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Azalin Rex or "The Rex", was a wizard-king and the darklord of the domain of Darkon. He was known by his subjects for his draconian rule.[citation needed]

Description

As an undead wizard, Azalin's true appearance resembled a skeleton or mummy. In his everyday appearance, however, Azalin maintained the illusion of a live king, closely mimicking his late-life persona: an elderly man with aquiline features and a piercing gaze, with unkempt dark hair topped by a heavy iron crown. However, he could alter his appearance to resemble many humanoid individuals, even those of a different race or gender.[citation needed]

History

Early Life

Azalin as he was in life.

Firan Zal'honan was born in the earldom of Knurl,[1] a city-state in the eastern Flanaess on the world of Oerth. As the second of three sons of Lord Turalitan Zal'honan, his political future was decidedly dim from his birth[3] and he spent much of his childhood overlooked by his parents. From an early age, Firan demonstrated a keen intelligence, marked with a distaste for his fellow men and their deviation from discipline and order—a revulsion that manifested itself in self-loathing several times for his own perceived weaknesses. Firan respected his father's strict rulership, as well as the prior claim to succession exercised by his older brother Ranald, but disliked his father's superstitions and his bans against magic. Perhaps in a display of rebellion, Firan entered the underworld of Knurl's mages, studying under the wizard Quantarius.[3]

As a youth, Firan desired control over others and of himself above all else, although he also was given to angry outbursts and quick decisions that he later came to regret. Even into his later lichhood and rulership, these attributes recurred, painting the portrait of a ruler demanding fealty and promising order, but secretly and constantly frustrated by the failings of his fellow men and of himself.[citation needed]

The only family member he loved without reservation was his younger brother, Irik. Where Firan was quick to anger and slow to forgive, Irik was the opposite. Firan pursued his studies and thirsted after knowledge, but occasionally displayed an inability or ignorance of the potential repercussions. The death of Irik would prove a telling example: at 15, Firan summoned a demon that broke loose from his power and killed Irik. Firan's actions caused his father to expel Quantarius from the city, and Firan chose to follow him into exile and continue his studies.[4] In time, he would learn magics that few other mages could master: he could permanently heal himself by stealing others' life forces and he could read minds and steal magical information learn new spells with a thought.[citation needed]

Rulership of Knurl

Azalin as an undead.

Ranald died as a result of a dissolute and gluttonous lifestyle, and Firan returned to his home, assuming the seat of power and ruling as 'Azal'Lan', or 'wizard-king'. His achievements included reversing the decline that Knurl suffered under Ranald's reign and returning it to economic and military significance. Also, under his reign, magic once again became an important part of Knurl's daily life.[citation needed]

Firan swore allegiance to the distant Malachite Throne of the Great Kingdom, but conducted many unsanctioned military campaigns against the surrounding tribes, adding handsomely to Knurl's holdings. His reign was marked by prosperity and growth, but also by violence and dissent from the conquered tribes.[citation needed]

Firan was 60 when he married, as his life-extending spells started to fail and he needed an heir. His loveless marriage took 18 years to produce a son,[3] with some saying his wife even sought magical wards against bearing his child. Olessa died in childbirth, cursing him.[3] Firan named his son Irik, after his brother—but the name would carry greater resonance. His son inherited the kindness and generosity of Firan's brother, and would not follow his father's harsh footsteps, a trait Firan saw as weakness.[3] When Irik was caught freeing political prisoners, Firan was faced with a choice: to pardon his son, or to kill him. In accordance with his own laws and as a symbol of his strict devotion to them, Firan not only permitted the execution but wielded the headsman's blade himself.[citation needed]

Although this act impressed upon his citizens the strictness of his rule, Firan himself was plagued with doubts over his own actions. He became obsessed alternately with finding a means to live forever, or finding a means to bring his son back from the dead to try to train him anew. As he lamented his failure as a father, a dark and nameless force presented him with the secret of lichdom.[citation needed]

Firan shed his mortality and changed his official title to Azal'Lan, ruling for 60 more years. During this time, Knurl became a major power in the Flanaess, even daring to renounce fealty to the Malachite Throne. Azal'Lan's military and trade power began to infringe on the territories of surrounding kingdoms, who sought ways to eliminate Azal'Lan. Assassins and armies alike seemed unable to topple him, but the course of his downfall would come from the minor tribes he had defeated early in his reign.[3]

Azal'Lan was finally lured out of his defenses by the promise of a new magical spell that could allow a mage to restore true life to a corpse. Blinded by his hopes for restoring his son, Azal'Lan went forth with a small retinue of guards, and was then ambushed by a group of mercenaries. Fleeing their pursuit, he entered a dense fog to lose them. He was never to see Knurl again.[3]

Arrival in Ravenloft

He appeared in Barovia in 542 BC,[5] and the inhabitants called him "Azalin" upon hearing his name. Continuing his insatiable quest for knowledge, he terrorized several local boyars while searching for magical texts. During this time, he apparently discovered something similar to the life restoration spell he sought, but whether he could learn it at all is unclear[citation needed] for he could not learn new magic from the moment he arrived in Barovia.[4][6]

It was not long before he drew the attention—and grudging respect—of the domain's dark lord, Strahd von Zarovich. Trapped in Barovia and suffering from a strange malady that prevented him from learning new spells,[citation needed] Azalin entered into an uneasy alliance with Strahd. Azalin, who was a more powerful spellcaster than the vampire, would instruct Strahd in the magic arts in exchange for his help in Azalin's experiments, which were aimed at returning the lich lord to his own plane.[6] Azalin had the vampire lord learn and cast any spells that Azalin devised but could not personally master.[6] He also invented bone golems and zombie golems during this time.[citation needed] This collaboration led to the first concerted attempt to break through the misty border surrounding Barovia and escape using an apparatus of Azalin's design.[7]

This attempt resulted in the pair arriving in the outworld realm of Mordent. There, the Apparatus split Strahd's personality into good and evil manifestations: Alchemist and Creature, respectively. Azalin's role appears to be largely observational. The Alchemist and Creature's attempts to destroy each other caused the escape attempt to fail, and forced Mordent into joining the Demiplane of Dread.[7]

Memory Anomalies

After the failed Mordent incident, the already-tense relationship between Azalin and Strahd frayed further. When the domain of Mordent actually appeared beyond Barovia's borders, Azalin deduced that the Misty Border of Ravenloft might hold other lands, free from Strahd's authority. He entered the mists alone, and emerged in a realm of his own: Darkon.[citation needed]

At that time, a traveling wizard named Firan appeared at the border, while an undead lich-like creature named Darcalus materialized in Darkon's central castle, Avernus. Firan, a just and good adventurer, eventually sought out the depraved tyrant Darcalus and confronted him,[4] rather as the Alchemist Strahd and the Creature Strahd did in Mordent.[7] Firan stumbled about Darkon with amnesia, and did not regain his memory until he defeated Darcalus, whereupon the undead essence merged with his own and made him Azalin once again. He raged at realizing he had come so close to escaping his despicable undead state as well as the burdens of rulership.[4]

A curse struck all travelers to Darkon, in that within three months' time they lost their memories and gained false memories of a lifetime spent in Darkon . Azalin's domicile, Castle Avernus, housed the Book of Names—a magical tome that recorded these true memories as they were lost—and it was possible that Azalin himself only rediscovered his true past after reading the book.[citation needed]

Rulership of Darkon

After a few years spent assembling the Kargat secret police, Azalin prepared for a massive invasion of Barovia to unseat his nemesis. But the invasion was thwarted by Strahd's minions, who struck at the Kargat leadership and disrupted Azalin's chain of command. Afterwards, the effort of rebuilding the Kargat, and the appearance of intervening domains such as Falkovnia, put an end to Azalin's military interest in Barovia.[citation needed]

Azalin's rule over Darkon was absolute: all political, military, and Kargat matters ultimately reported to him. His rule was strictly lawful to the point of ruthlessness, but based in large part on deception—both in terms of Azalin's illusion of being a mortal king, and also in the artificial docility that his civilians displayed, thanks to their false memories. However, this concentration of power had its weaknesses, especially when Azalin has demonstrated several times his willingness to abandon his people and realm at a moment's notice if it meant a chance of escape from Ravenloft.

Militarily, Azalin recognized the futility of attempting to extend his borders through conquest. In defense, too, he had little to fear. On no fewer than four occasions, the neighboring country of Falkovnia to the south had declared war, and Azalin's mastery of undead easily repulsed their soldiers.[citation needed]

Escape Attempts

Azalin tried to escape Ravenloft on at least two occasions.[citation needed]

The first attempt was in manipulating the Grand Conjunction, wherein he sent powerful heroes back in time to steal key artifacts from the formation of Ravenloft. Azalin's actions split the Demiplane open, freeing all the darklords to terrorize other worlds. However, his hatred for Strahd proved to be his undoing: Azalin returned to face his nemesis, giving the heroes their chance to reverse the Grand Conjunction and reform the prison of Ravenloft once more. Some darklords escaped permanently; Azalin and Strahd were not among their number.[citation needed]

Azalin then initiated a side project aimed at circumventing his magical curse: he magically impregnated various women with clones of himself, then tried to harvest the clones' magical knowledge when they reached adulthood after a childhood of magical tutelage. Although this experiment failed, it did result in the creation of Lowellyn Dachine, a clone (of sorts) of Azalin, and an important figure in latter-day Darkon.[citation needed]

He then toiled for ten years in creating his "doomsday device", which would turn him into a demilich and allow his immaterial essence to escape. The prototype device turned Lowellyn Dachine into a negative planar elemental known only as Death.[citation needed]

The second and full application of the machine caused the Requiem, killing all life in Il Aluk, the capital city, and shattering Azalin's essence across Darkon. He remained in that state for five years before pulling himself together and taking over the corpse of his son, which had been lying in Castle Avernus for almost two hundred years. Irik's spirit continued to haunt Azalin, reminding him constantly of his actions and urging his father towards redemption. Needless to say, Azalin gave this counsel limited heed.[citation needed]

During his absence, Il Aluk became Necropolis, ruled by Death, and his Kargat lieutenants ran amok. Mortal agents loyal to Azalin helped to foil usurpation attempts by a rebel Kargat leader, Tavelia, and also by Death. Although reinstalled as ruler of Darkon, Azalin's concerns became the re-centralization of his power, the elimination of rebel Kargat officers, and the future of Necropolis, whose mere existence was a daily challenge to his own power.[citation needed]

Powers

Azalin's experiments focused on more than just escape. The lich lord appeared to have recovered some limited ability to expand his knowledge ever so slightly, by formulating new magic as long as it was strongly related to knowledge he already had—though this process apparently took much longer than for a human mage. He also had gained several salient powers, including the ability to look into the mind, and alter the memories of, anybody in Darkon. His control over undead was still absolute, with no apparent limit to the number or power of slaves he could control, and his spellcasting was largely seen as being second to none.[citation needed]

Azalin's phylactery was an enormous golden dragon skull, which was almost immovably heavy. It also appeared near-indestructible. His dependence on it might be equal to or even less than that of most liches—some sources maintain that he would be instantly killed if it was destroyed, while others implied that he would survive as long as his physical body was not destroyed along with it. Like most liches, Azalin was extremely protective of his true name, although whether this was out of any true weakness (perhaps to spells such as trap the soul, which require the true name to be spoken) is debatable.[citation needed]

Activities

Azalin had commissioned the services of a scholar to travel and research the domains of Ravenloft. Speculation indicates that he was still searching for a method to escape Ravenloft. His most recent plan to escape Ravenloft involved discovering a method to undo the magical bonds tying the Dukkar, Malocchio Aderre, to the domain of Invidia. Once free, Malocchio would have the ability to travel freely within and outside the plane of Ravenloft, unstoppable to the Dark Powers and, most importantly, able to take even darklords with him. As well as finding a method to free the Dukkar, Azalin was also working towards making a deal with (or enslaving) Malocchio to ensure that he would allow Azalin to return to the world of Oerth.[citation needed]

Curse

As with many darklords, Azalin suffered a curse tailored to his personality, in his case the inability to learn any new magic at all—a crippling blow to any wizard, and downright unbearable for a lich, especially one who had knowingly sacrificed his living self so he could pursue new magics for all eternity.[citation needed]

Appendix

External Links

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Bruce Nesmith (October 1992). From the Shadows. Edited by Anne Brown. (TSR, Inc.), p. 30. ISBN 1-56076-356-6.
  2. John W. Mangrum, Ryan Naylor, Chris Nichols, Andrew Wyatt (2003). Ravenloft Gazetteer Volume II. (TSR, Inc.), p. 133. ISBN 1-58846-830-5..
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Bruce Nesmith (October 1992). From the Shadows. Edited by Anne Brown. (TSR, Inc.), p. 61. ISBN 1-56076-356-6.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Gene DeWeese (March 1996). King of the Dead. (TSR Inc.). ISBN 0-7869-0483-6.
  5. Bruce Nesmith, Andria Hayday, William W. Connors (1994). Realm of Terror (Revised). (TSR, Inc.), p. 13. ISBN 1-56076-942-4.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 P. N. Elrod (1998). The War Against Azalin. (TSR, Inc.). ISBN 0786907541.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Tracy & Laura Hickman (September 1986). Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill. Edited by Harold Johnson. (TSR, Inc.). ISBN 0-88038-322-4.
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