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The Legend of ZARGON, the Great Lizard

by Giulio Caroletti

"A long time ago, long before the city of Thyatis was built on the shores of the Sea of Dread, when human race was still young, a great kingdom was born in the regions now known as 'the Old World'. There, lizard like creatures built temples of a black metal that came from a place far from our Multiverse, in another Dimension where the physical laws are different from those we know, and celebrated dark rituals in the name of Beings whose names were Akh'All, Ub Eth, Yegh Shuta, and Yu Rgth Aahl. The High Priest of that race was a Blessed One, a being whose body and mind had been granted the blessing of the Beings, and that had risen to prominence to guide the Lizard Empire in the name of Yu Rgth Aahl above all others. He was rarely seen in public, but when he was, he appeared always to be the most beautiful and great specimen of those of his kind.

The High Priest, named Ashz Zhargw, led his people to glory for more than 1'000 years. The lizards were long lived, but the Blessed One survived several of their generations, and eventually the lizards begun to notice a decline in the capacities of their High Priest, and heretical believes aroused among them when a mysterious plague spread through their population and no priest of the Beings was able to find a cure to it. Other beings known as 'the Immortals' had taught some of the younger and more rebellious lizards that the Beings didn't care anymore for their destiny, and thus the High Priest was losing its powers; but He was too old to notice, and if He had done He would never resign his millenary power for the benefit of his subjects.

And, as to confirm these heresies, Ashz Zhargw ordered the building of an immense pyramid of black metal, where he begun to sacrifice the lizards themselves to obtain the attention of the Beings, pretending to propitiate them to himself to give him the power of cure his people.

But in the following decades, nothing seemed to happen, and the Lizard Empire begun to crumble into itself, while small communities of humans who shared the name of Neathar, invaded and ransacked the half-empty towns of the borderlands. Ashz Zhargw retired inside the Pyramid, and left the Empire in the hands of the Priesthood of Yu Rgth Aahl, and told them that, to avoid the wrath of the Beings, they had to send, each year, ten lizards inside the Pyramid, as a sacrifice to them.

While most of the Empire was more and more harassed by the primitive humans, the Lizard isolated themselves deeply in the region where their magnificent capital, was built. The Priests of the Beings had turned their worship from them to Ashz Zhargw, and increased the demand of sacrifices, while more and more lizards begun to follow the Immortal heresy.

One day, Aklar, a young lizard worshipper of one of the Immortals, known as Kha, accused the Priests of lying to the entire population. The Beings had forgotten them, and Ashz Zhargw was not more than a declining monster that demanded their blood for his surviving through unnameable rites in the depths of the dark pyramid. The Immortal Kha had shown him the truth and given him a parchment with a powerful spell that would finally put an end to the unnatural life of the former High Priest. A long civil war exploded between the two factions, while Neathar tribes ransacked the country and the cities of the Empire, now reduced to a small area of what would, much time later, become Ylaruam, until a compromise was found: if Aklar managed to get into the Pyramid and slay Ashz Zhargw, then the power would have passed to the priesthood of Kha.

So Aklar left for the Pyramid on a cold morning, while Neathars stormed through the gates of the capital city. He never returned from it, and the declining lizard race fell into savagery after some other decades, and ultimately it extinguished itself, leaving no trace on the Mystaran surface."

The lizard race came through dimensional portals from the Nightmare Dimension 10'000 years BC, already a fully developed society that searched for shelter from unknown persecutions they suffered on their Home Plane.

They knew themselves as Ye'ench, and worshipped the Outer Beings, guided especially by the priesthood of Yur Gth Aahl (Yurrgh Thall), among whom was their leader and king, the High Priest Ashz Zhargw. Ashz Zhargw led the Ye'ench to the conquest of most of the Old World: they occupied the regions that now are mainland Thyatis, Ylaruam, Karameikos, Darokin, and freed their artic parts with fabulous climatic spells that they possessed in the Nightmare Dimension.

The things then went like said: the Outer Beings forgot their worshippers, turning their attention more and more on the Carnifex race of Davania, to prepare them to the final war against the Selhomarrians, so the power of Ashz Zhargw declined, and he became utterly mad while he searched for new ways to maintain his power and immortality.

In the end he found a way to preserve his body and soul, and had a pyramid built, in which he focused dark spells of unparalleled power, but he needed for it a small but constant amount of fresh blood, thus the sacrifices. With the departing of their former leader, and no attention given from the Outer Beings, the Ye'ench couldn't stand the Neathar invasion, and ultimately extinguished themselves, and the ice, not kept at bay by the powerful spells of the lizard race, covered once again the region.

"Years, decades, centuries passed, and new civilisations rose to power on the surface of Mystara, but nothing was known about Ashz Zhargw until a race of people known as the Cynidiceans built a new city on the long-dead site of what was once the capital of the mighty Lizard race. The city prospered and increased in power, beginning to expand and contact, to he east, the rising Nithian culture with their greatest king, Alexander.

When king Alexander died, the Cynidiceans decided to build a Mausoleum in honour of him and his wife Zenobia. The work for the basement of the temple were conducted in the city's park, that had been unsettled since the birth of Cynidicea. And there, not far below the surface, the workers found the top of a dark pyramid. The architect decided to bring it to the light again, open the Pyramid and use it as a tomb for the royal couple.

The work of the architect was long, and everything seemed to go well. Ashz Zhargw had retired very deeply down the Pyramid , in a slumbering state. But among the workers, there was a servant of the Beings, and he managed to find the location of the former High Priest, and raised him again to the expense of his own. Ashz Zhargw begun to spread panic among the Cynidiceans, and after a few years he grew in power enough to build a following for him, and be again worshipped as a God. But the domain of terror of Zargon, as the Great Lizard was known among the Cynidiceans, brought to the downfall of Cynidicea. Raided by Northmen first, and the Nithians later, the city fell, until a giantish sandstorm followed by an earthquake destroyed Cynidicea. Once again, Zargon fell into slumber."

The report of the Sage is mostly right, but the truth is much worse. The escaping Cynidiceans survived by fleeing inside the Pyramid, where they still live, mostly under the control of the Priesthood of Zargon. Zargon himself still survives nurtured by the priests, that at fixed times make human sacrifices to please him. What is not known is that only the body of Zargon remains in the Pyramid. Aklar had in fact been able to enter the Pyramid and use the spells given to him by Ka, but unfortunately those spells were just enough to imprison the mind of the High Priest in a prison on the Nightmare Dimension, in the forgotten city of Ye'ench where he had come from thousand of years before. From there, Zargon is working like any other Outer Being to free himself and enter in possession of his body once and for all, and reconquest his rights in the country now known as Ylaruam.

The fact that Zargon is not an Outer Being, but just an immensely powerful Servitor, is clear from the fact that a mortal, although at the cost of his own life and with the help of a powerful Immortal, was able to seal his mind away from the Prime.

Zargon Cultists in Mystara

The principal sect of Zargon cultists is the Claw of the Lizard, an organisation that has its base in Selenica. The Claw of the Lizard is controlled by a Thyatian adventurer, Elian Ienoglinan, known as Iena. Elian Ienoglinan discovered the Black Pyramid of Cynidicea in 993, after a short sandstorm that dispersed the caravan that was travelling through the desert from Ylaruam toward Selenica. Iena was accompanied by two other adventurers from Karameikos, Jemb Lorray and Slyzaar Mantreikon, both of Thyatian ancestry, and reached deep in the Pyramid, encountering several priests of Zargon and the remnants of the Cynidicean society in the Pyramid. Out of it, the three vowed never to let such a secret escape to the Outer World, fearing that a new sect of Zargon could rise to torment once again Ylaruam and the Known World. Unfortunately, Iena was just faking. He informed himself on the creatures known as Outer Beings and read the Book of Voices, until he decided that, while the Outer Beings were too evil and powerful to control, maybe he could become the lieutenant of Zargon, that, from what the had learned of, was not thoroughly evil, just power hungry like he was. And probably he would have shown his favour to the person that had freed him after several millennia.

Iena had Mantreikon killed shortly after, and convinced Jemb that a cult in Mystara was already acting on the behalf of Zargon. The two travelled far across the Known World to find information on Zargon, and Iena used those to build up another sect that acted in parallel. When the sect grew too impatient to free Zargon, and Iena understood most were half madmen, he contacted a company of adventurers known as the Seven Stars and paid them to destroy them (999); then, he used a professional killer team to get rid of most of the Seven Stars (1006-7) , that had lost contact between each other in the following years, due to the War of Wrath.

Now, Iena has created a more organized society, the Claw of the Lizard.

The Claw of the Lizard is a highly secretive society composed of some killer and brigands in the Altan Tepes mountains of Karameikos, Darokin and Ylaruam; the Claw has built itself simply by substituting their members to the leaders of some groups of bandits. The Claw is in fact just the 9 chiefs, of whom just Iena and his lieutenant Jerome Agnis know what the real project is. The other members know, more or less, that they want to organise better the criminal activities in the Altan Tepes and gain the most possible of wealth from it. Some former members of the Iron Ring has joined the Claw, and it is possible that some are infiltrates.

Iena is using a group of adventurers from Corunglain in the hope of finding the Parchment of Aklar, because he believes that more information on the way of freeing Zargon's soul from the Nightmare Dimension, and thus allowing it to rejoin its mindless body in Cynidicea, can be found there.

Rudolf Neuenberg

The Hattian philosopher Rudolf Neuenberg was born in a small village in Hattias in AC 967. He became soon a scholar, his branch being the dark cults of Thyatis. Neuenberg worked with Alexander and Lorn Penhaligon on a tome about it, and it was in part released by the 'Dark Star Press' of Julinius in AC 986. A part that was never published, though, dealt with an old Thyatian cult, known as the Sark'ohn's worshipers. This group had been repelled during the early years of the 9th century by the Church of Solarios, although all actions were highly secretive. Rudolf Neuenberg discovered casually all this, and when the Prelate of Tel Akbir asked him to avoid to share the information with the public and with his two companions, Neuenberg accepted and decided to leave for the Five Shires, where he remained since 985 to 997. In these years Neuenberg became famous because of some pondered philosophical essays. In these, Neuenberg stated that a man should free himself of the common morality, and develop one for his own, no matter how wrong it can seem to the rest of the society and to other persons, at least until this morale is his own, and not one he has borrowed from external sources.

Neuenberg then travelled through the Old World, and, upon his return from the Heldannic Territories he wrote a volume, 'How to become stupid', that detailed with irony and sarcasm as follies and faults most of the Heldannic rules and beliefs. The Heldannic Knights declared the book illegal in Heldann, and sentenced the philosopher to death if he was ever to return again in their territory. Neuenberg returned to the Shires in 1005, and refused to return to Thyatis when the war with Alphatia erupted, claiming that there were no reasons for Thyatis to support Glantri, and thus that if the Thyatians wanted to kill themselves, they could gladly do it alone.

Sark'ohn's statuettes

But what had Neuenberg discovered of such an importance about the Sark Ohn/Zargon's legend?

Well, Neuenberg discovered that, as told before, at the beginning of the 9th century the Church of Solarios had repelled a small sect of cultists of Sark Ohn, obviously another name for the old Ashz Zhargw. During this, the Priests of Solarios spread the false news that to free Zargon from the Pyramid there was the need of 7 statuettes depicting Sark Ohm that acted as seals to his Nightmarish prison. The statuettes actually exist, and they are also magical and imbued with dark powers, maybe coming from the Outer Beings themselves, but what the Priests did was to tell that to free Zargon, the statuettes were to be destroyed. The Priesthood hoped that if the cultists of Zargon ever returned, they would waste their time trying first to find, then to destroy the statuettes, that could instead be used for their dark purposes. All this, to hide the truth that there ARE in fact seals that prevent Zargon to exit the Pyramid. Seven disks of electrum...but no one exactly knows where they are, except, maybe, the Prelate of Tel Akbir, that is known to hide secrets of Thyatis' northern borderland in his private chamber, carefully remanded from a Prelate to another.