APoF 01: The Journey Begins
Steve is a tortle. He came into being in the Shardscape, with no knowledge of who he was, or what his purpose was, and he wandered the beaches of the idyllic landscape that he had woken up in with no sense of the passage of time. His wanderings led him to the Wyldrysc where he learned the ways of the druids, but a freak occurrence shunted him out of the Shardscape into the material realm, into the depths of a subterranean lake at the periphery of the erinindal city of Kassar. Over the years, Steve becomes a staple of the community, and though he is mostly a lonesome tortle, he attracts the other misfits in the city to him. Lost both physically and mentally, Dr. Roth, running away from a past that still haunts him, finds that whiling away the time with Steve, fishing and drinking tea, helps to calm his troubled soul. Mordollwen, cast out from the Shardscape into the material realm by a master seeking to teach her a lesson she won't soon forget, happens upon the city of Kassar in her wanderings, and upon arriving is drawn to Steve as the only other Shardborn creature in the immediate vicinity. Iris Belvarion, studying under the handful of arcanists in the city of Kassar, is intrigued by these alien creatures that have found their way into her city. Over the years, she bumps into Mordollwen a few times in the local libraries, finding a kindred spirit in her desire for knowledge. Through Mordollwen, she meets Steve, and a friendship is struck. IkBroknard, a half-orc fleeing from results of his naïveté and a horrific deal that his master struck, is wandering the mountains when he slips and falls into an underground channel of water that ultimately leads to Steve's lake, where he is rescued from drowning by the tortle. Feeling honor-bound, IkBroknard swears himself to the protection of Steve. Finally, Zephyros, a prodigal member of the Moellin nomads, who live off and along the northern coast of IldRenn, and chosen of his goddess Renata is at first an itinerant visitor to the city of Kassar, having crossed over from the northern slopes of the mountains in pursuit of glory and renown. Having lived on or close to water all his life, he finds comfort at Steve's lake, and it is through this proximity that they begin a bond of friendship. When the local government decides that it is perhaps time to unseal the dwarvenholds to explore the lost history of their people, justifying it to the populace as an order that had come down from the Dominion, this strange group of friends brought together by circumstances convene and decide, each for their own personal reasons, that perhaps this might be a worthwhile endeavor to participate in. They sign up as one of many expeditionary parties and with a minor allowance from the government, they procure what they believe to be the necessary provisions for this undertaking. They gather, along with the other adventuring parties, for a briefing in one of the major town squares, but they notice that there is something of a commotion down one of the major streets leading into the square. Upon investigation from a handful of the members, they meet Tolws Aviathis, the local clerical leader, who is at the helm of a protest against the unsealing of the dwarvenholds. Tolws preaches that by ordering the unsealing of the dwarvenholds, the Dominion is stepping on the sovereign rights of the dwarves as a people, and that by complying, the local government is tempting the wrath of the gods and risking the return of the terrible plague that had nearly wiped out their people in the distant past. Steve attempts to reason with Tolws, but his words fall on unwilling ears, and Tolws responds with his typical vitriol and rhetoric. Fortunately, the party does not have to deal with him for much longer as the man in charge of the entire undertaking, Carys Bwleth begins the briefing and informs the adventurers as to the parameters of the expeditions, namely that they are to clear out the dwarvenholds and secure them for possible habitation. Afterwards, each group is assigned a "foreman," or essentially a dwarven companion who will oversee the construction and running of a base of operations for the expeditionary teams who are able to successfully gain a foothold in the dwarvenholds. The party is assigned to Alesana Dwric, otherwise known as Viper by her contemporaries for her lack of faith in the dwarven gods. Guilty by association to Viper, the party is taken to the most remote of the gateways from Kassar to the depths, where they begin their journey. Once the gate is unsealed, the party descends into the darkness along a road that hasn't been used in millennia, coming upon a platform that leads in three directions at the bottom of the path's incline. Ahead of them is a bridge across a deep, dark chasm, but upon further inspection they see that the bridge is broken. They decide to take one of the other paths, which follows the wall of the chasm deeper into the darkness below. On the way, they encounter rockmaidens, reptilian creatures that are endemic to the mountains, who are powerfully territorial and use small rocks to hunt, throwing them at high speeds. The party decides not to challenge the creatures and find another way around them. A little ways deeper into the chasm they happen upon a courtyard recessed into the wall of the chasm. At the other end of the courtyard is a large stone gate, the entrance into a dwarvenhold. They find dirt beds where plants would have grown in the past, but are now bare. There is a layer of dust over everything, and they see a handful of skeletal remains. With care, they make their way into the city, happening upon what appears to be a small circular area just beyond the gate. It appears to be a park, meant for recreation, with a fountain in the center. There is a second floor with an open central area, held aloft by pillars, looking over the first floor of the park with what appeared to be places for shops and places for eating. The party explores the area, finding, down a corridor to the left, what appear to be servant's quarters. They don't find anything there, but eventually hear the sound of chittering coming from further down the corridor. As they move to investigate, they notice bright green sprites glowing softly in the darkness dancing across the air, moving in their direction.