Legend of the Necropolis of Etrevion (short story)
Title: The Necropolis of Etrevion
Two brothers from the eastern region of Jontara set off to join the struggle and seek their fame and fortune in the early days of the Wars. Of undistinguished lineage, the brothers realized that the quickest means to power and wealth was to cast their lot in with the forces of the Unlife. The elder brother, Bandur Etrevion, was obsessed with the pursuit of esoteric lore and forbidden knowledge. The younger, Kestrel Etrevion, was a more practical and carefree sort, a man of action.
While Bandur, a gaunt, intense and frail figure, often envied Kestrel's exceeding beauty, his charisma and courage in battle, the bond of brotherly love was fierce. Bandur used his black arts and warped intelligence to take advantage of the chaos that the Wars of Dominion caused and devoted himself to masterminding the rapid rise of Kestrel in the ranks of the warriors of the Unlife. Bandur remained a shadowy presence in the background, gathering dangerous knowledge and subjecting himself more and more totally to the foul aims of the Unlife.
Kestrel came to be rewarded for his service after a particularly hard fought campaign (actually pulled from the jaws of certain defeat by Bandur's sorcerous intervention) with a small territory carved out along the west coast of Jontara, along the craggy shores of Darkstone Bay. This is part of the land that forms the windward edge of the High Plateau in the region now called Elanith. Lord Kestrel reluctantly left the camaraderie of the battlefield and the exhilaration of combat to rule this small fiefdom.
Although a fair and evenhanded ruler, his heart yearned for more adventurous undertakings. Kestrel organized the group of elite warriors chosen from among the best in the land, and formed a naval fleet whose sole purpose was to conduct long-ranging and lucrative raids, plundering the islands, coastal settlements and shipping routes of Darkstone Bay. He ordered fast, streamlined warships built and equipped and began a series of protracted sea journeys that kept him away from the kingdom for many months on end.
Lord Kestrel's raids filled the land's royal coffers with much booty, precious artifacts, legendary holy relics and fabled enchanted treasures. Yet the kingdom was in total disarray due to his long absences. Although Bandur, who was left in de facto charge of the territory, had a large and loyal network of shadowy spies and well-placed informants throughout the land, he was so immersed in his studies and writings that he did not notice the chaos developing in the land until it reached the breaking point.
Bandur's obscure quests, hobbies and whims filled his days and nights, giving him neither rest nor peace of mind. He wrote several widely read volumes on the ways of the Unlife, including his most famous work, "Servants of the Shadow: Power through Thralldom." For this work he was recognized by the College at Karilon and permitted unlimited access to the Library at Biblia to continue his research. But, to his everlasting bitterness, his privileges were revoked when he tripped an enchanted alarm system and was apprehended trying to leave one of the Library's vaults with a rare speaking crystal concealed in the folds of his robe.
After that, he occupied himself with eccentric pursuits and vainglorious projects, all seeking to appease the ever more voracious demands of the Unlife upon him. He commissioned daring thefts of rare manuscripts, relics and scrolls from private collections and seats of learning from all the farflung corners of Elanthia. He depleted the royal treasury with this undertaking, as well as with the construction of demented edifices and terrifying monuments around the countryside in homage to the Unlife.
Kestrel's maritime forays took him farther and farther afield from his unquiet kingdom, and Bandur's depraved obsessions and extravagances caused the citizens to resent and rebel against the restrictions of civilized, orderly society. The spirit of the Unlife was strong; it pervaded and corrupted the land and its influence was felt everywhere. Bands of armed brigands and rogues ran free, kidnappings and ritual slaughter became commonplace, wild creatures roamed the towns in search of prey, and enemies raided the borderlands at frequent intervals. Many fragmented, sinister cults arose to fill the vacuum left by the deterioration of law and morale in the land.
Finally, after one particularly gruesome incident (too hideous even to be repeated here), Bandur's advisors pleaded with him to take some action to restore a semblance of order in the land. Bandur roused himself from his arcane pursuits and concluded that something had to be done to suppress the wanton bloodshed, cruelty and disorder in the land, not for the sake of peace and tranquility, but more to allow him to continue to exploit it and divert its resources to the efficient service of the Unlife.
He relentlessly eradicated pockets and strongholds of resistance to central rule with a dedicated force of well-paid soldiers and an assembly of foul creatures of his own creation. Once all opposition in the land was crushed, he formed an official cult dedicated to the worship of the Unlife, which all inhabitants were strongly urged to join if they wished to keep their heads connected to their necks for any period of time. The state cult filled the need of the people for leadership and direction and Bandur thus usurped the throne of Kestrel, transforming the land into an evil theocracy.
The history of the cult deserves some discussion here. Early in his servitude to the Unlife, Bandur had pledged himself to the Empress Gosaena, the first Lord of Liabo to follow the ways of the Unlife. He turned his own bondage to her into the state cult, which he called The Dark Path. Followers of The Dark Path engaged in many heinous ritual practices beneath a genteel facade of prayer. They were ostentatious in their devotions, carrying around long rosaries of modwir beads and reciting out loud the High Elven phrase "Gosaena Throk Farok." True followers of the cult of Gosaena who recited the phrase with fervor and dedication were promised everlasting existence by Bandur, and after death were transformed by him into various levels of undead creatures.
While all this was transpiring in the land, Kestrel returned from an extended sea voyage. Appalled at the condition of his kingdom, and angered at the seizure of his throne, he exchanged heated words with his elder brother. Before the dispute was resolved, an outbreak of hostilities along the land's northern marches called Kestrel and his still-loyal armies away to defend the borders. Demoralized and brokenhearted, Kestrel failed to vanquish the foes, and was beaten back to retreat with the few surviving weary and mutinous troops. In desperation, Kestrel used the Amulet of Summoning which Bandur had enchanted for him when they were mere lads. Bandur, a formidable channel for the Unlife, sent minor demonics to drive back the enemy. Once the outside threat was quelled, the two fell to arguing violently again in Kestrel's field tent. Bandur, now hopelessly under the control of the Unlife, slew his brother Kestrel in a fit of possession and hatred with a Spell of Absolution Pure.
When he came to his senses, Bandur's first instinct was to conceal his terrible transgression. As the new day dawned, he appeared before the remaining troops and announced that Lord Kestrel had died during the night of his battle wounds. He dismissed the pitiful remnants of Kestrel's army, who gladly scattered and returned to their homes without question. There, in a remote corner of the land, Bandur created several golems to build a burial mound to hold the remains of his brother along with some of his few cherished possessions.
Bandur returned to the capital city, consumed with guilt and remorse at having slain his beloved younger brother. Troubled by evil dreams and ominous omens, he concocted mind-warping spells and powerful potions to drown his mental anguish. Nothing helped to ease his mind, and the Unlife fed on him with unbounded glee as his inner conflict tore his soul asunder. Finally, he could contain himself no longer.
He returned to the site of his foul deed, and there planned and ordered a great graveyard and crypt to be built in the wilds. He oversaw the entire project himself, using magical powers and conjured hordes to complete the undertaking. He enclosed a large area, the burial mound of his brother forming the northern perimeter, with high rock walls and a huge gate. Inside the gate, he commanded a marvelous and perfect crypt to be built. That having been done, and all the enchantments and magical traps placed around the graveyard, Bandur installed all his valued possessions, treasured manuscripts and holy relics in rooms within the crypt.
Finally, he was satisfied that the work was finished according to his grand design. Now totally mad and in failing health, he returned to the capital to appear before an assembly of the high-ranking priests of The Dark Path, who ran the day-to-day affairs of the land. Pronouncing the words solemnly, "Gosaena Throk Farok", he told them, "There is a place that calls me, where I must go. My brother awaits me there. Seek me not if you value your lives. Find me not if you value your souls!"
With that, he uttered a Spell of Returning and transported himself to the crypt, within the gates of the necropolis he had built. Sealing himself up in a sarcophagus of his own devising, he muttered a last black spell under his breath and gave up his soul to the powers that it had been promised to long ago.
The necropolis has been used over the millennia by the-much-debased line of descendents of the family Etrevion, and by some unsavory local folk from time to time. It is also a haunt for intrepid adventurers and predatory beasts.
Taken from the House Chesylcha library, c.1999. De-ICE'd by the player of Xorus. The original story was reproduced from the Tomes of Kulthea in Kelfour Edition Volume III Number XI, April 1993. It was written in early 1990, a former I.C.E. Age game document. The story is likely loosely patterned on the myth of Osiris and Set. There are (arguably) numerous other literary or mythological allusions, including Dante and the works of H.P. Lovecraft, in the areas tied to this story and its later spin-offs. This is studied systematically on Research:The Graveyard, where different parallels are stress tested.