The morning after the goblin attack we woke and started to make our way down into the valley. Once our decent was complete it did not take us long to find the ruins of what we assumed to be the monastery. It was just a ruin with several crumbled buildings, an ancient watermill and a semi –intact main structure. By the watermill we came across a body lying near the bank of the stream, as we approached we quickly found that the person was still alive. The gnome was a driver hired for our vanished caravan and he shared his tale with us.
The trip was going as planned for the first four days when suddenly Prince Kano told the group they were going to take a detour along another track. Having no reason to doubt the Prince since Minister Kaze was OK with this the group followed his instructions. Kaze lead the caravan down the track until it ended in a large clearing, at this point the Minister cast a ritual that allowed the group to travel through the forest by moving the trees aside, like push through tall grass. Once the wagons had passed the trees would close behind them as if they had never moved. For days they continued this way, all the time with the Minister assuring them that all was well. Then one evening Prince Udan arrived in camp and they knew something was amiss. Udan had brought a few goblin warriors with him as escort and they were set to guard the drivers preventing their escape. They then came to this ruin, that night Udan, Kano and Minister Kaze entered the intact building. For the next few hours they heard cries and muffled explosions coming from the building. When the three reemerged the goblins had changed, he said they were larger and more brutal looking, more deadly and frightening in every respect. Our young driver had had enough and ran for it, unfortunately Udan caught him and cast some sort of spell on him that caused him great pain and he passed out. He awoke to us standing over him.
Once he had completed his tale his pain increased and he began screaming in agony, blackness seemed to surround him and shadowy hands reached up from the earth to seize him. The hands dragged him down into the earth, screaming. There was nothing we could do to stop this horror. The goblin princes had indeed been changed by their trip into that building. The next obvious course of action was to investigate the main structure, so in we went. It was readily apparent where our quarry went, there is a large hole blown in the center of the floor. This was a concealed trap door leading down below the monastery. We climbed down the very steep stairway until we were about 300ft below the surface and came to a carved out cavern with several rooms branching off. The entire area had already been totally ransacked by the trio, but it was interesting to see what an area looked like after we had gone through. At the end of the cavern there were 2 large steel reinforced oak doors which had been blown off their hinges and inside was a very peculiar room. It was a large dome that had magical wards drawn all over the dome and floor, in addition there were 1 foot iron spikes spread about the dome. This was where we surmised the Princes had met the Brethren and been changed. Still no sign of the trio, however, there was a perfectly round 15’ diameter hole in the back half of the room, with no other options we followed this tunnel down many 100’s of yards until we came to a vast cavern that even our sun rods could not light the ceiling or the far end.
It was here that we saw what had made the tunnel, an immense wormlike creature fully 80 ft long. Thankfully it was dead but from around this step the oddest people we had ever seen. They were about 5 feet tall, very pale with white hair and yellow eyes. There armor and clothing were of a style that was completely unknown to any of us, as was their language. After several moments of fruitless attempts to communicate the leader took a small gem from a pouch and placed it behind my ear and suddenly we could understand each other, truly a useful piece of magic. It quickly became clear that they were an escort party left behind to take allies of the princes safely to a meeting point and they thought that we were those allies. With little more to say the…elves?..led us to the far end of the cavern and there they summoned an earth elemental which they commanded to make a hole in the floor which we began to climb down as the elemental had fashioned easy hand/foot holds. We climbed down maybe 100 yards we then walked a few 100 yards on a level tunnel and then we climbed back up a 100 yards, strange. We traveled a while longer in a set of natural looking tunnels and emerge in a large amphitheater, which obviously should not have been here considering the short distance we had traveled. Our escorts too were at a lose; this was not where they had intended to lead us.
Before we had time to truly consider where we were the tunnel sealed up behind us. The elemental had trapped us! Then from over the lip of the bowl came a large flight of arrows, which killed our escorts and wounded several of my companions. On the heels of the arrows a wave of at least 40 lizard folk charged down into the bowl while archers stayed on top raining death. The warriors were armed with spears and adorned in tribal garb with feather ornamentation. The battle that followed was truly one of the most heroic and bloody spectacles this writer will ever hope to witness. Our warrior was a blur of metal death, our invoker was a sight to behold, slaying 5 or 10 foes with one spell and our stalwart artificer was always there with a well timed heal to keep us going. But no matter how hard we fought we could not overcome their numbers. Just when it seemed we were doomed lightning shot from the sky striking all our foes, burning them to cinders!
After that a mighty voice boomed all around us. It said that those we hunt seek to destroy “this” world and must be stopped at all cost, for if “this” world died so would “ours”. They must be stopped. Then the clouds, which had been hanging low, cleared and we beheld a most fascinating site. First the sun was no longer our sun, it was red with gouts of fire extending far beyond it. We were no longer in the valley but high up in the mountains, in the ruins of an ancient city. From this vantage point we could look over mile of trackless jungle that lay before us. But most strange of all, there was no horizon, the land curved upward until it disappeared into a haze. It was as if we were standing inside a ball, then it dawned on us. We were inside our own world, in a…Hollow World. Amazing! An entire world beneath our feet and we never suspected. As we marveled at this vista we witnessed a giant apparition of a feather serpent seemed to float up from some distant point and slow travel up toward the red sun. We took this as a sign from our mysterious voice that that should be our direction of travel. So with limited options we started our trek down the mountain, following an old road.
We Travel several days, following the general course of the dragon apparition that appeared every 24 hours. Then we happened upon a man sitting by the road. After an overly cautious approach we found him to be a scholar from something called the Lighthouse. He told us many things about this Hollow World and the current land we travelled (I will not bore you with the details). He too was following the apparition and joined us in our journey. His conversation was stimulating and we continued to a main highway which would run straight to the Capital. That night we stopped at a wayside inn for the night. Although strangers are not unwelcome in this empire they are not especially welcome either. But coin is coin and we ate a fine meal of lizard meat and some unknown vegetables. During our meal we listened to the conversation around us and discovered that the dragon apparition was part of a sacrificial ceremony that had started a few weeks ago. Since then prisons had been emptied, and rumor had it, that common citizens and travelers were being rounded up to supply the sacrifices.
Shortly after our meal, as if on cue, a squad of lizard folk soldiers entered and began rounding up travelers. My companions being who they are to disagreement to this and a might battle took place in the common room. Once again great feats of strength and marksmanship were on display and in the end my friends proved too much for the press gang and they were all killed. We left the inn with all haste and left the main road behind, making our way to the capital by way of side tracks in order to avoid anymore patrols.
We arrived at the Capital and entered the city without a problem since it had no wall, the occupants believing rightly that the jungle would stop any army from approaching. Our scholarly guide led us to an inn that was friendly to outsiders and from there we learned more of the apparition. It was part of the Ceremony of the Flying Serpent; this ceremony had to do with something called the Smoking Mirror. Interlaced in all this was that a large goblinoid had been present when all this was started, so we knew we were on the correct trail. We met back at the inn but our Lighthouse friend never came back, after some investigation we found that he had been snatched off the street for the sacrifice. So it came to pass that we stand on the outskirts of a small temple pyramid, readying ourselves to rescue our new friend.