The Catacombs of Ptolemides (revised) - 1
Ptolemides was once a proud Hellenic city-state, but the world shook, the great island kingdom of Atlantis sank beneath the waves and Ptolemides found itself cut from the world that it once knew. Today, though the exact when and where of Ptolemides is a question much debated by the cities philosophers, the city seems becalmed on the edge of a great void, a crossroads of places and times unimagined. The seas have changed and beyond the farmlands that surround and feed the city are the mists and into the mists few will go, and out the mists come strangers.
Beneath the city are the catacombs. The dead were taken and interred among the passages for centuries, but it is no longer used, no longer safe. The temple of Thanatos has somehow become lost amid the endless winding passages and chambers. Some say that they feel his presence even in the sewers and deeper chambers of the city. Some say that they have seen the God himself, though few believe. Those that see Thanatos do not return.
"And there the children of dark Night have their dwellings, Sleep and Death, awful gods. The glowing Sun never looks upon them with his beams, neither as he goes up into heaven, nor as he comes down from heaven. And the former of them roams peacefully over the earth and the sea's broad back and is kindly to men; but the other has a heart of iron, and his spirit within him is pitiless as bronze: whomsoever of men he has once seized he holds fast: and he is hateful even to the deathless gods." (Hesiod)
The people of the city rarely go to the catacombs, but the strangers are drawn to its stygian depths. Ptolemides accepts these strangers as it has accepted the changing sky where the stars dance and the moon is too bright, and too near. Walls have been built around the precincts of the city where the entrance to the catacombs can be found. A tax is charged for entrance, a tax on the strangers and their goods, and a tax on what the strangers take from the catacombs, those that return.
Among the people of the mists word has spread of the riches to be found in the catacombs of Ptolemides, of the dangers and the challenge. Those seeking wealth, adventure and renown make the trip to Ptolemides. The city thrives on the coin they bring, but looks down on these people of different worlds and different times.
The know entrance to the catacombs is a gated cave set in an empty hillside. Once the temple of Thantos sat upon that hill, but in the night when the world shook it vanished and left only the open cave behind. Around the cave are now shops and inns that serve those who would enter the cave. Here can be found rest and gear, weapons and armor, temples to strange gods and shrines covered in offerings for those who have not returned. The cave itself is guarded by soldiers of Ptolemides and a tax is collected on all those who would enter. There is a second gate deeper into the cavern, and here those who would seek to leave the catacombs must pay a tithe on all that they have gathered from below. The entrance is well guarded and fortified, not only to bar the way of travelers and collect the tax, but also to protect the city from what might emerge from below.