling warlocks and sorcerers and stealing their souls and magical powers. Some go so far as to say that the warlocks of the Infernal Pacts were driven to consort with demons in the hope of finding a force strong enough to stand against the “Dragon of Tyr”. As to where his power came from… accounts are unclear. Most label him as a sorcerer, but his power levels seem to surpass those of any known sorcerers then or since. Maybe he was a Chosen of Bahamut (or an Exarch), but even that would seem to fall short of the power of his legends. Some say he found a pool of Io’s blood, left over from the Dawn War, and bathed in or drank it. Others say he slew all of Tiamat’s Exarchs, taking their power in addition to his own. Then again, maybe his legends are just bigger because they’re older than most other legends
[This popular song is sung to the tune of a sea shanty/Irish ditty and occasionally has other verses thrown in, though all are about boosting arcane power with a circle of wizards. Many who sing it are too drunk to pay attention to the actual lyrics, in the same way that soccer moms sing along to 3rd Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life” without realizing it’s about excessive drug use & sex with anonymous partners.]
When I was just a first year student
I was scolded and beat by me master
So I decided to raise a skeletal army
T’prove me worth to that old bastard
But when I walked onto that battlefield
And called darkness with me power full
The only bones that animated
Was a single, loud-mouthed skull.
And he said…
Get a Circle of Wizards to increase your power
Yo, Ho! Raise them all up!
You’ll have a full legion in less than an hour
Yo, Ho! Raise them all up!
You, ho ho ho, and raise them all up!
The skull said in life his name was Bob
And he soon became me bonny familiar
But 2 years later while out in the field
He suggested something quite peculiar
A family of dragons was slaughtering towns
Laying waste to all the lands
But Bob told me chums not to hide, don’t be glum
Stand tall and link yer hands!
And he said…
Get a circle of wizards to boost your casting
Yo, Ho! Dragons will fall!
Peasants will be so grateful, they’ll make you their king
Yo, Ho! Dragons will fall!
Yo, ho ho ho, all dragons will fall!
Years passed and I grew and became an arch mage
And Bob once again did speak
“You should kill yer old master and take all his power
Show that bastard it’s him who’s weak."
So I raised up me dead friends to make a full ring
Once again we called powers eldritch
But Bob in our center looked up to the tower
And said master’d become a lich.
But he said…
You’ve a circle of wizards so burn the lich down
Yo, Ho! Burn the lich down!
You can take all his power and wear his dark crown
Yo, Ho! Burn the lich down!
Yo, ho ho ho, and burn the lich down!
Down the hall from the Great Purple Dragon Chamber in the Cormyrean capital of Suzail is the Shrine of Swords, where the 4 legendary Cormyrea Swords of State are held. These blades were owned, created, and/or wielded by some of the most famous Kings in Cormyr’s history, and are national treasures used in state ceremonies. Though many a thief has made an attempt (and occasionally succeeded) at stealing one or more of the blades, the Crown has always worked to get them back, sometimes by paying ransoms, sometimes by sending soldiers, sometimes by hiring adventurers to “get the job done.”
The four blades are: (1) Ansrivaar, Blade of Memory, said to hold the history of the kingdom within itself; (2) Orbyn, Edge of Justice, letting a wielder detect any lie and apprehend any criminal; (3) Rissar, the Wedding Blade, oaths made upon it cannot be broken; and (4) Symylazarr, Font of Honor, which can show any guilty soul a path to redemption.
There are also rumors of 2 other Royal Blades that have been lost to the ages. They are Ilbratha, the Maiden of Battle, a blade that can grant any general victory; and Shiningbite, the Drake’s Tooth, the hilt of which is composed of two of the teeth of the ancient wyrm Eardynn, and infused with a great power to slay dragons. Ilbratha was lost when a ship sank in the eastern ocean some 300 years ago, though rumors of it being wielded by various heads of sea kingdoms have persisted. Shiningbite disappeared 200 years ago, when the great Warrior Queen of Cormyr, Gantharla, lead a force of purple dragon knights into the Hordelands, but happened into a warren of Giants who had recently set-up in the hills there. Whether the giants still have the blade is unknown.
In the last days of Nerath, a sect of religious zealots, lead by some particularly hardline paladins of Pelor, arose to fight a growing number of demonologists and necromancers. Calling themselves the “Chosen of the Sun”, these religious fanatics were known to “purge” an infested area of any demonic/undead influence… and often purged it of all else as well. So intense were their tactics, though, that they would be known to burn the fields and towns of an area suspected of undead infestation. Once they convinced a gold dragon ally to lay waste to a village with his radiantly flaming breath because of rumours of a demonic summoning circle there. The Nerathi government eventually declared the Chosen to be traitors to the crown, and ordered their dissolution. It is said that the imprisonment of many of the Chosen’s members and the resulting cultural shift towards avoiding violence against necromancers and the like made it easier for the forces of the Vampire Lord Atramor to infiltrate Nerath (or at least that’s what many a history book in Pax Humana will tell you). However, the Nerathi could not eliminate all of the chosen, and the splintered factions of their church can still be found today. Many rejoined under the church of Torm the Purifier in what would become Pax Humana, but there are still many secluded monasteries scattered throughout the land that have raised generation upon generation on the ideals of the Chosen. It is even rumored that some found their way into Dambrath, and perhaps changed their zealous tune to match that of Pelor’s church in that nation. No matter where they ended up, though, the tales of their slaughters have been used to either enrage or inspire forces loyal to Pelor since then… and the name of the Chosen of the Sun has been invoked more than a few times in battles against demonic hordes or undead legions.
At some point in the past (or maybe the future), there was a wizard who was also a historian. His race and his name are lost to time (or perhaps they haven’t been decided yet), but what is known is his love for Knowledge. It goes without saying that this wizard worshiped Ioun, but even the Great Librarian could not satisfy this wizard. While he knew what every history book said about the past, and he could make predictions about the future with the best auguries around… he didn’t Know exactly what had happened, or what would happen… and this troubled him. So this wizard started to research the Weave itself, and how it interacted with time. Eventually he developed the ability to leap forwards and backwards within his own lifetime, doing his best to learn all that he could, but also to change things for the better. However, he was not the only creature that could move outside of time, and some of the other things, known in some legends as “Langoliers”, started to dislike what he was doing. They chased him down, trying to normalize the timestream and its connections to the Weave. Eventually, they succeeded, and his next leap landed him outside of time and space, disconnected from the Weave and unable to return. His magical tools were scattered throughout Time, and some may not yet even exist… but if you were to find the Time Wizard’s Tools, it is said that you could alter time itself in some ways. And perhaps, if you were to bring them all together again, you could help this lost Time Wizard make one last leap… back home. (OOG Note: see AdvVault2, p. 128, epic sets)
This is a darker tale often told over campfires or in taverns with lanterns turned low. It speaks of the Wilden druid who once oversaw the area known as the Dark Woods, and what eventually happened to him. As with many bards’ tales, details vary wildly, and many bards have their own version of this story that they claim as the “true” version. But basically the druid has lots of important naturey things to protect in these woods, including rare species of treants and sacred witches’ circles, and outside forces want to ruin them (sometimes it’s loggers, sometimes it’s armies seeking Avandra’s Plateau on the other side, sometimes it’s the energy of the Great Cataclysm itself). The druid realizes that he is dying, that he will not be able to keep up the fight, and he is met by someone (sometimes a necromancer, sometimes a demon, sometimes a dark fey, sometimes one of the witch circles who study under the “dark moon”) who offer a chance at immortality. The druid becomes the nature equivalent of a lich, gaining dark magical powers to protect the forest. However, the druid’s new nature feeds into the forest around him, changing it into the unpleasant place that the Dark Woods currently is. This tale often ends with warnings to never go into the Dark Woods, for fear that the Dark Druid Lich will see you as a threat.
There have been many “black knights” throughout the ages, and there are countless tales of their villainy. Some have found redemption, some have found great power, and some have found death at the hands of great heroes of valor. There is one, however, whose tale appears yet unfinished.
Cedric Ex Gladius is a human known as the Dark Centurion. Rumor has it that he was a soldier in the Armies of Dambrath, and quite a skilled knight. About 20 years ago, he rose in rank, eventually commanding a hundred other men. Cedric’s force was sent to aid a retreating legion of wounded other Alliance forces who were being picked off by worgs. The worgs were slain, but it had been a trap. Both the wounded legion and Gladius’ forces were cut off as a one-eyed necromancer released a burst of death energy that killed all the wounded, then caused every dead body around the survivors (worg & alliance) to rise up. Cedric was thought killed in that battle.
The next night, the soldiers standing watch on The Line saw a single figure walking towards them. He wore armor that resembled his original Dambrathi knight’s armor, though it had all turned to blackness (even the symbols of Pelor upon the armor). He spoke not a word, but stuck the necromancer’s head atop the flagpole holding Pelor’s standard. Then he walked south, and his legend began.
Throughout the past 20 years, the Dark Centurion has been said to be involved in a number of evil plots, though the extent of their “evilness” is sometimes in question. He has murdered priests of Pelor, but there have been rumors of those priests’ corruptedness. He has been said to advise militias in military actions throughout the Alliance, but their causes have varied widely, making it unclear what his purpose was in giving them aide. It is even rumored that Cedric stole/acquired one of Cormyr’s royal blades (though the Cormyrean nobility will flatly deny this). It is said that Cedric may have possession of various artifacts that may have been part of plans to do various grandiose things… though whether or not he was always stopping “evil” forces from accomplishing their goals by taking these artifacts is in question.
What is not in question, though, is Cedric’s sign: a black sun. It is a symbol of Pelor that sheds no light. For this reason, many say that Cedric is a servant of the dark goddess Shar. Cedric’s true allegiance, and intentions, remain to be seen, though many bards take liberty assigning him to one group or another, or one cause or another. It is even said that there are orders of Dambrathi paladins who have put prices on the head of Cedric Ex Gladius, or declared oaths to find and slay him, for Pelor’s glory. Whether or not they succeed, they will not be able to purge his tales from the mouths of bards (though mention of him has, unsurprisingly, been forbidden in the official Dambrathi Book of Approved Songs of Peloric Virtue).
In-game, y’all are pretty sure that Cedric Ex Gladius is Jimmy’s dad, who banished an Archangel of Pelor from Jimmy’s body with arrows of darkness during the Dracula-creating ritual.
At the height of Arkhosian power, there was said to be a ring of mountains around a dragonborn city called Pern. The mountains were home to a great many metallic dragons, and they and the citizens of Pern were said to have great psychic bonds with one another. In battle, dragonborn of Pern would ride atop dragons to whom they were bonded, and they were so linked that injury to one would hurt both, but skills of one could aide both. There are some who even spoke of jealousies that arose when same-species mates of the dragonriders (or the dragons themselves) were covetous of the intimacy of the bond. There was said to be a war brewing in the mountains around Pern, but that was at a time just before the Great Cataclysm, so the war itself never happened. Still, among those who collect Arkhosian artifacts, there will occasionally be a dragon-sized saddle, completely unusable now, since the magic of that bond was forever lost to the Cataclysm.
While there are many great bardic stories about the death of Io, and the resulting two gods and their battle to tear apart the primordial that had killed the dragon god, most everyone knows that the two resulting gods, Bahamut & Tiamat, were direct opposites, and have opposed each other ever since. However, there is a persistent rumor that there was one other thing they did together before parting ways, and that the resulting egg fell to the ground when their passion turned to hatred. It is rumored that this “egg of Io” has within it the potential to rise again as the ultimate god of dragons, a god more powerful than any other current deity. However, the nature of that god may, it is rumored, be influenced by the environment around it and the energies poured into the egg. For that reason, both Bahamut and Tiamat have their forces looking for the egg, for while neither god can make it hatch prematurely, both believe that they can take the energy into themselves when it does hatch, making the “new Io” a super-charged version of either one of the warring halves.
Whether such a thing as the egg exists, and whether it will react to the influence of Bahamut or Tiamat in the way they hope it will, are, of course, hypotheticals that no one can ever prove… but it makes for great story material.
In-game, you all have had a very specific interaction with the Egg. It now resides under the care of the Mithril Arm, and has had the dark energy of hundreds of years purged from it.
[This tale is often told around campfires among the Alliance forces at The Line. It’s a tale of the sort of heroes the orcs have, and a warning about their warriors who wield the power of storms]
Ever since Corellon shot out Gruumsh’s eye with an arrow, elves & orcs have not been the best of friends. In the years just after the Great Cataclysm, though, it appeared that the orcs might gain the upper hand. In those days there was a small Elvish settlement named Serenity on a lake in the far north-east of the continent, in the area we now call the Hordelands. They were allies with the larger human/elvish nation of Perugia (on the Umbrian continent) across the Freezing Strait to the east, and had many strong magics protecting their town against the frequent attacks from the orcs of the region, who were not yet united.
One day, the elves of Serenity saw storm clouds in the west, across the lake. Their druids sensed that these were not natural clouds, though, and boats were sent out to investigate. The boats floated home days later full of bodies that had been savaged by blades and lightning. Wizards rode wyverns out to attack the clouds, yet they disappeared into the storm and were never heard from again. Slowly the storm spread closer and closer, and one of the lookouts in Serenity saw through a spyglass a single figure walking on the water. It was a massive orc, and the axe it wielded was repeatedly struck by lightning. This was Broxigar, who would be known as the first “Stormfury Champion” of the Orcs.
Now, the history of this orc is debatable, but if orcish songs of valor can be trusted, Broxigar was a strong warrior from a long line of strong warriors. After an elvish attack had killed his father, Broxigar had taken up his father’s axe, killed an elven water witch and stolen her boots, and intimidated a storm into following him. He was slowly stalking across the lake towards Serenity, intent on killing all the elves.
As he started to march across the lake, Shaman of Gruumsh had told him his quest was foolish, that he would drown or be killed by arrows before he got close, that he should move around the lake and wait till dark before attacking any weak points in Serenity’s defenses. Broxigar laughed at them, and told them that a true soldier of Gruumsh let no obstacle stand in his way, and did not fear the strength of his enemy’s defenses, for Gruumsh was stronger.
Many orcs ran around the lake, watching Broxigar move forward, and their hoots and cheers seemed to give power to the storm, which grew in ferocity as Broxigar approached Serenity. Soon he walked within arrow range, and the elves of Serenity loosed a volley that would have slain an army… yet the winds howled and thunder struck, and the arrows were shaken from their paths in the sky, breaking mid-air and falling useless to the ground. Next the elvish druids tried to summon tornadoes and storms of their own to fight Broxigar, but the storm above him had taken on a life of its own, and it swallowed these smaller storms, adding to its bulk. Finally, Broxigar reached the wall of Serenity, a magically fortified wall that had never been breached by orc. He raised his battle axe high and was struck by lightning which coursed down his arm and burned his flesh, yet Broxigar did not flinch. Gruumsh, it seems, had seen Broxigar’s progress, and chose to grant him strength to withstand the storm. Broxigar continued to hold his axe up, gathering all the power of the storm into it, and with one ferocious swing shattered the entirety of Serenity’s wall. Buildings beyond the wall toppled with the force of thunder that bellowed from the strike, and within moments, any surviving elves were easily killed. Broxigar became Gruumsh’s Exarch that day, and he united the orcish tribes into the first Horde.
Thankfully, Broxigar is long dead now. Elf Kill Lake is now deep within the Hordelands, and no elves have traveled there since Broxigar’s march across the lake. It is said that the ground where Serenity stood still crackles with lightning and thunder, but who among us can disprove such stories? Just beware should you see an orc with lightning on his axe and thunder in his voice, for he is undoubtedly a complete zealot, a devotee of Broxigar, and a foe to be killed above all others.
This sad, soulful song is designed for females with powerful voices (think Adele, or one of the really good Fantines from Les Mis). It was written and made famous by the popular tiefling bard La Vocce, from Waterdeep. The song speaks of the fallen from battles in the past, and how those memories and stories affect the minds of those in the present. In general it’s seen as a lament for the battles of the past, but it doesn’t go so far as to say that they shouldn’t have been fought. In that way it walks the idealogical line, so it can be enjoyed by war-minded and peace-mongers alike. What makes it truly unique, though, is that it is written in such a way that you don’t know exactly which fallen kingdom/army she’s talking about. Tieflings swear it is about Bael Turoth, though dragonborn are just as adamant that she’s singing about Arkhosia. Humans swear it’s about Nerath, while Elves point to certain lyrics that “must” mean it’s about Myth Drannor. And Ionian dwarves see it as a tribute to King Ironhammer and his lost army. The song has been translated into most of the civilized humanoid tongues, though the soulful tune remains the same. While one or two males have tried to do versions that don’t require the female range of the original, it never has the same sound if you don’t have a strong female vocalist. If you’re looking for a real world example, think of the musical sounds of Someone Like You with lyrics from Empty Chairs At Empty Tables.
While the ways and names of the Archfey are not widely known to most in the material world, there are two names that are known to most hunters & trappers: The Erlking and Malar. The Erlking is the lord of “The Great Hunt” and is seen as a patron to “civilized” hunters across the world. Songs of his hunts, riding down great beasts to slay them with spear and arrows, are great crowd-pleasers in any wilderness-bordering community. If you gain his attention, mounted riders may either chase you down or invite you to ride with them. Hunting and slaying a great beast can earn the respect of the Erlking, too.
Malar, on the other hand, is the primal force of savage beasts that hunt “prey” in whatever form it takes (though often it ends up being sentient humanoids). There are many stories of the awful “Beasts of Malar” that go after arrogant hunters and those who do not respect the world of predators around them. One of Malar’s chosen beasts is said to be able to shape-change into several ultimate hunter forms… one for lurking and striking from shadows, one for swooping in from the sky, and one that simply rends foes limb from limb in a vicious fury. Most tales of encounters with a Beast of Malar are about narrowly escaping one, not defeating one… though both methods are said to earn the respect of Malar. Though judging “respect” from a primal killing machine is a somewhat inaccurate task, at the very best, so these reports should not be taken as fact, necessarily.
Deep within the ground is a place called the Underdark. We’ve all heard tales of how horrible it is down there. We’ve heard how Drow will steal your babies to drag them into the ground, of how the mind flayers will fill your mind with the worst fears imaginable before they eat your brain, and how a crippled god of insanity tortures those he finds in the caves. However, there is a place even darker than the Underdark… the Shadowfell’s reflection of the Underdark: THE SHADOWDARK. If the normal Shadowfell is all the dark thoughts and fears and nightmares of the surface world, imagine what the fears and nightmares of Underdark creatures could be like.
Deep in the Shadowdark is a place where few will tread. It is known as Esarham, the Demon Graveyard. Most religious folks will tell you that demons don’t have souls, that when you kill them, they cease to exist. That’s why you never see any undead demons… there’s just no soulstuff there to manipulate. But some legends claim that the first demons were very different from what roams the world now with that name. The first demons, these legends claim, were corrupted mortals, empowered by the primordials. The first demons had souls, and Esarham is where those souls now wander, seeking a way to escape their graveyard prison.
On its best days, the denizens of this place wish it were merely horrible. Set atop a volcano called The Pyre that erupts regularly, most of the demonic denizens of this realm spend the time between eruptions doing battle with one another, or slaving away to build a palace for whatever lord has beaten them down… knowing that it will just be destroyed in the next eruption. As their bodies burn away in the lava of the Pyre’s explosion, each soul there knows that he will simply be reformed again when the eruptions ends, eternally stuck in a loop of pain. However, because these demons have fought themselves for so many millennia, they are always eager for new foes. Occasionally you’ll hear of a cult that has figured out a ritual to create a “Projection of Esarham”… an arena-like room that serves as a part of the prison in the real world, where certain demonic souls can manifest to do battle with heroes who enter the arena.
There was just such a cult to the south, in the lands of Farmville, some 60 years ago or more. They put out a call to the greatest warriors, and many of those grain-fed young lads lined up for the chance at the “Ultimate Battle Experience”. ‘Course, those boys didn’t know that if they were killed in the projection, their souls would be trapped in the loop as slaves the next time the Pyre erupted and the Projection disappeared. And so it was that three demon warriors were having the best time they’d had in eons, slaughtering young farmboys and growing strong off their imprisoned souls. And then a hooded man showed up. His friends stayed back, but he told them it was something he must do. The demons laughed as they saw the rusted sword the man brought to the arena, but they did not know that he had taken a vow of poverty, and that he’d recently sold his magic sword to pay for funerals for the fallen from some of Farmville’s grieving families.
The demons looked at the hooded man and circled with glee. An easy soul is what they saw in this fool too stupid to flee. They asked him to beg for mercy, and they saw his mouth move a hair, but as they strained to hear what he said, they realized it was a prayer. To Erathis he prayed, this impoverished man, about to die in humility, but as he threw back his hood, revealing his scales, in his hand appeared the Blade of Civility [the crowd typically cheers here]. He said “My name’s Titus, and though pride is a sin; you’ve killed enough of these farmboy roughs, so now Erathis says it’s time I win.”
The rest of the song proceeds in a manner not dissimilar to “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”, with Titus Imperius slaying all the demons, then his friends Malachi and Mestiza undoing the ritual, sending the Projection back to Esarham, where the demons’ bodies rematerialized just in time to experience another eruption of the Pyre. And that’s the story of how Titus Imperius came to hold the epic artifact blade known as The Blade of Civility (or at least that’s one of the more popular stories of how he got it… much more popular than the one where he finds it being used to prop up a wobbly table).
In the days before Nerath (timelines vary depending on the storyteller), a great wizard named Evard was a master of arcane power. Many spells are, in fact, named for him. Evard tended towards nethermancy and dark powers. Evard had some tragedy in his past, likely something that killed his family & loved ones, so all that was left to him was his consuming need to master more magical energies. He had a rivalry with another great wizard, Mordenkainen (see below), and the battles between the two were quite epic. Unfortunately, Evard was not immortal, and the location of his tomb has been lost to the ages. It is said that, where ever it lies, it is full of powerful artifacts that can control the darkness. There are also rumors, however, that it is in some forgotten corner of the Shadowfell, so folks are not likely to find it by simply digging up graves.
If you read the history books from hundreds of years back, you’ll find a team of heroes mentioned in the margins. While the work they did was infinitely important, and the foes they slew infinitely evil… they weren’t in this for the glory. No, they did things because they were the right things to do, and they never asked for more than a small citation in a footnote of the history books. They were, the Fighting Footnotes.
Now history books were important to the Footnotes, because they all served Ioun, the goddess of Knowledge. Lead by two stout dwarves, a Warrior Poet named Sigurd and a Grammatically-correct Paladin named Soren, they were flanked by an elven Avenger of Truth named Silas, a half-elven Librarian Cleric named Mal, a sly human rogue named Cameron who distributed banned books, and a wizardly human sage named Lorenz, who could recite any tome of monster information, with editorial commentary, perfectly from memory. But each was also said to carry several bags of holding full of various history texts, making them a mobile library.
While most of the Footnotes’ adventures are lost to time, they were instrumental in bringing down the nation of Impiltur. It was their Paladin, Soren, who was unjustly sentenced to death by the Impilturan governing council. And it was the rest of the Footnotes who discovered the Truth (with a capital T) of what was really going on among the so-called “holy” priests ruling that nation. While they are only a footnote in history of Travailia, they are certainly a treasured one.
During the days of Nerath, somewhere in the nation of Norsca (part of the Eastern Alliance), there once stood a temple to Bahamut where paladins trained. This abbey produced some of the greatest warriors the dragon god has ever known, and they fought off many orcish invasions from the north single-handedly (for there was no Alliance in those days). However, it is said that the orcs came upon some terrible weapon of chaos, and the paladins attacked to rid them of this artifact. Some say it was chaos incarnate, while others say it was so unstable that even names could not be attached to it. The paladins brought it back to their abbey, where they locked it away. But the power of chaos soon spread to the rest of the abbey, weakening the otherwise very lawful paladins. It was then that the orcs chose to counter-strike, and the ensuing battle destroyed both the attacking orcs and the defenders of Bahamut. No one knows what happened to the mysterious unnamable Item of Chaos, but these days monsters roam the grounds of the abbey, and if the item remains, it is buried in rubble, where perhaps it should stay.
Though a lot of details have disappeared over time, tiefling bards will tell a tale of a magical floating city that once traveled the sky. The city of Ghest was, as near as anyone can tell, on an earth mote… though that was in the days of Bael Turoth, before the Cataclysm, so such a thing was even rarer than it is today. The city had many races living in it, and it was said that this was the birthplace of at least one of the Wind Mages who eventually made the Rod of Seven Parts (see below). However, the denizens of Ghest were sky worshippers, and a cult of earth-worshipping elementals became very upset with the arrogance this flying city showed to the ground. They began a massive ritual in a mountain in the area now known as the Gods’ Fury Mts. When the city of Ghest floated above, they summoned lava titans and other elemental creatures to erupt the mountain and spew lava into the earthmote above it. The destruction caused the city to falter, and it crashed to the ground, killing most of the people and destroying what was probably the world’s only earth mote at the time. As much as 10 years later, there was a small group of survivors making a living herding sheep in the mountains where their city had crashed, but the Shepherds of Ghest were not able to sustain a living in that harsh region, and soon they had all died off.
NOTE: There is a gnomish version of this story that claims that the city was actually a massive flying machine, and it’s often told to spark imagination and get inventors thinking about amazing things they could build.
Long ago, in the days before the Nentir Vale held that title, before that land was known as the Kingdom of Atramor, in the early days of its identity as Nerath… there was a wizard named Galap-Dreidel. Little is known of his race or lineage, but what is known is that he was very secretive, and very powerful. He dwelt in a large tower, and was said to have command of primordial elements themselves. Perhaps he served the primordials, for no god could see into his tower. The only thing that was known for certain was that he had an item in his possession of infinite power and value: the Soul Gem.
Some said the Soul Gem could restore life. Others said it could create it. Others still said it contained the soul of some dead god or primordial, granting that being’s power to Galep-Dreidel himself. It is even rumored that the gem trapped the soul of every foe that Galep-Dreidel defeated, adding to his power. Whatever it actually was, the white light of that gem shone from the tower’s top room, calling to many thieves and adventurers.
Of the thousands of adventurers who disappeared into the tower, some must have found success. It was in the days of the third King of Nerath that a great white light pierced the darkest hour of night, and the sound of shattering stone was heard for miles around the tower. The next morning, the tower was simply gone. But its story did not end there.
Over the centuries that followed, the Tower of Inverness has appeared throughout the region, bringing dark mists and strange magics whenever it appears. Often a ghostly light from the tower’s peak will call to adventurers, but they are never heard from again. The last sighting of the tower was in the days of the Silver Company, who decided it was too risky to attempt to conquer the tower, instead choosing the “easier” task of overthrowing the undead Kingdom of Atramor. Since then, the Tower has once again disappeared into the mists, though it could arrive again any day, any where, to any one. So beware the white light…
The Mind Flayers have always delighted in slavery. They enjoy the taste of desperation, the scent of despair, and the pleasant spices of hopelessness. Many thousands of years ago, a great Illithid empire conquered a yellowish-skinned race and made them all slaves. They were bred for slavery. They were taught slavery. They were trained in specialized slave roles while being brainwashed to believe they enjoyed being slaves. All that changed when a woman named Gith came along. She was strong of mind and body, and led a huge rebellion that broke her people free from the mind control of the Illithids, allowing them to fight against their oppressors and flee their imprisoned lives.
When they finally escaped, these people (who called themselves the Gith, after their savior) were without a home. They searched the planes for a place of their own… but there was dissent along the way. Gith was a tremendous war leader, but some felt she did not know how to govern in peace. She had her people regimented, constantly training for battle, even when some simply wanted to find a home to rest in. The most vocal of her critics was Zerthimon, an academic who called for Gith to step down. Refusing to relinquish her position, Gith called Zerthimon out to the field of battle.
What happened next varies depending on who tells the story. Some say Zerthimon was sly and cheated, while others say he used Gith’s single-mindedness against her, gaining the upper hand through tactical superiority. Either way, Zerthimon was the victor, and though he spared Gith’s life, her supporters and his supporters would never see eye-to-eye again. Gith’s followers fled to the Astral Sea, home of the regimented laws of the gods, where they called themselves the Githyanki. Zerthimon’s followers sought tactically defensible homes in the Elemental Chaos, where the environment might protect them from attackers, and they would be free to make their own choices. Those people called themselves the Githzerai. Most members of both races are known as nomads now, though, and even the largest colonies of either cannot be called “homelands”.
Deep in the Elemental Chaos (the bad place where elementals come from), there is a city of Genasi named Gloamnull. For years, the inhabitants barely held on, repairing their stone walls against attacks from elementals, giants, and others. But then something wonderful happened: an Efreet showed up. Soon many of these powerful creatures were trading in Gloamnull, and the city became a minor hub of commerce, a stable place to do business in the otherwise impossibly mutable Chaos. But something didn’t like the city’s stability, and a few years ago clouds started forming above the city. The clouds eventually blocked out all external light, and then the rains began. Once the downpours were in full force, the elementals attacked en masse… as if driven by some outside power. The rain was tainted, and it formed moats around the city which spawned horrid new elementals and archons. The efreet suspended their businesses, and the genasi residents feared that it was a not-quite-defeated primordial commanding the elementals to destroy the city.
But genasi are not foolish. While they can be as mercurial as the elements, they also have a gem of reason in the midst of their own chaotic natures. They realized that the only way to stop something as powerful as a partially-crippled primordial was to find something stronger. They summoned those efreets who had been quickest to flee, claiming that they had found a weapon to save the city. When the efreets arrived, they were captured and their powerful souls were sacrificed to Dagon, the Lord of the Deep. Soon the moats around the city began spawning tentacled demon fish, and strange frog-man creatures with the strength of trolls and the poison of snakes. The attacking forces were sorely beaten, and the remaining elemental forces retreated to whatever master may have sent them.
And these days, Gloamnull is once again a great hub of commerce in the Chaos. Of course, the occasional efreet or other powerful being may go missing, its soul consumed as cultists keep their Deep Lord happy… but it’s a small price to pay for the free market economy that has allowed Gloamnull to flourish.
When people think of your typical Elven archer, it’s probably a Gnarly Ranger that they think of. Sort of the fantasy equivalent of a biker gang that fights demons, the Gnarly Rangers have a long history of just appearing out of the woods and filling any demonic threat with arrows until it no longer exists. Think Robin Hood, but much more hardcore, and not concerned with petty things like economic justice. The Rangers are known to be a rough group of survivalists who take no guff and are never described with words like “kind”, “caring”, or “sensitive”. Some have even called them thieves. However, when some threat from the Abyss is threatening your town, there’s no one you’d rather have on your side. They are also said to know no fear, and it is rumored that Gnarly Rangers never die of old age… they just reach a point where they decide to go into the Abyss and take the fight to the demons on their home turf.
The history of The Eternal Wasteland is little more than a collection of rumors. One of those rumors, however, is a persistent myth whose sustainability might just mean its true. The legend says that the first person to found a settlement in the wastes after the Eternal Wasteland was formed was a barbarian woman. Her original name and race are lost to history, and she is now known only as the Golden Lion. Her name comes from the fact that she killed a pride of dire desert lions by hand, taking their den as her own, and attracting nomads who were without hope until the glowing golden mane of her regalia was seen in the midst of a desert storm. It is said her tribe was fierce and fast in their attacks, but that they always protected the weak from monsters. It is said that when she died, her tribesmen tried to bury her magic items with her, but the spirit of a celestial lion appeared above her corpse, demanding that her spirit of heroism be spread across the wasteland. They took her various magical items and ran them to the five small civilizations nearest to the Wasteland, where a hero in each land used the item to strengthen his/her peoples and create a great city.
Of course, in the wars and centuries since then, the heroes fell and the Golden Lion’s Regalia were scattered, but it is said that a true hero who visits her grave in the Wasteland (especially one who has already found one of her items) may hear from her spirit about the locations of the others, and that those who possess these items have sometimes seen a resplendent celestial lion in times of trial, guiding the way to the most heroic path.
[OOG NOTE: see set items “Golden Lion’s Regalia” in Adv Vault 2, p. 98, targeted at barbarians. Cloak of the Lion’s Mane (neck), Hungry Spear (spear), Lion’s Claw Gauntlets (hands), Swiftpad Boots (feet), Thane Blood Weapon (weapon)]
In the days after Moradin had cleaved the earth into the stone forms he called Dwarves, the Soul Forger returned to the heavens, and the dwarves were left to find their own way. Many followed the slow & steady path that has been a defining reality for dwarves ever since. But some were called away by other voices… darker voices. The voices made them dig deep, made them carve circles and runes in their halls. The voices were those of devils, who made pacts with these dwarves to gain strength FASTER than their brothers. These devils turned these dwarves into something else… into DUERGAR.
But not all dwarves fell to these devilish voices. One in particular was a young skald named Grabthar, who took to pounding his hammer on the stone like a drum whenever he heard the devilish voices calling to him. The steady beat of his hammer became a symbol of the heartbeat of the mountains, and reminded many dwarves where their roots lay. Many who were following the devil’s calls turned back to the way of True Dwarves because of the sound of Grabthar’s hammer, consistently reminding them of who they really were.
Some say Grabthar pounded till he died. Others say Moradin took him into the heavenly mountains where his beat continues to ring. Others claim that the hammer absorbed the mystical intent of its wielder, and kept pounding on its own long after Grabthar had departed. But whatever happened, even to this day dwarves will call out to Grabthar and his hammer when they feel tempted to stray from the path of righteousness, or meet those who have, or hear tales of those who have. And whenever you hear a dwarf exclaim “By Grabthar’s Hammer!”, you can know that he is re-asserting his belief in his own dwarvenness, in what is right, in what is true.
[OOG: Grabthar’s Hammer may show up as some kind of epic bard implement in the future.]
(A tale sometimes told to unruly children who must always ask “Why?” Gender/Race of child can be altered to suit the kids listening, or left as is). Once there was a child, not much older than you, who needed to know everything. Whenever his parents asked him to do something, he’d ask “Why?” This frustrated his parents so much that they sent him out into the woods to gather firewood, to rest their weary ears. While wandering the woods, he met an old woman. He asked her why she was in the woods, and she said she was collecting things. “Why?” asked the boy. “For my stew.” she replied. “Why do you need to make a stew?” “Because I am hungry, and because every stew teaches me something new.” “But what do you mean?” asked the boy. “Every journey through the woods to gather ingredients teaches me about others in the woods… the squirrels, the chipmunks, the fairies, and the children who ask questions…” she said, licking her dry old woman lips. “Why are your lips so dry?” asked the boy? “It has been a long time since I had a good stew to wet them.” “But why has it been so long?” asked the boy. “Because I only choose the best ingredients… those that will suit my tastes perfectly.” “What kind of tastes could an old woman like you have?” asked the boy. “Well, you see, I hunger not for rice or garlic flavor, but for Knowledge… and I think I may have found a boy who asks enough questions that he is FULL of Knowledge to devour!” said the Grandmother of Witches as she grabbed the boy and brought him home to put in her stew. And that is why we should learn not to always ask questions, because sometimes the answers are more dangerous than we can imagine.
Many have heard of Hippocrates, renowned Scholar of Ioun and founder of the Society of Life. Few folks know more than that. He was a guy who knew a lot, and founded a group to collect information about healing. The truth is a much more involved, and much sadder tale.
About 80-90 years ago, Hippocrates was living in Borovia, raising two sons: Thessalus and Drakus. Hippocrates’ wife had died giving birth to Drakus, and Hippocrates struggled to raise his two sons while keeping up his studies. When a demon attack on the nation brought about a horrid plague, it was Hippocrates who eventually came up with a concoction that would serve as a cure. However, he did not discover it until he had watched in vain as the disease killed his infant son, Drakus.
Thessalus, who was 9 at the time, did not deal with grief well. Raised in Borovia, his response to any pain was warfare, and he demanded that his father take up a sword to hunt the demons that had brought the plague. Instead, Hippocrates stayed home, mixing herbs and alchemy until he had discovered a cure. Thessalus, however, would not accept what he saw as his father’s cowardice. He stole some of his father’s valuables, including a sword and several of the only magic items he could find (all of them healing-related) to pawn, and left to go avenge his brother.
Thessalus was never heard from again. It is said that much of Hippocrates work after that point was devoted to finding a cure for the pain his heart felt at losing his son. He likely wanted to acquire enough knowledge to prove himself to the absent Thessalus, or to redeem the fact that he could not save Drakus. Reports of Thessalus’ whereabouts were vague and often contradictory, but the last people supposed to have seen him alive were travelers on a road many miles out of town, who saw him heading into the darkness as a violent storm was in the air. Though Hippocrates has been dead for many years, every House of Life to this day still leaves a light on outside the front door, to welcome back Thessalus should he ever return.
The city of Helmsgard was a great idea. Unfortunately, great ideas don’t always become great realities. Over a hundred years after the Great Cataclysm, the dwarven clan Helmsgard was much more understanding than many other clans, and they had many allies among the elves, humans, and other races. More importantly, they had allies among groups in the Underdark, as well. The city of Helmsgard was to be the greatest undertaking in all of civilization: a meeting point between the surface and the Underdark, located about halfway in-between the two.
It is said that the city was founded in the former lair of a family of dragons that the dwarves had slain. They used the wealth of the dragons’ hordes to finance the massive construction of this city. There were even sections designed in styles that would be more comforting to various races… an elf quarter, a halfling den, a drow quarter, etc.
Helmsgard is said to have fallen when forces from below (mind flayers, mostly) attacked as relatives of the many dragons the clan had slain attacked from above, trapping the inhabitants forever. The mountains above that site are now said to be full of dragons, and the caves below are said to be maddening tunnels of terror.
These days, dwarves who travel through the Alliance nation of Kislev will often pour a mug of stout onto the ground for their fallen brethren in Helmsgard, though few words are said about it (usually just “For Helmsgard”, followed by grunts or nods from the other dwarves in the group). Many treasure-seekers talk of finding the ruins and unearthing the many treasures there, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a dwarf who’d join you on that quest, as they think of it as they think of all their brothers who’ve fallen in battles that they’ve lost: they just get quiet and don’t talk about it. Helmsgard is a tomb that ought not to be disturbed, if you ask most dwarves.
Far to the East, beyond where Pelor sets the sun to rise each day, it is said that there exist a ring of massive islands that are home to kingdoms of dragons. The oldest tales of these islands say that in the days before the Dawn War, soon after Io had created all dragons, s/he looked down to see his/her work (Io’s gender varies in some tales). Where Io had expected his/her children to be ruling the other civilized creatures with wisdom and unity, s/he instead saw dragon fighting with dragon, allowing greed and avarice to turn them to baser creatures of death and savagery. Worse, the many other intelligent races hid in fear as the skies were filled with battling dragons. In a fit of sorrow at the fate of the dragon children, Io cried out “If dragon blood must be spilt, let it be mine!” and cut across his/her belly with his/her own claw, dropping several scales into the Great Eastern Sea. As Io’s blood fell upon these scales, they grew into great islands. Many of the dragons, feeling their progenitor’s pain, rushed to these islands, eager to ease Io’s pain and live the lives they were intended to live.
Unfortunately, it was those missing scales that left a flaw in Io’s armor, and as one of the first primordial combatants of the Dawn War raised a mighty axe agains Io, he saw this gap in the armor, and split the great dragon god in twain.
These days, none know if the islands still exist, though the Church of Bahamut claims that a Council of Wyrms still resides in these islands, deciding matters for dragonkind, and that the highest Dragon Priests of Bahamut dwell there with them.
When the world was young, just after the Dawn War, the people of the world knew only to imitate the gods they had just seen fighting. There was much chaos then, and few thought to use Knowledge for anything other than warfare. Worse, most lorekeepers were forced into hiding, lest they be seen as easy prey for those bands of mindless warriors who cared more for steel than for the mind. So great was this turmoil that Ioun, the newly victorious Goddess of Knowledge, saw that her followers would soon be wiped out. She wept, and her sorrow was so intense that her tears fell to the ground in physical form. Where they struck, whether in communities of warriors or scholars, they shared Ioun’s sorrow, and those near these fallen tears realized what would be lost without Knowledge. Suddenly bands of warriors started to sing songs to remember their histories (the first bards). Lorekeepers discovered writing and paper-making. Corellon’s servants realized that they could write down the formulas for their magics, creating the first wizardly tomes. Most of the tears shattered when they struck the ground, leaving behind fragments that would become the predecessors of modern Ioun stones. But there are legends of one or two tears that fell in soft places and did not shatter. If you were to find one of these, the lost lore you could acquire, and the power you could gain, would be immeasurable. Though if there are any unshattered tears, they are not widely spoken of. Too many foes would seek to corrupt the tears or use them for evil. Though I’d warn any Iounic scholar holding a Tear’s location secret that there is another god who rose after the tears fell and who covets knowledge for himself: Vecna, the god of secrets. So should you ever hear of a Tear’s whereabouts, be sure to tell at least one other person, so that it becomes less of a secret.
NOTE: The relationship between Ioun & Vecna is kind of like Open Source vs. Microsoft. Bards who tell this tale tend to have more of a socialist, free-info-for-everyone mentality, and tend to be worshippers of Ioun. If kids are present, the descriptions of Vecna, missing a hand and eye, skulking in shadows without any friends, etc., can be played-up as obsurd for dramatic (and comedic) effect, and sometimes he’s described as a mysterious sad hooded figure who tries to track down the tears, but finds that everywhere he hopes to find success, he only finds people respecting Knowledge and learning where they used to be ignorant (not unlike Team Rocket’s constant failures in Pokemon).
Though the continent/kingdom of Umbria is largely controlled by the undead, there is one small island between Umbria and the Hordelands where even the undead know not to tread. This island is owned by the archmage Keraptis. Whether Keraptis even walks this dimension anymore is unknown… he was last rumored to have been seen fighting a flight of elder dragons in the Astral Sea for rights to some draconic artifact.
While Keraptis’ fate is unknown, the fate of his island full of many treasures is fairly certain. In addition to the many (many) magical traps likely to guard the island, though, there is also one other great deterrent. The Paladin Ctenmiir used to be one of the first Purple Dragon Knights. As he grew into middle age, though, and younger, stronger Knights began to take his place, he was approached by a stranger from across the sea, who offered him a way to remain strong. As a vampire, Ctenmiir was stronger than any of the other Knights, though of course he came into conflict with Adonai Obarskyr, the King of Cormyr. After the two fought to a standstill, Adonai called upon Bahamut for the extra power to defeat his friend. However, at the last moment, due to their friendship, Adonai allowed his friend to leave, stripping him of his Purple Dragon sash and forever banishing him from Cormyr.
In the decades that followed, Ctenmiir wandered the land of Umbria, which had not yet fallen to the undead forces that now control it. There are, in fact, rumors that many of the vampire dukes and lords of present-day Umbria were made by Ctemniir in those early days. Though he still wielded his epic artifact warhammer Whelm (rumored to be able to kill giants in a single swing), Ctenmiir wanted more. He set his sites on the treasures of Keraptis. Details of what happened next are unclear, but it ended with Ctenmiir enslaved to the will of Keraptis. Now, centuries later, the greatest treasures of the archmage are guarded by the vampire lord who was once the greatest of the Purple Dragon Knights. Needless to say, there are few heroes who have attempted to infiltrate the Isle of Keraptis who have survived to share the tale of their failure.
Most of the magical items known as Ioun Stones are not unique. While rare, there are still many copies of each type of Ioun Stone out there. There is one, however, made by a well-intentioned exarch of Ioun, that is unique, and (despite the best efforts of many Iounic scholars) does not appear to be unmakable. It is the Jet Black Ioun Stone. Ioun’s exarch, a Librarian Dwarf said to “know every stone in every mountain” met an exarch of Zehir, who had no care for the people he murdered. The Librarian crafted this stone to give the Assassin a greater Knowledge of the victims, so that he could sense their souls and know the pain he was causing and the life he was ending. Unfortunately, Zehir himself saw the potential of this item, and warped the magics the Librarian used, making this stone the ultimate assassin’s tool. It is said that whomever wears the Stone will always find his target, that he will know when the target will run, who the target will seek help from, and what loves the target has that can be exploited. [see Open Grave, p. 38]
Though never openly sung about, many a bard has a tale or two about the forces of Kargatane, one of the deadliest groups around. Originally the hand-picked assassins and spies of a lich lord who ruled a subdomain in the Shadowfell, the group anticipated change on the horizon, and was thus prepared to leave at the precise moment the forces of Vecna arrived to claim the subdomain and the lich’s powers as their own. Now the Kargatane have become a guild, and their ruler, Lady Kazandra, is one of the most sought (and feared) assassins known.
The truly terrifying thing about the Kargatane, who live in the Shadowfell, is their purported ability to be able to use shadows as launching points for their attacks. Truly their nethermancers must be great, but they are also helped by their many members who are either undead or creatures of shadow themselves. A vampire assassin who can teleport through shadows is not something you face lightly (pun intended).
It is rumored, though, that the Kargatane have their own secretive goals as well, and since they ceased being beholden to the lich lord, they have been able to choose those assignments which best suit their longterm goals. What those goals are is anyone’s guess, but woe to the man who finds himself on the wrong end of a Kargatane contract.
[Note: shamelessly stolen from Steve Miller, who got a 2nd place mention in a “design a dragon’s origin” contest that Wizards of the Coast ran]
Korval-kad: his fate was forged / In the fiery pit of the under-ward,
Where devils ring their brazen bells / And harlots sing of the seven hells.
From thought to form his body took, / His soul inspired by the baneful book
Which, penned in blood of maidens fair, / Be bound in skin and stitched with hair.
In waking hours man hath not met / More dire a beast, yet shan’t forget,
Once glimpsed in dream, his figure bared; / No mortal can withstand his stare.
His wings a graceful crescent trace, / But lo! The marks upon his face!
There swords have broke and arrows failed / To pierce the mystery of his veil.
His power lay in sleeping man, / For Korval-kad knew not this land,
Knew no beginning, and no end; / For Korval-kad is the brain of men!
Hark! What sounds from the sullen deep / Echo on the tide of human sleep:
Tis the dread roar of ages past; / The toil of kings, dead at long last;
Tis Korval-kad, the Maker of Things, / The Master Mason and the Lord of Schemes;
Tis Korval-kad, the brain of men, / In whose great wake all dreams attend.
The Githzerai are a curious race of hermits and travelers. But many have heard of their fighting monks, with their mastery over mind and body. Among the monks, there are legends of great warriors who have attained such mastery over themselves that they have ceased to age, or have conquered death, or have changed the very nature of their physical form. Among those legendary warriors, though, there are legends of one who has done all of that and more: Liricosa, the greatest monk of all time.
When a monk speaks of finding enlightenment, he often hopes that he’ll get to meet Liricosa when he gets there. The legends of where he has been always include epic alterations to the landscape, the peoples, and sometimes the religions of the area (think of him as Chuck Norris, as far as rumors of his greatness go). Most recently, there are stories of Liricosa and his followers taking over an abandoned city on an earthmote in the Elemental Chaos, not bothering to mess with the portal to the Abyss that occasionally sputters to life in the city’s bowels… simply because they enjoy the practice of slaughtering arch-demons that come through.
Think up pretty much any story of amazing epicness, and then have Liricosa doing it, and you’ll have the right kind of story. He is said to be able to reorder reality, disrupt bodies with a single touch, kick you so fast his shadow doesn’t move, touch the deepest mysteries of the Universe to answer any question.
A sort of feminist folk hero in some bards’ tales, the pixie assassin known as “The Little Death” is said to hunt and kill menfolk who have horrifically wronged women. Depending on how raunchy the bard telling the tale is, she may or may not make comparisons between her size and the size of her victims’ body parts before killing them, and she may or may not remove said parts. But while she is seen as a hero to many women, she is also known specifically to hate men, and evil women may have gained her services to help overthrowing worse men. Some tales have her belonging to the shadow assassin’s guild Kargatane, but obviously hard data on this is impossible to find. It is said that if a wronged maiden prays to the fairies for vengeance, the Little Death may answer the call.
In-game, y’all were there in the fight where the Little Death died. However, her legacy lives on in our own Ginger, the pixie wizard who mysteriously looks identical to the departed assassin.
Waterdeep is ruled by a council of Lords who mostly remain masked. There is typically one “Open Lord” of Waterdeep who is known publicly (the current is a beurocrat named Dagalt Neverember), but the rest stay hidden so that they can work more effectively, and also avoid assassination attempts from those who might seek to take control of the city (like any of the Alliance nations). But speculation about who the other lords might be is rampant, and whole tabloid publications have arisen to debate the likelihood of different candidates. There is a lovely song that bards sing about the Lords of Waterdeep, done to the tune of “There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly”, that lists possible attributes of some of the masked lords. Each verse goes on about the mysterious (and often hilarious) quirks of each hypothetical lord (usually there’s a fat one, and a nervous one, and one who likes bunnies, and one who does whatever this local crowd would find funny, etc). The last part of the song, where we’d sing “I know an old lady who swallowed a horse. She’s dead, of course.” always plays out to be about the only masked lord that most people are pretty sure of the identity of: Mirt the Moneylender. “I know a Masked Lord who sold me my own horse… it was Mirt, of course.” But each bard often has his own “kicker” to throw in as that last thing that Mirt did to reveal himself as the slickest, most roguish guy around… think of the way comedians each have their own version of “The Aristocrats” story joke.
It should also be noted that Mirt recently died on his 80th birthday, so is obviously no longer an active Lord of Waterdeep, if he ever was one. That has done nothing to stop the stories, though, which will probably still be sung for years. Maybe they’ll even include something about him being slick enough to cheat Death or Time or something.
[NOTE: As a result of the party’s dealings and adventures in Waterdeep, you know for a fact that the following people are actually for-real, genuine Lords of Waterdeep (though you probably shouldn’t go broadcasting their secret identities):
- Khelben “Blackstaff” Ahroun. Human, Archmage of the city
- Lady Azalea Moonbow. Elf, Founder of Harpers & headmistress of girls’ finishing school
- Marius Commonman. Halfelf, passionate anti-government speaker
- Elanna Mirtdaughter. Deva, former assistant to Mirt.
- Piergeron Paladinson III. Human, politician. Open Lord of Waterdeep.]
While many believe that fallen angels and those whose gods die might become deva, that theory is usually limited to the vaguely humanoid angels of most gods. Io, however, had dragon angels, though after he was killed by the primordial Erek-Hus, they did not re-align themselves with the new gods Bahamut & Tiamat (who each have angels of more humanoid stature). So why don’t we ever see any draconic deva? Perhaps they are… somewhere else.
While it is not spoken of much outside of old world Arkhosian cultures, there are many ancient dragonborn families who claim that they have a connection to one of Io’s angels. This is known as drakon krovey, an old draconic term roughly translating to “dragon-blooded”, but a family said to be drakon krovey will often produce sorcerers of exceptional power, warriors who do not tire when others are exhausted, and natural leaders who seem to command others out of instinct.
There are some bards (mainly those driven to speak by the halfling’s feyleaf) who claim that ideas of gods & primordials are but theories… that all of reality is actually the dream of a giant moth, Lunesta, whose slumber dust falls across the universe as stars and ideas. Man… that would be, like, MIND-BLOWING…
Lusemnee was the daughter of the evil assassin snake god Zehir. When she decided to give up her father’s killer ways (and briefly became a minor goddess of redemption), Zehir crafted a poison of his own blood to kill her. However, it is widely theorized that if one could find her body (which it is believed floats in some secret corner of the Elemental Chaos), and extract even a drop of her blood… that blood would be a poison that could kill Zehir himself (or any other god, for that matter). Understandably, no god who might have info on Lusemnee’s corpse’s location is willing to give that information out.
Just before the Great Cataclysm, one of the greatest cities the tiefling empire of Bael Turoth was Maelbrathyr, Home of Heroes. 50 years earlier, a great Tiefling hero, known only as the Ruby Wizard, had gone into the Underdark to slay both Torog and the Spider Queen. He failed, however (some say he was betrayed), and was imprisoned for an eternity of anguish in one of Torog’s torture dens in the deepest realms of the Underdark. The five greatest houses of Maelbrathyr sent forth their strongest child to form a team of heroes, known as the Pride of Maelbrathyr, to rescue the Ruby Wizard so that he could lead Bael Turoth against the increasing Arkhosian threats to the north.
The Pride was successful, though two fell in battle on the way down. Eventually, though, the Ruby Wizard was rescued and returned to the sun. As a great celebration began for the return of the greatest Tiefling hero… the earth began to rumble. Torog reached his claws up from the Underdark and grabbed the entire metropolis, pulling it into the Underdark.
What happened to those many souls is not entirely known, though certainly torture and pain were involved. The God Who Crawls reclaimed his plaything, the Ruby Wizard, with no doubt. Rumors of a dark city of ancient tieflings (reports about their living/undead status vary) in the Underdark that holds a sort of Bleak Carnival each year with attendance by some of the most evil groups in the Underdark cannot be confirmed, yet they persist nonetheless. The moral of the story is clear, though: if you steal from the God of Torture, his vengeance will be severe.
In the days after the Dawn War, there were some who blamed the Gods for all the destruction and chaos that the war created. They felt that the gods did not deserve stewardship of the world, or the victory that they barely managed through deals with the Xel’Naga. These bitter feelings were strongest among arcane casters, who ended with no god of their own (initially Oghma had been the goddess of all Truth, including the universal truths of arcane reality… and when Ioun took up some of that portfolio as the goddess of Knowledge, many of these arcanists felt that she was a pale wannabe). The four greatest among those with this attitude: a wizard, a sorcerer, a warlock, and an Invoker, tried to fix the situation by merging their existences into one god-like being that would set the world right and fix all the mistakes the Gods had made during the Dawn War. That creature was called the “Masters of Absolute Accord”, and it was the first major challenge to the new world the Gods had just won for themselves.
In seeking to reclaim the Absolute Truths of the universe, the Masters wanted to rewrite any part of reality that did not fit their desired world order. It is said that they could convert the energy of any divine attack against them into arcane power, or matter, or any other force in the universe.
There are many dramatic tellings of the various exarchs of different good gods that were sent after this four-in-one being, which sometimes called itself “The New God” or “The Rewriters”, but all fell short in the end. However, the Masters were not just a threat to the good gods of battle and strength and such (Kord, Bahamut, Moradin, etc), all of whom had failed to defeat the quadrune entity with direct attacks. A strange alliance of some of the remaining deities occurred after all the stronger good gods were exhausted, and the result of that alliance is the stuff of nightmares.
Using the trickery and illusion of Sehanine, the assassin god Zehir was made to appear to be planning a strike on the Masters, but made to appear as if he was not yet ready. The Masters lashed out at Zehir immediately, hoping to take him unawares, but at the last moment he dropped the ruse and dodged their attack, though it still managed to slice a small sliver of his divine essence off (a sliver that would later become his daughter, Lusemnee). Sehanine lifted her shrouds, revealing binding chains that Torog, god of torture, had set to catch the Masters. The chains were woven in an intricate weave that tightened the more the trapped being struggled. The chains pulled the masters into a maze dimension that Baphomet himself had constructed, filled with the maddening laughter of Yeenoghu. Vecna “blessed” the Masters with his love of secrecy, making their quadrune entity doubt itself, and worry about betrayal from within itself. To this day, all four components of The Masters of Absolute Accord are still trapped in that dimension, yet unable to break the bonds that forge them into a single being. The power of each keeps the others from escaping, even as the power of one escapee would bind the other three (and, consequently, the escapee) further in place. And so they have sat for eternity, driven more insane by their own attempts to escape. It is a delicious and horrible trap, and it is said that all who participated were infinitely pleased with the outcome.
While there are many legends about the Wheels of Progress, Ionia’s most famous heroes, some of them are only known among certain populations. For instance, the archmagus Malachi Johnson is seen in many of the group tales as a support character. Among groups of thaumaturgical students, however, he’s the unappreciated genius that allowed the rest of the team to survive. The theories he has published in various thaumaturgical papers are legendary. His greatest, however, is probably the one about the relativity of chaos and order. While the details of his theory are confusing on the best day (DC 30 Arcana to even begin to comprehend), the boiled-down version is that he figured out a certain geometric pattern that, when built into a crystal matrix of residuum-enhanced crystal, could convert the essence of chaos into stability. This theory is pretty far-fetched even among scholars of experimental magicks… and might have been thrown in with all the other zany un-provable theories that so-called “geniuses” have come up with, like the one about distilling dragon souls into limitless magic engines, or the one about the links between the essences of gods & primordials, or the one about what happens when you turn a bag of holding inside out… Yep, it would have been tossed into the “crazy” pile, were it not for one small difference.
Malachi got it to work.
See, the teleportation powers of Dragon Mountain were tied to chaos itself. At certain times when enough chaotic energy had been collected, the mountain would teleport itself to another time, another dimension, another world, another realm… leaving destruction in its wake. After Titus Imperius stabbed his blade through the skull of Infyrana, it was up to Malachi to come up with a way to keep Dragon Mountain present in Ionia, to stop the build-up of chaotic energies. He came up with a working version of his theoretical Stability Matrix, channeling the energies into the stones of Ionia, transforming the mountain from something infused with chaos to the exact opposite, a structure of stability and constancy. Many scholars have come since that time to observe his work, and all have been amazed at the technique. Entire magical schools have grown since then, teaching “The Johnson Method” of meta-magical manipulation. While this tale won’t win you any free drinks at a bar, being able to tell it will certainly impress any arcane scholars you run into.
One of the tales of old Arkhosia that still persists is that of the great crafter Mazgorax. Legend says that his parents had saved the lives of both a high priest of Corellon and a high priest of Moradin, and that both offered the blessings of their gods upon the couple’s child, who from a very young age was crafting items of exceptional quality and with great magical properties. As he grew, Mazgorax fashioned items that were worn by kings and warlords, high priests and archmages. It is even said that one or two Exarchs came to him to request that items be crafted for them. While the “Gold Dragon Forge” where much of his work was done was destroyed in the Great Cataclysm, dragonborn crafters to this day will put a small gold dragon token on their forges or work areas to commemorate the ancient artisan.
The one persistent part of this story, though, is the part about the gifts for Mazgorax’s kids. His children were each dragonborn heroes, and he crafted a special item for each of them. These items were said to have sympathetic properties, such that they became more effective when the siblings used them together. It is also rumored that as each child died in battle, Mazgorax may have channeled his grief by crafting additional copies of these items in their memory, but that may just be embellishment. His children (and their items) are:
-He crafted leather anklets for his youngest son Skaivani, a Barbarian who never hesitated to rush into danger head-on. The anklets gave him a burst of speed and physical prowess, though he perished running into the maw of a demon trying to enter the world through a Turathi portal.
-For his daughter Matrakk, an archer who put elves to shame, he crafted lenses that would protect her from attacks against her eyes. She fell when an imp stole her quiver, and she had no arrows left to shoot a red dragon that dove at her.
-His son Gajz was a cleric of Bahamut who had pledged his life to defeating chromatic dragons after his sister was slain by one. He became a general in the Mithril Arm, and the holy symbol his father made him was said to be able to protect allies from the breath of chromatics as he healed them. He died when a tiefling assassin from Bael Turoth distracted him with an illusion of a dragon, then stabbed him in the throat as he prayed to Bahamut for strength.
-His eldest son, Rovikar, was a warlord without peer, who lead the armies of Arkhosia in several campaigns to crush the forces of Bael Turoth. The weapon Mazgorax made for him (stories vary as to what kind of weapon it was) lent his strength to his allies, letting them strike truer and harder. Rovikar was overrun by demons as he single-handedly defended a retreat after the Arkhosian First had taken heavy losses.
-Keicha, his eldest daughter, was a Paladin of Bahamut, always protecting others by throwing herself in harm’s way. Mazgorax crafted for her an amulet that granted her different protections each day, depending on the foes she planned to face. She died facing the White Exarch of Tiamat, who (unbeknownst to Keicha) had been gifted with multiple breath weapon types by its evil goddess.
[See “Heirlooms of Mazgorax” group set in Adv Vault 2]
The lake known as Melora’s Womb is known the world over as “the place where all life begins”. Songs about it usually involve the beauty of nature, but can also involve the sort of lurid “springtime thoughts” found in the area known as Lake Fairy Lust, which feeds off of The Womb’s waters. Tales of Fey Lords often also involve The Womb, as it is seen as sort of a pilgrimage site to any who worship Nature.
The arcanist named Mordain was a legend before he became a lich. The inventor of most variants of the flesh golem you’d find in any arcane text, and a wealthy land-owner in Thay, Mordain’s land suffered from frequent abductions of peasants, attributed to “bandits” and “foreigners”. Nowadays, though, most everyone is certain that it was actually Mordain abducting the peasants and children, experimenting to discover new ways to meld their flesh to his every whim. He has now been a lich for almost a century, and his “land” is actually an overgrown mass of trees and death known as the Forest of Flesh. It is believed that the only reason the Thayan ruling council of Archmages allows Mordain to maintain this realm is that the Forest of Flesh borders the edge of the Verge Wilderness, and the Flesh Forest is horrible enough to keep creatures from Verge from entering Thay (or, even more terrifying… maybe Mordain takes some of the Verge creatures for his ongoing experiments). In any case, though, the tales of Mordain the Flesh-Weaver are always popular for scaring children.
In the time before Nerath (or maybe after… accounts are vague), lived a great human wizard named Mordenkainen. Rumor has it that he was somehow scarred by some event in his past, and was thus shunned by most folks, making him a de facto hermit. Upset over his inability to make friends in the general populace, Mordenkainen mastered the magics necessary to create other “friends”, or to do tasks his non-existent allies would normally be doing, or to just give him a place to wallow in his solitude. He also had access to copying magics, and it was not long before spells with his name began finding their way into arcane schools across the lands (Faithful Hound, Dancing Sword, Private Sanctum, Magnificent Mansion, Faithful Phantom Guardians, etc). As his fame increased, many politicians and military leaders tried to bribe or otherwise convince him to join their causes. Mordenkainen shunned their moral absolutes, which made him even less popular with those groups, even while his spells increased in popularity. His only “companion” was the sullen wizard Evard, who frequently met to do battle with him, fighting for arcane superiority. Outside of these fights, though, they had little interaction, and Mordenkainen is said to have died alone and lonely. Whether he left behind any secret spells or magical items is a topic of some debate in the bard community, though no one has ever uncovered his gravesite… possibly because he had no friends to bury him & set up a headstone.
Lathander is a minor god of mornings, but he’s not entirely well-known everywhere. In many places, Pelor is the only sun god anyone needs. This, however, is the story of where this other god of daylight came from. Once a half-elven cleric of Pelor many ages ago, Lathander found joy in his worship, yet sorrow in his secrets. Lathander lived in an area that treated half-elves poorly, but even among half-elves he was shunned, for Lathander was not interested sexually in women. He could hide this most times, allowing his priesthood to answer questions he could not… but then one day he fell in love with a great warrior, a paladin called Cuthbert.
Lathander could not reveal his love, however, for he feared both Cuthbert’s reaction and his god’s reaction. He loved in secret, adventuring with Cuthbert and others, until they went to fight a powerful necromancer who lead a cult to Vecna. The necromancer learned Lathander’s secret, and whispered it to Cuthbert, confusing him long enough to send a necrotic blast into Cuthbert’s heart. Cuthbert, despite his many preparations, would be dead by morning. Lathander, in a final act of desperation, cursed the servants of Vecna, claiming that they could never use his secret love as their weapon. He called out to Pelor, and in one final act of sacrifice, he professed his love for Cuthbert and gave up his life force to save him. In that moment, the first rays of morning light shone on them both, and Pelor granted Lathander’s wish, purging the death from Cuthbert, and elevating Lathander to a new position. Cuthbert survived and eventually slew the Vecnites. Though stories differ on whether he remembered the secret that was revealed to him, most stories state that during his morning prayers, there was always a quiet time when he wasn’t praying to his god.
These days, the Morning Lord is looked to as a god of any love that is forbidden or seen as not normal by larger society. His followers are open-minded, free-love sorts, and (somewhat obviously) many gay folk worship him as well. While some of the stricter, more traditional gods (Kord, Moradin, Torm) may not have clergy that will marry same-gendered lovers, Lathander’s church will tie fast the hands of any lovers who wish to truly commit to one another. Interestingly, Lathander’s church does not offer divorces, though it has never needed to.
Not surprisingly, Vecnites do all that they can to slaughter worshipers of Lathander, given that the revelation of secrets in the morning light is one of their holiest rituals. And of course, Cuthbert went on to become a minor god of paladins and preparation.
In the days before the Great Cataclysm, the greatest Elvish city was Myth Drannor. Located in what is now the Yew Woods, it was the pinnacle of magic and wonder. Unfortunately, the Elves reached too far, and certain forces (some say a council of dragons, some say forces of the Abyss, some say gods, some say a primordial the elves tried to wake, some say it was the Arch Fey… maybe it was all of them) decided Myth Drannor should fall. The actual fall, it is believed, happened some time prior to the Great Cataclysm, which is why the Elves & Eladrin were unprepared to use all their crazy magical oracle powers to see the impending Cataclysm between Bael Turoth and Arkhosia. But who can say for sure?
What ruins remain of Myth Drannor, if you can find them in the constantly chaotic woods surrounding them (theorized to be somewhere in the SpellDeath Woods of Tethyr, in the Eastern Alliance), are said to have Elven relics of great power, books with lost spells, historical records of things that the rest of the world have forgotten (like, for example, Atalantea), and lots of other stuff. Of course, some of the bad things that destroyed Myth Drannor might also have decided to stick around, so it’s certainly not a “safe” place to go. But if you’re looking to gain favor with folks whose ancestors were related to Myth Drannor, rescuing a lost artifact from there might be a good idea.
[NOTE: This tale is only really told in the Sankh Kingdom, and citizens from Pax Humana hate to hear it] There are many tales of the great human kingdom of Nerath, and of its so-called “national descendant”, Pax Humana. However, few scholars know that the name of Pax Humana comes from a much more ancient source. In the days of the Dawn War, it is said that every race was separate, worshiping their own gods and fighting with one another. There was one early human kingdom (some say the first human kingdom), known as Sembia [or Shembri-la or some other similar variant], that saw things differently. With the gods going to war with the primordials, and all of heaven and earth in upheaval. two human rulers, a king and queen, sought to unite the mortal nations so they could help one another. This king and queen had a daughter, whom they named Pax [sometimes Paxia or Paxim], an ancient word meaning “peace”. Their dream was to forge a world of cooperation, that their daughter could grow up in peace and harmony with other races. However, on the eve of a summit that would have brought together leaders from all races, the baby Pax was murdered in her crib. The chaos and despair that ensued caused the human king & queen to go mad with grief and suspicion, and the alliance of races never occurred. It is not known who actually assassinated the baby, but it is said that the first war between non-evil races, the Sembian War, happened soon afterward. Though the details of that war were never recorded (due to overshadowing by the Dawn War itself), it is clear that Sembia was destroyed as a result.
In the days after the fall of Nerath, it was a kind-hearted and wise scholar who helped the survivors set up their new kingdom in the north. Hoping that another human kingdom would rise to unite the disparate races of the world, this scholar named their new nation “Pax Humana”. That scholar’s hope remains to this day, that somehow the humans of Pax Humana will rise above their self-worth and unite the world in peace and harmony. But the choice is theirs, and should they fail, there are no doubt assassin’s blades ready to strike.
More than a hundred years ago there was a terrible disturbance in the nation now known as Travailia, in the Eastern Alliance. At that time Travailia was little more than scattered towns, each fending for themselves, but they came under the influence of an evil wizard named Nhargruul. So vile and arrogant was this wizard that he thought to create life in his own way. He hired adventurers to slay female dragons, then paid handsomely to have them return the eggs to him. Having gained access to some kinds of fluids from the abyss, he incubated the dragon eggs in demonic juices, creating horrid pseudo-dragon spawn that contained some elements of dragons, some elements of demons, and some of his own magical influences. A team of dragonborn adventurers calling themselves “Bahamut’s Claw” destroyed many of these creatures and chased the wizard into the Underdark, where most tales say he wound up in an Illithid city, where he was destroyed. Other reports say that the “Claw” destroyed him and were then pushed back by the mind-flayers, but all reports agree that he is definitely dead. Occasionally there are tales of strange creatures with draconic attributes lurking in the Underdark, but who can verify such stories? There certainly couldn’t be any more of these Vile Dragonspawn left in the dark, maddening recesses of the Underdark. Certainly not. Probably. We hope.
It is said that the powers of life and death were initially in perfect balance. Then one day some god or primordial shifted the scales, creating unlife that strengthened death. The forces of life tried to fight the Undead, but were not strong enough on their own. Thus it was that the gods of good began to bless their servants with radiant powers to hold back the blight of undeath, but it was still not enough. As the Dawn War raged, it became clear to some that the fight of life vs undeath would continue long after the Dawn War had been decided. Because of this, a mortally wounded god of Life gave the last of her soul to create an orb of purest light. That orb is a holy artifact that wants solely to destroy undeath, and which gives its wielder the power to do just that. [see Open Grave p. 40]. Of course, this is just a legend, as the actual orb (if it every existed) has been lost since before the Great Cataclysm.
When the god of all dragons, Io, was split in half by the mithril axe of the primordial King of Terror, Erek-Hus, most can tell you that the resulting two god halves, Bahamut & Tiamat, rose up to rip the primordial to shreds. What none can prove (but many suspect), however, is what happened to the primordial’s axe. The pure mithril weapon, coated in Io’s blood, shattered as it fell to the earth, and the dead dragon god’s blood took strength from the powerful metal, creating the dragonborn people from the shattered remains of weapon and god. While many other mortals pass this tale off as a fanciful invention, and others believe it is a metaphor for something less dramatic, there are a surprising number of dragonborn who believe this tale to be literal, and seek to become as dragon-like as possible in honor of their godly origin.
Sometimes called “The Heart of Vecna” (likely because she shows a seductive and “feminine” side to the plans of her dark master), the ancient being known as Osterneth appears as a beautiful courtly lady in her 20s, with dark hair and bronze skin. She has been rumored to have been the cause of many a nation’s downfall. There are stories of her presence in Nerath, Helmsgard, Atramor, and even walking the lands of Arkhosia and Bael Turoth in the years before each of their epic downfalls. Her actual age, and how she maintains such a blush of life while being such an ancient undead, is a secret of Vecnal proportions. However, whenever she is seen, one can be assured that a time of troubles is not far in the future.
Even before the Dawn War, the power of Chaos was still immense. Nowhere was it stronger than in the Pandemonium Stone, a football field-sized mass of bone, flesh, ice, minerals, wind, wood, and other constantly shifting materials. It is said that the Pandemonium Stone does not always exist, or perhaps it travels so far that it is only occasionally within perception of beings in the known planes. When it does arrive, even in the Elemental Chaos, the disruptions to everything are more epic than a humble bard can say (though many try, in increasingly fast-paced songs). The arrival of the Stone, like a volcanic eruption in 2 seconds flat, often calls out to beings that would create chaos. This is not some voice in their heads enticing them, though… but rather a primal tug, forcing them to come and do battle around the pulsing Stone as their souls surrender to the chaos.
Chaos incarnate is one thing, but there are stories that the Pandemonium Stone may be something more. Atop its massive bulk is a structure that is home to the Watchers of Tomorrow, a group of angels and demons whose gods died long ago. Their purpose is unknown, but they defend the Stone as if it were a baby.
Typically, though, songs about the Pandemonium Stone are just finger-bleedingly fast songs with no lyrics that happen to be called “The Pandemonium Stone.” There’s also a band of young dwarven and half-elven bards who call themselves “The Pandemonium Stone” and play a combination of super fast guitar & violin (the half-elves) with ludicrously paced drumming (the dwarves). That band’s music is an “acquired taste”, but their fans are fairly devoted and prone to berserker furies they call “dancing”.
In the vast plains and forest of the Nentir Vale, stories often circulate of a lost army of ghost soldiers who roam the night. Reports are very scattered. Some say they wear the symbols of the old Kingdom of Atramor. Others say they fly Nerathi colors. Still others say they are mostly composed of dwarves. It is rumored, however, that they can be reasoned with. There are even tales of the occasional would-be despot hiring the Phantom Brigade as mercenaries… though what he could offer as payment is beyond anyone’s guess. But their allegiance is fickle, as is, apparently, their attention. It is never long before they hear some otherworldly call to march elsewhere, perhaps to a different plain, perhaps to the lands of the dead once more. It may be that they have their own agenda, though no sage has so far managed to divine what it might be. For now, the people of the Nentir Vale simply hide behind locked doors, city walls, and other defenses whenever rumors of this ghostly legion come near to them.
Rumors occasionally surface of a lost sect of Corellon worshippers who, in addition to worshipping the typical Elven deities, also worshipped a being called Phayrd, the Lost Daughter. It is said that Phayrd was the daughter of two of Corellon & Gruumsh’s first exarchs, and that she manifested the best qualities of elves and orcs. It was even thought that she might one day bring about a peace between the two enemy races. Various tales also speak of her murder at a young age by either one church or the other.
Of course, mention of such an abomination is heresy in both Corellon and Gruumsh’s churches (and really, could that even physically happen?), and there have been indications that the idea of Phayrd was invented by a dwarvish bard looking to make the elves look bad. Yet rumors persist, especially in half-orc and half-elven communities. There was a small pamphlet that appeared in Waterdeep briefly a few years back claiming that a perfect union of a half-orc and half-elf would allow their human halves to merge the warring orc & elf halves, creating a perfect hybrid child who would be Phayrd reborn, and who would be the harbinger of the end of the world. Those pamphlets were confiscated by the Lords, though, and nothing ever came of that prophesy, so it’s likely all a legend anyway.
The nation of Cormyr has always been devoted to Bahamut. The Purple Dragon Knights are renown throughout the world as the most elite fighting knights there are, and they pledge their lives and honor both to Purple, the color of the Obarskyr royal family, and (good) Dragons, the children of Bahamut. While the legends of the Purple Dragon Knights are multitudinous, none are greater than those of the Five Dragon Generals who served the first King of Cormyr over a century ago. They were each masters of weaponry, shining beacons of purity, and fearful images in the dreams of evil creatures. Each rode a celestial wyvern as a mount, and each had seen enough evil creature blood to fill an ocean. So it was that when the first King of Cormyr died of disease, forces of Tiamat stole away the infant heir, along with the Cormyrean crown (said to have been forged in Bahamut’s platinum flames). The Five Dragon Generals mounted up to fly into the Abyssal regions of horror where Tiamat herself dwelt to retrieve the child, but they were stopped by the queen, who took her husband’s sword and commanded the royal wizard to transform into a giant eagle to carry her with them.
Throughout the Chaos these six flew, until they found the Dread Wyrm herself, waiting patiently and laughing as she held a clawed foot over the baby, ready to crush both the royal line and Bahamut’s artifact. But the Five Dragon Generals would not allow that to happen. As the royal wizard placed protective force cubes around the child, trying desperately to hold back the evil goddess’s foot, each of the Knights flew off to do battle with (and destract) one of Tiamat’s five heads. As the wizard fought to replace the force fields Tiamat was breaking, Queen Obarskyr herself walked up to the Dread Wyrm and crawled under its foot to retrieve her son. Knowing she could not kill the god, she instead left her husband’s sword in place of the child, so that as she and the Generals retreated, the chromatic bitch’s foot came down on the sword, burying it deep. To this day, those unfortunate enough to have seen Tiamat claim she has a slight limp, and the forces of Tiamat have never resorted to baby theft again.
Stories of tieflings making deals with demons are more common than tieflings themselves in these lands. However, there have been a few whose deals were so epic and awful that they live on in legend. One such tale is that of Karavakos, an impossibly strong tiefling wizard from the days of Bael Turoth. Karavakos was said to have made deals with each of the Lords of the Nine Hells, and to have written them in such a way that each contradicted others, so that no Lord of Hell could cash-in without defeating at least two other Lords. Karavakos’ power was immense, and it was even said that he once held back an entire army from Arkhosia by himself.
The problems for Karavakos arose when someone (whose name remains unknown) found a loophole in the contracts, such that if the Lords all agreed, they could imprison Karavakos until he could fulfill each of the contracts. They constructed a prison for him called the Pyramid of Shadows, a devilish structure that thwarted his every attempt to leave. So great was this prison, though, that the Lords of the Nine Hells expanded it, so that Karavakos was not only the chief prisoner, but also the warden of the prison. Other ambitious fools who earned eternal torture from the Lords could be left here for eons at a time.
Little is known about the prison itself. It is known that Vyrellis, the eladrin one-time lover of Karavakos, had her soul trapped there as well after her death. The pyramid is said to somehow keep them separated, yet also at each other’s throats. Many bards have imagined what sort of hellishness must go on inside the pyramid. The reason it is an enduring story, though, is that many other (in)famous heroes are rumored to be held in this prison, as are their artifacts and treasures. Depending on the bard, you might hear that the shadow wizard Evard, the lich Keraptis, some of Halastair’s apprentices, Galap-Dreidel, Nhargruul, and/or many fallen former champions of various good gods.
In the time just after the Great Cataclysm, the world was in utter chaos. Continents shifted, dimensional walls wavered, and all seemed lost. Then, seven powers came together to fix things. They called themselves the Wind Mages, and they had a plan. Though their specific races, names, and descriptions are all lost to time now, what is known is that they were each monumentally powerful. Each of them poured all of their power into components that would become a tool of mending. The result was the most legendary item of all time: the Rod of Seven Parts. After its single usage to stabilize the world after the Great Cataclysm, the rod was separated and its pieces shattered, its creators knowing that such power was not meant to be wielded by any in this world.
Some say that the pieces were constructed from the bones of fallen gods or primordials. Some say it channeled the powers of the Far Realm. Some say it warped reality itself. Some even claim that it was the Rod which caused the cataclysm, and its breakage what the only thing that could set the world (mostly) right again. Some claim the Wind Mages were dragonborn, or tieflings, or gods disguised as mortals, or even the Xel’Naga returned after their departure at the end of the Dawn War. It’s also possible that “the Rod of Seven Parts” is just a metaphor for some great power that helped to stave off chaos. But in the 1000 years since that time, numerous reports of various powerful rods broken into 7 pieces have popped up all over the world. Obviously many of these are fakes or wannabe imitations, but the legend persists, and maybe the True pieces of the actual Rod are out there somewhere…
Separate from the legends about the Rod being the ultimate tool of law that brought the world back into stability after the Cataclysm is an older story about a being of pure chaos named Miska, the Wolf Spider… a primordial that was so chaotic that order could not exist near it. This story tells of seven very different gods pouring part of their essence into an item that became the ultimate tool of law, and was able to eternally trap Miska and destroy the Wolf Spider’s chaos during the Dawn War. The story says that this rod was shattered in the act of defeating Miska. If that is the case, then perhaps the one created by the Wind Lords (see above) was a tribute to the original, or a recreation of the original, or the original gods secretly disguised as wind lords and making another rod just like the first one. This story could also be a total fabrication, designed to either boost the reputation of the Wind Lords’ rod, or to build mystery about it, or to sell fabricated versions of the rod. Who can say?
Hundreds of years ago, when Waterdeep was still a thriving dwarven mining operation, the three greatest heroes of the Malarken Dwarven Collective (a collection of perhaps 20 clans, including the Malarken clan, who first dug in Mt. Waterdeep) forged for themselves three great shields to defend them from any foes that lay beneath. These shields, known as the Sentinel Shields, are perhaps the most sought-after and least known-about items in Waterdeep. After Halastair the mad took over Undermountain, the whereabouts of the three heroic dwarves was unknown. Some say Halastair slew them all. Others say that they were too old and retired away from Undermountain. Others say that they went deep into the dungeon to force whatever evil lurked there to rise up and slay Halastair in the same way he had slaughtered the many dwarves. Others say that Halastair passed his madness on to the three, who became distrustful of one another and each walled themselves off somewhere in Undermountain. Few facts are known of the shields true powers these days, but each owner was said to have put a piece of himself into his shield. The shields bear the names of their forgers and owners: Shield of the Orc-Slayer, Shield of the Iron Warlord, Shield of the Heartless Dwarf. Any one of these shields would be a huge find, but if a group were to get all 3 together, rumor has it that they could ward off any Underdark foe.
Originally created for the Paladin Prator, Guardian of the Light, this shield appears to help heroes defeat the forces of darkness and allow Pelor’s light to shine everywhere. It protects the wearer from the forces of demons and darkness, and has been on the arm of many great heroes throughout history (including, for a short while, the arm of Titus Imperius). The problem with the shield is that its powers are equally useful against any foe, and evil men have certainly used the shield for their own ends, as well. However, a monastic order from Dambrath has been said to have recovered it, so it might be found in a temple in that eastern nation these days. Though with so many shrines and temples to Pelor in that nation, who can say which one is the true shield?
During the last years of the Dragovar Empire, a wealthy Count did not give in to the the worship of Bane, like most of the nation. Instead, he held to the teachings of Bane’s better brother Kord, and spent some of his vast riches to invite the greatest warriors of the region to join his own personal army. Paying several other armies from far-off nations to join him, he marched at the head of his own force, which was backed by the many other nation’s armies, which were backed by the many peasants who did not want to put up with life under the Church of Bane anymore, and they overthrew the Dragovar Empire in a massive, 3-year-long war.
In the time afterward, the people whole-heartedly supported Strahd’s bid for king, and he named the nation Borovia, supposedly after whatever home town his family originally hailed from. He ruled for 50 years or so, and famously ended his reign by saying he had to leave “across the ocean for an investment opportunity.” The meaning of that phrase has been the topic of hundreds of books in Borovia, as there is no sea near Borovia, nor is there any known land across the eastern sea. Some say that the ship the Count took was much smaller than one would need to survive a long sea voyage.
Count Strahd holds an almost Paul Bunyan-like level of folk hero status in Borovia these days. Since he was last seen maybe half a millenium ago, his Tales have reached ridiculous sizes. They tend to talk of his immense combat power, his unstoppable speed on the battlefield, the way he (as a 70+ year old man) fought each of his generals (and defeated them) to determine who deserved to rule the nation after he left, how he actually heard there was a Kraken to fight and he went off to kill it himself, the unfailing loyalty of his followers, how he preferred to fight in the dark (out of respect for his foes) so that no man would see him coming from far off and have to live those many more seconds with the knowledge that death was approaching, how he’d sometimes go in disguise to The Arena just to fight, etc.
The nation of Borovia, site of the head of Kord’s church, is known for many things… but none moreso than the Arena. The bloody to-the-death battles here are watched by a crowd of up to 50,000 at a time, and many foreigners passing through make a point of visiting this spectacle. The story goes that if any of the criminals & war prisoners who fight in the arena were to survive 10 combats, they would be given freedom. But that has never happened.
A few decades after the nation was formed and the Arena was implemented, a strange warrior came through a portal from a far-off land. He did not speak any of the humanoid languages, and his appearance was strange, with multiple limbs and a face like that of a monster (tales vary as to how many limbs and which kind of monster, but many a bard has his own version of this to please the crowds). There was confusion at first as to what he was, and what his purpose in this land happened to be. The Kordian Paladins approached him, and but he met their blades with parries and blocks as it let out a strange clicky & almost musical battle cry. Eventually the Kordian priests saw no other option than to put him/it into the Arena. Though it was unclear whether or not the creature understood the words of the priests who explained the rules, or if it understood the crimes for which it had been charged, it was very clear that he understood the spears and blades of the arena. After a resounding victory, he returned to the cells beneath the arena to await more competitors.
While there, an elderly goliath priest, Emilio Sandoz, came down to try and congratulate the creature. This priest was not a priest of Kord, though, but of Ioun. Emilio understood that the tonal clicks were actually a language, and not just a battle cry. He used a mixture of magic and sign language to communicate with the creature. Over the course of the next 8 combats and downtimes between, Fr. Sandoz determined that the creature had been tricked by an old enemy through a cursed portal in the far off land of Thri-Na, and that he had had no intent to invade Borovia. Fr. Sandoz learned that the creature’s name was Sun Tsu, and that he had been a skilled killer in his land, but had given up the way of the blade for a life of philosophy. It had been a family member of one of his victims who had tricked Sun Tsu into the portal, so he felt that it was a fitting penance that he be trapped in this strange land.
The final Arena fight was one of epic scale. The combats there are not always solely fighter vs. other fighters. Often the administrator priests will add in other monsters and foes to “spice up” the combat, especially as one prisoner gets closer to 10 wins. This last fight contained 20 prisoners (including Sun Tsu), as well as 2 (or more) displacer beasts and an invisible stalker. The audience had been enchanted with a ritual that let them see the true locations of the monsters, but the combatants had not. The battle was horrifically bloody, but it was not Sun Tsu’s blood that stained the arena sands when the fight was finished. Standing with a displacer beast tentacle in each of four (or more) hands, Sun Tsu was able to whip them about around himself in a 10 foot circle, using them as a way of detecting the unseen stalker. Sun Tsu was too clever, and soon the Invisible Stalker was quite visible, in a pool of its own blood.
Sun Tsu was given a full pardon and released to freedom, as Kord had clearly given him/it the blessings of Battle. None know where he went afterward, but everyone knows the tale of his final arena battle, and the strange Thrinese warrior.
It is said that an ancient evil dwelt deep in the earth beneath an eldritch temple in the times prior to The Great Cataclysm. Near a small village called Coneria, in the region that is now known as Ionia, an ancient site seemed to awaken and gain power soon after the Cataclysm, which might have woken it up to some degree. Though none can say what (if any) god it served, it became known as the Temple of Fiends, and awful creatures seemed to almost be created by the evil this Temple served. Many heroes died fighting back the beasts that flowed out of the Temple, but none could ever destroy it or permanently stop the monsters. Then, one day, a hero named Garland (accounts of his race vary, though Deva seems likely) arrived. He was not a warrior or wizard, not a thief or priest of some powerful god… he was a simple minstrel, with a magical flute that he hoped to use against the temple. Traveling with a party of powerful adventurers, he was able to get inside the temple, and playing an ancient song (some say it was a variant on a divine tune from the Dawn War or earlier), he was able to put the evil of the Temple of Fiends to Sleep. For centuries since, it has lain dormant, and some say that the arrival of Dragon Mountain may have even destroyed what was left of the Temple, or shunted it off to another dimension when it arrived in this one. Regardless, the tales of the Temple of Fiends are where the phrase “Music soothes the savage beast” likely originated.
A very popular card game in the D&D world is called Three Dragon Ante. The game is similar to poker, and involves a lot of betting and bluffing. However, it is based on an area known as the Claw Lakes, which are allegedly three claw marks made by a dragon god during the Dawn War. There are supposedly three ancient dragons who rule those three lakes, and the game was supposedly originally based on the manipulation and politicking each dragon did to the kobold and lizardman tribes around the lakes to gain advantages over the other two dragons. Whether this is true or not is anyone’s guess, as most folks who’ve gone to that region end up eaten by kobolds, lizardmen, or dragons… but it still provides a great story source. Tales of the manipulations of these three dragons are endless, and not even their names or draconic types are consistent. Usually there’s a creative one, a structured one, and a destructive one, but sometimes it’s a good one, an evil one, and a neutral one.
This tale takes many forms, with many protagonists… but always there is a fey antagonist of some sort (often one who appears friendly), and often the stories end in sadness and loss. The basic idea is that taking gifts from Fairies can be dangerous, but taking three gifts from the same powerful fey will bring disaster. Often the first gift comes to a mortal in time of great need, or a mortal who wants to begin a quest. The mortal is emboldened by the gift, and may even ask for or otherwise seek out the second gift, which truly empowers the mortal, making him arrogant and sure of his success in all things. The mortal never thinks twice about the third gift, which seals some sort of mystic deal, marking the mortal as belonging to that fey master. The fey can then use the gifts, which by that time will have become a part of the mortal, to control the mortal and force him to do things… usually to leave the prime material world and become the fairy’s slave in the Feywild. Some tales speak of ways to trick the fey out of this contract, either by taking gifts from competing fey lords or removing the initial gifts by giving them to someone else… but neither of these are ideal. Making yourself a slave to a different fey is hardly an improvement, and transferring the gifts (which must be freely received) to another will only transfer the curse to that hapless victim. If the tale does not end in the mortal going off to the fey realms, some of them end with the mortal realizing the danger and not taking any more gifts… though he always feels the pull of the fey, and the temptation to take that final gift.
A song popular in Waterdeep, this is often sung by dwarven bards (or those with dwarven back-up), because the exciting parts of the song often include lightning-imbued guitars. This song tells how the god Sturm (who has a beard of torrential downpours and a voice of crackling thunder) commanded the Sturmhammer clan to go to Mt. Waterdeep to rescue their brothers from a great evil there. It goes on to tell of how Clan Sturmhammer saved Waterdeep and Clan Malarken from the monsters Halastair was sending up from Undermountain (see the History section for more on this). This is a highly fictionalized tale, with many probably exaggerations, but it’s one that’s pretty ubiquitous in the hearts & minds of Waterdeepers. And (obviously) the tune is similar to the Garth Brooks song of the same name.
Many races have darker cousins who fell long ago. The elves have the Drow. The dwarves have the duergar. But the fey creatures known as satyrs have a different dark side. It is rumored that when a regular satyr chooses to pursue a path of shadow and darkness, it becomes something different… something called a satyr of the night.
Long ago, a powerful lich dwelled in a place called the Tower of Rhath, ruling over a swath of the Feywild where even the Sidhe lords dared not oppose him. When the Sidhe lords could no longer stand the foul creature’s presence, they gathered together in council and said, “Who can oppose this lich? Who can reclaim the Tower of Rhath?”
At that moment came a rumble of thunder and a dark cloud of smoke in the midst of their chambers, and from it stepped the twisted form of a satyr of the night. “I have heard your lamentations,” the satyr of the night said, “and I am come to the aid of this council. Give me your ten best warriors, and I will rid the forest of this lich.”
Though loath to accept the help of such a creature of darkness, the Sidhe lords feared to stand against the lich themselves. Their ten best warriors marched away with the satyr of the night, into the dark forest near the Tower of Rhath. For weeks, there came no word. Finally, the Sidhe lords worked up the courage to send another expedition to the Tower of Rhath. There, they found the gates guarded by powerful warriors — the same warriors that had accompanied the satyr of the night. Their eyes were black as pitch, their minds stolen and replaced by slavish obedience.
Eventually, the satyr of the night descended from the Tower of Rhath to meet with the expedition. “What has happened?” the Sidhe leaders asked. “Have you rid the tower of the lich?”
“I have done all that I promised,” responded the satyr of the night. “Now, come into my tower, and stay awhile…”
Genies are a tricksy lot, great elemental powers that do not ascribe to all of the laws of our world all the time. One in particular, though, seems to wander our world with intent. He is Mihaljas the Magnificent, and his large traveler’s tent has appeared at most every catastrophe, great battle, and large empire that has ever existed. Mihaljas is said to offer his guests anything imaginable, though his prices may be more than they are willing to spend. Whether he is a force of good or of evil, of greed or of generosity… none can say. But his tent was visited by the Wheels of Destiny before they ventured to Dragon Mountain, so whatever sort of being Mihaljas might be, his information and offers may certainly be useful.
This tale is often told to more “adult” audiences, frequently by bards (male and female) who go into sultry details about some of the “pleasures” to be found in this tent. Depending on the audience, often either a man will find women who please him sexually without ever getting headaches, or nagging, etc… or a woman will find a man who actually knows how to please her, etc.
“But enough about my penis,” said the Satyr skald as he sat down to take a drink on stage. “Let’s discuss an even bigger piece of wood: the treants. Now I can’t necessarily say I heard this story first hand, but I seduced it from a dryad who heard it from a bird who learned it from a druid who communed with an ancient tree deep in the Feywild, so I’m inclined to believe it.”
“It is said that the ancient forests grew strong and tall long before the concept of a god of nature was given the name Melora. Her first gift to the world, though, was to give will to Nature. That will manifested in the various tree spirits of the Feywild. Many of them were tied to trees, but some wanted to become more… so she chose a specific type of rare tree, known as the Yew Tree, and empowered those spirits to actually become their trees. They were the first treants.”
“Now the Yew is the rarest of trees in our own world today, but back then it was more numerous in the Feywild. The peculiar thing about the Yew, though, is that it can become a sort of forest unto itself, letting its branches reach down and take root around it. The Yew is also essentially immortal. A ranger once explained this to me, because (as you know) my knowledge of wood-like things is in a completely different arena, if you know what I mean.” He winked at the barmaid, who blushed heavily.
“See, when a regular Yew tree is about to die, its main trunk rots from the inside, hollowing out a passage. Then it seeds, and almost always produces only one seed. That seed appears at the top of the trunk, visible to the sunlight, where it soaks in as much of Pelor’s energy as it can before it falls into the trunk. The Yew is then reborn inside the protective dead husk of its former self. I know, I know, it makes even less sense than that whole deva thing, but what can you do?”
“But you didn’t come here for a farming lesson, you came for a story, so let me get back on track. The Yew Treants of the Feywild came to this world as well, and acted much like the regular Yew Trees with regards to reproduction. They never grew more numerous, only renewed their individual numbers. The problem came with that seed. See, during the brief time when it was soaking up sunlight and air and water, the seed is rather vulnerable. And some of the earliest of warlocks realized that such a seed was so full of life energy that it was an amazingly powerful spell component. It was said that a seed like that could bring back the dead, or even grant immortality to one who knew how to harness the power. Well, as you know, folks get greedy, and people started to hunt these Yew Treants, waiting for that moment of vulnerability to steal the seed. I even heard a story once of a green dragon who collected the seeds in some kind of magical stasis.”
“Did they all die out?” asked someone from the audience.
“Well, that’s a good question, my friend. You’ll note that you don’t hear stories of any Yew Treants these days. I don’t know if they’re all gone, but I can tell you that, by Melora’s grace, the seedless ones did not end up dead. See, when she fused those spirits with the Yew trees of the Feywild, she also built in a sort of failsafe. She allowed them to change in that moment of rebirth. All that was needed was a seed or a part of another tree. So some of the seedless Yews found acorns, and they became the grandfathers of the Oak Treants. Others found pinecones, and became the Spruce and Fir Treants of the north, and a few even had a peel of birch bark or an apple core that they settled upon. . In fact, every other tree species that now walks as a treant has its origins in one of those Yew treants. Of course, once they became other types of trees, they took on more efficient and prolific ways of going to seed. But in the deepest forests of the Feywild there are still those who claim to hear the echoes of the songs of the wind through the branches of the Yew Treants. It is said that sometimes those who have lost a loved one will hear that song as well, a gentle breeze that blows the wheel onward, transforming the death of one into the growth of something new. And that, my friends, is what it’s all about in the end: becoming something more than what we started out as.”
After a moment where a tear almost formed in the corner of his eye, the satyr’s somber tone broke as he shook off the past and cracked a smile. “Now, let me sing you a song about some of the new tricks I learned about women as I was transformed from a boy into a man…”
Many elvish communities have tales of the strict punishments visited upon those who practice the forbidden arts. There are three Eladrin who were so heinous that they were banned from the Feywild for all eternity. Their current whereabouts are unknown, but their alleged work is told in rumors and stories throughout the land. Vasres, now a lich, is a sadistic artificer who enjoys building puzzles to torment those he considers his inferiors. Ca’Sross, now a death knight, is a bloodthirsty warlord who drew the ire of the summer courts for running deadly hunts and waging needless battles. Nehmer, another lich, is a sorceress cursed by the Archfey Oran (for reasons never disclosed) to be forever unable to show her face to another living creature.
The three exiles banded together out of common interest, becoming formidable adventurers. In their travels, they stumbled into a secret vault of Vecna, in which they claim to have discovered the remains of Nerull’s original treatise on necromancy, bound in the skin of the dead god Aurom. It is said that their studies of this unholy book bring them ever closer to the goal of resurrecting dead gods and binding them to the Triumverate’s will. Even if they can’t bind the gods, though, it’d still be pretty awful for the world at large if they brought back Nerull, or Bhaal, or maybe even Tharizdun…
The mad mage Halastair Blackcloak, famous for creating the world’s largest dungeon in Waterdeep, did not work alone. He was a pretty big deal as a wizard when the Malarken clan approached him to help deal with whatever they found when they dug too deep, and he had a number of apprentices, known as The Seven, whose story is a little different from their master. See, while Halastair was/is crazy, he was also a genius, and the chance to work under him was worth dealing with the insanity. The Seven, it is said, were each specialists in their fields, and frequently they found themselves working together to temper the insane ideas of their master, countering some of the things he did that might have been horrifically bad. Unfortunately, Halastair also started getting paranoid and stingy with his tutelage, and his apprentices began to have to work against one another (in a reality show kind of way) to earn the right to gain their master’s insights for that particular month. This caused many of them to go crazy, and one or two to die, and eventually most of their work was used by Halastair in various spots of his super-dungeon.
The only member of The Seven whose fate was not insanity or death is Trobriand, known at the Metal Mage. Trobriand’s construct creations were without equal. As he aged and parts of his body began to fail, he replaced them with construct parts, and eventually effectively turned himself into a living construct. These days he is said to be an ancient tinker who lives in a castle (that may itself be a construct or series of connected constructs) that moves around from place to place. Arcanists who seek to hone their skills at creating constructs will often seek out his castle and try to find ways to convince him to teach them.
The most well-known constructs of Trobriand’s creation are the brass minotaurs that serve as bodyguards to the Mages of Saruun in Tethyr.
Widely known as the “biggest dungeon in the world”, the famous Undermountain is located beneath the mountain next to Waterdeep, the City of Splendors in the east. Generally accepted legends say that the dwarves who live higher up in the mountain accidentally dug too deep and hit the Underdark… but that the wizard they hired to seal up the breach went crazy and unleashed insane horrors on the dungeon, which is now a separate awful place unto itself, without any connection to the Underdark. Tales of Halastair the Mad still circulate, and those that delve into the dungeon claim they can hear his laughter still, even though he supposedly has been down there for several hundred years. There is still a dwarven settlement in the higher parts of the mountain, shut off from Undermountain, but it is known that there is a tavern in the city (The Yawning Portal) that actually has a well leading into the dungeon, and a large chalk board where patrons can bet on the survival odds of anyone going down that hole. See the History page for more on Waterdeep/Undermountain.
In the days shortly after the Dawn War, chaos reigned pretty much everywhere. Most of the Elves and Eladrin, however, got together with their Drow cousins to fight against that chaos. The kingdom of Uvaeren stood as one of the first shining examples of order and magical power being used to fight against the dangers of the world and the chaotic remnants of the Dawn War. The Uvaerenites created the first Mythals, and helped to solidify the borders between the various dimensions parallel to the Prime Material Plane.
It is rumored that the troubles between Lolth and her siblings, Sehanine & Corellon, were what finally caused the Uvaeren Kingdom to fall, though that may have started during the Dawn War, as it was rumored that the Drow were already somewhat distrusted when this kingdom was founded. However, rumors persist that some of the greatest scholars of Uvaeren hid their Knowledge away in magical vaults somewhere. If anyone were to ever find these vaults, they would have access to some of the most accurate information about the Dawn War itself, as well as valuable information about the goings on soon afterward. While many churches have stylized texts about those days, an actual, factual, scholarly accounts of that time has yet to reach public knowledge.
The story of how the famous human pirate Valkur became a minor god is often embellished with place names of whatever port the tale is told in, but the basics of the story remain the same. Valkur was known to rob wealthy aristocrats who did unsavory things (slavery, price-fixing, bribery, etc), and his latest target had been the church of Umberlee. The clerics had collected “tribute” from the citizens of port towns, and were supposedly taking a great treasure ship out to dump them all into the ocean, a gift to appease her anger. But Valkur found that they were actually taking it to a secret island to use for their own purposes. So he raided the treasure ship and the island, bankrupting the church and shaming the clergy. Umberlee’s Exarch, a Storm Archon, showed up and blocked the passage of Valkur’s ship. The Exarch said that Umberlee herself had demanded that his ship be sunk, and Valkur famously said “Well, she can try, but when she fails, the bitch owes me one.” The attacks of the 7 storms that were sent against the ship are often sung while instruments play something akin to the Ride of the Valkyries, but somehow Valkur manages to keep his ship from being sunk by any of them. The final storm defeated, a miles-wide whirlpool appears around Valkur’s ship (during which he says “Oh, that’s just cheating!” and his ship is finally taken by the ocean. However, it turns out that Umberlee just wanted his ship off her seas, and so as consolation she elevated him to demi-godhood and made his crew into his angels. Valkur was less than grateful, but took his new role and began sending angels to help ships that were hopelessly lost at sea. And to this day, ships that are about to crash will sometimes have a glowing crewman show up on their decks, doing whatever is needed to keep the boat afloat.
Of all the texts and tomes out there about the undead, the most practical (and least filled with religious dogma) are those penned by Dr. Rudolph Von Richten. The story of how he got all that detailed information about the various major types of undead is quite sad, though. Von Richten was a righteous man who served Ioun, goddess of Knowledge, in a land that was once known as the kingdom of Atramor. Though the land was ruled by the undead, there were still human communities that flourished, as humans do. Von Richten was known as a healer in one of these communities, and his early teachings were the basis for many later doctors, healers, and herbalists whose names adorn learned tomes today. A cult devoted to Ioun’s rival, the god of Secrets, Vecna, tried to pull off the ultimate evil prank on the good Doctor. They killed his family, but immediately raised them as undead, so that Von Richten would not notice right away. The individual stories of how he discovered that his wife and each of his children and grandchildren were the walking dead are each heart-wrenching (and great for grabbing an audience).
However, Von Richten did not strike at them in rage. Instead, leaving them unharmed, he picked up a sickle and began a prayer to Ioun as he walked to find the cult. Though the cultists shot him with arrows and pelted him with spells, so great was his heartache that his body seemed unstoppable. Unbeknownst to the cult, however, his body was empty of all but Ioun’s power at that time. Von Richten’s prayer was a deal he had made with the Knowledge Goddess, and while she allowed her angels to invisibly keep his body fighting the cult, his soul was quietly reading their tomes, and learning their secrets. The body fell dead by nightfall, but Von Richten’s spirit was far from finished. The next morning, young bookbinders in several large cities around the world found freshly-penned copies of a tome titled “Von Richten’s Guide to the Cult of Vecna.” Von Richten’s wife’s body turned to dust that morning, her soul set free. For each type of undead creature in the kingdom of Atramor (and beyond), Von Richten’s liberated spirit learned secrets and caused them to be written (with Ioun’s help) into books around the world. Every month or so, another tome would appear, and another of Von Richten’s family would find rest. The thirteenth tome, “Von Richten’s Guide to Elder Vampire Lords”, appeared one morning in many bookbinders’ shops, but also in the gear of a band of adventurers known as the Silver Company. With that Knowledge they brought down the lords of Atramor, and the kingdom soon fell as well. No one knows whatever happened to Von Richten… whether he found peace and rest with his family, or whether his spirit still roams the land seeking secrets to reveal. The followers of Vecna despise his name to this day, while hopeful bookbinders around the world will often leave out an empty tome in the evening, just in case it should need to be filled by morning.
No one is exactly sure what nation or region Vonak came from, but his tale is one of dwarven valor that sort of transcends national boundaries. Vonak was a berserker barbarian who was past his prime. He had defended his clan for many years, and his brother served as king to their people. Vonak was near retirement, yet he refused to put down his axe. Vonak’s grandchildren were the latest crop of soldiers, and he was not satisfied with them. They were all using new-fangled devices called crossbows, and he thought they smelled too much like elvish weapons to be trusted. His grandkids told him crossbows were the wave of the future, but Vonak said “My axe defended this clan in the past, and it will continue to do so in the future.”
After many decades, Vonak was forced into retirement. His beard had long since greyed, though he kept his axe polished and sharpened. One day, sitting in the stone rocking chair he’d been given as a retirement gift, he heard cries from the walls of the city. Cries of dying men. Reaching for his axe, he rushed off to battle. When he reached the site of the city wall, he saw a bloodbath. A giant purple worm, 200 feet long and 20 feet wide, had eaten the wall, and killed most of the city’s defenders. Vonak’s great-granddaughter, a wizard, explained that the soldiers’ crossbows had no effect on the purple worm. Sighing at their stubbornness, he hefted his axe and charged the beast. It swallowed him whole.
For seven days the dwarves tried to stop the beast, hiding in caves as it devoured their city. While the wizards’ magics slowed it down, none could stop it. Then, on the morning of the seventh day, the beast made a terrible noise and fell dead. Soon afterward, Vonak finished chopping his way out of the beast. For seven days he had chopped his way through the beast’s innards until he reached its heart. Though many dwarves continue to use crossbows, none will do so without an axe at hand as well. Vonak’s bravery rings in the hearts of every dwarf, and his axeblade is seen in the blade of every dwarven axe.
In the days before the Great Cataclysm, not all tieflings were as they are today. There are even rumors that some of the families of what are now known as tieflings were once humans. If these stories are true, then those families which made pacts with devils to become tieflings were probably centered in the city of Vor Rukoth, one of the largest metropolises in the old empire. Vor Rukoth was ruled over by Lady Najala, supposedly the head of the once-human tieflings, and the adopted sister of the Turathi Emperor. The truth of the matter is up for debate, but many bards use Lady Najala as a cautionary tale against cavorting with evil creatures. Vor Rukoth was known as the place where the mightiest of Turathi weapons were forged, though many believe that their greatness was due to hellish energy present in the forges. Either way, Lady Najala plied her city’s wares to make it one of the most powerful in the world, prior to the Great Cataclysm.
What happened to the Lady and her city was pretty horrible… moreso because it’s not exactly “in the past”. Vor Rukoth (or at least the ruined civilization that stands where the City of Forges once was) still exists, and is still a functioning city… of sorts. As the stories go, sometime prior to the great cataclysm, Lady Najala created a permanent gate to the Nine Hells within the city. When the Cataclysm happened (or perhaps this is what caused it), the Gate was opened wide and the denizens of the Hells spilled forth. Nobody is sure exactly what happened as a result, other than chaos.
When the dust cleared much later (after the Cataclysm), the city was in pieces… but certain portions of it still functioned. Many tieflings were not fans of the humans-become-tieflings who had summoned the very devils that the true-blooded tieflings had fought to free themselves from millennia earlier, and thus avoided the ruins. Other stories flew that anyone who entered the city could never leave, or that the citizens who remained were those so corrupted that they’d sold their souls to devils… or worse. Others say that one of the Lords of the Nine Hells actually has a residence in Vor Rukoth.
Despite all these horrid stories, there are also rumors of an incredibly tempting nature. Some say that the devils from the gate took the greatest of the fallen Turathi & Arkhosian weapons as their own. Other rumors persist that the most impossibly desirable succubi were able to escape the hells, and now live as immortals with the greatest skill in carnal pleasure on the planet. Others say that Vor Rukoth is a place where you can actually speak to and deal with devils without the inconvenience of forcing one into a summoning circle… which makes them much more amenable to deals. It is also said that Lady Najala’s screaming soul still fills the night air in Vor Rukoth, an echo of whatever she had to do to close the gate after she lost control. Whether any of these are true is unknown, but the council of Nueva Turatha, at least, has officially declared the city off-limits, despite it’s proximity to the rest of the volcano-filled nation.
Stories are vague on this one, but there are rumors of a mimic that got so old and so large that it took on the guise of a building. Some say that it appears as a tower, while others have said it appeared as a large tent, or a keep, or an inn during a fierce storm. All that is certain is that those who enter NEVER LEAVE. It is rumored that some of those lost to the tower have included messengers, sages, and spies with valuable information about treasures, plots, and magical secrets… so there are some adventurous folks who occasionally try to seek out the Tower to retrieve those secrets. The Tower is also a favorite ending spot in some bards’ stories for things that have been eternally lost (the Rod of 7 Parts, the Island of Atlantis, Tiamat’s Sixth Head, etc.).
IN-GAME: the party was actually almost eaten by the tower, before damaging it enough that it died in a pool of its own acidic blood.
In the ancient tales of the times before Q’ell The’llas (elvish for “The People”, referring to the first Elves) split into their three distinct sub-races, there were four great trees that embodied everything now known as forests: The Golden Tree of Dawn, the Ivory Tree of Winter, the Silver Yew, and the Blood Oak. In those days, the lines between the Feywild and the Prime Material plane were almost non-existent, especially in forests, which likely existed in both realms simultaneously. The spirits of these World Trees were like minor goddesses of their forests, knowing every creature and protecting them from harm. It is said that the first druids learned their powers from these dryads. In the forests of the Feywild, these mountain-sized trees were known as the Forest Monarchs, and they were as constant a feature as cold in the winter.
When the Dawn War happened, though, many of the world trees were damaged and destroyed by primordials seeking to weaken the gods of nature. Other conflicts between the gods may have also harmed these trees, as did the many mortal armies looking to harvest the strongest wood for weapons. When the elves finally split, with the Eladrin solidifying the lines between the Feywild and the real world, it is thought that the last of the failing World Trees disappeared from the land. These great trees are still venerated by the Treants as the original ancestors, though, and some treant mystics claim to still commune with the spirits and powers of their World Tree ancestors. Whether there truly are any “tree gods” left in the world is a matter for theologists to debate, but the memories remain, which is sometimes all a religion needs.
It is said that echoes of the dreams of these Forest Monarchs can still be found in the Feydark, but that is a place no one should ever go, regardless of your audobon interests.
Deva bards will occasionally remember bits of a song about a land called Xanadu… an idyllic land where the deva spirits are free to roam without fear of death and with full knowledge of their many lives. Whether this land ever actually existed is unknown, as no deva has ever been able to remember the entire song. The best recollections of the lyrics are found here (and are, conveniently, the exact text of what we know as the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem). However, more troubling than this inability to remember something so great, is the fact that some Deva bards remember this song in connection to another verse buried deep in their memories (which, also conveniently, exactly matches the William Blake poem’s text). There are also memories that speak of something called “Xanadu” that destroyed the deva nation of Ayrkasha just after the Dawn War. Because of the persistent memories, some deva have theorized that there may still be a land or pocket dimension somewhere ruled by unapologetic Rakshasha. And the fact that many deva yearn for this land when they remember a line or two of the Xanadu song is terrifying.
Minotaur nations have not been known since before the Great Cataclysm. It is said that in those days, though, there was a particular sub-set of minotaur-like creatures that dwelled among them. These creatures had not the heads of bulls, but of Yaks, and they were unusually gifted in the arcane arts. The Yikaria (or Yakaria), as they were called, were particularly skilled in transformative magics, and it was said that such magic may have been what created their sub-race in the first place. Most Yikaria were good, which meant that they were persecuted by evil empires of Baphomet-worshipping minotaurs. Fortunately, the Yikaria had a secret ability, though they used it very rarely. By donning the skin of a human, elf, or other humanoid creature, they could transform their appearance to that creatures’ type. Of course, this meant killing a human or elf or whatever, but it also meant that the Yikaria could, in times of great need, travel inconspicuously and escape detection. It is unfortunate, therefore, that most Yakaria were too good to openly murder other humanoids to gain the skins necessary for their transformations.
None know what happened to the Yikaria, though there are stories of them being hunted down and tortured to reveal their magical secrets to the followers of Baphomet. Even today, there are Baphometic cults that try to re-enact versions of the Yikaria’s magic, consuming or wearing parts of sentient races’ bodies to gain their power or knowledge… but so far none have perfected the Yakaria’s process. Some say that the last surviving Yikaria were those who performed the necessary evil and killed others so that they might steal their skin and escape. If these creatures survived, they have managed to keep a low profile ever since, likely wearing skins of others as needed.
IN-GAME: The party actually met an evil Yikaria wearing the skin of Coventry’s High Lord Paulo Maximo. They killed this face-changer in the [[Session 38: Complete and Utter Bull! | battle of the Mythal]], though, and were unable to gain any information from it before its death (after the Mythal was stolen).
Legends tell of a dwarf who figured out how to spin gold into fabric. He began spinning a cloak, but that night as he worked, a star fell from the sky and destroyed him. When elven arcanists examined the crater, they found this cloak. The first elf to wear the cloak found himself drawn to the forest, where he eventually became a leader in Myth Drannor. Later it passed on to a nearby human, who donned the cape and became the first King of Nerath. Decades later it was found on the shoulders of a tiefling who founded Nueva Turotha. Years later a golden cloak was seen on the shoulders of a king of Cormyr, and then on the shoulders of one of the Mages of Saruun in Tethyr. But no matter who wears this cloak, it is clear that it makes a leader. Wear this cloak, and you will be destined to rule.
In the times of the Dawn War (if time even moved as we know it then), the awful battles between the Primordials and the Gods took a backseat to the end of all existence, ushered in by the words of
Tharizdun. So powerful was this prophesy of nullification that it took a physical form: that of a dragon-like creature named Zenobaal. While the gods and primordials fought Tharizdun head-on, their servants were left to deal with Zenobaal. When it roared, its breath was the essence of the cold void of nothingness, making even the physical bodies of the foes it hit yearn for destruction. While many of the Gods’ top generals fell in battle with Zenobaal, the servants of some of the assassin gods were eventually able to succeed in defeating the Prophesy of the End, though some say it infected these archangels with its fatalistic essence, dooming them to becoming the first deva: perpetually dying and being reborn that they might die again. Whether the defeat of the Prophesy meant that it would not come true is unknown, but Tharizdun did not succeed in erasing reality, so perhaps this victory helped.
It is said that somewhere in the Maze is an instrument that came from across the seas, a zither whose notes were saddening that they could not only calm beasts, but also soothe a dark beast’s heart. Centuries ago, it is said that a beautiful maiden played the zither so well that she could influence the hearts of anyone. Her village, including her family and her little sister, were killed by a dragon from the plane of shadows. So great was her grief that she poured into her song of mourning that her village fell through the world into the Shadowfell, where her song made even the shadow dragon weep. The dragon’s tears released the souls of those who had died, but by then the woman’s grief had consumed her, and all that remained was the zither. The dragon brought the zither back to our world, and left it in a cave in the Maze where it could not spread its sorrow to anyone else. It is said that any song will gain a sense of sorrow when played on this zither, and that the spirits of the sad dead will be drawn to it.