D e s o l a t e R e a l m s
Earth and stone.
Fire and water.
Gold and gems.
These were the things of which dungeons were made.
As for the dungeons, those were made by the Great Keeper Andra.
In the corrupt heart of her vast subterranean empire she sat for a millennium upon a blood-soaked throne of bejeweled skulls. About her in silent vigilance stood her Elite Guard of four and twenty Horned Reapers. As the most powerful of the Keepers since the fall of the Ancients, Andra controlled unimaginable magic. Her many realms, which encompassed the majority of the Underworld, functioned as one, linked via magic portals and by way of dark, dank tunnels hewn through the bedrock by infernal machines of a long-lost design.
Legions of lesser Keepers served Empress Andra as servants and vassals, administering the realms in her stead. Those too proud to subjugate themselves to her direct rule paid dear tribute in minions and gold. And those foolish enough to openly oppose her would not long hold the title of Keeper.
The legend of Andra could not be contained, and soon her name was extolled with a fervor normally reserved for the Dark Gods. In every temple her minions worshipped her as a goddess. Though she would not condone this worship explicitly, neither did she attempt to stop it, for the collected spiritual energies of a million creatures only added to her strength.
Thus it should come as no surprise that the Dark Gods soon looked upon Andra with wrath. Jealous of her power and envious of her minions' worship, their favor turned away from her even despite her continued daily sacrifices in their honor.
These were the names of the three beings who now longed the most to see Andra fall. But they were not alone. Conquered Keepers did not readily forget the bitter taste of defeat. And as Andra's power grew, so too did the desperation of the surface dwellers, who now called from amongst their ranks the most brave and noble heroes to have ever trod the Underworld. Together, these forces would bring about the end of an age.
Without the favor of the gods, Andra found her fortunes in battle ruined. As successful incursions by heroes under the rule of Lord Linden increased, those Keepers already agitating for a revolt found new tinder to feed the flames. Chief amongst these were two of Andra's own generals: the Keepers Diavalon and Barrad Malevolok. With the blessings of the Dark Gods they attacked Andra's own daughter, Shia-Kar, and took hostage her lover, Ankara. Using her as ransom, they were able to turn blood against blood, and soon another fifth of Andra's realms fell under their influence.
The remainder of the empire rested safely under the iron fists of Andra's most trusted and faithful generals, the Keepers Malund and Tikara. For many decades a great Keeper Civil War was fought between these two and their three opponents, with lesser Keepers falling prey to the depravity of both sides until the majority of the empire lay in ruins.
Neither side could defeat the other, and in time the war became a stalemate. Andra was still far too powerful, and her minions' dedication remained unwavering. The Dark Gods' lust for her destruction only waxed with her continued survival. Soon they saw that no force in the mortal world could end her, and so they made the fateful decision to directly intervene.
In the chaos of the civil war, Lord Linden's men had seized many of the border realms and established within them great hero keeps of a stature not seen since ancient times. Their power now equaled that of either side in the war, and as rogue minions and the secrets of dungeon ways began to fall into their hands, Lord Linden's heart grew vile and corrupt. He began to lust for the same power he had set out to destroy. No longer would he simply cast down Andra and her underlings. His ambition was now to usurp her and make the throne of the Underworld his own.
Seeing this darkness upon Lord Linden's heart, the Dark God Khalan took human form as the great sorcerer Mas Tarken. Banishing hordes of minions from the surface lands with a mere wave of his finger, he swiftly established a place at the lord's right hand as his advisor. With his aspen tongue he further poisoned the man's mind until nothing human was left of him. His own lieutenants came to fear his name as he ordered torture, merciless slaughter, and the horrors of scorched-earth warfare.
One fateful night with the light of a full moon glaring down upon Lord Linden's castle, Khalan revealed his true nature to the fallen king. The offer was simple: his soul and the souls of all his men in exchange for the power he desired. Lord Linden, now mindless with greed, accepted. He and his lieutenants were transfigured into Dark Knights and were given horrible powers.
Lord Linden allied himself with the forces of Diavalon, Barrad Malevolok, and Shia-Kar. With this newfound power, Malund and Tikara were driven from all their realms in a matter of months. Now the fate of Andra's empire rested upon her own shoulders alone, and for a short time she valiantly stood her ground. But as Malund and Tikara's former realms were turned against her by the will of the gods, the Empress's forces were gradually broken.
Andra was determined to make her last stand at the Throne of Skulls. As her Elite Guard prepared for battle, a foul presence poured into the chamber. The Dark Gods had come to take their revenge in person! Her Horned Reapers vanished in a flash of unholy light, each one separately imprisoned in twenty four different realms. Left alone, Andra had no choice but to abdicate. She simply vanished, apparently gone forever.
Her enemies burst into the throne room triumphant, only to find that Andra had laid a curse upon it. Those who looked upon her final Dungeon Heart would be doomed to turn against one another until the entire Underworld was destroyed. The three Keepers, with no common enemy to fight, turned their wrath upon their allies. The Dark Gods, enraged by Andra's escape and continued defiance, banished Lord Linden and his underlings, now wraiths in Knights' armor, to an eternity sealed in caves like those that imprisoned Andra's Elite Guard.
But Andra was never rightfully defeated. Her power over her former realms still lingers to this very day. The last of her lands she left filled with treasures, curses, and promises. Somewhere she slumbers, awaiting vengeance.
To awaken Andra, her Elite Guard must be reclaimed, and all of her enemies must be vanquished. It is said that only a Keeper capable of subduing the entire world will be capable of these feats. And the Keeper who accomplishes these things shall ascend to the Throne of Skulls, awaken Andra to become his queen, and unlock the secrets of eternal power.
So, Master, what are you waiting for?
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