The Iron Wind
The Iron Wind is some unknown manifestation of Unlife in the Shadow World history. It is known "only as a power", and "only through its minions." Among these include the Dragonlord Oran Jatar of Mur Fostisyr, who cooperates with it willingly for his own purposes, as well as the Ordainers from this same island. It would have to be immensely powerful to have Ordainers serving it. Mur Fostisyr would have been located northwest of Claedesbrim Bay (Darkstone Bay), roughly where Ruin Creek is in modern Elanthia. These forces are rarely seen or felt, remaining hidden in the shadows.
Most famously, it is known through the least of its minions: the Priests Arnak. These are the "evil high priests" who infiltrate societies to subvert them. Very little is established about their false religion. They commune with the Iron Wind to learn their calling, and thus become assigned to kingdoms marked for destruction. There are six orders of Priests Arnak, split along geographical orientations. They are all thematic with associated symbols, and so distinguished by their signet rings. These are very powerful artifacts which bind them together. The pain of one is the pain of all.
The Priests Arnak often impersonate lovers of knowledge, or even Loremasters, to gain the trust of local populations. Their ranking members are usually Iylari, but they have been known to use mortal races when more effective. In contrast to the evil priests who were extremely subtle, however nihilistic and sinister, each order has a branch of dark assassins called Messengers. These are used as agents of force when the situation calls for something less than an Ordainer. The true servants of the Unlife, the Priests Arnak are absolutists, interested only in utter annihilation.
The six orders are the cults of the dragon, snow lion, sea drake, desert dog, greathorse, and hawk. They are oriented strategically in kingdoms whose landscape is associated with their theme. The Cults of the Dragon and the Snow Lion (the Orders of Gaath and Athimurl) always work together, assigned to northern coastal regions and forest realms respectively. They were responsible for the destruction of the Kelfour's Landing region in recent millennia. The Cult of the Dragon is controlled outright by the Dragonlord Oran Jatar, who had recently made a truce and potential alliance with the Kral. He has great power over the Order of Athimurl as well. Most of what is known about these cults comes from the studies of Elor Once Dark, a half crazy Loremaster who survived the Wars of Dominion.
Very few people in Shadow World know they exist as any kind of organized power. They would only be remembered as a historical curiosity from the Wars of Dominion when they were not hidden. Some highly learned individuals might see through them in any local instance, or perhaps know of more than one, but only an organization such as the Loremasters would have any insight that these are somehow a coordinated whole. It would have been inappropriate for an adventurer to know their identity, though Elor Once Dark is supposed to live in the foothills near what is now called Zeltoph. This ends up as an odd coincidence, because Elor stays in the area to monitor the evil cults and what they do in the black forest, and there is now a very similar black forest (including oily leaves) in this spot called the Deadfall.
|Thematic Symbol||Priests Arnak||High Priest||Orientation||Focus|
|Cult of the Dragon||Gaath||Umro (?)||Northern isles and coasts||Xa'ar, Saralis, Mur Fostisyr|
|Cult of the Snow Lion||Athimurl||Dagoth (?)||Northern forest realms||Lu'nak, Wuliris, Quellbourne|
|Cult of the Sea Drake||Yarthraak||Aeryk||Coastal regions||U-Lyshak|
|Cult of the Desert Wolf||Dansart||Osaran||Deserts||Zor, N. Rhakhaan|
|Cult of the Great Horse||Thargondaak||"The Pale Man"||Plains||S. Rhakhaan, Meluria|
|Cult of the Hawk||Lyak||"Priestess"||Riverine cultures||Tanara, Urulan|
The Cult of the Sea Drake has obeyed Lorgalis for most of its existence. Kestrel Etrevion may have served within its fleet during the Wars of Dominion. However, Gaath is undermining Lorgalis in his holdings to the west of the Kelfour's Landing region (Xa'ar), and Athimurl is undermining the Dragonlord Sulthon Ni'shaang to the east (Lu'nak). This is a considerable source of friction between the two dragon lords, who are actually brothers, but who go about conquest in very different ways. These factions all want to claim the region immediately south of the Landing (Saralis). These were the surrounding conditions of 6050 Third Era when GemStone III was initially set. The Shadow World timeline diverges from this trend. Within a few years later Sulthon Ni'shaang, for instance, instead invades south into Zor.
The Iron Wind
The Priests Arnak first formed and forged their rings around 4000 Second Era. What happened to form their secret orders has been lost to time, but it was most likely the result of a self-aware manifestation of the Unlife. These would sometimes happen in strange forms, and cults would end up forming around them. "The Silver Dawn" cult of lay healers, for example, would feed souls to a mist. The Iron Wind can be channeled by the priests in the form of a crushing icy wind that they blasted out from themselves. They can also transform targets into iron, and have anti-magical as well as soul destroying powers. The cults are identified by the name of the priestly order, even though the messengers have their own identity. The assassins are utterly subservient to the priests.
While a few of the high priests are over 8,000 years old, most of the founders are dead, perhaps all of them. It was not unusual for proteges to eventually murder the high priests, and replace them, provided they were able to survive putting on the high priest ring. Most of their history is in the form of the things they destroyed. One of the more famous cases was the Shards being awakened to destroy what we call Danjirland, which were once huntable creatures in the forest leading up to the Spider Temple. The Order of Athimurl would eventually destroy Quellburn as well.
Behind the Scenes
The Iron Wind is actually almost ten years older than the full Shadow World setting. Some of its backstory is a little weird for this reason, because parts do not seem to have anything to do with everything else. When the phrase is used in its later context, it mostly refers to the evil priests and their dark assassins. These were the most iconic agents of Unlife on the continent of Jaiman. The specific name "Priests Arnak" never appeared once in the Kelfour Editions, apparently being treated as a game secret. The Cult of the Dragon (Gaath) is the specific order that would be behind the Council of Light. It may explain (apocryphally) the puzzle in the Teras Isle mansion. The Orders of Gaath, Athimurl, Yarthraak, and Dansart were background factors in the regional history of I.C.E. Age GemStone III.
In the pure context of who the Grand Poohbah's "adversary" should be, the clearest choice would be Lorgalis with the Poohbah interpreted as the high priest of Gaath. However, the Council of Light is only very loosely based on the established lore for the Priests Arnak, so this parody of secret societies (though their ridiculousness is itself a trick) may not lend itself to serious interpretation. The name and spelling "Grand Poohbah" originates in a self-important windbag from Gilbert & Sullivan, who holds a long list of highly esteemed titles including "Lord High Admiral" and "Lord High Everything Else." This is potentially relevant because his counterpart in the local temple would be the Lord High Cleric, hence "beyond the reach" of him, which is making the same soul corrupting anti-parallel as Bandur Etrevion as Lord High Sorceror (necromancer) of the Graveyard. In the same vein this might have still been inspired by the lore for Lorgalis, who had a Lord High Executioner, another title from the same comic opera.