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Mystaranomiconby Jesper Andersen from Threshold Magazine issue 5
Exploring the books of Mystara
By Jesper Andersen (Spellweaver)
At one time or another, most Dungeon Masters have had their group of player characters enter a library, a sage’s office, a wizard school or a noble’s study and heard the dreaded question: ‘So, what are all these books about?’ Mystaranomicon is a regular column that provides Dungeon Masters with books ready to be inserted into any game with a moment’s notice. Use them simply as colourful fluff or to provide clues and hooks to adventures. This time we look at books related to the faraway continent of Davania.
White Gold1 – The Lure of Zajujh, the Elephant Graveyard
Author: Ultan Crom of Westrourke
Rarity: Very Rare
Year: 983 AC
Allegedly, this book is the true tale of one of a few survivors who returned from an expedition upriver from Raven’s Scarp in the Hinterlands to find the legendary Elephant Graveyard – a place called ‘Zajujh’ in the local folklore. Supposedly littered with the bones and tusks of hundreds of huge elephants, this hidden valley has tempted treasure seekers since before the arrival of the first Thyatians.
Ultan Crom did return, however, with enough ivory to at least partially support his claim that he had found Zajujh. His story warns of bloodthirsty natives using poisoned darts, large river monsters that can swallow an entire canoe including its crew, and strange diseases that burn out a man’s body in less than a day.
The graveyard itself is believed to be under some kind of curse, yet each year new expeditions gather, using Crom’s book as a guide to go up river in search of fortune. Most never return.
Number of pages: 100
The Cursed City of the Spider Children
Author: Arsoro, captain of the Sunlit Venture
Rarity: Very Rare
Year: 967 AC
Language: Originally Minrothad, but translations do exist
This book is a transcript of the ship’s log of the Sunlit Venture, a Minrothad vessel that set sail down the jungle coast of Davania in 966 AC bound for Cestia. She never reached her destination, however, as bad weather forced the ship to take shelter in a hitherto unknown coastal town with magnificent domes and white marble towers.
Much to their surprise, Captain Arsoro and his crew were welcomed by the rulers of the city – a council consisting entirely of bald-headed children, none of whom seemed older than 13. These strange child rulers wore magical gold torcs – heavy neck rings – that allowed them to speak the language of Arsoro and his men. While the rulers wore beautiful bright garments, the rest of the city’s population appeared to lead lives of squalid and fearful servitude. Arsoro learned that the city worshipped a strange arachnid deity unknown to the captain and his men.
Eventually, the full horror of their situation became clear to them, when most of the crew were taken prisoner and eaten alive by the cannibalistic child rulers of the city! To the sound of his crewmen’s screams, Arsoro and a few others managed to flee the city and after a long year made it back to the Minrothad Guilds.
No other ship from the Known World has ever returned with verification of the exact position of the city.
Number of pages: 125
Remedies for Surviving Lupin2 Filth and Fleas
Author: Ritter Johann von Nagel
Year: 991 AC
This short book was written by a Hattian pilgrim, Ritter Johann von Nagel, who did not enjoy the company of a group of lupins on the voyage to Vanya’s Rest. His book contains various dubious methods for getting rid of fleas and even goes as far as suggesting drugging the food of lupins with various concoctions to rid their fur of fleas and smell.
Any serious alchemist, herbalist, or apothecary will dismiss the so-called ‘remedies’ in the book as useless and indeed, the book appears to have been written out of malice rather than an attempt to help people.
Legality: Legal, but Lupins will be unhappy if they see it
Number of pages: 75
When Stars Align – The Manifestation of Legendary Arypt3
Author: Eris Balthazar
Rarity: Very Rare
Year: 967 AC
Language: Thyatian, may have been translated to other languages as well
Far west of Vanya’s Rest, deep in the Aryptian Desert lies a number of ruins and strange obelisks that enclose a circular plain more than 20 miles in diameter. The plain is flat, arid and empty. The width of the external ring of ruins is only about a mile or so and the ruins are spaced out so far apart along the edge of the circle that most people would never connect the dots so to speak. But that is exactly what the scholar Eris Balthazar did.
Travelling in his youth from the recently founded Vanya’s Rest, he explored the Aryptian Desert and became intrigued by local legends of a ‘kingdom from the stars’ named Arypt. Although Eris turned up several ruins and transcribed ancient texts on weathered obelisks that all pointed to the existence of Arypt, he never found the city itself. After nearly two decades of searching, Eris’ quest took a dramatic turn when he uncovered primitive tribal hieroglyphics that described how Arypt has not been lost to sandstorms or earthquakes as was thought but had ‘returned to the heavens.’
Revisiting and mapping every clue he had ever found, Eris discovered the circular pattern and concluded that this was the outer edges of the previous legendary kingdom of Arypt that had disappeared. Using a star calendar he was also able to predict the anticipated return of the magical realm.
Eris published his book in the hope of getting a wealthy patron to support further studies, but alas, he received only scorn and ridicule. Today, Eris is an old man in his late 70ies, living in a small settlement on the edge of the desert. And the predicted time for when the stars will align just right is rapidly approaching...
Number of pages: 200
Only the Pure of Faith
Author: Grand Knight Walter Sternhammar
Rarity: Special (see below)
Year: 928 AC
Language: Thyatian (translations exist in many languages)
This popular book is the thrilling first-hand account of Walter Sternhammar, one of the original pilgrims whom Vanya spoke to and who undertook the great quest to Davania to recover the mortal remains of their patron Immortal. The book describes the pilgrimage to the Gulf of Mar and how the devout knights drove away the ‘infidels’ and liberated the area in the name of Vanya.
The original book goes on to describe how the knights discovered the artefact known as the Star of Vanya4 along with Vanya’s mortal remains and used the artefact to power their flying warbirds and more. Only five copies of the book still include this original chapter. One is in the great library in Freiburg, one is in the citadel at Vanya’s Rest and the remaining three are lost – but members of the crimson-clad Anvil of Blood sect5 of the Hammer of Vanya scour Mystara for them and will not rest until they are recovered!
Copies without this most secret knowledge are very common and very popular, especially in areas from where pilgrims depart for Vanya’s Rest.
Legality: Special (see above)
Number of pages: 150
Tales about the Fabled Land of the Earthshakers
Author: Beridia Varor
Rarity: Very Rare
Year: 993 AC
If you sail south from Vanya’s Rest past the desolate Vulture Peninsula across the Green Bay, you may eventually reach the Confederated Kingdom of Niscosenia6. The Glantrian wizard Beridia Varor did this about a decade ago, while she was on a quest for unique magic. While there, she heard the unbelievable tales of a land even further south known as the ‘Realm of the Earthshakers’. Supposedly, gargantuan constructs of magic and steel do battle there, uprooting forests and smashing mountains in their path of destruction.
Beridia collected several of these incredible tales while visiting Niscosenia and was shown chunks of what was allegedly earthshaker scrap metal from the battles. Eager to see this land for herself, Beridia departed for the south soon after, but not before mailing her diary to a family member, who published it7.
Number of pages: 100
Book Rarity Reference Table
Only the original copy of this work has ever been known to exist
Less than 20 copies of this work is known or rumoured to exist
Less than 200 copies of this work is known or rumoured to exist
Enough copies of this work exist that it may show up in private collections and very large libraries across the world. Only rarely is one sold, rather copies are preserved and passed on.
This book is difficult to come by but not impossible. If you can afford it, libraries or sages will probably allow you to have a copy made from theirs.
This book is readily available in most major cities. Books are often common if they are reproduced for teaching purposes.
7 The family of Beridia has offered a substantial reward to anyone who’ll bring back her or certain news of her fate, whatever they may be.