The Entrance (Topside)
Before the Eclipse: Bright light from torches illuminate the room. Four guards stand ready to defend the doorway against all comers, a pair inside and a pair outside, each with one man on either side of the door.
A metal gate of bars stands at the opposite end of the small room, the padlock protecting the interior sanctity of the prison almost comical in comparison to the military-grade defenses set upon the exterior door.
After the Eclipse: As the door slides open, the first thing you notice is that the room is almost pitch black. Torches should light the room, but they're all missing. Once the door closes, the only light in the room comes from the glowing protection runes on the door.
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The gate to the interior of the complex stands unlocked and ajar, though unfortunately the curve of the spiral stairs prevents any possible light from the guard post below from reaching this room.
The Hub (Upper)
Before the Eclipse: The bottom of the stairs open up into a brightly lit room. A table sits in the corner to the east of the stairwell, where the Captain can be seen working on never-ending piles of paperwork.
In the middle of the room is a circular table, occupied by the guards not currently patrolling the wings. They're engaged in a heated card game, apparently to determine who's forced to buy drinks when they go off-duty.
After the Eclipse: A single torch burns by the south stairwell, the rest are missing from their sconces in the walls. The Captain's paperwork is scattered everywhere throughout the room, it's former resting place now overturned as a make-shift barricade against the east exit that leads into the solitary and condemned wings of the complex. The circle table makes a similar barrier against the west exit leading towards the lifer wings. All of the chairs from the table can be seen haphazardly blocking the southern hallway past the stairwell.
There are bloodstains on the floor, along with a few bloody trails where something bleeding was dragged across the floor and down the eastern stairwell into the solitary wing.
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GM Note: The bloodstains are from the fighting retreat the guards performed as they escaped the complex. Two of the guards were killed however, their bodies dragged down into the depths of the gaol to be used as fodder for the nests.
The Lifers Wing (Upper)
Before the Eclipse: This wing is brightly lit, with torches along the wall every few feet, and lamps inside the occupied cells. Each cell has a decent-sized bunk, as well as a small desk and chair. Most of the desks have some form of writing materials; being locked away obviously doesn't prevent the aristocracy from scheming.
After the Eclipse: The torches are out, and most of the lamps are as well. A few of the cell doors are open, the rooms within trashed, but most remain closed. The majority of those still have their inhabitants, reduced to gibbering terror, huddled in the farthest corner from the door. A few, however, are empty; invariably these cells have signs of struggle and blood is everywhere.
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If the prisoners notice that the PCs aren't guards, they're overwhelmingly likely to grab at them through the bars of their cells, begging to be released and taken to the surface. Various offers will be made, money, favor and pleasure chief among them.
The Lifers Wing (Lower)
Before the Eclipse: While functionally the same as the upper wing (large cells, beds, desks, etc.), the lower portion of the lifers section is both less populated and less "snooty". Even the aristocracy has it's outcasts, and these are them.
The ones above are the ones with friends in high places; these are the ones with friends in middle places, who're barely above the working-class. They are the black sheep of minor families who nevertheless cannot be simply cut free to pay for their excesses. And so they eventually find themselves here, most barely protected against the deadly penalties for their actions.
After the Eclipse: No light remains in this section, though a few lamps in various cells still have fuel. The cell doors are open, the key still held in a severed hand that can be found lying in the corner of the hallway immediately north of the backside stairwell connecting the upper and lower lifer wings. The rest of the body is nowhere to be found, though the bloody surfaces nearby tells a tale of ambush and massacre for those skilled enough to read it.
All of these cells are empty, most of their inhabitants dead and fodder for breeding cycles. A few escaped upstairs to the minor increase in safety offered by the lit locale, but one still hides down here in the darkness, scurrying from cell to cell, feeding on remnants of food left in prisoner's cells and in the storage locations on each floor.
How he remains alive against the constant threat of the invaders is anyone's guess. Some are just born lucky.
The Temporaries Wing (Upper)
Before the Eclipse: The cells here are half the size of those the lifers have, as is the rest of the complex. Further, these cells have no built-in bunk or bed of any kind, and there certainly isn't room to add a desk and chair to the mix. These cells are simple holding pens, keeping individuals behind bars while they either await judgement or bend knee and neck to their social superiors.
Some, those with more pride than sense, could rightly be considered lifers as well; they'll never acquiesce to being walked on, and thus will spend their days sitting in cells, doing nobody any good whatsoever.
After the Eclipse: The signs of struggle are heavier in this section (once light is brought into the complete darkness, of course), but much like the lower lifer wing, there are no inhabitants in these cells. It's a lonely, desolate place, but the torches along these walls are still mostly intact, meaning this area can be lit up fairly quickly and brightly if the PCs are inclined to do so.
The first light to reach the stairwell leading down to the Mental Ward below will reveal a skittering something that quickly retreats into the dark before the PCs can get a good look at it.
GM Note: The PCs can light up this area rather effectively, but doing so will attract even more of the infesting Black Beetles than are currently spreading through the complex. Likewise, the light which gives them information also makes them a direct target for the Beetles. The more light they spread, and the closer they get to the main nest in the solitary wing, the higher their chances of being ambushed.
The Mental Ward (Lower)
Before the Eclipse: Unlike all the other residents of this complex, this group bears no animosity from the Captain, who ensures they get everything they need to live, if not in comfort, then at least decently. This makes them unique among the prisoners; they all did something to end up here, but through no real fault of their own, and thus the normally hard-as-granite Captain does the best he can to improve their situation.
The crazies themselves are sometimes gentle as lambs, and othertimes so dangerous that even the cell guards just lock them in, calling for the on-duty mage to work a spell of pacifying sleep through the bars. Despite the danger and occasional injury the Captain's attitude has infected the rotating guard assignments, and they all try their hardest not to be angry with the poor fools who don't really have any control over themselves.
After the Eclipse: As with most of the complex, light is completely absent here. However, there are two things of note.
The first is that unlike every other wing they've been through, there are no torches in the wall sconces. The answer to this oddity comes in the form of the large pile of ash and burned wood in the hallway connecting this area to the solitary wing. Very obviously someone gathered together all of the torches from this wing and set them ablaze in a corridor-blocking bonfire.
The second is that, also unlike every other wing, there are no bloodstains or streaks along the ground where bodies have been dragged. As near as can be determined, no-one has died in this wing since the Eclipse.
GM Note: Once the cause of the missing patrol became known to the Captain and his men, a very quick set of decisions were made. Chief among them was to bug the frak out, and bring the crazies with them. The rest of the prisoners could rot, as far as the guards were concerned, but one in the Temporaries Wing was given a key to the other cells and told to do as he saw fit.
To stopgap the bugs for long enough to get all of the prisoners clear, all of the torches were gathered and lit in a bonfire that pushed back the invaders for a short while. Following this occurrence, the Beetles began intentionally destroying all of the torches they came across, to prevent an encore performance.
The Condemned Wing (Upper)
Before the Eclipse: Murderers, rapists, and other violent individuals of all kinds are gathered here. Few things actually warrant death in Shardis City, but those that do invariably are such that you can't ever be trusted again afterwards; the only solution is life-imprisonment or death.
Strangely, there has been an increase in brutally-violent crimes recently, and the courts have had an unsympathetic attitude as a result. Thus, this section has grown significantly, for once almost filled to capacity despite the constant outflow of residents to the gallows.
After the Eclipse: Pitch black, completely lifeless, utterly trashed. Bloody trails lead from almost every cell to the back stair leading down into the depths of solitary. The sconces on the walls are all empty, their usual torches broken and scattered on the floor all around this area. A faint rustling can be heard along the edges of the room, always avoiding the light. The longer the PCs spend here, the more skittering can be heard, until eventually the Beetles will attack, destroying the lights first and foremost.
The Solitary Wing (Lower)
Before the Eclipse: Compared to the constant sounds of life in all the other wings, the silence in this wing is unnerving. Unlike the other cells in the complex, these all have solid wood doors to keep their inhabitants from communicating with those outside.
Inside the cell is an empty room with a hole in the floor, an oubliette. The interior of the oubliette is empty. With the doors closed, the prisoners are stuck in pitch black, a sensory deprivation that turns most into residents of the Mental Ward.
Anyone here is either a serious troublemaker within the complex, or has secrets of some kind that the Powers That Be don't want spreading. Getting an actual audience with someone in solitary is nearly impossible.
After the Eclipse: The darkness filling the cells has grown to encase the entire wing, seeming almost alive and malicious. Torches are shattered to uselessness, and constant skittering can be heard all around. Anyone who comes here will quickly find themselves assaulted by dozens of the shadowborn insects. The presence of light will only further enflame the swarm, some sacrificing themselves to bodily snuff out torches and shatter lamps.
The central 4 solitary cells are the most interesting part of this wing, and the part that every beetle in the complex will defend to the death. Each of the cells is packed full (oubliette included) of the shredded remains of the bodies the beetles have been collecting. Buried within that shredded nesting material is the multitude of eggs from which voracious larvae will soon hatch and begin feeding on their gathered nesting material.
A few have already done so, and the quick larval stage means that within a week of unchecked activity, the beetles will swarm through the rest of the complex, annihilating everyone left before tearing apart the entrance door and emerging into the tunnels beneath Shardis.
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Dog-sized creatures with thick, scaly skin, long claws and double-rows of razor teeth. They charge to bring down their prey, biting through calf or thigh with their terrifyingly strong jaws, though occasionally they'll hammer a large creature with their long tail to knock them over. Once their victims are downed, the creatures claw and bite without mercy, tearing out large chunks of sweet, delicious flesh to devour. Their bite is poisonous, quickly leading to paralysis and sepsis, presuming the prey lives that long.
The Ebony Octopus
It creeps from shadow to shadow, finding entry through the smallest of openings. Shadowy tendrils snake from around corners and beneath grates, grabbing ankles and dragging victims screaming into the darkness. What happens next is best left unsaid.
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Notably, these tendrils seem immune to the normal corrosive effect of light upon the denizens of the Primal Shadows, retaining their form and power despite direct illumination. This makes them a huge threat against the unwary, who naturally assume that being in the light protects them from the dangers lurking in the lightless reaches. Only the core body itself is vulnerable to radiance, though trapping it long enough to fully destroy it is quite difficult; much like it's waterborn compatriot, the Ebony Octopus is hard to pin down.
Fell creatures near the top of the food chain, shadowbeasts are a hairsbreadth away from being shadow incarnate. Their form is extremely fluid, shifting and changing as actual shadows do, becoming larger or smaller as needed. If seen with dim light (full daylight would annihilate it), it will appear as an amorphous mass of shadows, clinging to and creeping along the ground.
Cunning predators, they prefer to ambush their prey and drag it off into the darkness, enshrouding it with their caustic shadows before tearing it apart to release the essence of life within.
Like all creatures of this plane, light is a potent weapon against a shadowbeast. Enough light will kill it, as will sufficient application of magical damage. Physical weaponry, however, is next to useless in fending one off. Torchbearers should be cautious, however, for a shadowbeast will make it's first priority the removal of light and any who carry it.Go to Comment