Once known as the lands of greater Khartoum, the so called ‘Land of the Dead’ was located in the fearsome and dangerous waters of what is now the ‘Dead Sea’. According old myths and legends, this area was once the home to a powerful nation state that literally rose from the ashes – only to be destroyed by its neighbors who feared and misunderstood the intentions of its tragic leader..
An ancient and mystical land – once divided to Khartoum to the East and the deserts of the strange and mysterious half human/half animal Qahoori Nomads to the West – it had always been something of an enigma.
While the Qahoori, who were always few in number to begin with, had long disappeared from the world well before these lands, leaving behind only their mysterious (now submerged) pyramids – Greater Khartoum became infamous for a period in its history that earned it it’s fearsome moniker.
For this was a land that had been ruled by a benevolent, undead dictator – the so called “Lich King”, T’shering the Eternal, who through ancient necromatic magic unwillingly learned at the side of the First DeathKnight, returned to his shattered lands and brought back the dead to rebuild this once great civilization soon after the conclusion of the Catastrophic Wars..
While misunderstood and even despised outside of his Kingdom, the Lich King was neither good nor evil, nor had plans of conquest and world domination as his neighbors once feared – but he ‘lived’ only to preserve the culture and the livelihood of his people, whom he considered as his children. However, after several generations, the size of his undead population intimidated both the Escians and the growing Aelutian Empire until a dispute about the nature of these powers resulted in conflict with the newly established Church of the Paragon, and the terrible, one sided war that followed..
THE LAND OF THE DEAD AT A GLANCE
At its height, Approx 2 million living citizens and 40 million undead..
Historically at its peak had approximately 5,000 human soldiers. 150,000 ‘terracotta’ warriors (animated skeletons cased in a flexible terracotta like coating that serves as armor and covers their bones).
Racial Characteristics: The people of greater Khartoum were only slightly different in appearance than the Escians, with dark brown skin, dark eyes and dark hair. Some survivors and refugees of the collapse of their land were accepted into neighoring Escia.
Khartoumian is an ancient language with a hieroglyphic writing system originally learned from the Qahoori Nomads. Traders are often multi lingual, and the undead nobility – with hundreds of years to study – are typically fluent in ALL the languages of Eletreus, even ancient and extinct ones.
MAJOR TOWNS, CITIES AND PLACES OF INTEREST
Before the great flood, Greater Khartoum was exceptionally prosperous – with several large coastal trading cities.
However, despite protests that there was nothing inherently ‘evil’ about his civilization, the Church of the Paragon’s effective power to turn and destroy undead was touted as evidence that despite benign intent, the power the necromancer wielded was both unnatural and demonic in origin, and led to the direct creation the the Sky Templars, holy warriors who – flying mounted Griffins – single-handedly decimated entire battalions of undead in an unprovoked attack, and led to an all out war culminating in the Paragon using the Flame of the Host to summon from the skies a meteor of Coronatite that struck of the coast and totally swamped and flooded the entire civilization, leaving only a handful of haunted dark islands behind, and an area hostile to sea travel – the Dead Sea..
ANKARATH: The Capital, controlled by the Lich Kings council, all of which had direct telepathic links to him. The undead minions are rarely seen here openly. A major trading seaport – Ankarath was a rich and prosperous place with bustling markets, foods from every corner of the continent and a rich cultural scene – as the Lich King was a major patron of the arts.
NEMRU CITADEL: Was completely manned by skeletal warriors, it appeared almost deserted if casually observed, but actually garrisoned over 30,000 undead warriors without the need for food, water, entertainment or any of the other usual expenses needed to maintain an army of this size. The lands surrounding it are the only truly fertile farmlands.
MAKALANI STRONGHOLD: Another ‘unmanned’ outpost, this one had 20,000 undead soldiers ready and waiting for the Lich Kings order.
NEBTASAI PASS: The pass contains scattered throughout the valley many natural mineral deposits, including steel, copper, tin and one of the biggest gold mines on the continent. It is currently under Escian control and has been for the last 600 years.
THE FORBIDDEN DESERT: Once largest desert on the continent, it was said to be a haunted and dangerous place at night, with the angry spirits of the murdered Qahoori Nomads attracted to the living like moths to a flame and many wild, uncontrolled undead of all types and persuasions..
QUSEMU: An Oasis town that was once the central meeting place of the Qahoori Nomads, just before the fall of their civilization it was re-established by a rebellious necromancer who was raising his own army in the desert. The reason for his rebellion, and the reason that the Lich King had taken no action against him, was known only by the Necromancer and the Lich King themselves..
KARAMENTONEN: Originally inhabited by the Qahoori as hunting grounds, Karamentonen was situated next to a large oasis with additional bore water supplies. Over the years this town had grown from the original cave homes carved into the side of the hills into a city in its own right, trading by sea and serving as a hub for several gold mines in the hills.
THE MOTIONLESS SHORE: Once a Thanish town and stronghold, the city was unwittingly built too close to the Loch. Reclaimed by the Land of the Dead, it was wiped out some 600 years ago overnight by the Tentacled Horror – its first documented appearance.
THE BURNING TEMPLE: Was sacred to the Qahoori Nomads, and destroyed during the invasion of the Thanes – it had been partially rebuilt, and an extensive labyrinth exists below it from which, so the legends go, is from where the Lich King had his throne.
NOTE ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE UNDEAD AND THE LIVING
The relationship between the undead and the living in Greater Khartoum is a complex one. For a start, there are several types of living dead in the these lands.
By far the most common are the animated skeletons. In the mines and in areas where there is little contact with the living they go about fully exposed, but in civilized areas go about dressed in robes, gloves, boots and face-masks made of colored metals (bronze, copper and gold).
Nobles, merchants and free men and women simply wake up in a new (and lighter) variation of their old body. As it is quite a shock for most, the majority of the newly dead spend their first month of unlife at a temple before rejoining the world at large to ease the transition. While they no longer feel pain, they can feel extremes of heat and cold, and still retain a sense of touch. While for some it is frustrating that they can no longer at nor drink, conversely they will never feel hunger nor thirst again..
Warriors and soldiers are in most ways the same as any other freeman, though physically they are very different. For upon their deaths, the bones of warriors are encased in a moveable, flexible ‘coating’ of magical terracotta armor. Mentally, the main difference however is that they are unable to resist or reject a direct order from a superior, and can be forced to forget any memory within the last 24 hours if so ordered to.
Servants, slaves and low ranking members of society who are raised again retain most of their consciousness, but it comes and goes, and they typically go into a kind of autopilot mode when performing repetitive tasks.
Criminals are a special case, for the death penalty is common – but with a horrible twist. For sentenced criminals are first executed and then become prisoners of their bodies which are wracked with hideous and unending pain. Punishments in the Land of the Dead are severe, and the crime rate as a result is almost non-existent.
While most of the undead within the Land of the Dead maintain the physical presence of their bones, and may live on in this second life until the bones literally rot away, some survive even this and go on without their physical bodies as shadows and wraiths. This state can be brought about by powerful magical spells or the sheer will power of one who has spent more time in their bones than they ever did in the flesh.
Because death is not the end in this land, people do not grieve quite as much when a loved one passes, but consider it an extended stage of a ‘normal’ life and quite a natural progression. While sinister in appearance, and vulnerable to priests who invoke the solar god against them (which is why all religion is outlawed on pain of eternal punishment in these lands), the undead are not inherently evil and retain the same basic outlook that they had when they were living.