Ardathium Vol. I-VI
These brief details are conclusions drawn by me in my brief encounter with the ruins of this lost citadel. I cannot claim any word of this to be absolute truth, for the information I had available was vague, if not cryptic through the impenetrable veil of ignorance and time that shadowed my vision. Throughout the whole of Norrath's libraries and scholars, I was not able to find a single shred of evidence or legend relating to this place. Eerily, it was as if it had never existed, that the memory of Norrath itself had torn Ardathium from its mind.
Ardathium - that is the name of the place I shall detail as best I can in these pages. A glorious citadel constructed by the first followers of Mithaniel Marr in what is now known as the Southern Desert of Ro. I know for certain that this place exists, or existed, though in unfortunate, irreparable ruin beneath the unforgiving sands of the desert. I have been there, and I have seen it. I cannot tell you where or how to enter this place, for I was forced to leave prematurely during my investigation of the site. An earthquake forced me to escape, or be buried alive with the city's forgotten dead. Unfortunately, the earth swallowed the city further into its belly, the topmost portion of Ardathium's tower was buried deep beneath the sands once more. I cannot say when or if the city will rise again through the will and labor of united men and it would be the wasted energies of a fool to hope for as much within our lifetimes.
In the two and a half days that I was alloted the opportunity to explore the standing portions of this place, I learned so little and yet, so much. A great library had once been housed within the walls of the white and golden city of Truth. Though most of the tomes have dissolved into dust in the cruel clutches of time, I was fortunate to find a few legible documents, preserved by the desert's heat. The script was ancient, but I recognized bits and pieces of the runic tongue of old. This story is one that I have concluded to be a possible fate of Sir Grenic Drere, the hero of our tale, and the fate of the city of Ardathium.
In the first years to crown the Monument Age, the Fortress of Ardathium was erected in the northernmost fields outside the Elddar Forest. Established by the half elven paladin, Countess Viannay, Ardathium would be the first of the great monuments established in the name of Mithaniel Marr throughout all of Norrathian history. Dedicated solely to the crusades of The Truthbringer in the name of valor, honor, and truth, Ardathium was one of Norrath's most beautiful, though tragically short-lived treasures.
Constructed of pure alabaster stone and crowned in statues and tower caps of solid gold, Ardathium was a sight to behold. Its white and blue banners rose high toward the heavens and the brilliant glinting of sunlight off of its tower's golden caps could be seen for miles above the lush, green canopy of the Elddar Forest to the south.
The Che Virtuson was established shortly thereafter - an elite force of zealous knights and priests dedicated to The Truthbringer and his divine word. A small commune of faithful peasants dwelled within the outer sanctum of the fortress' temple, though the fortress was primarily governed as a war-front against the dark evils that lurked in the eastern swamps of Innothule and the Feerrott. Countess Viannay appointed three Viscounts to her aid, dubbing each of them a General of the Che Virtuson and second in command to only her dominion over Ardathium.
Grenic Drere, a human paladin of Marr who had led several knights and faithful pilgrims to Viannay's aid during the first battles with the troll armies of the east, was among those appointed to lead at her side.
Ardathium would launch several campaigns against the massive trollish armies that dwelled in the swamps of Innothule to the east. Countess Viannay's fervent regard of the amphibious race as a poisonous plague upon the face of Norrath and her military prowess in conjunction with her unchallenged zealous faith in The Truthbringer would lead the Che Virtuson to several victories over their enemies -- all the in the name of Mithaniel Marr.
Unfortunately, Countess Viannay would not live to see the end of her life's work and her death would be the first step toward the glorious fortress' demise several generations later.
During one of the greatest battles that Ardathium had mounted against the trolls of Innothule, Countess Viannay fell terminally ill to a foul curse placed upon her by one of the powerful troll shamans, Tjarduugh. Unable to lead her armies and confined to her bed chambers, Countess Viannay handed the reins of her armies to the Viscounts while the high priests struggled to counter the curse. After a mere fortnight of battle, Grenic Drere was the only remaining general of the Che Virtuson and the war had seemed to turn to an inevitable defeat within the clutches of the infectious shadow. His desire to avenge the Countess was overwhelming and upon the final moments of her life, Grenic vowed to fulfill Viannay's life's work.
The Countess' body was to be preserved through the magic of the priests and laid to rest in the grand mausoleum that housed all of Ardathium's heroes in the highest tower of the fortress. In the largest chamber of the tower mausoleum, Countess Viannay's body was placed upon a raised platform of alabaster and gold. She was dressed in ceremonial garb of silk and chain-linked armor and held beneath her hands, folded over her breast, was the hilt of her holy blade. Her body was covered with Soraviene's Veil - an artifact that would kill any creature whose faith was not solely bound to honor and virtue that dared to touch it.
With the Countess laid to rest, Grenic ascended to hold the title of count over all of Ardathium. His vow to his mistress would become the consuming goal that gave meaning to his life. Two massive campaigns would be launched beneath Grenic's command against the trolls.
The loss of their Countess had fuelled a passion that acted as an impenetrable shield upon all souls of the Che Virtuson, and they were victorious. The troll warlord, a shadowknight known as Kzurott, and his forces were pushed out of the plains upon the first campaign, and the second would lead to the knight's demise. However, this victory would seem hollow, for Tjarduugh, the high shaman that had ended the life of their beloved Countess, remained and much of the troll army stood.
No doubt fell upon Grenic's mind that Tjarduugh would launch an attack that would more than likely cripple Ardathium, if not destroy it. His men were weary and few amidst their immeasurable bravery and honor. The attack could not occur if Ardathium were to survive, and above all things, Grenic's vow to Viannay was held in the foremost of all his considerations.
He ordered the pilgrims to leave Ardathium for their own safety, vowing to them that they would hear word when and if it was safe for them to return. The Che Virtuson were then organized and prepared to act as mediators of defense, for to launch an offensive with such an army of a mere five hundred soldiers and priests would be suicide and inevitably guarantee Ardathium's downfall.
Grenic sent a message with the pilgrims, who had to travel through the Elddar forest to reach safety as he had instructed them to do so. A small band of the migrating pilgrims stopped at one of the elven outposts on the eastern border of the forest. There, they left Grenic's message, which would reach Elwyean in the halls of Takish'Hiz. The great Koada'Dal wizard was quick to follow Grenic's request for his guidance and wisdom, for this several thousand year-old elf was the grand-sire of Viannay and had given his blessing for Ardathium's construction outside of the sacred forest.
The news was nothing new to Elwyean, for Ardathium's impending doom had not escaped the keen eyes of the elves. Elwyean advised Grenic that the destruction of the swamp would diminish much of the troll's forces and would leave them in scattered chaos. Grenic was hesitant, though he did not take Elwyean's advice lightly, for an elf's pledge to destroy a natural niche was not something uttered in every lifetime. The elves of the Elddar believed that the swamp was corrupt - that the trolls' darkness had seeped into every fiber of the land and that even the trolls' destruction would not uproot the whole of the evil that had infected the region. The wizard informed Grenic that the swamp would inevitably be destroyed by the elves, but it was up to Grenic to decide whether or not this act would be one in favor of his city's continued existance, or one executed after Ardathium's fall.
After much consideration and prayer, Grenic conceded to Elwyean's advice and asked for his aid, for the swamplands were immune to fired kindled by human hands. The ancient, stoic elf understood and advised further that Grenic station his troops for defensive purposes, and to destroy the trolls that dared to flee toward the forest's borders. Hesitantly, Grenic agreed, knowing that the act would undoubtedly leave a mark on his soul for judgment in the hereafter. However, his heart and convictions were steely upon his promise to the late Countess and the protectino of the great city and everything it stood for.
Elwyean briefly returned to his people to inform them of the coming destruction of the swamp. The elves were on guard for any trolls that penetrated Grenic's forces, though none left the Elddar to directly aid the human citadel. Elwyean's return was heralded in a massive azure, gold, and red maelstrom of arcane fires that erupted across the swamplands. The magical fire could be seen for miles beyond the forest and its glittering flames raged on for days. Grenic's forces destroyed hundreds of troll warriors and civilians that fled for their lives.
After twelve long days, the swamp of Innothule had been obliterated - the waters evaporated by the searing heat of the blaze and even the most robust of foliage reduced to pillars of ash. Elwyean never again returned to Ardathium or consorted with Grenic after the battle. Grenic's fortress was safe, though the cost of this victory would weigh heavily upon the knight's conscience and soul for the next several decades.
Summons were sent back to the pilgrims that had previously been sent away. Most returned, though a few opted to remain in the new settlements that had begun to establish upon the eastern coast of the continent. All were welcome back, though Grenic denied a celebration in the wake of a time of mourning for what had been done.
Years would pass and Grenic would see the prosperity of his city rise up from the ashes of its former turmoil. His remorse and shame would lift their scars from his soul and his thoughts would change to that of humble acceptance. Grenic revered what he had done as a necessity, for if he had not given into a tactic that would otherwise be dishonorable, all that he saw before him - the peace and happiness of his people, the people of Marr - would have fallen to damnation and ruin.
The next several decades would bring prosperity and peace to the people of Ardathium. Grenic would produce a son and daughter, Erolysia and Mitharius, twin children who would be named after the patron deity and his respected sister that the fortress had been founded for. Upon Grenic's death, Mitharius, a knighted warrior in the Che Virtuson, would ascend to Count of Ardathium. The great leader's body would be taken to the highest tower in the city and in the great chamber of Ardathium's Heroes, Grenic's body would be laid to final rest beside his comrades.
Ardathium would experience nearly a century of prosperity and peace beneath the leadership of Grenic's bloodline, though a great earthquake and the burning of the Elddar forest would leave the once-white and golden jewel of Mithaniel's legacy upon Norrath in irreparable ruins that would, in the passing eras, be consumed by the desert sands of Ro. The memory of this great city would be lost as the ages passed and turmoil wrought the minds of the modern cultures.
I hope that these words can give resurrection to the memory of this glorious place - that the descendants of its survivors and the scholars of Marr will come forward and restore the proper glory and respect to the memory of a might, though compromised knight's achievements and the history of Marr's first successful mortal campaign.