353 Death in the Well

Background Lore

Vermillion Town grieves two people. The first one, a young woman named Anna, went missing a week ago in strange circumstances. According to her father, Anna went out to water the fields next to the house. She must have visited the well a few hundred feet away from their house to draw some water for the vegetables they grow. But she never came back from the well. People searched for Anna that night and the two following days in the immediate area around town with no success. A hunter who joined the search claims that he could track her to the well, but her tracks disappeared then. He doesn’t know how she could have achieved this feat.

The second victim, a man named George, disappeared in the area around the well too. Fortunately, he had company at the time and there is a witness. A young lad named Ruji was with him when it happened. The witness is not in a stable state of mind at the moment, which is inconvenient for the veracity of his story. Ruji told the Townspeaker that he and George were around the well that evening. They often go there to drink ale and watch the people in nearby farms, he claimed. After two pints, they felt a sudden change in temperature. It went cold in an instant but there wasn’t any wind. They looked around and saw a faint black mist emerging from the well. It came out in a fluid-like manner and surrounded the well. It grew dark and coalesced into the shape of a woman in a black tattered dress. The two friends found themselves frozen in place unable to comprehend the apparition before them. The very nature of the ghost produced a mental paralysis in the two slightly drunk men. The women looked at them as with a gesture of insignificance. Ruji claims he could discern what the ghost thought of them at the moment, as if the spectral woman spoke, but Ruji assures she never broke the sepulchral silence.

The ghost saw them as nothing more than nourishment, like a wolf waiting to pounce on a lonely calf from the shadows. Still, they were unable to react in any way whatsoever. The ethereal figure moved like thunder and with a dead hand, grabbed George by the ankle and pulled him toward the well. George reacted and screamed for help. He turned to Roji and begged his friend to help him free his leg from the ghastly grasp of the ghost but Roji was frozen in place. George went down the well with a muffled scream and the silence took over once more.

Mr. Hanzo, the Townspeaker, doesn’t know what to make of Roji’s story. The poor man is so upset and unstable that the local apothecary has him sedated with a heavy dose of puppy extract. Mr. Hanzo knows that whatever it was, it came from the water well. He knows that the local guards and hunters can’t handle threats greater than a rogue bear or a pair of brigands. If the well is cursed, as many say now, sending men down there would serve no one.

The Truth

The current calamity was caused by an earthquake that struck Vermillion Town two weeks ago. The earthquake was mild and didn’t cause structural damage to the town buildings. For the populace, it was nothing more than a sudden scare that was forgotten in a few days. However, the seismic activity caused a cave-in in a grotto under the well. It turns out that an ancient crypt from an earlier civilization was adjacent to the natural cave system under the well. The earthquake connected both locations in two points underground (areas 7 and 6).

The ancient crypt is a prison of sorts for angry spirits that would never cross the thin fabric of the planes to find eternal rest. These irate ghosts are drowned in darkness and wish for nothing except to end life. They can sense living creatures and their nature drives them to extinguish life by all means necessary. While the arcane spirits are intelligent, they are bound to their desires and are impossible to reason with. They speak an old form of the Common tongue that any speaker can understand with a successful DC 14 Intelligence check. Dialogue with the ghosts is possible but no sort of deal or truce is of their interest. Since the passage to the crypt opened, the two undead spirits from area 9 have taken turns to explore further each time. They are responsible for the deaths of Anna and George.

The Bounty

Mr. Hanzo knows that mercenaries and adventurers come through Vermillion Town often. The settlement is located in a convenient location in the center of the kingdom and most travelers pass through and rest a few days before continuing their journeys. Hanzo’s men have posted several bounty posters around town to attract adventurers. The poster promises a fair reward for a group of strong adventurers willing to put their skins on the line for the future and prosperity of Vermillion Town. It instructs people to visit the Town Hall where Mr. Hanzo promises a reward of 200 gold pieces in exchange for exploring the well and getting rid of whatever looms down there. Recovering the remains of both Anna and George is appreciated by their grieving families.

The Well and the Crypt

The following descriptions of areas 1 through 11 correspond to the ancient crypts map.

Area Descriptions

Terrain. The underground cave features moist soil floor. The bones scattered around the place belong to small herbivores and other large vermin. The stone flooring in the crypt is cracked and eroded. Squares occupied partially by a rock or a piece of furniture are considered difficult terrain.

Light. The caves are in complete darkness. Some areas in the crypt are brightly lit by magical sconce lights. A continual flame spell in them produces warm light. Removing the sconce causes the flame to die permanently.

Smells and Sounds. The smell of moist soil from the caves combines with a dry smell of granite and death from the crypts. The sepulchral silence in the crypts is ominous.

1. The Well

The water well is located close to four townhouses, each with its small plantation. The stone well has two wooden posts and a horizontal beam with a rope and a bucket to draw water. A successful Wisdom (Survival) check reveals that a person was dragged from a point 10 feet away and into the well.

The well goes down 50 feet. The stone walls in the shaft have plenty of handholds. A character can climb down with a successful DC 12 Strength (Athletics) check. Failure by 5 or more means the character falls to the waterway below and takes 10 (3d6) bludgeoning damage.

2. Underground Pond

The water is still and has a depth of 15 feet in most places. This appears to be an underground water source that refills with rainwater. A successful DC 13 Intelligence (Investigation) check reveals that water pours from some cracks in the north wall. This suggests that the water body is also fed by a natural spring.

There is a mound of bones in the middle of the chamber. The bones are not human. They appear to be the remains of small herbivores like calves or goats. A successful DC 13 Wisdom (Medicine) check reveals hundreds of tiny bite marks in the bones. Whatever killed these creatures, it ate its way until nothing but dry bones were left. Success by 5 or more reveals that this is the work of centipedes or similar insects.

Treasure. There is a leather satchel with 15 gp and a potion of healing at the bottom of the pond.

3. North Cave

There is nothing in this cave except a small number of bones similar to those in area 2. The walls in this chamber bear many 4-inches-wide cracks that appear to go deep into the earth. When the adventurers explore this cave, six giant centipedes crawl out of the cracks an          d attack them. The simple-minded creature fight until slain.

4. Middle Cave

The dark cave sustained significant damage from the earthquake. Deep cracks on the walls climb to the ceiling of the chamber where chunks of rock have fallen to the moist floor below. A mound of bones near the south of the chamber looks different than other remains in the caves. A successful DC 13 Wisdom (Medicine) check reveals these are human bones that belonged to a young male. The boy was perhaps 12 or 14 years old. These remains are inconsistent with George’s description. These are the remains of Hurden, a kid who fell down the well eight years ago and found his way into the caves. The centipedes in the area killed the kid. The townsfolk looked for Hurden for weeks but he was never heard of again. A silver ring worth 6 gp is still in a phalanx bone. The boy’s father or Townspeaker Hanzo can identify the piece of jewelry.

5. South Cave

There is nothing in this cave except a small number of bones similar to those in area 2. The walls in this chamber bear many 4-inches-wide cracks that appear to go deep into the earth. When the adventurers explore this cave, four giant centipedes crawl out of the cracks and attack them. The simple-minded creature fight until slain.

6. Caved-In Chamber

This chamber sustained significant damage recently. There are rocks, pieces of ceiling, and destroyed stone furnishings in this room. Upon closer inspection, it appears that the chamber was a type of place of worship. Like a chapel or an altar but little remains of it to reveal more information.

7. Old Altar

This chamber sustained significant damage recently. The earthquake caused the northeastern corner of the room to collapse and reveal a passage to area 2. The walls are covered with eroded frescoes that depict poor souls behind bars sentenced to suffer eternal damnation. The old paintings are interrupted by wide cracks that reach the ceiling of the chamber. Another case of seismic activity might cause the place to collapse completely.

There is a broken altar by the east wall. An effigy sculpted in the wall depicts an obscure figure of a hooded man with a cross and a whip in his hands. A successful DC 19 Intelligence (Religion) check reveals this is Saint Addorune, patron of jails and eternal guard for those damned to eternal suffering. Effigies and chapels to this celestial entity are rare. Saint Addorune is only present where evil is trapped and should remain so for eternity. This reveals the purpose of the underground complex as a repository of evil.

The twin spirits from area 9 have spawned slave spirits to attack any trespassers. Six shadows emerge from the walls and attempt to kill or weaken the adventurers. They are joined by three giant centipedes that crawl out from the wall cracks.

Treasure. There is an old silver holy symbol with Saint Addorune under the rubble, it is worth 30 gp. Saint Addorune’s effigy on the east wall is worth 1,000 gp if removed. This is a work for a master carver and a team of assistants.

8. Crypt Entrance

The hallway continues west for thirty feet before it ends in a cave in. The ceiling in this section of the complex collapsed hundreds of years ago. Digging through the debris to find where it leads is beyond the scope of this module and left to the DM’s discretion.

Secret Door. A passive Perception score of 14 or higher reveals the outline of a movable section of the north wall. Pushing the wall causes it to slide inward on rails. This movement reveals a hidden passage to area 11.

9. Double Tomb

The eternal spirits of two twin wizards from a long-forgotten civilization were buried in the two sarcophagi in the room. The twin wizards (wraiths) know nothing but hate and thirst for murder. They wait in the shadows for the best moment to attack. Four shadows join them on the second round of combat.

The bodies of both Anna and George are crammed into the east sarcophagus, along with the old dusty remains of one of the twin wizards.

Trap. Removing the lid of the east sarcophagus triggers a salt acid trap. Any creature within 5 feet of the sarcophagus when the lid is moved must make a successful DC 15 Dexterity saving throw or take 17 (5d6) acid damage.

Secret Door. A passive Perception score of 16 or higher reveals the outline of a movable section of the east wall. Pulling the nearby sconce causes the wall to slide inward on rails. This movement reveals a hidden passage to area 10.

10. Secret Vault

This small chamber contains three wooden chests with the valuable possessions of the twin wizards at the time of their death. The items are considered to be cursed. It is inscribed in an old form of Common on the chests that whoever takes the treasure shall be damned for the rest of their living days. The exact nature of this curse or if it is even true at all is left to the DM’s discretion.

Treasure. There is a large assortment of gold and silver pieces worth 400 gp collectively. A set of four immovable rods, a wand of magic missile (level 1), and a +2 chainshirt with the twin wizards’ family seal embroidered in the chest.

11. Communal Tomb

Visiting this section of the underground complex is optional. There are five unmarked caskets in the middle of the room. The bodily remains of lesser followers of the twin wizards are buried here. Besides, there are two bookcases and three wooden chests lining the walls opposite to the entrance. Out of the five people buried here, three spirits have decayed into nothingness. The remaining two manifest in the form of specters and attempt to drain the life of anyone who enters this chamber.

The bookcases contain documentation and historic records of the time when the twin wizards performed their evil deeds. Most of the documents, books, and scrolls here have decayed beyond usefulness. A few stone tablets remain legible. They reveal the identity of the twin wizards and the fact that they were expected to remain in this location for eternity. Information about the cursed treasure in area 10 is here too as a cursory warning against greedy types.

One of the tablets reveals that destroying their undead manifestations does not end their imprisonment. The twin wizards will eventually reform and continue their existence in the crypt after 10 years. How the adventurers can purge the twin wizards’ spirits for good is not within their reach. This situation may well branch out into an expanded arch. The adventurers need to consult with a high-level priest to know more.

Treasure. The middle chest contains 100 gp in a leather pouch. The other two chests have poison dart traps (see below).

Trap. The east and west chests have poison dart traps. Opening the unlocked lid triggers the trap. A single creature standing directly in front of the chest within 30 feet must make a successful DC 15 Dexterity saving throw, taking 21 (6d6) poison damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.


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