Isstosseffifil (Land of the Lost Sea)
Capitol: Crypts of Oreme
Population: 12,404 (asabis 52%, stingtails 47.5%, sarrukh liches 0.5%)
Government: Rotating monarchy/defacto oligarchy
Religions: Semuanya (asabis, stingtails), Sseth ([now Set] sarrukh)
Exports: Asabi mercenaries, stingtail mercenaries
Alignment: LE, NE
The sarrukh empire of Isstosseffifil is all but gone. Its ancient secrets were destroyed by the phaerimms and the folly of the Isstossef (as the inhabitants were known), scattered by the Netherese, and buried by the drifting sands of Anauroch. In its heyday, the Land of the Lost Sea ran along the eastern shores of the old Narrow Sea, encompassing the fertile lands that stretched from what is now the Saiyaddar to the High Ice and from the water's edge to the Plain of Standing Stones. Today, all that remains of this once-great empire is the buried city of Oreme.
Life and Society
The sixty sarrukh liches of Oreme are ancient even by the standards of most undead. Only one, always known as King Oreme, is awake at any given time to fulfill the duties of monarch. The remainder lie in repose in the Crypt of Dreaming Lizards, dreaming of lands long bit ,and awaiting their turns to rule. Ancient contingency spells ensure that all the liches wake up if any real danger threatens the city, or if the currently awake lich is destroyed or incapacitated. The current ruler can also awaken all of his companions at once with a single mental command.
The current King Oreme spends his time in much the same way as his predecessors did, scrying events of interest to reptiles in Faerûn and recording his observations in the city's vast library. The asabis that guard the city are largely left to rule themselves, although the currently awake lich can be persuaded to intervene if the tribal council cannot reach agreement about an issue.
The asabis and stingtails that make up the vast majority of the population are organized into tribal mercenary companies. Each tribe is controlled by an asabi chief, who gains control by allying with the tribe's most powerful stingtails. All the chiefs serve en the Council of Chiefs, which answers only to King Oreme.
The liches of Oreme keep only enough asabis and stingtails in the city to ensure its defense and maintain a viable breeding population. Excess tribes are dispatched into Faerûn with instructions to support themselves by any means necessary (usually mercenary work) and ensure a steady flow of news reports back to the capitol.
Major Geographic Features
Though not completely featureless, the area where the Isstosseffifil Empire once stood now appears largely lifeless and barren.
The Frozen Sea: During the Days of Thunder, the old Narrow Sea ran like a sword along the eastern flanks of the Greypeak Mountains, stretching from the future site of the dwarven seaport Ascore to the city of Oreme, but the sea was never more than 100 miles in width. After the Isstossef reshaped the land in their war with the phaerimms, the Narrow Sea flowed from west to east, stretching from what would become Ascore to the Tortured Lands.
After countless millennia, little evidence remains of the terrain-shaping magic employed by the sarrukh. The icy dunes of the Frozen Sea on the western border of Anauroch - the result of rainfall that runs down the eastern slopes of the Greypeaks and freezes - give mute evidence of the ancient sea that once lay here.
Today, the Frozen Sea is a breeding ground for many birds in the spring, but it is otherwise almost empty of inhabitants. Only those foolish enough to search out the lost cities of Anarath, Ascore (seaport of dwarven Delzoun), Bhaulaea, Hlaungadath (a crashed Netherese floating city), and Oreme ever come here.
The Phaerlin: The Buried Realms of Anauroch are the dominion of the phaerimms, and those who can resist the master of the Phaerlin are few and far between. The deepest catacombs of Oreme connect directly with the Underdark and have been the site of repeated battles between the asabis of Oreme and the mind-slaves of the phaerimms. Long ago, the sarrukh liches erected a barrier around Oreme similar to the Sharnwall. Thus far, the barrier has prevented the phaerimms from directly invading the city, but the wards do not prevent the passage of other races, including the thornbacks' minions. Elsewhere in the Phaerlin, asabi tribes dominate the catacombs beneath the ruined city of Rasilith and the caverns beneath Azirrhat. The former group is under the direct control of the phaerimms, while the latter is nominally free but secretly controlled by the phaerimms.
Only ruins now break the landscape of this bleak region. Some of those ruins, however, are rich enough to result in a steady stream of adventurers.
Anarath: The ruined City of Statuei lies in the northern reaches of the Frozen Sea, in the shadow of the High Ice. Abandoned in the dying days of Isstosseffifil, Anarath was picked over by early Netherese explorers. Today, it is the haunt of Jymrith (female ancient blue dragon sorcerer 7), the Doom of the Desert. Iymrith does not know the name of the city in which she lairs, but she has found the accommodations suitable. No one dwells in Anarath except the dragon, her legion of gargoyle constructs, and the Company of Flame Spiders (an enslaved Athkatlair adventuring company that the dragon uses to explore nearby Netherese ruins). In recent years, word of Anarath's discovery has reached the serpentfolk of Najara, and they have begun making regular pilgrimages to this ancient ruin. Since none have dared enter the city so far, Iyrnrith tolerates their offerings, just as she does those of certain Bedine tribes.
Ehaulaca: In the western reaches of the High Ice, near the old bed of the Narrow Sea, lies the ruined City in Ice. Abandoned by the sarrukh during their war with the phaerimms, it now lies encased in glacial ice at the bottom of the High Ice, forgotten by all except the liches of Oreme. Unless the denizens of Shade resume the melting of the High Ice, the only way to reach Bhaulaea is an ancient portal that links the ruins of Ss'yin'tia'saminass with an intact remnant of the city preserved in a bubble of glacial ice. Since the portal key to return differs from the one needed to reach the City in Ice, however, would-be explorers who do not take special precautions are usually trapped there. The frozen corpses of seven yuan-ti and their deinonychus steeds in the center of the ice cavern bear mute witness to just such a miscalculation.
Crypt of Hssthak: Hssthak (LE male sarrukh mummy sorcerer 10/archmage 5), who believes himself to be the last of the Isstossef, rests within this ancient tomb guarding two of the Golden Skins of the World Serpent (Nether Scrolls). Although his crypt has remained undiscovered for countless millennia, he waits patiently for the day that he can pass on the wisdom of the sarrukh to their lesser progeny.
Circa -6000 DR, the elves of Evereska stumbled across Hssthak's tomb and recognized the threat it posed. A half dozen elves volunteered to become mummies themselves so that they could guard the tomb for all eternity. Once they had been placed in position, the tomb was resealed and buried by elven magic. Because the crypt lay beneath otherwise unremarkable flatlands, the Netherese never chanced upon it. Recently, however, the walls of a deep sinkhole at a desert oasis on the eastern edge of the Frozen Sea crumbled, revealing the front of the ancient structure. Already a band of lizardfolk and the Company of the Golden Sands have explored parts of the tomb, so it is only a matter of time before, someone recovers the powerful sarrukh magics that lie within.
Hall of Mists: In the depths of the High Forest, beneath the towering Grandfather Tree, lies a truly ancient ruin known only as the Hall of Mists. The elves who first discovered this ancient structure more than 13,000 years ago recognized it as a fell legacy of the Iqua-Tel'Qijessir (creator races). So great was the evil contained within it that the elves summoned an arakhor. (an Elven term that translates loosely as "one who protects the forest" or "tree warden") to guard the site. This creature, known as the Grandfather Tree, has protected the Hall of Mists ever since.
Akin in some respects to elementals, the arakhora draw life, energy, and intelligence from the forests in which they dwell and repay the debt by serving as the caretakers and guardians of these places. Writings preserved from this era by the church of Labelas Enoreth suggest that the arakhora were a form of elder treant (treat as advanced elder treant) - perhaps even the progenitors of the modern treants. With the exception of the Stone Stand cutting, the Grandfather Tree is the last known arakhor alive in Faerûn today.
Unbeknownst to anyone except the remaining sarrukh, the Hall of Mists is the ancient stronghold of the Ba'etith, an organization that began in Isstosseffifil but outlasted that empire. The group was later dominated by the sarrukh of other realms, then by the batrachi, and then by the aearee before it vanished during the waning Days of Thunder. The Ba'etith studied the primitive forms of magic practiced by the various races of Faerûn and, over thousands of years, codified them in the form of the Golden Skins of the World Serpent which were later known as the Nether Scrolls. Today, the Hall of Mists is infested with a colony of giant red ants that were spawned in the Year of the Fell Firebreak (883 DR) by an eddy of magical chaos emanating from Hellgate Keep. These ants opened tunnels to the Hall of Mists for the first time in eons, and at least one adventurer - Mintiper Moonsilver - has since explored the subterranean ruin. Word of this discovery, has finally reached the sarrukh of Serpentes, and at least one band of yuan-ti adventurers has been dispatched to the far North to explore the site.
Oreme: The ruined City of White Towers lies some 200 miles east of the Weathercote Wood, on the edge of the empty sands of the Frozen Sea. Once a city of artisans ruled by sarrukh wizards and sorcerers, Oreme was largely abandoned during the fall of Isstosseffifil. In the bowels of the city, however, the few dozen sarrukh who chose to remain behind transformed themselves into liches and have clung ever since to the remnants of their empire, ruling the asabis who stayed behind to guard them. The rest of the asabi population from that era fled into the Underdark, only to be enslaved by the phaerimms.
The ruins of Oreme remained unknown to the surface world for more than 30,000 years after the city's towers had been buried in debris from the dustbowl that had once been the Narrow Sea. But once the phaerimms returned to the upper Underdark of the Buried Realms and began to plague the Netherese, they quickly discovered the remnants of their ancient foes. The liches of Oreme were forced to withdraw even farther behind their magical wards, conceding all but the city's catacombs and a few surrounding caverns to the minions of the phaerimms.
During first era of the Days of Thunder (more than 35,000 years ago), the reptilian sarrukh ruled over all Faerûn. Their population was concentrated in three major empires, plus a host of lesser ,realms. The northernmost empire of the sarrukh was Isstosseffifil, which lay along the western edge of what is now called Anauroch. At that time, the Narrow Sea ran along the eastern slopes of the mountains known as the Greypeaks.
Like their kin in Mhairshaulk and Okoth, the Isstossef created many races in their own image. It was they who developed the asabis (also known as laertis) and stingtails, as well as other reptilian races capable of dwelling in the depths of the Underdark. During their explorations of the Realms Below, the Isstossef encountered such alien races as aboleths and phaerimms, although whether those races had dwelt there all along or were inadvertently summoned by the Isstossef remains a matter of conjecture.
The fall of Isstosseffifil dates back to an ancient war with the phaerimms, circa -33,800 DR. In an effort to drown the Phaerlin (known today as the Buried Realms) and dispatch their enemies in one masterful stroke, Isstossef wizards rerouted the Narrow Sea so that it ran from east to west, inundating the land around the chain of hills known today as the Tagorlar with water. Although the Isstossef succeeded in driving the phaerimms deep into the Underdark, the massive ecological change resulting from their weavings of the Art caused their empire to collapse.
A handful of Isstossef spellcasters embraced a form of lichdom in an effort to preserve the legacy of their empire at any cost. They then retreated into the bowels of Oreme while the empire crumbled about them. To their surprise, these few remaining Isstossef discovered that the phaerimms had not been destroyed, and they were hard pressed to erect wards around their subterranean home in time to hold off the invaders. During all the millennia since, the sarrukh liches of Oreme have observed the world around them, scrying on the activities of their progeny, without ever venturing from the confines of their ruined city. They observed the rise and fall of Netheril, the formation of the Great Desert, and most recently, the return of Shade and the sharp check dealt to the phaerimms. It is unclear what it would take to convince the remaining Isstossef to emerge from their ancient home, but if these events do not provide sufficient motivation, perhaps nothing would.
Plots and Rumors
The recent events in this area provide several interesting concepts for adventuring.
Return of the Asabis: The defeat of the phaerimms in the recent war with Shade and Evereska has released large numbers of asabis from indentured servitude. Although many of these creatures are now seeking work as mercenaries outside of Anauroch, a significant minority has begun migrating toward the Frozen Sea. Perhaps the liches of Oreme have at last summoned home their wayward progeny, or perhaps the asabis are being drawn there for some other reason. In either case, their activities are likely to draw a new wave of treasure seekers to the ancient ruins of Oreme.