Pits of Azak-Zil

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The Pits of Azak-Zil are a cursed site created by the impact of a meteorite or the subsequent excavation of the place of impact.

History

The pits were effected in mid-Flocktime of 198 CY when Lyzandred called a meteor down from the heavens in order to disrupt the researches taking place within the Star Cairns. The meteor first appeared above the Oljatt Sea and passed over Sunndi, Idee, Ahlissa, and Onnwal before vanishing beyond the Sea of Gearnat.

The astrologer Selvor the Younger witnessed the meteor and declared that it signified "wealth, strife, and a living death." A number of prominent nobles in Rauxes took this to mean the end of the world and there was an ensuing panic. When the world failed to end in a few years, Selvor was mocked and driven out of the court. In the centuries since, however, some have taken Selvor's prophecy to be an accurate summary of the Age of Great Sorrow that began in 213 CY, as well as perhaps the simultaneous rise of evil in the far-away kingdom of Empyrea. Most literally, however, it describes the effects of the curse laid upon the land where the meteor fell.

At last it hit the eastern Abbor-Alz hills between the Bright Desert and the Nesser River, hitting the ground just as the wizards of the structure now known as "the lost cairn" were testing exotic magics several hundred miles away. The uncontrolled magic ripped the cairn from the Prime Material Plane, causing it to shift continuously between the Astral and Ethereal. Lyzandred had timed the meteor strike exactly, for he hated the fact that the wizards were researching the Twin Cataclysms in order to create weapons to destroy the Baklunish.

In 514 CY, the dwarven sage Jemrek Longsight reexamined the path of the meteor to divine where it must have struck. She also predicted that great quantities of pure metals—certainly iron, and possibly even gold and mithral. A variety of nations immediately sent miners and prospectors to gain control of this potential wealth, including South Province, the Principality of Ulek, Almor, Nyrond, the Duchy of Urnst, the Wild Coast, the Free City of Greyhawk, Dyvers, the Pomarj, and Irongate. Most of these expeditions ended in disaster, often involving murder and betrayal or resistance from angry locals. Half a decade later, members of the Highforge clan of Irongate had sole control of the site.

In 520 CY, the dwarves established the town of Zarak where the Abbor-Alz and Bright Desert met to serve as their headquarters, and built a secret tunnel leading to the impact site. Iron, platinum, gold, mithral, and adamantite soon poured out of the new mine, which they named Azak-Zil, or "Pureheart" in their tongue. For five years business boomed, and Clan Highforge grew wealthy from the proceeds. Then, quite suddenly, all communication with Azak-Zil ceased. The dwarves in Zarak spent the next year and much of their fortune in an attempt to retake the mines, but abandoned Zarak and Azak-Zil in 526 CY after their auguries told them further effort would be futile. They took what treasure remained in Zarak with them.

In the mid 560s, one Pont Sandmorg of Narwell made it to the Pits of Azak-Zil and out again without managing to die. He claimed that the area was infested with ghouls, who slew many members of his expedition.

In 593 CY, Clan Highforge sent another expedition to the Pits in order to retrieve the Pick-Axe of Highforge, as recounted in the adventure "Return of the Pick-Axe" by Christopher McKitterick in the anthology TSR Jam 1999.

Description

Ruins of dwarven buildings are arranged near a great impact crater, in the center of which is a poisonous lake of salt known as Poison Lake. The mines are dug along the edges of the crater, well above the toxic waters, with paths leading down from the main road.

The cause of the curse is an ellipsoid of blueish metal. An amethyst crystal within the ellipsoid forms the second part of the artifact; only when the two parts are joined together does the curse continue. It's not clear if this artifact is the meteorite or something native to Oerth that the dwarves uncovered in their delving. Its effect, however, is clear: anything that dies within 5 miles of the artifact rises during the next full moon (either moon, apparently) as a corporeal undead creature, usually a lawful evil ghoul or ghast. The ghouls continue to work the mines, gathering precious metals and bringing them to their master, a lich called Kravok the Ominous, whose current state and powers are also caused by the artifact.

If the crystal is separated from the ellipsoid, the curse that causes undead to rise within its vicinity ends, but all living things within 50 feet of the ellipsoid suffer 1d10 damage until the crystal is restored.

Bibliography

  • Moore, Roger E. Greyhawk: The Adventure Begins. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 1998.
  • -----. "Greyhawk Mysterious Places." Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1999. Originally appeared in TSR's America Online folder as a 2nd edition update to Greyhawk Adventures, later moved to its website. No longer live on the WotC website but available from the Wayback Machine: [1]
  • Wischtadt, Byron, Christopher McKitterick, Sean K. Reynolds, Christopher Perkins, John W. Mangrum, Stan!, and Jeff Quick. TSR Jam 1999. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 1999.