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The Ghost Country is region on the northern continent, to the east of the Plain of Fear and adjacent to the Aloe province. It was an area of granite hills that was also forested, as soil near granite is typically too poor to support much vegetation. By the time of The Lady's Empire, few knew how the Ghost Country had acquired its name, as it did not appear to harbor any ghosts, but it was unnaturally quiet and shunned by travelers.[1]

Before the Annals[]

The sorcerers' war[]

Around 1,000 years ago, the Ghost Country was the site of a terrible war between many sorcerers of very high magnitude, some of whom may have surpassed even the Dominator in power. The exact reasons for the battle have been lost to history, but it is believed that it was a kind of tournament for divine supremacy. The conflict was recorded in the early scriptures of the Occupoa religion, where it was described a savage war for control of Heaven in which whole nations were consumed by molten stone or crushed by falling stars. The upheaveal led to the region's unusual combination of granite outcrops and fertile soil.

The wizards and the monsters they conjured or transformed themselves into fought to the death or incapacitation. A large number were sealed underground by each other, where they either died and rotted away or lingered on as revenants. The most powerful combatants were buried alive, much more deeply and with stronger magical bonds. These could not break free on their own, but were also too powerful to die, so as the centuries passed they lost the will to escape and resigned themselves to eternal sleep.

Over time, however, the magical bindings sealing the vanquished atrophied, and a thousand years after the conflict the only thing keeping some of the worst and most powerful entities imprisoned was that they had given up. The weaker revenants, considered "supernatural mosquitos" compared to their superiors, had been less carefully and more shallowly sealed, and eventually managed to reemerge and restlessly stalk the landscape, giving the Ghost Country its reputation.

The granite castle[]

According to some disputed records, in the later years of the Domination, the necromancer known only as Papa retreated to a particular granite outcrop at the heart of the Ghost Country with Laissa and "Bathdek" Senjak to continue his research. With Bathdek's assistance, Papa erected a sprawling castle of wood that was gradually replaced with stone blocks. For unknown reasons, the Ghost Country's revenants were not disturbed by their presence and left them alone; both Bathdek and Papa's son, Precious Pearl, suspected that Papa had visited the region sometime before he settled near Dusk in the Domination.

Papa sired Precious Pearl with Laissa during the two years Bathdek stayed with them. After Precious Pearl was born and Papa left to abduct a wetnurse, Bathdek made her escape, traveling on foot westward across the Plain of Fear before being retrieved by Stormbringer. Upon Papa's return, he failed to find Bathdek and began reinforcing the castle with defensive spells, forming the foundation of a large, nearly impenetrable dome of magic that Precious would expand upon. Papa continued to abduct servants to help care for Laissa and raise his son, and continued his research until his death at around 200 years of age. Generations of the servants' descendants continued serving Precious, and lived and died without experiencing the outside world. Precious carried on Papa's research and created the first copies of Laissa and Bathdek, made from their harvested eggs.

Eventually, Precious took an interest in the outside world and used a carpet, which Papa had stolen from the Howler, to explore the outskirts of the Ghost Country. He discovered that remnants of the Domination, now long-destroyed by the White Rose Rebellion, had crossed the Plain of Fear taken refuge in the Ghost Country's western fringes. These Resurrectionists had come in three waves over the years: the first followed the Domination's fall, the second followed the emergence of the Lady from the Barrowland, and the third followed the Rebel's defeat at the Battle of Charm. When one camp of Resurrectionists raped and killed one of Precious' more curious "daughters", he set about raising the undead of the Ghost Country to eliminate the intruders.

A quiet war was ignited. While Precious and his revenants inflicted terrible casualties on the Resurrectionists, wearing them down over decades to a weary, battle-hardened few who sought only to penetrate the granite castle and see what it held, the defensive dome of spells surrounding the castle proved to have a crucial weakness. Realizing they could not breach the dome directly, the Resurrectionists tunneled under it and subjugated the castle's inhabitants. The castle proved to be invaluable for the Resurrectionist cause, as the invaders recognized that Precious had created copies of a sister of Lady, all of whom could potentially be used as a Port of Shadows to give birth to the Dominator's reincarnation should they mate with one of the Dominator's descendants. The Resurrectionists coerced Precious into making more copies, including the original Tides Elba, whom they planted in settlements across the Aloe region over the course of two decades.

Port of Shadows[]

Approximately two decades after the granite castle fell, The Lady's Empire learned of the castle and the Resurrectionist plot after the Black Company retrieved documents written in TelleKurre from a Resurrectionist shrine of sorts in the Aloe region. Mischievous Rain returned to the Company and took Croaker and the Company's sorcerers to search the Ghost Country for the castle. With the structure located, Whisper was ordered to march the Eastern Army to the Ghost Country and begin clearing the area of revenants, while most or all of the Empire's wizards, including the Taken, made their way there. When Mischievous Rain and Croaker next traveled to the Ghost Country, Whisper had already established a large encampment, captured most of the revenants, and her troops were in the process of carving roads to the castle and the Ghost Country's exterior.

The Empire's subjugation of the Ghost Country was swift and ruthless. Ankou persuaded some of the revenants to join the Empire, and those who refused were carefully cut to pieces, burned to ashes, and scattered along a creek. Meanwhile, the wizards systematically rooted out and destroyed every slumbering horror they could find. The most eventful confrontation occurred when one particular revenant, believed to be "Dominator-scale or worse", was unearthed. The ensuing battle between the creature and the Empire's wizards leveled vast swathes of the Ghost Country's forest. In the end, the revenant's defeat was engineered via an intense rainstorm: it somehow had a fatal weakness to water, and one of the new Taken, who was adept at controlling weather in a manner similar to Stormbringer, was able to to concentrate the storm over the revenant for a prolonged period and continuously bring down lightning bolts from it. The Taken also tried using the storm's lightning to reduce the granite castle's dome, but to no avail.

With the revenants purged, attention turned to the magical dome. Although not invincible, the dome was complex and durable enough that it could not be dispelled through magic in a reasonable timeframe. Eventually, the old tunnel that the Resurrectionists had dug was discovered and re-excavated. When it was opened, the Empire's capture of the granite castle was relatively bloodless thanks to Ankou, Shin, and Baku; Ankou breached the castle's grounds first in a spectacular display of his demonic form, and scattered shadowpots for Shin and Baku to use. By the time anyone else entered the castle's grounds, any fighting had ended and all of the castle's occupants, consisting of dozens of Tides Elba copies, servants, six Resurrectionists, Precious Pearl, and Laissa, had been gathered in its main hall.

There are no surviving records of what happened immediately after the castle's capture, but it is implied that with its objectives achieved and the Port of Shadows prevented, the Empire simply abandoned the castle and departed the pacified Ghost Country. Decades after the "shriving of the Ghost Country", the castle and its spell dome still stood, but the structure itself remained uninhabited.

References[]

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