Nestled in a mountain pass between Euri and Durvia, the city of Set’s Watch plays an important role in the history of Nillin without even considering its role in modern trade. With its zeal for building and an innate passion of public works, Set’s Watch boasts more than one of Ocrary’s most intriguing achievements in architecture and design. Foremost among them, the Ellethine Crypts.
First called the Ellethine Tower, the crypts were initially intended as a singular monument to one man’s grief (1). A seven-tier column of white marble and obsidian, the relief sculpture skirting its bottom depicts lost souls, trapped in the Unknown Hells, clawing their way to the top tier, which is covered in carvings of Aasimar carrying souls upward to eternity. The middle tiers boast equally beautiful depictions of life and beauty and violence, a towering testament to the passion of mortals.
At the northwest boundary of Pine Roger’s Plaza, the geographic and social center of Set’s Watch, the Ellethine Tower enmeshed itself in the fabric of city life. Soon, the city funded a project to build a second tower and another and another. Before long, the crypts comprised a sprawling web of towers and above ground tunnels.
Each tower has a ground entrance as well as a covered stone walkway connecting one of the upper tiers to the next tower. In some cases, one tower is connected to multiple other towers. By the time the fifth tower was constructed, the complex had become known as the Ellethine Crypts.
In a region where frozen ground made winter burial nigh impossible, the crypts presented an attractive alternative to traditional ground burial. Additionally, the work of building the crypts kept the city’s artisans at work for years upon years. Soon enough, the people of Set’s Watch simply interred their dead above ground as a matter of practice.
The Outer Crypts
Only the first five towers were built within the city proper. As space became an issue, the crypt towers were built further northward, outside established city limits. As such, crypt towers dot the landscape like dour trees, grimly filling gaps in the lush canopy.
Referred to as the Outer Crypts, those towers built after the initial five, are connected by rope bridges three-to-four levels above the ground. Numbering in the hundreds, the Outer Crypts range from four-to-six tiers.
The farther out you go into the forest, the more diverse the towers become, turning from the aspirational terror of the Ellenthine Tower carvings to vibrant folk art. Adorned with emblems of varying faiths, cults of earth magic, druidic runes, and mural paintings; like the rings of a tree tell the story of its age, the Ellethine Crypts tell a story of changing culture in Set’s Watch.
Curiously, the one thing you won’t find in the Ellethine Crypts are the earthly remains of a single creature, excepting the occasional rat or woodland animal. Why, you’re surely asking? Well, let me tell you.
About 200 years past, a young local mage called Squall, who bore the unfortunate distinction of enthusiasm far beyond his actual skill, took an interest in necromancy. Over time, he hoarded enough consumables and materials from his master to barter for a partial copy of Trygon’s Rites, a rare and dangerous necromantic tome.
In any case, this particular copy was made by a mischievous necromancer who’d developed a shortcut to a Mass Summon Dead ritual, which sort of replicated itself in the manner of a worm cut in half. The result was an undead army summoned from the Ellenthine Crypts, a hoard with no master, and a catastrophic incursion into Set’s Watch.
At least 150 innocent souls perished in the night before Elder Piotr, the High Mage of Southern Ocrary at the time, resorted to an unspeakably powerful Spell of Searing Light. So powerful, in fact, it obliterated the undead while inflicting vicious burns or blindness to dozens of people around the city, while also decimating local wildlife in a radius of two miles.
Elder Piotor’s Searing Light shone in the night as though he’d summoned the Sun itself. Seen in Euri, Lakeside, and as far away Evenfell, Piotr’s light even blinded an astronomer on the Northern Coast of Nillin whose telescope peered south at exactly the wrong moment.
Some even attribute the Qiron legend of the Gatekeeper’s Beacon to Piotr’s Searing Light, though astronomers disagree on the timing.
In the aftermath of Squall’s Folly, the City Council ordered the crypts cleared of any remaining corpses and for those corpses to be burned in a massive pyre. The remaining ash and bone was consecrated, then carted to open expanse of beach north of Euri where it was cast into the sea.
To this very day, on the first day of each month, the remains of any citizen who perished in the prior month make the same trek to what is now known as Dead Set’s Beach.
The Crypts in Modern Life
All grim history aside, the Ellethine Crypts remain a point of pride and the towers inside the city have been rigorously maintained over the years. The outer towers have fallen into disrepair, though not ruin. Individuals and sects still conduct rituals in the near and far reaches of the crypts. Such rites are, in no way, discouraged (necromancy notwithstanding).
On any day with sufficient light, artists set up easels across the cobbled path in Pine Roger Plaza to sketch and paint their own vision of the towers. For centuries, the Ellethine Crypts have been recognized by the Greater Nillin Arts Council as a Titled Cultural Wonder. Few visitors fail to tour the crypts in some capacity.
Sadly, the seclusion and inattention paid the outer towers in recent years made them an ideal location for Tabo’s Blueflame Plot to take seed in Set’s Watch. Though Set’s Watch quickly broke the Athalan Yoke, portions of the crypts were destroyed and a conversation renewed about the relevance of the outer crypts in modern Nillin. This conversation continues today.
(1) Pantalos Gruleq, second Governor of Set’s Watch, built the tower to inter his beloved wife, Ellethine, who died giving birth to their second child.