The Temple of the Earth Mother
In the mountains southwest of Annan’s Port stand two nearly identical peaks. Long ago, goblin stone smiths worked these peaks, rounding and smoothing them before building two large shrines, one on each peak. The peaks became known as the Breasts, and the “cleavage” between them marked the best pass through the mountains, connecting the coast with the forests of the Alfar. That pass is now closed, blocked by boulders and guarded by rock goblins, mountain trolls, and other children of earth.
The Shrines of Moon and Sun
Atop the northern Breast is the Shrine to the Moon crafted of brilliant white stone and decorated in mithral and moonstone. The structure has no walls, only carved pillars holding up a steeply pitched roof. The center of the roof is open to the sky. Beneath the skylight is an altar. The pillars, roof, and altar are carved with all the various images related to the Moon, from moon flowers to owls and symbols of the Moon in all its phases. The only other object in the shrine is a small, plain bowl made of moonstone.
Atop the southern breast is a similar shrine dedicated to the Sun. It is crafted of some warm yellow stone and decorated with tiger’s eye and gold. The Shrine of the Sun also has a steeply pitched roof, a skylight, an altar, and a small bowl.
Though the skylights are open, neither rain nor snow passes through them. The shrines remain dry and comfortable no matter what weather rages beyond the pillars.
Far below the Breasts, in a deep valley cut by a river emerging from the mountain’s root, is the temple of the Earth Mother. The goblins called this place The Womb. Two massive doors guard the entrance. Forming a pointed arch, the doors are 30 feet tall at their apex. They are made of red cedar, banded with Duerfar-made steel, and inlaid with mithral. Intricate carvings show all manner of beast and plant from burrowing creatures and roots at the bottom of the doors to winged creatures and floating seeds at the top. Many of the plants and animals are now nothing but legend.
The doors have no obvious handles but there are places within the carvings where hands or talons may grasp and pull.
To enter the temple requires a sacrifice. Sharp jaws of metal inside the handholds slice into hands and fingers. The cuts are not deep or life threatening, but the small blood sacrifice will unlock the doors. Even after centuries, the doors will smoothly and easily open.
Beyond the doors is a long colonnaded nave. The walls and columns are carved in the same manner as the doors, depicting all the animals and plants of the world. There are alcoves to either side holding various mother-goddess statues, with small basins at her feet. Some of the basins still hold water.
Though the doors stand pristine, the temple inside has not fared so well. There are cracks in the walls and stones have fallen from the ceiling. It’s as if the builders understood the wooden doors would never stand the test of time without strong preservation magic, but they never considered they might be around to maintain the stone of the temple itself.
At the far end of the nave are two doors, one to either side. These lead to offices and living areas for the priests, and chambers for visiting worshipers. Behind the altar is a hidden door which leads down into the mountain.
Below the nave is a warren of halls and chambers. There were once libraries and alchemical workshops here, smithies. In truth most of the priesthood lived and worked here, unseen to any visitors. They also guarded the real temple, hidden far below. The original entrance to the Womb has collapsed. Instead, the Womb can only be accessed by navigating the maze of natural tunnels and caves that exist beside and below the Warren. Stone golems still guard the round entrance chambers. Though they can be defeated, shattered into dust even, they will quickly reform and continue guarding the Womb. Those who fight their way past the golems (for there are none living who have been granted access) will have perhaps half an hour before they will have to fight their way out again.
The Womb is a large pear-shaped cavern. At the far, narrow end is a low stone wall surrounding a deep well. This is one of the places where Erde herself manifests into the world. Called a Well of Souls, the water in this well can heal all wounds, cure all illness, and restore the body to its prime condition. Given quickly enough (within five minutes) the water can even revive the dead. However, the magic is not in the water. The magic is in the well. Water taken from the well will retain its healing properties but only for a while.
This work by Jean Headley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.