The Daerndar, or "Heart of Spells," is a series of dry, natural caverns that once underlay the Red Tower. They are under the Duchal Towers now. Some say they drove the Official Mage mad -- and indisputably they are the reason so many wandering mages show up in the Grand Duchy, "nosing around" (as Shantans say) in attempts to find a way down into the Daerndar.
Such reckless fools have a lot of digging to do. There's said to be a single, secret way down into the Daerndar -- a flooded tunnel that a swimmer must know well or perish in dead-end side passages -- that descends from somewhere in the Official Mage's tower (from under Flyndara's bed, local legend insists, but this may be no more than a long-ago tale-teller's embellishment that's gained credence through constant retelling over the years). On at least one occasion, thieves discovered secret passages in the Duchal Towers connecting to the route Flyndara controls, and they visited the Daerndar on the sly. When the few survivors emerged and told their tales, the Official Mage teleported slaying monsters after them.
The Daerndar hold great attraction for mages, because they're full of magical radiations strong enough to recharge most magic items -- if you know the proper spells to focus and infuse. Elminster of Shadowdale has described one ritual that caused a wand of magic missiles to gain 4d12 charges but warned that most uses of the radiation gain far more modest benefits. Rods and staves, for example, seem to require a spell per charge gained. (Those who don't know the right magic beware -- most spell use in the Daerndar causes chain-reaction outbursts of wild magic!)
Twice the Grand Duke has granted permission for travelers to try to recharge items in the caverns. Both attempts were made under the watchful eye of the prickly Official Mage and were partial successes. Some items benefited while others gained no charges or became unstable, their discharges occasionally generating wild magic effects.
Years ago, the Arcanauh accidentally broke into these caverns while expanding his cellars and thereafter used them for storage, spellcasting experiments, and to hide his strongest magics. The explosion that destroyed him and his artifacts imbued the caves with strong magical radiation -- fed, some say, by the continuing discharges from ruptured artifacts whose magic has been twisted horribly awry. These radiations block all translocation, scrying, and astral and ethereal spells and spell-like powers. So far as is known, no being can use magical means to journey into or out of the Daerndar.
Blue-green, glowing mists now drift endlessly through the caverns. Within them lurk at least three doomspheres (ghost beholders, MoF) that the Vigilant Bailiffs can somehow summon right across the duchy to fight for them. (This summoning uses command words that compel the obedience of either one or all of the doomspheres and causes the wards to teleport these undead, within the wards only, from their present location to the presence of whoever uttered the command word.)
Only a few spells known to Flyndara can safely be cast in the caverns. All other magical discharges cause outbursts of wild magic (see the Daerndar Effects Table, below). Occasionally, violent spell storms arise spontaneously and tear through the Daerndar, involving explosions, raging lightning, and magic that polymorphs only parts of a creature's body. Spellcasters exposed to a storm must make a Will save every round or be feebleminded.
In storm-free times, Daerndar magic teleports bewildered and usually belligerent monsters into the caverns from various unknown, remote locations -- trolls, minotaurs, mimics, ettins, gibbering mouthers, nighthaunts, and ropers appear most often.
All magic items brought into the Daerndar float freely (drifting gently through the mists or hurtling violently if a spell storm erupts) if released and not tethered. The mists generate multiple 'ghost images' of any magic item, akin to the effects of a mirror image spell. Typically six or seven in number, these identical images move independently. Touching a false image will reveal that it isn't solid but won't make it vanish.
Moreover, the Daerndar walls seem to move from time to time, changing the shape of the caverns and, in at least one case, crushing a hapless wizard to pulp between closing walls. The caverns have claimed the lives of over forty adventurers during the past decade.
Daerndar Effects Table (d10)
- Greater teleport on a single, randomly-chosen being. This spontaneous expulsion is a one-way trip out of the caverns to 10 feet above the nearest roof, tree, or patch of ground at some random spot in Shantal. The affected being appears in midair, stripped of all clothing, gear, and items, all of which remain behind in the caverns. Villagers tend not to be sympathetic to such arrivals, though they won't be actively hostile unless attacked. They direct naked adventurers to the Grand Duke, who is equally unsympathetic and usually demands services in return for his aid. Mages who attempt their own greater teleport spells in the Daerndar are warned that the usual result is that a random species o) monster is teleported into the caverns,to attack the caster. On rare occasions, the mage and another being anywhere in Faerûn (of the same race but having extreme youth, a different gender, and a complete inability to cast spells) instantly exchange bodies. Greater teleport spells cast in the village of Shantal are typically wasted, having no effect at all.
- A single, unseen blow is delivered to one random being, equal in effect to one strike of a Bigby's clenched fist.
- A Prismatic spray erupts from a random point and in a random direction.
- Baleful polymorph effects are visited on 1d3 random, nearby beings, changing them into other lifeforms (usually large crabs or horseshoe crabs, cows, giant dew-worms, giant snails, or various sorts of vines and creepers). This change lasts for 1d4 turns, after which harmless reversion to the former shape takes place. The transformation itself never does the polymorphed creatures any harm -- they are always considered to have made their Will saves -- and the change is never into a 'fatal' form (one that can't live in the Daerndar -- no fish gasping out of water). What sort of danger the polymorphed character gets into of his own accord is his own concern.
- 4d4 magic missiles (1d4+1 hp damage each) manifest and hurtle aimlessly in all directions, changing their trajectories often and at random. All beings within 200 feet must make three successful Dexterity Checks to avoid these chaotically swarming bolts before they strike the rock walls of the Daerndar. Each failed check indicates that one missile has struck that character.
- Chain lightning (9d6 damage to primary target; the last 'jump' ends in a 4d6 fireball instead of a 1d6-damage lightning strike).
- Reverse gravity (in three random, spot locations within the same cave as the triggering magic). The Daerndar caverns average about 60 feet from floor to ceiling -- 40 feet in low spots and 80 in the highest.
- A 1d6+4 x d6 damage flame strike hits a random spot, dying down into a flaming sphere that rolls away in a random direction, then dissipates after 1d3+1 rounds. Anyone hit by the flame strike suffers no extra damage from its formation around them.
- A 1d6+4 x d6 damage cone of cold erupts from a random point source and in a random direction.
- A 3d4+3 x d6 damage blade barrier comes into existence, centered on where the triggering magic was cast or in a random locale. It lasts for 3d4 rounds before silently fading away.
The Future of the Duchy
Several cabals and more official groups of wizards (including the Red Wizards of Thay) have been scrying and physically spying on the Grand Duchy of Shantal with increasing vigor in the last few years. The Red Wizards have openly assaulted the Duchal Towers twice, seeking to seize control of the Daerndar, but have been hurled back (and largely destroyed) by opposing mages who 'attacked out of nowhere' once the Red Wizards were occupied destroying Flyndara's monsters and defensive magics and seeking to slay the Official Mage herself.
Word that the Daerndar are death to approach has arisen at MageFairs, so that many wizards now seem to be watching (or watching over) the Grand Duchy, trying to prevent anyone other than the current rulership from gaining control over them.
There have been at least two attempts to woo or befriend Flyndara Rildar, but neither succeeded, and she killed one of the wizard suitors.
Some Shantans express the opinion that they'd be just as happy if the Daerndar, Flyndara, and her wards all harmlessly disappeared one morning. Others, however, say they're glad to have such protection against "the next bloodthirsty, conquering sword-swinger who comes a-riding over yonder hills!"
Next installment -- the Green Road.
About the Author
Ed Greenwood is the man who unleashed the Forgotten Realms on an unsuspecting world. He works in libraries, writes fantasy, science fiction, horror, mystery, and even romance stories (sometimes all in the same novel), but he is still happiest churning out Realmslore, Realmslore, and more Realmslore. There are still a few rooms in his house with space left to pile up papers in . . .