Chamber of the Dead

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The Chamber of the Dead is located near Pinefar in the Sleeping Lady Mountains. The chamber consists of a single sarcophagus. The icy tomb is formed of a solid block of ice, surrounded by a wild rainbow of colors. Sealed within the freezing grave, visible through the transparent structure, is what appears to be the frozen body of a halfling. This is the body of the halfling trader Ardo, the husband of Belle, the proprietress of the Pinefar Trading Post. He was the one to whom Lorminstra had revealed the Stones of Virtue in the Vvrael quest, and his mysterious death followed an expedition seeking to find a way from Olbin Pass up to Mount Aenatumgana. The adjacent cave shows clear signs of halfling cannibalism. The Chamber of the Dead itself is much older, containing ancient petroglyphs.

The Chamber

[Chamber of the Dead]
The corridor widens into a chamber that is bare except for an object in its center, a sarcophagus made entirely of ice. The panels forming its walls are cloudy and striated with swirls and variegations. Although the chamber is austere, designs cover walls and ceiling on every side, a veritable riot of color and form all possessing a striking sense of movement and vitality. The playfulness of the renderings lends the somber form in the cold, icebound bed a sense of joyful transfiguration.
Obvious exits: out

>look wall
The wall is a kaleidoscope of pattern and color, a jigsaw of intermeshed forms all seeming to compete for space on the busy landscape of their rock firmament. The forms depict a variety of beasts, from crouching felines to hulking mammoths. Something seems strange about the wall -- as your gaze travels across it, the outlines seem to shift and once your eyes leave a particular rendering, it becomes nigh impossible to find it again.

>look sarcophagus
The icy tomb is formed of a solid block of ice. Sealed within the freezing grave, visible through the transparent structure, is what appears to be the frozen body of a halfling.

>look halfling
The body of a male halfling lies in peaceful repose, his silky beard flowing down his chest and tattooed arms crossed over that. On the corpse's face, you can still discern a somewhat mixed expression. It appears to be less than a happy demeanor, but still resigned to a fate that can never be changed. The body's hands are lightly clasped around each other, gently cradling an emerald falcon pin as though it were a fragile and precious egg.

Wonders of Elanthia Historical Discussion

This story is told by Firelise the Halfling Scholar.

"The body here is that of Ardo, husband of Belle, whom you may have met at the Trading Post. This Olaesta (April 2008) marks the ten year anniversary of the Vvrael saga and the passing of Ardo, the halfling whose body lies frozen here, in this snow cave. And so, the story begins..."

"Long ago, those from another plane of existence watched, and plotted their conquer of Elanthia."  The Vvrael were first discovered by the Faendryl, Daephron Illian.  He quickly realized that the Vvrael were a threat to our world, and he managed to cast an extremely powerful spell, to contain them.  He contained the Vvrael in a box, using his own life force and blood to bind it.  He then disappeared into the mists of time.  Eventually, his workshop and any memory of him and knowledge of the Vvrael faded.  This could have been the end of the story. Many centuries later, the Faendryl, as you may know, were trying to reconcile themselves with the rest of the Elven houses.  The Faendryl sent gifts to the Ashrim, among them, the box belonging to Daephron Illian. The box was given to a fellow named Malaphor, who was an advisor of the Ashrim Prince. Malaphor eventually fled, taking the box with him, after an attack on the Ashrim. Naturally, Malaphor was interested in the secrets of the box.  The Vvrael knew this.  They watched as Malaphor managed to find Illian from the mists of time.  They quickly disposed of Malaphor, wanting Illian for themselves, so the box could finally be opened."

"The story then moves on, to Wehnimer's Landing, where the ghost of Malaphor appeared to folks, and asked them to remember three things. Those three things were the babe, the box, and the key. The Vvrael wanted the box and sent a Dark Knight to fight on their behalf. Adventurers eventually defeated the dark knight the Vvrael had sent, and handed the box to the babe. The babe was Daephron Illian. He made himself known, and intended to issue two warnings.  He warned them of the Vvrael, but died before he could issue the second warning. The story then continues.  

"Thirteen were chosen by Lorminstra herself, but one of the chosen had been taken by the Vvrael already. In the year of 5097, a fellow named Terate first appeared. He brought with him death and destruction. He was, at first, thought to be a tool of the Vvrael, another they had corrupted.  Eventually, it was realized that Terate, the Prince of Anwyn, was the fourth chosen, the one who had been lost to the Vvrael a year before. Terate was an enemy, a pawn of the Vvrael. However, he was a mystery to many people.  Although he killed many, and appeared to be evil, he would occasionally converse with folks, displaying small parts of his former self.  Because of this, many folks felt he was not truly lost."

"This is where the story of Ardo begins. Lorminstra told the chosen that at the top of Mount Aenatumgana, there existed a shrine to the Drakes.  She believed this shrine was a key to defeating the Vvrael.  She also told them of six stones that must be found, in order to open the shrine. A journal entry was found, believed to belong to Ardo.  It explained he met an old crone while resting in a cave.  He felt she was hungry, so shared his food with her.  She said she felt he was noble.  Then, before his eyes she turned into a younger person. The young lass told him that the world was facing great peril.  She told him of 13 chosen folks, and asked him to go to Icemule Trace to collect the 13, and guide them to the top of the Mountain Aenatumgana. She told him of the stones, but when he probed, she vanished.  He intended to go to see his wife Belle, and then proceed to Icemule Trace to find the chosen. Ardo never managed to complete his task. Lorminstra herself feared that he had been claimed by Terate.  She feared for his soul. Lorminstra was unable to see clearly what had happened to Ardo because of the great flux of power. The search for the stones continued, and adventurers had to be sure that none of the stones fell into the hands of Terate. The chosen eventually found themselves in Pinefar, battles continued, and people were despairing.  The Vvrael were tormenting people, claiming they were almost through the veil. On their travels, the adventurers came across an ice cave, here they discovered the slain body of Ardo.  In his hands, he was clutching the pin that rests here now, a gift for his wife, Belle. Quite remarkably, one of the six stones of virtue was found in the ice cave. Four stones had been found.  A lass found the fifth.  Then, the unthinkable happened. That fifth stone was handed to Terate.  Perhaps the lass was blinded by love? Eventually, the final stone was found in Icemule Trace."

"The chosen, along with Terate, found their way to the shrine Lorminstra had spoken of. They used their stones to gain entrance. Then, shockingly, Terate was overcome by the Vvrael influence, and turned on everyone, including the lass who handed him a stone. They fought, and tried to convince Terate he was not lost. Eventually, the words of those around him sank in, and Terate finally filled the breach in the veil.  However, in doing this, he was to sacrifice his own life. The battle stopped and the blood rain ceased.  It is said, that at the moment of Terate's death, a blue light flared in the sky, and then settled among the stars. The mystery of how exactly Ardo died remains, but it is thought that the Vvrael, concerned that they were closer to defeat than ever, instructed Terate to kill him. I'd like to take a moment now, to remember Ardo, and all who have lost their lives in the battle to save ours."

Behind The Scenes

The Chamber of the Dead is most likely an allusion to King Arthur's Cave, associated with King Vortigern, who is related to stories of Merlin and married the daughter the Roman Emperor Maximus. It is an "ice age" cave that contains the bones of extinct animals such as the wooly mammoth, and supposedly once contained the skeleton of a giant. This is implied by being in the ice giant and frost giant hunting area, where the snow crones would refer to Lorminstra appearing to Ardo as an "old crone", which is the loathly lady archetype that launches the Grail quest in stories of Perceval. The nearby thermal spring with green water probably refers to the Roman baths at Bath near Wales, associated with the Celtic goddess Sulis who etymological speculations have suggested means "the Eye."

Olbin Pass is likely an allusion to Olfin Bedwere of Rheged from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail", where they pass through the frozen land of Nador and winter there, resorting to cannibalism before proceeding onward to the Cave of Caerbannog. This contains writing from Joseph of Arimathea, the first Grail keeper, who founded Glastonbury Abbey which is important to the design of Castle Anwyn. Ardo is probably based on the word "Nador", rearranged to resemble "Frodo" who brings the world dominating ring to Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings. Mount Aenatumgana symbolizes Purgatory in the old death mechanics in various ways. The Staff of Doom was an artifact the I.C.E. Age version of Lorminstra used for taking and transporting souls, represented outside the gates of The Graveyard.

The ice sarcophagus is an immediate allusion to the "sarcophagus" of Bandur Etrevion, which symbolized Satan frozen in the Ninth Circle of Dante's "Inferno." The Eye of the Drake on Mount Aenatumgana is an allusion to God appearing as "circles" of rainbows reflecting off each other breathing with fire, which Dante witnesses after being enveloped with light and understands it is the love that moves the sun and stars. The phrase "joyful transfiguration" might be an allusion to "The Rainbow Creed" (1875): "O joyful descent into Hell! thrice joyful transfiguration, and most glorious ascension, infinite as God, yet more incomprehensible than Evil!" More generally, the transfiguration refers to Jesus shining as the sun on the mountain before the crucifixion, where the Divine Comedy is timed for Easter and patterned virtues and vices on the transfigurations of Ovid's "Metamorpheses." Joseph of Arimathea was the one who buried Jesus, founding Glastonbury Abbey, and the shroud is related to the Chapel Perilous.