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Firelord Saga

by Ville Lähde

2) Ancient History of the Thanegioth Archipelago

The Mythic History of the Islands, as told by the various peoples

There are some scattered legends about the origin of the Thanegioth in the oral traditions of the Nuari people and the people inhabiting the Serpent peninsula. But most of these are merely metaphoric stories, very much like the legend of the Fastitocalon as a metaphor of the fall of Numenor in the stories of J.R.R. Tolkien. Some tribes tell the story of the Father of All (sometimes Red) Dragons, who reached the end of his days and crashed down, the fall creating the Sea of Dread. The Thanegioth Archipelago is said to be the remnants of his gargantuan body. It may well be, that these legends are transformed memories of the Great Rain of Fire, the destruction of Blackmoor, and the time the Northern and the Southern continents were violently ripped apart, forming the Sea of Dread.(This is just one hypothesis about the birth of the sea. It may well be that it was formed much earlier during slow tectonic movements.) But there is the fact that the islands have always been the home for a host of Red Dragons, beings for whom societies are elsewhere in the world scarce.

In the languages of some tribes of the Serpent Peninsula this myth gets some confirmation, although with some variations. (Or at least there's confirmation for theories that there have been movements of Nuari people to the peninsula long ago, transmitting languages and myths). The southern island chain of the peninsula, the one "reaching" towards Thanegioth Archipelago, is called in some of their languages "Than-e-gia" (the tongue of the serpent). The southern large island is "Than-e-gil" (the head of the serpent), and Thanegioth could be "Than-e-gia-othi" (the flame tongue/fiery spit of the serpent). Thus, the Serpent peninsula is mythically pictured as a large fire-breathing dragon/serpent. It is very likely that the first explorers to name the peninsula had stumbled upon these legends.

Although no explorers or scholars, with the possible exception of Rathanos cultists, haven't yet found it out, this legend is repeated by both of the dragon tribes living in the islands. Just to the north of the Archipelago there's a large reef area, called the Dragon Reef due to its peculiar shape. The Sea Dragons are convinced that the reef was born from the body of their ancient predecessor, who fought the Father of All Reds. The Reds, in turn, see the islands as the bones of their forefather (although, the term might also be "Mother").

In any case, these various mythic histories of the Thanegioth Archipelago picture cataclysmic encounters with the elements of Fire and Water, and this can't be coincidental. Especially the eastern islands have strong presence of the Plane of Fire, and in the waters surrounding the Archipelago, there are various powerful wormholes. One of them manifests as a large Whirlpool, which travels to and fro in the waters south of the Isle of Dread. (The Sea Dragons refer to it as "the Home-Song Fountain".)

The legends of the sea elves, the Children of the Swan, don't mention the origin of the islands, of course. They arrived there long after the Archipelago was formed. The rakastae of the Isle of Dread don't talk about such things. If pressed, they say that their patron the Lion brought them here from unknown lands aeons ago. Their fall from their early days of glory has wiped out most of their lore. (More info about the people of the archipelago, see the latter sections.)

Hypothetical demographic history of the Thanegioth Archipelago

Some notes on the various migrations to Thanegioth: As suggested, the red dragons and the sea dragons are the earliest inhabitants of the islands and the surrounding waters. The Children of the Swan were the next to arrive. Stories of their history suggest that they were a splinter group originating in the great divide between the elves of Grunland and Vulcania, and that they took to the seas after reaching the southern shore of the Sea of Dread. Or that they were trapped in their island after the Blackmoor cataclysm (if the sea was formed during it), which would suggest that they had separated from the mainstream elven civilisation earlier, perhaps due to some form of technophobia. As told before, the arrival of the rakastae is shrouded in the mist of history: perhaps there is a kernel of truth in their mythic tales, or perhaps they were an isolated group of were-creatures (about this more later). The next migration was that of the Nuari people.

The Era of the first Firelord, or the Fiery Pharaoh

The first Firelord was originally a member of a ruling family in Nithia. He was also an accomplished mage, and like many others of this vocation, he was obsessed with Fire magics of all kinds. Around 1500 BC he stumbled upon the secret of the Nexus - how this happened is unknown. Perhaps he learned this from the various elemental beings he summoned and bound, or in his travels in the Elemental Plane of Fire... it is even possible that he stumbled upon some scattered textual fragments from the possible first age of Ascension. During this time he understands that he doesn't have a chance of becoming a pharaoh, and actually his life may be in danger in midst of the plotting in the Nithian aristocracy. He sees a chance for glory in the ritual of Ascension, and starts exploring this further.

Later on, with a group of trusted followers from the Magian Fire Worshippers, Rathanos clerics and some obscure fire elementalist sects, he retreats to the Thanegioth Archipelago. In his studies he has found out about the powerful presence of the element of Fire in some of the islands, and decides to construct the Ascension platform there. Essentially, this signals the birth of the Cult of the Starfire Sphere on Mystara.

Arriving in Thanegioth Archipelago, the Nithian mage assumes the title of the Firelord, or the Fiery Pharaoh. He starts building his own little empire in the middle of the Sea of Dread. His seat of power is on the easternmost, largest island. He makes alliances with the efreeti and fire giants living in/near the volcanoes of the easternmost big island, and with the red dragons of the central Archipelago. Together they complete a wonderful construction, the Plateau of Fire. It is an artificial plateau raised by diverting magma in the bottom of the Island (I got the idea from a great Yoko Tsuno comic story). Permanent wormholes are created there, and made controllable by complex rituals and incantations, some of which are described in the sacred texts of the Rathanos canon (see above). it is possible that parts of them were written by the Fiery Pharaoh himself. In the centre of the plateau is a dome-shaped temple of the Starfire Sphere, specially crafted for the ritual of Ascension.

The Rise and Fall of the Firelord Empire, the Lion King Rak'Asta

When the Fiery Pharaoh started expanding his hatchling empire to the western islands, his forces met with opposition. The ancestors of the present-day rakastae lived on the Isle of Dread. At that time they resembled weretigers, and they has a highly advanced society that centred on the worship of their patron "the Lion". The cultural centre was on the plateau in the northern part of the island, from where their king Rak'Asta led them. When the minions of the Fiery Pharaoh invaded the island, Rak'Asta managed to make alliances with the Children of the Swan, and the remaining Sea Dragons, who has been beaten to submission by the Reds in several draconic wars. It is told that some groups of Sollux warriors joined them also, as their main enemies the efreeti were on the side of the Fiery Pharaoh.

The armies of Rak'Asta defeated the invasion force, and with great cunning he made a spike assault in the isle of the Fiery Pharaoh. Rak'Asta stopped the Ritual of Ascension and killed the Firelord in a duel. Later on he continued the battle to the islands of the red dragons and killed their leader, an ancient red, but was also slain. The duel decimated an entire island, the second easternmost one, and left both of them dead. Since then the scorched island has been a taboo to the Nuari, a sacred place for the Reds, and forgotten by the rest inhabitants of the archipelago.

After the war the Sea Dragons withdrew beneath the waves, where they still live, near the great whirlpool, waiting for the rise of the next Firelord. The proud ancestors of the rakastae fell from grace of their patron and "diminished", transformed into the feline creatures we know. The Children of the Swan withdrew to their island, limiting their shipping to short fishing expeditions, centring instead on nursing their Tree of Life. (Yes, they have one of the lost trees - but this will depend on where the DM wishes to pinpoint the creation of the Trees. In the Twin Campaigns they were created much earlier. But the Dm can devise some other, alternative cultural focus for these seagoing elves.) The (mainly Nithian) followers of the first Firelord were slowly assimilated by the local Nuari. The creatures of fire remained, but kept close to the volcanoes of the easternmost island, and the deserted Plateau of Fire.

The Artefacts of Rak'Asta: The great king Rak'Asta succeeded in his efforts not only due to his own cunning, but also because he had two very powerful artefacts in his possession. His sword "the Dragon-tooth" was crafted from the tooth of an ancient Sea Dragon and enchanted with powerful powers against red dragons. (For example: Sword +3, +5 Against dragons, Triple damage against red dragons. Add other powers if you like.) "The Lion Head" was a helmet crafted to the likeness of a majestic lion, giving protection against the element of Fire, and enhancing the wearer's abilities of leadership and warfare. (For example: Extra -1 to AC, +2 to Fire Saves, Deduct 2d10 from Fire breath damage, Skill bonuses to leadership and tactics/strategy.) When the king Rak'Asta left to battle the ancient red dragon, he left his helmet, the symbol of the king, for his followers. They brought it back to Isle of Dread, where it was left in the palace on the plateau, waiting for the Future king. (Nobody knows it, but Rak'Asta was allowed by his patron to leave a small portion of his soul in the helmet. If someone gains it, the next wearer's soul will meld with Rak'Asta's, permanently transforming him.) The sword is still in the decimated island, beneath the bones of the king and the dragon.