The Daerndar, or "Heart of Spells," is a series of dry, natural caverns that once underlay the Red Tower. They are under the Duchal Towers now. Some say they drove the Official Mage mad -- and indisputably they are the reason so many wandering mages show up in the Grand Duchy, "nosing around" (as Shantans say) in attempts to find a way down into the Daerndar.
Such reckless fools have a lot of digging to do. There's said to be a single, secret way down into the Daerndar -- a flooded tunnel that a swimmer must know well or perish in dead-end side passages -- that descends from somewhere in the Official Mage's tower (from under Flyndara's bed, local legend insists, but this may be no more than a long-ago tale-teller's embellishment that's gained credence through constant retelling over the years). On at least one occasion, thieves discovered secret passages in the Duchal Towers connecting to the route Flyndara controls, and they visited the Daerndar on the sly. When the few survivors emerged and told their tales, the Official Mage teleported slaying monsters after them.
The Daerndar hold great attraction for mages, because they're full of magical radiations strong enough to recharge most magic items -- if you know the proper spells to focus and infuse. Elminster of Shadowdale has described one ritual that caused a wand of magic missiles to gain 4d12 charges but warned that most uses of the radiation gain far more modest benefits. Rods and staves, for example, seem to require a spell per charge gained. (Those who don't know the right magic beware -- most spell use in the Daerndar causes chain-reaction outbursts of wild magic!)
Twice the Grand Duke has granted permission for travelers to try to recharge items in the caverns. Both attempts were made under the watchful eye of the prickly Official Mage and were partial successes. Some items benefited while others gained no charges or became unstable, their discharges occasionally generating wild magic effects.
Years ago, the Arcanauh accidentally broke into these caverns while expanding his cellars and thereafter used them for storage, spellcasting experiments, and to hide his strongest magics. The explosion that destroyed him and his artifacts imbued the caves with strong magical radiation -- fed, some say, by the continuing discharges from ruptured artifacts whose magic has been twisted horribly awry. These radiations block all translocation, scrying, and astral and ethereal spells and spell-like powers. So far as is known, no being can use magical means to journey into or out of the Daerndar.
Blue-green, glowing mists now drift endlessly through the caverns. Within them lurk at least three doomspheres (ghost beholders, MoF) that the Vigilant Bailiffs can somehow summon right across the duchy to fight for them. (This summoning uses command words that compel the obedience of either one or all of the doomspheres and causes the wards to teleport these undead, within the wards only, from their present location to the presence of whoever uttered the command word.)
Only a few spells known to Flyndara can safely be cast in the caverns. All other magical discharges cause outbursts of wild magic (see the Daerndar Effects Table, below). Occasionally, violent spell storms arise spontaneously and tear through the Daerndar, involving explosions, raging lightning, and magic that polymorphs only parts of a creature's body. Spellcasters exposed to a storm must make a Will save every round or be feebleminded.
In storm-free times, Daerndar magic teleports bewildered and usually belligerent monsters into the caverns from various unknown, remote locations -- trolls, minotaurs, mimics, ettins, gibbering mouthers, nighthaunts, and ropers appear most often.
All magic items brought into the Daerndar float freely (drifting gently through the mists or hurtling violently if a spell storm erupts) if released and not tethered. The mists generate multiple 'ghost images' of any magic item, akin to the effects of a mirror image spell. Typically six or seven in number, these identical images move independently. Touching a false image will reveal that it isn't solid but won't make it vanish.
Moreover, the Daerndar walls seem to move from time to time, changing the shape of the caverns and, in at least one case, crushing a hapless wizard to pulp between closing walls. The caverns have claimed the lives of over forty adventurers during the past decade.
Daerndar Effects Table (d10)
The Future of the Duchy
Several cabals and more official groups of wizards (including the Red Wizards of Thay) have been scrying and physically spying on the Grand Duchy of Shantal with increasing vigor in the last few years. The Red Wizards have openly assaulted the Duchal Towers twice, seeking to seize control of the Daerndar, but have been hurled back (and largely destroyed) by opposing mages who 'attacked out of nowhere' once the Red Wizards were occupied destroying Flyndara's monsters and defensive magics and seeking to slay the Official Mage herself.
Word that the Daerndar are death to approach has arisen at MageFairs, so that many wizards now seem to be watching (or watching over) the Grand Duchy, trying to prevent anyone other than the current rulership from gaining control over them.
There have been at least two attempts to woo or befriend Flyndara Rildar, but neither succeeded, and she killed one of the wizard suitors.
Some Shantans express the opinion that they'd be just as happy if the Daerndar, Flyndara, and her wards all harmlessly disappeared one morning. Others, however, say they're glad to have such protection against "the next bloodthirsty, conquering sword-swinger who comes a-riding over yonder hills!"
Next installment -- the Green Road.
About the Author
Ed Greenwood is the man who unleashed the Forgotten Realms on an unsuspecting world. He works in libraries, writes fantasy, science fiction, horror, mystery, and even romance stories (sometimes all in the same novel), but he is still happiest churning out Realmslore, Realmslore, and more Realmslore. There are still a few rooms in his house with space left to pile up papers in . . .
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