DM Tools - Campaigns - The Jaidor Talisman
Centuries ago, Shidar was a shining city of wealth and glory... where learned scholars debated with theologians... where artists and craftsmen rendered great works. Over a million people lived and worked in Shidar. It was home to the most magnificent temples. Great towers reached toward the sky. It was considered by many to be the greatest city of the world. It was an age of enlightenment.
Some say that the people of Shidar grew arrogant. Their art was perfect, their magic limitless, the beauty of their city unmatched. It is said that they turned from the gods and worshiped themselves. This arrogance went too long unpunished and in the year 1136 CY, the gods brought down the Shidaran people. The gods turned away from Shidar, allowing the forces of darkness free reign. The city was overrun with horrible creatures from the netherworld.
Thousands died in that night of darkness. horrors swept over the land and wiped out the entire peninsula. The city was quickly abandoned as people fled in terror. The horrors that swept through Shidar expanded out into the night and began to hunt the lands beyond. Soon, the entire peninsula was in chaos. The region is now known simply as the Desolation of Shidar. It is a dangerous land of roaming monsters, rampant disease, undead and worse. Once each year, during the late summer, it is overrun by "the Horde".
The once shining city of Shidar now lies in ruins. The lands change from year to year and the ruins of Shidar are extremely difficult to find. The Chaddamarians fear the Desolation and will not set foot there. It is considered bad luck to make maps of Shidar (maps leading to it or maps of the city layout). Therefore, there are no such maps. The priests of Chaddamar have declared the Desolation forbidden. A great wall was erected years ago. The lands beyond are off limits.
What follows is the truth about Shidar. It is not known to the general public. This lore is held in crumbling scrolls and dusty tomes, known only to a handful of sages.
The Tale of the Jaidor Talisman
My tale begins with the Great War. I will not presume to give you a history lesson. I am sure that you are familiar with the stories of old – of ancient battles fought throughout the realms. But there is much history from that time which is not widely known.
During the Great War, the ruling nobles of the Irenni League sought greater and greater weapons to use against the Thullian Empire. And so they turned to their most gifted sorcerer, the archmage Jaidor. He worked for seven months on the development of a weapon which would win the war. It was to be his greatest single creation, the crown jewel of a long and illustrious career. And thus, he named it for himself. The Jaidor Talisman… a talisman of potent energies. This device was kept so secret, we still do not know what it looks like to this day. We only know this glyph appears on it:
He took fifty of the League’s finest warriors. Using the device, he called forth dweomers such as none had seen before. With these energies, he ensorcelled the men. And they began to change. Before the eyes of those present, the 50 men lost all form. Their bodies melted to nothingness and then rose from the void as shapeless, wailing things. When the spell was done, they were no longer human. They were… shape shifters. And so the first generation of morphians was born.
When Jaidor unveiled the morphians to the nobles of the League, they were pleased. The morphians were powerful. They could assume any shape. They could get into any building to obtain any information or slay any foe. They were the perfect thieves, spies, and assassins. The nobles eagerly paid Jaidor for the use of these creatures and sent them forth on many errands of chaos and bloodshed. It did not take long for the morphians to become known to the empire. They were greatly feared and they struck terror into the Empire for years into the war.
History records these facts: that the Irenni League sorcerers created the morphians and that the man most directly responsible for their creation was a mage named Jaidor. But few people know of the nature of their creation. Few know of the Talisman.
And fewer still know the relationship between the shape-shifters and Talisman.
The Talisman granted its user control over the shape-shifters. The morphians obeyed the power of the Talisman. They obeyed the master's bidding. They were unable to resist. In some ways, the morphians were little more than slaves. No… they were less than slaves. They were puppets. Mere extensions of the Talisman.
To ensure that the morphians would never attempt to destroy that which held them in slavery, Jaidor bound the Talisman to the morphians in life and in death. He enchanted the Talisman such that if it were ever destroyed, the entire race of the morphians would die. With this enchantment in place, the morphians were helpless.
As the war progressed, the nobles demanded that Jaidor use the Talisman to create more of the shape-shifters. Not wanting to sacrifice their own soldiers, the nobles used criminals and prisoners of war for the procedure. Many nobles were given tokens from the Talisman which let them control their own morphians without having to rely on Jaidor and the Talisman. Although it is widely believed that Jaidor would never have sacrificed complete control and that the Talisman superceded any such tokens.
As the Thullian empire began to crumble, conflict arose over the spoils of war. In order to capture more of the wealth flowing into Irenni coffers, many nobles started using their personal morphians to spy on each other. This was the beginning of the end of the Irenni League. As the League began to crumble, there came to be a morphian who was not bound to the Talisman. His name was Aracles. Many historians have proposed explanations for his unique quality. Some suggest the aberration of Drellis caused the magic in his creation to go awry. Perhaps Jaidor foresaw the nobles feuding and this was his answer. The truth is, no one is sure. It does not matter any more. What matters is that this one morphian was able to resist the influence of the Talisman. One morphian. But in the end, it only took one.
This morphian used his advantage and shape-shifting abilities to free a dozen other morphians. They returned to the Irenni League and started a rebellion. In a terrible battle, many Irenni nobles and military leaders were slain. And they beheaded Jaidor, the father of their race and the man who had made them slaves. In the end, they had captured the Talisman.
Aracles knew that their victory was a precarious one at best. His group of free-willed morphians was small. There were many other morphians, but these poor souls were bound to their masters' tokens. And try as they might, Aracles group could not comprehend the arcane spells involved with its control. (The morphians had been forbidden to learn magic).
The Irenni nobles who held tokens would soon be fighting over the Talisman not wanting to relinquish control of their shape-shifters. And as long as the Talisman existed, the morphians faced the possibility of losing their freedom. But he could not destroy the Talisman without destroying his brethren. Although they could not control the Talisman themselves, they could ensure that no one else did.
It was decided that the Talisman would be taken far away. Further than any spell could track. Beyond the scrying of mages. Beyond the sight of gods. It was to be hidden for all time where none would find it.
Aracles assembled a company of volunteers. With the blessing of their brethren, this fellowship took the Talisman and sailed east. They intended to hide the Talisman away from the world, to bury it deep in distant lands. To surround it with spells and traps such that no one, morphian or otherwise, would ever be able to retrieve it. They did not return. Although some Irenni nobles set sail in a desperate attempt to find the Talisman, nothing of Aracles or his followers has ever been seen since.
That is, until now. Three weeks ago, a floundered ship was found off the coast of Dregan's Isle. It bore strange letters of an unknown language upon its hull. Its main sail markings were likewise queer and unfamiliar. Citadel soldiers searched the wreck. In the cargo hold, they found a great oaken chest and within, amongst other treasure, they found a map sealed with the glyph of Jaidor. The officers and soldiers knew not the value of this simple parchment. But a mage with them did and explained to the officers what it was that they had found. A single rider was dispatched to bring word to the Citadel. Upon hearing of this news, Queen Sillar ordered a legion of troops to rush to Dregan's Isle. The wreck was quarantined on her order. She also sent several Black Sorcerers went to investigate. Shortly after that, the map was brought back to the Citadel to be translated.
What follows is the true story of what happened to Aracles and his followers.
When the morphians left, they journeyed across the sea to distant Aggradar.
They spent two long years slowly making their way east across Aggradar. During that time, Aracles became more and more fascinated with magic. Frequently he would stop the group for weeks at a time so that he could study with an accomplished wizard or peruse some dusty tome with a learned scholar.
Eventually they reached the east lands of Aggradar (a region of provincial governments and small baronies) and heard about a great ruined city to the north. It was, according to legends, haunted and lay at the very edge of the lands, beyond which lay endless seas. The fellowship traveled north until they found this ruined city at the end of the world and decided that they had come far enough.
The fellowship traveled deep into the ruins, into the deepest underground chambers of the city and set about their task. They began construction on a great shrine, deep beneath the ruins, where they could leave the Talisman in peace for all eternity. They rebuilt certain underground chambers, sealing off other entrances and incorporated clever traps throughout.
Moqar, second in command, became consumed with the ideal of finding the perfect place and building the perfect shrine (to honor the Talisman, that which created them). This was, after all, their mission. He wished to keep with their quest. Moqar led the construction of the shrine. During this time of construction and repair, which took about a year, Aracles continued to study magic and the Talisman in particular. He never parted with it and became obsessed. Endlessly tinkering with spells and working with the Talisman, Aracles attempted to learn its secrets and control its powers.
Toward the end of the morphians work, Aracles learned to control some of its functionality. He became drunk with power able to control his own body with the device and the bodies of his fellow morphians. He also learned that the Talisman could control the bodies of animals and plants... could slay and bestow the spark of life, could remold the very shape of Nature. It was not limited to morphians, it seemed. Indeed, the Talisman possessed great power of which Jaidor had not spoken.
Aracles learned enough about the Talisman that he came to believe he could free them from its magic without destroying it. He also believed that the Talisman was the key to true power and to immortality. Many of his fellow morphians were eager to hear more. But there were those who feared he was tampering with things he could not control. Tensions rose as the group split into two opposed factions: those led by Aracles (who yearned for the true freedom and power offered by the Talisman) and those led by Moqar (who feared the power of the Talisman and wished only to complete their quest... to enshrine it, hidden away from the world).
A great meeting was held and a vote taken. Moqar and his followers were outvoted. It was decided that they would follow Aracles and allow him to try to use the Talisman to their own advantage. Aracles followers were fanatically devoted to him. A grand series of experiments was prepared. Aracles worked feverishly for days. Despite a few deaths in the beginning, he continued his work. In the end, his research and experiments culminated in one grand work.
All gathered in the Shrine of the Talisman, but three. Three morphians refuse to join in. Moqar, Tulmain and Faroujda.
The experiment was, of course, doomed to fail. Aracles was playing with powers far beyond his control. Energy far behind the ken of mortal wizards flowed from the Talisman. Like an uncorked bottle, the deepest magic of the Talisman, so long contained, boiled forth, overwhelming the feeble control of the morphians. With a great sound, waves of energy rolled forth and swept over the assembled crowd.
The Talisman caused the morphians to lose their form. They melted back into the wailing, shapeless masses that they once were at their first creation. The morphians merged together forming into a horrific abomination of flesh and tentacles and pseudopods. Worse yet, it spawned new abominations. Hideous deformed creatures were birthed continuously by the great beast.
The monstrosity was a shape shifting nightmare, continually changing and reforming. It's spawn were deformed nightmarish creatures that seemed ravenous and bent on destruction. No two of these spawned creatures were alike.
Moqar, Tulmain and Faroujda fled. The spawn of the great beast pursued them. Moqar stayed behind so that the other two could escape. He managed to lure the great beast away as the other two fled and then triggered a cave-in, sealing them in. Meanwhile, Tulmain and Faroujda sealed up the chambers behind them, set the traps and fled.
Moqar died in battle, overwhelmed by great numbers of the spawned creatures. Tulmain and Faroudja made it to the surface. There, they agreed to separate. Tulmain would stay and continue the mission. He would remain to ensure that no one ever disturbed the ruins or tried to find the Talisman Faroudja would return to the council of morphians back on Ithria and let them know the fate of the fellowship and the Talisman.
Tulmain eventually died, but over the long decades, had spawned descendants. Tulmain's descendents formed a new group. They called themselves the Watchers and it was dedicated itself to the ideal of the original mission. Keep any and all away from the ruins. For all time. This group, the Tulmain Defenders, still exist in Aggradar and still carry out their sacred mission.
Faroujda, during his long journey back to Ithria, scribed a map detailing his route. Although Faroujda never did make it back to Ithria (he was killed at sea), the map he created did survive and ended up as part of a treasure hoard. This treasure was later found, traded, stolen and traded again. The map eventually found its way to a ship which was wrecked in a storm off the Ithrian coast.
Meanwhile, back at the ruins, the great beast, unable to escape the incredible defenses set up and the thick magic blocking walls and the massive doors, fed off of the energy of the Talisman to survive. It continued to mutate and grow. It continued spawning lesser creatures.
To this day, great numbers of the spawned creatures still roam the deep chambers of the shrine of the Talisman. They feed off of the Talisman.
Centuries later nothing of the ruins remained but a field of stones. In 851 CY, the surface ruins are reclaimed and a village named Shidara is founded. Over the years, the town grow into the town of Shidar. Despite opposition of the Watchers and the legends of hauntings, the town becomes a city. The City of Shidar eventually becomes a shining city of art and culture, reaching its pinnacle in 1050 CY.
One day, diggers digging deep uncover a seal stone. With much effort, they open it and find a chamber beneath. Fascinated, the city councilors order it explored.
The beast trapped in the ruins below senses the disturbance. It awakens several of the spawned creatures in the traps level. Numerous spawned creatures flood out and attack the city. Slow at first, sneaking out at night, one at at time. Also, mutagenic effect leaks out and begins infecting people in the city.
Disease and mutations quickly follow. Several more monstrostities sneak out. Mutagenic effects begin affecting people and animals. The dead begin to rise as zombies
The Seal is built. This is a massive stone building (50 foot thick stone walls) with a 40 ton steel door. It is designed to “plug” the hole that had been opened. Specially made so that no one can get in. Not even with magic. Amidst much debate, the Death’s Door Key is made which can open the Seal.
Despite the Seal being built, mutations and such spread. Also, many are scared to live with horrors in the ground. Rumors that the city is cursed gain strength. Despite the Seal, the City of Shidar is rapidly abandoned.
This "act of the gods" is the catalyst that helps shape the religion of the Chaddamar Theocracy. The religion forms to prevent such a thing from every happening again. Undead and the perversion of life are abhorrant. Life should not be tampered with. Neither should the soul. Medicine and healing are the province of the gods. Necromancy and alchemy and herbalism and MAGICAL HEALING are all outlawed.
The City of Shidar is considered lost. Hit with plaques by the god and monsters from hell. Punishment for the lifestyle of Shidar. The mutagenic effect is seen spreading. Fear runs rampant. Even as the newly formed Chaddamar Theocracy is forming, it is decided to utterly wipe out the region of the city of Shidar. Obliterate the entire peninsula. The Purging. A horde of creatures is summoned by magic and sent into the peninsula to devour all life.
However, the mutagenic effects are stronger than imagined. Not only does it mutate plant and animal life in the region, it also affects the horde. A vicious cycle of life and death evolves into one of the most unique ecosystems on the planet - the annual horde and the plants and animals of that region. Once each year, the region is stripped of all vegetation.
The Chaddamar Theocracy builds a great wall to shield themselves from the Desolation.
Years later, the Wall is overrun by the Horde. The devastation is incalculable. It takes all the armies of the Chaddamar to beat the Horde back. Over 100,000 people die. This tragic event only reinforces how dangerous the Horde is.
A second Wall is built. (The Theocracy had lost a lot of land to the mutagenic effects). They could not reclaim the land. This second wall is much bigger and stronger. It is decided that they will NEVER allow the Horde to invade again. Strict laws are established. No one enters the Desolation on pain of death.
0 CY - After the Cataclysm, the Kytohan Empire fell. The north east region was once a larger peninsula, but the coasts collapsed taking many fishing villages with them.
72 CY - The only major city left was Daetowa ruled by Duke Morgoth. According to legend, Lord Morgoth built a great underground fortress beneath his city. Perhaps to protect his people from the World Storm or raiding bandits who pillaged the newly-wrecked world. It is said that these great halls beneath the ground were a marvel to behold. It supposedly held the wealth of the region.
155 CY - A century later, the city of Daetowa was overrun by humanoid tribes. Within 50 years, nothing remained but ruins.
185 CY – Some years later, the ruins of Daetowa were abandoned by the humanoids. The ruins of Daetowa were left to the weeds.
851 CY – In the ninth century, the ruins of Daetowa were rebuilt and the town of Shidar was founded.
1050 CY – For two centuries, Shidar grew and developed into a major city. It became a shining center of culture, learning and magical power. The healers of Shidar were exceptionally powerful. They mastered all manner of healing. At the height of the city's power, they developed the power to bring back the dead.
1136 CY – In 1136, miners quarrying stone uncovered a shaft that ended in a great seal. They believed they had uncovered the entrance to the legendary Mines of Morgoth. The Seal was opened. The catacombs underneath began to be explored. Beginning that day, Shidar began to have problems. Murders in the night, strange creatures hunting the nighttime alleys, animals acting strangely, disease. These problems became worse.
The nobles of Shidar decided to construct a new seal over the opening. This great stone edifice was a building with a single great iron door. Death's Door is the name of the great iron and stone building that seals this ancient underground catacomb. It was created by a group of city-sponsored mages led by a great wizard named Adezar.
Amidst great controversy, Adezar created a key that could open Death's Door. Some politicians were horrified that such a security breach was allowed. Others wanted the option of some day opening the door and slaying the demons of the underworld.
The device that could open the door was magical and needed only be touched to the door to open it. Hence, this device could have been made in any form. But Adezar decided to fashion it into the likeness of a key. This choice was artistic, nothing more. The key is fashioned of bronze and is 18 inches long. It is heavy and highly decorative.
The key was intended only to be used in ceremonies. An ornate oaken box was fashioned to house the key. A great crowd gather to watch the final closing of Death's Door. During the ceremony, a great horde of creatures burst forth from the catacombs beneath, forcing the door open. The city soldiers fought the monsters as the citizens fled. Many soldiers sacrificed their lives, but they managed to close Death's Door. Soldiers and citizens alike fled in terror. Many died that night as the city was emptied. During the battle, the Key was shattered into 3 pieces. - the circular handle, the shaft and the teeth. (The Ring, the Rod and the Teeth).
1137 CY - The city of Shidar was completely abandoned as were most of the towns and villages in the surrounding lands. Over the following decade, the peninsula fell to the hordes of monsters.
The three pieces of the Key were carried south with the refugees. Adezar, who studied one of the pieces, found that their power had not diminished. Such was the power of the enchantment that the key was not destroyed. Indeed, each part still possessed the magic of the whole necessary to open the door. There were, essentially, now THREE keys that could open the door. Nobles fought and squabbled over the three keys. These three keys have changed hands many times over the centuries. Because of their unique design, they are easily identified. Hence, the fate of each is known.
The Current Locations of the Three Pieces Are Known As Follows:
This website was last updated October 5, 2021. Copyright 1990-2021 David M. Roomes.