699 Sepulcher of the Zarv Family – Lv4 Shadowdark Adventure

I’ve been wronged! A puppet impostor rules the capital, robbing me of my legacy. All who stand in my way shall know my ire and my endless hate!

Spirit of Eleanor Zarv

In the western reaches of Zarveck County, deep in the forest is a granite mausoleum that appears out of place. It was built by dwarves from a bygone age but the Zarv family repur­posed it as a sepulcher. A place where the Zarv nobles find eternal rest. A place where the Zarvs often pilgrim­age to honor their ancestor. Nine generations have been interred in the sepulcher. The last recorded burial took place three years ago when Count Ellen Zarv, Eleanor’s father, passed away. This is common knowledge.

Alas, something strange is occurring. An undead spirit has arisen in the tomb. She wears a tattered dress, bears a deathly chest wound, and believes herself to be Elea­nor Zarv. She wants to reach the capital but is tied to a funerary urn. Her only hope is to possess a mortal’s body to do so. Fortunately for her, the townsfolk’s dissatisfac­tion with the ruling class might well inspire a few adven­turers to come here to ransack the lavish vault.

What is the Truth?

Past installments mention that Countess Eleanor Zarv, the despotic ruler of Zarveck County, is alive and well in Zarv Palace. However, very few people have seen her during her reign as she rarely gives an audience to outsiders. She is elusive and secretive. Conversely, the ghost in the sepulcher believes herself to be the real Eleanor Zarv, murdered and interred five years ago. Could she be a deluded, wretched, spirit? Could the nobles be hiding something of this importance? Is the countess in the capital an impostor? The GM is welcome to decide which is the truth as the characters learn of it.

Level 4 Adventure

  • Danger. Risky. Check for a Random Event every 2 crawling rounds and after loud noises (3-in-6 chance).
  • Light. Some areas have braziers with light spells; the rest are in darkness. Denizens are dark-adapted.
  • Necromancy Aura. Healing spells are cast with dis­advantage. Undead have advantage versus turn undead.
  • Smells and Sounds. The stench of death pervades the dungeon. The cackling laughter and whimpers of ab­ject undead can be heard in the distant darkness.

Adventure Hook

Many speak of the legendary wealth buried therein. Even more claim it is time to rob the rich of their wealth, to even out the past three years of abuse. It takes the par­ty two days to follow the rumors and reach the depths of the forest. They find the dwarvish mausoleum therein. In the center of the lonely room, there is a magic circle.

1 Three zombies barge into the room. They wield large femur bones as clubs. The undead still wear tattered tunics and scraps of armor. They fight until slain.
2 Four adventurers (soldiers) arrive at the sepulcher. They are a rival party seeking to enrich themselves. A tenuous truce can be achieved with them (Reaction check).
3 A wight approaches. It once was a guard in Zarv Palace and remains unaffected by the nefarious aura in the dun­geon. He is unsure about the party (Reaction check).
4 A scarab swarm boils out of cracks in the floors and walls. These are a breed of flesh-eating vermin.
5 A gelatinous cube contains 2d6 skeletons trying to escape. The ooze obstructs passage but destroying it allows the skeletons to escape its slimy grasp.
6 A screaming wind of spirits robs all unused luck tokens.

1. Entrance Hall

Living creatures that stand on the mausoleum’s mag­ic circle are teleported 200 feet below, to this area. The entrance chamber contains two shelves with useless trinkets and nothing else. This is the highest level of a three-tier dungeon. The magic circle can be used to as­cend after at least four hours have elapsed.

2. Coffers of Orbs

Each of the chambers labeled area 2 contains two lime­stone coffers. They contain an endless assortment of 3-inch-diameter glass orbs. A scholar recalls that such glass orbs were used by dwarves as a medium of ex­change (DC 14 INT). Its current value, if any, is unknown.

  • The Spheres. A character can collect enough glass orbs to fill two sacks. They can be used as a large variety of ball bearings but they take two inventory slots. They can be spread in a room to cause creatures to lose their footing and fall. Such use damages them beyond repair.

3. The Count’s Sarcophagus

The burial chamber is dominated by a large, lavish­ly-decorated sarcophagus. The lid bears intricate mithral and silver inlays and embedded gems.

The county’s previous ruler, Ellen Zarv is interred here. The remains are unaffected by the witch-like spirit that roams the lower level; the spirit of Eleanor Zarv.

  • Treasure (8 XP). The sarcophagus lid weighs 900 pounds. Moving it to the magic circle (area 1) is a logistic riddle. Well preserved though, it is worth 800 gp.

4. Ambush of the Death

Four gilded urns on granite plinths and two sarcoph­agi line the decrepit walls of this chamber. The two openings in the floor lead into the darkness below.

Guardians. When a living creature reaches the cen­ter of the chamber, two shadows filter through the walls and two ghasts emerge from the sarcophagi to attack. They attempt to push the characters to the openings.

The Openings. A creature that falls into the openings falls into the acidic pools 30 feet below (area 5).

Treasure (3 XP). There are twenty-eight emeralds by the gilded urns (20 gp each). The gems are 5 gp each.

5. Presbytery of Acid

The walls of this chamber are decorated with intri­cate paintings of dwarf priests in prayer. The five clergymen are interred in standing enclosures.

  • Dwarf Remains. Three derelict skeletons of dwar­ven priests emerge from the enclosures to attack. Being immune to the acid, they jump into the pools to attack.
  • Acid Pools. The pools are 10 feet deep. Creatures that fall into the acidic fluid take 3d6 acid damage and acquire a gruesome burn scar (DC 14 CON check).

6. Cursed Columbarium

Countless clay urns hug the wall of this chamber, dark energy surrounds one of them. An irregularly shaped opening on the floor leads into darkness.

The Urn. The cursed vase houses the ashen remains of Eleanor Zarv. Destroying this urn after casting protec­tion from evil reduces her Hit Points by one-third.

  • The Opening. It leads to a spiked pit 30 feet below in area 9. The party requires climbing gear to reach it.

7. Fonts of Life

Both rooms labeled area 7 contain statues of dwarf priests and a pond of healing water (heals 1d10 HP, once per day). A will-o’-wisp inhabits each chamber. They may emerge into area 6 and attack the characters there if they make too much noise descending to area 9.

8. The Archives

Both areas labeled area 8 contain a wooden bookcase, a desk, and chairs. They contain a mixture of dwarvish documents and logs and historical recounts added after the Zarv family took over the underground sepulcher.

Evidence. There is no evidence or record of Eleanor Zarv being buried 5 years ago, as she claims in area 9. She thinks her murderers would not update the archive.

Treasure (2 XP). It takes three crawling rounds to round up all dwarvish documents. They are worth 20 gp. A mage’s spellbook is also found among them.

9. The Bespoken Wraith

Sharp spikes rise in the chamber’s center. They are surrounded by four fire-spitting clockwork devices.

The Spikes. The characters must use climbing gear to descend from area 6 (DC 12 STR). Failure by 5 or more means the character falls on the spikes (3d6 damage).

The Devices. The arcane devices eject a chemical that ignites when in contact with air. They run non-stop for hours before recharging briefly. Coming into the raging flame deals 2d6 damage to creatures (DC 14 DEX).

The Noble. The spirit of Eleanor Zarv (wraith) materi­alizes over the spikes. Four zombies materialize by her side. She wears Zarv finery and claims to be the daugh­ter of Ellen Zarv. If confronted, she berates the charac­ters and claims she has been usurped by an impostor.

Possession. Eleanor’s goal is to possess a living crea­ture to abandon the sepulcher and move to the capital. She can attempt to take over a character’s body only when they are dying (DC 16 CON check). On a success, she pretends her undead form is destroyed and tries to play the part of the almost-dead character. She hopes to fool the rest of the party long enough to escape.

Destruction. If the party destroys Eleanor’s spirit, all other undead in the dungeon disappear. It is not clear whether she was just a misled ghost. The party may wish to inquire more when they return to Zarveck City.

Secret Doors. A secret passage connects areas 11 and area 9. They are revealed by pulling a brick (DC 13 WIS).

10. The Runic Circles

Elaborately carved runic circles are etched on each cor­ner of this long hallway. If deciphered, they hold valu­able information about the vaults. Characters who know Dwarvish can read the runes and find out there is a false vault meant to slaughter careless robbers (DC 12 INT).

11. The Dwarvish Thrones

Each of the rooms labeled area 11 contains a limestone throne. They are crude, approximate replicas of the seats of the ancient dwarvish lords (DC 15 INT).

12. The Vases of Desire

Each of the chambers labeled area 12 contains a large limestone vase that contains a powerful spell. Etched on their surface reads: “Speak your wish lone traveler and it shall be fulfilled to the letter.” Once per year, a person may state a wish and the vase casts a wish spell. Howev­er, the magic vases always interpret the wish’s phrasing in the worst, most convoluted way possible.

13. The False Vault

The chests in this vault feature deadly traps. When a chest is opened, a random effect is triggered (1d6).

  1. Firejet, 3d6 fire damage (DC 14 DEX).
  2. Muting spell, cannot speak for 1 week (DC 14 INT).
  3. Poison needle, target drops to 0 HP (DC 16 CON).
  4. Loud, cackling laughter comes from the chest.
  5. The target is randomly polymorphed (DC 14 CON).
  6. Two shadows emerge from the chest.

14. The Zarvish Vault

The vault contains six unlocked chests and a granite bookshelf; wealth accumulated by past Zarv rulers.

  • Treasure (10 XP). The chests contain 250 gp, 3,600 sp, 2 potions of healing, 1 potion of giant strength, night­cloak armor, and a scroll of create undead.

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