The Living Catacombs of Elutheria
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Also called the "Underhalls," and the "Crypts of the Undercity;" this underground dungeon labyrinth has 33 levels and stretches deep below the surface of the modern-day city of Atharavon, where it connects to an Underdark city called Shadowport.


Tales tell of a powerful Elven wizard named Finarfen who, many ages past, came to dwell in the ancient, lost city of Elutheria. Scholarly research indicates that while Finarfen dwelt in Elutheria, he became one of the founding members of the Synfari; the all-powerful, elven Council of Wizards.

Finarfen is said to have devised many powerful spells, and perfected many processes and items now widely known and used in wizardly circles. But his greatest, and most controversial creation was a labyrinth of underground rooms and passages called the "Living Catacombs;" a dungeon stretching down thirty-three levels underground.

Whatever the truth about Finarfen or his origins, the accounts all tell the same story of his later years; that over three thousand years ago, he suddenly broke off all contact with his fellow elves and left the city of Elutheria forever.

Accompanied by his seven apprentices, Finarfen then made his new home in the very Catacombs he had created. To build the ever-expanding labyrinth of passages, Finarfen summoned and enslaved all manner of creatures from other planes.

Sadly, Finarfen’s dealings with those summoned servitors changed him forever. The more Finarfen avoided contact with other elves, and dealt with these strange extra-planar creatures, the more obsessed he became. He grew grim; given to long silences, sudden rages, and erratic behavior. All Finarfen seemed to care about was creating more rooms, additional laboratories, and long passages beneath his tower.

This work went on for centuries. As Finarfen dug ever deeper, the tunnels eventually broke into the ancient, lost dwarven city of Nekrum Feyr; once home to the long-vanquished Delarkyn Clan, which even then, was only a fading memory.

The Underhalls of the ill-fated Delarkyn Clan were large and grand; built to the scale of tall men, rather than the shorter dwarves. These halls guarded an ancient, well known Tilvium-mine known as "Ironhold;" which extended far beneath Atharavon. The underground region surrounding Nekrum-Feyr was known to the ancient dwarves as Tor-Kazon. It was this rich supply of Tilvium that had drawn the attention of the dwarves' most hated enemies.

Long before Finarfen's arrival, all the members of the Delarkyn Clan had been either slain or scattered from the depths of the Underdark by repeated assaults by both the Duergar and the Dark-Elves. The former dwarven halls then became the lairs of these vile races; both of which were still in residence when Finarfen found his way into Ironhold.

By the time of Finarfen's arrival, the Tilvium mines had run out, and most of the duergar had moved on. But the Drow, however, still maintained a strong presence in Ironhold. In a series of bloody skirmishes and pitched battles, Finarfen and his armies of summoned creatures are believed to have eradicated the last organized remnants of the Dark-Elves. His seven apprentices often wrote in their diaries of their Master’s increasingly dangerous expeditions against the hated Drow.

Throughout the Underdark today, the phrase ‘Finarfen’s Hunt’ still retains its meaning as a berserk raid or horrible bloody slaughter. The apprentices even hinted at some captured Drow being transformed and then enslaved into Finarfen’s service.

With the Drow gone or magically twisted into grotesque servant-creatures, Finarfen banished his summoned, extra-planar slaves to their home planes and moved permanently into the subterranean dungeon; abandoning his tower forever.

His curious apprentices, upon exploring the tower, found only traps awaiting them, baited with powerful magics and enigmatic messages hinting that true power awaited them below. One by one, as their courage and capabilities took them, the Seven went below in search of their Master.

The seven apprentices found a strange, dangerous, labyrinthine world awaiting them. Finarfen stored his treasures, experiments, victuals and necessities, magical items, and servants in these underhalls. Here, he thought himself safe from prying intrusions, theft and attacks by thieves, hostile brigands of all sorts, as well as his sorcerous foes.

At first, Finarfen sent his guardian creatures and traps against the Seven, testing both his students and the defenses of his new underground home. After the deaths of two of his apprentices, Finarfen stopped these attacks and instead enlisted his remaining students' help to add to the security of his underground realm.

Finarfen then reworked his defensive barrier-spells to allow his apprentices limited access to areas of the Catacombs by the use of specially crafted magic rings.

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Only a lone apprentice; Jhesyra, survived her descent into the Catacombs and returned to the surface. She then broke away from Finarfen and fled the region. Jhesyra went west to Antharë and later wrote a journal. Sages gained what little is known about Finarfen's dungeons from her writings. It is assumed, Finarfen's other six apprentices perished within his vast dungeon complex.

After the destruction of Elutheria in the War of Wrath, a new, human settlement grew up along the edge of the harbor or, directly over Finarfen’s dungeon. This small human settlement gradually became the great Amari city of Atharavon.

It wasn’t long before intrepid adventurers discovered Finarfen’s catacombs and the hidden entrances to the dungeons beneath. As time passed, an increasing number of exploratory expeditions were undertaken by armed adventurers to explore his subterranean lair. The vast majority of these expeditions met with disaster.

Finarfen’s preoccupation with his underground stronghold allegedly affected his mind, for he used the halls and numerous magical gates to give free rein to his rather curious hobbies of roaming various planes and collecting strange monsters. He then enlisted these monsters to further defend the upper levels of his halls. The upper levels were then abandoned for use only as a grisly killing ground for hapless intruders.

Finarfen then moved his own dwelling and laboratories far deeper into the vast and endless darkness. Deep in the bowels of the Underdark, in the 33rd and lowest level of his dungeon, Finarfen grew to be a great and terrible wizard who dabbled in magics that gave him immortality, but at the price of madness.

Late in his life, Finarfen also created several "doubles," or clones, of himself to continue his work relatively unmolested. Roaming the halls of the Catacombs, he amused himself by watching parties of thieves, wanderers, soldiers of fortune, and magical rivals fall afoul of his gathered monsters and his clever, deadly traps he had devised.

Finarfen found humor in the mistaken belief that since he was dead, others belived they could pillage the wizard’s dungeons unopposed. No one alive in Atharavon today is positive whether Finarfen is alive or dead.

Today, many who venture deep into the Catacombs believe Finarfen lives on. They say he watches from the walls, walks the lowest levels, and is ever amused by the pain, suffering, deeds, and deaths of intruders.

Rumor has it, sometimes, Finarfen aids those explorers who are lost by providing a single lit torch, or a dagger clattering down from overhead; often accompanied by a human skull as a grim warning. He indulges the whims of his cruel humor by playing tricks, manipulating explorers like puppets on a stage.

Atharavon; the City Above


When the first Amari settlers arrived, Atharavon was no more than a human town in the midst of massive, Elven ruins. Ethnic Amari soon settled here, because the site was a perfect, natural harbor on the coast of Dragon Sound, and an easy stop along the trade routes to both the east and west.

As the centuries progressed, Atharavon grew beyond a simple settlement and became a great human city in its own right. With it grew the tales and legends of the ancient dungeons under the city. The Catacombs became known as a place of horrors; a vast labyrinth holding many terrible monsters and traps. The burgeoning city swallowed up and built over the ruins of the old elvish city; its citizens now tunneled beneath the surface for its sewers, hidden ways, and castle dungeons.

In many places, the growing city met the older, darker catacombs and avoided or embraced their presence. The rumors spread, and they directly led to the Catacombs becoming infamous across Corwyn and the (probably false) claim as the deepest dungeon of the world.

One of the first to walk the Catacombs and emerge to tell the tale was a warrior named Durnan. He was the first to discover the hidden entrance to the catacombs beneath the ruins of Finarfen’s tower, long since shattered by wizard battles and other fell magic, and he was the first to survive and return.

Upon his return to the surface, Durnan built an inn over the entrance, which he named; The Yawning Portal. It was a good spot for trade close to the Atharavon harbor, and Durnan made a good living outfitting and provisioning those who journeyed down to explore the depths.

He encouraged local priests of Aleyssia to heal those who dared the dangers of the Catacombs in exchange for large donations to their temples. Durnan spoke of riches and dangers, both in large measure, and of the vast size of the underhalls. Many others, for whatever reasons of their own perhaps they became bored or desperate for riches, adventured on bets or were hiding from foes or authorities went down the long shaft in The Yawning Portal.

Criminals once lived in the dungeon willingly: the Thieves’ Guild of Atharavon had a citadel within the craggy slopes of Mount Atharavon. Located in an upper level of the Catacombs, thick with traps, guardians, secret passages, and peep-holes, the Guild managed to secure their citadel from the roving monsters set loose by Finarfen.

For its time, this trap-filled area was known as The Citadel of the Black Hand. The Guild was later driven out of the city, but it was not known who now controlled the former citadel of the Guild. If it was destroyed or if it lay deserted was a question best asked of and answered by the roaming monsters who quickly returned to inhabit the vast dungeon ways. Besides Durnan, few others have returned from the world’s deepest dungeon and made good with the wealth and adventure they found there.

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Tales of the Catacombs


Late at night, when the lamps are flickering low and the wine is running out, taverns in Atharavon resound with wild tales of how this mage or that rogue or some such band of adventurers went down into the Catacombs, and what befell them there.

Nearly everyone has a story about what happened to the great Company of the Grey Griffon or how someone’s great-uncle barely escaped the embrace of a demon they encountered within the halls of the Catacombs. The best tales, of course, are those that end with the safe return of adventurers laden with gems, gold coins, magical swords, and grand suits of armor.

Few adventuring groups emerge relatively unscathed from the depths. More common, by far, are the harrowing tales of those who went in and never came out, those who are found dead, or the poor lost souls driven mad in the depths. A silent toast is often raised in memory of the less fortunate: “Pray to your gods, brave adventurers, that ye end up not among them.”

Shadowport


The Lords of Atharavon ignore many of the dangers and troubles of those who explore the Catacombs, worrying less about dungeon explorers and more about the city and the rogues within its limits. They also turn a blind eye to a wretched, seedy community located in the depths below the Catacombs; the city of Shadowport.

The dark waterways of the depths, magically altered by Finarfen’s great gates, link up with the Sea-caves located near Atharavon. The Sea-caves, controlled by powerful magicks, are accessed by a great sling-hoist that can lift even the largest seagoing ships from one waterway to another. The hoist links the subterranean Skull Pool; one end of the underground Krandar River, to the innermost sheltered basin of the Sea caves, located at surface level.

The hoist costs each ship 50GP per use, with no responsibility taken for damage to a vessel's hull. This is a small price to pay for most captains, considering their profitable cargoes and rich trade opportunities. Many unscrupulous captains use Shadowport to smuggle cargo to and from various Drow city-states, as well as the settlements of darker beings who dwell further below. Amari law forbids slavery inside Atharavon, but turns a blind eye when unsavory and troublesome folk are smuggled in or out by this route.

Rumors of a city in the depths of the earth always whirl about Atharavon, and the name Shadowport even appears in some tavern drinking-songs. Most simply regard the place as a legendary pirates’ port, filled with debauchery and danger. Most citizens of Atharavon know nothing of this nest of vipers beneath their city. Unless directly shown that the place exists, most folk cannot believe that the fabled pirate’s haven of Shadowport lies literally beneath their feet.