DescriptionWhen you arrive at Phloxfish Stead, or Phlox in short form, it feels like the troubles of the rest of the world don't exist. The small village lies at the western edge of the Slumberpool lake, surrounded by water and beautiful hills. The locals, mostly halflings, go fishing on the lake, take care of their very traditional dwellings and overall just lead a simple, good life. At least, they used to - and many try to keep up the appearance, despite having a harsh history since the apocalypse. Before the end of the world of Virthys, the most unusual thing about Phlox was that many of the fishes swimming in this area of the lake have a very bright, purplish colour. This has nothing to do with the Braythian Void - they were like that before the settlement was founded about 140 years ago. There's a very rare breed of the Phlox flower growing on the lake's shores, and the violet blossoms contain a strong pigment. When they fall into the water, they give off the colour and tint the local sea life. Some Phloxers have learned to produce a special dye based on the flower's pigments. But they make sure to only take little amounts of the plants, so the flowers can still grow healthily. When the apocalypse came, the peaceful life in Phloxfish Stead was brutally disrupted - but that was only the beginning of change: Phlox was the place of the first appearance of the amphibic Slumberpool halflings. Ever since then, trouble is a constant companion in the little lake town.
ResidentsThe residents of Phloxfish Stead are clearly split into two groups: The Isolationists and the Defenders. The conflict between the two camps is so tense that heated discussions and even the occasional fistfight are a daily occurence in Phlox, because both groups believe they have the solution to protect everyone's lives. In their minds, it’s not a matter of different opinions, but of survival. The Isolationists are mistrusting to outsiders. The day you leave is the best day of your visit. Most of them act as if nothing had happened, suppressing the nightmarish memories of the past. Addressing events of the past is a surefire way to get into an argument or even a fight with them. The Defenders prefer to prepare for the next crisis that, in their belief, will certainly come - the only question is when. They are training each other in battle, and some even discovered a talent for magic. The arcane forces that shaped Ashandri created a handful of sorcerers here. Defenders are open to foreigners, always willing to learn about the world and acquire new skills. Both groups try to force the other side to submit to their ideas, and so far, any attempts at mediation failed. It even happens that they sabotage each other’s projects to protect the city. For example, the Defenders once burnt down a newly built town wall to demonstrate that it wouldn't help against invaders. The Isolationists only took it as proof that the Defenders are all mad. Both groups have their own small militia - the original Phlox Guards, under control of the Isolationists, and the Phloxfish Soldiers, founded during the second invasion of . None of the guards accept the authority of the other, increasing the tension in town. It’s probably only a matter of time before someone gets killed in the conflict.
Important charactersPhloxfish Stead was founded by the Halfling Noni Brim. She led a small group of settlers here about 140 years ago. Ever since then, the Brim family were the inofficial rulers of Phlox, taking care of all administrative and organizational tasks in the town. Varis Brim is the current grey eminence of the family, and a strong supporter of the Isolationists. His grandson, Tyuvi Brim, is in charge of the Phlox Guards, the original police force of the village. He is one of the most fanatic agitators of the Isolationists, and most members of the guard support him in this. Rubielle Appletart is the founder of the Phloxfish Soldiers. As the Phlox Guards began to bully anyone with a different opinion, she felt the necessity for a counter force. Especially younger people followed her call, and many treat her as a hero or freedom fighter.
FloodcavesThe Floodcaves are a group of natural caves about half a mile away from the town of Phloxfish Stead. The three cave entrances are located more than three hundred feet higher than the town itself, which makes them a safe place to retreat during a flood. About fourty years ago, the gnomish inventor Larifar Hoovehand has built three massive circular stone doors that can be closed with a simple lever on the inside. The doors fit in so perfectly that, even if the water rose to this point, the caves would not be flooded. Fortunately, there is rarely a need for the Floodcaves. The Slumberpool lake is a calm water body most of the time. Every couple decades, though, something stirs up the water - something from very, very deep. When this happens, floods and giant vortices in the water are a common thing in this area. So far, these periods always ended after a few weeks -from one day to the next, it was simply over. The last time this happened is about twenty years ago now. There are crevices in the Floodcaves that lead deeper into the hills. All these tunnels ultimately lead to the Deep Hollow.
Deep HollowIf you follow the tunnels of the Floodcaves deeper into the hills, you find the entrance to a massive cave. About five hundred feet in radius, it looks as if someone had cut a perfect sphere out of the underground landscape. Aside from a few roots dangling from the ceiling, there is no life here: Both flora and fauna seem to avoid this area. On the far side, opposite to the entrance, there is a chasm, about nine feet long and four feet wide. It is so deep that if you throw an object in, you never hear the sound of it hitting the ground. A few locals tried to climb down, but after a few miles, they gave up. There are rumours and tales about the Deep Hollow, as the Phloxers call it, leading down to a city of Shadowblood Elves. These stories exist since the chasm was first found, but today, no one remembers their origin, and if there is any truth to it. Most of the local residents prefer to believe these are just scary tales.
Crystal ShoresWhen Ashandri was created and Phloxfish Stead was flooded, strange jellyfish were washed ashore. After the flood, thousands of their corpses were found on the ground. At about two dozen places over a distance of several miles, this changed the ground, and blue crystals began growing where the jellyfish had died. The locals consider these crystals a curse: They emit thoughts, which can implant themselves in the minds of passers-by. This has not only lead to a series of horrible incidents, but also to the occupation of Phlox by Ravager Elves during the first invasion. Foreigners - from fortune seekers to alchemists - occasionally seek out the crystals, very much to the displeasure of the locals. The residents tried to destroy all of the translucent blue gems, but for some reason, they just keep growing back. A character coming closer than five feet to such a thought crystal, and not protected against being charmed or similar types of mind-control, has to make a DC 12 Wisdom saving throw. On a failure, the person is subject to a thought implant. On a critical failure, two thoughts engrave into the subject's mind.
Thought crystal effects
|d20||Type of thought implant|
|1-4||A minor thought with no significant effects. This could be a song the person has never heard (but now doesn't get out of their head), the thought to remember a specific event that they know nothing about (and possibly lies in the far past), and similar things.|
|5-8||The implanted thought has a minor effect on the character's mood. It could be a philosophical thought about the inevitability of death, the memory of a lost person (that the target of the effect never met, but still feels the loss), or even a hurtful childhood memory that never happened to the subject. It is possible to process these thoughts, for example by talking about them, to get rid of the accompanying emotions.|
|9-12||A thought about the relationship to another person. Something changes the target's perspective on a person they know. Roll a d20 again. The lower the result is below 10, the more positive the change is. For example, on a roll of 1, the subject might remember something positive the other person has done, and overinterpret the significance of that event so it defines the entire relationship. Everything above 10 has a similar negative effect. On a 10, the subject feels like meeting the person for the first time, despite all shared memories.|
|13-16||A desire implants itself in the subject's mind. This could be the desire for a certain type of food or drink, but also the wish to possess a certain object or to conquer the love of a specific person (even if the target him- or herself isn't in love). This thought is so strong that fulfilling the desire becomes the person's main objective. They can do other things, but this is the ultimate goal that they won't let go off.|
|17-20||On a roll of 17-20, a desire similar to the previous result implants itself. This time, though, it becomes possessive: The target can't think of anything else, and will do whatever it takes to fulfill the desire - even things the person normally wouldn't ever do.|
Duration of thought crystal effects
|9-12||1d10 hours. The target can make another saving throw after every hour. If it succeeds, the intrusive thought passes and the effect ends.|
|13-16||1d4 days. The target can make another saving throw after every day. If it succeeds, the intrusive thought passes and the effect ends.|
|17-20||1d20 years. The target can make another saving throw after every 10 days. If it succeeds, the intrusive thought passes and the effect ends.|
GhostpointAbout a mile away from the shore of Phloxfish Stead, there's an area in the Slumberpool lake that the locals consider haunted. Most of the fishermen that went missing in the recent years have last been seen in this area. There are rumours about tentacled horrors in the deep, strange fishpeople and dark whispers in the night. The locals have a variety of explanations for these stories: Some believe these are the spirits of a Gnome family that died when the town was flooded during the creation of Ashandri. Others think the gnomes actually survived - and have transformed into nightmarish sea creatures. The Slumberpool halflings that witnessed the metamorphosis are certain this isn't true, though. Other interpretations include a hidden civilization deep down in the lake, a breeding ground for monsters and evil giant, mind-controlling jellyfish.
ServicesThe only inn in Phloxfish Stead is the Giddy Gremlin, owned by the Oxeye family. It's mostly an eating house with a few rarely used bedrooms in the first floor. Ervin and Brak Loybrade and their adopted children are supporters of the Defenders. The only reason the Isolationists still come here is that Ervin is an excellent cook, and his cherry cake is famous in town. Brak is also a talented healer, and he has succeeded in curing diseases where the official town healer and apothecary Varbran failed. Varbran Rockmound is a Dwarf that ended up in Phlox after the first invasion. He was a captive of the Laethian army, and managed to escape as the legion retreated. He lived in the Tower of Memories, and rumours are he was taken hostage because he knew an important secret. Varbran doesn't talk about it, and has no intentions of returning to the Tower. Instead, he became the local healer, taking care of both townspeople and livestock. Debraya Thornleaf is one of the halflings that produce the special Phlox dye. She is also one of the few that are neither Isolationist nor Defender, and she tries since months to medtiate between the two groups - with little success, so far.
Local rumours and news
- A strange disease is affecting the local fish population. Certain species are dying off with an alarming speed, while others seem immune. A local rumour speaks of the Ghostpoint Curse, but aside from vivid imagination, there are no clues pointing to a connection here.
- The Isolationists seem to be planning something against the Defenders. There's been a series of not-so-secret gatherings, and Tyuvi Brim has been hoarding resources. Whatever it is they plan, it might be the spark to ignite violent conflict.
- Some local children have been playing in the Floodcaves, and reported signs of someone living there: Burnt-out campfires, food leftovers and humanoid tracks of bare feet. Maybe it's just someone travelling the area, but the Defenders think this might be the start of a Shadowblood Elf invasion.
- A visiting sage called Raynard Dabrish is studying the thought crystals. He's not trying to harvest them, but to find out why the Laethian forces were so interested in them. He's been affected by their effects several times now, but this doesn't stop him from continuing his studies
- A merchant from Blackbed, Simir Hathandri, wants to establish a regular trade of Phlox dye. He's trying to persuade the locals to produce more of the product, but the Phloxers are very reluctant.
- The Giddy Gremlin seems to have some kind of infestation: At night, strange sounds are heard in the walls. No vermin or insects have been found yet, though. Some Defenders believe it's a trick of the Isolationists, but the owners think they have a serious problem that needs to be fixed.
- Halflings: 70%
- Gnomes: 25%
- Other races: 5%
For the longest time, the history of Phloxfish Stead was pretty uneventful. Even during war times, the little town was mostly overlooked, and the locals were extremely thankful for that. To them, isolation meant keeping out of trouble. While Phloxfish Stead has always had trade routes to neighboring villages, they were used very infrequently. It took a month before the Phloxers heard about the return of the dragon gods in the year 3192 (Virthys Calendar). When the war of gods broke out, those were just distant rumours that had nothing to do with life in Phlox. Every single historic turn of events was simply an unpleasant story here. Until, of course, Zathruax began to tear apart the world itself in his rage. Despite all the clues, the apocalypse dropped like a bombshell on the Phloxers. In total shock, they stared at the sky as it went black, and Delvaroth was hurled into space. Most of them hid in the Floodcaves in the nearby hills, confused and disoriented, hoping the bad dream would end soon. About fifty of the local residents stayed in town. When Delvaroth smashed against Varua, and the two regions fused, the resulting shockwaves caused the lake to flood the town and the surrounding hills. Those who remained there would have certainly died. But along with the water came a wave of magic, violet lightning and purple mist. It transformed the drowning halflings, growing gills and effectively creating a new subrace. The first other halflings anywhere else that went through the metamorphosis appeared hours after the first Slumberpool halflings were created in Phloxfish Stead. A family of gnomes were among the group, too. But for some reason, the magic failed with them, gruesomely twisting their bodies until the poor people died. Some of the surviving halflings had to witness the incident, and according to them, it was more horrifying than the apocalypse itself. A few days later, when the connection to the afterlife was restored, the surviving fishermen told tales of monstrous spirits in the lake. Some people believe these are the tormented ghosts of the gnome family, caught in their twisted forms and bound to the lake. Since then, every couple months a fisherman disappears on the lake. But lost souls aren't the only problem of Phloxfish Stead. The flood washed up crystal blue jellyfish, and as the water retreated, thousands of them died on the shores. Not only are there now swarms of (harmless) jellyfish ghosts haunting the Slumberpool lake. But as the corpses dissolved, the soil was soaked with a strange blue liquid. This led to a chain reaction that still troubles the locals to this day. In some places, the soil slowly turned into blue crystals that emit thoughts. Those who get too close sometimes take on these thoughts as their own. The outcome is very different: Sometimes it's a sudden change of perspective, or a song that's stuck in a person's head. But there were incidents of theft and murder, too, as well as someone falling in love or suddenly disliking another person. Naturally, the locals steer clear of the crystals, but they attracted treasure hunters and alchemists. Occasionally, these people bring trouble with them, or fall victim to the effects of the crystals, and Phloxers have become very mistrusting to foreigners. But things got really bad during the first invasion: The ravager elves of Va'Laeth took control of the small town, and forced the locals to harvest the crystals. Many tragic events took place due to the crystals' effects, killing hundreds of Phloxers. Anyone who refused to take part in the harvesting was publicly executed. The crystals kept growing back, and as the Ashandrian armies returned, the Laethians defended Phloxfish Stead with a stubbornness that was almost suicidal. Only when it was clear that they would fail, the cruel elves retreated, taking every single harvested crystal with them. It's unknown what the Laethians did with the crystals. The occupation cost hundreds of lives, and left the locals split in two camps: Part of the Phloxers think they should isolate even more, maybe even hide the town's presence entirely. Others believe the locals have to learn to defend themselves, or they should go out into the world and fight evil before it ever comes to their home. The conflict between the two polarized groups is so tense that entire families fell apart over this, and dozens of Phloxers left their home for good.
14th Narviz 3059 after the Virthys Calendar