The Curse of Julianna, from the Gazetteer of the Speaking Lands

And we’re back from the holidays with the Curse of Julianna, a regional legend and maybe a real curse that kills empires.  You can tell it’s my worldbuilding because a massive curse on the land primarily effects geopolitics.  What can I say, I’m realizing my brand and leaning into it.

Lemme tell you about the Curse of Julianna…


This legendary malediction has long been invoked to explain the lack of empires and large states in northwestern Ipeiros. The collapse of nearly every dynasty has been attributed to the curse; even the constant struggle of trade networks to maintain profitability is laid at its feet. It has also been blamed for the very existence of Outland and even the Asfixis explosion, which predates Julianna by a millennium. Needless to say, the bounds of the curse, let alone its actual historical existence, are questionable at best.

The legend goes that the gnoll sorceress Julianna travelled from court to court through what is now Wildermarch and Toriel. This was before the sylvan diaspora brought satyrs to the area; it was a time of great trollish and gnollish empires. Each flew the banner of the criosphinx in a different color: red in the trollish east and blue in the trollish south, while the gnolls lived and fought under the green criosphinx. The nobles were a raucous, squabbling lot, fighting amongst each other ceaselessly, both between their empires and within them.

Julianna performed feats of magic and wizardry for those nobles who hosted her, but she did not seek court position or patronage. Instead, her wizardries got her access to the fractious courts where she planted the seeds of her schemes. Julianna’s agenda has been lost to history and no doubt corrupted by subsequent bias. While many local stories blame her for stealing away with the crown jewels, a common thread seems to be her acquisition of jewels and gemstones, especially those that carried enchantments.

Julianna was a clever and competent thief, but her noble and royal targets eventually overcame their embarassment to collaborate on stopping her. They laid a trap for her at a masquerade, where she was captured by the masked victims of her earlier schemes. Intent on recovering their stolen treasures, her captors tortured the sorceress for months, all to no avail. She would not reveal where the stolen gemstones were hidden. Finally one of the lords, desperate to recover his treasures, plucked out one of her eyes and threatened to take the second if she did not comply. She refused again, and he followed through. That night, the tower where she was held captive was leveled by a dragon. Julianna was presumed dead, but in the weeks of work clearing the rubble, her body was never found.

The dragon had rescued her, stealing her away to its aerie, where she plotted her revenge. The great and powerful had deprived her of her sight, so she resolved to deprive them of their power. She enacted her curse from the heights of Tor El, unleashing a flood of will-o-wisps that lit up the night sky. Henceforth, anyone who dared claim dominion over their neighbors would be humbled and their works dashed to nothing. Empires and kingdoms collapsed—overnight in some tellings, in the following year and a day, according to others—and Julianna disappeared thereafter, consumed, perhaps, by the curse she laid on her victims and victimizers.

Despite the lasting cultural influence of the legend, there is scarce evidence that Julianna survived the tower collapse or levelled the epic curse, or that the sorceress ever existed at all. Detecting and unravelling a curse is difficult even when a wizard can examine its focus; no one has developed a method to verify a curse leveled on a quarter of a continent. Even so, what evidence does exist and what stories persist are roughly consistent. Even the Gennishar Archive is ambivalent on the matter: it will not state that she existed, but it also will not categorically state that she is fictional.

We’re far enough into the Gazetteer that there’s only two entries in this week’s that we haven’t seen yet.  So which shall we check out next week?

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