DescriptionLocated in the beautiful plains and meadows at the shores of Mermaid's Rest, you wouldn't expect a smoldering volcano. But aside from the famous adventurers' guilds, exactly that is the main landmark in Seeker's Furnace, the city named after the Sunken Furnace volcano hidden deep underground. There's a large caldera at the southwest end of the city, which allows access to a vast network of tunnels. About two miles deep, you can see the first magma streams. The Furnace hasn't erupted in the last thousand years, but since the creation of Ashandri, it has become more active again. Even though the locals don't really expect a volcanic outburst anytime soon, they are preparing - just in case. From magic protecting the buildings to efficient evacuation plans including the arcane portals in the guild houses, Seeker's Furnace is ready if the worst happens. But most people believe in a different explanation for the recent geological activity. The creation of Ashandri has awakened something within the magma. Some of the fiery underground streams and pools have become sentient, living entities. The magma streams sometimes flow into tunnels where they shouldn't naturally flow, driven by conscious willpower. And a few people, the so-called Listeners, can even hear the magma spirits speak to them in their minds. From what they tell, the entities are not only benign, but deeply enlightened. And they wish for a better world, governed by wisdom and understanding. To them, Seeker's Furnace is the spark that will bring light into the whole world of Ashandri. In the city itself, not everyone is happy about their plans - and some believe the magma spirits might have a hidden agenda. Surrounding the deep crater that leads into the underground world are five guild houses. They have been built about seven hundred years ago, when rumours about vast hidden treasures and evil creatures in the tunnels attracted adventurers from all over the world. A whole civilization of monstrous beings was down there, a danger to the world that needed to be destroyed. But the riches and fame that could be gained here spawned greed. In the first months, the missions into the underground volcano were a chaotic mess: People sabotaged each other, jealousy and mistrust was everywhere. That's when five people, later called the Five Founders, decided to do something about it, and created the guilds. Within a year, avarice and jealousy turned into civilized competition, and clear rules were accepted by everyone that no fellow adventurers were to be harmed intentionally. The explorations went on for several years, and many groups brought back great treasures and trophies from strange and terrifying beasts. With many of the most dangerous creatures slain, and treasure hoards becoming more and more rare, the rush for gold and glory among adventurers eventually slowed down. But the guilds had been firmly established, and they were there to stay. They actively looked for people who needed help, even created several permanent teleportation circles in their guild houses. The five Seeker's Guilds, as they were soon called, became job brokers for adventurers and clients. They started making background checks for everyone involved, and if someone never returned from a quest, they organized a rescue mission. The advantages for everyone involved were so obvious, that these five guilds became institutions known throughout the world of Virthys. Of course, they also had their enemies. The guilds have their own set of rules which kind of quests they accept. What they don't care much about are the laws of certain nations or cities, and they didn't mind confronting or upsetting powerful people and beings. Some of the adversaries are still alive today, and kept their grudges over all the time. During the first years, Seeker's Furnace as a settlement was little more than huts and wooden buildings. Merchants, innkeepers and others wanted to profit from the gold rush, and within months, the city was home to more than five thousand people. When things later calmed down, the guilds and their visitors still offered good business opportunities. The city became more stable, wooden buildings gave way to stone houses, and twelve years after its foundation, the first mayor was chosen. Before the apocalypse, Seeker's Furnace had grown to a population of thirty thousand people. The city was attacked several times by the dragon armies of Zathruax and Myrzakliaz, and while the guilds protected the city, many people still died. But the attackers had their share of losses, too, and there are dozens of dragon skeletons and remains of other beasts in the area. When Va'Laeth attacked, the guilds fought hard - but this time, they were overpowered. Several Laeth-Beasts and six of The Perishing took part in the battle. After two weeks of bloodshed, it was clear the invaders would win. Some of the locals fled into the underground tunnels. But most were evacuated through the remaining teleportation circles in the guilds. Although most of these circles were destroyed when their target locations didn't survive the apocalypse, some led to areas that became part of Ashandri. The masters of the guilds brought as many people (and treasures) as they could to safe locations, and then destroyed the circles in the guildhouses. Some of the masters made a last stand, taking as many of the intruders with them as they could. Others decided to use their own means of escape. When the legions of Va'Laeth were later driven out of Delvaroth, these masters created new teleportation circles back into the guilds. Through these pathways, many of the former residents returned to Seeker's Furnace. But a minority decided to stay right where they were. Today, a little over twelve thousand people live here. About two thousand of them are either adventurers, or work directly for the adventurers' guilds. Trainers and teachers, but also cartographers, alchemists, investigators, administrative staff and others live in the city, but work in the guild houses.
ResidentsGlory, fame and wealth have been the driving forces for many people in Seeker's Furnace. Adventurers seek to make a name for themselves, find new challenges and gain fortunes from slain beasts and villains. Many adventuring groups give themselves fancy names to stand out, or pay bards to write songs and poems about their deeds. Still, it's important for the guilds that the local heroes aren't just mercenaries, and only people who actually stand for something, who fight for what they believe in, can join them. Some people don't like this philosophy, and there's a black market in the city that connects the more shady clients with adventurers that don't care much about ethics or moral values. These black markets are less physical locations than secret organizations within the city, often under the cover of local shops. The losses and suffering of the recent years has tarnished the feelings of glory and fame. So many people have lost their loved ones that many former heroes decided to retire, or at least take some time off to lick their wounds. Many locals are tired of conflicts and bloodshed. And while the guilds saved thousands, there are those who say Seeker's Furnace would never have been attacked that hard without the presence of the guilds. In the midst of all the tension and grief, the new influence from the volcanic magma spirits shaked things up even more. A part of the residents embraced their message of unity and peace, others strongly reject them - either because it harms their business, or because they don't trust the newly awakened entities. All these different viewpoints and philosophies leave the society of Seeker's Furnace torn. There is little open conflict, but a lot of tension. Many people join so-called Movements, where they unite based on certain world views and ideals. The Movement of Imperfection, for example, stands for the idea that nobody is perfect, and it's okay to achieve only part of what you aimed for. A concept that the guilds and their clients heavily dislike when it comes to the fulfillment of quests. The governing council and the guilds are doing their best to mediate and calm the tensions, but it's hard to predict how successful they are.
The five Seeker's GuildsThe true foundation of the settlement, the five guilds of Seeker's Furnace play a pivotal role in the city - and have had a heavy impact throughout the entire world. In Ashandri, they are slowly establishing their significance again. But as many of their most important allies died during the apocalypse, along with a large number of heroes, the guilds are still struggling to regain their former glory and status. While each of these institutions is an adventurer's guild, they all have their own focus. They are as much friendly competitors as they are allies. Adventuring groups often have members in different guilds, but there are some who only consist of members from a single guild. Aside from offering access to well-paid quests, the guilds also sell helpful items and services. Experienced members, some of them retired adventurers, also offer to teach other guild members or consult them when planning a mission. Some of the Listeners have important roles in the guilds, too, and are trying to establish new philosophies in the organizations. The guilds allow it so far, but there are many who oppose these influences, or at least watch the situation with a good amount of skepticism. Others embrace the new ideas, and several new ideological movements have already been established in the city, and in the guilds in particular. The most popular among them are the movements of Perseverance, Imperfection, and Detachment, and some of the teachers in the guilds weave in their philosophies as they train other topics.
The Lionheart GuildThe front line of battles belongs to the Lionhearts. Many warriors, from barbarians to paladins, are members of this guild. The Lionhearts also have their own forges, and work together with the other guilds in the creation of magical weapons and armor. The current leader of the guild is Embric Wildemane, a gnomish sword fighter who is known to have worked together with Marisha Veilbreaker in the past. The two aren't exactly friends, but they are on good terms. Embric is famous for fighting with his two antimagic swords, capable of deactivating spells and magic items of his opponents with a single strike.
The Arcane GuildPossibly the most elitist of the Seeker's Guilds, this organization is exclusively for spellcasters who learn their magic by studying books and scrolls. Mocked as the wizards' hideout by others, the Arcane Guild is famous for its vast libraries - and the powerful spellcasters among its ranks. The guild leader is Sheirala Arthen, a half-elven wizard who single-handedly killed Crac'chuzror, a divine proxy of Myrzakliaz. His massive dragon skeleton rots just behind the guildhouse, and members of the guild can acquire a permission from Sheirala to take parts of the corpse for their own research or spells. The Half-Elf is also known to have been male in the past, but she willingly changed her gender through magic. But this is little more than an anecdote that people tell about her. Sheirala's heroic deeds and her politics are much more a topic of discussion than this rather personal issue. One of these political topics revolve around her desire to merge her organization with the Guild of the Mystical and Occult. Opposite to her predecessors, she wants to break the traditional, elitist views that are so common in her guild. Her ideas are met with a lot of opposition from all involved parties, though.
Guild of the Mystical and OccultAs the Arcane Guild focuses entirely on magic acquired through studying and researching, this organization is the crucible in which all other spellcasters gathered. While most clerics prefer the Hallowed Guild, some of them are also part of this institution. Even a few paladins with a particularly strong interest in the arcane are members of the Guild of the Mystical and Occult. The former leader Avrek the Bright, a Human sorcerer, died during the first attack from Va'Laeth. His successor is a rather new member of the guild: One of the portals in the guildhouse lead to a hidden cave in Shamrua, not far away from the Dreevith village Abanau. The toad-like humanoids were a bit overwhelmed when the refugees arrived, but they did their best to help. Among them was Bobbagu arobo Ban Abero Boa, a Dreevith bard who not only helped the fugitives handle the whole situation emotionally, but who also turned out to be a powerful spellcaster. Before the people from Seeker's Furnace returned to their home, they asked Bobbagu if he was interested in becoming Avrek's successor. After giving it a bit of thought, he agreed, and now leads the guild with an optimistic energy that many consider inspirational. He was accompanied by his younger brother, Obabun, who was instinctively drawn to the deepest tunnels of the volcano - and turned out to be one of the Listeners. He became the first warlock of the magma spirits, officially joined the guild right after, and changed his name to Brebble arobo Obabun.
The Hallowed GuildThe servants of the divine powers, whether personifications or abstract forces, gather in the Hallowed Guild. While most members are clerics or paladins, druids and members of other professions are also part of the organization. Official ranks need to be able to cast at least some kind of magic, but the guild also has an honorary rank of adjutant. These are faithful who want to support the guild and help spread their religious beliefs. Adjutants can become official adventurers for the guild, but they cannot take over any higher positions within the organization. This guild suffered the most during and after the apocalypse. Several followers of the human goddess Venesha were among the high-ranking members of the guild, and simply collapsed when their deity was killed by Zathruax. Even powerful resurrection magic couldn't bring them back. The doubts many people had towards the gods after the apocalypse also hurt the guild massively. Sorania, leader of the guild, is a dryad priestess living in a holy tree on the guildhouse's roof. With the help of her goddess Mesidra, she managed to keep the forces of Va'Laeth out of the building. It took a lot of her own life force, though, and both Sorania and the tree are clearly sick. People are worried she might not get better, but she only claims she "still has at least one mission to accomplish".
The Penumbra GuildWant something done in secret? An important item retrieved silently? Or subtly sway the mood in a city in a certain direction? The Penumbra Guild takes on missions that they don't talk about publicly. The tales about their most famous heroes are nothing more but rumours, gossip discussed in the streets, sometimes vastly exagerrated... sometimes surprisingly close to the truth. Also called the Den of Rogues and Bards, the Penumbra Guild is led by the master thief Varnim. Little is known about him, as he always appears with a black mask and covered in a grey cloak. Some believe he's a cleric of the Man of Sorrows, others say he's a supernatural entity and patron to many of the warlocks in the Guild of the Mystical and Occult. There are so many infamous thefts associated with him that, if all those claims were true, he definitely couldn't be a mere mortal. What is known is that Varnim doesn't trust the Listeners and the spirit entities in the volcano. Anyone who claims to follow them is kicked out of the guild. Varnim officially stated that he's prepared to send assassins after anyone following the magma spirits if they turn out to be trouble for the city. He didn't clarify whether that means he's willing to do it, or has actually prepared the assassinations. When the Laethian armies stormed the city, the Penumbra guildhouse became a deadly menace for many of them. The whole building was so stuffed with hidden traps that hundreds of Ravager Elves died here, and the soldiers soon steered clear of the building.
Important charactersGavrun Arcoth is a Half-Orc who became mayor three months ago. The next election is still five years ahead, but his predecessor, the elven wizard Idjana, got killed by a single Laethian agent, a ravager Elf assassin. Gavrun owns a shop for adventuring equipment in the city, and his good relations with all of the guilds were part of why he was chosen. The half-orc isn't really interested in power - what he wants is as little trouble as possible, and that's the guideline by which he makes all political decisions. He's a pragmatist, but despite his somewhat brutish appearance, he's in no way cold-hearted. Keeping trouble out of the city is not only how he protects his business, but also his own neighbours. He deeply despises politicians who abuse power for their own advantages, and he's well aware that his current position puts him at risk. Only few people know about his serious intentions, and he prefers to keep it that way. The mask of the tough, iron-handed ruler gives him a better position in negotiations, and talking is indeed his preferred method of calming down the atmosphere in the city. Meyavan Elevethan is a half-elven sorceress who found out she's a Listener about a year ago. She went into the volcano with her adventuring group to explore a newly discovered network of tunnels, when they were attacked by a horrible beast. All her friends were slaughtered, but she fell down a chasm, and woke up hours later only a couple feet away from a magma stream. She heard the voice of the fire, as she calls it, and the spirit entity healed all her wounds. Opposite to all other Listeners, she hears the voice of the spirit constantly since then, even when she's nowhere close to the magma streams. Many see her as a chosen proxy, maybe even a prophet. She gained the ability to see into the future - not too far or clearly, but good enough to be truly helpful. Meyavan considers herself part of the movement of Imperfection, believing that people's flaws and limits make them unique and beautiful. But for her it's not just about beauty or accepting yourself, she believes that every so-called imperfection is a strength in disguise. Many people love her, and she has become a bit of a local spiritual leader. Caenderalys is a Tiefling working as a barkeeper in the local Bootlace Tavern. Located at the so-called Drunk Mile at the port, the tavern sees many guests who either just arrived or are about to leave. And among those, there are some frustrated faces, those who were refused a deal with guilds, or who don't really expect to get one. Whenever Caenderalys (or just Caen, for those guests he "likes") sees such a face, he pours the drinks on the house, and offers his ear to listen to the guest's sorrows. And if the guest seems like someone willing to pay adventurers who don't mind the darker type of quest, evading the guilds altogether, the tiefling is eager to offer a solution. As one of the black market brokers in the city, Caenderalys has a network of adventurers willing to take on delicate jobs that even the Penumbra Guild would refuse. His employer, Raddick the Bold, has no idea about the shady deals his barkeeper makes. Mae-Lin is an elven warrior who came into town with four other elves a month ago. They all wear white masks, helmets and white clothes that cover their entire bodies. Fitting to their appearance, they call themselves the White Spirits. Rumours are they crawled out of the Sunken Furnace, exhausted and disoriented, but since then made a pretty good name for themselves. They are reluctant to join the guilds, but have negotiated a deal that still allows them to take on the occasional job - usually those types that nobody else wants to do. What nobody else knows is that Mae-Lin and her fellows are desperate. The adventurers are shadowblood elves, renegades who suddenly realized what horrible lives they had led. Travelling the underground world since the rebirth of Ashandri, they finally ended up in Seeker's Furnace. They hope to not only make a living here, but to prove to everybody that they are trustworthy and fight for good. If they succeed in that, so Mae-Lin's plan, they will reveal their identity, and hopefully be able to live life without constant fear of repression. If it doesn't work out, they'll probably just flee to Hag's Rest.
The CalderaMore than a mile wide, the Sunken Furnace's caldera formed at the volcano's last eruption about a thousand years ago. The walls are steep, but the residents have built stairs and ladders, making the descent relatively easy. Plants have spread within the entire basin-like structure, not just on the ground, but over the walls, as well. A single rope bridge stretches over the entire pit. The five guild houses are located on the very edge of the caldera. The original structures were relatively simple towers, but as the guilds became more and more successful - and wealthy -, the old buildings were demolished. Today, the guild houses resemble palaces and fortresses. The skeletons of two black dragons lie here, remnants from the war against the armies of Zathruax and Myrzakliaz. Many spellcasters and alchemists have taken parts of the skeletons for research and rituals, and plant life covers most of the remains. In the upper area of the caldera, seven tunnel entrances lead down into what the locals call the caldera tunnels. This vast network of natural underground passages was formed by magma streams and long-gone underwater rivers. Explorers went about thirteen miles down by now, but the tunnels go even further. What's interesting is that the caldera tunnels all show veins of a certain black rock, and a reddish moss grows along the edges of these veins. There are dozens of connections to the rest of Ashandri's subterranean world, but this specific rock and the red moss can't be found anywhere else. Sages from the guilds have figured out that the mineral contains traces of an elemental magic, but they haven't found a way to use this in any meaningful way. Some of the Listeners gather in the Caldera regularly to pray and preach. Adventurers going down into the tunnels often have to pass the small crowds discussing philosophical ideas, or listening to one of the Listeners sharing their ideas and beliefs.
The BoardThe Guild Street is a large road leading from the main city of Seeker's Furnace to the Caldera and the guild houses. Not far away from the Lionheart fortress, the first of the guild houses, is a large wooden wall positioned sideways to the street. The residents of the city put up job offers here that are too insignificant to be handled by the guilds. Groups of adventurers that are looking for additional companions with specific skill sets use the Board, too, as well as single adventurers that hope to find a group they can join. Occasionally, one of the guilds organizes a foray into the unexplored underground tunnels. When that happens, they put up a large, hard-to-miss announcement - usually for little longer than a day, when they found enough participants.
The Council HouseThe official seat of the mayor and the city council, this building has been constructed with pitch black stones. It looks more like a dark temple than an administrative office, which is part of its history: Three hundred years ago, this was a temple to the goddess of bad luck, Oura. The local clerics went too far in their desire to become embodiments of bad luck themselves. They had a scheme to set the entire city ablaze, but they were stopped days before their plans came to fruition. The divine servants were executed and the temple was seized by the city. The entire building was cleared from any spiritual energies, and then turned into the new council house. The mayor of that time, a human called Brennor Valgari, was highly criticized for this decision, and the followers of Oura still despise the city for "stealing" their temple. Still, it was a pretty strong statement, and made clear that the people of Seeker's Furnace were not be underestimated.
The Drunk MileTaverns, bards, beautiful people of all races and genders, and a thousand different smells from food and drinks: This is the Drunk Mile, a street that begins right at the port of Seeker's Furnace, and stretches along the shores of Mermaid's Rest. There's a place for every taste here, or at least that's what people like to say. It's also where the majority of pickpockets look out for naive victims, and where successful adventurers go to celebrate their victories. Just recently, one of the Listeners, Ajary, acquired a place called the Haven of Saints. It was a place for the faithful of good-aligned deities, and Ajary still welcomes these guests. But the Areian elf believes in the philosophy of Detachment - seeking enlightenment by letting emotions pass, not enforcing anything, and embracing the uncertainty of life. Ajary not only encourages discussion, but also offers a variety of so-called clarifiers - an assortment of natural drugs that are meant to "open the mind".
The Last FurnaceThe last building at the southwestern edge of the city, the Last Furnace looks a lot like an oversized hunting lodge. There's a shop where you can acquire a variety of adventuring gear in the ground floor, as well as a tavern and inn in the two upper floors. The owners, the dwarven couple Freyza and Djurok Shimmersmith, also sell horses and carriages, as well as maps. For any adventurers looking to head into the Ocean of Ash, this is the place to visit. The home town of the two dwarves was destroyed during the apocalypse. Not having anywhere left to go in the new world, Freyza and Djurok decided to explore the dangerous neighboring region for a while. In the end, they travelled the Ocean of Ash for over a year. If anyone knows how to prepare for a journey into the scorched land, it's these two. Almost everyone in the city knows about the Last Furnace, and even the guilds occasionally consult the two dwarves when organizing a mission into the strange and menacing neighboring realm.
ServicesSeeker's Furnace might not be the largest city of Delvaroth, but it's a hot spot for adventurers from all over the country. They sell items they don't need themselves, and purchase new ones for future adventures. Pretty much anything your group desires can be found here. Sometimes, it might take a while to find the right seller. This is especially true for illegal or otherwise problematic goods and services. The adventurers' guilds are also known to set up traps, arresting buyers of illegal goods when they have enough proof for their guilt. It's also easy to find jobs here - and to find someone to do a job for you. Adventurers looking for a trainer or mentor will also find the right match quickly.
Local rumours and news
- The Listener Brebble arobo Obabun has recently been seen meeting with a cleric of Oura outside of the city. His own brother Bobbagu, leader of the Guild of the Mystical and Occult, is irritated and doesn't know what Brebble's intentions are. The Dreevith Listener claims he only wants to further peace and harmony, but he's not willing to share any further details. Rumours are Bobbagu is looking for someone to find out more, but officially, he said he would never spy on his own brother.
- The Penumbra Guild is looking for adventurers willing to enter a long-term contract. It seems the mission they offer will lead through several cities in Delvaroth, and the list of required skills hints at both political conflicts as well as the theft of magical items. Interested groups are supposed to ask for an audience with Varnim himself.
- A famous group of heroes, the Brightshields, have just returned from a mission into the caldera tunnels. They claim to have found a dangerous beast not far from the surface, and on its way upwards. The group couldn't take care of it as they were in a hurry to finish their current quest. Now they want a timeout for themselves, and they are willing to tell anyone interested what exactly they found, and where.
- Sibrin, a gnomish sorceress and expert in magical creatures, recently journeyed into the underground tunnels to study the magma spirits. Down there, she found a new type of creature which she calls sparklings. They appear only in the vicinity of magma spirits, and they seem to be living fire sparks. A single one of the creatures is not very powerful, but they seem to be able to form some kind of hive mind. Sibrin is fascinated and wants to return soon, but this time she's looking for someone to accompany her for her own safety.
- The Arcane Guild claims to have opened a new teleportation circle in their guild house that leads to a different world in Braythe. They are pretty excited about it, and contacted Marisha Veilbreaker herself. The champion of Ashandri is expected to visit within the next few weeks. Rumours are the guild is organizing a small exploration party to study the foreign world. Some people even believe the guild has opened a portal to Va'Laeth - opening up new opportunities to fight the enemies of Ashandri, but also putting the entire city at risk. The guild hasn't confirmed or denied any of the stories, and the longer it takes, the more the imagination of the locals runs wild.
- Humans: 20%
- Gnomes: 20%
- Elves: 15%
- Halflings: 15%
- Half-Elves: 10%
- Dwarves: 5%
- Ashfolk: 5%
- Other races: 10%
The city itself is ruled by a small council led by the mayor. The leaders of the guilds have a lot of political influence, as well, but they are only interested in city politics if it affects their organizations. Every twelve years, residents can vote for a new mayor. If the current mayor gets killed, the council votes for one of their own to take on the role, and then offer the free seat on the council to a person of their choice. Considering the recent destructive and violent events, it's little surprise this happened several times in the last couple years.
Seeker's Furnace has a long and rich history, which was heavily exaggerated and blurred by tales and songs of praise to local heroes. It's hard to discern which parts of the stories are true, but it's a well-known fact that members of the local guilds have had a massive impact on many events throughout the history of Virthys. That, of course, has also left the city with many enemies. Attacks on or conflicts within the city have always been a part of Seeker's Furnace. Even magical duels within the city happen every few years. While the guilds and many of the local adventurers are known to operate in morally grey zones occasionally, overall, they are considered to be paragons of light and goodness. Even the Penumbra guild, while willing to use dubious means, usually works for a positive end goal. As with everything in this city, this image might be a bit exagerrated, and the guilds are rumoured to have operated in more grey zones than most locals want to believe. To find out the truth, it's probably better to look at historic sources from other places.