Tuesday 17 July 2018

Return to Chelmsey: The Chaos Well and its Discontents

Although the Chaos Well has been discussed elsewhere, it’s now time to take a deeper look and see what lies beneath its slow-churning waters...

Of foremost importance is the fact that the Well is a water-filled cavity that is far deeper than its surface area indicates. The Well’s rock walls are marked with undulating grooves, as if a giant screw had been used to excavate a pit. Varicoloured weeds now grow in the grooves, and odd-looking fish dart here and there amid the sluggish stirring of the weeds. When first capped, the Well did not have an earthen floor – simply a wall of translucent energy beneath which the stuff of Chaos swirled violently. Now, however, a century of Chaos-enhanced erosion has allowed a silt floor approximately five feet deep to form. It is mostly level but prone to emitting small puffs of radiant bubbles as Chaos energy forces itself up and out. The cavity is approximately 110’ deep – at least to the silt floor and the festering force wards beneath. Beyond that, its depth is unknown.

The most significant feature of the Well is the narrow spire of rock that rises up from its centre. This contorted circular pillar is 50’ across at the base and tapers almost imperceptibly to its summit as a small island some 40’ in diameter.  This stone spike is hived with tiny tunnels and crevices wherein fish flit about and other, stranger creatures also dwell, including a few particularly noxious oozes. At the base, however, is a larger cave, wherein the primary denizen of the Well is usually to be found. This is a Chaos-mutated Giant Freshwater Crab. It has been granted a limited, but deranged, sentience by its immersion in the Well. The Crab was placed there by a secret member of a cult attached to the Well and the worship of Chaos twenty years previously as an experiment (of this cult, more will be revealed at a later time). It survives on a diet of small fish and the occasional dead livestock animal (provided by the cultist).

Eighty feet from the floor of the Well there is another opening in the eastern face, but this is somewhat different, being clearly the product of humanoid labour. The rusted remains of a heavy door hang crazily from failing hinges, and the space within the opening is dark and preternaturally cool. This door opens out onto a broken arch of natural stone, heavily encrusted with red and russet barnacles. The middle third of the arch is gone (there is a pile of rubble on the Well floor far below, wherein the bones of two Paladins of Jureus lie (in the unlikely event someone should reach the Well floor, the shades of these unfortunates will rise up to attack, still fighting the battle in which they died). The arch originally spanned 30’ to another opening in the rock wall. Here, an iron double door has been blasted inwards by some frightful power and a waterlogged hall slopes off into the darkness.

Of this place, little is known: shortly before the Well was capped, two dozen Chaos cultists fled across the arch, breaking it as they went – and sending the two Paladins plummeting to their deaths on the newly-formed force wards below. The door was blown apart by wizards aiding the operation against the Cult, but this merely released a young but dangerous Umbral Dragon. This mighty creature slaughtered the wizards and those guarding them. It was then sorely wounded by several Clerics and driven back, but with the ritual to cap the Well complete, the leaders of the expedition were unwilling to take further losses, as they had few combat-ready forces left. Instead, they began the filling of the Well with blessed water, hoping to drown their foes, or at least isolate them. So the Well was filled, and its mysteries locked away. Rangers and Inquisitors attached to the mission scoured the lands around Chelmsey for signs of any concealed exit from the Cult’s subterranean hideout, but found none (there was but one exit, and it was destroyed by the Cultists after two of their number made their escape).

The centre of the spire above the arch is hollowed out with a long, rough-hewn spiral staircase ascending to the surface of the now-island. Here the cultists would climb to bathe in the stuff of Chaos and work rituals to absorb or otherwise manipulate the energy streaming upwards from the font far below. They sought to resist the ritual that ultimately capped the Well from here, but failed, primarily due to the fact that none of them could quite bring themselves to die in defence of the Well – a limitation their foes did not share.

The cult was headquartered in a large cave complex that filled the middle third of the large hill directly to the east of the Chaos Well. This haven was a secret unsuspected by those who came to cap the Well – they did not expect to be opposed by anything other than the insensate will of the Chaos Well itself – but so grievous were their losses in combat with the cultists that they lacked the capacity (and, indeed, the will) to gain access and clean out the cult once and for all. Instead, they left a small squad of warriors leavened with Clerics and Paladins for two decades to watch for any sign of activity. There was none, and under pressure of many competing demands, the squadron was withdrawn, and Church officialdom decided that the cultists – if any yet lived – were unable to leave the haven that had become, effectively, their tomb.

This was not so: although sealed away, some among the cultists have survived, sustained by magic. Although they could choose to leave – they have magic enough for that – they prefer to wait, unsuspected, while the cap on the Well weakens and their agents abroad (brought into the cult by those who escaped) slowly seek to undermine and confuse those who seek to maintain the watch on the Well.

Wolves of War: The Ulfarga for Blood & Treasure (& RMFRP)

  Ulfarga (Lupine Beastkin) Wild-hearted but honourable wolf-like humanoids, Ulfarga represent one of the largest populations of any Beastki...