Gloamhold: Rivengate

Rambling over five main levels, Rivengate comprises much of Gloamhold’s ancient outer defences. Originally built to ward the approaches to the Twilight City it is the most accessible of Gloamhold’s regions, and thus also one of the better known.

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Still, Rivengate’s upper levels remain a mystery to most. Rumours speak of vast, gloomy temples, as yet undisturbed vaults brimming with treasures from a bygone, lost time and even of the Splintered Stair—a secret and precipitous passage reaching—it is said—all the way up to the Shard high atop the Mottled Spire.

Several locales of note lie within Rivengate. Of some, such as the Bridge of Sorrows, the Catacombs of the Sundered Obelisk and the Shrine of the Cloven Altar, little is known but their names. Some of the better known locales in Rivengate, however, include:

The Landings

Great stone landings, cracked and pitted with age, cluster close to Rivergate’s entrance. Once used by Gloamhold’s ancient lords for the supply of slaves, tribute and loot to Rivengate the smugglers of Rivergate now use the landings for much the same purpose. Few boats are permanently moored here. The strength of the tides into Gloamhold and along the Murkwater’s course coupled with the depredations of rival groups and other predators make such practise folly at best.

The Echoes

This huge vaulted chamber stretches the length of the Landings and once served as a marketplace and muster-grounds. Over the centuries many battles and skirmishes have been fought in the Echoes–as it has come to be called. Stout, twisted pillars adorned with intricate, but disturbing, designs reminiscent of tentacles (or possibly impossibly thick strands of seaweed) hold aloft the vaulted ceiling. Great arching support struts hewed from the living rock link the pillars and provide safe havens for several small colonies of giant spiders dwelling far above the floor.

The Echoes’ cavernous reaches are a no-man’s land of sudden death from above. No smuggler group claims the area, but all use it as it provides access to most of Rivengate. Small bands of smugglers, bearing burning brands to force back the darkness and ever-lurking spiders hurry across this great space with their illicit cargos. Occasionally, when the spiders grow especially bold, the smugglers form a temporary alliance and with fire and blade force the eight-legged predators up into the farthest recesses of the Echoes’ ceiling.

To the west, a great balcony stretches the length of the Echoes. Below, stand broken into and looted storage vaults. Warded by stone doors, desperate explorers occasionally barricade themselves inside a storage vault. The balcony itself provides access to Rivengate’s upper levels as well as several sections overlooking Hard Bay. Most smugglers have their lairs in this area and operate a tacit truce with one another. The broad stairs leading up to the balcony are clear of most detritus and rubbish, but bones, discarded equipment and the mouldering leavings of an ancient civilisation all litter the floor of the main chamber.

The Pens

Gloamhold’s original builders often raided the surface realms for prisoners, slaves and sacrifices. Most such unfortunates were brought to this sub-level to be catalogued and sold. Cut deep into the Mottled Spire, this sub-level lies partially under the Murkwater. As a result, cold – almost freezing water – drips through ceilings into the cramped cells and corridors. Some portions of this miserable place are partially submerged. The bones of many of the unfortunately incarcerated in this place yet linger among the chilled pools and rubble. As a result, undead—corporeal and non-corporeal—lurk here in great numbers.  Few explorers voluntarily tread these forsaken corridors. Occasionally, a smuggler group—who call this place the Maze of Bones—exiles a member into the Pens in punishment for some terrible transgression against the group. None survive long.

Denizens

Although many different creatures lurk in Rivengate, a few groups have achieved greater success than others. As well as small enclaves of undead, still active guardians such as animated statues and magical traps yet ward certain locales, most of which are on the upper levels. Wasted and pale skinned degenerate humans have even been encounters in the upper, remotest reaches of the fortress. How they came to dwell there, none know.

Smugglers: Several smuggler gangs lair in Rivengate’s ruins. In the main, the smugglers have little interest in exploring Gloamhold’s inner reaches. Rather, they use Rivengate as a safe place to meet and store their ill-gotten gains. Some–wanted for heinous crimes in Languard and its surrounds–permanently dwell in Rivengate. Others come here now and then, as their business dictates. All such groups have contacts among the populace of nearby villages and towns.

Adventurers: Several groups of delvers have set up semi-permanent camps in Rivengate. Such locales are normally located in hidden, hard to access or out of the way places. From these camps, most of the adventurers explore Rivengate’s deeper reaches. The braver or more skilled among them also dare the tight confines of the Twisted Warrens. Here dwell troglodytes, derro and other fell things that lurk in the dark waiting for prey to stumble into their realm.

Other adventurers of darker hearts also lurk in Rivengate. Instead of simply battling the other denizens dwelling here, these folk seek to understand Gloamhold’s mysteries and to unlock its builders’ secrets. Scholars among them believe that as yet unfound places of power still await discovery in the darkness. What secrets these places hold is unknown.

Adventuring groups known to be active in Gloamhold and its environs include:

  • Gloom Wardens: This well known, successful band are veterans of several expeditions deep into the Twisted Warrens in an attempt to force a passage through to the Twilight City. While they have as yet failed to find such a path, their exploits have gained them much fame in Languard’s taprooms. It is rumoured, the band are currently recruiting retainers to assist them in establishing a permanent base of operations somewhere in Rivengate.
  • Band of Five Swords: The Band of Five Swords are a new adventuring group that as yet have enjoyed little success. A few skirmishes with troglodytes and spiders have resulted in little treasure for great effort and suffering. They currently seek an alliance with the more experienced (and luckier) Company of the Flaming Torch.
  • Company of the Flaming Torch: Comprising exclusively of humans, this band are renown for carrying excessive amounts of torches on their forays into Rivengate. One of their number is a skilled sailor and so the company enjoy greater access to Rivengate than most, who must rely on hirelings — normally doughty fishermen — to transport them across Hard Bay.
  • Valentin’s Venturers: Led by the charismatic paladin, Valentin Eronen, Valentin’s Venturers were once more numerous, but a disastrous attempt to navigate the Murkwater led to the deaths of almost half the party and their retainers. Since then, Valentin has sunk into a deep depression, blaming himself for his friends’ deaths.

Wanderers: Occasionally, small bands of dark creepers or troglodytes, a lone derro or hunters such as chokers and cave fishers sneak into Rivergate in search of food, slaves or sport. These hunters rarely linger long, retreating into the Twisted Warrens once they have sated their hunger. Such hunters prey on the smugglers and others dwelling in Rivengate; these low-grade skirmishes ensures no group grows overly numerous or gains control over too much of Rivengate’s dusty halls.

New Monster: The Sinkweb

Found in the deepest, the oldest or the foulest spider-haunted dungeons, sinkwebs are silent, lurking killers.

Comprising the semi-sentient tendrils of huge, ancient spider webs and insatiable desire to hunt and kill drives sinkwebs to seek out warm flesh to feast upon. Encrusted with the dust and grime of ages past these thickly woven webs hold the mummified remains of countless creatures great and small.

Animated by the necrotic energies released when prey dies trapped within their silken confines, they are merciless, near infinitely patient ambush predators. Terrifyingly these animate undead are capable of limited movement. Unlike a normal spider web, they do not have to wait for their prey to blunder into their threads; rather they silently inch through their dungeon-homes in search of food. Countless adventurers have died screaming, jolted from their slumber by the first silken, but impossibly strong, caress of a sinkweb falling across their prone bodies.

Attracted by a ready supply of food, vast colonies of tiny spiders often infest sinkwebs and pour forth in scuttling swarms to fall upon those caught in its powerful embrace. Thus, adventurers unfortunate enough to encounter a sinkweb must not only contend with the creature itself, but also with its tiny, mindless—and ever-hungry—allies.

They hunt by first grappling and then pulling prey deep into its silken embrace. Vulnerable to fire, they can be driven off by its presence, but are otherwise implacable and fearless hunters.

Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

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