IFAQ: Kaius and Lady Illmarrow

Image by Rich Ellis and Grace Allison, from Phoenix Dawn Command

In my previous article, I answered questions my patrons posed about the Blood of Vol. In response to that, one of my patrons asked a question that had deeper roots reflected the changes to the setting over the course of three editions of D&D.

Could you please clarify the historical relationship between the vampiric Kaius, the Blood of Vol, and Erandis/Illmarrow under your current conception of their lore?

One of the most infamous “secrets” from the original Eberron Campaign Setting is that Kaius ir’Wynarn III, the King of Karrnath, is actually Kaius I—that he was transformed into a vampire by Erandis Vol and replaced his descendant. I say “secret” because this information was included in the basic description of Karrnath in the book, and because there have been images and miniatures of Kaius the Vampire… so while it was supposed to be a secret in the WORLD, most PLAYERS were aware of it. In describing this, the ECS says…

When the Last War was in full swing, Kaius I was approached by priests of the Blood of Vol. These priests promised to aid Karrnath against its enemies, provided Kaius agreed to a few minor considerations… First, the priests worked with Kaius’s own court wizards to perfect the process for creating zombie and skeleton troops to bolster Karrnath’s forces… Second, the priests provided an elite fighting force dedicated to both Vol and Kaius—the Order of the Emerald Claw.

That was in the ECS, the first Eberron book ever written. Over the course of fifteen years, the concept of the Blood of Vol, Erandis Vol, Lady Illmarrow, and the Order of the Emerald Claw all evolved. Lady Illmarrow is a spider who has agents spread among the Seekers—including priests and members of the Crimson Covenant—but the faith doesn’t serve her personally. Likewise, it has been established that the Order of the Emerald Claw was just ONE of the Seeker chivalric orders, but not the only one. So for a more detailed breakdown of the timeline as I personally run it…

  • Early in the war, plagues and famines wreak havoc in Karrnath. Priests of the Blood of Vol — possibly including Malevanor’s predecessor Askalor, or even a young and still living Malevanor — approach Kaius and propose an alliance between the Seekers and the crown, offering necromantic advancements and undead troops in exchange for elevating and celebrating the faith and developing the chivalric orders.
  • The Seekers celebrate this alliance and the common people grudgingly accept it. Over the course of decades, Seeker priests and necromancers work to find ways to enhance Karrnath’s military might through necromancy. This includes widespread use of common undead troops with their bone knight commanders, the development of the Seeker orders, and the perfection of the Odakyr Rites, creating the Karrnathi undead.
  • This continues until the Regent Moranna turns against the Blood of Vol, disbands the orders, and breaks ties between the faith and the crown. When Kaius III rises to power, he blames Karrnath’s troubles—including the plagues and famines that originally set the alliance in motion—on the Seekers, a populist strategy that salvages Karrnathi pride and seeks to solidify support behind Kaius; this is important because not all of the warlords support his desire for peace.

This all public-facing, well documented fact. What is NOT publicly known is what happened to Kaius I and the role of Lady Illmarrow. One of the intentional choices we made when writing Eberron Rising From The Last War was to leave the ultimate truth about this up to the DM. Specifically, Rising includes a newspaper article that says Maybe Kaius is a Vampire… Or maybe he isn’t! This is tied to an in-world conspiracy theory I personally subscribe to, but I’ll get back to that later. So the main point is that what I’m about to say isn’t a spoiler, because IT MAY NOT BE TRUE IN THE CAMPAIGN YOU ARE PLAYING IN, reader. But with the assumption that Kaius I is a vampire…

Long before the Last War, Lady Illmarrow worked to spread agents throughout the Seekers. She gained power over priests and even placed a number of her own loyal servants within the Crimson Covenant. While useful, this influence was limited by the fact that the Seekers had little political influence and no organized military; there was no equivalent to the Order of the Emerald Claw for her to use. As the Last War began, she used her influence with her Seeker agents to promote the idea of the alliance with the Crown. It’s worth noting that it is entirely possible that ILLMARROW is responsible for some of the plagues and famines, creating a situation where Kaius needed the alliance. Regardless of whether this is true, the priests who approached Kaius I largely did so in good faith, truly believing that their actions would benefit both their country and their faith—while Illmarrow’s loyalists made sure to include the idea of the Seeker chivalric orders. In the decades that followed, the elevation of the Seekers and their integration into the military served Illmarrow’s agenda in a number of different ways. Her agents within the Seekers gained more broad influence in the nation. She gained greater access to the Karrnathi military (remember, not all the members of the modern Emerald Claw are Seekers—many are just Karrnathi veterans and patriots!). She had access to the arcane resources of Karrnath to help her develop necromantic weapons. And with the development of the chivalric orders, she was able to build the core of a force that could serve as her personal strike force—the Order of the Emerald Claw.

Next, the ECS tells us this:

When Vol, the ancient lich at the heart of the Blood of Vol cult, appeared before Kaius to collect her “considerations” for the aid her priests provided him, he had no choice but to submit. In addition to allowing the cult to establish temples and bases throughout Karrnath, Vol demanded that Kaius partake in the Sacrament of Blood. Instead of the usual ceremony, Vol invoked an ancient incantation that turned Kaius into a vampire. Instead of becoming a compliant thrall, however, Kaius fought to keep his independence. Furious that the vampire refused to be humbled, Vol eventually forced the issue by triggering Kaius’s blood lust (something he had been struggling to control). When the crimson haze cleared, Kaius discovered that he had killed his beloved wife.

Even with the many changes over the years, in my campaign the basic idea of this is the same. As the price of the continued Seeker alliance—something Illmarrow could control through her agents—Kaius was forced to become a vampire. This should have made him a thrall forced to do Illmarrow’s bidding, but somehow he was able to resist her control… though not before killing his wife. We know that what happened next is that he went into hiding. There’s likely two reasons for this: the first being that the world wasn’t (and still isn’t) ready to put a vampire on the throne of Galifar, and the second being that whatever allowed him to resist Illmarrow’s control wasn’t reliable; he had to go into hiding until he found a way to protect himself from her influence. The ECS tells us “Now, after eighty years of hiding and secretly working to break all ties with the Blood of Vol, Kaius has returned to govern his nation. He has taken the place of his great grandson, pretending to be Kaius III.” Looking back to the public-facing facts, it is at this time that Karrnath breaks ties with the Seekers and disbands the chivalric orders. It’s up to you how far this goes; as I say above, in my campaign Kaius III is now using the faith as a straw man to build support. Regardless of whether you follow that path, Kaius III has taken an anti-Seeker stance and opposes Illmarrow, while Illmarrow has reformed the Order of the Emerald Claw as her personal army, including both original Seeker members and Karrnathi fanatics who believe she will return Karrnath to greatness (unlike peace-loving Kaius III).

The question that remains is who is Kaius III? It is possible that he’s Kaius I the vampire pretending to be Kaius III. I personally like the theory that he’s Kaius III pretending to be Kaius I pretending to be Kaius III—that the reason Illmarrow can’t control him is because he’s NOT really Kaius I, but rather Kaius I is remaining in hiding and working through K3 until they can find a way to break Illmarrow’s hold over him. This ties to the next question, which is assuming K1 is a vampire, what IS Illmarrow’s hold over him? The ECS account implies that Erandis used a ritual to turn K1 into a vampire. *I* prefer the idea that she turned him the old fashioned way—that one of her top vampire lieutenants sired Kaius, and that it is actually that lieutenant who can control Kaius, using the standard bond between sire and spawn. One of the main reasons I prefer this is because it means killing that vampire is the key to breaking Illmarrow’s hold over Kaius, and that’s a story adventurers could get involved in.

If you follow the original narrative in which Kaius I is a vampire who replaces Kaius III, what to you think he did in all the years between disappearing and becoming Kaius III? It is almost 100 years for a ex-king vampire probably with none or few allies.

First of all, I COMPLETELY disagree with the idea that Kaius I had “no or few allies.” He didn’t just run away. His disappearance would have been very carefully planned. To my knowledge the exact circumstances have never been described, but I expect that he faked his own death, used cosmetic transmutation to enact a long term disguise, and then went into hiding among a carefully established network of supporters. For the sake of absolute secrecy it’s quite likely that many of the people sheltering him didn’t know who he was, but they would know that he was a loyal servant of the former king. He would have retained contact with followers with influence in court, and in MY Eberron he was certainly continuing to manipulate events in Karrnath from hiding, offering guidance to generals and nobles who remained loyal to him and likely dealing with political rivals from the shadows. Ultimately, this culminated with his working closely with Moranna to plan the Regency and his return. Again, aside from Moranna many of the people he worked with may not have had known exactly who they were dealing with, but they certainly respected and valued his advice.

Beyond that, one of the most important things he was doing was learning everything he could about vampires. He was surely working to master his own abilities, but also to understand his weaknesses and particularly to understand the methods Illmarrow could use to control him and what he could do to block them. In this, I expect that he was working closely with Seekers. Remember that Kaius has been called out as having a loyal cabal of Seeker followers who, among other things, provide him with blood. Part of the idea is that even though Kaius PUBLICLY denounces the Seekers—because it’s politically expedient to do so—he maintains ties with a devoted sect OF Seekers. Why would they follow him? Because they recognize that Illmarrow holds a poisonous influence within their faith and that Kaius opposes her—they believe that in the long term, Kaius WILL help the Seekers. Time will tell if they are correct.

But to the short form, I believe that the vampire Kaius I was always pursuing his return, which required him to learn more about the nature of vampires and to manipulate events from the shadows. He built alliances, destroyed enemies, and studied the nature of the undead.

WHY DOES THIS MATTER?

All this may be fun for folks who like quibbling over inconsistencies in canon sources, but as a DM or player, why does any of this matter to you? Here’s the key breakdown.

  • The Order of the Emerald Claw is a force that is directly loyal to Lady Illmarrow. Its forces include Seekers with elite military training—bone knights, battlefield necromancers—as well as Karrnathi veterans who aren’t Seekers but who are fanatically devoted to Illmarrow.
  • While there are still necromantic forces integrated into the Karrnathi military—non-Seeker Karrns learned necromancy during the time of the alliance—a significant portion of this strength was lost when the crown broke ties with the Seekers. The bulk of the Karrnathi undead were sealed in subterranean vaults, and some of the warlords are afraid that they cannot be trusted.
  • As a Karrnathi Seeker, you may have to deal with hatred from your own people, who have been encouraged to blame the Seekers for all of Karrnath’s woes. Some Seekers are angry about this and have turned against the Crown, and it’s many of these Seekers who support the Emerald Claw. However, other Seekers are still devoted to Karrnath and trust that this time will pass.
  • Kaius III opposes Lady Illmarrow and the Emerald Claw. It may be that Kaius is a vampire who has found a way to resist her control; that he isn’t a vampire at all; or that he is actively carrying out a plan to break her power (IE destroying his sire). Illmarrow seeks to undermine Kaius; her loyalists in the Emerald Claw accuse him of being weak, of robbing Karrnath of its rightful victory by pursuing peace, and so on.
  • It also ties to the most basic question of whether Kaius is a potential ally or whether he’s a dangerous enemy. If adventurers oppose Lady Illmarrow, Kaius could be a powerful friend. On the other hand, while he may want a peaceful solution, in my opinion Kaius still wants to rule Galifar; remember that if he is the vampire Kaius I, he’s one of the five rulers who STARTED the Last War. I believe that he pursues peace because he doesn’t feel Karrnath can win and reunite Galifar through force, at least for now. But in my opinion he is a ruthless man and a brilliant strategist who has been scheming for a year. He may be the enemy of your enemy if you’re opposing Illmarrow, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have sinister plans of his own… it’s just that where Aurala is willing to restart the Last War, I think Kaius is searching for a different path to the throne of Galifar.

As a Karrnathi Seeker player character, an important question is whether you are angry at Kaius III for turning on your faith (and if so, if you actually have a positive opinion of the Order of the Emerald Claw); whether you simply have no opinion; or whether you are actually loyal to your king in spite of this betrayal. If you choose the latter approach, one option is that you are actually part of the king’s inner circle (even if only at the lowest level)—that you are sworn to help him find a way to break Lady Illmarrow’s poisonous influence within the faith.

As an example of this: In a campaign I ran, a player created a paladin of the Blood of Vol. His backstory was that his parents were members of a Seeker chivalric order and were killed when Moranna turned on the faith. As a child, the PC was taken in and raised by Lady Illmarrow, taught to harness his powers and led to believe that Kaius III betrayed his faith and was responsible for the death of his parents. As a PC, his initial arc was to build his power and gain allies to help him bring down Kaius III. That was the PC’s goal, but what the PLAYER knew from the start was that his character was a dupe and that Kaius III wasn’t truly guilty. His whole idea was that, assuming he succeeded in killed Kaius, it would through Karrnath into chaos and the PC would realize Illmarrow had lied—that the SECOND arc of his story would be undoing the damage he’d done and bring down Lady Illmarrow. We never actually reached that second arc in the campaign, but I appreciated the idea—that he KNEW his character’s goal was something foolish that would have disastrous consequences, but that his long-term character arc would be cleaning up that mess. And in this story you can see something I talked about in the previous article—that it may be that any number of Illmarrow’s agents serve her because they believe she has the best interests of the Seekers or of Karrnath at heart, and that if they discover absolute proof that this is not the case, they could turn against her.

You used to talk about Erandis Vol as quite a sympathetic character, murdered and robbed of her birthright while still a teenager, but your presentation of “Lady Illmarrow” is quite different; she seems more unambiguously evil.

There’s a few important elements here. From the very beginning Erandis Vol was intended to be one of the major antagonists of the setting. Eberron draws on Pulp and Noir themes, and Erandis and the Emerald Claw were always intended to weigh on the pulp side of that spectrum. They’re the Nazis in an Indiana Jones movie, Ming the Merciless in Flash Gordon, COBRA in GI Joe. What I’ve always said is that the Emerald Claw are the villains adventurers can always feel good about opposing: you never need to stop and say “I wonder if we should actually let the Nazis have the Ark of the Covenant” or “Maybe COBRA has some good points.” The SEEKERS have a far greater degree of moral complexity and depth of story, and SEEKERS can be allies or enemies. But Erandis and the Emerald Claw are supposed to be some of the most reliable, straightforward villains you can encounter in the world.

Having said that: I see Erandis as a TRAGIC character, and I always have. I LIKE villains to have depth and motivations we can understand. Erandis has endured horrors and carries an enormous burden. I can understand why she commits atrocities. But the key point there is that she commits atrocities. We may feel sympathy for her loss, we may understand her drive to reclaim her birthright, but the simple fact is that she will destroy nations and slaughter countless innocents in pursuit of that goal. She’s a tragic villain, but the key word there is VILLAIN.

The second important point here is that the people who work for her DON’T KNOW HER TRAGEDY. And that’s what underlies this question and WHY we introduced the identity of Lady Illmarrow. Erandis Vol is the woman murdered as an adolescent, who saw her entire bloodline unjustly eradicated because of a mark she bears on her skin but cannot use, who cannot even choose oblivion but is bound to an eternity to contemplate her failings and the stolen legacy of her line. It is Erandis who must hide her name and nature lest the forces that eradicated everyone she cares about come after her again. She CAN’T share her burden. She can’t even declare her name with pride lest she bring down ruin on all she has accomplished. And thus, she created Lady Illmarrow, a Grim Lord who has risen to power among the Bloodsails entirely on her own merits, unburdened by ancient tragedy. Lady Illmarrow is infamous not for the deeds of her family, but for her own deeds and power. She is respected and feared by her minions, even those who have no knowledge of her true past and potential.

It could well be that Erandis uses Illmarrow to channel her darkest impulses and to be the ruthless tyrant she needs to be to achieve her destiny, while Erandis remains the murdered adolescent still mourning her family. She’s been alive for thousands of years and has suffered through immense tragedy; it could well be that Illmarrow is in some ways an independent persona, that the mask Erandis created has taken on a life of its own and in this way allows the core of Erandis to retain some innocence. However, the ultimate point is that whether she’s Erandis or Illmarrow, she is a dangerous villain who will break the world if it allows her to achieve her goals.

If Erandis Vol wants to die (“she cannot choose oblivion”) why doesn’t she just reveal her presence to the Deathguard and let them destroy her?

First of all, just because Erandis may hate her existence doesn’t mean that she wants the DEATHGUARD to end it. The Undying Court destroyed her entire bloodline and she is all that’s left of their legacy. If she was to be destroyed without mastering her mark, all of that would be for nothing. And she will NOT allow the Undying Court to win this struggle.

Second: the Deathguard can’t destroy her. Since Rising From The Last War, it is canon that the elocation of Erandis’s phylactery is unknown; if her body is destroyed, she will reform in a random location hundreds of miles away. So the Deathguard can’t grant her oblivion. What it CAN do is slaughter all her allies, steal or destroy all the relics she’s gathered, and ruin all the plans she’s carefully built up over centuries. The danger they pose isn’t to her personally, but rather to everything she has managed to accomplish. Imagine you’d spent 800 years building up a plan; would you want a bunch of $&%* paladins to suddenly drop in, destroy everything, and leave you in a new body hundreds of miles away having to spend centuries to rebuild everything you’ve lost?

I’ve written a number of articles that are quite relevant to this topic, so for people who HAVEN’T been reading this blog for years, here’s a few you might want to check out.

Dragonmark: The Blood of Vol

IFAQ: The Crimson Covenant

IFAQ: Malevanor

IFAQ: Mummies and the Blood of Vol

Erandis: Hot or Not?

That’s all for now. Thanks to my Patreon supporters for making these articles possible!

47 thoughts on “IFAQ: Kaius and Lady Illmarrow

  1. What is Etrigani, Kaius’s Aereni (and possibly Deathguard?) queen doing in the scenario that the Kaius on the throne is a vampire?

    What is Etrigani, Kaius’s Aereni (and possibly Deathguard?) queen doing in the scenario that the Kaius on the throne is not a vampire?

    Was the Deathguard doing anything to try to stop the rise of Mabaran necromancy in Karrnath, such as subtly spreading anti-necromancy propaganda amidst the Karrnathi people and warlords?

    Why do the Karrnathi warlords seriously believe that if the Last War was to restart, Karrnath could pull off a victory even while abandoning its tremendous undead resourcees?

    • The first two questions are too complicated for me to answer in the time that I currently have available to me. Etrigani is an interesting character with a lot of potential. The critical point is that she supports Kaius, whoever Kaius is—and that she has chosen to support him despite this seeming to fly in the face of her background and faith. This could be simply driven by love, or there could be more to the story.

      The third question is largely answered by “What do you want the answer to be?” But in MY campaign, the Deathguard doesn’t have this degree of subtle influence. Aerenal is an isolationist nation that largely doesn’t CARE about the rest of the world, not a vast spider that’s subtly manipulating the people of the Five Nations. My idea was always that Deathguard operations in Khorvaire are more specifically targeted strikes, not vast subtle whispering campaigns–and the presence of Etrigani IS an example of a more subtle agent, but that she’s one of the few emplaced agents, not that they have a vast web across the country. So again, the answer is what you want it to be, but in MY Eberron the Deathguard don’t have this sort of widespread subtle influence.

      And as for the fourth question, why do people believe ANYTHING that seems irrational to rational people? I could easily pull a number of beliefs from our world today that seem completely irrational yet are passionately embraced by hundreds of thousands of people. As called out with the Blades of Karrn in the Stormreach sourcebook, the dominant underlying principle of this belief is that Karrnath faltered BECAUSE of its reliance on undead, and that if it had just trusted in the pure martial spirit and discipline of Karrnath, THINGS WOULD HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT… which we’ll never know because it didn’t happen. Consider also that it’s quite possible that there are forces at work that WANT war and that are intentionally fueling irrational beliefs; it’s quite possible that the Dreaming Dark is weaving dreams about a pure Karrnathi victory in the minds of those warlords.

      • I like the “K3 is pretending to be K1 pretending to be K3” scenario in party because it provides a clearer role for Etrigani. Not only because it explains why an Aereni would marry a “vampire”, or because the Deathguard are natural allies against Vol, but because of the Aerani facility for making the living appear as undead. I could imagine Kaius meeting Etrigani on a trip to Aerenal, or at least at the Aereni Embassy, while researching how to fake being a vampire.

        I also like the idea of D14 being some poor human cosmetically altered to look like K3, in order to keep up the masquerade that K1 had replaced K3. Not least because it means it leaves K1 at large while not necessarily being fully in control of himself.

          • Third pretending to be First pretending to be Third, at least some of the time, at First’s behest, is like double Padmé.

            One potential tragic twist in the story would be if circumstances arose that required Third to *actually* become a vampire.

      • Of course Etrigani doesn’t need to be loyal to the undying court either, she could be a Skullborn. She could even be behind the odakyr rites, or her goal is to understand the odakyr rites and what the karrnathi undead are rather than merely destroying them.

        • Of course Etrigani doesn’t need to be loyal to the undying court either, she could be a Skullborn.
          Sure, anything’s possible. But personally, I think her story is more interesting if she was originally (or even currently) part of the Deathguard and she has changed allegiance as opposed to being someone who would be sympathetic to a vampire in the first place.

          She could even be behind the odakyr rites, or her goal is to understand the odakyr rites
          If I went with this I’d definitely do the latter. Canonically the Odakyr Rites were developed by Gyrnar Shult and Malevanor back during the reign of Kaius I, long before Etrigani is known to have been in Karrnath — and I like the idea of a legitimate Karrnathi breakthrough.

    • It’s worth remembering Karrnath did it before with Galifar. Hammering all the other nations down with superiour martial might, installing their own nobles in the seats of power.

  2. I’ve actually adapted the spirit of this story for my Eberron’s Merrix d’Cannith. Through use of the 8th level spell Clone, he has regenerated himself into younger bodies on a few occasions, and the current head of Cannith South is not the son of Aaren d’Cannith, but rather his father, who rose to prominence as a young lad after Aaren fled… So my players have more reason to go find out who/where Aaren is in order to find out how to stop Merrix.

  3. Quick question out of curiosity! King Kaius III’s age is set to be probably in his early to mid 20s, depending on what age a child no longer needs a regent in Galifar. What official art we have of vampire Kaius I is pretty old by comparison!

    Assuming Kaius III is really Kaius I, do you think Kaius III was modeling himself after his great-grandfather enough that the age difference doesn’t strike people as odd… or is it more magical illusions or transmutations at play?

    • Given that we’ve specifically called out that long-term cosmetic transmutation is a thing, I think that it’s all of the above. I mean, look at the canon pictures of Kaius III; it’s not like he looks like a kid. I think it’s quite likely that K3 did a little cosmetic transmutation to look a little more like his famous ancestor as a way of inspiring his people (and that this isn’t necessarily an uncommon practice) — while if K1 did take his place, he then also uses cosmetic transmutation to look a little more like the young king. So there always was a strong actual resemblance, but each of them used cosmetic transmutation to look more like the other.

  4. Were there any major non-Karrnathi groups of Seekers that rose to fame, or beyond the knightly orders are they as organized/legendary as any other religious groups (barring Flame templars and Arrah knights)?

    • This is a deeper question than I have time to answer now. The faith has been around for thousands of years and there have surely been some notable champions during that time. However, in general it’s worth noting that it’s only had a significant presence in Karrnath and the Lhazaar Principalities; it is NOT as well organized as either of the two other faiths; and that part of the point of this article is that Illmarrow NEEDED to create the Order of the Emerald Claw because the Seekers DIDN’T have an existing, significant military force she could take advantage of—that she weaponized the Seekers because it served her purposes.

      The main thing I could imagine being part of HISTORY would be a Lhazaar principality—and I’d make this on the mainland on the western edge of Lhazaar, NOT a seafaring force—that was a Seeker nation and had its own legendary military force. But precisely because this has never had any notable impact on the present day (and again, WASN’T co-opted by Illmarrow) I’d say that if such a thing existed, it fell long ago—possibly destroyed by Templars or the faithful of Dol Arrah. It would be interesting to present such a thing as something Illmarrow supported and created centuries ago as part of a previous attempt to reclaim her birthright—that it was the PRE-GALIFAR equivalent of the Order of the Emerald Claw.

      But all that is speculation and not something I have time to develop now.

  5. Do you have suggestions for how to incorporate Dreadhold’s Prisoner Deep Fourteen with the various possible setups? It’s implied to be the true Kaius III in the Dreadhold article, at least given 3.5’s canon that Kaius I has replaced him, but of course that’s not explicitly stated and if an alternate setup is used I could still imagine there being a use for PD14.

    • Sure! The obvious answer has always been that K3 is secretly K1 and that D14 is the real K3. The more subtle answer, as suggested in this article, is that K3 is K3 pretending to be K1 pretending to be K3, and that D14 is actually K1 being isolated from Illmarrow’s influence. But it’s also possible that D14 isn’t a Kaius at all, but is just some entirely different individual that K3 (whoever they are) feels a need to keep in absolute isolation.

      • This article even adds a new string to the theory that D14 could be Kaius I’s vampiric sire! Maybe Kaius has sympathetic magic between them so D14 appears to be a living prisoner…

  6. Personally I love the “D&D echo” of Vecna and Kas. A lich and a vampire locked in combat, betrayal and treachery, relying on resources and finding out there’s a weakness or a flaw somewhere in your master plan.

    Though Vecna and Kas (going by Ages of Worms) are replaced with Lhazaar and Malleon in Eberron, I like Kaius’ shift from horrific villain to a now peace-loving (perhaps insincerely) former prince who made a mistake in his desperation. That both he and Illmarrow are tragic villains who are not innocent even before their turns to undeath, but who have relatable motivations and histories, and are ultimately locked into a collision course with each other.

    And a lieutenant master vampire nicely gives “vampire slayer” PCs payoff to their need to go after Kaius, so bonus DM points there.

    Small question: In terms of names, is Kaius a common one in Karrnath/Korth/Galifar? Or was Prince Kaius/King Jarot seen as a little odd for a name connected to a wizard who came over with Lhazaar (again going off Age of Worms adaptation material)?

    • Personally I love the “D&D echo” of Vecna and Kas. A lich and a vampire locked in combat, betrayal and treachery, relying on resources and finding out there’s a weakness or a flaw somewhere in your master plan.
      I agree! I think it could be VERY entertaining to introduce the Eye and Hand of Vecna as the Eye and Hand of ILLMARROW, and certainly you could have Kaius’ blade that was lost when he had to fake his own death long ago.

      In terms of names, is Kaius a common one in Karrnath/Korth/Galifar?
      Yes, I’ve always assumed that it was—specifically Karrnath/Korth, not in Galifar overall. Karrns are fond of “K-” and “D-” names.

  7. Amazing article! Thank you so much for giving your version of the story as a coherent tale! I also really like the differentiation you put in between Erandis and Lady Illmarrow, and the idea that Erandis created Lady Illmarrow because Illmarrow was triumphant and successful, and she could channel those darker impulses and do what she needs to do so Erandis can succeed.
    I really like the idea of there being a specific vampire that created Kaius, a concentrated point for operations to be focused on.

    So just to clarify, the Seekers who initially proposed the alliance with the Blood of Vol really did just do so in good faith? Was the whole BoV-Karrnath alliance thing a long-term plan from Illmarrow that she put to into action (indirectly), or was she just taking advantage of a useful opportunity after the alliance was proposed?

    • So just to clarify, the Seekers who initially proposed the alliance with the Blood of Vol really did just do so in good faith?
      Certainly! Remember that the Seekers were and are citizens of Karrnath. It’s THEIR NATION TOO. The Seekers who proposed the alliance were offering their services to the crown and proposing a way that they could all prosper together. With that said…

      Was the whole BoV-Karrnath alliance thing a long-term plan from Illmarrow that she put to into action (indirectly), or was she just taking advantage of a useful opportunity after the alliance was proposed?
      No, what I am proposing is that ILLMARROW ENGINEERED THE ALLIANCE. I’m suggesting that she may have even caused the famines that made in necessary. And she had agents among the Seeker leaders who knew exactly what they were doing, and who laid the foundation of the Emerald Claw. But MOST of the Seekers involved had no knowledge of this and simply thought it was a noble, patriotic thing to do.

      • Though it very much could be a natural plague that happened. Karrnath has never been described as a fertile thriving land. Something like the famine Sweden had in the 1800s could have happened. (something that made a quarter of the country migrate to america) Or famines where common enough that a engineered one didn’t raise a eyebrow.

        And Illmarrow could have exploited it, not because it was a carefully thought out plan, but because it puts her in a position to make better plans (when lichdom gives you lemons you made vampire lemonade). Possibly why Kaius I as a vampire had some flaws, it wasn’t planned out. But 998 her plan can unfold.

        • Though it very much could be a natural plague that happened. Karrnath has never been described as a fertile thriving land.
          Yes, or it could be an UNnatural plague that just happened. What’s been noted before is that Karrnath has a significant number of Mabaran manifest zones that can have a negative affect on the surrounding area. From the Fort Bones article in Dungeon 195:

          The citadel now known as Fort Bones was once the seat of Gyrnar Shult, a priest of the Blood of Vol and the reeve of the agricultural region of Odakyr. The warlord Kaina ir’Durna claimed Gyrnar’s keep at the start of the Last War, fortifying it to serve as a garrison in the Cyran offensive. This act proved to be a disaster. A devoted follower of Dol Arrah, ir’Durna dismissed Gyrnar’s warnings about the power of Mabar and the importance of his rites. Then, when Mabar entered an unexpected coterminous phase, its dark power flowed out of the keep and leached the life from the land. Across Odakyr, crops failed and livestock withered. This event was just one among those that led to the first crippling famine, but it was one that could have been prevented.

          This ties to the basic point that far from causing the famines — as they are now accused of — the Seekers have actually long worked to prevent famines by containing the influence of Mabar. I said that Illmarow “MAY” have engineered the famines; it’s something she certainly could have done, either through magic or simply by getting the Seekers to stop holding these forces at bay. But it’s definitely entirely possible that the famines and plagues were coincidental and that she just took advantage of the situation.

  8. Why is the order of the emerald claw named emerald claw? The alias of erandis father? Seems a poor name tho hide her and wouldn’t mean anything to a karrn.

    How’d vampires be seen by the karrn population? Seeker and non seeker. Would some accept a karrn warlord or king just as the high priest of atur is a mummy?

    • Why is the order of the emerald claw named emerald claw? The alias of erandis father? Seems a poor name to hide her and wouldn’t mean anything to a karrn.
      All of the chivalric orders have metaphorical names that suggest their military role. The Blackened Sky deals with artillery. The Onyx Skull specializes in battlefield necromancy. The Emerald Claw was a fast, aggressive strike force — a claw driving into the enemy. The fact that it is the name of Erandis’s father is trivia from THREE THOUSAND YEARS AGO that no one IN the order recognizes, and that really has no significance to anyone but Erandis herself. It makes HER happy, but again, it’s SUCH a long time ago and something that has a logical basis (the claw that strikes the enemy) that it’s not like the Deathguard immediately says “LOOK AT THAT NAME WE MUST DESTROY IT”. Remember, they concluded long ago that “The Blood of Vol” was a harmless coincidence.

      How’d vampires be seen by the karrn population? Seeker and non seeker. Would some accept a karrn warlord or king just as the high priest of atur is a mummy?
      Non-Seeker? No, they would NOT accept a vampire warlord or king. There are very strict rules about this in the cCode of Galifar, specifically designed to prevent undead tyrants. Undead are considered DEAD and can’t hold titles, and aren’t protected under the Code. If you can prove Kaius III is a vampire and kill him, legally you’re on solid ground. The fact that the high priest of Atur is a mummy is part of why most people DON’T TRUST SEEKERS. And again, UNDER THE LAW, you could kill Malevanor and the LAW won’t prosecute you for it; HE’S ALREADY DEAD. Now, the guards of Atur will certainly try to stop you, but Malevanor doesn’t have protection or power under the law.

      As for Seekers, Seekers don’t have the same innate prejudice against undead, but as I’ve said before, they don’t automatically love them, either. They know that you can have good vampires, but they also know that you can have bad vampires. THEY support Malevanor as a spiritual leader who they know devotes his undead existence to their good, and THEY would support a vampire king if they thought he was a good king, and the proof of this exists in canon—Kaius’s Seeker “harem” of loyal supporters.

  9. I prefer using the Emerald Claw as fanatic special forces still thinking of acting in the best interest of her homeland, so not necessarily all nasty villains.

    There may be many working willingly for the dark lady but still there are those military loyal Karrns too, having done all the dirty work during the war. They always knew they were expendables and the crown would not admit their ties with them but still feeling betrayed being treated like that.
    May be some of them still working with the crown (or those parts of the government more interested in the country than in the feelings or the will of their king).

    Illmarrow could have been useful in so many ways but understandable the king did not want to be a puppet king.
    But is that for the greater good of Karrnath too? I bet quite a few people have a different opinion on that, not only some warlords.

    Other question: Is Kaius that much focused on peace at all or just as long as he needs to solve his problems with the undead troops and other distractions (independent dwarves doing weird stuff, low economy, pirates, halfling dinosaur riders on the border, religious fanatics from Thrane and Blood of Vol…) ?

    How does he see his own role in the start and for Karrnath negative course of the war?
    Blaming Illmarrow in public is one thing but what are his real insights and feelings? I would play him as evil too.
    Just a pitty his position is as bad as it is is actually. But the other rulers have problems too…

    • Is Kaius that much focused on peace at all or just as long as he needs to solve his problems with the undead troops and other distractions?
      As I just added to the main article: Kaius is still, in my opinion, pursuing a Karrnathi victory; he simply no longer things that WAR is the best way to achieve that. So peace is a TOOL, while he explores other paths to victory.

      How does he see his own role in the start and for Karrnath negative course of the war? Blaming Illmarrow in public is one thing but what are his real insights and feelings? I would play him as evil too.
      I’ve just added some thoughts on this to the “Why does this matter” section. It is important to remember that he’s one of the people who STARTED the Last War, and in my opinion he still intends to win it. He could be your ally when fighting Illmarrow, but I still see him as a dangerous and ruthless man.

  10. In the original version of Kaius III being Kaius I, what you think that he did in all this years between run away and become Kaius III?

    It is almost 100 years (ok, it is a little less) for a ex king vampire probably with none or few allies.

    • I imagine in addition to seeking out ways to break Illmarrow’s control he was also setting himself up for his own return. Maybe using his new powers to eliminate particular political rivals, tipping the scale of certain battles, conditioning the government… or maybe he just took up scrimshaw or needlepoint!

    • It’s a good question, and I know you’ve been waiting for an answer to it for a long time! I’ve added that answer to the main article.

  11. I love Karrnath. Kaius is one of my favorite characters in Eberron. In my longest running Eberron campaign, one of my players was playing as a necromancer seeker. His father is a Karrnath general, but also a vampire and martyr of the Blood. His mother a simple woman reaching the end of her days. In my campaign Kaius still has strong connections to the seekers, and his renouncement is solely a political maneuver.

    The emerald claw on the other hand, Kaius, the seekers, and Malemvor specifically believe to be an extremist group that are horribly incorrect on how things should be done. Malemvor knows who lady illmarrow is, and believes that she is misguided but needs someone more powerful than she is to set her straight. He believes she needs a parental figure. So working with Kaius, and a general of Karrnath, he plans to help one nurture their spark enough to be able to smack some sense into her while not directly opposing her. It is a plan that took forty years to begin. Something that Kaius helped start fairly soon after his turning.

    • I love Karrnath, Kaius and Lady Vol too, even if my sympathy at the start of the war was clearly with Cyre and Aundair.

      If i had to rank the remaining four kingdoms it would be Karrnath, Breland, Aundair – everything else – Thrane :-p

      Not a big fan of those religious fanatics. Curious if the new book offers some hints how to get Cyre back from the horror it suffered or some new hints what could have caused (and what really happened) the mourning.

    • There’s two answers to this.

      The first is that while there may have been times when she wished she could lay down her burden, there’s a difference between ending her suffering and allowing the Undying Court or the Dragons to end it. These are the forces that destroyed her family. She is all that remains of the legacy of Vol. If she allows the elves or Argonnessen to destroy that she truly is an utter and absolute failure and her entire bloodline died for nothing. And she WILL NOT allow this to happen.

      Second: what makes you think the Undying Court CAN destroy her? In my opinion, they’ve killed her multiple times over the millennia. The idea is that neither they nor she knows where her phylactery is — she is reborn in a random location, not by her phylactery. So when the Undying Court finds her, they can’t DESTROY her. What they can do is destroy EVERYTHING SHE HAS BUILT. They can wipe out her allies, destroy her fortifications, steal the relics she’s created. They might IMPRISON her, which would be far worse than being destroyed. The Deathguard can’t give her peace; but they can destroy everything she has built since the last time they destroyed her.

  12. I know this question sounds like a joke, but where does Kaius II fit into all of this? Having to take over Karrnath in the middle of the Last War straight after K1 fakes his own death seems like a pretty big deal.

    Also if Kaius III is still alive as a vampire, how does he feel about what has been caused by his succession war? Cyre is a magic blasted wasteland and the kingdom is horribly fractured, Thrane doesn’t have a regent anymore.

    • I know this question sounds like a joke, but where does Kaius II fit into all of this?
      The only canon source on Kaius II is Forge of War, which I didn’t personally work on, but which notes “King Kaius II took the throne of Karrnath with the support of the realm’s generals, wealthy landholders, and senior priests.” Knowing he risked becoming a puppet if he remained, Kaius I couldn’t remain in the public eye. But that doesn’t mean he left K2 with a kingdom in utter chaos; he planned his departure, and likely took steps to ensure a smooth succession. He also presumably prepared K2 to avoid Illmarrow’s schemes—making sure he was never placed in a position where he too could be transformed.

      Also if Kaius III is still alive as a vampire, how does he feel about what has been caused by his succession war?
      This is touched on at various points in the article. Kaius wants Galifar to be reunited under his rule, and he doesn’t want to rule a kingdom of ashes. He’s horrified by the Mourning and that is why he is a strong proponent of peace; even if he thinks he could win a renewed war, he doesn’t want to risk a new Mourning. But the Mourning hasn’t changed his conviction that he should rule Galifar; if anything, it’s STRENGTHENED this conviction because he can’t possibly leave Khorvaire in the hands of people who would cause something like the Mourning. He doesn’t feel in any way responsible for the Mourning; it’s the fault of those fools who refused to accept him as the most qualified ruler of Galifar, and when he does rule, he’ll make sure nothing like this ever happens again.

    • Also if Kaius III is still alive as a vampire, how does he feel about what has been caused by his succession war?
      A further example: Imagine you’re in a big family with a glorious estate. You parents die and leave the estate to your alcoholic older brother. You know your older brother is a dissolute lout who is going to burn the house down, so you go to court to challenge the will. During the extended court battle, your stressed-out brother drinks too much and burns down the guest house. Do you feel that YOU are to blame for that destruction? Or is it just further proof that your brother can’t be allowed to be in charge of the estate and that you need to take charge before more damage is done?
      Now to be entirely clear, I’m not saying that Mishann was in any way incompetent or that she would have been a bad ruler; most likely, she never would have burnt the house down. But KAIUS sees her that way, because that’s how he HAS to see her to justify his desires. The Mourning isn’t his fault; instead it proves that he HAS to take charge, as the only one who can rule Khorvaire responsibly.

  13. Hi Keith and thanks!
    Do you think that Kaius has an agenda for reunited Galifar? I mean: would a Galifar under Kaius basically a federation or would it be karrnathised, maybe with martial laws everywhere and silver flame persecuted?

    • Do you think that Kaius has an agenda for reunited Galifar?
      Absolutely! What would be the point of putting the nations through a century of war if he didn’t have a significant agenda? Given that Kaius III continues to maintain the Code of Kaius (martial law) in Karrnath, it seems quite likely that he would extend it across a reunited Galifar. Beyond that, the prospect of a reunited Galifar is so far in the distant future that what he plans to do is somewhat moot, but I’m sure he has significant ideas of changes he would implement — presumably changes HE thinks would make the world a better place.

  14. You mention in the article that K3 is K1’s great-grandson. How many Karrnathi monarchs were there between K1 and K3? Were any of them privy to K1’s secret? Also, sho is K3’s official heir? I know that there is a niece (?) living in Wroat who is considered the most eligible bachlorette in the Five Kinddoms, but is she the current heir, or is it someone else?

    • Kaius I ir’Wynarn
      Kaius ir’Wynarn II
      Jaron ir’Wynarn
      Regent Moranna ir’Wynarn
      King Kaius ir’Wynarn III

      Kaius III has two siblings, brother Gaius ir’Wynarn (a ward in Thrane) and sister Haydith ir’Wynarn (ward in Wroat and born 10 years after Jaron died). It would likely be Gaius who would assume the throne after Kaius III died, though Haydith’s favour with Boranel might make her more suitable.

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