Keepsake (3.5e Quest)
From D&D Wiki
|This page contains adult content which some may find offensive.|
Do not view this page if you are a minor or are offended by such material.
- 1 Keepsake
- 2 Heights of Depravity
- 2.1 1 - Hangyard
- 2.2 2 - Guard Recess
- 2.3 3 - Crossroads
- 2.4 4 - Waterways
- 2.5 5 - Central Hall
- 2.6 6 - The Dais
- 2.7 7 - Alchemist's Quarter
- 2.8 8 - Carmichael's Chamber
- 2.9 9 - Blood Pits
- 2.10 10 - The Wheel of Pain
- 2.11 11 - Servant's Quarters
- 2.12 12 - Treasury
- 2.13 13 - Lightning Rods
- 2.14 14 - Golem Factory
- 2.15 15 - Golem Stockpile
- 2.16 16 - Arena
- 2.17 17 - Vice Corridors
- 2.18 18 - Slave Pens
- 2.19 19 - Nerukath's Chamber
- 2.20 20 - Elf Cage
- 2.21 21 - Animal Cage
- 2.22 22 - Undead Cage
- 2.23 23 - Fake Phylactery
Intended for four level 15-17 adventurers.
The Keepsake is the dark fortress of Nerukath located in the Far Fanes, a pocket dimension between the Planes of Shadow and Negative Energy. The basic gist and the associated battle maps are easy to translate to any setting that's fantastical enough to support an otherworldly palace of torture. The characters within are also capable of traveling between dimensions, meaning they can be faced and integrated into almost any setting.
Keepsake is a decidedly dark quest, however. Torture is a large theme in it, and is explored in ugly detail, so if you or your players don't enjoy such nasty themes, this isn't the quest for you. That's not to say the quest can't be used if you dislike the torture theme: you can always salvage the battle maps, characters and encounters to use in less vicious storylines.
- Prep Time 1-2 hours
- Play Time 3-4 hours
|The black iron of Keepsake's outside is foreboding, but nothing compared to what goes on within.|
A classic megadungeon, although not quite as mega as some of the most well-known examples. Keepsake concentrates on combat encounters, but also contains a few vicious traps and puzzles; what's more, it can be played almost entirely as a roleplaying quest for those groups who enjoy acting out their character's emotions and partaking in courtly schemes more than out-and-out violence.
Whatever the chosen style of play, the mood of the quest is incredibly dark. Care should be taken not to play the torturous inhabitants and pastimes of Keepsake as comical or oafish, as they are anything but. The depressing tortures and horrors of the place contrast nicely with the apparent indifference of its Lord and Lady, and a roleplaying group will have plenty of time to explore the limits of their characters - and indeed themselves. Again, this is not a quest for everyone.
After his ascent (or perhaps descent) into lichdom, Nerukath desired a home for his dark art, a palace dedicated to the manifold practice of torture. He laid the foundations into a floating isle of obsidian in the Far Fanes, and moved his entire court into the pocket dimension. Now he calls out for all torturers to enjoy the fruits of his labor, to prove their talent in the Arena and to mingle with like-minded folk. Keepsake, as well as the isle it is on, are the only place in the Far Fanes not affected by the pocket dimensions's wasting effects. The fortress is a rough, ugly square of iron with thorn-like towers and smokestacks jutting out of it like spines from some hideous, blackened monster.
For combat-oriented players:
- Nerukath has kidnapped someone close to the players and intends to violate him with the full force of his art
- A heinous interdimensional criminal is hiding in Keepsake, his exact nature unknown even to the Lord and Lady of the household
- Surma has been killed (perhaps by the players), and his sister Ysabella is out for blood - stop her dangerous plans at the source
For roleplay-oriented players:
- Somehow, the party has come to know of Carmichael's unwillingness to create nothing but implements of torture - perhaps they can help?
- Nerukath's hoard contains some powerful artifact the party desires, so they must curry favor with the Lord and Lady to gain access to it
- A gifted torturer who resides in the Keepsake can no longer be allowed to live, so an assassination has to take place
Since the staff of Keepsake is vast and its visitors varied, the quest can be as far-reaching as you want it to be: perhaps even the culmination of a campaign, from the players hunting torturer after torturer, each more skilled and more dangerous than the last, only to end up in the wolf's den itself. The quest and associated battle map are for the final moments of such a campaign, whether it be combat or roleplay the players desire. On the other hand, you can always use Keepsake as just another dark locale, a piece of some greater puzzle.
- Nerukath, the Lord of Keepsake
- Ysabella, the Lady of Keepsake
- Carmichael, Nerukath's Head Artificer
- Sister Cheryll, Nerukath's Head Alchemist
- Bar'mini, a visiting torturer
Heights of Depravity
The Keepsake is a low, heavily fortified citadel with little articulation, floating on a bleak land mass drifting in the endless nothing of the Far Fanes. It looks most like a black-gray, uneven rectangle, fashioned as if by blind titans. The inside, on the other hand, contains masterful craftsmanship and decoration, although only in those places Nerukath himself frequents.
The characters will usually want to know the password for the front gate beforehand, as guessing it can be a pain otherwise. Make it obvious to the players that preparation before coming here is vital: one of the first things scrying and rumors should reveal is the need for a password. Learning the password can be a quest in and of itself.
Nerukath takes care that Keepsake is warded against all kinds of magical scrying, secretive overlord that he is. Through powerful enchantments and illusions he has weaved in concert with the night hags of the fortress, any scrying attempts lead to a false vision spell that shows a humanoid hand being perpetually lacerated to ribbons in hideous detail. The spell comes with a nightmare rider: the scryer will be targeted by a nightmare every night they go to sleep, haunted by the same image, until dispel evil is cast on the scryer; this doesn't stun Nerukath.
Many of the features of Keepsake operate on pendants of servitude: minor magical items fashioned by Nerukath that disable traps and open doors for those wearing them. They aren't without an ulterior motive: they also make it easier for the Lord of the household to work his dominating magic on the wearer. All vampire servants and night hags in Keepsake wear one, and Nerukath keeps three or four on his person to gift to frequent visitors - although only the foolish wear them when not forced to.
Pendant of servitude: This pendant is a small token fashioned of bone and crystal and worn around the neck. Those who don it suffer from feelings of inferiority and self-doubt. Many of the traps of the Keepsake are keyed to the pendants, one of which is worn by most permanent residents of Keepsake. The pendant also imposes a -2 penalty on Will saves against Nerukath's spells. Moderate enchantment; CL 13th; Craft Wondrous Item, mind fog; Price 1,000 gp.
(corridors) A cool wisp of air carrying nauseating hints of stenches flows on your clammy skin as you make your way down the corridor. The walls are of dark mineral you do not recognize, with bright veins of minerals and ores - you think you recognize quartz, and perhaps copper. The floor is made of polished flagstones that might once have been grand, but years of heavy use have rendered them broken and stained.
(Spot DC 30, Search DC 20 or stonecunning) It takes you a while to notice that the corridor inclines ever so slightly the deeper it goes into the dungeon. It's almost as if all the routes of Keepsake were intended to lead the ones walking down it to some converging point in the darkness: perhaps some dark heart of the fortress.
NOTE: Whenever coordinates are present, alphabets are vertical and numbers are horizontal.
1 - Hangyard
|A taste of things to come.|
The smell of rot is strong in your nostrils as you pass by the hanged carcasses of various humanoids. Eerie music, like a broken fiddle, can be heard far off. The mithral gates ahead of you give off an evil glimmer as the red light of strange, crystal-tipped rods flanking the trodden road reflects from their surface. You fight off a shudder, and plod on.
Mithral gates magically locked with a password (hardness 15, 30 hp; Strength DC 28 to bend bars; Wisdom DC 25 to guess at random; password hakath, which means "broken"). Cast-iron sculptures of trees (Climb DC 15 to climb; check map); from each hang three to five neck-snapped corpses. Fourteen of these corpses (two in each "tree") are actually spellstitched hangwights (Spot DC 22 to notice). Third-northernmost tree has a hollow (Search DC 30 to notice) which hides a dragonskin pouch (really a type 2 bag of holding).
The hangwights quickly descend from the trees, ripping themselves free of the ropes that are fake-hanging them. They use the element of surprise effectively, landing sneak attacks and surrounding foes to their best effect. If given the chance, they activate mage armor on themselves, but this is less important than getting into the fray quickly. Three to four hangwights gang a single opponent (depending on the opponent), with the rest staying back and peppering foes with blindness/deafness, ray of exhaustion and stinking cloud. If the fight goes awry for the hangwights, one or two cast stinking cloud and they skulk off to attempt another ambush at a later time.
2 - Guard Recess
You enter a small room with little in it, asides from what appears to be entrails splattered on the floor. It is most likely used as a guard post of some sort, although why exactly a place as dangerous as this would need guarding escapes you. Currently, a large iron golem holds the post, but it is unlike any golem you've witnessed before: jagged spikes jut from its plated head, shoulders and torso. The front of the golem is an open cavity, filled with hot coals and spikes, and houses a charred corpse - perhaps the victim of some earlier torment. It regards you with an eyeless gaze.
20ft.-by-10ft. room, 20ft. high. Eastern exit trapped with a scythe blade that activates when you step on the threshold (Reflex DC 25 to avoid, 2d4+12 damage; Disable Device 30 to disable), after which it rearms itself; can be avoided by wearing a pendant of servitude. Room contains a torture golem (A1-2, B1-2; 2 slams +23 melee (2d10+11 plus 2d6 fire), breath weapon also deals 4d6 fire damage (Reflex DC 19 half), CR 14), which attacks intruders.
The torture golem attacks anyone who wanders into its sight, using a simple strategy: it mauls the closest foe with full attacks, and unleashes its breath weapon (notice the difference to a normal iron golem) as often as possible, affecting as many foes as possible. The golems of Keepsake follow the commands of vampire servants and Carmichael as well as the Lord and Lady of the household, but no one else - if they don't tell a golem otherwise, it attacks until it or its foes are dead.
3 - Crossroads
You've come to a small room that forks into three directions. The arches above the corridor entrances depict what appear to be wraiths dancing with humans of all social castes: the rich and poor alike. Deep inscriptions with letters easily a feet tall across the floor reads: mortalitas tripudio nobis totus ("death dances with us all"). The room has a feeling of heavy gloom and depression on it, weighing down like an anchor.
15ft.-by-20ft. room, 20ft. high. Archways can be barred with mithral gates using hidden switches just outside the archways on all sides (Search DC 20 to locate; hardness 15, 30 hp; Strength DC 28 to bend bars). Secret door (Search DC 30 to locate; hardness 12, 30 hp), behind which a system of pulleys which reset the doors. When doors closed, mind-affecting magic invokes dread lethargy in those within: unless success on a DC 10 + (5 x turns spent in room after closing), character stops breathing (normal suffocation rules) until they manage to leave the room. Vampire Servant (B3) studying archway.
Once the vampire servant becomes aware of intruders (either through a warning from Nerukath or by discovering them), it attempts to lure invaders into the room, after which he zips to one entrance (usually the eastern one) and closes the gates. Then he retrieves an torture golem (see above) to take care of the rest. If forced to battle, the servant fights sneakily, attempting to work from a corridor so as to lessen the chance of flanking. It escapes as soon as possible to warn others of the intruders.
4 - Waterways
In front of you lies the only source of pure water in Nerukath's foul lair, and perhaps even all of the Far Fanes. The masonry in this room seems somewhat unstable: cracks streak across the walls and roof, and the flow of the water has corroded the floor noticably. If not for the quiet dripping and the mucous movements of unseen vermin, the room would be quiet.
20ft.-by-20ft. room with two 5ft.-by-15ft. indents on the western and eastern walls, 20ft. high. Water from 2 to 15 feet deep (from waterfront to northwestern edge of room), curtains of knitted flesh serve as doors (hardness 2, 2 hp), underwater concealed panel (Search DC 20 Search to notice). Iron bench (A1-2), barrel of rotten fish (alcove 2 C1). The water stream contains seven leechwalkersMM2.
The leechwalkers attack anyone who enters the water, drinks from the pool or lingers for an extended period of time within five feet of the water's edge. As mindless vermin they fight without tactics or finesse, usually just ganging up on the first one to come too near. They are relentless in their fight, but will not leave the vicinity of the water; thus, they never pursue fleeing enemies out of the room.
5 - Central Hall
|The customers of this market are not|
your average shoppers.
Most of the great corridors and pathways of the Keepsake seem to lead to and from this room. It serves as a sort of town square, for lack of better word: the torturer vampires and protected cultists gather here to exchange dark knowledge and nefarious goods, as well as recount stories of good torments. Sounds and smells from all over the lair end up here - making the room a test on the senses. A square stone slab-table serves as the bartering ground, and the cool stone steams with the warm blood and innards that are continually placed on it. A tense quiet falls on the room as you step in, but it quickly dissolves: apparently the traders and torturers have seen things far worse and far stranger than you.
30ft.-by-25ft. room, 60ft. high. A curtain of knitted flesh serves as southern door (hardness 2, 2 hp), northern door locked (hardness 12, 30 hp; Open Lock DC 30 to open, Strength DC 24 to burst). Crystal pulsating with red energy line the walls; these turn off if all the lighting rods are disconnected (see room 13). Stone slab-table (B2-3, B5, C2, C5, D2, D4-5). Dozens of iron stools along the walls.
The room is inhabited by dozens of interplanar slavers, torturers and other foul characters. They pay no heed to anyone who doesn't directly attack them, but if pushed, the party will discover that not nearly all of them are the frail cowards they might seem. Of the group, two are vampire servants, two are erinyes torturers, one is a rakshasa trader and one is an adult blue dragon clinging to the roof. The rest of the group are too weak, too lazy or too cowardly to participate in a fight.
In general, challenging the traders is not a good idea. Since they don't attack characters, there's no need to, and even if an ongoing fight ends up in the central hall, the barterers would rather entertain themselves by watching than take part. When Nerukath is seriously threatened (or slain), the room empties quickly: no one wants to stick around after the Lord is gone, since they could very well be next.
If the characters are so inclined, the inhabitants of the room are more than willing to trade. There's plenty of powerful magical items for sale (no mundane ones, though - such powerful individuals don't waste time with that), although payment is often negotiated in slaves, sacrifices, permanent ability drain and other nasty currencies.
6 - The Dais
One of the most sickening tortures applied by Nerukath on his victims is a specialized disease he affectionately calls "standing ovation": it forces the infected to scream at the top of his lungs, quickly deafening him and wrecking his windpipe, larynx and vocal chords. Eventually the victim drowns in his own blood. This room serves as an administration room for said drug: six small cells contain the squealing victims of the disease. Some of them are still shrieking fiercely and heart-wrenchingly, but a few have already succumbed to voiceless gasps.
15ft.-by-30ft. room with six 5ft.-by-5ft. cells, 20ft. high. Door trapped with an electric jolt (6d6 damage, Reflex DC 28 half; can be bypassed by holding onto a thin copper bolt on top of the door (Spot DC 30 to spot, Search DC 20 to locate); Disable Device DC 28 to disable), mithral cage doors locked (hardness 15, 30 hp; Open Lock DC 28 to open, Strength DC 28 to bend bars). Rotten wooden table (B2-C2), armoire made of humanoid bones and knitted flesh (hardness 2, 5 hp) containing 2d8+4 vials of liquid infused with standing ovation, two vials of acid, a +1 keen kukri and a headband of intellect +2, along with several unpleasant-looking instruments of torture. 1d4+2 cells are inhabited at any given time, usually with humans, half-elves and elves - all infected with standing ovation. The cells themselves contain nothing except chains anchored to the walls.
7 - Alchemist's Quarter
The smell of ammoniac stings your nostrils as you open the door. This room has been used by a spellcaster for alchemical studies or experiments: the chemical-stained jackets on hooks, the heavy-set tables filled with laboratory paraphernalia, and thousands of vials on wall-mounted shelves are dead giveaways. A small cage in the corner rattles as you move about the room, emitting squeaking noises every so often.
(if Sister Cheryll is present) A portly woman is bustling near the far end of the room. Her face is scrunched up in concentration as she carefully dissects a fiendish-looking lizard. She smiles as she manages to remove a pulsating organ from the thing, and plops it into a beaker. "Hand me the sulphuric acid, will you love?" she calls out to you absent-mindedly.
20ft.-by-20ft. room, 20ft. high. Door locked only when Sister Cheryll isn't present (50% chance at any given time; hardness 12, 30 hp; Open Lock DC 30 to open, Strength DC 24 to burst). Long oak workbench (A2-D2) containing various chemical compounds and magical liquids, including 1d4 vials of empowered acid (4d6 damage instead of 1d6, 4 on bystanders), a potion of barkskin +3 (C2; Search DC 30 to locate), a potion of resist energy (fire) 20 (D2; Search DC 32 to locate), a jar of flame arrow ointment (A2; Search DC 34 to locate), a potion of remove blindness/deafness (B2; Search DC 36 to locate), a pouch of seashell powder of water breathing (C2; Search DC 38 to locate), and a brown paper parcel of grease of protection from arrows 15/magic (Search DC 40 to locate). Bone cage in corner (hardness 3, 5 hp) contains Ludwig, who can speak Undercommon in a squeaky voice. It bears absolutely no love for its master, Sister Cheryll, and is happy to tell what little it knows about the surroundings (which is very little) and its master (which is possibly even less). If the woman herself is in the room, she is likely to continue her experiments as if nothing has happened if characters barge in - even request for their help in retrieving components.
Sister Cheryll is not a fighter, and seems entirely unaware of her surroundings or threats against her, but is actually on her guard all the time - how else would she have survived in the Keepsake? She begins fights by attempting to reach a better strategic position: quickened invisibility is a common way, as is teleport in a pinch. She hedges opposition in with wall of iron and black tentacles, hurts them with acid fog and maximized scorching ray and calls for back-up. If given time to prepare, she has her low-level buffs up already, making her that much more difficult to fight. Back-up can consist of a torture golem (see above), two vampire servants, or an autopsy golem (see below) and a night hag - any fair (or indeed unfair) fight you can come up with is good.
8 - Carmichael's Chamber
Your ears fill with metallic noises and ticking in the short corridor, and the voice's source is revealed as you step into a small chamber. The walls, the ceiling, even the floor, are covered with mechanical gizmos, turning wheels and pumping pistons. They seem to do little besides operate on their own, forever churning towards no goal. The middle of the room contains a simple mahogany casket, currently open and empty. It's simplicity clashes with the horrid decor of the rest of Keepsake.
15ft.-by-20ft. room, 20ft. high. Both doorways trapped with scythe blades that activate when you step on the threshold (Reflex DC 25 to avoid, 2d4+12 damage; Disable Device 30 to disable), after which it rearms itself; can be avoided by wearing a pendant of servitude (see below). Carmichael's casket (B2-C2), containing a rod of cancellation on the cushions, and a scroll of wish in a hidden compartment (Search DC 40 to locate).
9 - Blood Pits
|Death comes slowly.|
The moment you step into this room you feel the negative energies pulsate through you. The room is filled, corner to corner, with blood - easily three to five inches high, and with more pouring endlessly into the room from four leering gargoyle-heads on the walls. The coppery stench is overpowering, and the flagstones underneath the opaque surface are slippery. You spot three grated openings, about one-and-a-half feet tall from the floor, on each wall: beyond the grates open what you assume are deep pits filled to the brim with blood. At the end of the room lies a sight even more nightmarish: a gigantic yet gaunt figure, naked and white, clearly stitched together from several bodies. Cuts and incisions criss-cross the bloodstained paleness of its skin, with the cut skin pulled open and taut with chain and nail. Underneath, you can glimpse the twitching of muscles and tightening of sinews.
35ft.-by-10ft. room with six 5ft.-by-5ft. cribs, 20ft. high. Pits 5ft. deep, door locked (hardness 12, 30 hp; Open Lock DC 30 to open, Strength DC 24 to burst), mithral grates locked when containing occupant (hardness 15, 30 hp; Open Lock DC 30 to open, Strength DC 28 to bend bars). Bladed walls in each pit, meant to inhibit leaning; victim drowns in blood when they can no longer stand. Gargoyle heads vomiting blood (against walls A3, A5, B3, B5) shoot bolts of negative energy at those who pass directly in front of them (3d8 damage, Reflex DC 25 half), except for lifeless creatures. An improved flesh golem (HD 18, 109 hp, initiative +0, AC 19 (-1 size, +10 natural; touch 9, flat-footed 19), 2 slams +18 melee (2d8+6), Fort +6, Ref +6, Will +6, Str 22, Dex 10, CR 9) called an autopsy golem stands guard at end of corridor and attacks trespassers.
The golem has been ordered to go no further than A4-B4, forcing enemies into the line of negative bolts from the gargoyle heads, all the while the golem can still slam its foes with reach attacks. This goes out the window the minute the golem goes berserk, however.
10 - The Wheel of Pain
The heart of Nerukath's wicked realm is before you - the dread Wheel of Pain. Even the most uneducated planar traveler has heard of the wicked contraption that is the masterpiece of Nerukath's: a torture device that can rip apart the three parts of a living creature - body, mind and soul - so completely that resurrection becomes nigh-impossible, even with deity-like powers. It is said that it can torture to death even a god. Those unlucky who have felt the endless blades of the Wheel of Pain become nothing more than unseen ghosts of pain. The machine, a perfect circle of mithral affixed to a mechanical frame with a crane-like device, houses thousands of blades, hooks, stings, syringes and claws. Gears grind and tracks roll as the device lies dormant - but only on the outside.
30ft.-by-10ft. room with two 10ft.-by-10ft. entrances, 40ft. high. Red area taken up by the Wheel of Pain. Mental command from Nerukath (a move action) operates the walls of force that are built into every surface of the room plus the two entrances, trapping everyone within until the Wheel of Pain is destroyed or some way to escape is devised. The steel walls are fitted with gears, leverages and pipes too numerous to count.
Ordinarily the Wheel is dormant, and doesn't attack those who enter just for fun. If attacked, the Wheel will lash out, but since it can't operate the force walls by itself, it can have a hard time fighting foes (remember that it can't understand anything outside the room). Nerukath often brings problematic prisoners here and exhibits their torturous end to close allies. Nerukath is in constant telepathic contact with the Wheel, so if it's attacked or operated in any way, he'll know.
11 - Servant's Quarters
The oddness of what you see before you gives you pause. Six massive iron slabs stand in the middle of the room with four more set into the walls. There's little else in the way of furnishing except an armoire of what appears to be ivory propped up against the back wall as well as a tall tube of brass in the corner - a faucet sticks out of the metal, drip-drip-dripping onto the floor.
Then you notice the slabs have lids, and it dawns on you. They're sacrophagi.
30ft.-by-35ft. room with two 5ft.-by-25ft. alcoves, 20ft. high. Six iron sarcophagi on the floor (check map) with four more in the walls (two on top of each other in both the western and the eastern wall. A massive bone armoire (A3-4), containing a weapon rack (currently two +1 rapiers and nine masterwork javelins on the rack), eight sets of royal clothes, and a small wooden case with pergament, ink and quills in it. A brass tube filled with magically-unclotted blood (G1).
Most of the vampire servants of Nerukath dwell in this room. Since there is no day-and-night cycle in the Far Fanes, the vampires can choose their time of rest freely - when the party arrives, there's two vampire servants sleeping in their coffins, unless the Keepsake is in an uproar, in which case everyone is up.
12 - Treasury
Compared to the dread magnificence the rest of the Keepsake possesses at least in scale, this room, which you assume is a treasury, is quite modest. Four iron chests sit on two stone platforms in the room.
(in the hallway to the north) As you come to a corner your blood freezes as you spot a figure right next to you! You jerk back, and as the figure does the same, you understand it to be a reflection. God, this place has done a number on you.
(upon getting caught in the trap) You walk into the corridor just outside the treasury, but it seems... different. You come to a turn, then another, and before you know it you're back at the treasury!'
15ft.-by-10ft. room, 10ft. high. Four locked iron chests (A1, A3, B1, B3; hardness 10, 30 hp; Open Lock DC 30 to open, Strength DC 35 to burst), containing: A1: a test tube rack, holding four vials of cure serious wounds, two vials of spider climb, a vial of resist energy (30) electricity and two vials of poison; A3: a +2 chain shirt, a pair of gloves of Dexterity +2, a robe of bones and a robe of vermin; B1: platinum and gold coins, along with jewelery of various desings, altogether worth 20000 gp; B3: the desiccated corpse of a small child wearing a golden ring on its finger - the ring is a cursed ring of sustenance (once donned, cannot be taken off without a remove curse). The child's stomach cavity also contains Nerukath's true phylactery.
The entrance to the treasury is protected by the apparent mirrors in the corridor to the north (check map), which can be walked through as though they were air. Once a character steps through, however, a trap is sprung: the character can't walk back into the corridor, but instead loops around a corridor and returns to the treasury from the other side. The trick is to walk into the corridor backwards; this way, a character steps out of the mirror, and returns to the dungeon proper.
13 - Lightning Rods
|Complicated is the artificer's art,|
and the results sublime.
Your hair stands on edge and the taste of ozone fills your nostrils as you open the heavy, ceramic door. Your eyes water as you look ahead: a massive copper pillar stands before you, crackling with barely-contained electricity that runs up and down the gargantuan device's length. The sparks are vicious at the bottom, but in the far distance above become akin to thunder - the noise is deafening. Four ceramic pipes, similar to the door, run from the pillar into the walls.
(13b) In front of the pillar stands a vicious-looking tiger-woman dressed in extravagant red and purple, flanked by toadlike monstrosities. The creature purrs in delight so loudly it can be heard over the crackle of electricity. But much more worrying is the whimpering and screams coming from behind the rakshasa.
(13d) Crouched near one of the ceramic tubes is a vampire, wearing a smudgy leather apron and a headband with a magnifying eyepiece attached. When he hears the door open, he raises his gaze - for a moment you're treated to the bizarre sight of two red eyes, one normal and the other magnified to a grotesque size, staring at you in disbelief.
Circular room (check map), 60ft. high. A 5ft.-in-diameter copper pillar in the middle of the room with electricity running through it; touching the pillar deals 6d6 electricity damage. Four ceramic tubes running away from the middle pillar diagonally; breaking one causes 2d6 electricity damage and releases a poisonous, pitch-black fluid (Contact, Fortitude DC 25, initial damage 1d6 Con, secondary damage 2d6 Con). Destroying all four turns off the electric output the room is providing; turning off all room shuts down the electric wonders of Keepsake.
13b: Bar'mini, a rakshasa noblewoman, is torturing her planetar prey, bodyguarded by two hezrous. The planetar is chained to the copper pillar with thousands of tiny copper chains, and the rakshasa, a rare divine spellcaster among her kind, resurrects the angel whenever it perishes. Bar'mini doesn't mind an audience, but if the party attempts to free the planetar, attacks her or tries to destroy the ceramic tubes, she attacks viciously.
For all her fighting prowess, Bar'mini doesn't much care for a fight. She'll stick around for a round or two to cast effective and dangerous spells, but soon makes her escape, enabled by the stout defense of her minions. This doesn't mean she will let the slight go unavenged: the party has robbed her of her fun, and will pay - just not here. The hezrous, on the other hand, stay behind and fight: they know an even worse fate awaits them if they falter.
The planetar is grievously wounded, and without the resurrecting magic of Bar'mini, will soon perish if not removed from the pillar (which is a problem in and of itself, since the pillar is active). If rescued, the planetar will offer its aid in anything regarding the Keepsake: it'll tell what it knows (Nerukath has fashioned his fortress into a palace of torture and invites those gifted in delivering pain to dwell in the halls; Bar'mini was merely one of them), and will fight with the characters if asked to. The planetar will not aid the party outside Keepsake: it hates Nerukath and his companions with a passion, but still answers only to its cosmic masters.
13d: Carmichael, the genius artificer of Keepsake, is currently working repairs on the copper pillar, which is out of commission for the time being. He is guarded by a pack of six spellstitched hangwights, lurking far above in the shadows of the tower (Spot DC 22 to notice). The wights descend onto anyone who approaches the artificer with ill intent.
Carmichael will stay away at the back of the room while the wights pounce from above and surround foes. He casts damaging spells (especially ice storm and wall of fire) with little regard for the well-being of his "allies", and runs away at the first opportunity: without golems to support him, an artificer is weak.
14 - Golem Factory
The tang of blood and purifying agents mixes with the stench of brimstone and worked iron. The resulting smell, while unique, is also horrid. This is clearly where the golem servants of Nerukath are fashioned: large stalls house golem bodies in various states of completion, from lacerated torsos to finalized iron golems.
(if Carmichael previously faced and lighting rod destroyed in room 13d) A vampiric artificer is busy rousing the finished works to action, barking orders at hideous, unliving bodies that stir from their nonexistence and turn to face you. The artificer glares at you as four golems flank him, two fleshy and milky-white and two red-hot iron creations. "It took me twenty years to master the designs of the lighting rods, to fashion them with my own two hands, to bring them to life. You destroyed them in minutes." He turns to face the golems. "Kill them."
20ft.-by-50ft. room with six 10ft.-by-10ft. stalls (check map), 20ft. high. Seamless hidden panel on the eastern wall (Search DC 40 to locate), leads to 5ft.-by-5ft. and 10ft. high control room (Intelligence DC 30 check allows to operate the controls, but only if wearing a pendant of servitude; possible features: turn lights in Keepsake on and off, move all nonengaged golems to any room they fit, turn electricity in zoo cages on and off, turn Ketka's collar on and off). Obsidian counter (A1-4, B4-C4) filled with golem designs, fine parts, metalworking tools and scalpels (Small masterwork dagger), a scroll rack (containing a scroll of animate objects, a scroll of commune, a scroll of resurrection, a scroll of animate dead, a scroll of bull's strength, a scroll of geas/quest, a scroll of limited wish, a scroll of cloudkill, a scroll of antimagic field, a scroll of slow and a scroll of symbol of stunning) and eight vials of acid. Chains on tracks in ceiling, allowing golem parts to be moved around (Strenght DC 15 to move). An iron cart full of corpses and their parts (D1-2, E1-2).
Three battles are possible in this area: if the party has already visited room 13d and driven off Carmichael, he will be here, preparing for a counterattack; the party has to face the four golems and the artificer at the same time. If the party managed to kill Carmichael before he escaped, the golems fight without him. If the party hasn't been to room 13d before they come here, he arrives in 3 rounds through the secret panel and immediately upon figuring out the situation joins the fray.
The golems do their best to block off both the exit of the room (trampling over opponents with overrun to get to the entrance) and access to the artificer, if and when he's present. Other than that, they move in a deadly line, mauling those who are closest and working their way through the opposition. Meanwhile, Carmichael casts spells to boost the golems: he uses wall of fire to heal the iron golems and lightning bolt to hasten and heal the flesh golems. He takes care not to target the flesh golems with fire spells, and they in turn avoid the effects of wall of fire. Carmichael loves his creations and will fight to the death to protect and/or avenge them.
15 - Golem Stockpile
You turn a corner and stop to process what you're seeing: corpses hanging from chains, currently being stripped of flesh by swarming masses of scarabs that crawl on the walls and the ceiling. Many have had their limbs haphazardly hacked off, others have been disemboweled. The floor is slick with viscera and offal. The entire scene is lit by a hellish glow from a massive furnace, into which a scaled devil is feeding metal.
15ft.-by-30ft. room, 20ft. high. The visceral floor is slippery. Massive furnace (against A1-3), which can pour its molten metal contents onto a mold rack (B3). Dozens of corpses, both Medium and Large, hang from hooks all over the room. Two scarab swarmsFF (climb speed 30 ft.) currently work on the corpses (leaving certain bits untouched to use in flesh golems) and a horned devil is tending to the forge. When the cornugon notices intruders, it commands the scarabs to attack, and goes to town itself.
The cornugon has used all its fireball spells for the day to maintain the forge. Since that option is out of the question, it quickly activates its fear aura and casts lightning bolt at the first people to enter. It then moves next to the ledge and starts attacking upwards with its spiked chain, trying to stun as many foes as possible. The scarab swarms move to face enemies mindlessly, and will never seize in their attack.
If the cornugon feels particularly threatened, for example when it's surrounded or its health gets low, it will attempt to greater teleport away. It won't summon demons: working for Nerukath is not worth getting into debt over.
16 - Arena
If the rest of the Keepsake can be described as darkly magnificent, then this room is beyond words. Pillars of bone, like living spines still undulating ever so softly, hold up a dark ceiling some fifty feet above. The middle of the room is an obsidian pit, its floor and walls caked with blood and filth. There seems to be no obvious way to descend into or ascend from the pit, which might be the point. Chairs both simple and magnificent litter the balcony the surrounds the pit, and even now a few dark characters lounge in the room, perhaps waiting for the next attraction.
Oval room (check map), 50ft. high at balcony, pit 20ft. deep. Eastern gateway can only be opened with a switch on the east side of the gate (hardness 8, 75 hp), secret door unlocked (Search DC 30 to locate). Dozens of chairs and benches on the balcony, the finest and highest of which at the western end of the room. The walls of the pit are perfectly smooth obsidian (can't be climbed), while the spinal pillars offer ample hand- and footholds (Climb DC 15); however, the living bone thrust out at anyone within 5 feet with a venomous lance of bone every turn (attack roll +18, damage 1d8+4/×3, poison DC 26, damage 1d6 Dex/2d6 Dex).
The people lounging around in the arena consist of similar characters to those found in the central hall. Those in the group ready (but not automatically willing) to fight opposition are a glabrezu envoy of Levistus, a troupe of eight imp acrobats, a mummified yuan-ti lord attended to by two yuan-ti halfbloodsMM1 and someone's pet lifeleech otyughMM3; again, the rest have their reasons not to fight and to leave the scene if hostilities begin.
Various forms of sick entertainment take place at the arena at every hour: the displays vary in content, length (although rarely more than half an hour) and depravity, but they always have pain and fear as the main attraction. Below is a list of just a few examples of these attractions; feel free to tailor your own for your party.
|1||A solely water-breathing creature, preferably an intelligent one (examples include locathahMM1 and skum), is dragged to the arena and air-drowned. Oftentimes, an evil cleric will repeatedly cast create water to prolong the painful process.|
|2||The area is filled with thorns (occasionally bloodthornsFF), different varieties of barbed wire, shallow layers of acid or open flames. Naked creatures are then forced to maim their way to something or complete some objective that will set them free. It won't, of course.|
|3||A prisoner is forced to play a game of "choose a card", except the cards are plaques inscribed with symbols of death, fear, insanity, pain and weakness. Only a few of the plaques are without a symbol - occasionally, none are.|
|4||Invasive surgery is performed on a bound, awake and often sentient creature, supposedly to exhibit its anatomy. The creatures thus operated on are often Huge or larger (examples include cloud giant and kraken).|
|5||Nerukath occasionally auditions for gifted torturers, and these auditions are held in the arena. The enterprising torturer is expected to showcase their talent on a subject they provide themselves, using their own tools and techniques. Points for innovation, artistry, and interesting choice of subject.|
|6||A musical performance takes place, although not a pleasant one: the instruments are living creatures, mutilated and violated just the right way to create a specific scream, whimper or gurgle. Percussions are formed of breaking bones and sounds of weapons on flesh, and the whole atrocity is accompanied by the wailing song of night hags. These are Nerukath's favorite attraction.|
|7||A puppetmaster or -masters consisting of creatures capable of dominating others to do their bidding (magically or otherwise) put on a play with their subjugated puppets. These plays invariably end in wholesale slaughter and/or sexual depravity. Common puppetmasters include balors, hellwasp swarms and vampires, and the puppets often consist of families or close friends.|
|8||A beast, cannibal or monster eats someone alive. Often, the eating creature is see-through (either an ooze or magically transparent) and swallows the target whole, so that the audience can marvel at the damage gastric acid can do. A common variation is that the cannibal-to-be is unwilling and forced to commit the deed through threats of pain and violence.|
|9||A classic arena battle takes place: two or more sides are pitted against each other, and the last ones standing win. Since this is such a tired concept, the attraction is spiced up through variable environments (a pit full of centipedes or spiders is common, as is an antimagic pit), fighters (say, twenty small children fighting against several chokers), and conditions (for example the first to remove the opponent's brain wins). A memorable one was when a powerful barbarian was carefully deluded through enchantments and illusions to fight himself.|
|10||It's a free-for-all! Nerukath provides a large number of prisoners (often a small tribe, the population of a manor or the roster of a minor guild) and the audience has an hour to do what they want to the subjects. These affairs often devolve into complete chaos, as audience members fight over who gets to violate which prisoner. Some people delight in inciting this anarchy, casting area spells into the pit without a care of who they hit.|
17 - Vice Corridors
Small passageways branch off from the main corridor here, each ending in a velvet curtain. People bustle in and out, giving you brief glimpses into the narrow corridor beyond the veils: drunkards downing cup after cup of wine, creatures of all shapes and sizes fornicating on the floor and against the walls... debauchery, in a word.
Two 5ft.-by-25ft. alcoves, 10ft. high. Any number of people spend their time here engaging in the foulest of vices, away from direct notice, although hardly hidden. Nerukath established the vice corridors after the sex, drug use and self-mutilation out in the open began to grate on some of the subtler visitors. Most of the drunkards and perverts will flee if provoked, but two succubus in the throes of passion in the western passage, as well as an ogre mage in the eastern currently cutting open his arms and rubbing a nasty drug into the wounds, might put up a fight.
18 - Slave Pens
The cavernous room is where Nerukath holds the poor souls (although not everyone trapped here has a soul) who are the fuel for Nerukath's torturous obsession. The cages are massive, perhaps to house equally massive creatures, and currently full of some terrifying creatures. A rectangular cage on the northwestern end of the room contains what appears to be a degraded family of elves; a long, narrow cage in the southwest is set up like a stable and houses animals of various kinds, pressed against the bars as far from each other as possible; the cage in the southeast is currently full of undead, some meager and mindless, some sentient and outraged; and the northeastern cage is actually a pool, which judging by the bubbles isn't as empty as it looks. Dozens of long rusty chains hang from the distant ceiling.
Massive room (check map), 60ft. high. Each of the mithral cages has a locked door (hardness 15, 30 hp; Open Lock DC 28 to open, Strength DC 28 to bend bars) and has electricity running through it (6d6 electricity damage when touched), door to Nerukath's chamber trapped with a summoning rune that triggers when a creature not wearing a pendant of servitude touches the handle (Search DC 34 to locate, Disable Device 34 to disarm). The trap summons an elder earth elemental of pitch-black obsidian streaked with silver. The elemental pummels foes mindlessly, using its push ability only if other creatures (such as the room's chain devil guardians) tell it to.
The room is attended to by four powerful kytons (HD 16, 104 hp, initiative +7, AC 21 (+3 Dex, +8 natural; touch 13, flat-footed 18), 2 chains +19 melee (2d4+3/19-20), Fort +12, Ref +13, Will +10, Str 16, Dex 16, dancing chains DC 19, unnerving gaze DC 19, spell resistance 26, CR 10) and their Large chain golemMM2 (HD 21, 125 hp, initiative +3, grapple +27, AC 23 (+3 Dex, +10 natural; touch 13, flat-footed 20), 2 chain rakes +22 melee (2d6+8 plus wounding), Fort +7, Ref +10, Will +9, Str 26, Dex 16, Wis 14, CR 9).
The chain golem takes the brunt of the attack, quickly closing in on foes with its chain barrier up. It uses its 15-foot reach to disarm and trip foes, making the fight that much easier for the kytons, who barrages foes with both their own chains and those they animate (each carries several extra on their bodies), all the while their unnerving gaze further hampers foes. They are utterly devoted to the slave pens and to Nerukath, who has allowed them to freely practice their vices and trades, and will die to protect it.
The water-filled cage on the northeastern corner of the room is 80 feet deep and currently houses a kraken due for a showing in the arena. Its spell-like abilities are of little use in escaping containment, and even if it could break the cage with its strength, the lack of oxygen would make escape impossible.
The middle of the room (15ft.-by-15ft. square directly under 19, check map) contains a hidden compartment elevator: one of the many chains hanging from the ceiling (Search DC 35 to locate) activates it. The elevator brings up an arcane oozeMM2 that the chain devils use to deal with some of the more dangerous spellcasters they imprison.
19 - Nerukath's Chamber
|How many more will die|
to further his art?
This is it: the heart of Keepsake. The inclining corridors lead to the modest stairway, and the mithral door that opens to the chamber is without decor. The room beyond is lavish, certainly, but also has a certain simplicity to it. There's a table in the middle of the room, with silverware neatly arranged; walls of intricate mosaics: obsidian, marble, onyx and slate all black as night; and two tall thrones of worked sandalwood, copies of each other in every way. Directly opposite the entryway stands a towering monstrosity with skin white as alabaster. This pristine skin has been strung open or removed in places, exposing bulging muscles and iron-hard tendons. It's head, sitting atop a collar of rough iron, has no features asides from an unblinking eye the size of a honeydew.
(if Nerukath and his inner circle is present) A host of finely-clad retainers has gathered around the Lord and Lady of the house, seated on their thrones. The entourages consists of two vampiric servants and two night hag handmaidens. It seems the Lady of the house has told an amusing anecdote: Nerukath's raspy laughter fills the air, and one of the vampires is struggling not to laugh.
30ft.-by-30ft. room with two 5ft.-by-20ft. alcoves, 20ft. high. An octagonal dining table (C3-4, D3-4) with exquisite silverware and a crystal vase of faux-roses made of ruby (worth 4000 gp) arranged on it. Two thrones (eastern alcove B1-C1), each with an inert teleportation circle etched below it: the circle teleports the seated party into a hidden cache elsewhere on the Far Fanes, and is activated by speaking the command words (carruvitas uxi, which means "I will return").
The room always contains one of Carmichael's greatest works, the flesh golem Ketka (HD 27, 174 hp, initiative +0, grapple +38, AC 21 (-2 size, +13 natural; touch 8, flat-footed 21), 2 slams +28 melee (3d6+10), Fort +9, Ref +9, Will +9, Str 30, Dex 10, damage reduction 10/adamantine, CR 13). Ketka is fitted with an electric collar - another piece of genius by Carmichael. The collar constantly jolts Ketka's body with electricity, dealing 10d6 damage to it (and everyone it's grappling) at the beginning of its turn - Ketka being a flesh golem, this instead heals it for a third of this amount. As long as Nerukath or Ysabella are present, Ketka won't attack automatically, but without the pacifying presence of the Lord and Lady, Ketka assaults foes mercilessly.
When the Lord and Lady of the household are in the room (which is most of the time, and they are inseparable), they're also attended to by two vampire servants and two night hag handmaidens. Ysabella talks to those who barge in with hostility, but Nerukath appears jovial and talkative at first: he fully intends to unleash the collective torments of his fortress at those who insult him by entering without permission, but he can't fight his inquisitive nature, and indulges himself by listening to the burglar's excuses.
When faced in combat, the inhabitants of the room fight soundly and effectively. They don't hold back for any reason: the opponent is in the heart of the realm, and must be faced with the full power of the fortress. If any golems or servants remain, Nerukath will call for them. Ketka immediately moves to maul the biggest threat, while Ysabella wades into the thick of it supported by the two vampire servants. Nerukath and the two hags stay back, bombarding foes with spells.
Nerukath and Ysabella fight as outlined on their pages. The vampire servants seek to flank foes, delivering fatal sneak attacks and energy-draining slams. If there's time, they'll cast cat's grace and true strike, possibly before the fight begins. They'll also prepare a death attack if possible during any possible negotiations. The hags start by casting two rays of enfeeblement on the two most threatening melee warriors, then cast magic missiles for the rest of the combat. They resort to bites only if they get drawn into melee. Ketka will grapple (which he should succeed in effortlessly) anyone who poses a serious threat to the Lord and Lady, especially threatening spellcasters.
20 - Elf Cage
A pathetic sight opens before you: a group of elves, royals by the look of their soiled clothes and famished yet noble features, are huddled against the back wall. By their nature, you expect outrage, rebellion, resistance - but there's nothing of the sort. They look at you with dull, emotionless eyes, and don't respond to the horrible things around them.
20ft.-by-20ft. cage, 60ft. high. A family of six royal elves (a queen with her three sons and two daughters) that have been systematically broken and mentally destroyed. All are roughly on the level of abused children, and seem to have no will of their own. They automatically do anything they're told to, no matter who it is ordering them. Long, long healing will have to take place to help them with their trauma, but just returning them to their kingdom (which is now without king: Nerukath fed him to the family soon after they came to Keepsake) will be handsomely rewarded by the royal attendants.
21 - Animal Cage
Throngs of animals both mundane and magical of all kinds have been forced into the long cage, with indifference as to how they deal with each other. Most of the feebler creatures have been mutilated and eaten, and the stressed, wounded animals lash out against each other every now and then. They're not even grouped by kind: a few wolves near the northern end snarl at each other even as you watch.
15ft.-by-40ft. cage, 60ft. high. The cage contains an ape, a bison, two monitor lizards, a tiger, two wolves, a displacer beastMM1 and an otyugh, along with the corpses of several animals, especially smaller ones. Any and all of the animals attack anyone who gets close, although they shy away from the electrified cage.
22 - Undead Cage
The entire cage is filled to the brim with undead horrors, pressed against each other. Every now and then the mass pushes one of the living dead against the cage walls, electrocuting it in a flashy display.
25ft.-by-30ft. cage, 60ft. high. The cage contains seven Small or Medium skeletons of various humanoids, two giant skeletons, six Small or Medium zombies of various humanoids, a giant zombie, as well as a bone nagaMM2 and a mummified murderer (10th-level assassin), both extremely peeved about their situation. Nerukath punishes intelligent undead for disobedience by locking them in with the mindless; the two are angry now, but they'll be feeling subservient in a century or so. They press against the back wall to avoid the electricity of the cage, and offer vast fortunes to anyone who might free them - a promise they don't intend to follow up on.
23 - Fake Phylactery
You emerge from the water to a small, square chamber. None of the shabby craftsmanship of the waterways is present here: the walls are immaculately carved, the ceiling is studded with gems and the alabaster pedestal in the middle of the water-filled room is polished to a sheen. On the pedestal stands a golden brazier with a dark iron vessel in which an eldritch blue fires dance. In the middle of the lively flames lies a simple obsidian dagger.
15ft.-by-15ft. room, 15ft. high. Pedestal (B2) surrounded by water, 1 feet deep except the entrance, where an underwater ramp makes the water go from 2 feet to 15 feet. A golden brazier (worth 1000 gp), in which a pitch-black obsidian dagger that has been enchanted with magic aura and the like to appear to be Nerukath's phylactery; any divine commune-type effects and scrying spells also direct the caster to this object. In reality, the dagger is a cursed weapon: it appears to be a +5 keen human bane dagger, but when the wielder attempts to strike a foe, he must succeed on a DC 30 Will save or instead cut his own throat (counts as the wielder succeeding on a coup de grace against himself).