The Auchinduin Mine was founded nearly 700 years ago by a joint charter between Queen Phoenix III of the Midlands and a mining and carriage guild lead by the unsavory Master Bevel Auchinduin. The venture produced a mine that was nearly 2000 feet long, digging nearly 500 feet under the earth.
According to the demands of the Queen, the support members were made of the best wood so as to protect the lives of the miners. Alchemists were procured to treat the wooden timbers with special unguents to preserve the wood against time, mold, and rot. Many were worried by the high start-up cost of the mine, and the profiteering that took place while the township of Auchinduin sprang up near the mouth of the mine. At one point, a bushel of wheat cost nearly 100 silver crowns, nearly 50 times the going rate of wheat.
The township established itself as a viable mining community, opening two other mines, one cutting local deposits of basalt, the other digging up blackrock, a valuable ore that burned well, and also created iron slag after being incinerated. This last ore fueled the multiple coke furnaces that melted the ore into pig iron that would later be shipped by reinforced wagon to the Queen’s armorers and metalworkers in Fenost. The town experienced a long period of economic success, making the minig guild very happy, and producing both revenue and a large amount of high quality iron for the Queen.
After nearly ninty years of operation, the ore petered out, there was little to nothing left in the vein but scattered lumps smaller than fingertips. The mine ceased to be profitable, but puttered along for another three years before being closed. The impact on the community was staggering, nearly half of the townsfolk were out of income, and were forced to begging and alms from the church. After thirty rough years, the local economy was able toshift to the much less profitable mining of basalt for building projects, as well as producing a decent wheat crop. It seemed the glory days of turing iron into gold were over…
The Recovery and New Exploration
Some 50 years later, a merry band of roustabouts tramped through Auchinduin and decided to use the old mine as a practice area for their plan to go dungeon diving in a scarecly known ruin. They completed their training exercises with ease, but discovered a new vein of iron that had been uncovered by a subterranean shift. After their dungeon dive failed, the survivors returned and took what loot they had acquired and decided to recharter the mine. The locals laughed off the effort as they had told the tale of the mine as the folly of greed and impatience.
The new mining company faced a rough start but in less than a decade, the iron was flowing from the mine again, and new shafts snaked into the earth seeking the valuable metal. The old mule rails were pulled up, and new rails were placed for the hauling of the ore, and soon the metal was turning into gold again.
More prudent this time, the locals didnt depend entirely on the output of the mine, and were more set for when the vein was played out, this time only taking a scant 15 years. This pattern would repeat itself for the next several hundred years, long periods of inactivity followed by the discovery of a new vein, and the mines grew deeper with each bout of exploration.
The Iron works are currently producing iron, making the current Queen happy with the steady income from the metal, as well as being able to supply the kingdom, ahem, queendom, with the iron and steel it needs on a regular basis. The glitz and glamour are gone, replaced with the steady determination of the men and rare women who labor beneath the earth to produce the metal that is invaluable as gold and more in demand.
Things are marked by a strong sense of superstition. The miners maintain a large number of mantras against bad luck, amulets of protection, and a large number of mining taboos. Strange things happen in the mines, people vanish for no reason, torches flicker, and change color. Voices can be heard echoing in the depths. All the sort of thing that fills the head with worry, and the imagination with fuel to burn. But it remains a community secret, the locals dont want merry bands of would be heroes showing up and mucking about in the mines.
The Cult of Deep Iron
Founded by an eccentric, but very lucky miner named Willie, the cult started as a bit of a joke, but grew as the actions and practices of the grizzled rockbiter seemed effacious against the vanishings and the whispers in the stone. The cult is a sub-culture that exists within the community as well as the local guild. They make sure that no loose lips spread the word about the mine, as well as tending to the miners who are injured, or suffer from the bizarre effects of the mine.
Willie, despite being the cult leader still works the hammer and pick, preaching his message of caution and homage to the earth over the ore carts. His wife is the head matron of the local tavern and inn, and keeps a sharp eye and ear out for the overly curious type.
The guildmaster, Bron, believes in the cult, though he is too fearful of going into the mine himself. He is an educated man who knows a little of magic and thinks that caution is the better part of valor. He would like to see the mystery of the mines eliminated, but isnt going to mess with the mine or the locals. Besides, he is making money as fast as he can pull the ore from the earth and smelt it.
The Mine Boss is a fervent member of the Trinitine faith, and thinks the entire Deep Iron Cult is blaspemous. He is willing to tell anyone about it, and Willie and his wife Mae spend much of their free time keeping the mine boss placated. None of the miners will try to remove the Boss since he is an accomplished warrior and has a talent for healing. (The mine boss is able to cast the very lowest level of divine healing magics due to his sincere and severe piety. this would be limited to 1HP, or 1 health level.)
The mayor of Auchinduin is a corpulent man with the oily air of a used car salesman. He is constantly polite, though frequently eating. If asked, he doesnt even know the place has a mine, he just makes sure the duke and the Queen get their share of the taxes. He is easily bribed, and easily threatened. The Mayor generally defers to Bron on policy matters.
The Real Deal
The Auchinduin Mine has crawled very deep into the earth. Some of the shafts are dangerous, but the tradition of solid supporting has been maintained over the many many years, in fact becoming part of the local way of doing things. Many of the local building will seem overbuilt, with twice or even three times as many supports as would be needed. Deep inside the earth they have uncovered a thing that should not be, a clathrate.
A clathrate is a powerful magical structure that forms naturally in the earth and is detailed in another post. (will link - note to self). Proximity to the structure causes magical based mutations, such as sudden change in hair or eye color, the loss of all hair, sudden growth of hair, and the like. In many respects, the emanations of the clathrate behave like radiation, sometimes beneficial but usually weird and dangerous. Some miners have been melted into goo, while others were transmogrified into elementals, or stone ghosts.
so long as the Clathrate is exposed, it is decomposing and casting off this ambient essence. One normal effect of the structure is the spontaneous generation of iron ore. The exposure of the structure has accelerate this process, but has created greater risk for the miners.
Modify the Phase Variance - a PC spellcaster notices some strange phenominon when he casts spells in close proximty to Auchinduin. Nothing fabulous, but enough to get his or her attention, along the lines of whoa, this spell isnt suppossed to do that. Elemental and metal affecting spells show the most change. The PCs investigate and have to deal with the locals, enter the mine, and find the explosed Clathrate, and can exploit, or rebury the structure…but what are the long term consequences?
Arbitrary Collapse - The ley lines are becoming…tricksey. The regular flows have become erratic and behave strangely and all are begining to manifest strong Earth aspects, regardless of their previous alignments. The PCs are hired by Richbutbusy the Arch-Mage to investigate the mess and set it straight before his Elf-Roses wither and die.
Old John Henry - desperate and looking for work, the down on their luck PCs find employment in the mines, but have to contend with Willie’s Deep Iron cult, the Mine boss’s faith, the weird events of the mine, and the veil of secrecy over the whole thing. Can the PCs escape the situation before becoming monsters or mutants themselves, or will they exploit events to become wealthy?
After the Fact - The Clathrate collapses, and the local region becomes a reduced magic area. Inquisitve geomancers and magi come looking for the persons responcible for upseting the eco-geomantic stasis of a large fraction of the kingdom. There are going to be a lot of hard questions, and possibly some time spent in the dungeon…the wrong side of the dungeon.