Thus begins a serial story recounting the adventures of our gaming group as they explored the Dungeon called the Undercity of Kravekos. I have reconstructed the introductory story (Part One) in many places--in fact, I have completely re-written it and the narrative has only a few elements true to actual events at the gaming table.In actuality, the party saw the Domed gate as they entered the city and they learned the legend of it from the barkeep at the tavern. In this first tale, I had Chinka find the Domed Gate and relate the legend to her fellows.I did this to be able to set a stage for the personalities of the characters in a way I could not have done as well with the actual game session material. A game does not easily translate into an interesting story. However, once the story switches to the actual Maze, I promise to faithfully convey events as they happened in play. I claim no originality in any of this tale except the actual writing of it, the style in which it is written, and my interpretation of our player's characters. You will see some obvious borrowings from Mazes and Monsters, D&D and other sources. But hopefully you will find it entertaining!I do not know how often I will be able to update it but it should be finished soon as I am off work for a few weeks. Thanks for reading!
Note: The game did not strictly follow a Holmes or AD&D rules format as it allowed multi-classed characters and m.c. humans at that! Eastwood is a human fighter-magic user played by my son Levi, Cardinal Synn is a human cleric played by my friend Juan, a school teacher, Drakon is a fighter-thief in training to become a bard, played by my friend Matt, another teacher, and Chinka was a Halfling fighter-thief played by laura, Matt's wife. I was the game referee this time around. The game lasted 3 sessions at about 10 or 11 hours total playing time and we had a lot of fun!
The Under City of Kravekos
"Gateway to Peril"
It was Chinka who discovered the Domed Gate shortly after our arrival in the city of Kravekos.
Her Halfling's size was misleading if used as any measure of the vast reservoir of curiosity concealed beneath her dark cloak and worn leather armor. As much as she loved the fair green fields and quaint cottages of the simple village she had once called home back West, she had still always exulted at the sight of the great cities and towns her travels had taken her to. She made it a point to learn as much as she could about all of them, exploring them thoroughly and committing their lore and physical features to her infallible memory. She had mentioned perhaps writing a book one day, and I often wondered if she secretly harbored aspirations towards the Bardic College, as I did.
Whether this was true or no, no place had intrigued her so much as Kravekos.
During our journey here upon the road, she had listened voraciously as our Company talked of the great city of the North, nestled among the fjords of the Twin Rivers Ice Mere and Frost Mere, second only to Avamere itself in wealth and glory.
"Are the tales true, Drakon?" Eastwood had asked me. "Is Kravekos as old as they say? It seems impossible anything built by men could be eternal."
A fighter of the Easterlings who had recently finished apprenticeship under a mage, Eastwood had joined Chinka and I back on the coast, in the Seaport of White Whelm. I liked his company.
"Perhaps men were not its first builders," I replied. "Even the Elves say there has always been a city in that place. To that agree the tales of the Dwarves of Silver Hammer, whose kingdom in the Bitterroots have long overlooked the plains where Kravekos stands. Some say even the Jennerak were not the first to dwell there."
"A people before the Old Ones?" said Chinka excitedly in her small voice. "You have talked of such things before. Yet it seems incredible."
"Perhaps," I replied. "The past will always be a mystery. Even those who have power to travel the Planes cannot speak with absolute certainty regarding it. The Jennerak were the first Men to dwell in the world, to this all the scholars and sages agree, but the world is a very old place and it has been home to many a race other than Man."
"Whatever it has been in the past is of no concern to the present," said Synn coldly. "A warm bath, dark ale and a suitable bed are all that are needed to commend Kravekos this night."
The Holy Man had joined us in White Whelm with Eastwood. I had not found him a gracious traveling companion.
He wore the armor and arms of a fighting priest, and he endured hardship as well as any of us, but he had extravagant tastes more suited to church and court than the road. At all times Synn only thinly concealed disdain for those he obviously felt to be his inferiors.
He bore the symbols of Hextor, the God of War and Discord.
I felt no affinity with the priests of the dark religions, and Hextor's Temple was reputed to be a school of assassins and saboteurs who shrouded their machinations in religious politics.
But as Hextor's Priests avowed loyalty the king and Queen of Avamere and they outwardly manifested obedience to the laws of the realm, they were protected by the Edicts of Religious Toleration.
"Good priest," Chinka said. "Are there any Temples of your god in Kravekos?"
"Nay," he said with cold contempt. "The Church of Illuvion holds sway there, as in Avamere."
"Religion is as much of a trade item these days as spices and cloth," said Eastwood. "The sect of Illuvion is barely a century old and already His cathedrals are in every major city and a chapel is to be found in every village. The Druids are alarmed, are they not, Drakon?"
"I have never had opportunity to ask them." I said, "But I would think not. 'Men build cities and the earth builds over them again'. That is an old saying among them--I imagine they feel the same way about cathedrals and chapels."
"The earth shall build over us all," said Chinka. "But before that day, there is treasure and adventure to be had. To Kravekos!"
Entering by way of the Main gate amid a clatter of horses and mules bearing wagons laden with various and sundry goods, we had looked on in wonder. Kravekos had proven every bit the twin of its mate in legend in songs. Its towers and long rectangular buildings were squarely cut and imposing, its cobbled streets neat and tidy for such a large place. Elves, men, dwarves and Halflings, all mingled about in her markets and alleyways, engaged in business serious or light.
No sooner had we settled into our rooms above the modest inn and tavern we had chosen as our refuge (Synn choosing an expensive room to himself while Chinka, Eastwood and I shared one with curtained beds), then did the Halfling bid us farewell for the sights of the city.
"She's off to fetch the price of our lodgings, isn't she?" Eastwood said, grinning as he stowed his gear, except for his long sword which he never set aside. "How did a Halfling become a professional Thief?"
"When one has a gift, one uses it," I said. "Our gifts choose us and not the other way around." Since I was a thief myself, I could look down on Chinka in only the most literal sense.
"A fair answer," said Eastwood. "Now for a bath and then let us see how skilled are the brewers of Kravekos!"
And so we bathed and dressed ourselves in our best clothes and retired for the evening to the common room. Synn left the inn on some unknown business that I doubted had any good at bottom of it.
The Bottomless Barrel was not so different than many of the inn and tavern rooms one sees throughout the Kingdom of Avamere. Thronged with common folk, traders, and adventurers of various sorts, the place was smoky and abuzz with the conversation of the patrons. The Barrel lived up to its name as well--I had finished off three flagons of the thickest, darkest and foamiest ale I'd had in many a mile, relishing the burnt and bitter taste as it washed away the weariness of the road.
It was staring to turn late when the Halfling reappeared, stepping inside and weaving her way among the jostling rowdies who scarcely seemed to notice her. She had an excited look upon her face as she reached Eastwood and I at our table.
"How was the hunting, Little Woman?" said Eastwood, grinning over the stem of his fragrant and ever present pipe.
"I was in the markets enjoying the sights," she said, "When I noticed a moneylender shaking the collar of a merchant woman. I listened in on all of it…seems he was calling in interest even though her husband had fallen ill and had been unable to return to the fields. He took their last coin."
"And you took his," I said.
"Indeed," she replied. "He had a lovely purse. I returned a bit to the merchant woman in the guise of charity but we have plenty and to spare for our sojourn here. But never mind that. I found something you must know about."
"Sit and tell us of it, then," Eastwood said, calling for a flagon for the Halfling.
It seems that after acquiring her newfound wealth, Chinka had decided to make a thorough circuit of the surrounding avenues and to learn of the city what she could from passersby. By chance, she had come upon several streets in a neighborhood where uninhabited houses became more frequent the further that she pressed on, until at last she had found herself in what seemed a derelict area. The abandoned quarter was somewhat crumbling and run down, and looked much older than the parts of the city we had seen upon entering. Following the street of empty houses she had eventually happened upon a dead end in the form of a broad circular plaza that sat right under the shadow of the city wall.
Here she had seen a most curious sight…a rampart of broad steps leading up to a stone platform some ten feet high twenty feet square. Atop the stonework was a circular domed hut made of stone and set with an iron door. The bottom of the stair was flanked by four guardsmen in the heraldry of Kravekos, and a guard stood in glittering mail on either side of the great door as well.
We listened with growing interest as Chinka related how a guardsman had called to her and she had went to him, apprehensive as one might imagine. He had questioned her as to her business there, and when she had truthfully answered that she was exploring Kravekos, the soldier had kindly but firmly advised the Halfling to avoid this street as the derelict quarters were a haunt of bandits and thieves at night, though none ever molested the King's Guardsmen.
Chinka had inquired as to the nature of the strange domed structure, but the guardsman's only reply had been cryptic.
"That is the Gate of the Sorrow of Kravekos," he had said. "You need trouble yourself no further with its nature. Go, little one, and see the merrier parts of Kravekos by tomorrow's friendly light."
"I couldn't leave it at that, though," Chinka said. "I spent the rest of the day inquiring about the gate among the city folk, and most were quite willing to share with me the legend of the Gate."
"And what was is this legend?" Eastwood asked, absorbed by the tale.
"The legend of the Under City of Kravekos," she said.
"Under City? You mean, below the Domed Gate lies a labyrinth?" Eastwood said.
"Aye..a Jennerak ruin from the Old Times, buried since the Fall. It lies hidden in the foundations of Kravekos. But there is much more"
"Say on," I urged, roused suddenly by this exciting discovery.
Chinka drank a hearty draught and began the work of her pipe as she started the tale.
"Some twenty winters ago, The Lords of Kravekos had ordered new constructions in that quarter of the city. As the city workmen excavated ground there, the earth fell away and an old chamber was discovered. In its center was a shaft leading to a great winding stair. The chamber was from the times of the Old Empires--its walls were carved with warnings in Old Common, warnings about intruding upon the Old Places of the Jennerak.
The find caused a great stir in Kravekos, as it had long been a legend that the City was riddled with secret doors leading into the places of the Jennerak. Now one had been found. All know the tales of the Jennerak treasures and relics, and also how any remnant of knowledge from their civilization is sought with more care than gold or silver. At the urging of his sages, the King--Garl is his name…ordered an expedition into the Under City. It was to be comprised of a troop of soldiers, a mages, a cleric and the best Jennerak scholars. It was commanded by a hero named Hvarl who held a fantastic magical sword called the Talking sword of Lothia."
My blood was quite warmed now at the mention of the Sword of Lothia.
"I have heard of the Sword," I said. "It is a ancient relic imbued with wondrous powers. What happened?"
"It is not named the Gate of the Sorrow of Kravekos for naught," Chinka said. "The expedition was doomed. But so was the King's son, Prince Evald. It seems he wished to prove himself by accompanying Hvarl and his party into the ruin. As his father's only heir, he was forbidden this by Garl, but disguising himself in the garb of one of a city soldier, he went anyway. Not until they had descended into the depths of the earth did Garl uncover the ruse, and by then it was too late.
Days passed, and soon, a week. The city waited anxiously for news of Havarl and Evalds' return. Constant watch was kept. Then, one night, a figure emerged from the pits. He was bloody and disfigured, his face hideously swollen and covered with great infected wounds. The figure babbled insanely, but soon enough, they realized who it was…the prince. He died before the clerics could be summoned, and all their prayers and rituals could not restore him to the land of the living. But that night, a worse evil emerged from below Kravekos. A hideous, giant worm like beast crawled forth from the pits, slaying and rending all in its path. It was killed only after a great battle and many lives lost. The King commanded the beast burned and the stair to the Undercity to be destroyed. He was about to order the entrance forever sealed when an oracle told him to stay--the seer foretold that a band of heroes would one day enter the Under City, slaying the ancient evil and unocvering the wisdom of the Jennerak. And so Garl commanded the Domed Gate to be built, and had his wizards place glyphs of warding upon it, setting a watch there until such time as the heroes should appear. It is said that he will give the key to the gate to anyone who asks him for it."
We sat deep in thought at Chinka's tale, the allure of Jennerak treasure..and lore…now foremost in our thoughts.
"None from the city has ever taken up the quest?" Eastwood asked.
"Nay," said the Halfling. "They think a curse hangs over anyone who trespasses the Old Places. In fact, none will live near the Gate, even though the King had the quarter rebuilt. Men say Garl and his Queen have only lived under unending sadness since the day of their son's death. Aside from the loss of their only begotten, they grow very old and Kravekos has no heir."
I smiled at my companions. "I am sworn to seek out the wisdom and lore of the Old Ones, my friends," I said. "If even half of this tale is true, I would have a look beyond this Gate. And if indeed the fabled Talking Sword of Lothia is hidden below Kravekos, then a great and enchanted treasure lies within our reach. We came seeking adventure, did we not?"
Eastwood grinned. "If I am to ever to master sword and spell as one art," he said, "It will require much gold for my studies. If this Jennerak ruin is untouched by the world above, then surely there is fabulous wealth. What say you, Chinka?"
"Aye," she said, her face flushed at the prospect of such a quest. "But what of the Priest of Hextor. Should he be told as well? His aims are less clear to me than our honest love of gold."
"Be not fooled," Eastwood said. "He loves gold as much as any of us."
"I shun the gods of darkness and their servants," I said, "I had even thought to part ways with him now that we have reached this city. But Synn could prove a useful companion if we should assail the cellars of Kravekos. all priests, of light or darkness, have certain powers that are a great boon to those who enter such places."
"You speak of the Undead," Eastwood replied.
A dark look passed among us. Necromancy was as old as man himself--and against its creations only the gods could aid men--sword and shield alone were of no use against those baleful and lifeless shades.
"It is said that the Old Places are the abode of fierce and monstrous beasts as well as the Undead," I said. "'The ghosts of the Jennerak sleep uneasily' say the Druids. We would do well to have a cleric with us. Would he go?"
Eastwood nodded, looking grim. "For his own purposes," he replied. "I cannot answer for him, but if I know him, he will journey with us."
"Very well then, " I said. "It is settled. Tomorrow we seek an audience with the King of Kravekos."