Haukagaron was a human noble with a minor title and a large villa outside the city of Trakkan. Haukagaron became intrigued with magic at an early age. Rich enough to never have to work yet driven by curiosity about the nature of the world, he quickly turned to a study of magic. Flashy tricks and exploding fireballs held no interest for him. Haukagaron wanted to understand things. The true nature of reality, what makes up “life”, the source of magic; all these things appealed to him, drove him to greater efforts. His personal laboratory quickly filled with arcane tomes, strange-smelling concoctions, and pieces of dissected animals.
He quickly realized that a single human lifespan would be only long enough to give him the slightest taste of the knowledge he could eventually wrest from the womb of the cosmos. With his coldly analytical mind, he weighed the options. Magic could extend his life by a hundred years or so, but even that wouldn’t be enough. Vampirism could work, but he had no guarantees of becoming one, or even of finding a master who wouldn’t simply make a thrall of him. Plus it would make him vulnerable to substances that he might need to study. As a liche, the only downside would be the slow decay of his flesh. Yet that was a small price to pay for knowledge. Lichedom seemed the best option.
The transformation was successfully performed in secret. A second problem existed, however. In order to stay where he was, Haukagaron would need to hide his body’s decay and explain his unnatural lifespan. He opted to leave, kidnapping the famed architect Paravella and running to a hidden valley high in the mountains to the west of the city. Paravella, with a workforce of ogres and Haukagaron’s magic, built a powerful citadel called Castle Kaukenn. Paravella tricked Haukagaron, however. Upon the stronghold’s completion, it was pulled into the Abyssal realms, carrying Haukagaron along with it. Both castle and liche remain there still.
The Abyssal realm is cloaked in constant darkness. It is a land of twisted, black trees bare of leaf and bud; of muddy, sucking ground that impedes movement; of cold fog alternating with relentless rain. A bone-white moon hangs in the sky, giving off the palest of illumination through the rare break in the clouds and making all it touches look sickly. It is a land of misery, of cold and dark and damp that never goes away, of the souls of the dead wandering without memory or purpose amidst the flickering of witch lights. The grunts and cries of unknown creatures echo through the semi-darkness. If there is a god in this realm, Haukagaron has not met him. Perhaps a liche registers no more here than any of the other dead.
Castle Kaukenn itself is wrapped in dried-up brambles and tree limbs, as though these plants grew around the walls and then withered into husks.
From the outside, the castle appears to be made of white-veined black marble. In the old forest that Kaukenn was originally built under, such a pattern acted as simple camouflage among the sun-dappled shadows thrown by towering trees. Each marble block holds an enchantment subtly enhancing that effect, causing the veins to undulate slowly in a breeze or the colors to darken or lighten to match the ambient light. Seen from a distance, Kaukenn looks no larger than a simple forest cottage, making it even more difficult to spot. It is only when standing before the gate that its size becomes apparent, and a chill touches all but the most hardened soul.
For a castle, Kaukenn is not large. It holds little more than the basic necessities plus a few laboratories, libraries, and an above-ground dungeon for holding living subjects for Haukagaron’s experiments.
Unlike a normal stronghold, Castle Kaukenn needs little support. Haukagaron does not eat and his servants are all either undead or conjured and thus require no sustenance. With little need for traffic, the castle is able to have much stronger defences. Every inch of the outer wall is ensorceled with protective magics and the single gate is heavy and ponderously slow to open. The entire structure is roofed over in the same marble as the walls. There are no windows, not even slits for arrows.
The interior was intended to be purely functional, though Paravella managed to supply an aesthetic unnoticed by Haukagaron. Any visiting mortal would find the place brimming with inhuman menace. Doors are shaped to resemble skulls, table legs look like ogre-sized femurs, demon forms are etched into the walls. Sound is both muffled and mutated, so that footfalls seem silent nearby while simultaneously echoing hollowly through the hallways.
Haukagaron’s laboratories contain many items of power and his libraries are quite extensive. Many a mage or alchemist can only dream of the treasures found therein.
While seemingly simple in layout, spells have been placed throughout to confuse the unwary. Without prior knowledge of how these spells work, anyone wandering the castle will find themselves hopelessly lost among twisting passageways and will believe it to be much larger than it actually is.
A number of undead stand ready to do Haukagaron’s bidding and will actively guard against any intruders.
Haukageron is also fond of summoning elementals and binding them to do simple tasks, such as small fire elementals bound into iron sconces to act as torches while water and air elementals are forced to keep the place tidy. Earth elementals often carry heavy items like mute servants. These elementals chafe against such servitude and will lash out at anyone if able to do so, though Haukagaron’s magic prevents them from harming him directly.
Magical traps have been placed randomly about the stronghold. Haukagaron is immune to many and avoids the others with practiced ease. For example, some of the items radiating strong magic in the laboratories are set with strong curses that release with a simple touch. The same is true of some of the books in the libraries.
- The adventurers stumble upon the same portal which sucked Castle Kaukenn into the Abyssal Realms and are now stuck there. They must find a way back without first being taken as subjects for Haukagaron’s experiments or becoming lost in the Abyss.
- Either Paravella or an associate (if this is after her death) seek the recovery of Kaukenn for sentimental reasons, without Haukagaron. This requires intentionally journeying to the Abyssal realms, defeating Haukagaron, and transporting the entire stronghold back to the mortal realm. The reward offered is quite substantial.