Graiilaar Dzung

Tombe's Ascent


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The highest mountain on Zenth climbs over six miles (9600+ meters) into the sky, reaching up from the shoulders of a half-dozen relatively smaller, though still absolutely towering peaks called, collectively, the Handmaidens. The mountain itself goes by many names; 'Aala Gedzam; the Keystone of Zenth; the Pure Mountain; the Child of Heaven and Earth; to the orcs it is Stone Dragon Mountain or the Dragon, a fossilised beast slain by the great hero Medjjad; Cloud-Girt and Star-Crowned; and the goblins, with their clear attitude to things, call it simply the Greatest Mountain.

Settlements are sparse in the mountains. The city of Jaaelang, though hundreds of miles to the north is the great meeting place for pilgrims and travellers intent on attempting Tombe's Ascent, and its guild of mountaineers are the most skilled, hardy and bold in the world. The city of Targeelzon lies south of the mountain, closer as the crow flies, but in the absense of wings one would have to make the climb up the southern face - something that has never been achieved, even with sorcerous aid. A few towns and villages can be found in the intervening ranges, thinning out as the altitude and unforgiving harshness and emptiness of the land increases. Eventually, only the shelter-camps of nomadic yak-herders remain to attest to the fact that the region is not a total wilderness. At last, one can come across the massive carved stone arch that marks the beginning of the climb to the peak.

The path to the highest place on Zenth, and the most sacred to the monks of the dwarven city-states is not an easy one - and they would have it no other way. The mind is the vessel of the spirit, and the body is the vessel of the mind; so said Tombe, the deep master of deep masters, the first prophet and vanguard of enlightenment. The monks ensure that the climb up Tombe's Ascent remains an arduous test of dedication by cultivating the dangerous along the way, encouraging yeti to lair along the route, chipping away at cliffs to make them more precarious, stacking rocks on glaciers to increase the chances of avalanches. The High Labyrinth, as this path is known, is seen as a microcosm of the world; a narrow way beset by dangers and falls into ignorance that threaten the seeker of enlightenment, a challenge that must be traversed and overcome to reach a higher state. In practical terms, this open-air gauntlet of traps and perils assures the dwellers in the high monastery that they will only be visited by the most devoted of seekers, and keeps hostile armies at bay. Nature provides its own dangers, in the form of pelting blizzards, howling winds, treacherous ice bridges, narrow crevasses and the thinness of the air at high altitudes. Nearly one-fifth of the mountain lies in the death zone, where long-term survival is impossible.

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Impossible, that is, except for in Graiilar Dzung, the Place of Tranquility-in-Light. An immense monastery-city, Graiilaar Dzung is a haven, a retreat from the cares of the world, a commune of its most enlightened souls, a place of spiritual transcendence and physical renewal. It is the bydraa of bydraas, the haven of havens.

Even beyond its mystical qualities, the Lodge of Light and Peace is a treasure without measure. The fables of its alabaster and white marble spires and domes, its beaten gold roofs and windows made of thinly-sliced gemstones do little justice to the splendour and aesthetic beauty of the place. Flowers and fruit trees that should not remotely be able to tolerate the cold and altitude flourish there amidst elegant mandalas of painted sand and mosaics, while waterfalls churn and spin prayer-wheels. Barefoot pilgrims of every race, who would be accounted great and inspired sages in the low lands are as humble initiates here, learning from the most enlightened of all: the deep masters. Those who have pursued the schools of dwarven through to their ends and achieved enlightenment come to Graiilaar Dzung, forming a commune of masters, as do worthies that have come to spiritual awakenings on their own.

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The laws of life and death seem different in Graiilaar Dzung. Warm, fresh air clings thickly to the monastery, allowing people to breathe freely, and it is sheltered from the blizzards that sometime rear up from the layer of clouds far below. Disease and poison have no hold here, and vistors find their illnesses halted, if not cured by the tranquillity of the place. Even ageing is slowed or stopped, and some of the deep masters are reputedly centuries older than the should be. Ghosts of the enlightened dead can walk freely in Graiilaar Dzung, bringing ancestral guidance and the wisdom of the realms of the dead.

Panguun, the Throat of the World

Yanma Tre, the Mountain Incarnate buddha-like figure

Mihaathod, the Turner of Wheel reincarnated princeling

Kagage Inglhun, the Smiling Sun joyful drunken master

Morza Qhayyam, the Ascended King orcish king of hardeyon, saved from poison

Sorcerers of the Silver Lodge