5 hours ago
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Signs on the side of the lonely, cracked roadways leading into Char Hill warn away would-be visitors. Even from the outskirts, the stench of burning is in the air, and there are faint tendrils of smoke. Char Hill is a ghost town, but was once a prosperous Steel League mining village built atop rich coal deposits. That was before the fire.
There is still argument over how the fire that made Char Hill uninhabitable got started. Whatever the cause, the coal seam fire that began a decade ago still smolders. As with previous such fires, the combustion of coal deposits either released (or spawned) mephiti--creatures sometimes called “imps”, but which are actually para-elementals of smoke (“airy fire”). Mephiti are cruel creatures, who delight in causing harm. They rose into the unsuspecting town on plumes of toxic gas.
Though some died with the emergence of the mephiti, rising temperatures, and clouds of poison gas, the fire grew slowly enough so that most townsfolk had ample warning. The town of Char Hill was quickly abandoned, and officially unincorporated.
Rumors persist, however, that some townspeople remain. Some are perhaps bootlegging alchemists seeking to derive valuable substances from the toxic vapors rising from underground. Others are cultists who believe an ancient god-thing was trapped in the coal-veins beneath the town and the fire is the means of the thing's phoenix-like resurrection. Experts dismiss this belief as baseless, and the product of brains perhaps already damaged by toxic inhalation.