To Gareth the butcher, of Kalmyr:
May you be blessed in the name of Abaoth the Merciful.
I am writing this sad epistle, friend Gareth, so that you may know in detail the events which led to your brother's death deep within the murky confines of that foul place. There were none braver than Hern; on numerous occasions he saved my life and I only wish that I could have been in a better position to save his soul. His body I send packed in salt so that it may be interred through the customs of your faith.
To relate the events of his demise in a more clear light, I must detail the ruins in which we delved for some two weeks before Hern met his untimely yet heroic end. The place is called Doomwatch and it stands deep in the West Forest, some twelve leagues from Talos where Balesire, the grim Duke of Talons holds court. The largest swath of the west coast of the Sea of Tombs is under his domination now thanks in part to his spiritual alliance with our gracious Overking. The other nobles, especially the foppish Duke of Ydric, guard their borders jealously, but all know that should Balesire desire to expand his borders at their expense, no fair judgement or aid will come from the Alpine Throne. Sadly, the other nobles spend too much time at the throats of each another to form an alliance and put an end to his ambitions. The soldiers of The Naej under the Taloned Banner will march on until Fate intervenes, I'm afraid. Only the frightening Nerve Weaver of Veronic seems unafraid of the future.
Back to Doomwatch: the biggest known part of that place serves as a prison for those condemned by the Duke of Talons. Many hundreds have passed through the Great Gates into its depths with perhaps a score or so finding escape. The Duke is not without mercy, for he has decreed that any prisoner able to escape that hole is worthy of his freedom.
Likewise, many adventuresome individuals, such as myself and Hern and the winsome Qovakrisstia Darkhair, have paid the toll to enter the depths of Doomwatch and seek out its fabled secrets and riches. We passed through the Great Gates once, but found almost everything within a day's search from that point to be stripped clean or infested with insane prisoners seeking our blood to quench their thirst.
A bit of Doomwatch history is in order: first, no one is sure who built this complex or when. Best guesses by sages estimate the upper works... which are mainly the Great Gate and a few fallen towers... to be over three millenia old and possibly date to before the rise of Sredna's kingdom. The scrollwork on the outside definitely shows some evidence of Anayari culture.
As to entrances: the Great Gate is the main method for reaching the first of many levels to this damned place. It is heavily guarded by the soldiers of The Naej and has the seal of the Duke himself. That gate lies as I described earlier. The smaller gate (and more recently built it seems), known locally as the Mother Gate, sits over three thousand yards to the north (which should begin to give you some idea of the expansive size of this place). There are twelve other known entrances to Doomwatch, and all are likewise guarded with no entrance allowed (though prisoners are permitted by law to exit there should they prove capable). These smaller entrances were discovered over time, used by delving adventurers, and ultimately came under the sanction of the Duke. It is rumored that a handful of other entrances lie scattered throughout the countryside. It is one of those entrances that Hern, myself and our ravenesque associate found and used.
To be continued...