Light of Despair
Episode Four: The Spectre Fades
By Robert Wiese
The Light of Despair is a short adventure for four 5th-level characters. The adventure takes the characters from the high plateau of a semi-seaside community down a steep cliff and to a haunted lighthouse long disused. It is an acceptable challenge for characters of levels 4-6. It is not adaptable to lower-level characters due to the creatures involved, and higher-level characters would find it far too easy. It uses the Lighthouse map from the January 2001 Map-a-Week feature.
The one constant throughout all of the episodes is the weather.
Weather: The DM should consider having one of two things happen during the story when it comes to weather: drizzle or sun. Using the sun makes the storms that the ghost calls forth even more impressive. However, setting a more horror-oriented mood with a gray day full of drizzle and a hint of chill to the air might be even more effective. Gauge it by how your players normally react to situations with their characters. You could even start with a sunny, brisk day and transition it into more gloomy, threatening weather as the PCs approach the lighthouse. Just keep in mind that the ghost has her own ways with the weather!
The characters found a dying man in the road, who had a key to an abandoned lighthouse. He was a descendent of smugglers that used the lighthouse for illicit activities, and he was going to claim their abandoned treasure. On the way there, other descendants attacked him; they wanted the key. They reached the cliffs and climbed down, and had to fight a manticore along the way. Then they crossed the shallow reef bed and entered the lighthouse. There they met the ghost of Ferrina, and now have to do something to send her to her final rest.
The Spectre Fades (EL 5)
For Ferrina to be laid to rest permanently, the characters have to find the remains of her family (including her own remains) and take them to their final destination. To do this, they have to go out to the wreck of the Dimming Sun, which rests 1/3 of a mile seaward from the lighthouse in 40 feet of water. The ship has been largely broken up by the reefs and so does not reach closer than 15 feet below the surface (at the one remaining partial mast).
The bodies of Ferrina's family are trapped under a small longboat on the stern, where they took shelter. The longboat is held in place by the mizzenmast, which fell and pinned it. Ferrina's body is in her cabin, floating freely, though she still grips a wand and her sketchbook closely to her skeletal form. (The sketchbook will disintegrate if opened out of water.) A spar that speared her through the walls killed her, but the spar has broken off (part remains in her body). There are no other bodies on the ship, as sharks got them.
To get this far, they have to swim the 1/3 mile or find something they can use as a boat. There might be enough scrap wood to make a raft, at your discretion. The storm that Ferrina started in the last episode is probably still in full force when the characters go out on the sea. If the characters indicated that they are going to the wreck to recover the bodies, Ferrina abates the storm. If the characters do anything with the bodies but plan to take them to their destination, the storm resumes its full force.
The danger here is from sharks that swim around the wreckage looking for fish to eat. There are three sharks, and the PCs have to deal with them somehow. The sharks are not automatically aggressive; they swim around the wrecks in full view for 10 minutes or so. During this time, the Animal Empathy skill and the calm animal spell are options for preventing a fight, but once the PCs are at the wreck for more than 10 minutes, the sharks attack. Review the underwater dangers rules on page 85 of the Dungeon Master's Guide.
Shark, Large (3): hp 38, see Monster Manual page 200-201.
The cabin where Ferrina is found is the one that the whole family used, and there are some documents remaining to help the characters determine where the family was going and what they were planning to settle there. The documents, on parchment, don't tear if they are kept underwater and handled carefully, but if they are taken out of water they should be treated as very wet paper.
When the remains enter the harbor of the city they intended to travel to (and you get to decide where that is, but don't make it too far away), a quiet sigh escapes Ferrina and she dissolves into light and mist and dissipates. No one will be there to see her do so, but she does. The remains can then be buried anywhere. The PCs can keep the wand with no fear of retribution at this point, as well.
The Cliffhanger Ends
With the ghost gone, the lighthouse eventually becomes functional again, and the characters journey elsewhere to seek adventure. Or, you might allow the characters to keep the lighthouse as their base of operations, but the surrounding countries would like it to fulfill its purpose, and contest the characters' claim to it if they don't agree to staff it and have the light operated nightly.