This article was first broadcast in Episode Two Hundred and Twenty Six on 5th October 2022.
Note: This article was adapted from an episode script, and so there may be parts that don’t flow well when read, because they were initially designed for broadcast.
Lord Soth, in Dragonlance, fills in much the same niche as Wormtongue from Lord of the Rings or The Mountain from Game of Thrones; he is a secondary antagonist in most of his appearances, almost always working at the behest of someone else, and their backstory is…fraught.
Soth’s first appearance in real life chronology was in the War of the Lance trilogy (The original three). He lived through that conflict (sort of…we’ll get to that in a bit), and became another significant pain for the heroes in the so-called “twins trilogy” that focuses on Raistlin and Caramon…and the short one whose name starts with a “T”.
Soth sat out the Chaos war books and only had a cameo in the books focusing on the War of Souls (that’s the one with the lady who believes she’s talking to the ‘one true God’ who turns out to be the evil goddess Takhisis). After that, in real world time, Soth became a major character in the Kingpriest novels that focused on the Cataclysm. That’s where his story starts.
Loren Soth was the son of a noble family in Solamnia on Krynn. he was born in the year 50 PC. “PC,” for those who don’t remember, is pre-cataclysm, which means Soth was born about 400 years before the events of the first three Dragonlance novels.
At that time in Krynn’s history, Solamnia was basically a vassal state of Ishtar. Ishtar was the neighboring country that focused on trade while Solamnia focused on improving their military. Ishtar also, by that point, was firmly a theocracy, and they were very aggressive about spreading and maintaining the tenets of their faith. Since Solamnia was basically dependent on Ishtar for everything by then, they went along with it.
Soth joined the Knights of Solamnia and managed, by the age of 44, to attain the honor of being a Knight of the Rose, meaning his combat prowess and honor were impeccable. As far as the former, he had at least 5 solo ogre kills to his name as well as winning a one on one fight with a minotaur.
At that point Soth tried to settle down and married a nice noble lady. Unfortunately he got bored at home and decided to go out adventuring. Happening upon a group of ogres harassing a group of elves, he defeated the ogres and met the elf Isolde Denissa. Isolde believed she may have sprained an ankle, but after careful examination from 5 feet away, Soth convinced her she obviously broke it. He insisted that he simply had to take her all the way back to his castle to be cared for by his personal healer Istvan. Keep Istvan’s name in mind.
Soth arrives home to the joyous news that his wife is pregnant. A month after that, Isolde is perfectly healthy but still staying at the castle. Everyone very pointedly avoids bringing this up in conversation.
Soth’s wife gives birth on schedule, but tragedy strikes! Despite the best efforts of Soth and the healer Istvan, who were the only people present for the event, Soth’s wife and child do not survive the birthing process.
Soth mourns his wife for six months as a good and proper knight would do. Then, practically at midnight, there is a small private ceremony where Soth marries Isolde and everyone in attendance very intentionally ignores the fact that Isolde appears to have a knights’ helmet stuffed under her dress.
Soth’s son Peradur is born three months later.
A month afterward, Soth is summoned by a High Justice of the Ishtaran church. Being similar to many moralistic religions, they have a dim view of adultery. However, they’re a little more concerned with the fact that Soth, you know, *murdered his wife and child.*
See Soth had sworn Istvan to secrecy about that whole mess, but Istvan was really not okay with it, having witnessed the whole thing. Soth was sentenced to death, but thirteen other knights who were fiercely loyal to him broke him out. They holed up in a fortress near Soth’s lands.
The rest of the Solamnic order knew Soth could hold out there a while and assaulting a castle is not really what knights are best at, so they just decided to banish him. He left with his friends and his wife Isolde, who figured “sure he killed his last wife but that’s not a red flag, that’s true love!”
Isolde was also a devotee of the god Mishakal [MISH-ah-kaal]. Mishakal warned her of the upcoming cataclysm and told her that if Soth rode to Ishtar, the gods would grant him the power to avert it. They also promised that if he died in the process, his full honor would be restored.
Soth set off for Ishtar with a few of his loyal knights. On the way, he happened to encounter the elves that Isolde had been traveling with when they first met. Those elves told him that Isolde had actually been running around on him while he was running around on his wife, and he was not the father of the child Isolde presented as his son.
Deciding that this issue was clearly more important than the impending end of the world, Soth turned around and headed right back home to have a word with his wife. Just after he finished telling her how she was a cheater and his son clearly isn’t his, the cataclysm hit.
For those, again, who don’t remember, “the cataclysm” was a literal mountain landing on Ishtar because the Krynnish gods were…annoyed.
Soth’s residence in exile was far enough away that it wasn’t obliterated, but they definitely felt the impact. Their keep was engulfed in flames and a large chandelier fell on Isolde and crushed her. She knew she was dying and pleaded with Soth to take his son. Soth, however, believed the elves’ story that the child wasn’t his, and simply left both mother and child to die. In retaliation, Isolde cursed him to “live one life for every life lost in the Cataclysm.” Remember, the cataclysm wiped out one of the largest countries in Krynn at the time.
Soth died in the keep, since it literally burned to the ground, with flames hot enough to burn the stones of the building. But then he woke up, and all of his charred skin fell off, leaving him a walking skeleton with glowing red eyes, black armor, and the constant pain of his wounds. His loyal knights also got caught up in the curse and were condemned to serve him. Oh, and eventually those elves who told him about his wife were sent back to him as banshees to remind him that he was a cataclysmically bad husband.
Soth persisted for a few hundred years as an undead death knight, eventually rebuilding Dargaard keep, the site of his death. When Kitiara came along as a Dragon Highlord at the start of the War of the Lance, Soth allowed her to use it as her base of operations. He stayed with her through the war, and was the one who came up with the plan to kidnap Laurana, the general for the opposing side. Takhisis promised him Laurana’s soul as a reward when she was sacrificed. But the heroes of the lance saved her and severed the link to Takhisis before that happened, leaving the dragon army leaders confused and leaderless.
Not one to waste an opportunity, Kitiara had Soth help her murder all the other Dragon Highlords, leaving her as the only remaining commander of Takhesis’s forces. Still, the immediate battle was lost, so they retreated and regrouped.
With Laurana no longer an option, and after working together with her for a while, Soth had gotten sweet on Kitiara. In his own mind, he had the perfect plan; if and when Kitiara died, he would trap her soul, and they would be together for eternity. But he didn’t want to betray and kill her; he was trying to be a better future husband this time.
Instead Kitiara sent him out to kill the woman helping Raistlin, her half brother, become a god. To be fair, he thought he did that, but in reality he only put the woman into a coma.
He then led the undead portions of Kitiara’s army in an assault on the tower of high sorcery where Raistlin was going to reappear after his bid for godhood was sabotaged. They ransacked the city around it, but when they got to the tower, Raistlin’s apprentice Dalamar hit Kitiara with a fatal lightning bolt. Soth wanted to capitalize on this and take her soul, but Kitiara left her soul in the care of Tanis half-elven, who wouldn’t release it to Soth. Without any other recourse, Soth took her body. He had it preserved and set up next to his throne in Dargaard Keep.
Soth essentially spent his time brooding and depressed for years over the fact that he couldn’t have Kitiara’s soul. By the time Mina, empowered by Takhisis, found him and offered him his old job back serving the dark goddess, he had gotten to the point where he finally felt bad for all the things he’d done. He told Mina and Takhisis to shove it, whereupon the dark goddess eliminated Isolde’s curse and Soth finally died.
Soth is a popular antagonist from Dragonlance, and some say he is the prototypical “death knight” that all similar creatures are based on. In addition to all of his living combat prowess and the powers of an undead, he also had command of a power word. If he focused on someone and commanded them to “die”, it happened immediately. The only time it did not work was when a literal god intervened, and in that case the target still fell into a coma. Also, physically touching Soth’s body was said to instantly kill whoever touched him.
When he wasn’t leading an entire army, his entourage usually consisted of the thirteen loyal undead knights, and a chariot squad of banshees wielding ice swords.
Unlike a lot of popular characters from the books, there’s actually a large gap in Soth’s history from the time after his first death until the start of the War of the Lance. It’s presumed he behaved a lot like Strahd, staying in and around his keep and brooding about his lost lover. However, unlike Strahd, Soth is all anger and vengeance; he firmly believed, until the very end of his life, that his wife cheated on him and sired someone else’s son, then passed it off as his.
Soth has been given stats a few times, most recently in the “War of the Lance” sourcebook published for edition 3.5 where he was a level 17 death knight with a host of scary powers. He’s supposed to be the main antagonist for the sourcebook coming in 2023, so we’ll see if he lives…or unlives…up to his legacy.