Age of Worms
The Cairn Hills
The border between the Domain of Greyhawk and the Duchy of Urnst lies in the Cairn Hills, rugged uplands dotted with hundreds of tombs and burial grounds, the remnants of a bygone era. When Suloise settlers first arrived in the Cairn Hills a few hundred years ago, they discovered numerous tombs built by the Flan and by other, far older civilizations. Knowing very little of these ancient peoples, the architects of these tombs were simply referred to as the Cairn Builders. Today, the hills are home to thousands of gnomes, halflings, dwarves, and humans, some of the latter group as bandits and wild hillsmen. The region is rich in mineral deposits and gems. Greyhawk controls much of the area now; part of the southern hill country was ceded to Greyhawk in 584 CY by Urnst, an ill-advised decision in the best light. The Cairn Hills militia does much to safeguard the area from evil humanoids and bandits.
When the Suloise settlers first arrived a few hundred years ago, intrepid explorers discovered a fantastic cache of priceless artefacts entombed in one of the hundreds of ancient burial complexes hewn into the crags surrounding Greyhawk. The trove attracted legions of treasure-seekers to Greyhawk (then a mere trading post), and unbelievable wealth plundered from the tombs. The wealthiest explorers became the city’s first nobility, and Greyhawk quickly became associated with easy wealth and fabulous archaeological artefacts from long-dead civilizations. But the wealth didn’t always come easy, as many surprises in the form of bound demon guardians, relentless constructs, and ingenious magical wards and traps. The hilly lands surrounding Greyhawk became known as the Cairn Hills, and the hunt for lost magical treasure became an important part of the region’s cultural heritage.
But the treasure didn’t last forever. Eventually, the cairns dried out, and unplundered tombs became more and more difficult to locate. Every decade or so a lucky explorer managed to strike it rich, but even more came away from their endeavors with nothing more than broken ankles and clothes singed by the fires of ancient protections. Several vanished entirely. Over the years, the Cairn Hills began to lose their allure, and it wasn’t until a couple of decades ago that interest has renewed. Treasure hunters continue to explore the hills in search of any number of lost tombs and cairns, particularly the legendary Star Cairn, so named because sages expect its alignment with four known tombs traces a star pattern, and the bizarre Silver Metal Cairn, where metal tools of unknown origin and use are said to have been found.