Realm of Dust

Once one of the proudest and most fertile realms in the Flanaess, the Duchy of Tenh, now lies in ruins, its fields desolate and its people scattered. Amid the wasteland, the Tenhas struggle daily not only for personal survival, but for the survival of their people and way of life.

The Torment of Tenh
Led by Sevvord Redbeard, the barbarian hordes of Stonefist overran the Duchy of Tenh in 582 CY, destroying a realm that had stood steadfast against invaders for nearly a millennium. Duke Ehyeh III fled into exile in the County of Urnst, leaving his land and people under the boot of Sevvord and his puppet master, Iuz the Evil. For over a decade, Tenh was the crucible in which the armies of Iuz, Stonefist, the Theocracy of the Pale and the remnants of Duke Ehyeh's Tenha Host, battled for supremacy. Despite horrific bloodshed on all sides, no faction was able to gain the upper hand, but worse was to come.

In 593 CY, a horde of creatures from the Ethereal Plane broke into the Oerth in northern Tenh. Sweeping south with frightening speed, they consumed every piece of organic matter they touched, slaying Stoneholder, Tenha and Iuzite with equanimity. In a single day 150,000 Tenhas perished. The fertile fields of Tenh, renowned in song and watered with the blood of thousands, were turned to sterile dust.

Islands of life survived amid the devastation, however. The Horde was reluctant to assail the fell shrines of the Old One at Tolran Hill. In the east, the Faithful Flan and their Palish allies turned back the Ethereal tide at Atherstone. The Archmage Nystul and the mages known as the Keepers of the Flan came to the aid of the beleaguered city of Redspan, saving it and the Tenha Host from destruction. For the tens of thousands of Tenhas who perished that terrible day, thousands of others fled under the eves of the Phostwood, which the Ethereal Horde would not approach.

The Tenhas
The survivors of the Tenha people now huddle in the havens of Redspan and Atherstone or in unnumbered camps scattered throughout the Phostwood. Fewer than 33,000 Tenhas survive in the land of Tenh itself. Others have fled east or south to the Pale, Nyrond, the Urnsts and beyond. The Tenha people, decimated by a decade of death and disaster and strewn far and wide by the winds of fate, stand now on the verge of extinction.

Tragically, though their survival depends on unity, the loyalties of the Tenha people are now bitterly divided. Many of those who fled to the Pale converted to the One True Path of Pholtus. Calling themselves the Faithful Flan, they now strive to bring the Blinding Light to Tenh and create a theocracy allied (and subservient) to the Pale. Ranging forth from their base at Atherstone, the Refulgent Companies of the Faithful Flan are superbly equipped and trained by their Palish masters, fighting mainly as infantry, relying on Palish heavy cavalry for support. Their morale and discipline is superb, though even some conservative clerics in Wintershiven have expressed disquiet at the extreme fanaticism of some Tenha converts.

Many Tenhas have remained loyal to Duke Ehyeh and the warriors of the duke's Tenha Host are drawn from their ranks. Led by Marshal Laba, the Loyalists fight to reclaim their birthright in the name of their liege lords and the old customs of the realm. Laba has managed to reassemble several squadrons of the medium cavalry for which the Tenha Host was once famed and feared. Clad in mail and wielding bow, lance, longsword or kathach, they wear the red cloaks and kukris of the Host with pride. The kukri and the kathach, (a long-bladed kukri), are traditional Tenha weapons, often worn as symbols of authority by nobles and officers.

There is bitter hatred between the factions. While the Faithful Flan consider the Loyalists as heretics blindly following false gods and a fallen apostate (Ehyeh), the Loyalists see the Faithful as traitors to their traditions, their people and their realm, aiding foreign invaders in the conquest of Tenh. Clashes are frequent and bloody, with quarter rarely being asked or given.

The Stonelands
Once renowned for its bounty, Tenh is now a barren desert of rock and dust. Known as the Stonelands, these wastes are utterly devoid of life. Here and there, the gutted ruins of Tenh's once proud cities rise above the dust. Only the shells of stone-built buildings survive – though many have collapsed due to the digestion of wooden supports. The ruins are haunting reminders of a more glorious past, now seemingly lost forever. The Ethereal Horde left more subtle and strange scars upon the land. Tenh's weather has been strangely altered. Rain falls less frequently than it once did and water is scarce. It is also much colder – with the night-time temperatures often falling to freezing and below even in summer.

Still stranger tales drift south from the Stonelands. It is said that that magic functions erratically there. Non-humans travelling the wastes have described troubling visions of a shadowy, phantom land peopled by shades and insubstantial forms. However, Tenhas in both Redspan and Atherstone deny seeing any such apparitions. Other rumours from the Bandit Lands say that many orc and hobgoblin raiding bands sent into the Stonelands by the Old One have been lost without trace.

Lying on the Artonsamay River, the fortress city of Redspan protected western Tenh against raids from the Bandit Kingdoms. It was surrendered to the Fists only after all else was lost, with many of its nobles and generals committing suicide rather than face the dishonour of defeat. It is said that many of the city's buildings are still haunted by their restless shades.

Redspan was liberated in 588 CY by forces loyal to Duke Ehyeh, led by the brilliant Marshal Laba (NG, male human Ftr12). Since then it has served as the principle stronghold of the Tenha Host. Its most famous resident is the Archmage Nystul (N, male human Wiz17), one of the Circle of Eight, who aided in the city's recapture and its defence against the Ethereal Horde. He is believed to be a senior member of a shadowy conclave of Tenha sages and magi known as the Keepers of the Flan, whose professed goal appears to be the preservation of the Tenha people and their traditions.

With the devastation of its hinterlands by the Ethereal Horde, Redspan's inhabitants now depend entirely on the convoys of barges that force the passage of the Artonsamay from the County of Urnst carrying the provisions that keep the city's 21,000 people from starvation. Raids by the Bandit allies of the Old One frequently threaten this tenuous lifeline. Only the endemic chaos of the Bandit Lands and the selfless valor of the Tenha Host keep the vital trickle of food and arms flowing.

The Phostwood
This vast forest lies south of the Stonelands between the Yol and Artonsamay Rivers. Its shadowy depths have been little explored by the inhabitants of the surrounding realms. This is partly due to the hostility of the indigenous grugach and ogres, who often attack strangers on sight. The forest also has a fell and haunted reputation. The ghostly glow given off by the rotting wood of the Phost tree, which grows in profusion here, is no doubt partly to blame for tales of ghosts and phantoms. However, the woodland is also littered with its fair share of ancient ruins, forgotten and half-buried in the phosphorescent leaf mould. Haunted or not, the forest's inhabitants give these places a wide berth.

The Phostwood is now home to a large population of Tenha refugees, scattered throughout the forest in small camps and settlements. The condition of many of these wretches is pitiful. Most escaped the Ethereal Horde with only the clothes on their backs. Few have experience of surviving in the forest and disease and starvation are rife. Some attempt to make the dangerous passage of the forest to the safety of the Pale or Nyrond, but the weakened refugees make easy prey for the forest's many predators. Many others have given up all hope and wait in despair for the inevitable end.

Kathach: one-handed Exotic melee weapon; Cost: 60gp; Dam (m): 1d8; Critical: 18-20/x2; Weight 6 lb; Type: slashing.

Special Note: DMs are encouraged to use the information within this article to enhance play in the Children of the Dust Trilogy by Paul Looby. The trilogy consists of the following modules: COR4-06 Duke of the Dust -May 2004, COR4-10 Riddle of the Dust - July 2004, and COR4-15 War of the Dust - October 2004.

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