Q&A: Daelkyr and the Prophecy

There’s a lot going on this week. I’m getting ready for GenCon (see more about my plans here). I’ve just made an announcement about my next big Eberron project. But beyond that, i’m going to be doing a series of small articles addressing questions posed by my Patreon supporters. So, let’s get to it!

How do the Daelkyr interact with the Draconic Prophecy (if at all)? Are they “outside” the prophecy? Did the prophecy foretell their arrival in Eberron?

The Prophecy certainly foretold their arrival on Eberron, and that’s why we have the Gatekeeper druids. From the 3.5 ECS:

Over fifteen thousand years ago, the green dragon Vvaraak came to the Shadow Marches and gathered followers around her. She had foreseen a cataclysm that only the younger races would be able to avert, and so she taught the orcs how to work with earth and wood…

How do they interact with it? As with most things related to the daelkyr, it’s difficult to know. They don’t appear to study it the way the dragons and Lords of Dust do. There’s two important factors to consider in this.

The first is the daelkyrs’ relationship with time. In my Eberron, I emphasize that the daelkyr are fundamentally alien entities. It’s not just that they are gooey and like things with extra eyes; it’s that we don’t experience reality in the same way that they do. Using the 3.5 game stats, a daelkyr can cause confusion at will and anyone who tries to read the mind of a daelkyr may go insane. To me, that confusion effect isn’t that they are casting a spell; it’s that their focused attention literally breaks your brain, and trying to thing like they do severely damages a normal mind. In particular, I assert the idea that the daelkyr don’t experience time in a linear fashion. Rather, they are simultaneously aware of their entire timeline. The reason the daelkyr aren’t in a hurry to break the seals is that from their perspective, the seals are already broken… even if that won’t happen for another five thousand years from our linear perspective. They don’t fear death the way other creatures do, because they already know how they will die. One could look at this and say “But doesn’t that mean that they should be able to outwit everyone, because they already know what you’re going to try to do to stop them?” No… because they only know about it because that’s how you stop them. Again, the whole point of this is that they don’t think the way we do; they don’t fight their future because for them, it’s not the future. So other creatures interact with the Prophecy to try to predict or shape the path of the future. The daelkyr have no reason to do this, because from their perspective, past and future are meaningless concepts.

Now, one could ask if this implies absolute predestination. If the daelkyr knows how it will die, then there’s no way for players to change the outcome, right? Wrong. The future can always be changing; but the daelkyr always knows what it is, and for the daelkyr, that new future is what it’s always been. Doesn’t make sense? That’s the point. Again, if you read its mind and try to experience reality through its eyes, it will shatter your sanity. Dragons, rakshasa, quori—they may be inhuman, but we can still fundamentally understand how they think. The daelkyr are entirely alien.

This ties to my idea of how daelkyr perceive mortals. Imagine that you are immortal. You are aware of the flow of time over tens of thousands of years. From that perspective, a human is essentially an ant… the tiniest blip on your radar, present only for the briefest moment of existence. Beyond this, it’s an ant with no understanding of the true nature of reality. Daelkyr feel no more remorse killing or twisting mortal lives than we do working with fruit flies; you have to experiment on something. What they DO recognize are civilizations. The daelkyr didn’t care about individual goblins, but they recognized the Empire of Dhakaan itself as an entity – massive thing that lasted for thousands of years. And even though we see the Daelkyr as having been defeated, they succeeded in transforming and destroying Dhakaan. In my opinion, they don’t see individual humans as sentient creatures; what they recognize is human civilizations. What they do to you personally is again, like a scientist breeding fruit flies or an artist who uses insects as part of their work.

Not that this is not true of the SERVANTS of the daelkyr. This is why we’ve called out that in some ways it seems like the mind flayers are more concerned with breaking the seals than the daelkyr themselves are. Most of the servants of the daelkyr are themselves mortal. They are touched by Xoriat and have a greater understanding of its mysteries than humans do, but you’ll have an easier time talking to a dolgaunt than to Dyrrn the Corruptor.

I think you’ve spoken before about how the Daelkyr could be responsible for aberrant marks if they are trying to corrupt the Draconic Prophecy…

Not exactly. The idea that’s come up is that the daelkyr could be responsible for ALL DRAGONMARKS. A dragonmark is a manifestation of the Prophecy on a physical creature. The Prophecy is part of the underlying code of reality, but dragonmarks only appeared a few millenia ago—and the dragons were taken entirely by surprise. This means it’s entirely reasonable to think that they could have been created by an outside force. The daelkyr specialize in transforming creatures. They interact with time—and thus the Prophecy—in a fundamentally different way than others. So they would be well positioned to perceive that there IS a Draconic Prophecy and to try to do something completely unpredictable with it.

The critical question is: if the daelkyr created dragonmarks, why did they do it? A few possibilities…

  • Because they could. This is part of the point of the daelkyr. Unlike the Lords of Dust, the Dreaming Dark, or the Chamber, their actions don’t always have motives that make sense to us. We’ve described the daelkyr both as alien artists and as scientists. They could have simply been intrigued by the Prophecy and bound it to flesh because it’s a beautiful expression of its nature.
  • To shape civilization. I’ll touch on this further below, but Daelkyr don’t really consider humans and their kin as individuals; they are interested in civilizations. They may have made dragonmarks in order to fundamentally change the civilizations of Khorvaire, just as they sowed seeds of madness that brought down Dhakaan.
  • To destroy the Prophecy. On the other hand, it’s certainly possible that they DID do it as an attack on the Prophecy… that by existing, dragonmarks are slowly transforming or corrupting the Prophecy. If Argonnessen confirms this, the dragons could conclude that it’s necessary to utterly eradicate the dragonmarked houses, as they did with the Line of Vol. How would they do it? A brute force attack on Khorvaire? Something more subtle? In either case, the devastation and chaos that would cause could also have been the daelkyrs’ goal all along.

With this in mind, aberrant marks take on an entirely new meaning. It could be that they are simply an organic part of the experiment. It could be that one daelkyr created the core marks, and another created aberrant marks to destabilize it. Or it could be that ABERRANT marks are actually a manifestation of the Prophecy itself, reflecting the Prophecy fighting back and attempting to destroy this unnatural infection.

Do the daelkyr cooperate, or did they during the invasion? Was it a unified group effort to twist the civilization of Dhakaan or a competitive race between artists to see whose creation would come to fruition?

This is a question for you, based on the role you want the daelkyr to play in your game. What is clear in canon is that they cooperate on SOME level. Notably, Dyrrn the Corruptor created the dolgaunts and dolgrims, but almost all daelkyr make some use of them. Beholders are children of Belashyrra, but again, they can be found as allies of other daelkyr. They appeared to be somewhat unified in their physical attacks against Dhakaan. BUT, the critical point is that the physical attacks may have been incidentalthat the real attack may have been the actions they took to dissolve the eusocial bond of the goblinoids, leading to the long term collapse of the civilization. Was that something all the daelkyr were involved in, or was that the work of Dyrrn alone? Belashyrra and Kyrzin play the most significant role in the Shadow Marches—are they the only daelkyr interested in orcs, or are they just assigned to that post?

I think it’s entirely reasonable to say that the different daelkyr are pursuing their own experiments, and that these may appear to set them at cross purposes. But I would emphasize that this is very different than feuds between the Lords of Dust. Again, the core principle of the daelkyr is that it’s almost impossible to understand their reasoning.

Canonically, are the Daelkyr only interested in Khorvaire? The Gatekeepers were founded by a dragon to combat them, but does the Chamber in general care? The Undying Court was around for the fall of Dhakaan – did they notice? The Inspired lords of Sarlona are all about (enforced) stability – would they consider Daelkyr meddling a threat? 

The daelkyr are bound to KHYBER. Khyber doesn’t directly match the geography of Eberron. Belashyrra is known to have touched the Shadow Marches, but is also canonically active in Xen’drik, where it’s fighting the Umbragen drow. In short, they can show up wherever you want them so show up, but as long as the Gatekeeper seals remain intact they can’t leave Khyber.

Regarding the dragons, Dragons of Eberron addresses this at length.  From DoE: 

A true child of Eberron, Vvaraak foresaw a disaster that would wound the world itself. The Conclave had no interest in this struggle; just as the dragons had stood aside while the giants of Xen’drik battled Dal Quor, the elders of the Conclave told Vvaraak that they would act when a clear threat to Argonnessen existed, and not before.

As a rule, the dragons are not your friends. Remember that when they DID finally decide the giants of Xen’drik posed a threat, they destroyed all civilizations on Xen’drik. The Chamber opposes the machinations of the Lords of Dust; they aren’t generally interested in the problems of humanity. This is what makes Vvaraak remarkable: that she actually cared about lesser beings. So you can have dragons like Vvaraak, but they are the exception; in GENERAL, no, dragons don’t care unless Argonnessen itself is threatened. And if it IS threatened, they will act with force that can level civilizations.

As for the others, any nation could potentially be threatened by the daelkyr. The Undying Court may well have expunged daelkyr corruption over the course of past centuries. The Thousand Eyes watch for ALL forms of subversion in Riedra, and the Edgewalkers are Riedra’s answer to the Gatekeepers and the Silver Flame. However, in both cases these are again forces that are isolationist and only concerned with protecting THEIR people. This ties to the basic principle of Eberron: If the daelkyr are threatening Breland, the Undying Court won’t show up to solve the problem for you.

While we’re on the topic of the daelkyr and their works, I’m curious about the lifecycle and reproduction method of the dolgrim. It’s stated canonically that the first dolgrims were created by Dyrrn the Corruptor merging two goblins together, resulting in the four-armed, two-faced, two-brained mishmash that we know. But how are “modern”, “young” dolgrims created? 

The dols—dolgrims, dolgaunts, and the other creatures the daelkyr created from goblin stock—are self-sustaining. Dyrrn isn’t continuously kidnapping goblins to make more. However, part of the concept of aberrations is that they are fundamentally unnatural. 5E suggests that beholders may form other beholders through dreaming, though I’ll specifically call out in Eberron I’d expect these “dreams” to be tied to Xoriat as opposed to Dal Quor. As for the Dols, there is no canon answer. But here’s my thoughts.

  • Dolgrims reproduce through parthenogenesis. They split just above the lower mouth; the “grimling” thus has a mouth, eyes, and a single pair of arms, while the lower half keeps a pair of arms, legs, and mouth, along with vestigal eyes that quickly grow in. Over the course of a month, each piece regrows the missing chunk of body. Most daelkyr territories in Khyber have grimling pits filled with regenerating spawn.
  • Dolgaunts have hollow eyesockets filled with cilia. When a dolgaunt is prepared to spawn, it grapples a humanoid and injects a number of these cilia into the victim’s eyes. The cilia-worms consume the eyes and burrow into the victim’s body, taking root in the brain; this causes the victim to fall into a coma. The body then undergoes a process of cellular transformation, ultimately becoming a clone of the spawning dolgaunt. Note that this isn’t a swift process, and can’t be used as a regular attack; it can only be performed against a helpless or unconscious creature, and is essentially a sort of coup de grace.

In both cases, the “newborn” dol is using the memory template of the dol that spawned it; so among other things, there’s no “Dolgrim Kindergarten” in Khyber. This also means that they can spawn quite rapidly when they need to bolster their numbers. Typically, a dol population is maintained at a particularly level in a region, and they only spawn to repopulate losses.

If you have questions about the daelkyr or the Prophecy, post them below. You may also want to check out my previous articles on the daelkyr and Xoriat.

27 thoughts on “Q&A: Daelkyr and the Prophecy

  1. Do the daelkyr cooperater, or did they during the invasion?

    Was it a unified group effort to twist the civilization of Dhakaan or a competitive race between artists to see whose creation would come to fruition?

  2. The daelkyr see civilisations as “living things”, so what if the reason the Galifaran civilisation has dragonmarks and Dhakaan did not may be because the Galifaran civilisation, being more cosmopolitan and diverse, is flexible enough that the daelkyr could manipulate it in that way as to create the draognmarks. Dhakaan’s rigid social order and relative monoculture was brittle under even the most “gentle” of the daelkyr’s efforts. Even if the daelkyr did put dragonmarks into the Dhakaani, the Empire might have reacted by destroying “the infection” instead of embracing it like the Galifaran civilisation did.

    • Quite possible. The next question is whether the reason the daelkyr destroyed Dhakaan was to clear the palette so that the Five Nations would arise and that they could conduct their dragonmark experiment—if the destruction of Dhakaan was essentially incidental as opposed to a primary goal.

      • Leads to the interesting question of whether a number of daelkyr would intervene in a particularly devastating Last War. If the races were threatened with extinction, the daelkyr pop up and do something to stop it. Maybe the Mourning was the daelkyr’s way of putting down a barrier between the biomass that kept destroying itself…

        • If the races were threatened with extinction, the daelkyr pop up and do something to stop it. Maybe the Mourning was the daelkyr’s way of putting down a barrier between the biomass that kept destroying itself…

          It’s certainly possible, but I think “Popping up and doing something” would definitely look something like the Mourning—IE, enigmatic and not especially subtle. Again, a daelkyr scheme should feel very different from the manipulations of the Dreaming Dark or Lords of Dust.

  3. i´m using Belashyrra in my campaign right now. In a previous post you said that every named Daelkyr should “break the rules” and have unique abilities. What interesting powers do you think the “Lord of Eyes” should have? Removing sight? Giving visions? Beholder like eye rays?

    Also, how is the relationship between Daelkyr and Mindflayers? They are servants… but what about Elder brains, Alhoons, and all the lore regarding Illithids.

    Finally… byeskh…. what about this material gives mortals an edge when fighting aberrations?

    • Bridging off this, how known/present are Aboleths and their minions (Skum, Shaboath golems, etc) in Khorvaire’s present and history?

      I recall the Devourer and Sahaugin being connected to fighting the Aboleths in the Daelkyr War but that’s ages ago.

      • Bridging off this, how known/present are Aboleths and their minions (Skum, Shaboath golems, etc) in Khorvaire’s present and history? I recall the Devourer and Sahaugin being connected to fighting the Aboleths in the Daelkyr War but that’s ages ago.

        Longer than you think. The sahuagin and the Devourer didn’t fight the aboleths in the DAELKYR war; they fought them in the AGE OF DEMONS. Here’s the WotC article that touches on this: http://archive.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/ebee/20050704a

        In the present, aboleths are largely an ancient and unknown threat. The sahuagin have clashed with them, but by canon they haven’t made a lot of waves on the surface world and people know little about them. Which simply means that when they do extend their tentacles to the surface, they will be a mysterious, alien menace.

    • What interesting powers do you think the “Lord of Eyes” should have? Removing sight? Giving visions? Beholder like eye rays?

      All of the above, certainly. It’s also been said that Belashyrra can see through the eyes of others. The 4E Eberron Campaign Guide gives statistics for Belashyrra, though it’s limited in scope by the system.

      Also, how is the relationship between Daelkyr and Mindflayers? They are servants… but what about Elder brains, Alhoons, and all the lore regarding Illithids.

      Personally, I wouldn’t directly use all the standard lore of the mind flayers for the mind flayers of Eberron, any more than I’d use Lolth-worshipping drow. As noted in the following WotC article – http://archive.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/ebee/20050704a – one possibility is that the mind flayers of Eberron were created when the daelkyr destroyed the world of the Gith — that they are to the Gith as dolgaunts and dolgrims are to hobgoblins. Thus, the gith hate mind flayers not only as oppressors and the weapon that destroyed their world, but as a dark reflection of themselves.

      As to elder brains, a simple answer is that the daelkyr created the elder brains when creating the daelkyr. An alternate approach would be to say that the elder brains are entities of Xoriat, separate from the daelkyr and bound to the illithids; this might be something to explore if you want to highlight mind flayers with agendas that differ from the daelkyr. A third option is that the daelkyr themselves serve the role of the elder brains; it could be that Dyrrn the Corruptor IS the anchor of the Illithid mind.

    • “What interesting powers do you think the “Lord of Eyes” should have? Removing sight? Giving visions? Beholder like eye rays?”

      It’s worthy saying that DDO have some quests where you can interact and fight with Belashyrra. I wouldn’t say I 100% agree with their representation of a Daelkyr, but it expressed VERY WELL that alien artist/scientist approach described above. So, it’s a good source for inspiration, if you so desire.

      https://ddowiki.com/page/Reign_of_Madness

  4. Given that true marks are much more predictable and stable, while aberrant marks are strange and nearly incomprehensible, would it be a fair take to say that Aberrant Marks were the ones created by the Daelkyr and in a non-subversion, True marks are the actual Prophecy course correcting?

    • It’s a fair take, but that’s entirely why I prefer the alternative. The CREATIONS of the daelkyr aren’t entirely unpredictable. Dolgaunts and dolgrims have been around for thousands of years; they don’t come out different every time. If you take the idea that the true marks are daelkyr creations, then one argument is that the reason that aberrant marks are all unique is because they’re attempting to course correct… That it’s like someone trying to brute force break a password by trying every possible combination of letters, one at a time. Meanwhile, I like the subversion of saying that everyone thinks that aberrant marks are corrupt and evil, when in fact they could have a positive origin.

      With that said, the idea that true marks reflect the Prophecy and aberrant marks are the work of the daelkyr is a fair take. So’s the reverse. So’s the idea that they are the work of two different daelkyr, or that they have nothing to do with the daelkyr at all. Each one is a plausible story, and I doubt that any of these will ever be embraced by canon; so it’s a question of which of these stories is the best match for YOUR campaign.

      • Personally I never used the Daelkyr origin for Dragonmarks, because it’s simply not relevant to the story I’m telling.

        However, how feasible is it to turn to Daelkyr meddling as an origin for some of the stranger races from Volo’s? Gith are already directly linked to Daelkyr meddling in Eberron. Could things like aracroka, kenku, tabaxi, grung, tortle, etc, come from Daelkyr expriments with granting sentience to animals or experimenting with shifters and lycanthropes?

        “A Daelkyr did it” strikes me as a setting-appropriate way of introducing a weird race that lives in a hidden community no one has discovered before. Because they didn’t even exist a century ago!

        • However, how feasible is it to turn to Daelkyr meddling as an origin for some of the stranger races from Volo’s?

          Daelkyr meddling is an easy way to add an exotic race, certainly. There’s a number of canon examples already; medusas are said to have been created by Orlassk, but they don’t directly serve or revere the daelkyr.

  5. If you’ve watched the movie Arrival, the way Daelkyr minds work is almost exactly the same as the Heptapods.

    On another note, you mentioned that Daelkyr don’t see individuals, but rather civilizations. Would it make sense in that way to portray minions or servants of a Daelkyr more as extensions of itself than lesser individual beings? I’m thinking less a hivemind and more like a single sapient supermind that can dispatch aspects of itself. Each individual aspect can operate independently (the part of it that’s still mortal has to take care of food, hygiene, survival, etc, after all) but the Daelkyr they serve can perceive through each and gather its information and sensory experiences, and each time that happens the aspect/minion becomes fully aware of the Daelkyr’s true consciousness…and then the “enlightenment” dims again as the Daelkyr withdraws.

    It could certainly explain why they’re so utterly insane and serve chaotic beings without any perceivable benevolence towards them. Imagine having seen eternity and infinity, having it break your mind, and then no longer remember that wonder.

  6. Canonically, are the Daelkyr only interested in Khorvaire? Are non-Khorvairean civilizations at all concerned about the Daelkyr?The Gatekeepers were fournded by a dragon to combat them, but does the Chamber in general care? The Undying Court was around for the fall of Dhakaan – did they notice? The Inspired lords of Sarlona are all about (enforced) stability – would they consider Daelkyr meddling a threat? Are the Daelkyr aware of Sarlonan civilization?

      • Thanks, Keith! Wrto: the Daelkyr and the Inspired. It makes sense that the insular Riedrans don’t care about menaces elsewhere. Except…It occurs to me that if a GM wanted a Big Bad interested in freeing one or more Daelkyr in some region of Khorvaire, they might use the Dreaming Dark. You suggested in the past that the Inspired aren’t interested in conquering Khorvaire with military force, but might arrange events (e.g. the Last War) where they would be welcomed as saviors. So, conceivably (if the Inspired have effective means of combating the Daelkyr), the Dreaming Dark might unleash one or more Daelkyr in Khorvaire so that Riedra could come to the rescue.

  7. Not Daelkyr, but speaking of Quori… how do Beholder and Quori relate?

    The dream of a Beholder can give birth to another one… how do this interact with the static dreams that the Dreaming Dark is trying to fix?

    • The idea that beholders reproduce through dreams is new to fifth edition, so it hasn’t been taken into account before. With that said, mortal creatures of Eberron touch Dal Quor in their dreams. I would personally say that those aberrations that do dream generally don’t touch Dal Quor, but rather touch Xoriat in their dreams—reinforcing their alien nature. With this in mind, I think you could keep the principle of beholders creating new beholders through their dreams… but they are essentially pulling the concept of the beholder through Xoriat and into reality.

      So personally, I wouldn’t say that the quori or the Dreaming Dark are connected to beholders.

  8. While we’re on the topic of the daelkyr and their works, I’m curious about the lifecycle and reproduction method of the dolgrim. It’s stated canonically that the first dolgrims were created by Dyrrn the Corruptor merging two goblins together, resulting in the four-armed, two-faced, two-brained mishmash that we know. But how are “modern”, “young” dolgrims created? Do they breed true like any other race, and are born the way they are, does Dyrrn just continuously create more for every generation out of captured normal goblins, or is there some horrible aberrant reproduction method that they do on their own (like how the Mind Flayers reproduce via ceremorphosis)? Or something else entirely?

  9. Does the average Hogoblin in Darguun know more about the Daelkyr than the average human from the Five Nations? One is part of a race whose greatness was undone by the Daelkyr, but the other has actually gone to school. For that matter, would Darguun (Or goblinoids in general) have a greater number of experts on the Daelkyr?

    • Remember that the average hobgoblin in Darguun is a member of the Ghaal’dar, not one of the Heirs of Dhakaan. They know that their ancestors had a glorious empire once, but they have lost almost all of its knowledge and traditions; they fell into the dark ages, and that was thousands of years ago. They likely know more stories and legends, sure, but that’s not necessarily practical information.

      Now: the Heirs of Dhakaan? Yes, THEY know more, precisely because they have clung tightly to the knowledge of Dhakaan. The Kech Volaar have tomes holding all the knowledge the Dhakaani gathered in their battles, and the Kech Ghalraac have continued to FIGHT the daelkyr for thousands of years. But even there, for the most part the Dhakaani never DID know as much about the daelkyr as the Gatekeepers; the Dhakaani are more martial than mystical. They understand daelkyr tactics, sure; but it was the Gatekeeper ORCS that bound the daelkyr, not the Dhakaani.

      So: The average Ghaal’dar hobgoblin knows more about, say, Dyrrn the Corruptor and dolgrims than the average human, but they still know them the way we know nursery rhymes and folktales; it’s not like the average Darguul hobgoblin has ever SEEN a dolgrim. But the experts on the daelkyr would be the sages of the Kech Volaar and the Gatekeeper elders.

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