The waters of Lake Mauti churn eternally black even under the bluest of skies, and they remain icy even under the hottest of summer suns. Mauti’s dark chill seems to have infected the rugged hill around the lake as well. What few plants grow in the area are sickly and twisted, and the only fauna are reptiles, serpents, disease-carrying insects, and scavenging birds. As for the lake itself, nothing living calls its waters home.
The gnoll clans that prowl the plains, rocky hills, and canyons avoid Mauti and its surrounding territory. They call Mauti “demon-haunted” in their harsh, yapping language, and the gnolls refuse to pursue even their most hated enemies to within sight of the lake.
Every 19 years, when the new moon falls on the same night as the winter solstice, a terrifying event changes Mauti. From the depths rises a horrible bridge made from the intertwined bodies of screaming, squirming damned ones from some fearsome hell. This bridge of the damned spans the lake from shore to shore, a distance of about six miles, remaining until the first rays of the sun spill across the western horizon. Then, it goes shrieking back to whence it came.
Crossing the bridge is no easy feat. The hellspawned terrors that form the bridge object being walked upon. They grab and claw and bite. Each of the damned can be destroyed by spell, undead turning, or magical weapons, but to no real purpose. There are plenty more of the damned ready to take the place of any part of the bridge destroyed by those who attempt to cross it.
But, you wonder, why would anyone want to walk across the bridge?
Legends give several reasons. Any, all, or none of them may be true. Some say the bridge leads to the underworld. Those that manage to cross over can gain audiences with the evilest sorcerers and the unholiest priests who’ve ever lived, bartering for lost knowledge with these scions of hell. Other legends say the bridge leads to the gates into a palace long abandoned by one hell’s dukes. What manner of riches may await in such a place?
Then there are those tales that claim the bridge has two destinations. Those who seek only their own betterment find themselves plunged into a pit of black fire, wherein they are destroyed and reborn as part of the bridge itself. Those, however, with pure hearts discover themselves in a verdant field beneath a starry sky in the company of angelic beings whose blessings cannot be obtained any other way.