I had heard the rumours about a hidden world far under the earth, the Underdark, a world that never saw sunbeams or raindrops. The water is black there, they said, and the air smells musty. Not many humans find their way to this place, they said, and even rarer somebody returns to daylight. An old man in rugs told me his story for a nickel and a pint, how he had set out as a young lad to find this world and how he found more than he ever had imagined in his wildest dreams. His eyes glimmered when he leaned over to me, whispering into my ear the location of the secret entrance to Hollow Earth, at the back of a small shop.
I looked down into the dark hole and hesitated for a short moment. I had come completely unprepared without lanterns or weapons, but the spirit of adventure was stronger than the sensible voice inside me. “There will be a small boat waiting for you”, the old man had said. “It will lead you through the maze of rivers in the caves.” He was right. The lights on the boat gave a dim, comforting light, which was reflected in the black water. I need not have worried too much about the darkness, as glowing mushrooms were growing in the caves – strange life forms, adapted to their existence beneath the earth.
“Take a gem with you and you will not have to worry for the rest of your life”, the old man had said, but to a fairy material possessions were not that important. I did not want to intrude into this space and leave traces of destruction, I had come merely as an observer.
“Look out for the City”, the old man had advised me and surely I would have missed it without knowing about it, for it was hidden very well.
I left my boat on the shore and wandered up to the city. The buildings were magnificient and decorated with jewels from the caves. What had happened to turn this once prosperous city into a deserted space, and what had happened to its inhabitants? Nobody knows except the stones, and they are known to keep their secrets forever.