Humans have dwelt in the lands between the Nyr Dyv and Woolly Bay since time immemorial. This does not mean that these lands are safe, however. War, strife, and intrigue have come to Greyhawk’s Domain. From the south, the evil humanoids of the Orcish Empire of the Pomarj seek to loot and pillage the Free City’s lands, while across the Abbor-Alz the Monarch of the Bright Lands gazes upon Hardby with covetous eyes. Warships barring yellow sails once again ply the waters of Woolly Bay.
Unsurprisingly, the potential for adventure in the region is very high. Added to these contemporary threats is the lure of ancient treasures lying yet undiscovered among the peaks of the Cairn Hills and the Abbor-Alz, under the Gnarley Forest’s lush canopy, amid the fetid mire of the Mistmarsh, or under the turbulent waters of the Nyr Dyv and Woolly Bay.
Carashast’s Caves of Sleep
Carashast was an ancient Oeridian warrior of fearsome skill and brutal nature who died about the time of the Great Migrations. Carashast was a black-hearted warlord, famed for his love of torture and suffering. A degenerate man, he led a small confederation of tribes in an orgy of destruction and conquest before he met his end in a particularly grisly ambush. His sons (miraculously) survived the massacre and, perhaps fearing that their father would return to life, built him an ostentatious tomb hidden within a deep set of natural caves.
Carashast’s death, however, spelled the end of his fledgling kingdom. Within months, it was no more as tribal chieftains fought among themselves for the right to claim Carashast’s mantle. The last of these, Carashast’s sons, destroyed each other in a terrible battle that only ended with the utter annihilation of their tribes. Today, the site of this battle is known as Bad Deep (see below). Thus, the exact location of Carashast’s resting place was lost.
Over the centuries, a few adventurers and explorers have explored portions of Carashast’s tomb, but none claims to have comprehensively looted it – the tomb’s varied and deadly guardians driving off or killing all dare enter.
Allegedly, the tomb is located underground at the head of a long and treacherous series of natural caves deep under the Abbor-Alz. Unfortuntately, many such cave systems honeycomb the Abbor-Alz making it virtually impossible to discern Carashast’s true resting place.
The Great Library in the Free City of Greyhawk holds several accounts of alleged explorations of the tomb; all tell of extreme danger, strange guardians and the unique enervating properties of the caves themselves that slowly leaches the vitally and strength from those exploring them. The fullest account, made by the half-elven bard Trigathe Starmantle, speaks of legions of shadows and an indestructible golem seemingly able to command animated weapons that slaughtered his companions. A pernicious sleep effect also pervades the chambers and passageways surrounding Carashast’s final resting place. The long-dead wizard Rasterann of Hardby, theorized that the boundaries between the Material Plane and that of the Plane of Shadows were extremely weak in the area surrounding Carashast’s tomb and that this allows the shadow creatures to slip through onto the Oerth. Whatever the truth of the matter, the Caves of Sleep are an extremely dangerous locale.
The site of an ancient slaughter, nothing lives or grows within its environs. Bad Deep is a dead zone, but why it is so is unknown. Some sages argue that the wickedness of the Oeridian tribes destroyed there, coupled with some unique magical resonance of the area have awakened some sinister property of the land itself. Others assert that the area attracts fiends as a lodestone attracts metal. Some especially paranoid sages even believe that Bad Deep has several properties in common with the famed Causeway of Fiends in the far-off Great Kingdom of Northern Aerdy. It is certain, however, that Bad Deep is slowly expanding.
Bad Deep’s location is relatively well known, and adventurers wishing to investigate the site can reach it without too many problems. Druids lurk in the immediate area attempting to stop or reverse Bad Deep’s insidious advance but thus far they have failed, although in some years they limit its expansion to but a few yards. These self-appointed guardians offer succour and aid to any who seek to explore Bad Deep but do not have the resources necessary to mount a full exploration of those cursed lands.
Surrounding Bad Deep for a distance of several hundred yards is a great ring of sickly, dying vegetation. Within this ring lies nothing but bare, dead earth. Even the ancient trees of the Gnarley succumb to Bad Deep’s malign influence rotting away to nothingness within a season of their fall.
Stories, rumours, and legends about Bad Deep are legion. If even one-tenth of these are true it is a place best avoided by all but the most powerful and brave adventurers. Fanciful tales tell of fiends stalking the area and of the ancient dead rising every night to continue their struggle beyond death. Other tales speak of even more fanciful creatures lurking under the dead earth of Bad Deep and of extensive warrens of tunnels crammed with the treasures (and remains) of the fallen. The same tales also speak of the powerful Oeridian battle magics lost here and, consequently, a small but steady trickle of adventurers arrive to investigate Bad Deep. Most do not return.