In The Lake.jpg
Dho'uala is a sovereign who claims the entire Semmerlak, and the rivers that flow into and from it, as her domain.


Spirit of Dark Water; Light-in-the-Depths; Netripper; Undertow; Queen of the Drowned; She-Who-Keeps-What-She-Catches; Lady of the Semmerlak (although that name can also be used to refer to the other Lady of the Semmerlak.


Dho'uala is the mistress of the Semmerlak. She is a creature of the depths, the lightless waters at the very bottom of the cold, clear lake. Yet she is not a creature of darkness herself. Descrptions of Dho'uala describe her as glowing with an inner light that ripples from dark blue, to pale green, to yellow, to deep red, to lambent violet, and back again. She is sometimes described as a powerful woman with a jaw full of razor-sharp fangs and grasping claws, but this is believed to be merely a mask she dons to speak with mortals. She knows the trick of putting a little of herself into a waterlogged corpse - into the body of anyone or anything that drowns in her lake - and sending it out to do her will, so many stories of meetings with Dho'uala are likely actually encounters with one of her creatures.

She rules over the lake waters, but also has power over the rivers that feed into, and flow out of, the Semmerlak itself. There are also stories of her presence sometimes being encountered inland, wherever there is deep, cold, lonely water. She claims everything that comes into her embrace; every treasure ever lost in her waters belongs to her and she is jealous of anyone who dares to steal them away. Items recovered from the Semmerlak often bear curses of jealousy, or avarice, and lead a thief to drown themselves in the lake water if they do not rid themselves of the curse in time.

The sovereign is sometimes described as a terrible siren that lures fisherfolk, but this is something of a misconception perpetrated by the troubadours and fanciful stzena. Dho'uala herself does not lure mortals into her water, although there are creatures in the Semmerlak who will. Rather she allows people to lure themselves, revealing one of the treasures she has claimed, causing it to glint and glitter. When a would-be thief dives into the water to claim it, or gets too close to the surf planning to steal her treasure, she or one of her minions claims the foolish trespasser and drags them down into the depths.


While the waters teem with fish, sailors in Karov and southern Karsk say that the water is truly part of Varushka and exacts a dangerous price from any who take its bounty for granted. Like many sovereigns, great and small, Dho'uala is said to be particularly sensitive to disrespect. Anyone dealing with her must always keep a civil tongue in their mouth, or risk having it torn out. She has no patience for thieves, and apparently views everything in the Semmerlak from the fish to the lake-silver, to the wrecks and the corpses of the drowned, as her personal property. Yet while she will not tolerate stealing, there are stories of foolish fisherfolk or cunning cabalists who have made deals with her to allow them to claim her bounty. At one point, before Varushka joined the Empire, some of the villages along the Varushkan shores of the Semmerlak would stake out criminals on the beaches, below the highwater tide. If they survived the night, they were acquited of their crimes. If they were claimed by Dho'uala or her servants, then the fisherfolk were guaranteed a season of full nets.

Even Dawnish fisherfolk used to know better than to keep any trinkets that turned up in their nets, no matter how alluring. These lake-treaasures invariably brought the one who kept them to a bad end, and in some tales, their entire family or village would suffer. Unfortunately, in the centuries that the Sovereign has been slumbering, the stories about the dangers of the Semmerlak fell out of fashion and people forgot to be cautious about such finds.


The sovereign cannot leave the Semmerlak, and its clear she cannot reach very far up the rivers. Some cabalists theorize that here is a point at which they become inland and Dho'uala can no longer reach them. As with most sovereigns, however, she is not without her servants. For Dho'uala, these come in three main types.

The first and most numerous are the lake-drowned. Dho'uala claims all those who drown in her waters. They bodies are dragged to the very bottom, and there they remain unless she has a use for them. There are cases where someone has been rescued from drowning at the last moment, or where a crewmate has managed to recover a drowned fellow, but these stories often end with the lake claiming the survivor, or the body, in some ironic fashion. In some communities along the Semmerlak, it is considered bad luck to reach out to help someone out of the water if they fall in. When Dho'uala needs to effect the world, she places a fragment of her power into these lake-drowned corpses, animating them and sending them up to the surface. Unlike traditional husks, the lake-drowned may be barely conscious shambling horrors or they may sometimes be capable of intelligent speech and planning, depending on how much power Dho'uala has placed in them. Also, unlike most husks, they may appear surprisingly vibrant. They are still clearly dead, but their bodies may be marked with veins of brightly coloured mould, lichen, or phosphorescence. The lake-drowned are quite hard to destroy, and even if they are defeated it is considered wise to leave the corpses for Dho'uala to reclaim, lest you increase her anger even more than you would by resisting her will.

The second most common servants of Dho'uala might better be called envoys. The rusalka of the Semmerlak are shape-changers who can assuming human or orc forms, or take on the forms of ravenous water beasts. Some are apparently capable of wielding magic, paralysing their victims with a touch, or singing up storms to batter a ship or a village that has offended them. They are not creatures of Dho'uala but they share a lake with her, and when she wants someone who can go among people and deal with them she will often force the rusalka to do it for her. The rusalka are said to make regular sacrifices to Dho'uala to keep her favour, giving a portion of every kill to the sovereign in return for her indulgence in allowing them to hunt the Semmerlak and its shores.

Finally, she has the power to control creatures native to the Semmerlak and its environs. Some stories speak of awful fish, as large as a human, whose scales possess a sickly glow. They are only of use in the lake itself, however. When she wants to send creatures onto land, it seems that she uses aberrant beaver-like creatures. These monsters are difficult to kill, and possessed of both a terrible bite and rending claws that can cut through an unarmoured opponent as easily as they can chop down a tree. Mostly she uses these creatures, it seems, when she wants to spread her dominion. By sending them to dam a river, Dho'uala seeks to create deep, dark, lonely waters to extend her domain.

A great freshwater sea with hidden depths. Even when Dho'uala slumbers, the waters are unfriendly.

Other Tales

The Lady of the Semmerlak

There is another entity that dwells on the Semmerlak, who has some kind of relationship with Dho'uala. The Lady of the Semmerlak is apparently a herald of the Summer Realm who occupies an island that is itself a strong regio. In the past, she was said to be a servant of Hayaak, but in recent years she has apparently shifted her allegiance to either Barien or Eleonaris. There are also recent stories that she has moved her island in some way closer to Semmerholm, towards the Dawnish end of the Golden Causeway.

The Lady of the Semmerlak is very much the opposite of Dho'uala. Where the sovereign rules the dark depths of the lake, the Lady is concerned with the sunlit surface, and the shallows. She rarely interferes with Dho'uala or her agents, and the sovereign appears to tolerate her presence in some way. On occasion, though, stories say she is prepared to intercede with the sovereign, or at least to protect the people of the southern shores form the worst of her attentions. Darker stories suggest that the Lady herself might in some way be Dho'uala, presenting a pleasing face to the foolish. Others say that she long ago made a bargain of her own with the master of the Semmerlak, related to the desire to take vengeance against someone who had greatly wronged her. It is this bargain that allows her to live on the Semmerlak without Dho'uala destroying her, and that also limits the aid she can offer to those who earn the sovereign's ire.

Holberg and the Sand Fishers

Dho'uala is largely unknown in Holberg. Their Dawnish forebears no doubt knew of her, but Holberg is very much a land-based city. The shores of the Semmerlak and the river that flows out of it are veiled behind marshes and deep forests, and whatever stories and plays the League citizens tell of the sovereign of the Semmerlak have long since disappeared beneath repeated revisions and layers of metaphor. On the other hand, it appears the relative newcomers to Holberg, the orcs of the Sand Fisher sept are somewhat familiar with Dho'uala, having lived for centuries on the shores of the Semmerlak. Since taking up new homes in Misericorde they have apparently continued to maintain a quiet tradition of making "offerings" to the Semmerlak in which they place beautifully carved wooden images, or carefully shaped clay effigies, on little reed rafts and float them out into the lake for Dou'alla to claim if she wishes. How effective these offerings are is hard to say - the Sand Fishers notably fish the shallow water near shore, usually with spears rather than nets, and ever since coming to the relative safely of Holberg, they are eschewing fishing boats in favour of lumber mills.

Dho'uala in play

It's unlikely any living human will have encountered Dho'uala and survived to tell the tale. The sovereign has been slumbering in the Semmerlak until recent events caused her to stir. It's fine to make up stories about her and her minions, provided its clear that those stories are fiction or describe encounters a generation or so ago. They should follow the rough pattern presented here and in the Underwater sunshine wind of fortune.

Further reading

A Story of Dho'uala

You may think you know this tale, you may even think you have heard it before, and know how it goes. But the bees tell it a little differently. This is the version of the story the bees told me.

Once, when we all lived in the forest and nobody lived anywhere else, there was a proud boyar who ruled over a vale on the edge of the great lake. Beside her hall stood a tall tower, topped with iron bells, that tolled on market days, or when the fog was thick, or when the boyar commended that her people came before her to hear her iron laws. The boyar claimed to be even-handed, but she would not tolerate any challenge to her authority. As long as her people obeyed her without question, they were well protected and prospered under her protection. If they dared to go against her will, in even the smallest thing, they would be severely punished by her schlacta. Her people feared her, but they obeyed, and told themselves it was better than the alternative. And perhaps they were right.

There were, however, some for whom the boyar's iron rule was unacceptable. Three sisters, who together wove the most marvelous cloth from moonlight and lakewater, resented the boyar and the taxes she demanded on all fine goods. They argued with her schlacta, and regularly questioned whether the iron laws the boyar imposed were really for their benefit, or born of pride and arrogance. The sisters were popular, and some of the fisherfolk and farmers and foresters who lived in the vale began to echo their questions. When the boyar's schlacta went to punish those common folk, the weavers used their wiles to shelter and protect them, and sent the soldiers back to their master frustrated and empty handed. Eventually, the boyar had enough of these unruly sisters formenting dissent, and gathered her soldiers and lead them down to the lakeshore where the women lived.

But as well as being weavers they were also mighty sorceresses, and they had foreseen the coming of the boyar and her soldier. They called on the farmers, and the foresters, and the fisherfolk, to stand beside them and resist the boyar. None would meet their eyes, not one of the folk they had spoken out for. So, the sisters wrapped white-featherd cloaks around their shoulders and transformed into herons, and flew away over the lake. The boyar, however, was a keen-eyed archer and fired three arrows after them as they flew and the eldest weaver, not as swift as her sisters, was struck in the breast and killed, her body swallowed by the lake.

The boyar had proved her point - or so she thought - and returned to her hall in high spirits. She declared a banquet be held that very night, and demanded that all her people attend so that all could see that her authority was absolute. But her celebration was premature.

None know the name of the little island where the weavers came to rest at last, only that it was in the depths of the lake and that the evening mists clung closely about its shores. They grieved the loss of their sister, but their grief soon gave way to cold fury. Fury for the loss they had suffered, fury at the boyar, and fury at the farmers and the foresters and the fisherfolk who had turned their backs on them. In their rage, they called out to their mother for vengeance, and their mother heard their cries, and rose up from the waters of the lake.

"I have heard your cries," she said. "And I will give you the power to avenge your fallen sister, and to punish the boyar for their arrogance, and to teach the fisherfolk and the farmers and the foresters a lesson. But there will be a price."

When the sisters heard the price they quailed, but their fury quickly overcame their fear, and they drew lots, and in the end the youngest of the two stepped into the waters of the lake and embraced their mother, leaving only one woman on the island to weep as the twilight turned to moonless night.

Back in her hall, the boyar celebrated and boasted that her rule was unquestioned, that her iron law was the only protection the people of the vale needed. In her arrogance, she loudly proclaimed that her authority extended not only over the land around her hall, but over the lake as well, and some of the common folk paled when they heard this, for they knew the lake was always listening and had little patience for such idle boasts, and some of them conspired to creep away as if sensing that some doom was fast approaching.

They were wise to flee, because at the very moment the boyar made her arrogant claim, the iron bells in the high tower began to toll, and the gates of the great hall shook as if a mighty fist had struck them. Once, twice, and then a third time, thunderous blows echoed through the room. Then they split open, and two women entered. Their cloaks and their dresses were sodden, and there was lakeweed in their hair, and their eyes were like dead pearls drawn up from the deeps, and a fell light moved beneath their skin, and they brought in with them the waters of the lake.

As the waters washed across the banqueting hall and rose up to her ankles, the boyar mounted the steps before her throne, and commended her frightened soldiers to shoot the sorceresses, for were they not her sworn warriors? But the schlacta fled, or stood in terrified panic, their arrows tumbling from shaking fingers, and still the lakewaters rose.

As the lake surged around her waist, the boyar stood before her throne and commanded the sisters to desist, to leave her hall and never return, for was she not the rightful ruler? Yet the sisters ignored her words, and dove into the dark waters to hunt those guests and soldiers who sought to flee their freezing embrace, and still the lakewaters rose.

And as her remaining schlacta were pulled below the churning waters, and the boyar had to climb up to stand on her throne to avoid the same fate, she held out her hands and bellowed at the waters themselves, commanding them to recede, for was she not the master of the lake as she was the master of the land?

But still the waters rose. Over the boyar, and over her hall, and even over the high tower where the iron bells tolled. And the next morning, those few who had escaped the doom, tore their nets and broke the hulls of their fishing boats, and swore never to intrude upon the waters of the lake again.

On nights of the new moon when the sky is clear one can still hear the iron bells tolling in the depths of the great lake, and see lights of the boyar's doomed feast, and if one strains one's ears and turns one's head just right, hear the terrible voice of the lake as she laughs at the hubris of humankind. Or so the bees say, anyway.