Part II–
At home in the Weft: Life underground

September 2, 2020 at 11:43 pm

“Fear has many eyes and can see things underground.”

– Miguel de Cervantes

Living in the Weft, or even a prolonged visit, is not for the faint. There is no day or night, just the ever-present glow of the lava flow into the Crucible. The air is sulfurous, dry, and hot. The population is secretive, dangerous, and often not completely human. It has the air of a boomtown always on the brink of disaster. Not surprisingly, a large portion of the population are goblins, and a selection of humans, dwarfs, elves, and other forms can all be found.

Water is not common in the Weft, and is brought in by Travelers or through Gates to the elemental plane. Cleanliness is not well-practiced, and the dirty, physical work of much of the populace leads to quite a stench in close quarters. Food is less scarce, but might not be eagerly accepted by surface-dwellers. Most meals are made from fungus, moss, and rumbler — a colloquial term for the yard-long earthworms cultivated here. In fact, rumbler is quite versatile and has a meaty consistency and mild flavor. But many never quite get the taste for it. A local beverage called sharab, made from fermenting mushrooms, flows freely and helps lubricate the social life of the city.

Work is also difficult to come by. Most are drawn here to explore the warrens, so adventuring and exploiting adventurers are its two main industries. Guides, brokers, appraisers, gamblers, hustlers, escorts, and thieves pack the taverns and pleasure-houses. Furtive wizards and dealers in antiquities are always eager to ‘sponsor’ excursions into the warrens. Currency is highly variable considering the origin of its inhabitants, and coinage value is usually based on weight. Barter is also quite common in the Weft.

There is no true government in the Kain’s Crucible, or anywhere in the Weft. Powerful wizards and thieving gangs try to maintain order around their enclaves, but they are too often embroiled in fighting one another to establish order. The only true enforcement is the Sentries — seven-foot copper automatons that patrol the Weft and enforce the laws as Kain saw fit. The Sentries do not speak or attempt to justify their actions, they simply apprehend their quarry and banish them through a Gate in the Central square. Most often those apprehended are returned to the worlds from which they came, but tales abound of far grislier destinations for those who commit serious crimes. While open bloodshed and theft will alert the Sentries, there are no complete listings of Kain’s code of justice, and one can never be sure what actions might draw their attention. There are 100 sentries in the Weft, and if one is destroyed another will appear to take its place. No one has ever seen where these enforcers arrive from.

New creature: Weft-warren Sentries

ST30 / DX12 / IQ0 / MA10 or 16 / AD 4 / D2d+2 / Power: –2 to enter HTH combat

Bulky, copper-sheathed automatons that relentlessly enforce the laws as set by the wizard Kain, Their primary combat goal is to engage a target in HTH combat, neutralize them, and carry them to the sally port in the central square. They are immune to illusions and command magic

Crucible’s Hot Spots

Cracked Slab. A local landmark, and many newcomers first sight in the Weft, is the raucous barroom at the ’Slab. That is because a large mirror set above the hearth is the exit point of many trapped Gates throughout the Shards. It is said that Kain himself scattered the Gates to provide workforce recruits when he ruled the Weft. Now it provides comic relief when a hapless soul tumbles out onto the flagstones of the tavern. The Cracked Slab is owned Malldus Bayle — a tall cadaverous man of few words. He came the Weft years back for his own reasons and never left. He rarely speaks, but seems to be listening to everything that goes on in his establishment. By contrast, his dwarf cook is the boisterous ‘Pepper’ Jax Moorsten. Pepper is a master at preparing the local rumblers and accents his cooking with surface vegetables grown under alchemical lamps. He can be found drinking in the common room nearly as often as working in the kitchen. The Slab — whose sign is a broken sarcophagus lid — has many rooms on lower levels from barracks to lavish suites. Malldus has been known to extend credit or even indenture newcomers who are not prepared to pay.

The Cloister of Keys. This low-walled compound with a bell tower seems incongruous to the rowdy streets around it, as do the serene, pale-robed denizens within. These are members of a philosophic order that believe that Gates are a manifestation of the connectedness of life, and seek a deeper understanding of the Weft. Their leader is Malis Ossi, a strange figure with six eyes and pearlescent skin. The Mendicants call themselves the Shackled, and wear ritual manacles and keys about their necks, are one of the few who offer charity to strangers, and will provide services in exchange for information about the Gates. There are more than a few wizards among the Shackled, but most are merely scholars or scribes.

Crucible Craeft. A seeming impossible jetty leads from the shore out into the Crucible’s lava pool itself, with a low building at its end. While scalding and unpleasant, it is not deadly to walk upon. At the end is the workshop and showroom of a group salamanders (ST20 / DX13 / IQ12 / MA10 / D fireball / ITL p. 87) who are expert metal-smiths and jewelry-makers. They are very formal and refuse to barter or negotiate, but their workmanship is of the highest caliber. While there must be more than one, they seem to have some shared consciousness and all go by the title master.

Ebonthorn. The well-worn trail rises from the shore of lava pool to the base of the cliff where the lowest bastions of this tower stand. But there is no door, nor windows, or visible means of entry. The legends tell that the tower was once home to the wizard Kain and housed his disciples, but no evidence remains of that today. But treasure-seekers from around the Shards are drawn to this place in hopes of cracking the mystery and reaping the rewards of what lay inside. With so many Gates and portals to be found within the Weft, perhaps the entry can be found within the warrens that surround the place. Or at least that is the hope that fuels those who continually delve here.

Keeper Akyllo. This goblin wizard maintains a stronghold in an old tower that appears to have been melted a long time ago. But it is rumored that several subterranean layers exist beneath the ruined structure. Akylllo has been searching for an ivory termite den that is believed to exist in the Weft. These are supposed to be both delicious and a powerful magical ingredient. Akyllo’s obscure appetites are well-known in the community, and she is known to pay well for delicacies.

Ruffin Ready Dry Goods. In a place of incongruities, this might be the most incongruous yet. The Ruffins’ business is a brightly colored wagon that roams the cramped streets. The Ruffins themselves — brother Matty and sister Patti — are equally colorful flame-haired halflings who love a good story. More than just their appearance, the Ruffins are notable for the breadth and quality of their wares. They seem to carry stock well beyond the capacity of the cart, and have a knack for finding difficult to retrieve items. They seem almost eager to extend credit to wayward customers, and to underwrite missions for a cause. Those that fail to live up to the terms of these contracts seem to end up badly, and it is quietly thought that the Ruffins may be in league with some dark power.