Category Archives: The Lich Wars

Lich Lord Baenia, The Spider Queen

Baenia Daranna Araechnia was born under an ill sign. She was born an albino drow–a drow with maggot-white skin and black hair. She was to be put to death, but a sign from Lolth herself prevented her immediate sacrifice. A swarm of spiders engulfed the infant the moment she went under the knife; there has rarely been a clearer sign of Lolth’s favor. She was a child prodigy. She became a high priestess of Lolth for her House (House Araechnia) at the tender age of sixteen. She was the pride of the house, as aloof and cruel as any priestess of Lolth that had ever been born. She personally led her house to victory in the Game of Houses, elevating her house from twentieth in the city to fifth. She was the model of devotion to her psychotic deity, making the required sacrifices and performing rites and rituals with rarely seen zeal. Then, things went spectacularly wrong for Baenia. Lolth is a notoriously fickle and temperamental deity. Something she did must have displeased Lolth.

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Her House fell from grace in spectacular fashion. Araechnia was attacked by two Houses at once. First, its magical protections were destroyed, then their priestesses were cut off from Lolth. Their warriors did not last much longer. Baenia escaped the final judgement by castigating herself in her House’s temple. She cast herself at the mercy of Lolth and the demented goddess gave her a price for her life: transformation into a drider. With enemies closing in on her from all sides and her life in the balance, Baenia accepted Lolth’s offer, transforming into a drider on the spot.

With her new form, she evaded her enemies and began to live a subsistence existence in the Feydark. It was in this state that Borcus, the Laughing Lich found her. He had been delving into the Feydark to bolster his armies with drow subjects–he found drow vampires to be excellent assassins. He encountered Baenia when he stumbled into her webs. He became entangled in the sticky webs, but instead of simply blasting them away, he waited for the predator he knew would arrive. He figured he could use this creature as yet another undead minion.

When Baenia arrived to devour her prey, Borcus immediately fell in love. The Laughing Lich had never felt such a pure and unfettered feeling. Of course, it warped in his blackened, twisted heart into a desire to possess. When Baenia discovered what she had caught, she thought that she was dead. She recognized Borcus’ power and knew that such a creature would have no trouble blasting her to dust. So it was with great surprise that she accepted his offer to become his companion. Borcus, gleeful with his newfound love, led them both out of the Feydark and into his castle deep in the Great North Woods.

There, he transformed Baenia into a lich so that they might share an eternity together. The transformation from drider to lich was an awakening for Baenia. She finally felt free of Lolth and took the title the Spider Queen as an ironic jab at her former goddess. She fell in love with Borcus and they lived together the Great North Woods–keeping well clear of Muranamu–for half a millenium. They spent their time studying magic and the science of necromancy. Baenia discovered a method to siphon divine power from Lolth and use her old powers as a high priestess without paying obeisance to the goddess. When the Cloud Queen approached them with her plan to transform the world into undead, they decided to join her out of simple existential boredom.

It is said that, when the Thri-Kreen weaponmaster Brak-Thek defeated her, she finally died with a smile on her lips. It was said that, of all the Lich Lords, only Baenia was basically indifferent to their goal. She had grown bored with her existence. Life–or unlife–had lost its flavor for her. She no longer felt the joy of discovery; she no longer felt the thrill of the kill. Her body continued to live, but her will was decidedly gone. Brak-Thek fought his way past her guards, his force of Thri-Kreen warriors dying all around him. When he finally met Baenia, the tales say that she only fought with the bare minimum effort. Even her bare minimum effort was enough to unmake Brak-Thek. Wounded unto death, his final blow to her heart–where she had stored her phylactery–was a weak one and one that the Spider Queen fell into.

Lich Lord Quietus, He Who Never Sleeps

Lich Lord Quietus, He Who Never Sleeps, was once the Terror of Berr Dornat, the Black Fang. He was a ferocious and deadly adult black dragon who deeply enjoyed lurking through the dwarven tunnels and devouring dwarves. He was unusual for a black dragon, as most of his kind prefer to live in swamps and bogs, but the Black Fang was fond of the cold darkness of the caverns and tunnels of the mountains. He was a silent killer who never announced his presence as he swept down upon a dwarven town, utterly destroying it with his acid breath. He would pick through the remains of the melted dwarves and crunch on their bones like a fair-goer eating nuts, then he would gather up what trinkets survived and squirrel them away in his growing hoard.

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It was during one of these raids that he made his first mistake. He attacked a town in Stonehammer territory. When the thane of the Stonehammers, Thane Burza Stonehammer, learned of this, (the great grandfather of Durnin Stonehammer), he set to work creating a weapon that could shatter the bones of mountains so that he might once and for all eliminate the menace of the Black Fang from Berr Dornat forever. Burza created the Stonehammer, a massive dwarven maul imbued with the might of Moradin to defeat the Black Fang. He named it after his clan, knowing that it could receive no better name to ensure its strength.

For a fortnight, Burza stalked through long-abandoned tunnels deep beneath the civilized caverns of Stonehammer lands, hunting the Black Fang. Finally, he found the black dragon, sleeping in his cavern, atop his glittering hoard. In complete darkness, Burza struck at the dragon and they battled for three long hours. Burza’s armor had been blessed by priests of Moradin to resist the Black Fang’s acid breath and the Stonehammer was a mighty weapon indeed. Though Burza was struck a mortal blow–a sucking chest wound inflicted by the Black Fang’s barbed tail–it was not before the Thane of the Stonehammer clan dealt the dragon an equally mortal blow, crushing its chest in with a truly awesome final blow. The dragon did not die immediately. It lived on, hate giving it an awful will to live just a little longer.

The Black Fang persisted, dying by inches over days. He saw his mortal enemy carried away by his kin. He saw the hated Stonehammer reverentially taken from the place it had fallen. He saw his hoard carted off by crowds of dwarves. The Black Fang was powerless to stop them. His hatred was so black and foul, that it forced him to draw breath through his ruined chest. His torn heart continued to beat, weaker and weaker. And that was when the Cloud Queen came.

Actual historical data is very vague on what happened next, but scholars surmise that the Cloud Queen was looking for something that had been hidden in the dragon’s hoard. When she found the hoard pilfered and the great dragon himself dying, she must have offered him undeath. Instead of becoming a mere undead minion for her to command, however, the Black Fang’s hatred and his inherently magical draconian nature transformed the spells and rituals, empowering them. As his heart shuddered its last beat, he felt a cold, deathly power infuse his body and he became a dracolich. Of course, the Black Fang immediately tried to kill the upstart woman who had given him this gift, but to his surprise, she was by far the stronger.

She mastered him as much as she could, naming him Lord Quietus, He Who Never Sleeps, and gave him a new purpose. He would help spread death to the entire empire, releasing mortals from the shackles of death, even as he luxuriated in death’s cold embrace. Lord Quietus took to his new calling with a will. Over a few short years, he had all but forgotten about the dwarves in their cold caverns as his tattered wings felt the kiss of sun-blessed lands and he heard the screams and cries of top-dwellers. He alone of the Lords of Death did not dwell in the Cloud Keep, preferring instead to keep terrestrial lairs. It was to be his undoing.

Lord Quietus was finally defeated by a warforged binder called The Chanter. The dracolich had just finished transforming a new batch of prisoners into willing undead soldiers when this unassuming mechanical man simply walked into his lair. The binder simply ignored the dracolich’s necromancy and his terrible acid breath, laying down binding after binding, stripping away Lord Quietus’ power one layer at a time until the dracolich was a loosely held-together, quivering pile of rotten tissues. The Chanter then systematically wiped out all of the undead in the lair and destroyed Lord Quietus’ phylactery. Once Lord Quietus’ phylactery had been destroyed, the Chanter laid down one last binding, dissipating the magical energies enervating the dragon’s corpse into the ether. The Chanter then walked out of Lord Quietus’ lair, never to be heard from or seen again.

Lich Lord Laria the Cloud Queen

Laria the Cloud Queen is the Lich Lord who brought forth the Ten Lords of the Dead. She is remembered primarily for constructing the Cloud Keep, an enormous flying fortress from which the Lich Lords planned their assaults and rained death upon the empire. She was once widely regarded as the most beautiful woman in the empire and a kind and generous philanthropist as well. She was an accomplished wizard by the time most apprentices are casting their first light spell and was a brilliant theoretical magician, creating many new spells designed to help those who could not help themselves.

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She became interested in the fuzzy dividing line between divine miracles and arcane magic when she took a lover–a paladin of the Raven Queen whose name has been lost to time (or perhaps deliberately scrubbed from records). Laria and her lover would spend hours talking about the faith which enabled miracles and the logic and mathematics that enabled Laria to create spells. Perhaps these conversations would have led Laria to create more spells to help people, if only her lover had not died. As her lover was a paladin, she was charged with the protection and safety of the people in her flock. She was given a mission by her church to put down a cult of demon worshipers who were summoning demons and commanding them to attack innocents. It was a dangerous mission, but the paladin was, by all surviving accounts, a talented and gifted warrior. Her talent for battle could not save her and she ended up dying defending the innocents.

Laria was overcome with grief. For months, she shut herself in her tower, refusing to speak to anyone. Day and night, strange lights and even stranger sounds emanated from her laboratory at the top of her tower and Laria’s friends grew worried for her safety. Finally, after five months being shut in her tower, the lights and strange sounds stopped. Believing that she had at last worn herself into exhaustion, her friends broke into her tower to try and save Laria, only to find her transfigured.

Where once, Laria had been vibrant and beautiful, wholly alive, now she was a mere shell of a person. Her wild pink hair had been bleached white as bone. Her skin was waxy and stretched over her bones. Her beautiful green eyes had sunken in and had a strange, alarming glow to them. She looked dead, yet she walked. She spoke. She spoke at great length to her friends.

What she said first alarmed them, then terrified them. She spoke of the blurred line of divine and arcane magic. She spoke of the secrets of life and death. She said that she had ‘solved the problem of death’ and could grant anyone who desired it immortality. Finally, Laria revealed what she had been shut away in her tower doing all these months. Laria’s lover, the paladin, walked out of a side room, as graceful and alien as any fey creature. An aura of death surrounded the paladin. Her eyes were dead and staring. She did not speak. Instead, she attacked Laria’s friends, killing most of them as Laria looked on and laughed, clearly mad.

One of those friends escaped. Her name was Brianna Dawnsinger, a paladin of Pelor. She saw the madness in the once-great wizard’s eyes and the horror of the abomination she had created–what she had become. Dawnsinger gathered a group of priests and paladins and came back to Laria’s tower, but too late. Laria had left with her former lover.

Ten years later, Laria returned, at the head of a truly terrible group of fiends who called themselves the Lords of Death. Their stated mission was to end death by transitioning all through death’s door and then guiding them back, changed for the better. In actual practice, the Lords of Death began a campaign to turn all people into undead. They believed that only through this process could paradise be obtained. Laria now styled herself the Cloud Queen and no longer made any pretense at life. Her skin was cold and deathly blue. Her hair was white and her eyes burned with a dread light. She retained much of the beauty she had in life, but now it inspired dread instead of admiration. Her words fell like dead leaves where once it sang and lilted. All compassion was gone, replaced by this one burning obsession. Her lover was still at her side, now called the Bleak Knight.

The Lords of Death laid waste to the empire for ten years, turning their dead against them. Dawnsinger was the one who struck the final blow against the Cloud Queen, sending the Cloud Keep crashing down as circles of wizards opened the earth to accept its unquiet dead. They could not close the enormous grave–the Cloud Queen’s magic was yet too strong–and it became the Scar, poisoning the land around for miles and continuing to birth monstrosities. Though she did not exist long as a lich, the Cloud Queen’s influence has been felt for 200 years and it will be another 200 years at least before the empire is back to its former glory.