Ruins of the Eternal City Free Battlemap & Adventure
Ruins of the Eternal City Free Battlemap & Adventure:
Heaven Beneath the Waves
While sailing the ocean, your ship sinks in a vicious storm. You lose consciousness in the drowning waves, and eventually wake washed up on a large, rocky outcropping with a tall lighthouse built upon it. Around you, there is nothing else; only blue ocean as far as the eye can see. There are no shorelines in the distance, nor birds that would indicate any are just beyond the horizon.
As you approach the lighthouse on a small path winding up from the rocky shore, you see it has two giant, gold-plated doors intricately inlaid with the images of meditating figures. Souls are depicted leaving the meditators in shining rays of light, and rising up towards the sun. The handles on the doors are a lighter color, worn by years of passing hands.
The doors are unlocked, and should you enter the lighthouse you find it’s lavishly decorated with sumptuous red velvet drapes, golden candelabras, and marble checker floors–though everything is covered in a thick layer of dust. There is a teleportation ring in front of you, set inside a circle of gold, with some kind of brass mechanical device to activate it. Next to it is the skeleton of a man, and beside him is an old leather-bound journal.
The last entry reads: I’ve finally made it up here, away from the savages, only to find the teleportation machine is missing a part! I’ve searched the entire island, and now have just two days’ worth of rations left. I hate being so close to escape, yet so far away from it. Still, I’d rather die up here, than return to what’s below. Yvonne, I will see you in the next life… I hope you waited for me. Forgive me for ever bringing us here.
There is a stairwell that leads up the lighthouse to a story above, as well as a basement lower down. The railing is made of intricately carved mahogany, and the walls are lined with gilded paintings depicting famous historical figures known for coming close to perfection. The top story is a room open to the elements, with a large, burning green flame–seemingly of magical origin–in a golden dish to guide vessels from the sea. Surrounding the edges of the platform are brass plant containers, with whatever once grew in them long-since withered and dead.
The lower basement is a simple room, with a bathysphere waiting with an open door; bobbing gently in a pool of water that leads down below the lighthouse. Bronze statues of men and women, once polished to a high gleam, surround the edges of the circular room. The figures are beautiful, depicting the height of strength, grace, magical talent, intellect, and other traits. All of them gaze towards the bathysphere.
Should you go inside the bathysphere, the door seals with a crank, and a lever sends it sinking beneath the water into the dark, inky depths. The glass sides of the bathysphere allow a breathtaking view of a sprawling complex, built on the ocean floor, as it follows a rail inside one of the buildings and surfaces inside. You step out, and immediately the smell of mildew, salt, seaweed, and rust overpowers your senses. What were once beautiful checkered marble floors are covered with rubble, and there is the constant sound of running water where it splashes in pools on the ground from leaks.
Large windows of thick glass reveal the ocean vista outside, and you can see large schools of fish swimming between buildings. The glass is very old, and covered in green algae, as well as cracked in places. Next to the windows are rotting red velvet curtains, torn and stained. This building was once as lavish as the lighthouse above, but it has long ago fallen into disrepair.
Strange noises echo down from rooms further in, like clattering metal or crazed laughter. People–or things–are alive down here with you. As you move deeper into the complex, you find yourself in a room with a globe of the world, the gold embossed letters “WELCOME” carved into the marble floor before you. A large, fancifully lettered poster on the wall behind the globe welcomes all who seek to shed the politics of the world above and instead perfect themselves; through enlightenment, one can ascend to a higher plain of existence; moving beyond frail mortality to something greater.
Then a group of three, hideously deformed people enter the room, searching as if they heard you make some kind of noise. They are pale from lack of sunlight, with stitches and scars covering their entire bodies, and some have extra limbs sewn on. The group’s leader, an emaciated woman, yowls when she sees you, pointing and yelling that “I knew a tarnished from the world above came down here! See! See how they walk among us, tainting our heaven with their imperfections! We must cleanse them!”. They attack, using sharpened pieces of metal and broken furniture, projectile weapons, as well as weak magical cantrips and what appear to be claws. Some even have tiny mouths on their backs or limbs, which they use to bite.
As you continue further in, you hear a man weeping. Should you go to investigate, you find what appears to be some type of medical facility where a man in a white, bloodstained robe is bent over the naked body of a woman. He is cutting it with a scalpel and sewing the body in places, making it hideously deformed, while sobbing and yelling at himself “Why won’t it work! He told me it would work!”. When he notices you, he immediately grows defensive, saying “Who are you? You can’t have her, she’s mine!” before attacking you with the scalpel and using ice cantrips. There is a note in the room outside, reading: My wife is imperfect, dragged down by the sins of her mortal coils. I need to change her, perfect her, so she can ascend with me. I will not leave her behind, no matter the cost! HE will show me the way… I will follow in HIS footsteps…
After that, the note becomes illegible. Should you continue to search the underwater building for the part needed to operate the transporter, you encounter more groups of maddened, deformed people. It looks as though they have been performing various experiments on themselves in an attempt to achieve perfection, though the results are grotesque.
You enter a foyer with two statues holding up some type of banner, though it’s too old to read. There’s a heavy, metal engraved door leading out of the room, but it’s locked and too heavy to be forced open, leaving the only option to climb a wooden staircase which leads to the library. When you enter the library, you see a key among the books on the table, but before you can take it the shadowy figure of a young man in a black robe materializes behind you. He greets you in a sibilant voice, appearing as if partially transparent; phasing in and out of existence.
The figure introduces himself as Asmim, explaining that he founded this place, and was the first to ascend to a higher plane of existence; achieving true immortality. His wife was next to follow suit, but sadly the power corrupted her and she now doesn’t believe they should share their knowledge with their followers because, if they, too, ascend, they will be powerful enough to threaten them.
She is stronger than him, and keeps him trapped down here. She has clouded the minds of his followers, driving them mad so they cannot ascend as they deserve. He, on the other hand, seeks only to share, Asmim explains. If you help him defeat his wife and get to the surface, where he can teach all he has learned to others seeking perfection, he will impart the knowledge of ascension to you as well; and all the power that comes with it will be yours!
Before you can ask too many questions, Asmim looks around as if scared. He explains hurriedly that she is looking for him, and he must go–but he’ll find you again before you leave. He warns you earnestly not to trust her, as she has become ruthless in her deceptions, before he vanishes.
Once you have the key, if you unlock the doors and go inside you encounter a crazed, half-naked fat man. He is waddling around slapping his bald head, and muttering to himself. When he notices you, he yells in a nasally voice “No, you can’t have it! I hid it here, he told me to prevent the disbelieves like YOU from leaving! You must overcome your flesh! You must, you must, you must!” Should you try to get past him, his belly will rip open and reveal a small hoard of slimy tentacles, which he attacks with. They seem to be coated with some kind of poison.
After he is defeated, if you continue further in you find a statue holding the part you need to fix the teleporter in the lighthouse. Only, before you can leave, the shining white figure of a woman appears between you and the door that was previously locked. She introduces herself as Isolda, and explains that she knows her husband has asked you for help escaping. She asks how much you know about ascension, before explaining that it is merely the next step on a long and arduous journey which might–one day–lead to godhood.
Isolda explains that one can ascend through perfection and inner peace, or through the belief of one’s followers. Her husband did the latter. When he realized what he had done, instead of seeking to change his ways, he fell to temptation and decided he needed to keep the power for himself. To this end, he led his trusting followers astray, teaching them things which would ensure they could never find inner peace and ascend. He relied on their worship to stay strong, but they were slowly driven mad on the dark path he led them down, and they became less than human. After that, they began to kill one another.
By the time he realized the consequences of having less believers, Isolda had become his equal, and could use her strength to keep him here. She hopes that, by doing so, his strength will continue to wane and he will become human again. Because it is power that corrupted him, she hopes that when he is once again mortal, he will finally see reason and she can redeem him before it is too late.
Isolda says that if you help him leave, he will only go and find worshippers on the surface to grow his power. He seeks to become a true god, and will do anything necessary to achieve that end, no matter how many souls he tarnishes along the way. She asks that you only take the part you need to escape, and leave this place without helping him, so that the consequences of his actions may take their course.
Should you ask if Isolda will teach you how to ascend, she shakes her head sadly, saying that until her husband is mortal again it requires almost all her strength to just keep him here. When she is free of that burden, she will find you and impart the knowledge–but she cannot do it sooner.
If you offer to kill Asmim, Isolda pales and stutters “no”, saying she would never want that, he is her husband. She loves him, despite what power has done to him.
When you leave, Isolda’s light blinks out behind you and she is gone. Once you’re nearly back at the bathysphere in the welcome room, Asmim reappears between you and the exit. He asks if you have considered his offer, and if you refuse he admits he may have lied to you earlier, but he is so desperate to get out of this cage that he will do whatever is necessary to escape–including teaching you the true secret to ascension. He can teach you now, and you can both have followers in the world above. His method will grant you far more power than that drivel Isolda believes.
Should you still refuse, Asmim growls in fury and says “If you will not help me leave, you will stay here and worship me!” He then summons shadows which peel off the walls and attack, while he moves around the room incredibly fast and tries to grab you and throw you across the room. He also creates vortexes of darkness on the floor, which suck you in towards them and cause you to move slower the closer you get. His aim is not to kill you, but to break your will through torture until you surrender.
If you ask Isolda for help, she will refuse to attack her husband, but she will heal you a couple of times–until she is so weak that she cannot expend any more energy, lest Asmim escapes.
Once Asmim is defeated, all the magic he has cast disappears in a heartbeat, and he falls to the ground; no longer cloaked in shadows, only a simple, frail, mortal old man. Isolda floats down to cradle his weakened form, telling you “You should leave this place now, I must try to make him see the light again before it’s too late” as she cradles his dying form in her hands.
If you attempt to kill Asmim after he’s become mortal again, Isolda defends him; using her powers to grab you, and push you towards the bathysphere, yelling “Begone with you!” before locking you inside and sending you on your way.
Should you instead side with Asmim, Isolda fights you using sunlight attacks and magical fire. When defeated, she vanishes in a puff of sparkling light. Asmim thanks you–but unless you had him teach you how to ascend before you helped him, he disappears before he honors his word; leaving only echoing laughter behind.
Isolda and Asmim shouldn’t be too powerful, more on the level of ghosts with some magical abilities. When Asmim is returned to mortality and dying, Isolda seeks to help him ascend the right way before he dies and his soul is taken beyond her reach by the gods.
If the players assist Isolda, should any fail a death save later on she will appear to them and help them ascend instead of dying. It will not give them too much extra power, giving them abilities similar to a ghost, as it is just the start of their journey.
Should players learn how to ascend from Asmim, it requires a substantial number of worshippers who are loyal to the point of blindness. Should players attempt the process, it will change their alignment to evil–but it will work.
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