No one knows just who or what Despana was. Her contemporaries believed that she came from the jungles said to lie beyond the Southron Wastes, which was where the Dhe'nar had by that time resided for tens of millennia. The earliest rumors of Despana reached the ruling classes of the Elven Empire in -19,864, which is roughly the same time period as the Great Fire that destroyed Sharath. Despana completed construction of the Keep at Maelshyve in -18,756, over three thousand years before the Undead War. In the year -15,497 it is said her chief minion Dharthiir began recruiting orcs, trolls, and humans to join his undead army. Other forces were part of Despana's army as well, such as a large contingent of minotaurs led by Tordaak.
While the Elven Empire had fought undead forces such as the Vishmiir, the Dhe'nar practiced the necromancy of undeath much earlier, and other undead such as the Black Wolves of Aramur Forean date back to the Second Age, Despana is infamous for raising what is presumably the largest undead horde in history. "The Undead" nearly destroyed the Elven Empire during the Undead War. In religious legends it is said Koar had prohibited the spread of information regarding undeath to mortals before the undead war but allowed it after. The Luukosian Order was not founded until after the Undead War, though its high priest Morvule pre-dates it by thousands of years.
Despana searched the old places of the Ur-Daemon and discovered the Book of Tormtor in the land of Rhoska-Tor. The Book of Tormtor is often assumed to be an Ur-Daemon relic, which was said to have been written in their language, though why the Ur-Daemon would have books or how Despana would know how to read it is not explained. This is not actually known. Other theories are that Despana discovered the library of Fash'lo'nae, which is rumored to be "fractured" and accessed in multiple places, while the Dhe'nar claim the book was something they left behind. The Dhe'nar are thought to have learned to control the undead in the Wastes when they lived there 20,000 years before Despana. "rha’sha’tor" in Dhe'nar-si means "giver and taker of life." Demons historically are also associated with making the undead, and the Faendryl first began summoning demons roughly 20,000 years prior to Despana.
The exact beginning and end dates of the Undead War are inconsistent between historical documents, but it is known that Despana was defeated in the -15,180s, usually given as the year -15,185 or sometimes -15,188. House Faendryl ended Despana in the Battle of Maelshyve, when her horde was driven back by lesser demons and the fortress was imploded. The Book of Tormtor was lost in the war, but whether or not it was destroyed is unknown. It was last rumored to be in the possession of Shar. Though the Grot'karesh Hammer Clan believe she will return, bringing about a second Age of Chaos, Despana was never heard from again. Whether she is dead or only exiled is not known.
There is to this day an unhealing tear in the veil at Maelshyve due to its implosion. Demons emerge from this rift at random, which is guarded against by the Faendryl Armata, though most are allowed to move west toward the Demonwall as punishment for the Third Elven War. Despana is thought to have been very fond of urglaes, a cursed metal of darkness found in the blasted lands around Maelshyve, and that she used the metal in her magical workings.
Behind the Scenes
Despana is the name of a Dark Elven noble house in Dungeons & Dragons. Its earliest attestation seems to be page 17 of "Vault of the Drow" by Gary Gygax from 1978. Houses Despana and Tormtor were opposed to each other in rival factions, such as in "Queen of the Spiders" by Gary Gygax (1986). House Despana was known for its demon summoning, such as a "demon staff" as a typical magic item. In the Forgotten Realms setting House Despana and House Tormtor both appear on page 98 of "The Drow of the Underdark" (1991). "Darthiir" appears for the first time in this book on page 99 in a language glossary. These should be regarded as nothing more than highly obscure easter eggs.
There was a demonic demi-goddess necromancer in DragonRealms calling herself Maelshyve, who returned from a long banishment outside of this plane of existence. Maelshyve was their most powerful known necromancer, but was killed with a powerful device called the Philosopher's Knot in the in-game year 430 AV. This was in the real life year of 2019 after a quest to destroy her.
Wehnimer's Landing Museum (Circa 5101 Modern Era). These were moved at some point in the 5100s (but not the human NPC) to the Stormbrow Gallery on Teras. They are in real room ID 3013018.
>look bust She appears to be human, with delicate, classical features. Her full lips part slightly, revealing what look to be fangs. Her eyes are closed. A small inscription is carved on the pedestal. >read insc It reads: Despana, world-killer, mother to the banshee, mistress of Maelshyve in Rhoska-Tor. >look human He is slight of build with fine, almost elven features. His pale skin contrasts with his black leather robes. He stares intently at the bust, ignoring the world around him. >look tapestry The tapestry is made of the finest spidersilk and rustles gently in a stray breeze. Four scenes from some great battle are depicted in the delicate old fabric. >look scene Six armies meet before a ruined keep, joining into one. A mass of elven cavalry leads the way, followed by a phalanx of dwarves on foot, bristling with axe heads and spiked shields. A mob of giantmen fall in on one flank near a rag-tag band of humans bearing pikes. Smaller groups of bow-wielding sylphs and halfling slingers fall in step behind. >look other scene You can almost hear the thunderous clash of steel as the elves, dwarves and others charge the undead horde. The battle takes place on a barren plain before a black keep. A woman glares down from the battlements, her arms raised high. >look third scene The undead are winning the battle. Banshee wing from the black keep, driving the forces of light before them. The elven cavalry is broken, the dwarven phalanx shattered. One group of elves clad in red and grey robes stands firm amidst the carnage. They are joined in a circle with their heads bowed. >look fourth scene Where the black keep once stood, nothing remains but a great, smoking pit. Great piles of undead lie motionless around it. The few elves, dwarves and others who survive stand exhausted, blank stares on their faces. A small group of elves clad in red and grey stands alone.