(Scroll down to skip dungeon introduction turned creation myth)
|(Gold King Mine, Colorado, source: EPA)|
~~~~~The age-wizened Griots sometimes speak of a time when all the world's gold used to dance in the sky. It glittered and shined among the stars, joyous and plentiful for all People to behold. Ancestor-spirits wove golden garments upon constellation-looms, and the Moon cavorted in symphonies of glimmering majesty with the planets upon the great celestial canvas. Man was at peace, for the riches of the world belonged to all, for all, to behold every night.
They call it The Golden Age. The Great Peace.
It was not to last.
One night, a creature of the earth, a great wyrm named Gongor, slithered out from his hole in the ground to behold the Great Beauty. He saw the star-garments of gold. He saw how the Moon danced. He saw how Men reveled at the sky, and he grew jealous of its beauty, for none such existed in the ground.
A great flame awoke in Gongor - a mighty flame of Greed. Like a brushfire, Greed spread throughout his body with a raging swiftness. Gongor frenzied and spat, jealous of Men and their ancestors. He cursed Men, he cursed their ancestors, and he cursed the gods for the form they had given him. He swore that before his death all gold would be his.
Gongor was a clever beast. He knew he could not reach the sky. He knew that the spears of the Ancestors were deadly. And he knew that he could not fit much gold in his mouth. Not without help.
He slithered back underground, and sought out his friend the Rabbit.
"May I borrow your wings, Rabbit?" Gongor asked. "I will give them back shorty."
Gongor had never broken a promise, so Rabbit agreed. She rarely got to make use of them, anyways, since she found the ground more comforting. She would lend Gongor her wings.
Gongor then went to seek out Shrew-Mole.
"May I borrow your scales, Shrew-Mole?" He asked. "I have great need for them."
Gongor had proven himself an ally to Shrew-Mole when he had chased away predators, so Shrew-Mole agreed, and gave Gongor his scales.
Gongor then went to seek out Great Snake.
"May I borrow your arms and legs, Great Snake?" He asked. "I wish to feel the earth between my toes, such as you."
Snake was crafty. He knew that Gongor was up to something. Nobody just asks for your arms and legs for such a trivial reason, and here was Gongor, with Shrew-Mole's scales and Rabbit's wings! Snake sensed a plot.
"Tell me, Gongor, why do you really want my arms and legs?" Snake hissed.
Gongor, ashamed to have been caught in a lie, confessed:
"I wish to take the Gold from the sky, Snake. There is no beauty like it underground, and there is far too much in the sky. There should be majesty in all places, Snake. But I have nothing to hold and keep it with."
Snake, a creature of the earth, was sympathetic to Gongor's plight. He too wished for there to be beauty in the ground as well as the sky, for he lived in both worlds, and loathed their inequality. Snake, however, was too cautious to attempt what Gongor now planned. Snake feared and understood the wrath of ancestor-spirits better than most, for Snake was adept at sorcery.
But if Gongor went instead, he would bear all the risk. So Snake agreed.
Gongor, with Rabbit's wings, Shrew-Mole's scales, and Snake's powerful arms and legs, took to the sky to gather up the gold at next twilight. Spirits and Men, seeing this new frightening creature, ran at first sight of its terrifying visage. With Rabbit's wings Gongor flew across the sky with decisive swiftness. With Shrew-Mole's scales he deflected the spears and arrows of Man and Ancestor alike, whose bravest warriors came to oppose him. With Snake's arms and legs he scooped up every bit of gold - save for one last brilliant nugget that slipped without his notice.
Gongor, his haul in claw, escaped into the depths of the earth. Deep, deep down he went, until he got so deep that none would follow him. In the darkness he counted up his riches.
Meanwhile, Men and Ancestor rallied. It did not take them long to discover that it was Gongor, the mighty wyrm, that they had seen in the sky. An army was assembled, the last of its kind, to confront Gongor and take back the gold. Yet the earth is no place for armies. Unaccustomed to the earth, the Army of the Sky of Man and Ancestor bickered and fought, unable to decide a course of action. Inevitably, it was little more that they could do than besiege it against Gongor's return.
Gongor, having counted up his hoard and discovered that the brightest bauble had been missed, flew into a rage. Yet, he knew that the Grand Army of the Sky had set siege to the earth. He knew that he could not successfully fight a ready army. Shrew-Mole's scales had deflected one or two powerful spear thrusts, but it would not stop them all. He was trapped.
The fire of Greed grew within him with every passing day. His stomach burned with it, and it tortured him. Nearly all the world's gold and still he was not satisfied. It consumed him from inside. Soon enough the Greed erupted from his mouth. It ate up his guts and burned his heart. In a great internal pyre he was consumed.
Atop his hoard Gongor melted from inside-out, and all the world's gold with him. In liquid form the gold flowed through the cracks and crevices of the earth, until it stretched to every corner of the Underworld. Naught but bones remained of Greedy Gongor, his fortune scattered like tree-seeds in the wind. Not just gold, but even some stars he'd accidentally scooped from the sky.
In the end, Gongor died from his Greed, The Golden Age of Man and Spirit had ended, and the sky has now but one golden remnant of that glorious time.
Snake, though, was satisfied. Now there was beauty in the earth as well.
Two generations ago, The Great Mine flooded. A mistake of engineering, they called it. An unexpected monsoon. The noble architect was given five lashes. Two-hundred workers drowned. Their bodies could never be retrieved.
The King called upon his Sorcerer and his Diviner to appraise the situation. Both went to perform the augury-rituals and both came back with blood drained from their faces. So much human death could not be appeased, neither by sorcery nor by god. The mine was condemned.
In pity, they named those who perished in the mine flood "Goldsouls", for their bodies and spirits would no doubt carry the stain of gold on them forever, even in the afterlife.
None have entered since that time. It had become a wild place.
Then, recently, a hunter came back to his village, exhausted and covered in dried golden muck. He said that he had frequented the area, despite the warnings of the village elders, as game was abundant and untouched. He'd slipped down a muddy slope and broke him arm.
He said that he had seen something - a creature, down in a deep hole in the earth past a pool of aurilian slush. Vaguely man-shaped, dripping in a golden sludge, with a nugget of gold the size of the hunter's fist. Behind the veneer of gold were malformed teeth and sharp crushed bone. They had a desperate battle, but the hunter won.
The hunter brought this treasure back.
Now All know of the Goldsoul Mine.
Using Inkscape (it's free to download), I made a template for Veins of the Earth-style cave systems. I figured I'd test it out by copying down this cave system I made a while back. The template isn't perfect, but it's made making cave systems a lot smoother for me. I expect to make improvements over time.
(Note: They are in .svg format. You will need a program like Inkscape to use them. Previewing doesn't normally apply to .svg files, methinks.)
Veins Cave System Inkscape Template here.
Veins Cave System Inkscape Template (Wide) here.
Anyways, the introduction to this dungeon ended up being a lot longer than I anticipated. First block will go in an appendix, I think. Second I can actually use as an introduction to an adventure document.
Spoilers for my players below
Here's a map of the Goldsoul Mines, using the Veins of the Earth cave system mapping method:
I'll be working on transcribing all of my notes on this dungeon into a digital format. If any are willing, I'd also like to commission some art pieces to go along with it. You can contact me at email@example.com with a summary of your uncolored-but-maybe-gold rates.