Far to the north of
Sarvonia, the ruins of Cort'Mangar, once a great
city populated with dark elves and orcs, sits
in the north of the peninsula of Caaehl'heroth. South of the Deep Winds Portal
at Osthemangar, on the western coast of the
Sea of Tears, Cor'tam'Angarek as it was called, the City of the Dark Claw in
orcen, was believed to have been home to the ancient Ae'es'th'er'oc tribe and
dark elven spellcasters. Built to stand against the savage Dinali,
Cor'tam'Angarek stood strong for over two and a half millennia. The city was
shattered by the birth of Shadespelll Gorge,
some few stralls from the city, the vile taint of the
Netherworld seeping out into the city and the
land around it, killing everything. Since its destruction, Cort'Mangar has
become a place of nightmares; a desolate shell, surrounded by wasteland,
inhabited by terrifying abominations that some say emanate from the
Netherworld, the city's former residents made
into the very Shades that haunt its fog-shrouded streets. Some claim it cursed,
but regardless, the shadowy inhabitants of Cort'Mangar are not to be trifled
Description. Few people have ever visited dead Cort'Mangar, seen its ruin and its desolation, and survived. The first records of a fortified city, populated with nightmares, came from the journal of Marvan Swiftrook, an Erpheronian explorer to Caael'heroth. Swiftrook and his companions found Cort'Mangar, but their fates are uncertain as Swiftrook's journal was discovered by Kaa'er'dár'shín Mist Hunters in the possession of a Ghun'Moirta'Oc in the Mists of Osthemangar some two centuries later.
Syras Kelweather, an Injerín Explorer, recovered Swiftrook's journal from the custody of the Mist Hunters at some point around 1400 a.S. Drawn by the mad ravings and descriptions in the journals, Kelweather discovered a second entrance to Cort'Mangar, a great vaulted bridge across one of the chasms around the city, and added further to the notes of Swiftrook.
"Erpheronia’s majestic castles hold not a candle to these dark ruins. I find them strangely beautiful…" Marvan Swiftrook wrote of the shattered, jagged spires of Cort'Mangar. These massive towers rise above the riven and ruined walls of the city, which enclose the mist which obscures much of the rest of the city, and its unearthly inhabitants.
Much of Cort'Mangar's remaining construction seems slapdash. Block shaped orcen buildings standing alongside great elven towers of night, broad streets broken up by arcane circles of stone megaliths engraved with some sort of symbols. Researchers cannot approach the city close enough to investigate these further, for fear of life and limb.
The towers of Cort'Mangar, supposedly of dark elven construction, stand easily 160 peds tall in their broken state, as has been estimated by the use of complicated mathematical formulae. The design of these towers is strange, more like they were grown than crafted, resembling nothing more than great, black backbones stretching into the sky, splintered tops clawing at the clouds.
The towers stand in sharp contrast to the blocky orcen built ruins below. In several places, jagged shards of towers crater the surface of the ruins heavily, or litter the mist covered streets.
Very little of the city itself can be distinguished where it is shrouded within the mists. Those structures which are not towers are laid out in an ordered grid, long since broken and mutilated by the destruction of the city. The orcen ruins are blocky, with harsh corners and heavy battlements around what must have been doors or windows. Though few remain, orcen wall defenses seem to have tapered to a spike-ringed tower with an open top.
"I can sense a palpable malevolence in the area" is what Swiftrook wrote of the region around Cort'Mangar. It is true that there seems to be less light the closer an observer approaches to the ruins. The cause of this seems to be two-fold. The weather around the ruins is in a state of permanent changelessness. The air does not stir unprompted and a permanent bank of dark cloud extends from the city for about ten strals in all directions. It does not rain or snow within these ten strals usually referred to as the "Desolation of Cort'Mangar". Nothing green grows on this frozen plain. It requires a great deal of effort to do more than crack the ground and digging is nigh impossible for any one man. The second reason for this pervasive darkness is thought to be the sapping influence of the Netherworld.
Kelweather wrote "This desolation is not natural, like the plains of ice to the east. It is a dead place. It is the taint of evil that has seeped into the land here. As though some grim malice has taken hold of it and made this its own. Its den."
It may be that the proximity to the Shadespell Gorge, or one of its "tributaries" sucks the very light and life out of a place. Few dare approach the ruins and this remains mere conjecture.
The ruins can only be approached by two means. The south, where Marvan Swiftrook undoubtedly made his ill-fated expedition, and the west. Initially, only the southern route was known yet, upon later exploration, the Injerín explorer Saryas Kelweather discovered a great bridge that crossed the body of the Shadespell Gorge and ended near the city. This is the only known crossing of the Gorge and remains structurally sound despite its age, suggesting the use of magic in the construction.
Location. The Ruins of Cort’Mangar are located on Caaehl'heroth in the north-easternmost section of Northern Sarvonia. The nearest visible landmark, Mount Osthen, is estimated to be some hundred strals from the ruins. The Ruins lie to the south-west of the Deep Winds Portal at Osthemangar and at one end of the Shadespelll Gorge. Cort’Mangar and the immediate region are often referred to as a whole as “The Desolation of Cort’Mangar”. Scholars suspect that a fissure from the Shadespelll Gorge extends underneath the city itself, leaking its otherworldly aura into the region.
People. In the long ago
days before Thar, the king; the fortress of
Cor’tam Angarek ("City of the Dark Claw" in an ancient, long since dead orcen
dialect), was an orcen fortress, built to keep some enemy, from encroaching
further into Caael’heroth. The orcs built high
walls and tall towers in Cor’tam Angarek and girded it for war. This enemy,
believed, from recovered artefacts in the Shaddhar mountains, to be an offshoot
of the Dinali, feared soldiers of the Chosen
Eckra the Cruel.
Eckra the Cruel, one of several chosen dwelling in the North of Sarvonia ruled from the Keep of Tak'dinal. His soldiers were the fearsome Dinali, by all accounts a barbaric and violent people who some scholars infer to have been of Ice Tribes stock at some point, twisted by cruelty, malice and magic into engines of killing. Eckra was among the most feared of the northern Chosen and his keep remains a Forbidden Zone, on the peninsula of Kru'ul. He is thought to have perrished in the Battle of the Winds along with the other Chosen in that region and their armies when the Eight Winds Bay was created.
Fragmented records from Injerín libraries suggest that during the War of the Chosen, Dark Elves were believed to have enslaved the orcs inhabiting the city, building dark spires of impossible heights, summoning circles and eventually creating twisted, evil creatures for the war, making meph'guór and other monstrosities to do battle.
After the destruction of Cort’Mangar, the exact cause of which remains unknown, the only inhabitants of the ruins are the enigmatic “Shades”, "Hav’ak Lohks” (lit. "Faces of Night"; Kh'om'chr'om) to orcs. Terrible spectres who flit silently among the decaying city. "They do not walk. They... slither on barely perceptible legs. As if their lower bodies are bathed in shadow. I see hundreds of them. Maybe thousands!"
"They are not alive, but neither do they seem to be dead. They are as the leaves on a dying tree, their colours faded to nothing, clinging to the branches before the storm wind blows them away. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of these creatures. They seem faded, the impression of life left long after life has deserted this place, like a footprint in the mud. I can feel... wrongness about this place, about these walking shadows. They and it are paradox."
Kelweather called these creatures "Náfreánh" (lit. "Faded";
Styrásh) and refused to
speak of them further in his notes.
The nature of the creatures remains unknown. Two of Swiftrook's expedition were killed by the Shades, Swiftrook himself seems to have barely survived.
"Their eyes! They see me! Like dull emerald orbs, their eyes perceive me.
I am frozen in place. One pair grips my soul. Another looks as well. And
another. More and more can see me hiding! I rise in my spot. I hear cries
of pain as my companions react. Suddenly... they are around me. A Shade
suddenly appears next to me. I watch in horror... its long, graceful
fingers reach out to touch my companion. The old man Riggs twitches
violently! The shade’s touch bore into the man’s forehead... he falls to
Kha'mal, a Volkek-Oshra
demonologist, has published several treatises on the precise nature of the
various phenomenon around Caael'heroth. His earlier work, "Ineffable Madness"
garnered support among scholars to the theory that the nature of Cort'Mangar
lies with the Netherworld.
The Osther-Oc believe them to be the spirits of the orcish warriors that inhabited the city, punished for angering the land and cursed to keep all creatures from it for eternity, and share this belief with the Kaaer'dár'shín half orcs.
Climate. The weather surrounding Cort’Mangar can hardly be called such. Like much of western Caaehl'heroth, the ruins are perpetually shrouded in cloudy greyness. It does not rain or snow about Cort’Mangar, nor does the wind blow, making the soundless air seem strangely dead.
This becalmed aura extends for six or seven strals in every direction from the ruins, leaving the ground cold, dusty and desolate. A perpetual black fog lies on the ruins themselves, obscuring the ground from easy inspection, and wreathing the towers like fell smoke.
The air is biting cold, and only grows colder as the approach of the city continues. No wind touches Cort’Mangar, nor its coast, and sea-faring vessels daren't approach it for fear of becoming becalmed. Time behaves oddly within the Desolation, twisting and knotting, warping like wood left to dry. There is no discernible pattern to how this behaves, days can last blinks of the eye, or blinks stretch on endlessly until they seem to be days in ending. The air smells of cold and faintly of decay, despite any flesh in the city having rotted away aeons ago.
Mythology. Fragment of Dinali text, recovered near the orcen ruin of Ogh ca. 730 b.S. "And we fled to the sea, we crossed it and came to land, and were driven back into the sea by monsters."
Osther-Oc Oral History (transcribed and translated from Kh'omchr'om by Tharoc Wargrider):
In the days of our grandsires' grandsires, vermin came to the land. The
clans fought them, but they could not kill all the vermin, weak as they
were, for they were too many.
Author's Note: Information derived from old Injerin records, orcen oral
histories and from scrolls recovered by Saryas Kelweather.