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The Citadel of Black Ash was an underground temple to Gilgeam located in the eastern Smoking Mountains in the land of Unther, East Faerûn. Its entrance was a pair of large blackened steel doors shielded by an overhang of rock, all carved to resemble a fiendish visage.
Approximately 30 miles (50 km) directly north of the town of Firetrees, the entrance to the Citadel of Black Ash could be found excavated out of a cliff face on a meager ledge at the apex of a 3-mile-long (5 km) valley. The ash-filled valley ran due northeast of the Black Ash Plain.
The temple was governed as a theocracy by the clergy of Gilgeam with a rigid hierarchy made up of clerics, specialty priests, and crusaders, led by the Lord High Autarch. Second in command was the Lord High Commander, with the Lord High Captain given the responsibility of directing the troops.
The mines beneath the temple produced gems and precious metals and were the only export of the dry and desolate enclave. The only food they could produce was either conjured by create food and water or from fungus farms.
The broad valley leading up to the entrance was filled with powdery ash. What little moisture that reached the vale formed a damp layer beneath the dry surface and medium-sized humanoids sank to their waist in the silty mess. Both sinkholes and boulders could be found unexpectedly under the treacherous surface. Footwear similar to that used for walking on snow could be employed to avoid most of the natural hazards to traveling in the Black Ash Plain region. Giant monstrous scorpions scuttled across the surface and ant lions built conical pit-traps for the unwary. Near the entrance to the Citadel, the valley floor sloped up steeply to the base of the cliff and the ledge of the entrance was 30 ft (9 m) above that, making it difficult to use siege weapons within range of the iron doors. Rope ladders used for scaling the cliff could be retracted in times of need.
Militarily, the Citadel was protected by the Lords of War and Victory, crusaders that were the bulwark of the church of Gilgeam, which numbered over 200 circa 1370 DR. These elite troops conducted drills at dusk and dawn on the plain at the mouth of the valley and patrolled the temple and environs in the daylight hours. The Gilgeamites also had an alliance with a large clan of fire giants from the western end of the Smoking Mountains.
Sometime around −3000 DR, a clan of dwarves from the Brightstar Lake region went in search of new veins of ore and lava pits to power their forges. Inadvertently, they awakened a great brown wyrm named Vulpomyscan who easily overpowered (and ate) their brave leaders and made slaves of the remainder. He put them to work excavating a magnificent redoubt and mining a hoard of gems that outshone the wealth of any king of the time. The dwarves and their descendants labored for centuries and eventually came to worship the desert dragon in his Citadel of Black Ash. [note 1]
After a millennium, in −2087 DR, the god-king Enlil found pearls on the west coast of the Alamber Sea and directed a city to be built on the site, called Unthalass, City of Gems, which eventually became the seat of the Untheric Empire. When the human settlements encroached on Vulpomyscan's territory, he flew out and wreaked havoc on their farms and villages. This angered the gods of Unther and eventually they challenged the wyrm-king with an army led by the greater deity Marduk the Justice Bringer. As Vulpomyscan's dwarven legions fought Unther's army on the ground, the ancient wyrm battled Marduk in the skies above the Black Ash Plain. Losses were heavy on both sides until finally Vulpomyscan was slain and his cultists were defeated. Their bodies were unceremoniously left to be consumed by the blowing and shifting ash as the victors plundered the vast wealth of the dragon's lair and returned to Unthalass in triumph.
For several centuries, the mountain stronghold sat empty except for the infrequent monster or occasional beast that managed to find it. Sometime around −1000 DR, Gilgeam, son of Enlil, happened upon the Citadel while surveying Unther's territory and reclaimed it, but it is unclear whether or not any permanent residents were installed at that time. Many more centuries passed until the Second Great Flood of the River Alamber in the Year of Visions, 731 DR, inundated much of Unther and destroyed historical documents and records in Unthalass. Gilgeam tasked a group of scribes to take the soggy and moldy books and scrolls to the remote Citadel and restore them, creating an everlasting archive of his magnificent deeds as ruler of Unther. The scribes and their descendants toiled at transcribing the deteriorating documents and cataloging new ones brought by yearly courier until the Year of the Fist, 1311 DR, when the annual visit brought the plague to the already dwindling population. In less than a tenday, the monastic inhabitants sickened and died, leaving the Citadel uninhabited once more.
Just after the Godswar in the Year of Shadows, 1358 DR, Tiamat slew Gilgeam in a titanic battle around the city of Unthalass, causing tremendous damage and widespread panic. Instead of taking control of Unther in victory, Tiamat was attacked at her home in Avernus by agents of Bahamut and her avatar was destroyed. Riots and chaos consumed the rudderless Unther and in the Year of the Serpent, 1359 DR the last Gilgeamites and their slaves fled in secrecy to the Citadel and reconsecrated it to the glory of their fallen god-king. Lord High Autarch of the First Rank Irakhesh was the leader of this sect of bitter believers who maintained continuous chants to their defeated deity in the hope he was merely recovering somewhere and would someday return.
On the Feast of the Moon in the Year of Wild Magic, 1372 DR, normally dormant volcanoes erupted and covered the entrance to the Citadel of Black Ash with lava and superheated ash, killing most of the residents. Extensive mines and a maze of tunnels beneath the Citadel did connect to the Underdark and may have allowed some survivors to escape, but dozens of former priests and crusaders thereafter haunted the main keep as huecuva.
The wide corridors and oversized rooms were chiseled out of solid granite and finished with slightly rounded corners. All had vaulted ceilings that peaked at 25 ft (7.6 m) above smooth but unpolished floors. Full-height double doors were mounted so that they swung easily in either direction, with brackets on both sides for a large locking bar or beam. Ventilation was provided by a network of relatively narrow shafts carved by magically reduced dwarves which produced a low soughing sound that could be heard throughout the entire complex. In addition to this eerie sighing, the ventilation tubes and the cleverly designed acoustics of the place muted sound between rooms while conducting sound from every room above the mine levels directly to the Grand Chamber where the dragon rested on his pile of gems and metal wealth.
Vulpomyscan had a small army of dwarven workers and craftsmen at his command for hundreds of years, and the Citadel of Black Ash was a testament to their skill and his greedy paranoia. All rooms on the first floor were connected by a series of secret passages accessed by secret doors. The tunnels under the residence chambers were originally put in by the early dwarven slaves in the hope of facilitating a revolt, but eventually they were added to the passage network for movement and protection of defending soldiers. The Great Hall (see below) had four alcoves that at one time may have displayed statuary but actually housed closeable arrow slits accessed from secret rooms. There were even steel plates that could be dropped over the firing ports to prevent return fire or possible area effect spells from detonating in the secret rooms.
After the dwarves finished excavating the second floor, the dragon sealed it off by blocking all shafts and the Recumbent Wyrm gallery (see below) with permanent spells that only allowed dragons to see and pass through—to all others the shafts were as solid rock. Centuries later, Gilgeam modified the spell in the Recumbent Wyrm gallery to be a permanent illusion of stone so his followers could access the second floor by ladders or flying and still fire down upon invaders from cover. The spells on the dragon-only shafts were morphed into a special form of passwall that allowed matter (arrows, creatures, etc.) and magic effects to pass downward and light to pass upward, so defenders could attack from above at little risk to themselves. The Father of Victory also added permanent feather fall spells to certain shafts for surprise troop deployment.
- Great Hall
- Big enough for a great wyrm, this tunnel had an arched ceiling and faded frescoes of Vulpomyscan on the walls, with plenty of arrow slits and alcoves for guards.
- Residence Chambers
- Seven rooms with cooking, cleaning, and sleeping areas once held extended families of dwarves. Later they became housing for the Lords of War and Victory who slept in shifts.
- Endless Stairs
- A descending tunnel to the mines that originally had tracks for ore carts to smoothly pass the 21 sets of stairs. Each set was connected by a landing with a pair of doors that could be barred against invaders from above or below.
- Hall of the Fire Giants
- Originally a dwarven smithy, then a grand library, this chamber eventually became the quarters for fire giant allies of the Gilgeamites.
- Summoning Chamber
- What appeared to be a large pentagram within a double circle engraved in stone was actually a permanent illusion hiding a basin that could be filled or emptied by a decanter of endless water using commands in the language of brown dragons. Vulpomyscan liked to fill it with acid as a trap.
- Chamber of the Recumbent Wyrm
- This huge vaulted room had another permanent illusion of Vulpomyscan himself sleeping on a bed of shining treasure, complete with animated breathing, that decoyed adventurers while he attacked from the hidden gallery above. Gilgeam dug up the brown dragon's skeleton and placed it within the illusion as a fitting burial shroud. Later, the scribes erected a large marble statue of Gilgeam in the center of the room.
- Scribes' Quarters
- Six large rooms were added off the gallery above the sleeping dragon chamber to house the scribes. Later the clerics and martinets of the temple lived here, along with the captain of the army.
- Grand Chamber
- Bigger even than the Recumbent Wyrm chamber, this elliptical cavern was where the dragon really slept on his treasure. Later it became a warehouse and military training room.
- Lord High Autarch of the First Rank Irakhesh (human)
- Of full-blooded Mulan descent, Irakhesh was a true, incorruptible believer in Gilgeam the Great.
- Lord High Commander of the First Rank Enrathman Hokump (human)
- A self-indulgent opportunist that arranged an accident to befall his predecessor.
- Lord High Captain of the First Rank Drakophikon (dracosphinx)
- Possibly a reincarnated priest, he was mysteriously found at the Citadel awaiting the arrival of the exiles.
- Nanna-luna the Merciful (human)
- Secretly a skyweaver of Ishtar (Isis) and undeclared leader of the slaves, she did her best to improve their quality of life.
As a templeEdit
About two years before the destruction of the Citadel, the population of the enclave consisted of almost 60 clerics and martinets (specialty priests of Gilgeam), over 200 Lords of War and Victory, and almost 1,000 slaves of unknown race. In addition, the Lord High Captain of the army was a dracosphinx, and a dozen fire giants had joined the ranks as part of an alliance with their clan. It was speculated that they also had agreements or understandings with other intelligent indigenous creatures such as the black-skinned stone giants known provincially as "ash giants". The slave population was in steady decline due to toiling long hours in dangerous mines, harsh treatment, harsh conditions, and inadequate nutrition. Over the decade since the Gilgeamites retreated to the Citadel, half the slaves were lost and not replaced.
The clergy of Gilgeam pushed themselves almost as hard as they pushed their slaves. For over ten years they maintained a constant vigil for their fallen god by continuously chanting and singing long dirges and monotonous canticles about his military victories over the past thousand years and beseeching him to return to them and reclaim the throne of Unther. They did this in shifts of six to eight priests who marched through the corridors and around the statue of Gilgeam in the Recumbent Wyrm chamber 24 hours a day. When not on dirge duty, the priests would supervise the lucrative mining operations and the vital fungi farms.
Likewise, the Lords of War and Victory trained, patrolled, and drilled as if war was imminent, driven by their inhumanly focused and dedicated leader, Drakophikon. Using his size and strength, his spells, and his charisma of leadership, he managed to keep the troops performing their repetitious exercises at peak efficiency without driving them mad with exhaustion, but as time went on the sharp edge of the military began to dull—they were in dire need of an enemy to fight.
All their feverish dedication seemed to have paid off when the clergy and crusaders again began receiving spells and answers to their prayers. They assumed it was Gilgeam finally returning from his long absence, but in reality it was a skilful subterfuge by Set from the Mulhorandi pantheon, worming his way into their confidence in order to gain influence in Unther.
The Gilgeamites desired the return of their deity above all else. Over the years, during the long, dark hours of seclusion, they schemed and plotted revenge against the people of Unther who turned on them and sent them into exile. Once Gilgeam returned, they planned to march back to Unthalass in triumph, exact their revenge, and rebuild the damaged or destroyed ziggurats for the glory of the Father of Victory. Once that was accomplished, they envisioned more retribution on Mulhorand, Chessenta, and lands beyond.
- ↑ There is a discrepancy about when the mountain stronghold was named. Powers & Pantheons states on page 165 that the wyrm's residence came to be known as the Citadel of Black Ash, but The Grand History of the Realms (page 101) and Lost Empires of Faerûn (page 62) say that it was named by Gilgeam in 731 DR.
- ↑ 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 Eric L. Boyd (1997). Powers and Pantheons. (TSR, Inc), p. 165. ISBN 0-7869-0657-X.
- ↑ Eric L. Boyd (1997). Powers and Pantheons. (TSR, Inc), p. 104. ISBN 0-7869-0657-X.
- ↑ Karen Wynn Fonstad (August 1990). The Forgotten Realms Atlas. (TSR, Inc), p. 11. ISBN 978-0880388573.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Eric L. Boyd (1997). Powers and Pantheons. (TSR, Inc), p. 166. ISBN 0-7869-0657-X.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Eric L. Boyd (1997). Powers and Pantheons. (TSR, Inc), p. 168. ISBN 0-7869-0657-X.
- ↑ Brian R. James and Ed Greenwood (September, 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 33. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
- ↑ Colin McComb (1996). On Hallowed Ground. (TSR, Inc), p. 65. ISBN 0-7869-0430-5.
- ↑ Richard Baker, Ed Bonny, Travis Stout (February 2005). Lost Empires of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 62. ISBN 0-7869-3654-1.
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 Richard Baker, Ed Bonny, Travis Stout (February 2005). Lost Empires of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 63. ISBN 0-7869-3654-1.
- ↑ Brian R. James and Ed Greenwood (September, 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 142. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
- ↑ Eric L. Boyd (1997). Powers and Pantheons. (TSR, Inc), p. 133. ISBN 0-7869-0657-X.
- ↑ Brian R. James and Ed Greenwood (September, 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 144. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
- ↑ Brian R. James and Ed Greenwood (September, 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 153. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 Richard Baker, Ed Bonny, Travis Stout (February 2005). Lost Empires of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 69. ISBN 0-7869-3654-1.
- ↑ Eric L. Boyd (1997). Powers and Pantheons. (TSR, Inc), p. 176. ISBN 0-7869-0657-X.
- ↑ 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 16.6 16.7 Eric L. Boyd (1997). Powers and Pantheons. (TSR, Inc), p. 177. ISBN 0-7869-0657-X.
- ↑ 17.0 17.1 Eric L. Boyd (1997). Powers and Pantheons. (TSR, Inc), p. 105. ISBN 0-7869-0657-X.