- 1141 DR: Year of Eyes: A contingent of evil mages from Vassa constructs a castle of ice at the base of Mt. Okk. They develop much unique cold-based magic that they plan to use to conquer their homeland.
- 1148 DR: Year of the Angry Sea: A massive earthquake rocks the Great Glacier, swallowing the ice castle of the Vassan wizards. They are presumed dead.
- 1223 DR: Year of the Trembling Tree: Palus Frohm establishes the settlement of Palus’ Checkpoint as a forward base from which to begin his exploration of the Great Glacier.
- 1227 DR: Year of the Wall: Palus Frohm, one of Vassa’s greatest explorers, begins a twenty-year trek through the Great Glacier, culminating in the writing of Blood and Ice: Survival in the Great Glacier.
- 1231 DR: Year of the Bright Star: Urshula the Black Wyrm of Vaasa destroys the settlement of Palus Checkpoint.
- 1238 DR: Year of the Lone Candle: Orcish allies of Kultakar settle amid the ruins of Palus Checkpoint, bringing with them many human slaves. Within 20 years Palischuk is a fortress city and home to several hundred half orcs.
- 1269 DR: Year of the Moat: The Granite Tower is erected by Melegaunt Tanthul for Bodvar the Black of the Moor Eagle clan in exchange for future service.
- 1347 DR: Urshula is disturbed and attacks Palischuk, inflicting serious damage upon the city and preventing them from aiding Damara in the upcoming war with Zhengyi.
- 1349 DR: Palischuk enters into a non-aggression pact with Zhengyi.
- 1357 DR: Palischuk is annexed into Zhengyi’s realm
- 1359 DR: Palischuk declares war on Zhengyi the Witch-King. The forces of Vaasa besiege Palischuk
- As the forces of Zhengyi and Gareth Dragonsbane face off at the Ford of Goliad, King Gareth orders 50 Knights of the Platinum Order to lift the siege of Palischuk
Life and Society
Clan Orothiar: Dwells in Bloodstone Pass
Clan Hillsafar: Longstanding hatred of orcs that it refuses to set aside, lives in the fortress of Hillsafar Hall
Clan Hammerhand: A clan of dwarves from lost Sarbreen that now hire themselves out as mercenaries. Took part in the closing battles of the Bloodstone Wars after returning home from the Crusade.
Clan Namarforge: The ruling House of Sarphil
Clan Sunder: A clan of dwarves around the Black Holes of Sunderland
Vaasa used to be known as the Glacier of the White Wyrms in times past by the elves of the Riildath for it was filled with white dragons, and as the Great Glacier marched ever southward so did the reach of these dragons (prompting the elves to use High Magic to halt its growth.
BY 1038 DR the Great Glacier had retreated from Damara and Vaasa completely, but the name persisted in the Glacier of the White Worm south of Vaasa and the Valley of the White Worm to the north. There are some that have even speculated that this land was once part of the territory of Hoarfaern
Castle Perilous: The ground around it is rough hills of bare dirt and steep sided ravines, all surrounded by a tundra. The ground is dry and cracked and shifting.
Protected by the All Seeing Eye atop the central tower which observes anything not hidden. (Throne of Bloodstone pg 12)
Odd weather afflicts the lands around Castle Perilous, a result of the open portal to the outer planes ((Throne of Bloodstone pg 12)
A wailing banshee is kept in Castle Perilous
Defended by a deathknight (that looks like a vampire), carries a two handed sword defender +5 (possibly transformed by a ring of vampiric regeneration that Zhengyi possesses)
Darmshall: Originally constructed as the capital of the newly claimed Barony of Storms (Modern: Sunderland and Bloodstone Pass) by Romas “Thunderclap” and his adventuring band the Tenblades. Although the Barony of Storms has long since fallen, Darmshall has survived.
Sunderland: Sunderland is a puppet of Vaasa (Bloodstone Wars pg 12)
V’elddrinnsshar: This underground vault is famously described by the Valiant Warriors when they explored it in 1293 DR, wiping out the occupying Duergar. What they found was the ruins of a crumbling, former drow settlement on a large mile wide island in the centre of an underground lake filled with giant water spiders. In the centre of this island was a flat mesa devoid of any signs of structure.
After the Valiant Warriors cleared the city, it was explored by Reaper of Souls Larynda Telenna, priestess of Kiaransalee in 1337 DR. Larynda and her acolytes constructed a temple; the Acropolis of Thanatos, atop the mesa, enchanting the skulls of those they had slain and embedding them in the expansive vaulted ceiling above.
What few realise is that long before this city was ever claimed by the drow, this was once the dwarven city of Delvarrune, the capital of ancient Sarphil and home of Clan Namarforge. It was conquered around -4400 DR when drow from Maerimydra and duergar allies followed tunnels under the Moonsea right into the heart of the dwarven nation. After millennia of occupation the drow succumbed to the Ascomoid Plague in 1278 DR and perished, allowing the neighbouring duergar to plunder the city.
Arctigis (Evil, Adult Dragon – White): Arctigis is a faithful servant of Zhengyi and has been for centuries, since Zhengyi was a living being and subdued Arctigis. Cruel, vicious, torments the weak. Unusually devoted to Zhengyi, will spare no effort to track and destroy those who harm Zhengyi. Wears a ring of spell turning.
Byphast (Evil, Wyrm, Dragon – White, Female): Byphast, known as the Frozen Death, is the greatest white dragon in the Bloodstone Lands, claiming the mountains on the southern edge of the Great Glacier her lair is a pit with many remorhaz and ice trolls trapped inside to guard her treasure.
Byphast is unusual for a white dragon in that she possesses potent spellcasting abilities, inherited from the bloodline of the Dragondukes of Hoarfaern (according to Byphast). Byphast has allied herself with Zhengyi since the early days of Zhengyi’s arrival in Vaasa, and like most of the elder dragons in his service she has attuned herself to a violet dragon skull gem that will act as her phylactery (and secretly as one of Zhengyi’s soul gem).
Honoringast (Evil, Very Old, Dragon – Red, Female): Honoringast the Red is the greatest dragon in service to Zhengyi the Witch-King and the first to attune to one of the violet dragon skull gems that will one day act as his phylactery (except for Arctigus). Zhengyi has since used Honoringast to manipulate or bully many other dragons into pledging service to him in return for immortality.
Honoringast claims to be descended from Aspiradatus the Red Roar, who terrorised early Damara and Vaasa. She lairs in the Galena Mountains along the northern edge of Damara somewhere near the border with Arcata and Brandiar.
Klavikus (Evil, Guardian Demon): Servant of Orcus sent to guard Zhengyi.
Urshula (Evil, Wyrm, Dragon – Black, Male): Kazmil-urshula-kelloakizilian, known as the Black Wyrm of Vaasa, the Beast of the Bog. When the Great Glacier uncovered the lands of Vaasa and Damara allowing humans to permanently settle here, Urshula was already found dwelling among the Slosch Bog of eastern Vaasa, with whole tribes of goblins worshipping him as their god.
The first humans to try and settle Vaasa were attacked by a variety of dragons that already occupied Vaasa, Urshula among them. He raised whole villages, destroying Palus’ Checkpoint at least once after it was founded, and even attacked the fortress of Darmshall (suffering a number of injuries that made him wary of attacking fortified cities).
Even when the humanoids drove away or slew the other dragons of Vaasa, Urshula remained hidden in his underground lair beneath the Slosch Bog.
In the spring of 1347 DR, a band of displaced dwarves from Clan Orothiar disturbed Urshula as he slumbered in the bog. After the dragon slaughtered the hapless dwarves he rampaged towards Palischuk (the nearest settlement) and caused considerable damage to the fortified city, preventing them from aiding Damara in the war with Zhengyi and ultimately entering into a non-aggression pact with the Witch-King
Early in 1359 DR, as Zhengyi was preparing to fight the second Battle of the Ford, Gareth Dragonsbane ordered a number of Knights of the Platinum Order to lift the siege of Palischuk (which had recently declared for the new Kingdom of Bloodstone). After the success of the knights, Zhengyi directed them towards the lair of Urshula. Urshula was gravely injured in the battle that followed, and as he lay dying he agreed to Zhengyi’s terms to become one of his dracoliches.
Urshula now inhabits one of Zhengyi’s soul gems, which acts as a phylactery for both Zhengyi and Urshula, and also powers one of the Tomes of Creation (in which the violet, dragon skull shaped gem is hidden) that Zhengyi intended to prepare for his return to unlife in the event of his destruction.
Zhengyi (Evil, Human – Halruan, Male, Magic User 30): Zhengyi the Witch-King is shrouded in mystery, known to be many centuries old, thought to have been a Red Wizard of Thay, and possessed of great powers over demons, the undead, and more.
The truth is that Zhengyi was part of a cabal of Halruan archmages, exiled from their homeland for slaying rivals, stealing magic, and trying to overthrow the Council of Elders. Upon arriving in Thay, they continued their activities, infiltrating a Thayan cabal known as the Thael, and controlling another group known as the Order of Red Wizards which would one day come to dominate the land of Thay.
Rather than becoming part of the rise of Thay and the ruling Zulkirate, Zhengyi was left behind by events when he was severely injured in a magical explosion and then attacked in his weakened state by one of his allies in the Thael (the being that would come to be known to the rest of the world as Szass Tam). Forced to flee Thay, Zhengyi wandered the neighbouring lands, battling rival mages, stealing magic, and attempting to overthrow the ruling order.
In time Zhengyi came to Dun Tharos via a secret portal and found the phylactery of Belevan the Undying; 4th Nentyarch of Narfell, buried in the chest of the first Nentyarch of Lethyr who had been transformed into a dark and twisted tree. Bargaining with Belevan, Zhengyi agreed to free the Nentyarch in return for the secrets of lichdom, he plucked the Dappled Gem of the Nentyarch from the tree (causing it to wither), and headed west.
There are those who believe that Zhengyi spent some time in the Citadel of Conjurors, studying the ancient secrets of Narfell further. After that the trail of Zhengyi goes cold until sometime after the founding of the Monastery of the Yellow Rose, where he searched the ancient archives of dragon lore in the catacombs beneath the monastery and found not only the location of a two-way portal that can be connected to anywhere in the multiverse and the planes, but he also found a similar soul in the lich Sammaster who was searching for information about the Dracorage Mythal and how to counter its effects.
Zhengyi learned much from Sammaster, including new secrets of lichdom, and he was able to pen his own copy of the Tome of the Dragon in return for using his newfound knowledge on the abundant dragons in the surrounding regions. Zhengyi spent many years wandering the Bloodstone Lands, he subdued the white dragon Arctigus and created his first soul gem phylactery, undergoing the transformation to lichdom and beginning his path to demilichdom.
Eventually Zhengyi went north to Vaasa, and located the ancient portal nexus of Garuut-Cu. He spent decades gathering allies, subverting duergar, orcs, goblinoids, giants, and even dragons into assisting in his goal of bringing Orcus directly to Toril. When he felt ready, Zhengyi created Castle Perilous in a single day in 1347 DR and unleashed his armies upon the Kingdom of Damara to the south.
Since creating Castle Perilous, binding his phylactery to power the Tome of Creation (which can spawn Lesser Tomes of Creation), Zhengyi has been unable to move too far beyond the confines of his fortress home, however this has not hindered his plans to eliminate the rival Kingdom of Damara and bring Orcus to Toril. Using the Talisman of Orcus Zhengyi is able to project near perfect images of himself (and even manifest spells through those images) as far south as the Ford of Goliad, he can also manifest himself through the Amulet of Orcus but with a more limited range.
Zhengyi has stretched the process of lichdom to its extreme. His first phylactery was the piece of the Athora; a hugely powerful Weave Anchor, Zhengyi spent the remainder of his life working on the fist sized piece to transform it into the Talisman of Orcus. His knowledge of lichdom, gleaned from various sources such as his former colleagues Ythazz Buvarr, Velsharoon Tartragul, as well as ancient liches he encountered such as Belevan the Undying and Sammaster, and finally his knowledge of dracolichdom from his own personalised copy of the Tome of the Dragon.
This collective knowledge has allowed Zhengyi to use the phylacteries of others to power powerful magics such as the Tomes of Creations which are used to create fortresses in a likeness of Castle Perilous, he is also able to hide pieces of his own soul inside other phylacteries, slowly feeding off the host soul to power his own. In this way Zhengyi is able to survive even after the destruction of his phylactery, but beyond that it is possible that Zhengyi has found a way to possess the bodies of those that use one of his soul gems as a phylactery (some believe the current Zhengyi may not even be the original), if true this means that Zhengyi could potentially possess the body of one of several dracoliches should he so desire.
Dappled Gem of the Nentyarch: Belevan the Undying was the Fourth Nentyarch of Narfell and the only Nentyarch to undergo the transformation to lichdom. Belevan believed the process to have worked, he survived the transformation process and was clearly no longer alive in the traditional sense (needing neither food, water, oxygen or anything else to exist). However, when Belevan was slain by the Demon Twin Ulthas and Ulthar, he never reanimated and his phylactery was never discovered (a single black gem which lay in the enormous treasure in Dun Tharos).
What none of the Nentyarchs were aware of, was that upon death, their souls were drawn into the Crown of Narfell, gradually augmenting the powers of this evil artefact. Belevan suffered the same fate, his transformation to lichdom created a link between the Crown of Narfell and his phylactery, and the destruction of his body drew his soul out of his phylactery into the Crown.
The destruction of the Crown of Narfell by Sarshel Elethlim released the crownwraiths into the surrounding lands where they caused untold havoc until Ndulu recovered them over the course of 5 decades and forged them into the Moaning Crown of Ndulu. Belevan’s crownwraith was never recovered, for it had returned to his phylactery hidden in the depths of Dun Tharos.
Decades of whispering allowed Belevan to influence the First Nentyarch of Lethyr into wearing the gem and finally plunging the gem into his own heart to keep others from its evil, then the soul of Belevan and the Great Druid were mixed. While Belevan could not be redeemed, for he was too strong, the Great Druid was corrupted and gradually turned to evil. For his crimes, the Great Druid of Leth was transformed into a twisted and black tree in the heart of Dun Tharos where he remained until Zhengyi appeared through an ancient portal and bargained with the twisted spirit of Belevan and the Great Druid to free it from imprisonment. At this point in time, the dark gem of Belevan was now dappled with splashes of white.
Zhengyi never delivered on his promise of freedom for Belevan and the Great Druid, instead he made the Dappled Gem one of his soul gems, and then imprisoned the gem in the heart of his Wand of Orcus where it would serve his will forever.
When Gareth Dragonsbane plunged the wand into the heart of Tiamat, the act destroyed the wand and purified Dappled Gem, expelling Belevan as a crownwraith and leaving only the White Gem of Leth.
Dragon Cloak of XXXX: This hooded cloak is made of the skull and hide of the dragon XXXX, crafted by Zhengyi early in his life.
Gnarled Staff of the Demon Twist: During Zhengyi’s travels across the Unapproachable East he visited many sites of great evil, one of which was the ruins of Dun Tharos. In the bowels of this citadel of ancient Narfell, Zhengyi discovered the twice transformed body of the first Nentyarch of Leth, who was changed by the magic of the druids into a great oaken tree to protect him and everything around him from the evil influence of the Dark Gem of Belevan the Unliving. Unfortunately this failed and the evil of Belevan’s soul corrupted the Nentyarch into a gnarled and twisted tree known as the Demon Twist.
Zhengyi overcame the power of this monstrosity and communicated with the souls of Belevan and the Nentyarch within the now Dappled Gem of the Nentyarch. After many months the souls an Zhengyi entered into a pact where Zhengyi would free them from their imprisonment and in return they would share their knowledge and power with him. Zhengyi tore the Dappled gem out of the heartwood knot of the Demon Twist, and also broke off a twisted limb to act as his staff.
The Gnarled Staff of the Demon Twist resembles a blackened and gnarled oaken staff, with many bulbous knots along its length, topped by a cluster of intertwined twigs and knots. The staff emits an aura of despair and unholiness that makes good creatures uncomfortable and reduces the effectiveness of divine abilities and spells provided by a source of good. Zhengyi can use the power of the staff to move and mould the earth to his desire whenever he wills it. The staff also allows Zhengyi to exert control over nearby trees and even treants several times a day, but this ability is of little use in the treeless land of Vaasa.
Talisman of Orcus: Zhengyi possesses a skull shaped lump of dark metallic rock which he refers to as the Talisman of Orcus. The amulet appears to massively magnify his magical powers, extending the range of them many miles beyond and allowing him to manifest spell effects in places as far south as the Ford of Goliad without him ever leaving Castle Perilous.
The truth of the Talisman of Orcus is that it is crafted from a piece of the Athora, a large and powerful weave anchor that resides in Thay. Zhengyi and several of his allies (at the time) nearly all perished trying to carve pieces of the Athora off for themselves to make its magic augmenting abilities more portable. The ensuing magical backlash slew Ulzunder and seriously injured Zhengyi as well as several others (incuding Ythazz Buvarr).
Despite the failure, and Zhengyi having to flee Thay some time later, he eventually completed the experiment he began long ago, and even made this Athora his prime phylactery. Now the Talisman of Orcus is an unholy artefact dedicated to his demonic patron that augments his power 50 fold. Zhengyi even went to great pains to retrieve another piece of the Athora and made a sister item called the Amulet of Orcus that he gifted to his favoured servant Banak. Zhengyi can see and hear everything that happens around the Amulet of Orcus, communicate or control the wearer, and even manifest through it should he so wish.
Tome of Creation: These books are a creation of Zhengyi using his knowledge of ancient Narfelli and Raumathari magics. It is believed that the first and greatest Tome of Creation is the one used by Zhengyi to create the first Castle Perilous, but there are known to be other middling or lesser tomes to varying degrees spread among the most loyal servants of Zhengyi in Vaasa and Damara.
A Tome of Creation allows one person (and only one person) to attune itself to the book by reading it in full, in so doing their soul is gradually drawn into a soul gem hidden at the heart of the book (in an extra dimensional space), which gradually (or rapidly depending upon the power of one’s soul) turns the reader into a lich, and moulds the soul gem into the skull shape of the attuned. This process also draws upon some of the attuned soul to power the creation of a replica of Castle Perilous, the size and layout of the replica depends upon the power of the attuned soul with powerful creatures like dragons and archmages able to construct much larger replicas than a novice mageling. The castle itself is a living construct, complete with a variety of traps and monstrous defences (gargoyles, undead, fiends, etc), and it is able to repair itself and replace the defences over time (at a cost to the attuned soul). The replica also acts as a beacon to other evil creatures (like a sympathy spell), drawing them towards it from many miles away.
The attuned reader may again leave the replica Castle Perilous once it is completed. When the attuned soul inside the Tome of Creation is completely consumed, the soul gem assumes a regular faceted gemstone form, awaiting the time when a new reader attunes themselves to the book. Anyone reading from a Tome of Creation already attuned to a soul will find their own soul being consumed to power the creation of a replica Castle Perilous but they will not become a lich (instead their soul is drained – usually completely – by the process).
Wand of Orcus: Zhengyi has crafted for himself; with the assistance of his demonic patron, a replica of the Wand of Orcus. This replica (like all the replicas that Orcus has allowed to be crafted to further his presence on the Material Plane) is a black iron rod ending with a human skull. At its centre Zhengyi used the Dappled Gem of the Nentyarch which serves as one of his soul gems.
The wand allows the wielder to cause wounds, move with increased speed, and speak with animals, as well as allowing the wielder a chance to slay any one creature touched with the skull end.
The Wand of Orcus is sentient and contains the intellects of Belevan the Undying the Fourth Nentyarch of Narfell, as well as the Great Druid of Leth and First Nentyarch of Lethyr.