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    Esmerin, the Vale of Oblivion
    Posted on Sun, November 20, 2005 by Dongul
    rasgon writes "The River Lethe runs through Nessus and is said to link to certain Prime Material planes in the same fashion as the Yggdrasil and Mount Olympus. - Manual of the Planes (1st edition)

    Esmerin, the Vale of Oblivion
    By: Rasgon
    Posted with permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from author.

    It was before the Flanaess contained any humans at all that the giants of stone first discovered, in the midst of the Lortmil Mountains, a valley. Esmerin, they named it; in their tongue this means Oblivion. Accessible only through the air and through the caves they guarded, the valley was most notable for the otherworldy phenomenon that springs forth there into the mortal world: the River Lethe.

    The Lethe, it is said, originates in the highest of the Seven Heavens and flows down into the lowest; it reappears in the lowest of the Nine Hells. This was arranged before even Asmodeus fell, and it provides a last escape for those trapped in the Pit, a last chance at redemption for the mightiest of fiends. The clear waters of the Lethe, like the polluted Styx, purges a soul of all memories. For those who touch the Styx, this is a curse, but for those who touch the Lethe it is a blessing. All guilt and sin vanishes along with the memories of a soul's past crimes, enabling a true new beginning. Going upstream, those in the Lethe can make it to the First Heaven. Going downstream, they can enter the mortal world.

    After flowing through Esmerin, the Vale of Oblivion, it disappears into the earth. Perhaps it travels to other worlds, or perhaps it joins the springs running into the Kewl River, becoming too watered down to have any further effect.

    The giants left the valley alone at first, frightened of the reformed devils and lost souls who congregated at the river's banks. In time they realized the outsiders meant no harm and began see it as their calling to aid them, teaching them how to survive in the mortal world. Especially, they taught them their crafts. In working stone and gems, the stone giants have no peers.

    The explosion of creativity in such varied peoples attracted the Infinite Staircase, that transplanar path founded on dreams and imagination. And from the Infinite Staircase came the lillends, the mysterious guardians of the stair. Intrigued by this unique location, a group of them decided to settle in the valley, helping the stone giants teach the arts to those who came to the valley via the river or the Staircase.

    Esmerin now attracted penitents from across the planes, drawn by some unknown intuition to a place where they could find their redemption. The last major migration was during Vecna's purges. A clan of tallfellow halflings had tried to placate the lich by alerting his minions to the location of some human rebels, and for their trouble they were nearly annihilated with them. Mad with terror and guilt, they stumbled their way through the subterranean tunnels in the Lortmil Mountains, and found themselves in Esmerin. After drinking from the waters there, they were welcomed by the lillends into the bizarrely pluralistic community.

    The tallfellows turned out to be good not only at the gem-working the stone giants practiced, but very fine with woods and resins as well. Soon they were a major part of Oblivion's culture, second only to the giants in their influence. Yet in Esmerin, there is in truth only one culture, and all are equals.

    The Juggernaut: centuries ago, a mad wizard created a construct intended to wipe the Valley of Oblivion of all its life. Whether he came from the worlds of the Staircase or whether he was a fiend of Nessus is not remembered, for when the protectors of Esmerin had finished doing what they had to do to rid themselves of him, they drank of the Lethe to unburden themselves of all memory of the deed. The Juggernaut, however, survives deep in the caves within the Lortmils.

    Notable NPCs:

    - A githzerai who destroyed a clan of svirfneblin for trading with illithids. Now he is a trader himself, moving out of the valley in disguise to bring goods that Esmerin needs.

    - an incredibly ancient pit fiend who knows the secrets of the first baatezu; even the lillends defer to this wise and benign sage.

    - an erinyes who has begun to remember hints of her previous life, has irregularly begun plotting to take over the Vale.

    - A (disguised) trumpet archon who has been sent to investigate reports that the system of redemption created by the forces of Law eons ago has been subverted by the chaos of the Infinity Stair.

    - a stone giant who has begun secretly exploring the dark side of creativity; the arts of pain, destruction, and suffering.

    - a halfling who erases her memories every day, beginning each morning as a new person.

    - a pale young woman who is both a rape victim left for dead on a mountainside and a ghost newly arrived from the Underworld who joined its spirit with hers. She posesses the memories of neither of her souls, but combines the best of the personalities of both. Somewhere, her half-orc son searches for her human self, while a tired old exorcist hunts down her ghost.

    - Dag'karth and Veilkligth are a githzerai/githyanki couple who came to Oblivion in order to forget their peoples' millennia of mutual hatred.

    - A pit fiend neutral now and paranoid, destroying neighboring stone giant communities for fear the secret of her new home could get out.

    - An ancient pit fiend, older than the stone giants, evolved into something almost human, but with strange powers. A wise, respected sage, consulted even by the lillends.

    - A house the locals all avoid, once inhabited by the mad archmage Zagig Yragerne, who came to Oblivion to forget the means by which he imprisoned nine demigods. The house still contains one of his spellbooks, it's thought.

    - A beholder who has become a cleric of the force of Healing itself.

    - Prince Thrommel, late of Furyondy.

    - There are few upper planar creatures in Oblvion, save the lillends, because most creatures of the upper planes go to Lunia to drink of the Lethe there, before it enters the Hells.

    A Tiefling's Exultation, by Alex Roberts, available at
    Road to Oblivion, by Penny Williams (
    Greyhawk Adventures, by James M. Ward
    The Nine Hells, from Dragon #76, by Ed Greenwood
    101 Wonderous Whereabouts, from Dragon #281, by EW Morton
    Tales of the Infinite Staircase, by Monte Cook"
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    Re: Esmerin, the Vale of Oblivion (Score: 1)
    by Samwise ( on Sun, November 20, 2005
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    What a take on Esmerin. It certainly makes the place a lot more interesting to me.
    There's a lot of lurking evil there though, or at least very harsh neutrality. Where could that all go?
    Overall an excellent, idea provoking piece Rasgon.

    Re: Esmerin, the Vale of Oblivion (Score: 1)
    by mortellan on Mon, November 21, 2005
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    I like this place! Your take on Esmerin gives me this Tanelorn (Moor*****) vibe. It is a smart linking of Greyhawk mysterious lore and planescapish sources. Thrommel is a choice addition to the residents too, one that makes for a great twist. Hmm, maybe Robilar or Rary could go here someday to hide out.

    Re: Esmerin, the Vale of Oblivion (Score: 1)
    by rasgon ( on Wed, November 23, 2005
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    It is kind of like Tanelorn, though more directly it's the equivalent of Dante's Purgatorio (which I'm sure is what Ed Greenwood was going for when he put the Lethe in Nessus back in Dragon #76).

    Penny Williams' adventure is at - it's a major inspiration for this, although it didn't explain where the Lethe water was coming from or why the lillends were there.

    One thing I should have incorporated into this is the Hateful Wars - there could be numerous veterans of that conflict in Esmerin today.

    Most of the evil is washed away by the Lethe. If the population gets too dense, some can eventually leave via the Infinite Staircase or go through the stone giant tunnels into the outside world. Esmerin could also be a Fading Land, which would isolate it further and allow some more space within.

    There must be a fair-sized forest in Esmerin, if the tallfellows work with wood and resin.

    Re: Esmerin, the Vale of Oblivion (Score: 1)
    by Tzelios on Thu, November 24, 2005
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    Very good article.

    How did you get to the Lethe River - Esmerin connection?

    Perhaps, this is how Geburah, master of all pit fiends, was found in the area.

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