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The Antechamber of Zulma

by Beau Yarbrough

Use the map of the "Diablo II" quickstart game "The Bloodstone Tomb" available at --- Goldaun 29, 1013

Baltho meets the adventurers at the Duskymoot tavern at the south end of Leafkindle. His latest acquisition, an infamous Ylari book on the lower planes, was supposed to be delivered from Glantri City over a week ago. The book, simply called "The Charred Book" in Thyatian. The book allegedly carries a curse that has killed most of the people who have come in contact with it, but Baltho foolishly agreed to obtain it for a reclusive wizard living in Ierendi.

Something has happened to his go-between, a lady swashbuckler from Darokin named Portia Mauntea. He's done some checking, and she left Shadowgates a week ago, although the one witness Baltho has been able to scare up claims she saw Portia leaving the road that runs east-west between Shadowgates and Leafkindle and head south into the woods. She hasn't been since. Bandits were reportedly active in the area around the same time, and Baltho is worried.

More alarming is that travellers have begun reporting strange creatures on the road since then, chasing traders and even dragging screaming ponies off into the shadows of the forest. Baltho is reluctant to get what's inevitably coming from him from Sheriff Joam Astlar (again), and hopes to resolve this situation and report it to the Krondar afterwards.

Portia is, in fact, laying under a tree about four miles from Leafkindle, dead, the book open in her lap. She was gored horribly after discovering the book acts as a gateway to a small demiplane established by the book's author for his studies. The rooms and mazes on the other side are filled with summoned demons who have been frantic for escape for over a century. One small group of them found a means to turn several pages into a gateway linked to their set of rooms. A large bloodstone, which they have to keep fed with blood sacrifices, powers the link. They've made some preliminary excursions out of the book to see where they are, but their brilliant plan has fallen apart somewhat, as their location is clearly not anywhere they can simply sneak into and disappear.

The book cannot be shut while the bloodstone is powered up, and the demons - lead by a Fallen One shaman - are reluctant to do so, having no idea when a mortal will again wander into their demiplane and give them the means to conduct blood sacrifices. To that end, they've kidnapped a whole band of merchants and are holding them inside.

The adventurers will encounter a trio of scavenger demons in the woods near Portia's body. They will attack the adventurers, but the third one will race off through the trees to Portia's body and climb into the book once the other two die.

Scavengers (3): AC 8; MV 18; HD 1/2; hp 4, 4, 3; THAC0 20; #AT 3; Dmg 1d2/1d2/1d3 (if both front claws hit, both back claws hit for the same damage); SZ S; ML 10; INT semi (2); AL LE; XP 15; D2:A/67

The only way to end the threat is to climb into the book, free the hostages and destroy the bloodstone. By the time the characters return the book to Baltho, his conscience will have made him contact the Krondars, and they in turn will have contacted Astlar, who will take custody of the book. (Hin masters will place the book inside a circle of protection inside a sealed vault. Not a perfect disposal method, but close enough.)

Once the book has been sealed away, Baltho will be chastened, but will be true to his word and reward the characters. Of course, it may only be a reward from his way of thinking: He hands over a sack of gold with 100 gold yellows plus 100 silver steel for each character. He also proudly hands over the rusty key ring containing the keys to Wit's End ... ---


1. Bloodhawk nest

The door is made of stone, set in an ancient stonework frame. It hangs about halfway open, revealing nothing but darkness within. It's extremely dark inside, and even swinging the door wide open doesn't help much. The characters will need to ignite one of their torches to light up the room, and even then the light barely spills into a 20-foot circle, leaving much of the chamber in darkness.

When the characters enter the first chamber, they stumble into a nest of Bloodhawks.

"The putrid smell of death and decay fills this dank chamber. Crazed screeching echoes off sandy stone walls. You step in a puddle of gore on the cobblestone floor, and then a rush of wings erupts from the shadowy corner and two demonic vultures swoop toward you, their razor-sharp talons extended menacingly."

The Bloodhawks' nest is in the top right corner, and they quickly cross the room to attack. There are two Bloodhawks in this room.

Bloodhawks (2): AC 8; MV 3/24; HD 2; hp 7, 7; THAC0 19; #AT 1; Dmg 1-6; SZ M; ML 8; INT semi (2); AL LE; XP 65; D2:A/53

"There's a door on the left-hand wall that seems to lead deeper into the complex. There's a nest composed of decayed flesh and fur in the far corner, and a half-eaten hin lies on the floor beside the nest."

The nest contains body parts and other foul matter. As the characters watch, another Bloodhawk starts to form within the nest. To keep the creatures from returning, the nest must be burned to ashes. If not, another Bloodhawk forms, and it attacks the characters before they leave the room. It has the same stats as the other Bloodhawks.

The door is locked. A character will have to bash it open.

2. A short corridor

"Something large seems to be moving around beyond the door ahead. You also hear a constant, powerful growling that sounds a lot like the rumble of thunder."

3. The Hellhound

The thunderous growl comes from the large Hellhound that occupies this room. It starts out in the far left corner of the chamber. It's a large-headed reptilian creature that's red-skinned and about seven feet tall. As soon as the characters open the door, it breathes a bright ball of lightning that rushes forward. Read:

"A bright light from across the room rushes toward you. It appears to be a crackling ball of electricity, and before you can react it's on top of you!"

The ball of lightning strikes the front line of characters. If they were marching single file, then the character in front bears the brunt of this attack - 2d6 of damage, half if a successful save versus breath weapons is made. Marching two abreast, characters take a single die of damage each, half if the save is made.

"A great red reptilian beast, lightning crackling around its oversized head, stands in the chamber's far corner. It seems that the lightning ball came from the creature itself! You also spot four hin who appear to be from a merchant caravan. They seem to be unconscious but alive. The creature roars, showing great rows of sharp teeth. Then it charges, rushing toward those still reeling from the electrical discharge."

After his initial breath weapon attack, the Hellhound fights with his bite only.

Hellhound (Misshapen): AC 8; MV 9; HD 2; hp 9; THAC0 19; #AT 1; Dmg 1d6; Special attack: Lightning ball 2d6, save for half damage; Special defence: 20% immune to lightning; SZ L; ML 13; INT low (5); AL LE; XP 120; D2:A/60

After the characters defeat the Hellhound, they spot the door leading out of this chamber and the four unconscious merchants. None of these hin have been hurt badly, and the characters can wake them up if they try. The merchants warn that small demons have the rest of their companions trapped in a room deeper in the complex. The merchants won't accompany the heroes. Instead, they'll head outside if the heroes let them. There is nothing else in this room.

4. The corridor of doors

"This corridor ends in three closed doors. There's a door on each wall at the far end of the corridor; one on the right, one on the left, and one straight ahead."

There's a trick to this corridor. It involves the three doors.

The door on the right side of the corridor opens easily. Behind this door is a blank, stone wall. If the characters release the door, it swings shut.

The door straight ahead to the shrine opens without problem.

The door on the left side of the corridor is locked and can't be opened by force. Unfortunately, that's the way the characters have to go, so they're going to have to figure out how to open it. To open this door, the door on the right must be open. A character can hold it open, or they can wedge something in the doorway to keep it from shutting.

5. The shrine

"A sense of safety and well-being surrounds you when you step into this small chamber. A shrine occupies one wall, while a door across the chamber seems to lead deeper into the complex."

The shrine restores all lost hit points to good-aligned beings once every 24 hours.

The door on the far wall opens upon a collapsed corridor. Tons of rock and stone fill the passage, effectively blocking it off. The heroes can't move the rubble, no matter how hard they try. This is a dead end.

The demons refuse to enter this room, although the Fallen One shaman can cast spells into the room.

6. The bloodstone

"Torches illuminate this chamber, but there's also a crimson glow coming from the far side of the room. There, jutting from the wall itself, is a heart-shaped crimson stone with lines of obsidian shooting through it. It seems to pulse with an inner glow, and thick red liquid drips from its two open arteries.

"You also spot four captive hin. They seem to be alive but unconscious, and they are tied to stakes set against the right-hand wall.

"Finally, you see a crowd of small, horned demons dancing maniacally in the centre of the chamber. One of them, slightly larger and better dressed than the others, directs the ceremony. He hefts a stone goblet filled with the red liquid, raises his voice in a language you don't understand, and splashes the liquid at his captives. The other demons stop dancing and turn toward you, raising their crude swords to battle."

There are six Fallen One demons: four in the square containing the monster symbol that is closest to the entry door, and two in the far square containing the monster symbol. (See the map, area 6, for placement.)

A Fallen One Shaman leads this group of demons. It starts in the far square with the two lesser demons. The demons are in the middle of a sacrifice to keep the gateway to Mystara open and are preparing to sacrifice four first level halflings to do so.

The Fallen Ones fight to the death. As many as three of the demons can team up to fight a single halfling.

Fallen Ones ("Enraged") (6): AC 10; MV 12; HD 1/2; hp 3, 3, 3, 2, 2, 2; THAC0 20; #AT 1; Dmg 1d4; SZ S; ML 17 (2 if the shaman dies); INT low (5); AL LE; XP 7; D2:A/56

Fallen One Shaman ("Enraged") (1): AC 9; MV 12; HD 1; hp 5; THAC0 19; #AT 1; Dmg 1d6; Special attack: 1d6 fire bolt once a round, save for half; Special defence: raise dead on adjacent Fallen One once a round; SZ S; ML 14 (2 if the shaman dies); INT average (9); AL LE; XP 35; D2:A/56

When the shaman dies, the bloodstone, which he is linked to by the ritual the Fallen Ones were performing, will shatter into feather-light ruby shards, a cloud of bloody mist escaping and evaporating. Characters will sense the trickle of fresh air from the outside world ending, and any surviving Fallen Ones will frantically try to get through the door on the far wall. The gateways to Mystara will seal in five minutes.

Huddled at the base of the bloodstone, four hin merchants are alive, although bound and much the worse for wear.

The door on the far wall leads out of Zulma, emerging on another page of the book (this is a one-way egress point).

The door on the left-hand wall has been barricaded by Fallen Ones, who seek to keep the other demons from preying upon them. If the barricades are removed, the characters feel icy evil emanating from below, and notice that their light barely penetrates the gloom. Sounds from below make it appear that something has noticed the light, before an eerie silence comes over the stairwell. Smart characters at this point will rebarricade the door and run!

Characters who succeed in shutting the gateway and recovering the book split a 250 point experience reward.