Our ancestors’ wisdom is engraved in stone. You only need to reach out and grasp it.
Old Druidic Scroll
Mortals at large are oblivious to the greater threats in the outer planes of existence. They live their petty and unremarkable lives from beginning to end without even acknowledging the frailty of their world. Close-knit cabals of druidic guardians have been in charge of guarding the Material Plane against those otherworldly menaces. These druidic circles rise and fall according to the level of threats. In current times, no active circles protect the world. But the millennium-old secrets to their activities lie buried in their dilapidated temples and dungeons.
Circle of the Ancients
The druids of the Circle of the Ancients are a powerful order that protects the world from aberrant and incomprehensible beings. The last six of their kind gave their lives as offerings to empower a protection ritual in their temple to avoid their impending doom. It was the only way to keep the aberrant invaders at bay.
The outcome of their selfless sacrifice has subsisted to this day. It is found in the voice of the wind, in the language of flowers, or in the dance of each blade of grass. Alas, only druids and sentient forest creatures can feel it; beings close to nature. Should the need arise again, druids shall congregate at the Altar to the Ancients to form a new enclave of the legendary druidic circle.
To this day, the druids’ sacrifice protects the Material Plane from the worst threats in the multiverse. However, the incantation is not eternal nor permanent. Sooner or later, the protection shall dwindle and deteriorate. In the meantime, the undead projections of the druidic guardians stand idle in the Altar to the Ancients to protect the legacy of their work. The documents and information in the temple are of the utmost importance for the future.
The characters stumble upon an ancient circle of standing stones in a clearing within the forest depths. Animals and other fey creatures do not come near the standing stones, as if showing respect to a relic from before their time. Even insects avoid it. But a lone man dressed in furs and twigs sits by the central rune-carved circle. It is a druid named Swamp-Mud. The druid has detected strange vibrations in the language of the trees and plants. Druids or rangers among the characters can confirm that Swamp-Mud speaks the truth. The druid explains that the circle is a portal to the Temple of the Ancients, an old cabal meant to stop aberrant menaces. He suspects that the druids’ protection is soon to fade away and disappear. Swamp-Mud pleads the characters to accompany him into the temple to find answers and determine whether the Material Plane is in danger.
Features of the Temple
The following features correspond to all the areas of the Temple of the Ancients; areas 1 through 9.
Light. Some rooms feature magical sconces. Their continual flame spells fade out in 1 minute if they are removed from their places. Other areas are pitch dark.
Secret Passageways. The temple has several hidden corridors which can be revealed by pushing cleverly-hidden bricks on the stone walls (DC 17 Investigation).
Structure. The temple’s structural integrity has been compromised by seismic activity over the centuries, causing some areas to collapse. The use of powerful spells or other activities that might impact the walls or ceilings causes debris to fall on unsuspecting victims. They take 3d6 bludgeoning damage (DC 14 Dexterity save).
1. Entrance Portal
The forest portal invokes a blinding light. After it subsides, the forest landscape is replaced by a shallow chamber with a set of engraved double doors.
The teleportation portal can be used to enter or exit the Temple of the Ancients at any time but it has a cool-down time of 30 minutes. Swamp-Mud remarks that the aura of this place has been tainted but he cannot say what causes this. Other druids can confirm his claims.
2. Hall of the Lesser Guardians
Four stone sarcophagi stand in the warm light from the wall sconces. The domed ceiling features intricate but washed-out paintings of druids in nature.
The sarcophagi contain the four elite bodyguards that protected the Circle of the Ancients in the past. The guardians (ghasts) emerge from their enclosures and attack any trespassers on sight. The guardians are mindless and merciless. Upon defeat, each guardian turns to withered leaves and petals. They reform at dawn.
Treasure. Collectively, the sarcophagi contain 450 gp, two potions of healing, and boots of elvenkind.
3. The Aberrant Effigy (South)
A quasi-living limestone sculpture of a tentacled aberration is attached to a wall in this chamber.
The arcane sculpture portrays the closeness of an extraplanar threat with the nature of the tentacles (DC 18 Arcana). The tentacles move more and become more prehensile when the threat is near. They currently move in a slow and doubtful manner. Swamp-Mud claims that his mentor once visited this place and saw that the altar was immobile. A signal that the world was still safe. Any divination spell reveals that the Circle of the Ancients has been defiled by extra-planar energies.
4. Pit of Scavengers
A colony of twelve giant centipedes lives near this chamber. Their tunnels pierce the ceiling and walls of the natural cavern. The mindless vermin come out of their narrow lairs in waves and attack unsuspecting victims.
5. The Aberrant Effigy (North)
This chamber is almost identical to area 3. The difference is that the stone effigy has been tampered with. Someone tried to carve the stone into a different form and rendered it useless. It cannot be repaired.
6. Antechamber Dead-End
This is the grand altar’s antechamber. The east door is locked (DC 17 Thieves’ Tools) but it leads to a collapsed hallway. The characters can dig their way to area 9 with six hours of work if shovels and pickaxes are available. Four shadows emerge from cracks on the walls as the characters exit this chamber or start to dig.
7. Repository of the Ancients
The secret path leads to a well-conserved library. The documents on the desk and shelves appear to be impervious to erosion and the passage of time.
A detect magic spell reveals an aura that guards the items in the room from exposure while they remain within. Removing papers or scrolls from the room causes them to crumble into fine gray dust. Studying the documents for 1 hour reveals the history of the Circle of the Ancients and the sacrifice of their last six members a thousand years ago. The scrolls contain the druidic protection ritual used by the circle to protect the Material Plane from outside threats. Only a druid can perform this ritual.
Treasure. Collectively, the sarcophagi contain 450 gp, two potions of healing, and a +1 morningstar.
8. The Vault
The secret treasure room contains several objects of value left by the Circle of the Ancients and a deadly magical trap in the stone chest. Opening it triggers a fiery explosion (DC 16 Thieves’ Tools). All creatures within 15 feet take 6d6 fire damage (DC 14 Dexterity / half).
Treasure. The vault contains 4,500 gp, 2,100 sp, two potions of healing, and a gem of seeing.
9. Altar to the Ancients
Six engraved sarcophagi surround a floor effigy of a shouting druid in the center of the domed hall.
The druid guardians have been tainted by the energy of an otherworldly threat. This is the last step before their incantation subsides. The six druids (2 ghouls, three zombies, and one ghoul mage) emerge from their enclosures at a ruinous pace. There is nothing human left in their bodies or minds. Swamp-Mud staggers before the presence of their long-lost kin but he recognizes that they are no longer the Circle of the Ancients but only a tragic, tampered reflection. A mockery of life and death.
10. Natural Caverns
Seismic activity caused the temple wall to collapse and connect to an underground network of dark tunnels. The tunnels slant downward for miles. No map charts these tunnels but many sentient species inhabit the depths.
The characters reach the end of this adventure and face the consequences of their deeds.
The incantation that protects the Material Plane has eroded and shall vanish soon. Within 60 days, the fabric of reality shall tear apart, allowing aberrant threats to enter the Material Plane. The papers in area 7 describe the ritual in detail; six druids are needed to perform the arcane ceremony. Swamp-Mud offers to help look for more druids to achieve this goal. If the ritual is performed within the time frame, the world is saved. Otherwise, the druids must perform the advanced version of the ritual that requires them to sacrifice their lives.
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