Shadows of the Rift
Crimson Cord Quests
The Heart of the World
The Purple Lotus of Kadath
The Dead God’s Dark Breath
Deliver Orphans: Derise in Asdari City and Angelett in Kalimsport = pick up in Ardor
The Obelisk 19 Harvest 508
At the University, Kerendal seems very excited. He has you all sit down and has the obelisk on a desk before you.
“This find is exceptional. Trevans and I have been working all day and all of last night, making notes and studying it. Not only is it an intact Aedonii narrative, but it details a particular ritual that is a unique meld of Aedonii and Ysar magics. Exceptional!
The narrative itself is focused on an Aedonii princess by the name of Imano-Tai. She was a princess, but also an adventurer and a scholar. She sought not only enlightenment, but transformation. And, according to the narrative, she achieved it. The narrative details how she “ascended” to a heightened form of existence. I translate the actual phrase “walking in the halls of the gods.” Through the use of a ritual that combines Aedonii and Ysar magics, which took place in the Chamber of Harmony in the central temple of the Aedonii city of Andropolae, she was transformed. Inside the chamber is an obelisk known as the Stone of Ascension. Through its use in the ritual, a person could achieve this heightened state.
The ritual requires several parts to be complete. However, their descriptions are devilishly vague:
The Heart of the World
The Purple Lotus of Kadath
The Dead God’s Dark Breath
All of these requisite parts are used in the final ritual. Now, Kiritherrix is a Draconic name, this much I know. However, I do not know of any of the other parts mentioned. Still, an intriguing find nonetheless. Linguistically, it helps confirm many of my suppositions about the Old High Aedonii."
Kerendal smiles. “It is an honor to get to study such an object. While I can study further and get more nuance and beauty from the text, this is the gist, as it were, of the narrative.”
Report from the Department of Philosophy and Metaphysics, 1 Changewind 508
The Purple Lotus of Kadath
|The Dimension of Dreams (aka “The Dreamlands”) is an unaligned plane of existence laying just outside the Ethereal Plane, often abutted by the Dimension of Time.|
|As a mortal sleeps, its monadic soul withdraws from the physical body to manifest in the Dimension of Dreams. This dream avatar is known as the lucid body, and can take a variety of forms based on the dreamer’s subconsciousness.|
|The minds of the countless dreamers of the Material Plane brush up against the Ethereal Plane, bubbling forth ephemeral demiplanes in which the dreamers’ lucid bodies experience fantastic adventures inspired by their own unconscious minds.|
|Essentially, each dreamer creates their own demiplane within the Dimension of Dreams in which they experience these adventures. A plane within a plane.|
|Experience in a dreamscape is usually a private affair.|
|Rare spells, magic items, and other abilities allow creatures to enter and share another creature’s dream demiplane for a short amount of time.|
|While these secondary dreamers can interact with the highly morphic qualities of the plane, with the primary dreamer, and with each other, the existence of the demiplane is still contingent on a single primary dreamer.|
|When the primary dreamer awakens, the demiplane pops out of existence, causing any other dreamers to continue dreaming—shunted into a dreamscape of their own creation—or to wake up.|
|A lucid body is not the only way to enter a dream, however, and considerable danger faces the explorer who enters the Dimension of Dreams in his physical body. While a dreamer is physically unharmed by the dreams he has—those who travel the dreamlands in a physical body are, in fact, harmed by the fantastic and impossible things they find there.|
|Regular methods of planar travel, such as a plane shift spell, do not offer transit to the dream world. Only specialized means such as those offered by occult practitioners—psychics, mesmerists, and the like—offer a means to travel to the dreamlands in a physical body.|
|Although most dreamscapes are ephemeral, fading when the sleeper awakens, particularly potent dreamscapes, bolstered by recurrence or by the shared subconscious of numerous dreamers, sometimes last forever. Among the most formidable and permanent regions of the Dimension of Dreams is the bizarre realm of Leng, where near-human denizens sail ethereal seas in black-hulled ships packed with slaves bound for the dark markets of the multiverse.|
|The Plateau of Leng is believed to be either a pocket within the Dimension of Dreams or accessible through it. It is a dry desert littered with ruins. The greatest of these ruins is the abandoned city of Sarkomand, the original home of the denizens of Leng. The most powerful being in Leng, perhaps its ruler, is the mysterious yellow-clad High-Priest Not to be Described, who presides over the plateau’s culture of blood sacrifice. The fabled city of unknown Kadath, while not itself in Leng, can be reached through that dimension.|
|The black ships of the Denizens of Leng can sometimes be found in the harbor of Tarsas, where they have dark dealings with slave traders there. It may be possible to strike a bargain with them to gain access to Leng. But such a bargain is sure to be dark and unsavory.|
|Kadath is a city on the Plateau of Leng. It was once the home of gods, but has been abandoned by them and is now only a shadow of its former self.|
|Kadath lies deep in the mountains that surround the Plateau of Leng, in its own pocket dimension.|
|According to the ravings of the mad prophet Kalil Tabrasi who wrote on the subject:
To enter unknown Kadath, one must first cross the Cold Wastes of the Plateau of Leng. Then they must travel through the mountains that surround the Plateau, through the Spider Vales, until they reach the Windswept Ridge. From there, they can travel down into the Valley of Obsidian and solicit a great Shantak to take them to City of the Lost Gods.
The Heart of the World
|The Heart of the World is an exceedingly rare silvery/blue substance that is rumored to have the strength of adamantine and the lightness of mithral. It is found only in the deepest of the deep caverns of the underground realms. It is considered a holy item by the dwarven followers of Skondir and its very existence is considered a dwarven state secret. However, information about the metal has inevitably leaked to other quarters, making it a thing of legend.|
|The most likely location of any troves of this rare metal would be the city of Khazak-Ur, the capital of the dwarven nation. It lies some 200-225 miles from Kalimsport, to the NE, as the crow flies. It lies nestled in the Hadurk-Sur mountain range.
The most likely source of information on any sources of the element would be the temple of Skondir; however, they are unlikely to part with such information to outsiders.
|The temple of Skondir at Khazak-Ur is currently led by Grand Hammer Sorja Stonegrim. She is a veteran fighter who is said to have suffered some sort of injury in the course of her service and now stays primarily at the temple. Her superior, Grand Anvil Rognar Splitaxe, also resides at the temple. He oversees the spiritual needs of the entire Skondir religion. He, too, is a veteran fighter but now resides primarily at the temple. Both Stonegrim and Splitaxe are reputed to be exemplary dwarves of honor and service and good.|
|The University may be able to provide more information on the city of Khazak-Ur or on dwarves in general, but they have exhausted their sources on the Heart of the World.|
|Khazak-Ur: Silver crown on black and silver wedges
One of three primary Dwarven cities of Hadurk-Sur. Khazak-Ur is considered by most dwarves to the their capital, though they have not had a proper King in several centuries. The dwarves are now ruled by their clan Thanes, not a united king.
|Khazak-Ur is the only dwarven city that is built both above ground and below, providing access to the depths beneath the mountains. It is a major access point for trade with dwarven artisans and craftsmen.|
The city of Khazak-Ur is ruled by a council of thanes known as the Thannic council. Each of the 7 local clans is represented by its thane (or his duly appointed representatives). The council appoints magistrates, settles disputes, and handles all aspects of government within the city.
|Order is maintained in the city through the Anvil Guard, the city’s combination militia and policing body. The Guard is headed by its Marshall. The warriors of the guard are designated by their wearing of black and gold armbands.|
|Points of Interest:
The Lonely Throne, the unoccupied seat of the Dwarven kingship, sits in the Hall of Kings. It is guarded by an elite squad of dwarven warriors.
|The Hall of Making, a vast complex dedicated to a variety of crafts and metallurgic arts, lies near the heart of the Upper City. It is essentially a large temple dedicated to Skondir.|
|Kargan’s Run is a ruined neighborhood near the lowest slums of the lower city. It is only tangentially part of the city and has only been heard of by sages. It has long since fallen to ruin and been reclaimed by the various things that live beneath the earth.|
The Dead God’s Breath: 8 Changewind 508
|The Dead God is most likely a reference to the Viper God. The Viper God is an ancient deity venerated by a race known colloquially as “the serpentfolk.” The serpentfolk have existed since times before The Rivening and their god was slain during the chaos of that cataclysmic event. It is unknown by whom or how such an unprecedented event occurred, only that it corresponds to event caused The Rift and resulted in the decline of The Aedonii and The Ysar and the rise of humanity and elvenkind.|
|The most likely course of inquiry on the Dead God will be through contact with the serpentfolk. However, such contact would be considered dangerous and fraught with peril. They are a highly duplicitous race with no love of humankind.|
|We do have information on the serpentfolk, largely thanks to our colleague, Londra Walera of the University of Crownport. She had the misfortune of having her department infiltrated by one of these creatures and has now devoted many hours of study to the subject.|
Of all the subterranean horrors known to the civilized races, few inspire as much fear and horror as the venomous serpentfolk. These cold-blooded, wholly evil reptilian masters forged a long-lasting empire on a foundation of relentless conquest, slavery, and arcane power. Driven by arrogance and avarice, they waged war in the name of their slithering god, subjugating subterranean creatures and surface dwellers alike. However, the rise of mammalian humanoids eventually gave the serpentfolk pause.
|At the climax of these wars, a cataclysmic event shook the pillars of the serpentfolk empire, severing their connection to their god and casting them into disarray. The serpentfolk were driven into retreat. Their brooding leaders went into hibernation in deep, dark holds as a strategy for outliving and outlasting their enemies. But with the passage of generations and centuries, the still-active serpentfolk guarding these strongholds devolved into degenerate brutes, only occasionally giving birth to a highborn example of their original greatness—further emphasizing the race’s humiliating descent from its once noble heights. Now, their true champions slumber in ageless hibernation, waiting for the day when humanity undergoes its own decline so the serpentfolk can seize power once again.|
|As a race, the serpentfolk have undergone a radical transformation since the height of their lost empire. The waning of their snake-god’s influence caused a sharp distinction to manifest in the original “purecaste” specimens, giving birth to the more commonly encountered “degenerate” serpentfolk. Yet, the twin strains within the overall race continue to intersect—a purecaste serpentfolk of genius intelligence might result from a pairing of degenerate brutes, just as a purecaste might give birth to more monstrous offspring. Regardless, all serpentfolk share a common bond, with purecastes leveraging the strengths of the degenerates to ensure their mutual survival.|
|On average, the typical purecaste serpentfolk stands a bit taller than its degenerate ilk at 5 to 7 feet in height, but is also far slimmer at around 100 to 140 pounds. The more powerfully built degenerate serpentfolk stands between 4 and 6 feet tall, but weighs as much as 180 to 220 pounds. The scales of all serpentfolk display a wide variety of colors and patterns, and some individuals paint themselves with pigments and cosmetics.|
|Serpentfolk are quite long-lived, generally reaching 500 years of age. Even so, they face a number of obstacles to returning its civilization to the heights it once enjoyed. Aside from the prevalence of degenerate offspring, most serpentfolk mate only once or twice during their lifetimes. Each mating produces as many as a dozen live births or fertile eggs up to a year later—live births now being the majority, although in ancient times egg-laying was more common—and it takes 50 years for offspring to reach adulthood. This infrequent fertility and long maturation period mean the serpentfolk are fighting an uphill battle against a dwindling population. This leads their society to lean heavily on the use of mind-controlled slaves to run the empire, especially the more dangerous tasks like mining and construction.|
|The diet of the serpentfolk is mostly meat—with “lesser” sentient creatures being considered a particular delicacy—along with strange fruits harvested from subterranean plants to aid digestion. Serpentfolk gorge themselves when they eat—a sensuous act kept private except for the most frenzied of feedings during major holidays and hosted events. Typically, serpentfolk dine only once per month, devouring 80 to 100 pounds of food before taking a couple of days to digest the meal. However, they can go as long as 4 months without eating at all, and some do so as part of a purifying religious experience or in preparation for complex arcane rituals.|
|To a serpentfolk, all creatures incapable of telepathy are lesser beings, animals fit only for use as slaves or food. Serpentfolk enclaves exist in near silence while its members communicate and debate telepathically with one another. Morally, serpentfolk have no compass except that which motivates them to action. Self-interest reigns in most matters, but serpentfolk prove incredibly efficient when uniting in common purpose. Such situations usually involve the promise of an equal reward from the spoils of war and the arcane lore gained through victory. Devout serpentfolk still rally to the cause of their snake-god, eager to restore the race to the heights it once knew. Should the serpentfolk succeed, their most powerful scions will emerge from hibernation to lead a new era of conquest and subjugation against the surface world.|
|Within their own culture, purecaste serpentfolk keep to themselves; each lives alone rather than sharing a living space with others of its kind, seeking to amass as much knowledge and capability as possible in its lifetime. Purecaste serpentfolk avoid emotional attachments to other creatures, including their own offspring. Males and females pair only for the purpose of mating, and then separate to pursue individual interests. Likewise, they form no bonds with the animals or slaves they keep, viewing such creatures as tools or commodities.|
|Purecaste serpentfolk value sensual experiences and intellectual challenges. They delight in taking that which they desire, and often challenge one another to duels or gamble their prized slaves through deadly games as a form of entertainment.|
|The Northron Connection
Professor Walera also mentioned sightings in the northern regions of Jossia of Frost Giant raiders that fly a banner depicting a viper’s skull. Is this a connection to the dead god or a mere coincidence? It is hard to say. What would that connection be? More direct research would be needed on this line of inquiry—but contact with the Frost Giants would be perilous indeed.
|Natives of snow-capped peaks and primordial lands of unending winter, frost giants consider themselves the rightful inheritors of the world’s cold places. They raid, conquer, and take slaves with wanton brutality. Lesser races who shiver and hide from the chilling winds exist only to serve them—as labor, as sport, and sometimes as meat.|
|Frost giants are among the larger giants, with males standing 15 feet tall and weighing roughly 2,800 pounds, and females being only slightly smaller. Most frost giants have pale blue skin the color of glacial ice, though shades can vary from deep blue to the white of fresh snow. Their hair grows in pale shades of blue, white, or dirty yellow; it is typically worn long and tied in braids, including beards. A frost giant’s eyes typically match its hair, though with much more vivid colors. Frost giants’ glacial coloration helps them camouflage themselves in the frigid lands they call home, and they often raid during ice storms to further capitalize on this fact.|
|Frost giants bear nearly the same proportions as humans, if more muscle-bound and broad-shouldered on average. Like other humanoids, they are warm-blooded, but their bodies have adapted to emit only infinitesimal amounts of heat via their skin and breath, and their blood cannot freeze, rendering them impervious to even the most frigid cold. However, their blood boils easily, and they become uncomfortably hot in more moderate climes.|
|A creature as massive as a frost giant requires a great deal of food to keep going, which the giants supply mostly by hunting and raiding. Caribou, elk, and other megafauna of the frozen reaches make up the bulk of their diet. The skins and hides of these creatures are put to use as clothing, bedding, and tents. Frost giants see no reason to engage in agriculture, mining, or raising livestock, given that their immense strength makes it far easier to raid for what they need. Most goods among the giants are stolen or created by enslaved members of smaller races. Cheese and butter are particularly prized.|
|About half of all frost giant tribes are seminomadic, migrating between campsites and temporary settlements whenever the local supply of game or plunder begins to run out. The other half take up permanent residence in captured castles or in fortresses carved from stone or ice. The giants’ refusal to practice agriculture, however, means that those who settle in one place require relatively large subject populations to raid from, and may even rely on subordinate frost giant tribes that range farther afield and supply them with tribute.|
|Frost giants’ love of raiding is legendary, and rightly feared among mountain towns the world over. They have so perfected the art of raiding that they leave enough residents of a town alive that the town can be rebuilt, allowing them to sack it again later once it’s amassed enough loot to be worthwhile. In general, frost giants enjoy combat for its own sake, and prefer a quick plundering to holding territory. They particularly enjoy the thrill of fighting smaller humanoids, as it allows them to sate their bloodlust in relative safety.|
|Because they value strength over all, frost giants are sometimes brought under the command of yet greater evils. In these cases, they are usually glorified mercenaries, who cooperate as long as they’re kept supplied with food, weapons, and riches, be it by pay or by pillage. Yet non-giant individuals capable of cowing a tribe are rare—even white dragons can end up as thralls of powerful frost giant tribes.|
|The ruler of a frost giant tribe typically assumes the title of jarl. This title is never claimed by means of democracy or heredity, but rather belongs to any with the strength to take it via personal challenge. When two jarls meet, one or the other must cede her title and become a mere “chieftain” or “warlord,” an issue usually decided by swift and brutal combat. In this way, a strong jarl can command many subordinate tribes, though these arrangements inevitably prove to be temporary, for frost giants rankle at servitude. Most chieftains are continually second-guessing the jarl’s leadership and looking for opportunities to break away or take power for themselves.|
|As frost giants prefer the glory of combat over the tedium of work, they keep slaves (called thralls) to assist with tasks like preparing food or tanning hides. The giants make poor masters, often killing these thralls through exhaustion or petty cruelty. The giants are also not above eating thralls in lean times, or when the slaves have outlived their usefulness. More successful frost giant tribes sometimes capture hardier creatures such as ice trolls or ogres as thralls—these fare somewhat better, serving as shock troops in the giants’ war bands.|
|One of the few labors the giants take pride in is crafting weapons and armor. They manufacture excellent chain armor, which they prefer to plate, as plate makes noise and has joints that can freeze. For weaponry, they favor enormous greataxes, sometimes hafted with whole trees.|
|Frost giants enjoy the company of creatures as brutal as themselves, and so take in other tundra creatures as exotic “pets.” They favor winter wolves, but frost worms, mammoths, polar bears, svathurims, and yetis are not unknown.|