*The Many Years of Anguish* were hard on the nation of Zakiim. Drought, famine, and disease plagued the population and poisoned the soil, and it would be 13 years before the country would be able to begin recovery. In dark times, some people search for solace in insidious places. Such was the case of the cleric known as Xierhan, who became increasingly convinced that his nation's plight was punishment from the gods; retribution for the sins of the ruling Solar Council. Over many months, Xierhan consulted with the God of Pestilence and Anguish, and for his devotion he was rewarded with power that he could previously have only dreamed of. But the God of Pestilence is vile and manipulative, and while Xierhan leveraged his charisma to develop his own cult following, his mind began to fray under divine influence. As he circled the whirlpool of insanity, Xierhan became fixated on bringing a finality to Zakiim's suffering: a noxious, contagious disease that would threaten all life in the nation. Xierhan and his followers built the Vault of Pestilence, hidden away in the sweltering southern jungles. It was here that Xierhan conducted appalling experiments in an effort to produce new toxins. It was here than Xierhan became convinced that by offering his own life, and the lives of his followers, he would be granted the privilege of acting as patient zero for the most virulent plague the world had ever seen. It was here that Xierhan was wrong. Because the God of Pestilence is vile and manipulative.
More than five hundred years ago, clans of dwarves and gnomes made an agreement known as the Phandelver's Pact, by which they would share a rich mine in a wondrous cavern known as Wave Echo Cave. In addition to its mineral wealth, the mine contained great magical power. Human spellcasters allied themselves with the dwarves and gnomes to channel and bind that energy into a great forge (called the Forge of Spells), where magic items could be crafted. Times were good, and the nearby human town of Phandalin (pronounced fan-duh-lin) prospered as well. But then disaster struck when ores swept through the North and laid waste to all in their path. A powerful force of ores reinforced by evil mercenary wizards attacked Wave Echo Cave to seize its riches and magic treasures. Human wizards fought alongside their dwarf and gnome allies to defend the Forge of Spells, and the ensuing spell battle destroyed much of the cavern. Few survived the cave-ins and tremors, and the location of Wave Echo Cave was lost. For centuries, rumors of buried riches have attracted treasure seekers and opportunists to the area around Phandalin, but no one has ever succeeded in locating the lost mine. In recent years, people have resettled the area. Phandalin is now a rough-and-tumble frontier town. More important, the Rockseeker brothers-a trio of dwarves- have discovered the entrance to Wave Echo Cave, and they intend to reopen the mines.