View Full Version : Build-A-Legend: "The Vanishing Heights"

Admiral Squish
2014-11-07, 08:31 AM
Welcome to Build-A-Legend! It's a simple game, but I do hope you'll enjoy it.
Your task is simply to create the legend behind the name given below. It can be a creature, a place, an event, an idea, or pretty much any other sort of noun you can think of. It can be in any setting you can think of, from high fantasy, to sci-fi, to alternate history, to official settings, or it can even be its own setting, if you're that ambitious. Each week, on Friday, I post a new thread, with a new name for people to build on, and add the last one into the archive. If you'd like, you can suggest names for the future. There's no rules, just have fun and try not to insult other people's creations. Do those count as rules?

The Name: The Vanishing Heights

“The Iron Cathedral” (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?378644)
“The Glass Sea” (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?378644&p=18306562&viewfull=1#post18306562)
“The Hounds of Kel'ranu” (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?380942)

2014-11-07, 01:57 PM
So, you want to know about the cliffs outside of town, and why signs warn you away? Well, The Vanishing Heights are a place of great mystery to wizards and other learned peoples across the land. You see, while you can easily see the cliffs from town, the moment you step near the edge, the world just vanishes. As if it were all a dream. While reports vary from person to person, each and every one of them have noted that, while on the cliff itself, the sun was dark and snow had crept onto the land. The strangest reports, by far, have spoken of creatures that can not be. This led one man to speculate that, perhaps, they were not just seeing something else, but somewhere else. But who knows? A band of elves arrived in town the other day, said they were gonna try some magic up on the cliffs. Good luck to 'em, I say.

Red Fel
2014-11-07, 02:14 PM
Elcalor, the Town of Vanishing Heights

It is said that, seven hundred years ago, the city of Elcalor was a prosperous place, located as it was on the continental trade route. The Lord of Elcalor, Reshpu III, took into his employ a clever and talented wizard, one Aldib by name. Aldib was a gnome of no small renown. He had developed many unique applications for atmospheric magics, and his research improved the agricultural success of Elcalor a hundredfold.

However, Aldib was a troubled fellow. Deeply vain, he was constantly envious of the taller folk around him, for Elcalor was a town of humans and elves, and even the young children of the place seemed to tower over him. Worse, Aldib was afflicted with a degenerative condition of the spine, causing him to grow progressively shorter and hunched over time. Aldib was maddened by the slights and the laughter, real and perceived, of the tall folk around him. And out of that madness grew inspiration.

Aldib was resolved to never be the shortest in town. He spent months researching, adapting magics, intending to produce what he believed would be a powerful polymorphic field. It would be revolutionary in magic - a radiating energy, keyed to his personal height, which would shrink those around him down to his size.

Unfortunately, his madness led to miscalculation. So it was that instead of a polymorphic shrinking field, he generated a field of negation - simply put, within the town limits, everything above a certain height simply vanished. It was annihilated from existence, ceasing to be. Fortunately for the town, Aldib sought to test his spell before applying it in earnest, and as a result it only annihilated matter above seven feet. But to the townfolk's growing horror, the field began to descend, inch by inch. Those who were not fast enough were decapitated by the falling wall of nothingness. Those who were unable to flee in time were reduced to crawling on their hands and knees. When the field at last stopped, the relief of the people was momentary, and quickly replaced with anger.

Aldib, whose head came up just below the edge of the nullifying field, was soon discovered to be the culprit. His horror at what he had wrought finished what his vanity had begun, and his sanity snapped like a thread. The crawling people found him, a gibbering wreck, and set upon him. They believed that killing him would end the spell. Sure enough, when Aldib was dead, the field appeared to withdraw.

Unfortunately, the people were mistaken in their appraisal. After Aldib was buried, the field, born of a mad, chaotic magic, returned. It obeyed its original programming, and began to lower itself to the level of Aldib's head - which was currently six feet underground. Once more, the people found themselves crawling in frantic terror. Yet, as suddenly as it had returned, the field departed.

Elcalor is now abandoned, a ruined ghost town. The structures are in shambles, sliced cleanly at various heights. Some structures rise, like spires into the heavens, others look like they were sheared down just above the foundation. It is said that Aldib's mysterious spell still lingers here, should any spend too long in the village. This legend, if true, is supported by the presence of various skeletons, found amongst the ruins, missing their heads and upper shoulders...

Mysterious Sites and Sights, 7th Ed., L. Nombulanth and G. Pentaroth, eds.

2014-11-07, 03:42 PM
Eh? Welcome, traveler. I'd wager you're here about what's called the Vanishing Heights, eh?

Oh, just a good guess, really. Pretty all anyone comes this far into the Beyond the look for. Truth be told, I'm surprised word about it's traveled so fast.

Anyway, nothing to much to it. Several groups, even the Aeon priests, have ventured out to study it, we got a pretty good idea of what causes it.

All those rolling hills you see past town as you come up the caravan trail? Well, during one of the last eight worlds some group of beings decided they'd like to change'em to suit their mood. Seems like it all used be controlled, now it's on a timer or something, like a clock. Pretty damn accurate too.

Anyway, a big screen, net like thing, between two impossibly tall spires, comes out of the ground. It's a massive screen of nanites in some kind of grav field or something to keep them contained. Anyway, this big screen moves on tracks across the hills, you know how the Iron Wind rearrange the atoms of anything it touches, it works like that, but controlled. It reshapes, hell it reconfigures, the hills. A nice rolling valley of lush green, if ancient, foliage, becomes a scene of tall jagged volcanic spikes, becomes shifting desert dunes. I've even seen a how river system come up, countless lakes and ponds. People that went to study it said there were animals they'd never seen, fish in the waters. It even creates life!

Anyway, that's really all there is too it. Called it the Vanishing Heights because the heights vanish, several times a day sometimes, we're clever like that. If you want to watch it should be changing over in just over half an hour. We've built a viewing platform for visitors, it's free, might want to pick something to eat though.

2014-11-07, 06:45 PM
The Vanishing Heights is the local name for a group of mountains on the east side of Sal Kar, the Desert Province.
The peaks of these mountains are well-founded in local folklore, for every few weeks a thick cloud rolls in and envelops roughly the top third of these hills. It lasts for about a day before dissipating, and seems to come from the Arid Drifts to the north.
Now, these mountains are surprisingly lush for the desert climate they're found in, and local life (both flora and fauna) can be found in abundance. It thrives for as long as it can, until the clouds come back. Every time the clouds cover those mountains, all life just... vanishes.
Plants, animals, even mosses and lichen. Gone.
The soil turns to clay, or dries out, and the mountains are left as barren as the surrounding landscape. Nobody who has been in the mountains when the clouds roll in has ever come back, or even been found. The only thing that's ever left is a slick coating of some black substance left on the mountains, which fades away after a few hours. Those that are exposed to it tend to become violently ill, often to the point of death.

There are many tales surrounding those spires. Some swear that, before seeing the clouds appear, they've spotted a strange young man standing at the top of one of the mountains, dressed head to toe in a long grey robe. Others claim to have seen shapes of monstrous creatures in the fog, and heard howling that would chill your bones.
Nobody's quite sure what to do about them, though, given how quick and unpredictable the clouds are; nobody's willing to risk their neck investigating. Those that were didn't last long.

2014-11-07, 07:36 PM
"You wanna hear about the Vanishing Heights? Alright, I ain't gonna stop you. The Vanishing Heights lie South, a few days on foot from here, one would estimate from the distance. You can see them from here in a nice day. However, the more you approach them, the more distant they seem... the fog builds up, and no matter where or how long you walk, you miss those mountains. They just aren't there. The fog is extremely thick, and smells like someone's just died. Forever. Everything lost by the fog. And seemingly, the fog's been moving from where it has always been to here..."

Admiral Squish
2014-11-09, 09:12 AM
Very nice entries! All very creative.
Particularly the one with the decapitating field, that's entirely unexpected.

2014-11-09, 01:51 PM
Disclaimer: all I know about D&D comes from the local webcomic. It's likely that I will get a few terms wrong.

The Vanishing heights is a strange and deadly accidental creation that no longer has a true location. The traditional method of finding it is to look to the skies during an event such as an eclipse of the Sun or Moon, a comet passing, or some other celestial event. Silhoutted against the sky, it resembles a long thread, or multiple threads, of wool, trailing down to the horizon. This must be pursued with haste, for the image will fade when the mind wanders once the sky returns to normal, although it may be found again if it is pointed out by a person under the effects. The base of the heights draws nearer the more its seekers wish to find it. If a party is still hunting for it after a week, they will come across a ruined tower of collossal proportions, usually with a diameter of several miles, and a height that goes on further than the eye can see. Around it are the remains of a village, which for centuries has only been cared for by passing adventurers.

There are also spells that can be used to find it, many extraplanar creatures can lead explorers to it though few wish to, and a number of unfortunate souls have found it by pure luck. The Gods and their servants will almost never reveal anything about it, and Devils will not take kindly to seekers of the Heights as they despise its chaotic nature, though Demons are more approachable.

Centuries or even millenia ago, there was a very powerful wizard-king. Once he had demolished his rivals and set up his kingdom, he decided to create a great gladitorial arena. With the powers availible to him, it was the size of a town, several miles across, with a small city surrounding it to house the people required to run such a place. In this arena many powerful monsters, djinn, fiends and angels were summoned to battle one another. The wizard-king's powers was so great that he could keep such beings under his control, and if any of them managed to break free, he could subdue it in person. For many years, creatures from all corners of creation struggled and died for his amusement. In the end, the rage of the unwilling gladiators was so great that they overcame their eternal emnity and banded together to fight their master. Led by a Balor and an Angel of Freedom, this mismatched army overthrew the guard with ease. For the first time in his life, the wizard-king found a force too great for his power. As a desperate attempt to stop this furious horde, he locked down the lower levels of the arena to prevent anything teleporting in or out, then sealed the exits with great blocks of stone. When this stopped the mismatched army in its tracks, he had a new level built to house the new occupants of the ring, confident that the gladiators beneath would turn on each other before they could break out.

This was a mistake. When the army emerged several months later, they were less numerous, but angrier than ever and united under one name: the Vengeful Brigade. The wizard-king was forced to build a fortress on top of the arena as the Brigade quickly seized the city. He gathered as many of his allies as he could, but a good part of the fortress was in the hands of the Brigade by the time he had enough strength to halt their advance. Once again, he built upwards, so he had room to accomadate his forces. This gave the Vengeful Brigade the time to start calling in allies of their own, creatures who would not be averse to working in such mixed company. with this new manpower they resisted the wizard-king's attempts to force them out of his building for several years, until their angelic leader had the idea to use the king's tactics against him. They built their own level above the fortress, connecting it to the doors the wizard-king had made in case he needed to build another retreat. Trapped on both sides, but holding this incredible army in one spot in the kingdom, the Wizard-king was unable to attend the matters of state, and the kingdom began to decline.

When the kingdom fractured thirty years later, The king had managed to take the Brigade's level. They retreated upwards, and built the next fortifaction on another plane. He managed to take that one and connect it to the rest of the tower in twenty years. By now he was an old man and, fearing death, immediately started work on another level, in a plane where time would not harm him. The Brigade took advantage of his reduced forces to start to build another level, in the Prime Material Plane but otherwise exactly in the position of the wizard-king's retreat from Time, to use a seige engine against him.

This was how the war progressed. As both sides had extraplanar capabilities, they never lacked for resources to build further up. The tower became a hodgepodge of buildings weaving in and out of various planes, only held up by the epic magic built into it. Celestial forces were sent to stop this mad creation that distorted space and time: their aid was accepted, but they were repelled when they tried to force the combatants to stop. The Infernal monsters initially lent their aid to this thing of madness, but mostly left when neither side could be tempted away from their goal of destroying the other and it turned out that the massed hatred and fury was sucking away their own subordiantes to fight in the war. It is rumoured that some gods even became embroiled in the war.

Today, the tower is known as the Vanishing Heights as it is forever disappering into the distance. The rooms and corridors are easy to get lost in, and many of them can be switched to other planes with mechnisms within. It is inhabited by the remmnants and decendants of the orginal armies. Some of these had settled into peaceful civilisations, while others are still fighting. Treasures from all of creation can be found with, and there are exits -- but few entrances-- that lead to almost anywhere and anywhen.

At the top of the tower, it is said that the original armies remain. Some say that they are furiously warring and building still, others that they have settled their greiviance, but cannot work out how to get back down, still others that they like it, far away from the world. The wizard-king may now have discovered the secret to immortal life, he may be a lich or ghost, he may have been succeeded by his decendants, he may have been killed long ago and his army continued to fight in his name. The Angel may have Fallen, the Balor Ascended, both killed long ago. All of the leaders may have merged into a single being that will crush the current Gods with ease when it works out its identity. Maybe the Vanishing Heights emerged into the throne room of one of the greatest and most feared deities and both sides were destroyed by its displeasure. These are all stories told throughout the Vanishing Heights, but the tower is so long the truth can only be known by taking a journey that will last for a lifetime.

2014-11-09, 11:06 PM
My Liege,

It is with great regret that I inform you of my army's ongoing withdrawal from the Rakhyvel Mountains; our regiments have suffered grievous losses, and our inability to force these savages into a decisive action is weighing heavily on the morale of the men. The campaign has, until now, been going strongly in our favor, and Count Dünslen's earlier arrangement of a white peace with Intramnes could be salvaged. However, our men have now reached the lands of Karu, and this abominable plateau has been our downfall.

I should have listened to my dwarven guide, but I was a fool. I realize this now. I should have suspected something was amiss when I first learned of the desertion spike in the Seley regiments, but I had simply attributed it to weariness and the alluring proximity of their homes; I only wish now that the rest of my men had crept off in the night as well, instead of dying in the frigid, thin air from frostbite and these monstrous natives. I should have known to turn back when our dwarven allies refused to set foot in this frozen hell. But my scouts had reported that the disposition of the Intramnian forces left an open right flank which could be exploited by a rapid march across Karu, and I did not understand then- as I do now- that they had instead the strongest defenses for which a general could ask.

This land is utterly, nightmarishly barren. The horizon stretches tauntingly in all directions, broken only by the mountains surrounding us in the far distance. Several times I wished for a fortified camp, but there is simply nothing from which one could construct one. I have not seen one tree, or even one bush, in this icy expanse, and as the winds pick up at night no tent could hope to stand against the howling gusts. In their desperation, the sappers attempted burrows in the snow and frost, and were dismayed to discover the solid rock of the mountains scarcely a foot below. Forage is likewise hopeless, and our clerics simply cannot create enough food to feed even half the men. Our dragoons are now dismounted, their horses having frozen to death before being butchered by these dying, half-starved wretches. I fear some of my soldiers have even resorted to cannibalism, but with the disappearances I cannot be sure.

Even more terrifying, though, is the indigenous population: as I have alluded to previously, they seem almost to melt into the ice and rock, and no amount of scouting or patrolling can discover their settlements. We cannot force them into battle, but every night, more of our men disappear into the abyss around us, slaughtered in their sleep and dragged away. Only the gods know what is done with them, but I suspect them to be offerings to their own savage deities, or worse yet, as food. Our sentries see nothing, up until the night that their fate comes and they, too, are never seen again...I try as hard as I can to convince my soldiers that they are but men of flesh and blood, but they do not believe me, and I have come to doubt this even myself. What man could bear living in this icy wasteland, feeding perhaps only on the slain bodies of the foolhardy who stumble into their territory? What man could steal away into the night, with a bleeding body in tow, and never once be seen? What man could possibly even survive in this murderous place?

The men have named this the Vanishing Heights, in grim resignation to the fact that either their dead, frozen bodies shall vanish below the snow as we leave them behind, or that they will simply vanish into the hands of these mysterious, silent horrors that merely masquerade as men.

I apologize for my ramblings, my liege, but I hope to impress upon you the utter despair our men face. I advise you to retract your claim upon Karu at once, as no civilized person could ever believe after seeing it that it could lead to anything but a miserable, painful death in the snow.

With respect,
Baron Ilrich Haldstan

2014-11-10, 10:48 AM
One last thing before ye take yer airship out. Don't push it up too high. Them's the vanishing heights. No, ye dummy, ye'll be seen again as ye plummet to the ground like Icarus. Its "the vanishing heights" because the air's so thin ye can't hardly breathe (might as well've vanished, ye see), an' the pressure's so low your air bladder'll burst if ye look at it funny. No, keep yer ship low, no matter the risk of detection by Air Guard. Better to have a fight on yer hands then fall out the sky with no chance to save yerself.

2014-11-10, 12:49 PM
The Vanishing Heights are a region of hills about 12 miles across, which are permanently shrouded by mist. Low winds are common above the area and keep the mists in constant motion and on bright summer days the fog receeds low enough to expose the tops of the hills, making them visible from the surrounding areas. The hills are not a particularly dangerous area, but extremely difficult to navigate and anyone who attempts to cross it can end up emerging at virtually any side, even right where they entered. There exist no maps of the region, and the local farmers and herders have long ago noticed that the peaks that are occasionally visible from the distance appear to lack any fixed order. Even on days with very good vision, it's impossible to identify any specific peak that has been visible before. Either the peaks are constantly moving around under the cover of fog, or new hills are constantly rising from the ground and disappearing again. Some more outrageous claims go that the mists don't actually cover an area of hills, but that those peaks visible above the fogs are actually mirages of hills that exist in an entirely different world.

Fiery Diamond
2014-11-10, 09:17 PM
Wow, there are a lot of really good ones! There were a bunch of good Glass Sea ones, too.

I wanted to ask something of you all. I like to write stories sometimes, though I usually don't get very far. However, I like to try. Anyway, the point is - I recently was playing with a story idea that I am considering writing on. Some of the stuff in these threads is amazing, and some of the amazing stuff would fit in well with that story concept. So... I was wondering how people in here felt about me using their posted stuff (not word-for-word, but the exact ideas) in a story I write. Basically, I want to know how people feel so that if they're open to the idea, I can ask them for permission. If I did end up using it with permission and the story actually got written (a big if, with me) I'd definitely give credit to the originator of the idea. I definitely don't want to use someone's idea without permission regardless, though. I'm not a plagiarist.

Respectfully yours,
Fiery Diamond

Red Fel
2014-11-10, 09:26 PM
So... I was wondering how people in here felt about me using their posted stuff (not word-for-word, but the exact ideas) in a story I write. Basically, I want to know how people feel so that if they're open to the idea, I can ask them for permission.

No harm in asking. For my part, go ahead and use it; just send me a link to the finished piece if you do.

2014-11-10, 09:45 PM
A plot hook:

"At last someone responded to our plea for help. What? You don't know what's wrong, maybe you can still help. Some wizard fool found a runic spell that his masters couldn't translate. Being an "almighty superior being of intelligence", he figured he could just cast it and figure it out. Got the WHOLE FREAKING TOWN CURSED! You don't have to worry about him. We killed him hoping it would end the spell but it didn't work. We are growing shorter everyday since he cast the rune of Vanishing Heights as we now know. Some people figured they could leave town to escape the curse. Guess what happened? The poor blokes got shrunk to the size of an ant. Please help us break this curse.

2014-11-10, 10:20 PM
And so, in the sixth year of the Third Crusade, Lord Commander Hathorne faced his greatest battle yet against the Heretics. Their armies were vast, with three spears to every one in the Army of Light, nearly half again the lances, and even daring to use foul alchemical weapons as cannon and bombs. The Heretics met the Army of Light on the Plains of Amaran, confident in their numbers and their arms. The Lord Commander did not dismay, but instead trusted in the Lord of Light, and prepared for battle. Upon his right flank he placed the Knights of Light, and upon the left the Iron Falcon Legion, a mercenary band whose employ was insisted upon by less faithful members of the Church.

The Heretics charged boldly, seeing how few the army of the faithful was. The Army of Light was hard-pressed, but they did not waver. Hathorne ordered his army forward, and the Heretics, surprised by the zeal of their enemy, fell back.

The Iron Falcon Legion began to advance alongside the Army of Light, but then turned away and left the field. Unbeknownst to Hathorne, the Heretics had payed the mercenaries in secret to desert the faithful during the battle. The Heretics deployed upon the hills to the left of the Army of Light, opposite where the mercenaries should have stood. As they moved forward, a man of lesser faith would have despaired. However, Knight Commander Xeres, whose forces had stood beside the Legion, ordered his men to continue their advance, despite the Heretics massing on their left. He walked in front of the enemy on his flank, who numbered in the thousands, drove his sword point into the ground, knelt, and prayed to the Lord of Light for deliverance.

As the Heretics came forward, a mist descended upon the hills, engulfing the Heretics that were about to descend on Xeres and his soldiers. When it lifted, the Heretics were simply gone. The Army of Light, heartened by this direct sign that the Lord of Light was on their side, fought with redoubled courage, while the Heretics, faced with the divine power of our Lord, threw down their arms and fled. The Priest-Knights of the Heretics' false god stood their ground, and were cut down to the last man. Hathorne ordered three days of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord of Light after the battle was finished, then proceeded to pursue the remaining Heretical forces. The Third Crusade came to an end within a year.

Transcribed from Church Archives, Chronicle of the Third Crusade

Notes: The locals of the area call a range of hills the "Vanishing Heights," citing a story of an army that disappeared without a trace there in the midst of the battle. The broad details match this independent account. Local legends go on to say, however, that the army can occasionally still be seen on the hills, charging an enemy that is no longer there. They say that if one is caught alone by the vanished army at nightfall, they will press one into service, and one will become doomed to an eternity under arms like them.

I have heard many fanciful tales on my travels, and this would appear to be one of them. However, when in the area one night, I saw at a distance what might have been standards and spear-points glinting in the moonlight.


I've got another idea, but I'll write it up later when I can flesh it out more. And with regards to using my ideas from these threads, feel free, just cite me and send me a link to the story, like Red Fel said. I'd be glad to see some of these ideas going to good use!

2014-11-10, 10:55 PM
Gyros re-run on fresh paper sir. We have the drilling vectors. Those are normal. Please start to read on the third fold.

Yes, where the height gyro stopped and the attitude gyros. You can see them try and fail to keep up? Good. Sir. The rock at this distance must be the weakest yet found. It did not support our lightest ship.

We are keeping to the gyro recordings for now sir. Mechanical. Not crew.

Off the record. Sir.

Something got to them. You can hear it. It is not just some nonsense about vanishing rocks and fire burning ahead of them brighter than the instruments can judge. They are. Terrified is the only word for it sir. You have taken your own ship down to point zero. You know how the rock waves there will toss it around. These two never capsized there. Not once. But something about this layer, high and far away from point zero. It got to them.

Further off the record. You send me on a ship to that height and I will drill out of here! Those two have not stopped screaming yet. The religionists cannot even do anything with them. They are terrified to death and refusing to die. Absolutely refusing. They now think they will go back there when they die.