A high wall with a single entrance stands unmoving in a sea of blazing white sand.
Below you will find my short blog post, preview images, and some immersive writing by Troy. Alternatively, you may skip straight to the downloads.
I imagine that the golems are waiting to break free and defend the site, but they might just be for decoration if you would prefer a sphinx or another guardian. Besides them, the three stairways and elevation changes should offer some choice once initiative is rolled. I have also included sealed doorways on the left and right should you desire to surround your players with reinforcements!
Tell me, how do you see this site fitting into your game, what sort of treasure lies inside, and who is waiting to hinder the player characters? Let me know in the comments!
An ocean of desert dunes rippled in the heat, coming to rest at the base of three sets of carved stairs. Atop the incline was a wall, rising some hundred feet before returning to the natural ridges of the cliff. A sealed doorway could be seen on either side. The central entrance, likewise closed, was guarded by a pair of enormous, seated statues. They might once have been kings or great warriors, but the desert had dulled their features beyond recognition.
Jorland Kynar slid the weight of his pack to the side, clunking and jingling as it came to rest on the ground. The temple’s entrance towered in front of him, exuding awe and a thrilling dread. He was the first to ever dent its reputation for inaccessibility. Years of research, study, and difficult travel were coming to fruition. So many others had tried and were trying. Of all of them, Jorland was deservedly the one to make it here. He laughed at the realization.
Steeping forward, the explorer traced a set of runes in the air. In a brief flash, his vision adjusted to reveal the magical inscriptions. Two ritual lines ran from the stairs to the door where they met a larger symbol. They glowed with the soft green of abjuration magic. Just underneath was a line of writing, mess and imprecise. It appeared to be handwriting, separate from the larger mechanism. Jorland stepped closer and opened a journal of his own translations. Months of library time covered the pages, flying past Jorland’s eyes as he searched. It took him only moments. He flicked to the most recent page and recorded the translation beside a diagram of the temple steps; “Conviction through sacrifice”.
“Of course. I should have known,” Jorland monologued, snapping the book shut once again. Ancient temples requiring a test was common enough for his contemporaries to joke about hiring teams for the express purpose of bypassing them. But Jorland was better than that. If these ancient builders wanted proof of his conviction, he would give it to them. It was worth it for the accomplishment of this discovery.
He stepped slowly to where the runes began. Not immune to nerves, he fixed his eyes on the doorway as he unsheathed a small dagger. Steady breaths. One quick movement. Deal with the pain later.
Before his logical mind could object, Jorland placed the blade against his palm and slashed upwards. He briefly thought to the stories of heroes doing the same and how effortless and painless they made it seem. They had lied. The shock of pain tensed his hand, forcing out a rivulet of red. Stop thinking. Just do it. He dropped to his knees and planted his own agonized palm against the rough stone.
Jorland opened his eyes to the red-orange glow of activated magic. His attention then fell to his hand. The magic was not simply reacting to his blood but draining it. It sickeningly drew it from his cut, the liquid following the invisible channels of the ritual. As Jorland’s vision began to sway and blur, the ritual stopped. The temple shook as its doorway ground open.
He rose to his feet, wrapping his hand as he moved inside. The rectangular door had lifted to reveal a stone chamber, smaller than one might expect. No more than a dozen coins were scattered on the floor, surrounding a single tablet.
Jorland stumbled inside, focusing his vision between the tablet and his journal. The slab’s stone did not match the temple and its text was written in a different hand than the rituals outside. Excitement overcame him. He could not help but imagine the mysteries he might be uncovering. What further secrets could this lead to? What would his colleagues say to him being the one to finally…
Jorland stopped. A vortex of tumultuous anger rose in his stomach as his eyes fell on the final, translated notes. The newest entry in his journal now read:
“This temple was discovered by Lord Bernard Islington-Wellerby, adventurer and explorer. A record of its first discovery in centuries and all that it contained can be found in my published journals, available for sale in every good trade district”.
– by Troy McConnell
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