One of the interesting places that Wizards of the Coast brought to the fore during the 3e era of Greyhawk was the Tomb of Azharadian. The Tomb was clearly meant to be an adventure hook, but it’s one that I think missed an opportunity to provide the world with something more meaningful.
Let’s look at the original text:
Of the generals who led the armies of Aerdy to conquer three-fourths of the Flanaess the name of Azharadian is exalted above all. From his first command as a mere subaltern at the Battle of a Fortnight’s Length, to his death in Onnwal over sixty years later, he never knew defeat.
After his passing, his loyal war captains bore his body to his home city of Rel Astra, where an enormous mausoleum was erected some leagues south of the city to house his remains. Towering above the surrounding countryside, the tomb quickly became a place of pilgrimage for many Aerdi warriors, especially those devoted to Heironeous, to whom the great general prayed it is said. However, as the Great Kingdom fell into decadence and depravity, the tomb was neglected and forgotten, falling quickly into ruin and another faded symbol of a more glorious past.
In the wake of the Greyhawk Wars, Rel Astra emerged from the collapse of the Great Kingdom as a Free City. To forestall the aggressive posturing of his neighbors Rel Astra’s ruler, the animus Prince Drax of Garasteth, moved quickly to secure his borders. The huge, partially overgrown Tomb of Azharadian seemed to be the perfect foundation for a fortification to ward the southern approaches to Rel Astra against the chaos of Medegia.
A small tower keep is currently under construction atop the tomb, while a ditch and curtain wall were built around the structure. However, the building work was plagued with problems. Late in 592 CY, a number of masons went missing while scavenging stone from the flanks of the Tomb. In the wake of this, rumors of passages leading into the mausoleum’s depths subsequently surfaced.
A number of the men at arms garrisoning the keep have also vanished, apparently after deserting their posts to loot the ancient vaults of their treasures. The garrison commander, Sir Dergann Velaster (LE male human Ftr7), an Iron Nation Knight, has forbidden exploration of the tomb, on pain of death. Recently however, fearful tales of a ghostly warrior, clad in archaic armour and pacing the battlements of the keep have begun to circulate among the jittery soldiers. These sightings are said to have attracted the attentions of the Fiend-Sage, who has paid Dergann several nocturnal visits in recent months.Broadhurst
As the text is presented it creates the impression that Azharadian’s ghost is wandering the fortress in a malevolent way. The logical conclusion is to assume that Azharadian was awakened by some fool attempting to plunder his tomb and is now seeking revenge on those who dared disturb his slumber. It’s a predictable, boring plot that follows the same beats we’ve seen a thousand times over.
A more compelling idea, to me, would be to have Azharadian’s ghost walking the battlements continuing his vigilance against the enemies of ancient Aerdy. The idea here would be that the construction of the fortress has called him back from his ancient slumber to once again defend his homeland from its enemies both abroad and at home.
Here Azharadian would be played as a guardian spirit that pushed back against the decadence and depravity that characterized the Great Kingdom’s late period and instead showed what made it so special. He could bestow blessings on those going to oppose evil and the enemies of ancient Aerdy; while also cursing those would do it harm.
I imagine role-playing Azharadian would be a lot of fun. To my mind he would take on an almost Arthurian demeanor. He would have a heavy lean on the Knight’s Code of Chivalry (contorted within the confines of the world of Greyhawk, of course), and would speak in a slow, deliberative manner. I would play him like Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird.
I want Azharadian to come across as a pillar of morality in a world awash in grays. He is a beacon of clarity in a world where good and evil aren’t always so clear because the world is complicated. War and history have taken what should be clearly defined ideas (good, evil, law, and chaos) and made them blur into each other. Azharadian is our black and white. He has the long perspective of centuries to look down and a clear moral code that he can use to determine right from wrong.
Broadhurst, Creighton, Paul Looby, and Stuart Kerrigan. Azharadian’s Tomb and the Ship of Fools. Wizards of the Coast. https://web.archive.org/web/20161031210030/http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=lg/lgmp/20040427a Accessed 3/15/2023
1 thought on “The Tomb of Azharadian”
There’s room for both. Invade the ghost-knight’s tomb? He will behead you. Invade the ghost-knight’s homeland? He will behead you for that too.
LikeLiked by 1 person