The Clerics' Gallery
Near the north-eastern entrance to the Crystal Caverns lies a junction that has become known to the local inhabitants of the area, and more widely amongst seasoned travellers of the Underdark as the Clerics' Gallery. The place has acquired this nickname thanks to the over 200 incredibly lifelike statues littered around the crossroads, spilling over into the nearby tunnels, with a central cluster of statues being depictions of clerics of the goddess Gallena. No one is sure why, or how the statues begun appearing there, with many, the eponymous clerics included having existed for thousands of years. However, the expressions on the statues, their visages of fear and terror, their attitudes of running, cowering or desperately trying to fight have led people to believe that the place is cursed and any who have been there, or live near to it counsel that it is not a place to linger and that it should be passed through as quietly and quickly as possible.
The Clerics' Gallery is a large, roughly circular chamber within the tunnels of the Middle Underdark that marks the intersection between three equally large tunnels: one leading to the north and the town of Maltari, one to the south east leading to the Crystal Caverns and one leading to the southwest eventually leading to a junction that can take one into either the Crystal Caverns to the south or the Lake of Tears to the north. The cavern itself is relatively flat, but it lacks the grooves worn into it, as in many other of the Underdark’s major tunnels, by the regular passing of large trading caravans and travellers. The sides of the cavern are particularly rough and rocky as well, with numerous overhangs overshadowing the terrain beneath them and creating numerous vantage points. One thing that is more obviously noticeable here than in other places within the Underdark, is that the dark grey, near basalt rock in this area, contrast sharply with the lighter, almost white marble colour of the statues that litter the Gallery, which lend fuel to the folklore and myths that the statues are the product of some powerful or otherworldly force, rather than being a naturally occurring, albeit unique and marvellous phenomena.
Local Folklore & MythologyBecause no one knows for sure the origins of the statues in the Clerics' Gallery, numerous different stories have emerged as to why the statues appeared in the first place, and why unfortunate travellers are occasionally added to their numbers. Some believe that the statues represent people who have displeased a deity, and that the Clerics' Gallery is a vast monument warning other inhabitants of the Material Plane not to displease the Divines. Some have suggested that the gallery was created as an accidental consequence of some perverse, powerful ritual that the clerics, whose statues are the oldest of all were performing, which got out of hand and polluted the area with foul magic. Whatever the true reason, those who live close to the Clerics' Gallery, in particular the residents of the town of Maltari avoid the place if they can, or if they must pass through it, do so as quickly as possible, invoking wards and uttering prayers to their preferred deity to either protect them from whatever evil dwells within the place, or stay their wrath and judgement.
Some foolhardy, unaware or often downright disrespectful souls have periodically removed some of the statues from the Clerics' Gallery, to take them to be sold elsewhere in the Underdark and very occasionally beyond as curiosities. However, it must be stressed that as the removal of even one of the statues is hard work, let alone the labour needed to transport them away, it is rare that they are removed, but it has been known to occur.
Now this sounds like a place to avoid. I wouldn't even want to buy one of those creepy statues.
C J Pyrah
Haha! Disturbing as they sound they'd be no shortage of people willing to buy them.