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You receive a letter from Professor Klaus, the man responsible for resurrecting the inhabitants of Nevermore. It is stamped with a black wax seal engraved with an owl–the symbol of his family. Inside, the letter requests your company for an urgent matter that he needs your help investigating, with the promise of fair payment.
Should you go to the man’s small house near his laboratory, he welcomes you inside distractedly before inviting you to take a seat on one of the sumptuous leather couches. The room is dark, and filled with strange, half-burned items and paintings which survived the initial destruction of Nevermore.
Once settled, Klaus offers a pot of thick, shockingly sweet, tarry coffee before saying “I appreciate that you came to hear me out, especially after you’ve already risked yourself to save my town once. I would appreciate it further if you were to keep this conversation between us, regardless of if you accept my offer or not. You see, I am beginning to suspect something is terribly wrong with those I resurrected.
“Some–but not all–of the oldest among those I brought back are experiencing memory loss, missing time, and anyone else observing them describe their behaviour as that of… mindless undead. I don’t know what could be causing this phenomenon, but it’s getting worse. Because of this, I need you to acquire scrolls regarding the goddess, Everbreath. The problem is, the temple I discovered her teachings in initially has become overrun by cultists who have misunderstood her ways. They are violent, and willing to sacrifice innocents to bring back those they love.
“I need you to go to that temple, and bring me five books from the library there. They are bound in purple leather, and I need them at any cost. Those books are the only ones I haven’t read, for they deal with the goddess’s… darker teachings. However, if there are answers to be had, I suspect that is where they may be found.”
Should you enquire about the pay, the distracted-looking Klaus starts, before apologising and offering “I am the only one who knows how to access the treasure beneath the Lost and Found store. I have been using it to fund my endeavours, however I am willing to entrust the small hoard to you if it keeps my town alive and well. Will that serve?”
If you come to an agreement, Klaus nods and hands you over a map that leads to the temple, advising you not to regret the deaths of any therein. “They are ruthless and evil,” he warns, “and if you let a single one survive, they will merely sacrifice more innocents to resurrect their brethren later on.”
The journey to the temple takes two weeks via horseback, and you find the building carved into a huge cliff in a remote forest. There is a male and female acolyte standing outside, one wearing gray robes and the other black. As you approach, they hold out their hands and tell you to stop, saying that they do not recognise you, nor are you expected.
Should you explain why you’re there, the acolytes listen quietly before exchanging a few hand signals with each other. Then one nods, and invites you to follow them into the temple, while the other runs on ahead to talk to the other cultists inside. A perceptive adventurer might sense nefarious motives, but should you follow the acolyte in, he leads you past other cultists who watch with raised eyebrows as you’re taken deeper into the temple.
The acolyte leads you into a guard room containing three of their brethren, plus the acolyte who ran ahead. The three strangers block the entrance behind you, as the two acolytes meet to unlock the door of a cell; holding it open and advising you, in no uncertain terms, to get inside. Should you protest, they spit that “We know of your Professor Klaus, and he does not understand our goddess, Everbreath. As a result, she has delivered you to us as worthy payment for eternal life. We don’t advise you resist.”
Should you fight back, the cultists attack with prayers which drain your life, or daggers and bows which have been tipped in some kind of mild sedative.
If you kill one of the acolytes, the other wearing black robes will scream and say a prayer to their goddess. As they do this, one of their arms unravels like a ribbon blown into the wind and evaporates in black mist, leaving nothing but a bloody stump. However, as you watch, the acolyte you killed is resurrected–not as an undead, as the inhabitants of Nevermore are, but as living, breathing flesh; their wounds healed.
The guards at the back of the room are wearing similar gray or black robes, and should you kill any of them, those wearing black robes will sacrifice limbs, or say prayers with seemingly no price, to resurrect their fallen brethren.
Once the guards and acolytes are all finally dead, you continue to move through the temple, fighting similar cultists in black or grey robes. When you finally find the library, the five books Klaus is looking for feel warm to the touch and are bound by thin, gold chains. They are the same strange burgundy as Klaus’s eyes, not the purple he described.
When you emerge from the library, you hear crying and pleading from a large room down some stairs, as well as chanting. Should you go see what’s happening, you find the rest of the grey-robed cultists in a large room, firmly leading some peasant prisoners out of small chambers they were previously locked inside, and towards an altar overseen by three statues. Black robed cultists are standing at the sides of the room, while supervising the proceedings is a man in a burgundy robe, who watches with cold eyes the same color as Klaus’s.
If you interrupt whatever it is they’re doing, the burgundy-robed cultist holds up his hand to stop the proceedings, and says in a deep and echoing voice “You who have killed so many of our own; I am Grand Master Malfus. I will let you leave this temple safely, including with those books you have stolen, under the agreement that you allow us to bring back those you have sent to the next worlds.”
Should you ask if that involves sacrificing the terrified peasants, Malfus nods curtly, saying “What your Klaus refused to understand is that Everbreath is a goddess with three aspects. They are the Giver, the Taker, and the Gambler,” he gestures towards the statues before continuing. “Thus, there are many ways to resurrect the dead. One can sacrifice a life for a life to the Giver, pay the Taker with something precious–a limb, someone dear to you (though you’ll never know who she’ll take), years from your life, a part of your destiny… Or one can make a bet with the Gambler.
“If you win, the Gambler will grant you what you desire. But if you lose, it is said that she’ll take your soul to trade with the other gods for her own, fickle ends. You could end up in the hells, or worse–a war between gods. The tricky Gambler has even been known to grant her losers what they desire, while keeping their soul, if she is in a merciful mood–but this often leads to the losers not realising what they have lost until it is too late.
“Because of this, the way we are resurrecting the dead is the wisest, most merciful path. This way, the souls of those sacrificed can be judged by Death, and go to their afterlife. They are not payment for the Taker, or winnings for the Gambler.”
Should you point out that Klaus managed to harness the power of Everbreath without sacrificing, paying, or making deals, the man shakes his head and says “I doubt it, and I suspect so does he. More likely, he made a deal with the Gambler without realising it. That is why he needs the books dedicated to that aspect. Go, see if the man still has his soul. Moreover, see if anyone in the town he supposedly resurrected has their soul. I think you will find it… enlightening.”
If you ask how to tell if someone’s soul has been taken by the Gambler, Malfus grins and says that their eyes will look like his own.
Should you leave and let the cultists sacrifice the innocents, everyone you killed will be true-resurrected. However, they will keep their word, and let you leave in peace without holding grudges in the future.
If you instead fight and save the peasants, once the cultists are defeated Malfus surrenders and accepts death stoically. Before he is slain, he warns you that there is a sixth burgundy tome that was lost to time. If Klaus somehow finds it, he may be able to find a loophole in his deal with the Gambler–but in all his own years spent searching, he himself was never successful. Malfus remarks that he hopes Kalus succeeds where he failed.
When you return the books to Klaus, he sits and his face pales as he reads them. Then he says in a soft voice “It is as I feared. The souls of those experiencing mindlessness are slowly drifting away from their bodies. Left unchecked, they will be taken by the Gambler in payment. Everyone I resurrected must have made a bet with her on the other side–and those who lost are the ones experiencing these symptoms now.” Then he glances at his eyes in a tarnished mirror, before grimacing at his own reflection.
Should you explain what Malfus said before he died, Klaus stands, driven to action. He hands you a silver locket filled with pictures of a family, explaining that it belonged to the man who hid the treasure before the town burned down, and that wearing it will reveal the entrance to the treasure hidden beneath the Lost and Found store. Then he tells you that he must begin packing his things, as he must find the sixth book before it’s too late.
If you question his ability, he remarks that he was the one who discovered a forgotten temple to an obscure goddess, and if anyone will be able to find the sixth book, it will be him.
Before he leaves, he grasps your hand in both of his in a firm handshake, thanking you sincerely.
This adventure is designed as a follow up for an earlier, free one-shot, called The Town of Nevermore (written for Reanimator’s Clifftop Laboratory). We recommend taking a look at our Adventuer’s Guide to Nevermore if you’d like even more info and worldbuilding.
Clerics worshipping the Gambler were burgundy robes, while those who worship the Taker wear black, and those following the Giver, gray. Thus, only those in black robes can make personal sacrifices to bring back those your players defeat, and only those in grey robes can sacrifice prisoners for the same thing.
If your players don’t kill Malfus, Klaus will have heard of the sixth missing book and mention it and his journey to find it after giving them the locket to access their treasure.
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LUKE: The founder of Seafoot Games, Luke's been making maps and RPG games since he was a child, and spent over a decade creating his own game systems from scratch to play with his brothers. That was before he discovered other TTRPGs existed. Now, he paints the realistic grimdark fantasy battlemaps we're known for, helps write adventures as needed, and spends his free time printing and painting 3D minis, as well as working on his forever in-development TTRPG system.
BEB: Luke's wife, Beb's been writing, painting, and graphically designing things her whole life. She published her first book when she was 20, alongside a handful of sci-fi short stories, and was responsible for writing almost all of our adventures until mid 2022 when Steve joined the team. Now she mostly creates the outlines for the adventurer's guides with Luke, graphically designs documents, handles the bookkeeping (or as she likes to call it, bureaucrat wrangling), and manages the website—but she is slowly delegating these responsibilities, so she can focus on raising her and Luke's beautiful son.