Cairn Burial Sites
These sites are those ancient treasure troves that have given the Cairn Hills their name. Only those that have already been discovered and plundered are shown on the map. Now they generally stand open to the air, and what remains of their fabulous interiors quickly corrodes into rust and rot.
The large majority of these cairns were plundered of their wealth long ago; as places for adventure, they were surprisingly dangerous and strange. The cairns were of many types, some so alien that sages mutter about people from other worlds creating them; some are pyramidal, others polyhedral and complex in design. Others were simpler, little more than barrow mounds.
From these cairns, famed and fabled adventurers of legend pillaged great wealth and unique magics. Great ingots of precious metal, rare super-hard steels, planar tomes and traveling devices, and much else were brought back to the Free City, together with tales of hideous deaths and monstrous guardians. The treasures were as sought after as the origins of the cairns were unknown, surely earlier than recorded Oerth history.
Some of the empty cairns, long looted, have since been settled by monsters, some of the few humanoids left in the hills, and perhaps more sinister creeping evils. Many of the old sites were so wholly pillaged that they are nothing more than open-air ruins.
The cairns are of many types, obviously the work of people from many different cultural backgrounds. Some are pyramid shaped. These have usually been plundered, since their above ground provides an obvious clue to their locations. Others are ritual barrows and burial mounts, far harder to identify. Still others are underground tombs and catacombs, excavated from the rocky hills or utilizing natural cave formations.
One, allegedly discovered long ago but since then its location has again become a mystery, is reputed to be a long, metal cylinder. Its surface is a type of steel far superior to any known on the Flanaess, and it is filled with a variety of deadly traps that can confound the most astute of thieves and defeat the most diligent of magical detection. However, the few items brought forth from that cairn sold for fabulous prices, due more to their uniqueness than any intrinsic properties . These items have long been dispersed among the nobles, wizards. and sages of the central Flanaess.
Legends claim that this is a cairn of the gods, descended from the stars to reward the people of Oerth. Diligently searching treasurer hunters might be able to discover the whereabouts of one or two of the artifacts from this cairn, if they really set out to investigate these stories. The location of the cairn itself-reportedly much of it was never explored-remains a deeper mystery. No one knows the origin of any of these cairns, but they all predate the influx of known civilization into the region.
The cairns are all underground, and have entrances varying from two to ten feet wide and six to ten feet tall. The entrance tunnels often climb upward a short distance, while other times the cairns lie directly beyond the entrances. Each cairn is a collection of chambers consisting of 1- 6 rooms. The floors, though now littered with dust and rubble, can be cleared to show intricate mosaic patterns displaying, in tiny, brightly colored tiles, scenes of brilliantly plumed birds, riotous flowers, fields awash in butterflies, and other colorful settings.
The ceilings are stone ground so smooth that it reflects light almost as a mirror, though it distorts shapes and images. Often these ceilings are smudged across their entire breadth, since a common tactic of the cairn plunderers is to light a great bonfire to illuminate the cairn, as well as to hold the stalkers of the dark away from superstitious minds.
The multi-roomed cairns generally have successive rooms, separated at one time by metal doors. These doors display high-quality metalwork, particularly in their locks and hinges, that far exceeds any current level of quality upon Oerth. But all these doors have been opened, usually by the brute force of a battering ram. (Only rarely can a thief pick one of the complicated locks.)
Those who have seen cairns before their plundering tell of wondrous statues, sculpted from unimaginably huge pieces of ivory or glass, and paintings of a brilliance and detail far beyond the talents of any current artist. There are tales of golden boxes filled with diamonds and rubies, vials of exquisite dyes, materials of a suppleness and strength unknown in the Flanaess.
The last known cairn was plundered more than half a century ago, so eyewitnesses have grown increasingly rare. The goods plundered have a status value among nobles that supersedes their material worth, so these artifacts have virtually all vanished into private, jealously guarded collections. Of course there are always rumors of other, even more mystical cairns in the hills. Maps to such sites are commonly offered for sale in the markets of Greyhawk, though the sellers of such maps are invariably much less in evidence after a sale than they are before.