Obsessed with the secrets of the Underdark’s hidden depths, the Mages of Saruun have established a tentative grasp on an ancient subterranean stronghold. In the ordered society they have built, the mages’ rule is law; to break it means death.
In today’s excerpt from Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale, we look at another group—like the Fell Court—that threatens the Nentir Vale.
Mages of Saruun
The Mages of Saruun oversee their subterranean outpost from an impregnable tower. Served by animated brass minotaurs and wielding powerful magic plumbed from the depths of the Underdark, these ambitious arcanists maintain strict order in their stronghold as they seek influence over and alliance with the races of the deep frontier.
Underdark Traders and Researchers: Long ago, the minotaur city of Saruun Khel thrived beneath Thunderspire Mountain. But when cults of Torog rose to prominence within the minotaurs’ society, the demon lord Baphomet cursed the citizens for their unfaithfulness. Mad with rage from the curse, they destroyed one another, and Saruun Khel was lost.
Years later, three mages seeking reliable access to the Underdark discovered the city’s ruins. They resolved to establish a stronghold within Saruun Khel and founded an order of mages dedicated to Underdark relations, trade, and research. Their endeavor was a success. Now the Mages of Saruun rule the Seven-Pillared Hall, a former city square bedecked with dozens of lanterns that glow from pillars and walls like soft yellow stars against the eternal dark. Stone facades chiseled in the symmetrical style of ancient minotaur craftsmen cut into the natural cavern walls, lending an air of order to the subterranean realm.
In the Seven-Pillared Hall, dwarves, duergar, drow, and other merchants of the Underdark come to trade. The existence of the place is not widely known either by Underdark denizens or surface-dwellers, and the mages try to keep it that way. From a high tower without doors known as the Tower of Saruun, they work behind the scenes to preserve, protect, and facilitate transactions—always with an eye toward gaining influence, secrets, and power in the world below.
Orderly Enforcers: The Mages of Saruun have no desire to institute a structured government in the Seven-Pillared Hall. Theft and murder are forbidden, but there are few other hard-and-fast rules. The mages keep order, taking turns acting as the Ordinator Arcanis—a judge, jury, and executioner in one office.
The Ordinator appears out of thin air, wearing black robes and a golden mask bearing a stylized human face, to resolve disputes swiftly, and often fatally. With no formal government or prison facilities, the mages have neither time nor patience for troublemakers, and no qualms about killing such offenders on the spot. As befits a diplomatic order seeking to improve its relationships with Underdark allies, the mages do not make arbitrary rulings. With access to powerful scrying rituals and items, the Ordinator Arcanis quickly discerns the truth of the offenses on which he or she passes judgment.
Absentee Rulers: The order’s founders, Hasifir, Niame, and Samazar, began the restoration of the Seven-Pillared Hall and established the Tower of Saruun as a base of operations. They brought trusted arcanists that shared their goals into the order, and then disappeared into the tower. The cycle repeated for each new group of mages that took command in the Seven-Pillared Hall. Traders can only speculate upon what happens to the tower’s occupants, because the mages will say nothing. Some claim there have only ever been three mages, who maintain the illusion of a multitude. Others speak of renegades and civil war within the tower’s walls. But sojourners from the depths of the Underdark tell another tale, whispering of mortal surface dwellers that have uncovered the forbidden secrets of the primordials and the gods in the eternal night below.
Adapters and Builders: When the Mages of Saruun cleared the Seven-Pillared Hall and secured an underground passage to the Underdark, they inherited the wondrous legacy of magic and craft the minotaurs left behind. Over the past two decades, the mages have unlocked these ancient secrets and employed them in service of the Seven-Pillared Hall. Chief among their finds was the discovery of bronze minotaur statues controlled by special rune-inscribed amulets, and the entry ritual for the doorless Tower of Saruun. The bronze warders, as the minotaur statues are known, serve as the mages’ bodyguards and enforcers.
As the mages drive marauding gnoll tribes and slaving goblin clans from beneath Thunderspire, they reclaim the lost artifacts and architecture of Saruun Khel, fortifying and expanding their base of operations in the Underdark.