Located at the east coast of the Manthrian province, Deepgorge Mine is a dreaded and shunned labyrinth of many natural and a few additionally constructed tunnels, leading into an enormous underground hall. The latter is connected to the surface through a series of dangerous pathways with hundred ped high chasms to the left and right, making it appear as an underground gorge, hence the name. Formerly a place where mainly fyrite was mined in the deepest levels, mining activity was abandoned several centuries ago already and the tunnels are now said to serve as hideout for outcast people and greylers, to harbour criminals or even hordes of monsters. It is also rumoured that the legendary móh'sýs race, human torsos with legs of spiders, lives deep, deep down at the bottom of the mines, but few dare to venture into this malicious abyss. Deepgorge is also known to the Manthrians as "Bandit's Chasm" or "Scum Maw".
|Image description. In the depths of the vast Deepgorge Mine you are likely to encounter adventurers, bandits or pirates... Illustration drawn by Faugar for Mystical Empire, used with friendly permission.|
Deepgorge received its name for the impressive sight of its gigantic
underground gorge and chasms it has to offer, which make a decent into the
depths a risky undertaking, especially as many parts of the former
infrastructure have crumbled to dust by now. Deepgorge has many hidden
entrances, tucked in the hills up until the Propsper Mountains in the north,
but also smaller outlets far to the east near the sea coast. Several lower
levels are also said to actually be filled completely with
water from the
Adanian Sea during the flood. "Deepgorge" indeed has a double meaning - for one
it can be described as a sort of great underground ravine, a gorge in the depth
of the earth: Its central cavern has only a single perilous pathway (called the
"Back") leading down into nothingness, with huge chasms on each side, making a
decent a hazardous undertaking. In this respect it doesn't surprise that people
see it also as a great maw, a gorge of the dark and unknown, longing to devour
Deepgorge Mine was, as it name suggests, once a mine, where fyrite was sought. Fyrite is a decorative metal used to make breastplates for knights, as it conducts heat poorly and keeps the wearer of average temperature. Fyrite is quite a highly prized metal and thus the mine was very profitable all in all. The reason for the sheer depth of Deepgorge and its winding passages is the fact that fyrite is found only in the foundations of the earth, a couple of strals down from sea level, usually hidden very well.
Descending the "Back". The astonishing size of the mine and its fascinating accustics are enough to amaze a man who has seen everything else in Caelereth. From first sight (providing one has his torch with him or an adequate lighting spell) the mine appears leagues wide, filling the entire field of view, and it isn't far off of it. Once one begins to descend into the depths of Deepgorge one will notice that the vibrant flora that accompanied the visitor on the way into the mine has been replaced with bare, dirty, dusty rock. Here and there abandoned wooden framework of former miners might be spotted, a neglected pick, a helmet among the ever present rubble, a skeleton. At first the descent down the "Back" is quite flat, a bit like a flight of large stone stairs, but as one continue it begins to wind along in serpentines with uneven bolders everywhere on the path, making it increasingly easy to trip at an inattentive moment and fall a couple of peds down to the ground...
Once an adventurer finally reaches safe ground again and finds himself at the bottom of Deepgorge's underground cavern and looks up he might get the impression to be trapped: The slopes he has walked down to reach this level are now like walls, menacing overhanging claws, it looks as if they want to keep every visitor in, as if one has been thrown down this hole, never meant to come out. This level of the mine, probably the part with the freshest air (even though the air is full with dust), is covered holes in the cavern walls and the ground, tunnels lead in all directions, except up.
The First Level. Describing in general what the inside of these horizontal tunnels at the main cavern look like seems futile, as this varies greatly from tunnel to tunnel. Some are pitch black and covered in cobwebs, some describe circles and lead back to the main caverns, others end in a heap of rubble, while even others are clear and light enough to at least see where one is going due to dimly light emanating stones found there, the so-called greysling. Some tunnels have high ceilings and the sides are so wide one can't touch both with outstreched arms, whereas others require an individual of human size to bend down, walk on the knees or even crawl to get through some of the tight spots. Whole in whole, though, this level is pretty easy to navigate around if one isn't careful enough and remember where one came from - however, it is recommended to watch out for cave spiders, rats or snakes already on this level!
The Second Level. Descending from this level one enters a tunnel leading further down into the earth, as most explorers do, there is one thing that may be promised: It is pitch black. If one doesn't have a torch, it is not recommended to do further exploring as one might never get out as the scarce light of the greysling stones wears off here. Those intelligent enough to bring torches will spot leerich moss breeding on the tight walls (or breeding on the sleeve of their shirt) and hundreds of spiders, small and large, dead and alive, littering and crawling through the tunnel floors. This level is also quite drafty and much more confusing and maze like compared to the last level.
Nevertheless, this level still shows a clearly organized structure and signs of dwarven mining everywhere. An interesting thing one will find on this level are several torch holders, made from iron or an alloy of it, that hold rotting, burnt out sticks, still preserved from the days the mine was made, hundreds of years ago. They are also indicators that there are still people living down there, who use these torch holders from time to time - though be assured, one wouldn't want to encounter any of them... It is most likely here on this level that criminals, bandits and outcasts seek a hideout in a corner somewhere, far, far away from the people they wish to escape.
The Third Level. The details on the next level are much more sketchy than the last two. Not many venture so far as it becomes obvious that unwanted visitors aren't wanted here. What is agreed is that it is much colder here than the last two levels, it is advised to bring a thick cloak or blanket, and it gets much much wetter, dank and eerie. Most explorers say that the stench of the third level is overpowering, it smells of rotting animal corpses (or possibly human carcasses), reason for it could be that katashmran vipers have their lairs here. These are deadly serpents, leaving slimy traces everywhere, breeding in dozens in pits, one wouldn't want to fall into...
The floor on this level therefore is described to be extremely sticky, it makes a strange stomach-churning squeal when you raise your foot off of it, having slime and waste all over. This level is also thought to be much more cramped than the other two, probably built for a short, stout dwarven miner, not a brave adventuring human, but many of these dwarven tunnels seem to have been abandoned at this level and are incomplete. There are a lot more different routes and dead ends than at the other levels, a nuisance for many curious explorers. Many passages on this level lead up again, then down, make twists and turns in all possible directions.
Flittermice aren't an uncommon sight here either, probably living off the thousands of cave spiders found on this level, which in turn probably live of the slime covered walls.
|Image description. Horrific creatures that shun the light of day are said to live deep down in deep caves or abanonded mines - the móh'sýs, half men, half spider. Picture drawn by Max.|
The Fourth Level. The fourth level is almost
impossible to describe, not because it's so frightening, but because of all of
the clashing opinions about it. Some say it's knee high in dirty
the Adanian Sea, which seems to wash into the deepest caves during the flood),
when others say it's covered in muddy wet soil. What is agreed on however is
that it is wet, very wet. In fact this is said to be where the legendary
móh'sýs wait for their victims to get stuck in the mud, making them sitting
ducks. Aside from that all we know is that extremely mysterious kinds of fish
and eels can be observed at this level - if one has the courage to go that far,
The Fifth Level. The fifth level has no certain description - nobody we know of got that far to tell the tale, but we know from ancient dwarven maps that some tunnels dug by the Thergerim reached further natural caves down there. Most believe the fifth level is completely flooded most of the time, with a smell that is believed to be utterly revolting, due to the rotting corpses, whatever they may be. The existing tunnels between the caves are also said to be large enough for a man to crawl, or a hobbit to bend down and walk, at least this is what the dwarven maps tell us.
There is no doubt that Deepgorge has more levels but they couldn't be documented, as they are supposed to be underwater - and most who go looking for them don't come back either.
Location. Deepgorge is located on the continent of Sarvonia, in the eastern part of the Mantharian province in central Santharia. There are many entrances to Deepgorge, but the largest and most well known lies about 50 strals north from the Mashdai River and another 50 south from the Propsper Mountains and its great mine, the Propsper Mine. Only a few strals north you can find the village Kneef and the Shady Grove (from the locals dubbed "Banditwoods"), the latter is often seen as an outpost for criminal activity going on below the surface in Deepgorge. If you face north at this main entrance you can spot the Propsper Mountains in the distance and the Adanian Sea to the east.
There are said to exist numerous further entrances to Deepgorge, some of them recorded, others known by only a few, of those many are supposed to be looters hiding from the law. Some say that Deepgorge is also connected directly to the mentioned Propsper Mine and that some hunted pirates once managed to escape there after having entered Deepgorge. Maybe just an invention of Propsper mineworkers trying to come up with an adventurous tale, maybe reality.
People. It is not
thought that any civilized race can live in Deepgorge Mine. There is no supply
of fresh water (only sea
water at the lower levels), in caverns or
mines like these there is no soil for farming, barely any kind of edible
vegetation, and there are quite a bit of dangerous beasts one should better
avoud. Nevertheless, rumours don't want to cease that the so-called
móh'sýs race, consisting of disturbing and
terrifying half-spider half-man
creatures, lives deep, deep down there in the heart of the mines - at least in a
good deal of fairy-tales and horror stories common in the region. From the few
descriptions we have from these ugly beings they barely qualify as sentient
creatures, even though they seem to have a rather primitive kind of culture. At
any rate: Adventurer beware! They are said to hide in the darkness unmovingly
for hours, only waiting for the curious and foolish explorers to come their way
and meet their fate. But as these creatures live very deep down in the mine (if
at all!), one really needs to seek them out - and then nobody else can help you.
In the upper levels of the mines, however, it is believed that visitors could come across the "scum", which is responsible for another name of the mine: "Scum's Maw": Like in the nearby Shady Grove people say that bandits have chosen a home here. In the winding and confusing tunnels where only they themselves know the twists and turns by heart, bandits are supposed to have hideouts, keep their loot, store food rations and have makeshift beds when they need to rest.
Others say the vast mine also harboured pirates in the past, who found a way to anchor their ships in the lower levels, and that there are masses of treasures still down there, if only someone would like to search for them...
Finally Deepgorge is also believed to be a place for outcasts, who seek refuge here after having committed crimes or want to hide for some reason, a greyler hideout. Only a few centuries ago a man called Nourf (at least that's how people believe he was called) was found in the mine by royal guards in search for hiding criminals. The man, who barely looked human, obviously had spent years in the mine and nearly had lost his ability to speak. Until this day nobody knows who he was and how he got there, as he committed suicide in custody only a few hours after the guards have taken him with them to interrogate him. - Yes, Deepgorge is a mysterious place indeed, and has its secrets!
Flora. There are no flowers, bushes or trees in the gloomy depths of the caves, there isn't even any grass growing in the depths of this mine. Among the few things that count as a plant in Deepgorge is the slimy moss that your hands and clothes get covered with when you touch the walls, which is known as gleerich. Gleerich is a persistent kind of weed, known to grow in the weirdest places, e.g. hundreds of peds below the surface, but nowhere when it is needed. Its only purpose seems to be that it serves as ingredient for secret concoctions herbwomen brew to cure rare illnesses. But if you plan to go down into Deepgorge to get gleerich you really have to be very desperate...
Another interesting plant is the shadoweed, a strange, thin, cobweb-like dark vine that is normally found in the dank, wet areas of the mine, where they spout out the groud and sometimes cover hole shafts. The more these vines grow together, the stronger they get. Obviously they need no light to grow, and the gnomes have come up with a hypothesis that they are capable of extracting what they need to grow from specific minerals found in the rock.
Fauna. A variety of nasty little critters take residence in the dark passages of Deepgorge. Colonies of rats, vilerats, flittermice, or bats to some folk, have been spotted in the crevices on the walls, though these animals have to be accounted to the most harmless ones one can encounter in the mines. In fact deep into the mine there are reports that whole caverns are covered with spiders, and you can't take a step without crushing one. Spider occurences are said to range from the common cave spider over the extremely poisonous, though usually rare, sixteen-legged carshan spinner to varieties of giant spiders with sizes up to two or even more peds.
That not enough, Deepgorge seems to be home to a whole plethora of snakes and serpents as well, which mainly live in the upper levels, where the soil is looser. The characteristic whipping of a quickly moving euscan lasher might irritate unsuspected visitors, though these snakes don't really need to be feared. Much more dangerous are the up to four ped long katashmran vipers, which often climb along the ceilings of high caves, which they make sticky themselves - if you hear a noise from above reminding you of a slimy substance, back off! Once these serpents sense prey, the drop from their position, and make an end to everything still living below on no time.
Even further down the existence of water serpents has been reported, probably darkeye eels, a water creature with huge black eyes, which is said to be able to see in the dark. A bunch of strange fish varities was also seen - an explorer even dared to enter Deepgorge and bring two unique species back with him never seen before anywhere else: the ball-stickler, a flat fish with an underbelly full of spikes, which can roll itself to a spiky ball when threatened, and the fierce-looking trang-ray, a triangular ray with a double row of teeth...
People also believe that truly ghastly creatures, like the móh'sýs - half man, half spider beings - and perhaps even chasm demons, wait in the lowest levels for the odd traveller to satisfy their appetites, but sources are very unreliable on that. Most people that have ever been trapped in the horrid lower levels of Deepgorge for more than a week (or claim to have been trapped) tell of their narrow escapes from such tormenting monsters.
Resources. Deepgorge Mine once was abundant in fyrite, which was mined by the Mitharim dwarves under commission by the Santhran, the Santharian King. However, for more than a hundred years now its sources have been depleted and now nothing but rock and dust is left. However, in the mine you can still find the signs of mineworking which has taken place hundreds of years ago, like wooden framework or dwarven markings on the mine shafts.
Myth/Lore. Because of the deep, mysterious gorge, the chasms, confusing tunnels and hundreds of secret passages sprouting out of nowhere a lot of stories about Deepgorge Mine are told.
One of the stories goes that after the mine had been abandoned for decades, it is rumoured, that fugitives ran into Deepgorge and hid there for a while until they were forced to leave the dark, having not enough food nor water. They made their way out of the gorge eventually, and claimed of having seen terrifying beasts, some with horns, others with great big fangs and a scarce few that could breath fire. These tales striked fear into the hearts of most of the Mantharians but no one knows what being kept in hole for weeks can do to a man’s head.
Another tale says that a man who was kidnapped and brought down to Deepgorge discovered a grand treasure. He was a merchant, not a very successful one, but a respected merchant nonetheless. Snatched off the road by mounted bandits on his way to Chondra, his fate lay in the hands of brutal criminals. After being robbed they threw him down a vertical mine shaft and left him there in the dark. Luckily for the merchant he survived the fall and, although badly hurt, he survived. He tried to find a way out and came across a weak wall. Kicking it, the wall crumbled to pieces, behind it he found an unsealed chest full of goldbards. He tried to pull it along but with his injured arms he couldn’t shift it. Thus he filled his pockets and boots with as many coins as he could handle and eventually found a way to get out of the labyrinth and finally escape. During his flight in the dark he lost a good deal of the coins he had found, though, and when he finally reached daylight only a handful was left. Later, the merchant is said to have returned to Deepgorge to retrieve the rest of the treasure, but he went there alone, because he was greedy and didn't trust anyone, only telling his wife of the fortune lying deep down below. That he left for Deepgorge again is also the last thing we know about said merchant, as he never returned. Some say he found his end in Deepgorge's labyrinths after no being able to locate the treasure once again. Others suggest he might have found the treasure and left his wife for a southern beauty, as with all the gold he could have gone anywhere and fulfill every wish he had.
Many more tales are told about Deepgorge, and more probably will, but no one knows what’s down until they look. And if you go down there you'll probably become subject of a new story...
"Theme of Deepgorge Mine", composed and performed by
Format: MP3, Length: 6:16, Original Title: "Into the Depths", original Santharian work.
Click here to download the song, use right-click and "Save as..." (5.84 MB)
Information provided by Norkin and Artimidor