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Old Alphatia: Razud's Enigma

by Rodger Burns

Razud is undoubtedly the oldest and most powerful Alphatian Immortal in existence; he achieved immortality long before the Alphatian homeworld was destroyed, and guided the Alphatian refugees to safety on Mystara. And yet he's not a major Immortal among the Alphatians - Alphatia, Palartarkan and even Rathanos and Eiryndul are more well-known and prominent. There's a reason for this - simply put, for Razud, Mystara and the Prime are something of a sideline. He's much more involved with observing Old Alphatia, responding to the prayers of the mortals still stranded there and dealing with the continuing aftershocks of the destruction of the Alphatian homeworld. One of the subtler of these aftereffects is something that Razud has privately dubbed his 'Enigma'.

The Enigma is a complex magical signature, centered around the site of the final evacuation from old Alphatia, and absolutely unique in a way that disturbs Razud greatly. By itself, the existence of a magical residue around the Alphatians' exodus site isn't unusual - the Alphatian evacuation was perhaps the greatest work of mortal magic ever performed, a set of spells that allowed over a million beings to travel from Old Alphatia to the Prime Plane, so it would have been surprising if a magical signature hadn't been left behind. The thing that makes the Enigma so eerily fascinating is the way in which it's so much more complex than it ought to be. By rights, any signature of an interplanar passage, no matter how massive, ought to just incorporate one 'flavor', if you like, of destination elements - in this case, Sundsvall, Mystara, the Prime. Even a second destination intermixed in would be cause for alarm.

The Enigma signature doesn't mix a second destination in along with Sundsvall. It adds eleven more.

Trying to puzzle out exactly how many alternate destination flavors are encoded into the Enigma signature, and safely identifying and scouting the locations identified, has absorbed much of Razud's attention for the better part of the last two millennia. The work has been slow, careful and not very illuminating - all his efforts to date have identified the following:
- One alternate destination is on the world of Laterre in the Dimension of Myth, in a valley deep in the mountains that bisect the eastern part of the main continent. Razud's explorations here have uncovered the ruins of several cities built in the Alphatian style, but no sign of living Alphatians or their descendants.
- One alternate destination is the Sundsvall-equivalent location on the main inhabited planet of the Nightmare Dimension. This area is a taboo wilderness, with a vast field of slowly aging human bones and a thick miasma of abjuration and necromancy magics. Razud's attempts to unearth information from the histories and legends of the region's native diaboli have uncovered nothing of use.
- One alternate destination is the Sundsvall-equivalent location on the Elemental Plane of Air's Mystara-analogue, a seemingly bottomless ocean of liquid fog. Needless to say, no trace of Alphatian habitation can be found here.
- One alternate destination is the depths of a trackless tropical jungle, on a planet whose dominant lifeform is a large unintelligent carnivorous dinosaur. Razud has not yet been able to identify this planet's location in the greater multiverse.
- One alternate destination is a small, barren asteroid, suspended by unknown means within the chaos of the Vortex Dimension. The asteroid has gravity, atmosphere, and a connection back to the Normal Dimension; Razud has not dared explore beyond its surface.
- Two alternate destinations lead to highly hostile environments - Razud sent an avatar to each, but had to flee within moments of arrival to avoid destruction of the avatar. The nature of the destinations, aside from 'extremely dangerous', is basically unknown and Razud has no interest in further direct exposure.
- One alternate destination apparently leads to an extremely hostile environment, or else a location inhabited by extremely vigilant and dangerous beings - Razud sent an avatar which never came back. Razud's quiet fear is that the agency behind his avatar's disappearance here is an intelligent being or civilization, competent enough to pose a threat to Immortals and interested in backtracking the avatar's line of travel - this would end up causing an interplanar invasion of Old Alphatia. So far no such scenario has materialized, but Razud remains vigilant.
- Three alternate destinations remain unexplored so far. Razud is hoping that nothing from the other side will pop through to Old Alphatia (whether by accident or on purpose) before he has a chance to deal with them on his own terms.

Adventure Hook: Razud hasn't historically been willing to trust outsiders - mortal or Immortal - with knowledge of the Enigma; lucky or capable PCs could buck the trend, though. PCs who uncover information relating to the Enigma (whether through tomb-raiding an Alphatian dungeon, thwarting a plot by Alphaks, Talitha or a similar Entropic Immortal, triggering a magical mishap with similar effects, or whatever) could find themselves approached by one of Razud's priests (or even Razud himself, if they're high enough level or junior Immortals themselves) to assist in study of the Enigma. This could lead to adventures on Laterre, Elemental Air, the Nightmare Dimension, or even stranger places.