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Travel Series: Vale Destroyed
Amidst the ruins of a torched town, ambitious adventures seek rumoured underground treasures...
Written by Trurien

Sundered Vale (Code: VALE)

Not far from the torches and pitchforks of angry villagers, Carvwin's Field is haunted by a dank cloud of death and despair. It is first the scent of smouldering grass, then the utter lack of life that alerts one that not all is as it should be. The war was over ages ago, the region returned mostly to peace by Thalosian volunteers; but the lingering smell of smoke, however, points to recent efforts at destruction.

Hungry dogs could be seen roving in packs around the periphery of the old town, and there was the odd grouchy stray adventurer who was wont to attack. Picking one's way through the smoke-stained bush, as long as one carefully avoids the vultures, a safe route down the crater that consumed the centre of the small village can be quickly found.

A lost reporter, mesmerised by the whirling flame, or perhaps just showing prudence, chose to stick around the lip of a steep crevasse rather than heading down it. But that, dear reader(s), would not be in your best interest, and so this reporter made the trip down the lip.

The mumbled warnings from Kareem were right; the dwarves, accustomed to their own peculiar sort of cavern comforts, were yet ill prepared for these lonely subterranean depths. Not to mention spiders and bats. AND LEECHES. These were never mentioned in elven navigator class; this is one of those times I feel I should have chosen another profession. At least, I consoled myself, the smell was not as bad here.

After hours of splashing around aimlessly in the cold, dark waters, I decided enough was enough, and headed back up the cavern and into the ashen fields. Another sinkhole, this time leading to an underground river; but this showed no promise of coming closer to the root of the problem, though I found a Rob lockster thing These were never mentioned in elven navigator class; this is one of those times I feel I should have chosen another profession.that did look appetising.

If hunger could lead me to seeing smaller creatures as food, it was not yet enough for me to consider eating the purple fungal growth in the next cavern. And that incredible stench. Not like the smoky gusts above ground, which might put one in mind of a rib of beef on the grill, with its fat dripping sizzling onto embers... this smelled more like half a cow had been burned alive, smeared all over with its own entrails, and left to rot.

The fungi seemed to emit dribbles of ooze leading down into a hole, which seemed to be the source of the awful smell. As I approached the hole, I lost my footing and slipped into a pit filled with the viscous material. All in the name of exploration, I thought. Any desire for food was replaced by a more urgent craving - for air - until I realised that I somehow was still able to breathe. Various shades of purple were being produced throughout the ooze as blue and red sparks swam about inside it.

Trapped in a jelly-like prison, and by now accustomed to the smell, I began to notice a buzzing in the background. They began to resolve themselves into murmurs, words I could understand, even as I felt myself slip in and out of consciousness.

"Look deeper"

"Come down"

"Join us below"

Stretching my foot down, I could feel a hatch, which I thought I could kick open, and mustered just enough strength to nudge it open. Just as I did, the murmuring grew louder. I could swear I saw eyes in the darkness, and they might have been winking at me.

That, I thought, was definitely no exit. Not one I'd intended to use, anyway. I knitted my fingers together to begin the gestures for casting the word of recall, and as I dragged my hands through the motions I thought I saw the eyes glow brighter...


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