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Tortle Blues

by Bruce Heard

Let's get back to the Question of the Week (of last month...) with some update. I had written:

The tortle shamans are back at it again. They have opened their mysterious religion to outsiders, and with unexpected success. Growing ranks of humans, demi-humans, and even some humanoids are joining up at an alarming pace. What do you think this mysterious religion is, and what is its impact on the Savage Coast? (Hint -- remember all these mysterious monuments in the Tortle Territories?) Sages just discovered that the City of Dunwick was built on ancient and sacred Tortle grounds, just above some mysterious structure...

What if... the shamans of Mother Ocean (Calitha Starbrow) had gained the ability to contact the souls of those lost at sea, for the purpose of a last contact between grieving family members and the deceased. In order to accomplish this feat, the shamans need to use a holy shrine. The holy shrine happens to be located in a sprawling city once created by tortles, a thousand years ago. The city now lies deep under the sands beneath the Free City of Dunwick, partially opening under the sea's surface. Snappers, however, have claimed this dark and flooded undercity for themselves, and fiercely guard it against all trespassers. Tortle shamans found an entrance leading to the shrine in a cave, under an old tortle burial site.

In exchange for the metaphysical experience, the visitors must first convert to the shamans' faith in Mother Ocean. Better yet, it may be in the shamans power to bring back the deceased, provided TEN new believers would join the cult. These worshippers would then receive the protection of Mother Ocean, hoping one day to benefit from this revival should they become lost at sea themselves. Tortles form the bulk of the worshippers, but families of fishermen and many other sea people have begun to fill their ranks.

The trip to the shrine is a dangerous one because of the snappers. Unbeknownst to the shamans however, adventurers managed to slip through and discovered a vast wealth in pearls, corals, and ivory once used in the decoration of the ancient tortle city. Worse yet, they found countless items of pottery made from bits of steel seed glued together. Steel seed is a major component in the fabrication of smokepowder and is worth a fortune on its own. The shamans, of course, consider this and all that lies in the city sacred artifacts. A few rulers of the Savage Coast got wind of the discovery and quietly sent emissaries, spies, hired swords, grave robbers, and just about anybody they could think of to get a share of the booty one way or the other (without being noticed if possible). Between them and their prize, stand the shamans of Mother Ocean and their growing ranks of faithful followers, should they discover their goals.

After all these centuries under water, the city streets are covered with a thick gooey muck not quite capable of supporting significant flora because of the everlasting darkness. Snappers are the ones who managed to clear the streets of the sands, by first digging through and then using secretions to literally glue the sands overhead, in a rough vault above every street. Following this technique, they enlarged some of their excavations to form domes capable of arching over a few blocks. The place is quite large, and so is its population of snappers.

Should the snappers also discover the way up to Dunwick, the free city would then be at risk of an invasion. If the situation grew out of control, the tortle shamans might call for a great crusade against the evil forces of the underdark to free once and forever this ancient place of worship. All followers apt for combat duty would be required to join.

PS. Tortle monuments elsewhere could be the tips of tall buildings sticking out of the sands, marking the location of other lost cities.