The Yawning Earth
when the ground swallowed the great city
"There was no warning for anyone. The people lay asleep in their beds. The First Church glimmered in the moonlight as the Priests read their midnight prayers. Dogs barked in the streets as city watchmen watched in vain for a threat on the horizon. For the threat was beneath them. And at the stroke of three, a muffled explosion must have sounded from miles underground, disturbing the lightest sleepers. Within seconds, the castle, the houses, the walls...they had collapsed into a gaping, toothless black mouth in the earth. There was a rumble and a thousand voices screaming as one...the Priests were thrown to the ground. When they rushed out of the Church they looked across a torn and stretched field that ended in a dark abyss where the city once stood. Fifty thousand souls gone in an instant." - excerpt from 'The Fate of the Old Capital', by Hiron Belmont.Before the collapse, Arlessia had been the thriving capital of the Seven Kingdoms. From roughly the beginning of the 13th century until the time of the disaster, it had flourished on trade and tourism. Being ideally centered in the valley of the Sunken Heart, it benefited from the faithful who came to see the land where the Lone God walked. It also had the monopoly on the trade of Glowsilk, nuts, fruits, and the pelts of various fantastic beasts that were found in the lush forests of the valley. At the time of its construction, there was as yet no technique for using magic to sound out the earth's crust. While it is uncertain what exactly ate away the rock and earth foundation, it is widely assumed that there was an underground river rushing through the area that slowly but surely ate away at the bedrock over the course of the next two thousand years. And so it happened on a warm summer night in the year 3276 AC, that the ground suddenly gave way. All the worn space beneath was filled with the ruin of Arlessia and her people. Dirt and loam were dragged down with them and covered up much of the disaster, providing a topsoil that mercifully allowed bushes and trees to grow over the remains. Careful explorers and adventures who venture down into the 'Yawning Mouth' can easily enough find a bit of house or building and, within those structures, certain treasures. But those who would loot such a disaster are despised and constricted by law to return whatever they find to the new Capital City. After this, due to its reputation and the difficulty of starting a new settlement, the Sunken Heart was abandoned. The First Church could not withstand the wilderness alone, and the last Priest to live there disappeared 3283 AC, either torn apart by wild animals or dying of disease. It was after this last Priest died that the Soft Death began to spread its fungal masses across the forest canopy, and many people see it as the vengeful spirit of the city, claiming the entire valley for her own burial ground.