by Steve Miller
In ages past, Godshome referred to two locations. First, there was the widely known City of Godshome, a place with temples devoted to most of Krynn's major gods. Second, there was a hidden valley that only those chosen by the gods could find.
Located within the Khalkist Mountains near the heart of the Dark Knight-controlled lands of Neraka, both Godshomes are mystic sites all but forgotten by the peoples of modern-day Ansalon.
The City of Godshome
For many centuries before the Kingpriests of Istar became powerful and corrupt, the city of Godshome was a prime destination of pilgrims from all across Ansalon. For the faithful of Ansalon in ages past, it was a tremendous sign of faith to travel to Godshome, and every devoted worshipper hoped to make such a pilgrimage at least once in his or her lifetime.
Godshome could be more accurately described as many cities within a single city. The city was built like a great wheel, with its districts radiating outward from the Great Temple, a grand structure containing cathedrals devoted to all 21 major gods of the Krynnish pantheon. The city was divided into thirteen different districts, several of which could only be accessed from a single gate in the city's outer wall, because the followers the deities did not get along with the followers of other deities. Each district was completely self-contained, with inns, shops, residences, and all other features that one might except to find in a city.
The districts were dotted with many lesser temples and churches, each devoted to a different aspect of the god whose, or operated by a different sect devoted to honoring the deity in their own way. While travel from district to district was theoretically also possible through the Great Temple of the Stars, such passage was limited only to high-ranking priests or those granted special dispensation by the Worshipful Master of the Stars, the highest-ranking priest and lord of the city.
Clearly, with 21 gods in the pantheon and only 15 districts in the city, not all the gods maintain temples at Godshome. The three gods of nature—Habbakuk, Chislev, and Zeboim—and their followers could not abide the relatively close quarters of Godshome, and therefore had holy sites elsewhere. Similarly, the three gods of magic did not maintain temples in Godshome, as their followers typically made the equivalent of a pilgrimage every time they visited one of the Towers of High Sorcery.
As Istar and its Kingpriests grew in power, the importance of Godshome waned. The Kingpriests encouraged the centralization of worship in the city that served as their seat of power. Steps were taken on many levels to discourage the traditional pilgrimages to Godshome, which included leveling outrageously high taxes against the inns on the roads to Godshome, to not provide regular patrols—while discouraging local lords from doing the same—along the roads so they became a hotbed of banditry, and funding the construction of a great temple in Istar that supposedly superseded all those in Godshome.
As the final century before the Cataclysm dawned, the efforts of Istar had effectively caused many of Ansalon's peoples to view Godshome as a corrupt and seedy place where hucksters sold false cures and blessings, tricksters performed false miracles, and blasphemers espoused false modes of worship that offended the gods. Eventually, the Kingpriest and his clergy grew so powerful that they commanded the Istari legions to attack Godshome and raze it. The priests and holy warriors who still remained there settled their differences and valiantly defended their city and temples. For almost two decades prior to the Cataclysm, the citizens of Godshome defended their city and temples from an overwhelming and implacable foe—until one night, the entire populace vanished without trace.
The commanders of the legions marched their troops into the now-abandoned city, intent on solving the mystery, but within hours, the Cataclysm struck. Distant Istar was destroyed without trace, struck by a fiery mountain and swept away by tidal waves. Godshome was wracked by earthquakes that caused the temples to collapse. Only a handful of the thousands of soldiers that had laid siege to the city survived to tell of its fate.
Godshome has laid abandoned ever since, the roads that once led to it shattered by earthquakes and disintegrated by lava flows. The ogres and nomadic herders who moved onto the arid plains in the ensuing centuries believed the foothills in which it stood to be haunted, and adventurers who visited the region confirmed this: Ghostly Istari troops still roam the shattered city and hills surrounding it, looking for the vanished priests and holy warriors. Few adventurers have survived excursions into Godshome, but those who have return with great treasures. So far, none of the many sacred artifacts that are rumored to have once been located there have been recovered.
Although Godshome was the end destination for most ancient pilgrims, a select few would continue onward to one of the most holy sites on all of Krynn. If the priests in the city determined that a person who sought their guidance was worthy of the direct attention of the gods, they would tell him or her of a secret trail that led into the mountains, to the true Godshome.
In ages past, none could find their way to Godshome Vale unless the gods themselves permitted it. If the gods did not wish to assist the petitioner, the trial would wind its way through the mountains and eventually deposit those following it back in the foothills near the city of Godshome. However, if a worthy person (or persons, as such pilgrimages could be undertaken by questing parties of heroes as well as individuals) traveled this trail, the god whose guidance he or she sought would subject the petitioner to tests intended to verify devotion to the ideals that the god held dear. Few records of these tests have survived to Ansalon's present day, but it is known that they were lethal, and those who were unworthy of the god's attentions did not survive the experience.
After the tests, the successful petitioners would emerge in a bowl-shaped valley. Its steeply rising, evergreen-lined, rocky slopes offered no apparent exits from the valley, although one would invariably present itself after the petitioner had reached the center of the valley. Just as invariably, however, the means through which he or she entered the valley would just as invariable be swallowed by the cliffs.
At the center of the valley was a depression in the shape of a perfect circle. It was surrounded by 21 shapeless boulders which represented the major gods. The bottom of the depression consisted of such polished black rock that it appeared to be a pool of water at first glance. Regardless of the time of day or weather conditions, the constellations and moons of Krynn's sky would be present in the black surface. An avatar of the god would appear on the constellation that represented him or her, and provide the petitioner with guidance. Invariably, the god's message would be short and cryptic, and once it had been delivered, another pass would open elsewhere in the steep cliffs, allowing departure from the valley.
In the wake of the Chaos War, however, the valley has become a little-known passage through the Khalkists. Narrow trails that cannot accommodate wagons or even horses wind their way along ledges and through crevices until they converge on a single narrow pass that leads either northwest or southwest, depending on which side of the mountain range a person is coming from. The passes open into Godshome Vale, which is now barren and devoid of life. The evergreen trees are now blackened, toppled stumps and the mosses that once grew among them are fine ash that sweeps across the stoney ground in the breeze.
The boulders that once surrounded the black pool have vanished, as absent as the gods. The shiny black surface has cracked, now taking on the appearance of a mirror that someone struck dead-center with a fist. There is still some mystical quality to the site, as a distorted reflection of the moon that appeared in Krynn's sky after the gods departed can be seen in the cracked surface.
Shortly after the founding of the Citadel of Light, the heroes are approached by Iryl Songbrook and Jasper Fireforge, two of that mystical organization's leaders who are on their way to seek Godshome and evidence of the gods' presense on Krynn. They ask the heroes to join them in their quest. Using a map recovered from Tasslehoff's belongings following his death, the mystics and the heroes head into the Khalkists in search of Godshome.
After braving many dangers—including marauding hobgoblin hunting parties and ogres—they find the valley, and its appearance almost breaks Jasper's spirit. As they depart the valley, they encounter a group of Knights of Takhisis under the leadership of an aging Knight of the Skull. The Dark Knight, as distraught as Jasper and driven partially mad by the loss of his goddess, challenges him (or a hero who still follows the True Gods) to a duel to the death. The Dark Knight is convinced that if he kills a priest of a Good god in honorable combat, perhaps the Dark Queen will once again whisper her plan in his ear, and bestow her blessings upon him.
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