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Forgotten Places of Davania: The Ruins of Pelenzorby Geoff Gander
"With golden gates and emerald fields, stood Pelenzor the Lovely. 'Midst sharpened spears and burnished shields, stood Pelenzor the Mighty.
"O come ye, soldier, hear my tale, of bravery, glory, and warriors hale For 'pon yon Plains there stood a realm, whose might They could not overwhelm.
"They of the Dark, deceivers all, They who heed the Outer call. They came in forces bringing doom, yet for Pelenzor there was naught of gloom. For bold and brave, most serene stood Taranitha, the city's Queen.
'Harken, men, of bold Pelenzor! Heed me, bring the enemy war! The foul ones shall be turned back ere long, while we in our glory remain strong!'
"Alas! For such did not transpire, for Pelenzor were the tidings dire! Walls did fall, temples did burn, yet true honour did Pelenzor earn In its hour of death, for warriors bold made Dark blood run still and cold.
"With battered gates and empty halls, stands Pelenzor the Burned. 'Midst fallen spires and tumbled walls, stands Pelenzor the Dead."
----untitled poem, dated c. BC 7000, found forgotten in an archival chamber in Calimnis, Selhomarr.
The city-state of Pelenzor was founded circa BC 7500 by the scattered remnants of Orimul (which had been destroyed the Carnifex over 400 years previously, and some of whose people had remained in Davania to try to rebuild), as well as members of various nomadic clans who had lived on the Izondian grasslands, but had been displaced by recent infighting. The narrow valley in which the city-state was built soon proved to be a good defensible location, as the residents managed to repel many raids successfully, with little loss of life. Soon, the two cultures merged, producing a people unique in their own right, and they proved strong enough militarily to force most of the surrounding peoples to abandon any hope of raiding or destroying them. Centuries passed, and Pelenzor became a city-state of note, primarily because it was one of the only havens in the often-dangerous grasslands of northwestern Davania, and also because it had become a trading hub, where the crafts of the surrounding nomads could be bought by the more "civilised" people of the east. Led by a strong dynasty, and having gained the respect of the nomads, Pelenzor's future seemed secure.
Pelenzor was besieged by the rampaging hordes of the Carnifex of Y'hog in spring of BC 7027, as part of a final attempt to place all of Davania under their heel. The Pelenzorian queen, Taranitha, knew that her meagre forces could not hold long against the troglodyte army massed before them, but that every additional day they remained free, was an extra day the Lhomarrian-led alliance would have to muster more of its own troops, and bring them to the fore. The enemy hurled a vast array of offensive magics at the Pelenzorians, battering their walls, teleporting hideous beasts into the midst of the city, and raining fiery death upon the populace.
As valiantly as the defenders fought, they could not hold off their opponents for long. Within two weeks, Pelenzor fell, and the populace was massacred by the battle-crazed troglodyte warriors and their Carnifex overlords. So complete was the destruction and looting that all of the surviving buildings were torn down, and anything flammable was put to the torch. The conquerors had intended to sacrifice Taranitha and her household, but found them dead in their chambers, having preferred to take their own lives rather than be used by the Carnifex.
It was in the midst of their week-long orgy of drinking, fighting, and looting that the Carnifex horde was attacked by Brell's forces. They had the element of surprise, and were able to claim several strategic locations within Pelenzor's ruins, in the hopes of driving back the Carnifex-led force. Alas, such was not to be, and it was during a particularly violent Carnifex counterattack that the Lhomarrian-led force's general, Brell, was killed by a poisoned arrow. In disarray, the allied force gave ground, and was soon routed from the ruined city - but not before taking their beloved general's body with them. Several miles distant, they entombed him within a small cavern, and departed.
Though Pelenzor has long since been forgotten, there is one fragment of a tale from that time which remains. During the campaign to retake the ruins of Pelenzor, a detachment of Lhomarrian soldiers was exploring part of the city's vast network of catacombs, which had remained largely intact. In one chamber, deep under the ruins, they claimed to have discovered a treasure vault, containing those items which the royal family had apparently secreted away during the siege, in the hopes that they would never be found by their enemies. In one side chamber, they were astounded to find a gigantic block of shimmering crystal, in which was entombed a lithe young woman, no more than fifteen years of age at most, who bore a strong resemblance to the late queen. Rendered almost speechless over their experience, they rushed back to camp, excitedly telling their companions of their find, and requested that a formal expedition be sent into the catacombs to retrieve the mysterious woman. Unfortunately, that party was not able to locate the treasure vault, or the mysterious side chamber containing the young woman.
The account of the discovery, however, filtered its way throughout the Lhomarrian army, and from there to those people living in the area who had managed to escape the Carnifex onslaught. This story gradually evolved into a legend, and was known even to the Milenians thousands of years later, as "The Tale of the Lost Cavern Maiden". Even today, many peoples living in northern Davania have such a story somewhere in their folklore, though the maiden is always one of their own kind, and the reasons for her entombment vary greatly.
Nothing visible exists of Pelenzor today. Situated in a narrow lush valley, surrounded by grasslands, the ruins of Pelenzor and its surroundings were buried by encroaching deserts following the Great Rain of Fire, such that modern visitors would have to dig through almost 100 feet of sand to reach the tallest remnants. Even though it is protected by the sand, Pelenzor's remains suffered greatly from the elements in the millennia following its fall to the Carnifex hordes; no structure above ground was intact, and no walls stood more than five feet in height. Explorers who managed to excavate its ruins would find a few small artifacts - pins, combs, coins, bones, and the like - but everything of noticeable value has long since been pillaged.
One thing would stand out as testament to the evil acts which took place here. Located in what was once the main square of the city-state, is a vast collection of bone fragments, ashes, bits of metal, and a few isolated fragments of clothing. It was here, following the massacres subsequent to the Carnifex army's victory, that the corpses of the fallen were unceremoniously dumped and, for the most part, eaten. Whatever remained afterwards was burned.
Other features of interest include several ruined temples, the former palace, numerous broken pieces of statuary, surviving Pelenzorian frescoes and mosaics, and several fine examples of troglodyte graffiti. It is what lies beneath the ruined city-state, however, which would interest the visitor most of all. For the most part, the catacombs of Pelenzor are largely intact - owing perhaps to the excellent engineering inherent in the original construction. Here, one may find all manner of refuse and relics, most of which managed to escape the conquest of Pelenzor. Also present in this subterranean warren are numerous forms of incorporeal undead, such as wraiths, spectres, and the like - many of whom were residents of the city in life. Also present are many varieties of slimes and puddings, and other creatures which have managed to make their way into the complex over the past millennia.
Located in a more isolated portion of the catacombs - sealed off from the rest of it, for the most part - is what was once the Royal Vault, which contains the wealth of Pelenzor. Here, undisturbed for over 8,000 years, sits a vast collection of art, chests of coinage and gems, and other treasures. Though this wealth would no doubt be enticing to the average explorer, taking any of it would be a task fraught with peril, for the many statues in the vault are actually golems, living statues, and other constructs, who will animate should any treasure be taken.
Perhaps the greatest surprise of all lies in a side chamber, which is itself warded against those of evil alignment. The sole item in that plain chamber is a block of clear crystal, measuring six feet on a side, containing the hibernating form of Princess Jasinnia, daughter of the late Queen Taranitha. Shortly before the fall of Pelenzor, Taranitha had her court wizards place her daughter in a magical slumber, and then encased in a protective cube of magical crystal. The queen had hoped that, in the event that she died, and Pelenzor was conquered, there might come a time when the city-state could rise again, and Jasinnia could be there to lead it to greatness once more. Jasinnia knew of her mother's plans, and agreed to the entombment, believing that it would be for the good of her future subjects. She was entrusted with an ivory scroll tube, in which rested the scroll of lore, a seemingly endless scroll containing much of the knowledge possessed by Pelenzor's scholars at the time. It was thought that, with the knowledge contained therein, Pelenzor could rebuild much faster than would otherwise be the case. Thus has she remained for the intervening years, completely unaware of the drastic changes which have taken place in the world outside. The nature of her preservation is such that she could be revived either through a wish, or dispel magic (cast by a spellcaster of at least 25th level), after which the block of crystal would dissolve, leaving her lying on the floor and regaining consciousness in 10 rounds. How she would react to the changes the world has undergone since her entombment is a matter for the DM to decide.
Pelenzor is not a place that most PCs will hear about over the course of their journeys, given its remote location (in the middle of the Izondian desert, buried deep under the sand). They are highly unlikely to hear about it in the Known World, and even in northern Davania, the only reference to it will be through various legends concerning a maiden trapped in a cave, and the connection between these and Pelenzor will be vague at best. The only place where PCs will have a real chance of learning about it is Selhomarr, and even so, they would have to spend a long time sifting through that nation's collected historical documents - assuming they could readily get access to them in the first place. The average Selhomarrian would know that there was once a city-state known as Pelenzor, which was the site of a great battle - after all, this is where Brell, their legendary general, died - but not much more than that. Scholars would know a little more about the place, to the point of knowing that it stood in a valley surrounded by lush grasslands, but then, due to the Spell of Preservation, they would not pursue the inquiry further; after all, the old world was destroyed ages ago, following the destruction of Lhomarr.
Persistent PCs, or those having a Selhomarrian PC with connections, could manage to enter the main archives of Calimnis, where, after hours of searching, they might locate an ancient map or text, which itself is a copy of an even older document or map. There, they could learn where Pelenzor once stood. Returning to the surface world would be an adventure in itself (just as going to Selhomarr in the first place would be), followed by an equally arduous trek to Davania, through the Izondian desert, and finally reaching the site where Pelenzor's ruins lay buried. That said, DMs are free to insert other means by which the PCs might learn of Pelenzor and its fabled treasures - perhaps a grizzled explorer, unable to make the journey to Davania, tracks down the PCs and gives them a mysterious map, or a strange text describing a once-great city, and asks them to locate the ruins for him, or any other means might be used.
The exploration of the ruins would be highly dangerous - DMs are encouraged to throw in all manner of natural and man-made hazards (including collapsing tunnels, traps, and the like), as well as encounters with undead (some of which would be quite powerful). The treasures located in the vault, as well as the discovery of Princess Jasinnia, however, would make the trek worthwhile.