Crawlers of the Dark
In the dark alleys of Malcaresh, the Caravan City of the Plains, many an adventurer meets his death at the end of an unseen blade. Even more part unwillingly with their belongings, having fallen victim to the thieves and cutthroats plying their old and ignoble trade. Yet even among these, the whispers of House Caraguil invoke fear and discomfort.
Note to the GM: Even though I wrote this as a Coldforged dungeon, minor adjustments can easily make it free standing. Instead of K'Haun Ramahl you could have an ancient entity of your own choosing, or adjust him to your setting, and the city of Malcaresh could easily be swapped with one in your setting
Stone Tablet inscription,
Signed by Kandau-Teng,
Third Priest and Warden of the Ritual,
Disciple of K'Haun Ramahl and Protector of the Secret.
The tablet has been written in an ancient, though legible script. The writing is still beautiful, with ornamentally chiselled capital letters after each full stop.
Hear me now.
Though the loss of our fallen brethren troubles me, I cannot but feel joy for our recent victory. After months of chanting, we lured the elder thing from the shadows and into our carefully prepared trap. No more will the blood of innocents flow; no longer will its hideous maw drink from the bodies of our friends and family. Alas, slumber does not arrive easily for our ancient nemesis: Only by the sedating power of the ritual, combined with the mystic bonds of the twin relics did the shadow of sleep fall upon it.
Therefore, we have built this temple, to act as a prison and a safeguard, to shelter it in the aeons to come, and to be its mausoleum, its harem of fulfilment. For only through the sedation of its murderous instincts and the fulfilment of its sadistic perversions do we manage to maintain its eternal slumber.
Our arch-mage, Thondrek the hero of Bleeding Pass crafted the shackles of sedation. For days he chanted, his divinations spying her whereabouts, before he finally captured Elainaia, a particularly strong river spirit. Her essence was bound to the very steel shackles that imprison it now, runes of power barring the escape of both Elder thing and Spirit of nature; locking them in battle eternal.
It falls to you then, descendant brother, to keep the second part of the bargain. Though the task may seem grotesque, remember it is for a higher cause. It falls upon you to provide the sleeper with sacrifice eternal. On the night of each new moon, the sleeper must be presented with the living body of an innocent. For as strong as the spirit of nature might be, she is naught compared to him, and his attention must be diverted, his instincts kept sedated, lest he stalk the earth again.
Thus sound the word of our elders.
Malcareshian Ritual Prayer, origins unknown, but some sages claim it to be an ancient reference to the infrequent disappearances that has plagued the city for untold centuries.
Mighty Father, protector Saint,
Guard me, guide me, and watch me as I sleep.
These dreams were not meant for mortal man.
Shelter me, hide me, and watch me as I weep.
In the dark alleys of Malcaresh, the Caravan City of the Plains, many an adventurer meets his death at the end of an unseen blade. Even more part unwillingly with their belongings, having fallen victim to the thieves and cutthroats plying their old and ignoble trade. Yet even among these, the whispers of House Caraguil invoke fear and discomfort.
The house is an ancient edifice that can easily be identified as the oldest structure in the city. The city itself was founded seven centuries ago, and even in the earliest records there are references to the House and the strange phenomena that can be experienced in its vicinity; reoccurring nightmares and alarmingly brutal rape-murders.
Once a huge garden surrounded the house, but the ever-increasing demand for real estate made the city council claim the gardens during the great population boom three centuries ago. As a result, the mansion's faÃ§ade is now fronting Hawker Street and on the back is the alley known as 'Jarilya's Demise', named after the daughter of an arch-mage of old. She was found stabbed a dozen times in this alley. The alley has been the location of choice for criminal gangs these last centuries, and is where they take their traitors, failures and unfortunates before they slit their throat.
The House itself is made of polished grey bricks of granite. The construction is remarkable in both quality and in its lack of ornamental features. The windows are arched, with high quality glass panes, but that is about as far as it goes. The Hawker Street entryway is more of a small gate than a large double door, and has been reinforced with black lacquered steel. There is a small door on the back, made of the same material. Some of the cellar windows have been broken and in places the steel bars have been sawed off. Street urchins can sometimes be spotted slipping in and out of House Caraguil through these narrow entryways.
Throughout time, the House has serviced as an orphanage, a boarding school for rich children and, when the owner Celador Caraguil was hung by an enraged mob (after the rumours circulated that he arranged the disappearances of the kids), it was purchased by disreputable persons and for a time served as a brothel. About a decade ago the brothel was closed when Lady Minara Yusil was found murdered on the morn following a long night of sin and debauchery. The men and women that had provided for her pleasure all had rock solid alibis as they were entertaining a prominent council member, so the building was declared permanently uninhabitable by the Council and bars were put in front of its many windows. Three Council Mages were sent to investigate the ancient edifice, but one of them disappeared and the two others came back severely disturbed, urging the Council to lock the mansion's doors never to reopen them. The city archives state no more than this, though the two mages, the Imperial 'Ali Ben-Hazram' and the Gauthian 'Anor Thenaug', still live and can be found in their City Council offices.
The Unknown History of House Caraguil
The Mansion was built more than 1400 years ago by Bluethon Warriors led by Thondrek, their High Mage and leader. The warriors had chased an elusive entity for nearly two decades and finally caught up with it as it lay slumbering at the base of a spectacular waterfall. The Priesthood legends claim that this was due to the magical chants of Thondrek and cunning traps laid by the priesthood, but this is a later addition. The truth is that they stumbled upon the entity as it slept.
They say the entity was one of particular cruelty; in its wake all that was left was the broken bodies of raped virgins, their eyes plucked out and their tongues blackened. So the warriors proceeded with great caution, urging their leader to the front so he could witness what fate had unexpectedly handed them. It was a night of silent celebration, the faces of the warriors bright with smiles tempered with caution. Thondrek wove mighty spells that night and he encased the sleeping murderer in layer upon layer of magic: Weariness, bewilderment and immobility. Yet when the entity stirred, the spells only hindered it marginally. More was clearly needed!
Thus began the construction of the hidden mausoleum, Thondrek's Warriors erecting the edifice around the sleeping entity. All the while Thondrek laboured, he called upon a spirit of nature and bound her to specially prepared shackles of steel. These shackles were put on the wrists of the Elder Horror yet it wasn't enough. The entity became more and more uncontrollable as it grew hungry and it soon became clear that it needed to feed should its slumber continue, for this entity fed even while asleep. After their work had been finished, Thondrek used his magic to heave stones and earth and sand around the base of the now mighty edifice. It was as if he tried to shelter an unwary world from the evil beneath. Only the uppermost levels of the edifice remained above ground; even the waterfall was buried.
Years passed and Thondrek grew old. Death was approaching, he could feel it in his bones, so he began crafting a mighty Golem, the Caretaker, from bone and stone so that it might continue the labour of Thondrek even after the death of the High Mage. His work was finished and then one night, decades after they erected the edifice, Thondrek fell asleep one last time. The defences of the mausoleum remained but partially finished and the mage was buried in the Great Garden that surrounded the mansion.
For years his followers inhabited the mausoleum, carefully aiding the Caretaker in his eternal task. In the end civilization caught up with the inhabitants and a city was constructed around the hill on the plains, for it was a strategic location where the roads from the east to the west meet with the mighty waterway known as River Firien*.
So the Priesthood departed the mausoleum for the Blueth race did not mix well with the denizens of the new city. The priest wove to return each new moon with sacrifice for their eternal prisoner and thus it has been ever since.
The current name of the mansion, House Caraguil, is but a recent addition. Celador Caraguil, a well meaning professor of botanics, purchased the building (he thought it was quite a bargain to get it as cheaply as he did) and established a school for rich children. The rest, as they say, is history.
*The waterfall was from river that joined the Firien, not part of Firien itself.
The Mansion Interior
Description of the cellar, ground and first floor of the Caraguil Mansion.
Designed as a temple-prison by an ancient Priesthood, the mansion actually captures some of the spirit and atmosphere of what occurs inside, a trait necessary to contain most of the powerful aura of K'Haun Ramahl. The more powerful the spirit or event, the more likely it is to be 'contained' by the building. Thus it can happen that the sensual laughter of a courtesan can be heard decades after it first originated. It is the same with the screams of the orphanage or the stern voices of the teachers of the boarding school. Chilling echoes of the past such as these were subdued with music in the days of the brothel, though more than one patron was startled when the heartbroken scream of a child tore through the room while he was having his fun. Most prominent however are the reoccurring dreams that can be had here; the dreams of K'Haun Ramahl, in which he relive Prime Creation, mixed with the events that once took place in the building. Thus an adventurer could dreamily find himself stalking elusive prey through the eerie woods of Prime Creation only to discover a stern authoritative figure in black robes, black hat and with a rather menacing cane, demanding they multiply 14 with 22. (Slow answers will, of course, be dealt with accordingly ;) The dreams of an ancient entity become quite surreal when mixed with events not of his world.
Dreams inside the mansion will not be as vivid as those experienced in the lower halls, but at the end of each dream the dreamer will always feel like 'there is some secret hidden deep underground'.
The ground floor
The ground floor has stood untouched for ten years, ever since the courtesans left House Caraguil. Still the earlier presence is evident in the gaudy furniture and deep green velvet curtains and couches that can be found throughout the first floor. As a matter of fact one can even find crystal carafes and glasses on the table, as if the tenants left just minutes ago, except for the layers of dust.
When the mansion was closed down by the City Council it had such an ill reputation that decorative items, furniture and the like were left behind. These items are still to be found within the house and indeed some of the first floor rooms seem almost like museums or galleries displaying artefacts of war, literature and art.
The ground floor is largely uninteresting and riddled with vulgar art and leaflets of a pornographic nature. However the echoing voices of the past can prove quite unsettling, as can the dreams that occur herein. There aren't any enemies to be fought nor are there great treasures to be had. There are however signs here:
-Footprints in the dust. The dust and cobwebs reveal that parts of the structure are still used. The footprints lead from the anonymous alley door through the kitchen to the cellar stairs.
-In a large oval bed a stone tablet has been discarded by persons unknown(See the introductory text from the K'Haun Ramahl Priest) (GM Note: Since only the Priesthood use the mansion these days, this chamber has become the chamber of initiation, and is where new acolytes are initiated into their calling.)
The first floor
The first floor is like a museum with pedestals and stands which hold busts depicting important men, venerable swords, ancient hauberks and battered breastplates. These rooms are the halls of the Priesthood wherein artefacts of the battle against K'Haun Ramahl can be found alongside memorials of the heroes of that war. There is a subtle yet powerful enchantment in work here that makes all onlookers care for these artefacts. Although some artefacts have 'disappeared' throughout the years, most have a tendency to make their way back here after a certain period of time. Most of the weapons stored here are normal, fragile and venerable. Other rooms hold paintings and statues of days long bygone.
A decade ago the City Council sent three council mages here after the mysterious murder of Lady Minara Yusil. One of these mages, one Durban Ramireh, performed a divination ritual in one of the galleries on the upper floor and his remains can be found there still alongside the silvery circle in which he attempted to conjure 'The terror that haunts this house'. It came as a shock to his comrades then, when the spectral outline of K'Haun Ramahl began manifesting inside the silvery circle. Freak winds gutted the lit candles that were aligned with the circle and when the one of the other mages had managed to cast a spell of light, it was only to witness that a black tongue had emanated from the conjured beast and had now pierced the left eye socket of poor Durban, and from there the rest of the black tongue seemed to slither further into the broken body, desecrating the remains of their friend. Yet, even as the scared mages struggled to banish the conjured horror, in the moments before the forceful removal of the black tongue split his skull, the unfortunate mage cried, his tears falling on moving lips that produced no sound.
So powerful was this trauma that this exact scene now plays out every night when the moon is up. It is the same scene every time and the spectral figures will not react to the characters with two notable exceptions:
1) If the characters get close to the spectral outline of K'Haun Ramahl, its tongue will change direction, seemingly thrusting towards the nearest character. Should that character be hit, it will seemingly pass straight through him, but such are the powers of the elder that the GM must check whether the elder managed to drain some of their willpower.
2) If the PCs perform some sort of divination here, there is a chance they might contact either the entity (extremely dangerous) or Durban Ramireh. Durban has not been able to pass to the afterlife and his spirit has become maddened by his traumatic demise. He is now a peculiar sort of undead, a Spectral Warlock, whose command of magic has increased after death. Durban is bound to the first floor and will never appear anywhere but here. His soul has been warped and twisted, all innocence lost to the black tongue of the elder thing, and only darkness and hatred remains. He does not know who or what he once was and now only lives for the burning hatred inside, yet part of him remembers one thing: Once there was something else than this. Something good, but alas that good eludes him eternally. The Spectral Warlock Durban is especially adept at ice magic and its coming is heralded by terrible cold gusts of wind and frost. Durban Ramireh can also be encountered once each year, on the anniversary of his demise and on this occasion the first floor will be draped in a thin layer of frost.
The Cellar of House Caraguil is filled to the brim with barrels and bottles of wine. It is also the home of several street urchins, skittish things that can barely be noticed as they run amidst the shadows of the Cellar. They are all having terrible dreams and hearing strange sounds, so they are almost feral and their fear is animalistic. They survive by stealing and this is the first home they haven't been chased from in their entire life.
One room is left alone by the Street Urchins; the Cellar Gallery is a grand room with a pointed arching ceiling and exquisite though moulded tapestries displayed on the walls. These tapestries display scenes of battle and carnage, men fighting a lone black figure with mounds of corpses around it. There is a grand table here which is covered with layer upon layer of dust. It is in this room that the hidden entrance to the lower halls can be found behind one of the tapestries.
Besides tapestries and the dinner table there are a number of rapiers and bucklers mounted on the walls. These are later additions to the room, but are of excellent make and completely untouched by rust.
The Chambers Eternal
Features of the Chambers Eternal
The Dark corridors beneath the mansion feature walls on which repeated symbolic runes have been carved between two horizontal parallel lines some ten inches apart. These runes are ancient of nature and one trained in runes would identify the runes as protective runes, guarding against madness and fear.
Aluil Vines are vines that seem to cling to most walls in the dungeon, some even making it all the way up to the cellar gallery inside House Caraguil. The deep olive green almond shaped leaves of these vines are thick and resilient and yield a thick, murky liquid when squeezed. This liquid is used by the rich as a basic ingredient in Aluil Sauce, a treat on many a fashionable restaurant. The sinister Hide-Locusts thrive in these vines and often one or more burrowers of the skin can be found wherever there is a vine. For more information about the Hide-Locusts, see below.
In the heart of the lower halls corridors the great intersection can be found. Five branches issue forth from this intersection, one for each chamber (excepting the entry chamber which lays on the path to House Caraguil), one to House Caraguil and the last one leading into the Guardian Chamber, the Waterfall Chamber and the Mausoleum Proper. Between each exit a circular bronze shield has been hung. On these the rims have been decorated with ornamental runes, a dividing line separating them from the blank interior of the bronze shield. These ornamental runes read:
Dead in Darkness,
Drunk with Power,
Pray for Sleep Eternal.
These runes refer to K'Haun Ramahl and his present state. The shields themselves were used by the bodyguard of Thondrek the High Mage and albeit of poor quality in melee, they defy magic and supernatural abilities. 'The Spirit Shields' Thondrek called them and they are marginally effective in melee but renders the warrior well prepared against magical attacks of any kind. The shields were never tried against the Elder Thing.
The beating heart
When first the characters enter House Caraguil, there will be a distant heartbeat sound, like they could hear their own pulse. This sound will intensify as the characters descend into the dungeon and will be clearly audible as the characters reach the stone bridge in front of the mausoleum. This sound is the pulse of the black tongue, the only part of K'Haun Ramahl that actually has a heart (The heart is inside his mouth). Whenever the sleeper is devouring its sacrifice the pulse will be very fast, while it will be very slow when he sleeps. The heartbeat frequency is actually a sign of how close K'Haun Ramahl is to consciousness, and when he is fully awake it will sound more like a slow, steady pulse of thunder rather than a beating heart.
The whispering fountains
These fountains can be found in the corridors of the lower halls. They are crafted from the same polished granite stonework that the mansion and the corridors themselves are, and a large block of stone has been carved into the semblance of a male face with an open mouth. From this mouth a steady trickle of water issues forth, pooling in the granite sink beneath it.
There is nothing extraordinary about these fountains except for the fact that eerie, female whispers can be heard when you turn your back to them. This is the doing of the trapped river spirit Elainaia and the words whispered are most often 'Free meeee', 'Help meeee' or 'He issss killing meeee'.
The Lower Halls
Beneath House Caraguil are the Lower Halls. The steep hidden stairs leading to the halls can be found behind a huge tapestry in the cellar gallery. Narrow mirrored shafts provide light from the sun and moon which illuminate the Lower Halls. The resulting beams of light often highlight mosaics of great beauty, having been constructed to reflect different spectrums of the light. As a result a different pattern emerges in moonlight than in sunlight. When the sky is overcast, or when the moon is not in the night sky, the rooms are tar black. Most of the rainwater does not make its way down here, but when it is raining heavily a steady drizzle falls on the edges of the central mosaics. There are four lower halls of this kind of which one has lost its light conduit during the garden restructuring and is permanently locked in darkness. These rooms are: The Burial Chamber of the Ancient Priesthood, The Sacrifice Preparation Chamber, The Entry Chamber and The Dark Chamber (Previously known as the Divination Chamber). In the lower halls the stairs down to the Waterfall Chamber can also be found, and at the bottom of these stairs the Clockwork Door can be found. One need not pass through the four chambers to get to the stairs, but it is necessary to pass the Hall of Guardians which can be found in the middle of the stairs.
The Burial Chamber of the Ancient Priesthood:
In this chamber stand the six urns of the Ancient Priesthood in which the final ashes of the priests are contained. There is an oven here in which the remains of the dead are cremated and the ashes put in the urns in another of the priesthoods long rituals taking nearly a day to perform. A secret compartment in this room holds the robes and amulets needed by the priesthood to traverse the complex, and on the robes the mantra that is needed to pass the Waterfall Chamber is inscribed. Inside the compartment a holy book can be found, detailing the struggles of the Priesthood during the century long war against K'Haun Ramahl, as well as the sacrifices performed during the millennium that has passed since its imprisonment.
The Sacrifice Preparation Chamber:
This room is dominated by a huge central pool fed by a naturally heated spring. The pool is not cleaned these days since the Priesthood quit using the temple when the first settlers appeared at the stairs of the ancient edifice seven centuries ago. Small niches with pointed arches hold silvery candlesticks with unlit candles, and small stone tablets can be found beside the candles. These tablets have short prayers engraved on their stony surface.
The Entry Chamber
The Entry Chamber is the room at the bottom of the stairs. It is void of furniture and only the faded frescoes on the wall are of interest. These frescoes depict a barely visible black entity stalking through a forest, human corpses in its wake. Crying priests and holy warriors are tracking it, carrying their fallen and raising their hands skyward in accusation or prayer. At the end of the forest, not far from the black entity, is a village and it is filled with children and youth. In the skies above the village black crows are gathering. In the wake of the black entity the crows already feast on the dead.
The Dark Chamber aka the Divination Chamber
This room has been draped in darkness ever since the City Council claimed the Caraguil Gardens three hundred years ago. The moon and sunlight is no longer channelled down from above and the room is tar black at all times.
The room features a circular pool sunk into the floor, as well as a potent ritual dagger that will enhance any divination. The Priests of old used the pool to scry upon the dreams of the entity or seek counsel from other powers that be. This proved to be so dangerous that after merely a couple of years of this activity, the priesthood abandoned it for good, in spite of the obvious advantages. Still the pool and dagger remain functional and could still be used. The effectiveness of divinations performed herein will be tripled.
The Guardian Chamber
Four statues of semi-naked men with loincloths, full beards and moustaches, their muscular arms crossed, stand vigilant in this chamber. The Priesthood was preparing this room as a final defence before the Waterfall Chamber and half finished runic signs can be spotted around the base of each statue. The needed enchantments were never completed and the statues stand inactive. With time they have been wrapped in Aluil Vines and Hide-Locusts can be found crawling all over the ancient statues and floor.
The Clockwork Door
Two bronze demon infested clockwork doors bar the characters from gaining entry from the lower halls and into the Waterfall Chamber. Cogwheels are visible on both sides and at places one could even peak through the door, spying and hearing the waterfalls on the other side. Demonic essences were used in the crafting of the door and are what fuels the cogwheels. Additionally these essences strengthen the door, making it highly resistant to damage. There is no actual demon residing inside the runes or in the bronze clockwork, but a part of the demon Captivity's soul has indeed been bound to the construct.
The door only opens on the night of a new moon, whenever the Golem Caretaker opens it from the other side using the crescent key that has been grafted onto the palm of his left hand (a hand which is basically a huge surgical knife), or when three amulets of the Priesthood are inserted into certain locations on the door. Magically forcing the door open should prove difficult as the magician would need to pit his willpower against that of the demonic taint.
Shape-changing magic do provide a method to bypass the Clockwork door. In gaseous form or as an insect a party member would have no difficulty whatsoever in passing through. The door could also be picked open by a very, very skilled thief (or mechanic, though dismantling the door is impossible).
The Waterfall Chamber is at the bottom of the complex and is a three tier affair with water flowing from the walls above the uppermost tier. This water is led through minute channels into a circular waterfall, cascading down past the tiers before it thunders down at the base of the circular dome on the bottommost tier. As the PCs make their way down through the different tiers, the waterfall will seem like a thick circular veil until they reach the bottom where a stone-bridge spans the gap from the edge to the central dome. Here the players have to go through the waterfall in order to pass the stone-bridge and the black lacquered door on the other side. Some fifteen feet down the waterfall ends in a cacophony of churning water and thundering sound.
On the walls of the Waterfall chamber the Aluil Vines grow in abundance, their leaves brimming with Hide-Locusts. The sound in this chamber is most intense; the cacophony from the waterfall mixed with the sound of the beating heart, mixed with the eerie whispering of the spirits bound by the spirit urns.
Beneath the stone bridge the Cocoon Garden can be found. This is where the Hide-Locusts weave their victims and hang them while they peel the skins from the victims' bodies. Most of the hives can be found on the walls of the mausoleum below the bottommost tier and above the waterfall pool at the bottom of the circular Waterfall Chamber.
From the ceiling above the uppermost tier three half inch thick rusted chains have been hung. The first of these end on the uppermost tier, the second end on the middle tier and the third ends just above the circular dome in the centre of the bottommost tier. From the end of each chain a round ceramic urn has been suspended, a narrow opening on its top, from which thick smoke is billowing forth. These three ceramic balls are Spirit Urns placed there by the Priesthood of K'Haun Ramahl to act like beacons to spirits that die here, trapping them therein. Spectral Ghosts sometimes flow forth from these, attacking trespassers who do not know the mantra that is required to safely pass through the Waterfall Chamber. Crushing an urn is sufficient to free the souls trapped therein, releasing them to their afterlife; however the urns are more solid than they appear and a good, solid hit is required to destroy them provided that the urn itself is hit and not the chain that is wrapped around it.
Should a PC get to an urn he/she can actually drink it. Quaffing the grimy black contents of the urn will bestow greater spiritual strength upon the drinker but at the great risk of a split personality, possession and/or poisoning. The Spirit Liquids therein will also fetch a very, very decent price if presented to an alchemist or mage. The spirit liquid could be used in many, many potent concoctions including, but not limited to, healing, mental defence, mental healing, resurrecting and paralysing potions. The Spirit Liquid is disturbingly cold to the touch.
The Mausoleum of the Elder
Inside the black double doors a truly horrible sight awaits the characters. On the floor a myriad locusts crawl, a true carpet of horror. All around the elder entity are the withered husks of its sacrifice, the black tongue of the elder slithering around the room, still entering the orifices of the dead, though their innocence was lost long ago and naught but dust and bones remain.
K'Haun Ramahl himself has been elevated above the ground and his blackened carcass lays atop a stone table, its chest cracked open. It is from this chest that long white maggots crawl, maggots that will turn into Hide-Locusts within a couple of days.
K'Haun Ramahl will not stir unless the characters interrupt his sleep. The Caretaker will immediately slay anything non-sleeping inside the Mausoleum, even the Priesthood, for such are its millennium old instructions.
Encounters in the depths:
The Hide-Locusts are burrowers of the flesh created by the instincts of K'Haun Ramahl. They were originally a real race of Prime Creation, but now only exist as a part of the elder entity. While conscious it can control the locusts, but now they act on instinct, crawling throughout the complex, burrowing under the skin of victims where they inject their potent poison. A skin locust operates alone, hunting prey, and can primarily be found outside the Waterfall Chamber where it preys upon Priests and trespassers.
Hide-Locusts are about two to three inches long and grey or black of colour. When it burrows into the flesh of a living victim, the victim will not feel much, as the locust always will apply a pain killing venom on the entry area seconds in advance. However when it starts crawling under the skin an intense pain will immediately be felt. As soon as it feels threatened (for instance when a character slams his fist into it) it will immediately inject a potent sleeping poison into the character, effectively paralyzing him. It will then weave a cocoon around the character and slowly and painfully remove the skin while the character gradually awakens. In the end the character will probably bleed to death and the Priesthood simply calls these bloody cocoons for Crimson Graves.
The Hide-Locusts create hives out of the skin of its victims and with time old skin is replaced with the newer skin of recent victims. Inside these hives they produce black honey, an extremely rare ingredient desperately sought after by alchemists and mages alike. When properly distilled this honey has properties that can be used both in extremely potent sleeping poisons as well as in powerful healing potions. Black Honey will drastically boost the potency of any such potion, provided no opposite ingredients have been included therein.
Hide Locusts enjoy the Aluil Vines and any such plant is sure to hold one or more Hide-Locusts crawling on its branch. These Vines also hold their Hives, though these hives are always found in the Waterfall Chamber or in the Mausoleum where they are most safe.
Maidens of Rape
The maidens of rape are the somnambulant victims of the Priesthood or even of K'Haun Ramahl himself. They will dazedly shuffle through the dungeon in whatever they were wearing while they slept. For nobility and the rich this will be night gowns, while for the less fortunate it is common not to wear anything at all. K'Haun Ramahl prefers female beauty, but will not let the chance slip to devour children or innocent males. Due to its incessant hatred of the Gods that ruined Prime Creation it loves to defile Nuns and Monks dedicated to chastity and servitude.
Whilst they are walking the maidens will sing an unknown song, a lullaby perhaps, in a strange foreign voice. For a fragment of a second, one or more characters will notice that several spectral figures are walking around the maiden, singing softly along, though the next moment the scary vision will be gone. These spectral figures are the restless souls of earlier victims; souls that are unable to pass to the afterlife due to the unholy violation performed by K'Haun Ramahl.
The Caretaker* will open the clockwork doors for any maiden of rape and will escort her down to the three tiers to the stone bridge. As the doors to the mausoleum open he will slash the sacrifice across the chest and on each thigh, preparing orifices for the black tongue of K'Haun Ramahl.
The Caretaker is an ancient Golem constructed of the bones of an ancient giant and of stone. It is a replica of a giant human skeleton with a steel chamber surrounding the interior of the chest in the heart area. Polished green glass globes have been inserted into the eye sockets and surgical instruments are in the stead of a left hand, while the right hand features the normal five digits one would expect in a human. The Caretaker is at all times covered by myriad crawling Hide-Locusts trying to bring the eternal jailor of K'Haun Ramahl to an end. Around the heart-chamber they work with intense fervor trying to squeeze apart the locks holding the chamber together, so they can attack the beating human heart encased within. This human heart is what has kept the Caretaker animated for all these years and inside the priesthood they say that it is the heart of the newborn son of Thondrek. 'So heavy was the burden of Thondrek', they say, 'that if they were to sacrifice innocents in centuries to come, it was his duty to sacrifice something too. But he refused to surrender his son to the viles of the Elder Thing and appointed his son as the eternal jailor of the Elder instead.
The Caretaker was constructed long ago by the original Priesthood under the guidance of Thondrek. Its purpose is simple: Keep the elder evil sleeping for all eternity. This task it performs admirably, walking the lower halls with clockwork precision, letting in new sacrifice each full moon and slicing the innocents somewhat, creating new orifices for the black tongue* to enter. It also regularly slice K'Haun Ramahl open, preventing his tongue from growing too long and weakening the power by slicing his chest open as it heals itself (K'Haun Ramahl's chest is not originally cracked open: That is the doing of the Caretaker.).
The Caretaker is semi-intelligent courtesy of the creators who tried to fully awaken the earth spirit within the stone. Earth spirits aren't the brightest though, so the Caretaker is not able to communicate and its intellect is mostly instinctual, aiding it in its eternal duty. It will however recognize unwanted elements in the Waterfall Chamber and will attack them, unless they wear the bronze amulets of the ancient priesthood.
For some reason the Caretaker loves the moonlight and can on occasion be found standing beneath a mirror shaft bathing in the moonlight. Its arms will be stretched towards the light and its steel skeletal face will be looking up, the moonlight reflected in the green glassy orbs.
*See K'Haun Ramahl below.
In the days before the awakening of the Gods, the days known by some as the days of Prime Creation, there was an entity known as the K'Haun Ramahl ('Lonely Hunter' in the tongue of the ancient Bluethon). It was a singular being and there was none other like it. A traveller it was, a caretaker of the Paradise of Old. Nothing much is known about it, except the fact that it was an entity of power in Prime Creation, and its word weighed heavily in the Council of Eternals.
Then came the cataclysmic event called 'The Rupture' or 'The Banishment of the Dreamer' and Prime Creation was destroyed by rampaging Gods in their primal rage. Entire races were brought to extinction, it was genocide and all but the Eternals and the Other Ones now lie dead and forgotten, and even these two races remain largely unknown and unseen. Still the Gods could not capture the elusive creature known as K'Haun Ramahl, for the elder entity from Prime Creation proved to be a resourceful creature, restlessly roaming from shadow to shadow and from forest to forest. His was an eternal journey and he sought the innocence that once was: The innocence of Prime Creation. For K'Haun Ramahl we mortals are but disruptions in the fabric of reality. There is innocence inside us (especially in virgins, children and maidens) and he can find that innocence... sate his thirst and longing for Prime Creation for a few second if he sends his long black tongue searching through our bodies to slurp up the innocence inside. For to the Ramahl, innocence is a tangible thing; and these things the Gods stole when they sacked Prime Creation. These things are his by right of birth and station.
For the mortals it is a humanoid; black tongued, bald and with pale white skin. Its chest has been cracked open and nightmare-bugs and white maggots are crawling out from the bleeding cavity. Around it the carcasses of its sacrifice maidens lay scattered, the entire floor appears to be moving due to the massive swarm of insects that have amassed here.
K'Haun Ramahl in dreams: When appearing before a potential victim in his / hers dreams, it will take on the guise of a Black Prince and the previous victims will appear like boys and girls of the harem. He will cry and he will laugh. He will charm and he will seduce, telling of his ancient Kingdom and the glories he performed therein. In the end the GM must perform a check (if and only if the dreamer is pure of spirit and preferably an innocent virgin... Paladins and Priests beware!). If the check against the willpower of the dreamer fails, he will rise as a somnambulant and walk down towards the mausoleum of the sleeper.
The Priesthood of K'Haun Ramahl and the Steel Shackles of Elanaia
The steel shackles that keep the river spirit imprisoned were crafted by Thondrek himself, the founding father of the Cult of K'Haun Ramahl. When soldiers proved unable to stop the reign of terror in the human lands the elder stalked, Thondrek one day took charge and he created the cult. 'To be able to vanquish our foe, we must understand our foe' he preached. And study grew into obsession and obsession into worship. With time it came to be that the priesthood venerated the elder entity, fearing its power yet admiring it for what it is.
The Steel Shackles of Elainaia are a couple of Rune Engraved Shackles meant to be worn around the wrists. The enchantment is of an imprisoning nature, binding the soul of the wearer within the realms of dreams. In most cases the spirit of nature would be overpowering for any wearer, but in the case of the Elder Thing, she is in dire peril and need all the distractions and aid she can get. Thanks to the sacrifice and the Caretaker she has not succumbed, but her existence has been a living hell the previous millennium.
-The characters are hired by the new owner of House Caraguil. He wants to open a business therein, but needs to rid the mansion of its current problems.
-Nemesis of the PCs escape prison and his footprints lead into the Mansion.
-The PCs buy the mansion, not knowing its dark reputation. Whether they want to discover the source of the damnable dreams, or they grow tired of squeezing Hide-Locusts, they will discover that there are more than meets the eye in the cellars of House Caraguil.
- People are murdered in the alleys around the mansion, or they vanish without a trace. The PCs must discover where they disappeared to. (Perhaps even a friend or family member of the PCs have vanished) Thus begins a journey that takes them into the bowels of the earth and to the crawlers hidden in the dark beneath House Caraguil.
-Enter the Eternal (High Level): After the PCs have finished their business in the dungeon, a disastrous event befalls the hidden mausoleum. Its doors are found blasted open, the doors having been literally blasted of its hinges taking portions of the stonework with it. In the chamber of burial the spirits of the priests of the ancient priesthood have been reanimated as undead Crypt Spectres and the Caretaker has been vanquished. The mausoleum has been violated and the sleeping entity has been removed. Following the traces left by the careless kidnappers, a party of adventurers like the characters, they might ultimately discover that the patron of the adventurers is an Eternal of Old, another survivor of Prime Creation and one in dire need of the counsel of K'Haun Ramahl, once the advisor of the Eternal Council.
-Aluil Vines are native to Prime Creation and were destroyed when the Gods brought it to ruin. However the plants that have grown from the dreams of the sleeper have been exported and now entire colonies of Aluil Vines are grown in dark underground caves and the juices harvested and sold.
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? Responses (25)-26
It is definitely intruiging.
I like the fact that you are nowhere even mentioning that the creature could be killed - which gently points out that PCs will not have the means to do it. But there may be an option: if they manage to attract the attention of Gods, they may be persuaded to correct this oversight from long ago, particularly if their adversary is somewhat distracted. But that is theory.
I would definitely like to know, what the characters will do once the whole situation becomes clear to them - they can't kill it, and if it isn't fed, it will wake up, which is definitely not a desirable option. One thing could be to strenghten the ancient defenses, and send it into an even deeper sleep, so it will produce less trouble, and need less food... perhaps, only once per year?
Also, you should add the reaction of the cult, once the adventurers' meddling with their god becomes clear - will they attack , hire a killer, or try to persuade them of the necessity of what they are doing? Even in the dungeoneering before, they are an important source of information, and some are likely to be present below.
Much to like and much to ponder. Great work.
Yes, the eventual defeat of the entity was left out on purpose.
As a GM I would demand spectacular and ingenious ideas from my players if they were to defeat the sleeper, but that is just me. If some other GM wants to let his players hack and slash him to smithereens, that would be his decision.
Your theories are sound and certainly interesting. Alternate imprisonment could work too, IF the players could devise a prison good enough to contain it.
So the uber-evil entity isn't really an uber-evil entity, just some leftover relic of before the gods came. I like it a lots.
What intrigues me is the ever eventful chaos that surrounds this place. The fact that by doing bad things and causing the harm of an innocent they protect the rest of the world. I can see perfect reason behind someone trying to attaing immortality via becoming an undead only to sacrifice their soul to keep protecting the release of this being. Marvelous AG!
I don't have anything else to really say...
I was unable to proof read it and now notice a lot of repeated words. This will be fixed.
:) With the fix, the distracting things will be made clearer. I don't mind that thing can not be stopped, but I would of liked an exploration of various options.
It has all your usual hallmarks! Great structure, macabre Coldforged tone, great visuals, bizarre details, somber and grim mood and atmosphere. What else can I say, except great work! Lots of concepts that one can immediately 'steal' and insert into a campaign. Hide-Locusts, Clockwork Demon-Door, Maidens of Rape, the Caretaker particularly stand out. It gets boring telling you this, but all your work is good. Its that simple.
Please remove my name from the authorship asap! :D
One rambling PM with brainstorm gibberish does not constitute collaboration ;P
anyway...great, creepy dungeon!
I have to agree with Mur here... It's classic, awesome Coldforged, all the way
Edited: Many comments have been purged and/or edited for greater good and maintain the flow of comments. I apologize for the heavy handedness but, in this rare case, I found it warranted.
Mmm. It's all been said - In depth, vivid(Love that word), thought provoking.
BUMP!! This has a wealth of intriguing detail. Its worth a second and third read!
A dungeon full of macabre menace, with lots of unnerving details! Not an adventure that would be easily forgotten!
This was playtested in April 2007. The PCs hit the dungeon fast and silently, running through it until they reached the bottom. There was dodging of Golems and smashing of doors. Turning of undead and divine auras protecting against the insects.
When they reached K'Haun Ramahl they fought his tongue, but they were unsuccessful (their rolls too poor) in rescuing the girl they were looking for. They managed to escape the place in one piece and were quite pleased with the session.
Session score: 9/10
Holy smokes - awesomeness!
A truly magnificent piece...
Three years later, BUMP and HoH.
How in the name of χáος have I not voted on this? I love this submission! Whenever I think of Coldforged, this is the first thing that comes to mind. Every. Single. Time.
Dark, grim, terrible occurrences, and when the PCs finally figure it all out, they're forced to acknowledge the decision between allowing mass destruction and the occasional violation of an innocent.
I echo this and due to this bump will be rereading this again.