Pagan Lands: Widdecombe’s Laboratory
Widdecombe’s laboratory is a tragic place, where creatures never intended to encounter life have been brought into painful existence. The building where Widdecombe’s experiments took place certainly served some other purpose before the eugenicist established his laboratory there. Indeed, it seems that it may have been a grand manse or even some sort of temple, given the open gallery and pillared hall that make up the front face of the building. Composed of fine marble, the building itself appears august until its horrid purpose becomes evident.
Of Widdecombe himself, little trace remains, save for some of his foul notations and some of his devices and instruments. Part demiurge and part eugenicist, Widdecombe appears to have vanished from the world over a millennium ago. The creature Adapa in area 9 can sometimes recall the name of his vile “father,” and Widdecombe recorded his own name in the journals that can be found in area 1 only once. Finding the name among the notes would certainly be a lengthy undertaking. Certainly, Widdecome comes from some world other than this one, as neither his language nor the technology he commanded has a counterpart in the Pagan Lands.
- The amoral scientist once made his apartments in this room, at the center of his ghastly bridewell of harrowed beasts. The room contains a daunting array of notes, books, chalkboards and charts on display to interlopers. Widdecombe appears to have been a very principled and orderly fellow, judging from the precise notes on his papers, in his books, and printed on the chalkboards adorning the walls. The texts themselves are indecipherable, but the sketches make it evident that the writer’s interest lay in combining, transposing, and breeding the qualities of creatures left in his horrific care. If a magic-user can somehow decipher the notes and other details, they can be used to aid magical research and magical item creation for items and spells that summon animals or monsters. The rooms also contains small alchemical devices worth 1200 gp.
- Tattered curtains hang from the walls of this room, rent by the claws of the anguished beast that dwells here. The creature resembles a great, awkward ostrich with the torso and head of a humanoid woman and ever-molting, useless wings instead of arms. The creature’s humanoid appearance is misleading, as it is hopelessly stupid, venturing forth only to eat the birds (or whatever else it can find) in area 8. This room was once a salon or something similar, and a damaged bust of a forgotten poet or philosopher lies next to an overturned pedestal in the corner, worth 1200 gp and 225 gp, respectively, to an interested collector.
- This pair of laboratories contains the incomprehensible apparatuses and bizarre ingredients used to fabricate artificial life, or provide the “genesis fire” required to spark actual life, however flawed the results may be. These items are surely of inconceivable value, but they are alien and not at all portable, and finding a buyer in the Pagan Lands who might want them is surely a quest in and of its own. The laboratories have been constructed to fit into the rooms that preceded their current purpose, and various tubes, pipes, fittings, and wires emerge and vanish from holes bored into the marble walls.
- This room contains six great metal tureens, the lower ends of which depend into funnels that look like a hose might be attached. The contents of the vessels are a protein-rich broth of viscosity varying by the vat in question. The contents of all the vessels has long gone rancid, and whatever life-nourishing properties it once had have become vile and poisonous. If someone consumes it or exposes it to a wound, the victim suffers 8d8 damage (reduced to 8d4 on a saving throw of target number 18). The noxious stuff becomes inert when exposed to air for longer than 15 minutes, and lasts only one turn if applied to a weapon as a poison.
- Two great, exposed electrodes descend from the ceiling in this chamber, terminating inside a vast, brushed-steel tough inside which pulses a glistening, gray-pink slab of protean flesh. An inch-deep pool of cloudy fluid stands stagnant in the bottom of the trough. The room is humid and smells of brine. A cabinet of cutting instruments, for work both coarse and fine, occupies one wall of the laboratory. The cutting instruments are comparatively easy to move, and are cumulatively worth 600 gp.
- The door to this room is extremely difficult to open, but with a suitable application of strength, it gives, accompanied by a shattering sound from the inside. The interior surface of the door had been layered with a thin sheen of nacre, and the whole room bears a subtle sheen of this pearly substance, which becomes thicker in proximity to the corner of the room, where a great agglomeration of the stuff creates an organic bulge. Sheets and hunks of the nacre may be harvested to a quantity of 72 pounds, worth 200 gp per pound to a gemseller or artisan. The room is humid and unpleasant. If the bulge is attacked or an attempt to harvest it is made, it erupts into a moist gray-pink mass of mottled flesh and defends itself (treat as a gelatinous cube that can’t move from the room, but can attack anyone occupying the room or immediately outside).
- This room houses an androgynous, fine-featured individual who sits on the floor, his head in his hands. The creature wears tattered and filthy finery and a bedraggled powdered wig, and its eyes are solid black orbs. If anyone attempts to converse with it, the fellow shrieks and squawks in an attempt at communication that cannot possibly be a language, and tries to push a few broken sticks into a pattern on the floor, using hooked fingers in a way that suggests the creature occupies a body not its own. The room also holds the ruins of once-comfortable furniture as well as 63 scattered gp worth of the “changeling money” described on p. XX.
- On the two tables occupying the bulk of this room, two partially complete (or partially disassembled…) brass automatons, a seeming matched pair of male and female constructs, lie in stasis. If a humanoid or demi-human enters the room, the automatons activate, rattling and flailing, attacking everyone present in their clumsy but effective manner. Treat the automatons as flesh golems.
- In this secret chamber that passes for Widdecombe’s treasury, 1,648 gp worth of ceramic chit-coins are scattered on the floor and pour out of shattered cubical coffers. A black lance-shaped rod with a cowl at one end hangs from a mount on the wall. Inside the cowl are a handle, which has two studs on it. Pressing one of the studs releases a cloud of pyrotechnics (12 charges remaining)while pressing the other one causes the lance to emit a shrieking sound that functions as power word: stun (two charges remaining) on the creature toward which it’s pointed. Blood, a pulpy crust, and a greasy ash streak the marble walls and floor in this room.
- Stone stairs lead into this ruined marble gallery, in which caryatids sculpted into singing poses uphold the ceiling. A blue-green fungus grows up the walls, over the surfaces, and especially in the cracks of the gallery, which is home to over a hundred birds. The birds find nourishment in the fungus, and the gallery is also stained by their droppings. There is a 1-in-6 chance that a pitiable, vaguely canine humanoid creature (treat as a kobold) is in this room at any time, trying to skewer birds with its spear. This creature (and the birds) are easily frightened.
- The creation known as Adapa prefers to bask in this area, contemplating exactly why it was concocted. The room itself is a fabulous ruin of quarried marble tarnished by neglect and a thousand-plus years of exposure, with marble columns sculpted into caryatids holding unfurled scrolls. Adapa is a miserable combination of fish and man, of melancholy disposition but not inherently hostile, and he actually enjoys the opportunity to have a conversation with anyone willing to speak with him. Drawing breath is a labor for him, as the complicated lung-and-gill structure that sustains his respiration is far from perfect, and he has no desire to leave his “solarium.” Unfortunately, Adapa has no long-term memory, and cannot remember longer than one day. Once per week, Adapa can cast any single magic-user spell of level seven. Adapa’s treasure is an ivory-handled knife worth 300 gp.
- This loggia admits visitors from the thoroughfare into the pillared hall of area 11. The walls are of crenellated marble and similar marble pillars comprise the supports of the loggia. A pair of tarnished silver salvers lie discarded on the floor here (worth 100 gp each), amid broken glass and the debris of untold ages.