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Firelord Sagaby Ville Lähde
3) The Rise of the Second Firelord
Personal background of Daricus the Firelord: Hatred of the Empires
The Isle of Dawn has been a skirmishing ground of the Alphatian and Thyatian Empires for many generations. Years ago a man of Thothian origins, born with the name Daricus, lost his whole family in one of the most intensive conflicts in recent history. During this time Daricus developed a strong hatred towards both Empires and their colonial policies, and began dreaming of revenge. As it happened, Daricus had also began a path of magical learning, and proved to be a talented student, albeit a bit prone to hasty and rash decisions, and dangerous experiments. He was sure that magical learning could give him the tools to strike back at his enemies.
Travelling repeatedly across the shifting borderlands of the Isle of Dawn, he contacted various groups and individuals that held similar views. He offered his (still humble) magical abilities to local resistance groups, which brought him respect and friendship among those people. During this time he met various Followers of Fire, magic-users of the underground Alphatian sect, and found their trust in the Element of Fire appealing. In time he rose among their ranks and gathered a small following of trusted henchmen, whom he convinced to join him in his search for power and revenge.
Together they travelled to the mainland, to Ylaruam, where Daricus learned of outlawed and persecuted Fire sects. He set out to find them, and after some years of adventuring he had gained contacts and friends in the Cult of Rathanos. Their learnings persuaded him to join the followers of the Fiery Ankh as a layman follower - but his knowledge and skill with fire magics gave him a better position, one of a religious scholar. In this role he stumbled upon fragmented remarks of the previous Firelord, the Starfire Sphere, and the mystical Ascension. It might be that these themes struck a cord with the Thothian folklore of his childhood. There might be some obscure, ancient tales hinting at the Fiery Pharaoh, for example (but they must be in a metaphoric form, totally cryptic to those without any previous knowledge of such matters). However, these ancient hints merely roused his appetite, but didn't give any practical advice, so Daricus set on a quest: to find the dangerous Magian Fire Worshippers, to learn from them and travel their hidden fiery paths.
Of these times Daricus doesn't speak even to his closest followers. Yes, he found the Magian Fire Worshippers, and learned much in his travels in the forbidden caverns under the Alasyian basin, or even through wormholes to the Plane of Fire. By now he was already a powerful wizard, a learned scholar in the lore of Fire. But still the secrets he was searching for eluded him, and he decided to travel all the way to Glantri, the land of the wizard-princes. There he continued his studies, made contact with the local Fire sects (but mostly was disappointed in their lack of interest in the policies of the Empires), and learned some of the secret crafts of the Fire Elementalists.
By now Daricus had found enough information to start serious studies on the cult of the Starfire Sphere. What he couldn't piece together, he supplanted with something else, but still some key elements seemed to be missing. The Secret of the Ascension was still beyond his grasp. In the end he decides to gather together those many friends, allies and contacts he had met over the years, form the Cult of the Starfire Sphere again, and start looking for the lost Plateau of Fire, which some texts suggested lay in the middle of the Sea of Dread. (Note: This scenario suggests that Thanegioth Archipelago is mostly unknown.)
Re-establishing the Fire Empire
Darisus' initial following consisted of some few Glantrian Followers of Fire, members of the Alphatian underground, some Magian Fire Worshippers he had convinced to join him, and most of all, a great number of Rathanos cultists. Together they started the perilous journey to find the mysterious Thanegioth Archipelago, hinted at only in the tales of deranged seamen. The long voyage claimed some of these Fire cultists to the bottom of the sea, but in the end they made landfall in the easternmost, the largest island of the Archipelago, which they named The Fire Isle (or: Island of the Firelord).
Initially Daricus and his followers made friendly overtures with the local Nuari villagers, joining their communities and gaining respect by their use of magic. But over the next few years, in total secrecy, the new Starfire Sphere cultists travelled to various lands seeking new recruits to their anti-Empire army. These voyages were disguised as expeditions, merchant voyages and such to avoid suspicion. It is perhaps the best proof of Darisus' immense talents, that the intelligence forces of the empires didn't have a clue of this. Daricus gathered a sizeable force of people who had good reasons to hate one of the empires, or both of them: Ylari militants (although few of them would join a Fire-mage), mercenaries from Helskir, Hinterlanders, members of various opposition groups of Thyatian and Alphatian colonies, and his old friends from the Isle of Dawn.
The next step was to subjugate the Nuari tribes, who were reduced to the status of slaves and forced to start building the infrastructure of the new Fire Empire. Daricus also made contact with the Fire Giants and the efreeti living of the Fire Isle, as his predecessor had done. Having thus consolidated his power on the main island of the Archipelago, Daricus could now focus on unearthing the lost lore of the Starfire Sphere. With the help of the efreeti he found the ruins of the ritual site on the Plain of Fire. Rebuilding work was started immediately, as was the research and education to recreate the intricate circles of the cult that are necessary for a successful ritual of Ascension. Daricus organised his followers into the groups described in Chapter One.
To do this Daricus would need much more resources, however. Also he was eager to start striking at his enemies. To achieve this he had a small fleet of raiding ships build, and with that began small-scale raiding on Thyatian shipping lines to gain supplies and much needed slaves. With slaves as a workforce he had various new projects started: plantations, fortresses, barracks, irrigation systems, a small town, and most of all, a school of wizards on the main island. He established the laws of his Fire Empire, created efficient chains of command (with the members of the Cult functioning as the secret police and as the supreme commanders), and stabilised the relations between the Fire mages and the clerics of Rathanos.
Following the example of the Fiery Pharaoh, Daricus started expanding his empire to the rest of the archipelago. He allied with the red dragons of the central archipelago, and then conquered the Nuari territory on the southern tip of the Isle of Dread. He also managed to contact the witch living on the westernmost islands. Then, for a while, he stopped his expansion and concentrated on his primary plans.
Plans of Daricus: a) Ascension to Nexus b) Revenge to the two Empires: Pirating and Zzonga trade
The Ascension Ritual is of course the main plan of Daricus the Firelord. Depending on the nature of the campaign the DM wants to play, the realisation of the plan advances at desired speed, of course. But if the centre of the campaign is on stopping the ritual, it is suggested that "the Stars Will Be Right" very soon. There's nothing like sense of urgency to keep the PCs on their toes... IMC they arrived at the ritual site just in time to see the Starfire Sphere/Cthuga descending from heavens, circles of cultists chanting: Ia! Cthuga Ftagn! Ia! Cthuga Ftagn!
To complete the ritual Daricus will need: 1) A sufficient amount of educated Fire-Mages, arranged in the circular formation mentioned in Chapter One. 2) Sufficiently powerful Rathanos Clerics, who are able to direct the ritual, keeping the chants up, doing the right offerings and prayers etc. 3) The Ritual Dome must be completed on the Plain of Fire. 4) The research into the key elements of the ritual, mainly the obligations of the Nexus candidate, has to be finished. (Note: Again, it is up to the DM to write this, as the amount and power of spell-casters will largely determine the difficulty of the campaign.)
The second primary part of Daricus' plans consists of extracting revenge on the two Empires, which he will start even before trying to become the Nexus. To this end he has a powerful navy built, augmented with ingenious fire-based war machines and other resources, which will make it possible to strike at Thyatian navy harder. Such devices may be mundane, such as fire-ships (fire-canoes?), catapults and ballistae shooting fiery missiles, flaming oil on waves etc. They may also be magical or "scientific": fireball-shooting battlemages, lenses and mirrors that can use sunlight to ignite sails, exploding ballista missiles, etc. The ships sail under banners depicting concentric circles of fire on dark green background.
Daricus' fleet will strike against the Thyatians on various fronts. They disrupt operations on the Hinterlander front but sinking supply ships and giving weapons to rebels. They raid Ochalean shipping lines, leaving behind clues of Thyatian pirates and atrocities. They also sink supply and merchant vessels close to the mainland Thyatis. Against Alphatia the plans are more subtle: Daricus has constructed various magical greenhouses, where zzonga is cultivated, and then shipped to Alphatian waters and sold very cheap. (Note: Use of zzonga in the Empire of Firelord is punished by immolation in a lava stream.)
The plans of Daricus will of course burst to full bloom after the Ascension, when he'll be able to command unprecedented powers (up to the DM). He might actually be able to start an open war against the Empire, probably preceded by attempts to instigate a conflict between them first. (Or he'll just wait until one occurs, in Helskir for example.) The red dragons will be a great asset in such a war.
Military Operations in the Thanegioth Archipelago: Aspiring to Hegemony
After a short period of rest the troops of Firelord continue their conquest of Thanegioth Archipelago (more details in the next chapter). On Isle of Dread they make alliances with the local lizard men and the aranea, as a preparation for an impending assault on the local rakasta population. Crack troops will also make landfall on the western island of the sea elves, starting their operation by building a palisade fortress on the northern beaches. The landing force is augmented by the best battle fire-mages to keep the elves at bay. The elven operation is advancing on another front, too. The Sea Witch, who has been promised part of the elven island, uses her powers to curse and darken the westernmost elven jungles, spawning "vegetation monsters" and dark imps.
Also, the small island north of the island of the sea elves will be fortified, in order to secure Thanegioth from a possible northern assault. (Note: If you look at the general world map in X1, you can see a loose chain of small islands reaching from the continent to Thanegioth. This will be the most viable invasion route, if such a thing occurs, as supply would be tough across the vast Sea of Dread otherwise.)
Surviving Counter-Forces and Allies of Daricus
(Note: Some of these groups will be dealt with greater detail in the next chapter.) As mentioned earlier, Daricus has gained a large following and powerful allies. There's the Cult of the Starfire Sphere, of course, then the most militant and loyal of his mundane forces (ex-resistance fighters from the colonies for example). The fire giants and efreeti of the Isle of Fire are at his disposal. The hosts of the red dragons haven't been used much until now, but they might be getting more active soon. They are probably the best alliance Daricus made.
A group of Sollux is in hiding on the Isle of Fire. They are long-time enemies of the efreeti, and should be willing to help any enemies of Daricus. The Children of the Swan are already engaged in a conflict against the forces of Daricus, and would make good allies, too. Their island has also various wood folk and faery inhabitants, whose help may be sought (treants, centaurs) On the Isle of Dread the local rakasta culture will soon be attacked by the forces of Daricus. They are fairly isolated, but a convincing person or a group could possibly rally them - perhaps using the lost artefacts of Rak'Asta. There's also a small population of phanatons that might be convinced to help, and even the ancient green dragon Abode, despite her vile nature, could be an ally to any enemies of Daricus. (Note: In one of our games a PC mage gained the help of Abode to battle a Thyatian invasion fleet, that was approaching Isle of Dread.)
Then there are the Sea Dragons, who have retreated to their Whirlpool. Who is to say, perhaps they wish to join the battle against Fire once more?