The Lost City of the Suloise
Tales and legends gather thickly beneath the eves of the Suss Forest. Reaching north from the Drachensgrab Hills of the Pomarj, this much feared woodland has long defined the marches of the Wild Coast and the olven realm of Celene. Of all the stories told of the Suss around the fires and hearths of the Flanaess, none so captures the imagination as that of the Lost City of the Suloise.
Somewhere deep within the forest, so the tale goes, stand the ruins of a marvelous city built by the Suloise after they fled the destruction of their homeland in the Rain of Colorless Fire. In that place, the exiled Suel sought to recreate the glory of the fallen imperium. From the funeral pyre of their empire, they carried many artifacts of wondrous power and hordes of gemstones so numerous that they were heaped in mounds. The city’s splendor was such that even the Celeni olve were said to have marveled and wondered aloud whether gods or men had wrought such works.
Then, just when the city’s might seemed unequalled, all tidings of it cease in the chronicles of man, olve and dwur. It was as though the very forest itself had come alive and swallowed it whole. Some say that the inhabitants had carried in their hearts the evil that had laid their empire low and that it consumed them and their great city as it had their homeland. Others whisper that the olve and dwur, jealous of the works of the Suel, fell upon the city and slew all within, carrying off its treasures to adorn their high palaces and deep halls. Whatever the truth, so complete was the city’s doom that not even its name is now remembered.
Tales of the Lost City have long fired the imagination of adventurers from across the Flanaess. However, though many have sought their fortune there, they have more often found their death. The fell reputation of the Suss is well earned. The forest is home to hordes of orcs, goblinkin, gnolls and kobolds – vassals now of Turrosh Mak, the so-called Emperor of the Pomarj. Even these savage creatures tread wearily in the Suss for more fearsome predators lurk in its thorn-choked tangles and noisome bogs. Ettercaps, susserus, gibberings and kech abound. Hangman trees, huge assassin vines, and other feral plants lie in wait for the unwary. The very trees of the forest, huge and blackened with age, seem to radiate malice towards any who dare to trespass beneath their boughs.
Though interest in the Lost City has waned since the Greyhawk Wars, new rumors about it have recently surfaced in Hardby – literally. In the last days of 595 CY, the body of a woman was fished from the waters of Hard Bay. The body bore no identifying marks or tokens except for a scroll case. Within lay an encrypted scroll of considerable length. Troubled by the possibility that a woman of the city had been murdered, the Gynarchs set about deciphering the scroll’s contents.
After weeks of intense speculation, all discussion of the scroll among the Gynarchs suddenly ceased. A story circulated that the woman had drowned herself after being jilted in a love affair and that the scroll had been her suicide note. However, instead of allaying curiosity, the story whipped up a frenzy of interest. Whispers of conspiracies and assassinations swirled around the Palace of the Gynarchs and the Arsenal, seat of the city’s military governor, Wilbrem Carister. Matters reached such a pitch that Retep Mandel, the governor’s much-feared chief secretary, swore a public oath that he had nothing to do with the death of the mysterious woman.
Then an apprentice to Oscar Longland, a well-known mage who lost his sight to the orcs of the Pomarj during the Greyhawk Wars, was overheard drunkenly bragging about how he’d helped his master break a particularly cunning cipher. Though somewhat water-spoiled, the deciphered message, he said, had recounted an expedition into the Suss on the behalf of a group he referred to only as the “Lords of the Hidden City”. The goal of the expedition was nothing less than the Lost City of the Suloise – a curious happenstance, since his master had journeyed to that self-same place just before the Wars.
The expedition followed a map made by a party in the service of the Scarlet Sign who had discovered the city before the Greyhawk Wars. Several days travel northwest of Badwall, they happened upon a number of tumbled stone buildings on a wooded ridge set amid a swamp bordering the Jewel River. The author was certain that the ruins were those of the Lost City. The structures on the ridge were but a fraction of the city’s extent. A survey revealed a huge number of other buildings submerged in the surrounding mire. However, as the explorers found to their cost, further exploration of the sunken ruins was impossible due to the especially resilient undead that lurked in the murky depths, waiting to drag screaming victims to their deaths.
Setting up a fortified camp on the wooded ridge, the explorers set about attempting to discover what they could about the Lost City and its fate. Though examples of Suloise artifice were found within the ruins, most of the buildings, including a massive three-tiered ziggurat, seemed to be much older. These elder ruins did not match any known architectural style of the Suel. Similarly, inscriptions in convoluted script of unknown provenance, but ancient date, were inscribed upon the walls of the ziggurat. The scroll’s author apparently viewed it as almost blasphemous that the city might not in fact have been founded by the Suloise, as the legends had related.
A priest of the Earth Dragon ¬(an obscure Pomarji demi-god) – who came to the city to seek relics of his master stolen by the ancient Suel – revealed that a vision of the doom of the city had come to him in a dream. In his vision, he saw the city trembling as a dull roar filled the air. Then before his eyes, the very earth itself began to swallow the city hole, leaving only a handful of tumbled ruins and a few dazed survivors. This, he said, was the Earth Dragon’s vengeance for the theft of his holy idols, which were almost certainly swallowed up along with the other treasures of the city.
The expedition’s leader, a man named Yeranav, ordered the excavation of the central ziggurat. To their dismay, the explorers found that that the central chamber had already been plundered. However, they found signs that a large network of undisturbed chambers lay below it. Attempts to open the lower chambers were hampered by repeated accidents, magical traps, and terrible nightmares that shattered the sleep of the exhausted expedition.
On the night before they were due to break through into the lower chambers, a dispute broke out among the members of the expedition, with a large minority – including the author – questioning the wisdom of delving deeper into the ziggurat, Yeranav’s leadership and his true motives. For reasons unknown, the dispute descended into bloodshed, with the author accusing Yereanav of having been corrupted by alien gods and kow-towing before “the Ebon Obex”. The ensuing battle went badly for the author’s faction and she would have died with her companions had fate not intervened. An ancient green wyrm of immense size arose from the forest and fell upon the expedition’s camp. All who stood and fought were slain. For her part, the author fled into the forest. Shaken by the betrayal of her erstwhile companions, she made for Hardby, where she intended to seek out a man named Ratter, a trusted childhood friend. Whether she ever reached Ratter remains a mystery that she took to her watery grave.
Though the story was denounced by the Gynarchy as the fabulist ramblings of a drink-addled apprentice, many in Hardby recalled that a vagrant by the name of Ratter frequented the Dock Quarter of the city. However, attempts to locate Ratter have proven fruitless. Those who have stooped to enquiring among the slum dwellers of the city learned that he vanished some weeks before – shortly before the woman’s body was fished from the harbor…