Heskeram (Hes-ker'-am) is a divided empire split over religious reasons. Prior to the Days of Darkness this empire was a strong nation but the results of the bloody fight with Chaos left some Adlar dwarves debating the nature of their duty.
Life and Society
Life in the Heskeram Empire has become difficult due to recent events. Since the fight against Chaos, the Adlar dwarves have become split and are fighting their own internal struggles. Many dwarves following this even became disillusioned with the beliefs of Adlarism and questioned its authority. These dwarves left Azoine and returned to the ancient ruins of Tandarton.
The society of the two cities is completely different as Azoine has a strict and rigid culture. Citizens living in Azoine center their lives on the Path. All duties and actions are done to promote the Path. The dwarves of Azoine immerse themselves into the religion and take part in religious festivals several times a month. Dwarves living in this city rarely travel outside of its borders and try to remove themselves from world affairs.
The dwarves of Tandarton have thrown off their Adlar religion and have embraced what they believe is traditional dwarven beliefs. Their culture has become more focused on survival and the spirit of the people. Forgotten religions have been rediscovered and while most of the dwarves in Tandarton are slow to convert to them, they are growing. These dwarves have also begun to explore the world and become involve in the events outside of their own city.
The religion of Heskeram has changed dramatically since the fight against Chaos. Prior to this the Adlar worshiped the God of the Path without question believing it to be Reorx. Since the fight though many Adlar have renounced this religion and returned to Tanderton where they have reopened the older temples, worshipping gods thought to be dead.
The government of the Heskeram Empire is a split government. The people of Azoine follow the traditional religious leader of the Stonebellow clan while the dwarves of Tandarton have elected a council of elders to lead them. The legal system of Azoine is one dictated by the High Prophet while in Tandarton the Council of Elders has created the Code of Honor.
All citizens living in Azoine are considered to be part of the military. They are told since birth that they will sacrifice their lives for the good of the Path. In times of conflict the individual clans bring warriors to protect the city. These forces are led by the High Prophet. A small permanent guard called the Prophet Guard guards the priests of Adlarism at all times.
In Tandarton the dwarves have created a volunteer army to defend the city. This army allows dwarves to volunteer for years of service. The military is compromised of heavy infantry with crossbowmen in support.
Magic and Mysticism
Magic in Sodbottom is rare, but for those who possess it they are given places of honor in their tribes. Many of these dwarves are given position of advisement to chieftains and are often revered by their clans. The magic is not moon magic but rather chaos magic.
Mysticism is uncommon among the dwarves but since they do not publicly acknowledge the gods the dwarves have turned to it. Nearly every tribe in Sodbottom has a mystic who leads religious practices of a false religion.
Major Geographical Features and Locations
The Path: A deep hole that travels into the depths of Krynn. The Path led to the forces of Chaos twice and while the Adlar dwarves no of this, they refuse to believe that it contains evil. Instead the dwarves living in Azoine have sworn their life to find the secret of the Path and guard it ferociously.
The Seven Mesas: The Seven Mesas are the area that the dwarven city of Azoine was built on. At its height the Seven Mesas were home to six small cities and the kingdom of the dead. Since the fight with Chaos four of the mesas have been abandoned and the gates to those cities sealed. The interior of those cities are the same as when the original inhabitants left.
Mines of Tandar: These mines were recently discovered again after the repopulating of Tandarton. The mines provide iron and stone that the dwarves craft into a finished product. The mines are west of Tandarton.
Ruins of Awarth (the unknown): The Ruins of Awarth are the remains of a forgotten city built east of Azoine. It is unknown who lived here and why they left. The ruins were discovered after the fight with Chaos.
Following the death of Corrod Bladeender in 3312 PD, the clans chose Duncan Fateender to become the new Warden of the Tandar. During Duncan's reign the dwarven prophet Adlar Stonebellow received a series of vision he believe came from the god Reorx. In truth, the visions were bestowed to him from the Graygem, and from these visions Adlar comes to believe that he must have the dwarves construct a deep hole. By constructing this hole, "The Path," this would result in unleashing the knowledge of the Path.
Adlar pressured Duncan into allowing two of the twelve clans to travel to the place his visions showed to him. Accompanying Adlar was his own clan, the Stonebellow, and the Hilldigger clan. They traveled to where Adlar claimed to had seen the beginning of the Path.
In this place, the dwarves built the city of Azoine to encircle the dig site. Adlar was given the power of chaos magic from the Graygem, and using the power Adlar raised seven great mesas for the clans foretold to come to him. He gave one mesa to the Hilldigger clan and keeps one for this own clan to construct individual communities. In 3227 PD, he raised one mesa directly to the east of the Path to become the city for the dead.
Duncan Fateender died that same year. The clans chose his son Kerto Fateender to succeed him, but the reign was brief. Under Kerto's reign the Tandar expanded new mines, but he ignored the growing influence of Adlar's followers. In 3219 PD, the Firesmith clan sought permission from the Adlar to build a community in Azoine. Adlar Stonebellow granted the clan permission, and Kerto allowed them to move to Azoine unchallenged.
Kerto Fateender died during a mine-collapse during a visit to the area. His death was mourned throughout the empire, and the clans chose his brother Garik Fateender to become the new Warden. Garik, a weak ruler, gave into the demands of the Stonebellow clan when they asked if the Earthslasher clan could move into Azoine as well.
The Earthslasher clan was the fourth clan to move into the city. An aging Adlar Stonebellow continued to convert more dwarves who had skills in creating tunnels. He also continued to receive visions, and his magical powers showed signs of increasing as the Path got deeper. He taught his skills to the other priests of the Path, and although other clans began to call all dwarves in the region Adlar, he called them the Chosen.
With the death of Garik Fateender in 3178 PD, the clans chose Ade Fateender, Garik's son, to lead them. Ade became a vocal opponent of the Adlar influence over the government as he viewed the Adlar responsible for his uncle's death. Adlar Stonebellow argued with the ideas of Ade as Ade tried to establish trade with other nations. Ade believed the dwarves would grow stagnant if they didn't involve themselves in the affairs of Adlatum.
In 3144 PD, Adlar Stonebellow died in a mysterious fire that the Adlar dwarves believed was caused by Ade Fateender. This caused a rift between the clans that nearly resulted in war until Biln Stonebellow declared Adlar's death to be an accident. To show his support of the Warden, Biln invited Ade to Azoine for a formal visit in 3124 PD.
Ade Fateender approached the city of Azoine with the idea of ending the digging for the Path. Unknown to Ade, Biln plans Ade's murder because he believes Ade was responsible for Adlar's death. Biln sends out riders to greet Ade, but he secretly ordered them to slay him. They attacked his retinue, killing the Warden. With Ade's death, his retinue fled back to Tandarton, spreading the tale of the Adlar's treachery. A civil war erupted with two factions, the Adlar and the Tandar, fighting for control of Heskeram.
The rival clans battle each other for dominance for three years with no clear victors. Finally, in 3121 PD, the clans meet again and elect Tarc Marblemolder to lead them, ending the war.
Tarc rules with an iron fist as soon as his reign begins. Under his reign, Tarc attempted to force all Tandar to follow the teaching of Adlar Stonebellow. The Marblemolder clan moved to Azoine that year to show their support of Tarc's Laws. The Tandar refused to follow the Laws of Tarc and threaten to resume the war if the laws are not rescinded. Tarc refused, and he orders all temples in the city of Tandarton closed.
The Tandar revolved under the leadership of Barth Bladeender. Tarc then responded to the revolt by creating even more harsh laws including the closing of all temples and banishing of all clerics. Barth attacked Tandarton, defeating Tarc's small army. Tarc himself is slain by Barth on the steps of the Council Hall in 3119 PD.
Barth was elected Warden following the assault, and the temples in Tandarton were reopened. The Adlar living in Azoine hand over the prophet Biln Stonebellow to avoid the wrath of the Tandar, and Biln is executed for treason against the Warden. His body was buried in an unmarked grave.
The reign of Barth was a time of relative peace and prosperity for the dwarves. With the death of Tarc Marblemolder and Biln Stonebellow, the to-be-named Adlar dwarves were in a period of reorganization as they searched for a new High Prophet. The Tandar ruled Heskeram unopposed and made great strides in securing the personal liberties of the dwarves.
Barth did have one major flaw. He was unable to recognize his son Ber Bladeender's faults. Ber was infatuated with the religion of the Adlar and converted many of the young dwarves of the Bladeender clan to his cause. Barth appointed his son to rule after his death, and the council approved it. In 3004 PD, Golden Age of the Tandar ended.
The twelve clans of the Tandar broke apart as many dwarves came to follow the teachings of Adlar Stonebellow. In 2968 PD, followers officially adopted the name Adlar to separate themselves from the Tandar clans. Six clans (the Bladeender, Marblemolder, Earthslasher, Stonebellow, Firesmith, and Hilldigger) followed the teachings of Adlar and began to put pressure on the unbelievers. These other clans doubted that Reorx would demand them to dig a hole in the ground, and they spoke out openly against the Path.
Jarib Bladeender came to power after his father Ber Bladeender, a priest of Adlar, abdicated the throne to pursue living at the Path. Jarib was a devoted follower of the religion and revived the harsh laws of Tarc Marblemolder, which tried to force all Tandar to practice Adlarism. Dwarves from the clans of Fateender, Giantbattler, Ogrecutter, Battleheart, and Redquarrier, and Copperforge spoke out against the Laws of Jarib and demanded that the laws be renounced.
Jarib became heavily influenced by the opinions of Ror Stonebellow, a childhood friend and descendant of Adlar Stonebellow. Jarib came to dream of a mighty Adlar empire, as opposed to the fractured nation of the Tandar. Ror told Jarib he would make a better Warden and Jarib would be happier living a simple life. Jarib abdicated the throne, claiming that Ror Stonebellow had a vision for the people to follow and the influence to carry it out.
Ror Stonebellow announced that all clans must convert to Adlarism and that all the temples to the other gods in Tanderton be closed. The six unbeliever clans again spoke out against this, and Ror gave them an ultimatum: convert or leave. Being disgusted with those who also shared the name, these clans renounced the name Tandar. They left heading north in 2903 PD, and as they departed, they witnessed the Adlar burning Tandarton to the ground.
The mesas outside of the path became small cities to house the six clans of the Adlar. This was a time of building and peace for the Adlar. They were forced to change much of the terrain as the magic of the Graygem granted the ability to wear out the land in turn for yielding incredible harvests. Slowly the land changed from a lush forest to a desert barely able to support life.
In 1311 PD, the Graygem sent a new vision to Adlar High Prophet Ro Stonebellow showing him an impassable door. Ro awoke from the vision and told the Adlar that they would need to find something that could open the door. The Adlar knew of no known weapon that would do what they needed, so they began to search throughout Adlatum for it.
The Path continued to become deeper, and the Adlar became isolated from outside affairs, concentrating solely on the Path. The deeper the hole, the more power was shared among the prophets. The prophets for the next five hundred years expanded the Heskeram Empire to the west to mine the mountains for materials.
In 814 PD, a tragic event occurred at the Path as five hundred members of the Earthslasher clan dug into a new layer. Unknown to them, they stumbled into a Chamber of Chaos containing sleeping forms. Before they entered, they summoned a Stonebellow prophet and a group of twenty acolytes to document the event. The miners and priests entered the mine and expected to find the secret of the Path.
After they entered the cavern, an earthquake struck and collapsed several miles of tunnels. Inside the miners and priests faced unspeakable horrors as the forces of Chaos wake and battle the dwarves. Although the forces are small, massive casualties are taken.
The shadow wights of Chaos attacked the priests first and wipe their existence from people's memory. The miners retreated into a small opening and attempted to hold off the creatures. After a month of fighting, the last of Chaos' forces are defeated, but the cost is high to the dwarves. Nearly four-hundred members of the Earthslasher clan had disappeared from the touch of the wights. Only thirty-four miners were rescued, however they found the gear for hundreds more along with mysterious prophet and acolyte robes.
The miners who were rescued were physically changed by the ordeal. Their skin was turned pale, and they were now deathly afraid of going underground. The miner's leader Ton Blacklight met with the Adlar High Prophet Hind Stonebellow to tell him what he learned of the creatures they faced. Hind recorded the conversations but kept them a secret from the other prophets, knowing that such stories were dangerous. He then decided it would be best to eliminate the Earthslasher clan, as many of them were displaying the effects of memory problems.
Ton Blacklight met with the Earthslasher's patriarch and convinced him of the story, explaining why so many of the dwarves living on the Earthslasher mesa were suffering memory problems. A young acolyte, Micah Stoneplow, arrived during the meeting and warns them what Hind had ordered to happen that night.
Before morning, the entire Earthslasher clan traveled in secret from their mesa, leaving nearly all of their possessions behind. They were able to elude the Adlar warriors, as they were busy preparing for the attack on the mesa. When the Adlar reported to Hind of the Earthslasher's disappearance, he placed a bounty on every Earthslasher's head to help keep the secret. Hind ordered the city sealed and that no dwarf should ever enter it. He renamed the Earthslasher mesa to the City of the Unbelievers. He then ordered the Adlar military to pursue and killed those fleeing, now named the Neskuda.
In 813 PD, the Adlar begin their chase of the Neskuda all over southern Adlatum, in hopes of catching them. They're cornered in 796 PD, and the Battle of Still Waters was fought as these two forces finally met. The Neskuda managed to rout the Adlar troops, and they followed the retreating Adlar armies back to Azoine.
In 795 PD, the Neskuda raided Azoine to steal items that they believed would prevent the unleashing of the monsters they fought. The Adlar were caught completely off-guard, as the army had just returned and reported the Neskuda were routed and not a threat. The Neskuda steal many items including the journal of Adlar Stonebellow, the Crown of Ral, and the Axe of Barth.
The centuries passed, and even as the world around them died and turned to desert, the Adlar focused more and more on the Path. They were religiously consumed by it, completely forgetting about all other things. The dwarves dug through to the chamber that the Neskuda found, and there they found a strange mark that guided them further along the Path.
Little changed in the Adlar world when the Drowning occurred. Only small cave-ins are recorded in the upper levels, and within a few weeks life returned to the normal feverish pace. Although the other races lost their clerical power, the Adlar continued to have the ability to cast. As in the past, the ability grew stronger the closer to the Path they were and the deeper the Path got.
Guided by the strange markings, the Adlar continued to dig towards a destination unknown to them, seemingly with no end. In 121 AD, the dwarves uncovered a strange door connected to a solid stone wall. The dwarves were unable to open the door no matter what they attempted.
During next year, human merchants traveled to Azoine to trade "dwarven relics" to the Adlar dwarves. At first the dwarves were disinterested until a human merchant, Tom Uliman, presented a relic he found in the mountains. The relic was an ancient iron box, small in size and locked. The Adlar High Prophet, Aoc Stonebellow was told about the ancient box and that Adlar Stonebellow had a vision that the contents of the box would provide the key to open the door.
Aoc Stonebellow ordered the merchant and box brought to him so he could study it. The vision Adlar wrote down told of a fair-skinned human bearing an ancient iron box that no human could unlock. When Aoc saw the merchant and the box he believed this to be the fulfillment of the vision. Aoc used his earth magic to open the box, and he was disappointed to find only a riddle inside.
He sent out a message to all dwarves that the dwarf who figured out the riddle would become the Lord of the Path and have the honor of unlocking the door. Dwarves began to search out clues to the riddle as Aoc had it spread throughout the city Azoine. In 146 AD, an ancient scholar solved the riddle, figuring it was referring to the Pick of Aenor. The pick, however, still remained hidden somewhere.
In 147 AD, the Adlar dwarves in Azoine all shared the same dream, a message that Reorx was not helping them and that he didn't want the door unlocked. Reorx attempted to break the hold of the Graygem over the dwarves. He failed. The dwarves woke, and High Prophet Aoc Stonebellow decreed that the false Reorx had attempted to interfere with their dreams and that they would continue with the Path.
For over 140 years, the Adlar continue to search for the pick. The High Prophets expanded the Path and began to dig side tunnels, searching for other entrances that could lead around the door. All of their efforts were done in vain as there was no other way found that would lead them to where the door went.
In 291 AD, dwarven scholars deciphered further clues in the riddle and pinpointed the Pick of Aenor as being located in the ruins of Tandarton. It was located under the Council Hall in the catacomb of the dwarven general Telindus. High Prophet Galot Stonebellow ordered a hundred dwarves under the leadership of General Turq Marblemolder to search the ruins and retrieve the pick. He also rescinded the former order from Adlar Stonebellow incurring death to any Adlar who entered the city.
Turq Marblemolder led his troops into the city and fought few buildings that had survived the fire. One of the buildings that survived perfectly intact was the old Council Hall. Traveling into the catacombs beneath the tomb, Marblemolder discovered a daemon that had escaped from the Path and made the catacombs his lair. The daemon killed nearly the entire force that ventured into the catacomb, but it was slain by Marblemolder himself. The pick was discovered and returned to the Path.
High Prophet Galot Stonebellow held onto the pick for nearly a year before deciding that it was the real pick. He ordered a celebration of thirty days before the door would be opened. This was a major celebration for the Adlar for all of their hard work throughout the centuries. On the eve of the ceremony, Talin, a human rogue Reorx convinced to stop the opening of the door, stole the pick.
Talin traveled with the pick across the sea to a distance island inhabited by strange creatures called kobolds. The kobolds agreed to hide the pick underneath a large natural waterfall they worshipped as a god. Talin returned to the Midlands and lived out the rest of his life in hiding.
The Adlar attempted to discover the thief or the pick's whereabouts. They searched throughout Adlatum in hope of discovering some clue. Much of the work at the Path was halted as dwarves were sent throughout the continent.
In 374 AD the Adlar learned about a human bard who told of a story about the theft of a pick that was the key to unlocked a door. They traveled to the bard and told him they needed the pick to free enslaved dwarves that were kept by the minotaurs. The pick was the only thing that could guarantee their freedom as they were locked in the Dungeons of Nelos. The bard Telnor, a grandson of Talin, agreed to accompany the dwarves on the adventure to retrieve the pick, but only if they allowed him to travel to the island alone, in respect to his grandfather. A group of young friends wished to travel with Telnor as well because they didn't trust the dwarves, and they convinced him to sail separately. The dwarves agreed to the demand and hoped to outrace Telnor's boat and retrieve the pick before his boat could arrive.
Telnor was the first one to reach the island when the dwarves in the other boat mistook another island as the one Telnor described. As he made his way to the kobold camp, he received a vision from Reorx telling him the truth about the Adlar. Telnor retrieved the pick and fled from the island, only to be spotted by the dwarves who pursued him.
Telnor managed to elude the dwarves for many years, traveling throughout Adlatum. In 382 AD, they finally catch up to Telnor in the Midlands. He had hidden in the city of Iqurliny, in the nation of Isryan, for nearly three years before he was founded murdered by the dwarves on the roof to his home.
The Pick of Aenor is returned to the Adlar dwarves in early winter in the closing days of 382 AD. The High Prophet Wolon Stonebellow decided there would be no ceremony and that the pick would be used in secret at night. Stonebellow traveled the Path and swung the pick to crack the door. The door split in two, and as the door fell away, the army of Chaos was unleashed.
The Adlar by the door were slain except for the High Prophet, who barely escaped with his life. He traveled back to his mesa and rose the alarm. The army of Chaos quickly caused much damage, leaving alive only the dwarves who hid. Stonebellow survived and tried to rally his people to reenter the Path. The grieving families not only ignored his words, he was also murdered by several who had flung him into the Path.
Several days later near the beginning of the new year, the forces of Chaos subsided and the sky changed in the Starfall. The Adlar prophets lost much of their power following the unlocking of the door, and they struggled to maintain control over the clans. They tried to convince them that Reorx had sent them a test to see if they were worthy enough to hold onto his secret. Most clans voted to leave Azoine and travel back to the ruins of Tandarton to rebuild the fabled city. Only the clans of Marblemolder and Stonebellow remained behind to continue work on the Path.
Today, the area around Azoine is a wasteland with little vegetation as the dwarves had sucked the nutrients from the land. Inside the city, the dwarves use sorcery and mysticism to provide water and plants. The area known as the Heskeram Desert is a hot and unforgiving climate. The outer areas of the desert contain small shrubs while the interior is known for its steep sand dunes.
The cities and outposts of the Heskeram Empire are supposed to be under the control of the High Prophet. In the days following the fight with Chaos, many dwarves living in Azoine forsake the Path and moved to Tandarton. Tension between the two cities is running high.
Azoine (Metropolis 93,000): This town is the current home of the High Prophet Aros Stonebellow (CN male Adlar noble 3/fighter 1/mystic 7). The city is located on the seven mesas that surround the path. Originally all seven mesas served as homes to the various realms of the dwarven clans, but after the fight with Chaos four have been abandoned. These mesas are sealed and if any dwarf is found in them they will be put to death.
Tanderton (Metropolis 82,000): This was the second largest town in the Heskeram Empire. It was repopulated following the disillusion of several dwarves following the fight with Chaos. The town now serves as a place for dwarves who no longer believe in Adlarism. Currently Tor Hilldigger (NE male Adlar noble 2/fighter 6/rogue 2) is the leader of the town.
Reorx's Hearth (Large Town 2,550): This is town built at the entrance of the Path. This town guards the Path from any intruders and serves as a supply depot. Built in the town is a large temple dedicated to the Path. The current leader of the town is Path Protector Raxoni Stonebellow (LE female Adlar noble 1/fighter 3/sorcerer 5).