Changing Fate - Part 1
Wir – Aryth 11th, 998 YK
Wed – December 10th, 998 YK
Outside Grea Tower, the winter wind whips unseasonably cold for Wroat. Ice has formed on the side of the Union’s guildhall, but the shining glare of the tower is not what draws the eye. An imposing elf, his long black hair gone wild in the blustery weather, hails you as he strides towards you.
“My name is Zelrin Tellun. We’ve been waiting for you,” he shouts over the wind.
You enter the offices of the Diggers’ Union seeking refuge from the frigid sheets of white snow that slash the air. The elf leads you through the Grea Tower to a meeting room in the Hall of Messengers. The warmth inside the hall is a welcomed feeling. Inside, the walls of the chamber are polished densewood, and bare of any sort of decoration; the only object in the room is a large round table and accompanying chairs. The image of a rampant bulette has been engraved on the darkwood surface of the table; while reminiscent of the symbol of the Diggers’ Union, the more observant among you note minor deviations in posture and the absence of the other traditional symbols of the Union. The lines of the image burn with the cold fire of continual flame, and this is the only source of light in this windowless room. Zelrin excuses himself and for the moment, you are alone.
After a few minutes have passed, the doors of the chamber swing open once more. A stout woman strides in, sorting through a sheaf of papers. Her blond hair is bound in a tight bun at the back of her head, and she is dressed in a glamerweave robe that shifts through a series of deep green hues, reminding you of staring down into jungle waters. She pays no attention to you as she strides around the chamber and takes a seat in the patron’s chair. She carefully spreads her papers and folders in front of her and then finally glances around the table, studying each of you in turn.
After a moment of contemplation, Matron Martra abruptly slides a folder to each of you. “Diggers, this job is so simple that I think you’re actually overqualified. But you’re the greenest I’ve got available at the moment, and the money is good… And it’s always the simple missions that seem to go wrong, anyhow. So, let’s get down to business.”
“As you are likely aware, Sharn, the City of Towers, was built on the ruins of other older cities. One of these was the city of Sharaat, named after its former Dhakaani incarnation Ja’Sharaat. It was founded by the first human settlers to make their homes in the region of Breland, and destroyed in the conflict known as the War of the Mark.”
“During the War, the old city of Sharaat was partially destroyed by a magically generated earthquake. The city was buried beneath tons of shattered stone. The foundations of the old towers were built over these ancient ruins. Occasionally, seismic activity opens paths to the deep undercity.”
“A wealthy lord recently moved to Sharn, who hopes to locate some heirlooms his family lost during the War of the Mark. This individual – who has chosen to remain nameless – has been monitoring the area of Sharaat where his family had their estate. After years of waiting, a quake has opened a passage to the buried tower.”
“Unfortunately, the lord has enemies in Sharn and would like to avoid any unnecessary attention, so he’s turned to our Diggers’ Union to help him recover his lost treasures. There shouldn’t be any substantial danger – the ruins have been buried for 1,500 years, and little could survive the passage of time; the greatest threat should come from the denizens of Sharn’s undercity, as it is a relatively lawless region.”
“Within your packets is a list of the items he would like to recover. The most important of these is a statue made of dark crystal, about one foot in height and carved in the shape of a dragon. As long as this is found and returned, the mission is successful. Recovering other items from the list will result in additional rewards, but unless the statue is found, our contract with the Lord will be voided.”
“Again, I trust this should be a simple task, but time is of the essence. I have procured the necessary spelunking equipment and it is waiting for you outside. The lightning rail leaves within the hour and I expect you to make haste. Once the statue has been recovered, return to the message station in the Black Arch district of Tavick’s Landing and send a message directly to me; I will then tell you where to meet the client to turn over the goods.”
[Sejik and Caiphys have few questions and get underway. They are given equipment and then travel to Sharn via Lightning Rail]
The trip on the lightning rail lasts for the better part of a day, but the compartment is luxuriously appointed and you are provided with a fine meal to bring the evening to a close – tribex filet on a bed of masthin shoots, seasoned with a blend of sharp Talentan spices known as chular. The meal is accompanied by strong Aundairian wine, and those of you who choose to rest sleep soundly on the comfortable feather beds of the sleeping coach. As the evening sun set, you can see the towers of Sharn rising up on the southern horizon disappearing into the clouds. Soon you will reach your destination.
Within the hour, your coach glides to a halt at the gateway district known as Terminus. The streets are filled with sound and life. Several Talentan halflings argue with some of the Guardians of the Gate over some strange reptilian beasts. In the shadows, two half-orcs pummel a would-be pickpocket, while a woman bearing the holy vestments of Aureon boards a coach bound for towers unknown. Merchants offer gaudy trinkets and overpriced food. Guards watch you suspiciously, while beggars and cutpurses consider the odds and choose to leave you alone.
The maps provided by the matron lead you down ramps and curving tunnels into the industrial district of Blackbones.
The foundry tunnels are dark and crowded. The heat is sweltering, and a hundred forges fill the air with the sound of steel. Warforged workers haul carts of ore and other goods to and from the surface.
As you move further beneath the city, the overwhelming heat begins to fade. The tunnels grow wider, and the ceiling rises up to a height of approximately 12 feet. The smell of the forge is replaced by the stench of garbage and unwashed flesh. Small buildings are carved into the tunnel walls. Most are one-room hovels claimed by goblin families, but there are a few larger shops and taverns scattered along the dark streets. Goblins form the bulk of the population, but you see people of all races, including humans, gnolls, and even ogres. But all of the inhabitants of the Undercity have a few things in common. Filthy clothes. Hungry eyes. Everyone you see carries a knife or some sort of weapon – and everyone seems ready to fight.
Your map leads you deeper and deeper into the undercity of Sharn, and before long you have left the wretched beggars and other scum of Khyber’s Gate behind. The tunnels are eerily silent. Occasionally you come upon a mass of insects or a pair of rats who quickly flee from your light. But it seems that this section of the tunnels has been abandoned for some time. The chasm is supposed to be in an old warehouse, and the door to this chamber lies just ahead.
[Caiphys puts his ear to the door and listens to the sounds of two deep voices, probably dwarves and a woman. He also hears a rattling sound – pebbles being thrown on the ground, or possibly dice.]
“I hate this waiting,” a deep voice growls. “I say follow them down or call it done.”
“They’ll be back,” says another voice, so similar to the first that it is hardly possible to tell them apart.
“And Bal himself couldn’t make me go down. Now shut up and roll.” This is followed by the sound of dice rattling against stone and a curse, along with the clink of coins.
“I command here, Corrlon” says a woman’s voice, cold and calm. “I will decide when it is time for us to leave, and where we shall go.”
A deep voice grumbles in protest, but the only words that follow this pronouncement are “Shut up and roll.”
Caiphys and Sejik enter the room.
This large stone chamber was once a storeroom. A few everburning torches provide dim light, but this illumination is torn into shreds by the hulking remains of the rotting wooden crates that scattered around the room. Near the southeastern wall, a jagged circular hole has been punched through the floor. Iron spikes driven into the stone support a number of ropes that disappear down into the dark passage.
There are three people by the chasm. Two appear to be brothers: a pair of dwarves, who share the same tight features and fiery red hair. They wear darkweave cloaks over finely wrought chainmail, and each carries an enormous axe. An elf dressed in a shimmering white robe stands behind them. She has long, auburn hair, and her skin seems almost golden in the torchlight. Even at a glance, you are struck by her unearthly beauty; she could easily have the blood of the fey in her veins. She carries no weapons, and seems somewhat bored.
Caiphys recognizes them as members of House Tarkanan. Sejik catches a glimpse of movement in the southwestern corner of the room. A figure in a darkweave cloak is standing behind an old barrel, a longbow in her hand.
“We have company in the shadows, Caiphys.” Sejik whispers.
One of the dwarves growls “Move along.” But the woman in white smiles and makes a slight curtsy. “We weren’t expecting to have company in such a desolate place,” she says. “What brings you here?”
“We are treasure hunters of the Digger’s Union. We are here to investigate the recent opening beneath Sharn. I am Daen. This is my associate, Uthor.” Caiphys smiles, gesturing to his dwarf companion.
Sejik in Uthor’s guise does his best to look properly dwarven as the two other dwarves eye him over.
“We too search for treasures of ancient Sharn." says the woman. “My name is Charisma. It is our practice to explore any new gaps in the ancient city. Currenty, we hope to recover a statue – a dragon carved from crystal. There is a buyer who would pay top platinum for it.”
“Hmmm.” Caiphys ponders. “Perhaps we can be of assistance to each other?”
Charisma smiles. “I’d be happy to broker a deal. We’ve already sent down three explorers. It’s been six hours and still no word. Amateurs.”
“Cowards more likely” grumbles Corrlon.
Charisma eyes Corrlon wearily, smiles and continues, “It’s a dangerous business. Sadly, I am on the verge of declaring my companions lost. I would be most grateful if you could provide assistance to my explorers below.”
The dwarves sneer and snort. “If whatever’s down there could bring down Silean, the likes of you won’t fare any better.”
[After finishing their formalities and Sejik and Caiphys descend down the hole.]
As you descend, you see a light far below –by the time you descend half-way down the rock face, the light fades and dies.
No one is waiting at the bottom; all that remains is a used sunrod, presumably left by a previous explorer. The chamber at the base of the cliff is 25 feet wide and 10 feet across. The only thing of interest is a smaller gap in the floor to the north. This tunnel is about 5 feet high and 4 feet wide. The walls are rough, covered with dirt and chunks of rock. The passage extends for another 40 feet; Because of the tight tunnel, you must descend one at a time.
As you descend again, the tight tunnel slopes sharply to the west. A minute later, you come to the edge of a wall – the wall of an ancient building, buried beneath the earth! Studying the area more closely, you see that the tunnel runs into the wall of an old fortress, or keep: sturdy granite, nearly two feet thick. Looking through the gap, you can see a stone hallway. It is completely silent: there is no light, and no sound or motion.
The air is stale, and the hallway is covered with dust and cobwebs. The hall is dark and silent.
Sejik spots the tracks of what must be the Tarkanans; they appear to have gone both north and south, – but the tracks don’t go very far. There’s no sign of where they ended up; the tracks shuffle around, and then vanish.
[Sejik and Caiphys enter the hall]
Changing Fate – Part 2