The Rebellion Spreads

The War of Liberation, as it would later be known, started primarily in two colonies: Berenwood and Lineon. The landlocked central colony enjoyed advantages of position – that is, it was connected to New Orwell, to the NE, and Prawthlesst, to the E, by only a few mountain passes and roads, all of which were collapsed during the first year of fighting. Separated from reinforcements and support, elven forces there were hemmed into a few towns and garrisons by the end of the first winter and unable to establish control over the countryside, thus enabling rebel forces to organize, train, and grow.

The colony became more of an armed camp and staging area in some parts than anything else, with many of those who’d lived in the small western communities, already displaced by the elves, choosing to move even farther west, out into The Wilds, to settle in new, although mostly temporary, camps. The towns and villages in the interior of the colony, several of which were occupied by elven forces, swung heavily toward the liberation movement, undermining governmental efforts to pacify them, and thus leaving the elves in the position of ever looking over their shoulders, and never gaining enough traction to take back key parts of the countryside.

Meanwhile, north in Lineon, a combination of factors contributed to elven troubles and colonial advantages. The Wolfen incursions from over the mountains started up again in Spring, while things were brewing in Berenwoon, and the elven response was to punish those they saw as violating settlement law, rather than dealing directly with the threat. Although Renlen, the NW-most town in all of Ahris, was not evacuated, it was garrisoned by troops and quickly became a symbol of elven oppression, rather than the standard of order and stability the elves perceived their actions as representing.

A small group of colonists, aided by a few men who wielded magic and a number of weapons and magic items reclaimed from a long-lost human empire once in control of the area, helped to organize and lead partisan attacks on the elves. These attacks destabilized the initial elven occupation, although governmental agents and informants were quite well-established throughout Lineon, resulting in many arrests, which in turn led to something of a civil war, between rebels and loyalists, in areas throughout that colony.

It was Berenwoon, however, that proved to be the critical element in what would become a pan-colonial war by the next summer, with hundreds of people making their way there to “accept the privilege” of being “granted elevation.” To be “elevated” meant to be allowed to be dunked in the enchanted pools within Crater Mountain, a site that by late winter would be locked down and protected by forces of the Liberation Army. Given its remote location the numbers who sought entry were necessarily restricted, but as word of the site spread, rebel leaders throughout the colonies sought admission for their chosen troops.

While this provided the Liberation Army, and broader rebel movement, with decisive assets in the form of arcane spellcasters, it also created internal political and social friction for the colonists, many of whom saw the Berenwoonan rebels as actively keeping a lid on something that should be available to all. The necessities of war, however, kept this friction from causing a fire – at least for the duration of the war.

Thus, a little over one year after Crater Mountain was discovered, all of Ahris, save for Teyess Minsha, the island, were in full rebellion against elven authority. New Orwell, the oldest and most settled, was the elves’ strongest base of operations. Berenwoon, by the next winter, would be effectively independent, with only a few, secret, passes open to other colonies and elven forces stuck there completely crushed. Fighters in Lineon had collapsed the bridge over the Tyragh River, cutting the colony into coastal and inland portions, and in so doing isolating the west from easy operations by the elves. The other colonies were all contested, with coastal regions generally under greater elven control, while the inland lands were either hotly contested or already lost.

Given the elves’ long view of all thing, an end, after over a year, was nowhere in sight.

A Oral History of the Rebellion
Year One: Berenwoon

“It was terrible to see all those men killed, but they’d taken up arms against their own people, so what were we to do? Some of them surrendered, and of them many joined us, but the others…it was war.” – Layla Dareen, resident of Errlay and sergeant of the Liberation Army.

“I spent that winter in Waywynn, and damned if it weren’t the coldest winter we’d had in years. The elves and their lackeys took most of our wood, a fair amount of our food, and pressed us into service doing their labor. I hated them more each day, especially as they told us how much better things would be for everyone once the “reavers,” as they called the Liberation Army, surrendered. I worked for a time in the mess hall kitchen and pissed in the soup pot every chance I got." – Thomylnn Dexter, teenager from Waywynn and later soldier and then officer of the Liberation Army.

“We watched them fight their way into those buildings, and heard the sounds of the fighting from the street. Flynn and I held out as long as we could, keeping the alley dark and quiet, waiting for them, any of them, to make it out. Calathes and the Dahr had their own private guards staying with them, and I can only imagine the fight they put up – and the fight that our boys gave them. They killed Calathes, you know, and threw his body off the third-floor balcony. The Dahr died of his wounds later – I heard the elves reserved their healing magic for their own and let him bleed out. Serves him right. But I still wonder if there weren’t something else we could have done, me and Flynn, to help our guys. Don’t ever call me a hero – I came home alive.” Baxter Frayshrey, member of the decorated Breach Team at Waywynn and later commander in the Liberation Army.

“I’ll admit it: I joined the Hehlen for the pay and prestige it promised. 10 years in uniform and a steady, respectable job back in the city, or some guaranteed land sounded good to me when I was young. It wasn’t until I’d been in for a few years that the elves really turned on the colonies and started cracking down. I hated being part of that, but what could I do? Nothing when you’re in garrison, or when the elves and their magic slingers are around. There were a lot of us out there in the countryside in Berenwoon who wanted out, somehow, but just couldn’t find the opportunity. After Waywynn my platoon was out on patrol and we’d had enough. There were a few of our guys who really believed in what the elves told us, and our two elven officers were a tough pair. We were ambushed by a rebel group and I didn’t even think – I started firing at our officers and those few of ours who wouldn’t see reason. I hated going back on my oath and my word, but I felt like I’d already been betrayed by those I’d sworn myself to. It took a while before we were accepted and trusted, but I was happy to join the Army and fight for something right for once.” Burby Tekshannon, former Hehlen soldier, later sergeant in the Liberation Army.

“Rebel scum: that’s what you all are. You betrayed your allegiance to our leaders, who’ve for centuries cared for and guided the lesser, younger races on a path of civilization. Enjoy what you call your freedom now, as you descend into anarchy and bloodshed without a steady elven hand on your shoulder.” -Byshon Fenstr, former Rolay of the Scheef, currently serving a life sentence for war crimes.

Liberty or Death!
the war at our doorstep

After escaping from the hidden valley and making their way back to civilization over a tough period of overland travel lasting weeks, the party learned several troubling things. First, the elves and their human troops moved into the territory and quickly arrested a number of people and executed some others. They have fully occupied Waywynn, Kane and Corwyn’s home town, and have left a smaller, but strong, force in Errlay, the town where they were arrested. Derryan, the ’burg the group first visited after coming out of the wilderness, has been paid a visit by the elves and Hehlen, but thus far have not been occupied.

Last Home was destroyed. Its people were either arrested, ran off, or were killed. The lands west of Errlay, beyond the Fairway Gap, have been declared off-limits, and all settlers on them must move to the east. Settlements in this area, including Last Home, are being forcibly removed and their peoples either arrested or forced east. Pockets of armed resistance have emerged, however a lack of organization in the short-term has hampered efforts to check the elves.

Spellcasters – the first seem in these parts perhaps ever – have made their showy mark by blasting houses, horses, and people here and there. The best estimate is that there are 5 or 6 of them, and they appear wherever they like, dropping the hammer on people as they wish.

As for Last Home, when you return there the next night, the four survivors have grown to 12, with some news of others who’ve set up shop farther to the west in the wilds. They are a mix of people, with only a few willing and in a position to offer assistance beyond taking care of the others. They are, to a person, angry, aghast, and fearful at what they saw and experienced, and are eager to have their story told, as it seems that no one knows what happened in their village.

You have a few obvious options, and there are certainly more things you could choose to do over a period of months through summer and into early fall. All of these could be done to some extent – it’s more a question of your priorities and goals.

  1. Help Last Home’s survivors establish themselves in the wilds to the west
  2. Get in contact with others from the east in order to get a handle on what’s happening in Errlay, Waywynn, and other places
  3. Try to bash open that rock wall to the mountain tunnel, or find another way back to the valley
  4. Scout areas to the east yourselves
  5. Engage the elves in…a fight? attempts at diplomacy?

I’ve got ideas about how the elves are going to proceed, and will add that information as summary material as you start making your own plans and taking action.

Changes in the air

Inside the “Head Shed,” the name Tenshea has given to the two-story building with the stairs and cave tunnels, you light some torches and prepare to look around some more. There are two tunnels from the ground floor and three on the second floor. Two of those upstairs are little more than widened cracks in the back wall of the building – that is, the mountainside – and are barely accessible. All five, however, go in for several or more feet and then open onto the same scene: a vast cavern, completely dark aside from what the torchlight can illuminate, reaching down into the mountain. Each of the tunnels ends either in a sudden drop-off or a small ledge, and all of them have gemstones inlaid around the openings into the large cavern. There are also sigils and runes painted and carved into the rock around those openings, and in many places inside each tunnel.

The cavern is so large that your light does not enable you to see the opposite wall, nor a bottom, A jagged, stalactite-covered ceiling is visible in the dim light above, with long, frozen-in-time drips of water as mineral tubes extending downward. The surface of the walls and ceiling sparkles with reflective minerals, and some larger crystals, mostly with a milky white appearance, are visible here and there in the rock.

In a way, it’s as if the mountain is a giant geode, bulging out slightly into the valley. Whoever made this place scraped, carved, and shaped the valley-side face of the bulge into this building, adding rock and mortar here and there to blend it with their odd, curve-intensive design style, and these tunnels provide access, at least to view, the inside of the thing. Like a geode, the inside dirty, unworked rock, with some crystal coming through here and there. Regardless, the interior is large – at least over 60 feet across and at least that deep from where the tunnels open into it.
The rest of the town is as I described, with buildings seeming to fill residential or other official roles. One thing that you both notice throughout all the runes and sigils here and there – which are far more pervasive once you get used to seeing them – is the image to the right, usually etched cleanly into a surface, and in varying sizes. It is the most common of the runes, by a slight plurality.

Once you focus your efforts on digging out the rockslide, you spend most of the daylight hours doing so, eventually uncovering an opening large enough to crawl through. back into the mountain tunnel. All five of you are able to get in there by mid-afternoon – tired, dusty, and with cut, bruised hands.

Chase to the Hidden Mountain Town

Mountain_Valley_2.jpgLife, albeit twisted and somewhat menacing, had aggressively returned to the hidden valley, in the form of gnarled trees and dark, oily grass. The trail, mostly dirt but with ancient cobblestones showing through here and there, winds down from the cave and the metal gate, then down a little more before splitting, with one route heading uphill to the west and the ruined town. That path is flanked to the right by a rough, rocky slope, and what looks like marshy grass on the left. The route that parallels the lake coastline winds among newly-green trees, ending in a collection of ruined walls and footings next to the lake; this is where you believe you saw some movement. Another path leads up the hill to the town from there.

The air is still and cool, and yet heavy with the smell of soil and the growth of foliage, with a strange, faint metallic scent beneath it all.

Click here for a full-sized version. Note that the water is of unknown depth; grey hexes are inaccessible (too rocky or steep); and the tan hexes between the two roads leading to the town are also inaccessible – too steep and rough. The distance from your perch outsite the tunnel to the lakeside ruins is about 1/4 mile, and just a little less than that to the town ruins.

Numbered Locations on Large Map:

  1. Landing from outside cave tunnel
  2. Lakeside ruins, where you think you saw movement
  3. Ruined town, with open square in the center
  4. Ruins on island, about 130 feet out from the shore
  5. Slippery, slime-covered rocks sloping up from the low area next to the lake toward the town – probably hard to navigate
Another one bites the dust
"That's two!"

That which you accomplished:

  • Killed eight imps on the hillside to the east of the cave; had Tenshea head back to Errlay to get more men
  • Sought to draw off the imps to enable Blass and Turkel to ride by the cave and alert Last Home; resulted in Turkel’s death by blast of fire and the dispersal of a number of imps over a wider area
  • Attacked the cave head-on, with Flasch helping, resulting in injuries to the party before the decision was made to bolt for Last Home
  • Alerted Last Home to the threat; bolstered personal reputations as local heroes; helped organize the town for a combination of protection and attack
  • Scouted the cave area at dawn; attacked with some townies; drew out the Tall Man and, with the timely arrival of Tenshea and a team of his Regulators, killed the Tall man and the remaining imps.

The cave entrance, at dawn, looked dark as one would expect – at first. After peering inside, however, a green glow was evident, but seemingly only to Kane and Corwyn. Tenshea and his team have scouted the area around the cave, in search of scattered imps or other threats, and some have gone back with the folks from Last Home to restore normalcy to the town.

The staff that Kane is proudly carrying around is about 5 feet long and about 2" in diameter, and carved from a strong, dark wood. Perhaps the stain over it has obscured the type of wood, because you don’t recognize it. It has some dull metal inlay, twisted around the upper foot of it, and has what look like runes carved into the entire length. Similar runes are also carved into the tunnel walls, no visible as if an upper layer or coating has been cleaned away. The etched line representing mountains is still there, unchanged, but now bands of runes are above and below the line, heading into the mountain as far as you can see from outside the cave.

The others can see the runes, too, and they recognize them as such. (The idea of runic writing is widely known, but it’s comparable to our sense of hieroglyphics.) The difference here is that Kane and Corwyn can read them, whereas it’s clear that the other cannot. Would the two make it known that they could read the writing? Would the two enter the tunnel? What’s the plan of action?

From outside the cave, with the green glow from within, the runes read as if they are declaring a warning against entering the tunnel without proper preparation and without good reason.

Revolution Calling
along with somethings coming out of the mountain

Executive summary of what went on inside and next to the mountain:

  • The bottom of the pit seemed to be filled with an expanse of dull black fluid which turned to powder once removed from the pool
  • Imps, as you’ve taken to calling the shrunken beastie-men, set up a wooden frame of some sort, in which the hung what looked like a large glass globe, which they then beat on with sticks until it shattered, seemingly releasing a blast of arcane quasi-fire, which blew C&K out of the tunnel and back to where the horses were.
  • Later, when exploring the inside of the tunnel again, beasties attacked from the darkness, seeming to probe closer to the mouth of the tunnel. They were defeated.
  • After going outside again C&K were met by a 5-man squad of Hehlen, of the Scheef, (think FBI meets MIB). While trying to explain things to them another group of beasties, accompanied by a tall humanoid figure who looked somewhat like the “fire mage” from inside the “prison room” attacked from inside the tunnel. The beasties were killed and the figure retreated into the tunnel after a short fight during which the humanoid ineffectively used some kind purple fire magic.
  • Rolay Fenstr, commander of the Scheef team, arrested C&K for violating a list of laws and brought them back to Errlay, the nearest town to the east, where they were held overnight.
  • The next morning, while the Scheef troops were preparing to transport their prisoners eastward to Waywynn (C&K’s hometown, actually, and a larger settlement than Errlay), an angry crowd gathered and prevented their movement, forcing the men to release C&K.

Eglyn, the leader of the hooded men who seemed to be the animating force behind the town’s resistance to the law, agreed to send a few men with C&K and Blass and Turkel to head back toward Last Home to warn them and, before that, check on the status of the tunnel and whatever might be spewing out of it now.

Rolay Fenstr and his men trundled off in their wagon, steamed at being rebuked, and promising a “prompt and forceful response” from the law. It’s reasonable to expect that they will deliver the news to the Dahr in about a week, which means the clock is ticking down to what could be a harsh response by forces of the elves, or even some elves in fact.

C&K, with supplies, a wagon, and four others (Blass, Turkel, Flasch, and Tenshea) head off swiftly to the west, following the road they’ve traveled several times of late, trying to reach the tunnel before nightfall.

What supplies would you bring in the wagon? What are you going to try to accomplish, where, and by what means?

Guarding the Tunnel Entrance

Upon arriving again at the mouth of the tunnel, you find some footprints beyond what you believe you left when you were last here, earlier that day. They’re around the entry, among the roots, but do not seem to go any farther onto the road.

Just before sundown a wagon driven by two men, Blass and Terkel, arrives. Blass is a cousin to Corwyn’s mother’s family, and Terkel is somewhat known to you both, give your business connections in Last Home. They’re older than you both and are solid – physically and behaviorally – and bring with them a few shovels, picks, hammers, and rough-cut/cast-off boards and beams, as well as some more rope (albeit heavy stuff – not what you’d carry around) and a cargo net, the type that would be splayed over the top of an over-full wagon.

It looks like they quickly went through a storage room and grabbed whatever they thought might be useful and headed out. They also have a cask of water and a day or two of food each, and feed for all four horses. Each man is also armed: Terkel with an axe and a bow; and Blass with a bow and spear.

“Right – so describe these things you saw in there, lad,” states Terkel after the two settle the horses and begin unpacking the wagon.

(I assume that you give them the same information and description of beings and events that you gave Tallyn Mayfair, the constable, and help them unload the supplies)

The sun has dipped beneath the peaks to the west by the time you’re done unloading, and dusk will last for maybe 45 minutes. What are you going to try to accomplish in that time, and what else are you going to do?

The Chamber

The finely-worked block tunnel ended with another archway, similar in style and details to the one that led into the mountain, under the tree roots. The major distinction was the lightly-glowing blocks, each emitting a dim greenish glow, barely visible alongside the torchlight. All the blocks in the arch were intact, save one, on the upper right side – it was cracked, dim as the stone of which it was made, and was partially displaced, likely by a shift in the mountain itself.

The chamber on the other side of the arch was similar to the one where the spiders had taken up residence, albeit larger, and with more ornate and prominent designs painted onto and carved into the walls, ceiling, and floor, the center of which itself was partially sunken, a step or two below hall-level, and accessed by two steps down, set into the ground just inside the room from the tunnel.

The entire circular room was about 50’ in diameter, with the domed roof about 15’ high at its apex and center. In the center 10’ of the room was a hole, with what looked like gold inlay around its lip, and on the floor spread across the entire room appeared to be a stylized map of mountains, lakes, and a coastline. On the ceiling there appeared to be constellations, stars, and other forms. There were no other doors, passageways, or means of access or egress – not that were evident – aside from the entry arch from the tunnel, and the hole in the floor.

Aside from a 6" lip around the hole, there was no furniture, nor other trappings, in the room – nothing, but a slightly warm movement of air from inside, smelling faintly of spice.

A Tunnel, a Valley, and Questions

Here’s what you saw and learned from your trip through the mountain:

  • The tunnel, well-constructed and decorated in some places by line carvings representing mountain peaks, is about a mile in length, and goes roughly NW into an area, so far as you know, never explored by anyone else.
  • Giant spiders are a known subterranean threat throughout these mountains – their presence in the tunnel was not surprising.
  • The hidden valley is about 1/2 mile across at the base – at the lake level, that is. The lake is a few hundred feet across, and the ruined town/buildings to the west of the water is a several hundred feet in depth and width, reaching up the valley’s sloped wall a few stories. There are no structures, aside from the few, small ruined buildings on the island, in the valley.
  • You did not see any clear passes our other tunnels leading out of the valley, but given its shape and your focus during your time there, it’s impossible to be sure if there are others or not.
  • There is a dark hole among the ruins on the island, which can’t be seen from the town level – it was only visible from the ledge leading out of the tunnel.
  • The corroded metal gate is quite ornate, and still standing strong despite its seeming age and neglect. The seemingly hostile midgets did not approach it. The feeling of heaviness and pressure left you immediately once beyond the gate.
  • The midgets were stout, filthy, and you saw none of their features. Their hands were also within the tattered edges of their ragged garments.
  • You only found a few metal implements in the one building you searched, and they were heavily corroded and pitted – the gate was not like that at all. The wood was almost entirely dry pulp, with only some larger chunks here and there – as if whatever held it together had been drained or damaged.

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