Wednesday, April 4, 2012

April A to Z: The Downlow

The Downlow
No one has ever charted the labyrinthine network of caves, tunnels and caverns that spread out below the continent of Albert. Fifty years ago, V. Bashki Hrundi, official cartomancer of the Academy of Acbracadabras in Gozaria put out a call for one-hundred heroes to accompany him on an expedition to definitively chart the entire complex all the way from the Unpassable Peaks to the Snowy Seas. Attended by over five hundred miners, porters, cooks, catamounts, post-grad students, men-at-arms, henchmen and hirelings they set out with much fanfare from Port Eel, and were never heard from again.

Though thought to be interconnected, the Downlow is actually a network of thousands of different regions, some natural formations, some made by man and others carved from the living rock by creatures that have never crawled under the light of the sun. The very difficulty in reaching and surviving in the Downlow has made it a haven for evil wizards, dark cultists, bandits, escaped prisoners and madmen. Nor is it completely empty of civilization; known cities include The Bastion of Bone, rare Dwarven Clan-Cities, Troll Strongholds and the Queendom of the Elurid may provide some comfort for lost heroes, if they can find them.

The Downlow does not give up its secrets easily. The safest entrance is the Dark Gate of Certain Doom located somewhere in the twisted caverns of the Snarled Mountains. From there the tunnels lead to the Bastion of Bone on the shore of the Glimerless Sea. The fearless can hire a boat to take then across the black water, or take the tunnels deeper to the town of Broken Bay, a border outpost for the Elurid. Beyond those known locations, reliable information is unreliable and conflicting.

Other entrances include the Grinning Mountain, the Throbbing Hole, the Cave of Aargh! and the Bloody Well. There are also reliable stories of entrances, or exits leading to the Dungeons of Depravity, the Morning Wood, the Goblin Mire and Newark.

There are countless treasures and fortunes to be made in the Downlow, but those who dare brave its secrets must face unremitting danger. Many of the tunnels are relics of the long wars between the Goblins and Gnomes and so are brimming with traps. Others have given themselves over to strange ecologies filled with strange creatures, some natural, others the hideous decedents whose ancestors became stranded in the endless dark.

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