Where does the death knight Shan Nikkoleth come from?

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Big Mac
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Where does the death knight Shan Nikkoleth come from?

Post by Big Mac » Sat Jul 06, 2019 3:15 pm

I was going to start a topic about something else (Death Knights in the Sundered Empire) when I stumbled onto an unusual Death Knight, called Shan Nikkoleth, during my research.

Here is what the Death Knight article on Wikipedia says about Shan Nikkoleth:
Death Knight article on Wikipedia wrote:Shan Nikkoleth, a Death Knight of otherworldly origin, used to reside in Hellgate Keep (The Savage Frontier, page 42) but was blasted when the keep was destroyed.
The Shan Nikkoleth article on Forgotten Realms Wiki does not really give much more:
Shan Nikkoleth article on Forgotten Realms Wiki wrote:Shan Nikkoleth

Shan Nikkoleth was a death knight commander of the varied armies of undead, cambions, and demons in Hellgate Keep.

Activities

For his lord Grintharke, this powerful death knight led and directed many patrols. Many of these patrols scoured the wilderness for treasure for their master and the Keep. Due to this, Hellgate Keep became a house for the treasures of many lost realms.

Much like his master, Shan was reputed to have an other worldly origin.
The Grintharke article says that Grintharke is a balor and that "he and his followers were exiles from the Abyss". The Grintharke article is in the Inhabitants of the Abyss category, but the Shan Nikkoleth article is not.

So where does Shan Nikkoleth come from? Is he a Death Knight created in the Abyss or did he come from another world on the Material Plane?

Did Grintharke meet Shan Nikkoleth in Hellgate Keep or did they meet on the Abyss or Shan Nikkoleth's homeworld?
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Re: Where does the death knight Shan Nikkoleth come from?

Post by night_druid » Sat Jul 06, 2019 6:39 pm

Not sure if they ever detailed that; they nuked Hellgate back in mid-2e and after that it became much more about the fey-ri.

On a guess, I'd guess Shan came from some unknown prime material world, originally. Afterall, at the time FR was more involved in connections to other worlds (implied to include many of the home-brewed worlds of other DMs).
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Re: Where does the death knight Shan Nikkoleth come from?

Post by The Dark » Sat Jul 06, 2019 8:41 pm

As far as I know, Shan Nikkoleth is only mentioned in FR5 The Savage Frontier, where it's mentioned that a deathknight commands the city troops and leads them on patrols and that "Shan Nikkoleth, the deathknight commander, also has an other-worldly origin." That's it.

Grintharke ruled a city during the age of dinosaurs on another world, and brought pterodactyls with him. That's about all we know about the Type VI demon.

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Re: Where does the death knight Shan Nikkoleth come from?

Post by ripvanwormer » Sat Jul 06, 2019 9:40 pm

The Dark wrote:
Sat Jul 06, 2019 8:41 pm
Grintharke ruled a city during the age of dinosaurs on another world, and brought pterodactyls with him. That's about all we know about the Type VI demon.
The Savage Frontier states that Grintharke ruled "a city at the base of a dead volcano (later called the Great Pit of Northending)."

The Great Pit of Northending is detailed in I12 Egg of the Phoenix, page 41. This part of the adventure takes place several hundred million years in the past, when demons and dinosaurs ruled the world [of Empyrea, which is Oerth according to some sources]. When the player characters meet Grintharke, he isn't sure what to make of them, because humans and demihumans don't yet exist on his world.

How Grintharke ended up at Hellgate Keep is unclear, but it seems likely he was summoned there in 882 DR with the other demons of Hellgate Keep.

Shan Nikkoleth is also mentioned in the adventure "Tomb it May Concern" by Randy Maxwell in Dungeon #22 (May 1990, two years after The Savage Frontier). He doesn't appear in the adventure, but it mentions he is rumored to have owned a magical pendant that transformed into a gorgon. I don't think Shan Nikkoleth appears in I12, but it's possible he's from another of Jennell Jaquays' works.

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Re: Where does the death knight Shan Nikkoleth come from?

Post by Digitalelf » Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:46 pm

Here is what the author of "Hellgate Keep" had to say on the matter of why he made little mention of this Death Knight.
Steven S. Schend wrote:At the time I wrote it [Hellgate Keep], I thought I'd accounted for Nikkoleth by destroying him during one of the demons' rises to power (if not Grintharke, then one of the others). My memory's spotty, and it might even have been edited out. <shrug> Check the text in THE NORTH boxed set; I wrote up the Silverymoon stuff and co-plotted the destruction of the Keep therein with Jim Butler.

As it is, I could get a little strident at times when defending and distinguishing the campaign worlds. To my way of thinking (and it's softened over the years since then), death knights should only exist in one place--Drangonlance, the world that spawned them. They were signature characters there and I thought it'd be better if each world had its signature touches not to be poached by others. Thus, Nikkoleth had to be removed from the board or redefined to work as a Realms character.

And then they ported Lord Soth into Ravenloft, buggering the whole concept of distinct and identifiable trademarks within each campaign world. At the time, I hoped that RAVENLOFT and SPELLJAMMER would remain small, interesting sidelines that would allow cross-pollination among campaign worlds, but they became lines in their own rights. Good stuff, to be sure, but I'd hoped they'd remain smaller and more focused in a limited run, like AL-QADIM was later.

Okay, too much rambling and I'm still unsure I answered the question or not.

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Re: Where does the death knight Shan Nikkoleth come from?

Post by ripvanwormer » Wed Jul 10, 2019 12:18 am

In 880 DR, the citadel of Ascalhorn had become so corrupted by baatezu and liches that there were few independent wizards left alive. These few dissenters, in desperation, summoned demons into Ascalhorn in an attempt to bind them into saving the town. Instead, in 882 DR the demons slaughtered nearly everyone, mortal, lich, and baatezu alike. The greatest among them was the balor Grintharke, who "immediately brought more of his kin over to Faerun to reinforce his position."

Because Grintharke also brought over fiendish pterodactyls, my impression is that this wasn't a Grintharke who had hung on to his prehistoric animals for several hundred million years but one freshly summoned from his prehistoric era. That is, I think the gate that summoned him reached not just into another world, but another time.

If so, Shan Nikkoleth could not have originated in Grintharke's time, since no humanoids existed in Grintharke's era (unless Shan Nikkoleth is a dinosaur or saurial, maybe). He could have been summoned through a separate gate at the same time as Grintharke, or he could have been a native of Ascalhorn. He could also be a native of another world who happened to be in the Abyss at the time Grintharke began recruiting reinforcements. Since he's not a demon, he's unlikely to be a native of the Abyss.

Grintharke was destroyed in 1365 by seven elven slaves who he had complacently allowed to battle him in an arena. Upon hearing that his "great enemy" (and fellow emigrant from Aquaria/Oerth) had fallen, Radoc led his mongrelfolk army to invade Hellgate Keep in 1367. Radoc was killed by masonry ripped from the battlements by the tanar'ri defenders.

Hellgate Keep stated, on page 9, "The death knight Shan Nikkoleth, left as a garrison commander at the Keep while Tanta Hagara led the attack on the Mistmaster's Citadel, was apparently blasted beyond the bounds of even his corrupt unlife by the Gatekeeper's Crystal's effects."

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