Alteras

Depths of Turan - Chapter 1 - Looking for a Sap


Elon was reclining on a bench outside of the Inn of the Red Witch, licking his paws and grooming his white and black stripped fur as he watched the coming and goings of the many would-be adventurers invading the formerly quiet town of Rosedale. Word had gotten out that the eastern portion of the Splinter Woods, known as the Dragon Haven was filled with easy treasure and open to all. At least that is what the rumor was. In reality, the region was known to be filled with ruins from the old times when Alteras was ruled by the Keltans. It was believed that many great treasures were hidden among these ruins, but their exploration had long been prevented by a large tribe of Orcs, known as the Steel Hammer Tribe, and many other dangerous creatures who roamed these woods making it difficult for a small adventuring party to survive.

The situation in the Haven changed recently when the Steel Hammer Tribe sided with house Zancos in the Fantician civil war. They made a surprise attack on House Tuttle and the city of Dragon Point. While the plan was daring in nature and would have worked under normal circumstances, it was ill-timed as an entire legion of veteran troops had been pulled back to Dragon Point for a couple of weeks of rest. The Orcs and their many humanoid allies were massacred by the experienced army.

With the removal of the army of Orcs from Dragon Haven, a few desperate peasants whose families had been starving due to the long civil war ventured into the woods. Eight of these hungry peasants ventured into the woods but only one came out. His name was Vendrick Horseshoe. Vendrick emerged from the wilderness with a story of ruined tombs, dragon treasure and a city of gold. He also recovered an ancient crown made of pure Mithral. Once word of Vendrick’s treasure spread, the reckless, greedy, hungry and brave came from all over Fanticia to attempt to retrieve some of this great fortune for themselves. Since most of the honorable and experienced adventurers were currently engaged in the Fantician civil war, this particular lot coming to Rosedale were either some of the less reputable and downright criminal adventurers or those who were so inexperienced that they had no business adventuring.

Before the inflow of adventures, Rosedale was a quiet town of about 1000 souls. Since the horde of adventurers had come to town the population had grown to over 2000 and seemed to be growing daily. Adventurers came first followed by merchants, swindlers, bandits and anyone else who would prefer to make money off of the adventuring masses instead of braving the dangers of Dragon Haven. Rosedale looked more like a refugee camp than a town, with tents and makeshift shelters erected on every piece of open ground. Prices of most weapons, armor, gear and even rations were at least double what they were before the growth in population. Although Rosedale had several inns, the Inn of the Red Witch was the oldest and had a reputation for being the center of activity for adventurers.

Elon, carefully watched the many hopeful adventurers coming in and out of the Red Witch hoping for just the right group. Over the past month, he had made good money using his forestry skills to lead groups into the Dragon Haven. He didn’t bother to lead them out of the wilderness but would charge them a substantial fee, up front, to lead them to their destination in the Dragon Haven. He then would quickly part company with his customers and return to Rosedale on his own to take a couple of days to rest and look for his next group to guide. He had never had any return business, since none of the groups of adventurers that he led into the Dragon Haven ever made it back.

Elon had learned the art to selecting the perfect customers. Many of the novice adventurers were farmers or peasants and couldn’t even afford basic equipment. Elon knew to avoid those as they never had any coin to spend but always wanted to pay him with a percentage of their dreamed spoils. No, the perfect customers were the ones with new shiny equipment. They represented rookie adventurers that had new equipment and startup coin but no real experience. These customers would well and pay up front and like all of the others would probably never return from the Dragon Haven.

Elon was almost ready to give up for the day when he saw the perfect candidate. A tall figure approached the inn obviously lost. He wore armor that looked like a large turtle shell, covering most of his body. His helm was of a shiny metal and had a cage covering the warrior’s face. The stranger had a long thin sword strapped to his back and walked right up to Elon before removing his helm. With his headgear removed Elon could see that he was a human of a race known as the San and judging by his attire a member of a noble or royal clan in the Kaledrian League.

“We are lost, can you help us sir?” the stranger said. Elon recognized him as the perfect customer and could barely contain his purr as he responded, “Certainly! Where is it you are wanting to go?” The stranger looked pleased and said, “My name is Tavi and my companions and I are looking for a guide to take us into the Dragon Haven. I have heard that I could find qualified guides here at the inn.” Elon was so focused on his new mark that he hadn’t even noticed that he had an entourage of fresh unbloodied adventurers.

Elon quickly volunteered his services and asked where they wanted to go to in Dragon’s Haven. He expected the normal response of “somewhere there is treasure” but instead received the puzzling response of “A place called the Mound of Kings.” Elon knew where the Mound of Kings was. It was a short two day trip into the Splinter Woods. It was a hill with some old tombs and graves on it that were said to be haunted. Rumors said that the area had been looted long ago and was now cursed with the spirits of the long dead and unknown kings buried in the mound. Elon, didn’t think about the destination too long but instead thought of the easy coin and offered to take the group there for a fee of 2 gold in advance. Tavi agreed to pay 1 gold up front and another after safe arrival at the mound. He also agreed to put up Elon for the night with his group. Elon, hesitated since he liked to get all of the money up front but decided that Tavi looked honest enough and accepted the job. Tavi and his group followed by Elon entered the inn to find a place for the night.

Tavi eventually found the proprietor of the inn, a Dorgal barbarian named Raisha. She was a beautiful woman who seemed to take a liking to the cultured Tavi. As Tavi and Raisha flirted with each other the bouncer, a large, ill-tempered Half-Orc named Gorgrak took a special interest in Tavi, obviously jealous of the attention being shown to him by Raisha. After a few not so veiled threats from Gorgrak, Tavi managed to make a deal with Raisha and procured a small room that the party could squeeze into for the night. When they were all in the room, the group introduced themselves.

There was a Halfling named Octavian who was obviously very nervous and jumpy. He had several tattoos and seemed to spend a lot of time in the shadows constantly looking over his shoulder. Elwyn was an Arkan, a race of flying elf like beings. He appeared to be some sort of mage and introduced himself as a diviner. Elon thought, “Great a spoiled rich samurai noble, a paranoid Halfling and a fortune telling bird man. I may not even be able to get them to the mound alive.”

As Elon was pondering the first three members, the next one introduced himself. “Me Grug! Me good at killing stuff.” Elon had not paid much attention to Grug until now. He was an odd combination of a Half-Orc warrior crossed with a well dress nobleman. His clothes were clean? He was clean? This was the first Half-Orc that Elon had ever encounter that didn’t look like a vagabond and smell like a cesspool. As a matter of fact Elon thought he smelled the scent of lavender coming from the well-manicured warrior. The last member of the group was a Sarsen priest named Ratagast who spoke with a snake-like lisp as he introduced himself. “I am Ratagasst a powerful priesssst of Prothosss.”

After the introductions, Tavi pulled a map from his Tunic and said that scholars from his homeland that worked for his father believed that they had found the entrance to the depths of Turan. Elon laughed out loud. The concept of the depths of Turan was a myth. As he chuckled Elon said, “The depths of Turan? A place of endless treasure with rivers of gold, streets of platinum and bags of gems lying about in the streets. Sure.” Tavi looked at Elon and said, “think what you may, I am certain of its location and am certain that it is below the Mound of Kings.” Tavi continued, “The truth about the depths of Turan is that they are a series of natural caverns that were occupied over 400 years ago by cultists of Zabrok. The cultists expanded the caverns and made them into a fortress and holy city honoring their evil god. The cultists eventually even found the remains of a more ancient city in the depths of the caverns. A large army led by priests of good deities eventually invaded the region and slew the cultists and sealed the depths. The artifacts and treasures of the cult and the ancient civilization they discovered lay in these long forgotten caverns.” All except Elon were excited and began talking about the great treasures they were about to find. Elon, sat in the corner and shook his head thinking, “Maybe I ought to offer to bury them for an extra fee.”

The next morning the party left for the Mound of Kings. The first day and a half was uneventful. Halfway through the second day, Elon spotted another group of adventurers. This group looked like they had more equipment than brains. They tried to quiz Elon and Tavi for where their group was going and asked to tag along. Elon finally offered to tell them where they could get some treasure in trade for some coin. The other group had spent their coin and offered some extra rations instead. Elon took the deal and told the other group about a hive of giant bees that had created several barrel loads of honey that were there for the taking. He told the group that giant bee honey was extra sweet and would bring five times as much money as normal honey. Elon didn’t tell the other group that he had previously led two groups of adventurers to the same hive and that neither group had been seen or heard from since. The rival group was excited about the information and gave Elon a backpack filled with rations in trade and went their way.

After a few more hours of travel the group was only an hour away from the mound. Since it was almost dark, the group decided to wait until morning before going to the mound and Elon knew of a well hidden campsite in the area so the party spent the night there. Elon opened the backpack of rations that he had traded for and found that they were rotten. He was about to throw them away into the surrounding woods when he heard Grog say, “Are you going to eat that?” Elon said no and handed the bag to Grog who smiled and took the putrid food away like it was a great treasure.

The next morning the Elon led the group to the Mound of Kings and promptly requested the remainder of his payment. Tavi gave him the gold and asked him to stay with the group for an equal share of the treasure. Elon said he would stay just long enough to see Tavi proved wrong about this being an entrance to the depths of Turan.

The Mound of Kings was a cross shaped hill that rose a hundred feet from the surrounding forest. Burial sites with headstones could be seen covering much of the hill. On each end of the long part of the cross were a stone well and a large mausoleum respectively. On each end of the short arm of the cross were matching mausoleums, slightly smaller and less ornate than the large mausoleum. All of the structures were made out of a strange greenish stone. The area around the mound looked perfectly manicured as if several gardeners worked the ground daily. The tombstones, although centuries old, appeared as new. Everything on the mound seemed to be in perfect order.

The group climbed the mound and went immediately to the center point of the cross where a statue of a Dwarf warrior stood. The statue had runes around the base that no one could read. Elwyn used some sort of magic and revealed a secret compartment in the base of the statue. Octavian checked the area for traps and determined it was safe to open. Grug was asked to open the compartment and stick his hand into the dark hole behind the compartment door. Elon noticed that this was a pattern with Grug. Someone would ask him to do something dangerous or stupid. He would ask is it safe. They would say yes and Grug would do the stupid, dangerous thing. This time Grug pulled out a large key.

Elon thought at this point, “Well these guys actually seem to know what they are doing.” So he decided to go ahead and follow the group further. Elon noticed a nearby set of graves with freshly dug dirt. This seemed out of place in this otherwise garden of perfection. The group carefully approached the graves and noticed writing on the headstones in common. On each headstone was the name of a different member of the adventuring group. Elon was startled to see his name on one of the stones and questioned his decision to follow along with this group. A loud scream followed by crying came from Grug. “Me have a brother Grug and he dead. Noooooo! I didn’t even know him. Grug sad.”

As the party was looking at the tombstones and trying to ignore the weeping Half-Orc, Octavian had already started approaching the doors to the largest of the mausoleums. The mausoleum was covered with strange carvings of demonic looking winged creatures. As Octavian began to climb the stairs up to the building four of the statues sprang to life and attacked the party. The party quickly dispatched the creatures with little damage to themselves. Unfortunately, Elon broke his Kurrnack in the battle. The Kurrnack is a special sword used by the Murrnahoim and is a rather exotic item. Elon knew that with the current prices in Rosedale that even if he could find one, it would probably cost 80 gold or more to purchase a new one; an amount which he was nowhere near having.

The large iron double doors were locked. Elwyn, through some magical means was able to tell that the doors were trapped. Octavian examined the doors and determined that the trap would only fire if the key was not used. Octavian took the key he had found earlier and placed it into the lock. The door easily opened and the party entered the tomb. Elon stood outside for a moment, trying to decide if he wanted to enter or not. He had his two gold, but what if he could find more in here? This group did seem capable. He thought, “They have a good burglar and a mage that seems to know his stuff and it looks like the sweet smelling Half-Orc would be good in a fight. I will need a lot of coin to replace my Kurrnack.” For just a moment his better judgment departed Elon and he entered the dark tomb with the group. A decision that he would later regret.

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