Saturday, February 23, 2019

Tomb of the Stygian Duke

The Stygians

Far and wide, the Stygians are known as slavers and torturers.

They erect their monumental necropolises with forced labor and when they are finished they slaughter the workforce as sacrifices to their ancestors.

Resolute to never be forgotten, they brand themselves into the memory of mankind with cruelty.

The rest of humanity loathes them. Many wars have been fought, and some won, to topple their tyranny and demolish their fortress-memorials. There have been ages when generations lived while the Stygian's were hidden, persecuted and hunted; regard as bogeymen and myths.

They always return. Often leading armies of undead or legions of golems.

What few know, is that the Stygians have carved for themselves an afterlife. Unwilling to serve the gods, their mages have bent into being a place in the void where they can rule.

Leveraging principles of magic that only they understand, they use rituals and symbols to project a place, cemented by memory, reverence and terror. When they leave this life, they travel there with throngs of captives in their train.

They steal not only the lives of their victims but their afterlives.

The Stygians have not been known in these parts for many generations. There are old tales of the days when they reaved this land and tilled its people into the soil but they are not told as often as they once were and those dark times have faded into the obscuring mists of the past.

Outside the village, in a stone cleft, a misplaced stairway leads down into darkness

The Tomb 

This is a map of King Tut's tomb

The decor throughout is replete with gaudy snake motifs.

Stairway: Steep steps descend into darkness. Anyone over-encumbered risks overbalancing and falling. This is particularly dangerous for those carrying their own light and unable to use both hands for balance.

Corridor: Vivid frescoes depict a sorcerer holding aloft a serpent-staff. He leads sickle-wielding soldiers to victory, carving through enemies until their bodies cover the ground several layers deep.

The artwork might distract from the dangerous quicksand that forms the floor. Anyone trying to walk across it will sink in up to their neck. There are blades concealed under the surface that will lacerate anyone struggling to free themselves.

Antechamber: In the west wall their is a narrow door into the Annex. Also, along the west wall, large tables hold hundreds of miniature, painted metal soldiers arrayed for battle. They are exquisitely detailed. Each has a sickle and a spear. On shelves above the tables are model siege engines. Although visitors to the tomb won't know it, disturbing these figures will cause chaos and mass destruction to the Stygian Duke's army in the afterlife. He will return to defend his tomb (more information below in the Burial Chamber).

There is a door in the north wall into the Burial Chamber.

On the east wall, racks hold a dozen spears and sickle-swords.

Bronze age khopesh.
Annex: This room holds a small library.  All of the walls are lined in bookshelves.

  • On the west wall, hundreds of identical volumes each repeating one word: Khotan. 
  • Most of the remaining books detail the life of Khotan, his military victories, his fabulous wealth, incredible sorcery and his legendary sexual exploits.
  • A small number of books record the lives of Khotan's family, friends and lieutenants in similarly exuberant terms.

Burial Chamber: This room is dominated by an enormous sarcophagus of gleaming black metal. On the walls, more frescoes depicting Khotan vanquishing various foes. A door to the east leads into the treasury.

Twenty obsidian pillars surround the sarcophagus. Each is a statue depicting a person with their arms raised above their heads to hold up the arches of the vaulted ceiling. Each face looks at the sarcophagus with horror and hatred. Without magic, visitors will not know that these are Khotan's enemies turned to stone. They are still conscious, but paralyzed.

The frescoes in this chamber depict the defeat of each of these enemies.

Set into the floor are black marble flagstones, with the engraved names of 12 of Khotan's bodyguards. These might be recognizable from the accounts in the Annex library. These are not cemented down, and with some effort, they can be raised to reveal a lacquered black skeleton standing in a niche below.

Inside the sarcophagus is a gleaming metal machine-body. Khotan can return from his afterlife and possess this form to defend his tomb. When he does, the coffin opens.

You might recognize this guy. A necron would also be a good reference image.


  • Khotan will return in 10-60 minutes (He may be wrapping up an appointment on the Otherside)
  • Twelve of his bodyguards will also return and animate their skeletons in the floor niches.
  • Khotan's first priority will be to free his lieutenants. 
  • If there are tomb-robbers in the burial chamber he will pick up the headstones and hurl them at the invaders.


In this room the frescoes depict Khotan reveling in luxury and enjoying the adulation and worship of his subjects.

  • Laid out on plinths are many items of impressive jewelry. Lots of snake motifs. Lots of cameos depicting Khotan. Much of this is out-of-style and unlikely to fetch high prices.
  • A number of ornate scroll tubes contain spell formulas.
  • Some of the gems have spells stored inside.
  • An amber bust of Khotan, hung on a chain serves as a protection amulet and prevents Khotan's servants from attacking the wearer.
  • Treasure chests contain coins stamped with Khotan's likeness. 

Niches set into the walls contain glazed urns. These hold the ashes of Khotan's less important enemies (and a few of his favorite artists and lovers). There spirits are also trapped inside. Using information from the Annex library, it is possible to determine who is in each urn.

If any of the urns is broken the angry spirit will be released and will attack in a swirl of ash (like this spell effect). The urns are heavy and brittle, but conceivably the urns could be moved and the spirits released elsewhere.

Removing any of this room's contents will call Khotan (if he has not already been alerted).

Cutaway view of King Tut's tomb

The Duke

If the tomb is disturbed and Khotan is not defeated, he will begin gathering forces and install himself as a local warlord until he is satisfied that his tomb has been re-secured.

He will hunt tomb-robbers to the best of his (significant) abilities and if he isn't quickly successful, will hire assassins to hunt in his stead. 

He is a smart tactician but a brutal autocrat. Life under his rule will be extremely unpleasant and likely short. The surrounding towns and villages will be systematically plundered and depopulated.

Depending on his current standing on the Otherside, Khotan may be able to call on other Stygian allies. His is not the only such tomb in the area. If his superiors get involved, it will wake a war like none now living have known.