Hail travelers and adventurers! Continue reading should you find yourself with interest in learning about the Ossuary dungeon, a nest of undead and cultists! This vile tomb is home to some truly heinous creatures, and the sandstone walls of this temple have seen the truest of horrors unfold. This place is full of death and I have seen it with my own eyes! Read on, dear adventurer, and prepare yourself for the cruel tortures that lie beneath the sands.
The dungeon of Ossuary is not terribly difficult to find. Should you head due west from Cambria, you will eventually find yourself in a not-so-barren desert, and there in the southern hemisphere of said desert lies the Ossuary, surrounded by the ruins of a sandstone township of a forgotten name.
The origin of this dungeon currently remains a mystery, but after what I have witnessed, combined with tales I have heard, I think I can posit some credible theories regarding this place. Interestingly, I do believe the Ossuary to be rather old; that is to say, the original base of this hellish temple is old. The town that surrounds the outside I believe to be of newer construction (relatively speaking), and much of the tomb inside has been repurposed by some of its current inhabitants. I will discuss more of this below. It is also not isolated or difficult to mount an expedition to, and thus there is ample evidence of many-a-tomb raider throughout the floors of the temple and outskirts of the desert as well.
(The Artist's depiction of some of the outdoor ruins)
Upon initial approach you, the brave adventurer, will be greeted by dead ruins. There is evidence that one such building on the south side was a tailor shop. Another on the north side might have been a healer’s abode. This is evidence that this was, in fact, a town at one point in the not-too-distant past. What became of the inhabitants isn’t entirely clear, but I suspect one of two fates likely: Either they were enslaved and murdered by those who currently inhabit the Ossuary, or they themselves are the ones who now inhabit the wretched temple.
(The Artist's depiction of the Ossuary entrance)
The entrance to the Ossuary does not look terribly grand, comprised of cracked sandstone blocks (much like the bulk of Cambria itself). It is easy to think little of this place and underestimate its true size and nature, for the greatest bulk of the temple lies far beneath the shifting sands!
(The Artist's crudely-drawn map of level 1)
Upon entering the upper-most level of the Ossuary, you will be greeted by several forms of lesser undead, brought back to life through nefarious means. Skeletons, Necromancers, and Ghouls make up the primary inhabitants this high up. You will find several Yellow Moongates in this area as well should you second-guess your exploration of this despicable temple.
(The Artist's depiction of the mummification on Level 1)
Should you venture into the center of this level, you will catch a glimpse of the true nature of this place. You will find body parts and utensils for the acts of mummification. The truly powerful forms of undead lie further below, however, and these remains seem to be used only for experimental purposes. I speculate that the lesser members of the Ossuarian cultists who dwell below practice their death rites on the bodies up on this level.
The stairs leading down to Level 2 are not far from the entrance. Shoulder past the skeletons and the ghouls to reach them, and brace yourself for more sinister things that lurk below.
Below are the creatures you can expect to find on Level 1:
(The Artist's crudely-drawn map of level 2)
Descending the steps into Level 2 of the Ossuary you might notice that the air is much more stale, and a fine cloud of dust and dirt hangs like a noose. It’s not too late to turn back at this point, there is another Yellow Moongate located just to the north up the hall.
This second level of the Ossuary shows some of its true age. Sand and dirt seep in through cracks in the sandstone bricks, and wild fauna has taken up residence in some of the areas. It is not difficult to find poisonous scorpions, fire ants, and large scarab beetles here.
(The Artist's depictions of various interesting points, see Blue Pins 1-5 on the map for corresponding locations)
Should you wander to the north-western most area of Level 2, you will find an inconspicuous doorway leading into a room of horrors (see Blue Pin 1). Piles of macabre bones litter the floor and hang from the walls. Some of the bones still have lacerated meat upon them, suggesting that new victims are brought here. There is no clear evidence suggesting who these victims are. Perhaps adventurers in seek of glory or gold, or perhaps nomads from north of the Ossuary who wandered too far. They might even perhaps be victims kidnapped by the Ossuarian cultists that inhabit the lower depths.
To the south of the dreaded Bone Room you will find evidence of two very different kinds of death ritual (see Blue Pin 2). There are sarcophagi with carefully wrapped and preserved remains, and then there are piles of skulls unceremoniously piled in a corner. The powers that dwell here seem to differentiate between the bodies. I posit the theory that the Ossuarian cultists who die in service to their cause are venerated and their bodies are laid in the sarcophagi, whereas interlopers, invaders, or even slaves have their remains merely discarded, perhaps to be turned into lesser forms of undead such as the skeletons that infest the area above.
Should you travel east from the sarcophagi, you will find a dig site (see Blue Pin 3). Now, this is interesting because it suggests that the cultists who have taken up residence here are searching for something. Clearly they have unearthed some ancient tombs and crypts, but to what purpose it is not clear.
To the north-east of this is some sort of highly-venerated grave marker (see Blue Pin 4). Whoever or whatever inhabits this tomb must have been highly important among the cultists, but there is no evidence suggesting who that might be, or what role they played within their society.
Should you make your way towards the south end of Level 2 (see Blue Pin 5) you will get a good look at the ritualistic machinations that the Ossuarian cultists utilize to preserve the dead. Their usage of rare and common reagents, poultices, and herbs is beyond my ability to comprehend and perhaps an alchemist or herbalist of a Grandmaster standing might fare better at understanding. It is not entirely clear as to why the cultists decide to preserve some of the dead while raising others. I surmise, once more, that the venerated dead among the Ossuarians are laid to rest and preserved, whereas their slaves, victims, or what-have-you are raised into their service as undead.
The stairs leading down into Level 3 can be found against the far western wall.
Below are the creatures you can expect to find on Level 2:
(The Artist's crudely-drawn map of level 3)
Once on Level 3, you can immediately see a breach in the ancient sandstone wall (see Blue Pin 1). It’s curious and difficult to discern whether someone tunneled in in search of something, or something burrowed out. I am inclined to think that something escaped through this hole given that the bulk of the broken stones are inside the temple, meaning they were knocked inwards (or outwards from the tunnel-side perspective). There are no other areas in the temple that I could find that had such obvious tunneling, which also leads to me to believe that nobody was initially in search of this area and instead something escaped from within. More will be discussed about this area, known as the Dragon Caverns, down below.
(The Artist's depictions of various interesting points, see Blue Pins 1-7 on the map for corresponding locations)
As you make your way around the north side of Level 3, you will find plenty more evidence of the death rites and rituals carried out by the Ossuarian cultists, and you will also get a good look at the cultists themselves (see Blue Pins 2 and 3). It would appear that the venerated dead are likely bathed and groomed (perhaps by the Ossuarian Priests or Dervishes) before the Ossuarian Embalmers practice their strange form of alchemy and wrap the bodies in clean linens.
Do take care if you are to visit the north-western room, for I felt a strange presence watching me, though I could not see it. Some tell tale of the Temple Guardian lurking in the shadows. Be warned!
A more gruesome site awaits you though on the far south-west corner of Level 3 (see Blue Pin 4). This site leaves extremely little to the imagination in regards to what fate befalls at least some of the victims, who are locked in cages and ritualistically executed. A pit in the center of the room is full of blood, though for what purpose I cannot say. The quantity suggests that maybe the blood is heavily used in the Necromantic practice, or perhaps the blood is an offering to some deity.
Towards the middle of the south-eastern wall you will find the entrance to the Tomb of the Forgotten King (more on that below) as well as an interesting site (see Blue Pin 5). What is interesting about this area is that it is, structurally speaking, nearly identical to famous room in the Britannian dungeon of Deceit: the Lich Lord room. Instead of grey flagstones, this room is made of the same sandstone as the rest of the temple, but the shape and size of the room is exact, and perhaps more than coincidentally they are both full of liches. Perhaps the powers that had crafted Deceit (or at least that portion of the Britannian dungeon) made its way into Avadon and crafted the Ossuary as well? If this were truly the case, then the implications of a shard-traveling malicious entity are harrowing to the say the least! But it can’t be mere coincidence that these two dungeons share such a unique room…
Moving on south you will discover an area that is interesting for two reasons (see Blue Pin 6, both artist renders). The first interesting observation is that the Ossuarian cultists are taking care of a Phoenix. The Phoenix is a powerful creature, and a symbol of rebirth – a most fitting symbol for the cultists, if not a bit of a perversion of the type of rebirth it typically characterizes. Then, at the south-eastern corner of the room you will find a barred door leading to stairs that go ever downward… I was not able to bypass this gate, and I have heard no stories of anyone who ever has. What lies beneath is a true mystery that maybe even the Ossuarian cultists do not know. Perhaps, for whatever purpose the cultists are here lies down there. I can’t say one way or the other for certain.
The last observation I have to make lies at the center of Level 4 (see Blue Pin 7). When Lord British fled and no Avatar to spread the Virtues, Avadon became a world without the guiding principles that almost all Britannians know and follow. However, I have seen evidence throughout the world that the Virtues are at least known to some degree; I do know that the Knight's Guild preaches Virtuism, for example, and I am sure other missionaries of the Virtues have passed through the lands over the past few hundred years given the fact that somebody created the eight Shrines. But here, deep down in the aged Ossuary I found the most-sacred symbol of the Avatar and the Virtues, the Ankh. But it was clear that the Ossuarian cultists did not view the Ankh the same way that I do, for a bloody corpse hung from one. This makes me ponder… do the Ossuarian cultists follow at least the “Virtue” of Sacrifice? Much evidence exists throughout the dungeon to suggest that they could be following their own definition of the Virtue, which I would argue is a gross perversion of the true Britannian idiom.
(The Artist's depication of a hidden burial room)
Revision: Thanks to a friendly adventurer, I have located a hidden burial room which can be found within Level 3. It is a bit difficult to spot the entrance, but should you find yourself in a room with a ship laden with gold and treasures, check the north-facing protrusion of the west wall (thank you Maynard!)
Below are the creatures you can expect to find on Level 3:
The Dragon Caverns and the Tomb of the Forgotten King
Should you travel north through the winding tunnel found near the entrance back up to Level 2 you will find yourself among the Dragon Caverns.
(The Artist's crudely-drawn map of the Dragon Caverns)
Clearly, people have already been through this area, perhaps in explorations (see the Artist’s render of the campsite). It would not be difficult to guess that treasure-seekers would wish to explore these caves as there are multiple large piles of gold and ancient coins lying about, but not unguarded. Powerful undead dragons lurk, guarding their treasure hordes.
(The Artist's depictions of the campsite and the Speaker for the Dead's chamber)
In the western tunnel you will find a Red Moongate, should you need a quick egress from Level 3.
Should you continue to follow the west wall to the north, you will encounter a much older, much grander structure than seen before. I surmise that this is a secondary temple, detached from the main Ossuary, and was buried by earth and sand over time. Something must have lived here and burrowed its way out, creating the Dragon Caverns in its wake. The Ossuarian cultists now utilize it, though, for some strange ritual led by one that is known as the Speaker for the Dead. I know very little about this cultist other than he is extremely powerful and highly regarded among Ossuarians.
(The Artist's crudely-drawn map of the Tomb of the Forgotten King)
If you have made the decision to visit the Tomb of the Forgotten King, it is best if you approach cautiously, for it is known that the Forgotten King himself at times rises from the piles of bones and wanders his ancient halls. Tall pillars lined with skulls and bones flank the large sarcophagus where the Forgotten King slept at one time. It is not known who this King was (otherwise his name would not be the Forgotten King), but I believe that the Ossuarian cultists are responsible for reanimating him time and again. It is perhaps why they have such a large pool of blood, as the Forgotten King is an extremely large creature, perhaps transformed into that by the cultists. Or, maybe the cultists merely stumbled upon this Forgotten King and figured out a way to harness his power. It is unclear.
(The Artist's depiction of the "resting place" of the Forgotten King)
What is known about the Forgotten King is that he is extremely powerful! He can command the bones around him, raising skeletal dragons or sending shockwaves of bones in all directions. He commands pillars and spikes that can impale the unwary adventurer. It might be best to leave this Forgotten King to be truly forgotten to time.
(The Artist's depictions of the Speaker for the Dead and the Forgotten King)
The Ossuarian Cult
There seems to exist within the Ossuarian cult a caste system. Each member seems to have some sort of specific role. I will attempt to lay bare what these roles seem to be, at least to my observations:
Dervish: One of the lowest of the cult’s hierarchy, the Dervish seems to be the acolyte. Their tasks may include bathing the deceased in preparation for the Embalmer to do their work.
Embalmer: A revered member of the Ossuarian cult, they have great knowledge of herbs, reagents, and poultices that most alchemists do not possess. They prepare bodies for eternal preservation.
Executioner: The job of the executioner is a simple one, to separate the head of a sacrifice from its body, which would explain the extremely high number of skulls throughout the Ossuary, but not as many body bones.
Fire Priest: I believe that once the Embalmer has finished tending to a body, the Fire Priest of the cult will perform the final death rites before the laying a body to rest.
Hunter: Although I have not seen them outside of the Ossuary, I surmise that the hunters will actively locate and bring back victims to be used as sacrifices or experiments.
Lion Warrior: The elite and ritualized fighter of the Ossuarian cult. They train to fight to defend the cult from invaders.
Pyromancer: These cultists tend to the needs of the Phoenix, and it would appear that they have specialized alchemical knowledge of conflagrations.
Skirmisher: I am not entirely certain, but these are lower-end cultists perhaps in training to eventually become Lion Warriors. They assist with the defense of the cult.
Slinger: Similar to the Skirmishers, these are the ranged fighters of the cult.
Theories of the Ossuary
A great deal of the Ossuary’s purpose and the current occupant’s motives remain a mystery. The Ossuarian cultists are not particularly keen on talking with outsiders, and will attack on sight.
It is generally known that cults have formed in worship of the ancient evil wizard Mondain, and it is believed that the Shadowlords (Virtues save us) lurk within this Realm, manipulating events and gathering followers.
It would not be a grand leap in logic to suggest that the Ossuarian cultists are some sort of followers of one of the Shadowlords or perhaps Mondain himself (or at the very least, manipulated by the Shadowlords). The macabre rituals and deep study and practice of Necromantic practices could be a means to an end, to bring Mondain back from the dead. It could even conceivably be that the Forgotten King is the ancient king of Akalabeth and Mondain’s father, King Wolfgang. That might be a bit far of a reach, however. It might even be that the cultists were drawn to this spot through some ebb and flow of an ancient evil artifact such as the skull of Mondain.
It is also not clear if these cultists are the service of Quell’Avath.
Why the Ossuarian cultists chose this site specifically can only be guessed at. Perhaps some of the mysteries can be resolved should one be able to find a way through the metal gate deep within Level 3. Until then, though, it might be best to stay clear of the Ossuary unless you wish to risk becoming one of the cult’s blood sacrifices.