Nestled in the mountains at the end of a valley lays a fortress unlike any other. Not for it’s scale or strength, but for the fact that it’s designed to prevent breaches from either inside or outside.
Being the only point in the mountains to cross from one warring kingdom to the next, a Keep was built to prevent an invading army from entering the tunnels. Things ran nicely for a good while, fending off strikes with few casualties, but, obviously, that ended.
The tunnels that the keep defended were vast, some running to uncharted and forgotten places under the mountains. Only a few of the tunnels were actually known, most of these leading to an exit and the others being converted for use by the keep. The encroachment of the surface dwellers, punctuated by the roar of battle, slowly drew the attention of the creatures that lived under the mountains. Within the span of a month, the keep became besieged not just on both sides, but from withing as well. An army on one side, eager to claim the keep for themselves, and a shadowy horde erupting from the mountain that, for many of the soldiers, was composed of beings of nightmare on the other. The keep fell in record time, and the two besieging armies collided. When all was done, the keep was scourged of those who came from the surface. The dwellers from the depths now controlled it and the tunnels completely.
In recent times, the keep has been slowly descending into disrepair. Every now and again a petty bandit lord or group of refugees will take up sanctuary in the ruined fortress, and then it’s only a matter of time until they encroach on territories deeper than man was meant to go. It is then that the beings from the depths inevitably surge forth and scour the life from the crumbling walls.
This place would be avoided all together except for one fact: people don’t know to avoid it. The ones who anger the beings beneath the keep are never heard from again, and the few who stay above and leave unmolested have no harrowing tales to tell about the place. If people knew what lay in the mountains, they would never willingly come anywhere near the accursed place.
As far as layout and architecture goes, the keep is fairly standard. It has a thick curtain wall, now damaged in many places, some surrounding buildings that house cold forges and the bones of horses and of course the keep proper, a multi-level affair that is designed to withstand a siege. It’s only real exception is the linking to the caves in the back of the keep.
Hooks and Stuff
The players may well be running from something, or trying to get somewhere in a very short period of time. For a small group, the route through the caves is certainly perilous, but unlikely to incur the full wrath of the creatures beneath the mountain. There are many interesting locations beneath the surface, vast chasms and fields of phosphorescent mushrooms. Almost all would be epic locations to find nightmare beasts.
One of said mushrooms may well be needed for some spell or potion, and divinations have revealed that they exist in abundance somewhere deep beneath the mountain. How convenient, then, that there should be a keep right nearby…
One of the primary things to remember about the keep is that it is not impressive by itself, but it is a doorway. It is a yawning gate into the darkness, into deep places where no light has ever shone. There may very well be things down here not seen since times that are now myth, or beings that no story or folktale even begins to resemble. This is a gateway to the other half of the world, the one beneath simple dungeons.
This is the entrance to the other half of the world, with it’s own traditions, civilizations and monsters.
The keep is simply a beginning.