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Ideas for a caravan-campaignby Ville Lähde
My current Caravan-campaign has been moving on quickly (once a week for nearly two years now, which is a small wonder for a group of six - all over 30 years old family men). You can find background info on the campaign in the Vaults under Darokin, Conspiracy in the Corun House. Still, here is a short summary.
The basic plot:
The expansionist cabal in the Shadowelf society has been working with the Darokinian Corun house for 500 years. In the old days, when Darokin was still led by the king, and later, when it was scattered into independent states, the Shadowelves and the Corun family have worked together to create instability in order to further their mutual goals.
During the Shadowelf infiltration operation in Alfheim before 675, the conspirators managed to gain a substantial foothold in Canolbarth. The plot was thwarted by king Celedryl, as he purged all of the infiltrators before their plans were realised. Corun House had to leave Alfheim, although their full complicity was never revealed. Thus the new spymaster Xatapechtli, his friend King Telemon and other allies began a new, slower operation. At the core of the new Plot are two key infiltrators: General Gilfronden and Carlisan of Chossum. Instead of a widespread network, the Shadowelves work through utterly loyal and powerful individuals.
But during the next centuries several developments worked against the Shadowelves. First, the new Umbarth House took over the Darokin-Alfheim trade. The shadowelves have no influence there. Second, Darokin and Alfheim have become much too close for their taste. And third, during the political turmoil of the Great Darokinian Merger, the old Corun family was destroyed and replaced by the Kalimis, who are loyal to the present government.
The old Corun family had been actively working against the Merger, and they had caused several conflicts in the country. The Shadowelves were in part responsible, as they didn't want to see a united Darokin, friendly with Alfheim. But this plan blew in their face. So, during the last 65 years the Shadowelves have been helping a secret cabal in the Corun House, led by Merchant Masters who were close to the old Coruns.
The Shadowelf plan is to use Corun House to smuggle armaments and mercenaries into Alfheim. Carlisan of Chossum is responsible for this. Carlisan has been slowly helping the Coruns to get into the Chossum trade, supplanting the Umbarth's. (This creates tension between the two houses.) These troops will be used in an attack against Alfheim City, supported by powerful magic items that the Coruns will gather for the Shadowelves. Shadowelf agents in Darokin will attack elves and "elven sympathisers". General Gilfronden will divert the army on a bogus mission, allowing shadowelf troops to attack the King's Court.
The aim of the Plot is: 1) To disrupt of destroy Alfheim's diplomatic and mercantile infrastructure, 2) Alienate Darokin and Alfheim, 3) kill the king, 4) Supplant him with Gilfronden.
The PCs began the campaign as new recruits to a new Corun caravan. The caravan is supposed to travel through the Known World and make new merchant alliances all over the world. The whole enterprise has been secretly organised by the Corun conspirators. In fact is against the interests of the House itself, as it is in danger of alienating several Darokinian houses - and Corun House is already competing with Umbarth in Glantri, Ethengar and Alfheim. The Umbarth's wish to disrupt the caravan, as it would be a big blow for the Coruns. DDC has sent an agent to check out this strange enterprise - but in the beginning this is a low-level operation.
Nobody else knows about the Shadowelves, except a handful of Corun merchants.
A quick synopsis of where the PCs have been and what they have been doing:
1) Finding the Spice Merchant
The PCs travel to Akorros to find a spice specialist whom the Coruns have hired but who has failed to turn up. They find him (he is drunk and has lost his wagon in cards) and get him to Darokin city --> Of course this individual, "The Cook", is not only a key person in the campaigns, a point of attachment for the PCs, he is also the DDC infiltrator. But this will become apparent only later.
2) Selenican Road: Repelling the saboteur
A saboteur sent by the rival Umbarth House causes a lot of trouble by poisoning supplies, sabotaging wagons, arranging a bandit attack etc. After many failures the PCs finally catch him at Ft. Cruth Crossroads.
3) Selenica: Cloak and Dagger
Four significant events:
a) The PCs help "The Cook" to make a deal with local Ylari, which brings in a new PC.
b) The Cook accompanies them on an orc hunting mission. The fight against Orclanders seems to consolidate the group.
c) The Corun conspirators, leaders of the Caravan, send the PCs on a mission to punish Umbarthians. Leader of the sabotage mission has contacted the two Selenican Houses and tries to stop the caravan here. But the two houses have instead sold the info to Corun. The PCs attack the Umbarthian merchant-mage at a secret meeting-place. He escapes, leaving his hirelings behind.
d) A Traladaran archaeologist, an al-Kalimian convert, joins the caravan as a passenger.
4) Selenican Pass
The Caravan is attacked by trolls, which have been lured in by the Umbarthian mage.
5) Sidetrack in Ust-Urt
The PCs are sent on a trading mission with a junior Corun merchant into the Ust-Urt valley. On the trip the PCs notice that the merchant is totally frustrated and constantly drunk. When sober he seems very capable in his job, but is obviously mad about something. It seems that he has been kept busy with minor deals, like this mission. (The stuff sold in Ust-Urt isn't worth the trouble.) He hints at the two other Merchants being part of a rival faction in the House. (The Coruns are led by the Kalimis. And in fact, there is a rival successor for the present leader Nathalie Kalimi, as her son isn't very popular. But the conspirators are using the rival successor Mithras Lorenson only as a cover. In fact, Lorenson is an honest man who isn't looking for a fight.)
The PCs have to manage by themselves at the last town in the valley, as the merchant sleeps in a tavern of the previous town. They are asked to investigate the situation of a local Makistani sorcerer. He is missing, and the yearly water ritual hasn't been performed. They free the sorcerer from the grips of an evil spirit whom he had accidentally summoned.
6) Farewell to Umbarth...Or?
On their way to Ylaruam the PCs and the Merchant are attacked by the Umbarth mage, Merchant Master Arnulf. Finally they catch him, but after a negotiation send him back home without any money, hirelings or items left. One PC decides to leave a note in his spell book suggesting an information-passing deal.
7) Nithian secrets
The caravan stays in Ylaruam, and the PCs are hired as guards by the archaeologist Janus Elysiam, who booked a passage in the caravan in Selenica. They travel to Nithia in search for the Dead Lands. Desert Chosts pester them. They are attacked by strange dark cultists, but an old hermit (very Obi-Wan-like) saves them. The old man can't speak to them but draws pictures of a group of heroes opening an old tomb.
Later on they find the camp of the cultists around a black glassy hill. They kill them after a bloody fight and break into the tomb fighting scarabs an mummies. Inside they find an ancient Alatian longhouse with statues of "Nithianesque" Odin, and three artifacts.
The Old Man reappears, claims one of the artifacts and leaves (with his ravens and his eye patch, which slowly appear on his face). The memories of the PCs are altered so they lose all information about the Real Nithia. However, they have found important evidence of an ancient Alatian presence and a cult of Odin ("Otan") in the area. The archaeologist is happy.
8) Dark Omens
Upon returning to the caravan the PCs find out that the junior merchant whom they accompanied in Ust-Urt has been assassinated - seemingly by fanatics from the Kin faction. Actually of course the Corun conspirators killed him after a nosy PC hinted about some suspicious activity. The merchant got curious and ended up like the curious cat.
9) Onwards to Castellan
The caravan travels to Castellan and is attacked by some giants on the way.
10) Falun: Peeling the Onion
In Castellan, the PCs get a chance to learn about the Plot. Kobolds attack one of the Corun merchants who has been delivering goods (an elven longsword from Gilfrondel's people, some Spidersilk and two Shadowelf gems) to a local lord.
(Note: The Coruns are responsible for delivering the goods and getting the payment. They don't know what the Shadowelves will do with the stuff. Their mission is to get loyal and capable mercenaries into Favaro, from where they will be smuggled into Alfheim City. They also get some important magic items that are to be used in the Shadowelf operations.)
The PCs are asked to recover the trade goods. They trace the thieves into the Falun caverns and battle the local kobolds. After initial failures they finally manage to kill enough kobolds to get them to negotiate. They get the trade goods back.
And of course the PCs peek into the coffins and find the elven sword. Luckily (really, not by design) one of them is a Chossum elf and realises that something is wrong. The sword of course bears the markings of her clan, since the key Shadowelf infiltrators in Alfheim are Chossums. It remains to be seen if the PCs family is involved...
11) Back in Castellan: Getting Involved
The PCs are rewarded by the Corun merchants and are asked to perform special services in the future.
The PCs have for long been suspecting that The Cook isn't just a jovial merchant, and ask for his advice. He reveals that he is a DDC operative and asks them to find out what's going on. Note: DDC didn't know anything about the conspiracy, they were just suspicious about this strange operation by the Coruns, as it seems to create unnecessary tensions for little real profit.
12) The Great Marsh
The PCs are sent on a scouting mission ahead of the caravan to warn about winter damages on the Great Marsh road. They are attacked by strange lights sent by "the Witch-Queen" luring travellers into Niflheim, and battle her strange Swamp Monster. The fight goes okay, but they miss valuable hints about missing local nobles, thus missing a reward also. Well, you can't win them all.
13) Bakomwatten and Soderfjord
The Caravan stops at Backwater (Bakomwatten), and the PCs are sent to escort one of the Corun Merchants into the capital. After some hasty trading they go on a secret mission with him to do some trading with a local jarl. Again, an elven longsword and some spidersilk are traded. The jarl takes advantage of the situation and asks for extra fee: help against a rival lord.
The PCs are sent on an assassination mission, and they kill a Thorian godar/Jarl. Some tension in the group about the ethics of it all, but they decide they must go along "for the good of Darokin". Refusing would make it harder to learn about the secrets of the caravan.
14) Onwards to Landesfjord
On the way the PCs thwart a giant ambush.
15) Landesfjord: The Plot Thickens
The PCs accompany the merchants at a meeting with Jarl Burisson. A strange spellbook and an elven longsword are traded for strange items and "something else" (more mercenaries, mages this time). They hear about Favaro, but can't put it into context.
Burisson hires them to recover some stolen rune posts.
16) Monastery and dark powers
The PCs travel to an Odinian monastery to investigate the theft. Their excellent ranger manages to find the thieves' tracks. A Cretian infiltrator in the monastery flees to warn his friends. The PCs rush after the thieves and find them in the mountains in the ancient home of a Modrigswerg necromancer. They battle Cretian cultists and the necromancer's creations, managing to get the rune posts back. Strangely enough, there are some Ylari in the group.
On their way home, the Old Man from Nithia reappears during the night. (Only one PC resists his powers and remembers the "dream". Again this Odin's aspect/avatar/whatever erases "incriminating evidence" about Nithia, and releases some memories stored in the artefacts.
The caravan stops in Norrvik. The PCs meet with the archaeologist, who is holding lectures about cult of Odin in Alasiya. Fanatics of Al-Kalim attack him one evening, but the PCs are there to help.
This closes one storyline in the campaign about the Nithian secrets and religious strife that results from innocent academic studies.
18) Trollheim and Ethengar
The PCs are sent to deliver some goods to Bortak contacts in Ethengar. Thus the conspirators are beginning to trust them, although they are also becoming suspicious about "The Cook".
As a cover the PCs get hired for a mission in Trollheim (the scenario "Defence of Otkel's Stead" in GAZ 7).
19) Otkel's Stead
The PCs save Otkel and the other farmers in Trollheim borderlands from a coordinated troll assault. They leave, saying that they wish to pursue the trolls, but actually they are leaving for Ethengar on a secret mission.
20) Bortak lands
Their mission is to travel to Batu Khan's court and secretly trade some magical items (again an elven longsword from the Chossum armoury) for a powerful artefact and some mercenaries. They succeed in finding out where the Khan is staying, and make a grand entrance into the Court. This is a bit of a mistake, as they were supposed to act in secret. But in the end they manage to make the trade during an orc hunting mission in the Land of Black Sand. They receive a shamanistic statue, dark as night and cold as death - this makes them appropriately nervous of the merchants' goals.
During the return voyage the statue (a powerful evil spirit, trapped by shamans) tries to possess sleeping PCs and force them to break it. Luckily they resist its temptations. (The Shadowelves are planning to release the spirit in Alfheim City during their offensive.)
21) Ostland: Tracking the Egg
The Corun merchants ask the PCs top stay behind and take a detour through Ostland. They are supposed to exchange some jewellery (actually Shadowelf soul gem pendants, stolen by Xatapechtli's goons, in order to be used in the current plot) for "a golden egg". A pure Alphatian mage has the egg and is waiting for them in Ostmanhaven.
The Caravan heads towards Freiburg. For some reason the Cook is sullen, moody and drunk, refusing to talk to the PCs. (He knows that the merchants suspect him, so he tries to throw them off track.)
In Ostmanhaven the PCs have a lot of trouble in finding the Alphatian. He seems to have gone underground. Actually they stumble into a double trap. The Alphatian has fallen under the egg's charm. (Yes, it is the Egg of Phoenix in the Alfheim Gazetteer. The SE are planning to release the phoenix in Alfheim City.) The mage wishes to capture the PCs and grasp their merchandise. The local thieves have learned of this and wish to capture both sides, along with all of the merchandise. The PCs battle the mage, get the egg and make a deal with the thieves, who get most of the soul gem pendants.
Upon arriving in Freiburg, the PCs soon learn that something is wrong. The local authorities have confiscated the caravan and arrested the merchants on charges of illicit trade and tax violations. (The merchants brought in undeclared merchandise and a lot of undeclared money.) The Cook appears and explains that he stopped the caravan!
His plan is to help save the caravan with the PCs aid, and win the merchants' trust once again. A risky plan. Together they concoct a surprising plan: a female elf PC poses as an Alfheimian diplomat, who was using the caravan to transport gifts to foreign allies. Heldannic Knight authorities buy the story, but there is still the problem of undeclared currency and taxes levied against them. The merchants need that money, as it is supposed to pay their coup in House Corun.
The Knights offer a way out. If the PCs track down a dangerous and embarrassing "heretic" Knight, the taxes will be forgotten. This knight has spoken openly against the oppressive methods of the Knighthood and the dominant interpretations of Vanyan theology.
23) Tomb of the Flaem
The heretic knight has gone in search of a famous Knight of Vanya, who was lost in a quest 50 years ago, exploring the tomb of an ancient Flaem mage.
After some bloody battles with griffin and some kobolds they locate the knight's followers in Mengul foothills. A Vanyan PC manages to befriend them. They learn that the knight is seeking famous Vanyan artefacts that were carried by the lost knight - it is said that the artefacts came from Vanya's tomb.
Within the halls of the mage's ancient fortress, they battle numerous horrors and learn the story of the Flaem people. It seems that the mage was attempting a reunification of the Flaem and the Alphatians (around 600 AC), but died before realising his dream. In the end the PCs battle the spirit of the mage and destroy it. The spirit has possessed the "heretic" knight, but hasn't been able to leave its tomb - the spirit of the ancient knight is stopping it. The PCs converse with the spirit of the knight which is still guarding the artefacts. The heretic knight thanks them and asks the Vanyan PC to join him and travel to Freiburg, where they can confront the Order together.
24) Roasted Heretic
Return to Freiburg is grandiose, but not very successful. The Order arrests the whole bunch and holds a secret trial. The Vanyan PC loses his nerve and can't stand alongside the heretic knight. The PC gets to keep the artefacts (this is a future campaign hook), but the "heretics" are condemned to nameless death. No martyrdom for them.
Leaving Freiburg, the PCs see black smoke coming from the citadel...
25) Through Heldann
Nothing worthwhile happens during the trek to western Heldann. There are some tensions in the caravan, but the PCs don't act upon them - losing a potential ally.
26) Wendarian rebels
The merchants send them to recruit some Heldannic revolutionaries who have fled into Wendar. The trek through Kevar pass is hard, as they dodge orc ambushes. In Wendar they nearly lose faith, as it seems impossible to contact the rebels. The authorities are keeping a close watch on them. Finally they find the rebel camp and recruit a dozen of hardened fighters - they are supposed to go to Favaro, where a mission awaits. The PCs still don't know what the mercenaries are for. Of course they suspect that the Coruns are planning a larger coup - they know nothing about the Shadowelves.
27) Khan's Court
The caravan stops at the Court of the Golden Khan. The atmosphere is a bit grim, as the khan's son has just been murdered. (Unwittingly the PCs deliver powerful untraceable poison to Bortak agents in their previous Ethengar visit.)
Court Magist Ibn-Yussef hires the PCs on a seemingly simple mission to recover an important item (the Box of Rain -adventure from the Gazetteer). They battle horrors in the Land of Black Sand, and are ambushed by a group of Ethengarian and an enigmatic mage. They lose the magic item, but Ibn-Yussef isn't all that disappointed (the object of the mission was to reveal a traitor - the box was secondary).
28) Welcome to Glantri!
Glantri is the final country of the voyage. The PCs learn to hate it instantly. In a border village they stumble into the enigmatic mage mentioned above - an agent of the Glantrian secret service! A barroom fight ensues, and two of the PCs flee into the night carrying an unconscious mage. One of them is caught by the constabulary.
They manage to make a deal with the mage, and they won't be persecuted for their actions in Ethengar. In exchange they reveal that there is something wrong with their caravan - only time will tell what'll come of this! The arrested PC gets to walk free, but only after being whipped severely.
29) Lost in translation
In Glantri city the PCs have a lot of fun, first time in a long while, spending their money like kings. "The Cook" spends time with them, as he knows the city well (having served his diplomat internship there). But of course they run into trouble: they recovered strange manuscripts in the Flaem mage's tomb, and wish to sell them here. First they hire a translator to find out more about the texts, so they can find a suitable buyer.
In the morning the translator is dead, clearly murdered, and the documents are missing...
In the end the PCs manage to track the fate of the stolen manuscripts. Some scattered notes made by the dead translator were recovered (an ink bottle had tipped over them, so the assassins didn't take them with them - I had a nice time drafting those handouts. It was like Jules Verne's Captain Grant all over again).
It seems that the manuscripts contained volatile historico-political information on the Flaem people, their ancient religions and their connection with not only Alphatia but Alphaks. The book was an old Flaem prayer book that deal with fire elementalist religion. All in all, very incriminating in Glantri. The translator had realised their value and danger and decided to contact Vanserie Vlaardoen, acting as a mediator in the trade.
All would have been nice, but the translator used an agent of the Fellowship of Pouch to contact the Prince. The agent of Pouch read the letter, and the organisation decided to hijack the manuscripts and trade them themselves.
The PCs learn most of this, taking a ride in Luigi Zispaghi's gondola, using a necromantic scroll from the Flaem mage's tomb, and squabbling endlessly over interpretations. In the end they use their contact in the Glantrian secret service and sell all of their information concerning the issue. (A lucky decision, as the agent was working for Jherek's close relative. The Krondahar faction are enemies of the Flaems, and could use that information.) The manuscripts were never recovered, however.
30) Secrets revealed?
The Corun merchants call the PCs and tell them that the final stage in their mission is near. In a few days they will accompany the merchants and act as security guards in "final negotiations". The PCs know only that some merchandise will be delivered and important negotiations will take place. If all goes well, say the merchants, they can return to Darokin, where they will be rewarded handsomely.
The negotiations will of course be between the Corun conspirators and the Shadowelf agents of Xatapechtli. There are two main items to discuss. First, the Shadowelves wish to know if all the mercenaries have been recruited and sent to Favaro (they will be sent in secret to Alfheim City, but the merchants don't know that). If this is okay, the Coruns get to keep all the monetary winnings from the contraband trade. Second, the Coruns are supposed to deliver the special equipment acquired during the operation: the Egg of Phoenix, the Evil Spirit totem, and the fireball wands from Landesfjord. (All of these will be used in the assault on Alfheim City - again, the merchants don't know this.)
If these items are delivered, the Shadowelves agree to finalise the deal by eliminating the current head of House Corun, Nathalie Kalimi and her son Aldon. Thus the conspirators can take over the House. (The shadowelves consider this a bonus: a friendly Darokinian House will aid them in the future. Still, the Alfheim City assault is now their primary goal.)
But the Corun merchants have a surprise item on the list. The PCs unwittingly sold them two powerful items from the Flaem mage's grave. These items allow the summoning of powerful fire elementals and their control. Although the merchants don't know the exact SE plans, they can guess that such items would be useful. So: they agree to hand the items over, if the SE help these particular merchants to take over the conspiracy. They are not the most senior members of the old-Corun cabal, but they are in a central position. If the current head of the cabal is killed, they can easily take over.
-This is an important moment for the PCs. There are various threads that they might take up, and contingencies can always arise:
- One of the PCs has been keeping contact with the Umbarth House. The Umbarthians have a presence in Glantri City, and they will want to know what is going on (they have learned that the Coruns are planning something).
- The PCs have also made a temporary alliance with the agent of the Glantrian secret service. Will they try to betray the merchants?
- Of course they might wish to eavesdrop on the negotiations themselves, as they still don't know what is going on.
- A third party may try to spy on the negotiations (perhaps agents of the Radiant Shaman, who is worried about Xatapechtli)
31) In the Cellar
The meeting takes place in the "Haunted House" in the Noble Quarter. The Shadowelves have been using it as a front, creating the "haunting" to ward off unwelcome quests.
The PCs are standing guard when the agent of the Radiant Shaman tries to spy on the negotiations. They scare her off. One of the PCs manages to spy the negotiations himself. Now the PCs learn that there is something very sinister going on: they find out that the Coruns have been acquiring the items and troops for some other party. They don't know about the shadowelves of course, but the PC recognises the negotiator as "some kind of pale elf". They also learn that the Coruns are trying to kill the present leadership, and that the Caravan Merchants are trying to arrange a private coup.
The Merchants think that all is well. They thank the PCs of a good service, as they averted a spy. Tomorrow they will head off for Darokin! But in secret, the PCs leak information all over:
- One of the PCs tells the Glantrian Agent about the murder plans in Corun House, but leaves out the rest.
- Another PC discusses with the Umbarth spy. This Master Arnulf proposes that the PCs help him assassinate the Corun merchants in the Broken Lands. The PC agrees and negotiates a handsome reward.
- They tell "the Cook" everything - including the above mentioned assassination plan. The Cook decides that it sounds fine: the conspirators should be eliminated. He heads off quickly into Darokin, trying to stop the assassinations.
32) Betrayal in Broken Lands
Master Arnulf has organised an orc ambush in Broken Lands. During the battle the PCs turn on their employers. The senior merchant is killed, but the other one manages to escape.
33) Surprises in Corunglain
In Corunglain the PCs learn that all three Coruns have been assassinated: Nathalie and Aldon Kalimi, and the leader of the conspiracy, Master Ogeron. But DDC got there in time to help Mithras Lorenson stabilise the House - with a little help from Glantrian secret service. The new Corun leader thanks the PCs but makes it clear that they are not very trustworthy - killing you employee doesn't look too good in your resume.
The PCs are back home, and after cashing in the Umbarth assassination reward and the loot from their employer, they are rich.
The Cook contacts them and arranges a meeting. He thanks them for helping to stabilise the Corun House. He had warned the local DDC of the assassination (too late), but had himself made haste to the capital to warn his superiors of the strange elves, smuggled mercenaries and other bits of info that the PCs have learned. He also found some historical references to the "Shadowelves", verifying the PC's suspicions. (One of them is a Chossum elf, who has heard the "fairy tales" about "the evil elves underground".)
Suddenly a Shadowelf strike team attacks them. The Shadowelves were warned by the surviving Corun conspirator, that the plan has been compromised, so they were on guard. Their infiltrators in DDC learned about "the Cook". So now they have killed his superior and otherwise caused havoc in DDC, and have sent a team to kill him and find out about the leak.
The PCs manage to save the Cook, kill two of the attackers and capture one. They snatch the prisoner and interrogate him in a safehouse. Now they are sure that the Shadowelves are real, and they realise that DDC has been compromised. (News of the killings in Darokin City DDC HQ haven't reached them yet - they actually believe that the Cook's superior is a mole.) They decide to head into Alfheim, as they believe that something sinister is about to happen there.
34) Alfheim burning
The PCs smuggle the shadowelf prisoner out of Corunglain. They dare not use the Cook's DDC contacts, because they fear information might leak. They head into Alfheim border, where they convince the border guards that they are returning a "loose leaf" to his home clan. The shadowelf is sufficiently disguised and intimidated for this to work.
At the border post they also learn of the killings in DDC. Also they learn by their ranger's magic that Arnulf from House Umbarth has just travelled towards Alfheim City.
In Alfheim City they start thinking that the city might be the optional place to use the mercenaries. So they decide to scout around.
A long shot - but they are lucky. They spot two teams of the mercenaries! They decide to contact Guardian Taragin Oakbranch. They tell him what they know and hand him the prisoner.
What happens? Well, Taragin of course sends a warning and the prisoner to Elleromyr. At the court the prime Shadowelf infiltrator Gilfronden knows that the Plan is in danger. But he is a devious one and changes his plans. He won't attack the PCs as he already has learned how dangerous they are. By now the escaped Corun traitor Ramet Manwer has fled to Carlisan in Desnae and warned about the treachery. Also by now he knows that the assassination in Corunglain has failed. So there are dangerous enemies in Alfheim City.
Gilfronden believes that they still can't stop the attack. He decides to accelerate the plan. The Elven Army is sent to help the city, but Gilfrondel makes sure that the shadowelf attack commences before they get there. And as the army is away and everything is focused on the "capital", Gilfronden's elite assassins can attack the king.
Gilfronden will be conveniently travelling with the army to fight the vile shadowelves.
The PCs of course believe that the army is coming and everything is okay. They attack the two mercenary groups and eliminate them without any fuss. They learn that the mercenaries are augmented by the fireball wands which will be used against the elven trees. The army won't be there until after one day at least, so they try to find more mercenaries. And by the combination of sheer dumb luck, perseverance and good negotiation they learn of the Heldannic militants whom they themselves hired.
The PCs negotiate with the militants and convince them that the operation is cancelled.
Evening is drawing near, and the army won't be in the city until morning the earliest. As an act of desperation they use a priceless divination item that they got in Soderfjord. Its powers are limited, but they make an educated guess and use it just at the right place.
They find out where the Egg of the Phoenix is - at an inn in the Sky Palace. They infiltrate the place, eliminate the shadowelf agents and capture the egg.
By now the PCs believed that they had virtually stopped the attack, and only mopping up would remain. As the city guards and the custom police were alerted, they decided to retire for the night at the Guardian's Palace.
The attack begins. The remaining six mercenary groups launch fireballs at some elven trees and attack their designated targets. The Ethengarian Evil Spirit is released in the central marketplace.
Shadowelves summon a powerful fire elemental with the Flaem artefacts that the PCs sold to the Corun conspirators!
The PCs rush into the marketplace. The Evil Spirit has begun to demolish the Merchants' Brotherhood Hall, and Bortak raiders are ploughing through fleeing civilians. Using the appropriated fireball wands they eliminate the Bortaks, and at the same time their fighter engages the Spirit. His Odinian sword (from the Nithian tomb) comes to life and instils a powerful frenzy in him. At the same time a strange figure emerges from invisibility and starts to fire spells at the Spirit.
Worthy of all the Northern sagas, the fighter seems to fly on raven wings and kills the powerful spirit with one blow. But alas, his frenzy is still on, and who else is cowering in the ruins but Master Arnulf of Umbarth! The PC fighter nearly decapitates Arnulf with one blow in his mindless rage. It's down to seconds, but their cleric gets there in time to stabilise him. It remains to be seen whether Arnulf survives.
In the midst of the pandemonium, in the rain of burning leaves, the strange figure approaches them and reveals itself. It is a shadowelf with strange tattoos on her old and wrinkled face... The Agent of Porphyriel has realised that the PCs are not pawns of Xatapechtli's cabal. She decides to risk all and appeal to them.
"We have all come a long way since we clashed in that cellar.", she says.
(None of the players had any idea of the rift in shadowelf society until this...)
35) Aftermath of the battle
The PCs met the shadowelf shaman agent in the midst of the battle of Alfheim City. Due to the actions of the PCs the battle was won. The city was badly damaged, but it survived. Now they had the chance to talk with the enigmatic shadowelf unnoticed.
The shadowelf Mirador told them about the rift in the shadowelf society and gave them some information about Xatapechtli and Telemon. The shaman offered to help them in defeating the conspiracy. The PCs decided that they would go to Desnae and try to find out about the Chossum infiltrators.
The PCs also had time to save Arnulf of Umbarth, earning his gratitude once again.
The Army, led by Gilfronden, arrived finally and started to search the city for remaining enemies. One of the PCs decided to tell Taragin Oakbranch about Mirador: a big mistake. Taragin isn't a traitor, but he of course decided that the king must know about this - and told everything to Gilfronden! So the shadowelf conspirators are fully up to date with the PCs' actions. Oh dear.
The PCs rest a couple of days and get their well earned rewards. And this of course gives the conspirators time to react :)
36) Abduction in Desnae
The PCs arrived in Desnae and learned that just a couple of days ago two important elven merchants had been murdered. Also, the guards had found a group of dead humans in a warehouse. They were the local Corun house merchants who had disappeared a week or so ago.
(When Ramet Manwer, one of the Corun conspirators, escaped the PCs in the Broken Lands, he sought shelter with Carlisan. As the Corun House conspiracy was sure to fall, all the merchants in Desnae - part of the conspiracy - went into hiding. Now Carlisan is eliminating weak links and killed his elven and human accomplices.)
And so the PCs are surprised to find Ramet Manwer also dead.
Stellara, a Chossum PC, meets her family after nearly a year of separation. The family is of course surprised that she came back so soon. The PC group meets he family at lunch and they discuss the recent events. They'll try to get to meet Lymwyll in the morning.
During the night Stellara's mother knocks on her door and asks her daughter to come to the woods with her to learn about the "facts of life". This is of course not Stellara's mother, this is Carlisan in magical disguise. Carlisan captures Stellara and tells her that "we have your mother. The only way to get her back is that you kill that Shaman and make it public. Then stop interfering with us. You are too late - we are everywhere."
37) The Plot Thickens - the King is Dead
The PCs are at a loss when Stellara is found. What are they to do? They don't want to kill Mirador, but they'd like to save Stellara's mother. But they have no way to find her, and snooping around in Desnae would surely endanger her. (This is Carlisan's true intent: to confuse the PCs and throw them off track. the shadowelves can't afford to attack the PCs. It could fail, and they need all their special troops in the coming final offensive.)
But suddenly one of the PCs realises that nobody is supposed to know about the shaman! To her horror Stellara realises that she told Taragin about Mirador, and thus she caused her mother's abduction.
The PCs rush to Alfheim to talk with Mirador and Taragin. For the first time their suspicions fall on Gilfronden, as Taragin knows that he is the only one who he told about the shaman. They also learn that Gilfronden has sent the army to the north to repel an imminent shadowelf attack. Soon news also come from Elleromyr: shadowelf agents attacked King Doriath and killed him!
What are they to do? Stellara's mother is still in danger, but so is Alfheim! They negotiate with Mirador. Finally they realise that they have an important piece of evidence that can condemn Xatapechtli's cabal. They have a Soul Gem that was used as currency in the smuggling operations (in the Egg of Phoenix episode in Ostland)! It has been twisted by Janiver Corwan, the leader of Corun conspirators in their caravan. Mirador is shocked that Xatapechtli would sink so low as to befoul a Soul Gem by giving it to outsiders.
But first they have to stop the war. Mirador agrees to stage her death so that the PCs can send false information about "the shaman's death" to Desnae via Taragin. Now they hope that they can act without endangering Stellara's mother.
The PCs make an educated guess that the Shadowelves intend to attack Sump and the Weir. The garrison has been weakened when Gilfronden summoned the army that was sent north, and the Weirguard Fort would be a key strategic point. Taragin allows them the use of a Lightboat and they are sent to investigate.
38) Battle of the Weir
Indeed, the PCs find out that the Weirguard has been left only with skeleton defence. They bring in some expert troops with the Lightboat just in time: the Shadowelves attack.
The PCs are instrumental in stopping the attack. The Shadowelves use monsters and elite fighters but don't get to control the walls and the towers, so their regulars have to retreat.
39) Final Surprises
Brightsword arrives in the Weirguard fort with reinforcements. But a message comes from the north: the whole army has been decimated by shadowelf ambush and a strange fiery abomination (the Flaem summoning device again).
Alfheim City is still vulnerable, so the PCs decide to go to Alfheim city and then to Darokin to seek aid from their home country. They learn that Stellara's family is safe, as an envoy of Lymwyll has brought them to Taragin. Luckily one of the PCs realises what this might mean (they suspected all along that all's not well in Chossum), and they rush to the Guardian's halls. It was down to seconds: they manage to stop Carlisan in time. He was just about to slit Taragin's throat. Carlisan is killed, and Alfheim still has one experienced leader.
The PCs negotiate with Mirador: they decide to travel to the Shadowelf Lands and take the damning evidence to Porphyriel. But first they'll have to help prevent Shadowelf victory. They rush towards Darokin.
But on the road to Favaro they meet a large Darokinian force which is led by "The Cook", now openly dressed in DDC uniform. The new Corun leaders and (due to Arnulf's influence) Umbarth had been helpful in convincing the Darokinian leadership that Alfheim needs help.
So now Alfheim seems to be saved for a while at least. A strong Shadowelf army, now openly led by Gilfronden, is entrenched in Ainsun. Alfheim can defend the City, but they don't have enough troops to attack. Also, orc attacks from Orclands (instigated by SE agents of course) are tying up troops. Perhaps the PCs have enough time to go to the City of Stars and present their case to Porphyriel. Perhaps they can stop Xatapechtli's cabal. Perhaps.