730 The Value of Blood – Lv-2 Adventure

They come at night. They thirst for blood is never quenched. First we hear their batting wings, then we hear the cattle being slaughtered in the fields…

Concerned Farmer

In the dense, emerald heart of the Veridian Jungle lies the forgotten ruins of Zhalara, once the flourishing temple of an enigmatic era. For centuries, these ruins slumbered in obscurity, shrouded by the relentless embrace of nature. However, a recent and mysterious phenomenon has awo­ken the curiosity and fear of nearby dwellers.

The ruins of Zhalara were once the pride of a long-lost culture. However, at the centerpiece of this archae­ological wonder, a grand magic circle carved into the stone and adorned with unknown symbols has suddenly sprung to life, after eons of solemn dormancy.

The Scarlet Aurora

Each night, under the gaze of the moon, the mag­ic circle begins to glow with an ethereal light, casting a spectral, aurora-like display into the sky. This mesmeriz­ing light show has a dark consequence; it attracts hordes of blood-sucking stingbats, vicious nocturnal predators known for their relentless attacks on animals and un­wary travelers. The sudden activation of the arcane cir­cle and the appearance of the stingbats in the region have given rise to numerous rumors among the local populace, ranging from the presence of a cursed trea­sure to the awakening of a dormant primordial being.

Rumors are rumors, but the immediate consequence of this development is the increased danger in the jungle trails due to stingbat attacks. People hide in their home­steads and block out their windows with planks and fur­niture. Many blood-drained bodies of people and cattle have been found in small hamlets and on the roads. Peo­ple are desperate to find a way out of this situation.

Adventure Hooks

The Scholar’s Request. Haldo Gonniese, a renowned historian, obsessed with the ancient civilization of Zhalara, hires the adventurers to investigate the ruins and uncover the true purpose of the magic circle. The characters must make a transcription of the runes and hieroglyphs on the ancient circle (300 gp, 3 XP).

The Village’s Plea. A nearby village named Verida, plagued by the stingbats, seeks brave souls to venture into the ruins and find a way to stop the nightly terror. The commoners have collected a small reward to entice sellswords and mercenaries to help (200 gp, 2 XP).

The Merchant’s Gamble. A daring merchant believes the light phenomenon is a clue to the value of the ancient circle. He offers a hefty reward for unearthing and trans­porting the magic circle back to him (1,200 gp, 6 XP).

Level 2 Adventure

  • Danger. Risky. Check for a Random Event every 2 crawling rounds and after loud noises (4-in-6 chance).
  • Light. Moonlight provides dim light. Barely enough to discern nearby objects or people. The magic circle glows bright in a 20 feet radius. Monsters are dark-adapted.
  • Sound and Smells. Birds of prey and stingbats flying can be heard sporadically throughout the Veridian Jun­gle. The humid air carries a stench of blood.
  • Magical Aura. Casting detect magic causes the spell­caster to perceive the magic circle from a distance of up to a mile. It appears like a faraway star that increases in brilliance and becomes unbearable to look at under the effects of the spell when within 100 feet of the circle.
1 A cluster of bio-luminescent, inedible fungi suddenly blooms, casting eerie, dancing lights on the surrounding ruins.
2 A thick, unnatural mist rolls in, obscuring vision and disorienting the adventurers as they navigate the pathways for 1 crawling round. A detect magic spell reveals it is a magical effect crafted by the magic circle; its purpose remains a mystery.
3 A stone statue (gargoyle) embedded on the walls briefly comes to life, challenging trespassers with its menacing postures.
4 The characters’ proximity causes a swarm of bats to fly and attack mercilessly. They flee when reduced to half their Hit Points.
5 A sudden arcane wave is emitted by the magic circle. In its wake, all light sources are consumed; leaving only moonlight.
6 Wings batting in the distance suddenly approach the characters in a whirlwind of dark wings and sharp proboscises. Six wild stingbats attempt to ambush the characters from above (DC 13 WIS to spot) and attempt to suck their blood for nourishment.

Approaching the Ruins

When the characters learn of the region’s current predicament, they are in one of the many small settle­ments that dot the surroundings of the Veridian Jungle. The small village, named Verida, suffered a stingbat at­tack of two nights ago, before the characters arrived.

If the characters ask around, they receive general direc­tions to the jungle’s center. They learn that the ruins lie in the wilderness depths, far from any trails that traverse it. Normally, a guide would lead them there but there are none in Verida; the only one perished in the attack.

To reach the Ruins of Zhalara, a character must guide the party through the jungle (DC 16 WIS check); a great accomplishment for the region is overgrown and wild. The characters have advantage on this check if they pur­chase a map of the region in Verida (15 gp). On a failure, the characters stumble upon the territory of two territo­rial panthers. The felines flee if dropped to half HP.

1. Approaching the Ruins

While the characters may approach the place during the day, all magical elements are only active at night. Encoun­ters with the stingbats are also reserved for the night. A 10-foot-tall flight of stairs leads to the ancient ruins.

  • Bloodstains. A faint blood trail begins here. It leads to the East as it becomes more evident and scandalous. The blood reaches the ruins’ center chamber, the blood­stains cover part of the ancient magic circle.

2. Dilapidated Antechamber

Little remains of this roofless room. Erosion and nature have reclaimed all wall inscriptions and evidence. The glow of the magic circle is visible from here (at night).

  • Ancient Runes. Careful explorers denote the Dra­conic runes on some walls. The runes vaguely speak of faraway entities in other worlds; and about opening com­munication channels with these otherworldly beings. A spell compels them to speak the truth when ordered to.

3. South Gallery

Crumbling reliefs carved into the very stone of this tem­ple are barely legible after the passage of eons. The erod­ed carvings, in the few wall sections that appear to hold onto their outer layers, depict a cabal of priests of com­municating with beings in cerulean skies.

  • Lore. Scholars recognize the portrayals of these be­ings as extraplanar creatures from primordial dimen­sions or elemental-bound planes (DC 17 INT).

4. Ambush in the Dark

Hiding in the underbrush and crumbling wall sections, two gray oozes await in the darkness, with the appear­ance of gray mud. They are immobile but a half-dissolved sword next to one of them is a clue to their corrosive nature (DC 14 WIS to spot it). The mindless creatures know no fear and fight the characters without mercy.

5. North Gallery

This chamber was once an arcane library. Spells were etched onto the very stone walls, an uncommon yet beautiful way to record them. Sadly, most of them are not complete and only a few can be copied (see below).

  • Treasure (3 XP). A spellcaster that analyses the wall carvings for 1 day may copy these wizard spells into their spellbook: hold person, silence, fly, and fireball.

6. Forgotten Knowledge

This crumbling chamber is littered with all manner of small copper and iron pieces that once were part of a large apparatus. A scholar may recognize some of them and infer that there was a telescope here (DC 16 INT). Exploring the room’s contents for 1 crawling round re­veals the presence of several granite tablets, etched with Draconic markings, half buried under the grass.

  • The Tablets. The Draconic runes contain the magic circle’s lore in area 7. They reveal an astral calendar: the magic circle becomes active once every thousand years, for 1 month. The current activation has one week left, after which the circle shall become dormant again. The tablets also explain the ritual that a spellcaster must con­duct to contact otherworldly beings. It says that those entities are bound by the circle to respond truthfully.

7. Chamber of Light

The central chamber of the Ru­ins of Zhalara contains a one-foot-tall, magic circle that glows, exposed to the night sky. Its magic power is per­ceptible even to those uniniti­ated in the arcane arts.

  • Bloodsuckers. When the characters approach the magic circle, their shadows draw the attention of eight sting­bats. The perilous insects dive to­ward the ruins to attack the party. After the encounter, there is a 3-in- 6 chance it occurs again every hour the characters remain in the area. All stingbat attacks in the region dimin­ish after a week, when the circle be­comes dormant. The same is true if the circle is destroyed or removed.
  • The Circle. The limestone cir­cle weighs 4 tons. Removing the circle dispels the ancient mag­ic that powers it. See Hidden Knowledge for the extrapla­nar contacting ceremony.

Hidden Knowledge

Communing with extraplanar entities provides the characters a way of acquiring information that otherwise would be impossible for them to secure. To perform this spell, a spellcaster needs the tablets hidden in area 6. After nightfall, this is a special form of the summon extraplanar spell. The party can ask questions to this being and it is magically bound to speak truthfully.

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