- A. R. Frayre
THE CHILDREN of OLHYDRA
As you and your party grind on through the mist-covered salt marsh, you all come upon what appears to be the remains of a shrine to some unknown deity. Upon a large, granite, algae-covered landing, the carved stone image of a multi-armed creature sits. A serviceable barge floats tethered to the base of a flimsy wooden dock connected to the shrine. The stone shrine is covered in splashes of blood and gore, and several piles of bones, entrails, and shattered weapons lay scattered about the foot of the massive structure. Also amongst the rotting gore and debris, various chests, urns, and crates also sit, containing piles of coins, gems, and jewelry of all manner.
As you approach the shrine, you begin to hear the grotesque sounds of crunching bones and rending flesh, to your dismay, you see a massive, slime-covered terror lumber out from behind the stone god a Giant Devil Toad! The bloody remains of its last victim still clinging from its fearsome jaws! In an instant, several more of the monstrous abominations emerge from the foul waters around you and attack.
Giant Devil Toads are a species of monstrous amphibians that dwell within the darkest and deepest swamps and salt marshes of Athas. They are often worshiped as the spawn of the evil water Archomental Olhydra, Queen Mother of Evil Water Elementals.
As the battle rages, a group of Lacedon (water ghouls) and Swamp Giants join the battle to protect the shrine.
Lacedon are a breed of aquatic-dwelling undead that skulk about swamps and within the sewers and cisterns of the city-states, while Swamp Giants are a race of large, mutated hulks that seem to be an odd mix of amphibian and half-giant.
The horde of beasts fling themselves at the heroes, with all the raging fanaticism of a wild crocodile! Wave after vicious wave the aquatic guardians attack, as the party fight back with equal savagery, hacking and slashing their way through the ranks of water-demons. After some tense moments, the party will eventually slay a good part of the horde and send the rest screaming back into the misty swamps.
After the battle with the water-demons, the party rummaged through the shrine’s offerings and found a large cache of gems, coins of silver and gold, and a few enchanted items. Not wanting to stick around in this foul place, the heroes quickly boarded the large barge and proceeded north up the river. After a few miles of river travel through the thick mists, the group finally reaches the rocky shores of the canyon of Ul-Dur-Rak, gateway to the Valley of Oz-Oka.
GRAVE of the LOST
You enter the twisting canyon of Ul-Dur-Rak. The entire area and canyon walls are covered in a layer of crystalized salt. A lone trade wagon sits at the side of the canyon wall. Around the wagon, dozens of desiccated corpses lay, some clutching empty waterskins. Suddenly from the shadows, a small, winged, crystalline-creature (a Salt Mephit) emerges and lands on one of the corpses, grooming itself.
Salt Mephits are a breed of elemental imps that dwell within subterranean caverns, salt flats, and places of death and despair linked to salty desert locals, such as areas were large groups of people had died of starvation and thirst.
It soon notices the party and flies up to the heroes. It observes the party intently. As the party attempt to communicate with the beast, it swiftly angers and lets out a loud screech. In an instant, more of the Salt Mephits emerge from the salty walls, ground, and wagon.
As the battle continues, one of the Salt Mephits lets out a horrific screech, then suddenly, a horde salt-covered desiccated corpses emerge from the salty-earth and canyon walls—Salt Zombies!
Salt Zombies are an undead creature born of hate. Resembling the common zombie, these animated corpses are much more powerful (and even a little more intelligent) than their purely magical brethren. These creatures are formed when a humanoid dies of thirst within a salty environment.
Unlike common zombies, salt zombies do not look like rotting corpses, but rather resemble a thin and desiccated husk, appearing almost mummified (although not wrapped in strips of linen like a mummy). The eyes of a salt zombie are sunken and shriveled, the limbs are thin and spindly, and the abdomen is desiccated and thin. Their lips are often dry and cracked, but do not bleed.
Once this mob of walking dead appear, the heroes clash into their shambling ranks with savagery, destroying the crystal salt-imps with blade and magical attacks, and sending most of the Salt Zombies tuned by the Leth’s divine power, sending them fleeing deeper into the canyon.
As the party treks deeper into the canyon, they come upon a huge monolith carved of silvery, salt-covered crystal. The monolith is covered in the ancient Draxa, which the wizard Tan-Oz-Gora fearfully translates. The inscription reads as thus;
In ages past, at the height of the Green-age, before the calamity that took Athas to the brink of destruction, there stood a mighty kingdom far to the south, the legendary realm of Zinj. This land was governed by a council of 6 good and just kings, and for countless generations, prospered under their leadership.
In those days, the Old Gods walked amongst the people, guiding them and protecting them from all things dark and wicked. Mighty cities and great temples were built in their honor, and the Gods’ wisdom and power lifted the people to unimagined greatness in the area of science, magic, and psionics.
Amongst the Old Gods, one in particular was the most beloved, the young Godling known as Jarak-Synn, for it was he that showed the people of Zinj how to harness their talents in the mystical ways, and was their chief protector.
It was here that the ruling council of Zinj were each given 6 Sacred Treasures by Jarak-Synn, to help their respective realms thrive, and have the governing body as a whole rule with wisdom and honor. These artifacts, each imbued with a tiny fragment of Jarak-Synn’s soul, known as known as The 6 Treasures of Zinj were The Orb Arcanos, The Goddess of the Twin-Moons, The Idol of the Hellfire Heart, The Icon of the Deep, The Golden Goblin of the 4th Age, and The Stone of the Mind.
In time, the people of Zinj grew powerful, and with it, came dark corruption. They abandoned the Gods, lost their way, and became bitter and jealous of one another. For decades, war was amongst them, as each race fought one another for control of the realm. In the end, after countless bloody confrontations a King emerged from the south, Lord Yanoth Calibrimdion, also known as Yanoth the Usurper. With an iron fist the races of dwarf, elf, and man came under his rule, and Zinj was his.
For a time, Yanoth brought order through terror within ancient Zinj, but this was only the calm before the storm…When the horrors of the Cleansing Wars swept across the face of Athas and laid waste to the lands, Zinj was no exception. For years, the armies of darkness ravaged the southern realms, led by one of the 12 Champion of Rajaat, Uyness of Waverly, who later became known as the Dragon-Queen Abalach-Re of Raam.
Yanoth and his people pleaded to the Gods for help in their hour of need, but none came. All seemed lost until one of the few believers of the Old Gods that still remained, the Paladin Urdos Kha, stepped into the forefront of this carnage as a beacon of light and hope, for such was his faith in the Gods that he brought with him a mighty scion from beyond, a being of pure light and good, the Godling known as Jarak-Synn. With Jarak-Synn leading the charge, the armies of Zinj started to fight back and win against the Dragon-queen and her horde of Undead Orcish Warriors. The forces of Abalach-Re proved to be no match for Jarak-Synn and Urdos Kha’s armies, and were slowly being driven out of Zinj. Seeing Urdos Kha’s immanent victory, Yanoth the Usurper grew enraged with jealously and fear, for he knew once Abalach-re was defeated and driven out of the realms, that the people of Zinj would revolt against the crown and name Urdos’ Kha king of Zinj. With the 6 Treasures of Zinj in his hands and a Godling at his side, Urdos Kha surely could not be opposed from doing this…Yanoth had to think fast…
In act of selfish desperation, Yanoth called upon the darkness of the void and made an unholy pact with the mad elemental titan of magma himself, Chilimba, to destroy both Abalach-Re’s weakened forces and Urdos Kha’s army in one fell swoop. As the forces of Zinj raised their blades in victory as the last of the Dragon-queen’s army fled the battlefield, Yanoth’s wish was fulfilled, but at a deadly cost--for on that day, the kingdom of Zinj became no-more…
With a mighty blast of his nostrils, the elemental titan Chilimba ripped a gate into the very fabric of reality, summoning forth a massive wave of molten rock and fire from the para-elemental plane of magma, blanketing the entire realm of Zinj, destroying every living thing, including Yanoth himself.
Weakened and quickly fading from existence, Jarak-Synn used the last of his magic to shield Urdos Kha and a handful of his retainers from the devastation. With the dark corruption called forth by Yanoth and Chilimba’s devastation now taking over his heart and mind, the mangled Jarak-Synn, with his dying breath, ordered Urdos Kha to scatter the 6 treasures across the face of Athas so they could never be reunited, for on that day, Jarak-Synn would rise again, not as a being of light and good and hope for Athas, but as a plague upon the world, a creature of vast sorrow and darkness whose sole wish would be to bring forth the final age of Athas, The Obsidian Dawn…