Age of Worms: The Return

The Whispering Cairn

The first adventure of the heroes from Diamond Lake

Idle chatter around the village of Diamond Lake says that a band of richly dressed adventurers now frequents the taproom of the Feral Dog, Diamond Lake’s most notorious tavern. The confident heroes from Liberty spoke of hard-won battles on their journey to Diamond Lake, and of their intention to explore the long-abandoned Stirgenest Cairn on the lake’s distant southeastern shore. The natives of Diamond Lake know that cairn is oft explored by the community’s youth, who always find it completely empty of marvels and perfectly harmless.

Not so another cairn within a day’s ride of the village, however. This cairn lies near an iron mine that went dry about 50 years ago, and its owner’s charter apparently elapsed when he died a few years later. Situated thusly in a sort of no-man’s land, the cairn was all but forgotten, its yawning entrance overgrown with weeds and choked with collapsed debris. Rediscovered by a curious teenager three years ago, the cairn has since been a sort of community secret held by Diamond Lake’s youth, who dare each other to disappear into its cyclopean entrance as a test of mettle. Occasionally, when the wind is just right, haunting, almost magical tones emerge from the depths of the forlorn tomb. Those who know of its location call the place the Whispering Cairn.

If adventurers from the Free City expect to discover hidden passages and riches within the Stirgenest Cairn, it stands to reason that the Whispering Cairn might also hold a genuine opportunity for profit. And in the rough-and-tumble mining village of Diamond Lake, where desperate folk slave in dank tunnels to profit wealthy lords, an opportunity for profit is an opportunity to escape. Corrupt mine manage Balabar Smenk has been thinking along these lines, and he orders his indentured servant, Zerric Splintershield, to explore the cairn and bring him any treasures he finds. Zerric rounds up his comrades and sets off to explore the cairn.

Deep within the complex, the heroes come across the ghost of a runaway teen, who fell victim to one of the cairn’s traps a decade ago. The undead horror blocks the heroes’ progress, promising to abandon the cairn if the characters return his bones to the small family cemetery on a farmstead just outside town.

The heroes’ plans to return the ghost’s bones to their proper resting place are upset when they discover that the other graves in the family plot have been emptied. To appease the ghost, the heroes track down the ghost’s relatives, who are being used as guardian skeletons by Filge, an unusual necromancer who has just set up shop in town at the behest of the mine manager Balabar Smenk. Correspondence discovered at the necromancer’s home, and a rough interrogation, reveals that a group of cultists in the area are preparing for a coming event known as the “Age of Worms.”

The necromancer also refers to a secret cult hidden in a nearby mine, and implicates one of Diamond Lake’s mine managers in cult-related activity. The heroes return to the Whispering Cairn, where they explore the ruins beyond the blocked door to discover an unplundered tomb protected by hostile creatures of elemental air. At last, the heroes reach the tomb of the Wind Duke Zosiel and discover a treasure that may prove decisive in thwarting the advent of the Age of Worms: the Crown of the Wind Dukes, in a dormant form, and the talisman of the sphere.

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Moridin

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