Raekel’s Pit is a terrible mark that was left upon Krynn by one of her most evil priests. Even in the Age of Mortals, it continues to fester like an open sore. Located in the southern part of the Sentinel Mountains, its true origins are shrouded in legend, but there is little doubt that it is a place that is rank with evil.
The History of Raekel’s Pit
As Ackal Ergot was conquering the lands that would someday become the Ergothian Empire, legend has it that a priest known as Raekel plotted against him. Although Raekel claimed to be a priest of Manthus (an Ergothian god of industry and dreams, known as Majere elsewhere in Ansalon), he in fact served a triumvirate of evil godsthe Dragon Queen (Takhisis); Aeleth, a god of death and disease (Chemosh); and Argon the god of Dark Vengeance (Sargonnas). The deities had promised him Ergot’s fledgling empire if he would perform certain rituals that would grant them ultimate power over Ansalon. Somehow, three gods of goodManthus the Mighty, Corij the Blade (Kiri-Jolith), and the Blue Phoenix (Habbakuk) uncovered the plot and sent their own champion against Raekel. The identity of the champion varies from story to story. Ssome cast Ackal Ergot in the role of champion, and these are the most popular version in the Empire of Ergoth, while others cast the elven leader Silvanos or a lowly kender or gnome as the chosen one. (A highly a-historical variant popular in Solamnia states that Vinus Solamnus was the one who defeated Raekel.) In all versions, the hero arrives too late to stop Raekel from performing the sacrifices that begin the ritual, but instead manage to throw him into the gap he has opened to the Abyss while the three gods of Good combat the three gods of Evil. A chilling song used in training of Ergothian tells of a day when a cabal of 33 dark mystics will raise their voices in a dirge that will bring Raekel back from beyond the Veil. He will finally complete the ritual he started almost 3,000 years ago and he will assume dominion over the Empire, turning it into a charnel house. Few Ergothian bards ever use the song as part of their active repertoire, but virtually none of them ever forget the names of the 33 mystics.
Raekel’s Pit in the Present Day
The gods have withdrawn from Krynn in the Fifth Age, but Raekel’s Pit still yawns toward the heavens, a 200 foot diameter shaft which is filled with boiling mists and howling shadows. The hunters from the nearby barbarian village of Ker-Manth rarely come within 20 miles of the place—and those brave men who have dared to search for game closer say that they have not seen any animals once they are within 10 miles of the Pit. Since the Chaos War, stories have been circulating that on the darkest, longest night of each year, a ten-year old child has crawled from Raekel’s Pit. Many doubt the truth of these this tale, as their origins have been traced back to a kender who in 19 SC claimed to have been taken captive by a group of young humans who claimed to be the Children of the Pit. He also claimed to have witnessed one of their number being born. He died shortly after stumbling into Thisway in southern Kendermore, wounded and suffering from a disease that none of the kender healers could cure. To further discredit the tale, when Belladonna Juniper, the afflicted kender who is the current ruler of Hylo, dispatched parties to search for these mystics, they came back empty-handed. Nonetheless, tales of a hidden group of mystics living somewhere in the southern Sentinel Mountains abound. It reportedly consists entirely of exceedingly handsome humans ranging in age from about 10 to about 30. Some tales claim a bent, ancient man leads them. The more detailed versions of the rumor claim that he wears a holy symbol of Argon, although he also has the symbol of Manthus branded across his face.
The Branded Man and the Children of the Pit
There are indeed a tiny group of mystics living in the Sentinel Mountains not far from the Pit—and only one of them is of Krynnish origin, the old and decrepit Dolan Rak-Mahl.
As the War of the Lance rages across Ansalon, Dolan Rak-Mahl was getting by as an alley-basher. He kept a low enough profile so that neither the Thief Guild chapter in Gwynned nor the authorities noticed his activities. However, his luck ran out when he attempted to rob a priest of Manthus. Unfortunately for Dolan, this priest had been part of the Ergothians delegation to the recent gathering of the Whitestone Council on Sancrist and there had met Elistan, one of the first generation of priests to wield the magic of the gods since the Cataclysm. From Elistan, he had gained knowledge of the proper ways to honor Manthus, and had since been granted priestly magic by the god. This magic took Dolan completely by surprise and he was still held in its thrall, unable to move a muscle, as the priest dragged him to the City Watch.
When Dolan went on trail, he begged and pleaded for his life. The judge said that normally he ordered violent criminals like Dolan hanged, but that the thief was so pathetic that it was hardly worth it. Instead, the judge turned to an ancient law that seemed appropriate now that the ancient gods were returning to Ansalon: He ordered Dolan’s face branded with the symbol of Manthus so that all could see that he had transgressed against the divine powers. Even though the priest, the victim of Dolan’s attack, objected, the judge upheld his ruling.
A brand that had not been used for over 400 years was placed in hot coals and Dolan’s face was marked. Still sobbing from the pain, he was dragged through Gwynned and thrown out of the city’s front gates. Here, he cooled his sizzling face in the mud by the road. As he lay there, he screamed at the gray city walls, swearing that all of Gwynned would suffer at his hands some day. The guards on the walls laughed.
Suddenly, a silky voice asked if Dolan was truly interested in revenge. The thief looked in the direction of the voice and saw a red condor sitting in a nearby tree. The condor continued to speak to him, and Dolan discovered that it was a messenger from one of the True Gods and that only he could see it. The condor offered him the opportunity to serve the god of vengeance, Argon, and told him to journey to the ruins of Fav in the south, where he would discover the ways to honor Argon, if he survived the trials he would have to undergo.
Dolan was successful, and thus became the first priest of Argon in Ergoth since the Cataclysm. He worked to further the dark will of his god and to expand his worship for the next three decades. During the Summer of Chaos, as the gods prepared to depart from Ansalon once again, Argon’s messenger came to Dolan to tell him of what was happening. He commanded the priest to journey to Raekel’s Pit to perform a ritual that would start a process that would eventually bring about the final destruction of the Empire of Ergoth.
Dolan obeyed the commands of his god and as he performed the ritual on the edge of the smoking pit, he felt the presence of Argon, which had been a constant part of his being for 30 years, fade. There was a sharp red flash from the pit’s smoky depths and in the heavens the very constellations changed. Dolan held his breath as he awaited a tide of destructive forces to vomit forth—but nothing happened. Unsure of what do to next, Dolan took up residence in a cave not far from the Pit and waited for an additional sign from his god.
A few months later, on the Winter Solstice, the sign Dolan had been waiting for came in the form of a young boy of unearthly beauty. “I am a child of the pit,” he said. “I will teach you the ways of magic, and you will teach me the ways of revenge. With your help, my brothers and sisters will eventually consume this land.”
The child showed Dolan how to master spiritual magic, the final gift of the gods before they left Krynn. Dolan taught the child the proper ways to honor Argon. A year later to the day, the child took Dolan to the Pit. Here, they witnessed as another beautiful child crawled out of its depths.
Each Winter Solstice since then, another child has emerged from the Pit. Dolan has learned that a ritual that started 3,000 years ago is finally reaching its fruition. This will continue until they number 33. Then, the final days of Ergoth will be at hand, and its demise unavoidable.
Dolan hopes that he will live long enough to see this demise. He has already started using the foul magics taught to him by the Children to extend his life. He hopes that Ergoth will die with him—in fact, he has grown to hope that all of Ansalon dies with him!
When a small force of Dark Knights came to Raekel’s Pit in 27SC, three of the oldest Children were slain when they came upon them unexpectedly. The remaining Children have assured Dolan that they will return, emerging from the Pit as they had once before. “No living being can stop us,” one of them said. “Only he who slew Raekel, the one known as Julius Har-Retal, can harm us—and he is long dead.”
The knowledge that an unavoidable doom awaits Ergoth in the not-to-distant future keeps Dolan clinging to life.