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The Kingdom of Kerothar (Abandoned)

by Rodger Burns

The dwarves of Denwarf-Hurgon aren't the first occupants of the Kerothar Mountains. Fifteen hundred years ago there was a more traditional Alphatian wizard-kingdom centred on this range, centred around mining mineral wealth out of the stones by enthusiastic and extravagant use of the arcane arts. The wizards of Kerothar would use divination magics to locate seams of valuable ore, specially tailored disintegration spells to carve away rock wholesale while leaving metal deposits untouched, and finally summoned elementals to smelt and cast the result into final, finished product. It was a showy, invasive and arguably incredibly wasteful way to make one's fortune... and very, very successful indeed.

Of course, it left its mark on the landscape. Most of the early mining operations took place in the central Kerothar peaks - almost due east of modern-day Limn - and the wizard-miners were both able and willing to bore incredibly deep shafts in search of a hidden deposit of gold, platinum or gemstone. Once these mines were tapped out and abandoned by their creators, they quickly became lairs for monsters of all kinds; some such mines are still home to creatures ranging from athachs to wraiths, even today. Other mineshafts were magically sealed off by the Kerothar wizards, and turned into hidden boltholes or treasure-vaults. The prizes in many such are still waiting to be reclaimed by those clever and daring enough to find them.

The cities of the kingdom of Kerothar were created on a similar scale. Dwarven engineers might recognise the trait of building a city into and under a mountain peak as well as above it - but no dwarf would ever think to carve a 50' high open-air gallery out of the side of a cliff face, then build normal roofed houses inside, or bore a 300' diameter shaft so that the centre of town could be exposed to the open air. The wizards of Kerothar did all this and more, and as a result the modern-day ruins that remain of their cities are both wondrous and treacherous.

The destruction of Kerothar came suddenly, in about AY 950. The kingdom had its fair share of enemies - Shiye elves who disliked their neighbours' energy and rapacious industry, Imperial agents concerned with the kingdom's power and lack of caution, and Alphatian wizards everywhere jealous of their fellows' wealth and success, and even Immortals who worried about the effect Kerothar wizards might have on their plots. The tipping point wasn't any of these, though, but instead came out of vortexes to the Elemental Plane of Earth, located deep beneath the Kerothar mountains. Several of these were tunnelled into almost simultaneously, and emerged in a region of Elemental Earth populated by a sizeable and militant empire of the beings known as krysts.

The reaction of the krysts to the intrusion was immediate. They sized up the Alphatians, identified them as a threat, and staged an organised and unannounced counter-invasion of the Kerothar mountains. They came in force, had the advantages of surprise and superior morale and motivation, and knew how to strike at the enemy's weak points - they could use their native magic to attack a wizard from out of the floor of his own tower, unleash wild basilisks and other monsters, and engineer avalanches, tunnel-collapses and earthquakes. They also had no qualms about ruthlessly striking at civilian targets or using terror as a weapon - they weren't sadistic or vicious for its own sake, but had no problems staging object lessons or using psychological warfare tactics. In the end, numbers, organisation and a totally alien mindset defeated the Alphatians of Kerothar - they bitterly agreed to completely withdraw from the Kerothar mountain range, effectively destroying the kingdom.

In the centuries since then, the Kerothar mountains have become infested with dangerous monsters and tales of lost treasure. For the first century or so, explorers with more boldness than sense would go wandering into the peaks, and by failing to come back confirm that the krysts were still watching the affairs of the Prime. This seems to have faded somewhat in the past few centuries, but the central Kerothar mountains are still a wild and dangerous place - enough so that absolutely nobody disputes Denwarf-Hurgon's claim to the range. Exactly what sort of strange magic is waiting to be reclaimed, or whether treasure-seekers will have to face kryst vengeance, isn't yet clear.