This adventure takes place in a desert. When the heroes arrive in town, they meet a young brave man who wants to hire them. He claims to be a descendant of some old folk heroes called the Crimson Capes. These heroes of yore angered the gods and eventually met their demise, but the ruins of their tomb hold great treasures, and a cherished family heirloom, or so the young man says. This adventure is intended for a group of four to six heroes of 3rd level.
In Alambra, the town beside the desert, people lead peaceful lives, away from trouble. The townsfolk are wary and suspicious. They believe in local superstitions that seem odd to other settlements in the area. Most houses have a pickle nailed to their front door. People in general take a bunch of sand with their hands and blow it off before entering any building. And grown-ups and children say “we are sand”, while the reply always is “sand we are” when they greet each other.
If asked about any of these strange customs, Alambrians say they are so for several reasons. The promise of a long life, protection from evil spirits, signs of respect, etc. But one mysterious superstition is that of the term “Crimson Capes”. No one in town dares mention them, and even the words are shunned from their usual vocabulary. They’d rather say “cloak” or “red” than pronouncing the forbidden words. They are taboo.
The Crimson Capes were protectors of men and warriors of good two hundred years ago. They lived in Arenia, a large city deep in the desert; about two weeks by foot from Alambra. These crimson warriors were said to be invincible and fearsome. They dealt with desert monsters and criminals in town, no one could beat them. However, despite their heroic feats, a great portion of Arenia didn’t like them, the faithful.
Priests and clerics claimed the Crimson Capes obtained their power from evil. They said the color of their capes was the result of a blood ritual forbidden by the church. At first, it all sounded like a paranoid speech. It isn’t uncommon for the church to point at what they cannot comprehend and call it heresy. But the unquestionable and unmatchable power of the Crimson Capes led to believe that they were, indeed, dealing with unknown forces.
It was true, the Crimson Capes were tainted by years of blood magic indeed. Their strength came from pacts with demons from the Abyss. This caused unbalance in the universe; those mortals were never supposed to open the doors to hell and acquire that power. The gods smote the Crimson Capes with all their might and put an end to their blood magic. They protected and served their kin for about a decade.
A beautiful tomb became their resting place. The people of Arenia built it to honor their deaths and everything they did in life. After all, even if they did use forbidden magic, it was always used for Arenia’s welfare. In the end, it was too late when they realized their mistake. Not even the clerics and priests stopped for a second to think about how the gods would take the construction of the tomb. The stupid mortals were so interested in honoring the lives of other mortals that they forgot what the transgression was in the first place.
Indeed, the gods did not take it lightly that the Arenians built a shrine and gave a kings’ resting place to a bunch of heretics. Gods seldom grant second chances. The city of Arenia was destroyed in its entirety. A brutal sandstorm with the strength of twenty blue dragons swept the land and erased the settlement from history. Only a hundred people survived the catastrophe. Five thousand people lost their lives because of the arrogance of a few men.
That storm was so strong, that it also took a toll on nearby towns like Alambra and many others. And so, Alambrians consider the Crimson Capes a taboo. They don’t talk about them; they don’t think of them. They pretend they never existed. Some even go to the extreme to say that Arenia didn’t exist. They fear they might anger the gods just by naming them. They take it very seriously.
The Lost Heirloom
When the adventurers arrive at Alambra, they meet Pavlov in the inn or tavern they stay in. He approaches the heroes and buys them a drink. He does this as a welcoming gesture for the adventurers and because he wants to hire them. Pavlov tells them the story of the Crimson Capes, a former group of folk heroes. He explains that the subject is forbidden in town but that he has information that is more important than the stupid taboo.
He tells the adventurers he is willing to share this information with them, as long as they accept to visit the ruins of the city of Arenia with him. He offers 250 gold pieces for the job, but he won’t say anything else until they accept.
If the heroes agree, Pavlov pays them half upfront, and he buys another round of drinks to tell them everything. He tells them the story of his great-great-great-grandfather Markov, who was a Crimson Cape. He was annihilated by the gods for messing with blood magic like the rest of his group. But his son Raznov was one of the few survivors of the attack on Arenia. Back then, aged twelve, the boy was adopted by a wealthy family in Alambra. Raznov never forgot who he was, and what happened to his father.
Five generations after, Pavlov was born. Raznov had many children but he chose one of them to be his successor. The real successor of the Crimson Capes, he said. One child per generation was entrusted with the secret of their blood, the only remaining descendants of the sinners.
The secret of their bloodline traveled generation through generation until Pavlov was trusted with it, back when he was fourteen. Knowing he was the successor of one of the Crimson Capes didn’t shock him. He became interested in it. He researched all he could about predecessors. He traveled to other towns to read about the Crimson Capes and their deeds. He learned what he could from what he had in hand, which wasn’t much. But even this was enough to learn that Markov kept a relic with him at all times, a kind of lucky charm. He decided that one day he would travel to the ruins of Arenia, look for the lost tomb of the Crimson Capes, and recover what was his by right.
Neutral good human (age 24)
This young man wears his brown hair in a pony-tail. His beard and mustache aren’t fully developed and unshaven. He has a comely smile and a kind look. He looks strong and healthy. He has a sword sheathed on his back and he wears a chain shirt under his padded armor. (Use the stats of a guard for him).
Personality Trait. “One must always seek the truth.”
Ideal. “One day I shall recover Markov’s relic.”
Bond. “I cannot ever leave Alambra until I accomplish my goal.”
Flaw. “My excitement doesn’t let me measure the danger of my quest.”
The following descriptions of areas 1 through 11 correspond to the tomb of the crimson capes.
Terrain. Constant seismic activity has taken its toll; The granite floor tiles show fissures, broken fragments lie on the floor all around. Sand has taken over the gaps.
Light. This place has been abandoned for years underground and sunlight can’t reach it. Areas 2 and 10, however, still have magical sconces with continual flame spells to illuminate them. Removing the sconces from the wall causes the flames to die out in 1d6 minutes.
Smells and Sounds. The sound of sand falling accompanies the smell of dry rock and dirt.
1. Entrance West Tunnel
The heroes must travel 12 days in the desert on foot to reach the ruined city of Arenia. Hundreds of shattered buildings and blocks of stone form a graveyard that extends for hundreds of feet in each direction. Pavlov has an old map of the town with him, and he guides the heroes to the tomb.
Pavlov finds a hole that takes to an underground network of tunnels. He is certain this is the right way. The heroes eventually get here. The tunnel is roughly 7 feet wide. Before making a left turn, the tunnel features a large sinkhole. It is 20-feet-deep. The hole leads to area 4.
2. Ancient Chapel
Part of the beautiful tomb that the people of Arenia built for the Crimson Capes contained this chapel. Little remains of the magnificent architecture and decorations of this place. Six granite long benches still hold their position in front of the tabernacle. A whole section of the south wall is gone. There is a sinkhole on the floor similar to the one in area 1 that leads to area 7.
A group of troglodytes camps here. Six of them can fight the adventurers. The other six are non-combatant, and two of them are younglings. If the adventurers lower their weapons and return from where they came, the troglodytes ignore them and leave this place in 1d4 hours through the east tunnel (area 3). If a battle starts, all the non-combatant troglodytes flee. The other fight until two or more of them fall in battle, in which case, they attempt to escape as well.
3. East Tunnel
If the heroes approach this tunnel, four rust monsters attack any of the heroes wearing metal armor or wielding metal weapons. This tunnel’s destination is not shown on the map and it is left to the DM’s discretion.
This area used to be a waiting room for prayers and ceremonies. Nothing remains of the furniture or walls here. The corruption that emanates from the Crimson Capes reaches this area. Four skeletons and two zombies attack any living creature that approaches.
Secret Door. A passive Perception score of 16 or higher reveals there is a door hidden by sand and dirt. A successful DC 15 Strength (Athletics) check allows a character to force open the stuck door to area 5.
5. Secret Room
This small room contains one stone chest. The west wall of the room is destroyed. It collapsed under tons of sand. A passive Investigation score of 16 or higher reveals more treasure buried under a layer of sand.
Treasure. There is a pile of 112 gold pieces and a durable silk hat (20gp) inside the chest. There are a pair of engraved fur gloves (20gp), and an ornate limestone jewelry box, of low quality (25gp) in the sand.
There are two small, roughly circular areas north and south of the tunnel. Three skeletons and three zombies ambush the heroes when they cross this intersection.
7. Ancient Library
There used to be several wooden shelves lining the now collapsed walls. Nothing but useless pieces of wood and decayed paper remain. There is one ghost in here. It looks like a priest; it wears ragged and tattered religious robes. When it sees the heroes, it chats a bit and tells them about the heroic deeds the Crimson Capes did in life. But the moment it sees Pavlov, it goes mad and says: “Why the hell is Markov alive? He was supposed to die like the rest of them! It’s all their fault!” just before attacking.
Secret Door. A passive Perception score of 16 or higher reveals there is a door hidden by sand and dirt. A successful DC 15 Strength (Athletics) check allows a character to force open the stuck door to area 9.
8. North Tunnel
There are small puddles of green goo near a huge hole in this tunnel. A passive Wisdom (Nature) score of 14 or higher reveals those are signs of purple worm activity. This tunnel’s destination is not shown on the map and it is left to the DM’s discretion.
9. Fake Vault
This small room was meant for would-be grave robbers. It contains a small treasure so the thieves would stay away from the real vault and leave.
Treasure. The stone chests contain an ornate belt with a bronze buckle (70gp), an alabaster framed oil painting of a warrior with a crimson cloak (165gp), a rough pewter amulet, inlaid with tin (60gp), and a collection of fancy silverware (220 gp).
10. Crimson Capes Tomb
This is the resting place of the Crimson Capes. This chamber is 40 feet long. There are four small alcoves on the west wall and three more on the east wall. Each of them features a stone bust. The faces of seven men are carved on their surfaces. The names of each Crimson Cape can be read just below the bust, carved in beautiful calligraphy. A sarcophagus dominates the center of the room. ‘Markus Stoikov’ is engraved on its side. Five crimson cloaks lie immobile on the floor.
When the heroes enter this room, the atmosphere turns cold. The shadows of the busts dance before the adventurers. In slow fashion, three specters and two shadows materialize. The crimson cloaks on the floor float and adorn their shadowy backs. The sarcophagus opens and the former leader of the Crimson Capes shows itself. Markus (mummy) points at the adventurers with a rotten hand and yells. Pavlov’s old relative doesn’t remember anything about his life. The undead attack all living creatures until they are slain.
The sarcophagus contains the relic which Markus kept with him all his life. It is a large piece of amber with a scorpion inside. The former leader of the Crimson Capes thought this rock brought him fortune and good luck. And even if it was a simple superstition, the people of Arenia buried him with it.
Secret Door. A passive Perception score of 16 or higher reveals the floor of the southeast alcove shows slide marks that match the stone bust’s base. Sliding the bust sideways reveals a secret passage to area 11.
11. Secret Vault
The vault is at the end of a 40-feet-long corridor. The place has suffered the consequences of the many earthquakes but the stone chests and the treasure remain intact.
Treasure. The following items are found in the chests. A durable gold jewelry box, inlaid with beautiful platinum. It glows with soft violet light (900gp), a pair of ornamental wool gloves (30gp), a gilded jug of venerable dragonborn beer (30gp), an engraved alabaster tiara (110gp), an old brass pendant, inlaid with mahogany wood (300gp).
Pavlov pays the heroes the other half of the agreed-upon payment when they make it out of Arenia alive and with the relic with them. He tells them he really doesn’t need any of the treasure. Since his old relative Raznov was adopted, they have never struggled for gold. He confesses he didn’t know it would be that dangerous and insists on them keeping the treasures.
If Pavlov doesn’t make it out of the ruins alive, the sad event marks the end of a bloodline. Pavlov doesn’t have any children or siblings. He was the last of the crimson bloodline. And he was the last to know who they really were, who he really was.