The Kingdom of Avandrool
Capital: Kivesh and Raavesh, The Drowned Cities — Population 26,000 (750,000)
Major Settlements: Ramadar (pop 12,000), North Gate (pop 3000)
Ruler: King Ehren Romdhas-Poag
Government: Monarchy (Theocracy)
Major Races: Humans, Grippli, Murkdwellers
Major Faiths: Rajuk Amon-Gore, Oouhk-Ok-Ruk (see below)
Resources: Copper, Fish
Languages: Common, Grippli, Fishspeak
The Kingdom of Avandrool lies just south of Kesh, in the shadow of the Inuiak Mountains. Once, this lush, forested region was a bustling trade empire, but when a deadly plague befell the people, the kingdom collapsed into ruin. Not even King Romdhas survived the pestilence. Fearing the spread of this plague, the neighboring kingdoms worked together, erecting a massive wall of yellow stone to seal off Avandrool. Although several large, copper gates were built into the wall to allow entry, few have ever dared to attempt access. Even with the passing of centuries, rumours still abound of the strange death that kills quickly and makes the skin burst with black nodules.
Avandrool is not an abandoned kingdom, despite its appearance. The walls which mark its border are old and cracked, their yellow surface invaded by sickly, green moss. The copper gates are similarly green with corrosion. The forest, once rich with emerald-hued trees that stood as tall as giants, is now a swamp land, drowned by a dark water that bubbles and oozes. The smell of decay billows up from the thick, viscous black-green swamp water, and every now and then, the surface ripples as something swims by.
Even before entering the walls of Avandrool, travelers can hear the faint emanations of music echoing overhead. The melody is tantalizing but not hypnotic, filled with a haunting quality that speaks of Avandrool's past, and the terrible loss this realm has suffered.
Traveling through Avandrool: Traversing the pungent swamp land can be difficult at best, or downright treacherous, if travelers do not take necessary precautions. Myths speak of rituals that must be completed to avoid the owls alerting dark forces to intruders. Other tales mention ghoulish, robed ferrymen, whose service can be purchased by tossing a handful of coppers into the water. The tales also recommend avoiding eye contact with the ferrymen, because this is the only way a ferryman can free itself from duty, by exchanging souls with an onlooker. Of course, these could all just be tales told to scare children, as no one has visited Avandrool in many years.
However one traverses Avandrool, there are several areas of note, either to seek out or avoid. They are:
The Hanging Fields: There are places where the trees grow thick, their long limbs dipping into the dark water beneath. Ancient willows gather almost as if in communion, sharing whatever secrets trees are known to share. In reality, these groupings of willow trees often conceal a horrible truth: the bodies of the dead, bound by rope and hanging by their necks from slumped branches, sometimes with the corpses submerged up to their waists in the murky water. When the pestilence first broke out in Avandrool, a fearful people blamed witchcraft. While King Romdhas cowered in his holiday palace far outside his capital, the Black Church took action, forming a Ministry of Inquisition, whose knights were set to round up and deal with any potential occultists. These fields of Hanging Trees are the result of their purge. Sadly, the church learned too late that the plague had nothing to do with witchcraft, and that many of the victims put to death were in fact innocent.
The Grippli Tribelands: Although their territory is not clearly marked, travelers in Avandrool are best to assume that any of the swamp lands are grippli territory: from the wall that encapsulates Avandrool to the edge of the Grim Bluffs near the heart of the kingdom. Of course, no one knows if the grippli appeared around the time the swamp began to manifest, or if they came here from somewhere else, having learned of the new habitat developing in Avandrool. What is certain is that outsiders found wandering are likely to be attacked by a grippli hunting party, whose paranoia of murkdwellers from the Drowned Cities (see below) make them fearful and xenophobic towards any trespassers. Gaining their trust can be a difficult challenge.
The Drowned Cities: Kivesh and Raavesh are twin cities, whose many roads intersect where Romdhas Palace rises, just beneath the Grim Bluffs that lead to the Inuiak Mountains. Once, their labyrinthine streets were bustling with the businesses of a free and open marketplace, but with the rise of the Black Church, the onslaught of the plague, and the appearance of the swamp lands, the cities have been all but abandoned. Half submerged in swamp water (and sinking deeper), both cities have fallen into ruin and desolation. While the current ruler, King Ehren Romdhas-Poag stays locked away in the safety of his family's palace, the Black Church rules over what remains of Avandrool, doing its best to prepare the people for the End of All Things. The church uses music, dance, and folklore to tell the story of Rajuk Amon-Gore, patron of The Inevitable and the End of Times. It is this music which can be heard even beyond the walls of Avandrool, and those who remain here find a resigned solace in hearing the music play.
In addition to teaching the lessons of Rajuk Amon-Gore, the church also conducts weekly sermons to help ease the people's concerns. Some of these sermons address the sightings of bizarre fish-like humanoids near and in what are now called the Under-Quarters, formerly the sewer systems of the twin cities. Mordant Vicars and Doom Priests work tirelessly to suppress these nonsensical fears, which often deal with rumours of the church's involvement in creating monstrous sea people.
The Under-Quarters, and the Vast City in the Deep: In fact, the church themselves are engaged in a secret battle to destroy the fish-people known as murkdwellers, if only to contain a problem they started. When the church unleashed the Black Burning plague, they knew full well how deadly it would be, and how quickly it would spread. As agents of Rajuk Amon-Gore, the bishops and their priesthood, along with the Holy Guild of Assassins, were all safe from the harmful effects of the sickness. Stolen from ancient sahuagin rituals, the priesthood thought nothing of the consequences of their action. The first stage of the pestilence went as it should, with millions dying swiftly and painfully. But where the bishops expected undead followers to rise up in the second stage, instead the bodies of the deceased went strange; a thick, gooey resin pumped from the large, black nodules on the body, creating a crystalline shell-like cocoon that fully encased the corpse. After several days, the cocoons would crack, bursting 3 to 5 dog-sized tadpole things that writhed and slithered, desperately searching for water. Within a week's time, each tad-pole would metamorphose into a human-sized, fish-headed humanoid.
These creatures thrive in the dark, dank sewers beneath Kivash and Raavesh. While their intelligence is limited, they retain some memories from their former parent body, and these memories are passed down as the murkdwellers lay eggs and multiply. This gives them a rudimentary familiarity with humans and the land of Avandrool above.
In the centuries since the plague was unleashed, their numbers have swelled to nearly three-quarters of a million, and they are widely responsible for the spreading of swamp lands throughout Avandrool. In fact, the Under-Quarters, though covering a broad range stretching across both cities, are barely large enough to hold even a fraction of that number. Rather, the murkdwellers, working tirelessly and driven by some instinctual command, burrowed deep underneath Avandrool, eventually opening a passage to an underground sea that hid an eons-old city belonging to an ancient alien culture. Many artifacts dedicated to an eyeless behemoth exist in this realm, and the symbolism has been adapted by the murkdwellers and spread throughout the Under-Quarters. To the surface people, the strange trinkets the murkdwellers make, like copper jewelry and curved, copper knives are meaningless, crude objects. But to the murkdwellers themselves, they are focusing elements that enchant them with the power of their new god, Oouhk-Ok-Ruk (a crude translation from their fishspeak). Even stranger, these items, fashioned deep under water, never corrode, though few people from the surface have noticed this detail.
Other Places of Interest: In addtion to the city of Ramadar perched atop the bluffs and looking down upon the drowned cities with disdain, there is also North Gate, an old mining town established at the entrance to the copper mines in the Inuiak Mountains. And there is the Holiday Palace, which lies just outside of Kivesh, and is the place where King Romdhas met his end as the plague came to his doorstep. There are many stranger things, too, yet to be discovered.
Avandrool holds many secrets…for those brave enough to enter….