Greyhawk Mysterious Places

GREYHAWK Mysterious Places

File material taken from (1988).
GREYHAWK Adventures Design & Development: James M. Ward, Daniel Salas, Skip Williams, Nigel D. Findley, Thomas Kane, Stephen Innis, Len Carpenter, Eric Oppen, Jon Pickens.
GREYHAWK Adventures Editing: Warren Spector, Anne Brown, Karen Boomgarden, Steve Winter, Mike Breault, Scott Haring, Jon Pickens.
AOL File Editing: Roger E. Moore.
GREYHAWK Adventures (C)1988 TSR, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
AOL File (C)1995 TSR, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
(R) and (TM) indicate trademarks of TSR, Inc.

This file contains information on mysterious places in the Flanaess of eastern Oerik, but it may be adapted into other AD&D(R) campaigns with minor changes, serving as legends and rumors to get player characters into major adventures. This work has been updated since its original publication for use with the AD&D 2nd Edition game, with some new information added as well.

Oerth's geography is little known because travel across the Flanaess is so dangerous to one's health. Only the rich and powerful can afford the armed guards, wizards, and clerics who make long-distance travel possible. Because of this, tales of far away lands are always sought after by those unable to move freely. The unusual places described here are some of the most infamous and best-known bits of topography in the lands that humans travel.

The Pinnacles of Azor'alq

  The Pinnacles of Azor'alq have haunted Bakluni legend for upwards of 3,000 years. They have been variously described as the ancient dwellings of the gods, the protruding spires of a titanic drowned city, the monumental tombs of the near-mythical First Dynasty of the Bakluni, and the nesting place of phoenixes, rocs, or the Dramidj Ocean's numerous dragons. The epic hero for whom they are named is said to sleep there with his paladins. The last royal house of the Bakluni Empire is said to have fled here from the Invoked Devastation. (The Cup and Talisman of Al'Akbar) is rumored to reside here. Such a wealth of speculation betokens the fact that few have seen the Pinnacles even at a distance, and (perhaps significantly) fewer still report any close approach or landing. Mariners regard a sighting of the Pinnacles as an ill omen and will rarely so much as speak of them, and then only when ashore.

It would appear from accounts that the Pinnacles are no more than 50 leagues from the mainland, somewhere in the angle of the Dramidj between Ekbir and Zeif. They are less frequently found than one would think, but this is perhaps accounted for by their being away from the regular shipping lanes, and by the dense fogs peculiar to the Dramidj. Indeed, the Pinnacles are often concealed by banks of fog even when those waters are otherwise clear. Perhaps this is because of the unusual warmth of the waters in their immediate vicinity, and the peculiar calm that seems to envelop the region. Certainly that is what the merchant captains believe; they stay well away from fog banks even on the open ocean, and most vessels carry oars for the express purpose of rapidly removing themselves from regions in which they might be becalmed.

The Pinnacles themselves are massive spires no less than 40 in number (some say 100), in an irregular cluster, none more than two miles from its nearest neighbor. They are perhaps a quarter mile in diameter at the base, circular in cross-section, and rise steeply upward in a regular series of cliffs. How far they extend downward into the ocean is unknown, but their height above the water is in excess of 1,000 feet. The lower portions are clothed in forests, including massive coniferous trees which are themselves sometimes more than 200 feet tall. These are mixed with lesser trees, some of which cling to the cliffs, and a wealth of lesser ferns, mosses, and flowers. Above these is a cloud-forest of odd fleshy-leaf plants and rare orchids. This fragrant and silent realm contrasts with the highest levels, which are raucous and white-stained with innumerable sea birds; puffins, eider, albatrosses, and others less recognizable. On rare clear days, the Pinnacles may be marked at some distance by the plume of feathered life above them.

The Pinnacles seldom offer an easy landing. Broad though they may be, the shelves between cliffs are seldom conveniently near sea level. In most cases a landing party must climb tens or hundreds of feet upwards from the sea. The difficulty of the terrain, and the mists, numerous waterfalls, and thick vegetation at first conceal the fact that the Pinnacles are not natural formations, or even shaped ones, but are composed of titanic blocks. On rare occasions one encounters openings leading to the interior of these constructions. There is no report of what may be found if one ascends or descends the broad stairways leading away from these bat-haunted cave mouths, or rather doorways.

Whatever else dwells among the pinnacles, it is certain that dragons of all sorts and sizes make their home there, from tiny varieties that sport among the beautiful and unique birds of the forests to huge coiled reptiles.

Golden, faerie, pseudo-, silver, and mist dragons are all appropriate residents. Rocs, giant eagles, and a phoenix or two may also be included. These live in relative harmony, foraging outward for fish, whales, or even for food on the mainland. All are concerned that no rumor of the Pinnacles reach the outside world, and will either strand or kill intruders (depending on alignment and circumstances) if they possibly can. Treasures to be found include not only the precious things gathered by the intelligent inhabitants but also certain orchids and birds-of-paradise. Some of the latter have been bred by the longer-lived dragons and are regarded as personal property. The guardians and treasures of the interior should be powerful (possibly undead), and the exterior inhabitants do not wish them to be disturbed. The isle may have human inhabitants.  

The Sea of Dust

  No one has accurately described the entirety of the wasteland created by the Bakluni wizards. Reports are sometimes contradictory and always incomplete, since few have the hardihood to penetrate the region and fewer still the will to make a study of it. Nevertheless, certain broad regions may be identified.

The Sea of Dust was first named for its appearance just west of the Hellfurnaces, where volcanic ash is spread in gray waves over a land surface now deeply buried. Each year the Hellfurnaces add new weight to the column of fine gray dust. What little water makes its way westward percolates through the bedrock, which is of limestone in those regions. Unwholesome creatures from the Hellfurnaces inhabit this sterile wasteland and have bored pathways upward through the ash. These entrances are sometimes disguised as protrusions of the country's original limestone. Whatever treasures the Suel of these parts might once have had are deeply buried here. No ruins are reported except for those of a few former mountain towns in what are properly considered the western Hellfurnaces, and these must long ago have been looted by fire newts and fire giants, which are numerous in those parts.

The northern parts of the Sea of Dust are less ash-clogged and therefore show clearer evidence of the former Suel civilization. Here may be found the forts that guarded the passes over the Sulhaut range into Bakluni lands, and farther into the desert are the remains of walled cities. The most accessible of these, nearest the Sulhauts, have apparently been stripped of valuables by various bold scavengers over the past millennium, but the sites farther into the desert are less disturbed, in part because they are inhabited by recently arrived harpies. It is notable that the architecture of this region shows the characteristic high angular buildings still affected by such people as the Sea Princes and the Lendorians.

The central part of the Sea of Dust is the most forbidding of all and certainly the most alien. There are dunes of a white, powdery, caustic material, and the air's dryness will empty an unglazed jug in a day or two, and cause those who do not cover their mouths with damp cloth to cough up blood.

The white dunes and glassy exposed bedrock also cause sun blindness in those who fail to protect their eyes with slitted masks or visors. It is little wonder that the so-called Forgotten City remains, if not forgotten, at least undiscovered in so harsh and discouraging a region. Interestingly, there are peculiar glassy depressions which dot the central Sea of Dust and which some claim correspond to former Suel cities.

Paradoxically, it is the most distant part of the Sea of Dust, the southwest, which is best known. In part this is because some small amount of rain reaches the Sea of Dust at this point, and the lands are inhabited by nomads. Some of the natives show Suloise origins, but the majority are from farther south: a tall, slender, curly haired folk with blue-black skin and slanted eyes. Though not otherwise hostile, the nomads guard their wells against any outsider and do not permit so much as a drop to be stolen or sold. The water is not only difficult to reach, but it has a tendency to dry up or grow salty as the wells are used more frequently. The nomads therefore move from one site to the next, searching for new supplies. When they find a well they must apply either brute animal force or (in the case of some tribes) windmills to pull their prize water to the surface.

When water does reach the surface of the southwestern Sea of Dust, either by artificial means such as wells or during the rare spates of rain in the "wet" season, the result is most gratifying. The dust of these parts is not alkaline material or sterile volcanic ash but true dirt, heaped into great hills; perhaps it is the once-fertile soils of the former Suel Empire. It is in any case extraordinarily productive, both in wild and cultivated plants.

Unfortunately, the rich southwestern dust also supports a number of monsters which burrow through it. Most notable of these are a nameless wormlike beast which may exceed 50 feet in length, and an insectlike creature which rather resembles a cross between a mantis and a centipede and may be as much as 20 feet long. These are attracted by soil moisture and by vibrations of humans and livestock, and present a great hazard. Fortunately they are rare and avoid the nomads' arrows and spears.

Poor as they may be in other things, the southwest nomads are rich in gems and gold, the accumulated fortune of the Suel empire. They regard these treasures as minor ornamentation and place much higher value on cattle and vegetables, which sustain life. The way in which these nomads obtain their baubles is most interesting, however; the young men dive for them as part of the rites by which they pass to adulthood.

Dotted about the region are "ktosor-hep," or dust-lakes. These are expanses anywhere from half a mile to six miles across; here, the dust is charged with a magic that causes it to take on the characteristics of water. The grains form a sort of fluid which permits the passage of air between them but retains them in a single body which supports waves, boats, and swimmers as if it were a true lake. Unlike water, however, this dust may be made somewhat breathable if a fine cloth mask is placed over the mouth (although strenuous action is not possible under such conditions). It is therefore possible to descend to the true ground's surface beneath the dust, and there to examine in the dim and dust-laden atmosphere the ruins of towns and cities, for each dust-lake seems to have been just such a site before the Rain of Colorless Fire.

Were a descent into the dim and choking lower reaches of a dust-lake the sole barrier to manhood among the nomads, there would not be so many "boys" of 30 and 40 years. Unfortunately for divers, a number of other creatures also live in the soup of particles. Among these are the aforementioned burrowing worms, which seem to prefer these spots as lairs. Water pools there in small amounts, and certain peculiar fungoid life forms are also attracted. Last but not least, there are the abhorrent "osid-mrin," a manlike race which according to local legend first built the cities beneath the dust-lakes, and which (again according to hearsay) have a desire to bring recruits into their new race through a gruesome operation or transformation. Nevertheless, the rewards of diving are as great as the perils: not only full manhood in the tribe, but also gems and jewelry for decoration as well as more civilized treasures which are highly prized tokens of a dive, such as artworks, books, or even magical items.

The architecture of the southwestern ruins is notable for its large domes and tall onion-topped minarets, which occasionally protrude above the dust and provide a channel downward.

The nomads in the southwest each have type Q treasure. The "osid-mrin" are meenlocks. Also present in the fertile dust are purple worms and ankhegs. Movement in the water-dust is the same as that in water. The bottom of the dust-lakes will support a wide variety of fungoid creatures, including myconids in those not infested with meenlocks.

The dust of the central regions forms a strong lye when mixed with water.  

The Pits of Azak-Zil

  In mid-Flocktime of CY 198, the Great Kingdom was astounded by a ball of fire which appeared over the Oljatt Sea, passed over Sunndi, Idee, Ahlissa, and Onnwall, and vanished somewhere beyond the Sea of Gearnat. It was visible as far south as the Olman Isles and as far north as Eastfair and Rel Mord, and it was cause for wonder and concern even in those prosperous and confident times. Selvor the Younger, after careful extrapolation to its origin in the constellations, declared the shooting star to signify "wealth, strife, and a living death." The pronouncement caused a panic in certain of the larger cities, particularly Rauxes, where a number of prominent nobles took the pronouncement to be a signal for the end of the world, or at least of an era, and created several disturbances. Accordingly, when after several years the predicted events failed to make themselves evident, Selvor was banished from his post and from the court, and held by his colleagues as a laughingstock. There matters were to lie for more than 300 years, while chaos enveloped the greater part of the Flanaess and few had the time or patience to study the work of a discredited astrologer.

It was in 514 that Jemrek Longsight, a dwarf sage who as a child had been greatly impressed by the celestial phenomenon, undertook a study entirely opposite to Selvor's. Using records of the falling star's flight, she traced it not back to its origin but downward to the Oerth. Longsight's calculations showed a landing along the eastern wing of the Abbor Alz, between the Bright Desert and the Nesser River. On the basis of previous instances of shooting stars and their tangible results, Longsight predicted a great deposit of pure metals at the site: certainly iron, and possibly gold and mithral as well. The direction of Jemrek Longsight's study has often been cited as evidence that the habits of dwarven minds persist even in those who choose the most un-dwarven occupations.

Longsight's announcements resulted in a flurry of activity on the part of all the political interests in the region. All over the Iron League, there was a ferment of alliance, misalliance, and reliance between the dwarven clans and other groups preparing expeditions. The Herzog of South Province sent forth a large group of warriors and prospectors, reportedly with orders to return with news of the deposit or not return at all. The Principality of Ulek took an interest, as did Almor, Nyrond, and the Duchy of Urnst, and trading houses from the Wild Coast and even Greyhawk and Dyvers. Even the rulers of the Pomarj, then new to their power, sent an ill-prepared company of orcs, goblins, and ogres. As these varied forces converged on the area delineated by Longsight, chilling tales of murder, treachery, and bloody massacre began to make their way back to the outside world. Soon the weaker forces turned back for lack of supplies or manpower. The Pomarjis were slaughtered by a temporary alliance of dwarven interests. Nyrond and Urnst were unexpectedly impeded by the inhabitants of Celadon Forest, who did not desire such activity near their lands. The Herzog's troops disappeared into the Bright Desert and were never seen again. All parties were harassed by the natives of the Abbor-Alz, who as always resented intrusion, and by the Sea Princes, who were attracted to the supply ships.

After half a decade of struggle, the house of Highforge, one of the more prominent dwarven clans in Irongate, emerged as discoverer and holder of the starstone's wealth. A port was established on the waterless coasts where the Abbor Alz touches the Bright Desert, and a secret trail was established leading inland. Highforge and its allies maintained thorough secrecy, and for good reason: iron, platinum, gold, mithral, and adamantite began to pour out into the world at large through the carefully guarded harbor. Few have reported concerning the mine inland, but from peripheral comments it appears that the dwarves discovered a broad depression of fused and shocked rock marking the landing point of their prize and established themselves in a nearby mesa from which they coordinated a well-planned mining operation. They dug deep artesian wells and established cisterns. The mine and settlement they called Azak-Zil, or Pureheart.

For five years, Highforge swelled with wealth; there were disruptions in metal markets as far away as Rauxes. Then, abruptly, the flow was cut off. The port city of Zarak remained, but communications with the mines ceased and probes into the interior found the roads to be erased and the dust storms to be intolerable. Members of a powerful expeditionary force disappeared suddenly and silently at night, even from guarded tents. Clan Highforge, after expending much of its considerable fortune in an attempt to find and retake the mines, took heed of unfavorable auguries and abandoned the effort. Zarak was abandoned as well.

Since the failure of Azak-Zil, most southern dwarven clans have declared the folly of meddling with "things from the sky." Not a few suppose that the mine was visited by a curse, either by something imported from the heavens or by something wakened by the shooting star or the activities of the miners. Many have cited nomad legends that an ancient nonhuman people dwelt in the mesas of the southern Abbor Alz and still guard them.

Only one individual has claimed to have found the site of the mines since their abandonment: one Pont Sandmorg of Narwell. Sandmorg's account places the mesa on the eastern slopes of the hills, facing the Bright Desert, about a hundred or more miles inland. Pont recalled there was a poisonous salt lake filling part of the nearby depression, and there were hills of tailings from extensive mining operations. Plain evidence of a dwarven cliff-city could be seen on the south face of the mesa. However, Sandmorg and his men were content to raid a few ingots from a former roadside depot. Their number had been depleted by native tribes and by packs of unusually ferocious and cunning ghouls; they turned back after "hearing a most horrible howling, like a thousand jackals, which emanated from the city that night, and a foul apparition appeared to the men on watch." Attempts to duplicate Sandmorg's route have either resulted in failure to find the mines or failure for those parties to return at all.

The environs of the port-city will show only a few hardy and surly nomads. Inland the terrain is extremely treacherous, and dust storms are likely. There is evidence of former expeditions as the mines grow nearer, though most of the treasures carried by these ill-fated groups will be in the lairs of various desert monsters. There will be unusual numbers of undead, especially ghouls and ghasts, many of obviously dwarven origin.

Should the player characters reach the cliff-city or the diggings, they will discover that the work of mining still goes on, as does the fighting that always attended it. Each individual miner, now in undead form, seeks to amass for itself all of the treasure. The number of such undead is large, mostly ghouls and ghasts. There are no incorporeal undead in the city and mines themselves. The undead will attack on sight in search of food or treasure.

The cause of this horrible transformation is an ellipsoid of bluish metal, about two feet long and one foot in diameter. All who die within five miles of it rise at the next full moon as undead creatures unless the corpse is first blessed. Undead within one mile are turned at -5, those within two at -4, and so on to the limit of the area of effect. The stone also causes consuming greed and transformation to a lichlike state in its possessor. It is presently held by a lich, once a dwarven cleric of 16th level. In addition to raising a primary attribute by +2, the stone should have various other effects as determined from the (DUNGEON MASTER(R) Guide); it is an otherworldly artifact.  


  It is commonly held that the Flan peoples of eastern Oerik were simple tribesmen before the events that led to the Suel and Oeridian migrations. If so, there remain to be explained certain ruins found in the Griff and Corusk Mountains. The massive stone foundations, straight level roads, and flattened or terraced areas of mountainside seem from the proportions of the rarely preserved doorways to be intended for creatures of human size, and it seems unlikely that elves or humanoids would have had the inclination to produce such works. What is more, the occasional jade carvings and green ceramic figurines found both at these sites and occasionally in rivers flowing out of the mountains show a people of Flannish features and dress, and there remain in the Duchy of Tenh and among the Coltens stories of a powerful mountain state of Flannish race. Perhaps the dwarves of the region know more, but if so they show the typical reticence of demihuman races concerning prehistoric events. One of the greatest works of this ancient people, whoever they were, is the mountain known in Flan as Tostenhca, but more commonly known by the name the Suel barbarians gave it, Skrellingshald. It is a place which has been discovered many times, and as often lost again from human knowledge.

Skrellingshald is among the Griff Mountains, but unlike the untamed crags surrounding it, its peak is entirely leveled. Perched on this plateau is a city of heroic proportions carved from the rock itself. It holds many noble houses, as well as large pyramids and ramps of unknown purpose. There are large water-storage tanks, and evidently water was once piped through the entire city. The broad avenues are lined with tall statues of the same greenish-black rock as the mountain and city, all of them showing typical Flannish features (from which trait the name of the city is derived). Some of the dwellings may be three or more stories high, and the interiors contain among other things murals with pigments that are still fresh and scenes that depict the lives of the inhabitants. One block covered with such work was brought to the town of Calbut in the Duchy of Tenh, and exhibited as an example of ancient Flan excellence, but it is regarded by some as a clever forgery. Beneath the city and leading downward to various openings on the lower mountain is a series of tunnels. Most of these terminate in terraced regions that must once have been farmers' fields. The climate of the region must surely have been more pleasant in its heyday, for much of the year the city is wreathed in snow.

For all its enigmatic glory, Skrellingshald might remain relatively obscure were it not for the stories that great treasure might be found there. Indeed, it bears some passing resemblance to a land placed by popular legend in the Griff Mountains, where the buildings are "roofed in gold." However, the citadel of Skrellingshald is most certainly not inhabited by any human race and does not flaunt whatever treasure it may have. Its inhabitants are reported to be particularly malevolent and cunning kobolds, and perhaps certain diabolic allies, who haunt the tunnels beneath the mountain. The skies of the region are the hunting ground of griffons and gigantic eagles. The city itself is supposedly guarded by its statues. If the city ever had gold roofing, it has long since been looted. What remains is a wealth of jade jewelry and statuary scattered throughout the region, and a great store of gold in most unusual form: it is in spheres about the size of a double fist. The troves of gold spheres are to be found somewhere within the pyramids, but it is supposedly unhealthy to meddle with them. Stories have it that those who carry away the spheres contract a horrible wasting and rotting disease.

The citadel is protected not only by its remote position and the ferocious inhabitants. It is surrounded on all sides by deep gorges or high mountains, and the high altitude saps the strength of lowlanders. The weather is chilly and windy in all seasons, and often so cloudy that vision is obscured over distances of more than a few hundred yards. The precise location of the place is not known. Few have sought it out, and those who have returned after finding it are generally reticent. Typical is the case of Hradji Beartooth, a chieftain of the Frost Barbarians, who took a band of men in search of the marvel in 520.

Hradji returned later that year with a diminished following and with a greatly increased wealth which consisted largely of the aforementioned golden spheres. He quite naturally refused to disclose the location of the mountain, as he planned to gather a stronger force for the next season and return with still greater booty. Unfortunately Hradji and the majority of his men died within the year, some of them as soon as they arrived home. What is more, all those who had any prolonged contact with the gold similarly sickened and died. Hradji's heir disposed of the hoard by trading it to merchant interests in the Great Kingdom, and reputedly the curse still circulates as the coin of that shattered land, although this last may be a tale originally fabricated to weaken the emperor's currency.

In confirmation of Hradji's story that he had reached Skrellingshald, it is noteworthy that he also brought with him two young griffons and a shield of a pebbly, fire-resistant hide which has since been identified as that of a diabolical creature.

It is rumored that certain of the dwarven clans of the Griff Mountains know the location of the citadel. Certainly they make use of the roads supposedly produced by Skrellingshald's constructors, as well as their tunnels and roadside fountains. It would not be surprising to find that they had discovered something of Skrellingshald's whereabouts.

The kobolds of Skrellingshald are well prepared to fight off invasions, and to do so with little loss of kobold lives. They use missile weapons from a height and roll down boulders to crush any opposition. Their average intelligence is higher than that of typical kobold tribes, and their shamans and witch doctors are numerous. The chieftain bears a medallion which allows the bearer to summon a random baatezu once per year if one intelligent creature is sacrificed. Those who attempt the difficult ascent of the mountain from the outside, or who take an aerial approach, must deal with griffons, white dragons, and the uncertain and windy weather (increase all randomly generated wind speeds around Skrellingshald by 15 miles per hour). The Constitution of lowlanders drops 2 points at this altitude.

The city is guarded by stone golems (a portion of the statuary) and, if tombs or altars are disturbed, by natural and magical traps and by undead or extraplanar beings. Artwork taken from the city will be of high value if it can be removed, especially in the Duchy of Tenh.

The magical curse of the golden spheres is permanent, but its effects on an individual can be removed with cure disease and remove curse. The chance of success with each of these is equal to the chance of dispel magic against a 12th-level enchantment. The curse affects anyone who owns the golden spheres or remains near them for more than four hours. It takes effect as a chronic severe disease of the blood and skin, which strikes within 1d4 weeks and worsens to a terminal case once it has seen full effect as a severe malady.  

The Sinking Isle

  The Sinking Isle has haunted the waters near the Isles of the Sea Barons from time immemorial. The earliest Oeridian tribes to fish the Solnor there knew of it; the Flan before them had legends of it; the seagoing elves of Lendore Isle have tales yet more ancient. Neither the current civilization nor even that of the elves was the first in the Flanaess; there were others in times so far past that the very shape of the lands has since changed. The Sinking Isle is a reminder of them.

The region about Asperd Isle, the northernmost held by the Sea Barons, is prone to infrequent if powerful quakes. Perhaps it was one of these which in the distant past carried an island city to the sea bottom, and perhaps it is the same restlessness that on occasion raises it again into the air. Local mariners hold that while these movements are never predictable, they are at times presaged by tremors and a boiling and bubbling that stirs dark mud from the bottom and releases bubbles of foul-smelling gas. It is also said that the rise of the Sinking Isle is most likely in storms or fog. At such times, coastal traders and pirates, who normally seek the protected inner passage between Asperd Island and the Solnor's unpredictable waves, either go the long way 'round or stay in port. Many northern captains raiding southward will not attempt the strait at all, for lack of friendly informants.

The Sinking Isle is not always so kind as to give warning of its reemergence. Neither does it always show itself entirely above the waters. Often only the highest extremities jut upwards, as if they were lying in wait for unwary ships. Indeed seamen credit the isle or its manipulators with a malign will, and attribute any disappearance in the strait to its action. More than one will tell tales of a near-grounding, a suspicious darkness in the water on a clear fair day, or the sight of breakers where none ought to be. A very few claim to have watched the island, or even landed on it. They do so in whispers, as it is said that foolhardy boasters are apt to vanish from their homes on some dark and rainy night thereafter. So it is that for the most part only a faint rumor reaches the outside world of the Sinking Isle and its twisted ruins.

In the past one notable man was far less circumspect than modern adventurers: Atirr Aedorich, a hero of the Great Kingdom in the days of its youth. In 155, as a young man, he was sent southward by his father to the university at Rel Astra, then a great center of learning in the magical arts. The Sinking Isle was less active in those days, but as the fates would have it Atirr's ship was caught in a sudden squall and driven onto the hidden claws of the Isle itself. Atirr was fascinated rather than terrified (such were the Great Kingdom's nobles in those days). For a full hour, while the crew sweated at the pumps and strained to place a patch over the hull's single rent, the young man gazed at the strange phosphorescent landscape, and prepared several sketches, until one of the Solnor's strange and unpredictable great waves came questing into the strait and lifted the wounded vessel clear. Atirr vowed to return and discover the island's secrets.

Atirr did return northward some years later, but as Herzog of North Province. Not until his middle years did he have the leisure to take up his study. Through the examination of certain ancient Suel tomes, and the exercise of the arts he learned at Rel Astra, he devised a way to either predict or command the vagaries of the Sinking Isle. This knowledge, like much else, was lost in the Turmoil Between the Crowns, but several different descriptions survive of what he found when he drew alongside the risen city.

In the short time before the island sank once again beneath the waves, Atirr and his fellows were able to recover and record information about a great many artifacts from among the spiky and highly decorated ruins. Among these were many panes of fine stained glass, some still intact, and some in tints never yet achieved by modern artists. Besides these were a number of twisted ornaments of gold and lead, later discovered to be of sahuagin manufacture. Attir also discovered a book sealed against the water in a lead casket. All of these were returned to the court at Rauxes in honor of the Overking. The patient Atirr hoped to study them further in his retirement. He declared the book in particular to be most interesting, being among other things a recording in a lost language of "an ancient history together with magical secrets."

Tragically, Atirr was never to attain his goal. Two years after his discoveries, he and all hands went down in a storm off the coast of North Province in a storm which apparently even the Herzog's powers could not quell. The book has since disappeared, though it may yet be found somewhere in the catacombs at Rauxes; it is difficult to be sure, as so little word now reaches the outside world of the doings at that insane court. It is known that Atirr was convinced from a preliminary study that the city itself was not primarily of sahuagin construction but must have been built by a terrestrial race, though sahuagin-like creatures and other sea life are depicted frequently in the architecture.

Later observers have examined the coasts and sea near the site of the Sinking Isle, and have on a dark evening seen what may have been its upper towers. The region is chill and forbidding for such a southern latitude. Fishermen say that the catch in those parts is extraordinarily good, but that nets are often fouled. Those attempting the water find it dark and chill. Most are content to leave the Sinking Isle to the sahuagin or whatever race of the deeps now holds it.

The Sinking Isle is held jointly by sahuagin and krakens, according to the local currents at the time. The waters about the isle are alternately very clear and warm as the southern current reaches it, or chilly and dark as it is touched by the northern currents. Each sort of water has its characteristic fauna, the former typified by sahuagin and the latter by krakens. There is a 10% chance in any month that the currents will change over the course of the following month to the opposite direction.

The risings and fallings of the island are controlled by sacrifices of intelligent creatures at an altar in the middle of the largest ruin. The city is not of sahuagin manufacture, but it would not be amiss to suggest that the builders were the once-human ancestors of the sahuagin themselves. They were in any case an evil race toward the end. The ruins are reminiscent of Gothic architecture, with much decoration and many high pointed arches.

The isle is relatively uninhabited during changeovers from one current to another. It is 15% likely to rise on its own each month that characters are in the area, and will remain above water for 1d6 hours. It normally rests on the bottom. Local fishermen are 10% likely to know the precise location; local mermen 50% likely. Neither will be eager to reveal the information or serve as guides. The sahuagin and krakens have a few allies ashore to apprise them of events.

It might be suggested that survivors of the House of Rax hold the book discovered by Atirr. Aside from historical information, it is both a (libram of ineffable damnation) and a (book of vile deeds).  

The Twisted Forest

  The Drachensgrabs have always been a peculiar land, an anomaly among the more settled regions of the Flanaess. Legends persist that some powerful being sleeps there, and that some unclean air is about certain of the hills. The retaking of the Pomarj by humanoid forces is just such an event as might be expected of this region. Rumors aside, there is at least one sleeping and dangerous power in these superficially pleasant lands: the misnamed "Twisted Forest."

The Twisted Forest is no forest at all, but rather a collection of stony pillars; these pitted gray shapes have as much the aspect of humanoid shapes as of trees. They are scattered over the hillside meadows like so many leafless olive trees, but it would be difficult to mistake them for vegetation. They range in size from that of a very small goblin to that of a very large ogre, but their twisted upper extensions are as suggestive of upraised arms as of branches. They have overall an unwholesome and unnerving aspect. One has the feeling of being watched. The patterns on the trunks are suggestive of tormented faces, and it is notable that despite their great age they do not bear the abundant mosses, lichens, and birds' nests that the local outcroppings of native rock display in such abundance.

An examination of the ground between the "trees," which is rich in flowers, shows a surprising number of bones and many weathered remains of weapons and equipment. One might at first suppose these to be the relics of a battle, but they are of varying ages--some old enough to have crumbled entirely and be evident only as strains in the soil, while others are much more recent. Where they have not been disarrayed by scavengers the bones and equipment are still whole. The source of this carnage is not any danger in the hills round about, but the forest itself. Those who touch the stone shapes often die or go mad.

The goblins of the Pomarj are now well aware of the dangers of the Twisted Forest. Early during their influx, a large company of goblins scouting for new lands ascertained from the local herdsmen that the Forest might contain treasures somehow locked within the stone shapes. Precisely what occurred on the day they entered the Forest is not known, but it seems to have been something beyond even the traditional danger, of which the goblins and their allies might have been aware had they not, in their eagerness to push onward, hastily slaughtered their informants. Later observers have since examined this field of stone shapes, and it seems that there are rather more of them than is implied in earlier accounts. There is moreover something which was surely not present in past centuries--a contorted river of stone among the pillars, more than 30 feet long, tapered at either end. Unfortunately, it is not possible to compare past and present eyewitness accounts directly, as former natives of the region are now dead or dispersed.

The Twisted Forest would be entirely mysterious were it not for records of the Keoish Court at Niole Dra. An ancient and much recopied manuscript there purports to be a history of the Suel peoples immediately after the last disaster of the Suloise empire, penned by one Uhas of Neheli. In this history is the tale of a particularly wicked band of Suloise who fled with all their treasures eastward along the northern coast of the Azure Sea, seeking a new land in which to build a powerful new nation. They were as learned and powerful as they were cruel, and met with success in all their evil ventures until at last they slaughtered a band of innocent Flan tribesmen in a particularly vile manner in the Suenha Hills. By so doing, they brought on themselves a most terrible curse from certain of the Flannish gods the tribe had worshiped: that neither they nor any of their kind should leave the valley in which the massacre occurred, and that they should be monuments to their own wicked behavior, "pillars of tortured stone for all the world to see." This would seem to be a clear reference to the Twisted Forest, and it is commonly accepted among historians that the Suenha Hills were the Drachensgrab as known to early Suel colonists. The malevolent effect of the stone figures themselves remains to be explained, since it would surely not have been a part of the original curse; perhaps the powerful Suel wizards contrived somehow to see that their malice would continue to wound the world, at least within a limited area. As additional evidence that the stone figures are former Suel, the flowers peculiar to the Twisted Forest are of types seen only in the far western parts of the Sea of Dust.

As for the treasures which some insist are buried in the stone figures, it is perhaps best not to seek them since the Twisted Forest has so dire an effect, but it is doubtless a great treasure indeed if these stone figures are in fact a host of transformed Suloise. What if anything could be gained from what may be the more recent additions to the collection of pillars is unknown, even in rumor.

The pillars are largely the remains of evil creatures. Any being of evil alignment which enters the demesne of the Twisted Forest will be affected within 1d4 to 1d20 turns depending on the degree of evil involved. Thereafter, such creatures must make a saving throw vs. spell each round or be converted with all their goods and equipment into twisted stony parodies of their original forms. They are thereafter fully aware and able to hear, see, and even feel their surroundings, but are immobile and practically indestructible. Fire, cold, and lightning, as well as acids and nonmagical weapons, cause no damage to the rocks, but do cause excruciating pain to the creatures trapped therein. The rocks are also immune to common spell effects such as rock to mud, stone to flesh, or dispel magic, though know alignment is effective. Only polymorph any object can release a trapped individual, and then the success if checked as if dispel magic were being used against a 20th-level spell. This restoration is permanent if the victim survives the system shock roll.

Trapped creatures typically have only one avenue of escape; they can attempt to take over the body of another creature that touches or strikes them, as if using a magic jar spell. One such attempt is allowed on each round in which there is contact. A takeover attempt may also be made against someone who attempts speak with stones. Once in its new body, the new tenant must survive a system shock check or die. Resurrection or raise dead on a body slain in this way will bring back the newer tenant, not the old. In any case, the former owner of the body is trapped in the stone form of the aggressor. All creatures are susceptible to these effects, but natural animals are subject to an antipathy effect and avoid the pillars.

Released creatures vary widely in origin. Some are the original Suel band, including some powerful spellcasters. Others (the smaller ones) are goblins or kobolds, while the larger ones are typically ogres. The large snakelike figure is a red dragon. Some are other non-evil creatures trapped in new bodies. Reactions vary according to alignment and length of imprisonment; some of the older ones are quite insane. Equipment is likewise variable.  

The Burning Cliffs

  The stretch of land facing the Icy Sea between the Cold Marshes and the Forlorn Forest is one of the least trodden regions of the Flanaess. Not even the Rovers of the Barrens see much profit in it; they generally keep to the grasslands farther south, and even these hardy folk refer to these parts as "The Wastes." Even the poorest parts of the Flanaess have their wonders, however--in this case, the famous Burning Cliffs.

The Burning Cliffs were named for their northern border with the Icy Sea. Ships traveling along that coast may see them for distances of a hundred miles or more on a clear day, where the smoking rocks drop sharply to meet the water. The region of burning extends a good distance inland. It consists largely of oily shales and a black flammable rock which release smoke and steam from a process of burning which has been continuous since the earliest histories. It may even have spread in recent centuries.

It might be thought that a fire would make the local climate more bearable, but in fact the smoldering and steaming rubble gives rather more heat than is comfortable, and in places is actually in flames. In any event, it would be necessary in most seasons to stand amidst the conflagration for warmth, since the fierce northern winds soon carry away the heat. Standing within the lands of the Burning Cliffs would in any case be a dubious comfort, being accompanied by sooty fumes and steam. Ships sailing downwind of the Cliffs are apt to leave with darker sails than those they set out with. Neither would the warmed traveler have anything to eat in those desolate regions, with the exception of a few scrawny northern deer which feed on the sparse lichens and willows upwind of the Burning Cliffs region. The Rovers seldom bother to visit the place and regard it as simply another obstacle in their rare trips through the Wastes.

The character of the Burning Cliffs has apparently changed somewhat over the past century or so. Mariners remark that the clouds billowing upwards from them contain rather more soot than steam, and that by night a dull glow enfolds the entire region as if there were higher flames nearer the center. Both the Rovers and the seamen have noted that the area of burning has spread by up to several hundred yards a year (it is already nearly 30 miles across), though in cold winters it retreats somewhat. On occasion, shapes are reported moving about behind the barrier of cloud and soot. Perhaps most significantly, the forests, marshes, and grasslands at the edge of the Wastes, hundreds of miles away, have begun to sicken and die, supporting the claims of some scholars that the Burning Cliffs are in fact responsible for the Wastes to begin with. This is of little concern to most northerners, however; the lands are wide there and apparently inexhaustible.

None of these more recent reports has been sufficient to spur the practical northern peoples into any sort of action or investigation, and it was quite by accident that anything more was discovered. In 523, one Storrich of the Hold of Stonefist failed in an attempt to advance himself politically by less than traditional methods. Poisoners are not highly regarded even in that grim country, and so Storrich and his followers were obliged to flee. Since the season was summer and the Ice Barbarians would not be likely to let his ship pass unmolested, Storrich and his Stonefist pursuers turned westward. Unfortunately for Storrich and his men, the pilot of the ship ran it aground offshore the Wastes, and Storrich's company was obliged to take to the land, the pursuit still hot on their heels. As a last desperate measure Storrich attempted entry into the Burning Cliffs region, risking a stone path that he and his men found leading into the smolder. Storrich's pursuers turned back at this point well satisfied, and informed the Master of the Hold that they had driven Storrich to his death, having waited some days for him to attempt a return and having seen nothing. The report proved to be untrue.

Two years later, Storrich appeared in Dyvers, and being a rather loquacious individual he soon disclosed his story--several stories, in fact, some of them mutually contradictory, but it is possible to piece together a relatively plausible scenario from his boasting. The general outline of the story was that Storrich's company happened on a city of fire-loving creatures and there managed to steal some valuable gold and jewelry. The subsequent conflict, and the flight southward through the flames and fumes claimed all of Storrich's followers, as only he was protected from the full effect of the Burning Cliffs, apparently by magical effects of certain of his possessions. The identity of the creatures which Storrich robbed is uncertain; his claims gradually grew more diverse. At various times they were elementals, baatezu, tanar'ri, and harginn, and even efreeti. Unfortunately these discrepancies were never resolved. Within a month of his arrival, Storrich died of a choking fit at a banquet. There were no other survivors to corroborate Storrich's story, but it is clear that he had somehow acquired a great wealth of jacinths and gold. He spent liberally in his last weeks of life and still left behind a considerable trove.

Since Storrich's death, a number of individuals have attempted the Burning Cliffs. Some have entered by the paths which are now occasionally evident throughout the region, while others have attempted aerial surveillance or have relied on magical protections against the heat and set out cross country. None who penetrated deeply into the land of the Burning Cliffs have returned. A number of reports indicate that Iuz and the Horned Society have taken an interest, and have sent large companies northward. What the purpose of this may be is unknown save to the rulers of Dorakaa and Molag. Some unknown persons have erected an altar to Pyremius along the northern coast of the Burning Cliffs; whether for purposes of propitiation or worship remains unknown. Members of that cult have on occasion been linked to the region, but they fiercely deny it.

Depending on the local intensity, the heat and fumes of the fires will inflict 1d3 points of heat damage and 1d4 points of poison-gas damage (save vs. poison to avoid the latter) anything from once per day to once per round. These effects are halved for someone standing on a pathway or otherwise outside of direct contact with the burning rocks.

The residents of the area are all from the plane of fire; Iuz and the Horned Society have been encouraging and recruiting evil fire creatures from among these. A large town has grown up near the center of the conflagration, where there is a gate to the plane of Fire. The wily Storrich's boasts are true to the hilt; he passed through to the City of Brass itself, and made off with some minor treasures. As a result residents are now alert for intruding "vermin." Unless the connection to the plane of Fire is broken, the Burning Cliffs region will continue to grow, much to the delight of the cult of Pyremius.  

Csipros Erd--The Geysers of Death

  In 510 CY the last of the Euroz and Jebli tribes were driven forth from the Lortmil Mountains. One particularly large horde made the ill-advised attempt to reach the Yatil Mountains by crossing the gap from the Lorridges. Unfortunately for these creatures, they had been preceded by lesser bands, and the combined cavalry of Bissel and Veluna stood ready to stem the tide. A large part of the humanoid force was destroyed, but the remainder survived by dint of a ferocious counterattack and entered the southern Yatils. There they were harassed by halfling, human, and elven forces raised by the locals, who were not at all of a mind to allow such prolific and ferocious creatures a foothold. The horde finally turned southward in an attempt to reach the Barrier Peaks region by passing through the Bramblewood Forest. Here they met their final and fatal opponent, one Sandor the Headstrong, the young lord of Polvar province in eastern Ket.

Unlike the other harriers of the goblin/orc horde, the lord of Polvar was not particularly concerned that they would settle in his lands; clearly they did not desire to do so. He was motivated instead by rumors that had filtered into Ket after the earlier engagements: that the cartloads so fiercely protected by the horde's leader (the half-orc Urgush) represented a great store of gems and precious metals garnered during the horde's years in the Lortmils. Sandor was determined that such a prize should not escape, and he pursued the host in a series of forced marches which unfortunately exhausted his foot soldiers to the extent that many fell behind and the remainder could not bring about a decisive attack against Urgush's resistance. The chase led through the Bramblewood and into the hills, Sandor's force gradually regaining strength and Urgush's growing fewer. In desperation, Urgush turned up an unknown valley, determined to make a final stand. Here disaster met both sides.

There are numerous hot springs in the northern Barrier Peaks and in the Yatils, and they are widely known and generally appreciated by the Ketites, so Sandor was not surprised or particularly worried when he began to pass through the outlying regions of a system of geysers, full of white frothy stone and colored pools and pits. He only slowed his cavalry over the difficult terrain. A supremely confident man, he was not much disturbed either when scouts reported a number of nearby lakes of a blood-red color said to be unlucky by Ketite peasants. The wains of the humanoid horde were in sight and obviously bogged down. Sandor prepared his men for a hard-pressing attack, hoping to disperse the horde and take their prize, when the ground began to tremble.

With terrible swiftness, a powerful wind swept down the valley, tumbling the orcs on their faces and upsetting the precious carts. A wealth of gems could be seen to spill from them. Sandor's force had barely begun to comprehend this when they too were bowled over. Only those on the upper slopes, where Sandor had been organizing the crossbowmen, were spared. None of the others rose again, even so far as their knees. Farther down the valley, trees were snapped at the base by the strange wind. Geysers triggered by the earlier tremors spouted into the air.

Sandor sent a cautious group of scouts into the ruined valley, but they fainted well before they had descended to the floor. He himself attempted the descent, but had to be dragged back out of the area by a rope which he had the foresight to attach to himself beforehand. Sandor and some of the scouts recovered, as did some of those who had been on the valley's middle slopes. But all others were lost, and an invisible poison in the air barred further entry. After two fruitless days, Sandor yielded to the demands of his much reduced force and made his way back to Polvar, swearing each of his men to secrecy concerning the location of the treasure and vowing to return.

No sooner had Sandor recovered at Polvar than he set out again, being careful to put under his command all those who had first seen the valley. The sight of the wealth of the Euroz and Jebli tribes had inflamed his desires, and he was certain that with certain magical treasures he had acquired, he and his force would return with wealth sufficient to make Polvar a nation in its own right. He never returned.

Many have since sought Csipros Erd, the Geysers of Death, but none have returned to report of them. The maze of hills and valleys about the northern Barrier Peaks is large, and not a few have geysers and hot springs. Of the "blood red lakes" mentioned in Sandor's account, there has been not a trace. To common knowledge, Urgush's wealth, along with what must be a considerable quantity of human and humanoid bone, remains undiscovered.

The geysers and hot springs of the Valley of Death are no more dangerous than those of other regions--which is to say that one must be quite careful. The blast of a geyser might inflict anything from 1d4 to 2d20 points of damage (a saving throw vs. breath weapon is appropriate). The intervals between activity and quiescence for most are essentially unpredictable. The various water and mud pools could inflict similar damage to those immersed over a time scale of anything from segments to hours (even comfortable temperatures sap vitality over time).

Poisonous gases are sometimes released from small clear sterile lakes in the region. There are two along the Csipros Erd approach, and there is a larger one at the head of the valley above the basin containing the geysers. The gas is odorless and colorless, and otherwise acts as a cloudkill spell. It fills a very large volume and disperses reluctantly. Flowing downhill, it can move swiftly, like a flood of water. The lakes generally release the gas only if there is a strong disturbance, like a minor earthquake or a slide. For 3d8 weeks after discharging, the lakes are rust or blood red, and they will not release any poisonous gas.

The gems, jewelry, precious metal, and magical items of Csipros Erd are now scattered over a broad region, having been scavenged at various times by locals who risked the geysers, which are now extremely active about the site. Much still remains in the hot pools, guarded by steam and mud para-elementals that have moved into the region. The rest is owned by ogres, various giants, and giant ravens and eagles, as well as lesser creatures. Sandor's force ran afoul of a coalition of hill giant tribes which formed to loot the treasure; the coalition fell apart in quarrels shortly afterward. A giant tribe still remains by Csipros Erd, and it has developed the tactic of heaving boulders into the lakes when enemies approach up the valley floor; this triggers a release of the gas. The valley floor is remarkable for the number of bones in it, many now encrusted with minerals from the hot springs.  

Tovag Baragu--The Stone Circles

  More than one scholar has remarked that whereas the destruction wrought by the Bakluni wizards on the Suloise has been the longer lasting, having persisted to the present day as the Sea of Dust, the Invoked Devastation which the Suloise first unleashed against the Bakluni must have been the more thorough. Even a thousand years later, ruins of Suel cities may be found in the desolate Sea of Dust, whereas the Dry Steppes, which are far more habitable, seem to contain no remnants of the Bakluni cities at all. A notable exception is Tovag Baragu, known in the East as the Stone Circles. This large feature still stands near the salt lake of Udrukankar at the western edge of the Flanaess.

Tovag Baragu ("Navel of the Oerth" in Bakluni) is a set of five broad circles composed of huge, smooth pillars of an extremely hard white rock. The pillars are sometimes fluted but more often entirely featureless, and they are set in a broad pavement of blocks made from the same material. The entire structure is circular and more than a mile across. It is perfectly level, though the land about it slopes westward towards Udrukankar. On its western border, one may descend from the platform in a series of broad shallow steps that ends rather abruptly some 20 or 30 feet above the salt flats. The eastern border of Tovag Baragu is of a height with the surrounding terrain, and dust and vegetation have invaded its margin.

It must have been a great work to transport the pillars, which are some 40 feet high each, to their present site. There is not rock of that sort within 200 miles, and indeed the origin of the stone is not known. Perhaps the blocks could have been transported on barges if the large rivers that once flowed across the steppe were present when Tovag Baragu was built. Also surprising, especially since so little else survived the Invoked Devastation, is the pristine condition of Tovag Baragu. There is no erosion, and not so much as a tilted pillar or canted paving stone. The local tribes make no claim that their ancestors ever constructed Tovag Baragu. This is most unusual given the nature of the locals and the undoubted accomplishments of their ancestors. For instance, nomads will solemnly aver that the rocky pinnacles north of Lake Udrukankar were once a vast lighthouse constructed for the lakeside city which stood there a millennium ago! Perhaps they are correct. Tovag Baragu does bear some fleeting resemblance to the badly eroded ruins one may encounter in the Jotens and Crystalmists, which have been attributed to an ancient civilization of stone giants. In the absence of evidence, however, Tovag Baragu cannot be said to have any certain origin, though the most obvious one is that of Bakluni construction.

Local human and centaur nomads hold Tovag Baragu to be holy, and many of the Dry Steppe tribes make it the subject of a yearly pilgrimage and festival, where they trade, contract marriages, and meet in ceremonial commemoration of the Suels' destruction while their priests call down further curses on that land. The entire event lasts two weeks, and those attending it or traveling to or from it must abstain from feuds or warfare and are themselves immune from the same. For much of the rest of the year, the site is abandoned and it is considered ill fortune to see it even on the horizon. This is readily understandable; some of the phenomena that may be encountered there are disturbing even to the civilized mind.

One effect which is frequently observed by those who wander among the circles is that distant objects seen between them are sometimes magnified. Similar augmentations of the other senses may occur as well. In this manner it is possible to learn some astounding things, as in the case of Celene--but that is a topic for another account than this one. With concentration, it is sometimes possible to sharpen the focus, or choose one's target. However, on occasion things may be seen through the pillars which are almost surely distant in time or planes rather than in space. One of the most frequent is a glimpse of a great lakeside city, usually at night. Another is of a verdant plain crowded with the peculiar mammalian life which may be found on occasion near the Sulhauts. More rarely one may see or hear regions which must surely be those of the Outer Planes.

These views would be entertaining rather than unnerving were it not that on occasion a connection is formed, and objects may pass between Tovag Baragu and the area depicted. Whether fortunately or unfortunately, these openings are rather fleeting. They may however account for some of the unusual creatures in the southern part of the Dry Steppe.

It remains to be mentioned that the locals believe Tovag Baragu has an effect on the weather. This is well substantiated, since those few outsiders allowed to observe the yearly ceremonies may see that the weather-summoning powers of the nomads' priests are greatly augmented. Whether in fact Tovag Baragu operates unguided is an open question.

Tovag Baragu should be treated as an artifact, as described in the (DMG). Its powers, and the times at which it is activated, depend on astronomical phenomena of Oerth. Each circle is linked to a particular planet in Greyspace and operates only when that world is visible in the sky. (The particular worlds involved are the five "wandering stars" mentioned in the 1983 WORLD OF GREYHAWK(R) boxed set's Guide, on page 4. These worlds are Edill, Gnibile, Conatha, Ginsel, and Greela; they are described in the SPELLJAMMER(R) boxed set and the SPELLJAMMER accessory, (Greyspace). The lesser Greyspace worlds within the asteroid-filled Grinder, the cluster-world of Borka, and the disk-world Spectre are visible from Oerth only through a small telescope, eyes of the eagle, or similar magnifying devices.)

The actions of those in the circles at such times can affect the outcome, but player characters should not be permitted to learn all that is required for proper control of the artifact. The most frequent full connection is to a Pleistocene setting in Oerth's remote past. Whether the lakeside city seen in another setting represents the past, an alternate world, or the future is up to the DM. (Numerous details on this and other locations are provided in the GREYHAWK module (Vecna Lives!).) Travel to the other worlds of Greyspace might be possible, as well as voyages through Oerth's past and future history. (See the AD&D accessory (Chronomancer) for possible time-travel considerations here.) Player characters might be allowed to gather the impression that Tovag Baragu maintains the Sea of Dust's present condition, but they ought not to be able to do anything about it until they reach extremely high levels, if even then.

If the campaign includes the (Cup and Talisman of Al'Akbar), which are described in the (Book of Artifacts) and the ENCYCLOPEDIA MAGICA(TM) volumes, a number of interactions might be set up between it and Tovag Baragu. (Also see mention of these artifacts earlier in this piece under "The Pinnacles of Azor'alq.")

The nearest settlement to Tovag Baragu is a very large community of dervishes sworn to protect it from foreign meddlers. The human and centaur tribes of the Dry Steppes are generally of a similar if less radical outlook, and they do what they can to discourage adventurers from approaching the spot. They will certainly not serve as guides, except possibly in the cases of some individual members of the tribe who are unscrupulous.  

Rigodruok--The Rainbow Vale

  It is clear to any student of the natural world that the ebony fields of ice which cover the northernmost tip of the Oerik continent are no natural phenomenon, but are almost certainly magically produced and sustained, much as is the Sea of Dust. Quite simply, the towering wall of blackened ice that greets the northbound traveler ought not to persist. Even ordinary snows and ices do not remain on land over summer at such latitudes, as may be clearly seen in the case of the Icy Sea, which breaks up each spring. What is more, dark ice is particularly vulnerable to melting since it gathers heat. It is a common practice in northern cities for merchants to scatter ashes on their doorsteps to melt ice, a tactic that works well even in the weak winter sun. Given such a magical nature, it is hardly surprising that strange tales abound from such a region. Of these one of the odder but more reliable is that of the Rainbow Vale, Rigodruok.

Some years ago a fragmentary document was recovered from Blackmoor Castle which gave substance to the widespread accounts of a land "beyond the black ice where the sun never sets." While a firm description of the land itself was lacking, the parchment gave explicit directions for finding it among the wastes of the Black Ice. This information fell into the hands of one Sormod, a merchant and adventurer from Perrenland who was visiting Eru-Tovar, where the parchment surfaced for sale at the bazaar. The romantic Sormod mounted an expedition as soon as he could gather the backing, and departed from Dantredun in Richfest of CY 453.

In CY 460 there surfaced in the city of Greyhawk a volume purporting to be the personal journal of one Henriki Ardand, the expedition's magician. Whether true or false, it is a most marvelous tale. Henriki tells of the difficult passage over the sooty ice, where the expedition was endangered by subterranean hot springs of the same sort that underlie Blackmoor. These apparently weaken the ice and make passage over it a risky business, apt to result in a sudden downward drop as a cavern collapses under the weight of travelers. In places, too, there are small volcanoes which blacken the snows newly fallen on the ice. Between these dangers and the jumbled areas of collapsed ice, as well as certain "ice worms" (most probably remorhaz) and the hostile blue-furred bugbears of the region, the progress of the expedition was rather slow, and several members were lost or refused to go on. At last, however, they reached a range of low peaks jutting just above the ice as their directions had described. What greeted them on the other side must first have appeared to the surviving members to be a paradise. Henriki calls it the Rainbow Vale.

After a region of mists, the explorers saw before them a green and fertile bowl of land, warmed and lighted by a sunlike body floating half a mile above its center. Several large islands of land likewise drifted about it, some of them large enough to hold small rivers whose cascades of droplets caused Henriki to name the valley as he did. Below the miniature sun was a central lake, beside which the members of Sormod's group could see several clumps of broken reddish towers.

Sormod and his band descended the steep cliffs into the valley's forests, passing first through birch, fir, and sablewood, then through oak and beech woodlands where they stopped to gather uskfruit and yarpik nuts, then past magnolias and fig trees, and down to the shores of the lake where they found palm and deklo trees flourishing in the steamy heat. Curls of vapor could be seen rising from the area of the lake beneath the valley's illuminator. They camped beside one of the skyborn waterfalls near the ruins they had seen from the valley's rim, and discovered to their surprise that the buildings were of deeply rusted iron. Finally they pitched camp. Perhaps exhausted by the long journey, or drowsy in the unaccustomed heat, the watchmen slept.

Sormod's party was neither particularly weak nor poorly equipped, but they had little chance unwarned against the sudden onslaught that overtook them: goblins, bugbears, and giant spiders, some of the latter of astounding size and speed and fiendish intelligence. The camp was scattered, and Sormod, Henriki, and the other survivors watched in horror as their companions were bundled away and hauled up on ropes of spider-silk to the nearest of the floating islands.

Henriki and the others managed to regroup, and for some weeks they cautiously explored their surroundings. They discovered a group of human primitives who evidently worship the spiders and their humanoid henchmen, and they also found many inexplicable constructions of metal and glass in the ruins. Without their equipment they did not wish to risk an overland journey, but they discovered from conversations with one of the friendly cavemen that there was a tunnel leading southward which eventually would reach the surface. Assured of an escape route, they mounted a raid on the sky-island to which their companions had been taken, using Henriki's remaining powers. They discovered no sign of their comrades, but they did find some very large statues of spiders in a grove beside the spider-village, each decorated with large diamond eyes. They took these and fled.

The long passage southward through the tunnels claimed yet more members of the group, in some cases to heat exhaustion as they passed the warm springs. Eventually, however, they emerged south of the Black Ice at the headwaters of the Fler. From there they passed through the Burneal Forest, where Sormod was lost to a poisoned arrow in a dispute with forest tribesmen. The survivors (including Henriki, a priest of Fharlanghn from Schwartzenbruin, and two Wolf Nomads) divided the treasure between themselves and dispersed, none willing again to risk the terrors of the land beyond the Black Ice.

The chief inhabitants of the valley are goblins, bugbears, giant spiders of various sorts, and the subject cavemen. DMs with access to the MONSTROUS COMPENDIUM(R) Kara-Tur appendix may wish to add bakemono and goblin spiders. Creatures from almost any climate zone might be added to the list. The whole valley is rich in diamonds, and the spiders and their allies have a number of magical items salvaged from the ruins.

Sources of knowledge concerning how to get to the region could include the survivors of the expedition or their descendants. The origin of the valley needn't be explained, at least in the initial series of adventures. The passage at the headwaters of the Fler will be difficult to find without a long search and probably impossible without directions. It is in hex Y4-56 on the full-color GREYHAWK maps from the 1983 WORLD OF GREYHAWK set or the (From the Ashes) set. Rigodruok (the cavemen's name for it, and the name on any old sources giving directions to the place) is in W4-51.  


  The Lortmils have always been famous for their gems and precious metals, and stories abound of hidden settlements in which the dwarves, gnomes, or halflings are as rich as kings. Some of these have a firm basis, though in fact the wealth of the inhabitants is greatly exaggerated. Gems and gold are worth a good deal less near their source of supply, and the expense of safe export is high, even since the Hateful Wars of CY 520. Nevertheless, one of the more extravagant tales may have been true after all.

In Growfest of 556, the simple river folk of a river that flows into the Jewel south of Courwood discovered a bronzewood casket of exquisite workmanship lying on a sandbar. When they opened it, they found the body of a young halfling of the tallfellow race, with unusually handsome and noble features, preserved in a sweet-smelling resinous liquid. He was clad in silks and gold brocade worked with emeralds, and he wore armlets, rings, and necklaces of gold and emerald, together with much other treasure. Perhaps because of elven influence, the rivermen of that region are not as other men. They took each a single ornament, as it is their custom that pallbearers are entitled to an item from the grave goods, and buried the casket in a secret place, each swearing never to reveal its location. Nevertheless, the story spread up and down the river like wildfire, and soon listeners as far away as Gradsul and Highport were speculating as to the casket's origin.

These events reawakened a tale long dormant, set down by Pontus Hardiggin, a halfling traveler who ranged widely about the world between the years 350 and 390 before retiring to write his memoirs. Among other stories, some obviously fabricated, Hardiggin described a visit to an idyllic land in which halflings and giants lived in peaceful cooperation. They were blessed with fertile soil, health, a great deposit of gold, emeralds, and useful metals, and most of all with concealment from the outside world. Hardiggin placed this land in the Yatils, but this may have been intended as a joke or simply to protect the inhabitants of that happy land. There are a number of surprising coincidences between his account and the story of the casket: the nature of the halflings (tallfellows, unusually handsome), the nature of the land's treasures (silk, gold, emeralds, resins), and even funeral customs (placement in a cave in a bronzewood casket). It seems unlikely that simple river folk could perpetrate so elaborate a hoax as to duplicate an old tale no longer widely known, or so expensive a hoax--two of the emerald ornaments have since surfaced in jewelers' shops on the Wild Coast, and they are flawless and of distinctive design.

Nevertheless, it is difficult to see how the land and people Hardiggin described could go so long undetected. His descriptions make the entire valley at least 10 miles across, and in any case a large settlement including giants is hardly inconspicuous. There may be, however, a number of contributing factors. The slopes of the nearby mountains as Hardiggin describes them are foggy and thickly clad in dense forest, and the only passes require one to scale sheer cliffs or seek out secret passages hollowed into the rock. In either case, the high altitude is debilitating, and the entire way is guarded. The only other means of entry to the land of Esmerin is by means of a river which flows through underground caverns after disappearing near a whirlpool in Esmerin's eastern quarter. This is certainly a route even more difficult. As for views from the air, only the giant eagles and the aarakocra are likely to gain such, and these were described by Hardiggin as allies. Last but not least, the land of Esmerin is described as protected by the magical power of a huge emerald "as big as a giant's head," which stands in a pavilion at the center of the chief settlement. Hardiggin described this emerald as having the power to alter the appearance of a land as seen from the distance. He also attributes powers to control the weather and various other matters to this agency.

According to Hardiggin, those who somehow stray into Esmerin are compelled by the inhabitants to remain; if they are evil, they are simply killed. The former is accomplished in cases of apparent recalcitrance by means of a geas placed on the intruder never to leave. The charming Hardiggin narrowly escaped this imposition, fleeing by a perilous route down the caverns running alongside the underground river that leaves Esmerin, past the burial chambers, and through several siphons. (One wonders why so foolhardy an individual lived to write his memoirs.) It is possible that, with the exception of Hardiggin, all outsiders have been deterred or detained.

Whatever protections Esmerin may have, it most surely has need of them. Hundreds of fortune seekers have traversed the Lortmils in search of it over the past two decades, and many hunters are of a dire and evil nature. Certain well-equipped expeditions from the Pomarj have made incursions into the Lortmils through the Suss forests, for instance. So far none have returned with any report, but this may well be only a matter of time given the hard evidence of the emerald ornaments. One hopes, too, that the casket will not be discovered and its contents (and possibly the spirit of the corpse) examined.

The inhabitants of Esmerin are 1,600 tallfellow halflings and 400 stone giants. All are well-fed, well-educated, healthy, peaceful, and handsome, and there are maximum numbers of exceptional individuals among them. They have two colonies of giant eagles as allies. In the center of the major settlement is an artifact, an emerald as detailed earlier. In addition to any other properties, it is intelligent, can use the senses of its bearer, and can cast spells as an 18th-level cleric/14th-level druid. It can also create hallucinatory terrain sufficient to conceal Esmerin from the air. Within a five-mile radius of the emerald, crop yields are doubled, and minerals in the natural state regenerate themselves in 2d10 years. It is quite naturally very well guarded and will if necessary defend itself.

The stone giant-halfling civilization has existed since before the Bakluni-Suel wars, and has been isolationist since its inception. The two races have somewhat influenced one another, to the point where many of the halflings have decidedly neutral tendencies and the stone giants lawful and good tendencies. They do not like to take lives, but will fight hard to maintain their peaceful isolation. In a freak accident, the burial casket was dropped into the river that leaves Esmerin, and ever since the inhabitants have been on guard (remember, halflings and stone giants live longer lives than humans, so the memory has not yet faded).

Player characters may, if they are of good alignment, feel compelled to help repel evil invaders, who will be closing in on the settlement at about the time the PCs first arrive. In any case, it will be difficult to persuade the inhabitants of Esmerin to allow the adventurers to leave.  


  The Oljatt Sea is largely unexplored owing to the hazard of the predatory sea creatures that dwell there, but nonetheless the intrepid Sea Lords have trade routes along the shallower portions well down the Hepmonaland coast. One of the primary reasons for taking such a difficult journey is the lacework of islands, reefs, lagoons, and lakes known as Turucambi.

Turucambi is a maze of limestone jutting up from the sea bottom some 20 leagues from the mainland of Hepmonaland's easternmost extremes. Generally, sea captains approach along the coastline rather than across the deeps, as native attacks are preferred to sea beasts the size of ships. What the captains seek there is a wealth of precious coral, as well as the occasional odd relic traded by the locals.

The complex interpenetration of land and water that is Turucambi is rich in life, both above and below the surface--indeed, rather too much so for the tastes of most merchants. The region is some 30 miles across, roughly oval, and has numerous small islands which consists almost entirely of steep ridges. The vegetation is dense, and much of it is saw-edged or contains a poisonous sap that raises blisters wherever it touches skin. These branching islands are riddled with lakes and lagoons, many connected to the sea through subterranean passages which run through the entire region. All the rock is limestone, and riddled with large and small caves; the footing is extremely difficult, and the chief land fauna seems to consist of venomous and ill-tempered snakes, and a few crocodiles. Turucambi's wealth, however, is in the water.

The Turucambi reefs are among the most complex known, and present surprises at every turn. The tidal range is great, and there are shallows regularly exposed by the tides, deep unfathomed sinkholes, and complex and powerful tidal races which can toss a ship like a toy. There are white coral plains, expanses of sea grasses, mangrove swamps, and complex rookeries of bright coral, all swarming with life from microscopic to gigantic. The waters teem with mermen, sahuagin, water nagas, sea elves, koalinth, saltwater trolls, ixitxachitl, and even a tribe of seagoing lizard men. These fight constantly with one another to maintain their territories, and to exclude uninvited land folk. Nor are these the only hazards. Many of the corals and sea jellies carry poison stings that may raise painful or deadly welts, and a number of the mollusks and fishes are similarly armed. Plesiosaurs roam the shallows, sculling about in search of food both large and small.

The attraction of Turucambi to the aquatic races is twofold: first, it is one of the richest in sea life of the Oljatt's reefs, and second it attracts human trade. Precious corals can be harvested from the deeper parts of the reef: not only the familiar red and black corals, but the rarer golden coral. There are also certain ancient treasures such as small figurines of precious stone or delicately colored bowls, apparently of terrestrial manufacture, in some of the darker and less well explored corners of Turucambi. These are highly prized. In return, the sea folk gain goods not easily made in the water; glass, copper, or bronze (they have little desire for iron, which rusts too readily), and silver or gold jewelry, as well as mundane items such as wood and stone, particularly obsidian. Most sea folk have treaties with merchants from civilized lands or with Hepmonaland natives, allowing safe passage and free trade.

Indeed, it is possible that the sea folk trade yet more widely. A Duxchaner vessel blown out to sea and unsure of its bearings once approached from the east, and observed a huge sunken hulk more than a hundred feet long, with many masts and a slender, shallow body. She appeared to be holed and to have a cargo clearly visible through the six fathoms of water over her, but the practical and incurious Duxchaners turned away. It is hazardous to approach an unfamiliar part of Turucambi, not merely because of the natural hazards but because of the locals, who are more than willing to attempt piracy rather than trading and who are resentful of possible coral poachers.

It has been suggested that Turucambi might be artificial in whole or in part. Such convoluted islands are found nowhere else in such numbers. Certainly this would explain the odd trade goods occasionally taken, but the size of the structures strains belief. The hardheaded traders who visit are not eager to spend time searching out the answer to the problem, and the residents, even the friendly ones, do not seem anxious to answer the questions of the idly curious.

Because of the dangers of these waters, the numbers of exceptional individuals among the traders at Turucambi reef should be at a maximum. The same applies to the diverse aquatic races.

Some of the lakes will be very warm, above human body temperature. (Use or create game rules for heat exhaustion if these lakes are explored.) Other lakes are filled with poisonous dissolved gases below a certain level (treat this as a cloudkill spell). Such deadly waters will have a pungent smell characters are not likely to mistake more than once.

The minor reef life might have insinuative poisons, of any of the types described in the (DMG). Others might have the same effect as the stings of a Portuguese man-o-war. Some of these poisons may have been obtained and be in use by the locals.

Tidal currents and ranges will be strongest when Celene and Luna are both full or new, and weakest when one is in first or last quarter and the other is full or new. (The tidal range is zero at about the time of Growfest or Needfest.) However, it is unlikely that the currents' directions can be predicted without local help. Tidal changes will expose or drown underground chambers, and the might pull divers into or out of tunnels.

If the player characters explore on their own without local sponsorship, they will very probably be treated as poachers. If they try to determine whether or not parts of Turucambi are artificial, they will most probably be confused by the coral dwellings of the present residents.

The wreck on the east side of Turucambi is of a clipper ship, such as was known on Earth in the 1800s. (Naturally, the characters will never have heard of such a thing.) Its cargo consisted of china plates and tea, now mostly ruined. Its origin is possibly extraplanar; it might hail from across the Oljatt or simply be unexplained, according to the needs of the campaign. If player characters somehow manage to copy the design and find a shipbuilder willing to build such a "monstrosity" and a crew able and willing to man it (these are not trivial tasks!), they will find that though fast, the clipper is flimsy, hard to control (subject to being wrecked during experimental trials), and very expensive to maintain. There is little call on Oerth for such a ship either in commerce or war.

It is likely that all the locals will regard player characters as pawns to be used in their various disputes.