Background Lore

Be careful what you wish for. Or so the saying goes. Sometimes, dreams-come-true are not exactly what we expected. Abbot Mihen is an example of this. He was presented with an opportunity to change his stars and he didn’t hesitate to take it. The problem was that he didn’t stop to think about whom he was dealing with, or what were the conditions for accepting said help.

Abbot Mihen has been a part of the religious community all his life. He was born in the city, and religious authorities know him since he was a young boy and an acolyte. Mihen was always dutiful and responsible for church duties. He didn’t find many obstacles to become an important member of the divine community. Mihen grew up and most of the religious folk in the city saw him become who he is today.

However, Abbot Mihen had the misfortune of running into a demonic presence. While leafing through various ancient tomes at the library, he came across a small book strapped in black leather bindings. The abbot was going over a section in the library where they keep magic tomes and some other forbidden papers. He had the authorization to through all these thanks to his reputation with the clergy. He was curious about some religious debates and discussions about the faith. He thought he could find some answers here. The book seemed to be empty; its pages were all white. But just when Mihen was about to shut it close, a series of delicate and sophisticated words and letters appeared on the book’s pages, forming words. The dark presence in the book was a demon named Thar’idan, who was cursed and bound to live inside the book for the rest of eternity. It felt the abbot’s soul and could almost read his mind as if it were an open book. The demon noticed the human had a weak heart and an even weaker mind.

Mihen thought he had found a miraculous diary, a booklet sent from the gods for him. The words in the book were replies for anything Mihen said or thought. The book answered in the same fashion every time the abbot spoke to it. At first, the demon made Mihen believe the book had sacred properties, and that it should be kept a secret, lest it would have to disappear. It was easy for the demon to manipulate such a naïve and gentle soul.

Day by day, Mihen became more and more obsessed with the book. He spoke to it all the time, asking for its take on matters. After several months of dependence, the abbot started losing the ability to make decisions for himself and would seek the book’s opinion for anything. It was then when Thar’idan put his plan into practice. The demon needed to feed on mortals’ sorrow and fear. Accumulating enough of these emotions would grant him the possibility to free himself from the book.

Thar’idan offered Mihen the time and power to become the most respected religious authority in the city, and then the world. The demon promised the abbot the ability to perform infinite masses and religious ceremonies. Through the fine ink that appeared on the pages, the demon assured Mihen he would charm the faithful and that his followers would never leave the church. His delusion got worse day by day; the abbot could not see this was all a surreal fantasy. Mihen replied saying that he would love to have such powers, and he also said that he knew of a place where they could make all this come true. An old temple underground where a cult was arrested red-handed some months past. After describing the place to Thar’idan, the demon even dared say that doing all this and restoring the place would be a nice way to hallow that temple again and erase the evil memories from it. Of course, the demon only said this to motivate Mihen even further.

Mihen fell for it. His innocence prevented him from reading between the lines or perhaps, to grasp the literal meaning of what he desired. Be careful what you wish for. Or so the saying goes. At first, Mihen had to spend some time to adapt the place and refurbish it. Mihen consulted the demon for everything and basically, he just did as the demon asked.

It took about a month for Mihen to readapt the temple. By that time, there was almost no trace of his former self. The demon controlled everything he did through the book. The more Mihen communicated with Thar’idan, the more charmed he was. People stopped hearing about Mihen. The popular abbot who whose appearance was common in certain circles became a gossip.

A fortnight after the restoration, Mihen began the preparations for his endless mass. He went with half a dozen people he knew well and asked them to follow him. They were so surprised and glad to see him that they accepted without any suspicions. They hesitated a little when they approached the abandoned temple underground but Mihen was kind and convincing. When they entered, Mihen’s followers calmed down because they saw what the abbot had done to the place. And they were charmed by the magnificence and magical aura in the ceremonial chamber. The abbot had them sit and he proceeded to perform the endless mass.

Thar’idan asked Mihen to draw a magic circle on the floor. This set of runes activates a demonic ritual to slow the passage of time in an area. When Mihen commenced the religious ceremony, the ritual started as well. Time slowed a hundred times compared to the exterior of the ceremonial chamber. And thus, the endless mass began. The magic circle has a secondary function. It enchants those in the area with a horrible kind of immortality. The people attending the mass cannot leave the place. Their mouths are bound to pray for the rest of eternity, and they shall keep their seats forever.

It took little time for the poor people to realize their situation. After praying for an hour or so, they realized they could not move or leave their seats. The abbot couldn’t stop preaching. And the worst part was that even if they were aware of this, they could not scream for help, nor fight it. They were trapped in this monotonous living nightmare. Thar’idan basked in the humans’ fear and felt its forces come back little by little. Its plan had worked perfectly. It would take much time but as long as the mass continued, he would gather more strength until one day he could free himself.

The news in the city was that some people went missing, and no one heard from Abbot Mihen again. The city watch never found any leads or information regarding the missing priest, and some months after the incident, they forgot about it. One-hundred years have passed, and abbot Mihen still performs a never-ending mass to his faithful followers. For the abbot and the attendees, only a year has come and gone. But that time is more than enough for their bodies to decay. Their mortal lives parted from this world to welcome an immortal existence as a spawn of the dark. But even in death, their decomposed bodies still go on with the mass. Be careful what you wish for…

Adventure Ideas

The adventurers come across this abandoned temple when exploring the city. They do not know much about it. They only heard a tip about the place. They say that it is haunted. Just before entering, they hear a voice in their heads that says: “Approach, I’m about to break from a lifetime prison, you shall be my first meal…”. This is Thar’idan taunting the adventurers to come to find it.

The Duke in the city needs to refurbish an abandoned temple for political purposes. He sent some men already to assess the cost of remodeling it but it was not possible. The temple has several locations well locked, and weird, frightening sounds can be heard from outside the rooms. The Duke orders his men to hire a group of sellswords or mercenaries to get rid of the possible threat immediately. The Duke offers 75 gold to each participant.

An old wizard researcher meets the adventurers at the tavern. He explains that he detected a strong aura of transmutation magic coming from an abandoned temple. He wants to go verify what is causing such power but he doesn’t want to go alone. He offers 15 gold to each and the possibility to keep anything they find.

Area Descriptions

The following descriptions of areas 1 through 10 correspond to the underground temple in the city.

Location. The temple underground can be accessed through a tunnel under a trapdoor at the end of a cul-de-sac in a poor neighborhood in town. The place is believed to have been a sort of ancient crypt.

Terrain. The floor tiles in the temple are old. All the rooms show cracks and loose tiles on walls and floors.

Doors. The doors are considerably newer than the rest of the building. The oak doors have high-quality locks. Doors marked with a padlock icon (see map) can be opened with a successful DC 17 Dexterity check made by a character using thieves’ tools.

Light. The rooms and halls in the temple are lit by magical fire on crystal sconces. If the crystal sconce is broken or removed, the fire loses its magical properties and dies out.

Smells and Sounds. Unlocked areas are silent and humid. The smell of rot and putrefaction trespasses the wooden doors and can be perceived from area 5. Grunts and mumbles of the undead praying and continuing with the mass can also be heard.

Traps. Thar’idan took good care to protect the mass from undesired interruptions. He ordered Mihen to lock all doors with high-quality locks. Plus, all doors with a padlock (see map) have a trap. A passive Perception score of 16 or higher reveals the presence of any of the traps. A character using thieves’ tools can disarm any of the traps with a successful DC 15 Dexterity check.

1. Entryway

The first chambers in the temple are not locked. The main door is open. This has caused many burglars and bums to enter and see what they can salvage through the years. The available areas have been sacked many times. From the entrance, an empty hallway breaks into three different directions. From this part of the temple, only a faint humming can be heard coming from the north.

2. Foyer

The good condition of the double door gives a noticeable contrast to the mess in the room. Remnants and pieces of wood are all there is from the former chairs and tables that once were here. Four pillars that also show signs of wear and tear cast lonely shadows on the wrecked furniture.

3. Dining Room

This area was used to relax and eat or drink tea while reading something. Chunks of wood and planks are scattered all over the floor. An unlocked door to the north leads to a long hallway (area 7).

4. Storage

There is nothing of value here. Mihen used this area of the temple as a storage room. Now there is nothing but old and moldy remains of wood.

5. Library

The remains of a bookshelf and other wooden furniture lay scattered on the ground of this chamber. To the west, a 20-feet-long corridor leads to a locked door. To the north, unlocked, is the first of the two double doors that take to area 9. A character using detect magic can perceive an aura of transmutation magic coming from the ceremonial chamber (area 9).

6. Abbot’s Studio

This door is locked and trapped. Fire jets burn all those who try to open it. Touching the doorknob activates the trap. If the trap wasn’t deactivated, any creature standing at least 15 feet from the door must succeed on a DC 15 Dexterity saving throw, taking 13 (4d6) fire damage on a failed save or half as much damage on a successful one. The fire bursts to the exterior of the room and doesn’t damage any of the room’s contents. The door, however, remains locked. The fire jets replenish their oil in an hour.

A large bookshelf and a desk feature countless documents and papers. A green carpet under the desk decorates the place. A successful DC 14 Intelligence (Investigation) check reveals the presence of a small book with a black leather cover. It is placed on the table, under a couple of scrolls and papers. If opened, Thar’idan uses the pages of the book to chat with whoever finds it. The demon attempts to convince the adventurers to enter the Ceremonial Chamber (area 9) and take the book with them. Any creature interacting with the book must make a suc­cessful DC 16 Wisdom saving throw or become the target of a suggestion spell. On a failed save, the creature takes the book, moves toward area 9, and tries to open the doors, activating the trap in the process. If no one finds the book or falls for the demon’s deception, Thar’idan anger manifests in a wraith. The evil spirit attacks all living things around.

Treasure. The chest contains a couple of leather pouches with gold. Fine fabrics and tunics are folded and stored in a nice leather bag. The smell of expensive spices and herbs can be felt when a small wooden box is opened. All this has a collective value of 158 gold pieces.

7. Corridor

This large hallway is used to enter the Ceremonial Chamber (area 9) from the side. It formerly had a small wooden table with a mirror on the eastern wall but they were wrecked or stolen.

Secret Door. A passive Perception score of 16 or higher reveals a loose brick on the west wall. Pressing the brick activates a sliding mechanism that causes a section of the wall to move sideways and reveal a secret path to area 9. The abbot used this is the entrance before commencing the endless ceremony.

8. Shrine

Thar’idan asked Mihen to build this shrine before starting the endless mass. The demon thought this would be another good measure to keep intruders at bay. The stone pedestal holds an old relic on top. A character using detect magic can perceive an aura of illusion magic coming from the shrine. Any creature at least 20 feet from the shrine must make a suc­cessful DC 16 Wisdom saving throw or become frightened for one minute. The creature must use its movement to get as far as possible from the shrine.  At the end of its turn, the creature can make a saving throw, on a success, the effect ends for that creature. This saving throw is made with disadvantage if the creature is still inside the temple. If a creature’s saving throw is successful, the creature is immune to the shrine’s effect for the next 24 hours.

9. Ceremonial Chamber

The south entrance of this area is trapped. Poisoned darts fly from east and west of the walls. The trap is triggered when the double door is manipulated either to open it or to pick the lock. If the trap wasn’t deactivated, any creature standing between both sets of double doors south of area 9 must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or take 1 (1d3-1) piercing damage and be poisoned for one hour.

The eastern door is trapped as well. A hot metal plate on the door bursts outwards and hits whoever is in front of it. If the trapped wasn’t deactivated, any creature that touches the door must make a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw, taking 19 (6d6) bludgeoning and fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. An hour after the activation of the trap, it resets as a new metal plate materializes on the surface of the door.

Rows of pillars with magic fire sconces flank the chamber. This creates an effect that keeps the center of the room bright, while both sides opposite to the sconces are kept in dim light. A strong aura of transmutation magic fills the room. Time passes a hundred times slower inside this chamber. Abbot Mihen stands by the tabernacle. Six individuals sit and listen patiently.

Although their bodies continue with their ceremony as if nothing happened, their faces show twisted grimaces of fear and pain. Their decomposed, maggoty bodies only react until they are spoken to or interacted with and the mass is interrupted. When the mass stops, the abbot and the attendees give a strong sigh, as if relieved, only to be muted by an ear-piercing shriek of agony and pain. After their tantrum, the abbot (ghast) and the attendees (ghouls) attack with claws and fangs.

The moment the abbot and the rest of the people finally die, Thar’idan obtains the final piece of strength that he needed. The tormented souls of the people suffered for a long time, feeding the demon’s soul. Dying as a vestige of the humans they once were marked the pinnacle of their suffering. This helped Thar’idan break from its book prison. The shadow demon emerges from the pages of the book and unleashes its fury on the adventurers.

DM Note. When the demon dies, the transmutation magic in the circle stops functioning, and the passing of time inside the temple returns to normal. If the adventurers confronted the abbot and the demon inside this chamber, when they come out, a whole day has passed. The time spent inside the room is multiplied by a hundred.

10. Abbot’s Office

The room looks neat and organized.  Two identical busts decorate the north and south walls. There is a large bookshelf packed with documents and scrolls. A wooden chest lays beside a large table. A successful DC 14 Intelligence (Investigation) check reveals the abbot’s diary in one of the shelves. The book ‘s entries are dated, and they describe the day the abbot found the book, a hundred years ago. The abbot describes the book as holy, and he feels blessed for having found it. The last entry of the diary has different handwriting though, and it reads: “Everything is ready now, once I start with the mass, it will only be a matter of time for my return… Good thing, time is the only thing I have”.

Treasure. The chest contains two rubies, one sapphire, and a set of decorative quartz pieces. There are two potions of healing, and superior quality church implements such as a golden chalice, or a silver candle holder. All this has a collective value of 236 gold pieces.

 

 

 

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