The territories known as "The Venlaken Enclave" are to be found west of the southern Nybelmarian nation of Anis-Anpagan. The Anpagan governments claim these territories and act on their defense but they do not have any real control over them. The Venlaken Enclave is also referred to as "The Land of the Dead" or "The Cursed Lands". The people that inhabit them were originally Anpagan men who gathered under the leadership of a group of mages, called "Daedhirians", and were exiled there after the Year of Darkness - when the Republican Wars ended and the Anis-Anpagan Dominion emerged as a reborn nation in Nybelmar. Since the creation of the Enclave there are very few reports over their activities and organizational structure, so what is known about them comes mostly from occasional sightings. There is though one thing that is known for sure, and that is the fact that the majority of the Venlaken inhabitants are no longer humans, but something that perhaps could be named as "undead". For this reason the Anis-Anpagan dominion acts as guardian of this foul infestation, forbidding any outside contacts with the Cursed Lands. Also, for reasons yet unknown, the Venlakens themselves prefer to remain enclosed, never even trying to spread beyond the Enclave's borders.
|Image description. The infamous Daedhirian Vats, towering over the city of Venlaken. Picture from the game Mystical Empire™, used with friendly permission. Illustration drawn by Faugar.|
The inhabitants of the Venlaken Enclave were once
humans, yet there is little left in them
from a human appearance. Some brave
explorers reported that there are still human
people among them although these appear to only serve as slaves. However, those
that rule the region (the ones called "Daedhirians") present all sorts of
unnatural forms, ranging from horrific decaying bodies to spectral apparitions,
sometimes apparently tied to a skeletal body.
Coat of Arms/Sign. During the Republican Wars, the Daedhirians used standard Anpagan royalist banners, choosing a black vine-rose shape on a light blue background. Hundreds of years later, during the Dark Plague, the troops of the Venlaken Lord Asbavaer were seen carrying a black banner with just two white wings painted on it. It is unknown whether they have a common and permanent coat of arms or each of the Venlaken Lords has a unique one.
Territory. The Venlaken Enclave is situated on the west side of the Anpagan peninsula of the south Nybelmar. The Dolion Mountains to the east, the Zylos river to the southeast and Daran to the north are its natural borders. The Anpagans have set up a system of fortifications along the Zylos River and on the Dolion Mountains - however, much of the Dolion fortifications are now in the custody of the Korweynites. North of the Daran River the landscape turns slowly into a desolate and untravelled wasteland, so there is little known about the Daedhirian infestation there, although the caravans who attempt to avoid passing through Tyr Faerath and take a route through these lands are never seen or heard of again.
People. Besides the Anpagan popular myths about "The Land of the Dead", there are only two sources used for understanding these people: the Anpagan Republican Wars (which led to the creation of the Enclave) and the Dark Plague (the only time when Anpagan troops crossed the Enclave's borders). All the accounts regarding the Enclave are kept in the custody of the High Mages of the Ansaran Island, always being a reason for endless arguments between the Anis-Anpagan's Mage Guild and the Guild of Historians.
There aren't only mages among the Venlaken inhabitants, some noble families and lots of peasantry also took the path of exile in the Enclave. Supposedly they become in time either disciples of Daedhirians either subjects to their experimentations. Also some Anpagan governments prefered to send their unwanted to Venlaken. However, there is one thing that each of the Anpagans knows for sure: there is no return path once the Enclave's border is passed.
|Image description. The great Lord of the Daedhirian Asdamon. Illustration drawn by Eratinalinfalah.|
With the discovery of the Daedhirian scrolls, the Ansaran Mages' interest for the Enclave was revived and thus many tried again to explain their way of life. By studying these theories we were able to draw a short classification of the various types of Daedhirians as listed below:
The Daedhirian Mages
While more or less all the inhabitants of the Enclave are called "Daedhirians", there is one category which stands out - the "followers" (or "descendants"; the Mages could never reach an agreement on this issue) of the original group of mages who initiated this system of practices based on the esotherical knowledges contained in "Daedhir, The Book of All Fears". None of these Daedhirians are truly "alive" anymore but "undead". They seem to have reached a certain "excellency" in preserving their own spiritual essence after death and their works are focused on finding ways of keeping this essence tied on this plane of existence as much as possible. However it are the Anpagan who believe that even if undead, a Daedhirian can be destroyed if these bonds (created to keep the spiritual essence in this world) are severed. There are though reports of ghostly apparitions, in the Enclave area, that seem to have an active leading role, which could only means that some Daedhirians have managed to free their essence from the necessity of having a body. Yet these are only speculations. What is important is that any inhabitant of the Enclave aspires to reach this state of existence.
This seems to be a mixed category of undead beings but also humans. However it is hard to tell if they are not actually all undead, but because their appearance is closer to the human one (a very sick human though) the Ansaran Mages assumed that they are not all undead. They are the ones fulfilling their apprenticeship in the service of their masters: the Daedhirian Mages. These Disciples also seem to be the mundane rulers in the Enclave, taking care of the common building sites, maintainance, mining operations or any other such activities. Only few Disciples manage to become Daedhirian Mages, yet the reasons behind this fact are unknown to this day.
Again a mixed category, but this time being summed mainly by humans. These are the supposed descendants of the peasantry that took the path of exile, following their nobles, when the Enclave was formed. Some scholars claim that the actual Disciples are recruited from their ranks, but observing the Servants' absolute obedience taken to almost a total lack of any personal will, we might want to keep some reserves regarding this theory. All the human Servants seem to share a very demanding religious cult dedicated to a strange god combining death and fertility. The undead that were seen working alongside the human Servants are in less numbers, supposedly being either the unfortunate results of Daedhirian experimentations either Disciples who failed in their attempt to become Mages. These undead (with an appearance ranging from fresh-like corpses to skeletal bodies) lack any form of will whatsoever and must be directly controlled by a Disciple, otherwise they would just act chaotically. Their seemingly limited "lifespan" and their constant disintegration makes them a less preferred workforce for the Daedhirian Mages and their Disciples.
Former Disciples or Servants and perhaps even former Daedhirian Mages, they are the victims of the Enclave. Moving corpses crawling mindlessly on the ground, ghosts haunting the southern marshes, wraiths howling in anger, "tempters" and "temptresses" feeding on the life force of the living, they are the marginals, rejected by the Enclave's order. The Ansaran Mages have often launched endless discussions about these Lost Ones. Their sentient ability was often doubted, also there is no agreement on the issue of their origins. They could be the direct result of Daedhirian practices, but they also could originate in the fact that the very fabric of life was dangerously twisted by these practices - thus being a chaotic element for Daedhirians themselves. There are also some timid voices claiming that it's not the Daedhirians causing this but the place itself, argumenting that this is also the reason for which no Daedhirian seem to ever want to leave the Enclave.
Huge ruins were spotted in the Venlaken area even before the
Anpagan colonization and it seems that the
Daedhirians were, at least until the Dark Plague, rebuilding them. Besides the
ancient massive colonades, burried vaults were also spotted in the Enclave. In
the city of Venlaken, ever-smoking stone buildings are standing crowded
together, seemingly lacking the most common aesthetical sense, believed to be
used as "living" space.
Clothing. Those that still care about their looks usually wear anything able to hide their rotten bodies, otherwise crude metal armour and various devices meant to keep their body-parts together make up for their only "clothing".
Diet. It is unknown if Daedhirians need any food. During the Dark Plague the Anpagan soldiers reported that the human slaves used by Daedhirians were fed with raw meat or some boiled soup made from various ingredients (believed to be hard to digest otherwise).
Weapons. The only armed confrontation with Daedhirians since the Year of Darkness showed a preferred use of halberds, pikes and axes, sometimes in combination with crude metal shields or breastplates.
Occupations. The highest of all Venlaken "crafts" seems to be the crafting of life on death. Daedhirians believe that there is a unique spiritual essence in every sentient being, essence that can be ultimately preserved alone. It is also presumed that everyone in Venlaken aspires to this knowledge. Yet some of them have still much to learn or some of them have failed to learn (in one way or another). These are the Venlaken's servants, what was reported as "human slaves" and "foul undead horrors". If there is something to build, something to mine, something to craft, they are there: poor souls intoxicated with a lust for an unnatural life and poor souls shattered in pieces, haunting along what they use to think it's the path to redemption.
Government. The group of Anpagan mages exiled in Venlaken became also the rulers of these lands. Their "descendants" are believed to have control over the Enclave. There is no known king among them so it might be assumed that they are ruling separately - perhaps being united by a council structure.
Production/Trade. All trade with the Enclave is banned under the Anpagan law; no Nybelmarian nation is known to have ever broken this law up to this day.
Natural Resources. Iron ore is known to abound in the Dolion Mountains and also there are some good deposits of granite. There might be other kinds of resources too but it is unknown what the Daedhirians need and use.
History. The Enclave was formed due to an internal fight in the Mage Guild, which escalated far beyond it's libraries and laboratories. A strange book said to have been written by the famous mage Armand Da'Ran, started to circulate after his death (1689 b.S.). The writing was called "Daedhir - the Book of All Fears" and supposedly contained the ultimate knowledge of life and death in an esotherical form. Some of the best mages in Anpagan embraced its teachings and soon they found themselves in conflict with the rest of the Guild. The accuse brought to them was that they were endangering the very fabric of life with their practices. After complicated scholarly discussions the situation degenerated when the Daedhirians took over the remote settlement of Venlaken, with the help of some Anpagan nobility - already engaged in a chaotic civil war. Headquartered there, they started to lend their knowledge and newfound practices to the royalist faction engaged in that civil war. During the Year of Darkness though, they were defeated and restrained to the Venlaken area. After the republic was enstated, they received a permanent status of exile in Venlaken.
Myth/Lore. All the knowledge about the Enclave actually, might be considered more or less as being of mythical content. There is a difference though between the Anpagan Mages' theories and the Enclave's perception among the common folk. The Enclave means for them the "cursed land of the dead", the rift at the edge of the world, the chasm that opens there where the world ends. For the common folk the Enclave is not the result of Daedhirians but Daedhirians are the result of the Enclave - the place itself is "cursed", generating all these phenomena. This is an interesting attitude, one that could be related with the fact that the Anpagans always thought of themselves as living on the edge of the world and not in its center. There are many elements of folklore regarding the Enclave, and most them can be collected in the regions around the cities of Lun and Zyloss. They are not presenting though a general view, a popular "doctrine" about the Enclave, but are disparate stories having one thing in common: an unnatural life beyond death. Here are, randomly chosen, some of such elements:
A disembodied figure that haunts the dreams of those that come too close to the Enclave's borders. In case that the haunted is a man, the figure is feminine, and in case that the haunted is a woman, the figure is masculine. The Dream Tempters are adapting their appearance according to their victims and thus it is said that "few things, if any, can match a Dream Tempter's beauty". These beings exhaust the vitality of their victims, tormenting them night after night until their deaths. The ones who die this way are also believed to become in their turn Dream Tempters.
The Wicked Fairies
"The mad dancing faeries" are believed to be some ghostly apparitions roaming the woods of the Enclave and sometimes the woods west of Lun. It is said that they always take the form of young beautiful women and they are always seen in groups. However, anyone who happens to see their unearthly mad dance is doomed: the men become mute and unable to take care of themselves anymore, while the women become crazed, talking continuosly and not being able to hold on to a certain state of mind for more than a few moments.
The "Sinister Coachman"
Once every ten years, in the first night without moon, a black coach roams the streets of Lun. If there are people wishing to go to the Enclave, the coachman will take them. In many cases, the mothers are using this coachman as a method of controling their children ("Be good, otherwise the sinister coachman will take you to the cursed lands..."). There are a few stories also telling about the misfortune of some people who were taken by this coachman to Venlaken against their will.
The Black Unicorn
Red glowing eyes, dark as a raven, fumes coming out of its nostrils, one spiraled horn in its forehead and huge fangs in its mouth. Its body is very tall, the legs being unnaturally long and thin, ending with "branch-like" fingers instead of hooves. It is said that the silent Black Unicorn stalks in the woods of the Enclave, feeding on human flesh. A simple glare from its eyes would be enough to paralyze its victims. Sometimes the horror Lords of Venlaken are said to ride upon such unicorns.
Information provided by Smith in Exile