The Pits of Azak-Zil

In mid-locktime of 198 CY, the Great Kingdom was astounded by a ball of fire which appeared over the Oljatt Sea, passed over Sunndi, Idee, Ahlissa, and Onnwal, and vanished somewhere beyond the Sea of Gearnat. It was visible as far south as the Olman Isles and as far north as Eastfair and Rel Mord, and was cause for wonder and concern even in those prosperous and confident times. Selvor the Younger, after careful extrapolation to its origin in the constellations, declared the shooting star to signify “wealth, strife, and a living death.” The pronouncement caused a panic in certain of the larger cities, particularly Rauxes, where a number of prominent nobles took the pronouncement to be a signal for the end of the world, or at least of an era, and created several disturbances. Accordingly, when after several years the predicted events failed to make themselves evident, Selvor was banished from his post and from the court, and held by his colleagues as a laughingstock. There matters were to lie for more than 300 years, while chaos enveloped the greater part of the Flanaess and few had the time or patience to study the work of a discredited astrologer.

It was in 514 CY that Jemrek Longsight, a dwarvish sage who as a child had been greatly impressed by the phenomenon undertook a study entirely opposite to Selvor’s: using records of the falling star’s flight she traced it not back to its origin but downward to the Oerth. Longsight’s calculations showed a landing along the eastern wing of the Abbor-Alz, between the Bright Desert and the Nesser River. On the basis of previous instances of shooting stars and their tangible results, Longsight predicted a great deposit of pure metals at the site: certainly iron, and possibly gold and mithral as well. The direction of Jemrek Longsight’s study has often been cited as evidence that dwarvish habits of mind persist even in those who choose the most undwarvish occupations.

Longsight’s announcements resulted in a flurry of activity on the part of all the political interests in the region. All over the Iron League there was a ferment of alliance, misalliance, and reliance between the dwarvish clans and other groups preparing expeditions. The Herzog of South Province sent forth a large group of warriors and prospectors, reportedly with orders to return with news of the deposit or not at all. The Principality of Ulek took an interest, as did Almor, Nyrond, and the Duchy of Urnst, and trading houses from the Wild Coast and even Greyhawk and Dyvers. Even the rulers of the Pomarj, then new to their power, sent an ill-prepared company of orcs, goblins, and ogres. As these varied forces converged on the area delineated by Longsight, chilling tales of murder, treachery, and bloody massacre began to make their way back to the outside world. Soon the weaker forces turned back for lack of supplies or manpower. The Pomarjis were slaughtered by a temporary alliance of dwarvish interests. Nyrond and Urnst were unexpectedly impeded by the inhabitants of Celadon Forest, who did not desire such activity near their lands. The Herzog’s troops disappeared into the Bright Desert and were never seen again. All parties were harassed by the natives of the Abbor-Alz, who as always resented intrusion, and by the Sea Princes, who were attracted to the supply ships.

After half a decade of struggle, the house of Highforge, one of the more prominent dwarvish clans in Irongate, emerged as discoverer and holder of the starstone’s wealth. A port was established on the waterless coasts where the Abbor Alz touches the Bright Desert, and a secret trail was established leading inland. Highforge and its allies maintained thorough secrecy, and for good reason: iron, platinum, gold, mithral, and adamantite began to pour out into the world at large through the carefully guarded harbor. Few have reported concerning the mine inland, but from peripheral comments it appears that the dwarves discovered a broad depression of fused and shocked rock marking the landing point of their prize and established themselves in a nearby mesa from which they coordinated a well-planned mining operation. They dug deep artesian wells and established cisterns. The mine and settlement they called Azak-Zil, or Pureheart.

For five years Highforge swelled with wealth; there were disruptions in metal markets as far away as Rauxes. Then, abruptly, the flow was cut off. The port city of Zarak remained, but communications with the mines ceased and probes into the interior found the roads to be erased and the dust storms to be intolerable. Members of a powerful expeditionary force disappeared suddenly and silently at night, even from guarded tents. Clan Highforge, after expending much of its considerable fortune in an attempt to relocate and retake the mines, took heed of unfavorable auguries and abandoned the effort. Zarak was abandoned. Exactly what drove away one of the mightiest dwarven clans from such wealth is something they have refused to comment on.

Since the failure of Azak-Zil most southern dwarvish clans have declared the folly of meddling with “things from the sky.” Not a few suppose that the mine was visited by a curse, either by something imported from the heavens or by something wakened by the shooting star or the activities of the miners. Many have cited Nomad legends that an ancient nonhuman people dwelt in the mesas of the southern Abbor Alz and still guard them.

Recent Events: Adventurers sponsored by Clan Highforge returned to the ruins in 591 CY to retrieve a dwarven artifact lost in the area. They discovered that stories of great armies of ghouls and ghasts working the mines were indeed true. These brave individuals barely escaped with their lives and returning to civilization spread stories of what they had seen. They had not though managed to explore the deepest (and presumably richest) parts of the mines; the vast numbers of undead and the harsh environment conspiring to halt the exploration.

Places of Mystery

The Pits of Azak-Zil

Greyhawk Samaryllis Samaryllis