A rolling tremor passes through the land of Uton signaling a return of long absent magic as well as an ancient evil that accompanies it. Ryson Acumen, purebred delver, senses the changes throughout the land. In his investigations, he learns that legends he considered fables hold more truth than fantasy. The delver encounters elves and learns the Sphere of Ingar, a talisman that captured all magical energies long ago, is free from its tomb in Sanctum Mountain. As violent, evil creatures return to shred the very fabric of reality, the sphere gains awareness and chooses to spew corrupted magical energies to obliterate all life.
The sphere must be destroyed, but it rests within Sanctum, a hollow mountain with a single path to its center. The way to the sphere remains defended by devices created long ago, forged by members of each race to thwart entry to the mountain's core ...
Near the town of Connel, the flatlands in the distance trembled as if a great wave crested just beneath its surface. Like distant thunder, a growing rumble swept forward and broke the peace and serenity of the farmlands. The grinding roar gave only short notice as the wave of convulsion rolled forward with uniform power.
The people of this region were not accustomed to earthquakes, though some had experienced a small tremor perhaps once in their lifetimes. This, however, was no slight disturbance, nor was it a massive quake that people of the west have often spoke of... an all encompassing upheaval that spreads like ripples on disturbed water. This was power unleashed yet also confined at the same time. The quake took the pure form of a single rolling tremor, an unbroken line of chaos stretching north to south, its ends out of sight. The land in front and behind the convulsion remained calm and steady, but the ground at the point of the crest lifted up as if it were being pushed away by a thousand angry souls long-buried in the soil.
The fury of the disturbance lashed out upon all in its path. The few trees which spotted the landscape as markers for farmers resisted the tremor, but as the upheaval rolled past their roots, a few shifted to lean at slight angles from the ground. Fence posts bolted into the air like thrown javelins. Shepherd dogs howled, and the panicked livestock wandering the fields raced in every direction. Fortunately, the ground did not split beneath them. Though the tremor tussled them, threw them to and fro, no true injury befell a single animal.
The distress of the animals caught the attention of the farmers. As they peered out among their vast stretches of land, they witnessed the on-coming tremor. They stared with dumbfounded shock. They had faced storms, draughts and floods. They had endured swarms of crop eating insects and diseases which threatened their livestock. They had suffered through all of this with perseverance, with a belief that these were simply challenges to overcome. Never before had they encountered the land itself rising up against them. They looked to the tremor with abhorrence, as well as panic.
As the quake rumbled onward, its path was unmistakable. It would first surge below their own barns and houses before heading toward the very center of town. The potential jeopardy broke the incapacitating shock, and farmers hastened to action. Neighbors needed to be warned, animals tended.
The alarm spread from the furthest limits inward to the more populated areas of Connel. From the farmlands calls went out from neighbor to neighbor. A single word of "Quake!" brought disbelief first, frenzy second as the never ending rumble washed away any doubts.
In the town, bells rang to alert the public. Shouts raged from the confusion, and soon, the entire town raised an ear to the commotion. At Connel's heart, merchants and citizens alike stumbled about with a near dazed sense of confusion. As of yet, they could not see the tremor, but the word spread of it like fire on alcohol. When the distant rumble caught their ears, they believed--and they feared what was to come.
The farmhouses to the far west were the first to feel the surging power. Strong men and women raced to their animals, to free them from barns which they feared might collapse. Horses and mules kicked at their stalls as farmers fought against time and panic to open each barn door. They loosed their teams to the open fields, knowing there they would be safe. They did not feel as secure about themselves or their homes.
They braced themselves over open ground as the rumbling bore down upon them. The dirt rose beneath their feet, sending many of them sprawling. The surging disturbance raised the ground above the height of a tall man's knees. Again, the soil did not break. As quickly as it rose, it fell back, leveling out as if nothing had happened.
The tremor rolled apathetically beneath barns and farmhouses alike. The structures quivered with the upheaval. They shook and rattled, they danced and moved. Dilapidated shacks crumbled into muddled piles of wood and debris, but the sturdier buildings withstood the barrage of force, sustaining only minor damage.
Farmers took back to their feet. With a heavy breath of relief for their own safety, they watched with concern as the ripple now raced toward Connel's center.
The next obstacle in the path of the tremor was an ancient stonewall which surrounded most of the town. Built generations ago, it stood as one of the oldest landmarks of Connel. Only the Night Watch Inn, the Church of Godson, and two private homes could boast of a longer existence. Older buildings had long since been torn down and replaced with more modern structures.
The wall's age did not bring it any glory or respect. Its purpose or any battles fought at its base had long been forgotten. The townspeople merely ignored it these days, or viewed it as a nuisance when roads needed to be built extending beyond its limits.
The wall was wider than it was tall. Its height barely reached the shoulders of an average man, but its stout thickness made it difficult to remove. Its substance of heavy stone and mortar allowed it to survive these long ages with little wear. Breaking through a section was a mighty task. Even the most skilled engineers marveled at its intrinsic strength. More often than not, the soil was built up around the wall, and any construction went over rather than through it. Fortunately, though the wall encircled the entire town, it enclosed a wide expanse of land. For whatever reason it was built, it far exceeded the original outskirts of Connel's earlier size. Connel expanded many times over the centuries, and only now did it just begin to spill beyond certain sections of the wall.
As the tremor rolled in from the farmlands, the alerted townspeople looked toward the barrier to gauge the strength of the rolling upheaval. The wave of energy would strike the foundation of the wall before reaching any significant portion of the town. Fearing more for their homes than for the existence of the ancient bulwark, many hoped the stone construction would bear the full brunt of the tremor, thus saving their shops, offices, and houses.
The tremor rolled forward, ready to greet the wall with the full fury of its power. When it struck, the barrier did not give. It did not shake, or for that matter react in anyway whatsoever to the violence underneath it. Dirt and dust flew into the air--a brown haze that followed the tremor like an obedient dog. It obscured the clash only for a moment. As the dust settled, the true victor was obvious. The wall remained in place; firm, strong and silent.
Strangely, after passing beneath the ancient bulwark, the disturbance appeared smaller and weaker. While it jostled the onlookers, it did not throw them with the same force which bore upon the farmers. While large structures shook and trembled, they did not rise from the ground or twist with great disorder. At the two points where the tremor remained in contact with the ancient wall, the disturbance was almost imperceptible. To the relief of the townspeople, the tremor moved through Connel as if in weary retreat.
After passing through the heart of the city and beyond the eastern limits, the rolling quake reared up for one more massive head-on confrontation with the stone barrier. The quake disappeared underneath the barrier which remained silent and unmoving. When the tremor resurfaced, it cleared all contact with the wall. It appeared to return to its original strength, and it rolled through the clearings of the east with renewed power.
As the danger passed, so too did the concern of the townspeople. The frenzy of the event dissipated. The shouts and alarms ceased and the confusion disappeared. Slowly but steadily, the people returned to their homes, thankful for the reprieve and ready to discuss the excitement throughout the day. Inspectors and engineers were dispatched to assess the damage, which was nearly nonexistent. A single work crew set out to repair a few roads and one bridge.
As the day wore on, most Connel residents quickly returned to their daily activities. Markets opened as usual and people walked the streets with hardly a care. The land remained calm from both the west and the east. With so little damage, the tremor turned to nothing more than an oddity for idle chat.
To some, however, the quake presented opportunity. The town council, consisting of four men and one woman, all with business concerns and political aspirations, met that same day to discuss the tremor.
They gathered in the conference room of the town hall, a building of fairly recent construction. The room was large but uninviting. Portraits of previous council members adorned the walls. The faces in these paintings tried diligently to portray an air of dignified importance. The current members carried themselves with the same ingenuous attitude. They sat around an oblong oak meeting table. Stacks of paper waited patiently for their review. The mayor, Edward Consprite, brought the meeting to order.
"The first thing we should do," he said with a deep voice, "is read the initial damage reports into the record."
He placed a pair of reading glasses upon the bridge of his pudgy nose and picked up the engineer's preliminary report. He spoke clearly and firmly as he read the findings aloud. His voice reaffirmed the overwhelming arrogance which exuded from his person like the smell of day old fish. When finished, he waved the papers pompously in front of him.
"I realize that this report tells us nothing we don't already know," he exclaimed. "I'm sure the rest of you did as I did and took a look around before coming here. I saw nothing which would indicate that anyone received any true damage. I do expect, however, that we will have to look out for those hoping to make false claims. I'm sure there are more than a few undesirables that may see this as a chance to gain access to public funds. You know what I mean, some poor slob thinks his house is starting to wear down and will come to us saying the quake damaged his home. He'll expect we use town funds to repair problems that existed seasons ago. We simply can't allow that."