/1e/Lore/Cities/The Grave City of Hel
The Grave City of Hel
Before it was the Grave City, Hel was once the capital of the mighty Kallogorryn Empire, known as Nath’Kaartu. It was a theocracy ruled by a handful of High Prophets that spread quickly to the surrounding region through crusades to convert or kill the neighboring population.
It rose to power in 702 PR and fell less than 300 years ago. Yet, some historians claim this empire did not construct the towering spires that now lie in decay, nor the infrastructure that has since collapsed, but that they were erected prior to the Reckoning. Perhaps even more mysterious is the city’s maze-like underbelly. Some scholars argue that the catacombs predate the city, suggesting some corpses have been housed in its depths for over four millennia. Others claim that they were built in an attempt to contain the escaping dead from the unexplored depths during imperial reign. Regardless of which hypothesis is correct, this massive Undercity houses a seemingly infinite supply of undead that slowly funnel their way to the surface above through cracks or collapsed hallways to roam the shadows of the city’s hollow shell.
Historians reason that the Kallogorryn Empire was weakened prior to its collapse thanks to a zealous expansion that stretched its military and arkäne resources too thin. Its army, the Order of Shattered Steel, also served as a local police force across its controlled territory. Thus, when Tae’k’s Crusade reached their realm in 2687 PR, they were poorly prepared to face the onslaught, despite having the span of a year to prepare for their arrival. And arrive they would, for at the time the Kallogorryn Empire was well known as the premiere provider of necromancers and necromantic study. But for all their power, the waves of anguished souls could not be stemmed. The Order of Shattered Steel was forced into a fighting retreat.
With word of the conflict reaching the capital, slaves, debt-slaves, and prisoners revolted. The capital was already at war with itself by the time Tae’k and his army faced off with the final clutch of necromancers at the Battle at Death’s Door. With the elimination of the few remaining necromancers and the collapse of Nath’Kaartu, the Empire’s demise was sealed. The absence of Kaartu’ghal and his worshipers seemed to embolden the Undead Tide, which grew in strength and presence throughout the ruined city of Nath’Kaartu and the rest of Feneryss. Necromancers and historians attest that a lesser known Order, the Order of Fetters, was likely responsible for managing the catacombs and that their absence is the reason for the exponential growth of the Undead Tide.
Despite this, exiles and refugees flocked to the city of the dead from across Feneryss, especially necromancers still facing persecution. It could never be said that the Undead Tide is under control, but these necromancers eventually asserted enough influence over the undead in the city that they were able to establish a meager living studying the horde. They named their home Hel.
Following the advent of the Vampire Hunts in 2719 PR, a surge of fanged refugees fled their hunters and flooded the Grave City. A brief power struggle occurred between the three forces of necromancers, undead, and Vampires. The necromancers, content to leave the Vampires to the task of managing the horde, returned to their studies. The Vampires formed the Sarrblot Coven, which maintains its position as the most powerful entity in the city to this day. This is surprising, as the coven is wholly comprised of anarchists, meaning that each member of the coven is beholden solely to themselves. The city’s lack of centralized governance has not diminished their familial bonds, however. The citizens of Hel regularly aid one another in reparations or efforts to rebuild after sinkholes or cave-ins occur. Regardless of whatever hate the residents may harbor for one another, they all hate the undead more.