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Mirror of the Eternal Night: Secrets of Koskatepby Francesco Defferrari from Threshold Magazine issue 1
Kosketep… the mountain of bones in Traladaran, is a strange shaped hill on the upper course of Achelos river, filled with high stones that look like bones in the light of the moon. The name changed its meaning over time but the original Azcan one was very similar, Koskatepetl, the gem of the mountains, a bustling mining city before the Great Rain of Fire. In the depths under the city there was a shrine sacred to Ixion, protected by priests who, according to local lore, were not human and guarded an ancient, dangerous secret. When, at the height of Blackmoor times, technology and rationalism started to prevail all over the world, the ruling council of Koskatepetl tried to force the priests of Ixion to reveal their secret, and the priests sealed the entrance of the shrine with a terrible earthquake.
After the disaster the city was abandoned and became infested with many kinds of monsters, but rumors that the ruins contained treasures and secrets, and the Immortals schemes, made it a contested ground for several regional powers. For some times after the Great Rain of Fire, Koskatep was occupied by a band of beastmen, primitive bugbears that were soon displaced by lizardmen and troglodytes sent by the realm of Mogreth. The rule of the lizardfolk was short lived too, as an Inti expedition conquered Koskatep, led by priests of the Sun lords. After some time, they too were supplanted by fairies and giants that controlled the place for a long time under the rule of the troll queen of Grondheim.
At last as Taymora became more and more powerful, the Church of Nyx conquered Koskatep and chose the place to build a great temple that soon enough attracted pilgrims and colonists, but not too many, because its true purpose had to remain secret. The goddess of the Night found it amusing and fitting to no end that her temple was built over a place once sacred to the Lord of the Light, and she chose the city to hide a very powerful artifact - a constellation map whose purpose was to slowly absorb magical power and bring eternal night to the world.
In Taymoran the city was named Kosmoteiros, signs of the universe. But in time of Taymoran decadence, when the fight between followers of Nyx and Thanatos was at its height, a powerful army in service of the Dark Lord conquered the city with the ultimate goal of stealing the artifact, so the priests of Nyx destroyed the temple, opening a chasm to the depths of the earth. The struggle for the artifact would have continued, but the destruction of Taymora also destroyed any memory of the city and its secret. The Tal people of the area, and later the Traldars too, considered the place cursed and never went to live there. Others tried to reconquer the ruins - orcs, gnolls, fairy folk, bandits, dwarves, and ogres. Many of these groups were inspired by the immortals, because obviously Nyx and Thanatos had not forgotten what was hidden below, and neither had Ixion. Many times during the centuries the three immortals have sent priests and adventurers to Koskatep, to retrieve the artifact or to prevent the others from obtaining it or, in the case of Ixion, to protect his ancient secrets. Yet none of the immortals was able to conquer the ruins once and for all... at least until a few years ago.
The People of the Night
In the History of Traladara "People of the Night" was the name that the first Traldars gave to the Tal people, the descendants of northern Taymorans surviving in the area after the destruction of their empire. During the centuries they were absorbed in the general traldar population, but not completely.
Some of the Tals didn't integrate because they had very different traditions, the most important of which was the cult of Nyx. When the Traldars arrived there was a centuries old bitter struggle going on between the cult of Nyx and Thanatos, with Hel also involved occasionally on one side or the other. Initially the Traldars aided the cult of Nyx and the neutral oriented nosferatus against the evil vampires and followers of Thanatos. There was also a short time of nosferatu kings that ended when Tarku Radu, the last nosferatu king, turned from Nyx to Thanatos and unleashed the three years of winter on Traladara before his ultimate destruction...
From this moment on vampires and nosferatus were lumped as "evil beings" in the minds of the Traldars, and the followers of Nyx were often persecuted along with the followers of Thanatos... A succession of crusades were unleashed by Traldar clans and kings against undead, the first in 1423 BC, then in 1147 BC and 343 BC. In 342 BC queen Irina Lutescu concluded the Peace of the night with the still unintegrated Tal people. The queen agreed to stop persecuting nosferatu and the followers of Nyx.
Yet another persecution ensued in 445 AC during the Silver Purge. By this time the Sulescu family was the only major clan protecting the Tal people, and indeed in this year Ion Sulescu left the council of nobles in protest. But despite this in 450 AC king Boris Achelos Halarov massacred the last of the free Tals in central Traladara. That was indeed the end of the People of the Night as a distinct culture.
Neverthless, a major centre of the cult of Nyx survived to these days in Sulescu. During another persecution by the king Arku Marilenev in 703 AC, the current Lord Sulescu, recently turned into a Nosferatu, was able to defeat the king's troops, establishing a de facto independent territory. Sulescu bowed to the Thyatians in 900 and 970 AC in exchange for the unwritten agreement that foreign religions would not come to bother his land.
The Church of Nyx in Karameikos
Sulescu however is not the only centre of the church in the nation. A centuries old cabal of wizards, The Sons of Night, has preserved the traditions and the knowledge of Nyx secretly in Karameikos, and much, much more. Only a handful of people in Karameikos know anything about them. Even the very efficient spies of Duchess Olivia have heard only that these wizards are headed by a "Fraternity of the Grand Darkers”, and have caused some troubles in western Karameikos, in their mad, impossible plan to bring forth what they call the “Dread Night”.
The Sons of Night are in truth an organization much more powerful than anyone knows. Throughout the centuries Nyx and her priests stored in several locations of Karameikos’ underdeep, in ancient tombs and lost cities, not only a vast supply of magical objects and power, but also many faithful followers turned into two new kind of undead developed by the Church. The Undecayed appear as normal, slightly pale people, yet they are dead and can potentially live forever. (Statistics for zombies can be used, but their appearance is normal and they retain memories and intelligence). The Uncorporeal are ghosts who can possess the bodies of any Undecayed or of living people (an unwilling victim will obviously be allowed a saving throw). Beyond their army of Undecayed and Uncorporeal, the Sons of Night have also many living followers, mostly wizards and priests but also warriors, thieves and common people, hiding in the general population - and now they are almost ready to reclaim their rightful place in the nation.
In 998 AC the Sons of Night have indeed established their main fraternity among the ruins of Koskatep... they have currently retrieved the artifact but so far haven't found a way to use it... yet. It will probably take several years to perfectionate their plan, but eventually they’ll proclaim a new independent theocracy of the Lady of the Night in all the Cruth mountains and surrounding hills. And they will be ready to resist any attempt by the King’s troops to deny their rights.
Note: If the DM wants to use Dhrom Dhum in his/her campaign (see the Dhrom Dhum article) the Darkers will engineer their declaration of independence at the same time as the goblin, trying to win the support of the Cruth ogres and Traladaran freedom fighters in the area too. (see Agathokles’ excellent “Lords of the Cruth Lowlands” campaign here:
Timeline of Koskatep
In the Dawn of time: Ashira betrays Ixion and creates The Dream of Fire. Ixion cannot bear to destroy his beloved daughter and puts her in stasis along with the powerful artifact she created. A chosen corp of Sollux priests, wizards and warriors is put in charge of guarding the temple. Groups of dragons, giants and fairies discover the existence of the place several times during the millennia, but the church of Ixion always manages to stop them before The Dream of Fire can become common knowledge.
11.000 BC: A brutemen shaman tries to use The Dream but the sollux convince him to stop, and Ahyar and his tribe become additional guardians of the temple.
10.000 BC: Oltec men are drawn to the area and began to worship the place, building a temple above ground. Ixion intends to use them as more guardians, as the existence of The Dream is no longer a secret among Immortals.
5.100 BC: Precious and semi-precious gems are found in the area and the local people, ancestors of the Azcan, build some mines nearby. Slowly the temple becomes a town, and later a city, that falls under the influence of the Oltec empire and is named Koskatepetl, the gem of the mountains.
3.525 BC: The Azcan empire is formed and Koskatepetl becomes not only a source of gems but also of metals, to build new lethal weapons for the war.
3.057 BC: The Azcan emperor declares that the underground, secret, temple of Ixion has to be opened to share its secret with the people. The priests refuse and destroy the city to seal the temple. A revolt of the Church of Ixion throws the empire into civil war and chaos; the site of Koskatepetl is abandoned and for several years infested by bandits and monsters that try in vain to occupy the place.
2.998 BC: Human refugees hide from the Great Rain of Fire in the ruins of Koskatepetl, but are soon slaughtered by a group of beastmen that take residence among the ruins. The inner temple survives the cataclysm and the invasions unscathed.
2.504 BC: The Inti, lead by the church of Ixion, occupy the ruins and rebuild the city of Koskatepetl.
2.379 BC: The Queen of Grondheim conquers the city, renaming it Krystallac. Just a few years later sidhe priests discover the existence of the inner temple and begin a century long negotiation with the Sollux and the Brutemen below to gain access to the artifact.
2.282 BC: As the Queen grows impatient about the unwillingness of Ixion to compromise, she sends her best troops to open the temple. Inti troops soon attack the place, and Taymora intervenes shortly thereafter. This is the beginning of the War of the Empires, or the War of Southern Grondheim, that will last decades and will devastate the region. Mogreth intervenes as well a few years later.
2.080 BC: In a time of crisis in Grondheim, Taymora, and Intua, lizardmen and troglodytes escaped from the Mogreth occupy Krystallac and keep it for a hundred years.
1.976 BC: After a long siege Taymora conquers Krystallac and renames it Kosmoteiros. Nyx knows about Ixion’s artifact but rather than try to steal or destroy it she decides to exploit the magical aura of the place to build her own strongest artifact that will bring fulfillment of her Dream.
1.777 BC: To prevent Kosmoteiros from falling into the hands of Thanatos, the priests of Nyx destroy the city with a terrible earthquake. Thousands die and the place is abandoned for many years as seismic activity increases in the area.
1.664 BC: After the destruction of Taymora, fairies of the Unseelie court take possession of the place and try to use the Starlake, but do not know of the hidden temple of Ixion below.
1.597 BC: Lord Keiros, a Tal nosferatu and follower of Nyx, conquers Koskatep from the dark fairies. Vampiric followers of Thanatos attack several times but are defeated.
1.412 BC: Hutaakans conquer the site for Ixion and Pflarr, a seriously wounded Lord Keiros is forced to hide, and his followers are exterminated.
1.021 BC: Orcs sacks Koskatep, some hutaakan priests survive hiding in the lower levels, and will become more guardians for the hidden temple of Ixion.
954 BC: After several battles a dwarven army defeats the orcs and conquers Koskatep, but are soon in constant warfare with the gnolls that rule over the region.
912 BC: The dwarves are finally defeated by the gnolls, who build their own city over the ruins. Shamans of Ranivorus and Thanatos begin to study the Starlake.
841 BC: Followers of Nyx, aided by ogres and giants, attack Koskatep but are unable to conquer it from the gnolls. Yet they succeed in killing the most powerful shamans of Thanatos and burning their notes.
603 BC: The ogre king Kulfan conquers Koskatep in the name of Nyx and ogres rule over the area for centuries. Human priests of the Lady of the Night live in the city along with them.
95 AC: The Darkers almost complete the ritual to use the Starlake and bring forth the Eternal Night, but are stopped at the last moment by priests of Ixion, who drive out the ogres and occupy Koskatep for years.
227 AC: The priests of Ixion have repelled several attempts by ogres, giants and followers of Nyx trying to reclaim the ruins, but are destroyed at last by a very powerful and ancient vampire sent by Thanatos, The Last One. Some of them escape to the lowest level and become defenders of the inner temple. In the following centuries ogres, giants, followers of Nyx and even adventurers sent by Ixion try to reclaim Koskatep, but The Last One destroys them all.
912 AC: Traladaran freedom fighters hide in the ruins for some time, but are destroyed by the Thyatian army. The Thyatians soon leave the place.
998 AC (or later if the DM prefers): Lady Sonya, the Grand Daughter of the Night, a powerful priestess of Nyx, and her followers, are able to defeat The Last One and reclaim Koskatep.
1031 AC: The next alignment. On this date the Starlake could be used to bring forth The Eternal Night.
Levels of Koskatep
Even if from the outside the “mountain of bones” doesn’t seem a very big place, the truth is that Koskatep is not a simple dungeon and not even a simple city. It’s several cities built one upon another, with 13 main levels. For this reason it’s almost impossible to include a full map of the place, but the location may be detailed in the next issues of Threshold magazine.
Note that at the centre of Koskatep from the seventh level there is an open, windy, and dark chasm that goes all the way down to the twelfth level, a result of the two earthquakes provoked by the churches of Ixion and Nyx during Blackmoorian and Taymoran times. Note also that all the levels are broken, interrupted, and rugged in many places, so that full exploration of the ruins should be very difficult.
The PCs could even be themselves agents of the Sons of Night sent to explore the place or agents of a rival organization (probably the Church of Ixion) sent to stop the Darkers. The ruins are apparently less inhabited before the Darkers take them, but they aren’t less dangerous, as a great evil lurks in the deep levels, giving even the upper levels an inexplicable disquieting mood.
When the Sons of Night have taken control of the place the location is well organized and guarded, and that means that PCs should explore the place with stealth and/or diplomacy, or be quickly destroyed. If the DM would like to have them explore Koskatep after the Sons of Night take control, use this text, marked in light purple.
Level ONE, the DEBRIS
This level, partially in the open, is composed of the upper remains of the ogre’s city (see below) and has been inhabited by bandits and Traladaran freedom fighters in past centuries, and recently used only as a shelter by little bands of ogres and hill giants. These folks may or may not be hostile depending on PCs actions, but they know something only about the first two levels. They do know however, that the dungeon goes deeper and deeper. This level doesn’t contain much except for the weapons and possessions of the ogres and the giants.
The secret of this level: In a forgotten and closed room there is still the tomb of a Traladaran knight who died in 900 AC fighting the Thyatians, with his magical armor and sword.
After the Darkers take control, many ogres and hill giants live here (at least more than 20), well paid by the Darkers to keep intruders away. These folks are organized and finely equipped so trying to avoid them rather than fight them all would be much wiser.
Level TWO, the OGRE KING
Kulfan, an ogre king, established his throne hall on this level five centuries ago. No one remembers how his once powerful kingdom came to an end; the ogres say it was a human attack, but it could have been a war between ogres and giants, or the wrath of a dragon. This level is indeed partially burned and much of what was once contained within was destroyed or pillaged long ago. The walls and the rooms were built by giants and ogres with surprisingly good craftsmanship, and there may still be undiscovered rooms or tombs that contains the treasures of the ogres kingdom. This level is empty except for some random dungeon critters such as oozes, giant insects, and worms.
The secret: Kulfan occupied the ruins in the name of Nyx but was destroyed by powerful clerics of Ixion, that were soon destroyed themselves by an ancient evil sent by Thanatos. Nothing is left of their bones and items, but the worn out diary of the main cleric of Ixion is still hidden in a crack of the throne room.
After the Darkers take control, some female ogres and female giants with children, wives of the ones above, live here and are slowly cleaning and rebuilding the place. They will obviously be hostile if intruders have killed their husbands and either way they will immediately try to warn the Darkers in the levels below.
Level THREE, GNOLLS WERE HERE
This level was a powerful gnoll city during the time of their invasion of Traladara and the following centuries (900 - 600 BC). The many treasures gnolls amassed in centuries of war and pillaging have been taken long ago by ogres and giants and now only some stone statues resembling gnolls remain.
This level is inhabited by several dangerous ghosts.
The secret: This level was really a Hutaakan city before the gnolls arrived, hence the statues. The ghosts are Hutaakan priests and gnoll shamans that The Last One below awakened as guardians. There is still a sub-level with the ghost of a powerful Hutaakan priest guarding his still intact tomb and willing to help any group aligned with Ixion, the Traldar immortals, or Pflarr.
After the Darkers take control, there are sometimes small groups of Sons of Night (3-5 wizards and priests) who check on the ogres and giants above.
Level FOUR, DWARVEN GOLD
Dwarves occupied the place for a short time around 950 BC, taking it from the orcs but quickly losing it to the gnolls. Their gold and crafts were also taken long ago, leaving behind only some good stonemasonry here and there. This level was also part of the Hutaakan settlement before, in particular the temple of Pflarr, of which very small traces are left. It is inhabited by a strong and dangerous undead dwarf.
The secret: A well hidden stash of dwarven gold (and Hutaakan gold) lie under the floor of the biggest hall in this level. Buried with it there is the dwarf ruler of the time, who will awaken from death as a powerful mummy to defend his treasure.
After the Darkers destroyed the undead dwarf they create five guardian golems, once old dwarven statues, that will attack anyone who doesn’t know the passing words.
Level FIVE, ORCS AND NOSFERATU
This level was a short living orc city around 1000 BC. What’s left of it now are some scratches and signs crudely drawn on the walls. Before that, it was part of the hutaakan settlement, mostly cellars, and before that it was a city built by followers of Nyx and nosferatu. A small host of undead orcs infest the level.
The secret: Under an altar in this level there is a sleeping nosferatu, Lord Keiros, more than 2500 years old. When the hutaakans seized the place he was wounded and forced to hide. He will not automatically be hostile and knows much about this level and the others below, yet he is aligned with Nyx and wants the place for his goddess. Lord Keiros is very powerful and could be the only one strong enough to confront the ancient evil hidden in level 10 (see below)
Two Darker priests of Nyx, Lord Kivid and Lady Ilena - husband and wife from Specularum - will free Keiros if PCs do not do it before, and will later inhabit this level with him and five apprentices, two male and three female
Level SIX, FAIRY AND DARK
After the destruction of Taymora, and before Lord Keiros came here, the ruins were inhabited for a short time by some dark fairies aligned with no one. Keiros was able to banish them at the time, but the ancient evil that occupies the ruins awakened them again. They are basically powerful ghosts of several fairy folk, malevolent and mischievous, that will try to hurt anyone passing by in the most creative and funny (to them) possible way.
The secrets: There is a shortcut to avoid this level entirely both in the seventh and in the fifth levels, but it’s hid by secret doors very difficult to spot.
The Darkers were not really able to defeat the fairies but appeased them, granting them again a corporeal form and the rule of this level. Now the place seems like a twisted, dark forest where dozens of dark fairies live, from sidhe to satyrs to pookas. The dark fairies are really just biding their time to avenge themselves on Lord Keiros, who banished them so long ago. They are willing to ally with anyone willing to promise them revenge.
Level SEVEN, SIGNS OF THE UNIVERSE
This level was the Taymoran city of Kosmoteiros, that the Church of Nyx herself partially destroyed to prevent from falling into the hands of Thanatos’ followers. The holiest room is the great cave containing the Starlake, a great pool that mysteriously reflect stars and constellations. The artifact, being a small lake, cannot be obviously removed from here. “Night is truth, Light is lie” says the silver engraved inscription, in old Taymoran, on the walls of the cave.
Here resides The Last One, a vampire follower of Thanatos, immensely powerful, last surviving member of The Death Hand, a group of vampires that terrorized old Traladara 2500 years ago. He has magic and undead minions in large supply and only very powerful PCs, or PCs with very powerful allies, should be able to defeat him. Even if they can, he will not die but will escape to level TEN.
The secret: The Last One has defiled the Starlake. The waters will now slowly (3-12 years) kill any living being touching them and slowly corrupt any undead creature. The effect is so slow that it cannot be easily detected and indeed Nyx herself isn’t yet aware of it.
If several spells are cast on the lake during a particular cosmic alignment happening once every 936 years, a permanent gate to Nyx’s home plane will be opened, the Sun will be extinguished, and the True Life of Nyx (Undeath for all) will triumph. Her followers could not complete the ritual in 1777 BC because the city was assaulted by Thanatos’ followers. Neither could they in 841 BC as gnolls had occupied the city and could not be defeated. In 95 AC the Darkers almost succeeded, but were killed at the last moment by priests of Ixion. The next alignment is in 1031 AC, and they will not miss it. Obviously Ixion will do almost anything to avoid this and Thanatos will do almost anything to use the event for his own ends. If the defilement of The Last One is not discovered in time, the rite will open a permanent gate to the home plane of Thanatos, and not to the one of Nyx as intended.
The Darkers will think, wrongly, to have destroyed The Last One along with his minions and will transform the level into the main headquarters of the Sons of Night in Karameikos. At least a hundred people will live here permanently, with more coming and going. Among them there will be several powerful wizards and priests, like Mogren, the Grand Darker and most powerful wizard, and the Grand Daughter of the Night, Lady Sonya, the most powerful priestess of Nyx. The followers of Nyx will be here studying the place day and night.
In the year 1031 AC at the very last, every plan should come to fruition and if any side manages to use the artifact, the fate of Karameikos could change forever. The PC’s actions should decide the outcome of the millennia old fight for Koskatep.
Level EIGHT, SERPENT EYE
Lizardmen and troglodytes lived here for a century in ancient times, and they made scaly decorations, serpent heads, and eyes drawn and sculpted on the walls, giving this level a slightly disquieting look. Gems were inlaid everywhere, but were long ago plundered by Taymorans and only empty sockets remains now. Just for fun, The Last One has awakened a hundred remains of ancient lizardmen and troglodytes to infest this level. Most of them are zombies, many of them are mummies, and some are vampires with magical abilities. They would gladly turn against him if given the chance.
The secret: One of the lizardmen, once a shaman, knows how to open a portal to the Blight Swamp. He would like to search for the descendants of his people there, and proposes an alliance to anyone working against The Last One.
When the Darkers arrive, they will strike a bargain with the lizardman shaman, so this level will be full of lizardmen and troglodytes alive and undead, busy opening portals to contact all of their kind living in western Karameikos in order to win them over to the cause of Nyx.
Level NINE, CRYSTAL HEART
This level was Krystallac, a holy place of the fairy and giant realm of Grondheim. The walls of this levels are heavily decorated with magically enlightened, coloured crystals and beautiful natural designs. This level is empty, apparently everything of value was plundered when the city fell to the lizardmen many centuries ago.
The secrets: Even though fairy folk were driven away from the city so many years ago, they have always maintained a hidden magical gate in a small, unassuming room. Now sidhe lords from across the Known World, Oberon’s court, and Storm Giants are gathering their strength to reconquer Krystallac. Unknown to the Darkers, at the time of Grondheim, sidhe priests discovered the Starlake could indeed be used to open any permanent gate to any other plane, and the fairies would like to open one to the Dreamlands. Yet, as the Starlake is defiled, the gate would now open to the Unseelie court, unless it is first purified.
Before the Darkers arrive, this level is empty, and afterwards it still is, even though the Darkers are slowly exploring it, hoping to find some lost fairy folk artifact.
Level TEN, GEM OF THE SUN
This level was the Inti city 3500 years ago. Not much is left of that time except for some decorations of the sun that have been defiled by The Last One. He found some Inti mummies on this level and animated them. The mummies were priests of Ixion and so despise him so much that they are slowly breaking away from his control, and one day soon they will be able to rebel.
The secrets: Quehuar, the most ancient mummy and shaman, has a useful weapon hidden in a secret compartment in his old sepulchral room, the Gem of the Sun, an enchanted item that can turn undead as a 36th level Lawful Cleric. Once he gains his freedom from The Last One’s control, he will use it.
After the Darkers take control, The Last One hides here, commanding the Inti mummies to hide as well, and casting a powerful illusion to make this level look empty. The Darkers fall for it, but sooner or later they will make plans to use this level and The Last One will be forced to fight them again. To prepare himself he is arranging the summoning of several demons and vampires faithful to the Most Dark One.
What he does not know is that Quehuar is planning his revolt, and when the time is right he will receive huge support from the thirteenth level. Once Ixion’s followers have destroyed The Last One and his minions, they will destroy Nyx’s followers as well. After that, Ixion’s plan is to bring Koskatep into the world as his most important temple, making it a centre of learning for his clerics, fully integrated in the young nation of Karameikos. He now believes it is worthless to try to keep it a secret any longer.
Level ELEVEN, THE BLACK HEARTH
Beastmen followers of Hel, primitive bugbears, occupied this level for many years after the Great Rain of Fire. Massacred by the Inti, they have left no apparent trace whatsoever, as the new masters of Koskatep considered them unclean, so they cleared the level of any trace of their presence to use it as storerooms. As the fairies of Grondheim never bothered to clear it up, old Inti crates and goods, most all completely decayed, still litter these rooms. Searching for many hours, it is still possible to find several ancient Inti magical weapons, as well as precious and semi-precious stones.
The secrets: Hel wanted to know what Ixion hid here and even though the Sun lord’s followers reconquered the place some centuries after, before her followers were able to break into the inner temple, she had foreseen that and made preparations. She inspired some beastmen to secretly create a very big parallel level next to this one, where whole families moved before the Inti attack. They have lived in this system of great caverns ever since, with radiance items, adequate water and food (mostly mushrooms and insects), and magical light, growing and preparing their invasion. They have dug more tunnels toward level Thirteen and now they are almost ready to strike. Out of nowhere thousands of ancient Beastmen will attack the Inner Temple and conquer The Dream of Fire, and Hel, Lady of Death, will forever rule over the infinite worlds.
After the Darkers take control, The Last One - now hiding in the level above - has animated some ancient beastmen as ghosts, who now roam this level. Questioning one of them, he, and consequently Thanatos, has learned of Hel’s plan. He just loves it: he will take control of the beastmen with his undead minions, make them undead, and then will use all to storm the Inner temple of Ixion. He just has to decide if it’s better to massacre Nyx’s puny followers before or after that...
Level TWELVE, GEM OF THE MOUNTAINS
Koskatepetl, the original Azcan city before the Great Rain of Fire, was once here. As it was purposely destroyed by the priests of Ixion from the level below, just a mass of debris and corpses - long ago turned to dust, is all of what’s left of the once proud and great city. Yet, as the beastmen did not explore it much, and the Inti found it impractical to try to clear, almost all the content of the city at the time is still here, buried in the ruins. That means here is one of the greatest treasure troves of the world and one of the most intact archeological sites of Blackmoorian times. At first look the city is just a maze of fallen tunnels full of rubble, difficult to cross, with some partially crumbled skeleton or skull around, but it is sufficient to have the patience to dig a little to find metals, gems, gold, clothes, furniture, blades, treasures, ancient codes and spells, and very dangerous items such as radiance machinery and weapons.
The secrets: The DM should point out to over enthusiastic PC’s that randomly pillaging the ruins is a major archeological crime. While PCs probably will not care about this, all the items found in Koskatepetl are still infected with the Wasting, the terrible disease that killed millions after the Great Rain of Fire - so foolish PCs will soon learn the error of their ways.
No undead inhabit old Koskatepetl nor do any lifeforms - not even oozes or small insects. That should give PCs a clue about the dangers of the place.
Nothing changes here after the Darkers take control. During the centuries The Last One has explored the city extensively but, much to his frustration, found it impossible to animate the dead here (an effect of the Temple), found the radiance items quite useless, and no passage whatsoever to the Inner temple he knows to lie below. Should he find himself in serious danger on Level Ten he might try to escape here, and be quite hard to find in the huge maze of rubble.
Level THIRTEEN, THE DREAM OF FIRE
It is impossible to reach the Inner Temple of Ixion, except as a consequence of the actions of Hel’s beastmen (see Level Eleven), or if the Temple is voluntarily opened from below by Ixion’s followers -- which may happen if Quehuar revolts against The Last One or to attack the Darkers before their ceremony in 1031 AC. Attempts to reach the Inner Temple with gates, teleport, or other magical means will fail, even if the PC’s somehow know about it -- note that only a few powerful individuals from the levels above are aware of the Temple’s existence at all and none of them would willingly share this information.
This level is a huge compound dedicated to Ixion, and is home to thousands of people who have chosen to become its guardians over the millennia. There are Sollux, brutemen, Hutaakan and human priests, and warriors living here under the earth from innumerable generations.
Obviously If the PCs have arrived here as enemies they will be fought to the bitter end, but a small group of people will never be able to conquer the temple, as it’s heavily guarded and there are very powerful priests among the guardians. Only an organized army of Hel’s, Nyx’s or Thanatos’ followers could do it, or a large number of fairies and giants. If the PCs arrived here as followers or allies of Ixion, however, they will be welcomed as the temple is preparing to reveal itself to the world and the inhabitants very much need information about the land in which they will emerge - and they could use the PC’s as emissaries and ambassadors to the Karameikan court. The priests will not hide the fact that they guard a powerful artifact, but will not explain the details of its nature and powers.
The secrets: The most sacred place is indeed the Inner Temple. Here is a huge chamber with a crystalline sarcophagus where Ashira, daughter of the Sun, has slept since the dawn of Time with the Dream of Fire. The artifact appears as a bronze box she keeps at her side, with her left hand over it. Several Sollux priests and warriors are always here, guarding her resting place, and the Dream. If the PC’s have managed to arrive here, either by stealth or by violence, Ishan, the highest priest, will not immediately attack them, but will warn them against the dangers of the artifact and will beg them to renounce the idea of using it.
Even if PC’s are able to defeat the guardians, “only someone willing to forfeit her life to avenge a great wrong” will be able to break the sarcophagus. That’s also written on the base of Ashira’s resting place, but in a language so ancient only an Immortal could read it. Only a woman, or a female being of any other race could open the sarcophagus, and only if she is willing to die to avenge a great wrong done to her people. Such a woman would be able to awake Ashira, and the Daughter of the Sun would grant her desire, and literally change the world. Thus, if Lady Sonya of the Darkers ever manages to arrive at The Dream, she would be able to undo the destruction of Taymora. If a Traladaran freedom fighter makes their way here, she would be able to undo the Thyatian invasion. If a Sidhe priestess could do it, she would be able to bring back the Fairy Golden Age, and so on, effectively erasing the existing timeline and supplanting it with another one.
If anyone ever manages to penetrate this far and is ready to awaken Ashira, Ixion himself will appear in his corporeal form of a sollux with burning hair. He cannot prevent the willing sacrifice of someone who wants to awake his daughter, but he will plead for them not to do it.
“Everyone would like to live forever. Everyone would like his or her family, his or her people, to live forever. This place could do it, it could give eternal life to you and your people. Have not the fairy folk who once ruled the world the right to bring back their days of glory? Have not the massacred Tal people the right to be avenged? Have not the Traladarans the right to be free? And the dragons, the giants, the brutemen, the lizard men? All were once proud and strong people that time devoured and other people conquered and destroyed. They all have the right to return and live forever, but should that happen, the future will never come to be. That is why we guarded this place and that is why we tried to prevent anyone from using its power”.
If the PC’s ignore Ixion’s plea and do it anyway he will not attack them, he will try to integrate the temple into the rest of the world anyway - whatever world it has now become. He will also ask his daughter to come with him, but she will refuse to stay on the prime plane. PC’s will have to live in a new world and will have to chose whether or not to help Ashira. Ixion will not persecute them. The Dream of Fire will become only a normal bronze box, its power forever expired.
After the Darkers take control, the danger for the temple increases considerably as The Last One has learned of Hel’s plan and would like to use it for his own ends. Ixion and his priests do not know yet about this, but they wish to destroy The Last One anyway, and they will try to do so with the aid of Quehuar’s rebellion. Even if they manage to destroy The Last One before he can enslave Hel’s beastmen, they would still risk a fight on two sides at once -- with Nyx’s followers above and Hel’s beastmen below, which could lead to their defeat. If PCs are not aligned with Hel or Nyx and are willing to help the Church of Ixion, they could be a decisive element in the oncoming struggle for control of Koskatep.
For the DM there are several possible events and consequences to consider: The Last One could be defeated but not killed, and could then hide in Level Twelve. Fairies and giants could intervene in the struggle. And obviously, PCs, or any of the several sides involved in this struggle, could manage to awaken Ashira, using the Dream of Fire to change reality according to their own wishes.
Koskatep contains two powerful artifacts, the Starlake and the Dream of Fire. Their potential effects are similar but not at all the same. The Starlake “only” opens a permanent gate to an Outer Plane, thus allowing the inhabitants of that plane to come freely to the Prime Material. Any side able to use the Starlake would probably be able to take control of Karameikos within a few years. Followers of Nyx would bring to the nation many intelligent undead, therefore creating a new Taymora. Yet the effects of the Starlake are reversible as someone might be able to close the gate and destroy the artifact, even if doing so would require a long and difficult task.
The Dream of Fire is much more powerful. It can change the reality of the entire world of Mystara, resurrecting a dead timeline from centuries or even millennia ago. The farther from the present such a timeline is, the more changes would appear in the present time. So undoing the Thyatian invasion of Traladara would probably change things mostly in just one nation, but undoing the destruction of Taymora would change things in all the Known World, and undoing the fall of the Fairy Courts would change things on the entire planet. PCs and the DM should be aware that use of The Dream of Fire would radically change the current campaign.