In the royal year 462 of the Ezzurrion Empire, the combined might of the empire with allies from Lower Bierra, and the Peronita City-States entered the Dizione Mountains to eliminate the last vestiges of the Mareb Dynasty. This was the conclusion of the Ezzurro-Mareb war that had lasted for 18 years and had cost the Empire a quarter million souls and six and a half million pieces of gold.
Quote from Manuscript 16, relic of the Ezzurrion Empire and only surviving reference to the Mareb Dynasty
The Dizione Mountains are considered pure wilderness, a refuge for hermit druids, isolationist rangers, and wandering clans and tribes of free goblins and the occasional hill giant. The region sits well away from any major trade route and is at least three week's regular travel from the nearest major town, and a week from the nearest community of more than 200 people. The mountains themselves are less than spectacular, consisting of folded bedrock similar to the Appalachians of the eastern US. Most of the mountains wear thick coats of temperate forest, which is often prolific with color in the spring and thick with game in the summer and autumn.
Of course, if everything was as idyllic as it seemed, Dizione would be fair teeming with humans and their endless industry. The mountains have no major navigable rivers, and it's fallow period after the decline of the Ezzurrion Empire swallowed up almost all of the roads, collapsed all of the bridges, and the Mareb Dynasty vanished. It is now a trackless wilderness and attempts to settle in the region invariably meet with failure.
The Turalita Forest
Often misnamed as the Dizione Forest, the Turalita forest is correctly named after Loru Turalita, a powerful wood spirit/terrestrial goddess who makes residence there. This goddess of wood has been dormant for a number of centuries but her small clergy of druids and rangers have enough elf blood that a few of the oldest remember the green goddess before she entered her slumber. There Turalite Druids claim that it is the slumbering spirit of the Goddess that has caused both the fecundity of the forest, to the point that it has covered the mountains, as well as resisting the axes and plows of the Peoples of the Plow.
The Mareb Dynasty once called Dizione theirs, and the Turalita forest was their primary source of lumber. The war between Ezzurro and the Marebs was a surprisingly violent and thorough affair that left little in the way of records or even physical ruins. In fact, the valley of Dal Nastro contains the only surviving Mareb ruins, as the siege warfare employed during the two decade war leveled the rest of the towns and cities of the Mareb. Reaching Dal Nastro is no small feat, located deep in the Dizione Mountains, the valley survived the war because of it's remote location. the trip through the forest and over the low mountains should be a mini-adventure of it's own. There is no shortage of wildlife, and it can be as mundane (bears, timberwolves, badgers) or as exotic (green forest wyrms, timberwing eagles, grumpy ents) as you like.
The People of Stone
Much like an Athenian ampitheatre, the ruins of Dal Nastro largely consist of a massive stone paved gathering place. A central stage faces stone seating on three sides and is back by a standing granite bluff some 40 feet tall that continually seeps water. The stones show a surprising amount of wear and tear, as if they have remained in use for the centuries since the fall of the Marebs. Likewise the rest of the ruins show evidence of being tended in a clumsy manner. The stones are rough, some broken and recently by the looks of them. No trees or large weeds surround the ampitheatre, but vines climb some of the stone structures, especially the ruins of the few storage houses that have since collapsed in on themselves. Standing in various places around the stage are 13 stone statues, usually with 2 or 3 on the stage and the rest taking seats as if watching a play.
This perception is quite accurate, long divorced from the culture that created them, or even regular contact with living beings, the statues have done what they remembered people did to pass the time. They take turns holding plays, three to five statues will enact a play, while the rest watch.
A Cold Reception
If the PCs haven't figured it out by now, the statues will fill in the blanks. The Mareb Dynasty was not a human nation, instead it was (fill in the blank humanoid race) and the war between Ezzurro and the Dynasty was a genocide against the Marebs. The statues are of the Mareb's race, and they bear varying degrees of hostility towards anything human. Elves and dwarves are treated with the same amount of respect and dignity that they show the statues, and orcs and orc-kin are shown sympathies, as the statues believe that the greenskins will be the next race exterminated by humanity.
The PCs are safe though, no matter the statue's hostility. When Dal Nastro was built, it was a center for learning and the arts. The statues exist as figures who were consulted at any time based on their meme. Warriors going into battle would consult Negaram the General Statue, while assassins traded secrets and lore with the black stone statue of the assassin. In their construction, the statues were imbued with a geas to not physically harm a living sentient being. They were also given minor tasks to keep the place tidy. To this day, the statues cannot harm a soul or they risk loosing their animating magic and reverting to inanimate stone. Their minor tasks have been the one thing that have kept the statues moving about and interacting with each other.
They also have another limitation, they cannot leave the general confines of Dal Nastro, as the magic that animates them flows not from their own being, but from the essence of the area itself. This has caused the statues to get a bit strange in the head, despite hating humans with a passion, they are all desperately lonely and hunger for interaction with an organic being. Even if this means interacting with a human, they will do it.
What's the Point?
Dal Nastro is nothing more than a greasy smudge in the history of humanity; it is hard to get to, there is no real loot to grab, and the inhabitants are hostile to humans. Dal Nastro can be used for several different things, the most obvious being that there is information that the statues possess, perhaps about a legacy of the Ezzurrion Empire, or an event from the war. Or perhaps there is a dingus buried up at Dal Nastro and the PCs have to fetch it back. While this is a valid plot device, the PCs can be brought face to face with a more shameful aspect of their race's history. This could be more pointed if the PCs have a penchant for hunting and killing members of another race, like orcs, trolls, or a different race of humans.
Aside from the potential PC guilt trip, Dal Nastro can be a place of sadness and ennui, once a place of learning and splendor it has been completely forgotten except by the most dry and hoary of sage's tomes. Despite the various characteristics of the statues, it is much like a nursing home, it's resident long removed from the world, unable to influence day to day activities and indeed barely keeping up with what happens year to year let alone decade or even century to century.
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? Responses (9)
Poignant and sad. I wonder if insanity has not begun to ravage the minds of its animated stone sentinels?
As for the Mareb people, is it possible that feral remnants of them might yet be lurking unseen in the wilderness?
Excellently written. I like the tone, and hard-to-use places are are much easier to swallow if they come with a great backstory.
It is an interesting thought, that these statues may be all that remains of a whole culture. If the local humanoids would contact them, they could receive much of their wisdom. Alas, the superstitious primitives may not even try it...
I would say this writing style lacks a real thoughtfulness. The narrator makes observations like the 'Dizione Mountains are considered pure wilderness', and
'The war between Ezzurro and the Marebs was a surprisingly violent '. I assume he means is referring to 'main stream' society. But more likely Scras is using the GM voice, in which one tells players what their characters are likely to know and then relate the imagery to them in modern and real word terms (Appalachian mountains, temple of Athena), like giving stage direction to actors. But the audience is not players it is GMs,
'the trip through the forest and over the low mountains should be a mini-adventure of it's own. There is no shortage of wildlife, and it can be as mundane (bears, timberwolves, badgers) or as exotic (green forest wyrms, timberwing eagles, grumpy ents) as you like.'
The idea comes across , but I would not praise this writing.
I wrote this back in 07, and was created after a brainstorming session with MIA Strolenite Ria Hawk. The submission was written in one sitting, over the course of about an hour. I read it, and I want to rewrite it because Axle is right, the point comes across, the imagery is conveyed but it is in the GM Voice. The use of real world metaphors, referencing Athens, Greece and Appalachia is breaking the suspension of disbelief, while other parts do read like GM tips or guidelines. The piece flows, but there is no creation of atmosphere.
I think this could be the center piece for a whole campaign or story line, not just some neat place character wander across. What if one of the characters is a Mareb-but doesn't know their legacy?
Like it. I do like the lost and almost gone races.
Nice background article, though the mankind-as-a-plague meme is a little overdone. However, if your campaign is build on this theme, with non-humans (or just different humans) fighting against an expansionist Empire of Man, 'Remember the Mareb!' Would be a valid battlecry.
I like this idea and would like to see it fully realized in some a story or fully developed adventure plan. I keep picturing the New RIver Gorge. This is a great jumping off point.