684 The Lost Ark – Level-0 Gauntlet

To witness Saint Terragnis’ Lost Ark is just the beginning. Just imagine the treasures we shall find. You can change your bloodline’s future in a moment!

Lord Hendrick

Origin myths of the sacred deities, the Four Lords, all speak about legendary artifacts and ancient spells that cannot be replicated by to­day’s magic skills. Some of these objects have reappeared and changed the course of history for good or evil. Alas, some of them are better left untouched, for the consequences of their indiscriminate use cannot be foreseen. Such is the case for the Lost Ark.

The Knight’s Remains

Saint Terragnis was once a human maiden knight. She ascended to godhood and is revered across the realms. Her bodily remains, weapon, armor, and some items of sentimental value were placed in the vessel known as the Lost Ark. Since then, these items have become inaccessible, they are one with the ark, which holds great power but none have ever managed to use it. The ark is treacherous and cannot be used for person­al gain. Legend has it that the ark can be used as a bea­con of arcane energy capable of leveling cities and entire armies. Some historical tragedies are said to be related to the Lost Ark. But those rumors cannot be confirmed. Today, the ark lies in a crumbling vault in Golla Desert.

Adventure Hooks

Expeditionary Force. Lord Hendrick has arrived in Dali Town looking for recruits for his expedition. He claims to have found Saint Terragnis’s holy ark. He prom­ises not only to witness the holy artifact itself but also a share of the treasure to be found in the vault. Many peas­ants preemptively savor the riches to be gained. Even a small share might be enough to change their lives.

Unbeknownst to all, Lord Hendrick plans to use the re­cruits as ritual sacrifices to gain access to the Lost Ark. He has unsuccessfully done so already with two previous expeditions. His mage, Arrendel, claims to have perfect­ed the enchantment to open the Lost Ark’s lid.

Seeking a Blessing. One or more of the characters suf­fer from a lethal disease that shall soon end their lives. Rumor has it that the love of Saint Terragnis can heal any condition. These characters seek the Lost Ark so that they can petition the godly knight for a spark of her divinity. All so that they can finally heal.

Level 0 Gauntlet

  • Danger. Risky. Check for a Random Event every 2 crawling rounds and after loud noises (3-in-6 chance).
  • Light. Inside the cavern, areas 2 and 8 are dimly lit; the rest are dark. All denizens are dark-adapted.
  • Structural Integrity. Once per hour and after loud noises, the frail state of the dungeon’s structure causes rubble to fall from the ceiling. Chunks of debris fall on a random creature and deal 1d6 damage (DC 12 DEX).
1 A swarm of rats looms closer. It attacks the smallest creature in sight. They disband if reduced to half HP.
2 The underground structure trembles for a few seconds. Debris falls on the ground, injuring no one.
3 Two giant dung beetles emerge from the chasms in area 6 looking for food. They are unsure about humans as a food source and act cautiously at first (Reaction check).
4 The godly saint’s female voice resounds: “Abandon this foolish quest, Lord Hendrick. You shall never wield the power of the Lost Ark. Let these innocent people go.
5 Two darkmantles use their Darkness ability. Then they plunge from the ceilings and attack nearby creatures.
6 A desert scout (thug) followed the expedition under­ground. He joins the party when hearing of the treasure.

Traversing Golla Desert

After gathering a crowd of peasants, Lord Hendrick and his entourage set course for the vault in Golla Desert. Lord Hendrick has employed seasoned desert-dwellers that use their survival skills to make the trip a relatively calm affair. The three-day journey takes the expedition­ary force to a large rock formation in the desert.

1. The Desert Entrance

A cavern opening on the rocky side leads into the heart of the formation. Lord Hendrick orders his men to set up camp. They shall delve into the dungeon at dawn.

  • The Tracks. Observant characters notice a contin­gent of tracks coming in and out of the cavern (DC 13 WIS). They were left by Hendrick’s previous visit to the dungeon. The knight denies such accusations adamantly and claims someone else must have left the tracks.

2. Saint Terragnis Effigy

An intricate limestone statue of an armor-clad fight­ing woman stands by the uneven wall. The statue wields a large blade; its helmeted face is not visible.

Devout characters recognize the sigil on the statue’s breatplate as that of Saint Terragnis, the beloved god­dess (DC 10 WIS). The statue stands on a broken gran­ite tile. This was once a large entrance hall.

  • Rebuking Aura. Little is left of an ancient protective charm on the statue. All creatures of darkened hearts and ill intentions are faintly pushed back as they walk to­ward the statue (DC 12 STR). Observant characters no­tice that Lord Hendrick and his followers push through with a little effort (DC 13 WIS), but they try to hide this.

3. The Past Expeditions

The middle of this chamber is littered with countless bones and skulls. The remains of at least thirty peo­ple are spread across the uneven cavern floor.

These townsfolk were brought from different towns for sacrifice in the past two expeditions. Arrendel spent their souls to cast a spell. Alas, he could not open the ark.

  • Betrayal. It is here that Lord Hendrick (knight) re­veals his ill intentions and orders the characters to sur­render their weapons or die. Arrendel (cultist), and twelve thugs draw their weapons. If the characters yield, they are chained and ordered to wait while Arrendel and Hendrick set things up in area 7; three thugs stay to guard them. Fighting against the whole group is a fool­ish task. Fortunately, Hendrick’s men do not kill the char­acters as they are needed alive for the ritual. After be­ing imprisoned, the characters can attempt to overpower the guards here in area 3 or wait to be moved to area 7.

4. Critter Burrows

The walls and ceiling of this chamber are dotted with countless 2-foot apertures. This network of narrow tun­nels is home to a hive of stingbats. They normally exit the caverns during the night to seek prey in Golla Desert. If a character investigates the openings, four stingbats emerge with a deafening screech and attack.

5. The Chasm

The east tunnel leads to area 7. Lord Hendrick’s men have already set up rope, pitons, and grappling hooks. If the characters have been imprisoned by the nefarious knight, they are ordered to cross over the chasm (DC 11 STR check with advantage). If the characters arrive on their own, they find two thugs guarding the chasm.

  • Treasure. The thugs carry some travel sacks. The sacks contain two daggers, four torches, an oil flask and lantern, rope (50 ft.), a lute, and Arrendel’s spellbook.

6. The Twisting Passage

A meandering passage traverses the rocky soil. The floor is interrupted by a seemingly-bottomless chasm.

If the characters have broken free from their captors in area 3. They may come this way to avoid the thugs in area 5. There are three 100-foot-deep chasms. The char­acters can attempt to jump across them or push against the close walls to climb over (DC 12 STR). They roll with advantage if they have access to climbing gear.

  • Secret Passage. Finding the crumbling passage and clearing the way in 1 crawling round allows the charac­ters to surprise Lord Hendrick in area 7 (DC 13 WIS).

7. Saint Terragnis Lost Ark

On a 10-foot-tall dais, a gilded chest decorated with etched runes and precious stones glimmers with sacred light. The mad mage stands by the coffer.

Unless some of them have already been defeated in bat­tle. Lord Hendrick (knight), Arrendel (cultist), and sev­en thugs are here. If the characters have been brought here in chains, they are set by the stairs in front of the Lost Ark. The mage, Arrendel holds a scroll with the rit­ual that shall take the characters’ lives and open the ark.

If the characters arrive here on their own, Lord Hen­drick is surprised to see they have freed themselves. The knight orders Arrendel to cast the ritual while he and the thugs hold the party back. The characters have five turns to reach Arrendel and stop the spell. See The Befoul Rit­ual for the possible outcomes of this adventure’s climax.

The Befoul Ritual

If the spell is cast, Lord Hendrick grins with greed as Arrendel finishes. The characters feel their breath aban­don their lungs as their life force is used to power the spell. The Lost Ark’s lid opens to reveal a blinding yellow light. The warmth of Saint Terragnis protects the charac­ters and allows them to survive this ordeal.

In the meanwhile, lightning and tendrils of arcane en­ergy emerge from the enclosure toward Hendrick, Ar­rendel, and his goons. Their skins melt like tallow down to the bone and their bodies are reduced to charred re­mains as the Lost Ark closes, leaving the party intact. The characters survive thanks to a force beyond their understanding. The artifact before them is an antiquity from the bygone past that cannot be wielded by mortals.

The Heroes Succeed

If the characters stop Arrendel, the mage fails to contain the dangerous magic and his body is torn apart by tendrils of arcane force. Half of Hendrick’s men lose morale and flee in a panic. To make it out of this, the sur­vivors must defeat Hendrick in deadly combat.

The characters return home with treasure from Lord Hendrick’s caravan and followers. Enough to acquire bet­ter armor and weaponry and fund learning magic. Char­acters looking for healing are cleansed from any ailment after the battle. Should any of the characters attempt to open the ark’s lid, they experience the same foul fate as Lord Hendrick; a tasteless reward for unrivaled greed.

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