Mysterious Places08/10/2004

The Brightlands

The Palace of Shattados, Last Sorcerer King of Sulm

The exact location of this once opulent, white-walled palace is now lost. Thought to stand on the flanks of the Uplands of Unath somewhere north of Sulm’s sand-drowned capital, Utaa, in ancient times it served as the summer residence of Sulm’s rulers.

Little of the extensive and luxurious palace remains above the sifting sands of the Bright. Shattered stumps of once graceful towers jut forlornly above the dunes, marking the site of Sulm’s greatest folly. Once clad in pure white marble chosen for its reflective properties, time and the relentless action of the sand have taken their toll. At the zenith of its glory, the palace was famed for its ostentatious ornamentation – tributes offered by Sulm’s vanquished foes. Walls were inlaid with gold, silver and even platinum and adorned with extensive and intricate bas relief carvings depicting dead rulers and glorious episodes from the nation’s history. On the orders of the sorcerer kings, special chambers within the palace complex were set aside for now unknown rites. The walls, floors and ceilings of these strange chambers were clad in vividly coloured semi-precious stones quarried from mines long since lost. The significance of these colours is now unknown however, it is a matter of considerable conjecture amongst the few learned scribes aware of their existence.

The surviving upper level is set about a broad processional arcade, off which many large, vaulted chambers lie. Below ground, the palace's ancient storage chambers, passages, cells and cisterns form a bewildering sunless labyrinth said to connect with Under-Oerth itself. Ironically, this is one of the few places in the Bright Desert where water still flows. A spring, said to date back to the time of the palace’s construction, still seeps through the bedrock, offering some small succour to those exploring the subterranean levels. The whole complex teems with scorpions of all sizes and manscorpions are also encountered here in great numbers. All manner of undead have also been reported to lurk in the lower levels – faded remnants of those unfortunates incarcerated here when Sulm met her doom.

Several bands of adventurers have sought the fabled wealth said to lie buried within the palace vaults. Few have returned and, with the recent rise of The Traitor, access to the site has been all but severed. Others have sought the ruins for more altruistic purposes. The paladin, Anderann Parquann, a devotee of Pelor, led a band of powerful individuals here in 573 CY, to cleanse the evil rumoured to lurk within the ruins. Of his company only he survived, his mind shattered by what he saw. Before he died, his ravings were recorded by the nomads who found him wandering in a delirium close to Kolum Oasis. He spoke of a giant scorpion possessing human intelligence and bearing a fearsome mien, a great scorpion-shaped crown wrought from a single piece of black iron, an altar on which his screaming comrades were sacrificed and evil so pervasive that it seemed to emanate from the very stones themselves.

Geshtai’s Spring

Hidden deep in the interior of the Bright Desert, this verdant oasis is famed for the lush vegetation that grows thickly about its single spring-fed pool of pure water. The pool and its spring are said to have never failed, even in the severest droughts. Tales preserved in the oral traditions of the Flan nomads of the Bright have it that the goddess Geshtai herself created this sanctuary to save a small band of Baklunish slaves brought here after the Twin Cataclysms by their Suel masters. During the fighting between native Flan tribes and the Suel invaders, the slaves won free and beseeched Geshtai to aid them. The legends relate how a creature of pure, simmering water led the Bakluni to a hidden valley wherein the goddess appeared to them and created the bountiful paradise seen today. The Bakluni settled there but have long-since died out. Only the fruits of Geshtai’s mercy have endured.

More reminiscent of a tropical jungle than a desert oasis, towering vine-shrouded trees provide cool shade and welcome relief from the heat of the day. Beneath the canopy, abundant vegetation yields up uniformly succulent fruits that are occasionally harvested by the brajals (druids) of the Flan tribes. The Flan tribes consider the oasis holy ground and, although they do not venerate the Daughter of the Oasis, they do not suffer the trespass of outsiders here. The Flan hold this place sacred with good reason, for magic undeniably flows within the waters of the spring. Those drinking from the spring report that the waters bestow magical effects upon the drinker. However, any outlander caught drinking from the spring is mercilessly hunted down and staked out to die of thirst in the desert. Rary is no doubt aware of the legends pertaining to the spring’s magical properties. So far, however, he has not sought to publicly violate the sanctity of the oasis, perhaps fearing that to do so would jeopardise the loyal service of the desert tribes.

Footnote: This web article details additional information regarding two famed locales of the Bright Desert beyond those explored in articles appearing in the Living Greyhawk Journal issues 21 and 22. Both locales originally saw print in Rary the Traitor. Additional information regarding the Bright Desert can be found in the following publications and articles:

Greyhawk Adventures by James M. Ward [The Pits of Azak-Zil, pages 91-92].

WGR 3 Rary the Traitor by Anthony Pryor.

Scouring the Lands of the Traitor: Into the Bright Desert by Creighton Broadhurst [Living Greyhawk Journal 21 included in Dungeon 98].

Denizens of the Bright Desert by Creighton Broadhurst [Living Greyhawk Journal 22, included in Dungeon 103].

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