Clark Ashton Smith - Some Ideas and Descriptions from his Stories 1
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The Abominations of Yondo
(This story first appeared in print in the April 1926 issue of Overland Monthly but the typescript is dated February 5th 1925)
Fungi, Monstrous [MON]
Insects, Long-Legged [MON]
Lake, Weird [RVR]
Monstrous Thing [MON]
Ong (Lion Headed) [Deity]
Ong, Inquisitors of [ORG]
Vipers, Pale-Green [MON]
Yondo, Desert of [PLC]
Ong, Inquistors of
"It was noon of a vernal day when I came forth from that interminable cactus-forest in which the inquisitors of Ong had left me, and saw at my feet the grey beginnings of Yondo."
Yondo, Desert of
"The sand of the desert of Yondo is not as the sand of other deserts; for Yondo lies nearest of all to the world's rim; and strange winds, blowing from a gulf no astronomer may hope to fathom, have sown its ruinous fields with the grey dust of corroding planets, the black ashes of extinguished suns. The dark orb-like mountains which rise from its pitted and wrinkled plain are not all its own, for some are fallen asteroids half-buried in that abysmal sand. Things have crept in from nether space, whose incursion is forbid by watchful gods of all proper and well-ordered lands; but there are no such gods in Yondo, where live the hoary genii of stars abolished, and decrepit demons left homeless by the destruction of their antiquated hells."
"...in that fantastic wood, I had found no token or memory of spring; and the swollen, fulvous, dying and half-rotten growths through which i had pushed my way, were like no other cacti; but bore shapes of abomination scarcely to be described. The very air was heavy with stagnant odors of decay; and leprous lichens mottled the black soil and russet vegetation with increasing frequency. Pale-green vipers lifted their heads from prostrate cactus-boles, and watched me with eyes of bright ochre that had no lids or pupils. These things had disquieted me for hours past; and I did not like the monstrous fungi, with hueless stems and nodding heads of poisonous mauve, which grew from sodden lips of fetid tarns; and the sinister ripples spreading and fading on the yellow water at my approach..."
"I went forward, sinking at each step in a loathly softness, and followed by certain long-legged insects that I had met among the cacti. These insects were the color of a week-old corpse, and were as large as tarantulas; but when I turned and trod upon the foremost, a mephitic stench arose that was more nauseous even than their color."
"Topping one of the any mound-like ridges, I saw the waters of a weird lake, unfathomably dark and green as malachite, and set with bars of profulgent salt. These waters lay far beneath me in a cup-like basin; but almost at my feet on the wave-worn slopes were heaps of that ancient salt; and I knew that the lake was only the bitter and ebbing dregs of some former sea. Climbing down, I came to the dark waters, and began to lave my hands; but there was a sharp and corrosive sting in that immemorial brine, and I desisted quickly, preferring the desert dust that had wrapped about me like a slow shroud."
"It was then that I heard a diabolic chuckle on the hillside above me. The sound began with a sharp abruptness that startled me beyond all reason, and continued endlessly, never varying its single note, like that mirth of some idiotic demon. I looked up, and saw the mouth of a dark cave, fanged with green stalactites, which I had not perceived before. The sound appeared to come from within this cave.
...with all the rapidity of nightmare, a monstrous Thing emerged. It had a pale, hairless, egg-shaped body, large as that of a gravid she-goat; and this body was mounted on nine long, wavering legs with many flanges, like the legs of some enormous spider. The creature ran past me to the water's edge; and I saw that there were no eyes in its oddly sloping face, but two knife-like ears rose high above its head, and a thin, wrinkled snout hung down across its mouth, whose flabby lips, parted in that eternal chuckle, revealed rows of bat's teeth."
In the few short pages of the Abominations of Yondo there is much more about the desert and its horrific denizens. Asteroid pits, ruined cities and ruined temples, mausoleums broken and surrounded by rotting cypresses. Shadow creatures, beckoning statues, vapors with the sickening odor of corruption, empty suits of armor marching across the desert, mummies of ancient kings ridden by ape-like demonic beasts with distorted bodies.
An obvious scenario idea for Greyhawk is to connect Yondo to the Sea of Dust. Gygax talks about strange plants and creatures in his book Sea of Death but the area can be home to a nightmarish blending of ancient evil and powerful magic twisted by the Rain of Colorless fire and desperation of the survivors who resisted the desolation of their land till their strength and resources crumbled and they too were swallowed by the ash. Yondo can be the setting for many adventures. The story is a description of Yondo's horrors but it hints at greater terrors and perhaps great rewards for those who would dare explore its shattered fanes and ruined necropoli.
"...I found a vast and winding valley that plunged even deeper into the abysses of this dreadful world. It was walled with perpendicular cliffs and buttresses and pinnacles of rusty-red stone, that were fretted into a million bizarrely sinister forms by the sinking of the olden seas. I flew slowly among these cliffs as the wound ever downward in tortuous spirals for mile on mile of utter and irredeemable desolation, and the light grew dimmer above me as ledge on ledge and battlement on battlement of that strange red stone upreared themselves between my wings and the heavens. Here, when I rounded a sudden turn of the precipice, in the profoundest depth where the rays of the sun fell only for a brief while at noon, and the rocks were purple with everlasting shadow, I found a pool of dark-green water - the last remnant of the former ocean, ebbing still amid steep, insuperable walls. And from this pool there cried a voice, in accents that were subtly sweet as the mortal wine of the mandragora, and faint as the murmuring of shells."
"...I am a siren, and my name is Lyspial. Of the seas wherein I swam and sported at leisure many centuries ago, and whose gallant mariners I drew to an enchanted death on the shores of my disastrous isle, there remains only this fallen pool. Alas! For the pool dwindles daily, and when it wholly gone I too must perish."
The Treasure of Sadastor
In a deep valley the demon Charnadis hides his treasure hoard on an isle at the center of a red lake. Each new moon the demon sacrifices a beautiful maiden so that he may remain on this plane of existence. Prevent the sacrifice and Charnadis will be dispelled and his treasure will be for the taking.
If only it were that simple.
At the center of a small lake of accursed water in the valley of Sadastor lies the isle of Lyspial, a vampiress-siren. She is bound to her lake and isle and must feed from the blood-red waters. It is she who sacrifices any that can be brought or lured to her isle. At its center is a small manor house and behind the manor a tall ash-tree. From this tree she hangs her victims by their heels while their blood and life essence flow from their slashed throats. A channel runs from the tree down to the waters of her lake.
Charnadis is the willing paramour and servant of Lyspial. The great winged demon has servants of his own, both human and demonic. The humans, members of a cult which worship Charnadis, spread rumors of the treasure of Charnadis and gather slaves to be sacrificed to Lyspial. But Lyspial hungers for men and women of strength and power as well as the blood of slaves, so that the rumors that bring treasure hunters and adventurers are as desired as a steady flow of life and blood of lesser men and women. Charnadis also steals a few succulent maidens for his own desires and for Lyspial to sacrifice.
The valley of Sadastor is home to a tribe of troglodytes who worship Lyspial. They live in a series of caves that honeycomb the valley. They are armed with poisoned blow-pipes and arrows, nets, jars of enchanted smoke that make men sleep, etc... to aid in the capture of anyone entering the valley. They do not attack the human cultists and the slave caravans which they recognize by certain signs and emblems that the cultists use and wear within the valley.
Charnadis has at his command lesser demons and his human cultists.
Lyspial has at her command Charnadis, his servants, the tribe of troglodytes and all within the valley. Within the lake there are many lacedon ghouls, the tree and the top of the manor is home to several harpys, and Lyspial has charmed several adventurers (future sacrifices) who attend her within her small manor-house and will fight for her.
The manor has many small luxuries and treasures but in a chamber beneath her bedroom is a treasure vault containing a respectable amount of gold and jewels and a number of magic items, weapons and armor gathered from slain adventurers. A greater gorgon guards this treasure.
Clark Ashton Smith - Some Ideas and Descriptions from his Stories 3
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3). The Last Incantation
(Written Sept 23 1929, Published in Weird Tales June 1930)
Malygris (Mage) - NPC
Meros Valley - [PLC]
Nylissa - [NPC]
Poseidonous - [PLC]
Susran (capital of Poseidonos) - [TWN]
Zemander (stream) - [RVR]
"Malygris the magician sat in the topmost room of his tower that was builded on a conical hill above the heart of Susran, capital of Poseidonis. Wrought of a dark stone mined from deep in the earth, perdurable and hard as the fabled adamant, this tower loomed above all others, and flung its shadow far on the roofs and domes of the city, even as the sinister power of Malygris had thrown its darkness on the minds of men.
Now Malygris was old, and all the baleful might of his enchantments, all the dreadful or curious demons under his control, all the fear that he had wrought in the hearts of kings and prelates,were no longer enough to assuage the black ennui of his days. In his chair that was fashioned from the ivory of mastodons, inset with terrible cryptic runes of red tourmalines and azure crystals, he stared moodily though the one lozenge-shaped window of fulvous glass. His white eyebrows were contracted to a single line on the umber parchment of his face, and beneath them his eyes were cold and green as the ice of ancient floes; his beard, half white, half of a black with glaucous gleams, fell nearly to his knees and hid many of the writhing serpentine characters inscribed in woven silver athwart the bosom of his violet robe. About him were scattered all the appurtenances of his art; the skulls of men and monsters; phials filled with black or amber liquids, whose sacrilegious use was known to none but himself; little drums of vulture-skin, and crotali made from the bones and teeth of the cockodrill, used as an accompaniment to certain incantations. The mosaic floor was partly covered with the skins of enormous black and silver apes; and above the door there hung the head of a unicorn in which dwelt the familiar demon Malygris, in the form of a coral viper with pale green belly and ashen mottlings. Books were piled everywhere; ancient volumes bound in serpent-skin, with verdigris-eaten clasps, that held the frightful lore of Atlantis, the pentacles that have power upon the demons of the earth and the moon, the spells that transmute or disintegrate the elements; and runes from a lost language of Hyperborea, which, when uttered aloud, were more deadly than poison or more potent than any philtre."
"...the girl Nylissa whom he had loved.
Rather than an adventure about Malygris I see this grim mage as a source for many adventures. In my Greyhawk campaign I will have him as one of the most powerful magicians from the lost Suel Imperium. His dwelling is a simple tower in Rel Astra. He will be a font of knowledge esoteric, sorcerous and nefarious with many agents across the land to assist him. The players can become his paid agents, or cross paths with them, or act as hired adventurers sent to find some rare item or component while Malygris sits in his tower and dreams dark dreams of ages long ago.
Clark Ashton Smith - Some Ideas and Descriptions from his Stories
If you have not read this story TURN BACK NOW! or risk losing forever the unspoiled appreciation of Clark Ashton Smith's prose.
4). The End of the Story
(Written Oct 1, 1929 First Published in Weird Tales May 1930)
Nycea (Lamia) - [NPC][MON]
"She was not tall, but was formed with exquisite voluptuous purity of line and contour. Her eyes were of a dark sapphire blue, with molten depths into which the soul was fain to plunge as into the soft abysses of a summer ocean. The curve of her lips was enigmatic, a little mournful, and gravely tender as the lips of an antique Venus. Her hair, brownish rather than blond, fell over her neck and ears and forehead in delicious ripples confined by a plain fillet of silver. In her expression, there was a mixture of pride and voluptuousness, of regal imperiousness and feminine yielding. Her movements were all as effortlessness and graceful as those of a serpent."
"...if you could behold her as she really is, you would see, in lieu of her voluptuous body, the folds of a foul and monstrous serpent."
The abbot of an ancient monastery near the Vesve sends out a call for help (via messengers throughout the region and to others of his order). Men from the nearby town have begun vanishing and now even some of his own monks have disappeared. One of the monks was bearing a minor relic which has allowed the abbot to divine its general location; in a part of the vesve of evil repute only a half-days march from the monastery. Within the wood are the ruins of a castle and it is within these ruins that the abbot believes the relic can be found, and perhaps the missing men.
The forest is home to giant ticks and toads, wolfs and weasels, snakes and spiders, all of whom seem determined to keep the players from reaching the ruins. There is a wildly overgrown path that shows signs of recent passage, the woods themselves are marshy and filled with tangles and briars, making it rough and slow going.
The ruins are no more than overgrown rubble except for a wide cleared area near their center (once the great hall of the castle). At the center of this clearing is a well-like circular stair that descends into darkness. Around these stairs dance a strange group of men, ape-men and about a half dozen satyrs. All are diseased, the ape-men and satyrs with patchy, matted fur and all with weeping sores. Most are at half their normal hit points. If come upon unawares they will be dancing wildly about the stairs, two of the satyrs playing pipes. But it is hard to reach the center clearing without rousing another dozen of the ape-men who rest among the thick growth and rubble. This rubble provides them with 3/4 cover and the ape-men will hoot, holler and throw stones (which are plentiful). If these ape-men are roused the satyrs and others will scatter among the stones and do their best to keep any from reaching the stairs. All have been charmed by Nycea and will fight to the death with a smile upon their lips.
At the bottom of the steps is a maze of passages and rooms, the walls wet and crusted and a thick smell of corruption and decay ever present. Within the corridors and rooms stalk a pair of Manticores and nest of wererats who laired here before the coming of Nycea and now hide from her minions.
Nycea herself lairs deep within the ruins near an primordial well that descends unto a dark lake (an escape route for the ancient lamia). She is truly ancient, stronger with more hit dice and powers than a normal monster of her kind. She possesses several magical items, most notably an orb that allows her to scrye the surrounding land and use her powers to charm select males who will sneak away and come to her. Those so charmed bear the mark of Nycea visible only to others charmed by her, which allow them safe passage to her lair. Unfortunately Nycea is the carrier though not victim of a dread disease which she spreads to her more intimate minions. The disease causes 1d4 hit points of damage per day through fevers and weeping sores.
Nycea surrounds herself with charmed minions (all male) and snakes. Snakes, snakes, snakes, they adore Nycea and are drawn to her. snakes of all kinds surround and protect her.
The charmed monk with the relic (the fingerbone of a powerful cleric) wears this item about his neck in a lead cylinder. If opened it provides protection (10ft radius) to Nycea's charms and if she is struck in combat by this finger bone she will be dispelled in an explosion of light. The finger bone will disappear and reappear in the monastery.
while it is possible to defeat Nycea I like the idea of her as an illusive enemy that may haunt the players in future adventures.
"I, Satampra Zeiros of Uzuldarium shall write with my left hand, since I have no longer any other, the tale of everything that befell Tirouv Ompallios and myself in the shrine of the god... (see post 5b), which lies neglected by the worship of man in the jungle-taken suburbs of Commoriom, that long-deserted capital of the Hyperborean rulers. I shall write it with the violet juice of the suvana-palm, which turns to a blood-red rubric with the passage of years, on a strong vellum that is made from the skin of the mastodon, as a warning to all good thieves and adventurers who may hear some lying legend of the lost treasure of Commoriom and be tempted thereby."
White Sybil of Polarion
"Now Commoriom, as all the world knows, was deserted many hundred years ago because of the prophecy of the White Sybil of Polarion, who foretold an undescribed and abominable doom for all mortal beings who should dare to tarry within its environs. Some say that this doom was a pestilence that would have come from the northern waste by the paths of the jungle tribes; others, that it was a form of madness; at any rate, no one, neither king nor priest nor merchant nor laborer nor thief, remained in Commorion to abide its arrival, but all departed in a single migration to found at a distance of a day's journey the new capital, Uzuldaroum. And strange tales are told, of horrors and terrors not to be faced or overcome by man, that haunt forevermore the shrines and mausoleums and palaces of Commoriom. And still it stands, a luster of marble, a magnificence of granite, all a-throng with spires and cupolas and obelisks that the mighty trees of the jungle have not yet overtowered, in a fertile inland valley of Hyperborea. And men say that in its unbroken vaults there lies entire and undespoiled as of yore the rich treasure of olden monarchs; that the high-built tombs retain the gems and electrum that were buried with their mummies; that the fanes have still their golden altar-vessels and furnishings, the idols their precious stones in war and mouth and nostril and naval."
"...we saw in the moonlight the gleam of marble cupolas above the tree-tops, and then between the boughs and boles the wan pillars of shadowy porticoes. A few more steps, and we trod upon the paven streets that ran transversely from the high-road we were following, into the tall, luxuriant woods on either side, where the fronds of mammoth palm-ferns overtopped the roofs of ancient houses.
We paused, and again the silence of an elder desolation claimed our lips. For the houses were white and still as sepulchers, and the deep shadows that lay around and upon them were chill and sinister and mysterious as the very shadow of death. It seemed that the sun could not have shone for ages in this place- that nothing warmer than the spectral beams of the cadaverous moon had touched the marble and granite ever since that universal migration prompted by the prophecy of the White Sybil of Polarion.
"I wish it were daylight," murmured Tirouv Ompallios. Hos low tomes were oddly sibilant, were unnaturally audible in the dead stillness."
The Treasures of Satampra Zeiros
Hepmonaland. The city of Kor is dead but for the bestial life of the ape-man. While some parts of the city have been rebuilt by a few thousand of these strangely human-like and advanced creatures, most of the city remains locked in jungle-choked ruin. The oldest and more outlying areas of Kor are home to a more savage breed of ape-man as well as the beasts of the wild, the giant-sloth, clouds of giant bats, the sabre-tooth...
Treasure hunters have come to Hepmonland and a small township of merchants, traders, trappers and hunters has erupted like petulant sore on the coast. In the comfort of the dockside inn, the Silver Eel, Satampra Zeiros the One-Handed, tells of the great treasures to be found in a nameless and forgotten temple located in the abandoned suburbs of Kor, and of the map he is willing to sell for a substantial amount of gold, and a share in the treasure itself.
While Satampra's map is accurate, if slightly out of date, the treasures he speaks of, the eyes of the dark idol in the abandoned temple (rubies as big as fruztii's shields) and the collected offerings of millenia piled at the idol's feet, are not simply there for the taking. The temple is not abandoned, and the dark idol is not nameless. The wild ape-men of Kor, driven from the rebuilt center of the city by their more evolved cousins, have opened the doors to this ancient, squat stone temple and have found a god.
The passage to Kor, according to Satampra's map, is down the river and onto a small tributary that ends at a collection of broken stone piers near the east of the city at the edge of the old suburbs. This basin is home to a water snake of gigantic proportions. Vasha, her ancestors altered by the power of ancient mages of Kor, is a stupendous creatures several times the size (and hit dice) of a normal water snake. She is of moderate intelligence but high cunning. She will not risk herself unless she is sure of success, though she is willing to sacrifice her progeny (what else are children for?) in great numbers. These water snakes are double the size and hit dice of normal water snakes and infest the half-submerged ruins immediately surrounding the pier.
Vasha lairs in a cavern beneath the basin. It was several passages and chambers (including a hidden chamber where the research was done on her ancient kin). Her nest has an escape tunnel that leads to an inlet which she will not hesitate to use. Vasha is a big coward at heart. Vasha is immune to charm spells and abilities and her children are highly resistant.
The overgrown houses, shops, barracks and boulevards have abundant animal life. Exploration of these ruined buildings will result in numerous encounters with wild animals defending their lairs. As with Vasha's children these animals are highly resistant to charm spells and abilities, but they are no more aggressive than any other wild beasts (at least for now).
If the players have Satampra's map it will show a path through the jungle and ruins that leads through, what one were, major streets of the outer city. These paths lead to a clearing. These paths are suspiciously clear and show signs of recent passage.
The clearing, at the end of a short three mile journey through the ruins, is a paved square with an old and worn squat black building made of basalt blocks. It is a short, three-tiered, ziggurat with a set of stairs leading directly to a pair of double doors at its top level. There are at least fifty bodies scattered about the square. Two of the largest clumps of the dead, comprising about a dozen bodies each, are charred and smoking. The others appear to be chopped, battered and broken. Other than a few exceptions the dead are ape-men, some clad in dark mangy capes (giant-bat skin).
The first non-ape-man body appears to be a youth, fair-haired perhaps Fruztii or Schnai, has had his throat torn out perhaps by the hands of an ape-man with a split-skull clutching his legs or the headless body of a second ape-man nearby. . On his back is a large open pack which still contains food and some camping gear. He has an ordinary belt knife and clutches and unbloodied spear.
The second human body can be found at the foot of the ziggurat, a Fruztii warrior. There are a half-dozen ape-man bodies around him, slain, apparently, by a large axe clutched in his right hand. A close examination of his body shows that his arms and legs are swollen and tinged with green. He wears an enchanted shirt of chainmail and his axe is also magical and runecarved.
There are no other visible entrances to the ziggurat other than the double-doors at the top of the stairs (although 2 secret and hidden passages are among the ruined buildings bordering the square). The long flight of stairs up to the doors is festooned with ape-man dead with a large pile of bodies before the doors. These bodies will need to be cleared before any attempt can be made to open the doors. As the players reach to drag away the last body an automaton of flesh springs up, tossing aside the corpse of the ape-man. It is only slightly damaged and will attack anyone approaching the door or directing ranged attacks against it.
The doors are shut with iron spikes and a crossbar from within. It will take 449 hp damage to batter them down. As the first blow against them falls (or if they are opened by any means) drums from the surrounding ruins begin to sound.
Clark Ashton Smith - Some Ideas and Descriptions from his Stories 5b
"...we forthwith started to explore a left-hand avenue, which, though it had been laid out with mathematical directness, vanished at no great distance among the fronded trees. Here, somewhat apart from the other buildings, in a sort of square that the jungle had not yet wholly usurped, we found a small temple of antique architecture which gave the impression of being far older even than the adjoining edifices. It also differed from these in its material, for it was builded of a dark basaltic stone heavily encrusted with lichens that seemed of a coeval antiquity. It was square in form, and had no domes nor spires, no facade of pillars, and only a few narrow windows high above the ground. Such temples are rare in Hyperborea nowadays; but we knew it for a shrine of Tsathoggua, one of the elder gods, who receives no longer any worship from men, but before whose ashen altars, people say, the furtive and ferocious beasts of the jungle, the ape, the giant sloth and the long-toothed tiger, have sometimes been seen to make obeisance and have been heard to howl or whine their inarticulate prayers."
"...the black interior of the temple yawned before us, and from it there surged an odor of long-imprisoned mustiness combined with a queer and unfamiliar fetidity."
"...the place was paven with immense quinquangular flags of the same material from which its walls were built. It was quite bare, except for the image of the god enthroned at the further end, the two-tiered altar of obscenely figured metal before the image, and a large and curious-looking basin of bronze supported on three legs, which occupied the middle of the floor."
"I had never seen an image of Tsathoggua before, but I recognized him without difficulty from the descriptions I had heard. He was very squat and pot-bellied, his head was more like that of a monstrous toad than a deity, and his whole body was covered with an intimation of short fur, giving somehow a vague suggestion of both the bat and the sloth. His sleepy lids were half-lowered over his globular eyes; and the tip of a queer tongue issued from his fat mouth. In truth, he was not a comely or personable sort of god, and I did not wonder at the cessation of his worship, which could only to have appealed to very brutal and aboriginal men at any time."
"What unimaginable horror of protoplastic life, what loathly spawn of the primordial slime had come forth to confront us, we did not pause to consider or conjecture."
ADVENTURE IDEAS (Continued from 5a)
As the drums begin to beat scores of ape-men rush from the surrounding ruins. A group of eight with an alpha male leading run toward the stairs. It will take them no more than to melee rounds to cross the stones paves of the square and reach the bottom of the stairs, and only another melee round to rush up them and engage anyone at the doors at top.
NOTE: After the first group has begun their charge other small groups of 1d6+6 ape-men (with a 25% chance of an alpha male leading them) begin to make their way behind them or pull themselves up the walls on all side. As an example, for the first 11 melee rounds ape-men will rush up the stairs or make their way around the sides of the ziggurat ever other melee round, 5th round, 7th round, etc... and on the 9th melee round since the ape-men first charged the stairs, a group of six and an alpha male will climb to the top of the ziggurat above the doors and be able to jump down on the next melee round.
NOTE: These ape-men need make no morale cheeks and are immune to any charm spells. The are already under the complete sway of Xathoggua.
If anyone makes it inside the top floor, after opening or smashing down the doors, they will find that the ape-men will not enter. If the entire party is inside the top-floor room the ape-men will disappear from view, moving down the stairs, around the corners of the walls, or peer down from the roof above. Anyone steeping beyond the doors or sticking their head out will be pelted with 30+ thrown stones each melee round for three rounds and then attacked by a rush of ape-men. In no case will an ape-man step within the temple and any that do will go wild, frothing at the mouth, and then collapse in a shuddering semi-conscious heap. Such ape-men will only awaken if they are brought outside the temple or at the sound of a gong being beaten somewhere below (this will be dealt with in a future post).
The interior of the top floor is dank and slimed with a glowing greenish substance that has the smell of rotting vegetation and a slightly acidic quality that will burns the skin and stains and disfigures cloth and hide. It does add enough light to see within the chamber if there is no other illumination.
1a-1g are pedestals with what appear to be iron statues (or broken fragments of iron statues) of humanoid appearance. Each is of a warrior though their shape is slightly disturbing, legs appear too long, the chest narrow and sunken, the arms oddly jointed and the fingers numbering more or less than a humans. Such faces as can be seen are a strange combination of toad, bat and giant sloth. Each statue is exactly detailed and the work masterful, though slightly horrific and bizarre.
It can easily be seen that each of these statues have received severe damage, and several have been almost completely destroyed, and one appears to be missing. A closer look shows that they are covered with slowly moving fragments of metal as if they were swarmed by some infestation. A few moments will reveal that these fragments are minding the fragments, rebuilding the missing pieces and reconstructing each damaged statue.
Constructed by Olman sorcerers in the distant past, the Iron Men of Xathoggua are similar to automaton's of iron. Each is dedicated to Xathoggua and can be commanded by the deity at will (overriding any other commands). Each Iron Man is constructed by a single priest of Xathoggua and controlled by a scroll of a silver-like metal. Only a single controlling scroll can ever be possessed and such a scroll allows command of only a single specific individual. Anyone trying to possess and use more than one scroll will cause those iron men to attack the user. An iron man must be within sight of someone using a silver scroll and their voice must be able to be heard (an Iron Man has average hearing).
The art of building the Iron Men is now lost, but they are well nigh indestructible. Built from a magnetic black iron which fell to Oerth from the dark void of space, the priests of Xathoggua enchanted the alien metal, turning it into a viscous liquid and through their dark arts imbuing each with the life essences of ten powerful warriors and ten colonies of foul green slime, and a quantity of their own blood.
An Iron Man can be shattered with normal weapons, but the metal, even smashed to fragments, is drawn to each other with a force strong enough to pull free from the grip of a strong man. These pieces will find each other even across great distances. It would require great magic or the heat of a mighty forge to destroy this metal.
Allowed to reassemble itself an iron man will 'heal' at a rate of 3hp/turn. When it has reached half its hit points it will be able to function once more though only able to move at half speed and deal half damage, (it will still be able to carry out its special attack).
Immune to charm, sleep, hold and other mind-affecting sorceries.
Electrical attacks slow the Iron Man for 3 rounds
Fire attacks due 1/2 damage or no damage if saved.
Acid attacks do no damage
Every 5 melee rounds the Iron Man can vomit a green acidic substance up to 10feet striking a 5foot diameter sphere of space. This attack will cause 3d6 damage.
Each Iron Man is constructed with an flanged mace gripped in one hand with its other hand free.
Top Floor (continued)
1a) This Iron Man is utterly destroyed. The fragments are slowly shifting together but have only reformed the feet.
1b) This is an empty predestal
1c) This Iron Man is partially reformed and able to function. It's armor is chipped and cracked. The top of its head is missing and the glowing green liquid sloshes out over its face as it moves. It cannot use its special vomit attack.
NOTE: All surviving iron men will attack if anyone approaches within 10feet. If any of the iron men are activated then all are activated and will go on the attack (this includes only the iron men at locations 1c, 1e & 1f).
1d) This Iron man is only half complete. Its body has been rebuilt up to its lower chest. Inside its bowl-like interior is a pool of acidic slime. This glowing green slime may be collected in glass or metal containers. A jar's worth, if used as a missile or poured onto someone, will do 1d10 damage. There is 5 jars worth of slime that can be recovered.
1e). This iron man is at three-quarters hit points and functional. Its body is cracked and missing small pieces, through which leak the green acidic slime, but it is still able to perform its vomit attack. See 1C for the NOTE regarding the functional iron men.
At the feet of this Iron Man is the body of a half-Pict sorcerer. The body has received grievous wounds and its right hand is missing. There is a +2 Dagger of Venom concealed in his left boot (5 doses of poison remaining) and 5 100gp gems sewn into each cuff of his pants (10 gems total). His belt has been cut and pockets turned out, but there is a large silver serpent-shaped buckle on his belt worth 50gp with a hidden compartment containing 3 doses of poison for his dagger. In a half-destroyed pack that still hangs over one mutilated shoulder, there is an acid-eaten spellbook which still contains 2 1st level spells and 1 2nd level spell (to be determined by the DM).
1f) This iron man is at half hit points and its special vomit attack functions normally. See the NOTE at 1c concerning this monster.
If activated this iron man will step forward, perhaps off its pedestal and reveal the squashed hand of the sorcerer whose body is at 1e. There are 2 rings on the broken fingers of this hand. One is in the form of a snake with emeralds for its eyes. It is of ancient craftmanship and worth 250gp to the right buyer. The other is a Ring of Shooting Stars. NOTE: This ring is made of an opposing metal to that of the iron men and the wearer of such a ring will be the focus of any attacks.
1g) This iron man is completely shattered. All it appears to be is a squirming pile of metal fragments oozing a glowing green liquid slime.
Clark Ashton Smith - Some Ideas and Descriptions - 5c
1). The smell of burnt flesh is pervasive through this area. The ceiling is nearly fifteen feet high.
1a). Stairs going up to the Top Floor. Only a dull greenish light illuminates the top of the stairs.
1b&c). Stairs going down to the First Floor. This stairwells are unlit and are dark as a tomb.
1d). This area is lit by a burning flame held in the palm of a huge statue of a demonic bat-like creature which stands at the center 10 foot section of the south wall. Around the floor are scattered remnants of a hasty camp. A roll of bedding with blood stains, some scattered food (enough for 1 days rations if gathered up and the consumer is none to particular in what they eat) and a broken bone amulet of Pictish design (once this allowed control of the flesh automaton's on this level of the dungeon and the one outside the temple at the top of the stairs. It has been destroyed by acid and physical damage).
The statue stands 10 feet tall with sweeping wings sculpted up to the 15 foot ceiling. The face of the statue displays an evil grin and one large red gem (1,500gp value) the size of a fist. The left eye-socket of the statue is empty and weeps a dark viscous (and flammable) goo that has run down the face and body of the statue (and hardened to the body like a stream of wax down a candle but of a consistency more like clay). The right eye holds the gem.
At the clawed feet of statue us a charred corpse, its arm outstretched ending in a fingerless palm.
If the body is searched, a fairly disgusting process, a set of thieves lock-picks will be discovered hidden cunningly inside the belt.
If the gem is pried from the statues eye-socket a loud click will be heard and a stream of burning goo will be projected in a stream 10ft long from both eyes, while at the same time, a cloud of flammable gas will exhale from the statue's mouth and fill a 10ft diameter sphere directly in front of the statue. The cloud of burning gas will inflict 2d12 damage (1/2 dmg if saved against) to anyone within the area, while the burning goo will inflict three rounds of burning damage (again, 1/2 damage if saved against) to anyone caught buy the discharge. 1d12 the first combat round, 1d8 the second and 1d4 the 3rd. Only the first rounds damage can be saved against and items may, at the DMs discretion, on the burning victim, may also need to a saving throw or be destroyed or damaged.
The goo dripping from the eye or eyes can be collected. About enough to coat 3 arrowheads can be collected in an hour or 6 in an hour if both eyes are now leaking the goo. If exposed to air for more than an hour the goo dries, though this clay-like substance will also burn and about a 1lb of it can be scraped from the body of the statue.
2). This hall is composed of 10ft alcoves sealed off with a greenish crystal. Each crystal wall is strong enough to withstand 10,000hp damage before shattering. within each alcove can be seen the unmoving body of an Elder Thing.
Upon opening the door from area 1 the players are presented with a scene of horrific carnage. The bodies of two Elder Things have been torn limb from limb (though some body parts are missing). A thick, dark red blood is spattered across walls and floor. From area 2b comes a steady pounding noise.
2a). This shattered alcove is empty except for a covering of crystal shards. These shards are a natural bane to all shoggoth and shoggoth-like creatures. They can be used as sling stones and will act as magic +2 to hit/damage sling stones if used against such creatures, though they will do no or little damage to normal creatures. In addition, the possession of 5 or more of these fragments will act as a +1 item of protection against shoggoths and related creatures.
2b). From this location comes the steady pounding of 2 flesh automatons as they relentlessly assault the wall of greenish crystal. They have already caused over 9,000hp damage against this wall and it will shatter in 1d10+10 minutes. Upon shattering it will release an Elder Thing and both flesh automatons will immediately attack the creature.
If interrupted in either attacking the wall or the Elder Thing, both flesh automatons will turn and attack whoever interrupted their actions (ignoring the useless attacks of the Elder Thing), and continue attacking anyone on this level, before turning back to their assault on the wall or the Elder Thing.
The Elder Thing will attack anyone within reach and will attack and pursue them till it is destroyed or prevented by some other means.
2c). As per 2a except that among the crystal shards within the alcove may be found a hand-sized five-pointed object of dark green soapstone. This object acts as a +3 item of protection against shoggoths and shoggoth-like creatures.
2d). This alcove appears empty but behind the crystal wall is a portal that leads to a hidden vault deep within the Spiral Mountain Array. (The vault is merely a 100ft by 100ft space until the key to its exit can be found, which is not yet available in this adventure). If the wall is shattered a stream of Elder Things will pour out, one every combat round, if they can force themselves out of the alcove. 20 of these monsters will come pouring forth, the last will bear a malfunction crystal-tipped iridium rod of the Great Race. After 1d6 uses the rod will emit a crackle of blue electric light for 3 combat rounds then explode, disintegrating everything in a 20ft diameter sphere.
2e). This is a massive gelatinous cube that fills the hall and stretches some 70ft end to end. It still attacks as a 4hd monster but has 10 times the hit points of a normal cube (not really a cube then is it?). It usually circles the corridor endlessly and is fed by sacrifices by the ape-men. It has 3 times the normal treasure (the ape-men are not very thorough when looting their sacrifices). Currently the monster is cowering in this corner of the hall after having about 30% of its mass destroyed by magical attacks and suffering a violent bout of indigestion (see 2f).
2f). At the center of this gelatinous cube is suspended the body of a flesh automaton. It was swallowed before orders could be given and it is a sort-of standby mode. If freed from the cube it will attack anyone within sight, nearest first, and pursue them anywhere within or without the temple until destroyed.
Clark Ashton Smith - Some Ideas and Descriptions from his Stories - 6a
If you have not read this story TURN BACK NOW! or risk losing forever the unspoiled appreciation of Clark Ashton Smith's prose.
Inspired by the rules and setting of the Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyberborea boxed set and the discussion of the same on the OD&D Forum I have started sifting through my collection of Clark Ashton Smith for ideas.
6a). The Epiphany of Death
(Written January 25, 1930)
Ptolemides, Catacombs of [PLC]
Ptolemides, City of [TWN]
"Somehow, Tomeron seemed never to belong to the present; but one could readily have imagined him as living in some bygone age. About him, there was nothing whatever of the lineaments of our own period; and he even went so far as to affect in his costume an approximation to the garments worn several centuries ago. His complexion was extremely pale and cadaverous, and he stooped heavily from poring over ancient tomes and no less ancient maps. He moved always with the slow, meditative pace of one who dwells among far off reveries and memories; and he spoke often of people and events and ideas that have long since been forgotten."
"I cab readily recall, however, the studies to which Tomeron had devoted himself, the lost demonian volumes from Hyperborea and Mu and Atlantis with which his library shelves were heaped to the ceiling and the queer charts, not of any land that lies above the surface of the earth, on which he pored by perpetual candlelight."
"He maintained that life and death were not the fixed conditions that people commonly believed them to be; that the two realms were often intermingled in ways not readily discerned, and had penumbral borderlands; that the dead were not always the dead, nor the living the living, as such terms are habitually understood."
"Carrying torches, we left the mansion of Tomeron and sought the ancient catacombs of Ptolemides, which lie beyond the walls and have long been disused, for there is now a fine necropolis in the very heart of the city. The moon had gone down beyond the desert that encroaches toward the catacombs; and we were forced to light our torches long before we came to the subterranean adits; for the rays of Mars and Jupiter in a sodden and funereal sky were not enough to illumine the perilous path we followed among mounds and fallen obelisks and broken graves. At length we discovered the dark and weed-choked entrance of the charnels; and here Tomeron led the way with a swiftness and surety of footing that bespoke long familiarity with the place."
"Entering, we found ourselves in a crumbling passage where the bones of dilapidated skeletons were scattered amid the rubble that had fallen from the sides and roof. A choking stench of stagnant air and of age-old corruption made me pause for a moment but Tomeron scarcely appeared to perceive it, for he strode onward, lifting his torch and beckoning me to follow. We traversed many vaults in which mouldy bones and verdigris-eaten sarcophagi were piled about the walls or strewn where desecrating thieves had left them in bygone years. The air was increasingly dank, chill and miasmal; and mephitic shadows crouched or swayed before our torches in every niche and corner. Also, as we went onward, the walls became more ruinous and the bones we saw on every hand were greener with the mould of time."
The Catacombs of Ptolemides
The city of Ptolemides was once a proud Suel City-State on an island east of Hepmonaland, but after the advent of the Rain of Colorless Fire, it shrank to less than half its previous population. Of that half only the ruling elite and the King's guards are pure Suel. The rest of the city is a mix of various races, the bulk of whom are common men of a hodge-podge heritage. The only recognized temple is of Kord, though its following is small, but all the gods have their worshipers, their shrines and their hidden temples.
Within the city only the sections near the outer gates and the central citadel are occupied, while entire quarters are abandoned and walled off, for Ptolemides is also a city of the dead.
When the Twin Catalysms came it swallowed the city whole in rebellion and only those within the citadel survived. These survivors were overwhelmed by the number of the dead, and in houses, manors, tenements and even the streets, the bodies were left unhallowed to putrefy and rot. But these unshriven spirits soon began to walk, to haunt the dead quarters of the city, and to prey upon the living.
Gates were shut, all entrances to these dead quarters walled off, closed and guarded. The priests of Kord joined the city guard in a desperate attempt to drive back the dead. Then, more welcome than they have ever been, came the necromancers, and the greatest of these was Tomeron.
When Ptolemides was first settled, when the foundations stones were first set, these early Suel found the catacombs, and what they believed, perhaps rightly, was the entrance to the underworld, the land of the dead. These passages were old and endless, already filled with tombs and ancient bones and passages that went deep into the earth. For generations the bodies of the dead were placed reverently within vaults and mausoleums and niches cut into the walls. Over time the nearest of the passages were filled, and the tunnels were followed further and further while a slow sense of evil and darkness crept nearer, and the dead were no longer left undisturbed.
A great necropolis was built at a small distance from the city and the catacombs of Ptolemides were sealed. The Twin Cataclysms came, and the dead walked, and then came the necromancers, and with them Tomeron.
Tomeron has unsealed the catacombs and from the abandoned manor where he now lives, in a dead quarter of the city, he directs others; magicians, thieves, priests, fighters, adventurers, fools, to do his bidding and search the catacombs. Of what is brought back to the surface Tomeron has his tithe, but always he seems disappointed, as if what he is truly looking for is never found.
NOTE: Here begins my conversion of TSRs 'Legendary' boxed set, the Ruins of Undermountain. I will just be using the maps for the most part (because my cartographic skill is so poor) but I've always loved this particular dungeon crawl and it will be a pleasure to convert for my Astonishing Swordsmen campaign.
Tomeron, as I plan to use him, is a high level Necromancer. Ptolemides, a small human city, old as the end of the Imperium.
Reaching Tomeron's manor is best done in daylight. What was once the artisan's quarter of Ptolemides is now a walled and guarded ruin. Only one gate into the quarter is left open, though rumors say that the Guild of Thieves knows of a secret way.
A small fortress has been built before the gate to this quarter and a toll of 5gp per person is collected to let anyone inside. A toll of 20gp per person is collected to let anyone back out again, and a tax on any treasure of 1 coin, armor, weapon, or valuable, is levied by the king.
There are three gates and a wide circular tunnel that lead to this dead quarter. The outer gate within the fortress will first be opened and as the party approaches the 2nd gate, this outer gate will be closed. Then the 2nd gate will be opened and when the party reaches the gate to the dead quarter, that gate too will close. Finally this 3rd gate will open and the party will be allowed to enter what was once the Artisan's Quarter.
If anyone wants out there is a bell that can be struck near the gate and a basket will be lowered from the wall to collect the 20gp return fee. After dark the guards will ask for extra coin to allow escape from this quarter, and some will not respond at all, preferring to lock and bolt their doors rather than face what might be ringing the bell.
Once outside the small fortress a returning party will be lead to a counting house next door to the fort and there the tax will be levied.
Shops catering to adventurers have sprung up on the avenue leading to this gate and a large inn called 'The Dirge' sits on the far corner from the fortress. It is common for a last drink to be bought here before entering the gate and all manner or business is transacted within this tavern. Hirelings hired, rumors gathered, notices left and what-not.
The dead quarters of the city are very grim and dangerous places, and Tomeron's is no exception. Most buildings are in ruins and many are unpleasantly occupied. rats, bats, vermin and spiders infest these buildings, as well as all manner and kind of undead. The main street is kept warded, at least during the day, but at night the undead roam and there is little shelter to be found.
Several necromancers do live within this quarter and far down its streets can be found an almost-palace that is their guild hall, but these buildings are guarded and sturdy and do not welcome visitors.
Tomeron, on the other hand, welcomes adventurers at anytime. His manor is in a large walled compound three blocks from the gate. The doors to his house are always open and lead to a large entrance hall. Tomeron himself will come to greet all those wishing to journey to the catacombs.
Inside this hall is a large staircase leading to a dimly lit upper floor, but the players will not be invited to see it more clearly. On its balustrade sits a pair of gargoyles, perhaps mere statues, but their unmoving features are grinning and malevolent. A half-dozen uniformed footmen are nearby, pale men with the stench of carrion about them, and the black beneath the stairs seems filled with something more awful than darkness.
To the left of the entrance-way is a set of double-doors. These open to a long, wide passage that turns and turns as it leads down, and finally comes to a broad square room. A quick estimates shows a ceiling vaulting out of site, and a room at least eighty feet wide as it is eighty feet long. Some tables and chairs are at the north end, at its center is a large round pit covered by an iron plate. Massive chains lead from the plate to four crank mechanisms spaced evenly around its sides.
"I take one coin in five and such items, jewels, gems and such-like as take my fancy. No more than one in three. If you agree and are prepared, that is your way to the catacombs," Tomeron points to the pit and the iron plate which covers it.
If the party agrees and wants to proceed Tomeron will speak a sharp command and four tall and heavily scared men will approach the cranks and begin raising the iron plate. Suspended by chains beneath the plate is a platform. Once the iron plate has reached the ceiling the platform will be even with the edge of the pit and a panel will be extended to act as a bridge. Once the party is on the platform the panel will be removed and the platform lowered into the pit.
Tomeron will call down to the party, "From here your adventure begins. Beat upon the armor of the dead to signal your return."
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