The Barrows of Enmara
Amongst the rolling grassland of the Relialo Plains stands a stretch of landscape dotted with round hills, and at first glance, you would not be so foolish to believe that a rolling upland area was before you. However, those hills are in fact the Barrows of Enmara, a mass burial site constructed for the men and women who died fighting for the combined forces of the Exiled Tribes against the Empire of Turelion. The barrows are named after Enmara, the last chieftain to unite the tribes of the Relialo Plains in their entirety to face a common foe. She like many others died in the fighting, but such was her strength and charisma that her name has been irrevocably tied to the name of the barrows ever since they were first built. To protect them against desecration by the Empire's forces, a powerful curse was placed upon the barrows, which inflicts death on all those who would seek to find the treasure that is thought to lie below the barrows and thereby disturb the dead that rest within them.
Events Preceding their ConstructionThe catastrophic defeat of the combined forces of the Exiled Tribes during the War of Imperial Formation signalled to the remaining leaders of the tribes that they were outmatched and were facing a foe who would stop at nothing short of driving them completely from their ancestral homelands in the Relialo Plains. However, they knew that though they had been defeated, they had inflicted enough losses on the Turelite forces that they had time to honour their dead in a way that would leave an indelible mark on the landscape to proclaim that the land had once been inhabited by a proud, strong people, and that it would perhaps one day become a symbol of resistance against the Empire of Turelion.
The Curse of EnmaraNo one knows what exactly the curse was that was placed over the Barrows of Enmara, but eye witness accounts from the attempt made by Machestaro I's forces to destroy them indicate that a circle of what are referred to in the accounts as ‘shamans’ were found dead around a standing stone erected in the centre of the barrows. These shamans appeared to have killed themselves, their throats cut and the bloody knives still clasped in their hands. It is thought that the shamans took their own lives to place a powerful and enduring necromantic curse on the whole area, a theory that is reinforced by tales of the original Turelite soldiers who attempted to destroy the barrows being driven irrevocably insane, being reduced to dried husks and being drained of their life force, only to rise again and attack their comrades.
Purpose / Function
The Barrows of Enmara were constructed specifically to lay to rest the thousands of casualties suffered by the combined force of the Exiled Tribes in the Battle of Five Hills during the War of Imperial Formation. Whilst many of the barrows house many tens of fallen warriors, a large number were specifically built to honour the commanders of the Exiled Tribes’ force, including their fallen commander in chief, Enmara herself. In a last jibe at the Empire of Turelion before they retreated into the Spiny Mountains where their descendants now live, the Exiled Tribes buried the spoils they had won from their string of successive victories over the forces of Turelion before Machestaro I himself intervened and defeated them. They made sure it was common knowledge that amongst these spoils of war were millions of Gold Crowns, that had originally been shipped to the continent of Hunar to pay the wages of Turelion's soldiers, hoping that it would tempt Machestaro’s army to investigate further and fall victim to the curse. Whilst Machestaro himself may have had more sense than they bargained for, the story of the golds existence still endures, and drives people from all over Norgantho Province to try their luck at claiming a slice of it, despite the dangers – see below.
When they were discovered after their construction by the forces of Machestaro I, the Imperial forces were ordered to dismantle the barrows, ostensibly as a sign that the Exiled Tribes were no longer welcome in the Relialo Plains, neither in life nor in death. However, it did not take long for the Imperial troops set to the task to begin suffering from the curse. Some were driven mad and never recovered, some were reduced to little more than dust and bones when they began opening the barrows and some entered barrows and never came out again. Though Machestaro I wisely decided to put a stop to their dismantling of the barrows shortly after it had begun, in recognition of the curses sheer strength and the need to reduce casualties amongst his troops as much as possible, several of the barrows had been levelled to the ground, and now exist as little more than barely perceptible bumps in the ground. Several others still carry the scars of the attempt to destroy them and are no longer round, have parts of their sides missing or have some of their internal chambers exposed to the elements. All of the barrows that were destroyed or damaged are located at the edge of the barrow complex, with the ones further in having been saved from damage by the strength of the curse placed upon them.
Externally, each of the barrows takes the form of a tumulus, approximately 30ft in height, with gently sloping sides, now carpeted with a thick covering of the grasses natural to the Relialo Plains. Each barrow has an entrance on its eastern side, which is comprised of a stone doorway made out of three large slabs of stone, with the entrance portal itself being blocked by a large slab of stone. Each of the stone doors carries the symbol of the tribe whose dead are buried within, carved into it. It is more difficult to say what the interior structure of the barrows are like, as only a handful were thoroughly investigated during their dismantling by Machestaro I’s soldiers. Drawings produced by observers from the Imperial College of Arcanists depict an internal corridor travelling about 10ft from the entrance, which then becomes a mortuary shaft plunging up to 50ft into the ground. These mortuary shafts are lined on all four sides with stone built shelves on which the dead have been entombed. Whilst it is not known for certain, it is thought that the barrows constructed for important figures who died in the Battle of the Five Hills, including Enmara herself have a different internal structure, which is thought to be a series of burial chambers containing the deceased and offering for them to take into the next life. This hypothesis, however, is drawn from the excavation of other barrows left dotted across the Relialo Plains by the Exiled Tribes, rather than through direct study of the Barrows of Enmara themselves, as this was deemed to be too dangerous. In the centre of the barrow complex is a jagged black standing stone, covered in the logographic script used by the Exiled Tribes.