Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Nanodungeon: The Mountain Shrine

The Mountain Shrine

High atop a forbidding mountain pass, at the end of a switchbacked, twisting trail not much more than a goat-track, sits a small stone shrine of weathered white granite. On some mornings the wan sunlight glints off its weathered walls like an ancient beacon ...

Approaching the shrine is as eventful -- or uneventful -- as the DM wishes (with random or planned encounters as appropriate). The shrine itself stands on a small plateau-like clearing with patchy grass; this close, it is revealed that the structure is intact, though the wooden leaves of its double doors have silvered with weathering. Though unmarked on the maplet, two statues of greened copper -- humans in archaic clothing, horned and crowned with grain tassels and pomegranates -- flank the doors. A carving of stylized horns, three feet tall, juts from the earth some sixty feet from the entrance.

Scattered throughout the clearing are weathered human skeletons and bits of rotted clothing. The deceased appear to have fallen in combat, their bones broken and crushed. Searching the bodies turns up 100gp of miscellaneous ornaments and charms used by the natives of the region, some quite old.

Approaching the doors of the shrine causes the statues to animate and attack [AC4; HD 2+2; hp 15, 15; Mv 120' (40'); Att 1 fist; Dam 1-8 +2; Sv F2; Mr 12; immune to fire, electricity, nonmagical weapons; XP 35] until there are no living opponents or the statues are destroyed.

Within the shrine stand two additional statues; though armed with bow and spear, these statues are inanimate and will not attack. They are also uncorroded, with gilded details and eyes of milky amber (90gp each eye). The far wall of the shrine glows as if with an inner light -- the wall is a glittering mosaic of crystal and gold and red glass depicting the stylized forms of a sun disc radiating fire and a solar bull.

Before the mosaic are two marble altars. The altar on the left still bears faint, decayed remnants of some form of food or produce sacrifice; the altar on the right, however, bears the still-bound form of a human skeleton -- and the dark stains on the altar leave no doubt as to the cause of death. This is, however, not the only corpse within the shrine.

Immediately before the sacrificial altar lies a crumpled second skeleton, still dressed in robes that crumble at a touch; this skeleton wears a slim golden circlet (60gp) and two wristlets of amethyst beads and gold seals (126gp each), with a heavy ring of platinum ornamented with black iron -- gryphon-daimons bearing tribute to a seated ruler -- on the left hand (350gp). In the bony fingers is still clutched a mirror-bright dagger mounted in a gold-washed bronze hilt, its quillions and pommel-nut inset with ivory (a dagger +1, casts bless once a day).

Within fifteen feet of the doors of the shrine lies a second skeleton, also wearing decaying robes and wristlets of carnelian beads and agate sealstones (85gp each). This individual appears to have collapsed mid-stride on their way to the doors, dropping and shattering a large porcelain ewer and liberally staining the floor with the blood once contained within it.

If the PCs spend more than ten minutes within the shrine, or disturb any of the bodies, an akh [AC6; HD 5; hp 38; Mv 120' (40'); Att 2 fists; Dam 1-6/1-6 + Str drain; may curse or bless; Sv C6; Mr 10; immune to nonmagical weapons; XP 550] will rise from the sacrificed youth. Resolving itself into the shape of a noble young man in archaic clothing and golden ornaments, the akh will demand to know whether the plague-curse has been lifted.

If it is not offered positive evidence or believable argument -- and if an offer to test truth is made, the akh will take memories from the PCs that show the health of the native countryside -- the akh will attack. If defeated, it will reform twenty-four hours later and hunt out the PCs, continuing the cycle of questioning and attack until satisfied that the sacrifice was (apparently) successful; then it will fade, never to return, after blessing the PCs.


eliyes said...

And of course, after the outside had statues attacking and skeletons inert, the adventurers will be focusing more on the inside statuary than the dead in terms of what could be a threat. Meanwhile, whether the plague-curse was lifted is up to the DM, although the priests in the shrine certainly didn't escape it, from the looks of things. If the adventurers offer their memories of the countryside, and the countryside is full of healthy people who are descended from foreign invaders, say -- if the curse wasn't lifted -- will the akh plague the adventurers forever? (Pun not entirely intentional.)

taichara said...

If the countryside is healthy, that's good enough for the akh -- he's not omnipotent or a godling, he's a dead gentleman.

On the other hand, if an enterprising DM wanted to say that there was a "deception" like that involved and the akh somehow found out ... well ... ;3