The Legend of Brier Cliff Manor
It is said that in the last days of the Empire of Nerath the disciples of darkness marauded across the land.
As savage forces loyal to the Ruler of Ruin swept into the Empire to tear down, uproot, and destroy the high walls and stately towers of civilization, prophets of despair rose from among the discarded and the downtrodden. Ever ready to seize the advantage in the mayhem of war, dark cults took hold and grew strong among the barbaric humanoid tribes of the frontier. Spurred on by wild-eyed priests, and caught up in a frenzy of destructive devotion, unrestrained hordes of bandits and raiders began to overrun the towns and villages that still remained after the clash of armies.
Legend tells of a man and woman who sought to turn this tide of chaos to their own advantage.
On the northern slopes of the Cairngorm Peaks, where the mountains give way to the Stonemarch, in a cold and windy valley, stood the forbidding edifice of Brier Cliff Manor. This lonely gray mansion was the home of Leucis and Nemeia Molencha, brother and sister, and the wealthy heirs to their family's prosperous trading interests. For years, the Molencha caravans had plied the trails north beyond the Stonemarch, and south into the central lands of the Empire, each year adding more and more gold to the Brier Cliff coffers.
Now the devastation of war, and the ravages of its aftermath, threatened to destroy all the Molenchas had built.
Nemeia, however, had inherited her father's shrewd cunning, just as her brother Leucis had inherited his aggression and resolve. Both burned in their hearts to restore the glorious past of their Tiefling ancestry. In the midst of crisis, they saw a chance -- not only to preserve what was theirs -- but to restore that which history had denied them.
Years before, Nemeia had devoted herself to the study of dark secrets and the acquisition of all knowledge that might help her restore the Tiefling legacy. In the fullness of time she had entered willingly into a fiendish pact and had used the powers of that dread alliance to help build the Molencha fortune.
Chief among Nemeia's dark pursuits had been the study of how best to channel the unrestrained and undisciplined energies of others to her own highly organized ends. She reasoned that if she could learn to direct the raw power of seemingly chaotic action, and put it to use to achieve specific goals, she could become a powerful benefactor for her family and a valuable servant to her dark master.
For this purpose, and with the full cooperation of her Leucis, Nemeia had constructed the vaults, chambers, and dungeons below Briar Cliff Manor. This sprawling and deep-delved complex served as a place where she could conduct her studies in secret, away from the prying eyes of enemies and friends alike.
Long years she had labored, learning much -- not just of the dark arts, but also of the more mundane (but no less powerful) drives and motivations that spur thinking and feeling creatures into action, even though they may not be aware of their reasons.
As the chaos surrounding the fall of Nerath reached the hill-tribes of the Stonemarch, the Molenchas were ready. Armed with her dark and fiendish knowledge, Nemeia was able to bend the clans of orcs, ogres, giants and trolls to her will, and forge them into an army under the banner of her charismatic brother Leucis, who soon became known as Warmaster of the Stonemarch.
What followed has never been seen before or since. Barbaric hordes of tribal savages, individually without discipline or a purpose other than wanton destruction, were aimed -- as a group -- like a weapon, and hurled with infernal accuracy at the remaining bastions of civilization. One after another, cities -- first in the Nentir Vale, and then beyond -- fell under the dark rule of Luecis and Nemeia Molencha. Such was the power of their barbarian army that neither the Ruler of Ruin's forces, nor the remaining divisions of Nerath, could stand in their way. The grandest dream of the Molenchas seemed to be within their grasp -- the dominion of their ancestors would be restored. Bael Turath would live again.
As often happens with the plans of the mighty, fate intervened -- this time in the form of an uncomfortable and very short-lived alliance between the two opposing armies. Convinced of the danger presented by the Molenchas, Nerath and her enemies established a truce long enough to confront the forces of the Warmaster. Faced with desperate and coordinated opposition on two fronts, even the cunning of Nemeia and the leadership of Leucis could not prevail. Their savage hordes were broken, their soldiers scattered, and the dream of a new Tiefling empire lay shattered upon the battlefield.
The end of the Molenchas story is not completely known. It is certain that Leucis was slain at the Battle of Fell Hollow by the hand of General Gor Hargoth himself. Alain the Just led the Sack of Brier Cliff Manor in which the ancestral home of the Molenchas was burned to the ground.
When the ruins had ceased to smolder a search was made for the body or bones of Nemeia but none were found. The searchers did discover chambers on two or three levels below the manor, but the fire had suffocated any who had taken refuge there. Rumors persisted that there were yet deeper levels, yet numerous searches revealed neither staircase nor secret entrance to such a hidden redoubt.
In the end Alain left the remains of Brier Cliff to the wilds of the mountains and returned to the war which quickly reignited without the shared threat posed by the Molenchas. As the armies fought one another to mutual exhaustion, and darkness settled across the former Empire of Nerath, history forgot the brief ascendancy of Brier Cliff Manor, and few thought to ask any longer about the fate of Nemeia Molencha.
A Dungeon Called Ramshackle
While history may have forgotten Brier Cliff Manor, adventurers did not. The lure of the chambers below the old manor house was too strong to resist. It was not long before the ruins became a prime adventure destination.
Many adventurers have commented on the seemingly random nature of the complex. It appears to follow no recognizable architectural scheme. What they do not know is that many of the exercises conducted by Nemeia as she pursued her studies can only be called experiments in behavioral psychology. Sections of the dungeon -- whole levels in fact -- were constructed on an as-needed basis for one research project or another. Construction was always carried out to very exacting standards, and according to a plan laid-out by Nemeia. Such a plan, however, was meant to achieve very specific objectives known only to her. Very often these objectives included creating a space in which a hapless experimental subject could be channeled and controlled to achieve a specific result. This worked very well for Nemeia, and was instrumental to her success in creating behavior control techniques by which the barbarous masses of the Stonemarch could be forged into an effective army.
To adventurers looking at the dungeon a century later the construction seems completely random and out of control. So much so, that the complex has gained a new name: Ramshackle.
None of the residents of the upper levels, beyond the priests of Tyche, has any significant knowledge of the dungeon's past, its purpose, or of the deeper levels that may be found below. The priests moved in several years ago following reports of increasing delve activity. They know the basic history of Ramshackle, but most are only interested in its current status as a prime adventure location.
One Mystery Remains
Adventurers are split on the key question: what happened to Nemeia? Some believe she escaped the Sack of Brier Cliff Manor, fleeing into the Stonemarch and taking refuge among her monstrous humanoid allies. Others believe she was killed in the fire, and her body never found. Still others are convinced she fled into deeper levels of Ramshackle that are now sealed off, and that she lives there still, studying, gathering her strength, and preparing for the day when she will return in fire and fury, to exact her revenge, and to restore the ancient Tiefling empire, with herself on the throne.