For centuries, the story of the Bloodstone Lands was simply that of Damara. The cold wastes of Vaasa and the squalid lives of the hunters, trappers, farmers and miners inhabiting them attracted little attention from those outside the mountainous barricades of the region. Damara was different: tracing its noble lines back three centuries to the founding of Heliogabalus by Feldrin Bloodfeathers, its unbroken line of Kings ended only with the death of Virdin. Until the most recent generation, the Kingdom was a force on par with Impiltur, deriving much of its wealth from the bloodstone, iron and silver extracted from the mountains.
Everything changed in the Year of the Bright Blade (1347 DR), when the Castle Perilous rose in a single night from the nothern crags of Vaasa. Stepping from this bastion of evil, Zhengyi, shortly to become known as the Witch-King, launched his plans to unite the scattered goblin tribes, orc nations and giant bands of Vaasa and conquer the world, beginning with its south-eastern neighbour. He enlisted the aid of powerful fiends and allied with the foul priests of Orcus, Lord of the Undead, and the agents of the Grandfather of Assassins. With his army gathered around him, he launched his war on the unsuspecting citizens of Damara.
The Damarans were already having their own problems. A nameless evil had awakened within the mines of Bloodstone Pass itself, cutting off access to half the income of the country, and those brave men who attempted to reopen them never returned. Early frosts had destroyed the harvest and the Wolf Winter that followed was the worse that any could remember: starvation was common and packs of dire wolves roamed the land.
The Witch-King’s armys swept into Damara in the spring of the Year of the Spur (1348 DR), cutting off the communities in the mountains and committing numerous massacres. King Virdin raised his armies and launched a counter-offensive, bringing Zhengyi’s forces to battle at the Ford of Goliad. After a month of fruitless battle, the Damaran army fell to treachery and the King to a knife in the back, leaving the land open for plunder by the Vaasan troops. The Witch-King was taking no chances and, in the space of a single night, the cream of the Damaran nobility was slaughtered by assassins, leaving only ambitious cousins to claim their titles. Zhengyi reached a peace agreement of sorts with the new nobility, dividing the land into six semi-independent provinces and demanding ruinous tribute from each of them. The new rulers fell to squabbling amongst each other, while the Witch-King returned to the Castle Perilous to plan his next move.
Two years ago, the surviving population of Bloodstone Pass refused to pay the tributes demanded of them. Uniting behind a small group of heroes, led by Gareth Dragonsbane, they rose in revolt, throwing the local forces of the Witch-King out of the Pass. Despite a series of setbacks, they cleared the mines, made Gareth the new Baron and began to organise to confront Zhengyi himself. The following spring, the rulers of the former provinces of Damara noticed that Bloodstone Pass was once again independent and trading its mineral wealth: raising their armies, they launched invasions of their own. Each was in for a surprise: hardened by a year of fighting for their freedom, the armies of the Barony easily repulsed them, then went on to conquer the aggressors, reuniting Damara at last.
The Witch-King finally took note of what was going on in the middle of the Year of Shadows (1358 DR): sending his vast army south, he began an epic series of battles against Gareth, climaxing in a stalemate across the Ford of Goliad. As the armies watched each other across the river, events elsewhere tipped the balance as the Gods were thrown out of their heavens in what would later become known as the Time of Troubles. Distracted by the chaotic magical effects caused by the death of Mystra, Zhengyi’s rule became more and more erratic and his armies began to break up. Few scholars know what happened next, but the bards sing that Gareth and his colleagues invaded the Abyss itself, destroying the heart of Orcus’ domain. As his closest allies lost their power and their undead legions crumbled to dust, the Witch-King finally lost control: the Castle Perilous crumbled to ruins and his armies fragmented, fleeing back into their dark holes in the Vaasan wastes.
It is now the Year of the Serpent (1358 DR). Lord Gareth has announced his attention to formally reunite Damara, either under the rule of the rightful heir, if such can be identified, or under his own. He also intends to make Vaasa safe for human habitation and to enable this, he has put out the call for adventurers to come and help map and clear the land, promising rich rewards.
Our story begins at Midsummer…