|Underground Forest (H)|
In hopes of reestablishing her link with the Morrighan, the Shar Queen ordered built a large courtyard dedicated to the goddess. Once it was constructed, the Queen gathered all the Shar together in the courtyard and drew upon their devotion and worship of their goddess to strengthen the link. Unfortunately, the power of the Veil continued to act as a filter and the Queen could barely hear the voice of the Morrighan speaking to her. In frustration, the Queen released a bolt of energy at one of the walls surrounding the courtyard. To everyone's amazement, the bolt blasted a hole not only in the wall but through the Veil itself. The Queen, taking this as a sign, took a small group of Shar and crossed over into the world beyond the Veil.
As soon as the Queen stepped through the opening, she knew she was back in the lands of Hibernia, for the link between herself and the Morrighan was suddenly stronger than it had been. Elated, Queen sent her guards, led by a Shar named Kaland, to explore the area while she spent time speaking to the Morrighan. Kaland and his followers carefully moved forward since it looked like the ground dropped away just a few steps from the entrance to the Queen's Labyrinth. Peering over the edge of the cliff the Shar stood upon revealed a massive cavern with a field of curved shapes glowing faintly far below. After obtaining torches, Kaland located a narrow path and led the others down as it wound its way down the face of the cliff.
As the Shar stepped off the cliff path and onto the floor of the cavern, they stopped and stared in amazement. The glow here was brighter than it had been above. Through the combination of their torches and the glow, the Shar were able to see that the shapes they had seen from above were actually very strange trees. The trunks of the trees were pale in color and the Shar suddenly realized that they were the source of the glow. Above their heads, where the leaves should be, the strange trees were topped with what looked like mushroom caps. The caps of the trees were red, orange, and yellow and this made Kaland and the others smile, for those were the colors the Shar favored. Taking the color of the trees as a good sign, the Shar continued to make their way through the forest.
The next thing the Shar encountered took the smiles from their faces. As they entered a clearing in the strange forest, the Shar were surprised to see a group of strange beings entering the clearing from the other direction. Each group stopped in surprise, gaping at each other. Suddenly, the other group launched a few arrows at the Shar, and then disappeared into the woods. The Shar made to follow, but Kaland ordered them to stay with him since the strangers seemed to know the forest better than the Shar. Kaland and the others discussed the strangers briefly. They were quite different from the Shar with their shorter height, blue skin, and lack of head or wrist spikes. Kaland wasn't sure if the attack by these people was due to an aggressive nature or fear, but he would be sure to find out.
After their encounter with the blue people, Kaland and the others proceeded more cautiously. Before too long, they heard voices conversing in a strange language. Thinking it was the blue people again Kaland ordered the others to wait then snuck through the trees to the edge of another clearing. There he was surprised to see a different group of beings. They were about the same size as the small blue people, but their skin was white tinged with a pale-bluish color. Their eyes were huge, as if made for seeing in the dark, and their faces were very angular. Since a few of them were armed, Kaland did not think they would be too friendly, so he led his group around the clearing. Unfortunately, one of the Shar tripped on the unfamiliar ground, making quite a racket.
At the sound of the falling Shar, the pale beings snatched up their weapons and ran towards the Shar who had drawn their weapons. A skirmish broke out between the two groups with Kaland pairing off with the leader of the other group. To Kaland's surprised the pale people were skilled fighters and a few times Kaland was worried. But the Morrighan was on his side and he managed to sheathe his blade in the stomach of his enemy. As the pale one fell to the ground, the battle came to a halt. The Shar backed away to allow the pale ones to pick up their leader and flee into the woods. Kaland cleaned his blade then led the others back to the Labyrinth.
When the Shar Queen heard of the group's encounters, she was excited. Here was a chance for the Shar to see just how much their skills had grown. She told her people that if they were not on guard duty protecting the entrance to the Queen's Labyrinth they should feel free to go hunting in the underground forest, although they should not go alone. When one of the weaker Shar pointed out that the only creatures seen in the forest so far were the pale and blue people, an evil laugh spilled from the Queen's lips. With a little smirk, she told all gathered that she knew exactly who was in the forest – their enemies. Soon groups of Shar eager for battle were roaming through the underground forest, hunting for the strange two races.
The Shar Queen had done well when she chose Kaland to be the leader of her guard, for he was the fiercest of the Shar. When he was not sleeping, which he did very rarely, or checking up on the guards, he was out roaming the underground forest. It was during one of his excursions into the forest that Kaland and his hand-picked group discovered a small tunnel that led away from the underground forest. Thinking that some of their new enemies might be hiding at the end, Kaland and his group cautiously explored it. While they did not find any enemies, they did make an interesting discovery.
At the end of the tunnel was an opening just large enough for a Shar to pass through. Weapons drawn, Kaland and the others crept through into the tunnel on the other side. The tunnel beyond only ran for a short way before it ended in a large jumble of rocks. Spying an opening at the top of the pile, Kaland and the others scrambled through. They were very surprised to find themselves standing on the edge of a large and strangely familiar bog. As he stood there looking out over the bog, a sudden realization came to Kaland – this was the very bog where the Shar had made their original home. Kaland and the others hurried back to tell the Queen of their discovery.
The discovery of their old home was only one of the things Kaland and the others uncovered in their exploration. Kaland and a few of his guards were out in the forest when they spied a group of the blue beings, now known as Kobolds, out exploring. Knowing the Kobolds had to be up to something, Kaland and his group began to stalk them. The Kobolds made their way across the forest to a small cave opening. While the Kobolds checked out the cave, Kaland and his group watched from the shadows near the entrance.
Everything seemed normal until one of the female Kobolds approached the far corner of the cave. Then a wave of evil and fear like he had never felt before washed over Kaland, and it was all he could do not to run. Just as he was about to call out to the female Kobold to stop, and thus reveal their hiding position, one of the Kobolds tried to stop her. But she continued on, ignoring all around her. Another wave of evil and fear passed through the room, and this time Kaland and the others could not resist the urge to flee. As they ran from the cave, Kaland nearly tripped over a pair of the pale people, called Inconnu, also running from the mouth of the cave. His fear overwhelming his anger at being spied upon, Kaland and the others let the Inconnu go and returned to the Shar Labyrinth.
Back in the Labyrinth, Kaland relayed everything to the Shar Queen, including the feelings of fear and evil he felt. The Shar Queen took Kaland's report seriously, for he was not one to spook easily but she wasn't too concerned. It was most likely some random evil spirit and could be dealt with easily later on. In the meantime, the Shar Queen ordered all Shar to stay away from the cave. The Shar's strength and power was still growing, and the Queen did not want anything to endanger their chances of conquering their enemies.
No one, not even Kaland who had stood in the presence of that evil, realized just how dangerous it was until it was almost too late. For many, many years the Shar enjoyed both the underground forest and the bog beyond the forest. They honed their skills in battles with the Kobolds. From time to time Kaland would remind the Queen that the evil in the cave still needed to be dealt with, and always the Queen agreed but never did anything about it. She said that the Morrighan knew of it and wasn't worried. Over time that evil out of the cave and through the forest. Strange, evil creatures moved into the forest and into the bog beyond, forcing the Shar to abandoned their old home and the forest. It wasn't until the Morrighan revealed her power and her plans that the Shar realized she was the evil force Kaland had felt long ago.