Excerpts 08/18/2001

Heart of Nightfang Spire
By Bruce R. Cordell

Nightfang Spire has long brooded in lonely silence, shadowed within the walls of a steep defile. A tall stone column, it resembles nothing so much as a lone fang of some vanished, mythical beast. Once, a fervent religious order thrived there. But that was before their god was slain. Embracing that death, Nightfang Spire was transformed from temple to mortuary: a massive, hollow tomb filled with the restless dead.

Heart of Nightfang Spire, a stand-alone adventure for the Dungeons & Dragons game, will challenge 10th-level heroes who follow rumors of dragon's gold to imposing Nightfang Spire. Only upon arriving there is the truth revealed, in all its awful clarity.

The selection below offers a glimpse into how the player characters can begin their explorations of this dangerous and deadly tower. Dungeon Masters who incorporate the full adventure into their campaigns may wish to tinker with this encounter to preserve the players' sense of surprise (should they, too, have read this excerpt).

1. Ossuary (EL 5)

A low, dry-mortared building squats against the west side of the spire. The single-story structure is obviously quite old, but does not share the quality stonework of the tower. A single dark opening provides access on the building's western side.

The ossuary was a broken-down empty shell until Gulthias's return.

A glance into the shadowed interior reveals several humanoid forms (a total of fourteen, if anyone specifically counts them) lying facedown in the loose earth, as well as two coyotes, three vultures, and numerous small vermin. A sharp charnel reek strongly hints at the truth: These forms lie so still because they are dead. The scent is accompanied by a dim melody, impossible to place, that haunts the ossuary's interior. Moving even one step into the building brings the melody into sharper focus for a listener, revealing it as a threat.

Trap: Insidious growth, called blightvine, grows like ivy along the ground and on the walls. Blightvine emanates a wordless music that puts any living creature that hears it (and fails its save) into a deep sleep. Blightvine appeared in the ossuary soon after Gulthias returned to Nightfang Spire, and was likely planted by him to dissuade the curious. When victims are overcome, a rootlike tuber grows up through the soil and parasitically attaches to its new host. Sleeping victims lose 10% of their total hit points each hour unless they are torn loose or the blightvine is destroyed. A patch of blightvine is easily destroyed with 1d4 rounds of energetic hoeing (daggers do in a pinch). If a blightvine cutting is removed from the ossuary, it ceases to exhibit its "musical" abilities.

Blightvine Music: CR 5; music causes all creatures in a 10-ft. radius to fall into unwakable sleep while in radius of effect; Will save (DC 20) each round to avoid effect; Search check (DC 25) to notice something strange about the vines from a distance; Disable Device (n/a).

Development: The oldest body has been dead seven to nine months, and a few are relatively recent. Unless the DM has more involved plans, PCs may discover one or more of the "missing" people noted under Character Hooks here, or even a foe (or the cohort or follower of a foe) the PCs have been trailing (also from Character Hooks).

Treasure: The bodies lie where they fell. One figure, a recently dead elf of wild appearance, possesses ten +1 arrows, a cloak of elvenkind, and 23 pp and 10 gp in a small pouch. The pouch holds a folded parchment with only the words "Flee, fool, lest the Cuckoo take you," written on it.

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