Episode Four: Against the Elements
by Jeff Quick
Bridge Work is a short adventure for four 7th-level characters. The adventure takes place mainly on an enormous stone bridge built across an archipelago. Dungeon Masters can modify the adventure to accommodate higher-level characters by giving humanoid foes more class levels and increasing the HD and/or age category of other opponents.
The Dungeon Master should keep the following points in mind as the players decide what their PCs should do throughout the "Bridge Work" Cliffhanger series.
Traveling by Foot (EL varies)
Two 50-foot-high dwarf statues and a few glyph of warding spells flank the entrance to the bridge. Safely dismissing the glyphs requires a password AND a golden sigil. Both the archaeologist dwarves and the oath dwarves have the golden sigil necessary to disarm the glyph protecting the bridge. However, only the archaeologist dwarves have the password written down on papers among their personal effects. Learning the password from the oath dwarves can be done only from speaking with their corpses.
Anyone who tries to step onto the bridge without the proper password and sigil triggers the glyph. Several applications of the glyph of warding spell delineate five 50-square-foot areas starting at the head of the bridge. The glyph does 5d8 points of fire damage to anyone who breaks it and all within 5 feet of the glyph breaker.
Glyph of Warding: CR 4; 5-ft. fire blast (5d8); Reflex save halves damage (DC 14); Search (DC 28); Disable Device (DC 28).
To cross any one section of the area requires one disarming action. This means that after someone passes the first glyph, he or she must pass a second glyph 50 feet later. Of course, anyone may fly past the area of the glyph and walk harmlessly on the bridge.
Traveling by Air (EL 7)
If a flier attempts to fly more than 200 feet onto the length of bridge at a height of more than 20 feet, that person attracts the attention of the adult arrowhawks circling the vault island, three miles away. (The arrowhawks do not care who walks on the bridge. They care only about those who attempt to fly above the bridge.)
Juvenile Arrowhawks (4): 16 hp each; see Monster Manual page 19.
Traveling by Water (EL 7)
Should the PCs attempt to swim to the island, they encounter tojanidas quite quickly.
Juvenile Tojanidas (4): 19 hp each; see Monster Manual page 177.
Loot and Other Important Matters
While adventuring along this bridge, the PCs find little in the way of extraneous loot around. In fact, they find only what is listed in the possessions of each creature they vanquish. However, the final encounter and the treasure hoard at the end should more than make up for the expedition. As always, Dungeon Masters should feel free to adjust the treasure to their campaign levels.
Once past the gap, the PCs can see the end of the bridge below them. Toward the end, the curvature of the bridge flattens out, and for the last 200 feet the construction looks much more solid, with minimal damage. Every 50 feet along the edge of the bridge, a 20-foot-tall statue of a dwarven warrior flanks the bridge, looking down on the PCs. The arrowhawks who circle overhead attack anyone flying at all now.
Against the Elements (EL 9)
When the PCs are about 110 feet away from the end, a loud voice calls out something in Dwarven. The dialect is old, but anyone who speaks Dwarven can understand it. Those who understand Dwarven hear the following:
"Halt and present the king's sigil."
Accompanying the voice, a Huge humanoid creature made of stone rises from the middle of the bridge. The railing of the bridge and 15 feet of the bridge's surface on either side of the elemental shrink away, as if the elemental were drawing from the bridge to provide its body mass. The creature holds out its right hand, as if waiting for something.
The PCs might very well pull out the golden sigil they used to bypass the glyphs. If they do, read the following:
The elemental reaches down, takes it in one hand, and pulls it back up to its face. It studies the sigil for a few seconds.
"This is the vizier's sigil. Show the king's sigil or be destroyed!"
If any archaeologist dwarves are with the party, they are excited and frightened to witness an elemental that has probably been guarding the bridge for centuries. They had no idea this would be here. They also have no clue what the king's sigil looks like, though they consult their notes furiously, discussing theories of the vizier's relationship to the king.
The creature is an elemental, and it is quite bored with its guard job. It doesn't care about treasure; it cares about fulfilling its centuries-old promise to let only those pass who show it the king's sigil. It speaks only Dwarven and Terran.
The elemental is implacable in its duty. It cannot be tricked easily into doing something foolish, such as revealing the shape of the sigil, or letting the PCs by so they can go get it. However, if the characters seem friendly, the elemental gives clues to where PCs can find the king's sigil in the nearby architecture. The elemental might drop broad hints such as, "I will not reveal the doorway by which you may enter."
In fact, the king's sigil is etched onto the front door of the treasure vault, 200 feet from the foot of the bridge. Though the elemental cannot allow any creature to pass, it does not stop anyone from casting spells or walking by ethereally to get a closer look.
Greater Earth Elemental: 199 hp; see the Monster Manual page 82.
Though its attitude is indifferent and might even become friendly through conversation, it tries to kill any creature who passes without showing the sigil. If a quick character jukes past the elemental, it chases the PCs onto the island.
If no one spots the sigil or thinks to look around for it, the PCs must fight the elemental to enter the vault.
If the PCs talk their way past the elemental, it sinks back into the bridge, awaiting the next challenger to appear.
The PCs have reached the island, and the treasure vault stands before them. What will they face inside?