Epic Personages of Greyhawk: Xaene the Accursed

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Hello all! There has been a lot of talk lately of the various epic personages of Greyhawk and I felt it high-time to give some nice juicy detail to some of them.

This is the first in a line of posts I'll make about these individuals. This one concerns one of my favorite tragic villians: Xaene the Accursed, former Court Wizard to Ivid V, the Overking of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy.

Sadly, I haven't yet figured out how to make my text bold, italics, or underlined (whenever I hit the buttons it highlights everything I've written!), so the special emphasis and word colors I used in my original writing are lost

Enjoy!


History of Xaene the Accursed

Xaene was born a privileged scion of House Garesteth in North Province and demonstrated boundless ambition and magical aptitude from a very early age. House Garasteth, one of the few noteworthy Aerdy noble houses to place great value on magic, immediately recognized the vast potential of the young Xaene and began his training as a wizard as soon as the boy learned to read and write. Xaene learned quickly and was eventually sent to the Winetha Mages’ Guild to complete his training and round out his already formidable magical knowledge. Agents of the Crown, always eager to identify potential tools or threats for their Overking, took notice of Xaene at once and kept a close eye upon the promising young wizard. Their attention would lead to great things for Xaene.

Years passed and Xaene’s magical knowledge and power grew mighty indeed. The world contained few magics that he was unaware of, and because of this knowledge he was appointed to the one position in the Kingdom he truly coveted: the Court Wizard to Ivid the V the Overking. Xaene, already evil and depraved in the extreme, served his master and country with zeal and perverse glee. The great Court of Essence, already tainted by the evil of former Overkings, became an object of mind-shattering compulsion under Xaene’s tampering. The Overking, growing ever more paranoid of his own safety, demanded his Court Wizard to create an army of unfailingly loyal soldiers who owed their very souls to their sovereign. Xaene’s solution to this was to create the Fiend Knights of Doom, human elites from the companion guard who were infused with dark energies from hell itself and bound to the Overking’s will. Xaene then proceeded to create fiendish magical items to equip these special elites and to breed fell creatures to serve as their mounts.

Xaene’s “crowning” achievement, however, was the horrific Screaming Column in Oltary Park. Ivid V wished to make an example of those who he perceived as betraying him the worst, and he bade Xaene to create a punishment that would torment them for all eternity while inflicting maximum fear upon his subjects. This column first appeared as a huge piece of black basalt shot with ebony veins of obsidian and angry red veins of quartz. Xaene had the stone for the column harvested from the dark confines of the Cauldron of Night and transported to Rauxes in the deepest of secrecy. The end result of his efforts was a vile artifact that thirsted to consume and torture the souls of living. A ritual of unbridled horror was created with the clerics of Hextor to slay an individual and then soul bind the unfortunate’s soul within their head. The head was then magically treated so that the soul within became aware of its surroundings and could scream through the head’s mouth. The head was then thrust at the column, which absorbed it utterly and magnified the screaming so that all within a mile of the column could hear the agony of the damned soul within. The screaming would continue until the individual’s soul broke, then all sound would cease and a statue-like image of the person’s face would appear upon the column, their face always locked into a perpetual scream of utter agony. No soul thrust into the Screaming column could ever get back out again, it was trapped in agony for all eternity…

Xaene served his Overking for the better part of two decades, despite the growing stain of madness that ate away at the Overking’s psyche. Xanee, as was his want, never stopped researching the magic and lore of the world and took particular interest in the workings of the ancient Ur-Flan people who used to dwell upon the lands that became the Great Kingdom. These people, through trafficking with the foul denizens of the Hells and Abyss, had developed unprecedented magical abilities that centered on necromancy and the commanding evil-infused energies. As Court Wizard, Xaene had enormous resources and clout with which he could research the ancient magic of the Ur-Flan. At the time of his ouster as Court Wizard, he had accumulated one of the largest caches of Ur-Flan artifacts and magical writings in all of Oearth. Some of these proved to be his downfall…

* * *

Time passed and Xaene grew ever mightier, using his position as Court Wizard to gain access to those items or bits of forbidden knowledge he desired. Then, something changed. Just prior to the Greyhawk Wars a terrible plague was sweeping across the Flanaess, a plague for which there was no cure. The Red Death struck without warning, killing king and commoner alike. What was more, there seemed no sure way to protect yourself from the affliction: it managed to strike at people who cloistered themselves away from all others as easily as it swept through densely populated slum quarters. More worrisome still, no magic of any kind would heal those who contracted the Red Death, not even the mighty wish spell.

This made life in cities difficult in the extreme, but it made life in the Palace of the Overking nearly impossible. Falling deeper into insanity, Overking became obsessed with “traitors” attempting to afflict him with this un-curable plague. Heads rolled daily as the Overking looked higher and low to find any who would betray him to the Red Death. Xaene, who realized the entire kingdom (as well as his own life) would be consumed if a cure were not found, devoted all of his energies to learning the true nature of the Red Death. Taking his leave of the Overking’s court Xaene spent several months traveling the Flanaess to investigate the plague and its nature. During this investigation Xaene was able to see first-hand the horrors the disease was wreaking amongst the populace of Aerdy. Something about this touched something deep with the archmage, something that he hadn’t felt since he was a small child. Xaene redoubled his efforts, all to no avail. The Red Death guarded its secrets well and no form or magic or experimentation would yield anything of use.

Finally, Xaene returned to Rauxes out of utter frustration. The Red Death had confounded him time and again and Xaene began to look to a more direct means to learn the nature of the plague. Upon returning to his tower on the Imperial Grounds Xaene locked himself away without presenting himself or his findings to the Overking. It was when Xaene had finally had a chance to sit down and pour himself some wine did he notice the telltale red blotches upon the skin of his fingers. Somehow during his travels, he had contracted the Red Death! At that very moment one his one of his apprentices knocked upon the door of his personal quarters.

“Master, you must come at once. The Overking demands to see you at once!”

* * *

Xaene’s ouster as Court Wizard was both bloody and damaging to everyone within the Great Kingdom. During Xaene’s absence his enemies worked tirelessly to bring him down, for greed and ambition were the only emotions left to any who belonged to the Overking’s depraved court. One person in particular, a formidable mage named Karoolck, had used every means at his disposal to sow seeds of doubt and fear into the Overking’s mind concerning his absent Court Wizard. Karoolck and Xaene were old rivals, dating back to the days of their youth, and nothing would give Karoolck more pleasure than to bring down his hated rival. The Overking, already drowning in his paranoia, eventually came to listen to Karoolck’s poisoned words and decided to summon Xaene to the Court of Essence the instant he returned. The fact that Xaene did not present himself immediately to the Overking only fueled the Overking’s overwhelming paranoia. The table was set for disaster.

Xaene did not tarry long once the summons from the Overking came. You were not long for this world if you ever kept Ivid waiting. He entered the Overking’s audience chamber fully expecting some intrigue or betrayal from the members of the court; this was simply how things functioned in the lands of Aerdy. Xaene had used magic to disguise his plague symptoms and came before the Overking dressed in his full Court Wizard regalia. He wished to impress his presence upon the court and put any little plots they’d hatched down before they could get a single word in. He nearly stopped short when he saw that Karoolck was at Ivid’s side. Xaene sensed a deeper betrayal, and his mind immediately began to race.

Ivid was likewise dressed in his full royal regalia and sat confidently upon the great Malachite Throne of Aerdy. He had Karoolck at his side and numerous guards (many of which were Fiend Knights) around him and spread throughout the audience chamber. He looked every inch His Celestial Transcendency, save for his eyes, which were red from lack of sleep and darted all over the room, searching for possible traitors or assassins.

Xaene knelt before his liege and prepared his speech; he had to act quickly and decisively against Karoolck. It was not meant to be. His only warnings were the widening of Karoolck’s eyes and the smirk that came across his wrinkled face. In an instant Karoolck threw dispelling magic upon Xaene, catching him slightly off guard while he knelt before the Overking. Xaene felt many of his magical protections melt away, including the illusion magic that concealed his plague symptoms.

A collective gasp went though members of the court; first at the audacity of Karoolck directing a spell at the Court Wizard, then at Xaene’s appearance. Xaene, momentarily speechless, could only look in horror at the Overking’s reaction to his red-blotched visage. The room fell silent for an eternal moment, then the silence was shattered by the soul-curdling shriek of the Overking. Ivid pointed at Xaene and howled, then finally found words.

“TRAITOR! You bring the plague before me, you wish it to consume me!” Ivid reached down and grasped the sides of his throne, the Imperial dais instantly covered in a shimmering green sphere of crackling energy. Ivid spoke again, his voice muted by the magical protections he’d erected. “Seize him! Kill him! Burn Xaene for treason!”

The room fell into action. The Fiend Knights of Doom launched themselves at Xaene without hesitation, but were momentarily confounded by the screaming mass of nobles who were fleeing this way and that. The wizards that were stationed around the Overking’s throne all attempted to throw spells, the protective enchantment of the Imperial Dais made their spells fizzle. Karoolck shrieked in frustration as he pounded his fists uselessly against the globe of energy protecting the dais’ top.

For Xaene, the entire world seemed to be crashing down around him. He felt he was close to finding the cure for the plague, and now the plague was threatening to consume him. Worse, he was declared a traitor to the Overking, and that always meant death or worse for whomever this was pronounced upon. Xaene saw the seething chaos around him and made up his mind instantly: he would fight, but not today.

Turning away from the Overking’s dais Xaene used magic to clear a path to the doors out. Xaene knew very well those spells that would and wouldn’t work within the Palace of the Overking, he had labored himself to create those wards and protections that would keep the Palace and those within it safe from harm. Xaene had come prepared for anything, and had a hundred plans of escape worked out well in advance. Time to put them in motion. A quickened repulsion to clear his way and a widened wall of force to create a force tunnel protect his path, and he was out of the audience chamber and running for the Palace doors. Spells of transportation and plane travel would not function within the Palace’s walls; he’d have to blast his way out. He paused a moment to cast a quickened fly spell and then emerged from his force tunnel, the doors before him, as well as some fiend knights. Venting some of his frustration Xaene blasted them with an empowered Chain Lightning, killing them all as well as several fleeing nobles who were too close for their own good. Once past the threshold Xaene immediately teleported to the top of his tower (it was warded against intrusion from the outside) and used his special keys to gain entry. Once inside he sealed the door behind him and ran to his personal chambers as fast as his feet would carry: his pursuers would be right behind him and he had little time.

Xaene directed his extraplanar servants and magical constructs to guard the tower’s entrance while gathered his most precious and powerful possessions. Sounds of battle could be heard moments later. Xaene’s time was running short. Using magic again Xaene teleported into the depths of his tower and set about opening his vaults. There were several things he knew he’d need if he were to become a fugitive from the Overking.

The sounds of battle intensified, and then died down abruptly. Xaene was desperate now, and had only just finished collecting those items he couldn’t bear to be without when Karoolck and a variety of guards and extraplanar creatures burst into the vault. The battle was fierce and the very foundations of Xaene’s tower shook from the powerful magic unleashed. When the dust settled Xaene was alone, but grievously wounded. He used what healing magic upon himself and fled with no small amount of satisfaction; he’d disintegrated Karoolck after a brief, but bloody, magical dual an then rained utter destruction upon those who followed him.

Xaene teleported to the highest point he could, then used his special keys one again to get atop his tower. From there he could see that the entire courtyard of the Overking’s palace was filled with enemies, trying to get at his tower. Xaene dropped prone to avoid any spells that may be aimed at him from below and cast his final teleport spell, disappearing from view and knowledge…

* * *

Life in Rauxes became even more difficult after Xaene’s escape. The Overking became more consumed with treason than ever and executed everyone he could think of who ever associated with Xaene. The city itself was locked down and the populace was no longer to come and go from the capital as they pleased. Worse still for the Great Kingdom, Karoolck returned a day after his battle with Xaene, apparently none the worse for wear. Ivid, apparently in need of someone he could turn to, promoted Karoolck to Court Wizard. Karoolck then took up residence in Xaene’s former tower and set about trying to find his hated rival. As the world would come to find, things got much, much worse in Rauxes. Sadly, they never got any better.

* * *

Xaene took refuge in the expansive undercity of Rauxes after his escape from the Overking’s clutches. The city’s sewers offered a perfect hideaway for the former Court Wizard, for they were enormous, multi-leveled and filled with a variety of denizens that could easily be used and controlled. Xaene chose his layer carefully, and then set about using charmed monsters, elementals, and magic to remake the area to his liking. After setting up a variety wards to guard against intrusion and detection (he used the mindblank spell upon himself each day) and setting guardians to slow or stop intruders, Xaene set to work on his most immediate problem: the fact that the plague was eating away at him.

Time was becoming short for Xaene; the plague was consuming him quickly and he could feel his body and mind beginning to fail. Desperate for salvation, he did what research on the plague he could, but kept coming to dead ends. Time was running out. Finally, Xaene had no choice but to turn to magic to keep himself alive, though “alive” may be too generous a term. Xaene, realizing that he was dying with no cure in sight, decided to become a lich in order to continue his research into the nature of the Red Death. With this new goal in mind Xaene worked ceaselessly on the magical rituals and concoctions necessary to bring about his transformation. During that time, his only other thoughts were to cure the plague and to make the Overking pay for what he’d done.

With his time nearly up and the plague at nearly at the fatal stages, Xaene completed his the ritual of transformation and infused his phylactery with magical power. The transformation did not go entirely as planned. Whether it was Xaene’s unfocused mental state or the plague’s debilitating affects, something went wrong during the transformation. Xaene’s body was slain and then reanimated, all feeling and warmth was lost to him. His mind cleared, but he knew he was no longer alone within his own head. He knew he had changed. Some magical accident had split Xaene’s psyche into two distinct personalities: one which was good and devoted to saving his people from the ravages of the Red Death Plagues and one that was utterly evil and obsessed with revenge upon the Overking. Xaene had escaped certain death from the plague only to be fragmented from within.

The next several months each side of Xaene’s personality became fully aware of the other and a constant war was fought for control of the body. When Xaene’s good side was in control he would work endlessly, as only an undead creature could, upon the riddle of the Red Death. The evil side, however, could not long be contained and would come out to do unspeakable things. The evil Xaene would appear here or there throughout Rauxes to attack and destroy servants of the Overking, always leaving one or two left alive to report back to their liege. The evil Xaene also began to traffic with dark and horrible creatures from the deepest depths of the outer planes. It was making deals and offering exchanges in order to bring about its fondest wish: the downfall of Ivid V.

This tug-of-war went on for the better part of a year when, finally, the good side of Xaene had simply had enough. It was beginning to loose hope in ever finding a cure for the plague and it feared what its evil side was doing. Worse still, a deep melancholy had descended upon the good Xaene and he began to fear for his sanity. He knew that to loose his hold upon himself would allow his evil side to crush him and take control of his body forever. In desperation, the good Xaene decided to embark on a desperate gambit: all or nothing, he’d gain the knowledge he sought or be destroyed in the process.

Having made up his mind, the good Xaene went into his most closely warded vault to make use of the vilest artifact he had ever excavated during his research into the Ur-Flan: the Tapestry of the Underworld. This foul object was a 10 feet tall devil-hide tapestry made up of seven 10-foot wide sections, each depicting scenes depicting death, destruction, decay, and horrors the mortal eye was never meant to ponder. The Tapestry of the Underworld, if utilized properly, created a conduit directly into the psyche of Nerull the Reaper, the evil god of death and decay. The ancient Ur-Flan had used the tapestry to gain the insight and knowledge necessary to further their power and create progressively more wicked works of magic. Most who attempted to use it were destroyed or driven insane by the horrific communion, but those who survived were given great knowledge and power. So Xaene had read.

Xaene had never used the tapestry, though he’d studied it exhaustively. Now he felt the time was right to call upon its powers, for both he and his people were doomed if he could not find the cure for the Red Death. Xaene readied himself, casting those protective wards he felt would be most useful, and then thrust his consciousness into the tapestry. What happened next changed the course of the Flanaess’ history.

Xaene’s psyche nearly broke when his mind touched that of the Reaper. He was overwhelmed with the power and evil of the being he had joined minds with. He knew true fear and felt as if the ground had dropped out from beneath him and that he was going to tumble into an endless abyss. Xaene focused his mind and tried to keep his crumbling sanity together; he had a mission to accomplish, and he believed he was the only one who could do it. Slowly, Xaene pulled himself back from the brink and began to concentrate upon the knowledge he sought. Confidence began to return, and he felt his power grow within him. He exerted his consciousness upon the void around him, probing for what he wanted, refusing to be crushed by the colossal presence that he could feel all around him. Then, with the suddenness that stunned the mighty arch-mage, the Reaper took full notice of Xaene.

-It has been centuries since a mind came to me in this fashion. The Tapestry of Underworld is not for the weak of mind, and you acquit yourself well by not breaking the instant you came to Me. What is it you wish, child of undeath?-

Xaene, nearly crushed anew by the awesome power of Nerull’s direct attention, could only visualize what he sought: the means to cure the Red Death. The Reaper was not pleased with this question.

-You wish to deny Me of the greatest feast in a millennium? Who dare you to deprive the Reaper of his harvest?-

Xaene, to his credit, held onto his thought and pressed it harder. He had to know, he had to find a cure. The Reaper howled at Xaene, and the force and malice of it nearly destroyed the arch-mage, who was only a tiny mote in the sea that is a greater god’s consciousness.

-Very well! Such is the pact of the Tapestry of the Underworld. You shall ask, and I shall answer, though the price will be high. You come to me with two minds of what you wish most in the world, My curse upon you is to have two heads to go with them! All the good it will do you, accursed one, for your knowledge will go for naught!-

From that moment on Xaene was cursed with an existence beyond nightmare. The Reaper made good upon his promise and split Xaene’s personalities up and put them in separate heads. What was more, Xaene was imprisoned within his lair, cut off from magic and locked away within his vault behind a veil of illusions and guardians set by Nerull to keep him from interfering with the Red Death. Xaene’s heads ate away at one another, the evil persona gloating at the good head’s colossal failure, the good persona slowly crumbling and giving way to despair and insanity. All seemed lost…

* * *

In time, Xaene was freed, though not without the loss of all that was good within him. The events in my adventure The Prison of Xaene fully describe the circumstances of Xaene’s liberation and subsequent fall into the blackest evil. Suffice it to say, meddling fools sought Xaene out to learn what he knew of the plague. Having learned it, they barely escaped with their lives. The last gasp of Xaene’s good persona was to hold his evil side in check just long enough to tell the adventurers what he knew. There was little left to Xaene’s good persona by this time, and this final effort broke what little was left of him. The adventurers fled Xaene’s lair as the lich worked to fully free himself from his prison. Not long after the battle of wills ended with Xaene’s evil side having conquered all: Xaene was whole and wholly evil once again, and much more powerful than before. Now Xaene could concentrate fully upon the task of revenge upon the Overking…

* * *

The Greyhawk wars came soon after the Red Death plague was cured and the world was once again throw into chaos and fear. The Great Kingdom was slow to move in the war’s beginning, but quickly mobilized to become a threat to every nation it bordered. Its initial victories came easily, and then its armies began to suffer reverses and defeats in the field. The Overking, who expected nothing less than swift, decisive victories on all fronts, lashed out at the “traitors” who caused his armies to come up short. This lead to an enormous number or executions throughout the Great Kingdom, such that some in Ivid’s court began to wonder if there would be any nobility left by war’s end.

Ivid, however, was not about to waste useful tools. The nobility of Aerdy were well-educated and very competent individuals; you had to be in order to survive to maturity. This knowledge and power could not be put to waste, for the Great Kingdom needed loyal and competent leaders to marshal its armies to its certain victory. In his insanity, now nearly out of control, Ivid bade Karoolck and his Hextorian advisors to reanimate those he had slain as utterly-loyal undead servitors: a nobility that would serve faithfully serve their Overking for all eternity.

These revivifications had mixed results, for the undead created by Karoolck’s and Hextorian magic (known as animus’s) still possessed free will. Worse yet, a number of them took strong exception to being betrayed by their Overking revivified to be one of his personal slaves. One of the worst cases to come from this was that of Delglath the cleric of Erythnul. Delglath was slain and revivified as an animus and then sent to replace the ruler of the city of Rinloru by writ of the Overking. Delglath eventually immediately and sword allegiance to Nerull the Reaper and quickly slew the populace of Runloru. Tens of thousands of people were slain and animated to form an undead army that none dared to combat. Rinloru was lost to the Overking and is still a thorn in the side of the North Kingdom.

The very worst mistake Ivid made, however, was the murder and revivification of General Szeffrin. With the success of the heroic General Osson in the field against Aerdy troops, Ivid decided to ensure total loyalty to himself and his cause by removing all potential “traitors” from the leadership of his army. General Szeffrin, one of the greatest military minds in all of Aerdy, was “rewarded” with revivification as an animus just prior to being appointed Field Marshall for the invasion of Almor. It took some time for the magnitude of what happened to sink into Szeffrin’s consciousness; he had always been a loyal subject of the Overking and had always served to distinction. In the midst of this confusion, and on the very eve of leaving for the Almorian campaign was to begin, Szeffrin was awakened in the night by a shadowy and unknown figure that stank of undeath. Quickly the figure pressed a simple golden medallion into Szeffrin’s hand, saying simply “When the time comes to pay back the Overking, call the name upon this gold.” The figure disappeared immediately thereafter, leaving only its rotting stench behind. Despite himself, Szeffrin kept the medallion.

The exploits of General Szeffrin are now infamous throughout the entire Flanaess. With a savagery and vigor rarely seen in war, Szeffrin systematically obliterated every trace of life he could find within the Prelacy of Almor. Tormented by feelings of betrayal and self-loathing over his condition, General Szeffrin elected to make the people of Almor pay for what had been done to him. Atrocity outdid atrocity as Szeffrin tried to find some way to fill the great black void that festered deep within him. Finally, after the incineration of Chathold and the evisceration of its rulers, General Szeffrin had pushed himself to the edge and nearly gave into despair. Torn between seeking revenge and desire for self-destruction, Szeffrin chose the path of vengeance and called forth the name scribed upon the medallion: Pazrael.

The holocaust that ensued afterward took Szeffrin’s infamy to new levels. General Szeffrin, now Duke Szeffrin of the Almoran Lands, had struck a pact with an Abyssal prince and sold out everything he was for a chance to get revenge upon the Overking. It mattered not to him that he may bring the entire world down with him in the process. Duke Szeffrin foreswore allegiance to the Overking and slew any within his armies who refused to do likewise. Soon after this Xaene himself visited him, for it was the lich who had done most of the footwork to create the unholy alliance between Duke Szeffrin and Pazrael. Xaene promised Szeffrin aid and magic to help his cause along. Xaene was every bit as eager as Szeffrin to bring about the destruction of the Overking, and to this end Xaene employed the most vile magic and artifacts at his disposal to increase Szeffrin’s power.

The Greyhawk Wars ended in a standoff between Duke Szeffrin’s forces and the defenders of Nyrond, and this suited Szeffrin just fine. The battles had nearly bankrupted Nyrond in both wealth and able-bodied soldiers. Nyrond would prove to be no threat to his vengeance; he honestly cared nothing for the neighboring nation anyway. Even better, the Overking himself was assassinated by some of his own generals in the latter stages of the war and was now revivified as an animus. Though rumor had it that Ivid continued to waste away from some unknown disease, the fact that he still existed gave Szeffrin drive enough to continue building his forces for his eventual march on Rauxes. In the meanwhile he passed his time alternating between black moods of deep self-loathing and taking delight in imagining new tortures to visit upon the Overking.

Xaene was pleased with his work and what fortune had given him. The Overking had unknowingly created the instrument of his destruction, and unstoppable weapon in the form of Duke Szeffrin that Xaene would support and then aim at Rauxes when the time was right. His research, magic, and infernal dealings had paid off handsomely, and now his revenge was assured. Now, only time was a factor…

* * *

The balance of good vs. evil in Greyhawk was tipped deeply in the direction of evil over the next few years. The Great Kingdom was no more, but was still filled with evil, ambitious men who possessed great power and controlled large armies. The Scarlet Brotherhood had gained much while loosing very little during the Greyhawk wars. They were strong, organized, and still able to strike anywhere. The armies of Turosh Mak were like a cancer in the heart of the Flanaess, and all good nations near the Pomarj had to look to themselves rather than help others out of fear of invasion. The lands of the western Sheldomar Valley were overrun with giants and humanoid rabble, the mighty nation of Keoland was stretched to its limits trying to keep its borders against these rabble while also looking to the Sea Princes’ lands and their Scarlet Brotherhood Masters. The Kingdom of Furyondy was likewise besieged by the apparently limitless hoards of Iuz to the north. The humanoids and evil humans of his armies were bolstered by demons or all stripe, and there seemed no end of them, not did there seem any hope for those who had to face them. Nyrond, formerly a giant among giants, was destitute and bordering on mutiny from within. With borders threatened by both Iuz and Duke Szeffrin’s Almor, it seemed certain that Nyrond would fall, taking many of its neighboring countries with it.

Out of this darkness came a light of hope, a desperate plan concocted by desperate people: the recovery and use of the Crook of Rao and the banishment of all extraplanar evil from the Flanaess. The return of Tenser helped to tip the balance a little toward good, and with his return he helped ignite enthusiasm and zeal in the hearts of all those he dealt with, and his dealings were many. Using what resources remained to him, Tenser gathered his former servitors back into his service and recruited adventuring groups devoted to good to be his eyes, ears, and hands in the Flanaess. Though he had lost the support of the Circle of Eight, he had friends amongst other luminaries of the world: Melf of Celene, King Belvor of Furyondy, and Canon Hazen of Veluna. Together they used their magic and resources to piece together the location of the Crook of Rao and together they planned for its recovery and use.

Again, the full details of the recovery of this artifact will not be discussed here, it will only be said that the Crook of Rao was liberated from demi-plane upon which it was trapped and brought back to Greyhawk through acts of great valor and sacrifice. These sacrifices were regrettable but necessary, as great plans of this scope seldom remain a secret for long. Such was the case in the Crook’s recovery, evil has its ways of learning secrets and this was one act that it could not allow to happen. In the end, both Iuz and Pazrael became involved in attempting to stop the adventurers from recovering the crook. Both failed as they thwarted one another as much as the adventurers overcame the minions sent against them. Pazrael, however, was the one worsted in the struggle as he was deprived of his two most powerful assets at a critical moment: Xaene and
Szeffrin disappeared without a trace when he needed them most…

* * *

The unleashing of the power of the Crook of Rao was just the kind of event that Xaene was waiting for. The extraplanar guardians and hellish enchantments that protected the Overking would be wiped from the world, leaving him ripe for the plucking. He explained his plan to Szeffrin and planned their betrayal of Pazrael down to the smallest detail. If all went well, Szeffrin would have his fondest wish: the final destruction of Overking Ivid V and his own death. When the critical battle came, Xaene, Szeffrin, and Szeffrin’s elite gated back to Oearth and set their plan into full motion.

Their first target was the great citadel Rifter; a supposedly impregnable redoubt near to Rauxes. Rifter was an ancient stone keep built near a mysterious and apparently bottomless fissure in the Oearth’s surface. The fissure was perpetually covered with a permanent prismatic sphere spell and was an utter mystery to even the most learned sages. The keep itself, however, was built to take advantage of this geographical oddity; the fissure could be used defensively upon any who attacked Rifter (via telekinesis spells and illusionary magic). Hence, Rifter was seen as a place to which an Overking could flee to and be safe from all attacks.

Rifter also had another secret, which had little to do with fleeing Overkings and fissures in the Oearth. Rifter was also the resting place of the fabled Machine of Lum the Mad, though few knew of this fact. The Machine, once instrumental in the Oeridian’s drive east, was now stored away and guarded against foes of the Great Kingdom who would make use of it. No Overking had dared use the Machine since the Age of Great Sorrow, for none knew its functions or wished to invite further calamity from misuse of the mighty artifact. Even Karoolck dared not tamper with the enigmatic device: he had read accounts of the misfortunes and disasters that could strike both user and countryside alike with even the smallest mis-step. So, the Machine of Lum the Mad was locked away behind warded doors and guarded by a powerful fighting force backed up by magical constructs and bound extraplanar beings. It was assumed that none knew the secrets of the machine, so it would not be much of a threat.

They were tragically wrong.

The magic of Xaene and the brute force of Szeffrin’s elite forces fell upon the surprised defenders of Rifter with a terrible fury. Szeffrin lead the attack himself; it had been an eternity since he’d tasted true battle. The battle was short and brutal: not a single life within Rifter was spared; the attacking force was simply too potent and too organized to be withstood. Xaene knew every nook and cranny of Rifter, for he had been there often and had studied the Machine of Lum the Mad extensively. That knowledge assured them swift victory and allowed their plan to continue. With Rifter in hand Xaene blasted aside all obstacles between he and the Machine of Lum the Mad. Karoolck’s puny wards were as nothing to his magical might, Xaene had prepared too thoroughly to allow anything to stand in his way.

With the Machine secured, the plan all came down to timing. Sitting down within the Machine’s two-man control room, Xaene re-arranged several wires, pulled a few switches, and then threw a long black lever. A flat class panel, dark and featureless before, suddenly lit up and gave Xaene a view of Rao’s temple in Velnua City. A ring of defenders protected the temple both on land and in the air. A battle was going on all around, and fell forces were appearing out of gates and rushing at the temple’s defenders. Xaene smiled to himself; the forces of evil were making a last-ditch effort to prevent the Great Cleansing. The time was almost right.

Xaene re-arranged a few other wires, hit a few switches, worked a floor pedal, and another dark glass panel lit up, though much more dimly than the first. The view it showed was twisted and blurry; it was a view of Rauxes and the Imperial Palace. To the mortal eye, the view would have been deeply disturbing, for Rauxes was now a city of nightmare and insanity. The madness and evil of the Overking had seemed to seep into everything, for the city looked dark, rundown, and mean. It had the look and feel of a place waiting for a great tragedy to finally end, and the ending would not bring salvation.

The image shifted and shuddered, and Xaene had to make several adjustments to keep a good view. The infernal magics used by the Overking and his servants had contaminated everything in and around Rauxes, the land was now maimed and the very fabric of reality was strained to the breaking point. Magic was not entirely reliable, and even the Machine of Lum the Mad was being affected. Xaene focused the Machine’s view upon the Imperial Grounds, a slow and wicked smile crept across both his faces. The entire guard retinue was made up of Fiend Knights and devils. The insanity of the Overking had caused every free-willed individual in Rauxes to flee (oftentimes fatal), to hide, or committing suicide in order to avoid a fate far worse than death. Only a handful of combat mages (all fearful of Karoolck) and clerics of Hextor chose to remain near to the Overking. The rest were summoned creatures and brainwashed fiend knights.

Xaene pressed a green button and spoke into a metal grid on the Machine’s control panel. “Szeffrin, prepare your men. The moment approaches.”

Xaene turned his attention back to the other scene: the battle in Velnua City was reaching a fever’s pitch, with evil threatening to over-run the dwindling forces of the temple. Xaene watched intently, waiting for the proper signs and the proper moment. Then, it began to happen. A brilliant silver light began to flow out of every door and window of the temple of Rao and bathed the entire battlefield around. The invading forces shrieked in agony, and Xaene watched in amusement as he saw all manner of demons and evil entities suddenly melt away and disappear like shards of ice cast into a forge fire. The time had come.

“Szeffrin, the time has come. Now!” Xaene pulled a blue lever and pressed two pedals with his feet. The image of the Imperial Grounds changed, for suddenly Duke Szeffrin and a hundred of his elite troops occupied the empty courtyard. Xaene threw levers and pushed buttons in a blur, and a full dozen colossal ice para-elementals appeared in their midst, called to battle by the power of the Machine of Lum the Mad. The devils and fiend knights threw themselves at the host without hesitating and battle soon raged all over the courtyard.

Then the Cleansing Light washed over everything.

* * *

The Flight of the Fiends was an event that changed the balance of good vs. evil on the World of Greyhawk, perhaps for all time. Every country has tales and growing legends about what the Great Miracle of Rao did to aid them. With evil extraplanar aid driven and kept away from Oearth the forces of good could finally marshal themselves to strike back at those who had wronged them. Furyondy began its Great Northern Crusade to retake its lands and to bring retribution upon the forces of Iuz. Nyrond, only just recovered from a change of rulership, launched an assault upon the suddenly leaderless and largely empty lands of Almor. Their battle was surprisingly easy, for the great bastions of evil which had befouled the land; the great citidel of Bloodcrystal and the corrupt keep of Onyxgate, were whipped from the lands when they arrived. Those few troops that remained were weak and confused and fell easily. The world changed for the better, at least in the eyes of those who followed the tenants of goodness and neutrality.

But what of Rauxes?

Reports of what happened in Rauxes are obscure and oftentimes contradictory, but several things are known for sure: after the Cleansing Light washed over the Imperial Courtyard the forces of the Overking suddenly found themselves greatly out-numbered and outmatched. The summoned devils were banished in an instant and the fiend knights were bewildered and stunned. Szeffrin and his forces carved up wholesale and advanced upon the doors of the Imperial Palace. They reached the doors expecting more resistance only to have the doors open before them. A lone figure stood between the opened doors, a man Duke Szeffrin had long known: Patriarch-General Pyrannden, the High Priest of Hextor.

“Ivid is no longer Overking.” Pyrannden yelled to all within the courtyard.

There was a moment’s silence, and then all hell broke loose. Rumors abound of the battle that ensued between Szeffrin’s forces, those forces remaining in the Imperial Palace, and those factions that arrived attempting to seize power within Rauxes. Names such as Drax the Invulnerable, Delglath they Undying, and Graf Rydrich are mentioned; they certainly had the power and ability to bring themselves and supporters quickly to Rauxes.

Xaene arrived soon after the battle began, but did not tarry to deal with the other claimants and seekers of revenge. He went in search of Karoolck, heedless of the battle raging around him. This was the last reported sighting of Xaene (attributed to Lord Drax), and no other details are forthcoming about his fate.

Meanwhile, the battle for Rauxes quickly spilled into the city proper and a great conflagration engulfed most of Rauxes. Great magics were brought to bear and the very fabric of reality must have finally torn asunder; the deep and malefic magical contamination created by the Overkings coupled with the powerful spells cast during the battle, the recent magical cleansing brought about by the Crook of Rao, and the now-active Machine of Lum the Mad all combined to create a great magical disjunction in Rauxes and its surrounding lands. Few escaped this horrific event, and those who did will not speak of it. Certainly Drax the Invulnerable, Graf Rydrich, and the animus Delglath the Undying must have escaped, for they are still active in the world. If, indeed, they were there. The fates of the others within Rauxes is still a mystery, and those who did escape are not talking about what they experienced when reality was rent asunder and Rauxes was plunged into something the gods themselves may not understand.

The world may have seen the last of Xaene the accursed. Or perhaps not…


Game Statistics:

Male Two-Headed Lich Wizard 24: CR 30; Medium-size undead; HD 24+d12; hp 212; Init +1; Spd 30 ft; AC 32, touch 18, fat-footed 31; AC with epic mage armor: 47, touch 17, flat-footed 46, Base Atk +12, Grapple +12, Full Attack +12/+7 (1d8+5 touch and paralysis), and +12/+7 ranged (by spell); AL Neutral Evil; SV Fort +12, Ref +13, Will +21; Str 10 (+0), Dex 13(+1), Con -, Int 29 (+9), Wis 17 (+3), Cha 19(+4)

Skills and Feats: Concentration +31, Craft (Alchemy) +29, Decipher Script +18, Diplomacy +13, Hide +9, Knowledge (Arcana) +36, Knowledge (the Planes) +24, Knowledge (Local: Great Kingdom) +15, Knowledge (History: Ur-Flan) +15, Knowledge (Nobility and Royalty) +14, Listen +13, Move Silently +9, Search +22, Sense Motive +24, Spellcraft +43, Spot +17; Celestial Scion (Garasteth), Craft Construct, Craft Magical Arms and Armor, Craft Wondrous Item, Empower Spell, Forge Ring, Heighten Spell, Improved Counterspell, Maximize Spell, Quicken Spell, Scribe Scroll, Skill Focus (Spellcraft), Widen Spell

Epic Feats: Enhance Spell, Epic Spellcasting, Improved Spell Capacity (10th)

Wizard Spells Per Day: 4/7/6/6/6/6/6/5/5/5/1; base save DC 19 + spell level, Caster Level 26 for overcoming Spell Resistance (due to staff of power).

Epic Spells per Day: 2 (27 ranks in Spellcraft).

Epic Spells Known: Epic Mage Armor, Entropy’s Embrace, Greater Spell Resistance, Let Go of Me, Malefic Sphere, Soul Shatter, Tapestry of Nightmares

Special Attacks: Xaene has the following special attacks
Fear Aura: Creatures of less than 5 HD in a 60-foot radius that look at Xaene must make a Will save (DC: 26) or be affected with the fear spell which functions at 24th level.

Touch: Xaene’s touch attacks inflict 1d8+5 points of negative energy damage and require the creature touched to make a Fortitude save (DC: 26) or be permanently paralyzed. Xaene’s natural weapons are treated as magical weapons for the purposes of overcoming damage reduction.

Special Qualities: Damage reduction 15/bludgeoning and magic, immunity to cold, electricity, polymorph, and mind-affecting attacks, spell resistance 18 (from robes of arch magi), turn resistance +4, undead traits

Two Headed: Xaene possesses two heads and thus is allowed two sets of full round actions each round. These actions can be anything either head wishes, be it two sets of full attacks, two full-round movements, or casting two spells in a single round. Because of Xaene’s dual-headed nature, each head may use the quicken spell feat each round. Likewise, Xaene gains an additional magical item slot for both the head and the neck.

Permanent Spells: Xaene has used the permanency spell to make the following spells permanent upon himself: Comprehend Languages, See Invisibility, and Tongues.

Skills: Xaene gains a +10 racial bonus to Listen, Search, and Spot Checks, and a +8 racial bonus on Hide, Move Silently, and Sense Motive, and checks.

Typical Possessions: Amulet of Natural Armor +5, 2 Boccob’s Blessed Books, Broach of Shielding (62 points remaining), Circlet of Intellect +6, Glove of Storing, Ring of Protection +5, Ring of Counterspells (Greater Dispelling), Robes of the Archmagi (Black), Slippers of Spiderclimbing, Staff of Power


Xaene was designed by making liberal use of the Lich and Two-Headed templates and the Epic Level rules. He is a 24th-level wizard that gets a +4 to his CR due to his Lich template and a +2 to his CR from his Two-Headed template. Xaene is a being of vast dark knowledge and power. He used his years as Court Wizard to his advantage and has accumulated an enormous trove of magical knowledge, items, and artifacts. Many of these were lost to him when he had to flee his tower, but a great many of his most potent items were hidden away in caches spread across the Great Kingdom.

In game terms, it would be considered reasonable for Xaene to have just about anything the DM wishes. Likewise, he has knowledge of every spell in the player’s handbook as well as dozens of spells unique to Xaene alone. The culmination of Xaene’s powers is his epic level spells, all of which are fearsome and can bring doom to even the mightiest foe. These spells (and a number of his personal non-epic spells) were gleaned from the ancient writings of the Ur-Flan. Xaene is passionate about learning everything he can about the Ur-Flan, for he believes they were on the right track to achieving absolute power over the world. Time will only tell if this is true.
I like it.. the lich template only adds +2 to CR though, so his total CR should be 28.

Other then that it is a pretty cool write up... looks like Xaene gained a few levels since Fate of Istus ;)

anyway, I think you should submit it to Canonfire, I think it would make a good article for them.

ps to make something bold, italic, or underlined, simply type [x] before it and [/x] after it... but don't use x, use b for bold, i for italic or u for underlined
You can also find Xaene goodness in the Rob Kuntz' "Maze of Zayene" series by Necromancer Games.
Thanks for the formatting info! I'll make liberal use of it when I post the history and stats for Turrosh Mak sometime next week.

*Grins*

Thanks for the info concerning creature rating, I could have sword it had a +4, but maybe that is level modifier for characters who become liches(?).

And, as you can tell, I took many MANY liberties with all source material concerning Xaene (Fate of Istus, Ivid the Undying, etc). Fate of Istus was a module that really ought to have been re-thought, and I did just that to actually turn it into an epic adventure (spanning character levels 1-16). I very nearly threw it against the wall when I saw how childish, linear, and simple the adventure premise was!

In any case, Xaene became one of my most compelling characters for my re-write of that adventure (my players STILL talk about the gloom and desperation I portrayed in Rauxes) and this write-up is my salute to him.
yeah, +4 is the LA... no problem...
Wow! Good article. I am not sure about the whole two headed thing, but that is merely personal preference.:D

Good way to implement the often forgotten Red Death.
Great write up of Xaene mate!!
wow great job
Thanks all!

Glad you enjoyed it. I try to do my best to deliver a good story as well as decent game stats.

Someone suggested I submit this to Canonfire. Where is that and how do I do it?

Thanks!

Bryan
CANONFIRE the web site has links explaining how to submit stuff.
Hhrrrmmmm...

Was just there and couldn't find anything to do with submitting stuff....

Any suggestions?
you may have to create a free account first...

then you can always ask on thier forums.

when I am there there is a little thing that says submit article near the top of the screen.
Ewp, I didn't see this until now, but you must've done somethign right bcuz we got it.

It usually takes 7-10 days to see your work on the site. Thanks for the submission )
Thanks a lot BD for all your hard work. I always did wonder what was up with Xaene. I only saw brief references to him and wondered "what is up with those 2 heads?"

Thanks for answering all my questions. I can now sleep nights.:D
Xaene's twin heads represent two things, according to Rob Kuntz. First of all, the character's duality, Xaene for TSR and Zayene for Necromancer Games. Secondly for TSR's "split" personality, ie. Gygax controlled vs. Post Gygax. Kuntz was and is, completely in the Gygax camp. For more on Xaene, and tons of other stuff about the actual Lake Geneva Greyhawk Campaign check out this cite .
Ooops, I missed that hyperlink in "site" rostoff :embarrass :D
[Off Topic]
Thanks for the link rostoff. That forum has a very "fan club" type feel to me, but it's neat to get to chat with EGG and RJK. Those two are pretty crazy (in a good way) ;)
[/Off Topic]

Awesome write up on Xaene, bdpenny. Do you have any other write ups for Aerdi people?
-wn
I'll be doing some more soon. This week my project is to consolidate my notes and write about Turrosh Mak.

This one is gonna be quite a little ride, so be sure to buckle up!

Warning: this write-up is going to fly in the face of some sources (Slavers particularly). Where the Xaene write-up has stayed as close to "canon" as possible (Fate of Istus modifications non-withstanding), the story of Truosh Mak will go in an utterly new direction of what has been published in the past. It -WILL- incorporate stuff from previous sources, but will be new and distinct in many ways.
Originally posted by bdpenney
I'll be doing some more soon. This week my project is to consolidate my notes and write about Turrosh Mak.

This one is gonna be quite a little ride, so be sure to buckle up!

Warning: this write-up is going to fly in the face of some sources (Slavers particularly). Where the Xaene write-up has stayed as close to "canon" as possible (Fate of Istus modifications non-withstanding), the story of Truosh Mak will go in an utterly new direction of what has been published in the past. It -WILL- incorporate stuff from previous sources, but will be new and distinct in many ways.

Sounds good, I'm looking forward to it! :D
Canon?! Bah! Who needs canon? ;)
-wn
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