A deafening BOOM rocks the bone cage you stand in, shoulder to shoulder with other gladiator slaves. Moments later a shock wave knocks dozens unto the sand and tweaks the mekillot bone ribs that comprise your cell. A disheleveled man croaks “Freedom” over the rising dust and as one hundreds of slaves surge forward to the exit of the Pit.
For generations unto generations, every city of Athas has been dominated by powerful sorcerer-kings, fierce tyrants who rule unchallenged the scattered great oases.
Unchallenged, that is, until now, for at last one city has overthrown its oppressive lord and freed itself from the shackles of blind tradition.
Tyr, once known as a decadent sprawl of slavery and vice, has roused itself with terrifying energy. It was a storm long brewing. For two decades, the slaves, citizens, and nobles of Tyr suffered under the increasing madness of King Kalak, struggling at his command to build a massive ziggurat in the heart of the city. Its purpose cloaked in mystery, the people only knew that it was destroying them.
First, there were extra taxes to pay for material, and then more and more slaves were pressed into its construction. Output from Tyr’s greatest resource, its fabulous iron mines, slowly dwindled as Kalak concentrated all the city’s efforts on his ziggurat. The citizens, then the nobles, began to suffer as trade with other city states languished. Although they were worried, the fear of Kalak’s ire was sufficient to keep the nobility cowed.
It was only in the last few months that the oppression grew too great. With the ziggurat nearly complete, Kalak’s obsession reached new extremes. The host of High Templar Tithian, Master of Games and Public Works, formed press gangs to scour the streets, enslaving the poor and indigent. The Templars commandeered almost every slave in the city, from the meanest bricklayer’s apprentice to the wealthiest nobles’ last few field-hands. With the plantation workers depleted, nobles’ fortunes teetered on the brink of ruin and the city faced eventual starvation. Yet to this all, Kalak turned a deaf ear. The little concern he once had for his people seemed to vanish like smoke.
It was in one of the press gangs’ sweeps that Drogan the Mul from the Tamwar wastes and Shelissa the Shell were captured. Abraxus the Dray Dune Trader and his kin just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time selling the wrong reagents, when Veiled Alliance agents ( A dwarf and human, Tuzul-dwarf and “Two-Coins”-Human) double crossed them and offered/sold them as slaves to a Templar . Meanwhile, Benlys “Old Keen Blade” was looking to establish a connection with the Tyrian Veiled Alliance since he was from the Altaruk’s cell. He found himself sitting right next to the preserver Mahlanda in a tavern, as she was trying to escape from Templars and their Half-Giant retinue. Once again, it did not take long for the Templars to use the lack of answer to their questions as an excuse to take everyone in the inn prisoner.
That’s how all four characters were unfairly made prisoner and sent to the slave pens. There, they labored under harsh conditions, threatened with death every day, to build Kalak’s monumental folly.
The five eventually got noticed by gladiator overseers and moved to the gladiatorial pits for training. As the Ziggurat was nearing completion, the High Templar of the Games and of the King’s Works, Tithian, was more in need of good fighters, than of slaves. The group started training relentlessly and easily won their test fight against an Id Fiend.
Then the day of the games arrived. Ostensibly, the games were meant to celebrate the completion of Kalak’s rainbow-colored ziggurat and they were to be the greatest spectacle ever staged in Tyr. Everyone, even the lowest slaves, was expected to attend. Most came by choice, for the contest was free and promised to be at least a small spark of relief from Kalak’s strangling reign. Stragglers and slaves were herded to the great arena by the sorcerer-king’s Templars. With the stone tiers filled to near overflowing, the stadium thundered as the crowds screamed for their favorite warriors on the sands below.
Just what happened next, and why, is unclear. It is generally agreed that the gladiator Rikus threw his spear at King Kalak at the same instant that a huge explosion burst over the king’s balcony. Some say Kalak died instantly; others maintain he escaped to his palace. Whatever the result, the people tried to flee, but they discovered that the stadium gates had been sealed. The people, panicked and acting on some instinctual urge, turned on the Templars, symbols of Kalak’s oppression.
Suddenly, hundreds of people, then thousands, died where they stood. Golden streams of powerful magic flowed from the dying toward Kalak’s ziggurat. From there, sinister greasy smoke rose over the city. In hindsight, some survivors claim the dragon had come, its terrible magic bringing death to all. Others blamed the rebels who had angered King Kalak.
While the citizens rioted in blind panic, Kalak’s slaves, lead by the characters seized the opportunity to break to freedom. After the gates were forced open the panic rose to desperation as riots swept the city and slaves, merchants and anyone with anything they wished to keep fled into the desert. There the heroes banded with a family of Elves hurrying their two kanks across the bedrock to the town of Altaruk. The Elves offered a place among their caravan to the adventurers as guards against the numerous slaves and raiders running amok near Tyr.