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    Postfest II: The Zol River Sink
    Posted on Tue, April 06, 2004 by Farcluun
    Valkaun_Dain writes "The Zol is a small river who's source is in the Good Hills of Keoland. It travels swiftly down the Sheldomar Valley providing farmers with a source of irrigation and fat trout. After 120 miles the Zol suddenly vanishes into a vertical cave shaft called the Sink. No one has ever been to the bottom and back and no one is sure how deep it really is. As with other deep places in Oerth there is probably wealth and glory to be found in the Sink. As with other deep places danger and death are sure to be found. The Sink never seems to give up its dead nor anyone else that dares venture over the edge. An old gnome that lives nearby claims to have been to the bottom and beyond but his story is hard to believe.

    The Zol River Sink
    By: Valkaun_Dain
    Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

    The Zol River Sink
    Submitted by Valkaun_Dain

    Flowing out of the Good Hills the Zol River is essentially impassable for most of its length. There are only a hand full of fords and even fewer bridges. It is a fast moving and shallow river with a rocky bottom that makes it a series of white water rapids and small cataracts as it races down the side of the Sheldomar Valley. Only the most experienced boatmen venture out on its waters and only then in highly maneuverable canoes or kayaks. Some of its volume is consumed by farmers that live near its course. For hundreds of years the Zol has been redirected and dammed to provide irrigation for Keolandís bustling farm industry. Itís main sources are two huge springs that produce massive amounts of water. Two small communities of gnomes and halflings live near these springs, virtual suburbs of the mining village of Blacktop. A gnomish enclave ďcontrolsĒ the southernmost spring, Gossilgrottoshpitz (Gushing Water Cave from the gnomish). They use the swift current to power all manner of contraptions. The Gnomes have determined that it produces 84 million gallons or of water every day (130 cubic feet per second) according to their calculations. There is a small settlement (Less than 50) of halflings based near the northern spring. They havenít bothered to measure the volume of the Crystal Spring and they have only built a single grist mill near the waters edge. What makes the Zol truly unique is the way it ends.

    After 30 miles of rapids and jagged rocks the Zol River suddenly vanishes into the Oerth in a massive hole known to the locals as the Zol River Sink. The Sink is a 50 foot diameter cave perfectly round and set flat in the plain of the Sheldomar Valley. A small lake has formed around the Sink that usually averages about 300 feet in diameter. The area around the Sink is nearly scoured of major vegetation for two miles in every direction with trees no bigger than saplings. This is due to farming and spring flooding that swells the Zol to twice its size and volume. This has also prevented the same area from being settled too closely. Farmers that live nearby plant the fields in the Sinks plain after the flooding subsides as it is some of the most fertile ground (itís so fertile irrigation isnít necessary except in times of severe drought) in the whole Sheldomar Valley.

    There is a scattering of granite rocks and boulders around the edge of the Sink, too heavy to be cleared into the gaping maw right away. As the rocks do eventually find there way into the Sink they are just as rapidly replaced in the Spring during flooding. The ring of rocks acts as a kind of filter, catching debris before it tumbles into the darkness. This also causes the level of the lake to raise and fall as the debris clogs the chain of boulders. When it gets high enough the water cascades down the side of the shaft carrying the accumulated trees, driftwood and anything else unfortunate enough to be nearby. During times of flooding the Sink will become clogged with uprooted trees and other debris causing the lake to become as big as two miles in diameter but only a few feet deep. Eventually the pressure becomes too great for the knot of trees and the Sink will drain to its normal level within a few hours, sucking all of the accumulated debris into the abyss. One colossal boulder has been nicknamed the Sinkís Plug because it would appear to be big enough to block the Sink if it could be moved from its spot on the edge of the deep shaft. The Plug is covered with rough carvings of graffiti and holes. Closer examination reveals them to be names and dates, presumably of those who took the journey into the Sink. The holes are possibly where block and tackle have been attached to the Plug.

    In various places around the small lake there are whirlpools caused by smaller holes on the lakeís bed. Some are big enough to swallow a man and they prove to be more treacherous to anyone brave enough to swim or boat the Sinkís lake. These holes are scattered about the lake and become clogged and unclogged from time to time.

    The lake bed is made up of small rocks and sand carried by the force of the Zol from as far away as the Good Hills. Underneath the rocks and sand is a solid face of hard granite, possibly the remains of a very ancient mountain range. Geologists have speculated that the Sink could be the remains of a very old (and extinct) volcano.

    No one knows for sure how deep the Sink is or where the water goes so far below. Recorded explorations of the Sink have been few and far between. Of the official explorations (The Cartographers Guild in Greyhawk City has sponsored a few fruitless expeditions) of the Sink none have been able to verify the depth or explore very deeply. 1000 feet is the limit to which past expeditions have been able to descend with no sign of reaching the bottom. Encounters with monsters in the first 1000 feet have been documented, chiefly monstrous spiders and a variety of tunneling creatures. The sides of the shaft are as smooth as glass or polished granite where it hasnít been gashed by tumbling rocks. The shaft is a honeycomb of caves and cracks nearly all of which produce water, either from the Zol by way of the whirlpools or other springs. There are dry caves off of the main shaft but none have been explored to any serious degree for fear of the inordinately large number of monsters. There have been undocumented expeditions and parties of adventurers go into the unknown but they have vanished without a trace. One local gnomish hermit claims to have been to the bottom and back.

    Kadil the Hermit can be easily found, an odd circumstance for a hermit. Heís usually camped near the Sink with his rowboat, wagon and a team of huge draft horses. He spends his time gathering driftwood along the banks of the Zol and from out of the Sinkís Lake, even up to the edge. He fashions the driftwood into works of art that he sells at local fairs in Middlebridge and Craufield. What he doesnít use for driftwood art he cuts into firewood. There are immense cords of his firewood scattered about the plain. He lays claim to all of them and seems to be aware when any has been misplaced or stolen.

    Asking around will reveal that Kadil has often claimed to have been to the bottom of the Sink and back. The wild tales of his adventure have been discounted mostly because of Kadilís bizarre behavior. Heís been seen standing on the Plug screaming down the shaft of the Sink in a variety of strange languages as well as common and gnomish. Heís been heard to be calling out names of companions and challenging the names of others. The simple fact that he risks the hazards of Sink Lake in a rowboat are cause for many to think heís insane. Those less skeptical believe most of what Kadil says and assume that whatever he saw in the Sink before his escape drove him mad. Kadil wonít reveal any details about his adventure because people have laughed at him for far too long - heís been telling the tale for over a century. He wonít take a bribe or payment for his story either - he says he doesnít need hand outs. He will talk if people take an interest in his driftwood art, even more so if you buy a piece or two. No amount of money or reward will convince the old gnome to go back in the Sink.

    Kadil claims that he and a large party of adventurers made a successful descent into the Sink 120 years ago. They used a contraption of Dwarvish and Gnomish design to make the journey. He describes a steam driven machine made of cast iron with diamond tipped wheels to grip the smooth walls of the shaft. The party, a motley group of 10, were of a mixed variety of humans and demi-humans. Kadil was himself a rogue and he can speak vividly about his old friends. After a long descent the shaft ended abruptly and their vehicle slipped from the shaft. They tumbled into and sank in the depths of an underground lake. That was where the first two members of their party died, drowning with the sunken crawler. An inflatable gnomish raft saved the rest. They made their way across the vastness of the subterranean lake continuing their quest but also looking for a way out.

    They found what they hoped was a passage, perhaps to the surface by way of the rumored outlet of the Zol into the Sheldomar River. What followed was a running battle with monsters and denizens of the underdark. They lost another four members in the labyrinth of watery passages before coming to another huge chamber, possibly bigger than the first. Kadil was unsure of its size because they were immediately set upon by an army of trogs, drow, kuo toa, derro and svirfneblin amongst many others he couldnít identify. They were captured and separated.

    Kadil usually gleans over this part of the story, saying that he was enslaved for what had to be many years. If pressed he will deny that he knows who his captors were because, he explains, he was enslaved side by side with all manner of sentient beings from surface dwellers to natives of the underdark. He would only say that slave trustees captured him and did the bidding of some higher authority. It seems Kadil is unwilling to speak the name of some horrible evil. He saw his friends only a handful of times at the beginning. He was just one of thousands of slaves and when he wasnít working they were marching them to a new mine. It seemed he was never in the same place twice. He eventually escaped during a mine cave in that cut him off from the slave trustees. He and a handful of others wandered a catacomb of passages for many years, living off of the fungus and animals they had grown accustomed to. They never saw their captors again, obviously cut off from their labyrinthine empire. Eventually Kadil was wandering all alone, his fellow escapees either dead or lost.

    All told it would seem Kadil was underground for 20 years. He canít remember where or how but he eventually ended up on the surface again. He was picked up near the edge of the Lortmil Mountains by a band of traveling performers who took him to Niole Dra. From there Kadil found his way to the Sink again where he has stayed for the last century. Besides collecting driftwood he seems to be waiting for someone or quite simply guarding the entrance to the shaft. He wonít stop anyone from going in but he certainly weeps and begs for them not to. When he is convinced that no amount of begging will dissuade people from entering he changes his tactics. He asks the party to look for the friends that he last saw when they were captured, an Elven wizard, Dwarven priest and Half Elven fighter and the ones he escaped with, a Drow thief, Kobold fighter and a Derro fighter. He points to their names inscribed on the Plug Ė the easiest names to read for he has kept them legible all these years. His own name has something else inscribed next to it: ďc.y. 494 After 20 years Liga shines on my face againĒ

    Thanks to Gary Holian (for answering a question or two), Eric Anondson (for posting the question that piqued my curiosity) and my Dungeon Master for giving me 20 years of distraction from homework, studying and career related stress. Thanks also to the LGJ Issue #1.

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    Re: The Zol River Sink (Score: 1)
    by Abysslin ( on Wed, April 07, 2004
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    Congratz on your 1st Canonfire submission, Valkaun_Dain!

    The article surely cleaned up the mystery of the Zol ending as it does, all while still keeping the Zol Sink as a mysterious place!

    I really like the insertion and thouroughness in your writing surrounding the NPC Kadil. I feel like I've me him before and it gives DM a great tool to use should they iunclude this mysterious place in their campaign.

    Nice job!

    Re: The Zol River Sink (Score: 1)
    by cwslyclgh on Wed, April 07, 2004
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    Good job VD.... I am very impressed by the Zol river sink... great imagry, great ideas... all in all very well done.

    Re: The Zol River Sink (Score: 1)
    by mortellan on Thu, April 08, 2004
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    Great work V, ready to write another yet?

    Thanks for the responses... (Score: 1)
    by Valkaun_Dain on Thu, April 08, 2004
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    Thanks Abysslin, cwslyclgh, Mort.

    I don't know Mortellan, I'm sure I can think of a place or two that I'm intimately familiar with, at least in my own mind. I do have a follow up for the Zol River Sink. I have my own idea about the truth behind the Sink and Kadil's story. I have to keep that under my furry hat. If anyone's interested, let me know.

    I'm trying to read all of the other entries, one at a time. I can't wait to get to the three part Vally of the Mage!

    Re: The Zol River Sink (Score: 1)
    by donimator on Mon, April 19, 2004
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    I always enjoy underground adventures and this one promises to be a big one. The hint of a greater evil is exactly the type of hook to draw characters in. Have PCs ever actually listened to somebody telling them NOT to go some place? Good story and definitely an idea I will toy with in the future.

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