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Fade to Red part 1by argentmantle from Threshold Magazine issue 23
Fade to Red is the first episode in an adventure path that takes place over the course of several issues of Threshold magazine and as separately released PDFs. It is designed for Dungeons and Dragons 5E rules but can be converted to other editions or systems with a little work by the dungeon master. This adventure is crafted for four player characters of 1st level, offering an introduction to the lands of the Savage Coast. In this adventure, they’ll get to explore Slagovich and its sewers, and stop a Hulean conspiracy. Those characters who survive this adventure and the ones afterward should progress to level 20, and some may even be taking the first steps on a path to Immortality.
The adventure relies heavily on the Investigation and Perception skills. If the party lacks access to these skills, they might struggle from a strictly mechanical perspective. Not to worry though, if they do not have ready access to these skills, they can still search the areas in question with a little help by the DM’s descriptions.
The adventure can be scaled for larger groups or parties consisting of 2nd or perhaps even 3rd level adventurers. These groups should consume fewer resources in each encounter and be able to move through the adventure at a quicker pace.
The dungeon master should have a copy of the core rules (Dungeon Master’s Guide, Monster Manual, and Player’s Handbook). This adventure does make use of several monsters from different sources. Statistics are provided here; however, you should consult the appropriate book for additional information including full descriptions.
Additional information is scattered throughout in Steel Seed sidebars. These sidebars furnish details about the campaign that might be pertinent in future adventures, though they may not be immediately relevant to this adventure.
Though the adventure and campaign is set on the Savage Coast, this adventure does not contain any additional materials for the setting. The DM can use whatever version of the Red Curse, races, or classes they’d like for this 5E adventure.
One optional rule that can be useful for this adventure is presented in the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron, detailing using environmental elements in encounters. Quite simply put, these elements are present to help a player describe their character’s actions though sometimes a DM may want to give them a bonus due to a player’s clever use of an element.
Slagovich sits on a cliff high above the eastern shore of the Gulf of Hule. It is the most powerful of the city-states of the Savage Coast, its merchants trading with travelers as far away as Darokin in the east. It is known as the Gateway to the Savage Coast, and more unfairly as the last bit of civilization before someone enters the wild frontier to the west, and one of the final places that one can safely come without being exposed to the full effects of the Red Curse.
Slagovich’s fortunes are good. The vermeil dust laden Haze gives the city a ruby tint when one approaches from the sea. Its pennants wave in the breeze. Its merchants ply their trade to the west. The discovery of a cinnabryl mine has only further increased the wealth of the small mercantile nation. Commoners go about their daily lives, merchants hawk their wares, and nobles plot amongst themselves. The town guard polices the streets while the Knights of Halav deal with the more difficult problems at home and abroad where Slagovich interests lay. Overall, life is pretty good in the city-state.
For the last two decades, Hule, a nation ruled by the clergy, has been trying to extend its reach into the city. It has tried sending diplomats to entreat the rulership into joining an alliance, it has sent agents sowing discord and strife to spark a rebellion, and it has even attempted to invade the entire region to add the lands as spoils of war. So far, none of the city-states or the Savage Baronies immediately to the west have swayed under the pressure of the vast nation to the north.
Overall, life is still pretty good in the city-state, on the surface; having stood against Hule’s more aggressive acts. The treacherous nation still keeps its eyes on the ruby city and is now trying a more subtle approach. These machinations of the hagiarchy actually extend far into the city - so deep, that they actually are in the caverns that wind their way through the cliff on which Slagovich stands and into the strata of society. Recently, strange rumors have started to be spoken that the city, founded by the superstitious Traladarans, is home to vampires. Bodies have been found that are drained of blood. A few people have disappeared in the dark hours of the night. These rumors have proved disturbingly accurate. Almost to answer the chatter, the bodies of the newly married Ustin and Lydia Tarasov have recently been found completely exsanguinated and covered in Vermeil on the steps of one of the precincts of the city watch. These young nobles were celebrating their first child and had only been married a year.
Operating in some of the caves below Slagovich is a small network of Hulean thugs and spies. These agents have been acting on the orders of their masters in faraway Hule and have started a campaign to create the illusion that vampires are inhabiting the city. With the bulk of the Knights of Halav away on some unknown mission, they’ve decided to act. These operatives have begun kidnapping a few unlucky souls, quickly taking them below the streets into the caverns, murdering them with a blunt instrument, and then draining them of their blood. Once this process is complete, they dump the body in a location to help sow chaos and spread rumors that there is a vampire, or vampires, in the city. After a few months of this, the plan was to have several Hulean holy men enter the city, ‘hear’ of the vampire threat and dispatch it. This would hopefully start to plant seeds of doubt in the current Margrave's ability to keep the people safe. Something that Hule would be more than happy to assist with.
Unfortunately for the Huleans and fortunately for the citizens of Slagovich, the thugs made a mistake. While navigating the labyrinthine sewers beneath the city, they took a wrong turn. The group of provocateurs came up near the precinct house of the watch, panicked dumped the exsanguinated body, and crept back into the sewers. Instead of a long campaign of subtle fear and impending dread, the city has just received a proverbially slap in the face.
The grisly death and the brazen display meant that the city now had an immediate vampire problem to deal with. The murdered nobles went to the Temple of Halav, beseeching aid from the clerics there. Unfortunately, many of the clerics have been sent along with the Knights of Halav, leaving the young priestess Celestyna Lavichna in charge of the temple. The young priestess used one of the precious few scrolls with divinations that had been left behind for her to cast a commune spell. The spell did not yield much information though as the correct questions had not been asked. She followed the unsuccessful use of the spell with augury which has led her to the scene of the next kidnapping and murder. Im might just turn out to be her own.
Celestyna Lavichna from the Church of Halav is attacked at night outside a home off of Axe Street. She thought that she had been tracking a creature of the night but instead was struck by something more than ruffians but less than a vampire. After a timely rescue, the party finds out what information she knows: that there is not a vampire in, or under, Slagovich. What she did learn was that the next victim of a kidnapping would be here on Axe Street. She will return to the temple with the party, realizing that she was irresponsible as the highest member of the priesthood. She will then offer to hire the party for a sum of gold and a few other rewards from the temple.
Though the wrong questions were asked, the divinations did yield some valuable information. A kidnapping was to take place near Axe Street, there is a threat lurking below Slagovich, and the danger is definitely not vampiric. Investigating Axe Street will yield a few leads while covering the scenes of previous attacks might lead to a few more. Eventually, they should note that the sites all have sewer entrances nearby. When the party probes the sewers, they’ll be hot on the heels of the murders.
The party may see a group of black-cloaked figures emerging from a grate leading to the sewers. These figures are Hulean conspirators, sent to the city to sow chaos. Whether through interrogation, investigation or by taking maps from these agents, the party will discover the network of sewers and tunnels beneath Slagovich.
The characters delve into the sewers involves them navigating the various obstacles and threats before finding the spies’ hideouts in the caverns below. Their quest leads them into a chamber that the Huleans are currently using as their headquarters.
Here they encounter a very sadistic Hulean ‘Holy Man’ and a gnoll cleric who have engineered this fell plot. This last room itself is even more curious, though desecrated with symbols of Bozdogan and Ranivorus, there are symbols that pose even more questions. Questions that will be answered in future adventures.
Slagovich has been the home for many adventurers over the years. Located high above the Gulf of Hule on a plateau, the city serves as a hub of overland caravan routes. The city is also home to a deep-water port, even though it is located high above the coast. The cliff face below the city opens into a large cavern that sailing ships can enter. At the center of city is a shaft that leads to the cavern below. By sealing the shaft and filling it with water, ships are able to be raised up to the city proper. From there, they enter a series of locks that link the shaft to a large artificial harbor that the town has grown up around.
The city is also home to many feats of engineering: portcullises, drawbridges, and locks all help ships and smaller vessels move around the city to the merchants who serve as the destination for their cargoes. There are cables that pull sleds full of people and goods up and down the steeper hills that make up the city.
The buildings near the docks are well appointed with nobles and merchants carrying out their daily business. Though the city seems to have many conveniences and great success, its common folk seem to be rather poor. Far from the port, the homes are badly maintained and the people are little better.
A group of Hulean thugs is kidnapping victims, murdering them, removing them of blood, and then returning the bodies to places that they will be discovered. Naturally, they look for people who are drunk, alone or are believed to be easy marks. Customarily, the party may want to find out more information about these vampire attacks.
• People have been kidnapped and found in each of the wards of the city.
• Most of the victims are lower class, people who won’t be immediately missed. Mainly, the victims so far are human.
• The kidnappings take place on overcast nights.
• All of the crimes have happened at night.
• The vampire does not seem to care about any sort of wealth left in the homes of the victims; however, they have emptied the coin purses of the victims.
• There have been no known witnesses to the kidnappings, murders, or bodies being dumped.
• There are no footprints at the scenes.
• The victims have been found covered in vermeil powder.
• The victims have bite marks on their necks.
• The town guard is entirely in the dark about the murders.
As noted above, the victims don’t have much in common besides being human and the attacks happening at night. All of the bodies had the telltale signs of a vampire bite on the neck. This is similar to Player’s Handout #1 given to the party by Celeste with additional details.
Alexandru Olteanu Human, Age 35 - Disappeared 25 days ago - Discovered 22 days ago
This man was a sailmaker, producing new sails and mending damaged ones for the many merchant ships, who disappeared four weeks ago. The location of his disappearance is unknown. His body was discovered concealed behind some barrels near the locks. His body was laid to rest by family immediately after.
Iulio Musat Human, Age 43 - Disappeared 23 days ago - Discovered 21 days ago
Iulio was abducted from outside his home in the High District. He was a scribe for the city’s courts. He was found along the streets of the slums. His body was discovered naked.
Nelu Dalca Human, Age 22 - Disappeared 20 days ago - Discovered 18 days ago
Nelu was a rather comely lady of the night. She was abducted after leaving a client’s home in the High District. Her body was discovered in the Harrul Park along one of the paths there. She still had her purse and was not robbed.
Petar Diaconescu Human, Age 62 - Disappeared 20 days ago - Discovered 17 days ago
Petar was a man who liked to his ale. He was living on a rather large inheritance that a wealthy family gifted him. He was last seen leaving Seedy Dragon tavern on the docks. His body was found behind the Amber Grease restaurant.
Stela Antonescu Human, Age 47 - Disappeared 18 days ago - Discovered 16 days ago
This woman was abducted from her home not far from the gates, basically the slums of Slagovich. She was a widow selling tailored items to support herself and her adopted niece. She was robbed, and her body dumped near her house.
Dragomir Stanasila Human, Age 50 - Disappeared 16 days ago - Discovered 14 days ago
This man was a member of the city guard who disappeared while walking home from his shift. He was last seen by his partner after they parted ways for the evening. His body was discovered on the steps of the Radia Lighthouse.
Marica Cocis Human, Age 37 - Disappeared 16 days ago - Discovered 13 days ago
Marica Cocis was a mother of three. She worked as a maid for the Koroni family and at Tawny Mare Inn. Her grieving husband discovered her body posed as if she was climbing back in the window of their tiny home. She had been robbed of a few coins, a necklace that she had stolen from the Koroni’s, a key to the Tawny Mare, and a key to the Koroni home.
Illya Sandros Human, Age 33 - Disappeared 12 days ago - Discovered 10 days ago
Hernando Sandros moved to Slagovich about a decade ago, he met a girl and died while working on the docks. His widow, Illya was abducted off the docks, and her body was found there a couple of days later. She worked as a purser for one of the shipping companies, paying ship captains for their cargos and services.
Michel Polnar Human, Age 38 - Disappeared 10 days ago - Discovered 8 days ago
Michel Polnar was a mercenary guard who worked on one of the many caravans that come in and out of Slagovich. He was abducted from his small house in the slums. Oddly, the city guard has not investigated the house. His body was discovered on the docks stripped naked.
Conrad Sandyman Halfing, Age 68 - Disappeared 7 days ago - Discovered 5 days ago
The only non-human to be abducted and murdered, Conrad was a newcomer to Slagovich, still staying at the Tawny Mare, one of the many inns in the city. Conrad disappeared from his inn room, and his body was found in the common room a couple of days later. His room was ransacked and his valuables stolen.
Gaius Martellus Human, Age 51 - Disappeared 5 days ago - Discovered 3 days ago
Gaius survived the worst war the modern world has ever seen. He served in the Thyatian Legions against the Alphatians. When it was all said and done, Gaius left the Empire and worked on a sailing ship and eventually took his leave in Slagovich to start anew. He worked as a trainer for the militia. Gaius was abducted from somewhere unknown but his body was discovered along the West Wall.
Ustin Tarasov Human, Age 20 - Disappeared 4 days ago - Discovered 2 days ago
Lydia Tarasov Human, Age 19 - Disappeared 4 days ago - Discovered 2 days ago
Raul Tarasov Human, Infant - Disappeared 4 days ago - Not discovered or dead
This is the only double disappearance and murder, in fact, it was actually a triple attack. The young couple was wed about a year ago. Both coming from noble houses, their marriage and heir were meant to heal a long-disputed grievance about trading rights between the Tarasov and Vlaicu families. Their untimely demise has both families eyeing the other suspiciously, both believing that there might be a vampire in the employ of the other or that the chaos was used as a screen for something nefarious. Their disappearance and apparent murder by the vampire in question has created the most stir amongst the people of Slagovich, only because it threatens to create a turf war between the two families, involves a pretty young couple, and of course the clout that both families have in the city. The Vlaicu family firmly believes that Tarasovs killed Lydia, while the Tarasov think that the Vlaicu family killed Ustin. What’s worse and has not been released to the public is that Raul, the couple's heir disappeared at the same time. Each family believes that the other has stolen the child and plans to use him to gain control of the other house.
Their bodies were discovered on the steps of the Merchant Ward guard precinct house.
Vladislav Herisok Human, Age 25 - Disappeared 8 days - Not discovered
Vladislav was an Afflicted living in the slums of the city. No one noticed his disappearance and no one has yet found his body concealed near the tombs.
Rumors in Slagovich
Since the party might contain adventurers who hail from Slagovich, they have probably heard some of the rumors surrounding the kidnappings or rumors about other things going on in the city or immediate area. For characters who are native to Slagovich allow them to start with knowledge of a rumor. For bards and rogues, they begin knowledge with two tales. These rumors are provided on the Rumors Heard Sidebar.
[Table: Rumors heard in the city]
The DM can choose an appropriate rumor or roll a d20 and consult the following table.
The victims are all human because the vampire prefers feeding on human blood. (Partially true. Whilst most victims have been human there has been one who was a halfling. The Huleans target races that do not have a good chance of having darkvision.)
The vampire is affected strangely by the Red Curse, and the victims are coated in Vermeil after it feeds. (Partially true. Though the victims are coated in vermeil, this is only because some areas of the sewers have a large amount of the dust built up in places the murderers drag the bodies through.)
Either a group of Afflicted, or a powerful individual, are to blame for the recent murders. Several mobs have formed to force these monsters out of the city. (Partially true. Several Afflicted have been chased out of the city by mob justice, but these poor wretches are not the cause of murders.)
The secret recipe for the Crimson Essence produced by the Inheritors call for human blood as one of the components. The Inheritors are abducting citizens and draining them of their blood for their magical alchemy. (False. The recipe for the Crimson Essence does not call for human blood. Also, the Inheritors have never had much of a presence in Slagovich.)
The vampire has black bat wings. (Partially true. Several times the humanoid kidnappers have been spotted at night. They are wearing large black cloaks to help maintain the appearance of being vampires.)
The vampire is a Nosferatu vampire from Traladara, only recently awakened under the city, you can tell this by witnesses who have seen a pale-skinned and terribly ugly face of the vampire in the night. (Partially true. The kidnappers wear white face paint to enhance their ‘vampiric’ look while hunting victims.)
The Margrave has asked for Hulean aid with the vampire problem. (False. This rumor has been started by he Huleans to help erode confidence in the current rulership to make an alliance with Hule more likely.)
The vampire leaves no tracks because it flies down from the sky, snatches it victim, and then flies away on bat wings. (False. The kidnappers are wearing long cloaks that help to obscure their footprints as they walk along.)
The gate to the Elemental Plane of Water is malfunctioning allowing strange creatures of Entropy to enter Slagovich and snatch up victims. (False. Just false.)
The goddess Nyx, worshipped by creatures of the night, has taken an interest in the city and she is sending her minions to cull the people there before taking it over. (False. The goddess Nyx has no particular interest in the city.)
There are the ruins of an ancient culture deep within the caverns beneath Slagovich. (True. There are ancient Nithian ruins within the caverns. These remain undiscovered and have nothing to do with the current activity, though rumors have circulated about their existence before.)
Gnolls have been seen in the streets of Slagovich. (True. The Yazi gnolls sometimes have business in the City-State, and as long as they behave themselves, they are tolerated. There is a gnoll who is a member of the murderers.)
The Knights of Halav and the priests of the same deity have abandoned the city after discovering that ancient prophecies have predicted its destruction in the immediate future. (False. The Knights of Halav have been dispatched on a clandestine mission for the city and will be returning shortly.)
The Margrave plans on recalling all of the Cinnabryl coins of the city and replacing them with the traditional currencies of the realm. (True. The need for Cinnabryl and the market for it has grown. As such, the government plans on buying back these coins to salvage what they can of the precious metal. See below for more info on Slagovich’s coinage)
The Cinnabryl mines are running dry. (False. Slagovich’s mine has been running at full capacity, though some recent events have slowed production. This is actually the cause for the events leading up to the second adventure of this arc titled Red Ore Dead.)
The other city-states are gearing up for war. Whether this is to protect themselves from Hulean aggression, make war on each other, or to attack Slagovich is unknown. (True. During times of relative peace, most of the Savage Coast makes some preparations for the next war or disaster. Additionally, the city-states are considering a push against the Sea Power baronies to open sea trade further west.)
More Inheritors are coming to Slagovich than before. They are trying to change the deals of the trade of Red Steel for cinnabryl. (True. After the expansion of the Red Curse, the need for Cinnabryl has increased along the entire coast.)
The Inheritors have a secret internal order that hunts down and kills Afflicted. (False. The Inheritors do look for some Afflicted to help them recover from the detriments of the disease.)
There are demagogues in the poorer sections of Slagovich riling crowds about the unfair distribution of wealth in the city. (True.)
The rulership of Slagovich has dispatched expeditions to look for new trade routes, mines, and other ways for the city to gather wealth. (True. This process occurs regularly. The Margrave is always looking for ways to expand the city’s riches.)
Events in Slagovich
These events occur on a schedule and only if certain conditions for the party are met or not met. All of these are related to the current outbreak of murders in Slagovich.
[Image: Slagovich map]
Day 2: A Grisly Discovery
Two days after their meeting with Celestyna, it will be noted that a body was found near The Tombs. As stated above, it is the body of Vladislav Herisok, an Afflicted staying in the city.
The corpse is well on its way to decomposing in the humid air but appears similar to the others. It was exsanguinated; however, this body has no eyes. Celestyna will contact the characters via a runner with a note if they are staying somewhere else. She will approach them directly if they are staying at the Temple of Halav. If the party is delving the sewers, Celestyna will try to contact them when they return. She can arrange for them to examine the body if they desire as the Temple is in possession of the corpse for a pauper’s funeral. The eyes look to have been merely pecked out by crows or some other carrion eater.
If the party decides to examine where the body was discovered, they’ll need to succeed at a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check to notice a set of tracks that do not make sense. The tracks appear to be that from a clawed humanoid, specifically a gnoll, who has bound their feet in wrappings. This is a widespread thing for the humanoids of Hule to do, although this custom is not known outside the borders of Hule and the surrounds.
Day 3: Another Day Another Abduction
If the party has not entered the sewers or encountered one of the gnolls with a map after three days, a young man by the name of Daniel Urzica is abducted. Daniel is a member of the crew of the Saddle Bags, a merchant ship in port. He will be missed when he fails to show up for his watch after spending the night at the Black Samovar, located near the docks. After two more days, his body will be found near the entrance to the Margrave’s home. This should have the commoners, city-government, and nobles worked into a frenzy.
Day 7: Enter the ‘Heroes’ of Hule
If the party has not done anything to investigate the disappearances, it is probably too late by this point. The Hulean ‘vampire hunters’ will await word from their counterparts in Slagovich. Once it is given, they’ll ride into the city, speak with the guard, and then enter the sewers. After a day, they’ll return with proof that the vampire threat has been vanquished and the city is safe. This will create more unrest in the city. The commoners and nobles alike will begin to doubt the Margrave’s ability to protect them.
Encounters in Slagovich
Located at the western edge of the Known World and the eastern edge of the Savage Coast, the city of Slagovich stands as a gateway between the frontier to the west, civilization to the east, and of course as a bulwark against the Huleans to the north. While not quite as colorful, and lacking the Red Curse, Slagovich is still covered by the Vermeil and people with Legacies can come to the city without fear and mix with people who do not suffer from the Curse. This makes it the perfect trading hub for the region.
Though this adventure can be set anywhere in Mystara or any campaign world, the encounters described here will help add character to the city-state. Below are sixteen encounters that help add a little bit of the ‘Savage Coast’ into the city.
Almost all of the encounters have the possibility for DMs to flesh out into something more. These small encounters can occur at any time whilst the characters are investigating things in the city and each can be further developed in whatever direction the DM might decide to go.
[Any area except High District]
While out and about in the city the party comes across a sad sight. One that they might become all to familiar with if they spend a long time in the Savage Coast, the sight of an Afflicted begging and rummaging through the trash.
Your path takes you down one of the more traveled streets of the city. Citizens of the trading center go about their lives: handlers move their wagons and boxes along the street, a few people with horses move their mounts in and out of the throng, and many people just seem to be walking along the street. On one of the walks next to the street, there is a small circle where there doesn’t seem to be a lot of traffic. A humanoid of some sort, you’d guess human who was inflicted with some strange malady that caused their skin to be transparent is sitting on the stones with a cup out in front of him, begging for coins or food. He looks to you, trying to make eye contact. He calls out, “A dark1 for a meal, please!”
This is Rigo, an Afflicted with the invisibility Legacy. This Affliction has taken the form of his skin becoming permanently transparent, putting his organs, bones, and muscles on display for everyone to see. More disgusting than interesting, he was cast out of his home village and eventually made his way to Slagovich. Rigo’s story is all too common, many Afflicted leave their homes and either find themselves in a community of like individuals or as beggars at the fringes of civilization. He’ll gladly take anything the party offers from rations to coin. If the party gives him more than a dim, he’ll use the coin to buy himself and some other Afflicted food for as long as possible.
If the party is especially compassionate or generous, he knows a bit of useful information that he would be more than happy to pass on. He’d also be willing to pass this on if he knows they are working for the temple of Halav.
The man looks at his bony hands and sighs, “Good folk, I saw something a few nights back. I was trying to find a dry place to sleep when I heard a commotion nearby. I looked and saw a couple of larger men coming out of a sewer grate. One of them had the head of a dog, I figured they might be… you know... like me. So, I was going to approach them.” He pauses, there’s a great deal of shame in his tone, “So, I moved a bit closer and then overheard them speaking in Hulean. I swear though that one of the men looked like a dog man though.”
He can take the party to a sewer entrance that he saw the men come out of. Without a path through the sewers, the party might have some trouble finding their way into the area that the Huleans have set up shop, but it gives them a good lead.
A Pity Young Thing
Life in Slagovich isn’t fair for those who are ‘non-noble,’ read that as wealthy enough to make ends meet. The party will be on the streets of the noble district where they notice a very foppish and ugly man leading a woman, dressed most provocatively, along the streets. He is clearly her employer and is scolding her loudly for not collecting the proper amount from a particular client, being worthless, and generally humiliating her in public.
As you’re walking, you hear a man shouting and soon come to see rather plump man with a long hawkish nose badgering a pretty young woman. He is dressed in rather bright colors that people would normally associate with the Baronies and not the city of Slagovich and she is dressed in clothing that is a bit too revealing for court. She follows along, demurely trying to apologize. A guard looks on and laughs a bit, clearly not interceding on what seems to not be their business. The one-sided conversation continues along the lines of “not collecting the right fee,” “where’s my money?” “we’re going to go get it”, “you’re going to be humiliated,” “dumb girl” and “that pompous little lord”.
Sebastien, or Seb, as his friends call him, or those he tells to call them that because he wants to have them be his friends is scolding one of his new girls for collecting the proper fee for her time. The girl is named Vanasta and is clearly of the Traladaran stock that is common in the city. She looks around a few times like she is going to run but stays near her tormentor, trying to dissuade him from anything rash. Vanasta and Halek Demerie, the gentlemen in question, have fallen in love and she didn’t charge him for her services when they’ve been spending time together. Seb has the intent of walking into Halek’s house, making Vanasta explain everything she does for the noble, and then demanding payment in arrears.
This is a very awkward situation for the party to get involved in, but if the party takes pity on Vanasta, it can lead to some great roleplaying opportunities and can help them gain contacts in the city. If the party acts on behalf of Vanasta they’ll make friends with Halek Demerie and Vanasta but alienate the pimp Seb and his network of lowlifes.
A Timeless Legacy
While the party is walking down the street in the High District, they see a large flash of crimson. This is a Legacy being activated when it is learned. This is one of the first Legacies that has been gained in the city, foretelling of the possibility that Slagovich may soon fully become part of the Savage Coast. A young man, a servant for one of the houses, has just entered the time of grace and his Legacy of Crimson Fire has just activated in a pulse of light and the after effects of nearby pockets of dancing lights.
The road is well maintained and clean as all are in the High District and you’re shocked when you see a flash of light and a groan. A young man is half kneeling, half collapsed in the roadway. His skin is flush with crimson and sparkling all around him is a sea of little crimson flames. The fire doesn’t spread or seem to give off any heat. He is dressed in the clothing of a servant, people around quickly take note, seem shocked, and generally try to put distance and space between themselves and the young man.
This is Evan Guriso, a young servant in employ by several houses as a message runner. He is in distress from the sudden onset of the Red Curse, though he is not suffering any permanent or debilitating effects. He has just undergone acquiring a Legacy. The party can assist, move past, or do whatever they see fit.
If the party assists him and mention their current investigation, he has a few pieces of information that might be of interest to the group.
“Oh… you’re looking for the vampire. Halav! Errrrrr, sorry, didn’t mean to swear. I mean, I know one of the girls, Nelu who disappeared. I mean, I didn’t see her disappear, but I was out here when she screamed walking home.” He nods. “She was a good friend, gave a lot of us hope too, always talking about getting out of the city and going somewhere far from here or even making a difference. Have you been to her house? I think I remember where it is.”
Evan can lead the party to a tiny house in the Hump. The house is small but very well maintained or completely repaired. Evan even knows where the key to the door is hidden. The contents of the house are odd for a ‘working girl.’ There are books on trade, mythology, alchemy, mathematics, and all sorts of different subjects. None of them are of expert level, mostly primers that would give someone a basic understanding or knowledge of the subject. The objects in the house are all pretty, some are old and have been cleaned or repaired, or similar. He says he was amazed that she knew so much and liked her house tidy. One thing that the party would note is that the basin, bedroom, and one of the floorboards is askew. This was done by Nelu when she was getting ready to lay low.
Bar fight in Black
[The Black Samovar2]
The party might decide to stay in the Black Samovar during their time in the city or might want to visit for nostalgia’s sake. Of course, the Black Samovar is the perfect place for a bar fight.
The Black Samovar is one of the tavern inns that caters to the people just able to afford to stay inside the city walls but without anything more than that vague protection. The rooms are cheap, the beds are hard, the drinks are watered down, and the food is awful.
A woman with pale pink skin and black hair is sipping her drink. A couple of sailors, one a gnome and the other a pale skinned man with thinning black hair as well, talk and gab with some of the locals. The bulk of the people in here are common folk of all sorts. A trio of those types that seem to looking for trouble approach the pair of sailors and start to talk.
Whatever reason brought you to the common room is brought to a loud end as you look up as that pair of customers start shoving and pushing the gnome a bit. Their voices are drowned out by the din of the bar and soon, their collisions have led to a general brawl. A moment later, a person is shoved into your space, knocking you about. “No blades!” The bartender yells from the sanctuary of the bar.
A DC 10 Wisdom (Perception) check will let the party notice that the two ruffians aren’t as inebriated as they appear to be and both have knives drawn. The party can get involved in the fight, try to duck out, or try to restore the peace. The Samovar is one of those places that guards don’t bother with unless an altercation is especially big or a murder takes place. The sailors are part of the crew of the Mallard as noted in the Come Sail Away encounter below. They came by the Samovar to do a bit of relaxation or recruiting. Their third compatriot is another Alphatian, the woman happened to have been a marine in their navy, she’ll work hard to get her companions out, even donning a pair of weighted gloves to take a few harder than usual punches. Their would-be attackers are Hattians which explains the level animosity. If the party ducks out, they’ll encounter the sailors being pulled along by the woman acts very much like a professional soldier.
The pair of Hattian thugs will be sorted out by the sailors and Alphatian marine but there are more than enough bar patrons who are looking for a good fight.
[Sidebar: Black Samovar Environmental Elements]
The Black Samovar contains many elements that might help the players describe their characters’ actions. These include: tables, chairs, the bar itself, liquor bottles, plates, stew bowls, passed out patrons, the fireplace, and of ale mugs. The characters will find that the door to the kitchen and rooms upstairs has been barred from the other side until the chaos stops. (Environmental elements are inspired by 5ed Eberron rules and are used to give players basic suggestions or clues to use in their actions).
Cinnabryl for Sale
[Old or New Slums]
While the party is in the slums, they’ll get approached by an unsavory looking sort who is quick to get to the thick of the matter. He has some cinnabryl for sale. Of course, selling cut cinnabryl is very bad form and can cause someone to earn an injured reputation or severe injuries amongst regular customers. This rogue isn’t concerned though with selling the mineral to foreigners who won’t be around tomorrow.
As you are walking through the slums, the sounds and smells of the forgotten part of Slagovich assail you. You keep a sharp eye out for broken cobblestones, cracked masonry, and other unsavory things and of course people. A man approaches you and pulls back his cloak as he notes your slightly out of the norm appearance. “Hey, you looking to buy some cinnabryl?” he hisses above a whisper but not far. With his cloak pulled back he displays a couple pieces of the metal shaped into amulets. “All pure, nine silver on the gold3 for you fine folk.”
Naturally, the cinnabryl he is selling isn’t pure, it has been half cut with metals. Naturally, unless a character buys the cinnabryl, the cinnabryl seller won’t let them examine it too closely. At the same time, if they press him, he’ll simply try to fade away into the city.
Come Sail Away
[Docks or Locks]
While the party is near areas that sailors might congregate, they’ll come across a couple of well-dressed sailors being friendly and waving to people, trying to get them to come over and join them for a quick conversation. They’ve set up on one of the outdoor tables of a cheap but nice enough tavern.
The smell of the sea and sailors mixes with the sounds of the city here. There is the ebb and flow of foot traffic, sailors, merchants, ship captains, and porters. All seem to be going and coming in every which way. You pass in front of a small tavern with some tables out of doors on the walk. Besides the regular clientele eating their meals or sipping their cups, you note a couple of people being generally friendly. One is quite short and the other quite large. “Hey friends, come on over and sign on with the crew of the Mallard! We’re looking for old hands and those wanting to work hard and learn the trade!” The characters may notice their strange accents.
If the party takes note or makes eye contact or engages them in conversation, the two will go to work. Pearn is a gnome, a real gnome, and his companion Terek, a pale human with thinning black hair, are there recruiting. They are looking for extra crew aboard the Mallard which suffered a few losses in a storm when threading the dangerous waters around the Serpent Peninsula. They’ll offer to buy the party a drink to hear them out. They’ve gotten more than a few to sign on and are only looking for a couple more.
The party might note that the pair seem to be well-mannered, well-dressed, and generally the best foot a crew can put forward for trying to recruits. They may note that there is a third person, a woman with pale pink skin and black hair that is watching them intently. If the party has any sort of knowledge of such things, they’ll see she is wearing a leather ‘bomber jacket’ of an Alphatian boltman or marine. She is there for muscle in case anyone jumps her two crewmates. The Mallard is actually one of several merchant ships that are recruiting.
Coming Out of Your Shell
Though not common in the city-states, tortles are a common sight throughout other parts of the Savage Coast. Though they are considered lazy or complacent by many, they are outsiders in the urban sprawls of large cities like Slagovich. Here, the characters will encounter a group of tortles being played by merchants near the gate.
While in the market near West Gate, you overhear a couple merchants talking amongst themselves. “Those fools didn’t even try to haggle,” one of them gloats. The other chimes in a moment later, “Yeah, they paid almost double for food.” She adds. The man is a shorter one and quite lithe with brownish hair. The woman is a bit taller and every bit as skinny, she has an almost rodent-like face with reddened black hair. Beyond them is a merchant haggling with a trio of very large, stocky, shelled humanoids. Tortles. They are currently talking a merchant about the price of paper. Clearly, they do not understand the values of things or the art of haggling at all. They speak very slowly and are about to get seriously overcharged for their newest purchase.
The party can choose whether to assist the tortles out in their haggling with the merchants. The merchants are just looking for the best prices to sell their goods and are not looking for any violence. With the prevalence of guards around the market, the party shouldn’t resort to violence to get the merchants to treat the tortles a bit more fairly.
If the party does help the tortles out, they’ll be thanked profusely by the newcomers to the city. The tortles will smile and pile adorations and blessing upon them. The tortles do have one bit of information that might be of use to the group. They spotted a group of humanoids sneaking into the city under the cover of darkness from a camp not far away. The tortles would be willing to guide the party to the area for their help.
Still praising you for the help with the merchants in Slagovich, the tortles guide you to a small cave not far from the city. It is shrouded from observation by the trees and shrubs of the surrounding environment. Whoever was camped here was very keen on not being stumbled upon. At the entrance there is a small cookfire and a few logs that look like they were used as seats. In the darkness beyond must be the larger site.
If the party investigates, they discover a few things. The first is some Hulean clothes, tools, and even a dagger with a Bozdogan stamp on it. In addition, they’ll discover the body of a human man who has been marked by the same puncture holes that the party is investigating. Next to the body is a large amount of spilled blood. This is very indicative of the process of exsanguination. This looks like a demonstration was carried out here for new recruits.
Dance of the Dead
Located near the great pit that leads into the cavern below, the Tombs are where the people of Slagovich entomb their dead for a time. The above ground tombs are filled with bodies that are heated and baked by the warm coast air. Soon, nothing is left but bone and dust. These final remains are either given to the family, entombed, or simply pushed to the back of the tomb when a new body is added. When someone is brought to the tombs for their rest, some cultures have a short, loud, and colorful celebration that accompanies the body. The party manages to stumble across one of these little parades while in the city.
While walking along the road between the harbor and the pit that leads to the cavern below, you find yourself coming up to the back of a procession. The sounds of music, laughing, some wailing, and a lot of talking grow louder as you approach. The people in the group are all wearing bright and vibrant colors, carrying instruments, flags, and cups of alcohol. At the center of the group is a priest wearing the bright yellow of a cleric of Ixion and right next to him are six men carrying a body wrapped in grave linens.
The party can witness this event in silence or get involved. The processions for the dead are a public thing and as long as they conduct themselves in good order, there won’t be any conflict. The march concludes at the gates of the cemetery where the family and friends separate from the rest and go to entomb their friend Jacoby. If they inquire, they’ll find out the deceased’s name, cause of death, and the like. Oddly, Jacoby wasn’t one of the ‘vampires’ victims. He died in a dock accident, pinned in place and crushed by a ship as it moved alongside the pier.
If the party hasn’t discovered the body of Vladislav Herisok in the tombs, now is the perfect chance.
Extremely Uncommon Unction
While walking through any part of the city, the group will come across a Holy Man proselytizing to the people of Slagovich about the evil of the Inheritors, the vampire menace, and the threats of the neighboring city-states and baronies. Oddly, the one thing he doesn’t mention is Hule.
The sounds of a man speaking loudly, on the verge of yelling, accost you first. “Now is the time brothers and sisters of Slagovich!” A pause, “The children of the night accost you!” A few, softer voices chime up with affirmatives. You can spot a short man in brown robes standing on a crate and preaching to the people around him. The bulk of most people on the street steer clear of the little circle of onlookers. A member of the guard keeps careful watch on the impromptu gathering. “See the evil that these Barons have called on your city!” A few more ‘yeah!’ and ‘yes!’ come from the crowd. The crowd though a little vocal doesn’t seem to be too rowdy. “Does the Margrave even care? He sends the Knights to somewhere else while the city needs them most!” A few cheers and shouted affirmations.
The party can bypass this rabble-rousing without much worry. If the party has been successful in their investigations so far or is causing a disruption to the Hulean plan, the demagogue, Porut, is more than willing to try to turn the crowd on the group, going so far as to use his powers of persuasion and some magic on the group. The scene can turn into the party fleeing from the mob and getting some help from the guard. If you want to put the party at odds with the demagogue you can use the following material.
“See, the Margrave’s mistake! Right there!” The demagogue points a gnarled finger at your group. “They haven’t found the threat, what business do they have of trying to keep you safe!” The eyes of the crowd follow his finger, “Show the Margrave that you want better than these poor fools!”
He will use his Enthralling Performance ability to cause the people to turn on the party, egging them on to violence and using the disturbance to sneak away. The town guard will quickly try to restore peace and actually help keep the PCs from being overwhelmed. The mob surges just once and if met with or start committing violence, then they will immediately fall out of effects of the spell and sort of stand there trying to figure out what happened. It should become apparent to the party that lethal force is not necessary to get out of this encounter.
Help a Brother Out
[Old or New Slums]
While in the slums, the party is approached by a beggar. Unlike the Afflicted beggar, this man is not touched by the Red Curse and is just a sad example of the disparity of wealth in the city of Slagovich and some of the racism that is prevalent against humanoids in the Savage Coast.
“Help a brother out. Spare a copper?” A man that was walking up behind you asks. He has a hunched back and walks with a limp. His voice is raspy and tired. At a quick glance, he is a human who is a bit ugly. He is dressed in rags that amount to little more than a pair of trousers and a cloak. The cloak is pulled up around his head. A bit of longer glance will reveal that he is a half-orc, with more features from his human parentage than his orcish. He’ll step a bit nearer the party, narrowing his eyes. “A bright4 you said to take you on a tour?” he changes his tune a bit, eyes narrowing and clearly glancing toward a side street. He’s trying to get you to look in that direction.
The party can pass on this encounter by simply ignoring the half-orc, but they’ll lose out on the chance to gain some valuable information. If the party agrees to let him be their ‘tour guide’ he’ll duck around the corner and stand up straight, walking with a normal gait. If the party assumes he is about to start a violent encounter, he’ll hold his hands up and open.
“Sorry, sorry for all that. I wanted a chance to talk to you.” He pauses, stretching a bit and revealing a relatively well-built frame that is hidden a bit by the cloak. The man would make a formidable warrior and doesn’t have the skeletal look of a beggar half starved. He ahems, “My apologies… anyways, I overheard some orcs in town a couple days ago.” He waves off the party to let him continue, “I didn’t see them, but heard them speaking in Yaz.” He goes onto explain, “Some of us, who live here, aren’t so much scared of vampires. More like orcs and gnolls is what I’ve heard.”
This Brolyn is a half-orc guard for one of the merchant companies in the city. He’s taken it on his own initiative to help the party out before the ‘vampire’ murders affect his gainful employment. He doesn’t have much more information than that but asks where the party is staying. If possible, and he learns something new, he’ll leave a message for them or try to meet with them. If paid a copper or silver earlier, he’ll flip the coin back to the party, assume his limp and hunched gait and step out into walk again.
The party will see a cleric from Narvaez speaking with a group of citizens in a hushed manner. Unluckily, undead are a terrible foe that have been a great threat to the world before. A vampire preying on the citizenry is a terrible thing that cannot be tolerated. Luckily, this inquisitor is listening to the accusations and suspicions of neighborly people.
While walking down the street you note a person wearing the robes of a Narvaez cleric speaking with a group of citizens. The conversation isn’t hushed and the people are quite explicit in calling out a person named Javier, a merchant who is in league with the vampire. They have overheard him conspiring in the night, conjuring dark undead, and all sorts of fiendish endeavors. The inquisitor will look over at the party and call them over. “You there, come here, I have questions for you.”
Since the Narvaez Inquisition has no power in Slagovich, the party can safely ignore this encounter. The inquisitor, wearing the holy symbol of Tarastia proudly around his neck, will ask the characters if they know this Javier, his family, or shop: the Stone Mill. Assuming that the party hasn’t accidentally stumbled across it, they’ll be sent on their way by the Inquisitor.
If the party reports back to Celestyna that there is an Inquisitor from Narvaez in the city, she’ll be very interested and take the time to send an invitation to the Inquisitor for a meeting. The Inquisitor will leave town the next day.
If the party investigate Stone Mill, they will have the unique chance to investigate a company that specializes in constructing pieces of stone for use in mills, ballast, furnaces, and other even the locks. The shop is well-to-do and probably the source of jealousy within the merchants of the city.
Ixion’s Wagon Wheel
This is a low-key encounter that the party comes across while traveling down any of the streets in the Old Ward near the Radia Lighthouse. There is a small group of novitiate clerics of Ixion working to change a broken wagon wheel. Of course, if the party investigates, they’ll discover a bit more than what they had expected.
As you are walking through the Old Ward, the Radia Lighthouse rises up from the streets and casts its light into the treacherous sea. On the street in front of you, you see a trio of clerics of Ixion struggling in vain to change the wheel on a small wagon that has its bay covered with a tarp. Their mule looks back at them almost in amusement at their lack of knowledge as teamsters.
The party can bypass this encounter simply by walking past. Of course, if they do decide to assist the clerics they have a chance to learn a bit more about the temple of Ixion in the city. The clerics look to the party with a bit of relief, then one of them seems to panic as your group volunteers to help. They act a bit suspicious and try to get the party to hurry with the repairs. Literally, any skill or background that might have come in contact with a wagon wheel allows them to repair the wheel. If the party looks under the tarp, they’ll see a couple of boxes stamped with the symbol of Narvaez and another box with the symbol of the Inquisition.
The novitiates will not allow the party to investigate further and promptly dismisses them if they appear to snoop. The acolytes of the temple will not hear any questions about this cargo at the lighthouse and leave the party to make their own assumptions.
If the party reports this to Celestyna, she’ll take note of it, mutter, “Interesting,” and thank them for that bit of information.
Knight in Red Satin
[Guard Ward or High District]
The party will have the chance to meet one of the newest Knights of Halav in the city. Unluckily, this knight will not be the embodiment of virtue that they might be hoping for.
While walking in the city, you come across a most curious scene. A young man with black hair, dressed in finery, is arguing with two men who appear to be less noble and more mercantile and commoner types. As you get a bit nearer, you overhear that the noble is arguing about who is going to pay for the damage to his satin cloak.
The knight’s name is Sir Boris Kvectich, who is the newest and possibly the youngest member of the Knight’s of Halav. He is speaking with a merchant, named Erik, and his servant about the damages that the merchant’s servant, Yousef, caused by kicking up a bit of mud that has stuck to the knight’s cloak. The party can avoid this encounter just by not getting involved. If they do decide to get mixed up in this fashion fatality, they’ll be asked to take a hike by Sir Boris, but he’ll hear them out. He wants the merchant to pay for the damage as the servant is in the employ of the merchant and knows that the servant could not pay the price for such an expensive garment. Unless the PCs are very careful, whatever the outcome or direction that the party takes in their discussion will leave one of the two sides feeling injured and slighted by the other and the PCs.
Sometimes people choose their jobs, other times, the jobs are chosen for youngsters. In this case, the children of a miner are not keen on following in their mother’s footsteps. The argument on the streets is proof of this.
A pair of young adults with black hair and golden skin are screaming and shouting at a middle-aged man who is shouting back at them. All of them are dressed in commoner’s clothing, some of it smudged with dirt. “It’s a good trade!” He calls back at them, “Your mom would be proud!” He says angrily. “Mom died in those mines, I hate these stuff we dig out of the ground.” The children seem to arguing about going to work in the mines. “I want to sail on a ship!” One of the children says, “It pays more.” The other child, replies with a quite short, “Me too.”
This is the Nestaf family, or what is left of it. Bruna, the mother and wife, passed away recently and the father, Karl, is trying to get his children to follow in her footsteps and mine. The children Gretter and Mattus are not as keen on this. There really isn’t a lot that the party can do here except stir the pot. If they have encountered the crew of the Mallard from the Black Samovar or the Come Sail Away, they can point them to meet the children or send the pair to meet with them.
The Other Kind of Nightmare
The Red Curse works in mysterious ways to say the very least. From time to time, the Curse manages to affect regular animals. Sometimes this is a simple Legacy, sometimes this is true Affliction, changing the beast. Then there are rumors that some people, twisted in mind and purpose, actively seek to affect some animals with the powers. Whatever the reason, the party can have an encounter here that can be a strange one. If the party is traveling in the High District, they’ll come across an interesting scene. A young nobleman, a groom, and a guardsman are wrestling with a crimson stallion that is trying desperately to get free from them. The horse is mad with fright making it a possible threat, a general disturbance, and an embarrassment.
With clean cobblestones underfoot you can hear a muffled sound around the corner, but your view is blocked by a large row of hedges. As you round the corner of the street. you are shocked to see a young man on top of a rearing crimson stallion with a guard in city livery and another man trying to get control of the horse. Just when it appeared that the guard had managed to get ahold of the reins, the horse appears to become gaseous, the young man falling through and the horse managing to put a few feet between it and its attempted captors. “Hey! You! Grab that horse!” Calls out the third man, judging by his dress, it is a groom. The words seem to be directed at you and the horse heads toward you not a moment later.
The horse has the Gaseous Form Legacy which it has used a couple of times before. It has become spooked for some unknown reason and the owner, his groom, and a city guardsman are trying to wrangle the fear maddened beast. The owner has taken to calling the horse Puff, probably because of his ability to take a gaseous form. The Afflicted animal is able to use the ability twice more today.
Naturally, the owner will want the horse returned uninjured. The guardsman is trying to appease the noble family so is loathe to use violence. Hopefully the party will capture the beast, calm him, and return him.
Puff, is an Afflicted Horse, but is more than willing to be calmed down, requiring anyone attempting to make a DC 10 Wisdom (Animal Handling) check. Failure increases the number by 1 on the next attempt. If Puff is attacked, the party may have to subdue the animal or use more permanent measures.
Checking on the young man, they’ll see that it is a young lordling dressed in finery. This clearly was not his intended way to spend the day. His name is Cedric Canolov, part of the Canolov family. Even if the party is instrumental in capturing the horse, he’ll act nonplussed like it is their duty to serve him. The one thing he will do is pay them a small pouch of coins for their trouble. Once the horse is returned, he will have the groom lead it back into the estate and dismiss the guard before retiring to change is soiled clothes.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor
While the party is in the Old Ward, they are approached by a frail older gentleman dressed in once magnificent finery which has long since become a relic in fashion. The man is suffering from some sort of dementia and seems to recognize the party.
On the road in the Old Ward, an older man dressed in clothes that are at least fifty years from fashionable approaches. “Hello, good to see you again Max.” The man says to no-one in particular but while staring at your group with eyes that are cloudy with cataracts. His hand palsied as he raises it to give a quick wave. “Can you help me back home? All these streets here get so confusing.” He says sadly. He raises a hand up a bit further, outstretching a finger. “You remember the ways down into the rocks? Maybe we should go through there, if you don’t I wrote it down, its at the vault, here you’ll need my key.” He presses a small key into the nearest person’s hand. “Now take me home.”
The man is Banimor Felstad, once the head of the Felstad trading family. He is reported as being in good health by his family, though he no longer makes public appearances. This is because the recent years, since the death of his wife, have not been kind to him. His mind has degenerated into this. Unluckily, although he knows who he is he doesn’t know where he is and can’t recall where he lives. Nothing can coax the location of his house out of him, as he truly doesn’t recall. If pressed confrontationally or questioned he responds with “you know,” “come on old friend,” or “I can’t seem to recall.”
After a few minutes, a couple of men on horse approach the party and old man. They are leading a carriage not far behind them. One of the men is the current head of the Felstad, Mikael. He looks at the man and then party. “For your services and discretion,” he tosses a pouch to the party’s feet. “We’ll handle it from here.” Mikael will tolerate some questions and try to answer about his great grandfather’s condition. He is simply suffering from a tired mind after a long life. He is not unkind but at the same time considers this feeble man almost an embarrassment.
The key is unluckily nothing more than the key to the man’s privy. Oddly, the vault is just the name he and an old friend gave to their shared head on a trading ship. The old man’s logbook from his days as a ship’s navigator are there. The logbook is kept as reading material in the bathroom. Not so much of a grand inheritance, not something that they could get ready access to, but maybe a reward in the future. If the party approaches or plays their cards right, they could acquire the book.
Chapter One: A Lonely Night
The adventure and campaign open with the dramatic attack on a cleric of Halav. The party should have no problem driving off the would-be attackers and receive an invitation to return to the Temple of Halav with her so that she can hire them to investigate more in-depth into the mysteries of the murders.
Following their meeting with the young cleric, they will have several different courses of investigation to choose from: the characters can inspect the area around the Tarasov murders, search throughout the rest of the city for more about the victims, examine the area and neighborhood surrounding the cleric’s attempted kidnapping, or they can explore the sewers. The last two options take them into the next two chapters respectively.
The Next Victim?
The adventure begins with the party walking down the streets of Slagovich just after nightfall. They are not far from the Axe Ward, where the merchants cater to the needs of adventurers, selling weapons, armor, and accessories for a life strange to the ordinary citizens of the city.
There is no moon tonight, but the vermeil gives the otherwise pitch-black night a slight reddish glow. You’re not strangers to these ominous nighttime displays of how the Red Curse has become synonymous with the Savage Coast. The air is still and quiet, with most residents of the city fast asleep, safe enough in their houses with shutters closed and curtains drawn. They know a vampire stalks the streets at night. Even the city’s streets lights seem dimmer than usual, the only real light around. Even so, they light only along the main thoroughfares of the city. It is along one of these streets that you find yourself when a scream starts off and is cut short somewhere not far ahead of you.
Characters who pause to listen can hear the muted sounds of a struggle, some quiet grunting, and even a bit of cursing to Halav. They can also learn that the sound is coming from the next alley ahead of them on the street. Assuming they investigate, they turn a slight bend into a lane where the sounds are coming from and note the following:
The noises lead you to an alleyway that forks off the main street. Down the short alley and just out of the dim illumination of the street lights, you make out four figures surrounding a fifth. The surrounded figured raises something up and calls out, “In the Name of Halav, I banish you back to the nethers of Limbo.” As the short prayer ends a pulse of light emanates from the holy symbol of Halav, illuminating the scene like a bolt of lightning. There are four attackers who are all clothed in black, long wings behind their back, and with terribly pale, rather ugly faces. The fifth figure, by your guess, is a young woman and probably a cleric of Halav.
The alley is about 40 feet long, with only the first 20 feet still within the glow of the streetlights. It is about ten feet across with a bit of refuse on the cobblestones. The shops are closed for the evening and flank the alley, there won’t be any help coming from within.
The attackers are not vampires but instead appear to be orcs with their faces covered in whitish paint and wearing long black cloaks. The plan was originally for one of the orcs to be a lookout for the guard5 but he got distracted by attacking the cleric and sort of forgot his role as a lookout. The party will automatically have a surprise on the first round of combat. A Wisdom (Perception) check DC 10 will note that the attackers are wearing cloaks and do not have wings. A result of 15 on that check will result in the character learning that the faces are probably orcish and most likely painted white. A result of 25 will let the character observe another figure at the far end of their sight quaff a potion and disappear.
The fifth figure is Celestyna, acting high priestess of the Temple of Halav in Slagovich. She will be hard pressed by the four attacking orcs. She is wearing chainmail, wielding a mace, and brandishing her holy symbol. Any cleric or paladin of the Church of Halav who has been to the temple will recognize her or someone making a DC 15 Intelligence (History) check to recognize her. She used divination magic to discern the location of the next vampire attack, and that led her here in a misplaced attempt to stop it.
These four orc kidnappers were initially tasked with kidnapping a merchant but were discovered by the young cleric. They will settle for kidnapping the cleric and returning her to the Hulean lair in the sewers. If kidnapping isn’t an option, they are to make sure that there are not any witnesses to their activities. The cleric will fight defensively, keeping the orcs from hurting her more. In all, Celestyna should not be used in the fight unless things go terribly for the party. It might be a better option to have the city watch come along and drive the attackers off.
The members of the guard arrive after the 10th round of combat or sooner if there PCs are having a terrible go at it. The guard arrive in twos and will quickly overwhelm any remaining orcs.
These orcs are one of the kidnapping teams that the Huleans are using to further their plans in the city. To keep the amount of physical damage to the victims minimal, the orcs are armed with clubs instead of their normal greataxes. With the party arriving on the scene, the orcs will probably accept just murdering the cleric, the witnessing party, and just getting away. Once their mission was complete, they were to meet a guide to take them back to the lair and await their next mission.
The orcs actually have no possessions on them besides their black clothes, great clubs, javelins, and a rope. If they are captured, they’ve been kept in the dark about many matters. These orcs can be persuaded or threatened into discussing much of their plan on Charisma (Persuasion) or Charisma (Intimidation) check DC 10. They just got to Slagovich a couple of weeks ago from the north in Hule. They were brought here to be one of the teams to kidnap people. They are led to through the sewers by a gnoll and told where to meet the gnoll after a job. A result of 15 or higher yields a second piece of knowledge is that they’ve been involved in two other kidnappings, but have not been witness to the murders and are not responsible for returning the bodies for discovery. Their previous targets were Marica Cocis and Gaius Martellus. The objective for this evening was not Celestyna but instead Antonio Vasilescu. A Charisma (Persuasion) or Charisma (Intimidation) roll that exceeded 20 gleans that the leaders of the Hulean spy ring avoid interacting with the regular spies. The orcs gave the nickname of ‘Rotty’ to the gnoll and ‘Worm’ to the human man. These orcs can be handed over to the city guard who will have them incarcerated while a magistrate will quickly handle matters of justice and turn them over to an executioner.
After the battle, Celestyna will profusely thank the party and insist that they accompany her back to the Temple of Halav. Along the way, she’ll explain a few things, chatting almost non-stop. Most importantly, is that she was acting irresponsibly for her role as the acting-high priestess of the Temple of Halav. Secondly, she will say that she doesn’t wholly believe the rumors that the murders are being conducted by a vampire. One thing to help pass the short walk is for her to discuss rumors with the party if they seem inclined toward conversation.
[Sidebar: Alley Environmental Elements]
The alleyway contains several elements that might help the players describe their characters’ actions. There are two piles of refuse, several barrels, loose rocks, two small wooden crates, and an upright trash bin.
[Sidebar: Scaling Up the Alley]
Scaling the encounter in the alley is relatively simple. For a second level party, simply add or subtract orc kidnappers to equal the total number of party members.For a higher-level party, the difficulty can be increased by several factors. Adding additional orcs is an option, especially adding a few at the far end of the alley, forcing the party to spread out. Another option is to remove the surprise element from the encounter. The final option is to replace some or all of the orcs with more advanced orcs.
200xp (50 per 1st level adventurer)
The Temple of Halav
Naturally, this encounter assumes that the party saved Celestyna and accompanied her back to the Temple of Halav. When they get to the temple, describe the entrance:
The three-story Temple of Halav is one of the more significant buildings in this area of the city. It is constructed of the same bricks that make up the other buildings but somehow or another it is grander. The building’s windows are stained glass depicting scenes from the Song of Halav. The cleric leads you through the front door of the temple and quickly through the main worship space. After they are out of the central area, she guides them to a sitting room. Two novices come along a moment or so later before Celestyna directs them to prepare some tea (or something harder if requested) for the party. Her other subordinates include only a single initiate and two more novices. Typically, the temple would have three or four times that many resident priests and several paladins. Apparently, the rumors are correct about the Knights of Halav and some of the temple’s priests being gone.
She’ll not wait for the return of the novices to begin spilling out her idea that rapidly becomes a proposal:
Celestyna settles into one of the chairs after dismissing her attendant clerics to fetch drinks. The woman is fetching, though few would describe as stunning. She is an example of good Traladaran stock with fairer skin and dark hair that has a few streaks of gray. “Thanks again for your timely intervention with those thugs. I was looking into it. I am very much in your debt.” She pauses, “I was out there looking to find the kidnappers after divining the target of their next attack.” She shakes her head with a sigh, “I should’ve been here and hired a group like yourselves, but I had to know it wasn’t vampires. And I thought, foolishly it seems, that I could stop the threat to the city.” She continues on for a bit explaining that she divined that the attack wasn’t by a vampire, that there are no vampires in or under the city. “I suppose I’d like to ask you to extend my debt by asking you to take a look into these matters?” She asks the question but doesn’t give the party a chance to reply before adding. “Naturally, the Temple would reward you for your efforts.”
She’ll relay the following to the party, basically everything she knows:
The Knights of Halav and many of the priests of Halav are off on state business. Usually, she would not be in charge of such a prestigious venue. She will not elaborate on the nature of the business and, if pressed, will claim that she has not been informed.
She was entrusted with several scrolls from the church’s high priest to use in case of emergencies. She first tried to contact him via a sending spell, but the spell failed.
The next target was supposed to be taken on Axe Street. They were outside the shops of Antonio Vasilescu and Yarseath Broadbrew. She was unable to divine the name of the victim and settled instead for the location. She doesn’t know either of the proprietors.
The other victims have included a broad range of society but only seem to be humans. Several people have disappeared, but their bodies have not turned up yet, and they may not be relevant to the current issue. She will furnish the group with a list.
She’ll negotiate in good faith with the party at this point, offering a potion of healing for each party member. She can provide a cash reward of no less than one thousand gold coins for their services. She is willing to negotiate as high as 2000 gp. Additionally, she can offer a small magical treasure from the temple’s stores. To sweeten the pot, she can provide a safe and free place for the party to stay since many of the temple’s rooms and dormitory beds are empty. If the party is not willing to stay in the temple’s rooms, she can suggest the Black Samovar near the Docks as an inexpensive accommodation.
Celestyna wants to hire the PCs for figuring out what the threat to the city is. She’ll make whatever arrangements are necessary with the novices to allow the party to stay at the temple, give them the potions and a list of the murder victims as promised, a letter of warrant explaining their role, and send them on their way to start their investigations.
[Sidebar Steel Seed: The Temple of Halav]
Assuming the PCs rescue Celestyna Lavichna, they’ll have earned a potential ally for the adventure and upcoming adventures in the campaign. Since Celestyna will become in charge of the temple throughout the campaign, being in her good graces can reap the party good benefits.
The party may return to the temple during the first adventure for healing. Though limited to the spells of these lower level priests and Celestyna’s magic, it should be of great benefit for the party of low-level adventurers.
Beyond healing, the temple has a stock of equipment and supplies on hand that the party can purchase at a small discount, though in future adventures, the discount and list of items grows. The deduction for conventional equipment, excluding weapons and armor, starts at 10%. For the Fade to Red adventure, the party is limited to purchasing:
Equipment from the Player’s Handbook 90% of Listed Price
Potion of Healing 50 gp
Scroll of Cantrip 30 gp
Scroll with a 1st level spell 50 gp
Scroll with a 2nd level spell 500 gp
Currently, the church has 4 potions of healing beyond those given the party. Celestyna will devote some of the temple’s resources to making scrolls or replenishing stocks if the party remains in her good graces.
Fade to Red will continue with Chapter 2, 3 and 4 in Threshold issue #24!
1Copper piece in the Savage Coast, see also this thread on The Piazza about the Savage Coast and Slagovich’s coinage: http://www.thepiazza.org.uk/bb/viewtopic.php?f=26&t=22051. Currency can be changed to the usual copper, silver, gold and so on if the adventure is set elsewhere.
2The Black Samovar is one of the most notable features in Slagovich, brought to life by Bruce Heard in Dragon #171 in the Voyage of the Princess Ark. Since it is noted in other works, it deserves at least a note here as well.
3Equivalent to 9/10 or 90 cents on the dollar or 90 pence on the pound, basically, a 10% discount.
4Or silver coin, see note 1 above
5The DM may decide some guards will arrive if the PCs are in serious trouble but, otherwise, they will not arrive during the fight.