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Where Brothers War
By Jens Schnabel, with the help of his merry elves Geoff Gander and Hervé Musseau.
Cartography by Geoff Gander.
Last year, AC 1017, the Jennites overran Verdan in Esterhold and pushed the Alphatians back, then renamed the city of Faraway to Draeh. They then clashed with the Alphatians in the heartlands of the Esterhold Peninsula, which resulted in the Jennites burning the town of Anchorage to the ground while the Alphatians were pushed back to the coastal cities and towns, particularly Skyfyr in Blackrock. The two Jennite brothers Talin and Kalin are on opposite sides of the conflict, each a significant leader for his own side. Kalin is the leader in the Alphatian-controlled city of Skyfyr, and Talin is among the leaders of the Jennites besieging Skyfyr. The struggle for Skyfyr would appear destined to be a deciding battle in this war. As the adventure begins, Favian Vern, the Alphatian President of Esterhold, has hired adventurers to send against the Jennites as his people are reduced to refugees fleeing from the Jennite advance.
The adventurers will start off being involved on one side of the conflict in the lands in dispute between the Jennites and the Alphatians, in most cases on the Alphatian side because Favian Vern is hiring adventurers. As they go about their assignment to stop the enemy, events will occur which will come to involve the PCs and will eventually determine the course of the conflict in Esterhold. On either side of the conflict there are secret enemies. On the Jennite side, some wild Jennites known as the True Way, and their chieftain Maltaen, are so hateful of the Alphatians that they will go to any length to see them destroyed, and that hatred may eventually destroy the Jennites if not stopped. On the Alphatian side, Favian Vern has political enemies that might wish to see the situation deteriorate and so destroy Vern's position in Alphatian politics, while the wizard Nicodemus, former oppressive King of Verdan, wants him out of his way so that he can reclaim Esterhold for Nayce and turn the Jennites into slaves again without bothering with Vern's ideals of democracy. As the adventure progresses, the various factions on either side of the conflict will also clash with each other, and the PCs will be among those who must find a way out of the madness of war. The plots unfold, on each side, as described here:
The Alphatian Campaign (AC)
Part I: Skyfyr under Siege
The adventurers are hired by Favian Vern or his agents to go to Esterhold and help the Alphatian refugees fleeing the Jennite advance. First they help Kalin withstand the siege of Skyfyr, which will go on for some time and give them a chance to get a little combat training, perhaps even command troops in battle (rules for mass combat may be used by the DM for this purpose). The adventurers meet Lyriander, an Alphatian soldier who is bitter over the death of his mentor and fellow soldier Krael, a Jennite killed during the siege of Anchorage last year.
Part II: Vengeful Manoeuvre
Eventually, when Talin is not in the enemy camp, the invaders kill a messenger sent by Kalin to discuss peace. In retaliation, Lyriander leads the PCs on an espionage and sabotage mission inside their camp, although one of their group uses the opportunity to poison the Jennites' water supply as an act of vengeance.
Part III: Negotiation of Hostility
After this Kalin and Talin meet to discuss the situation. Both Lyriander and the PCs act as escorts for Kalin, but the meeting does not go well and they have to fight their way out and back to Skyfyr.
Part IV: Embers
The siege of Skyfyr resumes, and the PCs see more severe fighting, but it does not last as long. The Jennites slow their assaults to the point of almost stopping them, at which point the siege of Skyfyr is essentially over, at least as far as the PCs are concerned.
Part V: Evidence of Evil
Kalin hears rumours of some harsh Alphatian adventurers called the Crimson Avengers. Sneaking past the Jennite camp, he takes Lyriander and the PCs to find out more. They travel the land of Esterhold and find evidence of the brutality of the Crimson Avengers, though they don't meet them. Along the way they meet and fight several random Jennite opposition. They also face the harsh group called the Champions of the True Way, who are extreme followers of Chieftain Maltaen. Once they have their evidence, Kalin sends Lyriander back to Skyfyr while he contacts Favian Vern. He and the PCs then present their evidence to Favian.
Part VI: Avengers and Rectifiers
Favian sends Kalin back to Skyfyr, then he and the PCs go to Esterhold to find and confront the Crimson Avengers. This requires some travelling and tracking, but eventually they find them. They do not respond well to Favian's disappointment with them and the PCs have to help Favian defeat them, which is a tough battle.
Part VII: Brothers Triumphant
Kalin sends Favian word that there is dissent among the rebels. Kalin has recently rescued his rebel brother Talin from extremist Jennites, but he is affected by some powerful magic that impairs his memory. Favian and the PCs meet Kalin, Talin, and their various Jennite followers, and Favian removes the spell that impedes Talin's memory. Talin then reveals that Nicodemus, an Alphatian wizard and former king, is manipulating the Jennites to fight among themselves and clear the way for his own return to the harsh rule of traditional arrogant Alphatian ways, by posing as a Jennite wizard.
The PCs then go with Talin, Kalin, and Favian to Draeh (formerly Faraway) to expose Nicodemus. They must travel through secret tunnels underneath the city, which are probably guarded or inhabited, to enter the city, then expose Nicodemus.
Talin then confronts the Jennites about their extremist ways, but their leaders are not convinced. One leader, Lotam, declares, that by ancient Jennite tradition, they will settle the truth through a trial by combat. The PCs must fight alongside Talin and Kalin and defeat the group representing the extremist Jennites. Once they are victorious, the Jennites will be convinced and the adventure is over.
The Jennite Campaign (JC)
Part I: Siege of Skyfyr
The adventurers are asked by Talin to stand with him in his struggle against the Alphatian overlords. First they must help Talin in the Jennite siege of Skyfyr. This is a chance for fighting some battles, and the PCs could lead troops in combat (potentially with mass combat rules) against the Alphatians and the Jennites on their side. The adventurers encounter Grath, a Jennite wizard trained by Alphatians who believes in Talin's cause and who has suffered as a slave under the Alphatians.
Part II: Travels and Discoveries
Talin is going to a meeting with other Jennite leaders, and Grath and the PCs go with him as elite guards. They travel Esterhold a little and come under attack from one of the groups of adventurers sent by Favian Vern to stop the Jennites, and perhaps have other random encounters. Once they return to Skyfyr, they learn that Alphatian saboteurs have poisoned the Jennite water supply, leaving several Jennites dead. Talin then calls for a meeting with Skyfyr's leader, his brother Kalin, to discuss what is going on.
Part III: Hostility of Negotiation
Talin and Kalin meet to discuss the situation on neutral ground. Both Grath and the PCs act as escorts for Talin, but the meeting does not go well and they have to fight their way out and back to the Jennite camp.
Part IV: Dying Fire
The siege of Skyfyr resumes. Since the Jennites press their attack harder now, the PCs see more severe fighting, but it does not last as long because Skyfyr's defences hold. The Jennites then slow their assaults to the point of almost stopping them, at which point the siege of Skyfyr is essentially over, at least where the PCs are concerned.
Part V: Evils Within and Without
It is clear that Skyfyr is too difficult to take by force, so the defenders must be starved out, which could take a long time. Talin leaves a token force around Skyfyr to maintain the siege, then he takes Grath and the PCs into the wild lands to stop the bands of Alphatian adventurers harassing the Jennites. The PCs hear of a brutal group called the Crimson Avengers and see the results of what they do, but they don't actually meet them, though they track down and meet the group called Minboral's Circle thinking they are the Crimson Avengers. However, they also see savagery committed by Jennite warriors and discover that this is done by an extreme tribe of the free Jennites following the traditional True Way philosophies, led by Chieftain Maltaen. Having seen much of this, Talin decides to confront Maltaen on the matter, but Maltaen has him arrested as the PCs and Grath flee. On the run from their allies and with nobody to turn to, Grath decides they should seek out Talin's brother, Kalin, even though he is on the side of the Alphatians.
Part VI: Alliance of Enemies
Grath convinces Kalin of Talin's capture. Kalin joins Grath and the PCs to rescue his brother. Kalin uses his contacts to discover where Talin is being held. He, the PCs, and Grath must then sneak into the camp of the Jennite chieftains and free Talin, then make good their escape. Once they are successful, however, it is clear that Talin suffers from some sort of amnesia and Grath discovers that it is due to some powerful magic he cannot dispel. Kalin contacts Favian Vern, who may be the leader of the Alphatians but also a very skilled spellcaster, to have the spell removed.
Part VII: Triumphant Brothers
Favian Vern arrives and removes the powerful spell from Talin. Once it is gone, Talin reveals that Nicodemus, an old Alphatian wizard and former king, is manipulating Maltaen and his True Way tribe to fight the other Jennites and so clear the way for his own return to the harsh rule of traditional arrogant Alphatian ways, by posing as a Jennite wizard. Talin discovered this when he attempted to escape during his capture, but Nicodemus discovered him and put a spell on him so he would forget.
The PCs then go with Talin, Kalin, and Favian to Draeh (formerly Faraway) to expose Nicodemus. They must travel through secret tunnels underneath the city, which are probably guarded or inhabited, to enter the city, then expose Nicodemus.
Talin then confronts the Jennites about their extremist ways, but their leaders are not convinced, and Maltaen claims their accusations are merely lies meant to weaken his cause. The great Jennite leader Lotam declares that, by ancient Jennite tradition, they will settle the truth through a trial by combat. The PCs must fight alongside Talin and Kalin and defeat Maltaen and his group representing the extremist True Way Jennites. Once they are victorious, the Jennites will be convinced and the adventure is over.
Adventure Flow Chart
Naturally, this is a large plot that may look complex and confusing, so here is a handy adventure flow chart, an overview of the events of the adventure in either campaign that might be helpful to the DM.
Alphatian Campaign (AC) Jennite Campaign (JC) PCs recruited by Favian Vern to fight the rebel and free Jennites killing his people. Sent to Skyfyr to help Kalin withstand the Jennite siege. PCs recruited by Talin to oppose Favian's adventurers who harass the Jennites and to be elite guards for Jennite leaders like Talin. Defenders during the siege of Skyfyr, help Kalin. Invaders during the siege of Skyfyr, help Talin. Sabotage Jennite camp with Lyriander. Escort Talin to meet other leaders (interlude).
Failed negotiations-the brothers' war.
Defend Skyfyr against Jennite retaliation. Attack Skyfyr over failed negotiations.
(Skyfyr siege essentially ends here.)
Kalin explores rumours of Crimson Avengers. Talin explores rumours of Maltaen's True Way. Kalin confronts Favian. Adventurers then join Favian. Talin confronts Maltaen. Adventurers escape to Kalin. Help Favian defeat the Crimson Avengers. Help Kalin rescue Talin.
Assist the uneasy alliance between Favian, Kalin, and Talin, end the war, expose Nicodemus, and stop Maltaen.
It is undoubtedly easier to involve players in the Alphatian side of the adventure, since Favian Vern is actively recruiting adventurers to stop the Jennite advance in his republic. The PCs merely need to be somewhere around or inside Nayce to hear of the Esterhold war and that Favian is recruiting adventurers in exchange for land, titles, treasure, or whatever else the DM will allow.
Even if they PCs aren't in Nayce, they are still quite likely to hear that there is a war in the Esterhold area. If they then go to Nayce to find out more about it, they will certainly hear of Favian's attempts at recruiting people for his cause.
If the PCs have already been involved in heroic actions known in Nayce or Esterhold, they might be contacted and asked if they will participate, or an old friend could point them in Favian's direction or even recommend Favian to hire them out.
The Jennite campaign is more restricted. Mostly Jennites will be part of that, but PC Jennites will be perfect for it. Non-Jennites are a little problematic because of the distrust Jennites have for outsiders, but some PCs could be outsiders, most likely if they are from nations that harbour enmity towards Nayce or have a generally strained relationship with Alphatia, such as Minaea or Thyatis. Even so, a group of all non-Jennites should not participate in the Jennite campaign, as the Jennites would be too suspicious of them. At least half the group should be Jennite.
Over the course of the adventure, the PCs will have opportunities to pick up information about the goings-on in Esterhold, either through conversations with NPCs or by overhearing other people's conversations. These rumours have been arranged into two lists: one for Alphatian or Alphatian-aligned PCs, and one for Jennite PCs (depending on which side they are on, the PCs would have access to different information). The DM should roll randomly whenever he or she deems it appropriate, or a particular rumour may be chosen. The DM is also free to add new rumours as he or she wishes. False rumours are marked with an (F).
Alphatian Rumours (roll on 1d8):
1. They say that Favian Vern has had it with Esterhold. He's given up all hope of a peaceful solution to this mess, and he'll he calling on the council soon to send in more troops to clean this place out. (F)
2. The council has all but given up on Esterhold and Favian Vern; Nayce is going to pull out, and those of us who choose to remain in Esterhold will be left to their own devices. (F)
3. Not all of the Jennites are unwilling to negotiate-a significant number of them would be willing to come to some sort of agreement.
4. Although Skyfyr is holding out, it won't do so for long. Some of the Jennites living within its walls are enemy spies, looking for the opportunity to destabilise the regime and sabotage our efforts to hold the enemy at bay. (F)
5. While the Jennites fight with a terrible ferocity, our side is by no means any better. There are those who fight under Alphatian banners who are little more than monsters.
6. Favian Vern has many enemies in the corridors of power-he is looking for allies.
7. The current Jennite invasion is but the first wave; I hear there are thousands more further to the east, preparing to sweep us all into the sea. (F)
8. There are some conservative elements in the council who would have the Republic of Esterhold fail, and they would turn Esterhold back into a colony.
Jennite Rumours (roll on 1d8):
1. Our leadership speaks with one voice; the Jennite nation shall fight as one great warrior to crush the Alphatians. (F)
2. Skyfyr will not resist us for much longer. The Alphatians are demoralised, and it is said that some of our warriors have managed to infiltrate the city. (F)
3. The so-called President of Esterhold, Favian Vern, is little more than a puppet of the Alphatian government. He can make no assurances to us that our rights will be respected-do not trust him! (F)
4. Some warriors have said that, although the Alphatians were brutal in their day, we are no better than they, for all the blood that has been shed. Our chieftains deny this, saying that it is just repayment, but I am not so sure.
5. Some of our emissaries have made contact with other peoples to the east of our domains, who might be enlisted in our war against the Alphatians. (F)
6. Those who espouse the principles of the True Way insult the honourable traditions of our ancestors. Their deeds show them to be worse than animals, and their interests do not lie with those of the Jennite people.
7. Not all Alphatians are evil. There are some who recognise that the old ways are no longer sustainable, and that we must all work together now-however difficult that may be.
8. The Jennite people are already showing signs of disunity. Those who have forsaken their heritage to live in cities are more like our former masters than they choose to admit.
Scaling the Adventure
Altering the adventure to fit the party should be easy in the early parts of the adventure, since most of the opponents are simple first-level fighters or barbarians. The DM can simply reduce the numbers for a low-level party and add more if the PCs are more experienced. Use the rules in the DMG on challenge ratings to determine the opposition your PCs should face. As the adventure unfolds, however, this will be more problematic-by parts VI and VII (in either campaign) the PCs should be at least level 7 or above, or they will find it very difficult to survive the battles they face, in which case the DM may have to make their opponents less experienced.
A Note About Statistics
As with most other products associated with the Mystaran Almanac, this adventure module was designed with 3rd Edition (3E) Dungeons and Dragons(r) in mind. We recognise, however, that not all DMs use this system in their own campaigns. Due to time constraints related to the production of a product of this magnitude, and due in part to this consideration, we have kept statistics to a minimum throughout. We leave it to the DM to decide which set of game statistics to use for monsters, NPCs, and the like. Nevertheless, where possible, 3E statistics have been presented.
Part I: The Siege of Skyfyr
Opening Notes (AC & JC)
Though the adventure is divided into two campaigns, there are some notes that are relevant to both since they are opposite sides of the same coin. So for either purpose, here are a few notes that may be essential during Part I for either side of the fight.
The city walls of Skyfyr: The wall surrounds the city completely except for two gates, the main one to the wilderness outside and a smaller one at the harbour. The smaller one may be used to close off the harbour if an enemy succeeds in bringing ships there, but it is very unlikely the rebels will be able to do so. For one thing, they have no ships, and even if they did, it is unlikely they could convince the free Jennites to assist them in such an effort. The free Jennites are extremely suspicious of what they see as advanced technology. The main gate is ten feet tall and made from strong wood reinforced with iron. It is old, but quite durable. The city wall itself is a fifteen-foot tall stone wall. It has ensured for many years, but has proven able to hold off aggressors for centuries and has no vulnerabilities (unless the DM wishes to change that, of course).
Combat statistics: As stated in the previous section, this adventure has been kept relatively stats-free. That said, the authors have included some sample 3E statistics for commonly encountered NPCs.
Typical free Jennite, human Bbn1: CR 1; Medium Humanoid; HD 1d12+4; hp 16; Init +5 (Dex, feat); Spd 40 ft. (+10 Fast Movement); AC 15 (hide, shield, Dex); Attacks + 3 (battleaxe) melee (1d8+2 /crit 20/x3) or +2 (short bow) ranged (1d6 /crit 20/x3); SA barbarian rage; AL N; SV Fort +3, Ref +0, Will -1; Str 14, Dex 12, Con 13, Int 10, Wis 9, Cha 11. Skills: Craft (stone age weaponry) +2, Handle Animal +3, Listen +3 (-1), Ride (horses) +4 (+1), Wilderness Lore +4 (-1). Feats: Improved Initiative, Toughness. Possessions: Hide armour, small wooden shield, battleaxe, short bow.
Typical Jennite or Alphatian soldier, human Ftr1: CR 1; Medium Humanoid; HD 1d10 +4; hp 14; Init +5 (Dex, feat); Spd 30 ft.; AC 18 (chain mail, large shield, Dex); Attacks +4 (longsword, weapon focus) melee (18+2/crit 19-20/x2) or +2 (light crossbow) ranged (1d8 / crit 19-20/x2); SA none; AL N; SV Fort +3, Ref +0, Will -1; Str 14, Dex 12, Con 13, Int 10, Wis 9, Cha 11. Skills: Craft (repairs to equipment) +2, Handle Animal +2, Ride (horses) +4 (+1). Feats: Improved Initiative, Weapon Focus, Toughness. Possessions: Chain mail armour, longsword, large shield, light crossbow. Note: This is a general description of all "common" soldiers be they Jennites among the rebels or on the Alphatian side or Alphatian soldiers. They all fall into the same category since they were all trained to Alphatian military standards. The rebels have good equipment because they either took it in earlier conquests or from trade with Thyatians. Naturally not all soldiers are exactly the same and the DM is encouraged to alter the stats so the PCs won't always know what enemy they face. This is merely a template to start with, as is the Jennite barbarian above.
The Siege of Skyfyr (AC)
In the Alphatian campaign the adventure begins when the PCs meet with Favian Vern. Most likely they will already have gone to Skyfyr, probably by ship, or else they will have to since Favian will immediately send them to aid Kalin in his defence of Skyfyr. Because the DM must get the PCs from wherever they start to meet with Favian, the journey is not detailed, but going to Skyfyr is certainly a trip filled with lots of potential encounters, though confrontations with the Jennites will not occur at sea since the Jennites have no ships. Random encounters with sea monsters or Minaean pirates are still quite possible, however.
In truth, Favian Vern could meet the PCs pretty much anywhere in Nayce or the Alphatian parts of Esterhold if the DM prefers, be it in the great halls of Ionace, the throne room (of former King Xanthus) in Skyfyr, or a modest room somewhere else. Favian is a wizard as well as a priest and has several wizard friends, so teleporting about is no major problem for him, but he isn't likely to teleport adventurers about unless the situation is critical (he may want people to help Skyfyr's defence, but if they meet him early in the year, they will still have time to get there because the Jennites cannot attack until spring). If the PCs meet Favian in Skyfyr, read the description of the city below to the players before they meet Favian or Kalin.
Once the players meet Favian, read or paraphrase this:
As you enter you see a bald, elderly man. His clothes look casual and he appears tranquil, yet it is somehow betrayed by a hard glow in his eyes. Clearly this is Favian Vern. Behind him in the corner stands a man wearing a black robe made of silk and leaning on a staff. He makes a greeting motion as the group enters, though he doesn't move or speak and instead simply looks toward Favian. Favian looks toward you to greet you:
"Well met, adventurers. I am Favian Vern, President of the Republic of Esterhold. As you may have heard, I am seeking brave people to stop the chaos that the Jennite uprising is causing in my republic. These rebels have claimed to fight for independence in the past, in itself a noble goal, but last year they destroyed the eastern forts that guarded the border to the Lands of Jen. They then invaded Verdan and took the city of Faraway, which they renamed 'Draeh' after a treacherous governor from among their ranks who was killed the year before, and finally they attacked the town of Anchorage and burned it to the ground. As if that wasn't savage enough, they have recently brutally murdered the peace negotiators I sent to discuss this matter. In doing so, they have revealed themselves to be little more than savages, unable to let go of old hatreds and bitterness. For years I have tried to build a fair and peaceful nation on the ruins of lands and people ravaged by harsh Alphatian kings such as Xanthus or Nicodemus, but it seems a good number of Jennites have seen my attempts at reconciliation only as signs of weakness and as an opportunity for them to claim revenge. Make no mistake, though. I have no quarrel with the Jennites in general. In fact, many of the people I want you to protect are themselves Jennites who are trying to make peaceful lives for themselves, such as Kalin, the Governor of Blackrock. Alas, Kalin's own brother, Talin, is one of the most aggressive rebel leaders. To let a conflict like this tear them so far apart is one of the great tragedies of this conflict, but remember that it was Talin who forced the issue and proclaimed his brother a traitor. Kalin had the choice between blindly following his brother or fighting for what he believed in. He chose the latter, hard as it was for him, though I think it still wears heavily on his mind. For that reason, I would ask you not to discuss the matter needlessly when you meet Kalin.
"As you may have heard, I have hired adventurers to stop the Jennite offensive in the wilderness of Esterhold. However, we also need strong people to aid Kalin in his defence of the city of Skyfyr. This I would ask you to do. Go and see Kalin and help him as much as you can. Make suggestions if you have them, but remember that he is the elected Governor of Blackrock. I say this because some Alphatians have trouble accepting a Jennite as their superior, so I have made of habit of supporting Kalin's position from the start. I may be in Skyfyr at times, but the defence of the city is under Kalin's command even when I am. If the siege of Skyfyr is broken, Kalin or I might have other assignments for you.
"You're doubtlessly wondering what I offer in return for your services. Well, I can offer gold and other riches from the mines of Southrock, but only to a certain extent. Still, Esterhold is large and much of the wilderness is uninhabited. If you prove yourself to be worthy folk, I might reward you with land in some of the unsettled areas. If you accept, I will begin by giving each of you 1,000 crowns right away. Or do you have more questions?"
Let the PCs ask Favian questions and discuss the matter for a while. Favian is a busy man, though, and will not waste all his time on them. If they continue to discuss for a long time, let them see that he is losing his patience with what he considers to be relatively straightforward matter. To him they are mercenaries, and they will have to prove they are more to earn his respect.
If the PCs wonder about the robed man and ask Favian about him, Favian will merely say that he is a friend and adviser. It should be clear that is a trusted acquaintance of Favian. Favian will not speak much about him, and the stranger will not interfere in the conversation. In truth, this person is little more than a wizard friend of Favian, but the PCs could be suspicious of him, which would be understandable given that the mystery of who this mysterious and secretive person could be is rather straightforward. If this is the case, the DM should let the PCs have their suspicions. The wizard is merely a red herring to make the PCs wonder if there might be foul play involved when Favian briefly imprisons Kalin toward the end of Part V.
Favian will repeat his support of Kalin if the PCs bring it up. He will hear nothing of suggestions that Kalin might side with his brother Talin at some point, and it should be very clear to the PCs that Favian implicitly trusts Kalin. It should also be clear that Favian is bitter about the rebellion, and that the rebels' actions have hurt him very deeply. He will by angry about it, though not openly vengeful. If the PCs have more questions, the DM should use the NPC description of Favian and the Events section of the almanac to answer questions. Favian will not be able to hide his bitterness if asked about the negotiators he sent to discuss peace with the Jennites.
Once the PCs are done talking to Favian, he will pay them the money he promised and give them a signed document to confirm their status. He will note down their names and tell them that he will inform Kalin they are coming, then send them to meet with Kalin. If they aren't already in Skyfyr, they will have to find a way to get there. Since it is most likely the PCs will arrive by ship, the following description of Skyfyr will assume that.
Having sailed across the Sea of Esterhold, you finally saw the land of the Esterhold Peninsula itself. After that came the last and most dangerous part of the journey, though. Skyfyr lies a little up the Esterhold River, and Jennite attacks were possible then.
Now, however, you can see the city of Skyfyr for the first time. It is a walled community, which has obviously stood here for long times. The wall around the city is made of stone, it seems, and was likely built long ago to stop attacks from monsters or Jennite raiders during the days of the harsh Alphatian kings, such as Xanthus. One of the sailors tells you that the city is called Skyfyr because of its origin. When the Alphatians invaded the land over a thousand years ago, they burned the original city down and built a new one, which was then called "Sky-Fire", and the name was then corrupted into "Skyfyr" over the years.
The city is only somewhat typical of Alphatian buildings. Some structures are large and mountainous in that they seem to be carved from a single, huge piece of some fine form of rock or other hard material, and these structures are in many different colours. Still, the houses and towers aren't as impressive as those that might be seen in other areas of Nayce, and some are far more common. Clearly, Skyfyr is a mixture of common buildings as seen in most nations and the more grand buildings of the Alphatians. Doubtlessly many wizards have lived here in the past.
At last you come into the harbour. You're reminded of the fact that the city is under siege by several volleys of arrows being shot at your ship and the harbour, but the effort doesn't seem to be very serious, and the ship docks without much trouble. A number of city guards come aboard to talk with the captain. Eventually they come to see you as well and ask what you're doing in Skyfyr.
The PCs will probably go to see Kalin. If they haven't met Favian already, read or paraphrase the section above, then return here to let them meet with Kalin. If the PCs want to fire their bows or other ranged weaponry at the Jennites, then there is no reason why the DM shouldn't let them. If the PCs are particularly powerful, the DM can even make this situation more dangerous. Generally this is intended only as background that sets the mood that the PCs are entering a besieged city, yet the DM can make the trip and arrival in Skyfyr more challenging by setting up serious Jennite attacks before the PCs' ship can enter the harbour of Skyfyr. See the Opening Notes for typical examples of the free and rebel Jennites.
The city guard bring you to a large building at the centre of the city. It looks like it was once a grand palace, but somehow it doesn't look quite so grandiose as you imagine it once did. Rather it looks like someone has been wilfully trying to make it appear less imposing or extravagant than it must once have seemed. This continues as you go inside and find yourselves in a large hall that must once have been filled with all sorts of banners and sculptures, yet is now empty. Eventually you are taken into a large room that must once have been a grand throne room, yet seems now more like a great waste of room, as barely any people or furniture occupy it. The most prominent people are seated around a large table where the throne must once have been, and they all look up as you enter. One of them, a tall man wearing a worn leather armour underneath a primitive-looking tunic, rises and looks toward you. He has black hair and brown eyes, and from his coppery skin you can see that he is clearly of Jennite origin.
In not quite fluent Alphatian, he says, "Greetings. I am Kalin, Governor of Blackrock. Who might you be, and what can I do for you?"
Kalin will let the PCs introduce themselves and explain what they are doing here. If they say they were sent by Favian, he will ask for the signed document Favian gave them, which he will then read through very briefly, as he has already read several such documents from other adventurers recently. If the PCs speak neither Alphatian nor Jennite, several people in the room will be able to translate. Once he has looked their document over and is satisfied of its authenticity, he will continue:
"So, Favian has sent you here to help us, eh? Well, we can certainly use the help, so your arrival is much appreciated. You see, now that we have passed beyond winter, the rebels are again gathering their forces. Last year they were forced to stop their invasion due to the winter, but they remain determined to capture Skyfyr, since this is one of the primary settlements where Alphatians still live in Esterhold. Because of that determination, breaking their siege will be very difficult, yet I am equally determined, if not more so, not to allow them to succeed. They take this city over my dead body!"
As he talks, Kalin becomes a little more agitated, but he doesn't reveal anger or bitterness as Favian seemed to. He seems a bit gruff in his manners, but even so he has an honesty about him that you find very reassuring. Kalin may have sided with the Alphatians in this conflict, but he is far from having the inherent superior attitude common among Alphatians, nor is he anywhere near being a submissive lackey to powerful masters. At length, Kalin gets around to mentioning his rebel brother, Talin, and his voice grows a little colder, although he also appears a bit saddened and reluctant as if the matter is difficult to talk about.
"No doubt you've heard that Talin, one of the leaders among the rebels, is my brother. That is indeed the case. In fact, he was instrumental in creating the alliance between the rebels and the wild tribes from what I hear. However, I do not call him brother. Although he would undoubtedly call me a traitor, it is him who has killed our people, Jennite or Alphatian, in his blind hatred of the Alphatians. We were estranged for many years as we were separated during our years as slaves, I here in Skyfyr, he in Faraway, which they now call 'Draeh.' About eight years ago, I killed my harsh Alphatian master and joined the growing resistance movement against the harsh rule that began after the Great War with Thyatis. I was suspicious of all Alphatians until I learned that one of them had joined our cause and was even teaching some of us magic. That was none other than Favian Vern, and he was eventually arrested by cruel King Xanthus for helping us resist. Through him I learned that not all Alphatians were evil slavers, and with the help of some of them who were like-minded, such as Prince Haldemar of Haaken, our rebellion against Xanthus eventually succeeded. Then we went about ending the cruel rule of King Nicodemus of Verdan, who was just as harsh an Alphatian ruler. By that time Emperor Zandor had been replaced by the council of what would eventually be called Nayce and we had the support of Commander Broderick to move against Nicodemus. In order to form a resistance movement in Verdan, I suggested my brother Talin might help us create one there, and as you know we eventually succeeded. But in victory we became divided. Most of our people wanted to live in peace with those Alphatians who shared our ideas, so when Favian transformed Esterhold into a republic and organised elections, it seemed like a dream had come true, at least to me. However, before elections could be held, Favian had to appoint temporary governors, and in Verdan he chose Talin simply because he was my brother. Alas, Talin has not learned to see the Alphatians as I do. To him they are all still harsh slavers, and he cannot see past that. He helped sabotage the elections and distort the results. Eventually a Jennite named Draeh was elected Governor of Verdan two years ago, but his first official acts were to declare independence from the republic and have several political enemies, Alphatians all, executed. Since his actions were illegal, he joined Talin's rebels, but was later killed, so when the rebels and their wild allies seized the city of Faraway, they renamed it 'Draeh' after him. It pains me to admit it, but there are still those among my people who insist on living in the past and repaying the Alphatians, any Alphatian, for the suffering we have long suffered at their hands. But not all Alphatians are oppressive despots like Nicodemus or Xanthus, and most who are still here do not deserve the scorn they are met with. People like Seward Alska, the Governor of Anchorage, didn't deserve the fate given to them. Though Seward Alska had been here as long as Xanthus or Nicodemus, he never mistreated Jennites in Anchorage as Nicodemus or Xanthus did, and most of the old, oppressive Alphatians have long since departed these lands, so the Jennite vengeance is now being waged against those who stayed to help us rebuild. There are those among my people who cannot let go of the past and move on. In a way I understand them, since they never knew Favian or Haldemar as I did, but to think they would kill our own people and burn our cities... And now my very own brother is out there, driven by some misguided hatred of Alphatians to break down the walls of this city and kill us all..."
With that a saddened expression falls over Kalin's face and he changes the subject to discuss how to organise the defences. Eventually he comes around to introducing the other people in the room. Most are advisers or mercenaries like you. One is a dark-robed man, clearly an Alphatian wizard, whom Kalin refers to merely as the mage Stormlock. Another one is an Alphatian wearing banded mail. He seems fairly young, yet has a harsh look on his face as if he were in a constantly bitter mood.
"And finally we have Lyriander here", says Kalin. "Now, since I want you to help in the defence of Skyfyr, you will be working closely with Lyriander and myself. Lyriander is one of very few people to have survived both the battles at Vigil Keep, Faraway, and Anchorage before the rebels took those places, so he knows about how their organisation, which should be most useful to us." Lyriander merely nods at this while uttering, "Yes, sir," though it is barely audible. You get the distinct impression that something is weighing heavily on his mind.
After these introductions, Kalin will let people get to talk amongst themselves. The PCs won't have much opportunity to talk to the wizard Stormlock as he will exit fairly quickly, not that he has much to tell them. If they ask other people about him, though, they will learn that he has some reputation and respect here and is said to have been somewhat involved in the fights to overthrow Xanthus and later Nicodemus. Stormlock seems to be considered the most experienced wizard in these parts. However, he is rarely present, and if the PCs ask around, they will find nobody who remembers having seen him in Blackrock for at least two years before this rebellion began and only returned here a few months ago.
The PCs will doubtlessly talk to Lyriander at some point, and will likely ask him if something is wrong, considering his mood. Lyriander is a sombre character, who has been marked by what he has seen in the war so far. He was originally among the soldiers Broderick stationed in the forts on the eastern border of Verdan several years ago. While he was there, he became friends with an older Jennite warrior named Krael who became his mentor over a few years of service. When the forts were overrun by the wild Jennites last year, Krael and Lyriander fled to Faraway and then to Anchorage when Verdan was also invaded. Anchorage was besieged, but Lyriander was wounded and Krael stayed to make sure that the younger soldier could escape. The last thing Lyriander saw of him was wild Jennites running him through with their spears and then cutting off his head and putting it on a spear as they named him a traitor to their people. Then they burned Anchorage to the ground. The experience was very traumatic for Lyriander and he doesn't like speaking or even thinking about it, so he won't tell the PCs about it, though others will soon enough if they ask around. Nobody will know the entire story as Lyriander doesn't talk about it, but if the PCs ask around, they should be able to piece the whole story. The DM should paraphrase parts of this tale as he or she sees fit.
The PCs might also want know more about the relationship between Kalin and his rebel brother Talin, though they shouldn't ask Kalin himself if they respect the wishes Favian expressed on the matter. Others, Lyriander for example, will tell them all they want to know, though not in Kalin's presence. Kalin has declared his brother an enemy, but it is clear to others around them that Kalin is sad and hurt deeply over the matter, though he is not really bitter at Talin. He just thinks his brother is misguided, yet is determined to fight for what he believes in.
Eventually Kalin will tell Lyriander to assign the PCs to guard duties. Lyriander will then explain to the PCs that now that spring has come, the rebels will be resuming their attacks on Skyfyr and so the need to guard the city walls is greater than ever. That will be the primary confrontation in this part of the adventure. However, the DM should feel free to design it as he or she sees fit. The adventure provides general statistics for those involved in the battles, but since every campaign is different, there is no way to say what sort of scenario will suit it best. If the DM has rules for mass combat such as the War Machine or Chain Mail, then this is a good chance to use them, especially if some of the PCs have the experience and desire to command troops in battle themselves. On the other hand, if the PCs are rather inexperienced, it could quickly be the death of them. Instead the DM might prefer to divide the battles into groups, then play out only the one the PCs are involved with. Use the statistics given above under the notes for Part I for this purpose.
The DM should keep these battles running for a while to give the PCs a sense of a prolonged siege. How long this should continue depends a little on PCs' experience. If they are level 4 or above, don't hesitate to give them a lot of boring combat duty. This will grow tiresome after a while, so the besieging Jennites will try something else-they try to set Skyfyr ablaze by shooting fire arrows into the city.
Ready for another day of siege and tiresome battle, you find yourself surprised today when the Jennites don't attack the city walls. At first you wonder if they have given up the siege, but nothing suggests they are moving away. Instead you watch in horror as hundreds of Jennites begin shooting blazing arrows into the city, obviously intending to start a fire. With the constant volleys of arrows and bolts, you have your doubts about shooting back, since you could easily become targets for enemy fire. Over the yells and screams you hear Lyriander curse the Jennites even as a bell begins ringing to signal the fire. A moment later you hear Lyriander call for anyone with experience with firefighting to join the city's Fire Slayers, wizards who can cast fire-suppressing spells, such as ice storm or cone of cold.
Unlike before the PCs' side now faces a two-front battle, one against the attacking Jennites and another against the fire in the city. A low-level party should probably stick together and fight one side only, most likely the Jennites since they will be able to do little that other people couldn't do against the fire, but if they are more experienced, the wizards and clerics in the party might be sent to fight off the fire with their spells. That, of course, is exactly what the attacking Jennites are trying to accomplish-to distract the spellcasters (of which they have few themselves) so they can face better odds against the defenders when they attack. If the PCs are on the city walls, the DM should have them roll a Spot check against DC 15 to note that a lot of the fire attacks are also focused on the city gate. If a PC has already stated that he is specifically trying to note the targets of the Jennites, give him a +4 bonus to his check (i.e., an effective DC of 11). The city gate should withstand most attacks and resist the flames enough to not burn down, but then neither the attacking Jennites nor the PCs may be aware of that.
If any of the PCs go to put out a fire, the DM can roll fire damage normally for a blazing arrow or bolt that strikes home, though this will be a lengthy and tedious affair. Since the PCs will probably try to put out the larger fires, it is reasonable to just rule that the fires they face are more dangerous. How to handle such fires is tricky, but the easiest way is to give them hit points, particularly since the PCs or the Fire Slayers of Skyfyr may use cold spells to fight them. Therefore it is suggested that the PCs face fires with 50, 100, or even 200 "hit points." The DM should read the section on p. 86 of the DMG about Heat Dangers and Catching on Fire. Going close to a large fire will force a Reflex save against DC 15 as described there, and may cause a lot more than a mere 1d6 points of damage depending on the actions of the PC and how badly he or she rolls. At worst he or she could suffer the full amount of 'hit points' the fire has, though this should be considered only if a natural 1 is rolled on the save.
The PCs may also want to fight a fire by more mundane means, such as throwing water at it or striking it with a wet piece of cloth or similar. Obviously these are perfectly reasonable actions. Throwing water will require a missile attack to hit AC 14 (actually AC 10, but with a -4 penalty because throwing water is not easy. Thus it is easier to simply treat it as AC 14). Each hit will reduce the fire by 1d8 points. If the attempt misses with a margin of five or less (AC 9 to 13), the throw was long, while a miss of a margin greater than five (AC 8 or below), then the throw was short. In either case the DM should roll for Grenadelike Weapon Attacks as described on p. 138 of the PHB, since water splashes and so may hit the fire in spite of the failed attempt. If the direction of the splash is opposite (short for a long throw, or long for a short throw), then the attempt reduces the fire by 1d4 points. If the fire is very large, the throw obviously can't miss, but the AC 14 still applies because the fire is so intense that the attempt has no effect unless it hits "just right." A PC trying to hit with a wet piece of cloth rolls an attack roll against AC 14 (as before) and rolls 1d6 for reduction of the fire. Note, however, that this is a melee attack, which means the person attempting it must be close to the fire and so risks Catching on Fire as mentioned earlier depending on the size of the fire (DM's discretion-a single arrow shouldn't force a Reflex save, but one that has set a carpet on fire might). The PCs might also try to convince the general population to help them. If they can organise them, it might be a lot more effective than a lot of spells, but people are generally scared and convincing them to help will require a good deal of persuasion, so PCs with leadership skills or high Charisma might be useful here. Note also that as the PCs fight the fire, the Jennites continue to shoot fire bolts and arrows into the city, so the PCs have to face the risk of being hit by stray missiles as they fight the fire. Obviously the PCs are under excellent cover in the city, but the DM may wish to roll an attack of this fashion against each of them each round unless they take steps to protect themselves. The DM can increase the number of such random missile attacks to reflect the danger and increase the danger to the PCs.
While some PCs might choose to fight the fire, others might choose to face the Jennites. After the besiegers have bombarded Skyfyr with fire missiles for a while, they will again attempt to rush the city walls. When this happens depends a little on how fast they can cause trouble inside the city. The DM should wait a little and let the PCs decide what they want to do before letting the Jennites attack. If all the PCs are fighting fires, let them hear screams of I"The Jennites are attacking!" or something similar. It should make the PCs wary and a little uncertain about how to react. But unless they go back to face the Jennites, their attack won't affect them at all. PCs defending the walls will have their hands full keeping the aggressors out, though. The DM should let them face at least a few attempts to scale the walls, perhaps even fight attacking Jennites with a battering ram intended to knock down the city gate. The attackers shouldn't succeed, but let the PCs think they might, and so may others on their side. So if the PCs stop them, they may be the heroes of the day.
The Siege of Skyfyr (JC)
The Jennite campaign begins when the PCs join Talin's quest to overthrow the Alphatians. The campaign is more exclusive than the Alphatian campaign because only Jennites are likely to participate. After all, PCs who like to be mercenaries are more likely to be hired by Favian Vern and the rebel Jennites have very little money to pay any soldier-for-hire. Besides, the free Jennites will meet most outsiders with scorn... That's not to say outsiders are impossible. Thyatian PCs who abhor the Alphatians might have enough of a personal grudge to join the fight against the Alphatians, and since a Thyatian expedition travelled through the area last year, there may be rumours about the conflict. The problem is that there can't be too many outsiders in a group before credibility in the plot begins to suffer. As the plot evolves, the Jennite distrust of outsiders will only grow and make the participation of any non-Jennites more and more difficult. In any event, less than half the group should be outsiders and any arcane spellcasters will be exceedingly unlikely because of the fear of magic among most of the rebel or free Jennites caused by abuse at the hands of the wizardly Alphatian aristocracy. After all, the Jennites scorn even arcane spellcasters among their own ranks, so they will treat such outsiders even worse!
The PCs are more likely to be Jennites who have joined Talin's struggle against the Alphatians. They can either be former soldiers trained by the Alphatians and now hoping to cast out the oppressors, or adventurers who have returned home to help their people in their fight for freedom. They can also be new characters who have fought with Talin since last year and survived the early struggles and gained experience for it, in which case they will already be with Talin in Skyfyr and will be his guards when he meets any other PCs, at which point the PCs will meet each other. In this case, however, these Jennite PCs should be no more than level 2 or 3.
If they are known adventurers among the Jennites, Talin might even approach them and ask for their help, though he won't actually hire them-he is expecting them to be heroes and so do the right thing for their people. Besides, he has no money to pay them with. How and where exactly the PCs meet Talin is left for the DM to decide. Talin is unlikely to travel away from his siege of Skyfyr to meet them, but then during the early winter months the siege cannot continue anyway, meaning that he might make a trip to gather allies. But he will not travel beyond the areas conquered by the Jennites, let alone Esterhold itself. If the PCs travel to Skyfyr to meet Talin, use the description of the city above from the Alphatian section to describe the setting, then describe how the PCs are met by Jennite guards and taken to the large camp of tents set up by the besieging Jennites.
When the PCs meet or are approached by Talin, read or paraphrase the following:
Before you stands a man wearing a typical Jennite tunic with plain leather armour underneath. He has black hair and brown eyes, and his coppery skin tells you that he is a Jennite. He seems to be a little over thirty years old, though his eyes have a piercing quality just as his face seems worn and yet firm and stubborn at the same time. This makes him look both older and younger than he probably is. As he looks at you, you find it very difficult to meet his gaze. He appears friendly enough otherwise, but his scowl never fails to haunt you... Behind, you see another Jennite wearing equally plain clothes except for the large cloaks he also wears. He is probably in his late twenties and has brown hair with green eyes and carries a staff around though he also has a knife in his belt. It occurs to you that he looks a bit like a sheepherder, but he remains quiet as the first man with the piercing gaze talks to you...
"Hello. I am Talin, leader of the Jennite freedom fighters combating the Alphatian oppressors. You have probably heard of me. I am the former Governor of Faraway, which is now the free Jennite city of Draeh. You look like sturdy folk with your hearts in the right place. If that is so, I would ask you to join our struggle to cast off the centuries of oppression at the hands of the Alphatians and free our people once and for all. You might question my association with the Alphatians... Well, I don't blame you. You see, when the Alphatian Emperor belatedly decided to get rid of King Xanthus in Skyfyr, and later King Nicodemus in Verdan, Alphatian soldiers and their leader, Commander Broderick, decided to use the local Jennites to their advantage in the attempt to overthrow those tyrants. Given how hated those two were among the Jennites, it took but little to turn the population against the oppressors, though true to Alphatian treachery, rather than risk their own soldiers, they let our people die for their cause rather than fight it out among themselves. After this tactic had worked in Skyfyr against Xanthus, they decided to try it again in Faraway. They 'helped' organise a Jennite resistance movement against Nicodemus to get rid of him, and I was the chosen Jennite leader. It worked too, because we did get rid of Nicodemus, but then something happened they hadn't planned-me! I, and others like me, decided to demand independence from all Alphatians. I am not Alphatian, but the lesson of their treachery is one they finally taught us once too often! The Alphatian 'King' Favian Vern tried to appease our people with promises of democracy, but when the vote went against the Alphatians, of course they refused to accept the result. People like Draeh and myself then began our just rebellion against liars like Favian Vern, though sadly Draeh was killed a little over a year ago. However, since then my fellow rebels and I allied with our ancestral brethren of the free Jennite tribes and attacked the Alphatian positions. We conquered Faraway and renamed it 'Draeh' in honour of our fallen leader. We took back all the lands of former Verdan and burned the hated watchtowers to the ground, and the free tribes drove the Alphatians further from the town of Anchorage. We hunted them all the way to Skyfyr, which we now besiege, but the hated Alphatians, and those of our people who have betrayed us by siding with them, have fortified their positions well, and we must fight hard to drive them from our lands completely before their imperial forces send reinforcements to stop us. It is a race against time, and as if that wasn't bad enough, the Alphatian leader, Favian Vern, has used Alphatian coin to hire foul mercenaries, greedy soldiers without conscience, and then sent them against us, so I'm trying to enlist as many people as I can in our struggle for freedom. Will you join us and help free our people?"
The PCs might want to discuss this amongst themselves. Unless the PCs have already considered it, Talin will give them time to ponder his proposal. They might want to ask him questions, but there will be limits to how much he will tell them until he knows where they stand. The cloaked man is actually the rarest thing: a Jennite wizard. His name is Grath, but he won't say much and Talin won't say much about him either until the PCs seem inclined to join their cause. The DM should let the PCs roll a skill check against a DC of 10 if they have Knowledge in the areas of history or local knowledge. If not, an Intelligence check will do just as well, since the matter at hand is common knowledge (though only for Jennites-outsiders get a chance to roll only if they have the Knowledge skill in a relevant area of Esterhold's politics or history). Anyone who succeeds will have heard of Talin, but will also have heard that the leader of those Jennites who have sided with the Alphatians is named Kalin and apparently Talin's brother. This is, of course, quite true, but it is not something Talin is likely to admit unless asked directly, which might make the PCs suspicious of him. If they do ask him about it he will get an evil look in his eyes and clench his teeth, then merely say that yes, Kalin is his brother... Then he will be silent and not speak of his brother again. If necessary, the DM should hint that mentioning Kalin is likely to upset Talin, or Grath will wave dismissingly to the PCs to signal that they should avoid the subject. The PCs might wonder why Talin is wearing such plain clothes. After all, it makes him vulnerable to attack from the Alphatians. To this he merely responds that plain clothes just make him harder to distinguish from other Jennites and that is the best protection he can get. They may also ask Talin to pay them, but given his disgust at Favian's use of mercenaries, they should be warned that he doesn't like kindly on mercenaries. If they ask he will be rather disappointed, then make an off-hand comment about how he was counting on them to do what is right for their people, not try to enrich themselves in the struggle for freedom. They might put it more diplomatically to him, for example by asking how they will pay for food and weapons. In that case paraphrase the part below on the subject. Hopefully the PCs should decide to join Talin:
"So, you will join us. Excellent! I am pleased to accept your aid in our long struggle. Now, I cannot pay you any money for your services, but then we aren't Alphatian mercenaries... Still, you will obviously be welcome to share our food and shelter like everyone else, and you will be given weapons that can be spared if need be. Hopefully we will capture weapons and other goods from the Alphatians as we did last year. If you do, what you find is basically yours, though. While I expect you to share what weapons and goods you confiscate, it is for you to volunteer such goods. I have no way to check if anyone keeps things they should share, but if I did, I wouldn't because it inspires mistrust. We are not distrustful Alphatians and I have to be able to trust the people around me. If I cannot trust them to share what they seize as repayment for the centuries of slavery we suffered through, how can I trust them with my life when I need to? And to gain trust you have to give it, so that's what I do, and I hope you will do the same. So if you need arrows for your bows, you have but to ask as long as there are arrows to spare. Just remember that you will receive as well as you give... If people find you never give anything back, they will be less likely to share with you in the future.
"Now, since you are skilled in diverse talents, I will probably want to keep you with me most of the time as my personal guards as well as my advisers. In that sense you will be much like my friend Grath here. Don't let his plain appearance fool you. He is, in fact, a wizard! Now, before you get too upset about that, let me explain. You see, while the Alphatians oppressed us, they did teach some of our people the ways of magic... Or rather, they forced us to learn so they wouldn't be bothered about every little spell that needed casting. However, their teachings came with restrictions, so there are limits to what was taught. Grath, you better explain this."
The younger cloaked man you thought were a sheepherder steps forward and speaks for the first time. "Actually, the Alphatians taught the lessons of magic to many of our people who had the potential for it. Unfortunately many of them seem to have been lured by the knowledge of magic to either avoid this conflict or else to side with the Alphatian masters... Sad it is, it seems some of them have served so long under their old masters that they fear to embrace anything else. Besides, many of those mages were killed in the previous battles, either because the Alphatians put them on the front lines or because they killed them rather than let them go free to become a threat to their own failing power. There has long been fear among our people and especially among the free tribes of arcane magic, but I have decided to turn the power I have learned into something positive for our people. Talin is one of the few who has overcome any lingering fear and I hope you will as well. Welcome to our ranks."
Talin then speaks again: "Now, as you probably know, our first task is to complete our siege of Skyfyr and chase the Alphatian oppressors out. However, a good many of the survivors from both Verdan and Anchorage have fled here and the city has prepared its defences well, so it has proven more difficult than we thought. We were unable to complete our siege before the coming of winter last year. For a time we feared that Alphatian reinforcements might arrive from other corners of their empire, but none have come. Whatever the reason for the delay, we must take Skyfyr before those forces arrive, and now that spring is close by, we can resume our siege. I want you to join our attempts take the city along with Grath and myself. If you have any suggestions on how to reach our goal, don't hesitate to bring it to my attention."
If the PCs aren't already in the Jennite camp outside Skyfyr, getting there is the first thing they need to do. It isn't a problem, however, since Talin is with them and will provide mounts if needed. If they travel, the DM should describe the lands they cross; this is left to the DM since the starting point is flexible. The DM can run random encounters with monsters relevant to the area or mercenaries hired by the Alphatians as he or she sees fit, but it might be best to simply assume that Talin, Grath, and the PCs arrive in the Jennite camp without much incident. If the PCs want to discuss something among themselves or either Talin or Grath, that is perfectly fine. They might want to ask Grath about Talin's brother, Kalin, for example. If they do, Grath will tell them that Kalin commands the garrison of Skyfyr, the city they are currently besieging, and so the two brothers are strongly committed to opposite sides of the war. Talin considers his older brother a traitor to the Jennite people and is ashamed of him. That Kalin sided with the hated Alphatians and the liar, Favian Vern, is something that haunts Talin, so Grath asks the PCs to avoid the subject, though he assures them that Talin can be trusted-he has no doubt that Talin is prepared to kill his brother if it becomes necessary!
Once in the camp, let the PCs plan the siege with Talin and Grath. Grath knows little about warfare, so he will let Talin and the PCs make the decisions here, assisting with his magic as he can and is instructed to. He will be open about his abilities and known spells since, after all, he is fighting to free his people from the Alphatian oppressors. Talin's plan is a rather simple siege: starve the city into surrender while keeping reinforcements out. Keeping out reinforcements is not so easy, however. A few ships have already made it in and out of the city and the Jennites have no ships of their own. The PCs might have plans to set up ambushes for ships or to take the city. The DM is encouraged to let them think of whatever they want based on the descriptions given of the city in the notes and the Alphatian section above, though the PCs raiding into the city is probably a bead idea: while they might be able to sneak in, there are some truly powerful wizards in there that could finish the average PCs in short order! Besides, Talin won't see much use for that, rather preferring to have them probe the Alphatian defences for weaknesses they can exploit.
Once the battles begin, the PCs can participate as they like, but be warned that attempts to scale the walls of Skyfyr will be quite dangerous, as there are a lot of soldiers waiting on the battlements! The PCs might be safe among the Jennites, but they shouldn't think this means the defenders are incompetent-the defenders are content to stay in the city and wait out the siege for now, so let the PCs be warned if need be.
The PCs might also note how their allies organise themselves, or rather how they don't. If any of the PCs have experience as soldiers, the efforts of the free Jennites will seem disorganised and primitive. If they mention this to Talin he will admit that the free Jennites aren't very orderly soldiers. They are courageous and fight hard, but ultimately their lack of planning makes them less efficient than they might be. Still, they are their allies and fight according to ancient traditions, and those traditions aren't so easily dismissed, more is the pity... Let the PCs see a few more examples of these differences. For example, some of the free Jennites refuse to use the arrows or armours that bear the markings of a tribe other than their own, and so time is wasted trading things around, or some can be used only by the rebels who don't care about these things. If any of the PCs are free Jennites, they should also remain aware of their cultural heritage and role-play their characters accordingly.
The DM is encouraged to run some battles using the statistics given above. If rules for mass combat such as War Machine or Chain Mail are available, this is one chance to use them, especially if the PCs are mostly warrior-types with an intent to lead troops in battle. If not, the PCs can participate in regular fights. All the DM needs to do is set up a little part of the battle for the PCs as described above in the Alphatian section. Given the amount of soldiers inside Skyfyr, the PCs probably won't survive a frontal assault in the long run, though, so be sure they have a chance to escape (i.e. fall back when relieved by fresh troops) when the time comes. The PCs can always jump from the city wall, but a fifteen-foot drop to hard ground might not be so much fun if they're already hurt... If the PCs are good archers, however, they are encouraged to help take out the Alphatians in ranged combat. After all, the free Jennites are more numerous and tend to be barbarians and are thus more efficient in melee, so Talin does have reason to let the free Jennites storm the city walls while the more organised and less numerous rebel soldiers try to give them cover-fire.
The PCs might plan something to take down the city walls. As described above the walls are quite durable, as are the gates themselves. Though the odds are that the Jennites will fail in taking Skyfyr, the PCs can be succeed in bringing down the walls or gates, only to witness some Alphatian mage seal the hole with wall of stone or similar spell. Rather than let the PCs try in vain to bring down the defences (which is not fun role-playing), this sort of tactic is good in demonstrating why the Jennites' desire to bring down Skyfyr will eventually begin to fade over time. More so than in the Alphatian side of Part I, PCs on the Jennite side have the opportunity to take the initiative, since the Alphatians are merely waiting and defending themselves. However, because PC actions can change things around a lot, the adventure does not take all the possibilities into consideration, so the DM will have to determine what is feasible and what is not. Since the plans are almost doomed to fail, it's probably safe to let the PCs try the tactics they come up with.
If the PCs don't think of it themselves, Talin will eventually order the use of flaming arrows to start a fire in Skyfyr. Since the PCs are likely to be more skilled at archery than the majority of Jennites, chances are they will be picked up as archers. If this sounds boring, Talin will explain that they need their best people to shoot the arrows. After all, if the arrows don't hit, no fire will start, and without that the plan to distract the Alphatians will fail, so he asks the PCs to overlook their desire to fight the Alphatians and instead use their skills where they are most needed. Firing arrows will be tricky, though. Every time the PCs pick up a new arrow, let them roll a Dexterity check against a DC of 5. Obviously this will succeed most of the time, but if a PC fails the check, he or she has accidentally started a fire in the camp. Have the PC roll a Reflex save as described on p. 86 of the DMG under the heading "Catching on Fire." Whether that succeeds or not, roll 1d6 to determine how severe the fire is (though if the PC took damage, this cannot be below the amount of damage he or she sustained). If a natural 6 is rolled, roll again and add the results together. If anyone tries to stop someone catching on fire by extinguishing the fire with a blanket or something similar, let him or her roll an attack against AC 14 to reduce the fire by 1d6 'points'. This is similar to the notes above in the Alphatian section of Part I. The PCs are unlikely to start a genuine fire in the Jennite camp, but if the DM so desires the descriptions above can be used for that purpose.
Actually hitting with the flaming arrows is obviously not so easy since the PCs have no idea what they are aiming for. Whether the Jennites have any idea of where it would be best to fire arrows is up to the DM unless the PCs somehow acquired such information, either by sneaking into town or getting a good look from battles at the city walls. If the PCs have no idea where to shoot, they will simply be told to shoot as far into the city as they can. Have the PCs roll attack rolls. Rolls that hit AC 10 or below don't even hit the walls. Rolls of 10 to 18 hit the city walls, whereas rolls of 19 and above may hit people fighting at the walls-check against their AC, but remember that the Alphatian defenders get their bonus for cover. To clear the walls and hit inside the city, a PC must hit AC 21 or above. If they do, have them roll fire damage as above-1d6, roll again and add for a natural 6. If the result is 3 or below, it can be safely assumed that the fire is so minor that it is either put out immediately or else doesn't have the strength to grow enough in intensity. A natural 20 automatically starts a fire. The DM could keep track of all the fires, but it's much easier to simply count how many the PCs start. The more fires the PCs start, the more Alphatians will be busy putting them out, especially the more dangerous wizards. The Alphatians won't just sit and wait for the Jennites to burn them, though. And if the PCs can shoot inside the city, then they are certainly within range of the defending soldiers' bows and crossbows, so they will obviously try to stop them. Every round there will be 1d6 Alphatian soldiers trying to shoot specifically at the PCs. However, for every fire the PCs started in the last round, subtract one from that number. If the PCs shot and killed soldiers on the walls, subtract their numbers too. For example, if the PCs started one fire and killed two enemy soldiers on the walls in the last round, the DM should subtract 3 from the 1d6 roll to find out how many shoot back at them this round. Obviously the PCs can choose to shoot at the Alphatian defenders, but with cover and decent armour, hitting them won't be so easy. Once enough Alphatians are distracted (DM's decision), Talin will order the archers to concentrate on the city gates in the hope of burning it down. The PCs can join in, or not, as they prefer. Refer to the notes above for the durability of the gate. Still, even if the Jennites succeed in harming the gate, the Alphatians will simply use magic to keep them out. If the PCs are doing particularly well, they might also incur the wrath of one of the aristocratic mages in the city who may then decide to single them out with his or her ranged spells. This is unlikely given that the PCs are probably not so experienced, so this is merely an idea the DM can consider as possible additional action. Once this has continued for long enough, Talin will call off the attack for the day. The DM can then move on to Part II.
Part II: Vengeful Manoeuvres & Travels and Discoveries
Synopsis (AC & JC)
After weeks of unsuccessful siege, Kalin tries diplomatic overtures while Talin is meeting with his allies. The high level of tension leads to a worsening of the situation.
After the siege has lasted for a while, Kalin will attempt diplomacy again since he doesn't like the idea of killing his fellow Jennites (according to the events of the Mystaran Almanac, the siege began on Thaumont 3 and this event takes place on Flaurmont 26, close to two months later. The PCs have probably not been part of the siege that long, though, since it took them time to hear of it and travel to Skyfyr first). He tried this last year already, but learned bitterly that the enemy will not listen to reason. However, since their siege has been unsuccessful for a while, they might have grown tired and be ready to listen to him, so he sends a messenger out to parlay with the besiegers. Unfortunately some of the attackers see this attempt to parlay as an indication that the defenders think their siege has failed, and in their rage they kill the messenger despite the fact that he came under a flag of truce. The defenders in Skyfyr are appalled at this. Talin, the leader of the rebel Jennites, was not in the enemy camp at the time, but the defenders did not know that, so they think this is his answer to them.
As an act of vengeance, some of the defenders decide to cause some mischief among the enemy. They intend to sneak into the enemy camp and spy a little. If they are discovered, they are content to kill as many enemies as they can. Lyriander will approach the PCs to participate in this, particularly since they are resourceful people and probably possess very useful skills for such an operation. The mission is not all it appears to be, however. First of all, Kalin knows nothing about this, no doubt because Lyriander knows he would never condone it. Second, some among the spies plan to poison the well in the enemy camp as revenge over the dead messenger. The PCs may unwittingly help them succeed or, if the PCs are devious enough, they may plan to do it themselves.
While the siege continues, Skyfyr is in an uproar over the recent murder of a messenger sent to parlay with the enemy under a flag of truce. Kalin has not reacted much to this latest infamy beyond expressing disgust, but you've heard several soldiers, particularly among the Alphatians, who have implied that Kalin is looking the other way because his brother was involved in this shameful act. Nobody is about to challenge Kalin, or speak out against him, but tension is rising and many are unhappy about it, seeing the aggressors as barbaric savages, little better than animals. One day Lyriander comes to you and asks if you are interested in helping return the favour a little.
"We're not going to be like them and brutally murder people in spite of the rules of war, but we intend to take some mild vengeance by sneaking into their camp and spying a little, and so upset their siege a bit. That's all. You have useful skills that might allow us to succeed, so I was wondering if you would join us?"
Let the PCs discuss the matter with Lyriander and amongst themselves for a while. If they want to, they can help plan the operation themselves. Basically, it's a simple spying mission. Lyriander intends to sneak into the Jennite camp at night, conduct some espionage (and possibly a little sabotage), and then sneak back into Skyfyr. He has made arrangements to have the gates opened and closed to let the group out of and back into Skyfyr without anyone knowing, so that part shouldn't be too much trouble. The real challenge will be sneaking past the Jennite guards outside. If the PCs plan to kill some of them, then he has no problem with that, as long as they manage to sneak into the enemy camp. Aside from that, the PCs are pretty much free to devise their own objectives for the mission (for example, destroying a piece of artillery or magical item, assassinating a Jennite leader, stealing plans, setting a portion of the camp afire, etc.), and, depending on the complexity of what they wish to achieve, and their level of preparation, the DM may have to alter the difficulty level appropriately.
In truth, this won't be quite as difficult as it may seem. The besieging Jennites are very confident, and since Talin is not in camp (though the PCs don't know that), they suffer a lack of efficient leadership at the moment. Since they are the aggressors in the siege, they simply don't expect a counterattack, so they haven't prepared for one, or rather, they are ignoring the preparations Talin ordered to prevent one.
Jennite Leaders Meeting (JC)
After another hard day of siege, in which you have had the chance to prove your bravery, but to no avail so far, you are summoned to Talin's tent.
The wizard Grath is already present when you arrive, though you can't fathom whether he just came in an instant prior to you, or if he has been present for quite some time. Responding to Talin's gesture, you move next to Grath and wait for Talin's instructions. Talin says: "There is an important meeting of the various leaders of the free Jennite alliance to discuss our successes and setbacks throughout Esterhold, and fine-tune our future strategy accordingly. This meeting will take place in a secret location, and I have chosen you to accompany me. Get ready, we leave in an hour, right after sunset, so we are far for the prying eyes of the Alphatians by dawn."
The PCs should prepare for the trek. If they decide to warn their unit that they are leaving and arrange for replacements (especially if they were in command), then the DM may give them a few experience points; if they don't, their unit won't be at a loss anyway since the meeting was scheduled and Talin's seconds-in-command will take care of such things, and of keeping the siege going, while he is away.
One hour later, the group assembles and leaves the camp discreetly (as discreetly as armoured men on horseback can manage, anyway). The PCs do not have hostile encounters that night, as the approach of the camp is patrolled by the Jennites, but after that the DM should roll for random encounters (see the Encounters in Esterhold section). The DM can decide how long it takes to reach the meeting place, though it shouldn't be less than one day, and probably no more than a week.
When they arrive at the meeting, Grath and the PCs must wait it out because they are not invited to the proceedings. On the way back, Talin will not discuss it with them, unless the PCs are part of his close staff of advisers. The return trip takes just as long, and brings the same type of random encounters.
The PCs and Grath, coming back with Talin from the meeting of the Jennite leaders, arrive at the Jennite camp that has been besieging the city of Skyfyr. They escort their leader back to his tent. Talin's aides, who have been left in charge of the siege in his absence, are gathered there to welcome him and report. Their report is grim, though, as the water supplies have been poisoned by the murderous Alphatians from the city, and many brave Jennites have died as a result. Talin is furious, though not really surprised that the Alphatians would act so treacherously. He is, however, surprised that his brother Kalin would condone such actions, and he fears that he has been irredeemably corrupted by the Alphatians' nefarious ways. Talin decides to use the opportunity to meet with the Alphatians, to confront them with their acts, and to see for himself how much in their thrall his brother really is.
Talin does not let the PCs go, and, since they (hopefully) did a good job of protecting him when he met with the other Jennite leaders, orders them to remain in that capacity and accompany him on his meeting with Kalin a few days hence.
Part III: Negotiation of Hostility
Synopsis (AC & JC)
With no end in sight to the siege of Skyfyr, both the Alphatian and Jennite sides have agreed to a temporary truce. The brothers Kalin and Talin have decided to meet in order to arrive at a solution that will be acceptable to everyone, so that further casualties-already quite high on both sides-can be avoided.
Unfortunately, there are already flies in the proverbial ointment. In Talin's absence, and unbeknownst to him, the besieging Jennite armies butchered an Alphatian envoy, who had been sent by Governor Kalin to present an overture of peace. Angered by this act, a party of Alphatians, led by Lyriander, sneaked into the Jennite camp to commit acts of sabotage. One of the vigilantes took advantage of the secrecy of this mission, and poisoned the Jennites' water supply, resulting in many deaths. Talin, upon his return from a meeting of the Jennite leaders, is infuriated over news of the Alphatian raid, and blames his brother for condoning such an act (even though he was unaware of it until after the fact).
This sets the stage for a tense meeting between the two brothers, each of whom is bringing a small retinue-the PCs can be among these, depending on which side they are on. Kalin wants to defuse tensions-the vile tactics practiced by both sides will only fuel hatreds even more-and Talin wants to let the Alphatians and their allies know just how much contempt he feels for them.
The two brothers and their retinues meet in a field just outside Skyfyr's main gate. Talin is accompanied by Grath and other companions, while Kalin brings along Lyriander and a handful of other followers. Alphatian or Jennite PCs can be present in either group, and most likely they will serve as armed escorts. This part of the adventure presents a dialogue between the two brothers; DMs are encouraged to embellish it as they see fit.
Curt greetings are barely exchanged before Talin, seething with rage, launches into a tirade.
"You would greet me, brother, but I would share no warmth in my heart with you! You and your lot have sided with those who are worse than animals! War is harsh, aye, but we cannot do honest battle with a foe who would stoop to poison our water while we sleep, and then watch with glee behind their walls of stone while honest men die in agony! We cannot in truth say that we fight real men, if those 'men' hire the likes of the Crimson Avengers, who loot, murder, and burn their way across our lands like the worst plague!"
"I hear you, brother," replies Kalin, "and I regret that some of what you say is true. An evil deed was committed that night, when men sworn to defend Skyfyr poisoned your army's wells. You must know that I would never have allowed such a thing to happen, if I had heard rumour of it beforehand."
Before Kalin can continue, his brother retorts in renewed fury: "Save your apologies for the Alphatian lords you love so much! You, and other Jennites who have turned their backs on their people, who have chosen to ignore blood ties, will stop at nothing to appease the foreign oppressors. Have you learned nothing from the harshness of your own childhood? Are you deaf to the pleas of our people for freedom? The Alphatians will have you dance to their tunes long enough, until you are no longer useful to them, and then they will cast you aside!"
Talin is then interrupted by Lyriander, who is unable to contain himself any longer.: "Do not claim to speak of honour, or of accusing anyone of lacking it, when you and your followers are only too happy to butcher peaceful envoys, or slaughter innocents-Alphatian or Jennite! I saw what was done in Faraway! I saw the destruction of Anchorage! You call us butchers, you call us deceivers, yet you and your kind are far, far worse!"
Talin stands speechless for a moment, and, with a sudden snarl of fury, he draws his weapon. Lyriander, spitting a few curses, draws his weapon too.
Both the Alphatian and Jennite parties are now embroiled in a nasty skirmish. Both sides should be evenly balanced, to make the encounter challenging; therefore, depending on which side the PCs are on, the opposing side should contain an equal number of NPCs, of roughly equivalent level. The actual staging of the battle is up to the DM, but Kalin and Lyriander should be allowed to fight their way back to Skyfyr, and Talin and Grath should likewise come away from the battle alive. One or more of the PCs could very well be seriously injured, or even die, in this encounter.
This encounter marks the first time Kalin and Talin have met in battle-neither takes it as a good sign. Kalin noted the mentioning of the Crimson Avengers and their deeds, and he will seek to learn more about them if he can. He will begin to wonder about the true intentions of the various Alphatian parties roaming the interior of Esterhold.
The battle is also a turning point for Talin. Beforehand, he had thought that his brother was a pawn of the Alphatians, but now that Kalin has actually taken up arms to defend the cause of what Talin sees as enslaving oppressors, he must believe strongly in Favian Vern's principles.
With the negotiations having ended in hostility, the Jennites renew their siege of Skyfyr with added vigour. The stage is now set for Part IV of the adventure.
Part IV: Embers & Dying Fire
Synopsis (AC & JC)
After the failure of the negotiations, the truce comes to an end and the siege of Skyfyr resumes in earnest.
The defenders of Skyfyr continue to defend their city against the redoubled assaults of the Jennites.
The action is similar to that of earlier battles (see Part I), unless the PCs come up with new defence schemes. The fighting is even more fierce at this stage, but otherwise alike.
The Jennites press their attacks on Skyfyr's walls even harder now.
Such attacks are similar to those fought earlier (see Part I), unless the PCs come up with new tactics. The fighting is even more fierce at this stage, but otherwise alike.
End of Siege (AC & JC)
Soon enough, with the defences holding, the Jennites will slow their assaults to the point of almost stopping them. Until then, the battles should be similar to those in Part I, to the point where the PCs see no point in continuing to participate in the siege, so that the PCs will be more than willing to investigate the rumours that are spreading within Skyfyr and in the camps of the Jennites (see Part V).
This part of the adventure may be abbreviated or lengthened by the DM as needed by the timeline, and by the desire of the players to leave the Skyfyr siege vs. their assigned duty to take or protect the city.
Part V: Evidence of Evil and Evils Within & Without
Evidence of Evil (AC)
Kalin has heard rumours of the activities of an Alphatian party known as the Crimson Avengers, who are said to be waging a campaign of terror in the interior of Esterhold, slaughtering any Jennites they can find. Those rumours were given added strength by the angry testimony of his estranged brother, Talin. While he wishes to make Esterhold safe for law-abiding people once again, Kalin does not wish to accomplish this through wanton brutality. Eager to find out more for himself, Kalin confers with Lyriander, and asks the PCs to join them in their search for evidence of this rogue band.
Once the PCs join Lyriander and Kalin, the first order of business is to sneak out of the city, and avoid detection by the besieging Jennite army. If one or more of the PCs are spellcasters, they might have a spell or two in their repertoires that could be of use here-especially if they involve concealment, reduction or elimination of noise, or anything that might befuddle the minds of those who might see the party. Otherwise, the party will have to perform successful Move Silently or Hide in Shadows checks, or any other sort of skill check deemed appropriate by the DM. Given the sheer number of Jennites besieging the city, the DM should assign hefty penalties to any rolls required, and should require each PC to make several rolls.
The DM may wish to throw in a few chance encounters during the passage through the Jennite camp. Possible examples include running into sentries returning from their posts during a shift change, stumbling into the midst of a duel between members of opposing tribes, or even running into a party of Jennites on a mission to infiltrate Skyfyr. The purpose of such encounters would be to keep the PCs on their toes, but the details are left to the DM to flesh out as desired.
In Search of the Crimson Avengers
Assuming that Kalin, Lyriander, and the PCs manage to bypass the Jennite camp undetected, they will be able to explore the interior of Esterhold in search of their quarry.
This phase of the adventure consists of random encounters, and lasts a couple of weeks. DMs should use the Encounters in Esterhold section for this part of the adventure, and, should an encounter with the Crimson Avengers be rolled, the party will find the handiwork of the Crimson Avengers-burned villages and homesteads, mutilated Jennite corpses, and the occasional shell-shocked survivor-but they will not encounter their quarry personally. They are more likely to encounter various Jennite parties, many of whom will belong to tribes that have had little contact with more civilised nations. The main purpose of this excursion is to show the PCs how inhuman the Crimson Avengers really are, as well as expose them to the dangers of the interior of Esterhold. A side benefit is that, by the time the PCs return to Skyfyr, they should each have survived enough encounters to advance at least one experience level.
The Champions of the True Way
Sometime during this part of the adventure, Kalin, Lyriander, and the PCs should meet the Champions of the True Way, a band of fanatical warriors who follow the Jennite chieftain known as Maltaen. In many ways, they are just as bad as the Crimson Avengers, as their leader has commanded his forces to destroy any pockets of Alphatian resistance to Jennite rule, by any means necessary. DMs are encouraged to substitute any Jennite party encountered for the Champions of the True Way. When the encounter happens, the Champions of the True Way will attack without provocation, especially once they recognise Kalin, and loudly denounce him as a traitor to his people for working with the hated Alphatians.
On the PCs' side, Lyriander will attack with equal ferocity, once he recognises some of the Jennite warriors belong to the same tribe that burned down Anchorage the previous year, and killed his friend, Krael. The battle itself should be tough-the champions are all skilled warriors, plus one or two shamans or druids, who will fight to the death-but Kalin and the rest of the party (including the PCs) should be victorious. Eventually, word of the victory will reach Skyfyr and the other remaining Alphatian strongholds in Esterhold, and could boost their morale.
Back on the Trail
After the encounter with the Champions of the True Way, Kalin leads Lyriander and the PCs back onto the trail of the Crimson Avengers, determined to confront the errant Alphatian party, and to find out for himself whether there is any truth to the horrible rumours surrounding them. DMs should continue to use the Encounters in Esterhold section, substituting encounters with the Crimson Avengers (when rolled) with more evidence of their handiwork. On a couple of occasions, Kalin and the rest of the party will find lone survivors of an attack by the Alphatian rogues, who will tell tales of witnessing whole villages being put to the sword, or of suffering horrendous torture, and then being let go to "spread the message of the glorious return of the Alphatians as the rightful masters of Esterhold." All of this will affect Kalin more deeply as the days go by, but after he and the party hear a rumour from another survivor (it is up to the DM to develop the specifics of this encounter) that Talin had an encounter with the Crimson Avengers, he decides that he has heard enough. He will then lead Lyriander and the PCs back to Skyfyr to confront Favian Vern on the matter, as the President of Esterhold was the one who issued a call for Alphatian adventurers to help maintain order-a call which the Crimson Avengers answered all too eagerly.
Returning to Skyfyr
The journey back to Skyfyr should be just as dangerous as the trip to the interior-only the stress level should be higher, as Kalin will want to make haste, so that he can confront Favian about the Crimson Avengers, and whether or not he condones what is being done in Alphatia's name. To increase the adventure's tempo, DMs might wish to increase the numbers of encounters with Jennite parties-many of whom are also searching for the Crimson Avengers, but who will not hesitate to attack Kalin, Lyriander, and the PCs. Such encounters should not detract overly from the main thrust of this part of the adventure, and therefore should not be too dangerous. Likewise, getting through the besieging Jennite army back to the city itself should be difficult, but not impossible.
Once the party has made it back to Skyfyr in (hopefully) one piece, Kalin will waste no time in tracking down Favian, and confronting him with what he has learned. Depending on how well they have served him to this point, the PCs could be brought along, and in fact for the purposes of plot development and staging, it is highly recommended that the PCs accompany Kalin. DMs can read the following, or they can describe what happens in a way that suits them best:
Kalin leads you through the winding streets of Skyfyr. The siege must not be going well for the enemy; many of the buildings show signs of fire damage, but relatively few have been destroyed, and most of the faces of those you pass in the streets show no sign of despair. Skyfyr will not fall anytime soon, at least. Finally, you arrive at the presidential palace-formerly the residence of an aristocrat, no doubt-where Favian Vern has set up an office as president of the republic. The guards on duty recognise Kalin, and wave you all through.
Kalin makes his way to Favian's office, and, without preamble, tells him of what he has seen in the Esterholdian interior. You watch Favian's face as Kalin continues describing what you all have seen, and you see surprise, disbelief, and disgust. But all these emotions are replaced by anger as Kalin says to Favian, "If you, in your call for assistance, actually support the actions of these monsters, then you are no better than despots like Xanthus or Nicodemus, and you have replaced their evil with something far worse!"
Favian stands wordless, staring at Kalin. The entire room seems to absorb every sound, and the very air seems to crackle with tension. After what seems like an eternity of silence, Favian shouts back at Kalin, "I have made mistakes as President of Esterhold, but never would I condone such evil! How dare you accuse me of such a thing! Guards, arrest this man! The rest of you, get out of my sight!"
Before anyone can say another word, a knot of burly guards enters the room from the hallway outside, grabs Kalin firmly, and drags him out of sight.
The DM should allow the PCs an opportunity at this point to intercede on Kalin's behalf. Favian will listen to what they say, but will ultimately dismiss them-he is too angry to listen to reason at this point. After the PCs have had a chance to make their points, Favian will again order them to leave, but he will add that he has a lot to ponder. Whatever happens at this point, the DM should ensure that the PCs do not resort to violent means. It should be clear that Kalin's fate is by no means sealed, but that there is little they can do at this point.
The Bitter Truth
The day after Kalin is arrested, the PCs are summoned once more to Favian's offices. Once they arrive, they will notice that Favian looks very troubled, and that Kalin is there, too. Without preamble, Favian addresses everyone once the guards leave the room.
"It seems I have more than my share of apologies to make. To you, Kalin, I am deeply sorry for reacting so harshly to what I have since found out to be the truth. If only my eyes had not been so clouded with anger, and if only I had been more open to hearing what I had to hear, I would not have treated you so poorly. Please accept my apologies. And to you," Favian says, turning to the rest of you, "I also owe an apology. I should not have dismissed you so readily, for you were acting only in the best interest of Esterhold.
"You must understand, however, how shocked I was when Kalin delivered his report. I spent the night looking into the matter, to see whether these Crimson Avengers are, in fact, operating with my permission. It turns out that they did answer my call, but I had no idea they would be such monsters! I should have paid closer attention! But what is done, is done, however sad the outcome-I must live with the consequences of my short-sightedness.
"My sources have confirmed everything you have told me, Kalin. The Crimson Avengers are waging a campaign of terror not seen since the darkest days of the old empire. They must be stopped at all costs, or everything that we have striven towards will be swept away in a tide of anarchy. I cannot expect other people to correct my mistakes, so I must undertake this task myself. Kalin, I need you to remain in Skyfyr as governor. You have led our troops well and prevented the city's fall thus far, and I am confident that the people will be safe under your leadership and protection. I would ask your companions to accompany me into the interior, if they will, to put an end to the Crimson Avengers, but I will not force them to do so."
DMs should encourage the PCs to accept the request for help, as it is the honourable thing to do. If they do refuse, Favian will be disappointed, but will not reproach them for it-he acknowledged that he was at least partly responsible for the current situation, after all. Assuming the PCs accept Favian's request for aid, he will invite them to his chambers, where they will spend the better part of a day planning the mission. This part of the adventure does not have to be role-played-the DM should skip to Part VI, where Favian and the PCs hunt, and eventually confront, the Crimson Avengers.
If the PCs refuse Favian's request for help, he will embark upon his mission alone, and will succeed (although he will sustain many serious injuries). In the meantime, the PCs could help Kalin coordinate the defence of the city, which, now that the siege is no longer intense, is not an overly demanding job. The DM should then skip ahead to Part VI of the Jennite campaign, where the PCs will accompany Kalin on his personal quest to rescue his brother.
Evils Within & Without (JC)
With the siege going nowhere, Talin focuses his energies on hunting down Alphatian parties that continue to operate in the interior of Esterhold-especially a group known as the Crimson Avengers, who are rumoured to be particularly brutal. Talin and the PCs will discover, however, that the Alphatians are not the only ones committing evil deeds. Eventually, Talin and the PCs will meet the Jennite chieftain known as Maltaen, who has been waging a destructive campaign of his own. After a brief skirmish, Talin is captured, forcing the PCs to flee, and seek Kalin's aid.
This part of the adventure begins in the Jennite camp, where Talin, realising that Skyfyr shows no signs of falling anytime soon, begins paying more attention to the rumours circulating concerning the activities of Alphatians. One group in particular, known as the Crimson Avengers, has apparently been rampaging all over the interior of Esterhold, torturing and killing any Jennites they can find. Determined to locate and destroy this group personally, Talin summons the PCs, and tells them of his intentions. DMs may wish to alter the dialogue as necessary.
"Friends, you have served our cause admirably. You have guarded me when I could not watch my own back, and you have fought with valour during our long siege of Skyfyr. But you must know by now that the Alphatians have not lost heart, and still they stand against us. Their magic makes them too strong an opponent to take by force, as we have tried to do, and I do not wish to waste my men in a final, all-out assault that may not succeed. It seems that the only thing left for us to do is to starve them into submission. We control all the roads leading to the city; Skyfyr's harbour is its only link to the outside world. Although most ships have managed to get through, the Alphatians cannot possibly bring in enough supplies to keep the entire populace and garrison well fed and provisioned. This is where I think we can finally best them, for we Jennites know the land, and can live off of it, while the defenders and city folk will surely starve in the long run. But I did not call you here to discuss siege tactics.
"You must, by now, be familiar with the rumours being spread around the camp. The evil Favian Vern and his lackeys, desperate to strike out against us while they cowered behind their walls, hired many Alphatian mercenaries, brigands, and worse, to fight in their name. One group, the Crimson Avengers, has murdered hundreds of innocent Jennites in an effort to clear the land of our people! These evil people cannot be allowed to roam our lands freely! I plan to go out into the interior with Grath, hunt down the Crimson Avengers, and kill them like the dogs that they are! I would like you to come with us; you have proven yourselves to be honourable, and I would like to have dependable people at my side. In the meantime, my commanders will maintain the siege, and ensure that the Alphatians remain bottled up in Skyfyr. What say you?"
Ideally, the PCs should accept the invitation-the DM may have to encourage them. Assuming they do accept, Talin will lead the preparations immediately, and the party will leave camp before nightfall.
Into the Wilderness
This part of the adventure is relatively free-flowing; DMs are encouraged to make extensive use of the Encounters in Esterhold section, and have the party meet Alphatian and Jennite parties over the course of several days. Using the encounter table, substitute encounters with the Crimson Avengers with discoveries of their handiwork, such as burned villages and farms, butchered corpses, and perhaps dazed survivors (occasionally some Jennites are spared so that they can serve as "messengers" for the Alphatian band, although few of them long survive afterwards). As the days pass, Talin will become increasingly incensed over what he sees, and his hatred for the Alphatians grows even more.
Along the way, the party should come across several ruined Alphatian settlements, in which many mutilated bodies (some of them children) are scattered about. At first, Talin will be convinced that this is the work of Alphatians who have turned to banditry, but Grath or the PCs can resort to magical means to determine that Jennites were the aggressors. Talin will at first shrug it off, dismissing it as just retribution for centuries of brutal servitude, but as more such sites are found, he and the PCs should begin to question what sort of allies would do such things, for they are just as bad as the Crimson Avengers. Unbeknownst to the party, they have discovered the work of the Champions of the True Way, zealous followers of the Jennite chieftain known as Maltaen.
Eventually, the DM should roll an encounter with Minboral's Circle (or it should be staged anyway), a party of Alphatian slavers that has been operating in Esterhold for several years. This set encounter should happen only after the PCs have already gone through other encounters, and notably after they have seen several examples of Alphatian exaction. This encounter is intended for the Jennite campaign only; as an option, it could also be added as one more random encounter with an evil Alphatian group in an Alphatian campaign. If both campaigns are played out in parallel, this encounter should happen to the Jennite party, though the Alphatian party could later on stumble upon the encampment of Minboral's Circle after it has been wiped out, so that they would logically assume that it is one Alphatian party or group of refugees that were killed by the Jennites.
Note that this event will spark rumours that Talin encountered the Crimson Avengers (and even a rumour that he met his end at their hands), so it is important that Talin is with the PCs during this encounter. If, for some reason, Talin didn't join the PCs in their search for the Crimson Avengers, then the DM should consider having him join the party right before this encounter.
The Jennite Village
You are still looking for the infamous Crimson Avengers when you spot smoke rising at a distance. You have already seen Jennite camps burned down by the Alphatian warbands, but this one is still burning.
Prudent PCs will probably approach carefully, in order to appraise the situation before rushing into hostile Alphatians, who might still there. Rasher Jennites PCs may decide to dash in (maybe without consulting their friends), either because they hope to surprise the Crimson Avengers and tear them to pieces before they can react, or because they want to save the Jennites that may well be put to the sword while they delay.
If the PCs are not prudent in their approach, the DM may roll for a random encounter. Wild animals, especially scavengers, may have been attracted to the place, while human parties may have been attracted by the fire and came to investigate the place (maybe to loot it)-in which case the PCs may well mistake them for the Crimson Avengers at first glance.
The PCs may search the camp, but unless they can somehow quench the fire, there is little left to investigate by the time the flames die down. Minboral and his men have rounded up everyone still alive after their attack, looted the place (there was little of interest to Alphatians amid Jennite stuff), and set fire to the camp, tossing dead bodies into the flames.
Since the trail is fresh, though, the PCs will probably rather track the Alphatians than wait helplessly for the camp to burn down entirely. Minboral's Circle, with their cargo of chained slaves trailing behind, have left unmistakable tracks that are easily spotted if the PCs look for them. The tracks head north. A successful Wilderness Lore check reveals that the party is made of a score of footmen, and half that many horses. They are only a couple of hours ahead of the PCs, so it won't take too long for the PCs to catch up with them (especially if they ride horses). If the PCs lag at the camp, they will have to roll the necessary Wilderness Lore checks to successfully track Minboral's Circle.
Minboral's Circle is a group of slavers who came to Esterhold to ply their trade-capturing Jennites and taking them to a ship anchored off the northern coast. The slaves are then sold in one of the Naycese nation that has not banned slavery. Minboral's Circle has been operating in Esterhold for years now, and it is not one of the groups of adventurers that Favian Vern sent to Esterhold to stop the Jennite aggression-although that's an easy assumption to make. Minboral's Circle is led by the wizard Minboral, who is accompanied by two servants, two slaves and four freemen.
Minboral (human, level 9 wizard)
Minboral is a wizard from Theranderol, where he possessed a small estate. The destruction of the Alphatian mainland cost him everything he owned: estate, slaves, money, magical items, and even his spellbook. Fortunately, Minboral was in Qeodhar to acquire Ystmarhavner slaves when Alphatia disappeared. The Qeodharans, however, were not gentle with the few Alphatians stranded on their island nation at the time, and Minboral was robbed, beaten, and jailed before he was finally expelled from Qeodhar by a decree from King Norlan. With nothing left, he set upon establishing a new estate in Horken. He built his estate with the lives of the slaves he captured-some of which he keeps for himself, the others he sells. Minboral leads his men with an iron fist, but deep down he is a coward. In combat, Minboral remains behind, flanked by his two bodyguards. He will not hesitate to sacrifice the captured Jennites if needed, and also his servants. If things look really bad, he will run for his life, abandoning everyone to their fates.
Minboral's bodyguards (2 - humans, level 4 fighters)
Minboral's bodyguards are under strict orders to ride beside their master at all times, and to protect him. Both are former slaves, now servants, whose families' relative wealth (and lives) rests upon their fulfilling their duties at all costs. Thus, though they hate their master, they will fight to the death to defend him.
Minboral's slavers (4 - humans, level 4 fighters)
Minboral's slavers are freemen who accompany the wizard for the money (they would not be freemen were it not for the profitable business they partake in). They do not especially like or trust Minboral, but like many Alphatian freemen they are too dependent upon representatives of the upper class to try anything fancy. If Minboral abandons them and they are overwhelmed, they will try to surrender, though.
Minboral's slaves (2 - humans)
Minboral also brings with him on his expeditions a couple of slaves to attend to him. Those slaves are non-combatants (they are not given weapons), and their role is to assist Minboral with every menial task or chore. They are forbidden to obey any orders from the slavers unless that order is backed by Minboral (Minboral does not want his slaves to be at the service of mere commoners), so they do not normally have anything to do with the captured Jennites (that is what Minboral pays the slavers for). Minboral is not a fool, though, and those slaves are not Jennites but slave-born Alphatians (bought in Horken). In a fight, the slaves stay behind with the packhorses, though they may move to Minboral and back if he asks them for an item (a magical item, for example).
Reaching the Convoy
The PCs can easily catch up with Minboral's Circle if they don't let the trail grow cold. When they do, they can try to observe the party, and either decide to ambush it or wait for it to set camp for the night.
If the PCs decide to observe the Alphatian band first, they will have to make arrangements to do it without being spotted. If they come with a reasonable plan, the DM may allow it to succeed automatically; otherwise, the DM may require a successful check or checks from skills appropriate to the exact plan (Wilderness Lore, Hide, Move Silently...). If the PCs are particularly careless in their pursuit of the Alphatians, it is altogether possible for the DM to decide that they just stumble upon the back of the convoy, with no chance of gauging the opposition or preparing an ambush.
When the PCs manage to observe (hopefully undetected) Minboral's Circle, read the following:
The party is quite large, but fortunately more than half of the group walks in chains. That is, it is fortunate for you, but not so fortunate for those poor Jennite prisoners, whose fate looks grim if you don't come up with a plan to free them.
In the front rides an Alphatian, crossbow at the ready, who is looking in every direction for any signs of trouble.
A few paces behind the chained Jennites follow on foot. You count thirteen men and women, plus nine children. Flanking them are two more Alphatian riders, one on each side of the group, occasionally using whips to get the prisoners to keep going.
Behind the Jennites come five packhorses and two Alphatians on foot. A few paces behind the packhorses rides another Alphatian, dressed in rich robes, certainly a wizard. In fact, the wizard does not so much ride as he sits on some sort of palanquin resting on the horse's back. On each side of the wizard rides an armed bodyguard.
Several paces behind the wizard and his bodyguards another Alphatian fighter on horseback, crossbow in hand, makes up the rear.
The PCs may decide to set up an ambush once they have observed the party for some time. The PCs should discuss their plan among themselves, then describe it to the DM. Here are the combat tactics of Minboral's Circle:
The slavers at the front and rear try to fire their crossbows at any enemy target they can see. If they are surprised and engaged before they can fire, they drop their crossbows and draw their long swords. If the enemy closes in on Minboral, they also drop their crossbows (they do not fire bolts in the direction of the wizard for fear of accidentally hitting him); they have no such qualms regarding the Jennite prisoners, though. Once they fire their initial bolt, or if they can't fire, they drop their crossbows, draw their swords, and rein in to engage the PCs. The slavers at the flanks also immediately drop their whips and ride up to engage the PCs with their swords, leaving the prisoners unattended.
Minboral uses spells upon the PCs. Most of Minboral's memorised spells are non-lethal, as he normally uses them to capture Jennites. He will not hesitate to cast spells with an area of effect even if it affects the captured Jennites (no loss in making them helpless), and even his slaves or the slavers if need be. If hard-pressed Minboral will use every means at his disposal to save himself, even if that means killing his slaves and slavers; if he sees he cannot win, he will not hesitate to flee the battle altogether, abandoning his party to their fates.
Minboral's bodyguard do not engage the PCs unless they approach their master, in which case they attack ferociously while trying to keep themselves between the PCs' blades and Minboral. If the PCs fire ranged weapons rather than attack frontally, the bodyguards will guide Minboral's horse away from the ambush, abandoning the rest of the party at least for the time being; once they are in a safer position, they will likely draw their bows and try to take out the PCs while Minboral does the same with spells.
Minboral's slaves will immediately stop the packhorses when the party comes under attack. Then they will stand by the horses doing nothing, unless Minboral orders them to bring them an item from the packs, in which case one of them locates it, runs toward his master and hands him the requested item, and then runs back to the horses. The slaves remain by the horses even if Minboral moves away from the battle or flees; if attacked, they try to dodge blows by crouching or running between the horses.
The captured Jennites will also stop moving once the convoy is under attack. They will remain pretty much unmoving, though, because they are all chained together (including the children), making any organised attempt to move away impossible. If the PCs are hard-pressed, a Jennite may bump into an Alphatian (probably at the cost of his or her life, though), making him lose his initiative or even his next attack, but that is the most the Jennites can do to assist the PCs.
As long as Minboral is alive and does not flee, the Alphatians do not surrender, whatever their losses. If Minboral is killed or flees and half of the slavers are dead or incapacitated, the remaining slavers will try to surrender. As long as Minboral is alive the bodyguards fight on, and they flee at his side if he decides to leave for the hills; if Minboral is killed and the slavers try to surrender, they also surrender. The slaves are non-combatants and do not initiate surrender, but if the slavers drop their weapons or if they are the only ones left they can easily be rounded up.
After they have surveyed the Alphatian party for a time, the PCs may decide that it would be more prudent to attack it under the cover of darkness rather than rushing headlong. Also, if the PCs delayed their tracking the party, they may reach it only after dark (at the DM's discretion) though in that case if they attack the camp they may not have an exact headcount of the forces they face.
At night, the camp's organisation is as follows:
Minboral's tent stands at the centre of the camp. Minboral sleeps inside, resting all night in order to regain his spells in the morning. One of his bodyguards stands guard at the tent's entrance, while the other sleeps inside (they exchange roles after four hours). Spread around this central tent are the slavers' tent, with three slavers sleeping inside and one standing guard (two-hour shifts), the Jennites prisoners sleeping outside still chained, and the horses with the two slaves watching over them (they are asleep unless some disturbance agitates the horses).
If the PCs try to pass by the horses, there is a chance the horses become agitated. The base chance is 10% per PC (20% if wearing armour), halved if the PC makes a successful Move Silently check (assuming the PCs try to be silent!). In some cases the DM may decide that the horses automatically become agitated, for example if one of the PCs is a werewolf. If the horses grow restless, this wakes up the two slaves who then shout in alarm, attracting the slaver on guard duty's attention and alerting the bodyguard on watch, and waking up the rest of the camp.
If the PCs try to walk near or in the middle of the Jennite prisoners, both guards must make a successful Spot check to notice their approach (they are walking directly into the guards' field of vision). The DM may assign a bonus or penalty to the check depending on the PCs' actions. If any guard spots the PCs he shouts in alarm, alerting the other one in case he did not detect the intruders, and waking up the camp.
If the PCs try to walk around the slavers' tent, they have the same chance of being detected as above. If they only move up to the tent and try to cut the fabric to get inside the tent, they are able to walk up to the tent undetected (unless they are clumsy), though the thief must make a successful Move Silently check to cut the tent without waking up the sleeping slavers.
The actions of the NPCs depend upon which side of the camp the PCs attack from, and of course whether they were detected or not.
As soon as the alarm is raised (either because the PCs were spotted or because they caused some commotion by attacking sleeping Alphatians), the bodyguard on watch enters Minboral's tent and watches over his master, where he engages the PCs if they are already within that tent, or otherwise waits. The other bodyguard immediately wakes up and grabs his weapon, an action that takes him one round, and then straps on his armour for the next five rounds unless the PCs are already in the tent in which case he attacks unarmoured. Minboral also wakes up (one round), then takes another round of grumbling and demanding to know what is going on unless his tent is under attack in which case he immediately starts casting spells. Then, if the tent is not threatened, Minboral rummages for magical items and casts defensive spells upon his person while his second bodyguards finishes putting on his armour, and then finally the trio leaves the tent to assist in the fighting outside (with the two bodyguards going out in front).
The slaver on guard retreats toward the entrance of his tent, unless the disturbance comes from that tent in which case he enters it. The other slavers take one round to wake up and grab their swords, and one more round to don their leather armours (they don't take the time to put on their armour if they are attacked directly). Once they are all ready, they join the other slaver outside where they all attack the PCs.
Once everyone has joined the fray, the tactics become similar to those described in the previous chapter. The difference is that Minboral tries to remain not too far from the horses (or at least in a way that the PCs are not between him and the horses), so that if he decides to flee he runs for the horses, mounts, and rides away, accompanied by his remaining bodyguards.
End of the Circle
Once the PCs have defeated or driven away the Alphatians, they can free the captured Jennites that are still alive. If the DM wishes, the freed Jennites may owe the PCs a debt of life (it can be used to introduce new PCs to replace dead ones, or to add henchmen).
What they do with any captured Alphatians is up to the PCs. Depending on their exact background (i.e. whether they simply dislike or really hate Alphatians), all possibilities are open to them. The decision may involve heated discussion between the PCs, if they differ in background and ethics.
The PCs may believe that they have finally put an end to the misdeeds of the Crimson Avengers-but of course, the Crimson Avengers are still at large doing their mischief. It is not too hard to find out who that group of Alphatians really was, if the PCs think to investigate. Here are the clues that the PCs may gather:
1. The rumours told that the Crimson Avengers were bloodthirsty killers. This group was capturing Jennites rather than killing them, and the wizard had neutralising spells rather than lethal ones. Clever PCs should deduce that they are slavers, which would exclude their being the Crimson Avengers.
2. The Alphatian group's composition was clearly based around one wizard, with commoners working for him. Even if the PCs cannot possibly know the composition of the Crimson Avengers, a party organised that way may arouse their suspicions.
3. The Alphatians did not harbour crimson, or any kind of banner that flashed crimson. They did not challenge the PCs by calling themselves Crimson Avengers either, they only shouted normal orders and warnings during combat, the only name pronounced being Minboral's.
There are several ways the PCs can confirm their suspicions:
1. They can interrogate prisoners. The Alphatians have no reason not to reveal their group's name, organisation, leader's name, etc., either because they hope to save their lives by cooperating, or because they are under duress.
2. If none of the Alphatians were captured alive, they can still be interrogated through speak with the dead spells, if the PCs have spellcasters among them.
3. At the DM's option, one of the captured (now freed) Jennites who speaks Alphatian may have overheard the captors and give that information to the PCs.
If Minboral escapes, he might become a recurrent problem in the region-or maybe just for the PCs.
After this encounter, the DM should continue using the encounter table, ensuring that more evidence of atrocities committed by both sides is seen. The PCs should encounter Alphatian survivors, who may describe Jennite warriors who bear the markings of Maltaen's tribe (for Jennite PCs, an Area Knowledge or similar skill check should suffice, or failing that, Talin can draw the connection). Eventually, the party should realise that Maltaen and his followers are just as bad as the Crimson Avengers, but Maltaen is far more dangerous because he commands a whole tribe of warriors. Talin will decide then to seek out Maltaen, and try to end his bloody campaign.
After several more days of travel, Talin, Grath, and the PCs should find Maltaen and his followers, who have set up a camp near the ruins of Anchorage. Talin approaches Maltaen directly, and asks him if he knows anything about the massacres of Alphatians living in the interior of Esterhold. DMs may wish to read Maltaen's response to the players, or they may wish to paraphrase it.
Maltaen chuckles softly, casually fingering the large sword hanging from his belt. "I deny nothing. I should be the one asking you about your own motivations, Talin. Perhaps the taint of your brother has affected you, too, hmm? If it's an answer you want, here it is: I have told my people that the Alphatians are a plague, and that we should stop at nothing to cleanse our lands of them! My heart rejoices whenever I hear of another Alphatian village burned to the ground, or another Alphatian gutted on a Jennite spear! It's no less than what the dogs deserve, for all the years they have ruled over us."
"Then you are as bad as the Crimson Avengers!" replies Talin. Our people are no better than dogs themselves if they kill and maim as readily as the Alphatians do."
Maltaen stiffens, and his eyes glaze over, as though coated with a thin sheen of ice. "I would be careful, Talin. As a friend, as a fellow Jennite brother, I would say that, if people heard you say such things openly... there are those among our allies, among the free tribes, who would brand you a traitor as they did your brother. I would hate to see your life endangered, as you surely know it would be. As a traitor, your life would be forfeit. Now then, I would be willing to consider this discussion over, if you would, as well." Maltaen smiles, but the smile does not reach his eyes.
Talin stands quietly, not breaking eye contact with the burly chieftain. "Yes, friend," he replies at last, "I think this discussion is ended." He then looks to the rest of you, and gestures for you to follow him back to your own camp.
It should be obvious to the PCs that Maltaen is making a thinly veiled threat to spread the word that Talin's brother, Kalin, is allied with the Alphatians, should Talin continue to question Maltaen's tactics openly. Such a move would deprive Talin of the support of Maltaen's True Way faction, which could destroy the Jennite alliance utterly. Even if they are not well versed in Jennite politics, most of the PCs should realise that Talin would be considered just as much a traitor as his brother among the more barbaric free Jennites (among whom Maltaen carries some influence), despite his own efforts to defeat the Alphatians, because of their familial connection. Nevertheless, this encounter should not devolve into a fight, and Talin will take steps personally to ensure that the PCs do not strike out, if necessary.
After a few more days of trekking, Talin decides to call a meeting of the Jennite chieftains. He asks the PCs to serve as his personal guards and advisers, but tradition demands that, since they are not chieftains themselves, they may not attend the meeting personally. Given everything they have been through together, the PCs should accept Talin's request.
While the meeting is in session, Talin openly accuses Maltaen and his tribe of resorting to dark deeds to win the war against the Alphatians, which are just as bad, if not worse, than what the enemy would do. Maltaen responds by calling Talin a traitor to the Jennite cause, and demands to have him executed. Many of the Jennite leaders are uncertain, but are swayed to Maltaen's side once they hear that Talin's brother, Kalin, is fighting for the Alphatians, and that, therefore, Talin's motives must be considered suspect. The final decision reached by the chieftains is to arrest Talin for now, under suspicion of treason. Maltaen plans secretly to let Talin escape, and then kill him for attempting to flee before a final verdict can be reached concerning the young man's actions. This, he hopes, will erase any doubts among those chieftains who oppose his tactics.
The PCs become involved when guards come to their part of the camp, and try to arrest them and Grath for being allies of Talin, "a suspected traitor to the Jennite people." At this point, the only real option for the PCs is to flee to avoid capture, fighting their way out of the camp if necessary. The DM should structure this combat so that it is tense, but not impossible; the PCs should have a sense that they are racing against the clock to escape, before too many warriors are brought against them.
Once they are free, the PCs and Grath should consider their options, hopefully with the intent of rescuing Talin. If necessary, Grath can remind them that since they fled, their Jennite allies, rebels and free Jennites alike, will most likely consider them fugitives, and as such it will be difficult to find Talin. After a while, unless the PCs think of it themselves, Grath will suggest they arrange to talk with Kalin, Talin's brother. He should be able to help them find Talin and free him, even if he is on the Alphatians' side, for blood ties are strong among the Jennites. If the PCs are reluctant to approach Kalin and the Alphatians, Grath will offer to meet Kalin himself, explaining that he was the only one to stay calm at the failed meeting during the brief truce at Skyfyr; therefore, Kalin should have less reason to strike out against him. If this is the case, he will ask only that the PCs bring him close to Skyfyr so that he can seek an audience with Kalin.
Assuming that the PCs and Grath make their way to Skyfyr, the DM can turn to the Encounters in Esterhold section once again, to ensure that the journey is not a dull one. Once the party reaches Skyfyr, it is time to go to Part VI, where the PCs can meet Kalin, and hopefully convince him to aid them.
Part VI: Avengers and Rectifiers & Alliance of Enemies
Avengers and Rectifiers (AC)
Led by Favian Vern, the PCs hunt down the elusive Crimson Avengers, and hopefully defeat them.
Realizing that it was his call for adventurers that led to the arrival of the Crimson Avengers in Esterhold, and the bloody chaos that followed, Favian Vern has taken it upon himself to rectify the situation. It is assumed that the PCs, whom Favian has invited to accompany him, are going on this mission as well. If this is not the case, the DM should assume that Favian located and destroyed the Crimson Avengers on his own, and the PCs will hear about his triumph after the fact. The journey through the countryside should be like every other the PCs have undertaken thus far-that is, it should be replete with random encounters. The main difference is, once an encounter with the Crimson Avengers is rolled, it will be the real thing!
The Burning Jennite Village
You are still looking for the infamous Crimson Avengers when you spot smoke rising at a distance. You have already seen Jennite camps burned down by the Alphatian warbands, but this one is still burning. Favian Vern, teeth clenched and with a pained grin-he has been this way since the beginning of this expedition,-spurs his mount on toward the burning village.
Prudent PCs will probably want to approach carefully, in order to assess the situation before rushing into battle with the dreaded Crimson Avengers, if they are still there. Favian Vern's unwavering resolve to confront the Crimson Avengers makes it difficult to survey the area to any appropriate extent, though if the PCs act quickly enough they may have time to do very basic spying or magical scrying (at least, Favian Vern is not galloping in, only trotting). The PCs also act as Favian's bodyguards, though, so they should by and large ride alongside him.
As you enter the village with Favian Vern, you are taken aback by the brutality of the scene. Several Jennites lie dead about the village, killed by either steel weapons or lethal offensive spells. Most huts and tents are burning, with screams coming from inside, and several Jennites mill about the village, ablaze and screaming, mostly women and children who tried to escape the flames consuming their homes but caught fire anyway. A handful of Alphatians with crimson blazons are enjoying the spectacle, moving about to slay those villagers who miraculously have managed to escape the furnace.
Favian Vern grimly addresses the Alphatians: "Crimson Avengers, in my name and that of Alphatia you have committed heinous crimes against innocent people. I hereby decommission you and order you to let yourself be arrested by my guards, and be taken into custody pending a fair trial on charges of murder and treason."
While villagers are still dying horribly, the Crimson Avengers signal to each other and regroup in front of your party, then one of them, a woman in wizardly robes, replies to Favian Vern: "My lord, we have but executed your orders, combing the peninsula in search of the barbarians who have dared to refuse to serve Alphatia and have rebelled against their rightful masters. Such acts are punishable by death, and we carried out Alphatian justice as per your charter."
"Those villagers are innocent men, women and children who have done nothing to incur such wrath, and your charter did not give you the right to murder the innocent. Surrender to justice or face my wrath," retorts Favian.
"There is no such thing as an innocent barbarian," replies the woman, "Slaves and barbarians cannot be murdered, for their lives must be devoted to serving their masters or be forfeit. We have eliminated the vermin that would not yield. We will not surrender to someone who admires filthy barbarians and betrays millennia of Alphatian heritage."
This situation is a standoff, as both parties believe they are right and the other should surrender. The first hostile act will shatter the spell and provoke a vicious battle.
The PCs may be astounded by the Crimson Avengers' words, yet they are factually true. The Crimson Avengers have indeed not broken Alphatian laws, and although their actions could be deemed to have broken the peculiarities of Esterholdian laws, the fact that the Jennites rebelled and declared independence did remove them from those laws that (somewhat) protected them. The Crimson Avengers have violated Favian Vern's confidence and acted in his name in ways he would not approve of, which may be judged as treason. The thought may give pause to Lawful PCs, though Good PCs who subscribe to Favian Vern's view will probably consider the morality of the deeds rather than their lawfulness.
Neither group will back off, so confrontation is inevitable. It is only a question of knowing who will strike first. The group that strikes first probably gains a combat advantage, but loses on another level as it equates with admitting it was wrong but refused to back down so attacked.
The Crimson Avengers
The group consists of its leader, an Alphatian wizardess named Silbrecca, the wizard Demris Mass from former Dunadale on the Isle of Dawn, the two warrior brothers Assariun and Rostelsic, a cleric of Talitha named Lemele, and an elven thief named Jerlan.
Silbrecca (human, level 15 wizard)
Silbrecca is a wizardess from Eadrin, who considers all non-Alphatians to be lower life forms that should be eradicated. She is cruel and ruthless in her crusade, and she gives no quarters to any barbarian she encounters. She has assembled like-minded Alphatians into the group known as the Crimson Avengers, which she leads into adventures aimed at slaughtering troublesome barbarians. She especially enjoys killing Thyatians, whom she considers the most despicable scum of them all, but really any non-Alphatian is fair game. The only reason she might stop slaying barbarians is when she tortures them instead. Silbrecca's symbol is embroidered on her robes: two crimson S's (actually the Alphatian 27th letter sula), one vertical and one horizontal, crossing in their middle, which represents the death of all non-Alphatians.
Demris Mass (human, level 7 wizard)
Demris is a young wizard from Dunadale on the Isle of Dawn. After Alphatia was destroyed and the Thyatians invaded its former colonies, eventually including the Confederacy of Dunadale, the young man started to loath his Thyatian neighbours. He met Silbrecca's group then, and under her tutorship his feelings for the Thyatians turned to hatred. He totally turned his back on his Dunadaler heritage in favour of Silbrecca's hard-line Alphatian stance and participated in the brutal campaign that the Crimson Avengers waged all around the Isle of Dawn. He was at first less than happy when Silbrecca answered Favian Vern's call for adventurers, but in the few intervening months of following his mentor's guidance he has developed a similar hatred toward the Jennites, thus making him a true Crimson Avenger. Demris carries the Crimson Avengers' banner, a falling eagle struck by a lighting bolt; he will keep it flying throughout the combat until he is struck down.
Assariun and Rostelsic (humans, level 14 fighters)
Assariun and Rostelsic were born in Randel, the sons of an Alphatian wizard and a Minaean slave. The boys always blamed their mother for their lack of magical talent. When their father died, the brothers realised they had no chance of keeping their father's estate, even if they joined Randel's army, for they were not aristocrats. So together they plotted the murder of their mother, planning beforehand their flight from the kingdom with all the wealth they could salvage from their father's estate. They roamed the empire's fringes, occasionally slaying the mongrel offspring of Alphatians and non-Alphatians. They eventually met Silbrecca as they were fleeing from the authorities after one such assassination. The ruthless but charismatic wizardess was the mother they wished they had, and they pledged their loyalty to her, offering her their father's magical items, and the trio formed the core of the Crimson Avengers. The brothers' armours are emblazoned with a chimera dripping (animated) crimson blood.
Lemele (human, level 11 cleric)
Lemele was born to one of the rich families of Horken. Although she showed potential for magic, she was also an indolent girl, who preferred to indulge herself in all kinds of entertainment-the more outrageous and self-gratifying the better; she was mostly famous among her peers for her orgiastic parties with zzonga cocktails, and later on for her practice of dark magics of which dark ceremonies were only the visible part-rather than pursuing academic knowledge. This descent into the dark arts, rumoured to be practiced at the expense of those who associated with her, eventually drove away her fellow young aristocrats, who believed she had become a minion of Alphaks the Destroyer, when in fact she had "merely" become a priestess of Talitha. Lemele joined the Crimson Avengers not because she shares their beliefs but because she enjoys participating in their savage massacres. She will stay with them only for as long as she finds their practice amusing, and she will leave them without a second thought once she tires of them, and notably if the fight with the PCs turns against the Crimson Avengers. Her clerical robes portray a crying baby (her patroness's symbol), which she coloured crimson to indulge the party (thus it appears that the baby is crying from its wounds, rather than from Talitha's mischief).
Jerlan (elf, level 13 aristocrat/level 6 rogue)
Jerlan was a sophisticated gentleelf from Shiye-Lawr, who lived wealthily-he always was proud of his ability to maintain his status of gentry uninterruptedly for more than a quarter millennium-until the Great War disrupted his way of life. During that period, many Shiye-Lawr elves opposed the war (Jerlan did not care much about the war, being more preoccupied with his social life), and several clans left their kingdom to settle in the wilderness of Norwold. Jerlan was thrilled at the novelty, and moved along. His enthusiasm was quickly dashed, though, for Norwold is a frontier land where his dandy attitude and smooth talking were not (in his view) appropriately valued. It did not take long for Jerlan to leave his elven brethren, who came as religiously-inspired pioneers, and go socialise at the court of Alpha. But although the king was son to the empress, he was still a commoner ruling a frontier land, and the most regal balls in Alpha could not even match the pageantry of the twelfth birthday party of the third daughter of the nephew of a lord of Arkan. Jerlan's plans to return to Alphatia were dashed by its sinking, so he had no choice but to stay in Alpha. The next years were bleak in Alpha without Alphatia, with the encroachment of the Heldannic Knights and the betrayal of several petty lords; Jerlan's joie de vivre disappeared as swiftly as his wealth, and he finally hit bottom when he could no more afford his gentry status-not that it meant much in Alpha anyway, but to Jerlan it was a terrible blow. A broken elf, he spent what was left of his fortune to travel to the Isle of Dawn. There he met the Crimson Avengers, and Silbrecca convinced him that his fall was the fact of Alphatia's enemies: the Thyatians, the Glantrians, the Heldannic Knights, and all the barbarians that plotted the destruction of the most glorious civilisation. Jerlan is now a bitter elf whose only joy comes from running his magical blade through barbarian hearts. Jerlan dyes his long, flowing hair crimson.
Once the PCs have defeated the Crimson Avengers, their mission is over and they should return with Favian Vern to Skyfyr.
If they captured any Crimson Avengers, it is likely that Favian Vern will take them back to Skyfyr as well, where they will be tried for treason. It is possible that the PCs will be called as witnesses; it is even possible that they will have to testify in favour of the Crimson Avengers, for example to confirm that the Crimson Avengers were acting outside of the boundaries of the kingdom (and thus from Alphatian law), or that they did not initiate the fight with Favian Vern and the PCs (if that is the case), etc. The DM should remember that justice in Alphatia might make use of magic to establish the truth (with spells like ESP), and that justice is not the same for aristocrats and commoners. If the PCs have already participated in trials in Alphatia (in whatever capacity), it might be interesting to show them how justice is served in Nayce.
Alliance of Enemies (JC)
Grath and the PCs reach Skyfyr, and send word to Kalin that they wish to meet with him. During the tense meeting, Grath convinces Kalin of the sincerity of the party's purpose, and persuades him to aid them. Together, they locate Talin, and try to rescue him.
A Tense Meeting
Once Grath and the PCs return to the Jennite camp surrounding Skyfyr, they are faced with two options: sneak past the camp and try to enter the city, or try to bluff their way through the camp, and dodge questions about whether Talin truly is a traitor to the Jennite people. If they try to sneak through the camp, then it is a simple matter of using magic or subterfuge to avoid the notice of any sentries who are on duty; although the DM may wish to throw in a few diversions to keep the PCs on their toes, as in previous parts of this adventure.
If the party decides to pass through the camp openly, they will see that all is not well. News of Talin's arrest has reached the camp, and the armies here have been torn apart. Some are still loyal to Talin, others are convinced of his treachery-especially since word spread of an attempt he made to escape-and some Jennites see his absence as an opportunity to gain more power for themselves. The besieging army has not turned on itself yet, but tensions are on the rise, and it should be obvious that it is only a matter of time before infighting breaks out. Given the situation, the PCs would be well advised to keep their sympathies to themselves-Grath can suggest this to them if necessary. It should become apparent that the party will not find too many people willing to help them openly, so they will have to approach Kalin on their own.
Grath will approach the main gates under a flag of truce, accompanied by the PCs, if they wish to accompany him into the city. He asks to see Kalin, and is brought to see him by a handful of tense, well-armed guards. Assuming the PCs accompany Grath, read (or paraphrase) the following:
You are escorted into a large room that might have served as a grand hall at some time, but now it is bare of most furnishings, save for a few chairs and a table. Waiting for you in the room is a tall, young Jennite man wearing battered leather armour underneath a traditional Jennite tunic, who bears a slight resemblance to Talin-you suspect that this man must be Kalin. His expression is guarded, and his voice low, as he acknowledges you.
"You have come openly under a flag of truce, and so I bid you welcome to Skyfyr; you have my word that no harm will come to you while you are within these walls. I know you, Grath, and welcome you as a man of learning. I know you all, too," he says, looking pointedly at the rest of you, "for you fought on Talin's side against me not long ago. Let us put aside past battles for the moment, and tell me why you have come to see me."
Grath thanks Kalin for agreeing to meet with you, and proceeds to tell him about the cruel acts being perpetrated by Maltaen and his True Way followers. You watch as Kalin's eyes widen as the wizard lists the atrocities committed by the True Way, and you see concern cross Kalin's face as Grath tells him of the betrayal Talin has suffered at the hands of Maltaen-a betrayal brought on by Talin's desire to end the senseless slaughter being committed by his people. Grath goes on to describe how you escaped from the Jennite camp after Talin was arrested, and how rumours are circulating concerning what has happened to Talin since then. Regardless, the Jennites are now divided, with some supporting Maltaen, and others hoping for a more moderate solution.
Grath finishes his tale by saying to Kalin, "Even as we speak here, Talin's fate hangs in the balance. Maltaen and his followers wished to have him executed on the spot, but traditions, and the need to sway the chieftains to his cause, prevented him from doing so. I feel that it is only a matter of time until Maltaen finds himself an opportunity to have Talin killed. This is why we have come to you, Kalin. Talin's supporters are too widely dispersed in the Jennite camp outside your city to form a cohesive force that can challenge Maltaen and his followers, and it would take far too long to gather them together. Although you fight for the Alphatians, I think you are a reasonable man, and so here we stand, asking you whether you will aid us in our quest to free your brother."
Kalin stands silently, seeming to weigh Grath's words. At last, he speaks. "Although we stand on opposing sides, my heart tells me that what you say is true. I know you, Grath, to be a true friend of Talin's, and likewise your companions," he turns and gestures at the rest of you, "have stood with him in difficult times. I know, also, that what you say about Maltaen is likely to be true, for I have fought with his followers, to so-called Champions of the True Way, and they, I assure you, were cruel men, indeed. Let me think upon what you have told me, and I shall meet you tomorrow at dawn. Until that time, you are welcome to stay in this palace as guests. No one will harm you, or they shall answer to me. Otherwise, you are free to return to your camp, and I will meet you outside the main gates."
The PCs are, of course, free to take the initiative here, and present the case for rescuing Talin without Grath's involvement. If this is the case, Kalin may respond more positively or negatively, depending on what the PCs say, and (at the DM's discretion) how well they role-play the encounter. Regardless, once Kalin dismisses the PCs, they should decide whether they want to stay in Skyfyr, or return to camp. Kalin will keep his promise if they stay-they will come to no harm while they remain inside the palace-but the guards will be instructed to gently, but firmly, prevent them from roaming the city: the two sides are still at war, after all. Should they remain in the palace, Grath and the PCs will receive free food and warm beds, and will be followed by a small squad of guards. If the PCs try to enter the city, Kalin will hear of it, and will trust them less for the remainder of the adventure, unless they prove themselves otherwise.
The next day, Kalin meets them as promised, and tells them that he will help them rescue his brother, for this is, perhaps, the best opportunity to end the war once and for all. He leaves Lyriander in charge of defending Skyfyr, and sends word to Favian Vern (currently hunting the Crimson Avengers) of the situation, and requests information on Talin's whereabouts. He then invites the PCs and Grath to avail themselves of weapons and other equipment from the city's stores as necessary, and the party can then make final plans prior to departure. Once Favian sends the required information by magical means a few hours later, the group leaves.
Once again, the DM should use the Encounters in Esterhold section of the adventure to make sure the journey to the Jennite camp is interesting. Unlike previous journeys, however, there will be no encounters with the handiwork of the Crimson Avengers, who have been eliminated by a team of Alphatian heroes led by Favian Vern. Another significant change is that encounters with Alphatian parties will no longer automatically result in hostilities, due to Kalin's presence; such parties will not be friendly towards the PCs, however. Once the DM feels enough time has passed, the party can finally reach the Jennite camp. The adventure assumes that the party will attempt the rescue at night, so if an attempt is made during the day, the DM will have to make a few modifications. The precise layout of the camp, beyond what is described in this part of the adventure, has been left for the DM to flesh out.
The camp itself is a large collection of tents of various sizes, surrounded by a ring of watch fires manned by armed sentries. The chieftains' tents are located in the middle of the camp, as is the tent where Talin is being held. Since a direct attack against the camp would be suicide, the PCs, Kalin, and Grath must devise a plan to sneak in, locate Talin, and leave without arousing too much attention. Grath's spells may come in handy here, and both NPCs can serve as a mechanism for the DM to provide hints if necessary.
Since the camp holds a large number of Jennite chieftains from many different tribes, the sentries are on high alert, and there is quite a bit of rivalry going on between warriors of different tribes, in terms of who has the keenest eye, as well as the best aim with a bow. Therefore, any skill checks used to sneak into the camp should be penalised, and several checks should be required. Fortunately for the PCs, the light from the watch fires prevents the sentries from seeing too far into the darkness, meaning that the party will see their opponents before they can be seen. If one or more party member is spotted or heard, an alarm will be raised, and 1d6 sentries will rush to where the intruder is thought to be. An intense search will be made of the immediate area for tracks and other evidence for two turns before the sentries return to their posts, provided nothing is found. The party could use this interval to sneak past the outer perimeter, depending on what sort of plan they devise. If the sentries find tracks or other evidence of the party's passing, they will follow them. If this happens, the PCs may find themselves being attacked from behind, unless they hear their enemies coming. If a battle does result, other Jennite warriors will hear the fighting, and 1d4 warriors will enter the fray every 3d4 rounds, until the sounds of fighting cease, or the party manages to flee.
Assuming the party manages to sneak past the sentries, they will have to make their way through a veritable maze of tents, corrals, and cooking fires. Although most of the warriors are asleep, there is a significant amount of traffic, composed mainly of sentries going on or off duty. During every turn spent sneaking through the camp, there is a 30% chance that 1d2 sentries will cross the party's path. If such an encounter occurs, the party will have to make skill checks to avoid detection, unless they are using magical means to conceal themselves. If they are detected, the DM should have the sentries roll for surprise, and, if they fail the roll, the PCs will have one round to dispose of them quietly before their adversaries flee to get help-returning in one turn with another 2d4 warriors.
Once the DM is satisfied that the party has spent enough time navigating the camp, the PCs will finally reach the centre. They can use whatever means they have at their disposal to determine which tent holds Talin, but they should be able to figure it out in short order. In the area around Talin's tent, there are two chieftains' tents, each of which shelters one chieftain and his three best warriors. Should the PCs make too much noise, there is a chance (to be determined by the DM) that one or more of the guards will wake up, rousing the others in his tent and then going to investigate the disturbance in two turns. They will attack the PCs without provocation (especially if the PCs are "rebel" or urbanised Jennites), unless they belong to the same tribe as one or more PCs (10% chance if the PCs are free Jennites), in which case they will angrily demand to know why they have ventured into the chieftains' part of camp without invitation. Assuming the PCs can bluff their way out, the warriors will order them to leave immediately, and go back to their tent once they are satisfied the PCs are going away. If the PCs refuse to leave, the warriors will order them to leave once more, saying that by refusing, they are defying the word of their chieftain. If they still refuse to leave, they will be attacked. Such a battle should be tough-chieftains employ only the best warriors to be their personal guards, after all-and runs the risk of being noisy enough to rouse warriors from nearby tents.
Talin's tent shelters one guard in addition to Talin himself, and both are asleep-Talin's guard was confident that no one could possibly sneak this far into the camp without being noticed. Assuming the party manages to enter Talin's tent without being seen or heard, the DM should read or paraphrase the following:
Your eyes adjust to the even deeper darkness of the tent. The tent itself is very large for its two occupants, which is fortunate for you. Aside from a pile of sleeping furs for the dozing guard, the only other furnishing is a bucket of stagnant water. Huddled in the far corner of the tent is a battered young Jennite man dressed in ragged clothing, manacled to a post staked into the ground.
The guard, as stated earlier, is sound asleep, and can be dispatched easily. The chained man is Talin. Upon entering the tent, Kalin will go to him immediately, and try to wake him. Noting the evidence of physical torture, Kalin will ask Talin, once he is awake, who tortured him. Talin will look around the tent with a glazed look in his eyes, and mumble groggily to himself. It should be obvious to the PCs that Talin is not aware of his surroundings-he does not even seem to recognise the PCs right away. Given that there is little the party can do for Talin, the most obvious thing for them to do is leave the camp as quickly as possible-Grath or Kalin can suggest this if necessary.
The flight from the camp is very similar to the party's effort to enter it, except that they are leading Talin, who is dazed. The DM may wish to make skill checks even more difficult due to the situation, or this part of the adventure can pass with few incidents. Regardless, the journey should be tense, as the PCs should feel that they are racing against the clock. Once they are away from the camp, the party can head back to Skyfyr-the DM should use the Encounters in Esterhold section once more. On the way to Skyfyr, Kalin will ask Grath to use his spells to determine the cause of his brother's strange memory loss, which seems to stretch back to shortly after he was captured by Maltaen. Grath will determine that Talin has been subjected to some form of powerful magic, which may be responsible for his apparent memory loss. Kalin will contact Favian, and arrange to have him meet the party en route to Skyfyr to help solve the mystery.
In the meantime, Talin's escape will be discovered by his captors, and Maltaen will use the situation to gain new supporters, as he will declare that Talin could only have escaped with the help of the Alphatians-thus proving that he is a traitor to his people. Hearing of the destruction of the Crimson Avengers, Maltaen will also claim falsely that his own followers accomplished the deed, which will result in many more Jennites rallying to his cause. Maltaen will also send out several parties of Jennite warriors to track down Kalin and the PCs, and kill them. Because Kalin is with them, however, Alphatian parties encountered in the countryside may aid the PCs, but Talin and Grath will not be happy about that. It is now time to move to the final part of this adventure, where the PCs can confront an evil that has plagued Esterhold for many years, and which many people (falsely) thought had been eliminated.
Part VII: Triumphant Brothers
Synopsis (AC & JC)
Favian Vern restores Talin's memory, who then reveals that the evil wizard Nicodemus, who once ruled part of Esterhold, is devising a plot to regain his power. The PCs (Jennite or Alphatian) must go to Draeh with Talin and Kalin to expose Nicodemus, and break his hold over many of the Jennite tribes.
The Answer Revealed
While still in the countryside, Favian Vern, accompanied by a small party of Alphatian heroes (the PCs, if this is an Alphatian campaign), meets up with the brothers, Grath, and a band of Jennite heroes (Jennite PCs, if this is a Jennite campaign). The initial meeting is tense, but Favian makes it clear that he means no harm. Talin is not be happy about meeting Favian and his companions, but his curiosity about his memory loss outweighs his hostility towards Alphatians. Favian explains that he will cast a few divination spells to determine the cause of Talin's memory loss, and asks the young man whether he consents to this. Talin expresses reluctance until Grath explains that it is beyond his ability to cast the spell himself, after which he tells Favian to proceed. The DM should read or paraphrase the following:
Favian puts a ring onto his right hand, and utters a brief command word, and intones, "Let that which clouds Talin's mind be lifted; let his memory be clear once more!"
At first nothing seems to happen. Talin closes his eyes, and seems almost to be asleep. Suddenly, his eyes open wide once more, and he shouts, "Nicodemus! Nicodemus has returned to Esterhold! He has disguised himself as a Jennite wizard named Detir, and is manipulating Maltaen and his True Way followers. I saw him using magic to speak to someone else in his tent, an Alphatian man I had never seen before, about using the True Way to divide the Jennites and incite hatred between us and the Alphatians. He wants to turn Esterhold into a chaotic land, so he could move in and rule it again. He saw me, and told me to forget what I had seen!"
"Nicodemus has returned, hasn't he?" says Favian, "This is a serious matter indeed! I thought his evil had been uprooted from the land when he was driven out of Verdan, but it seems he will not give up so easily. We cannot allow him to succeed, or the republic will fall, and any hope we had for peace will be snuffed out. It is too bad that you didn't recognise the other Alphatian-we could have had a chance of destroying this conspiracy once and for all. But no matter, for we know Nicodemus is in Esterhold, and we can deal with him. Our battles must come to an end now, for we now face a common evil. The main question now is, where do we go from here?"
This is an ideal opportunity for the PCs to get involved in planning how to deal with this revelation. The PCs (whether Alphatian or Jennite) will almost certainly know who Nicodemus was, and they will have heard tales about how cruelly he ruled the former Kingdom of Verdan. The main obstacle here is that, aside from Talin's recently restored memories, there is no proof of Nicodemus's involvement. Someone should realise that Nicodemus must be exposed for who he really is in front of the Jennites in order to discredit him, and break his hold over Maltaen's True Way faction-again, an NPC can suggest this if necessary. Another problem that should be made clear is that Maltaen's camp is likely to be on very high alert since Talin's escape-any attempt to sneak into it again would be extremely difficult. Let the PCs think over what they might be able to do for a while, until Favian perks up, with a smile on his face, and says,
"I have just received a message from one of my sources. It seems that Maltaen has broken camp, and he is moving his entire host eastwards, towards Draeh. By all appearances, he intends to take the city by force."
Now that the PCs know where Maltaen's force (and Nicodemus) is heading, planning can begin in earnest. Both Talin and Favian know Draeh quite well. In this, the party has an advantage over Maltaen's True Way faction, most of whom are free Jennites who have never lived in towns or cities. The party has an extra advantage in that Talin was once Governor of Draeh before the current hostilities arose, and before that he was a rebel leader fighting against the Alphatians. As such, he knows of several secret ways into the city. Although many of these might be closed off now, he will suggest that, if they wish to get into Draeh unseen, this is a better way than by approaching it openly. Based on this information, the rough plan should be to sneak into the city, and then expose Nicodemus in front of the Jennites, in the hopes that such a revelation would reduce Maltaen's stature, and make his followers more willing to negotiate.
On to Draeh
The DM should allow the party to make last minute plans, and then they should head to Draeh. Once more, their journey through the countryside should be punctuated with the occasional random encounter, so the DM should use the Encounters in Esterhold section-except that there will be no encounters with the Crimson Avengers, Minboral's Circle, or any other special group. Additionally, any Alphatian party encountered will not be hostile, as long as Favian and Kalin are with the party (a very handy thing, if the PCs are Jennite). Eventually, the party should reach the city of Draeh, only to find that Maltaen and his followers have already taken over, and are busy "cleansing" the inhabitants of their Alphatian corruption-namely, an urbanised existence. The DM may wish to have the PCs encounter one or more groups of refugees fleeing Draeh beforehand, who can tell them about Maltaen's command to destroy every building in the city, and to convert the populace to the "traditional" Jennite lifestyle. Clearly, there is no time to lose!
Talin will lead the party to a thicket of trees just south of Draeh's walls, where, after several minutes of searching, he will open a door in a boulder, and usher the party inside. It is now time for the party to explore the secret complex beneath Nicodemus's old palace, which will allow them to enter the heart of the city. A map of the complex has been provided with this adventure; the DM should refer to it now, and use it while the party is exploring the complex.
Map of Nicodemus's Dungeon
The Secret Stronghold of Nicodemus
During the height of his reign, King Nicodemus had a secret lair excavated beneath his palace, both to provide a secure location in which to conduct his research, and to provide an escape route in the unlikely event that the populace of Faraway might rise against him. Those who dug out the complex for him were executed afterwards (to ensure that they did not spread word of their project to anyone), and Nicodemus later enchanted their remains to serve as guardians for the lower level (see below).
Inside the city, the lair is accessible only from Nicodemus's old throne room. The secret door can only be opened by pressing a cluster of gems set into the throne's armrests in a specific order (a regular Find Secret Doors roll will inform the PCs that something is odd about the gems, a halved Intelligence check is required to figure out the correct sequence to open the door). Once the gems are pressed in the correct order, the throne will slide sideways, revealing a narrow staircase leading downwards; the throne slides back after 30 seconds have passed. At the bottom of these stairs, next to a switch that will open the trapdoor from below, a long dusty tunnel extends southwards for approximately 800 feet (no encounters), ending at an unlocked wooden door. Beyond this door is another flight of steps, leading down into the complex proper.
The complex as a whole is arranged into three sections-a large, meandering lower level, flanked to the north and south by two smaller, upper levels containing only a handful of rooms. The other side of the complex leads to a secret exit to the surface, a fair distance from the city walls. In all cases, tunnels are ten feet wide and eight feet in height, and the floors and walls have been finished with dressed stone. Unless otherwise mentioned, there are no light sources anywhere, and all doors are unlocked. What follows is a series of room descriptions and other DM notes for this dungeon.
Entering the Lair
The secret entrance to Nicodemus's lair is a concealed door located in a thicket to the south of Draeh's walls. The PCs will note that the entrance has been made to look like a mossy boulder, and the door, when closed, is almost invisible (a regular Find Secret Doors roll will locate the door). Behind this door (which is unlocked), there is a tiny chamber, measuring no more than ten feet on a side, and a staircase going downwards, which leads to area 1. Even while Nicodemus was King of Verdan, this portion of his lair was seldom used; the only reason why he would have come here would have been if his palace was in imminent danger of falling to an attack, and he had to flee the city. In such a situation, guards would have been posted here, in case the secret entrance to this portion of the complex was discovered, and Nicodemus's political opponents sought to cut off his escape.
1. Entry Chamber
You are in a bare, rectangular chamber, almost devoid of any furnishings to indicate what its original purpose might have been. On the other side of the room is a large iron door, while to your left is a much less imposing wooden door, which is slightly ajar. On either side of the iron door is an ornate iron sconce, presumably intended to hold a torch.
This room was intended to serve as a collection point for Nicodemus and any of his entourage, should they be forced to flee the palace. There is nothing of interest here. Should the PCs wish to open the iron door, they will find it locked (the lock is very sturdy and complex-penalise Open Lock rolls by -25%). Behind the door is a flight of steps leading down to Nicodemus's lair (see the next section).
2. Guard Room
This square room contains a small round table, two chairs, and two sleeping pallets, all covered with a layer of dust. Mounted in the far wall are three iron torch sconces, all of which contain unlit torches.
Aside from the torches-which are normal in every respect, and have never been used-there is nothing of interest in this room.
The Lair of Nicodemus
This section is accessible via a flight of stairs to the north of area 1. Once the PCs descend the stairs, they will have entered what was Nicodemus's actual lair, where he conducted his most secret experiments.
While it was in use, the lair housed a large number of monsters native to Esterhold, which Nicodemus was intent on studying for his own purposes. During the Week Without Magic, many of the magical wards that kept the creatures in check failed, and they wreaked considerable havoc for several days, killing a number of Nicodemus's guards and apprentices. Although control was established once more, the damage done was significant enough to force Nicodemus to abandon his complex. Since that time, the wards have failed every Day of Dread, allowing the monsters to escape again, but now no one remains to restore order, which means that the lair is now filled with dangerous monsters. Most PCs will find such an environment oddly familiar.
DM Note: While wandering the lower level of Nicodemus's lair, the PCs may run across one or more of the monsters currently on the loose. Each turn, they have a 1 in 6 chance of having a random encounter. If you roll a "1," consult the following table to determine what the PCs encounter. DMs should use combat statistics appropriate to their chosen game system:
1-4 crab spiders. Originally brought here as test subjects, crab spiders have run rampant following Nicodemus's abandonment of this complex.
2-8 skeletons. Nicodemus used skeletons as cheap, expendable guards and monster handlers. Now that he is no longer here, the skeletons wander aimlessly, attacking anything they encounter.
1-2 gelatinous cubes. Due to his desire to maintain secrecy at all costs, Nicodemus relied on trained gelatinous cubes to keep his complex clean. These creatures have since returned to their instincts.
2-16 kukarachans. Nicodemus captured some of these creatures years ago, in the hopes of breeding a race of obedient, expendable soldiers for Alphatia. He failed, and now the kukarachans roam the complex in search of prey-that is, anything that moves.
DMs should also be aware that there are a number of teleportation traps in the lower level. These are marked on the map with a "T" surrounded by a circle. When the complex was still being used by Nicodemus, a person only needed to say, "Nicodemus" followed by the name of one of the keyed locations, in order to teleport there. Thus, to teleport to the arena (area 8), a person merely had to step on a teleport circle and say, "Nicodemus-arena." There were four locations that could be accessed in this manner: the arena (area 8), the monster pens (area 13), and intersections "one" and "two" (denoted as i and ii on the map). If a person wanted to step on a teleporter without being teleported, they did not have to say anything; the teleporters only worked if the command word was uttered.
Since the Week Without Magic, the teleportation system has been malfunctioning. Now, it is no longer possible to control where one is teleported, and there is no way of crossing a teleporter without being sent somewhere else. The teleporters themselves are unmarked; the original inhabitants knew where they all were. Every turn the PCs linger around a teleporter, there is always a 20% chance that a wandering monster will be teleported to that location from somewhere else in the complex. Treat this as a normal random encounter. If one or more PCs step on a teleporter, use the following table to determine where they end up, or just decide randomly:
PC(s) will be teleported to...
Arena (area 12)-roll for a random encounter; subtract 2 from the roll.
Monster Pens (area 10)-roll for a random encounter; subtract 1 from the roll.
Intersection One (i)-roll for a random encounter (unmodified).
Intersection Two (ii)-roll for a random encounter (unmodified).
3. Apprentice Quarters
The door to this room shows signs of having been forced open.
This large, square room was obviously gaudily decorated at one time. Tattered and scorched red banners bearing gold runes and other symbols adorn the walls, and the remains of five canopied, four-poster beds line the far walls. Close by, you see a large square table, surrounded by five chairs, and in each of the far corners of this room there are braziers, all of which have been knocked over. Mounted in the ceiling are four smooth stones, two of which provide a soft white light; the remaining two have been smashed to pieces. Several decayed bodies lie on the floor-two of them appear to have been human; the remainder resemble bipedal insects of some sort.
This room was where five of Nicodemus's most trusted apprentices slept and studied while they were helping him in his experiments. During the Week Without Magic, two of them were attacked in this room by a pack of kukarachans. The apprentices managed to kill several of them with magic missiles (hence, the scorched banners), but there were too many, and the young wizards were soon killed.
If the PCs search the room, they will find a pouch containing 18 gems (worth 5 gp each), 37 crowns, and 65 mirrors under one of the mattresses. Under another bed is a spellbook (belonging to one of the deceased apprentices in area 6) containing the spells read magic, sleep, charm person, and light. If the PCs search the apprentices' bodies, they may find a dagger in fine condition. There is nothing else of interest here.
The reek of old waste and worse things assails your nostrils as you enter this tiny chamber. By the crude wooden bench-whose seat has a hole cut into it-situated over a two-foot wide hole in the stone floor, it is clear that this room served as a latrine.
There is nothing of immediate interest in this room. If the PCs remain here for more than one turn, or try to search the room, six carrion crawlers with emerge from the hole, and attack.
There is nothing of value in the creatures' lair, the 10-foot deep waste pit (thank goodness!), but one of the carrion crawlers contains a small gold ring, worth 80 gp (a remnant of a previous meal).
5. Empty Room
The door to this room is locked. A regular Open Locks roll will unlock it.
This small, dusty chamber is utterly devoid of any furnishings.
This room was originally intended to be a storeroom, but the complex was abandoned before it could be used. There is nothing of interest here.
6. Abandoned Room
Your footfalls echo faintly in this large, apparently empty room, save for a few pieces of broken wood scattered about the floor. The dust lies pretty thick here, and you can clearly discern tracks of various sorts.
When Nicodemus was using this complex, this room housed a large number of servants, who cleaned and maintained the tunnels and chambers of this level. Following the chaos of the Week Without Magic, those servants who had not been killed by the rampaging monsters packed up their belongings and fled, while their master's attention was elsewhere. Since that time, the room has not been in use.
The various pieces of wood are the remains of simple beds and other furniture that belonged to the servants, which were destroyed by wandering monsters in recent years. If the PCs examine the tracks, a successful tracking check will reveal the passage of regular and giant rats, giant insects, and other beasts native to Esterhold. There is nothing else of interest here.
7. Training Room
This relatively small, rectangular room measures roughly 20 feet long and ten feet wide. Lining the walls at regular intervals are weapon racks, most of which are empty. Mounted in the ceiling is what appears to be a stone globe, but it is cracked in several places. The floor is littered with bones and what appear to be scraps of metal.
This was once a weapons training room, specifically for hand-to-hand combat. The most frequent users were the complex guards, who spent many of their off-hours here. During the monster rampage of the Week Without Magic, some of the more intelligent creatures noticed this room, and tried to steal some weapons. The guards here fought bravely, but died. The monsters, some of whom hated light, smashed the light stone mounted in the ceiling.
Currently, the weapon racks contain eight useable spears, two leather bucklers, and one bastard sword. The other weapons are now in the possession of the kukarachans. If the PCs search the bones and metal scraps (the remains of three guards and their armour) they will find a rusted key ring holding seven keys. These are the keys that unlock the cells in area 13. There is nothing else of interest here.
Although it has been neglected for a long time, it is clear that this large room once served as a barracks. Along the wall opposite the door, and the far wall to your right, you can see four intact bunk beds, and to your immediate right are a small round table and two chairs. Set in the walls at regular intervals are softly glowing stones, whose white light provides a ghostly sheen to everything here.
Another thing that you notice is that the entire ceiling, and the far right corner, are covered with spider webs. Spiders of varying sizes crawl about above your heads, and seem to pay you no heed, but your attention is drawn to the much larger spider squatting in the far corner. It is quite large, possibly the size of a small pony, and you cannot help but notice that its two forelegs end in delicate hands, and its head is dominated by a large lump in the back. The light is reflected in its many eyes, as it watches you.
Shortly after the abandonment of this complex, one of Nicodemus's monsters, an aranea, managed to escape from her cell, and set up a lair in this room. Since that time, she has managed to stay alive by feeding off of the kukarachans that inhabit this level of the lair. Despite the abundant food supply, she is desperate to escape the complex, and therefore she will not immediately attack the PCs, curious as she is about them (they are the first intelligent creatures she has seen in years). If the PCs make an attempt to communicate with the aranea, or make no move to attack, she will address them in broken Alphatian (she managed to pick up some of the language from her captors), and offer her knowledge of the complex in exchange for helping her escape.
The aranea (whose real name is unpronounceable, but introduces herself as Velav) is telling the truth; she knows the history of this lair, and the layout of accessible areas of the lower level of the complex (areas 3-8, 10, and 12-14 (she knows about the secret door concealing area 18, and how to open it, but she does not know how to solve the fork puzzle), as well as the corridors connecting these rooms). Velav also knows the original purposes of the rooms she has visited, and has also figured out the location of the teleportation traps, but it will not volunteer this latter piece of information. If the PCs have fallen victim to the teleportation trap at least once already, and have had a few random encounters, they may be willing to do business with her. PCs of good or lawful alignments may also be inclined to help Velav, since she has shown no hostile intent (DMs may wish to remind players of this, as appropriate).
The challenge in this encounter is to not attack Velav, but to trust her. This may not be an easy thing to do, if the PCs have encountered "regular" araneas before. If the PCs take Velav up on her offer, she will guide them to area 17, and then expect the PCs to keep up their part of the bargain. If the PCs help Velav escape the complex, she will thank them, and scurry off. Afterwards, PCs might encounter her in their travels, in which case she could become an ally. If the PCs try to abandon Velav, she will grow angry with them, and flee, only to track them stealthily, in the hopes of following them outside. Afterwards, Velav could become a dangerous foe, as she will not forget the PCs' treachery.
Although the PCs should not fight Velav, DMs should use the standard aranea statistics of their game system. In addition, secured to her underside in a pocket of webbing is a silver ring set with sapphires (worth 120 gp) and a wand of fireballs (10 charges left), and a spellbook (which belonged to one of the apprentices in area 6) containing the spells read magic, light, and magic missile. If Velav is with the PCs, she will fight to defend herself, but will not aid the PCs unless asked, or unless the odds are more than 2:1 against the PCs. Should the PCs manage to escape the complex with Velav, award them her experience point value as a reward; if they kill her, they receive no reward.
Aside from a few dried out kukarachan husks, there is nothing else of interest in the barracks.
9. Secret Laboratory
This room is accessible only via a secret door.
Judging from what is in this chamber, there can be no doubt that this is a secret laboratory. The room is brightly lit by four glowing white stones embedded in the ceiling. The centre of this rectangular room is dominated by two imposing worktables, each built of a dark wood. One of the tables is engraved with many runes and strange symbols, and the other is covered by a large form, draped with a sheet. Along the wall opposite the door are three large bookshelves, each of which has only a handful of dusty books. At the north end of the room is a long, low cupboard, built of the same wood as the tables.
The only other notable feature of this room is a collection of skeletons lining the walls at regular intervals.
This room is protected by the skeletons (the remains of the workers who excavated this complex for Nicodemus); if the PCs touch anything in this room without uttering the password ("Nicodemus") beforehand, the skeletons animate, and attack them. Uttering the word once is sufficient, but if the PCs leave the room, and then re-enter it and meddle with its contents without saying the word, the skeletons will animate. Uttering the word after the skeletons have animated has no effect.
Skeletons (15): DMs should use the statistics appropriate to their game system.
The cupboards used to contain the various chemicals, powders, and other components that Nicodemus needed for his research, but everything of value was removed after the Week Without Magic. Now, the cupboards only contain a few empty glass jars, and a small, sealed clay jug containing preserving fluid (for embalming and related uses). The most valuable books have long since been removed from the bookshelves, but if the PCs look through what is left, they will find a book about the flora and fauna of Esterhold, a book containing drawings of human anatomy (with additional notes in the margins written in a different hand-Nicodemus's), and a water-stained book theorising the existence of otherworldly beings who were banished from the known planes long ago, but who plot their return (a vague treatise on the Outer Beings). The other books are either too abstract to be of any use, or they are unreadable due to stains and other damage. All of the books are written in Alphatian.
Both of the tables, constructed of a rare, very hard wood (known as ebonwood) that grows in specific valleys around the Bay of Thorin, are extremely heavy (over 1,000 lbs. each), and are too large to be removed from the room in one piece. If broken down, the wood is worth about 1,500 gp per table. The rune-covered table was used by Nicodemus whenever he had any complicated spellcasting to do. The runes, if studied by a scholar or mage, provide some measure of protection to the caster, and clarity of thought. A careful examination of the runes will also reveal that one of them is, in fact, a cleverly disguised ring of protection +1 embedded in the table. It is easy to pry out, requiring a regular Dexterity check for success. The other table holds a half-completed, preserved flesh golem, mercifully covered by the shroud. Nicodemus was trying to uncover the secrets of a sect of Alphatian mages known as "fleshcrafters," but their secrets of making such golems eluded him. When he abandoned the complex, he also abandoned this line of research. Unless the PCs have access to the secrets of the fleshcrafters (highly unlikely), they will not be able to complete and animate this golem.
10. Monster Pens
The door to this room has been smashed to pieces.
This dark room measures roughly 30 feet on a side, and is bounded to the north, west, and east by cages. Some of the cages have been unlocked, but others appear to have had their bars bent aside. The floor of this room is littered with bones, scraps of leather and metal, and other unidentifiable materials. Set into the ceiling are two stone globes, both of which are heavily damaged. The room has a strong musty smell to it.
This room was where Nicodemus's monsters were kept when he was not performing experiments on them, or pitting them against his prisoners in the arena (area 12). During the Week Without Magic, the wards that reinforced the bars of the cages failed, and many of the creatures managed to force their way out. The guards posted here managed to hold them at bay for a time, and sound the alarm, but ultimately they were either killed or forced to flee. Some of the more intelligent monsters then unlocked the other cells, to free all of the creatures. Although order was eventually restored, too many people had died, and too much damage had been inflicted, for Nicodemus to re-establish himself. The wards have failed every Day of Dread since then, and now all of the creatures roam the complex.
If the PCs search the debris on the floor, they will find scraps of leather and chain mail armour, broken swords, human bones, and fragments of kukarachan carapaces. Hidden in the debris is a leather belt with a silver buckle (worth 60 gp), as well as a short sword whose blade is edged with silver (worth 125 gp). The two globes were once light stones, but they were smashed long ago. The cages contain nothing. There is nothing else of interest here.
For every turn the PCs spend in this room, there is a 20% chance that wandering monsters might fall victim to a teleportation trap located elsewhere in the complex, and be teleported here. If this is the case, treat the event as a regular random encounter, and roll on the encounter table above. The teleportation point in this room is in the exact centre.
11. Collapsed Room
The door to this room is heavily splintered and battered, but still largely intact. It is unlocked.
You can only progress a couple of feet into this room, before the accumulated mass of rock and other debris blocks your path. Whatever this room once was, it is impossible to tell.
This room was once a simple bath chamber, measuring 20 feet wide and 10 feet long. It contained a simple wooden tub and linen cabinet for the servants and guards of the complex, plus a fire pit over which water could be heated. At the far end, behind a curtain, a porcelain tub, and a linen cabinet containing fine linens, were available for the use of Nicodemus and his apprentices. The room was lit with two light stones.
Not long after the Week Without Magic, a minor tremor struck the region around what is now Draeh. Although the city sustained no significant damage, it resulted in the collapse of this chamber. Should the PCs wish to do so, they may try to excavate this room, but it will take 12 hours-increase the chance of random encounters to 1 in 3 due to the noise. If they manage to perform this feat, they will find a small silver comb (worth 50 gp), and a round, fist-sized stone engraved with the Alphatian word for "heat." If this word is uttered while the stone is held, it will begin to heat up, becoming too hot to handle in two minutes, although it will cool down after one hour. This item was used to turn a regular bath into a hot tub experience. On the open market, this heating stone is worth 200 gp.
This room description assumes that the PCs are looking into the room from the observation balcony. If they have entered the room via one of the chutes from area 13, change the description accordingly.
You are standing on a great, railed balcony overlooking what appears to be an arena. This large, oblong chamber measures roughly 90 feet long and 50 feet wide, and the sand-covered floor is ten feet below you. The room itself is lit with three large white glowing stones set into the ceiling. Along the arena wall to your right, there are three wooden doors, hinged from the top. Scattered about the arena floor are weapons and bones, many of which are broken.
This is the arena where Nicodemus pitted some of his prisoners against the monsters that he had captured over the years. Most often, the prisoners found themselves here after falling down the chutes leading from the holding cells (area 13)-a situation which delighted Nicodemus. The three wooden doors cover the chute openings, and are hinged on the top so that a falling prisoner will automatically force open the door. The walls of the arena are comprised of tightly mortared, smooth stone blocks; any climbing rolls will be halved.
If the PCs search the arena floor, they may find buried in the sand a brass ring of fire resistance, a tiny agate worth 10 gp, and a silver arrowhead. Scattered about the floor are a number of broken weapons, but some are still serviceable, including two short swords, a dagger, and four arrows. Most of the bones here are those of former prisoners (about 20 in all) but some bones are those of large dogs and lizards, as well as remnants of insect carapaces (remains of kukarachans). There is nothing else of interest here.
For every turn the PCs spend in the arena, there is a 20% chance that wandering monsters might fall victim to a teleportation trap located elsewhere in the complex, and be teleported to the arena. If this is the case, treat the event as a regular random encounter, and roll on the encounter table above. The teleportation point in this room is in the exact centre of the arena.
13. Holding Cells
This room is unlit, and therefore the details at the far end will not be visible until the PCs come at least ten feet into the room (assuming they are using torches or simple light spells). Otherwise, modify the second sentence of the room description if the PCs merely look into the room from the hallway.
This long, narrow room is unlit, and is bounded on the left-hand side by a series of barred doors. The only other notable features are three empty iron torch sconces set into the right-hand wall at 20-foot intervals, and two overturned wooden chairs in the far right corner.
This room was where Nicodemus held prisoners prior to experimenting on them, or before he decided whether or not to toss them into the arena (area 12). By the time the complex was abandoned, there were only a handful of prisoners here, and most of them starved to death in their cells. The wooden chairs situated outside the cells were where Nicodemus's guards would relax while watching their charges. What follows is a description of each cell, all of which are locked (a regular Open Lock roll will suffice, but the keys are located in area 7):
a. This cell contains one skeleton. The inner side of the door is covered with scratches and dried blood.
b. This cell is empty, but contains a secret door in the far wall, that leads to a short tunnel. At the end of this tunnel, a concealed trap door covers a chute leading to area 12. The trapdoor is triggered by any weight greater than 70 lbs. Prisoners placed in this cell (as well as cells e and g) were destined for death in the arena, and the secret tunnel was designed to give them the false hope that they had found a way to escape, only to end up in the arena. The chutes are made of a smooth metal that cannot be climbed.
c. This cell is empty.
d. This cell contains two skeletons, each chained with heavy manacles to the floor. Suspended from the ceiling is a strip of dried meat.
e. This cell contains one skeleton. There is also a secret door and tunnel here, which are identical to those leading from cell b. Stashed in one corner is a ragged leather pouch, containing 4 judges and a strip of parchment, upon which is written in Alphatian, "I can go no further. To you who find this, there is a hidden door in this cell-where it leads I know not. Remember that Nicodemus is never what he seems-when he offers you freedom with one hand, he gives you death with the other. Remember also that he worships only one thing-himself!" This is a reference to the presence of many false doors in the complex, as well as a warning not to use the secret door. It also provides the PCs with a clue to exploring Nicodemus's secret laboratory safely-uttering his name.
f. This cell is empty.
g. This cell is empty, but contains a secret door and tunnel as per cell b.
This appears to be an anteroom. A softly glowing sphere embedded in the ceiling casts a ghostly white light in this chamber, revealing four doors leading off from this location-two to your left, and two to your right. The room itself is very plain, lacking in ornamentation of any sort.
This room is lit with a polished stone enchanted with a continual light spell. All of the doors are locked. One of the doors, the one to the far left of the PCs, is false; once unlocked, it will open onto a plain stone wall, in which is embedded a collection of linked dart guns. They will fire the moment the door is opened, and anyone standing on front of the door is automatically hit by 1d6 darts, and must save vs. Poison for each dart or take 1d8 damage per hit. A successful save results in only one point of damage.
There is also a secret door to area 18 here, on the other side of the room. It can be detected with a regular Find Secret Doors roll. There is nothing of interest here.
15. Junk Room
The door to this room is locked; a regular Open Locks roll is sufficient to unlock it. There is so much garbage piled up behind the door, however, that an Open Doors roll is required to open it.
Bathed in the pale glow of a glowing stone set into the ceiling of this tiny chamber, you are confronted with an enormous pile of junk. Scraps of wood, bricks, pieces of metal, and other materials are here, in a pile almost knee-deep.
Initially intended as an additional storeroom, Nicodemus's servants eventually used it as a dumping ground for surplus building materials, broken tools, and other things for which they no longer had a use. By the time the complex was abandoned, there were several piles of junk here, which have since shifted into one large pile. If the PCs decide to search this room, they will find such items as broken shovels and picks, rusted trowels, and broken chairs and tables. Provided the PCs conduct an extensive search-lasting at least two hours-they may find the following items: a pair of engraved silver door handles (worth 50 gp), a gold-tipped writing quill (worth 35 gp), and an antique, three-legged hall table carved out of ebonwood (weighing 15 lbs. and worth 280 gp to a collector).
The heavily scratched and battered door to this room is barricaded on the other side. To open it, one of the PCs must make a successful Open Doors roll.
A strong musty odour hits you as you force the door into this chamber open. Illuminated by softly glowing white stones set into the ceiling, the walls on either side of you are packed with book shelves, most of them laden with tomes of varying sizes, and haphazard piles of parchment. A fairly large pool of ink and other chemicals occupies the far right corner of the room, surrounding a collapsed shelf. Right at your feet, however, is an overturned shelf, under which are two withered forms, dressed in decaying robes.
This room was once the main library of Nicodemus's lair. During the Week Without Magic, two of the wizard's apprentices, injured and pursued by kukarachans and lacking their spellbooks, fled to this room, and barricaded themselves inside by pushing a shelf against the door. The kukarachans beat on the door for several hours, and then left, but the apprentices dared not go out, fearing that the creatures would be waiting outside, and that they would not be able to kill enough of them before getting killed themselves. They waited for days, hoping to be rescued, but ultimately died of starvation.
Over the ensuing years, many of the books and scrolls in this room have succumbed to moisture, and are covered with mildew and unreadable. Nevertheless, if the PCs search the shelves, they have a cumulative 10% chance, per turn of searching, of learning about this complex and its purpose. They also have a 5% cumulative chance, per turn of searching, of reading about Nicodemus's secret laboratory (but not its exact location), and about plans for a door that would demand the solution to a riddle, in order to foil intruders. Also hidden amongst the assorted tomes and papers is a scroll of protection from undead, and a hollowed-out book containing a healing potion.
The apprentices' remains hold nothing of value; neither does the shelf that lies on top of them (it was knocked over when the PCs forced open the door). There is nothing else of interest here.
17. Supply Room
The door to this room is locked; a regular Open Locks roll is sufficient to unlock it.
Rickety wooden shelves, laden with boxes, line the walls of this square chamber, while the room's centre is almost completely filled with an unrecognisable pile of garbage. Set into the middle of the ceiling is a softly glowing white stone, which provides illumination.
This room was once used to store general supplies for Nicodemus's lair, such as building materials and tools. Contained within the boxes lining the shelves are nails, hammers, saws, drills, boards, door hinges, and other mundane goods. The overburdened shelves, having been built cheaply, are now on the verge of collapse after several years of neglect. If a PC attempts to move the boxes, there is a 30% chance that that portion of the shelves will collapse, showering everyone within five feet with debris and falling boxes (each affected PC takes 1d8 damage-a successful saving throw vs. Death Ray halves this damage). The noise created by the collapsing shelves will not go unnoticed: for the next 12 turns, DMs should increase the chance of a random encounter to a 1 in 3 chance.
The pile of garbage in the middle of the floor is the remnant of another set of shelves. There is nothing of value there, but the PCs will have to search the pile thoroughly to know for sure. There is nothing else of interest here.
The door to this area is concealed with a secret door. It can be located with a regular, successful find secret doors roll-the door is opened by pressing a slightly protruding brick. The same mechanism exists on the other side.
From where you are standing, two tunnels lead onwards. The right-hand tunnel seems to continue for 30 feet, and then end at a stone wall. The left-hand tunnel trails off into the darkness.
Nicodemus ordered the creation of this obstacle to deter any intruders who might try to use these tunnels to enter his palace.
The left-hand tunnel seems to be the way out-there is a false door at the end of it-but if the PCs progress more than 40 feet down the tunnel, they will trigger a trap door, and must make a saving throw vs. Death Ray or fall 20 feet onto a bed of spikes (which do an additional 1d8 damage per PC). The pit itself is 30 feet long and nine feet wide, leaving a six-inch ledge on either side of the rim. The trapdoor will not be triggered until the leading PC steps onto its middle, in order to catch as many PCs as possible. Those PCs who did not fall in, but who wish to walk around the pit, must make two halved Dexterity checks, or they will fall in. PCs who manage to make it to the other side will find that the door at the end is locked. A regular Open Locks roll is sufficient to unlock the door, but unless someone finds and removes traps beforehand (a regular roll is sufficient), the first person who tries to pick the lock will be jabbed with a poison needle (save vs. poison or take 2d8 damage). Only once they bypass all this, will the PCs realise that the door is false, and opens onto a plain stone wall.
The right-hand tunnel appears to be a dead end, but the far wall is illusory (treat it as though it were cast by a 12th level wizard for dispelling purposes). It can either be dispelled, or if something is thrown at it, the item will pass through it. Otherwise, the wall will seem real in all respects. Beyond the wall, the tunnel continues, until it ends at a plain wooden door, upon which is engraved a leering face. The door appears unlocked, but cannot be opened by physical or magical means on this side (the door may be opened normally from the other side). The first PC who tries to open it will be addressed by the face, which animates and intones in a whiny voice, the following riddle in Alphatian:
"To leave the lair of Nicodemus ye seek,
"But answer me this, 'ere ye depart:
'The rich man needs it,
'The blind man sees it,
'The lover wants it,
'But the poor man already has it.'
"Of what do I speak?"
The correct answer is "Nothing." If this is spoken, the door grunts, and opens quietly. Any other response will elicit harsh laughter. Once the door opens, the way is clear for the PCs to continue their journey.
This section comprises the secret dungeon of Nicodemus, where he kept his most valuable prisoners, and which served as a final barrier to intruders. If anyone managed to make it this far, the guards who once staffed area 21, high-level fighters, would have made short work of them. This area, however, has been unoccupied since Nicodemus fled his kingdom, years ago.
19. Interrogation Room
The door to this room is locked (the key is lost now); a regular Open Locks roll is sufficient to open it.
The dusty brazier and rack, tarnished knives, and blood-stained clubs leave mute testament to this room's former purpose.
This room was where Nicodemus had his special prisoners interrogated (he never used the term "torture"). All of the equipment here shows signs of frequent, though not recent, use. There is nothing of value or interest here.
20. Prison Cell
The door to this room is not locked, but the ambient moisture in this complex has caused it to swell. To open it, an Open Doors roll is required.
The sudden reek of filth that assails your senses when you enter this room, as well as its remaining furnishings, leave no doubt in your mind that this was once a prison cell. Mouldy straw lies strewn all over the floor, and mounted in the walls are chains and manacles.
This room was where Nicodemus kept special prisoners-people whom he wished to hold or interrogate secretly. Hidden in the straw are a handful of articles (such as fragments of combs, bead necklaces, and so on) that once belonged to previous prisoners, including a total of 13 mirrors and 16 judges. If the PCs examine the walls closely, they will note a handful of scrawls on the walls. Most of them are in Alphatian, and they convey the desperation felt by those who once occupied this room.
21. Guard Room
This chamber measures approximately 20 feet squared, and appears to have been a guard room at one time. Along one wall is a square table, surrounded by three simple chairs-all laden with dust. Iron torch sconces are mounted in each wall, and next to the table there appears to be a wooden rack-possibly for spears or similar weapons. Aside from the door through which you passed, the only other feature of note is another oak door in the far wall.
There is nothing of interest here. Behind the northern door is an 800-foot long hallway leading to a flight of stairs, which go upwards. Next to the base of the staircase is an iron lever embedded in the wall, which controls the secret trapdoor leading into Nicodemus's throne room. Once the lever is pulled, the trapdoor will remain open for 30 seconds, after which it closes once more. This is enough time for a couple of people, running up the stairs, to pass through safely. Anyone who gets caught in the trap door will receive 3d6 points of crushing damage.
To Unmask a Wizard
Having survived the trek through Nicodemus's secret complex, the party finds itself in Nicodemus's throne room-a vast chamber that was obviously once filled with finery. Both Talin and Kalin will suggest leaving the palace as soon as possible, because there are many patrols of True Way warriors wandering the halls. Talin is familiar with the palace's layout, and he can lead the party out fairly quickly. The DM should determine how long it takes to leave the palace, and roll randomly for encounters. Should an encounter be rolled, the party will face 2d8 Jennite warriors, who will attack without provocation. If the fighting lasts more than four rounds, there is a 30% chance, during each subsequent round of battle that another patrol will hear the fighting, and investigate.
Ideally, the party should be able to enter the city proper without too much trouble, and then it will be up to Talin to locate Nicodemus in his disguise as Detir, since he is the only party member who saw him. This part of the adventure in intended to be free-flowing; the party should wander the streets of Draeh in search of Nicodemus. Although Kalin, Talin, and Grath are not likely to attract too much attention, the PCs (if they are Alphatian) and Favian will-the party will need to take steps to avoid attracting too much attention. While the party searches, the DM can underline the sense of urgency by describing how Maltaen's warriors are destroying buildings, arresting rebel Jennites who refuse to convert to the "traditional" Jennite lifestyle, and generally terrorising the populace.
Eventually, Talin will spot Nicodemus in his disguise. Hopefully, the PCs will have developed a plan by this time, but if they have not, Grath or Favian can suggest dispelling Nicodemus's illusion, while the PCs protect them from any assailants. Such an attempt should succeed, which will sow widespread chaos once Detir is revealed to be an Alphatian wizard! Maltaen will be nearby, and, just as shocked as everyone else, will order his warriors to seize the intruders. Before anyone else can react, Nicodemus will teleport away.
Although Nicodemus has vanished, the party has not, and many of the Jennites present will turn their anger towards them. The DM may wish to read or paraphrase the following:
Nicodemus has hardly been gone for a few moments, as the masses of free Jennites, and their urbanised cousins, begin to turn towards you. Angry muttering spreads slowly, and some point to you, brandishing their weapons. Some of them pronounce what they have seen to be a deception, and Maltaen, among the loudest in the crowd, calls for your arrest. It looks like you may be in for a tough fight.
Talin steps forward before any of the crowd can advance, and announces loudly, "People of Draeh! People of the plains! Hear me! We did not come to deceive you; we came to help you see with your own eyes once more. My companions used sorcery, yes, but they did so to reveal an impostor. The man many of you know as Detir, the loyal follower and adviser to Maltaen, is none other than who you saw before his flight-Nicodemus!"
Many cries of disbelief erupt from the crowd, but no one advances on you yet. Talin continues, "Yes, my fellow Jennites, Nicodemus disguised himself as one of us, rode with Maltaen and his True Way followers, and he has already begun to poison us, to turn us against each other. Look around you! Draeh was to be ours-our city, run the way we wished-our gateway to the rest of the world. Yet Maltaen and his warriors are destroying it, claiming that cities are the products of Alphatian corruption, and must be destroyed! Why would a leader destroy something that promises us hope? Why would a leader harm his own people? This is what Maltaen is doing-if there is any disease infecting us, then it is infecting Maltaen worst of all! He is under Nicodemus's spell, for he is doing the evil wizard's bidding!"
Maltaen bristles, and denounces Talin as a liar. "Of course I knew Nicodemus was hiding among us, but I was not under his spell! I only allowed him to remain with us so that I could one day expose him, and those who helped him return to Esterhold. I am no traitor to the Jennite people! Talin is obviously an Alphatian lapdog, like his brother, for why else would he defend yet another Alphatian deception? Before you judge, let me remind you all that it was the True Way who defeated the Crimson Avengers!"
"That is a lie," shouts Favian, "for if Maltaen and his men were the ones who removed the threat of that group, then they should have found... this! Before anyone can react, he pulls a piece of folded fabric from his robes, which he shakes out-revealing the once-feared banner of the Crimson Avengers-a falling eagle struck by a lighting bolt. Many people recoil in shock at the sight of the banner, and shouts of confusion arise everywhere. People denounce Talin, Kalin, Maltaen, Favian Vern and you as deceivers, while others defend your names. The situation deteriorates rapidly, and it seems certain that a fight will erupt right where you stand, when another Jennite chieftain steps forward.
"People, I am Lotam, a chieftain of the Jennite people. My tribe follows the ways of the ancients, and it is to them that we must turn to solve this argument. Either Maltaen has been deceived by Nicodemus, or he has not, and thus Talin tells the truth, or he is a liar without honour. Before the time of the Alphatians, our people held trials by combat to decide who was right in a dispute, and this we must do. You, Maltaen and Talin, are the two parties in this dispute, and so you may choose your champions to settle this matter. This has been the way of our people for years unnumbered, and so neither of you should object.
"Before you choose your warriors, a judge must be found for the fight. Chieftains of the Jennites, who do you choose?"
Lotam's question is greeted with silence, as the various chieftains congregate among themselves, and discuss the matter in hushed tones. The minutes drag on, and finally, one of them steps forward, and chooses Lotam. "So the chieftains have spoken, so it must be," says Lotam. "There is one final matter before the trial-Talin, you may choose any of your companions, even outsiders, to be your champions, for all have fought bravely at your side. That is, all but the Alphatian, Favian Vern. He is an enemy to our people, and thus he has no business here. Now then, choose your champions, and clear a space for them."
Talin will turn to the PCs and ask them to be his champions-there is little reason for them to refuse, at this point, and the DM may wish to encourage them to accept if they are reluctant to do so. Assuming the PCs do accept, the DM should prepare a party of Jennite warriors to fight for Maltaen. They should be equivalent in level and strength to the PCs (but they will consists of fighters and possibly shamans only), to ensure that the fight is challenging. Once everything is ready, Lotam steps forward once more, and issues final instructions:
"The rules are simple. Each side must fight until one of them can no longer do battle-whether through death or unconsciousness-or until one side concedes the fight. I will then declare the winner. You may start now."
The fight, as already stated, should be challenging. There is a good chance that one or more of the PCs could sustain serious injury, or even die. Maltaen's champions will not pull their punches, and will focus on the strongest-looking PCs first, and then try to finish off the others. They will do almost anything to win, including ganging up on one PC to kill or incapacitate them quickly, blinding them with thrown sand or dirt, and using concealed weapons. Eventually, the PCs should win, and Lotam announces their victory:
"The truth has spoken: Talin is correct about Nicodemus, and Favian Vern did kill the hated Crimson Avengers. Talin is therefore innocent of all charges brought against him by Maltaen, who is without honour. I also declare a truce; let no Jennite raise arms against another, and let the destruction of Draeh cease. I, and the chieftains of the Jennite people, declare this."
With the PCs' victory, the fighting among the Jennites will come to an end, for now. Talin, Kalin, and Favian will congratulate the PCs for their bravery and skill, and for securing them the victory they needed desperately. The time has now come for the Jennites and the Alphatians to finally sit down and try to work out a lasting agreement on the fate of Esterhold, because all sides have grown weary of fighting. Favian will promise to do all he can to reach a settlement, and encourage the Naycese Council to accept the outcome of the war. Talin announces that he will cooperate with Favian, and work towards a peaceful solution.
The Future of Esterhold
The following weeks will see many discussions between the various Jennite factions, and between the Jennites and the Alphatians. Depending on their level of involvement, Jennite or Alphatian PCs could have a lot to do here, as their advice could be sought by Talin, or Favian and Kalin. By the end of the year, the agreements are as follows:
Draeh will remain under the control of the rebel Jennites, with Talin as their leader; many of the free Jennite tribes, led by Lotam, return to their original lands east of Esterhold, but some settle newly-acquired territories around Rock Harbour, the ruins of Anchorage and in the interior. Much of Draeh will be rebuilt.
The Alphatians will retain Skyfyr and the surrounding province of Blackrock, as well as Port Marlin and its lands. Kalin will remain as Governor of Blackrock.
Other details remain to be worked out, and the PCs' involvement depends on their own outlook and preferences. Draeh, for example, will have to forge trading ties with nearby nations, such as Thonia and the dwarven clans to the north, if it is to prosper. Jennite PCs who served Talin well might be entrusted with the task of opening trade negotiations with these countries, and others.
PCs who served Kalin might be employed as intermediaries with the free city of Draeh, as Kalin hopes to rebuild his relationship with his brother, as well as build a bridge between the Alphatians and the Jennites. Like Draeh, Skyfyr cannot prosper on its own; it will need to forge ties with other nations, as well as the city of Draeh. PCs with a diplomatic bent could accompany Favian to Ionace, and convince the council that there is nothing to be gained from further warfare in Esterhold, and that a settlement should be reached with the Jennites as soon as possible. The PCs could also represent the Alphatian dominions in Esterhold abroad, and open trade negotiations with other nations.
In addition, depending on how well the PCs served, and their level, they might be offered lands by Kalin or Talin, which could open the door to further adventures, on top of what has been outlined above. Hopefully, this adventure will have opened the players' eyes to the adventuring opportunities available in Esterhold. Fierce monsters continue to roam the interior, and not all of the free Jennite tribes eagerly embraced the peace settlement-including Maltaen's True Way followers, who still remain in the wilderness. Much of Esterhold is also relatively unexplored, and thus both Talin and Kalin will want the fringes of their lands made safe. The PCs could be busy for quite some time yet!
Encounters in Esterhold
During their adventures in Esterhold, the PCs are bound to have some random encounters, notably with other Alphatian and Jennite parties. In fact, their task is to search the countryside for such parties, in order to halt the Jennite movement (if they are Alphatians) or to put an end to the Alphatian harassment (if they are Jennites). They will also be looking for the infamous Crimson Avengers, a group of Alphatian hired by Favian Vern and rumoured to use the most violent methods.
DM Note: As stated at the beginning of this adventure, the writers have left this product as "stats-free" as possible. Nevertheless, some entries in this section were designed under the Original Dungeons and Dragons(r) (OD&D), and no alternative versions were in existence at the time of publication. Therefore, the OD&D statistics for these entries were included out of necessity; those DMs who wish to convert them will have to do so on their own.
Roll three times a day (once in the morning, once in the afternoon, once at night) to determine whether the party makes an encounter. There is an encounter on a roll of 1 on 1d6 if the party is looking for trouble (which is, after all, their mission), or on a roll of 1 on 1d10 if the party is trying to avoid trouble (for example if they are in bad shape, or if their mission changes).
If an encounter occurs, roll 2d10 and refer to the following table:
2 d10 Roll Encounter 11 Wild animals 2 Esterholdian bunrab 12 Bears, wolves or mountain lions 3 Crimson Avengers* 13 Humanoids 4 Minboral's Circle** 14 Thoth-Ath gnolls 5 Alphatian party 15 Jennite party 6 Alphatian party 16 Jennite party 7 Alphatian party 17 Jennite party 8 Rakasta (fast runners) 18 Jennite party 9 Kukarachans 19 Jennite party 10 Wild animals 20 Esterhold Devil
* Only Alphatian PCs may play out this encounter, and then only after they ran into other encounters with random Alphatian and Jennite parties, including followers of the True Way (at DM's discretion), and also only when Favian Vern is with them after they have reported to him their prior evidences of the Crimson Avengers' activities. If the PCs are Jennites or are Alphatians but still investigating, this encounter takes them close to the Crimson Avengers but they do not actually meet them, although they see the results of their exactions.
** Only Jennite PCs may encounter Minboral's Circle, and not before they have already encountered other bands of Alphatians (at DM's discretion). Otherwise, substitute an encounter with a random Alphatian party.
(OD&D statistics given for reference purposes)
Armour Class: 6
Hit Dice: 2 (M)
Move: 120' (40')
Attacks: By weapon or kick
Damage: By weapon +1 or 1d8
No. Appearing: 1d8 (3d10)
Save As: F2
Treasure Type: U (B)
XP Value: 10
Bunrabs are a race of humanoids who greatly resemble human-sized, bipedal rabbits. On average, they stand 5 to 51/2 feet in height, and have an athletic leanness to them. Highly adaptable creatures, bunrabs are capable of making almost any environment their home-an essential survival skill, given that their high fecundity frequently requires the colonisation of new territories due to population pressures. Being fairly intelligent, most bunrabs do not hunt and gather their food; rather, they tend to live in small villages and towns, farming the surrounding lands extensively to provide them with the crispy lettuce and carrots they love so much.
In combat, bunrabs can be very fierce, indeed. Due to their inherent strength and toughness, and the fact that they have hands with opposable thumbs (and not paws), they are capable of using any weapon available to them, and of inflicting considerable damage. Even when unarmed, an angered bunrab can be formidable, as its large feet can bludgeon opponents to senselessness with a well-placed kick. Due to their high agility and natural stealth, bunrabs are blessed with a higher armour class, though in battle some do wear breastplates with arms and leg greaves (lowering their AC to 5), and occasionally they use shields, as well. Despite their skill in battle, however, bunrabs are an inherently skittish, even cowardly, race. When confronted with a foe, a bunrab must make a Morale check to determine if it is even willing to fight, and must make another every time it is wounded. The only time such requirements do not apply is when a battle is taken to a bunrab's own home; there, they will often fight to the death (Morale rises to 9).
Being very clannish creatures, bunrabs tend to keep to themselves, and do not actively seek out contact with other races. For every 15 bunrabs, there is a clan leader, who has 5 Hit Dice.
See appropriate segment in Part VI (Alphatian campaign).
See appropriate segment in Part V (Jennite campaign).
During their adventures in Esterhold, the PCs are bound to encounter wandering Alphatian parties, some of which are adventuring bands hired by Favian Vern, and some not.
Jennite PCs will probably be on the lookout for such parties, as a goal set to them by their leaders is to put an end to the damage being done by the Alphatian bands, and especially the infamous Crimson Avengers. The PCs will likely encounter several such bands before they encounter Minboral's Circle, and they shouldn't encounter the Crimson Avengers at all. Each time, however, they certainly will want to determine whether the specific Alphatian party they just neutralised is the Crimson Avengers. Each encounter between the PCs and an Alphatian party will probably result in battle, since the PCs' mission actually is to destroy such bands, and the Alphatians are most likely hostile toward the PCs as well.
Encounters between Alphatian PCs and Alphatian parties may range from friendly to hostile, depending on both groups' goals, alignments, and role-playing.
Random Alphatian Party
Each Alphatian party is composed of 2-10 NPCs. Roll 1d4+1d6 to determine the exact number of party members. Then roll 2d8 for each Alphatian NPC and refer to the following table:
2 d8 Roll NPC 9 Human Ftr2 2 Human Wiz7 * 10 Human Ftr3 3 Human Rgr3 11 Human Ftr1 4 Hin Rog4 12 Human Rog4 5 Elf Wiz3 13 Human Clr3 6 Elf Ftr3 14 Dwarf Ftr3 7 Human Wiz2 15 Gnome Ill4 8 Human Rog1 16 Human Clr7 *
* If you already rolled a 2 or 16 before, each subsequent roll of 1 or 16 indicates a human slave instead.
Human level 7 wizard
This high-level Alphatian wizard is the uncontested leader of the party, and the other party members obey his or her orders-most have probably been hired by him or her, either for this venture or in a more permanent fashion, or are slaves. Roll 1d4 to determine the wizard's goal: (1) capture slaves (2) kill barbarians (3-4) help Favian Vern. This goal will determine the wizard's attitude (and that of the party) towards the PCs: with a roll of 1-2, the Alphatian party will tend to be wary of other Alphatian parties, while with a roll of 3-4 the party will tend to be friendly; the party is hostile to Jennite PCs no matter what the roll is, though its methods will reflect its objectives.
Human level 7 cleric
This high-level Alphatian priest is the uncontested leader of the party, and the other party members obey his or her orders-most have probably been hired by him or her, either for this venture or in a more permanent fashion, or are slaves. Roll 1d4 to determine the cleric's goal: (1) capture slaves (2) convert or smite barbarians (3-4) help Favian Vern. This goal will determine the priest's attitude (and that of the party) towards the PCs: with a roll of 1, the Alphatian party will tend to be wary of other Alphatian parties, while with a roll of 2-4 the party will tend to be friendly; the party is hostile to Jennite PCs no matter what the roll is, though their methods will reflect their objectives-on a roll of 2, they will not attack unless attacked first.
Unless the Alphatian party contains a high-level wizard or cleric (in which case the party's goals are described in their leader's description, above), roll 1d4 to determine the party's goal: (1) capture slaves (2) rampage (3-4) help Favian Vern. This goal will determine the party's attitude towards the PCs: with a roll of 1-2, the Alphatian party will tend to be wary of other Alphatian parties, while with a roll of 3-4 the party will tend to be friendly; the party is hostile to Jennite PCs no matter what the roll is, though their methods will reflect their objectives.
Slaver parties will try to subdue Jennite PCs, and will capture them if they surrender or are rendered helpless. The PCs may then have a chance of escaping, either on their own or in the confusion of a subsequent skirmish with another group later on, or they might be sold in slavery.
Proselytizing parties will try to engage Jennite PCs in discussions about faith (Alphatian faith is mostly about the greatness of the Alphatian civilisation and its cultural achievements). If the PCs are not receptive to the cleric's arguments or if they do not wish to talk, the Alphatians attack them ruthlessly.
Rampaging parties will try to slay any Jennite PCs they encounter.
Parties supportive of Favian Vern's ideals, or simply hired by him, will engage Jennite PCs, as they were hired to rid the Esterhold Peninsula of dangerous Jennite warbands (which the PCs obviously are).
Jennite PCs encountering Alphatian parties will probably want to determine whether they are the infamous Crimson Avengers they are after, once they have defeated them. This can be done by interrogating prisoners, or by speaking with the dead. To put the PCs on edge, after one such encounter with a random Alphatian party, the DM may have a captured prisoner tell the PCs that they encountered a group called the Crimson Avengers some time ago.
Rakasta (Fast Runners)
Fast runners rakasta clans live in Esterhold. Refer to Dragon #147 for further information.
Centuries ago, during the initial colonisation of Esterhold, the Alphatians sought a means of cleansing large swaths of what is now Esterhold of its indigenous Jennite population, who refused to accept Alphatian suzerainty over their tribal lands. A wide variety of magicks were used against them, with the result being the devastation of much of the interior of the Esterhold Peninsula, which became almost saturated with magic for a time. The Alphatians gave little, if any, thought to the potential consequences of their actions during those years, and subsequently founded their Skotharan colony, thinking that they were truly masters of the land. They were quite wrong; while they had gained dominion over the Jennites living in Esterhold, they could not control that which arose from the magic-seared interior of the peninsula-the kukarachans.
The kukarachans are a race of large, semi-intelligent insects descended from cockroaches, who had been exposed to high levels of Alphatian magic during the early years of the conquest of Esterhold. Over the following centuries, they continued to mutate, slowly becoming more intelligent, more resourceful, and more adaptable. Finally, they had reached a stage where they began to leave their own imprint on the lands around them, and they began to spread outwards from their original breeding grounds in central Esterhold. What makes these creatures so formidable is their adaptability-kukarachans can eat almost anything, and, when attacked with magic, they are capable of adapting to that form of magic, with often horrific results.
The kukarachans have been kept in relative check historically by repeated Alphatian forays into Esterhold's interior, which served to reduce the risk to interior communities and mining operations-at least, those that were populated largely by Alphatians. Free Jennite tribes living in central Esterhold had to fend for themselves-a policy that also reduced the number of free Jennites roaming the interior. With Alphatian authority faltering in central Esterhold, the kukarachans have multiplied greatly, and placed even greater pressures on the cultures and communities surrounding them, and already kukarachan warriors are roaming the Esterhold Peninsula unchecked.
(OD&D statistics have been provided for reference purposes)
Armour Class: 2
Hit Dice: 1*
Move: 120' (40')
Attacks: 2 weapons
Damage: By weapon +2
No. Appearing: 2-20 (up to 100 per nest)
Save As: F1
Treasure Type: None
XP Value: 13
This creature is the most common variant of the kukarachans. Standing about 7' tall, the kukarachan warrior is a powerful (+2 hit and damage) adversary capable of wielding a weapon in either hand. Its carapace provides excellent natural armour.
It communicates with its hideous brethren through chemicals emitted into the air from its antennae. These organs also receive such messages from other kukarachans, with an individual kukarachan being capable of sustaining several such "conversations" at once. These chemicals are also used to manipulate magical fields around its body.
When a group of kukarachan warriors are affected by a given spell, and survive, they transmit chemical messages to all other kukarachans in the immediate vicinity (100' radius), providing information on how to defend against that particular spell. Those who receive this message will become immune to that particular spell for the remainder of their lives. Further attacks have a 1 in 10 chance of causing a transformation, which takes three rounds to complete, and which will result in the creature turning into another form of kukarachan. The immunity lasts for one generation, being passed on to the offspring of the affected kukarachan, but successive generations are not immune.
Armour Class: 5
Hit Dice: 5*
Move: 120' (40')
Attacks: By weapon or by spell
Damage: By weapon +1
No. Appearing: 2-12 (up to 30 per nest)
Save As: MU5
Treasure Type: None
XP Value: 300
Kukarachan mentors are created when a member of the warrior caste is targeted by a thought-based spell, such as charm, ESP, and fear, according to the guidelines given above under the kukarachan warrior description. During the transformation, the warrior's head grows larger, its armoured exoskeleton softens slightly (reducing AC by 3), it becomes more intelligent, and it becomes tougher overall.
Any further magical attacks against the kukarachan mentor allow it to make the same magical attacks in return. Provided it survives the attack, it can store the magical energies from the spell in its chemical field and release it at a time of its choosing. Any spell may be captured in this way, and the relevant characteristics (such as range, damage, and duration) are identical to those of the original caster's spell.
Armour Class: 9
Hit Dice: 12
Move: 90' (30')
Attacks: 1 bite
No. Appearing: 1-10 (up to 20 per nest)
Save As: F12
Treasure Type: None
XP Value: 1,250
If a kukarachan warrior is struck by a matter-based spell, such as meteor swarm, or ice storm, and it transforms as a result, it becomes a huge four-legged beast, resembling a 30'-long, 12'-tall cockroach with a huge set of mandibles. Its armour class drops to 9 due to its sheer bulk, but it becomes extraordinarily tough. Its intelligence also drops, and therefore it must be guided by more intelligent kukarachans or it will react in fear to everything that moves (50% chance each round that it will attack the nearest living creature-friend or foe).
Armour Class: 6
Hit Dice: 10*
Move: 120' (40')
Flying: 240' (80')
Attacks: 1 bite or 1 breath
Damage: 2d8 (bite) or 3d8 (breath)
No. Appearing: 1-10 (up to 20 per nest)
Save As: F10
Treasure Type: None
XP Value: 1,750
When a kukarachan warrior is hit by a fireball or lightning bolt spell, it becomes a kukarachan dragon. In form, these creatures strongly resemble kukarachan terrors, except that they are slightly smaller, and they possess wings. In addition to its vicious bite, a kukarachan dragon may breathe either a line of lightning (3' wide x 30' long) or a cone of fire (30' long and 30' wide are its end), depending on what spell affected it originally.
Armour Class: 2
Hit Dice: 3*
Move: 120' (40')
Attacks: 2 weapons
Damage: By weapon +2
No. Appearing: 2-20 (up to 100 per nest)
Save As: C3
Treasure Type: None
XP Value: 50
Kukarachan zealots are created when warriors are affected by reversed clerical spells, such as cause critical wounds, curse, and the like. In all respects they are identical to the typical member of the warrior caste, except that they can manipulate their chemical fields to heal other kukarachans within ten feet of themselves. This healing ability can be used up to five times per day, and each use restores 1d10 hit points to all kukarachans within ten feet of the zealot.
Armour Class: -2
Hit Dice: 10*
Move: 120' (40')
Attacks: 2 weapons or 1 Death Ray
Damage: By weapon +2 or special
No. Appearing: 1-6 (up to 12 per nest)
Save As: MU10
Treasure Type: None
XP Value: 1,750
Kukarachan liches are created whenever warriors are hit by entropic spells, such as finger of death. They resemble their common warrior counterparts from a distance, except that they are pale white in colour. When approached, however, it soon becomes apparent that they are quite different. Their carapaces, although tough, look as though they are crumbling, and their heads sport empty sockets where their multifaceted eyes once were. Nevertheless, they are just as quick, and even tougher, than their living counterparts. In combat, kukarachan liches may either attack twice per round with melee weapons, or they may cast a death ray, which functions in an identical manner to the finger of death spell, once per round. This type of kukarachan is the only one that cannot reproduce, for obvious reasons, and they are almost as likely to start eating their fellow kukarachans as other creatures.
Roll 1d8 to determine the type of animals encountered:
- bactrian (two-humped) camels
- wild asses
These animals are wild and will generally shy away from the PCs, but the PCs can try to capture them to use as mounts or hunt them for food. Refer to the Monstrous Manual for further information.
Bears, Wolves or Mountain Lions
Roll 1d6 to determine the type of animals encountered:
3. mountain lions
These animals may attack the PCs, or the PCs may attack them, or maybe they will just leave each other alone. Refer to the Monstrous Manual for further information.
Roll 1d6 to determine the type of humanoids encountered:
The humanoids are hostile toward the PCs. Refer to the Monstrous Manual for further information.
Those gnolls are a mounted raiding party who came from the Steppes of Jen, following the wild Jennites. They do not participate in the war, although they hate the Alphatians as much as the Jennites do, but only using the opportunity to do some raiding. They will attack any Alphatian party, although they will flee if they are losing. They may also attack Jennites parties to gain some bounty, but not necessarily so, or they might help them or simply disregard them.
Coexisting with the Jennites in the northwestern portions of the Steppes of Jen, the nomadic Thoth-Ath are the only known gnollish group outside of Brun. They are more intelligent and larger than their western brethren, and speak a language apparently related somehow to Thothian. They are nomadic raiders, and have adopted several cultural elements from the Jennites. The Thoth-Ath often raid into Esterhold and Thonia, and indeed around the year AC 0 they launched, along with the Jennites, a massive invasion into Esterhold that succeeded in temporarily driving most of the Alphatian presence out of Skothar. When the Alphatians returned, they drove both the Thoth-Ath and the Jennites out of the area once more. The Thoth-Ath are famed for their horses, at least among the region. They are larger and stronger than the steeds used by the Jennites, though they are also more wild. Several Jennite heroes are said to have ridden a Thoth-Ath steed.
Refer to the Monstrous Manual for further information.
During their adventures in Esterhold, the PCs are bound to encounter wandering Jennite parties, most of which are rampaging bands of Jennites (mostly free Jennites), including some of the True Way, while others are parties sent by Talin to stop the harassment of the Alphatian bands.
Alphatian PCs will probably be on the lookout for such parties, as a goal set to them by their leaders is stop the Jennite bands before they do more damage in Esterhold. Each encounter between the PCs and a Jennite party will probably result in battle, since the PCs' mission actually is to destroy such bands, and the Jennites are most likely hostile toward the PCs as well; if the PCs are tasked to look for the Crimson Avengers, though, they may start to get away from such random encounters to concentrate on their new mission.
Encounters between Jennite PCs and Jennite parties may range from friendly to hostile, depending on both groups' goals, alignments, composition (free vs. rebel Jennites, especially in encounters with followers of the True Way) and role-playing.
Random Jennite Party
Roll 1d4 to determine the type of party encountered: (1) rebel Jennites only (2) mixed rebel and free Jennites (3) free Jennites only (4) free Jennite camp.
Each Jennite party is composed of 2-10 NPCs. Roll 1d4+1d6 to determine the exact number of party members. Then roll 2d8 for each Jennite NPC and refer to the following table:
2d8 Roll NPC 9 Human Bbn2 2 Human Wiz3 10 Human Bbn3 3 Human Ftr6 * 11 Human Bbn1 4 Human Rog4 12 Human Bbn4 5 Human Ftr4 13 Human Rog2 6 Human Ftr1 14 Human Rgr3 7 Human Ftr3 15 Human Bbn6 * 8 Human Ftr2 16 Human Clr4
* Party leader. Reroll if there is already one party leader.
Characters from the first column represent rebel Jennites, while the second column represents free Jennites. If the party is not mixed, reroll any result in the wrong column (or pick its symmetric in the other column-only the ranger has no equivalent).
If it is a Jennite camp rather than a simple warband, there will be an additional three non-combatants (women, children, elders, etc.) for each fighting member.
Roll 1d4 to determine the party's goal: (1) stop Alphatian bands (2) kill Alphatians (3) rampage (4) True Way party whose goals include all the above especially the second one. This goal will determine the party's attitude towards the PCs: the Jennite party will tend to be wary of or friendly with other Jennite parties depending on goals and respective compositions; the party is hostile to Alphatian PCs no matter what the roll is, though their methods will reflect their objectives.
Parties sent by Talin will engage Alphatian PCs, as they were sent there to rid the Esterhold Peninsula of the constant harassment of dangerous Alphatian warbands (which the PCs obviously are). They will probably be friendly or neutral toward Jennite PCs.
Bloodthirsty parties will ruthlessly attack Alphatian PCs. They will probably be uninterested in Jennite PCs.
Rampaging parties will try to slay any Alphatian PCs they encounter. Their reaction to Jennite PCs may range from friendly to hostile.
Followers of the True Way will ruthlessly attack Alphatian PCs. They will also likely be hostile towards Jennite PCs (unless they are also followers of the True Way), all the more if the group comprises rebel Jennites and even more if there is a wizard among them.
The Esterhold Devil is a legendary critter of Esterhold. No one has ever encountered it and lived to tell the tale. It is said to feed off the many animals and humanoids that live in Esterhold, including humans.
The PCs will not actually encounter the Esterhold Devil, which should remain a creature of mystery in an Esterholdian campaign. They will, however, feel its dreadful presence. The sounds of nature will cease when the Esterhold Devil is nearby: all animals will freeze and stop making noises, which will be first apparent to the PCs as the birds cease to chirp, and also insects fall silent; also, the PCs' mounts will stop in their tracks. The wind will die and the leaves cease to rustle. Clouds will appear over the area, even if it was bright daylight a minute before, and the whole vicinity will be cast into artificial twilight (with no moon or stars showing through). The temperature will drop to below freezing, causing the PCs to shiver unless they have magical protection against cold. Any attempt to start a non-magical fire or light will fail. Each PC must save vs. fear or also freeze in terror, a successful roll indicates that the PCs is only slowed but can still move.
The DM should keep the tension mounting so as to frighten the players until they fear the worst, at which point the tension will suddenly cease (including all the effects associated with the proximity of the Esterhold Devil), as the fabled creature moves on without snacking on the PCs. The Esterhold Devil moves too rapidly for the PCs to follow it, and it is not possible to follow its effects (such as the clouds) from a distance as these are supernatural effects that are only felt when you stand within their radius, but have no actual manifestation outside it.
The PCs can roll a skill check against a DC of 10 if they have Knowledge in the areas of local folklore or geography to understand that they just met the fabled Esterhold Devil. If not, an Intelligence check will do just as well, since the matter at hand is common knowledge (though only for Jennites-outsiders get a chance to roll only if they have the Knowledge skill in a relevant area of Esterhold's myths). Jennite PCs may bring the tale back home, where it might add to the oral folklore of their tribes. Alternatively, the PCs may decide to investigate the Esterhold Devil more closely in the future, something that can become an Esterholdian campaign in itself later on.