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Corruption of the Swords - Assassinsby John Calvin, Max Monas and Jens "the Stalker" Schnabel
This adventure is designed to be linked with other Phase I adventures in the Corruption of the Swords campaign. If not running the other adventures in this plot-line, DMs minor modifications will allow this adventure to be played in any campaign.
Unknown to all, one of the Outer Beings is breaking free of its planar prison. It has spent centuries making preparations for this event. By manipulating one of the immortals themselves, the Outer Being has been able to set the stage for its escape. Its plan involves the corruption of the powerful artifacts known as the Swords of Wayland, as well as blood rituals on a scale that could not possibly be imagined by most, be they mortal or immortal. The PCs will be inexorably drawn into this webwork of insane schemes through four seemingly unrelated adventures. Ultimately, it will be up to them to put the pieces together before the Outer Being's dark prophecies come to pass, but the unknowable one has been planning its escape for a long time. Compassion, curiosity, fame, and fortune...all of the stuff that heroes are made of, will insure that wittingly or not, the PCs will play their part in the Outer Beings grand design.
An old painting of an ancient hero draws the PCs into this scenario. They must try to obtain the piece of art in order to uncover the many secrets that have been forming around them.
Phase I adventures are low level adventures designed to draw PCs into this plot. In this adventure, the PCs come across members of the Dark Petals Cult.
How to Involve PCs
1. The PCs are in Darokin when they hear about some historical Darokinian artifacts going up for auction. Either the PCs will want these artifacts, or perhaps a patron of theirs will send them out to acquire them.
Ceril Bertun approaches your party. "Agents loyal to House Corun have learned that several ancient artifacts have been recently uncovered, and will be auctioned off shortly in Corunglain." Bertun pauses to make sure that he has your attention. He moves in closer and whispers, "These artifacts have a great importance for our House. They once belonged to Oliver Attleson, a great warrior who defended Corunglain for 20 years during the orc wars. We also know that Umbarth has agents in the area who will attempt to buy these artifacts. I don't have to tell you that this would shame our house greatly. We cannot allow this to happen."
2. A love interest of one of the PCs expresses her desire for a particular painting. Will the PC buy that painting in order to secure his/her affections?
3. An old man greets the PCs with an offer of hidden treasures. He tells them that the secrets of the treasure lie hidden within the painting of Oliver Attleson defending the city of Corunglain.
An old man accosts your party, clutching desperately at your sleeves. "You might be able to help!" he gasps excitedly. Before he can catch his breath (and before you can interrupt him) he continues. "That auction house over there, you see it? There is treasure inside, and I know where to look for it! But I need help. Stronger arms and legs than mine will have to retrieve it. But we must act quickly!"
4. If the old man fails to catch the party's attention in this manner, read the following:
The old man will not be pushed aside. He fumbles for a pouch hidden under his heavy tunic. The pouch slips out of his grasp and its contents spill out onto the road. Several passers-by turn from their routine to stare at all of the gold coins on the ground. "And there's more where that came from too! But we must hurry, or others will snatch the prize from us!"
5. Once inside the auction house, the old man will direct the PCs attention to a large painting of Oliver Attleson. "That is what we must retrieve!" He will not answer any questions, including what his own name is, saying that, "There is too little time." The PCs will be expected to buy the painting with their own money, although the old man may have a bag or two more of gold to help them. After they buy the painting the old man will disappear. No amount of searching will be able to find him.
The main item of interest at the auction is a 5 feet high, by 7 feet long painting of Oliver Attleson during the siege of Corunglain. Attleson stands in the centre of the portrait with the crumbling walls of Corunglain to his back and a massive horde of humanoid invaders in front of him.
The painting is in a remarkable condition. Despite its great age all of the colours are still quite vivid, and its paint is unchipped. In the centre of the painting stands a regal figure in a full suit of gleaming plate mail.
In his outstretched hand he holds a massive sword. The skies framing him are red, as if they have been drenched in blood. Behind him are crumbling walls filled with weary defenders, and before him lies a massive throng of humanoid invaders. They fling their hordes at the city, but the three orcs nearest the knight and his sword recoil, as if in great pain.
There are several other items coming up for auction that may be useful to the PCs.
1. A portrait of a beautiful, but very stern looking woman. [This is a portrait that was created over 150 years ago of the famous Amazonian pirate, Moana the Fair.]
2. A humanoid war banner taken from a tribe of kobolds before the great crater was formed. The banner is bedecked with furs, skulls, and various other body parts of several animals (and possibly a few humans). A bright red cloth is attached to it as a flag, and it bears the following symbol.
[This is Prince Kol's personal banner. Anyone versed in Broken Lands history will be able to identify it as such.]
Several other parties are interested in acquiring the portrait of Oliver Attleson:
1. Calgan Embra, a finely dressed gentleman with a long face, is an agent of Umbarth house. Umbarth wishes to purchase the painting purely out of spite for Corun house. If the agent is able to buy the portrait, it will sit forgotten in some dusty warehouse.
2. Matrissa Abbylane - a beautiful young lady, dressed all in black. Just weeks ago her entire family was murdered on one of the trade routes from Corunglain. She wishes to purchase the painting for sentimental reasons.
[Perhaps she could be the love interest for one of the PCs as well.]
3. Hadley Demshaw and Ferik Merto are a couple of older, grey haired gentlemen. These are high up members of Corun House. They intend to purchase the painting and then shove it away in some old dusty warehouse to be forgotten. Contrary to popular belief, the Coruns are quite ashamed of their connections to Oliver Attleson. They intend to bury all evidence of past wrongdoings on their part (see their betrayal of the paladin to the orcish horde in Appendix 1).
This is an excellent opportunity for the PCs to showcase their merchant skills (if indeed they have any). The DM should feel free to throw in as many minor bidders as he chooses, although only the three groups listed above (and perhaps the PCs) will have any staying power.
A Run-in With Assassins
Whether or not the PCs were successful at winning the auction, they will be visited the next night by three assassins. The assassins will spend a full day watching the PCs and then attack them during the night, preferably when they are returning to their quarters for the night.
Two assassins will enter the party's room and lay in wait. They will trap, or block, all routes of escape except for one, preferably a window to the outside. The third assassin will position himself outside of the only escape path and wait for the characters to flee. Once they emerge from the exit, the third assassin will open fire with his hand held crossbow.
As you enter your room, you notice that something is out of the ordinary. You can no longer hear the rumble of people from the common room, nor the squeaking of floor boards beneath you. Turning to your companions, you notice that their mouths are moving, but they are saying nothing.
The assassins have dropped a Violet Poppy (see New Magic Items section) into the room in preparation for their attack. Once the PCs are within the radius of its effect (which should cover their entire room), the assassins will spring forth - weapons drawn. Each one will cover a potential exit, making sure to leave an open path to the third exit where their companion lies in wait outside [originally there were Tavern Maps for levels 1 and 2.
Unfortunately these cannot be reproduced here, but may be found in the original adventure in Tome of Mystara no.6]. Before the PCs can react, one of the assassins drops a Crimson Rose, and the entire room goes dark.
Gerin Felwig (local apothecary), human Rog1: CR 1/2; Medium Humanoid (5 ft. 10 in. tall); HD 1d6; hp 6; Init +7 (Dex + Improved Initiative); Spd 30 ft.; AC 15 (+2 armour, +3 Dex); Atks +1 melee (1d6+1/crit 18-20/x2); SA sneak attack; AL LE; SV Fort +0, Ref +5, Will -2; Str 12, Dex 16, Con 11, Int 9, Wis 7, Cha 5. Skills: Escape Artist +7, Hide +7, Intimidate +1, Jump +5, Move Silently +7, Profession (Apothecary) +2, Spot +2, Tumble +7. Feats: Blind Fighting, Improved Initiative. Possessions: Leather armour, rapier, Violet Poppy (6 charge item, d6 charges left), Blue Tulip (6 charge item, d6 charges left).
Hert (borderlands fur trapper), human Rog2: CR 1/2; Medium Humanoid (5 ft. 7 in. tall); HD 2d6 +1; hp 14; Init +3 (Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 15 (+2 armour, +3 Dex); Atks +3 melee (1d6+3/crit 18-20/x2); SA sneak attack, evasion; AL LE; SV Fort +2, Ref +6, Will +0; Str 15, Dex 16, Con 14, Int 9, Wis 11, Cha 6. Skills: Craft (Trapmaking) +4, Escape Artist +8, Hide +8, Listen +5, Move Silently +8, Pick Pocket +8, Spot +5, Tumble +8. Feats: Blind Fighting, Combat Reflexes. Possessions: Leather armour, rapier +1, Crimson Rose (6 charge item, d6 charges left), Cream Orchid (single use, use activation item).
Carid Selaay (local librarian), human Rog1: CR 1/2; Medium Humanoid (5 ft. 9 in. tall); HD 1d6; hp 6; Init +3 (Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 15 (+2 armour, +3 Dex); Atks +3 ranged (1d8/crit 19-20/x2 crossbow, 1d6/crit 19-20/x2 short sword); SA sneak attack; AL LE; SV Fort +0, Ref +5, Will -1; Str 11, Dex 17, Con 11, Int 15, Wis 8, Cha 14. Skills: Diplomacy +6, Disguise +6, Escape Artist +7, Gather Information +6, Hide +7, Listen +3, Move Silently +7, Open Lock +7, Perform +6, Profession (Bookkeeper) +3, Spot +3. Feats: Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot. Possessions: Leather armour, crossbow, short sword.
Death of a Corun
One of the older gentlemen (a Corun) from the auction, frantically approaches the PCs. He tells them that his travelling companion was just found dead this morning in his apartment. He himself would have been there last night, but some pressing business came up at the last minute. Now he fears that if the assassination attempt was meant for him, that the assassins will surely come back.
It's an overcast evening, the dusk clouds red outside, when an old man bursts into your presence. "My name is Demshaw. I remember you from the auction yesterday. I need your help desperately and I'm willing to pay!" The old man from the auction is shaking and out of breath. "I came into my apartment this afternoon and found my partner, Merto, lying crammed into a corner of the room, deader than a Thadder on land. Someone is trying to kill me, and I need some bodyguards. I can tell talent when I see it, and you're it. Name your price..." the old man removes his velvet hat and rubs his head. After a short pause he realises what he has just said and adds with a finger pointed upward, "within reason!"
Demshaw is truly terrified. The first thing he did after finding the body was to run straight to the authorities. Unfortunately, he could find no one at the precinct. The guardsman he found on the street wasn't much help to him either.
Demshaw's ears become red as he recounts his tale. "That uncouth barbarian didn't even bat an eye! Told me he had bigger problems. Bigger problems!? Merto was murdered, I tell you!" A few moments pass as the flustered man tries to calm himself down. "I spent the rest of the day looking for you...I remembered you from the auction." Demshaw's tone suddenly changed from frightened exasperation to blind hatred, "It was Embra, I just know it. He must be behind this, that old coot! Please help me!"
Assuming that the party agrees to help him, Demshaw will eagerly do anything they tell him to. He is very insistent however that the PCs come to his apartment right away. "If there is anything there that I can use against Embra there, I want you to find it!"
Demshaw's apartment is large and plush...just the sort of extravagant abode that an overly pampered merchant would be at home in. "Not nearly the standard of living I'm used to, but it suffices while I'm in town," Demshaw mumbles apologetically. There is a man lying in the far corner of the entryway. Broken furniture and pieces of fragile artwork lay strewn across the floor. It is evident that quite a struggle took place here. The man that Demshaw identifies as his partner Merto is white as a bone. His hair is even whiter than you remember it to be just a day ago, but maybe that's just the lighting. Shadows play against the far wall, as the setting sun shines through the windows behind you.
The PCs can search the apartment all they want, but they won't find anything of importance. There is no blood in the room, and the body doesn't have so much as a scratch on it. Merto's body has the only clue to his death, but no one will notice it unless they bring a light source very close to the corpse. Anyone who does this, and makes a successful Spot check (at DC 15) will realise that Merto's body casts no shadow.
Early this morning, before the sun rose into the sky, members of the Dark Petals Cult performed a dark ritual that would bind the shadow of their sacrificial victim to their will. Evidence of the ritual can be found at the auction house. After their dark rites were completed, the cult members sent the newly created Shadow out into the city with the instructions to kill all those who bid on Attleson's painting.
As the sun finally sets, the doorway to the apartment is darkened by an imposing figure. Muscular, and heavily armoured, the figure steps through the doorway and is soon followed by two others in similar attire. You breath a sigh of relief as you notice that each bears the mark of the city guard.
The first man who enters the apartment is Geret Klonser, the captain of the guard. He rushes to the body of the slain merchant and shines the light of his lantern directly on it. No shadow is produced. If the PCs have not yet figured out the cause of the man's death, Klonser will explain it to them.
"Early this morning one of my men stumbled upon a 'creature' made entirely of shadows. The man was lucky enough to be escorting a group of priests with their weekly tithes, to the local bank. The priests quickly dispatched the creature, and a general alarm was raised. We've spent the better part of the day trying to secure the city from this potential plague. Every time one of these monsters kill a man, another Shadow is spawned. The city has been closed, and the priests are making sure that no Shadow will leave. The rest of my men are patrolling the streets, but I fear they'll have no luck." Geret moves away from the corpse in order to address you directly. "We also found a disturbing sight at the auction house a couple of hours ago. Some dark ritual has been performed there to bring all of this about," he says while gesturing at the dead man on the floor. "That's when I knew to come here. I figured that there was a connection between yesterday's auction and the creature that was spawned not long ago. I also fear that those who were at the auction are the intended victims. It seems that I've been proven right. Unfortunately my men are spread throughout the city, and there are two others who were involved with that auction who may need protection."
This is the PCs' chance to volunteer to help save the city. The city's priests managed to kill one Shadow, but since Merto was murdered, that means that there is at least one more on the loose. If it manages to kill its next victim, then there will be more Shadows running about the city. If the PCs can't stop the creature before this happens, the entire city may be overrun.
Klonser tells the party that he will take Demshaw to the nearest temple for safe keeping. He instructs the two guards to assist the PCs in securing the safety of the other two targets, Calgan Embra, and Matrissa Abbylane. Time is of the essence, and both of these people live on separate sides of the city. If the PCs are going to save them in time, they will probably have to split up.
Calgan Embra is under attack when the PCs arrive. The Shadow entered his house and waited for the merchant to secure it before attacking him. If the PCs want to gain entrance, they will have to break down the door.
You hear a crash from the house ahead of you, followed by a horrible scream. As you rush to open the door, you find that it is locked shut.
Shadow (1): CR 3; Medium-Sized Undead (Incorporeal) ; HD 3d12; hp 18; Init +2 (Dex); Spd 30 ft. fly 40 ft.; AC 13 (+2 Dex +1 deflection); Incorporeal touch +3 melee (1d6 temp Str); SA Str damage, create spawn; SQ Undead, incorporeal, +2 turn resistance; AL CE; SV Fort +1, Ref +3, Will +4; Str -- , Dex 14, Con --, Int 6, Wis 12, Cha 13. Skills: Hide +8, Intuit Direction +5 Listen +7, Spot +7. Feats: Dodge.
The Shadow has already made 1 successful attack upon the merchant by the time the party arrives at his home. It will be able to reduce his Strength score to 0 in another three rounds. Once the PCs have managed to hurt the creature (with a successful attack), the Shadow will turn its attention to them. If the party is unable to damage the creature, it will continue its attack upon the hapless merchant.
Matrissa Abbylane is a 'sleeper' in the Dark Petals Cult (see Appendix 3). While the PCs are busy searching her house (and being spooked by every shadow that crosses their path), Matrissa will reach into the folds of her robe and pull out a short bladed dagger. The dagger is coated with enough paralysing poison for one strike. Matrissa will attack the first PC that she can, preferably from the back.
Matrissa Abbylane, human Aristocrat4: CR 2; Medium Humanoid (5 ft. 4 in. tall); HD 4d8; hp 17; Init 0; Spd 30 ft.; AC 10; Atks +2 melee (1d4+2/crit 19-20/x2); AL LN; SV Fort +1, Ref +3, Will +4; Str 8, Dex 11, Con 9, Int 9, Wis 11, Cha 16. Skills: Appraise +6, Craft(Painting) +6, Diplomacy +10. Feats: Improved Initiative, Quick Draw, Lightning Reflexes. Possessions: Dagger (coated with paralysis poison).
If Matrissa is captured, instead of killed, she will say and do nothing. The only thing that shows in her face is a blank stare. Matrissa will remain in this state for 24 hours, after which she will remember nothing.
The painting of Oliver Attleson, although quite remarkable, does not provide any direct clues as to the whereabouts of any great treasure hoard. A great treasure is depicted in the painting however, and that is the sword Roc. PCs who take an interest in the sword and its powers will be able to discover that a Minrothad merchant, by the name of Hadric Telmar, came to possess the sword several years back. Telmer disappeared not too long ago while in search of some ancient pirate's treasure. This information will be crucial in leading the party to the final adventure in this series.
The PCs may want to follow up on any of the information gathered during the course of this adventure.
Investigating the Death of Matrissa's Family
This will lead the PCs to the rather disturbing news that many caravans have been disappearing over the past several months. PCs who follow this lead will find that the northern caravan routes are becoming exceedingly dangerous. If The Starving Forest has not been played yet, this will be a good lead in. As the PCs go off to investigate the site of the Abbylane massacre, they stumble upon a caravan about to receive a similar fate.
Investigating the Umbarth Agent
The Umbarth agent will make himself utterly useless to anyone who is interested in Attleson or the painting. If the agent is watched covertly however, he may lead the PCs north into Glantri. There he meets with Prince Kol, whom he encourages to send raiding parties against Corun and other northern based merchant families.
Investigating the Corun Agents
Demshaw can provide an abundance of information to anyone concerned with Oliver Attleson and his fate. He may be very eager to give details on Attleson's history in Corunglain (neglecting Corun's own nefarious role in his demise of course), and may give the PCs clues to other sites dealing with Attleson. If the encounter with the Necromancer has not been played yet, these high up Corun's can provide an excellent lead in. They can point the PCs in the direction of Attleson's final resting place. However if the PCs get too close to discovering the truth about Attleson's demise, Corun house will not hesitate to silence them.
Investigating other Attleson Artifacts or History
This line of investigation will lead the PCs to clues much as investigating the Corun's will. However the PCs will attract some unwanted attention in this case. The Dark Petals Cult will try to silence anyone nosing around in Attleson's history in order to prevent them from finding the sword, Roc.