Greyhawk: Return to the Classic
The Occluded Empire of Vecna
Few names in the long history of the Flanaess conjure such frequent nightmares as the Whispered One, Vecna. Though the once supreme lich ruled a kingdom of antiquity, his name has become synonymous with pain, suffering and the price of dabbling in magics not meant for the ken of mortal minds. With each passing day fear of the Maimed God grows, as his cult continues to gain influences in the dark places and secluded corners of the Flanaess. Those that take a short term view of history take comfort that Vecna now seems somewhat isolated from Oerth, though many now prepare for his return. The theologians that follow the Marinian school see his deminished personal intervention on Oerth as deeply concerning. The most valuable weapon in a renewed crusade will, of course, be the Sword of Kas, the only weapon known to have harmed him. Short of that blade, which has not been seen in a decade, the folk of the Flanaess must arm themselves with knowledge.
Knowledge of Vecna came early for the Suloise migrants in the dark years preceding the Twin Cataclysms. In that period, entire Imperial Houses fled the empire, seeking refuge to the east. One house, the Kateri, found instead death and gruesome revivification. These migrants, typical Suloise in every fashion, had little time for the original Flannae inhabitants of the Sheldomar River Valley. They avoided what folk they could not slay, ducking from hill range to hill range, from this forest to that. Some one hundred miles south of the Rushmoors, the Kateri encountered tribes of Flan they could not displace. Had the arrogant Suel taken time to speak with the southern Flan, or even the few Oeridian tribes who even then settled the valley, they would have been warned. Instead, Lord Vecna had their heads torn from their necks and placed on spears, which his subjects stabbed into the earth to mark the southern border of his territory. As a grim joke, Vecna’s Ur-Flan necromancers had the heads animated. For seven years, wildly insane, pale-faced heads stretched from the northwest terminus of the Sheldomar to the waters of the Lort, announcing the dominion of Vecna in pathetic, vaguely human rantings.
The Occluded Empire of Vecna, as it became known, served ably as a ulcer in the gut of all migrants. Oeridians flowing east from the Fals Gap had avoided Vecna’s lands by coincidence, at first, but soon learned that the lich-lord’s dominion extended all the way to the northwest shores of the Lake of Unknown Depths. Despite Vecna’s control over such a wide berth of land, his actual grasp did not extend far from his own Rotted Tower, said to be located in the Rushmoors, or the now-ruined town of Tycheron, along the northern banks of the Velverdyva, not far from modern Dyvers. Between these centers of depravity ranged several tribes of debased Flan, who were all too happy to carry out the debased orders of Vecna, or those of his most trusted lieutenant in Tycheron, Kas the Bloody-Handed. Many otherwise good-spirited tribes, however, lived under the depravity of Vecna because, as the fledgling nation of Keoland would learn in the century to come, all but subservience to the Whispered One led to certain death.
The Mara Kingdom of Burgred and the People of Ashardalon: Enemies United Against the Whispered Threat (circa CY -1400)
During the early days of the Whispered One’s reign, a confederacy of Flan tribes known as the Mara ruled the small “kingdom” of Burgred (later corrupted to Burgess by Suloise and Oeridian scholars). Even before the Whispered One transcended the limits of mortality and massed an army that would establish his dominion in the Sheldomar Valley and beyond, the Mara (who in some songs and poems are held to have occupied lands near the frontier presently demarcating the territories of the Gran March and Bissel) had witnessed a gradual increase in martial activity near the great wetlands to the south. Companies of savage warriors from far and away, and even some of the more peaceful and long time allies of the Mara answered the summons of the powerful, but secretive, sorcerer that had united the oft mist-shrouded territories adjacent to the great wetlands.
Some scholars believe that the Whispered One had been anointed High King of the Sheldomar by none other than the spiritual leaders of the Old Faith, who resented the encroachment on their lands of large groups of Rao-worshipping pastoral tribesmen from the Velverdyva Valley. The olve claim that the terrible creatures that today haunt the deepest reaches of the Dim Forest and the Rushmoors had first been unleashed by the Whispered One as His power waxed, and that His dark side must have been known to the Old Faith even before they decided to invest their trust in Him. The leaders of the Old Faith never were able to undo the damage they had caused over the following centuries—to the peoples of the Sheldomar and to themselves—after they released the Whispered One from Pandora’s box. The rulers of the Mara kingdom initially chose to maintain a neutral stance toward their southern neighbour, hoping that he would let them be in peace if they showed no hostility toward him. Deep inside, they already knew that dark times loomed ahead for their people.
It is said that the Mara king Welnarek IV (who in some accounts is called, somewhat confusingly, King Burgred or King of Burgess) firmly yet politely declined repeated invitations from the Secret Lord’s envoys to attend His court in the Spidered Pavilion. Instead, he began to negotiate an alliance with his peoples’ traditional enemies in the highlands (in what today is the southern Lorridges), a barbarous, dragon-worshipping folk. The Ddraigasa (“People of the Dragon”), as the hill folk were called, had also declined the Secret Lord’s overtures. Yet increasingly alarming rumours from the south continued to travel north to the Mara and Ddraigasa, some going so far as to assert that the Secret Lord had recently conquered even death itself…
King Welnarek IV—last king of Burgred—made a pact with the leader of his peoples’ traditional enemies, the powerful wizard-king Gulthias. The wizard-king, who effectively had fulfilled the role of priest among his people for many decades (likely because he had disposed of competing holy persons and ruled through fear and magic), ensured that the hill folk continued to revere the great wyrm Ashardalon as their ancestors had—a rare glimpse of the magnificent and terrifying dragon had a greater impact on the Ddraigasa than did the subtle responses of unseen gods. Ashardalon was revered as a tribal protector, and also out of fear—the last thing the tribesmen wanted was to call the wrath of the great wyrm upon themselves through negligence. As a condition of the pact with Gulthias and the hill folk, the Mara King and his people were required to renounce their ties to the Old Faith and to convert to the worship of Ashardalon. In exchange, the Mara could build strongholds along the western and southern edges of the Ddraigasa’s highland territory, and obtained a pledge of mutual defence from their former foes. King Welnarek would have the authority to command Ddraigasa forces on the battlefield, while Gulthias held ultimate authority over his peoples and would summon the wyrm to their aid. Thus, the first and only “significant” anti-Vecnate resistance movement was born. While the majority of the Mara willingly submitted to this pact, a small number of Mara tribes led by one Saithnar rejected it and sought refuge in the Dim Forest, where they hoped to avoid the conflict altogether by obtaining the protection of the druidess Dydd the Wise. To her credit, the druidess supposedly had protested the endorsement of the Whispered One by Old Faith leaders. As it would turn out, Saithnar acquired the epithet of “Warlord” for waging his own bloody but short-lived campaign against the Vecnate forces that invaded the woods. Saithnar’s deeds (including his heroic death), and the events described thus far in this historical reconstruction, have been alluded to in the epic poem Saithnasmal. That poem still is passed down to this day, from generation to generation, by a select few Flan storytellers and druids, who shall remain unnamed for their own protection.
As the Whispered One’s influence spread throughout the Sheldomar, so did the strength of the Cult of Ashardalon. Many Flan tribesmen (Mara and non-Mara) who had not yet been enslaved by the Lich Lord’s forces preferred to take their chances by siding with a dangerous yet magnificent dragon and his cult rather than with a tyrannical, undead sorcerer king (or the morally bankrupt Old Faith). It was a choice between the presumed lesser of two great evils. The noniz and dwur of the region, however, wisely chose to retreat into their strongholds due to the lack of trust they felt towards the various human factions. Such is the human perspective, anyway, which allegedly has been contested by the bearded folk. Unbeknownst to King Welnarek and other well intentioned Mara rebels, Gulthias also had aspirations of conquest and domination over the Sheldomar.
The Vecnate Invasion and the Death of the Mara King, Welnarek IV
Ashardalon’s cult had erected great fortifications and centres of worship in the Lorridges that pre-dated the Whispered One’s reign: the greatest among them were the tower called Nightfang Spire, hidden in a defile in the Lortmils; and Citadel Ddraig (“Dragon,” now known as the Sunless Citadel) in the foothills to the southwest. The ruins of these structures suggest that external influences—probably draconic—were involved in their design, because their scale and level of sophistication were unusual given the presumed technological level of most Sheldomar-area Flan tribes during the pre-Migrations era. Some theorize that Ashardalon himself provided Gulthias and his ancestors with the knowledge required to build the fortifications. Sages also have linked burial mounds and the remains of ritual circles found within a 30 mile radius of Citadel Ddraig to the dragon worshippers and their allies. King Welnarek IV and his people barely had the time to build Castle Overlook and a few watchtowers before the Vecnate forces conquered their homeland and invaded the high country, only three years after the Whispered One proclaimed himself Emperor of the Flanaess and marched his armies north… and the same year that the King of the Mara refused the Lich Lord his bloody tribute.
The diligent researches of that vainglorious, but admittedly gifted Keoish tomb-robbing academician Naidani Sonje (also known as “the Daring” among his scholarly colleagues)—including his first-hand investigations of Flannish tomb art, glyphic analyses, and inquiries concerning esoteric folklore—assert that the Lich Lord travelled only in the company of a then young but particularly dedicated officer named Kas to Castle Overlook, and proceeded to single-handedly destroy the small fort with his powerful magics; he reportedly had done the same to the traditional lands of the Mara. Ashardalon then took to the field and fought the Arch-Lich, setting the entire plateau ablaze with his fiery breath. Yet despite the dragon’s might, the Lich Lord stood victorious. Ashardalon fled the battlefield and abandoned his worshippers, judging that the lives of a few devout followers were not worth saving at the risk of losing his own quasi-immortality.
Shortly after Castle Overlook’s defeat, the Whispered One’s forces conquered Citadel Ddraig and put its occupants to the sword. Thinking that Citadel Ddraig was the headquarters for the resistance, the Lich Lord himself sunk the stronghold into the earth in order to demonstrate His symbolic triumph over the dragon, and to ensure that the structure could never again fall into enemy hands and be used against His troops.
Having escaped Castle Overlook shortly before it fell to the enemy, King Welnarek IV rallied a small band of followers to make a last stand alongside Gulthias’s Ddraigasa on the grounds below Citadel Ddraig. King Welnarek IV, who had thus far resisted repeated magical assaults by the Whispered One thanks to the legendary powers of his crown, perished under Kas’s blade while the Lich Lord laid the citadel low. Gulthias himself seems to have been absent during this final battle. While a handful of loyal soldiers who survived the conflict managed to retrieve King Welnarek’s remains, concealing them in a remote location in the hills while awaiting a safer time to conduct a proper interment, the Lich Lord walked away with the Mara King’s still-crowned head.
Their strongholds captured or destroyed, their leaders slain or vanished, Vecnate forces teeming the hills, the last of the dragon-worshipping Ddraigasa and of King Welnarek’s retinue scattered throughout the Lorridges and Lortmils, seeking shelter in whatever nooks and crannies they could find. A brave few conducted occasional guerrilla raids against the Vecnate forces, causing as much harm as a lone fly around a horse’s tail. They consequently were ignored by the victors. The Vecnate troops had little interest in pursuing the scattered rebel bands, due to their insignificance to the empire’s safety and expansion. The southern Lorridges were considered conquered and secure territory, and the Mara and their kingdom—like so many other Flan kingdoms of the epoch—never recovered.
The Whispered One left a large garrison at Castle Overlook, due to its strategic location overlooking both the Lorridges as far as the foot of the Lortmils, and the northern plains of present day Gran March. Having defeated the greatest threat that would ever challenge His new reign, the Lich Lord retreated to the confines of His Rotted Tower in the Rushmoors, trusting His lieutenants to expand His realm and to rule in His name while He pursued His arcane studies. Over the course of subsequent centuries, the Lich Lord’s Empire spread north and east, extending (nominally, at least) from the southernmost reaches of the Sheldomar Valley to the shores of the Nyr Dyv. The victorious army of the Whispered One remodelled Castle Overlook to better suit their strategic needs, and the remains of Citadel Ddraig fell into forgotten ruin, swallowed by the Oerth.
The death of Ashardalon
Gulthias and some of his highest ranking acolytes, however, were back in the hidden stronghold of Nightfang Spire when the battle for Citadel Ddraig took place. As the dragon fled the battlefield, he commanded Gulthias to make ready for his eventual return. Gulthias’s devotion to Ashardalon turned into complete obsession.
One day, years later (as told in the Saithasnal), Ashardalon perished from a wound he sustained while battling the druidess Dydd in the Dim Forest. Fandorth the Elder has surmised that Ashardalon sought the druidess out because he blamed her for “causing a schism” among his new Mara followers, which contributed to their defeat at the hands of the Vecnate forces. She therefore was a prime scapegoat and target for the vengeance he so craved following the virtual annihilation of both the Ddraigasa and the Mara. In his great arrogance, the wyrm underestimated the power of the druidess, thinking her and her acolytes far weaker a target than the Lich Lord. His arrogance proved to be his undoing. Upon securing proof of the dragon’s demise after years of absence, Gulthias and his cultists eventually followed their draconic master into oblivion, ritualistically converting Nightfang Spire into a mass tomb prior to committing mass suicide…14
Intertwined themes: Disintegration of the Whispered One’s empire (circa CY -357); the Oeridian migrations to the Sheldomar (circa CY -354); Nightfang Spire’s long sleep (circa CY -1350 to early-mid CY 500s) ; the foundation of the Gran March and the end of the Ur-Flan (circa CY -161)
In time, the empire of the Whispered One weakened, as all empires inevitably do. It has been recounted in Uhas of Neheli’s forbidden Chronicle of Secret Times—which I had the unexpected privilege of feasting my eyes upon—how the Lich Lord and Kas annihilated one another at the apex of an epic duel that other, more fanciful storytellers claim lasted months, or even years. The Whispered One’s empire gradually descended into chaos, providing Suloise settlers from the south with an opportunity to annex some of the undead tyrant’s now poorly defended lands. Shortly thereafter, migrating Oeridian hordes began swarming into the Sheldomar from the north, followed by legions of pillaging humanoids. While the Oerids kept to the lowlands and were harried by humanoid invaders, the latter sought to conquer gnomish and dwarvish strongholds in the Lorridges and the Lortmils in order to secure the higher ground and capture the fortifications of the small folk. Although Krogosh Mak’s hordes eventually conquered the Ur-Flan nation of Tycheron (near present day Dyvers) in the central Flanaess, the success of breakaway euroz and jebli bands in the eastern highlands of present day Gran March and Bissel were mixed. The humanoids managed to establish a foothold in the area and conquered certain strongholds, but enough gnomes and dwarves remained to turn the attempted conquest into a stalemate. Throughout this prolonged period of strife, Ashardalon’s cult maintained a low profile, keeping Nightfang Spire hidden from potential raiders. Gulthias himself vanished mysteriously from the Spire for many centuries—where he went remains the subject of speculation among a learned few.
As common history books attest, nearly two centuries following the beginning of the Oeridian migrations into the Sheldomar (and the disintegration of the Whispered One’s empire, on which they unfailingly maintain a troubling silence), the King of Keoland formally established the Gran March as a northern protectorate. The newly proclaimed Knights of the March were tasked with subduing the region’s warring native and immigrant factions (and with the eradication of the remaining warlords who followed in the footsteps of the Whispered One’s forces, which likewise has been omitted or deleted from written chronicles). Among other deeds, the Knights sought to reclaim Castle Overlook, which was in the hands of some of the last Ur-Flan necromancers in the region, their undead servants, and a motley crew of brigands and humanoids. The once verdant hills to the east had repeatedly been burned and ruined by armed camps, the narrow Slipper River to the west had been fouled with their refuse, and monsters of darkness haunted the tangles of the Gnollwood. The Knights of the March cleared the hills and drove the shadow from the woods, and holy men of different faiths collaborated to cleanse the river. Although good triumphed over evil, fire, sorcery, and engines of war left the castle in ruin. Likewise, the verdant plateau on which Castle Overlook was situated never recovered from Ashardalon’s fiery breath and the magics cast during recurring sieges, and has since been known as the Ashen Waste.
While little of Castle Overlook remained by the end of the siege, one structure survived semi-intact. It was horribly defiled on the inside by the Castle’s previous Ur-Flan occupants, and the Knights of the March ended up calling it the Temple of Valor because much of its vandalized iconography represented images consistent with Heironean theology. How this could have been remains a mystery to this day. After all, the Oeridian migrations into the Sheldomar occurred nearly 1,000 years after King Welnarek and his followers—who adhered to the tenets of the Old Faith before “converting” to the Cult of Ashardalon—had perished, so how a deity of Oeridian origin could have been depicted within an ancient Flan stronghold constitutes a great puzzle. It is possible, however unlikely, that a few adventurous Oeridian clans travelled to the Sheldomar long before the start of the Great Migrations, and that some of them might have intermarried among the Mara. In his time of need, King Welnarek in turn may have accepted help from any divine source that would have looked favourably upon his cause (despite his pledge to the Cult of Ashardalon), including “foreign gods” that some tribesmen of mixed ancestry could have introduced. Or perhaps Heironeous himself chose to manifest in the Mara king’s dreams or visions? Given the monarch’s bold and chivalrous stand against overwhelming evil and tyranny, Heironean values could very well have struck a chord in him. Yet another explanation is that the original iconography actually represented chapters in the myth of Krovis, a little known Flan hero-god, and that the faded images simply were re-interpreted through a Heironean lens by the Knights of the March. Whatever the true reason for the existence of the “Heironean iconography” in the Temple of Valor, the Knights of the March—many of whom revered Heironeous themselves—were awed by these apparently inexplicable signs of their divine patron and therefore viewed the damaged and defaced temple as a holy place of exceptional significance. The Knights elected to rebuild the Temple of Valor (which in actual fact is but a small, stone chapel), moving the useable masonry to a spot a few hundred yards southwest of the foreboding ruins of Castle Overlook, and away from the fiendish creatures that had been sealed deep beneath the fallen keep.
Gulthias – evil never dies?
While the darkness that had held Castle Overlook for nigh a millennium had finally been banished, other unholy forces had long since done their work quietly, out of sight, in the shadows of the Lortmils. Gulthias and his cultists had risen as undead shortly after completing their mass suicide, bound by vows of eternal servitude to the fallen dragon. Gulthias, now a vampire, swore to restore the glory of Ashardalon’s cult. Yet he realized that Nightfang Spire was vulnerable to the overwhelming might of the Vecnate legions, and for centuries maintained an inward focus while patiently waiting for the appropriate moment to unleash his old ambitions upon the world.
During the period that followed the eventual decline of the Lich Lord’s empire, Gulthias became increasingly mad and reckless, occasionally plumbing the depths of the Sunless Citadel with the hope of retrieving tomes and other items that might have survived its destruction about a thousand or so years ago. He even thought about somehow restoring the now subterranean fortress, making it operational even in its sunken status. On one such foray, however, Gulthias lost track of time and found himself trapped in the ruins as dawn came, and with it a band of adventurers that hunted the fiend (who by night often fed on the hill folk—noniz, human, and hobniz alike). A protracted battle ensued in the ruined halls of the citadel, with neither side victorious. The adventurers managed to stake Gulthias to the ground, but he mortally wounded every last member of the party. The one who staked Gulthias to the ground—the last surviving member of the party—died just as he attempted to raise his sword in order to behead the vampire… and for nearly six centuries, the ruins of the Sunless Citadel were forgotten, and the Cult of Ashardalon became dead to the world yet again…
Sometime during the first half of the sixth century CY, someone removed the stake from Gulthias’s heart. Who did so, and to what ends, remains an enigma. Some suggest that humanoids fleeing the Lortmils during the Hateful Wars might have sought refuge in the Sunless Citadel and unintentionally freed the vampire. Others attribute responsibility to local youths who were playing where they shouldn’t have been, or to equally foolish professional explorers. Most sinister of all is the competing notion that creatures from the depths of the Oerth came to the vampire’s aid and forged an unholy alliance with him. Legends state that a malevolent, sentient tree sprouted from the stake that had been used to not-quite-slay Gulthias.
Of course, there is no shred of hard evidence to support the first part of the story concerning Gulthias’s disappearance, but information gathered from adventurers who claim to have confronted him in recent years suggest that the above account indeed is plausible.
The southern Lorridges today
Some of the soldiers, widows, and orphans in the final Castle Overlook campaign eventually founded a settlement at the foot of the Lorridges, between the Gnollwood and the ruins of the fort, on the east bank of the Slipper River. The settlement grew into what today is the sleepy hamlet of Brookhollow. A handful of villages sprang up in the general area in order to capitalize on the region’s mining potential. Many of these villages—like Oakhurst, located near the ruins of the Sunless Citadel—were built where Ddraigasa and Mara settlements once stood. Following centuries of mistrust during and immediately after the Whispered One’s reign, the noniz, hobniz, dwur, and humans of the area have since generally become cordial toward one another. The residents of the hills honour the custom of “storm peace,” so that all who seek shelter when encountering inclement weather may expect it to be provided without fear for their safety, even among those with whom they normally share rivalries or outright enmity.
Aside from the occasional bandit raid or the rare encounter with a stray monster, life in the southern Lorridges has been remarkably peaceful since the end of the Hateful Wars in 510 CY, when all manner of euroz and jebli were purged first from the mountains and then out of the hills. Most hill folk cannot truthfully say that they have seen so much as an orc or a goblin with their own eyes. Yet recent reports from adventurers have suggested that some humanoid activity in the Lorridges continued after the conclusion of those wars. Jebli refugees became the sole residents of the Sunless Citadel, keeping to themselves and hiding their presence from the hill folk. A sinister druid known by the name of Belak the Outcast is said to have allied with them in the CY 560s or 570s, becoming the keeper of the Gulthias Tree. More recently, a clan of renegade celbits claiming an ancestral relation to Ashardalon has sought to wrest control of the ruins from the jebli. The adventurers insisted that Gulthias had returned to Nightfang Spire during the same period to rouse his undead servants and to resume his attempted communion with the spirit of Ashardalon. Even the ghost of Saithnar the Warlord is said to have risen from its resting place in the Dim Forest. Whether these are truths or tall tales, I cannot say.
Likewise, legends concerning the vile creatures that reputedly are trapped beneath the foundations of Castle Overlook have come to the attention of unsavoury folk who subscribe to malevolent faiths. In recent years, some of these evil men actively have sought to tunnel their way into the dungeons beneath the fort, threatening the reconstructed Temple of Valor near Brookhollow with their sacrilegious influences.
Inquisitive scholars might come across the rare hill folk who claim they can trace their ancestry back to the Mara. Most of their tales can be disregarded as fanciful tales or as the ravings of shepherds who have spent too much time in isolation among their sheep… but who knows what bits of true lore one might find concealed among the lies and stories? Hidden barrows and crumbling watchtowers, scattered among the highlands, seal the secrets of their not always restful, deceased occupants—be they human, humanoid, or other—and their contents may do much to confirm or discredit the wilder claims of certain hill dwellers. And where one might glean forgotten knowledge concerning the Mara and other forgotten peoples, one might also uncover troubling whispers concerning the reign of the Lich Lord (and of his allegedly recent return to the Oerth). For their part, the secretive Darkwatch remain vigilant over the countryside, ensuring that no such knowledge or rumours come to light, and that those who seek (or disseminate) them vanish without a trace. Such, I fear, is my impending fate…
Shortly after its foundation, the Kingdom of Keoland attempted an ambitious expansion effort, supporting frontier towns to the south and west and, taking advantage in a lull of activity by the Occluded Empire, even to the north. The fate of this settlement, known as Fleeth, is best recorded by Uhas of Neheli in his Chronicle of Secret Times, a look at the scandals, crimes and cruelties of Keoland’s first era. In return for the lives of all in the city, Keoland’s regional burghers implored Vecna to take their own lives. Instead, the lich had the entire city gutted, the governors’ wives and children executed before their very eyes, their staring heads displayed upon a vast pile of death. As a final show of “mercy,” Vecna allowed the burghers to live, that they might take warning to their king.
Armies amassed in the Keoish capital. The king prepared for a great war. Though decimated by cataclysm and largely untested in battle, the skill of his troops would carry the day, despite the numbers of the Flan to the north. But what is a casualty to an emperor who can animate armies of dead with the wave of a hand? Exercises proceeded with a grim undercurrent that Winter. All might have been lost, too, had not one of Vecna’s rare acts of kindness come back with a vengeance.
In addition to an unnaturally elongated life, Vecna had granted Kas with a weapon of exquisite beauty and a heart as dark as the lich-lord’s soul. This blade, the Sword of Kas, whispered dark ambition into Kas’ ear, urging him to make a move for the lands his master had held for a millennia or more. As armies gathered to the south, and the Ur-Flan whipped the northern tribes into war furor, Kas the Bloody Handed made his move for the Spidered Throne. The titanic struggle that followed apparently destroyed both liege and lieutenant, and a great evil was expunged from the world.
When the armies of Keoland pushed northward in a seemingly futile gesture, they found little resistance. Vecna was dead, his empire shattered. The Flan tribes now warred against each other, a primitive rabble easily brought down by a military-religious order of knights formed to do battle with a lich. Compared to that service, settling the lands that would become the Gran March was easy.
Decades later, as indentured Flan dug the foundations of the city of Shiboleth, three remnants of the battle between Vecna and Kas rested upon the floor of the Rushmoors. A hand, an eye, and a sword black as death. Their story had just begun.