Those rich nobles have the most to hide. The skeletons in their closets eventually emerge…
The woes of life come and go to everyone regardless of their social standing or wealth. People grow accustomed to their base level of well-being and judge their misfortunes based on that. Noble families struggle to maintain their position and their goods. They fight tooth and nail to climb the social ladder of the aristocracy. When they fail to do so, the feelings of remorse, regret, and suffering put a heavy burden on their shoulders. A weight so stern it transcends the boundaries of life and death.
The Struggle of Generations
Two centuries ago, the Varadder family enjoyed a position of grandiose wealth and reputation. A few family members even married into the royal family, something that enhanced everyone’s renown for a while.
This period was the highlight of social standing for the Varadder family. They possessed important properties and lands in the kingdom. They were invited to royal weddings and events. Alas, the generational success caused them to become comfortable, greedy, and too full of themselves. They became spiteful, envious folks and those around them noticed the change. They fell from the grace of the rest of the nobles and saw their wealth dwindle over generations. A hundred years later, the Varadders were barely able to maintain their lifestyle. In the present day, the Varadders are little more than bitter business owners; their noble status and titles were stripped from them forty years ago. They still maintain the family mausoleum in what was once their estate. A family member from four generations ago paid a wizard to craft a magic circle there. The magic circle would condense the energy of their lost loved ones to protect the mausoleum but it has caused unforeseen consequences.
Undead abominations emerge from the ancient Varadder mausoleum and attack the townsfolk. Numerous volunteers of the city watch have lost their lives trying to contain the dead. The authorities now offer a reward of 500 gp to mercenaries and adventurers willing to risk their lives to earn wealth and glory.
Features of the Mausoleum
The following features correspond to the ancient Varadder mausoleum; areas 1 through 9.
Secret Doors. Pushing cleverly-hidden brick-buttons causes sections of the wall to slide inward and reveal narrow, dark passages (DC 15 Investigation).
Light. Most areas feature sconces with continual flame spells. They fizzle out after 1 minute if removed.
Stench. The nauseating stench of the undead causes weak stomachs to turn (DC 12 Constitution). those affected puke and become poisoned for 1 hour.
Necromancy Aura. The magic circle in area 9 is responsible for the reanimated undead. A detect magic spell perceives its energy from a distance of 300 feet.
1. Mausoleum Grounds
A stained, copper family sigil stands proud over a set of slightly open double stone doors. Rolling hills surround the mausoleum in the formerly rich land.
A merchant lord owns a lavish manor 5 minutes to the north where he resides during the summer. The eroded sigil over the gate depicts a watchtower with the moon behind it: The Varadder family sigil (DC 16 History).
2. Antechamber of Stewards
Engraved, lavish sarcophagi lie in dark alcoves north and south of the main hall. Some of the lids stand beside them; they were recently removed.
The remains of six great stewards of the Varadder family are kept in this chamber. They were placed here as a sign of appreciation for their life-long work. All of them served the Varadder family two hundred years ago when they were still important among the noble classes. The corpses of city watch volunteers litter the dusty floor.
The reanimated bodies of four stewards (zombies) emerge from their stone enclosures and attack trespassers as soon as they arrive. They show no mercy.
Treasure. The stone chests contain 120 gp, 200 sp, and a collection of ivory figurines (140 gp).
3. Hidden Vault
The vault’s location near the entrance is meant to throw off tomb-robbers. Such thieves would look for valuables deeper into the underground and find nothing of value.
Treasure. The stone coffers contain 420 gp, 800 sp, a spell scroll of speak with dead, and a +1 dagger.
4. Narrow Passage
The doors to area 5 featured a trap that sprung when opened. The trap malfunctioned decades ago and no longer works. This hallway was the Varadder’s means to avoid it, though. Using this secret way allows the characters to reach area 5 and avoid the ambush there. They may even surprise the undead minions in their tracks.
5. Chamber of the Commons
Rows of carved, stone pillars and lavish, standing sarcophagi stand proud in the great hall. A large, rune-carved enclosure stands on a raised alcove.
The walls of this chamber feature countless stone drawers on the walls that contain the ashes and bodily remains of a great number of Varadder family members.
Four skeletons and two shadows hide behind pillars to ambush trespassers (DC 14 Perception). They reform after 6 hours unless the circle in area 9 is destroyed.
Swinging Axe Trap. Stepping on the plate (see map) causes a great axe to swing by. Creatures under it take 3d6 slashing damage (DC 14 Dexterity / half).
Treasure. The carved enclosure contains a wand of detect magic and a pouch with dust of disappearance.
6. The Grand Gallery
A 15-by-15 feet opening on the ground leads to an opulent chamber 30 feet below. The stone circle below glows green and produces a flow of sparks
The walls of this chamber are decorated with washed-out fresco paintings of the great Varadder patriarchs. Most of the paintings date back to the good old days of the forgotten family. They depict the men as valorous, strong, and powerful figures in their communities.
7. Varadder Family Archive
Countless parchments, tomes, and papers lie scattered across desks and bookshelves. Strangely enough, all of it looks clean and recently used.
The family archive is protected from the passage of time by an abjuration spell. An arcane spellcaster perceives the incantation with a detect magic spell. The room contains an accurate account of all family members, their deeds in life, and their remains’ location in the tomb.
Curiosity Curse. Those who delve into the Varadder archive are cursed with nearsightedness (15 feet). The pardon of a living Varadder lifts the foul curse.
Family Lore. Studying the papers for 1 hour reveals the names and residences of living members of the family in the nearby city. The last person to be interred in the mausoleum died seven years ago, Ingvild Varadder.
Treasure. One of the bookshelves contains a spellbook with six random level 1 and 2 wizard spells.
8. Lower Landing
The flight of stairs leads up 30 feet to area 5. A careful tracker identifies the uneven footsteps of undead minions coming from the door to area 9 (DC 12 Survival).
Two zombies emerge from the twin sarcophagi. They attempt to stop the characters from reaching area 9.
9. Mausoleum of Regrets
The stench of death is the most intense here. Strands of necromancy ether flow from the glowing rune circle and into the standing enclosures.
The remains of the fourteen patriarchs of the Varadder family lie in this chamber. The failure of the Varadder bloodline falls open their shoulders. It was their deeds that brought the Varadder downfall. The magic circle empowers their regret and spite and causes them to return from the dead in a mindless form, incapable of correcting their mistakes or fixing the family’s future.
Two mindless ghouls and four zombies exit the standing sarcophagi and attack the newcomers. The undead reform after six hours unless the circle is destroyed.
Circle of Necromancy. The runic relic’s incantation is flawed (DC 16 Arcana). It is not meant to protect the burial place but to enhance negative sentiments of the dead with necromancy. It is noteworthy that the current calamity did not occur any sooner. Destroying the circle with shovels or pickaxes ends its effects immediately.
The characters reach the end of this adventure and face the consequences of their deeds.
Destroying the necromancy circle in area 9 stops the undead incursions at once. All remaining undead in the mausoleum turn to dust and disappear.
When the characters return to the settlement, they are greeted with applause and joy. Damsels throw flowers and thank them for their efforts. The authorities pay the 500 gp reward. The living Varadders find out about the characters. If they pillaged their mausoleum, they shall take revenge upon the disrespectful adventurers.