Excerpts 04/06/2001

The Standing Stone
What Evil Lurks in the Forest?
by John D. Rateliff

A ghostly horseman haunts the road, stopping anyone from leaving the isolated village of Ossington. . . . Wild elves slay villagers from afar with deadly stone-tipped arrows. . . . The old Great Barrow stirs anew, threatening to reveal its long-buried contents. What secret dwell in the ancient standing stones surrounding the village, and can your heroes solve the mystery before a foul plot comes to fruition?

Challenge your 7th-level party with The Standing Stone, a brand-new stand-alone Dungeons & Dragons adventure!

Chapel of the Nine Gods

The PCs have no encounters during the third day of their travels, although the silence of the forest becomes increasingly oppressive. Shortly after midday, they reach the outlying chapel, the first of many megalithic monuments in the Ossington vicinity from which the town takes its name. The chapel stands alone in a field of foot-tall weeds and long grass, the whole surrounded by a low ditch and rough stone wall (just stones piled atop each other in a row, actually). Small depressions dot the turf (filled-in cremation pits, marking old burials). It is obviously an ancient place, dating from before the days of cathedrals and temples. Even from the road, a Listen check (DC 10) allows the characters to hear a hoarse voice from within chanting something, which it seems to be repeating over and over with slight variations. (On a Listen check result of 15 or better, the listener can make out the chanting as a mumbled prayer, but the words are too faint to be distinguished.)

The chapel itself is a low, wide, circular building made of rough, unmortared stone. It stands about 12 feet high at the apex and has a diameter of 33 feet. The doorway is a stone lintel, a flat arch without an actual door that frames a short passage to the space within. The interior height is only about 6 feet, but the ceiling is very uneven, and tall characters should beware bumping their heads on protrusions. Flickering candles dimly light the single chamber, each atop a mound of old wax left behind by generations of candles that preceded it. Nine holy symbols are attached to the walls to form tiny shrines, spaced equidistantly apart. A Knowledge (religion) check (DC 15) enables a character to identify all nine gods honored in this place (a cleric or paladin can always identify his or her own deity's symbol, of course). Counting clockwise from the door, the symbols are a unicorn rampant (Ehlonna, NG), a sunburst (Pelor, NG), an eerily beautiful female face (Wee Jas, LN), a stylized eye within a pentagon (Boccob, N), a horizontal crescent (Fharlanghn, N), the leafy face of a green man (Obad-Hai, N), a twisted mask, half-white, half-black (Olidammara, CN), the image of a rotting skull above a scythe (Nerull, NE), and a hand and an eye (Vecna, NE). These represent the nine neutral deities honored in this place, the gods of woodlands, the sun, death, magic, roads, nature, luck, death (again), and secrets, respectively.

When the characters arrive, they see a woman in tattered robes moving from shrine to shrine, pausing briefly to bow to each in turn before moving on to the next. A small monkeylike creature perches on one shoulder, sometimes mimicking her gestures. As she circles the room, she chants an endless litany, praying for mercy, intercession, and aid from each god or goddess in turn. From the sound of her voice, she's been at it for hours (in fact, it's a daily ritual she follows from sunrise to sunset).

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