The Temple of the Drowned King
Just offshore of Annan’s Port is a tiny island. It has a jagged, rocky shore that discourages the curious from attempting a landing there. The ground is hard; the soil is thin and full of sand and stone. Little grows here but thorny scrub. Even sea birds avoid it. On the western shore are the ruins of a magnificent temple giving this island its name: Temple of the Drowned King. The truth, however, has been lost to time.
The complex is actually the twin temples to Moon and Sea. Most of the pillars to the central courtyard still stand and two grand staircases lead off the courtyard, one spiraling up to the temple of the Moon, the other spiraling down into the water and the temple of the Sea. The stairs are precarious, as are the remains of the buildings, but could be explored by those willing to take the risk. That is not what keeps the birds and adventurers from the temples.
In the courtyard, unseen until they begin to manifest around the heat of the living, are the ghosts of priests and worshipers. Hundreds died in the cataclysm that destroyed the temples. Surrounded by the magic of the Ritual that birthed Time and Tide, their spirits were trapped. The bodies died, the souls moved on, and the spirits wander aimlessly, lost and confused, inside the temple. They are drawn to life and will converge on any living being entering the temple. They have questions. They are frightened, and angry, and cold. So very cold. So cold that they will draw the warmth and life right out of the living.
In the remains of the temples are two pedestals, each covered in iconography: stylized birds or fish, ivy or coral, and ancient symbols now forgotten. These pedestals, if activated by dedicated followers of Moon and Sea (one each) will open a secret door beneath the courtyard. Beyond the door is the chamber where the Ritual was performed. The altar is still there, bloodstained. Atop the altar is a bowl made of moonstone and coral. It too is bloodstained. Having held the life essence of Erde herself, the bowl is a powerful artifact. It can be used to heal grievous wounds, or restore a body to life. But, because life and death are inseparable, it can also be used to take life, and transfer it to another. This is the reason that Erde, in her wisdom, did a terrible thing and trapped the spirits of the worshipers in the courtyard above. This is why She took a nearby tribe of merfolk and tied them to the temple, to guard the underwater door.
But time passes, and all things with it. The spirits have faded. The merfolk have forgotten their charge, and only a few dedicated bloodlines keep the old pact. The way to the hidden altar is still treacherous, but it is not as deadly as it once was. And knowledge of the bowl has not been completely lost.
For Game Masters
In game terms, the spirits of the dead will begin to congregate as soon as anyone steps into the courtyard. They can soon be seen as forms moving through a chill mist. Their presence causes moisture to condense, creating the mist. After three minutes of game time, the cold is intense enough to begin doing damage, 1 point per minute. A Constitution or Fortitude saving throw can stave off the cold, but every few minutes (game time) the difficulty increases. For reference, it takes about three minutes to cross the courtyard at an easy walk, and another five to climb the stairs into the Moon temple above.
The spirits cannot leave the courtyard, and they cannot be fought. They take no damage and cannot be turned as normal undead. A cleric following the Moon may briefly turn the Moon worshipers (about half the spirits), and a cleric of the Sea can briefly turn the Sea worshipers. If the party leaves the courtyard but stays on the island, the spirits will gather at the point in the courtyard closest to them. They will follow the party up or down the stairs, and slowly infiltrate the temples themselves.
In the flooded chambers below, several merfolk warriors still stand guard, with piranha-like companions. The fish will swarm the party. Though each bite is small, dozens of them will take their toll, leaving the party bleeding into the water, causing a damage-over-time effect. Underwater combat rules apply. Also, the water is very cold and can cause the exhaustion condition to apply.
Once passed the guardians, the party will find themselves in a small chamber with an ornate, locked door. The air is stale, but breathable. The door is covered in iconography and ancient symbols representing Erde. There is a fist-sized hole in the middle of the door, stained black. The handle for the door is inside the hole, protected by sharp blades. The only way to unlock the door is with a deliberate sacrifice of blood – place your hand in the hole, grasp the handle, and let the blades slice open your wrist. As soon as the blood flows, the doors open. The wounds need to be healed or the person risks bleeding to death. Also, that hand is incapable of gripping anything until healed. Beyond the blood-locked door is a last small chamber. The altar is carved from moonstone, coral, and petrified wood, and is stained black from blood. The bowl is simple and unadorned, also stained black.
If the bowl is taken from the altar, it summons four spectral guardians to defend it. The door to the chamber also begins to close and there is no way to open it from inside.
The power of Erde and life is so strong in this last chamber that it makes a person stronger in some aspect. If desired, each character may raise one stat by one point.
This work by Jean Headley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.