Lore-Win: Ebondeath the Undying
Generally, death means the end. For most things, at least. Whether you’re a dragon or a dwarf, a human or halfling, one day the reaper shall come to collect their due. After that? Well, that’s a matter to discuss with your god, since you’ll likely be off to see them soon.
Assuming, that is, that you don’t get intercepted or revived. Or that you believe in a god and don’t wind up used as another brick in the Wall of the Faithless.
But then there are those that cheat death. The undead come in many shapes and forms, much to the frustration of gods of death, like Kelemvor. And one of the most terrifying forms that undead can appear in may just be the dracolich.
Welcome to Lore-Win, the Dungeons and Dragons lore series. I, as always, am your humble Loremaster, Sokar. Today we’ll delve into the Mere of Dead Men, wade through the swamps, and discover the truth behind the legendary dracolich, Ebondeath.
Or Ebondeath, Dracolich if you prefer.
The Mere of Dead Men
Ebondeath, or Chardansearavitriol for his somehow much more approachable yet unpronounceable draconic name, made his home in the Mere of Dead Men in 631 DR. This is particularly notable, as the Mere of Dead Men had only been created 16 years prior.
The region we know now as the “Mere of Dead Men” is a saltwater swamp located along the north of the Sword Coast. It is, specifically, located along the coast, halfway between Waterdeep to the south, and Neverwinter to the north.
Where the Mere of Dead Men now resides was once the lands of the allied kingdom of Uthtower, and tPhalorm—now known as “The Fallen Kingdom”, if that tells you anything of their fate. In the year 615 DR, the armies of Phalorm faced an invading orcish forth in what would become the swamp after their lands had been overrun in 614 by the horde.
The remaining forces of Phalorm chose to make a stand at the tower of the former Mage Royal Iniarv of Uthtower to defend the realms of Phalorm and Uthtower from the orcs. However, what they had not realized was that Iniarv had become a lich and had slumbered beneath the tower for centuries.
The battle above woke the lich, and Iniarv responded with the same level of anger most people would when their nap was disturbed. Unlike most people though, Iniarv was both a lich and an archmage, and his wrath came with the spells both afforded him.
Phalorm’s army was smashed, and the orcs flooded into the realm of Uthtower. But King Uth VII had a plan.
As the former Mage Royal of Uthtower, Iniarv had pledged allegiance to the land. King Uth VII sent an emissary to plead that Iniarv intervene and honour his alliance with Uthtower and defeat the orcs.
Iniarv acquiesced to the request… In the worst way possible.
The archmage rose up and unleashed powerful spells that devastated the orcis forces, yes. But he was indiscriminate in the damage he caused. Using his mastery of the arcane, Iniarv rose the ocean waters up and flooded the realm. The orcish horde was washed away… along with the kingdom of Uthtower, and all the denizens within.
But hey, new waterfront property?
Source: Swamp (271), Adventures in the Forgotten Realms
When the water settled, all that was left was a cold, saltwater swamp, and the restless drowned. These lands were never resettled, though some made attempts. Those who braved the Mere of Dead Men were thwarted due to either sinking below the marshes themselves, or falling prey to the strange creatures that inhabited them.
Arrival of Ebondeath
16 years after the fall of Uthtower, Ebondeath arrived. The black dragon chose the ruined tower of Uthtower as his new home, laying claim to the Mere of Dead Men from the same seat of power that Uthtower took its name from.
One might think that in doing so, Ebondeath might have earned the same ire that the forces of Phalorm had in their battle against the orcs. Except, the lich had vanished, and as the first dragon to lay claim to the region, Ebondeath ruled largely unopposed.
From his home in the ruins of the Uthtower, Ebondeath made his presence known. He preyed upon both travellers who sought to skirt the Mere of Dead Men, and orcs in the Sword Mountain. The latter were his favoured prey, and as a result kept their numbers low.
Ebondeath ruled unopposed for centuries, until one day he disappeared.
In the year 922 DR, Ebondeath disappeared from his home in the Uthtower. The absence of the dragon was notable, and rumours soon spread about what his fate might have been. Some claimed that he had merely relocated, others said that he had retreated to the heart of the saltwater marsh, and yet others claimed he had died.
As it turned out, those who claimed that the old dragon had met his end were correct. In a manner of speaking, at least.
Ebondeath had been approached by a charismatic priest of Myrkul named Strongor Bonebag who was connected to the Cult of the Dragon. Strongor preached that a day would come when the world would die and be absorbed into Myrkul’s domain.
When this occurred, the gods of the living would be discarded and in their place would rise a pantheon of ascended dracoliches, Strongor claimed. And Ebondeath would count among their number.
Ebondeath agreed to the priest’s offer and was transformed into a dracolich. His home in the Uthtower was transformed into a great temple. Here, the Ebondeath Sect of the Cult of the Dragon tended to and venerated their living god.
Strongor would lead the Ebondeath Sect for the rest of his short life. In 929 DR, one of the young and ambitious members of the sect assassinated Strongor. They used an enchanted obsidian dagger that they also hoped to trap his soul within. Whether or not they succeeded in trapping his soul is unknown, as is their fate. They may have lost their life in the attempt.
With Strongor no longer at the head of the cult, his dreams of spreading the cult were left unrealized. Not that Ebondeath particularly minded, the dracolich enjoyed the continued devotion of his cultists. Some he even turned into undead servants.
Just Another Death
For centuries, Ebondeath slumbered in the catacombs beneath the Uthtower. His absence left the orcish population in the Sword Mountains to skyrocket, ruled over by the orcish king, Uruth Ukrypt.
Uruth led his orcs in an invasion of what was then Nimoar’s Hold, before it became Waterdeep. This orcish horde only further reinforced Ebondeath’s isolation. By the time Uruth was slain in 1026 DR, Ebondeath had been all but forgotten, his acts fading into legend.
And then, Ebondeath slept.
The dracolich slumbered for the next two centuries, only waking to fight off other dragons who thought to lay claim to his domain, or to deal with any mortals unlucky enough to stumble into his lair.
And then his rule came to a sudden, violent end.
In 1202 DR, an astrological phenomenon known as the Eye of Myrkul occurred in the night sky. The Eye of Myrkul occurred when a new moon passed through a ring of seven stars, and Myrkul’s power waxed whenever it occurred.
And this time, Myrkul’s gaze seemingly fell upon Ebondeath, and the dracolich crumbled to dust.
Did you expect anything else from this friendly face?
Source: Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer
It may have been the end of his dominion over the Mere of Dead Men, but it was not the end of him.
Ebondeath’s spirit remained, tethered to the dust that crumbled upon Myrkul’s altar. The once-dwindling Sect of Ebondeath took this as evidence that he had begun his ascension and rejoiced. Soon, their numbers swelled once again. More and more cultists flocked to the Uthtower, ushering in a new era of the cult under a new leadership.
Renewed in their faith, the cult continued to tend to the temple, awaiting the time when Myrkul’s Eye would rise again and he would absorb the land of the living.
But as it so happened, Myrkul’s time was limited as well. In the Time of Troubles, the god of death was slain and the Ebondeath Sect collapsed as a result. The location of Ebondeath’s remains was lost for a century before being unearthed once more by the Cult of the Dragon.
The group that unearthed the dracolich plotted Ebondeath’s return. Their plan involved a certain green dragon known to some as Old Gnawbone, but unfortunately for them she was not interested in their plans.
According to Ed Greenwood himself in 2020, Ebondeath’s temple was scoured bare in the aftermath of Myrkul’s death. Since then, his cultists have heard his rage-filled whispers in their ears, accusing them of betraying him. It is clear that something still remains of him, even if Old Gnawbone was not his path to resurrection.
Elminster believes that he has become something known as a “demidracolich”. Demidracoliches are something that the Cult of the Dragon reveres and hunts for. What his ultimate fate is, I cannot say, but such a creature would be a grand antagonist in a campaign.
As would the lich, Iniarv, wherever he may be today. But unlike Ebondeath, dracolich, you can’t add him to your deck.
If you’d like to learn more about dragons, be sure to pre-order your copy of Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons at the Tower! And if the Mere of Dead Men sounds like just the place for your merry band of adventurers, be sure to grab a copy of the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide today.
Until next time, may fortune favour you.