Tales from Norrath: Don't Wake the Dragon

Sleeper's Tomb is a special place in the world of Norrath. It's a place that caused much controversy following the release of The Scars of Velious in late 2000 throughout 2001 and beyond. The zone was the top-tier, end game content for that expansion and Verant had decided to implement a unique encounter at the very end that could only be completed once per server. By the time my guild was well-enough equipped to enter Sleeper's Tomb, that task had already been completed by another guild. So, unlike my previous entries, this one will be a little less personal.

History of Dragons on Norrath

The Scars of Velious

Sleeper's Tomb is an enormous underground lair beneath the frozen tundra of the Eastern Wastes where the First Brood imprisoned the most powerful dragon in history. The First Brood were/are the first living creatures to ever roam the face of Norrath, and were given life by a goddess named Veeshan, the Wurmqueen. During this era, there were no Claws of Veeshan (Velious dragons) or Ring of Scale (Kunark dragons). All the dragons of Norrath were of one faction. This all changed when two dragons of opposite elements mated, which was strictly forbidden by the council of elders. From their egg hatched a crystal dragon, resembling Veeshan herself, whom they named Kerafyrm. When the Arch Priest of Veeshan, Kildrukaun, learned of their defiance, he sentenced the two lovers to death. Ironically, he took pity upon the young prismatic dragon, and took great interest in its growth. It was during this time that the dragons split into two factions and the Ring of Scale left Velious for the continent of Kunark. Kildrukaun believed that Kerafyrm would lead the Claws of Veeshan in a great civil war against the Ring of Scale and successfully reunite all dragons under the same banner.

Veeshan, the Wurmqueen

The council of elders disagreed with this view, as they thought it a great risk to wage war in Kunark leaving their home, Skyshrine, more vulnerable to the storm giants. Kerafyrm quickly rose through the ranks of the Claws, and became so powerful, ruthless, destructive, and chaotic that the council decided that Kerfyrm had to be stopped or else risk the destruction of the entire world. Kildrukaun was present for this ruling, so he assembled a legion of followers to join Kerafyrm in defiance. Kerafyrm's immense power made the battle more of a fight than it should have been, but they were severely outnumbered by the council of elders. How they subdued Kerafyrm is still a mystery, but death was not an option. The Claws of Veeshan built an elaborate tomb beneath the Eastern Wastes where they placed four powerful warders to keep watch over Kerafyrm, who became commonly referred to as simply The Sleeper.

Sleeper Sleeps

Kildrukaun and a few of his supporters survived the battles and escaped to unknown parts of the world. The warders are simply the last line of defense in this massive tomb, while gigantic golems known as The Progenitor, The Master of the Guard, and The Final Arbiter keep all but the most skilled adventurers at bay. Entrance to the tomb is only earned after completing a task given by Jaled'Dar's shade in the Dragon Necropolis. Jaled'Dar was the leader of the Ring of Scale that left Velious for Kunark, and in his death seeks vengeance against the Claws of Veeshan. Returning a talisman from any of the remaining First Brood dragons to him will earn a key to the tomb.

EverQuest's First One-Time-Only Event

Sleeper Awakened

In the Summer of 2001, a guild by the name of Blood of the Spider on The Rathe server was the first to awaken The Sleeper. By this point, it was clear to most high level guilds that killing all four of the warder dragons that surrounded the Sleeper would cause The Sleeper to be released. Until Blood of the Spider, though, no one really knew what would happen after he was awake. Since those warders dropped loot that was some of the best gear in the game, it was common practice to kill only three of them, then wait for those three to respawn in a week's time (real time) before farming them again. Most guilds simply did not want to awaken the Sleeper in favor of obtaining this high end loot once a week, or sometimes on a rotation agreement with other guilds capable of taking down warders. On many servers where such an agreement between guilds had been made, the Sleeper was awoken by a guild somewhat secretly or at least unexpectedly. Being put on the server-wide list of guilds that awoke the Sleeper, as well as screwing rival guilds out of top-tier loot, eventually became more important than the loot from the warders.

Sleeper vs Yelinak

Once the Sleeper was released, the world of Norrath was changed on that server forever and there were reactions in many zones simultaneously. First of all, at the moment the last warder died, Kerafyrm shouted across the zone "I AM FREE!" and immediately began killing every player in the zone. He was capable of death touching players very quickly, leaving no opportunity for anyone to fight him. Everyone that had just successfully killed the fourth warder was swiftly slaughtered. The Sleeper then spawned Skyshrine, slaying many players there as well, many of which had no idea what was going on.

I was one of those players. Just minding my own business in a grinding group with guild mates. Then, out of nowhere, the biggest dragon we'd ever seen shows up and takes out our warrior in one swipe. Within a few seconds, without any chance to react, we were all dead. Word spread fairly quickly across the server about what was going on, but at that moment it was one of the most startling things I'd ever seen in a game.

Reactions to Kerafyrm's death throughout Norrath.

On servers where Lord Yelinak (leader of the Claws of Veeshan and a member of the First Brood) was alive at the time, The Sleeper would make his way to the top of Skyshrine, fight, and slay him. While this was all happening, dragons all around the world of Norrath began to shout warnings of their impending doom at the hands of the awakened Sleeper. Lady Vox and Lord Nagafen were witnessed shouting joy, for with the death of the Claws of Veeshan, their exile in Antonica would be over. After slaying Lord Yelinak, Kerafyrm flew away and was not seen again by players for several years when it was revealed that he had been hiding out in the unexplored regions of Faydwer in the Secrets of Faydwer expansion.

The Aftermath

An empty tomb.

On each server, following the release of The Sleeper, there was much resentment from other top-level guilds towards the guild that had done the deed as it eliminated the opportunity to get loot from the four warders that were then gone forever. For most players, though, it was just a one-time only, crazy event that left people talking for weeks. Where were you when The Sleeper awoke? Did you see him? The controversy among high-level players though caused Verant to vow to never attempt implementing a one-time only event ever again.

Kildrukaun the Ancient

As for Sleeper's Tomb itself, only the warders were gone. So, players could still enter the zone and farm the much-sought-after primal velium weapons that the golem bosses dropped. Eventually, the zone was revamped a bit, and, in the place of the warders, four "ancients" were added. Kildrukaun himself was among them. The storyline here was that Kerafyrm's supporters had reclaimed the tomb in order to prepare for his inevitable return and would use the tomb as a base of operations for their quest for world domination. These ancients dropped loot similar to the warders, but not exactly the same. For example, the ultra rare gnome illusion mask that one of the warders dropped was replaced with a dwarf illusion mask. As a rogue player, the gnome illusion mask (usable only by rogues and bards) was one of the most sought after treasures in the game. Since I didn't make it to ST until after the warders were gone, I had to buy it. I spent over 100,000 platinum to purchase it from a retiring rogue player. There were only four or five on the server of Rodcet Nife.

The Death of Kerafyrm

Attempting the Impossible

On November 15, 2003, an army of three combined guilds (Ascending Dawn, Wudan, Magus Imperialis Magicus) on the Rallos Zek server (a PvP server) attempted what many thought was impossible. Being one of the last servers to release the Sleeper, they sought to slay the prismatic dragon. They would only have one shot and since the Sleeper has the ability to death touch players at an alarming rate, the normal strategy of assigning a main tank for clerics to target would not work. And all spells except for manaburn and a shadow knight's harm touch would be resisted, so a simple zerg rush strategy was implemented where players would haphazardly run in, attack as long as they could, and die. The Sleeper could attack for a max 6999 per hit but had the ability to quad hit. All of the clerics in attendance were responsible for resurrecting those players, who would then loot their equipment and immediately run back in to attack. Many players lost levels due to the experience penalty for dying in EverQuest.

GM Apology

The strategy was working, but after a couple hours and getting the Sleeper to 27% health, a GM that was monitoring the attempt despawned the Sleeper, thus ending the attempt. The reason was originally cited as a bug, but two days later, SOE released an apology and respawned all four warders and the Sleeper in order for the guilds to attempt it once more. It was an unprecedented move by SOE.

So, on November 17, 2003, the three guilds returned to Sleeper's Tomb with roughly 200 players in attendance. After close to three hours in battle and reportedly close to 1000 resurrections, Kerafyrm was defeated. As many expected, he had no loot, for it was never intended for anyone to kill him. Since he had no loot, the corpse quickly disappeared. A game-wide message was sent out by one of the game's GMs announcing the accomplishment.

Victory Announcement

The Memory Remains

As of this writing, Al'Kabor, the Mac-only server for EverQuest, is still up and running. It was announced in February 2012 that the server would shut down on March 31, 2012, but the Mac community successfully petitioned John Smedley to keep it going. The Mac server has not been fully supported since 2002, and as such has not seen the release of any expansions beyond The Planes of Power. Thus, Al'Kabor is essentially an active time capsule of what used to be EverQuest. Many players continue to proudly play here under the creed that Al'Kabor is "EverQuest Done Right."

Coinciding with this sense of preservation and nostalgia that these players carry, Al'Kabor is the only active server where The Sleeper is still trapped in his tomb. Based upon forum posts regarding the Mac server, no one is willing to release him unless the server is finally shut down. Some believe he should stay where he is even if the plug gets pulled on Al'Kabor anyway.

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5 Comments
7 Comments
Posted by Brother_PipPop
Posted by tescovee

^^ Good Stuff!

Posted by Marino

@Brother_PipPop said:

<3

/hug

@tescovee said:

^^ Good Stuff!

Thanks for checking it out again.

Staff
Posted by Silvergun

Oh man, ST was such a great dungeon. That place was just so ominous, and having an end-boss encounter designed to wipe you and everything in its path out is something that (I don't think) has been done before or since. Oh, and Primal Velium weapons looked AMAZING, especially compared to the models that existed at the time.

My favorite memory though is when my guild got itself banned over trying to wake the Sleeper. It's funny really, we were using a technique that had been used on lots of previous bosses to kill the 4th Warder (Ventani I think?), when a GM pops in and rather than let us kill Ventani, kills him himself since according to him, we were exploiting. This turned out to not be such a good idea. Apparently, the game wasn't able to tell the difference between players killing the final warder and the GM killing him because sure enough, the events Marino details above trigger. But there was a slight problem.

I'm pretty sure this was the first time the event had actually triggered, as what spawned instead of a giant crystal dragon, was a giant human model, which then proceeded to bug the hell out along with the rest of the event. Verant had really hyped this up as being awesome, and as it turned out, it was currently a buggy mess. As a result, Verant was humiliated, and we wound up on their bad side. Several of us got banned, and the entire guild got offcial warnings (basically meaning if we screw up again, we're as good as banned).

There was a huge backlash from the community over this, and if I recall Verant wound up overturning the bannings/warnings, but by that point, we'd had enough of them and had migrated to DAoC. We wound up returning when PoP came out, and even being a whole expansion behind in gear, managed to overtake our server's dominant uberguild (who did their utmost to stop us) and kill Rathe before them.

Also, I have to add that I loved Illusion masks so much. By the time I quit at before OOW came out (a good call on my part!), I had every mask in the game, having made it my number one goal to collect them all! That said, my favorite had always been the classic, the Mask of Deception (or Guise of the Deceiver, can't remember which got replaced with which).

Posted by Marino

@Silvergun: Sorry I didn't reply sooner. But, yeah, primal velium weapons were definitely a status symbol. By the point I got there, I was playing my barbarian rogue, so wielding that giant jeweled spear was pretty great.

That's a crazy situation you guys ended up with in ST. I seem to remember some bans happening in relation to waking the Sleeper, so that very well may have been you guys.

Guise was the original, which was usable by anyone. It got replaced/nerfed with the Mask of Deception, which became rogue/bard only as were most of the other masks after that. I think I ended up with eight masks if you include the wood elf crown/halo. I never did get the one I wanted most though, which was the halfling one out of Chardok. Convincing anyone to come down there with me was nigh impossible.

Staff
Posted by Silvergun

@Marino: Oh man, I had the primal velium spear too. To this day it's one of my favorite weapon models in an MMO. I used a combo of that and my Singing Shortsword all the way through Quarm in PoP (we kinda did that expansion by the seat of our pants, so PoP even by the time we killed Quarm, a lot of us still had a lot of our old Velious gear).

I didn't really follow the fallout from the whole ST debacle that much, but there was a lot of community backlash over it so I'd imagine we were the only group that got bans over it. GUcomics even did a strip on it (man, remember GUcomics? That takes me back!).

I really miss stuff like illusion masks. I know when WoW introduced one in the form of a stone that turned you into a Blood Elf in BC, I was running that heroic every day to get one, but other than that (not counting stuff like the potion that turns you into a skeleton), there really hasn't been much like that. It's a bummer really.