The Ziggurat is unusual for a ruin within the domain of the old Zid, for it is much more recent (at least as much as that term applies) than the ruins of the God-Kings, although it’s still well more than a thousand years old at this point! It is in fact one of the few permanent structures erected in the desert since the fall of the Empire. It’s exact location is somewhat difficult to pinpoint, as it’s construction site was chosen based on mystical portents related to several landmarks that cannot always be found by mortal man…
The PCs are likely to first hear of the place from merchants whose caravan passed within sight of the place, but actually locating it is likely to involve a fair amount of research. The surest method (if you can call it that) would be to discover the testimonials left behind by several wealthy priests and builders of the time. These would contain clues to the omens that guided the expedition to properly inter the remains of the Morning Lord, and thereby their route might be re-traced. The journey is, of course, liable to be quite an adventure in and of itself.
A: The main, upper entrance to the tomb leads into a C-shaped hallway once lined with hundreds of amphora of varying sizes. These at one time contained various mundane items of importance to the Morning Lord that he wished to have with him in his afterlife. The majority have been smashed outright, and even those that remain more or less intact contain nothing but dust and rot. The wax seals and attempts to preserve the contents simply proved no match for the march of years. A thorough search will turn up surviving scraps of precious metals from ornamentation and such worth a total of 3d6 x 6gp.
B: The stairway leading down from the entrance hall passes two doors on it’s way to the tomb proper. These doorways are not designed for convenient access, being a mere three foot square and set at waist height above the landings they adjoin. Nor are the stone doors hinged, and they must be manhandled out of their frames to allow access to the chambers beyond.
The first chamber as you descend was set up as a library, with an elaborate wooden scroll-rack standing in the center off a circle of wards and glyphs meant to protect them from the ravages of time and the environment. In the niche at the left-rear of the chamber stands a shrine to a god of knowledge and wise planning worshiped in the homeland of the Morning Lord. Unfortunately a swarm of Time-Worms has found there way inside (lured no doubt by the ”scent” of the protective magics). There are maybe a hundred of the things, near-colorless fleshy lumps seemingly floating in mid-air (as gravity has an inconsistent effect on their timeless forms). These creatures have the peculiar capacity to ”smell” changes in the rate of entropy, and while the vast majority of them are liable to stand in stasis any significant destructive effort spent nearby (such as smashing the remaining amphora) is liable to awaken the whole colony.
The worms are nearly impossible to harm, although some magics may be potent in repelling them. Still, if the entire mass is not active then a significant effort at aggression is likely (4 in 6 chance) to send them scurrying off into the time-stream (to those unaware of their true nature they will seem to simply evaporate into thin air). The Time-Worms are able to move through solid matter, but only by sliding through the time-stream to an alternate time-line where that matter does not exist. As such they have only a 3 in 6 chance of finding their way back to the characters’ current temporal location after preforming such a feat.
Once active, the worms will attempt to swarm over a single randomly-chosen character (1 in 6 chance that the colony instead splits in two and each goes after a different victim). If they are successful they will, again, seemingly evaporate. If this happens the target of the attack must make a save vs. death. Success will result in the worms reappearing around the target within 48 hours, only to vanish into the time-stream. However, if the save is failed, then the worms have found their way to the moment of the target’s death – the next time that character drops to zero hit points or below they will reappear surrounding that unfortunate and immediately devour him or her body and soul. Thus this death will be permanent, final, and irrevocable (barring means extraordinary even by the standards of magic normally able to return the dead to life).
The door leading off of the lower landing gives entry to a pair of chambers used by the acolytes that oversaw the final funeral preparations for the Morning Lord, and were intended to entomb some poor souls who would then serve him in the afterlife. No such sacrifices were ever made, however, and the room stand mostly empty. One of the priests who stayed here had a compulsion to write out her prayers, and the walls of the outer chamber are covered floor-to-ceiling with a nearly incomprehensible scrawl of chalk scratches.
C: The lowest level of the Ziggurat contains both Rhissel’s final resting place and a secret shrine of sorts intended to allow communion with the Morning Lord after he had passed on the the afterlife.
* Opposite the bottom of the stairs leading down from the upper entrance and past the entrance to the devotional chamber is a short corridor that dead-ends in an once-brightly-painted bas-relief of a demonic figure. The creature depicted has, in fact, been imprisoned here as a guardian, but the magics that actually compelled it’s service has faded over the years. Now it is only likely to make an appearance if it is compelled by some magic to leave the carvings, or if they are significantly defaced (which would free the thing from service entirely, but it would be likely to attack the PCs anyway – it is a demon, after all). In form and abilities the thing closely resembles an Albino Ape, albeit with horrible red-glowing eyes, reptilian claws that deal twice the listed damage on a hit, and the automatic ability to instantly teleport up to another location within ten feet every time it is struck in combat.
* The chamber of dedication itself holds statues sacred to the four gods that were chief among those that Rhissel served in life. They are ornately decorated, and a good 250gp worth of precious metals and jewels could be pried from each, if the characters are willing to risk the ire of the deities they represent… Actually they are quite safe to loot, though. Not only have they stood unattended for a very long time, but the chief goddess among the pantheon they belong to took offense at being left out of the place, and she is still to this day liable to shield any such actions from the senses of her fellows.
* A large niche off of the side of the chamber holds the great stone sarcophagus of the Morning Lord. It is fairly plain, and between it’s great weight, the statue standing before it, and the fact that the side-chamber is only four or so feet in height it will be very difficult to break into.
Not that getting into the thing will actually accomplish much. Rhissel, having examined a ”mummified” creature brought back from the Sunamyo, believed that the place must have some particular death-defying properties. However the thing that he studied was in fact frozen in time and not dead at all, and his plans bore no fruit. In fact there were several treasures that it had been intended would be left with him, but seeing no indication that he retained any real power his acolytes decided to keep them for themselves, and now all that lies here are mouldering bones.
* The hidden shrine can be accessed via secret doors in the back of the burial alcove and in the base of the Ziggurat (this external access is largely covered in sand from the outside, but is still noticeable due to the stone plug at it’s entrance weathering much differently than the rest of the construction).
The chamber’s walls were once prepared to receive an elaborate mosaic that was never installed, but two great pillars of silver and gold respectively were. Getting this treasure out is liable to prove difficult, not the least because there are two guardian spirits bound to shrines in the two alcoves off of the room. One of these spirits fights as a Shadow, and the other as a Wraith, although both are Lawful and neither is actually undead. They are charged with protecting the room in order to allow continued communication with the Morning Lord. They will not attempt to prevent desecration / destruction of the remains of his corpse because they know that he is past caring. In fact the PCs could possibly convince the spirits that there is no further chance of contacting him, in which case they would not oppose any further looting of the chamber.
One last note concerning the tomb: A demon-worshiping cult in Zangiers has in it’s possession two books that collectively provide the knowledge needed to summon a powerful demonic entity. They are looking for a third work that would supposedly allow them to actually control the thing, and they believe that a copy can be found within the Ziggurat. In actuality the sage they consulted was nothing but a charlatan and there is in fact no way to control the thing or keep it from devouring those that summoned it, but there was in fact once a scroll with a similar title in the library (of course there is now nothing left of it but a few finger-nail-sized flakes of decayed papyrus). However, not knowing this, they may take a keen interest in the party if they learn of their expedition to the place either before or after the fact.