A number of historians and other sages have attempted, on numerous occasions, to catalogue the many folktales, legends, and stories connected to the region. An examination of these many different stories reveals that even long before this area became known as the Duchy of Anderland, it served as home to a nearly forgotten race. The handful of fragmentary records suggest these creatures were not human, elven, or dwarven, but rather an entirely different race that has since fallen extinct. Thus, the history of the region extends for centuries – and quite possibly tens of centuries – farther back than people otherwise assume.
What follows is a brief description of some of the most well known stories of the region. Some of these are little more than stories told by bards, while others are perhaps meant to frighten naughty children. Nonetheless, many legends hold a kernal of truth to them. Who can say what stories are true and which are nothing but fanciful imagination?
The Ashen Urn: In the distant southlands, the foul necromancer known as Kul Renath, suffered defeat as his undead army was destroyed. The necromancer fled towards Maldar, carrying with him a powerful relic known as the Ashen Urn. This relic, likely a remnant from the time of Raal Saraat, allowed its possessor to create all manner of undead on a tremendous scale. Conflicting stories describe Kul Renath’s death or escape in Maldar, and equally confusing stories fail to pinpoint where the Urn came to rest. Does it remain in the possession of the necromancer? Has it fallen into the hands of the Mad Emperor? Does the Urn lie forgotten in some brigand’s treasure pile or is it lost in some abandoned ruin? If the gods smile on the region, it shall never again see the light of day.
The Bloodstone Talisman: For the past nine centuries, duchesses of the realm have worn this regal necklace as part of their courtly garb. The talisman features a silver necklace with a red ruby pendant. The pendant was, according to legends, imbued with protective magic and was known as the Bloodstone Talisman. The Talisman offered protection for the wearer’s soul, especially against evil magic and poisons. At the same time, some stories indicate that whenever the Talisman saves the wearer’s life, another individual must die in exchange. The last person to wear the Talisman was the late Lady Amberline d’Anderville, wife of Duke Caldric. Several stories suggest the Duchess was not, for some unknown reason, wearing the Bloodstone Talisman at the time of her death.
The Cauldron of Corruption: This malignant artifact supposedly originated in the regions of some dark hell. How it made its way to the mortal world remains a mystery. The Cauldron, when controlled by a creature, slowly warps and corrupts the surrounding area. The Cauldron’s sinister magic changes plants, animals, even the ground itself into twisted parodies. Over time, the Cauldron of Corruption can devastate entire regions, exuding its toxic influence even deep into the earth. The Cauldron was last encountered in the Targen Moors, commanded by the witch known as Grulka. Although a party of Witch-Hunters killed Grulka, their account of the battle fails to mention the ultimate fate of the Cauldron. There have been, of late, increasing rumors that somehow Grulka has returned from the dead, perhaps more fearsome and powerful than she was in life.
The Dead Man’s Gallows: In past, the laws of the Duchy were somewhat harsher and more punitive. Men and women convicted of horse theft, rape, murder, and similar crimes were hung as part of a public spectacle. More than six centuries ago, the duke of the time ordered construction of a large and foreboding set of gallows. This platform was designed to inhibit would-be criminals just by its appearance. During the very first hanging (a man and his wife, hung for practicing witchcraft), a bizarre accident resulted in the criminals choking to death rather than having their necks snap upon the drop. After this ghastly event, the executioner worked to improve the gallows to work properly. Unfortunately, as hard as he tried, the gallows killed its next 11 victims the same way – by ligature strangulation rather than by snapping the necks of the victims. After that, the gallows fell into disuse, and only served its function a half-dozen more times. Local folktales describe how every individual executed on the Dead Man’s Gallows returned as a vengeful ghost. Such ghosts haunt the streets of Andersgate and the ducal palace, seeking revenge and inflicting terror on the living. Of course, such stories are unproven and almost certainly false.
Fane of Shadows: A crumbling and ruined temple, this building stands less than two miles from the boundary of Andersgate. It was found intact but abandoned by the first settlers to the region, and it has remained abandoned ever since. No one is entirely certain who constructed the Fane or why, but there are many clues suggesting it is tied somehow to the Shadowfell. Indeed, during certain nights of the month, the area surrounding the Fane becomes cloaked in unusually thick shadows. Most locals know enough to keep their children far away from the Fane, but there have been a few disappearances over the centuries nonetheless. The inside of the Fane features a number of frescoes and carved tablets that may describe the builders, but most of these have faded into obscurity or been destroyed by the elements.
Ghosts of Castle d’Anderville: Reports of ghosts and haunts in a castle are nothing new or unusual. Every nobleman likes to boast how his castle is haunted. In the case of the ancient Castle d’Anderville, however, the edifice truly is haunted. By last count (kept by the family historian and archivist), over a dozen unique ghosts roam the halls of the palace as well as the palace grounds, walls, and towers. The majority of these ghosts are either indifferent to the living, or even playfully friendly (or mischievous). A couple of the ghosts, including “The Executioner,” are decidedly antagonist and even malicious. Fortunately, these darker spirits are less frequently encountered. On several past occasions, priests of the Church of Bahamut, and priests of the Church of Pelor have attempted to give these ghosts final peace. Surprisingly, the ghosts persist despite all efforts to dislodge them. Although most members of the ducal family and palace staff have seen several ghosts at one time or another, such encounters remain unnerving and surprising nonetheless.
The Haunted Caverns: Some legends refuse to die, no matter how many times they are debunked. This legend in particular continues to attract attention of the common folk. According to numerous stories, a series of ancient caverns exist deep below the ducal palace. Only a precious few people truly know how to enter these caves, or what they might contain. Most folk believe the Duke knows, and no doubt his court mage, Kyman Andoverge. The stories about the caverns often feature the ghosts of past dukes, as well as vast piles of coins and jewels. A few of the more sinister versions of this legend speak of ghosts imprisoned in the caverns, and some dark secret that will one day bring about the Duchy’s downfall.
Kingdom of the Fey: The Shadowmist Forest is considered by many to be one of the most mysterious and dangerous locations in the Duchy. It represents a vast expanse of wilderness, with only a small portion lying within the realm’s borders. Several old legends describe a grove within the forest, a place that moves from location to location. This grove is somehow separate from the mortal realm, and thus governed by rules of the fey. This domain is highly magical and controlled by numerous fey creatures. From time to time, some of these creatures escape their realm and enter the mortal world. At other times, travelers accidentally stumble into the Kingdom of the Fey. Some such individuals return home a day, a month, or even a year later. Other people never return from their foray into the fey world. Anyone and anything that enters this domain, no matter how briefly, is forever changed as a result. Most stories suggest that a king and a queen rule over this domain. Whether the fey creatures are beneficent or malevolent depends on which stories you believe. The Council of Druids remains firmly silent regarding the Kingdom of the Fey or the so-called “Seelie Court” that controls that domain.
The Lady in Silver: In the months after the Night Dragon’s attack (the Night of Shadows), the people of Anderland struggled to rebuild their homes and recover their lives. During this time, a mysterious woman with long, flowing silver hair appeared to several families and numerous individuals. Most stories told how she offered kind words and blessings of encouragement to those most in need. Other stories, however, hinted at a darker side to the Lady in Silver’s visits. Several local men felt that this strange woman was somehow affecting other people’s minds, often turning wife against husband and daughter against father. Despite both types of claims, there is no evidence of any wrongdoing or foul play. Local authorities were never able to prove her existence, and the common theory is that she was a local woman, perhaps with an unusual personality brought about by events of the Night Dragon’s attack. The Lady in Silver made her last appearance approximately three years ago, speaking words of warning about “the gathering storm.” From time to time, local folk (primarily in the city of Andersgate) report seeing the Lady in Silver. These stories often describe her hovering over the water where the Night Dragon plummeted into the bay.
The Midnight Clock: Standing in an old wing of the ducal palace is an ancient and bulky mechanical clock. This device, reportedly a gift from a past emperor of Maldar more than two centuries ago, does little besides collect dust. Given its somewhat ominous appearance, it is no surprise that many of the palace staff tell ghost stories about the clock and its mysterious powers. The clock has never functioned correctly (supposedly it suffered damage in transit to the palace). Nonetheless, several house staff have reported – on more than one occasion – that the clock occasionally chimes without warning and without apparent purpose. These stories suggest the clock tolled midnight even as the Lady Amberline died in childbirth. Likewise, the clock chimed midnight upon the death of Duke Liam d’Anderville a little more than 18 years ago. Despite such sinister bedtime stories, most people in the palace merely consider the clock as a broken piece of junk.
The Night Dragon’s Bones: During the Night of Shadows, the creature known as the Night Dragon attacked the city of Andersgate. In the final moments of the battle, the son of Duke Liam d’Anderville (Duke Caldric) successfully fired the arrow that killed the beast. In its death throes, the Night Dragon thrashed in the sky and then plummeted. With a tremendous splash, it landed in the bay next to the city. Ever since, that spot in the bay has been considered dangerous and cursed. Ships that stray too near this patch of water often suffer damage for no apparent cause. Over the years, more than two dozen bold divers have disappeared in this spot. Salvage teams have tried, many times, to recover the bones of the Night Dragon. Most such expeditions suffer terrible misfortune, including the disappearance of divers, death of the team leader, and inexplicable accidents. What few bones that have been recovered are on display in the Ducal Museum in the Palace of Andersgate. Most of the other bones have either been washed out to sea long ago, or lie under silt and debris on the bottom of the bay. Even today, twenty years after the creature’s death, people view this spot with dread and superstition.
Pool of Spirits: There exists a large magical pool of water known as the Pool of Spirits. Controlled and guarded by the Council of Druids, this pool allows individuals to communicate with the primal spirits of the earth, the air, the water, and – on rare occasion – fire. These spirits rarely communicate with mortals, and only a few mortals possess the gift of comprehension; without this gift, the words of the spirits are meaningless, or can easily be misinterpreted. For those who possess the gift, the spirits offer glimpses of the past, visions of the future, and secrets to dark mysteries. The Council carefully controls access to the Pool, only allowing a handful of individuals to approach it.
Starfall: On the night that the Night Dragon attacked the Duchy, there were numerous reports of a falling star in the vicinity of Andersgate. This bright ball of fire lit up the night sky at about the time the Night Dragon attacked the city. Some reports suggest the falling star plunged into the bay approximately where the Night Dragon later fell; other stories describe the star striking a building inside the city, obliterating it and the building’s occupants. With so much death and destruction involved on that night, the existence of this falling star has never been proven or disproven, but stories about it continue to persist. There have been a few similar stories of late from throughout the Duchy. These stories describe similar events in different parts of Anderland. If these flaming objects dropping from the sky truly were falling stars, they seem to have had little actual effect on people or communities to date.
Sword of Kedron: This story is very likely a myth, as no evidence backs up the existence of such a blade. Nonetheless, the story persists from generation to generation, and has survived as a favored tale for more than nine centuries. According to the folktales, Lord Kedron was a knight of the Duchy of Anderland. He served the duke faithfully and proved himself to be one of the most skilled, loyal, and brave knights of the land. Unfortunately, his successes earned him a number of enemies amongst the other knights. To that end, a trio of knights did everything in their power to undermine, humiliate, and ruin Lord Kedron. As a result of their insidious efforts, Kedron was accused of forcing himself on the duke’s daughter. Whether by deceit, bribes, or dark sorcery, the three knights made certain Kedron was found guilty, stripped of his land and titles, and banished from the Duchy. As it turns out, Kedron and the duke’s daughter were deeply in love, and the tragedy of the situation caused her to take her own life – for which Kedron was held at fault. According to beloved “Ballad of Kedron the Virtuous,” the banished knight refused to abandon the Duchy. He continued serving the Duchy in secret, despite the bounty on his head. He undertook a series of seven dangerous quests to free the Duchy from a fey witch’s dark curse. In the process, his longsword became powerfully enchanted. After Kedron’s death, the sword passed from ancestor to ancestor, but eventually was lost, stolen, or traded for coin. From time to time, stories speak of a sighting of the legendary blade. The bard’s say that the blade is awaiting the proper time to return, and it will find its way to a person worthy of wielding it when the Duchy’s need is most dire.
Temple of A Thousand Sorrows: In the journal notes of the original settlers of the region, one man wrote about an ancient temple. According to his log entries, this temple stood near the Mithril River towards the edge of the Anvil Mountains. For the most part, people consider this temple nothing but a legend. Of note, however, the journal accounts concerning this edifice have vanished from the ducal library.
The Well of Madness: The exact location of this ancient site remains carefully guarded by the Council of Druids. The well closely resembles a large water well, although it provides no access to water. Instead, it supposedly serves as a portal to some other place, a place alien and forbidden to mortals. The druids of the Council have been known to kill those who find the well, even if by accident. The members of the Council remain notoriously tight-lipped about what the well represents or how it functions. Based on their caution and zeal, however, one may safely assume it is dangerous in any case.
The Whispering Fog: Every few years, a peculiar phenomenon occurs in the city of Andersgate. On an otherwise clear night, a bank of fog appears on the bay and quickly rolls into the port. The fog seems to consume the entire community in moments, leaving everything cloaked in dark shadows and tendrils of inky mist. During these times, those of good sense lock their doors and shutter their windows. Many people believe that misfortune befalls on anyone caught in the mist that night. People disappear without a trace, while others suddenly commit heinous murders without remembering their deeds afterwards. The fog seems to decay wood and corrode stone and metal with alarming speed, but only in a few places. Just before dawn, the Whispering Fog retreats back out to sea, leaving behind a frightened city and a fresh batch of mysteries and unexplained occurrences.