In the beginning existed the Mind, and nothing yet was intelligible, for there was naught to think. The forces of nature moved upon the chaos, and the Mind had his first Thought, and she is called Wisdom.
From Mind and Thought did all the Passions come to be. From the interplay of Mind and his Thought all Magic came to be. Magic entered the bright worlds of curves and took up residence there under the leadership of Wisdom. Wisdom bequeathed to her children the desire to name and to know, and her children are called Name-givers. Other Magic went to the mirkworlds of angled space, and without Wisdom they became Horrors. The Horrors sought to rule both their twisted realm and the bright realms, and they created a race of slaves from the base element of Earth to fashion and build.
Of this race one Throldol, having the spark of Magic within him, broke his fetters and led a revolt of the slaves. Thus the Horrors lost their first foothold upon the bright realms for a season, and the once-enslaved race broke free from the Earth.
The Name-givers named this race Dwarfs, and Wisdom adopted them as her children. She gave them secret council: "Soon I must hide myself, for the fullness of time is measured in Mind's Quest for me. The world shall be ruled by my children, the Passions.
"You have a special doom, children of my adoption. Your hatred of slavery shall stand the world in good stead, when again the Horrors make their assault, for wherever slavery exists upon the world the Horrors shall have a foothold. Be vigilant and strong even unto death, my children, and we shall meet again."
Many years ago, when dwarfs first began digging for metals, mining was a fearsome trade. Bad gasses, rockfalls, and creatures dwelling in the hidden parts of the Earth took many brave miners' lives. Now mining is much safer because of our more profound knowledge, thanks be to Lochost!
One of the earliest copper mines in Throal was plagued by a rockworm, a nasty creature that dwarf persistence has now almost wiped out. In the early days watchers, dwarfs too young for mining jobs, would stand along a mineshaft to make sure that the worms did not break through the walls and threaten the miners below. When a worm came through, the watcher would cry a warning.
Once a very young dwarf named Junius sneaked into the mine where his father was working. He found that the watchers had fallen asleep, and so rather than waking them, he decided to take on their job. Rockworms appeared! He cried out his warning, and that saved his father and the whole mining crew! Tragically, Junius lost his life, and so in his memory we all keep a little doll of Junius in the kitchens of our homes. He watches over the good and bad actions of the children, and he reports them all to the Passions.
(The youngest dwarf present asks the questions, and the eldest answers.)
"Why are these broken shackles hung?"
"These are the shackles Throldol broke so that we might be free."
(The child points to symbols of the eight races; for instance, a dried rose branch represents the Elves.) "Why are these symbols hung?"
"These remind us of the other races in our care. It is our duty to lead them to freedom."
"Why do we eat the honeycomb?"
"The sweetness of the honeycomb reminds us of Wisdom, mother of the Passions, who promised a high Destiny for us. The comb's cells remind us that only a structured society can fight off the terrors of the world."
"Why are there stones on our table among our food?"
"The stones remind us that we must always be hard and enduring, for the other races are weak. We must be strong for them."
"Why do we each receive a coin today?"
"The coin reminds us of gold, which is like the sun that lights the world longest on this day. The yellow of gold comes not from the natural order, but from the harsh refiner's fire. We treasure gold, because it reminds us to refine ourselves."
"How many years will we celebrate Throldol's Day?"
"We will celebrate until all Name-givers can say in a strong, true voice, `I will not serve!'"
Near Throal the heroes discover and defeat a Theran master spy who has so perfected the Talent of disguise as to pass for a member of another race, even in close quarters. By this means he infiltrated a dwarven expedition to the Plane of Earth, where the dwarfs mine, at great risk, a rare metallic form of Elemental Earth.
The spy wrote a scroll describing the process, intending to deliver it to the Theran Imperial Archives. However, when the heroes closed in on him, he burnt it, either intentionally or by accident. The heroes can decipher only the following charred text.
If they return this scroll to Throal, the heroes earn the gratitude of a Throalic mining captain, who confides that the recent expedition that the spy joined produced poor results, and the dwarfs intend to mount another one soon. Will the heroes hire on as bodyguards and miners?
How to Get There
The Circle 7 nethermancer spell Spirit Portal (rulebook, page 182) can reach not only astral space but, at the gamemaster's discretion, any of the five Elemental Planes. To reach a Plane requires not only a Bone Circle (per the Circle 2 nethermancer spell) but also a quantity of orichalcum worth 1000 silver pieces (about an ounce), along with large quantities of the non-magical equivalent of the desired Element: earth, fire, and so on. Casting the spell consumes the orichalcum but not the other material.
The portal seldom lasts long enough for a worthwhile mining expedition. Therefore the casting nethermancer either accompanies the party and casts the spell again to return home, or stays in Barsaive and recasts the spell at a pre-arranged time. Both approaches carry obvious risks.
What It's Like
Some of the Plane of Earth's metallic terrain roughly resembles Barsaive's, such as rolling plains, valleys carved by rivers of acid, and sheer cliffs and mesas. However, mountains and outcroppings of metal rise far higher than stone equivalents, and sometimes bend in eerie ways. A white sun burns in the sky; the sky usually looks purplish blue, and clouds appear black. At night vast numbers of meteors shoot perpetually across the sky.
The domain's hazards fall in three broad categories:
Environmental. Acidic storms, jagged metal soil, and the poisonous air damage visitors whose protective spells fail (Death Rating 30). The Circle 6 Elementalist spell Ease Passage in Earthdawn, page 163, guards against this damage. The chant mentioned in the scroll represents one of many versions of this spell.
Reliable observers have not verified the scroll's mention of blood turning to gold, but some say that prolonged exposure to the Plane of Earth gradually turns the visitor to earth or metal.
Native life. Most Earth creatures do not exist in Barsaive, but space restrictions prevent a list. In general, Earth creatures have high defenses (+3 steps in Resistance Tests over Barsaive equivalents); claws or teeth that rend metal as easily as ordinary creatures burrow through dirt; and, often, attacks based on acid, a vital ability in the Plane of Earth.
The plane also has intelligent inhabitants, but they range less widely over its territory than do Name-givers in Barsaive. Therefore a mining party can usually find sites in uninhabited terrain. Some believe that certain parties have met native Name-givers, either accidentally or by intent. To date, none of these parties has returned with information.
The mining itself. Conventional, non-magical iron, aluminum, copper, and other metals make up most of this Plane. True Metallic Earth occurs under mountains, in exposed seams of cliffs, or dissolved in acidic rivers, the equivalents of sites in Barsaive where metal occurs. Mining these sites carries the same risks that conventional mining does. Centuries of past visits by the Theran Empire at its height, and possibly by Horrors from farther planes, have exhausted the most accessible sites. More difficult claims draw attention from hungry predators that can wipe out even a well-defended party.
Mining the metallic form of Elemental Earth does not specifically require orichalcum tools, but sometimes it reacts to contact with another metal by transforming at once into that metal, thereby losing its magic. Scholars cannot yet reliably duplicate this effect.
Metallic Earth in its native state may look like a silvery liquid blob, copper-gold dust, or sparkling black ore. Miners identify it in all these forms by its unusual luster in sunlight or its faint white glow in darkness. Metallic Earth seldom occurs in quantities of more than a few pounds, but an ounce fetches upward of 600 silver and always sells quickly.
Like the dwarfs, other peoples of Barsaive mine the metallic form of Elemental Earth. However, many obtain it in less risky though less reliable ways; for instance, some lucky explorers have found Metallic Earth deposits near more plentiful strata of Elemental Earth. The communities that can enter the Elemental Plane of Earth, as the dwarfs do, appear much more reluctant than dwarfs to venture regularly into its metallic regions.
The dwarfs of Throal feel mingled sadness and embarrassment about some dwarf settlements in the Barsaivean wilderness. Although small and rare, these enclaves show a backward fear of intruders common among Barsaive's small villages. (See the later section "Cadaver Kaer" for human parallels.)
On a main road two hours' ride outside the village of Hangtown, the adventurers spot this report spiked to a tree. Those of scholarly bent may recognize the name of the wandering scholar Brunvand Rockfist, who has achieved some fame for his collections of folklore from every race.
WARNING TO ALL SEEKERS OF KNOWLEDGE
ENTERING THE BADLANDS NEAR THE VILLAGE OF HANGTOWN
from Brunvand Rockfist of Throal
Hangtowners display GREAT PREJUDICE against writing, books, and scholars! I had not unpacked my scroll or pen when the rather filthy dwarf wineseller launched into his tale. Needless to say, I did not write this down at the time. Please pass copies of this legend to seekers entering the region.
"Shame you coonent'a made it here last week. We had us a big book burning. What a flame them books made, the more once we took them scrolls to the pile as kindling. We don't take to books in these here parts, we don't.
"You look startled. I hope you ain't a booker. It was the Goldbug Book what learned us. A human wizard staying at Ray Dellowmare's inn had a copy. Had a picture of a gold bug, kind of a beetle, stamped on red covers, and pages with gold edges.
"This wizard, Omerwan, said he'd let you look at a page of the book for a gold piece. Said it would reveal your enemies' deepest secret. We all made fun of him. In public, that is. Ever'body with a gold piece met up with him, private. I didn't 'cause I can't read. Them that did, they learned things. They learned that Jonas Gyori had a cache of silver hidden under his bed, may he rest in peace. They learned that Margus Scont was sleeping with everybody's wife, may he rot in Horror-home. In three weeks' time Omerwan was rich, and we were five dwarfs dead.
"So one day, I went in to Dellowmare's, plinked a gold piece down in front of the wizard, and demanded to see a page. Nobody had asked public-like. He showed me a page covered in letters that moved and crawled, and I held it up like I was reading. `Says here that Omerwan is making a fortune offen us, and that he is flammable!' People got my point. We went for the wizard, but he grabbed his book and jumped away. Jumped like a grasshopper, never seen nothin' like it. He got away. So we burnt all the books we could lay our hands on for a day's walk around.
"Books're a bad thing, they stir people up. You're sure you're not a booker?"
May LOCHOST grant these rude folk wisdom! --BR
In Hangtown the adventurers find nothing of interest except, perhaps, a lynch mob. But in the next village beyond, Shackleton, Omerwan (a Circle 5 wizard) has set up business with his Goldbug Book. The heroes may dispose of him and get the book themselves, or they may simply pay him a few silver for a peek at a page. The Book works as an adventure hook alerting the heroes to danger now in wait for them. The nature of the hook is up to the gamemaster.
About the Book
The Goldbug Book originated at the Theran School of Shadows before the Scourge, with an elven scholar of magic named Brohden. Brohden showed voracious curiosity about the lore of magic, and he published many popularizations of magical thinking.
Others at the School apparently regarded Brohden as a negligible magician himself, but one year he surprised everyone by translating a long passage from one of the last Books of Harrow. Fellow scholars, impressed, now noted Brohden's changed manner, his withdrawn and hostile nature. Historians now believe Brohden at that time was using his translation to create his Goldbug Book. When he disappeared mysteriously, no one looked too hard to find him.
The Goldbug Book appears in history at this time. Unlike grimoires of major evil, the Goldbug Book has no malign intent or movement abilities; owners use and transport it like any book. It has limited sapience, for it can telepathically sense the reader's worst enemy; clairvoyantly sense that enemy and read her thoughts in turn; and summarize the enemy's secrets in a page.
The book shows a poor grasp of priorities. An enemy with more secrets than can fit on one page (about 500 words) may hope the book neglects the larger ones until space runs out, for its spell cannot fill more than a page. The book contains no other information, and only one reader can view each page of secrets before they vanish. Naturally the reader must be able to read the language of the secrets (usually the owner's language).
In historical records since the Scourge, the book has occasionally dropped out of sight, then reappeared at some distant new location. It always raises intense curiosity and gets heavy use, and this in turn leads to bloodshed. In over half the recorded cases its owner falls victim to the bloodshed.
THE GOLDBUG BOOK
Maximum Threads: 2
Spell Defense: 9
Rank 1 - Cost: 200
Key Knowledge: The user must learn the book's name and author.
Effect: The book reveals secrets of one enemy within line of sight at the time of reading. Secrets revealed can foil a small plan or cause the enemy minor inconvenience if revealed.
Rank 2 - Cost: 300
Effect: The book's range to sense an enemy increases to encompass a small village or neighborhood.
Rank 3 - Cost: 500
Key Knowledge: The user must locate and read the passage that Brohden translated from one of the Books of Harrow. Brohden used this knowledge to construct the Goldbug Book. Some kingdom libraries and exceptional private libraries include copies.
Effect: The book's range encompasses a large town. Secrets revealed can cause the enemy major financial loss or personal upheavals.
Rank 4 - Cost: 800
Effect: The book's range covers a county or region, such as the Badlands or the southern jungles. Secrets revealed can destroy the enemy's career and damage any supporting organization or alliance.
Rank 5 - Cost: 1,300
Key Knowledge: A ritual beyond Brohden's comprehension can increase the book's power. The user must discover this ritual. The information exists only in Thera's Eternal Library, the Library of Throal, and other major repositories at the gamemaster's discretion. Translating and collating the diverse sources can take up to four months.
Deed: The user must perform the ritual on the book. The ritual ends when the user's greatest enemy speaks her deepest secret in the book's presence. Only a secret that can destroy the enemy qualifies. This deed earns 1,300 Legend Points.
Effect: The book's range covers all Barsaive. Secrets revealed can destroy the enemy or enemy organization.
Rank 6 - Cost: 2,100
Key Knowledge: When the user reads a page of the book after raising it to Rank 5, a footnote refers her to the end of the book. The endnote holds this Rank's Key Knowledge.
Deed: The user must divulge a secret that can destroy her to her greatest enemy, then have the enemy read the Goldbug Book to confirm the knowledge, and finally let the enemy leave unharmed and unrestricted. The gamemaster decides the identity of the enemy and judges whether the secret qualifies. This deed earns 2,100 Legend Points.
Effect: The book's range becomes unlimited. Secrets revealed can bring catastrophe to a kingdom and fundamentally change the campaign world, assuming the enemy knows such information.
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No challenge to these trademarks is intended.