The Darkness lasts forever! Don’t think the Light is still your friend though.
Author’s Note: Mystaran homage, more lands based on Philippine folklore, more on the undead of Rockbaecche and a native of Kalidnay experiencing Abaddon. Also, two more references to the excellent Prisoners of the Mist server for Neverwinter Nights. If you love the Campaign Setting, it’s one of the best sources that keeps it alive. Also, I’m aware that referencing Abrahamic religion in D&D is controversial, but thanks to Prisoners of the Mist, it could be a fascinating thing to examine in brief. I should really pick that up again, it was good fun.
Fallen of Terra
The world of Terra is an enigma, one that proclaims to have no magic and yet it still lives there. However, it often prefers to hide. Those who are damned from such a world have often been long since ripped away, only to be unveiled by the mists more recently in its own timeline. Some are recent victims even hail from eras later than the norm, even beyond the developments of the Broken Cog cluster. In some cases, the Terrans are more prepared for the horrors ahead, but far too many are caught off guard and go mad from dark revelation. Of course, the Terrans deal with other dreadful and eldritch forces that haunt their own world.
One such case is the theocratic knightly order of Feuers, a corruption of a settlement taken by Teutonic Knights! Few know or remember, but such an order had a holy purpose built upon by the church. However, in the transition into the mists, scriptures have been warped and have taken an almost agnostic tone to otherworldly theology. It is likely that the land they doomed was in modern day Poland or Germany, as records from even Terra itself were well scrubbed. Curiously, references to Christianity do exist within the Demiplane of Dread however. Several members of the Order of the Crow originate from several orders of the Knights Templar, warriors who fought in the various Crusades during the Medieval Era of Europe. Strangers in a strange land, many have since held their tongues to assure that justice prevails. But many are still vocal and critical of otherwise beneficial “pagans” nearby. Despite the issues they’ve sparked in criticism of mages and other priests, many attempt to get along. Likewise, some have converted to their God. On a similar note, Clan Alhazred does not come from Pharazia, nor is Kalzafred a real name. As mentioned prior, they are of Gothic Earth. In their movement to the mists, they were cursed as werejackals. However, their devotion to Islam remains somewhat intact, if heavily shaken by their ordeals in the Demiplane of Dread. But, for the clan, they were never truly religious and required a cover to dive into esoteric occultism. While their faith and attachments to scripture are tenuous, they have used their Terran religion to portray themselves as righteous and just. However, interest in Islam has been otherwise slow within either domain, but some see it as a way to subvert Diamabel and help others.
Several individuals hail from this Gothic-tinged world. Maggie, much like the former Fraternity of Shadows member by the name of “Erik van Rijn”, is a clever spellcaster of Terran origin. Her own dark practices and mad musings dragged her to the Mists. Both of them are very much lost, for the time being. One grim resident of Dawnsveil does not hail from Grandglen, but a colony in service to Britain of Terra. Nathaniel Bacon was an infamous resident near the Jamestown colony. His notorious rebellion was sparked after the harassment and murder of innocent tribesmen along the Virginia area, after being blamed for another tribe that promoted violence against the colonists. Bacon proclaimed corruption on the leadership of Jamestown and of the crown itself, resulting in his forces moving in and causing fire to much of the town. In reality, Bacon and his cohorts wanted to take more native lands and was disgruntled by the disapproval. His rebellion fell apart after the man was supposed to be killed by Dysentery. However, the Mists had other things in mind. His ghost was taken to Dawnsveil, where he sparks violence against the surviving natives, the witch and even against the governor himself. Maligno of Odiare is another snatched up force of Terra, after taking his wrath out on the adults of his town in Italy. Likewise, Sir Lucius Knight was once part of Great Britain. In the case of Knight, he can’t simply operate around Zherisia and beyond without help, being a displaced Terran with no outer knowledge. Luckily, Chief Railway Engineer Stilton Graffe is here to aid a fellow madman in deluded grabs for power.
The Dead Matter
New Rockbaecche is a colonial land troubled with its own problems. A mysterious sickness has caused a unique form of undead to blight the lands. As such, even citizens are called upon to serve and protect the state. But in the end, only merchants and nobility gain the proper training to handle the living dead effectively, as lower classes are glorified fodder. While soldiers are far more effective at contending with the threat, few are aware of what makes matters worse. Only the Darklord and a few cohorts know the truth. As it turns out, it wasn’t entirely the crops responsible for the outbreak. An insect called The Blood Lantern Locust turned out to be the ultimate spreader. Such a curious little bug was cultivated and breed within the Regent Commander’s headquarters in secret. Through a small network, experiments were held to see its use as a bioweapon. Prior to the Dark Powers claiming a new prisoner, the ensuing pandemic proved to work all too well. If only the same could be said for attempts to stop it. The same could be said about his mutants, the results in cure attempts have horribly backfired.
But what about the Crimson Blight, a unique zombie-like creature? It is said that Regent Commander Von Wilholt has big plans for those who stray too far from Rockbaecche’s colonial ambitions. Caravans, disguised under the emblems and styling of other colony states, were sent out with either samples or outright living dead to suppress problems for Rockbaecche before it began. This movement into biological terror could push the need for a cure, in the eyes of the Regent Commander. One hired syndicate is actually one of the doomsday cults that holds an eerie devotion to the plague itself. In the eyes of the worshipers, they have been granted holy recognition by the state to accomplish their goals. In the eyes of the Regent Commander, it’s a means to an end for power. Likewise, he’ll get his nation under control while other colonial territories eventually fall into line in order to recover. Outrage has been minimal, but information has been stolen from a mostly closed circle. Anarchists plot to spread an information campaign about how “Von Wilholt lied, Countless died” and the conspiracy for Rockbaecche to colonize other lands further.
While not fully aware of his curse, he has begun to realize that his meddling causes issues for a treatment to the plague. However, he is less than concerned with pulling others down in an effort to stop it. Fears of balkanization haunt the Darklord’s mind as this occurs, knowing full well that it’ll be tracked back to his land. All the same, he feels this step in acceleration is necessary for his goals. Other doubts haunt his mind though. Given how the other vassal states under his grip are built upon strange magics and high technology, the power of the plague could be mitigated to some degree. Also, many would take notice to how he is completely immune despite being in a heavily affected area. Though, this boon is an aspect of his Darklord curse. And while division runs rampant throughout the cluster itself, hatred against the Regent Commander and his power grab against the other lands rings absolute. While a massive war would pit the various territories against each other, many would take an unholy alliance against Rockbaecche until it was completely destroyed.
But, what of the dead themselves? They’re all mindless zombies, correct? Wrong. Many Crimson Blights retain their intelligence, usually gone made from the revelation of being a flesh-craving reanimated corpse. A cult leader noted prior is secretly one of these undead, worshiping plagues and pathogens as something divine. However, some have gone into the criminal underground and have even corralled mutants into their service. One case is a crime boss from Alleigosto, trapped in Rockbaecche due to forces on guard to track and kill infected. Paolo Vacchirani was from an underground gang known as the Iron Prowlers. His gang was involved in Duke Olbsodt’s riots against the technocratic elite, only to get cut down by unveiled secret weaponry. Paolo and a few associates fled into Rockbaecche, in hopes of exploiting conflicts between the two territories into full-on war. Instead, the rest of his gang became infected. While his cohorts lost their mind, he more than retained his. He took to below the city, occasionally luring innocents into his lair to stave off his supernatural desires. But beyond that, he amassed a crime group of people frustrated with the Regent Commander. All the same, he began to propagate a mutual hatred for the other noble houses of Alleigosto. The Moonlit Daggers were formed in an effort to subvert and destroy both state regimes, even if it meant allowing unethical machinery and virulent undead to rampage through the rest of the cluster. Paolo is overcome with revenge and loathing, to an extent only heightened by his condition. More intelligent mutants have been manipulated into a defensive force to his aid even. In fact, the sewers below the capital city lead into his underground hiding place. Or as he would put it, hiding in plain sight.
Discoveries of Nebligtode
The following is from a battered journal found within Graben Village.
Nuwmont, 7, 1000 AC
I embark on a new expedition, paid in full and supported by the Karameikan state. The generosity and support of Duke Stefan cannot be ignored. So begins a new chapter within my life. It’s curious, I never pegged Karameikos as a fledging empire interested heavily in sail. Even the native Traladarans are more interested in other matters usually. No matter, I am off! First stop, Kingdom of Ierendi on matters of trade and diplomacy. These matters should be rather quick, as contacts were informed of my arrival in due time. This is but the first leg, best not get too confident yet.
Nuwmont, 10, 1000 AC
Something is wrong. Very wrong. Clammy waters and deep fog aren’t uncommon. But, it’s been several days. The winds are still active, but it feels so unnatural. I believe I tread accursed waters. Hopefully nothing will reveal itself any time soon?
Nuwmont, 11, 1000 AC
Pirates! And worse, the deceased souls of pirates! Their phantom ship emerged from nowhere, striking our crew as we stand in awe and horror. We’ve done all we can to steer away from the damned in our pursuit. Where are we going? The damage to our hull is extensive, but we have more than enough supplies to keep the vessel afloat. Or at least, we do for now.
Nuwmont, 12, 1000 AC
We’ve escaped, but we’ve discovered yet another macabre site. Before us is a ship’s graveyard. Our cartographer assures us we aren’t far from Ierendi, but we’ve certainly gotten off track. This is but a minor setback. However, that uncanny fog is back. The crew are speaking of ghost tales, including one originating in Norwald. I don’t trifle in Alphatian matters though. What I seek is a return to our mission. I will fear no more ghostly pirates. However, supplies are another matter. We overstocked in case of emergency, especially due to reports of rather potent storms in the last couple of days. Such things aren’t unheard of, but I’m glad we took the time to properly assemble the means to survive. And given how we are likely lost, we’ll need every crumb.
Nuwmont, 14, 1000 AC
Once again, something is wrong. We should have gotten back on course to Ierendi by now. Instead, I see endless fog. And worse, the wind has begun to die down. Are we lost adrift? Worse, what I can see in the water is frightening. I see creatures that look like sharks, but their features… almost human-like. It’s terrifying. Nothing makes sense about this. Based on existing charts, we should have run aground into Minrothad by now. Where are we exactly? The captain and first mate are mutually baffled. The marine charts defy what we’re seeing, as our cartographer has spun out into a mad babbling frenzy. I theorize that the ghost crew bewitched us. We’ve likely been magically punted elsewhere on the sea. Once the mist lifts, we’ll figure it out.
Nuwmont, 15, 1000 AC
The air has grown stale and frigid, but at least we found land. We spent some time examining it with the aid of extended maps on board as well as well traveled crew. They tell me it is that very same land they spoke about before… one that should be gone, Nebligtode. How did we go that far off course? What sorcery was involved in this? Even the mages are confused by this. I’m doubly sure that encounter with the dead crewmen somehow sent us much further north. There is no explanation beyond magic. None the less, perhaps we can get some answers here. I’ve heard tales of a mad old mage named Meredoth. Let us hope that he and his people are receptive to Karameikan and Thyatian outsiders.
Life among spirits and souls
Larawang Inukit. A land carved up by divine spirits. In reality, the general land was never entirely together. Despite its elevation, not dissimilar to the Plateau of the Atruighin clans, it was still rather broken apart. As such, a plethora of diverse cultures and ideas existed before the Darklord brought many to its knees. Curiously, all of the cultures in Larawang Inukit have origin stories that details cultures that would share and trade in on occasion, but otherwise respected and left lands alone. But over time, they united and joined forces for different reasons. After ages of peace, a calamity broke the people apart, sparking anger over their differences rather than an acceptance. Even among the divine spirits, different lands followed different viewpoints. Whether on the Prime Material Plane or within the Lands of the Mists, one spirit alone can be seen in several different ways. A creature of the sea has two different interpretations on different coastal reaches alone, with one seeing them as a protective barricade against sailing invaders while the other sees it as a wrathful titan bringing brutal storms and destructive crashing waves. Likewise, several villages view such spirits as a life water to help usher nutrients to farmlands and ensuring the health of the people. In cases, some spirits are tied directly to the likes of rice and vegetables. Outsiders associated with liquor trade have affectionately called them “friends of arak”, which relates to wine made through palm oil rather than the fey of the shadow rift. The qualities shared between the spirits and the fey is still an eerie coincidence. However, only in the primary urban hubs are the spirits treated that differently. The Darklord fears the spirits and urges the public to avoid them for their safety, many comply with such fearmongering. This is only one grievance among countless within the domain’s religious communities. However, a level of fear of spirits is common to some degree across the domain, even today.
Various spiritual and religious orders have done all in their ability to stave off the darkness. More than anything, several shamans from various villages and tribes have devoted themselves to ensuring that the lands are kept free of impurities and the tainted wickedness beyond be kept in check. However, most aren’t foolish enough to wander too deeply into the jungles. Natural wonders are not their places to trifle, for great beings live here and punish those who transgress. Interactions with such beings usually involves appeasement through religious ceremonies and offerings. Such offerings can extend to sacrificing livestock, with human sacrifice being exceptionally rare in some polities. Shamanistic connections to the otherworldly have made them liaisons to the spiritual realm and emissaries for the living world. Interestingly, a common trait between many of these cultures is that shamans are typically women, as shamanistic roles and traditions were considered feminine by many of these societies. Their duties often vary, but the act as a spiritual medium to the anito (various kinds of spiritual entities) has been massively important across the lands. Another well respected ability lies in healing, but such healing goes deeper than ailments and wounds. This extends to the spiritual. This coincides with belief in a duality of souls, one of the physical and one of the astral. Even on the Prime, such a belief was major. In many regards, shamans have helped fledgling psions recognizing their own potential within the domain. However, like with the rest of the Demiplane of Dread, such powers are limited and warped by the Dark Powers. Those beyond shamans with psychic potential are a deeply feared and misunderstood minority, even subject to persecution. And worse, those who use their powers too much tend to draw attention from other horrible mind creatures, including visions of a vile brain-shaped abomination. Religions similar to the monasteries of I’Cath have also emerged onto coastal regions, but well away from trading posts and more conservative locations. To them, the extraordinary beings are a fact of life. The attempt to eradicate too many of them would ultimately throw the land out of balance, risking further corruption as a consequence. Steps are taken by such monks to ensure stability and wellness within the communities they protect. The religion belonging to provincial realm of Sol pushes towards a united enlightenment, but has no qualms with being judgemental towards others in the process. Likewise, religious orders more devoted to gods akin to the domains of Sri Raji and Kalakeri still remain, despite the scattering and destruction caused by Kaligtasan’s bigoted campaigns against Maharlika.
Politically, many stand against the Darklord simply by continuing their methods on the prime material. Countless chieftains and datus continue to provide support for their surveyed regions as they have in the past. Their only connection to larger cities is through trade and required payments in tribute. Fortunately, these have remained low, as to not incite more rebellion than has happened in the past. Even larger city-states are required to keep inline with guidelines of the Paramount, even if they’re followed in the most casual of means. For the most part, these semi-autonomous leaders view the darklord in a light similar to attempted invaders and colonists. Curiously, the only outsiders to gain some level of reverence are pirates capable of playing by local customs. In fact, some crews have joined alongside privateers of the domain to bring havoc upon neighboring domains. Some bids for power against the darklord have been done in secret. The datu, Ryjan, has made attempts to reach out to at least one of the feuding brothers of Rokushima Taiyoo, well aware of potential consequences. However, Ryjan does not care, as their own ambitions lie in the collapse of Kaligtasan’s cities (especially Tun-doh and Manyil) and a full return to olden methods. And unlike the darklord, Ryjan touts a likeable personality and a rather jovial public perspective, all to hide a much darker side deep within the northern agricultural settlement, just a few hours travel from the oceans beyond. Should word get out, the chieftain’s reputation will surely be ruined, as many polities and bayans are less than agreeable towards the Rokuma. Most fortunately for this plotter, many native rivals and detractors were never taken into the lands of the mists.
The horrors brought upon the clustered archipelago cannot be understated. While they have always existed and have thrived on grim mortal behavior, Kaligtasan truly became their savior. His limitless ignorance, violence and depravity have cost the lands dearly and have fueled efforts by the dark spirits to spread fear and entropy. Even before the supernatural are accounted for, his ambitions have reshaped the natural world. Before the mists claimed the land, his attempts at unity resulted in extreme ecological devastation with the destruction of forests and other habitats. Some creatures, such as an indigenous rhinoceros-like species, have even gone extinct well before the jump from the Prime. Luoz Isle itself was once teaming with lush natural beauty. Anything outside of built up villages and emerging towns is now a place of tainted horrors. Perhaps more troubling is the result of several archeological digs, in an attempt to understand ancient cultural pasts. Evidence suggested time and again that several civilizations and realms fell to battles and raids. These have been caused by both mortal hands and by the rage of countless monsters.
One victim of the spiritual horrors of Larawang Inukit hails from Barovia, an estranged agent of The Order of The Crows managed to get lost within The Mists, only to emerge along the shores of the broken islands. The warrior was considered off to the natives, with the darklord having nothing of his accidental visit. Attempts were made to banish him, only to drive him into the dense tropical forests. Deep within, there was the shrill cry of a stranded babe in a deserted village ruins. For nearby locals of Post Ng Mangingisda, the ruins are called “inabandunang pag-asa” or “abandoned hope”. For the fishers, defenders and traders of the post, hope is all they have. Within the ruins, corruption and evil is all it has, as darker spirits have long since taken over. And the “child” is no exception. However, this was no child, but a foul spirit known as the Tiyanak. The foreign warrior was no match for the clever spirit, with word only reaching colleagues months later. Members who visited nearby villages some months later were only given stories of warning and woe, with no sign of the lost warrior of The Crows. After some time and a clash with related monsters, the faction called their search quits to return to Barovia. As of yet, the tiyanak responsible has not resurfaced. Perhaps it bids its time, in search of another clueless outsider to trick. Another case of notoriety is the very same lost village that claimed the outsider warrior. Said village was ransacked by aswang a mere 8 years earlier. The villagers were tricked by gathering numbers of the monsters, even monster hunters secretly being aswang as well. In mere months, the mortal villagers were overwhelmed by the monsters and consumed in a blood bath. Beyond such creatures, trapped dead souls seek escape from their torment as wicked spirits maintain their imprisonment. However, those who were already evil in life have been recruited by the diabolic wardens.
Abaddon: An Athasian’s Journey
It has been too long since I realized that not all is as it seems with Kalidnay. It has pushed me to explore, of course I could not allude to what I knew. Thanks to the blessings of the Sorcerer King and his High Priestess, I set out to see what has changed around Athas since the cataclysm occurred. An old merchant’s map showed branching paths that are completely incorrect now. They must be updated immediately after return. Perhaps Kalidnay was spared from a far worse fate? City-States seem to have been wiped off not just the map, but the world! And the sandstorm, it is unbearable, it stings my flesh! Is it the wrath of the forbidden city-state? It couldn’t be, could it? No, it is too far away. But, something does emerge. This desert is unlike what I have come across before. While they say this world is dying under an equally dying sun, no one accounted for a sudden shift to grey and black sand. It is perhaps more grim and dire than other sands I have traveled, stripped of any semblance of life. Even the Sorcerer Kings and Queens would be unnerved by this.
One of the native tribes in this heavily blighted land speak of a Sorcerer-Queen, Mariella. Unlike other leaders in other city-states, she is content with destroying civilization and hastily destroying all near her. Interestingly enough, she did not exist when the original rulers rose to power. Her time came far later, where she uncovered the secrets of defiling magic for her own ends. Curiously, there was never any lore that spoke of her land before. Of course, few have ventured beyond the Tyr Region. It is possible that Kalidnay was shifted to a wider part of this world, if such a thing could happen. Either way, she is remote enough for other Sorcerer Kings and Queens to be unable to touch her. As far as mighty defilers go, she is by far the greatest of oddities. She has no city-state to call her own. All that is around her is defiled plants, dead grounds and ruins. The many surrounding tribes quake in fear, but she does not often visit them. It is likely that she is the Sorcerer Queen to rule over such lands, but her methods are absolutely bizarre. Her means of enacting her will are done by herself, as she has no templars. If I could guess, she likely murdered them all. However, her power is unlike the defiling powers of the arcane, it better reflects the City-State of Gulg. Or rather, it’s more akin to the nature priests that roam the wastes. However, it’s a cruel parody, as if she was somehow turned into something akin to a templar. To ponder such things is blasphemy to the city-state I am devoted to.
Contrary to previous statements, she does have subjects under her banner. Each of them live in pockets of lively vegetation and even crisp water. Save for few oasis pockets, such things are unheard of in the Tyr Region. Each of the tribes and settlements under her banner tell a different story, openly denouncing their Sorcerer Queen as a vile monster. And without the forces of templars at the ready, there are none to stop their heretical statements. The most baffling of these tribesmen is a village elder from Clans of the Verdant Hosts. It would seem most of these tribes have long since stood in opposition to the almighty here, rather than be subjects. They are rebels, rejecting and reacting against this “dark lady” as they call her. The elder, not giving her own name, spoke of an age where natural beauty ran rampant and life was ever bountiful. Given my knowledge of Athas, something hasn’t existed for ages, if such an age even existed. This village sage was either something near-immortal or insane. Regardless, she insisted that the Lady of the Dark was once a close ally and perhaps even friend. However, power and greed lead her to a dark and alien magic that polluted the realm. Its effects are laid bare for all to see. From these events, the name “Abaddon” was born. Could it be that this land was taken into Athas? Does this so-called “Abaddon” come from somewhere else? What Power can accomplish this and why?
IMAGE CREDIT: Andrew Howat – Knight Scared; John A Grimshaw – View of Heath Street By Night; Filmfrosk – Ahahahaha (Blood Fan Art); Clyde Caldwell – Ship of Horror; Geniuspen – Aswang; LivItaly – Black Sand