Friday, October 19, 2012

The Maw of Tiamat

Here's a piece from the upcoming Codex of Aihrde, it will need cleaned up a little bit.

The Maw of Tiamat 
Where the Arc of Time settles there lie the gates to the Wretched Plains, called by men the Maw of Tiamat, or the Futhnopt, the "Five Gates" by Dwarves; a place the elves have no concept of and call it only the Darkling Step.

The Maw consists of five caves, each cave leads to the Wretched Plains. The undeserving dead wander from the world over, following the Arc of Time to the Maw. There hosts of demons and devils hound and torment them, driving them ever on to the caves where the darkness devours them. Barring some powerful magic none may enter the Wretched Plains unless they pass first through the Maw of Tiamat. These caves are named: The Black Path, The Glacier, The Blue Way, The Stone Path and Death's Gate.

The spirits of the dead follow the Arc of Time until they arrive at the Maw where their tormenting begins. They know little beyond the pain of lash and tongue. The living come to the Maw from time to time, supplicants of some dark god, servants of the Red Duke, worshippers of demon and devil; or at times heroes come to pluck some tutored soul from their own damnation. The living who approach the Maw must take one of the five gates to enter the Wretched Plains, either that or they must return back  up the Arc of Time and clime through eternity to return to the land of the living.

The Maw itself is a broad flat plateau of huge block-sized flat rocks. These rocks seem to be pushed by the force of the Arc of Time until their edges lay one on top of the other. They lead down in gradual step, until five shallows channels are carved from them, each channel ending at one of the caves.

These rocks are living creatures, rising from the earth to attack the living and dead who strode upon their backs.

The hosts of dead that cling to the Maw pay no heed to the living, they cannot see or hear them, though they can feel the living when they pass through them, so that they  moan quietly when so encountered. Above winged demons and devils fly about, they never pay the living any heed, unless they themselves are attacked.

The Gates
Each of the caves resemble each other in size. At their apex it is 80 feet tall, and each about about 50 feet wide. They angle back into the darkness until the come together, looking much like a dragon's mouth. The roof of each cave is lined with stalactites, and the floor of each cave with stalagmites. They caves are light for the first few dozen feet but taper off into an inky blackness after a hundred feet or so. Paths lead into each, though each path assumes a different form and poses its own dangers.

All saving throws are made at a CL 20.

The Black Path
This is the first cave. It stands level with the ground, but is oriented facing south of the other four. It reeks of wet, rotting wood. It is covered in lichens and moss, long of tendrils of the latter hanging from the ceiling to brush the ground. There are holes, small for the most part, in the cave, the dip into pitch black depths only a few feet wide. No light penetrates these holes, not unless it emanates from a artifact. Some of these holes have filled with water. The cave is dimly lit by a light that comes from the back of the cave, the light flickers and moves across the roof of the cave.

The cave is roughly 100 feet deep and ends in a wide pool, roughly 30 feet across, at the back of the cave. A white light within the pool reveals clear water and is the source of the light in the cave. The light is bright, white in color and clings to the roof of the deep cave. Its glow rising above the surface to light the cavern. Beneath the light the pool of water is deep and black.

The mosses absorb any light natural light used in the cave. Magical light glows dimly, about 1/2 its normal power.

To pass through the Black Maw one must enter the pool of water, where the swimmer is confronted with a light above and a darkness below. To pass through they must swim down, beneath the light and into a darkness below. Swimming toward the light is deadly, any who stare at the light for more than 2 rounds are drawn to it like an insect to a candle. They must make a successful charisma save or pull themselves up to it. Doing brings them into an acidic water that burns their skin, causing 12d6 points of damage. They can save for half. They must make a successful save to break free of the light's spell. Failing to do so means they remain until they are killed. Someone else can pull them away of course.

Those who enter the dark hole beneath the light must swim down for 40 feet before they enter a tunnel that is long and deadly. A sacrifice must be made to Tiamat for the water to give way; a small handful of dirt or soil that originates from the material plane must be released into the water. As soon as this is done the tunnel angles up and after a few feet ends in a pool, bringing the characters into the Wretched Plains.

The gate opens onto a broad wheat field, lit in a summer gold light, it is called by scholars simply The Wheat Field.

The Glacier
This is the second cave. The Glacier is slightly elevated from the other four, riding on some of the rocks that the Arc of Time has pushed down. The cave is lit with a light white, reflecting the ice that clings to each wall, ceiling and floor. The ice is blue-white with small streaks of red throughout. The cave resembles more of a tube than a cave, as if some creature burrowed through the tightly compacted ice. Of all the caves the Glacier alone does not sport stalactites and stalagmites, for these are buried in the icy walls. A light from beneath the ice glows a faint blue making this cave very visible and the well worn path that snakes into its depths easy to make out.

The Glacier is freezing cold, entering it without protection is not possible. The breath around those entering it crystallizing as it is expelled. Breath the frigid air is difficult as well. Anyone without proper gear must make a successful constitution check each turn they are in the cave or suffer 1d4 points of constitution loss. Proper closing reduces the damage by half, magical protection by 75%.

The path if very smooth and almost impossible to walk on without spiked boots or similar tool. Anyone crossing onto the ice must make a successful dexterity save or fall to the ground. Each fall lands the living into contact with the ice, and they must make an immediate constitution save or suffer the affects from above.

The Glacier is 100 feet deep, narrowing to a small crevice only a few inches high. Going forward is only done by crawling. Any who enter here are instantly along; anyone they were with is gone, left behind or gone forward. Each round the living crawls they must make the above saving throw. When the proper payment is made the tunnel suddenly opens into the Wretched Plains. The payment is warm blood, only a few drops are necessary.

This gate opens up beneath a 1000 foot high cliff of frozen ice. The land before it is covered in snow and ice.

The Blue Way
This is the third cave. The Blue Way is sunken into the ground more than the other four, and much of it lies beneath water; the rocky shelves give way to a deep pool of water that covers the bottom of the cave. The water itself is dark blue, with small patches of fog cling to the water, drifting this way and that. It is cool to the touch. The top of the cave is damp, dripping water into the pool below. The water is motionless, even the dropping from above hardly making a ripple. The dripping is erratic and echoes in the cave.

The water deepens the further one enters the cave, starting at only a few inches until it is almost 40 feet deep, ranging fully half the cave's height, where it joins a channel that has no end.

The current is still. Entering it one must swim or take a boat. Either way the water stretches on for many miles, following a tunnel black as pitch.

Light here is difficult. Any natural light is extinguished by the weight of the darkness. Magical light glows but only dimly, putting off 1/4 its normal power.

The water erupts in a massive electrical shock from time to time, the energy of which rips through anything in the water. A check should be made every hour, a 1 in 12 results in the water erupting. Anything any the water suffers 12d6 points of damage; the charge courses through boats, both wood and metal, causing those who occupy it 8d6 damage. A constitution save, for half is allowed in both cases.

The Blue Way ends only after Tiamat herself has been satisfied. To satisfy her some form of light, a spell, a torch, anything must be dropped in the water. If those who enter the Blue Way do so immediately, they must only pass the first quarter mile of the water before it rides up upon a rocky shore within the Wretched Plains.

This gate lies at the bottom of a massive crater, called the Tooth of Caradus. The crater is miles deep, though climbing it is easy enough.

The Stone Path
This is the fourth cave. The Stone Path stands equal with the ground and well worn trail leads through the rocks of the Maw to the cave entrance. It wanders into the dark, smokey cave as well. The rock here is barren, dry and black. Its porous as well, small wisps of smoke rising from them. The path is flat and easy to traverse. It enters into the back of the cave where it ends at a rise that slides down into darkness.

As one enters the Stone Path the air is warm, it becomes warmer the deeper one goes, until it is stifling toward the back. Anyone in armor struggles against the temperature.

Light here is possible, illuminating the cave as it would in any normal sphere.

The path in the back of the cave leads into the deeps of Taimat's gut. The path itself is smooth, well worn, but narrow, allowing only one to move forward at a time. The deeper one goes the hotter it becomes until armor and metal blisters at the touch, causing one point of damage. After the first 10 minutes anyone on the path must make a successful constitution save each minute or suffer 1d6 points of damage, as the air seers the lungs and burns the flesh. A successful save means no damage is taken. After an hour on the path, if any still live, the damage increases to 1d10 until death ensues.

Any who make payment, a flask of water cast upon the path, see the path open up before them and they arrive at the edge of a deep cleft, across which is an arched bridge that itself ends in a massive red gate-tower, the foremost portion of a sprawling red castle beyond, the abode of the Red Duke.

This gate opens up upon the doorstep of the Homeless House, the abode of Thorax the Red Duke. It is thought to be long abandoned.

Death's Gate
This is the fifth cave. Like the Stone Path it too has a path that leads into it. The path does not show signs of much use, covered as it is with shale and small rock. The cave is difficult to discern as a fog of light green colored gas hangs around the entrance and through the cave. Within the cave is wide and open, but the floor of it is covered with bones. They are broken shards of bones with all manner of discernible shapes and sizes, from lizard-like creatures to humans, to beasts of burden and so on. The throat of the cave is wide and without shape. It ends in a narrow path that winds down; the path is well lite.

This is the green dragon of Tiamat and she suffers none to pass. Entering the gas is deadly, every minute a living soul is in the gas they must make a successful constitution save or suffer 12d6 points of damage as the toxic fumes overcome them. After that they are allergic to the gas and suffer a -4 penalty on all saves. Their are pockets of air, plain to see that allow one to take refuge from the gas, but these are only offer a temporary respite for the gas does not move, nor do the pockets.

The path leads no where, but winds down into the gullet of Tiamat.

Once in a great while the Death's Gate ejects its victim and they are thrown into the Wretched Plains. Roll a d20 for each person that spends more than two minutes in the gas, on a 20 they are hurled out and into the Wretched Plains.

Those few who pass through land randomly upon the Wretched Plains.

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