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This short dungeon-crawl adventure assumes there is a valuable family heirloom and magic item in a family mausoleum. The described item is a magical sword but it can be replaced by any important campaign item or a tome of priceless content. The object’s evil influence over the bodily remains in the underground complex has caused some of them to become undead. This is a tier 1 adventure.
The Darlee family is no more. They used to be one of the wealthiest estates in the area for generations. It all came to an untimely end thirty years ago when the kingdom went to war. Lord Darlee died in battle as well as three of his sons. The only remaining male heir died a few months later from a chronic disease and that was the end of their family name. Lord Darlee’s daughters survived the temporal crisis but they lost their last names and adopted that of their husbands.
In time, most of the Darlee Estate’s wealth was divided among the daughters’ families and nothing remained of the old family but their resting places. The most important members of the family, such as Lord Darlee himself, were buried in a spacious mausoleum in the city’s graveyard.
The mausoleum contains more than just the bodily remains of a few men. Some personal effects, valuable objects, and other treasures found their way into the tomb. Most important of all, Dawnpiercer, was buried in Lord Darlee’s coffin. It is the blade he rode to battle with. It is said that the sword is an heirloom that has been passed down from patriarch to patriarch for at least nine generations. Lord August Darlee inherited it from his father and used it in battle many times. There are tales and legends about this sword that range from the mundane to the fantastical.
Regardless of the alleged magical qualities that the sword may have, no one can deny that the longsword is a fabled weapon of great historical value.
The Search Begins
The sword Dawnpiercer is a magical blade capable of dealing damage to resilient creatures such as vampires or lycanthropes. Acquiring such a weapon may tilt the odds in favor of the wielder in the ultimate quest to vanquish an ancient evil or fantastical creature. It is well documented that a man named August Darlee was the last owner of the blade but he died thirty years ago in the war.
The search of Lord Darlee’s whereabouts leads to the old family’s retainer who still lives. The retired accountant and steward has a copy of the inventory of items within the family crypt and can confirm that the sword is supposed to be inside Lord Darlee’s coffin. The decrepit man gives this information willingly but expects a reward for his cooperation. He explains that Lord Darlee’s eldest son, Robert Darlee, had a gilded mechanical watch that was placed inside his coffin. The retainer wants to recover this watch from the tomb. He explains it is only a gilded trinket with little value.
The sword Dawnpiercer is a sentient sword of evil alignment. It cannot speak but its influence in the undisturbed tomb has grown over the decades. It has caused the reanimation of some corpses and attracted other incorporeal undead into the tomb. The sword’s only objective is to kill. It has become exhausted and impatient after thirty years. Its only objective is to attract attention to the tomb. In time, someone is bound to find the sword and bring it back to the surface. The following descriptions of areas 1 through 10 correspond to the underground tomb map.
Terrain. The mausoleum has seen constant maintenance over the decades up to two years ago. The granite flooring is in good condition. The area around the surface building in the graveyard features grassy fields and several apple trees.
Doors. The heavy stone doors mounted on well-oiled rails are all locked. A dexterous individual may use fine tools to bypass the doors’ mechanism and open them without the key (DC 16 Thieves’ Tools).
Light. Some areas in the dungeon feature torches on wall-sconces with continual flame spells. Removing the torch causes it to lose its magic after 1d4 minutes. All other areas are in darkness.
Smells and Sounds. Patriarch Darlee’s encasing produces intoxicating gas that smells like coal. It can be detected as far as area 8. The smell of death and decay near undead creatures causes a feeling of unease and disgust. A low-pitched hum comes from area 10 and can be detected anywhere in the tomb.
The city’s graveyard is a subsection of a larger park. It is a large grassy and forested area marked with gravestones and the occasional mausoleum. It is a place of peace where time appears to slow to a standstill. People mourn their loved ones, bring flowers and food, and take long walks across the park. The old Darlee family mausoleum is a squat stone structure with a short staircase. Over the entrance, the statue of an angel holding a lyre looks up to the sky. Its visage portrays melancholy and thoughtfulness.
The interior of the mausoleum is lavishly decorated with marble and onyx. Bas-reliefs on the walls depict well-known scenes from the sacred scriptures of the local religion. Most of them remain in great condition despite the chamber being partially open to the elements.
Three stone enclosures stand by each of the walls but they are only decorative. They are empty except for the east one with the secret entrance (see below). Each of the coffins’ walls has a row of scripted runes on them. A comprehend languages spell reveals that it spells the names of the last nine patriarchs of the Darlee family.
Secret Door. An observant creature (passive Perception 14) might notice that the bottom of the east coffin is a layer of painted wood. Removing it reveals an opening into a descending staircase. The secret passage leads to area 3.
3. Tomb’s Chapel
This is the largest chamber in the underground complex. It is a chapel dedicated to the worship of the sun god. A ritual stone lies by the east wall at the far end of the room. Judging from the inscriptions on the stone, it dates back at least a hundred years. The north and south pillars feature carved portraits of the Darlee patriarchs. The depictions are rather crude and imperfect but such was the craftsmanship of the tomb builders.
The reanimated corpses from nearby graves have gathered in this room with no way to access the later parts of the tomb. They came from a dug-out hole on the north wall. Three ghouls, four skeletons, and two shadows attack the adventurers as soon as they become aware of their presence.
Secret Door. An observant creature (passive Perception 16) might notice that a section of the east wall is colored slightly different and is made from a lighter material. There’s a small keyhole one foot from the ground. Using the copper key found in area 10 is the only means to open this door. The secret passage leads to area 4.
4. Secret Vault
The vault contains two wooden chests in awful condition and a wooden table with some items on it. Both chests used to have poison needle traps but they have decayed and become harmless. A purple-tinted stain on the floor beneath each chest is all that remains of the otherwise deadly poison.
Treasure. The chests contain the following: 2500 gp, 4200 sp, 1200 cp, three rubies (120 gp each), two diamonds (300 gp each), and a masterwork set of chain armor with the Darlee sigil on the front.
5. Family Crypt
This sixty-foot-long hallway is interrupted by three alcoves per side that contain a single stone coffin each. Each of the coffins has a silver plaque engraved with a name. The remains of the six Darlee family members have been reanimated as skeletons (they have 20 HP each). The skeletons can dump their coffin lids to the side with a single movement and attack unsuspecting visitors. A lone wraith awaits in the shadows near the ceiling to attack when the adventurers are distracted by the skeletons.
The six stone coffins are described from the northeast one clockwise as follows:
- Giordo Darlee, year 942
- Mirdanno Darlee, year 942
- Robert Darlee, year 942
- Vieris Darlee, year 911
- Travin Darlee, year 884
- Cardoni Darlee, year 867
Secret Door. An observant creature (passive Perception 16) might notice that a section of the west wall behind one of the coffins is made from a lighter material. Pushing the wall causes it to slide outward. The secret passage leads to area 7.
Treasure. The six coffins contain a few trinkets and valuables. Collectively, they contain 224 gp, 651 sp, four emeralds (55 gp each), a pack of gold thread (30gp), a gilded mechanical watch, and a matching pair of silver necklaces and tiara.
6. Crushing Wall Trap
This room is meant to stop would-be robbers from trespassing any further. To avoid this trap, a visitor would have to find access to area 7 from the family crypt. The south wall in this room is a large granite slab supported by two pistons behind it. The wall is easily identified as a strange feature in the room but its presence does not betray the function of the place.
Trap. The crushing wall trap triggers when a person reaches the west side of the room, next to the locked stone door to area 8. At that moment, the stone door to area 5 closes shut and locks itself. The machinery behind the fake wall turns on and the wall starts to push northward. The wall takes two rounds to reach the opposite end. When it does, any creature in the area takes 42 bludgeoning damage unless they are resilient enough to withstand the great pressure (DC 16 Constitution save/ half damage). A character versed in mechanics or locksmithing may attempt to bypass any of the doors or the wall mechanism itself with the use of fine tools (DC 17 Thieves Tools). If one of the doors is opened this way, three medium-sized creatures can exit the chamber per round.
7. Trial of the Guardian
This chamber leads to an irregularly-shaped hallway to area 8. It is meant to serve as the only way to avoid the crushing wall trap in area 6. However, this chamber is not a harmless location. A strange mechanical construct is attached to the north wall of the room. It is a shield guardian (70 HP and no regeneration). It asks any visitor that comes from area 5 a question: “Please recite House Darlee’s words and values”. A person well versed in local history and heraldry (DC 18 History) knows that the answer is: “We shall work the land to harvest its power and gifts. They shall too work for us and our name”. Refusing to answer or answering incorrectly causes the shield guardian to emerge from the wall and attack.
A wooden table by the center of the room contains several wood/stone cutting and sculpting tools. It appears that the stone coffins and some other features of the tomb were manufactured in this location. Someone knowledgeable in the construction process may know that this chamber and area 7 would eventually become tombs too if the family had not died out. As it is, it appears that the workshop was abandoned as is after the last family members were buried in the tomb.
A staircase by the west wall descends to a lower section of the tomb in area 9.
9. Family Library
The room contains a wooden, lacquered bookcase and a metal table. A torrent of pale green gas comes from the hallway to the south. There are several documents spread over the metal table but the passing of the decades and the acidic properties of the gas have destroyed them. None of them are legible. The bookcase is in slightly better condition. It appears to contain a collection of literature classics, historical books, and biographies of important individuals in the city. Some of them about members of the Darlee family. There is a 40% chance that any of the books crumble to dust upon opening it.
10. Patriarch’s Tomb
The chamber contains a metal table, a small wooden bookcase, and Lord Darlee’s stone coffin. A torrent of pale green gas erupts from the coffin every minute or so. There is an open book on the table but it has decayed to dust from the gas. The wooden bookcase is rotten and damaged by the acidic gas. No books in it are legible. The stone coffin features numerous openings through the lid and sides. Strands of what appears to be a mix of paper, fabric, and rotten flesh emerge from the coffin and writhe in the air as if tentacles. The bodily remains of August Darlee have taken the form of a mummy. Parts of its bandaged body mode around in the room. The undead lord emerges from its enclosure and attacks any visitors as soon as they arrive. Three shadows descend from the dark ceiling and assist the undying lord.
Intoxicating Gas. The gas that the coffin produces is acidic and intoxicating. Living creatures that smell it become weakened by it unless they have the bodily strength to resist it (DC 14 Strength save).
Treasure. Inside the broken coffin, there are 1200 gp, a golden scepter, set with rubies (560 gp), a copper key to access area 4, and the sentient sword Dawnpiercer. It is not an immediate discovery that the sword has an evil nature. It functions as a +1 longsword. The fate of this sword and its influence on the adventurer who wields it is left to the DM’s discretion.