Death of the Lion: An Eberron Adaptation

Here’s a short story told in the form of a legend, meant to adapt the Ghostlord’s story into the Eberron setting.

Raat shi anaa. The story continues.

The empire of Dhakaan. The epitome of bloodstained glory.

The Dar, known to Khorvaire’s humans as the goblinoids, ruled the continent for several millennia. Its people were strong-willed, skilled in steel, spell, and the blending of both. Its succession of emperors thought their lineage would last forever, but as we all know, empires always fall in the end.

The madness came. It came pouring into Eberron from the mad plane of Xoriat. Twisted flesh and minds, known to sages as the aberrations, filled the Material Plane with their unnatural might and magic. At the van of this tide of insanity came the Daelkyr.

The Daelkyr were beings so unnatural and warped that their mere presence corrupted reality. The land was polluted, and so were its people. Those Dar who had been captured by the Daelkyr were made into playthings by the mighty lords of madness. Those that survived saw their flesh and minds twisted at the whims of the Daelkyr.

One of the provinces that was badly hit was Rhestilaar. A gate to Xoriat opened in the dark chasms below the land, and legions of unnatural creatures invaded the surface. The Daelkyr who led them was known to the Dar as Marvesklurhan, the Lord of Writhing Coils. It established Rhest as its throne as it began sending forth its minions to meet with the Daelkyr who were invading the western reaches of Khorvaire.

But the proud Dar refused to be broken. They fought back, and with them came the orcs of the Gatekeepers. With swords of the twilight metal byeshk and mighty spells meant to restore the balance of Eberron, the unlikely allies fought back the waves of madness. As the war raged on, many of the hobgoblins were impressed by the power of the Gatekeepers’ natural magic, and sought to augment their martial might with it.

Very few of the Dar who tried to join the Gatekeepers’ ranks impressed the orc hierophants, but those who did proved to be mighty and wise indeed. One of these was a hobgoblin named Uriikel Zaarl.

Zaarl led a mighty pride of lions into the corrupted capital city of Rhest, and tore into the ranks of the Illithids who served as Marvesklurhan’s elite guard. He wielded a mighty byeshk blade he called the Devourer of Twilight, and fought fiercely all the way to the threshold of Marvesklurhan’s alien throne.

Zaarl struck swiftly, smiting the Daelkyr with his blade, but the blow was not enough. The Daelkyr’s mighty tentacles flung the druid away, and the Lord of Writhing Coils escaped deep into the caverns beneath Rhest along with its entourage.

Shocked by the maddening touch of the Daelkyr, Zaarl summoned all his brethren to pursue the alien lord to the portal at the bottom of the subterranean chasm. The Illithids, wielding swords forged of pure mindstuff, fought a retreating battle to cover the flight of their wounded lord, but Zaarl caught up with  Marvesklurhan as it was about to flee. The hero’s pride of lions fought with all their might, crushing the twisted Illithids and filling the room with carnage as the druid confronted the Daelkyr.

“Here you die, corruptor of flesh,” proclaimed the druid champion.

“Ah, flesh—what is flesh but something to be twisted?” answered the Daelkyr, its warped voice echoing in Zaarl’s mind.

Zaarl said nothing and smote the alien lord with his blade. Marvekslurhan’s death throes consumed its own minions as its psychic force clawed violently at life. The backblast shattered the portal, and the fabric of reality fell back into place as the rift’s energies drained away. The day was won, but the damage had been done.

Zaarl’s lions, their forms ravaged by the shockwave of chaos, limped out of the chasm, no longer natural beings. The druid himself emerged a hero. The people of Rhest lauded him as a hero and rebuit the city in his honor. Lion motifs practically covered the city in the months that followed, and the lion was adopted as the province’s emblem.

Zaarl, however, felt betrayed. Nature’s magic could not heal his beloved lions, and none of Rhest’s mages had the ability to restore them. His body began to manifest signs of the Daelkyr’s corrupting influence, and all natural magic was completely ineffective in arresting or reversing the corruption wracking his body. The druid consulted his orc masters, but they too could offer no answers. He felt the damage was irreversible, and that nothing he could do could save Eberron in the end. Flesh, in the end, was simply something to be twisted. Only death could save him and his lions.

Zaarl sought the tomes of necromancers and the power over life and death that they held. He slipped away from the teachings of the Gatekeepers gradually. After a hundred years of study, he decided to take the final step toward conquering the flesh-twisting effects: lichdom.

“I shall save you, my pride,” whispered the undead druid as he struck his beloved lions dead with his newfound magic. At once he began to work on raising the beasts back to unlife.

Rhest itself began to die. Dhakaan never fully recovered from the Daelkyr war, and one by one its provinces began to fall into disrepair. When the last emperor, Dabrak Riis, finally abandoned his throne, Rhest’s neighbors began to invade.

The goblins once more called upon the might of its druid patron, but Zaarl sent a simple reply: “Zaarl is no more. The Ghostlord shall go to Rhest.”

Zaarl marched into Rhest once more, not to save it, but to destroy it. Bitterness and the desire for revenge had been festering in his heart for a century. It was time to exact payment from the weaklings for whom he had suffered.

The ghostly lions rampaged throughout the city, tearing the goblins limb from limb. He descended the ancient steps to the caverns beneath and called upon his magic to dissolve the great earth pillars that braced the city above. Escaping to the surface, Zaarl threw his byeshk blade, the Devourer of Twilight, into the depths of the pit.

That fateful day, nearly five thousand years ago, Rhest died. Water from Lake Rhestin came flooding into the city as the tunnels below caved in. Those that survived fled across Khorvaire, some joining the human civilization that came on the heels of Dhakaan, others remaining proud and independent. The Ghostlord himself raised an enormous temple for himself in the blighted land south of Rhest, and there he brooded for millennia, delving deeper into the arts of necromancy.

It was only recently that the cult of Tiamat led by Azarr Kul came to these lands. By the hand of fate, the traitorous Ghostlord was once drawn back together into dealing with the Dar. A great conflict brews in the lands of Elsir Vale, and the Ghostlord will once more be put to the test. Only the gods know if Zaarl will be finally left to his dark fate as a lich, or if he will be finally freed from the haunting whispers of the Lord of Writhing Coils.

Raat shan gath kal’dor. The story stops, but never ends.

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