He stood outside the Inn, its shadow looming over him. He squinted at the freshly painted sign, the gracefully flowing calligraphy spelling the words “Mysterious Places”. He caught his breath, both excited and apprehensive at their meaning. Shoulders squared (albeit knees shaking), he pushed open the heavy door.<
The Rencontre Inn
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He stood outside the Inn, its shadow looming over him. He squinted at the freshly painted sign, the gracefully flowing calligraphy spelling the words “Mysterious Places”. He caught his breath, both excited and apprehensive at their meaning. Shoulders squared (albeit knees shaking), he pushed open the heavy door.
The Inn of Rencontre had been holding this competition for as long as anyone could remember. Men, Elves, Dwarves, even Gnomes travelled from afar to compete for the lucrative pot. He was curious to see if he would recognize any faces. The elites, the giants among storytellers, would be here!
“What am I doing here, I have not done this in twenty-two years!” he shook his head, dumbfounded at his foolishness. “Back then, the stories flowed so easily,” he sighed, then chuckled to himself, remembering the hushed silence (why, you could have heard a pin drop!), the upturned faces, rapt with attention, hanging onto his every word, his every pause—and then thundering applause and stamping feet demanding still another encore!!
He shook himself from his reverie and shambled further into the Inn. A sea of smells washed over him--Sheldmar Valley Tobacco, Dwarven Ale and Sablewood brought from the North for just such an occasion as this! He made his way to the registration area. He would be the last to speak. He settled in with a large earthen mug of ale, waiting until a hush began to fall. He carefully placed a number of empty mugs in front of him to give the illusion of drinking heavily.
The storytelling began…
“Hey, you!” a voice bellowed in his ear, waking him from his fake slumber. “Are you forfeiting your turn, or are you competing?”
“No, no,” he mumbled. “I’m coming,” and he staggered to the makeshift stage.
Clearing his throat with a swig of ale, he began…
“This is the story of Collack’s Mine…”
Some from the audience groaned.
“This is no ordinary mine!” he assured them, “It is only a day’s ride from Hookhill, and yet no one knows of its existence! Even more surprisingly, the history of this mine begins before the Magic of Twin Cataclysms was discovered; even before Ehlonna was Queen of The Beastlands and The Abyss was more orderly!” He cocked his eye at the audience. Silence. He allowed himself to sway a little.
“Once, many thousands of years ago, there existed a god who bequeathed himself the title ‘God of Demons’. His name has, most thankfully, been forgotten. He was a brutal, terrorizing God who reeked havoc throughout the Cosmos and Pantheon. He possessed five eyes, two tongues and many arms and legs. His absolute control of the Abyss gave him supremacy over most Gods. Only the Greater Gods could hold him in check. Although his vales greatly despised him, their utter fear of him assured his ascendancy.
Today, you know the feuding rulers of the Abyss as self-proclaimed ‘Lords’. Back then, they were his appointed ‘Barons’. The Demon God favoured only one—for his relentless abuse of the dead and for his unwavering support. His name was ‘Orcus’. The Barons plotted incessantly against the God of Demons, but it was with Orcus’ allegiance that every attempt was foiled.
Then came the Day of Hope and Despair. The God of Demons proved himself the King of Chaos when he and his minions charged wildly into The Beastlands, slaughtering all in their path. He himself killed Ehlonna, Mother of Verlonna. They left as abruptly as they came, a horrendous devastation in their wake. Shockwaves reverberated throughout the Pantheon, though not a one dared seek vengeance. All except Ehlonna, then a Demigod. She first sought help from Obad-Hai, who refused. She then asked Pelor and Hieroneous, who blessed her with weapons and protective armor of great power. But the greatest help was to come from the Barons of the Abyss!
You see, the Demon God had not included Orcus in his frolic in the Beastlands, and loyalty hath no enemy greater than an ally spurned! The other Barons, knowing of this affront, wasted no time in taking advantage of their good fortune, and immediately launched an attack on their Master. Orcus had shut himself away in his fortress, justified in his treachery.
Ehlonna arrived to find the Demon God embroiled in a great battle with the Barons of the Abyss—and without Orcus by his side. Roaring her Mother’s name, Ehlonna lunged towards her bitter foe. Their Battle lasted an entire day, it is said, while the Demons of the Abyss slaughtered each other around them. When Ehlonna struck the fatal blow, the sword flew into nine shards (some are said to have landed in the Prime Material plane. These shards would make the Holiest of weapons.)
The Demon God was vanquished. Witnessing his death, the Barons and their hordes turned on the exhausted Ehlonna, but a planetar Novalee(1) mysteriously swooped in and carried her away.”
He took another swallow of ale as his audience leaned forward expectantly.
“Now...” he continued, “It is said that the Lords of the Abyss are too chaotic to agree on anything. But on this day… this day, the Demon Barons agreed on two things. Firstly, that that they were now ‘Lords of the Abyss’; and secondly, that the Demon God could never come back. They drained his essences and life fluids, including his liquefied brain, into four containers and cut is heart into seven pieces. His body they cut into one hundred pieces. They then scattered all of these parts, along with his five eyes and two tongues, far and wide into the Prime Material plane, ensuring that all who watched would bear witness to the Demon God’s demise. This was to be the only day—well, the only moment, anyways—of peace in the Abyss. Even as I speak, the new Lords fight each other for domination!
As the sundered parts of the Demon God entered the Prime Material plane and other planes, they turned to stone. The essence turned to red stone, fine and flaky like vermiculite. The pieces of the Demon God’s heart turned into an obsidian-like mineral. The body transformed into a bright yellow-type substance, similar to iron, and just as hard. All of these can be can be found in pockets throughout the Prime Material plane.”
“I thought this story was about a mine, not some long ago fairy tale!” a voice jeered from the crowd, which shifted restlessly as likeminded listeners snickered agreement.
He grinned. “You’re right on cue.”
“In the year 340 CY, a disgraced dwarf, known as Silacakar, enlisted a human called Collack to assist him in starting up an iron mining operation. Neither of them was particularly excited about the prospect of working with the other, but they respected each other’s skills, even if they trusted the other about as far as they could fling him. However, there were no other mines near Hookhill, and they felt they stood to become quite rich given, they were so close to large commerce centre!
Silacakar, with his dwarven knowledge of geology and mine building, was the brains of the operation. Collack was the front man, organizing labour, dealing with officials in the city and fundraising.
As luck would have it, they did not find much iron. It took four months of arguing, cracking the whip and back-breaking labour before they found even a small vein of copper. Wanting to recoup some of their losses, they decided to mine the vein. For a week, all went well until suddenly, for no apparent reason, one miner killed another, claiming he had seen a hell spawn creature and attacked it. As workers dragged the body out of the mine, they were shocked to discover that a fellow miner had been killed! The sightings and confusion continued for the next few days, until the miners refused to set foot into the mine. Silacakar, frustrated by Collock’s inability to get them back to work, ventured in, only to experience himself what had made the miners so upset. The culprit turned out to be, what is called in dwarven, norgogh splendaar (2) (a few of the dwarves blanched slightly at the naming of the forbidden stone). This is a stone that causes one to appear be the opposite of one’s soul, including hiding one’s intentions.”
“Silacakar, knowing full well that in dwarven law to mine this stone was punishable by death, ran back to Collack to tell him that they would be rich. Collack was at first dubious, but Silacakar convinced him that, since humans knew nothing of the stone, they would have no such laws against mining it. They offered large sums of money to any miner who would work blind, thus avoiding any of the effects of the stone itself. With the help of a wizard friend of Silacakar’s, they devised a way for the blind miners to conduct their work easily.
They hawked the stone, extolling its virtues in casting alteration spells; as amulets and mirrors of opposition; even as mind-shielding rings. In its raw form, it degraded quickly in sunlight, and yet this was when it was most effective in instantaneously hiding one’s true intent.
Silacakar’s and Collack’s timing could not have been more perfect, with all the war and political jockeying going on in the region. The stone was sold as quickly as it could be mined, and the price rose steadily. Collack’s and Silacakar’s grew as exponentially as their wealth and soon, evil began to fester. Collack had Silacakar murdered and pinned the blame on his wizard ‘friend’, and some well placed bribes and ‘accidents’ ensured his he was falsely tried and executed for the crime. Collack was now free to run the mine and reap the benefits on his own!
As the war, dubbed “The Keoland War of Aggression”(3) wore on, the mine was at full production, and Collack was barely able to keep up with demand. Ironically, the War would also result in the mine’s demise. The newly formed Knights of the Watch had been fooled one too many times by those using the stone against them. A small company of The Watch learned of the mine’s existence from a miner who had managed to escape Collack’s grim clutch; he later died that same night. They found him in the morning, his face contorted in fear. A company of men and archers were immediately dispatched to find and destroy the mine, which they succeeded in doing, although Collack himself was never found. Those miners captured at the site were tried for treason and executed on the spot. Any evidence of the mine’s existence and of the stone were systematically destroyed. Or so The Watch thought…unbeknownst to them, one not so pure Knight had hidden some information from them, hoping to return and build his own fortune.
One week later, he and his fellow company were all slaughtered in one of the last battles of the war.”
He looked about the room.
“Look not for this mine, for it kills all who touch it.”
He waited. At first, there was silence. Then a scraping noise could be heard as a dwarf heaved himself upon a chair, finger pointed angrily in his direction. “You’ re a liar. That stone never existed and neither did the mine. No dwarf even in disgrace would do such a thing!! This drunkard should be disqualified for such slander and hate mongering.”
He smiled back at the now loud and disgruntled crowd. He pulled out a necklace from under his shirt, holding up its golden disc. Then, with one quick jerk, he flung it out the window, revealing the demon within.
Amid the frenzy of screams and blood, the Demon collected his prize—a lucrative pot indeed!
Later that night, a shadow crossed over the Inn. He stooped to pick up his necklace.
“I should do this more often,” he chuckled to himself, and strolled away.
The mine is only 47 miles southeast of Hookhill and is now occupied by a band of caravan raiders led by a half-elf thief named Astenal. Employing an erratic attack pattern, they have implicated Centaurs as the culprits of the raids. The band is made up of half orcs, bugbears and an ettin and his pet hydra. Astenal has manipulated a troll into mining the stone he calls ‘corpsenite’ (because of how pretty it makes her look). Believing the ruse, some merchants of Hookhill have put a bounty on Centaurs.
The raiders are part of a group hoping to continue to destabilize the region beyond Geoff into Gran March.
Unknown to all, this is part of a greater plan of the Cult of Mortetsang, who are trying to find a way to bring the dead god back.
Note: This story is the prologue to a campaign I am writing. The first module has been completed.
(1) Jeff Grubb, Bruce R. Cordell and David Noonan Manual of the Planes (Renton WA: Wizards of the Coast Inc.) 143
(3) Gary Holian, Erik Mona, Sean K. Reynolds and Frederick Weining, Living GreyHawk (Renton WA: Wizards of the Coast Inc.) 50