Shrine of the Joyous Tears

Some three days' journey into an old-growth forest, there is reputed to be an abandoned shrine to the spirits of the wood, guarded by an extremely old and wise dryad mage whose tree was planted centuries upon centuries ago in the holy grounds. Legend has it that within the shrine bubbles a healing spring, the waters of which possess curative powers the likes of which cannot be duplicated by mortal magic. Despite these legends, most people who go in search of the temple do not find it. Some do not return to tell whether they found it or not--and the number of pilgrims who do not return from the forest has grown slowly but steadily over the past two generations, so that the trek is now considered a fool's errand.

Approximately 50 years ago, a most unusual pilgrim made a visit to the shrine, with purposes less benevolent than the usual for its visitors. A mad half-fiendish cleric of Welerus, his name now long forgotten even to the few who knew it, violated the shrine's guardian in honor of his dark god, infecting her and her tree with a slow, wasting disease in the process, and then defiled the shrine as well, unaware of the spring's powers. As the disease took its hold upon the dryad mage after his departure, it caused her to suffer periods of madness, during which she was overcome by hatred, fear, and paranoia, incapable of differentiating friend from foe. With the passage of years, the rot ate its way deeper into both the dryad and her tree, and the episodes of madness became ever more common, lasting for longer and longer durations. Inevitably, the infrequent arrivals of pilgrims began to coincide with the dryad's fits, and many of the unfortunates died under her spells, or were devoured by wild beasts after fleeing, wounded, before her onslaught. Matters continued in this worsening fashion up to the present day.

Setting Up the Adventure

The player characters might be dispatched to this temple in order to collect a flask of water from the spring on behalf of an NPC, perhaps even a friend or family member of one or more of the characters, or they might hear of the ruin and decide to investigate it in search of treasure. Or perhaps one of the player characters is sick herself. Finally, the characters may be recruited by an interested party to determine what causes the occasional disappearances of travelers.

The Approach to the Temple (EL 9)

The PCs, after following the winding course of a creek (reputed to have its headwaters in the temple) into the forest, break into a great stretch of primeval forest. The trees here are all older than the oldest of living men, and their canopy blots out much of the light of the sun overhead, throwing the forest floor into shadow and preventing weeds and brambles from growing very thickly. The air is still, and silence hangs over the area as if it were a holy place or a library.

After a few minutes' walk, the player characters catch sight of a crumbling edifice composed of stone masonry. The remains of a massive wooden door are rotting next to the doorway leading into it, and its interior is shadowed. From a culvert in the side of the building flows a rushing stream of clear water, which fills the area with its gentle sound as it falls to the earth and flows away as a stream.

Alongside the stream, between the PCs and the temple looms a massive oak tree, its trunk easily ten feet in diameter.

At this point, any characters with see invisibility active should receive a Spot check, opposed by the Dryad's (whose name is Querca; see below for stats) Hide check. Those who spot Querca roll initiative for a surprise round, and receive the following narration:

You look to your right, just in time to spot a slim figure, looking like a slim, unclothed elfin female with green, leafy hair and skin of polished wood, as it slips out from behind the trunk of a nearby tree, its lovely face twisted with hatred. A dark, crusty black gash in her flank blights her otherwise attractive figure, as she moves to the attack.

Querca gets a Listen check to detect the player characters before combat starts; if she is successful on this check, she will prepare for combat by using mage armor, mirror image, invisibility, and her scroll of blur. In the surprise round (or in the first round of combat, if all of the player characters can see invisible beings and succeed at their Spot checks), Querca will open hostilities with a scorching ray, aiming for a cleric or wizard in preference to other characters, and then duck behind a tree to gain cover and avoid suffering a charge from the party's fighter. In the second round of combat, she will cast lesser tree stride, and use it to hop to a tree on the other side of a long, narrow clearing nearby, in plain sight, in hopes that the characters will chase her. If they do so, they will trigger a nasty alchemical trap, consisting of a thin tripwire strung through the thick grass in the clearing and attached to a selection of rudimentary catapults which fling acid flasks and tanglefoot bags onto the victims:

Acid/tanglefoot bag trap: CR 5; mechanical location trigger; manual reset; multiple traps (acid and tanglefoot ranged touch); Atk +14 ranged touch (1d6 acid, 1 splash; tanglefoot bag, Reflex 15 partial); multiple targets (1d4 flasks of acid and 1d2 tanglefoot bags per target in a 10 ft. by 10 ft. area); Search DC 24; Disable Device 20.

Querca will then proceed to employ her entangle spell-like ability to damage further the party's mobility, and in subsequent rounds will cast lightning bolt, glitterdust, slow, and ray of enfeeblement to injure and debilitate the party further, before relying on her longbow and offensive spell-like abilities to pick off any survivors. In her rage, she will fight until she is either subdued or killed. Should the players fail to spot Querca before she is ready to attack, she will prepare herself for battle as noted above, and then enjoy a surprise round in which to use scorching ray on the players.

Querca's Tree

A Knowledge (nature) check vs. DC 20 will remind the player characters that a dryad and her tree are linked by a deep spiritual bond, so that what one of them suffers, the other will suffer. Take care to describe the dryad in detail after the player characters have defeated her (whether by killing her or incapacitating her) making sure to mention the black abscess in her side.

This ancient oak looms over a hundred feet above the forest floor, its trunk thicker in diameter than an ogre is tall. A crust of grayish-green lichen speckles its bark, and rich green moss carpets its roots and the north side of the trunk.

A Search check versus DC 25 reveals darkness near the joining of one of the oak's branches to its trunk, some thirty feet above the ground. Further investigation of the dark place will reveal a cavity in the trunk. A Medium creature can squeeze inside with an Escape Artist check versus DC 21. Small characters can enter without difficulty. Inside the tree's trunk is a large hollow, big enough for a human to stand upright within its confines. A further Search check (DC 20) reveals the dryad's cache of treasure.

Treasure: 10 pp, 1200 gp, 11 gp blue quartz, 8 gp freshwater pearl, 1000 gp emerald, magnifying glass, masterwork composite longbow [+2 Str bonus], golembane scarab.

Most of the treasure found here was looted by the dryad from the bodies of past victims down the course of the centuries. She hid it here during her fits of madness; the hollow itself was eaten into her oak by a fungal blight (a Knowledge (nature) check vs. DC 20 assures the PCs of this information) which reflects the disease infecting her body and mind. During her periods of lucidity, she doesn't remember her actions, so the cache is no more known to her than it is to the player characters. Her inability to locate the golembane scarab left with her by the clergy of Ehlonna as an aid to maintenance of the inner sanctum's defenses, in particular, is a source of some worry to her during her lucid moments, as it represents part of her trust as the guardian of the temple. The blighted hollow in the tree is also important if the dryad is still alive and the PCs decide to attempt to cure her of her disease.

A remove disease spell cast on either the tree or the dryad will provide Querca with a 24-hour period of lucidity, during which she will complain piteously on behalf of her tree's discomfort. The tree's fungal infection is slowly killing it, and the dryad's own life is in danger because of this threat. A second remove disease spell, followed by greater restoration, must be cast on the tree in order to complete the dryad's cure and halt the slow decay of her oak. Watering the tree with a flask of water drawn from the temple's pool is sufficient to cure it of the disease.

The Entryway to the Temple

Above the doorway leading to the temple's interior, the following message is engraved in Sylvan: "Let all who enter here invoke the Seelie Queen with a joyful song." Below it, in Common, is carved, "A hymn of praise for the queen of the pool and the joyful forest." If the players understand and obey these instructions and enter the temple while singing a hymn in praise of the Seelie Queen, the golem inside will not attack them.

The Ruined Shrine (EL 8)

When the PCs enter the temple, read the following narration to them:

Within the abandoned shrine, very little remains of the lovely wooden furnishings which once graced the elegant chapel. A jumbled selection of dry-rotted wood clutters the floor, layered with a heavy sifting of dust and with dried leaves which have blown in over the years and carpeted the floor. A large pool full of clear water dominates the opposite end of the room, behind an overturned stone altar, which has been defaced at some time in the past by having the symbol of Welerus hammered into the stone. Black stains on the stone suggest that more than mere vandalism went into the desecration of the shrine. Between you and the pool stands a gleaming statue of polished oak, just over six feet tall, and carved to resemble a muscular human male.

The statue is a shield guardian, as found on pp. 223-224 of the Monster Manual v. 3.5, except that it is keyed to the protection of the shrine itself rather than to the wearer of an amulet. For the purposes of this encounter, assume that the guardian will not leave the interior of the temple.

If the PCs failed to sing an appropriate hymn of praise to the Seelie Queen, the golem immediately attacks.

The Spring

The spring at the end of the room bubbles up from a cracked rock, around which has been build a stone catch basin. Mosaics decorate the bottom and sides of the pool formed therein, depicting woodland scenes, mountain vistas, and rolling farmland prospects in shining glass. Despite the obvious disrepair of the rest of the building, there is no trace of mildew about the fittings of this pool, which look as if they were newly scrubbed clean.

The waters of this pool function, for one who drinks of them, as a greater restoration spell, with the added effect of a remove disease spell. This effect is only applicable to a character once; thereafter the pool's contents behave exactly as normal water when imbibed by that character--cool, clean, and refreshing, but not magical.

Additionally, the waters of the pool burn undead and evil outsiders like acid, with an effect identical to that of holy water.

All of the aforementioned properties of the water are nullified when it leaves the temple, unless it is carried in a man-made container.

Querca

Dryad wiz 6: CR 9; Medium fey; Hit Dice 4d6+8 plus 6d4+12 plus 3; 52 hp; Init +5; Speed: 30ft.; Armor Class 18 (+5 Dex, +3 natural), touch 15, flat-footed 13; BAB/Grapple +5/+5; Atk +10 melee (1d4/19-20; dagger), or +11 ranged (1d8/x3; masterwork longbow); Full atk +10 melee (1d4/19-20; dagger), or +11 ranged (1d8/x3; masterwork longbow); Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.; SA Spell-like abilities; SQ Damage reduction 5/cold iron, tree dependent, wild empathy; AL CE (CG when lucid); SA Fort +7, Reflex +11, Will +13; Str 10, Dex 20, Con 15, Int 20, Wis 16, Cha 22.

Skills and Feats: Alchemy +14, Concentration +11, Craft (trap making) +8, Decipher Script +7, Escape Artist +11, Handle Animal +13, Hide +11, Knowledge (arcana) +14, Knowledge (nature) +14, Listen +10, Move Silently +11, Ride +7, Spellcraft +14, Spot +10, Survival +10, Use Rope +5 (+7 with bindings), Great Fortitude, Weapon Finesse, Scribe Scroll, Skill Focus: Craft (trap making), Spell Mastery (ghost sound, lesser tree stride**, mage armor, scorching ray, slow), Toughness.

Spell-like Abilities: At will-entangle (DC 14), speak with plants, tree shape; 3/day-charm person (DC 14), deep slumber (DC 16), tree stride; 1/day-suggestion (DC 16). Caster level 6th. The save DCs are Wisdom-based.

Tree Dependent (Su): Querca us mystically bound to a single, enormous oak tree and must never stray more than 300 yards from it. If she does, she becomes ill and dies within 4d6 hours. Her oak does not radiate magic.

Wild Empathy (Ex): This power works like the druid's wild empathy class feature, except that Querca has a +6 racial bonus on the check (total +16 bonus).

Wizard Spells Prepared (4/5/4/3; Save DC 15 + spell level; caster level 10th): 0th-detect magic, ghost sound, light, prestidigitation; 1st-grease, lesser tree stride**, mage armor, magic missile, ray of enfeeblement; 2nd-glitterdust, mirror image, scorching ray, web; 3rd-dispel magic, lightning bolt, slow.

Spellbook Contents: 0th-all sor/wiz cantrips from the Player's Handbook; 1st-alarm, detect undead, feather fall, grease, lesser tree stride**, mage armor, magic missile, ray of enfeeblement, shocking grasp; 2nd-glitterdust, mirror image, scorching ray, web; 3rd-dispel magic, explosive runes, lightning bolt, slow.
** New spell, see Spells and Magic Items.

Possessions: spellbook (market value 2750 gp; trapped with explosive runes on every other page), wand of invisibility (50 charges), scroll of feather fall, amulet of health +2, 3 potions of cure light wounds, scroll of blur, 2 scrolls of magic missile, masterwork longbow, dagger