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The Dread Ring in Neverwinter Wood was a gruesome and terrifying fortress that served as the base of operations for the Red Wizards of Thay within the Sword Coast North in the mid-to-late 15th century DR.[1][3][4] It was one of several Dread Rings constructed across Faerûn under the orders of the Thayan regent, Szass Tam.[1][4][5]

Location[]

The Dread Ring was located east of Helm's Hold in the densest and darkest southern reaches of Neverwinter Wood[3][6] where some of the Ring's undead creatures were sent to haunt.[7] It lay in the middle of a vast clearing where the shadows were darker, the air was still and smelled of disease, and all was silent. Any animals—whether forest-dwellers, mounts, or even familiars—instinctively refused to approach the clearing,[3][8] and even stalwart adventurers were not immune to the feelings of unease and fear as the residual dark magic emanating from the site caused their palms to sweat and their teeth to chatter.[8]

The space between the woods and the outer walls of the Dread Ring was a few hundred feet wide in all directions, and everywhere the ground was soaked in blood, covered in ash, and littered with the telltale signs of a battlefield: countless tracks, severed limbs, and broken weapons.[3][8]

Structure[]

The Dread Ring was both a fortress and a necromantic ritual site[3] powered by the souls of the innocent,[7] and thus the whole structure oozed with palpable evil.[3]

The fortress was roughly circular,[3] and consisted of a large outer wall surrounding a main central citadel[8] with a large pit in the very center.[9] As of the late 15th century DR, it was also in a half-ruined state, with the stone walls open, pillars broken, spindly towers shattered, and gates left gaping.[3][4] Rather than find new stone to repair the damage, the Red Wizards opted to patch the walls with corpses. Large portions of the fortress were thus composed of writhing undead masses of flesh, bones, and limbs that would continue to repair themselves and even build more corpse walls if provided bodies, living or dead. Unwary visitors risked being grabbed by the mass of hands and dragged into the wall.[9]

Interior[]

As a structure built and conceived by liches, little about the Dread Ring's interior architecture was familiar or comfortable. Many rooms had odd numbers of walls that sloped or intersected at strange angles, many corridors fluctuated wildly in width and made weird turns, and some staircases were uneven and sometimes led to the same floor level from which they started. Any décor did not fit the space it adorned, and alien smells, disorienting lights, and moaning sounds emanated from seams where ill-fitting walls met. In some places, the architecture became supernaturally disorienting, such as stairs that could only be traversed in one direction, corridors that appeared to curve despite going straight (or vice versa), and doors that led to entirely separate places within the Ring.[9] One such anomalous location was the sanctum, which appeared to exist simultaneously in four different parts of the Ring.[10]

Dread Spire[]

The tallest tower to survive until the late 15th century DR, this structure contained many of the people and chambers central to the Thayans' operations, including their war room and one of four entrances to the sanctum. It also housed a portal to the Shadowfell—in a permanently and magically darkened room—which was used to transport corpses in and out of Neverwinter and Evernight as well as to access the so-called "Shadowfell Road" to Surcross, along which their supply caravans from Thay traveled.[10]

Lastly, the Spire contained the "Chapel of the Dragon", where captives from the Cult of the Dragon were forced to help the Red Wizards create a dracolich that would be obedient to the Thayan leaders.[10]

Excavation Pit[]

The excavation of Lorragauth's bones.

As of the late 1470s DR, the middle of the Ring contained a large pit dug by the Thayans' laborers, some living but most undead. This was the site of an excavation of the skeleton of an extremely ancient and powerful black dragon known as Lorragauth,[9] whose corpse's mere presence was the reason for the strong ambient magic that had prompted the Red Wizards to choose this location to build the Dread Ring.[4] Overseen by a wight called Praddak,[11] the massive bones were slowly being unearthed in the hopes of raising the monster as a dracolich,[9] but this process allowed greater amounts of the dragon's energies to seep out into the ground, causing parts of the pit to become highly acidic or shrouded in magical darkness.[10]

Hanging precariously along the edge of the pit,[9] and extending down to lean against rocks and mounds of dirt, was a rickety and convoluted scaffold supporting heavy cranes and treacherous walkways. The whole structure creaked loudly under the weight of the workers, and there was a constant risk of getting skewered on splinters or rusty nails.[11]

Flesh Factory[]

Some "corpses" in the flesh factory were fresher than others.

A massive necromantic laboratory was located between the outer wall and the inner tower,[8] and it was here that most of the Thayans' undead servants were animated.[9] Necromantic runes adorned the walls, floor, and ceiling, and containers of blood and bile—ranging in size from flasks to barrels—sat within easy reach.[8] Two walls of the "factory" were lined with iron sarcophagi, stone coffins, and tall vats, all fitted with tubes to pump new fluids into whatever was placed inside.[9] Bodies and body parts—some old and decayed and others so fresh as to be bloody and twitching—were hung from hooks, heaped in piles, or lay on stone and steel slabs. Corpses were prepared by treating them with alchemical concoctions that made the flesh pliable.[8]

This laboratory was designed specifically to animate corpses faster and more efficiently than through normal necromantic spellcasting. It was staffed by both undead servants and living necromancers, led by Jawbone.[9]

Observatory[]

The uppermost chamber within the Dread Ring was an observatory used by the Red Wizard Lurrens to chart the skies of Toril, the Shadowfell, and the Feywild simultaneously, as well as to scry into all three planes. This was accomplished by a massive, revolving orrery as large as a house with hundreds of moving parts attached to dozens of metal limbs tipped with colorful orbs, iron crescents, and delicate glass lenses. The device was massively complicated and difficult to use or understand.[10]

Guards, both living and undead, were always present to keep the orrery secure.[10]

Sanctum[]

As of the late 1470s DR, the sanctum was used by the leader of operations at the Dread Ring, the lich Valindra Shadowmantle, as her personal library and meditation chamber. The library contained an impressive collection of tomes on the subjects of magic, history, and various esoterica—all immaculately maintained—while her meditation chamber appeared at first to be a ruined and filthy bedroom. As a lich, Shadowmantle had no need to sleep and was unbothered by the filth, and so used the room to prepare spells and to house her belongings.[10]

Not only did the sanctum seem to exist in four places at once within the Dread Ring, but the two rooms—the library and Shadowmantle's chambers—seemed to be unable to exist at the same time.[10]

Activities[]

In hopes of restoring and enacting the terrible ritual for which the Dread Ring had originally been built, Thayan efforts to build and rebuild the fortress were constant, and made possible thanks to throngs of undead servants.[4] This, in turn, meant the Thayans busied themselves with collecting corpses from wherever they could find them.[3][4] The Red Wizards also sought to harness the Ring's powers in other equally malevolent ways,[4] such as a plot to raise an army of subservient dracoliches.[12]

Defenses[]

Aside from the twisted magic of the Dread Ring itself,[9] the primary defense of the fortress was the countless undead that inhabited it.[8] This included reanimated thunderbeast bones, specifically the totem of the Thunderbeast tribe that the Thayans had pilfered from Morgur's Mound.[11]

History[]

The Dread Ring was built as part of a Red Wizard ritual to seize control of the Sword Coast North[7] and help Szass Tam achieve godhood.[4] Led by Sylora Salm, the Thayans schemed to awaken Maegera, the fire primordial imprisoned within Gauntlgrym beneath Mount Hotenow, and to use the death and destruction caused by its rampage to empower a Dread Ring similar to ones that had been built in Thay. They succeeded in awakening the primordial and causing the Ruining of the Year of Knowledge Unearthed, 1451 DR, and the Dread Ring was magically raised with the power of the deaths and sacrifices of innocent humanoids.[1][7] The site chosen for the Ring was selected because the land itself seemed to surge with powerful dark magic that was seeping into the world.[4]

Salm's schemes were ultimately thwarted just before the fortress was complete. In the Year of the Elves' Weeping, 1462 DR, Drizzt Do'Urden and his allies sealed Maegera,[1][13][14] cutting off the Ring from the primordial's power and prompting Szass Tam himself to censure Salm, who was only spared thanks to the scheming intervention of Valindra Shadowmantle. While she attempted to atone for her failure by using the Dread Ring's power to kill more innocents, Salm was slain in the Year of the Wyvern, 1363 DR, after another encounter with Drizzt and company in which she depleted much of the Ring's power.[15] This left the structure in ruins,[4] although there remained a great deal of the primordial's power still untapped within its walls.[16]

These people haven’t the slightest understanding of the power accumulating in the earth beneath them–power we must have. A pity that they stand in our way, but who knows? After some time under the earth, perhaps they, too, can be useful to us.
— Valindra Shadowmantle[4]

Valindra Shadowmantle next took charge of Thayan activities in the Sword Coast North and operated out of the half-ruined Dread Ring. Despite the fact that it was ostensibly broken and unable to be used to enact the foul ritual for which it had been intended, Shadowmantle sought to fix it, and ultimately planned on killing enough people to empower it once more.[7] During the 1470s DR, she sought massive numbers of undead servants to assist in repairs of the fortress.[4] At the same time, Shadowmantle investigated the possibility of using the Dread Ring for other purposes should she fail to fully restore it.[4] She began researching ways to tap into the power of Maegera that lay trapped within the Dread Ring after it had been absorbed decades earlier,[16] and while investigating the source of the magic in the ground beneath the Ring, she was the first to discover the buried corpse of the dragon Lorragauth.[4] With the unwilling help of several members of the Cult of the Dragon, she sought to use the power of the Dread Ring to transform the dragon into a dracolich under her control, despite the logistical challenges of doing so with a long-dead skeleton.[12]

During this time, the Shadovar–Thay War was heating up, and the Netherese forces of Prince Clariburnus Tanthul and his allies among the Gray Wolf tribe were constantly harassing the Thayans at the Dread Ring.[17] Their frequent attacks turned the clearing surrounding the fortress into a blasted battlefield, and although they never breached the walls, they succeeded in slowing Shadowmantle's operations. The heavy losses, however, also served to provide more prospective undead laborers for the Thayans[8] while also weakening the relationship between the Gray Wolves and the Netherese.[17]

Although nearly successful, Shadowmantle's plans were thwarted in the Year of the Ageless One, 1479 DR. A coalition led by Alphonse Knox consisting of the Neverwinter Guard and its allies—including the Gray Wolf tribe, the Icehammer dwarves, the Harpers, the Lords' Alliance, and a group of rogue Red Wizards led by Rath Modar—attacked and destroyed much of the Dread Ring, including Lorragauth's excavation site, all installations for raising undead and summoning fiends, and a giant sphere of annihilation. This allowed a group of adventurers known as the Heroes of the Sleeping Dragon Bridge to use a portal to infiltrate Shadowmantle's tower in Thay, stop her dracolich ritual, and destroy her body, sending her back to her hidden phylactery.[2]

Rumors & Legends[]

Valindra Shadowmantle's sanctum held the possibility of many important discoveries. Specifically, her library was said to contain invaluable information about how the undead rulers of Thay thought and operated in the 15th century DR, and her historical tomes were said to contain the locations of many lost ancient sites as well as the dark truths behind many of Thay's deeds and goals.[10] It was also rumored that her phylactery might have been kept somewhere within the sanctum.[18]

Inhabitants[]

Much of the Dread Ring's population was made up of undead. The supply of corpses to be raised as undead servants was harvested from battles with the Netherese, as well as collected from Uthgardt and Illefarn burial grounds[3] and the crypts beneath Castle Never and the Neverdeath Graveyard, from where they were transported to the Dread Ring via the Shadowfell.[4]

The Ring's living occupants consisted of the Thayans—mostly necromancers—and some of their allies and captives.[3] This included members of the Cult of the Dragon assisting with the excavation and raising of Lorragauth[19] as well as a number of Ashmadai.[20]

Notable Inhabitants[]

As of 1479 DR, the key players at the Dread Ring included:

  • Valindra Shadowmantle, a lich and direct subordinate of Szass Tam who oversaw the Ring and all Thayan operations in the region.[4]
  • Jawbone, a half-orc necromancer who oversaw the flesh factory.[9]
  • Kroskas, an agent of the Cult of the Dragon compelled to assist in raising Lorragauth as a dracolich.[10]
  • Lurrens, a brain in a jar who managed the observatory and alerted Shadowmantle to any interesting developments.[10]
  • Praddak, a wight who oversaw the excavation of Lorragauth's skeleton.[11]

Appendix[]

Appearances[]

Novels
The Neverwinter Saga (Gauntlgrym, Neverwinter, Charon's Claw)
Video Games
Neverwinter

References[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 R.A. Salvatore (October 2010). Gauntlgrym. (Wizards of the Coast). ISBN 978-0786955008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Cryptic Studios (June 2013). Neverwinter. Perfect World Entertainment.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 Matt Sernett, Erik Scott de Bie, Ari Marmell (August 2011). Neverwinter Campaign Setting. Edited by Tanis O'Connor. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 179. ISBN 0-7869-5814-6.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 Matt Sernett, Erik Scott de Bie, Ari Marmell (August 2011). Neverwinter Campaign Setting. Edited by Tanis O'Connor. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 104. ISBN 0-7869-5814-6.
  5. Bruce R. Cordell, Ed Greenwood, Chris Sims (August 2008). Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. Edited by Jennifer Clarke Wilkes, et al. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 181. ISBN 978-0-7869-4924-3.
  6. Matt Sernett, Erik Scott de Bie, Ari Marmell (August 2011). Neverwinter Campaign Setting. Edited by Tanis O'Connor. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 11. ISBN 0-7869-5814-6.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Matt Sernett, Erik Scott de Bie, Ari Marmell (August 2011). Neverwinter Campaign Setting. Edited by Tanis O'Connor. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 9. ISBN 0-7869-5814-6.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 8.8 Matt Sernett, Erik Scott de Bie, Ari Marmell (August 2011). Neverwinter Campaign Setting. Edited by Tanis O'Connor. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 180. ISBN 0-7869-5814-6.
  9. 9.00 9.01 9.02 9.03 9.04 9.05 9.06 9.07 9.08 9.09 9.10 Matt Sernett, Erik Scott de Bie, Ari Marmell (August 2011). Neverwinter Campaign Setting. Edited by Tanis O'Connor. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 181. ISBN 0-7869-5814-6.
  10. 10.00 10.01 10.02 10.03 10.04 10.05 10.06 10.07 10.08 10.09 10.10 Matt Sernett, Erik Scott de Bie, Ari Marmell (August 2011). Neverwinter Campaign Setting. Edited by Tanis O'Connor. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 183. ISBN 0-7869-5814-6.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Matt Sernett, Erik Scott de Bie, Ari Marmell (August 2011). Neverwinter Campaign Setting. Edited by Tanis O'Connor. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 182. ISBN 0-7869-5814-6.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Matt Sernett, Erik Scott de Bie, Ari Marmell (August 2011). Neverwinter Campaign Setting. Edited by Tanis O'Connor. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 105. ISBN 0-7869-5814-6.
  13. Matt Sernett, Erik Scott de Bie, Ari Marmell (August 2011). Neverwinter Campaign Setting. Edited by Tanis O'Connor. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 13. ISBN 0-7869-5814-6.
  14. Matt Sernett, Erik Scott de Bie, Ari Marmell (August 2011). Neverwinter Campaign Setting. Edited by Tanis O'Connor. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 98. ISBN 0-7869-5814-6.
  15. R.A. Salvatore (October 4, 2011). Neverwinter. (Wizards of the Coast). ISBN 0786958421.
  16. 16.0 16.1 Matt Sernett, Erik Scott de Bie, Ari Marmell (August 2011). Neverwinter Campaign Setting. Edited by Tanis O'Connor. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 106. ISBN 0-7869-5814-6.
  17. 17.0 17.1 Matt Sernett, Erik Scott de Bie, Ari Marmell (August 2011). Neverwinter Campaign Setting. Edited by Tanis O'Connor. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 112. ISBN 0-7869-5814-6.
  18. Matt Sernett, Erik Scott de Bie, Ari Marmell (August 2011). Neverwinter Campaign Setting. Edited by Tanis O'Connor. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 108. ISBN 0-7869-5814-6.
  19. Matt Sernett, Erik Scott de Bie, Ari Marmell (August 2011). Neverwinter Campaign Setting. Edited by Tanis O'Connor. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 127. ISBN 0-7869-5814-6.
  20. Matt Sernett, Erik Scott de Bie, Ari Marmell (August 2011). Neverwinter Campaign Setting. Edited by Tanis O'Connor. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 102. ISBN 0-7869-5814-6.
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