An effective to preserve knowledge and wisdom is through written documentation. Historians, cartographers, and researchers must put into paper what they know, lest their lifework remains unnoticed. Librarians and keepers of ancient tomes understand the seriousness of this practice. So much so that many historiographers and chroniclers become more attached to ancient treatises and theses than to other people. Such is the power of knowledge.
Devon is one of those history-savvies. She is cunning and astute. Very young, she delved into the arts of magic with the only purpose of expanding her horizons. Teleportation fascinated her. The ability to disappear in plain sight, causing one’s particles to travel through the fabric of the Planes of Existence, and then reappear at a different location was tantalizing for her. She studied teleportation portals for decades. In the search of a larger influence in the city and her surroundings, she founded her own guild, “The Insightful Scholars”.
There is an old library in the city. Under it, Devon and her guild built their sanctuary for knowledge, as they like to call it. The Insightful Scholars have been around for a couple of years and Devon used these facilities to store the most important findings of her life. She also transformed the guild’s premises into a training ground for her teleportation circles. All members of the guild seek her guidance and learn from her. The teleportation devices can be used by anyone, but it was Devon who created them.
One day, Devon stumbled upon a strange artifact while exploring some old ruins. Inside the dusty vestiges of an ancient civilization, she heard a deep, mystifying voice inside her head. Mesmerized by this apparent telepathic message, she closed her eyes and allowed the messenger to sink in. The voice guided her through the underground until she found a hoary urn. She could not help lifting the clay container and admire it. She stored it in a chest and took it back to her guild for further study.
Little did Devon know, the antediluvian artifact had a connection with the Feywild itself. She placed the urn inside the guild’s premises. Devon’s soul fell victim to this otherworldly corruption. Her obsession grew the longer she stayed near it. It drove her mad, and her madness became contagious. The other scholars were also corrupted by the ever more tenebrous and devilish energy inside the urn. Their only desire now was to acquire enough insight into the occult nature of the urn to line their brains with eyes. Only then would they understand the underlying secret of existence.
The insistent gnawing in the back of their minds broke their very souls. They defiled the guild under the library, and some of them thought it wise to spread their pungent disease outside, only to meet terror in the eyes of those who saw them.
Talks of insane scholars reached Marjorie’s ears, duchess of the city. She also received news about city guards who lost their lives investigating the old library. Looking to avoid any more losses, the duchess ordered her men to hire a group of sellswords and wipe out the place and everyone in it. Fearing the creation of an evil cult, she offers 75 gold pieces to each of the brave bounty hunters willing to take the job.
The steps become considerably filthier as they reach the long corridor. Torches on sconces light the way. A strong smell of sweat and blood fills the air. Thumping and hammering sounds come from the rooms midway. Recent scratch marks on the floor and walls reveal the grim nature of the place.
The 10-feet-wide corridor has two single doors north and a double door south. All of them are closed, but only the double door is locked. A character using thieves’ tools can pick the lock with a successful DC 13 Dexterity check.
Secret Door. A passive Perception score of 14 or higher reveals a loose brick on the wall that can be pressed to activate a sliding door mechanism. The secret passage leads to area 2.
2. Secret Storage
The small storage room is in disarray as if someone spent hours looking for something but failed. A successful DC 14 Intelligence (Investigation) check reveals some of the pieces of wood on the floor have bloodstains. They were used as weapons.
3. and 4. Bedrooms
The furniture in both rooms is shattered. The filthy bedsheets bear significant dry red stains. A motionless humanoid shape lies on the floor under each of the ruined beds. A strong iron smell fills the room.
Removing the blankets reveals the corpses of three city guards. A successful DC 12 Wisdom (Medicine) check reveals they have been dead for about three days. The corpses sustain stab wounds and several bumps and bruises, most likely made with improvised clubs from broken furniture.
5. Trap Chest
A large wooden chest lies still in the middle of an otherwise empty chamber. The torches’ flickering light gives the chest an eerie look.
The chest is a trap. Opening the chest activates a glyph of warding spell. When triggered, the glyph erupts with magical energy in a 20-foot-radius sphere centered on the glyph. Any creature standing in the area must make a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw, taking 22 (5d8) fire damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. The explosion destroys all of its contents. A passive Perception score of 16 or higher reveals the chest is a trap because of some unusual hinges on the sides of it. A detect magic spell reveals the presence of abjuration magic. A dispel magic spell nullifies the glyph and allows a character to open the chest safely.
Treasure. The chest contains expensive linens and fabrics, a fancy set of silverware, and one gold chalice. This treasure has a collective value of 125 gold pieces.
Upon opening the double doors, four men dressed in ragged robes appear to be hypnotized by something on a broken table. Their eyes are swollen and larger than normal. Portions of their faces show missing skin and decay. Greenish fronds and leaves sprout from their facial orifices.
The wooden tables, chairs, and shelves in the room are all broken and shattered. The whole room show signs of fight and struggle. Four cultists attack all those who enter the room. They cannot be reasoned with and appear to be possessed by an uncontrollable rage. A small flower pot on the table seems to be the reason for the men’s stoic stances. The pot has human fingers pointing upwards. A crude and blasphemous representation of a blooming flower. A successful DC 12 Intelligence (Investigation) check reveals the fingers belong to the four men.
There is a teleportation circle in the southeastern corner of the room. The magical runes on it produce an almost imperceptible humming sound. The central rune is larger than the rest around it. It represents the circle with which it is connected. Any creature stepping on the area of the circle is teleported to area 7.
7. Fore Room
Three corrupted scholars moan in the room. They are stuck to the walls, vines and twigs attach their bodies to the cold stone. They show more serious signs of decay and leafy corruption; their limbs appear to have transformed into tree branches. Their deformed bodies twist and wriggle with unrelenting savagery. Their eyes are just empty sockets where more rotten leaves sprout. They are covered in so much foliage that their human clothes are barely noticeable.
Creatures teleported to this room appear on the circle. The central rune is identical to the one in area 6. The door to exit this small cubicle is not locked. Three corrupted scholars (vine blights) attack all living beings.
Four sets of armor stand still by the walls. The rusty and dusty pieces of iron shine dimly under the torches’ light between them.
Devon had this room filled with these armors in case the guild was ever raided or invaded. The members of the guild and herself are the only ones who know the magic word to prevent the soulless guardians from awakening. Two animated armors come to life if the magic word is not pronounced upon entering the room. The animated armors attack any creature on sight.
Secret Door. A passive Perception score of 16 or higher reveals the north sconce is, in fact, a lever. Pulling down the lever causes a section of the wall to slide aside and reveal a passage to area 9.
9. Secret Teleportation Circle
A single teleportation circle dominates the small alcove. Stepping on the circle teleports the user to area 11.
10. A Way to the Underground
The teleporting circle in this room features yet another rune on it. Stepping on the circle teleports the user to area 12.
11. Hidden Treasure Room
The smell of blood and sweat from the upper levels is absent here. A single torch lights the room. A few wooden planks lie scattered on the floor around a wooden chest by the south wall.
Treasure. The chest contains various precious stones and jewels. A couple of leather pouches have silver and gold pieces. The collective value of the chest’s contents is 215 gold pieces. Additionally, a small compartment on the side stores two potions of healing.
A strong scent of mud and wet dirt pierces the nostrils. The eroded stone flooring gives place to hard and cold soil. A reminder that the teleportation circles make the current location impossible to pinpoint.
If a character examines the natural stone walls and their structure, a successful DC 15 Intelligence check reveals this level of the complex is several hundred feet deeper underground. The cavern walls are uneven and dark.
13. The Urn
A mystifying clay urn beset on a large flat rock pedestal awaits where the darkness holds dominion. Around it, leaves and foliage cover the ground. A stinging smell of leafage and frondescence mixed with blood and rotten flesh prevails in the room. A humanoid creature made of vines and sprigs stands beside the urn in a solemn posture.
Devon and her poor scholars are beyond salvation. The corruption has spread to the point of no return. Approaching the urn unleashes her wrath. Devon (dryad) raises her hands and six corrupted scholars rise from the branches and leaves on the ground. Three needle blights, two twig blights, and two vine blights protect Devon and the urn.
Devon starts the battle with both barkskin and shillelagh spells activated.
14. Training Grounds
This is where Devon and her scholars used to practice their magic. They chose to do so in this ample and almost empty area to avoid possible injuries or accidents. The splintered chunks of wood and planks on the floor show burnt marks. The teleporting circle by the east wall leads to area 15.
15. Trapped Corridor
This 35-feet-long corridor has the arrival circle on the west and an exit circle to the east. Two floor tiles are part of a trap’s trigger mechanism. The first pressure-sensitive tile (see map) causes tiny sockets on the walls to open and throw poison darts. Any creature stepping on the marked tile must make a DC 14 Constitution saving throw. The creature takes 7 (2d6) piercing damage and becomes poisoned on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one and doesn’t become poisoned.
The second pressure-sensitive tile (see map) gives in to reveal a pit trap. Any creature stepping on the trap must make a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw to avoid falling, taking 10 (3d6) bludgeoning damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. The pit is 15 feet deep.
Both traps can be detected with a passive Perception score of 14 or higher or a successful DC 14 Wisdom (Perception) check. A character using thieves’ tools can disarm any of the traps with a successful DC 14 Dexterity check.
16. Devon’s Study
A soothing calm and silence engulf the room. It is a notable contrast to the rest of the corruption-soaked guild. Two large wooden chests and two packed bookcases shine under the quiet warm light of the single torch. Dozens of research papers, old tomes, scrolls, and numerous studies crowd the shelves.
Devon’s studio has evidence of what happened when she brought the urn for the first time. Her journal shows various entries about her research. The first pages describe how she felt hypnotized by it. She details how the otherworldly presence influenced her, yet she did not feel afraid. The rest of her research log becomes more and more incomprehensible. Her grammar and syntax stop making sense and even her handwriting looks different. The last pages of the journal have dry leaves between them. The last intelligible passages all read “I must line my brain with eyes…”
Treasure. The chests contain mostly coins. Sophisticated herbs, balms, teas, and salts are also stored here. Everything has a collective value of 250 gold pieces. A successful DC 13 Intelligence (Investigation) check reveals the presence of a spellbook and other magic scrolls hidden among all the papers and parchments. Devon’s spellbook contains the following spells: alarm, detect magic, shield, arcane lock, knock, shatter, dispel magic, glyph of warding, tongues, arcane eye, locate creature, and teleportation circle.
Terrain. The underground complex is dirty and disheveled. Dry leaves, mud, and twigs become more present the deeper inside.
Doors. All doors are made of wood. The doors are also covered with vines and ivy.
Light. Magical torches with continual flame spells on sconces light some of the rooms.
Smells and Sounds. Wet dirt and blood are prevalent scents in the corrupted guild.
The Urn. The urn loses its power when Devon is defeated. The devilish presence transferred itself to Devon and The Insightful Scholars. There is no trace of magic in it. It becomes indistinguishable from a simple clay container.