PrinceCon 44 theme recap

Note: The first two sections of this recap deal with the fully revealed background of the Con setting. If you would just like to read what happened during the Con, please jump to the third and final section, “The Events of PrinceCon 44”

Background: The History of Khazthand

10,000 years ago, the subterranean dwarven empire of Mezuldahrk was the largest, wealthiest, and most powerful empire above or below the ground. As they delved ever deeper into the darkest recesses of the earth, the dwarves of Mezulhdark stumbled upon Kerintsabsmedis (AKA Keri), a dragon whose might was beyond mortal comprehension. In their greed, the dwarves of Mezuldahrk sought to enslave and exploit Keri to their own ends, but they had underestimated her power – she broke free of her chains and unleashed terror on the august empire. Legion after legion of stout-hearted Dwarven warriors was sent to subdue Kerintsabsmedis, their banners proud and their burnished armor resplendent as they marched forth from their homes, and legion after legion perished. At last recognizing that they could not defeat Kerintsabsmedis, the dwarves sent the last of their armies to stall Keri’s advance while the rest of the population fled upward to the higher regions of their empire, collapsing the tunnels behind them – all the tunnels save one, for though the dwarves of Mezuldahrk knew they had lost the war, they believed that one day their progenies would become powerful enough to defeat Keri and reclaim their ancient homeland. In that tunnel they built a gate of unimaginable size, strengthening it with every magic and mechanism known to them and fueling it with psionic, arcane, biotic, kinetic, and divine power harnessed in five “gate citadels,”  and when Keri finally reached the Great Gate she found that she could not pass – even her empire-toppling powers were of no avail against the Gate.

Shielded from the manifestation of their past sins, the dwarves began to rebuild. They shed their old name of Mezuldahrk and all the memories of defeat it Kerid in favor of a new name: Khazthand. The passing months turned into years and the years into centuries. Khazthand grew and prospered, and as it began to enter a renaissance of culture and technology, many facets of dwarven life changed – including the language, which evolved from the ancient Mezulan tongue to modern Dwarven. Every passing year saw fewer dwarves able (and interested enough) to decipher the ancient texts; eyes turned towards the future as the past was forgotten. Though maintenance of the Gate and the five Citadels was still undertaken as so doing had become a tradition (and dwarves are rather keen on matters of tradition), by 5,000 years after the construction of the Great Gate no one knew what purpose the Gate or the Citadels served. Khazthand prospered as Kerintsabsmedis slumbered in the ruins of the ancient capital.

Khazthand’s renewed glory drew the covetous attention of all manner of unsavory creatures. Approximately 8,600 years after the construction of the great gate (around 1,500 years before the events of PrinceCon 44) the outlying hold of Goth was attacked by an army of Duergar. Though the Duergar army was repelled without major loss of Khazthandian life, the floodgates had been opened; every side of the empire was attacked by sundry unpleasant forces, though most groups of attackers bore no love for the other groups – indeed, they fought amongst themselves as much as with the dwarves of Khazthand. Though repelling each individual force was a relatively trivial matter for an empire as mighty as Khazthand, the relentless torrent of raiding took its toll in the form of attrition: decades of constant war saw the dwarven population begin to drop. As Khazthand’s population (and its armies) dwindled, underdefended holds slowly began to fall.

After two hundred years of fighting, Khazthand’s situation was dire – though every dwarven archmagister and master engineer was delving headlong into unexplored realms of arcana and science to develop new tools to defend their realm, even the holds in the heart of the empire were turning into ghost towns. In a last-ditch effort to stabilize their population, Khazthand’s borders were opened to the surface races by imperial decree approximately 1,300 years before the Con; anyone willing to join the fight against the inexorable tide of darkness could earn their citizenship with axe and pick. The flood of humans, elves, halflings, and other surface races stopped the hemorrhaging of lives and territory as the Khazthandian numbers began to recover. Though the fighting continued, an uneasy stalemate broke out, lasting for more than two centuries.

Nevertheless, the creatures of the deep would not be denied; as years passed holds once more began to fall. Recognizing the hopelessness of the situation, Khazthand’s top administrators and generals began to quietly organize successive safe and orderly withdrawals of inhabitants from the outermost holds to reduce the length of the borders needing to be defended. The withdrawal plan would eventually culminate in all the residents of Khazthand retreating to the capital city of Velzan-Gol, whose defenses were deemed impregnable, where they could defend themselves indefinitely – or at least, that was the theory. Unfortunately, the top brass new little more of Khazthand’s ancient history than the average citizen and were thus unaware that Velzan-Gol, the metropolis at the heart of Khazthand, was built on top of the Great Gate – a living location maintainers of the Gate had found quite convenient thousands of years past, but that now spelled doom for the empire.

998 years before the Con, as Gate Citadels fell into disrepair and the flow of power to the Great Gate faltered, Kerintsabsmedis (awoken from her slumber by the centuries of warfare above her resting place) forced the Gate open, annihilating every member of Military High Command and the National Assembly, the emperor and the next forty-four members of the imperial succession line, and several hundred thousand civilians in the blink of an eye. Those few unfortunate enough to not fall to their instantaneous death along with the city proper in the caverns underneath Velzan-Gol were hunted down mercilessly by Keri; within a day, the most powerful city in the world was erased down to the last child, leaving no witnesses to warn the other holds. Kerintsabsmedis was not satisfied with the destruction of Velzan-Gol; she lusted for the total eradication of every Khazthandian. Using psychic powers unmatched in their strength and subtlety, Keri spread a psychic contagion of parasitic hate which infected the minds of the disparate enemies Khazthand had fought for centuries and bent them to her will, forging a unified force from the prior chaos of competing warbands. Khazthand’s reckoning had come.

Faced with the unexplained disappearance of every major leader in Khazthand and foes that were suddenly organized and capable of advanced tactics, Khazthand’s defense network disintegrated. In the absence of a unifying authority, each hold tried desperately to fend for itself. Throwing every ancient safety code out the window, the mages and engineers sought the magics and technologies to defend their homes at any cost. Though the advances in science and arcana made in the years following the fall of Valzan-Gol were unimaginable, so too was their price: engines of incalculable complexity misfired, erasing entire holds in eruptions of molten metal and flame; magics capable of laying low whole armies went awry, tearing other settlements asunder (and sometimes the very fabric of reality along with them). In the throes of their civilization’s extinction, some mages even turned to the denizens of other planes of existence for aid, often inadvertently letting loose entities beyond mortal comprehension, blinded to the risks of such rituals by the direness of their need. Entire holds silently vanished overnight, as did the armies sent to reclaim them.

Knowing the realm was beyond salvation, those few members of the nearly extinct imperial government who had not been in Velzan-Gol cobbled together a final plan calling on every surviving hold to send its inhabitants to the hold of Arkinthel, formerly the trade hub of Khazthand by virtue of its exclusive possession of safe tunnels to the surface world. There, they would seal themselves away from the rest of the doomed empire. The journey to Arkinthel was perilous for the holds’ inhabitants, bereft of their defenses; it was said that the number of dead left on the roads to Arkinthel was greater than the number of stars in the sky they would never see.

857 years before the Con, the surviving archmages and artificers in Arkinthel oversaw the creation of a massive stone gate and reinforced it with the most powerful runic magics above or below the surface of the world. Though Arkinthel waited as long as it could before closing the gate to allow as many refugees as possible to arrive, when the forces of darkness neared the city the gate had to be sealed or else Arkinthel and its tunnels to the surface might fall. No one could document just how many Khazthandians reached Arkinthel only to find the gate sealed and met their ends on its threshold, but the surviving population of an empire that had spanned nearly fifty holds now fit with room to spare into one.

Though the price paid in blood for Arkinthel’s survival defied mortal comprehension, survive it did. As the years passed and the gates held fast with no sign of breaches, the inhabitants of Arkinthel were at last allowed to lower their guard after centuries of constant warfare. With the danger passed, they eventually returned to the trades that had first made their empire so affluent. Though their civilization had been reduced to a pale shade of its former glory, they persevered and once more returned to a state of (more moderate) prosperity. Their borders remained open to the surface races, and Khazthand became a “dwarven” realm in name only – the other races present in Arkinthel had long ago earned their citizenship.

The Time of the Con

857 years later, the only traces of Khazthand’s origin as a dwarven empire were its renowned legal codes, a national propensity for hard work, thrift, and stout-heartedness, and a (mostly ceremonial) dwarven ruling family. Nearly a millennium of peace had allowed Arkinthel to become one of the largest and wealthiest cities of the world; its treasure vaults ran over, and even the most “destitute” citizens went to sleep each night in their own homes with full bellies.

The Khazthandians did not forget the never-again matched splendor of their empire of old, however. The vast libraries of ancient lore, the workshops filled with schematics of lost technologies, the sturdy vaults filled with priceless artifacts – every citizen of Khazthand still longed to reclaim them.

Thus, when the surface world was ravaged by a colossal famine and its nations became unable to sustain their current populations, Arkinthel saw its chance to repay the surface nations for their help in Khazthand’s hours of need while also furthering Khazthand’s interests; they proposed a bargain that was immediately accepted by the surface nations. According to the terms of the treaty, the surface nations would pool what food stores they had to feed their populations for the next month; in the meantime, Khazthand would fund sending adventuring parties out to explore and reclaim the lost holds. When the food stores ran out on the surface, the surplus population would be allowed to resettle the (then hopefully safe) lost holds as citizens of Khazthand, and with all the help from Arkinthel that citizenship entailed.

The surfacers would have a place to live, and the citizens of Khazthand would get a chance to reclaim their heritage and homes of old. If all went well, the empire of Khazthand could yet rise from the ashes of its millennium-old defeat and climb to never before seen heights! But of course, before that could happen, the holds had to be reclaimed. To that end, the adventurers of Arkinthel’s Hireling Hall ventured forth.

The Events of PrinceCon 44

Under the command of Expeditionary Marshall Dumac, the valiant players of PrinceCon 44 participated in the Reclamation. Though the expeditionary marshall and the NPC forces under his command took care of the logistics of resettling and rebuilding the reclaimed holds, the suicidal courageous mission of actually retaking the lost holds was left to Hireling Hall.

Over the course of the Con, sixty-eight adventuring parties set out to save the surface world from starvation and take back their heritage as proud citizens of Khazthand. Age-old puzzles were solved, old wrongs righted, and revolutionary discoveries made as the forces of darkness were met with spell and steel. Many a brave adventurer fell along the way, but in the end nearly forty holds were retaken – enough to house and feed every surface refugee.

As the first parties returned to Arkinthel laden with loot, mysterious runic inscriptions were discovered on many of the magic items they brought back. Though no one in Arkinthel could speak the language, it was eventually identified as Ancient Mezulan – the language spoken by Khazthand’s progenitors ten millennia before the Con. Initial attempts at decoding the language were unsuccessful, but the intrepid players sent to explore the hold of Dûnbrink managed to learn the language thanks to some time-traveling hijinks and a lot of work. The item inscriptions were found to contain snippets of information surrounding the creation of the items, as well as occasional mysterious fragments of prosody about a mysterious evil.

Thanks to the collection and translation of those inscriptions by all the members of Hireling Hall, a group of puzzle-solving players was able to connect the dots and realized that retaking the holds had only been half the battle. They learned that Kerintsabsmedis, who was (unbeknownst to the players) slowly roused from her slumber in the ruins of Mezuldahrk’s ancient capital city by the events of the Con, would return through the Great Gate and once again lay waste to the newly reclaimed holds and their settlers unless the players could power the Great Gate by finding and reactivating its power sources in the five Gate Citadels: Korvaxxus (psionic power), Drozvindrian (arcane power), Uth-Garadan (biotic power), Alkaraz (kinetic power), and Gorzelchunthar (divine power).

As parties frantically tried to turn the Gate Citadels back on, it became clear that Keri would emerge before the Great Gate was rendered operational unless she was delayed. To that end, a number of adventurers volunteered for a suicide mission to travel through the Great Gate and battle Kerintsabsmedis on the far side to buy time for the Great Gate. As the volunteers stalled Keri in a (real-life) twelve-hour battle, players were able to bring Korvaxxus, Drozvindrian, Gorzelchunthar, and Alkaraz online. Though the mission to Uth-Garadan was unsuccessful in that regard, backup power sources were discovered in the form of the Arkenstone of Parok and an ancient sylvan tree of immense magical power in Gáttargáttin. With more than enough power supplied to the Great Gate, Kerintsabsmedis was once again sealed away, bringing peace and prosperity to the players’ reborn empire.

Thanks to the bravery of the players of PrinceCon 44, almost every ancient hold was reclaimed and their continued security ensured, saving the surface world from famine and heralding the dawn of a new golden age for Khazthand. On behalf of Emperor Mithas, the Assembly, Khazthand, the surface nations, and all the PrinceCon staff, thank you and congratulations! We hope you enjoyed battling the forces of evil, solving ancient mysteries, and laying the sins of your ancestors to rest as you journeyed through The Lost Holds.

PrinceCon 44 end summaries

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