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The Underwood

The trunks stretched up all around, vanishing into the darkness above. In the few shafts of light that fought their way downward, motes of dust filled the air, falling from unknown heights to land in soft drifts where they walked. The quiet was deafening, almost maddening, until it was shattered by a haunting call.

The Underwood lies beneath a swathe of the Misty Pine Forest in Mistfall. It is a remnant of an ancient forest that once filled the valley, one that was buried under ash and then soil after the eruption of Mount Iuz. Many folk of Mistfall regard the place with fear due to the spirits they believe haunt the vast cavern, remnants of those who were lost when the ash first fell.



Before the eruption of Mount Iuz, the land where the country of Mistfall now sits was home to a large forested valley. This forest, known as the Greatwoods, hosted trees which grew to enormous heights, some stretching almost 400 feet tall. Scattered throughout the forest were small villages, who traded with one another, gathering and hunting from the forest's great bounty and carving masterful works from the wood of these great trees. These ancient Falians, as they are called, lived quietly and in relative peace until BV 2561.

In BV 2561, the great mountain Iuz erupted, belching out magma and clouds of hot ash for almost an entire cycle. This cloud of ash was enormous, and blotted out the sun for several more cycles. Eventually, though, it began to collect and fall back to the ground. Unfortunately for the Falians, the winds were not in their favor and most of the ash settled in the valley of the Greatwoods. The trees choked on the ash, their trunks buried below a hundred feet of ash, and the Falians choked with the trees. The whole valley was covered, but because the Falians had kept to themselves, few knew they were there to begin with.

As time passed, the ash hardened and compacted into tuff, and a layer of dirt built up over top of the stone. Eventually, grasses and shrubs began to grow on the bare ground, and were soon followed by trees until an entirely new forest had grown atop what had once been the Greatwoods. Folk moved back through the woods, eventually building the city of Mosshaven and subsequently founding the country of Mistfall. No one knew of the forest beneath their feet, which had slowly turned to stone over the centuries.



In AV 32, a sinkhole opened up beneath the eastern quarter in Mosshaven. Several lives were lost, but once the citizens had recovered, they grew curious about the cause of this sinkhole. A venture into the hole revealed that a vast cavern had opened beneath the forest, its roof supported by what seemed to be a forest of curious stone pillars, one of which had crumbled and caused the ground above to collapse.

Knowing that this disaster could happen again should another pillar collapse, the folk of Mosshaven rushed to create extra supports beneath the city to prevent it. This work led to more exploration of the cavern, and exploration led to the discovery that it actually was a forest beneath them. Named the Underwood, it became a subject of curiosity and wonder for many folk across Qopith, until a shocking discovery was made.

A group of explorers, having ventured farther than the others, came across what appeared to be a village made of stone. Intrigued, they searched for its inhabitants until they realized that they, too, were made from stone. Finally, the pieces connected, and the citizens of Mosshaven realized that they had built their city atop a mass grave. Tours and explorations were quickly shut down, and folk began to tell stories of the restless spirits that must roam that vast expanse.



As time has passed, the stories and superstitions surrounding the Underwood have only grown. The sinkhole from which the cavern was first discovered has been blocked off by a high stone wall and iron gates. Many school-age folk dare one another to approach the wall or to climb up the gates, and despite warnings from the guards watching the sinkhole, several have fallen into the cavern and died. Of course, this only serves to fuel ghost storied about those who have lost their lives in the Underwood.

It is said that the soul of anyone who dies in the Underwood is out of reach of Termin and thus unable to travel to Ydogarth and down the river of Time to begin again in another life. Instead, they are trapped for eternity in the dark and dim, waiting and waiting for anything to happen. Some say that the lost souls there are waiting for something living to enter the Underwood so that they can steal their body, pushing the real soul out and returning to the surface so they can be freed when the host body dies.

Strange noises echo through the Underwood, many of which sound like the groans and wails of trapped, unhappy spirits. Skeptics argue that these noises are probably the creaking of the stone trees as they shift, but more superstitious folk believe that these are the spirits, bemoaning their misfortunes and crying for help.

The supports beneath Mosshaven require maintenance every few years, at which time a group of workers most descend via a basket and counterweight system to the floor of the Underwood. Although this assignment is made on a voluntary basis, many fear this job and it is often difficult to find a crew large enough to make repairs in a reasonable timeframe, often two to three days. Many of those who choose to descend report strange occurences, such as the unexplained disappearance of tools or movement in the distance. When they return to the surface, some folk will treat them with fear, believing that they are possessed by the spirits lost in the Underwood.

Unfortunately, thanks to the fear and superstition surrounding the Underwood, it may never be fully explored. On occasion, a traveler will appear intending to make an expedition below, only to discover that the gates are locked and none, save the maintenance crews, are allowed beyond them.

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