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Adventures in the Frozen Northby Matthew Fleet from Threshold Magazine issue 2
Welcome, dear reader! In this humble article, it is my intent to give additional source material for adventuring in Northern Norwold and the Norzee Isles. The canon material presented for this region was sometimes of a very light touch indeed, giving little insight as to what lies in these cold and distant lands. Fortunately, the fan Gazetteer series hosted on the Vaults of Pandius has provided detailed information on a number of areas in this part of the world, and it is in this light that I intend to continue.
In this article, I present source material for five new locations: a frozen Island, shrouded in mystery, where even frost giants fear to tread; a magical research facility which has been built near a hidden and powerful evil; a village situated far to the north, which is ruled by a criminal mastermind and whose residents harvest a potent berry used in magical potions; a burial Isle where the dead do not sleep easily, and where a banished and vengeful spirit watches and waits; and finally, a village of intrepid traders, who hold out against barbarians, bandits and a large dragon. I also present a map which shows where these locations are situated in the world of Mystara. This map was originally posted on the Vaults of Pandius a few years ago, but the complimentary notes were not ever completed, until now.
Before I begin, it should be mentioned that this material is only a suggestion for what lies in these areas, and is not inscribed in stone. So please feel free to change whatever details you wish to suit your own campaign. Having now clarified all of that – let us proceed onward to the frozen north!
“Little is known about Crystylyne Isle. In fact, I have only ever met one person who claims to have been there. The Isle’s name may be derived from the fact that numerous icicles resembling crystal shards hang down from the rock faces that are situated at various points along the shore. Different colored icicles apparently can be seen here – some are white, while others are blue. The explorer I met who assured me that he’d been to Crystylyne Isle even said that he’d found the remnants of a boat there on the eastern shore that was frozen into crystal. Most likely it was just covered in ice, as explorers are often full of fanciful tales....
Travel to the Isle is only possible by boat in the warmer months, as most of the Norzee freezes over during winter. Icebergs can still be a problem even if travelling the Norzee during the Summer, and if any travellers run into serious trouble in this unforgiving sea, then death is likely, as there are no regular trade routes or fishing lanes within five hundred miles of these frozen waters.
The frost giants of Frosthaven never seem to travel to Crystylyne Isle or to any of the others close by. This is probably due to the fact that more plunder can be found by raiding the human lands to the south. And the frost giants never seem to tire of such raids...”
– An extract from “Geography of the North”, a treatise written by Aranthor, scribe to King Ericall of Norwold
Crystylyne Isle is surrounded by the sea known as the Norzee, and is situated far to the north of the lands of Norwold. Harsh and icy winds blast this island all year round. The island itself is barren of any vegetation beyond various types of lichen, which grow on the exposed rocks of this inhospitable place. Most of the island is either hilly or mountainous, and has numerous natural caves and tunnels which are cut into the rock and ice. A close inspection on the surface reveals that some of the rocks appear to have been crystallised by some unknown force.
Crystylyne Isle is indeed safe from frost giants, as Aranthor’s writings suggest, but other dangers are present instead. This Island is home to approximately twenty crystal dragons of variable age, who do not take kindly to intrusions into their domain. They are led by an ancient crystal dragon named Shardarath, who has spell casting abilities far beyond others of his kin.
Due to the philosophical differences between crystal and white dragons, the crystal dragons prefer to keep themselves apart from their more numerous white colored cousins. However, there are no open hostilities, so the white dragons that live in northern Norwold are happy to leave their crystal colored cousins to their self-imposed isolation.
The reason that frost giants do not come to this Island is more than just geographical location. Shardarath lost his first mating partner to a frost giant raiding party when he was young, and he has never fully recovered from the loss. He has a pathological hatred for frost giants as a consequence, and usually attacks them on sight. Over the centuries, numerous frost giants have been slain near Crystylyne Isle, and so the giants do not come here willingly, especially as richer and less dangerous lands lie to the south. Shardarath is aware that the frost giants are too numerous in Frosthaven to attack them there directly, and does not wish to antagonize them to the point that they invade Crystylyne Isle in full force, so he merely contents himself with picking off small groups away from Frosthaven whenever the opportunity presents itself.
The crystal dragons living here normally try and scare off human explorers when they are first spotted near the island. This is normally done by flying close to the ships in an intimidating manner. They will only directly attack if the explorers actually land on the Island and try and set up camp or begin to explore the caves where the dragons make their home. Hence the wary traveler can easily avoid conflict if he so chooses. Some of the crystal dragons can speak various human tongues and may warn explorers to leave before resorting to violence. Once issuing such a warning, the dragons will only engage in further dialogue under exceptional circumstances. However, it should also be noted that the dragons do not set regular watches, so it is entirely possible to reach the Island, camp for the night and then leave without being spotted.
The crystal dragons are careful to ensure that humans do not know that there are more than a few of them living on this Island, as this could attract additional treasure hunters and adventurers. The few encounters between dragons and humans so far have normally involved only one or two crystal dragons. More would only ever get involved if there was a battle on the Island itself. This has only happened once in recent times, and none of the adventurers survived to tell the tale. However, the boat they arrived in was crystallized by one of the dragons’ breath weapons, and lies on the shore to this day in crystal form as testament to the battle that occurred.
Shardarath suspects that it is only a matter of time before the human lands to the south launch an attack on Frosthaven due to the giants’ repeated raids, and he is prepared to help in this endeavor. He would consider letting himself be known to an army from Norwold that is marching towards Frosthaven with the goal of neutralizing the frost giants there. However, he would be careful not to divulge where his home is located, and none of the other crystal dragons would get involved unless Crystylyne Isle itself was actually being threatened by the frost giants.
Shardarath could be used to carry a small number of heroes (such as the player characters) to Frosthaven and drop them off there to enable them to make a strategic strike against the frost giants, or to create distractions to allow time for a human force to arrive at Frosthaven while remaining undetected.
He is also aware that there is a malign influence in the lands to the south that is gaining power (see the [Kingdom of Kaarjala fan gazetteer for more information on this). He is currently unaware of what this power is, or exactly where it is based. However, if the player characters are close to a confrontation with this evil power (the Rimal Hag), but are not strong enough to deal with her on their own, then the Crones of Crystykk (see CM1 Test of the Warlords) could send a vision to try and get the player characters to visit Crystylyne Isle in order to solicit Shardarath’s aid for any final showdown.
There is also another good adventure hook for this Island. Although no adventuring party could reasonably be expected to defeat up to twenty dragons in battle, Crystylyne Isle still offers a good opportunity to acquire treasure by stealth. As noted above, the dragons living here do not usually arrange watches to guard their Island, as very few monsters or humans visit this isolated place. Therefore, a well-planned stealth mission to steal treasure is entirely plausible, especially as crystal dragons spend much of their time sleeping, just as white dragons do. A theft which was quite subtle, such as taking some lesser items of value, or a relatively small proportion of the total coinage of a hoard would probably go unnoticed for a while – certainly long enough for the party to make their escape. However, if very valuable items were stolen, then the dragon whose hoard had been raided would notice a lot quicker, and would go looking for the culprits possibly before they had even managed to leave the Island...
Finally, there are rumors of an Alphatian mage living in Alpha who sometimes casts a dangerous geas on those that offend him. In order for the geas to be lifted, an item made of gold must be brought back from Crystylyne Isle. Adventurers therefore should be careful who they offend in this city, otherwise they might find themselves having to go on a dangerous mission that they never planned to go on initially.
His statistics are as follows (BECMI rules):
(Huge Crystal Dragon): AC-3, HD14*******, HP 102, Attacks: Up to 6, Damage: 3-10 x 5, 2d8 + 8, or breath weapon or spell, save as F36, Int 17, Morale 10, AL Lawful (Neutral Good), XP 8,500
Shardarath has the following mage spells (by level) at his disposal: 5,5,4,3,2,1
Shardarath found a talisman of polymorph (the wearer can cast polymorph self 3 times a day) when he was a young dragon, which enabled him to travel to numerous human lands many centuries ago. Because of this, he was able to study with several human mages over time, and as a consequence has gained spell casting abilities far beyond what most other crystal dragons achieve. One spell of note he has learnt is an incantation which enables him to reverse the crystallization effect of any crystal dragon’s breath weapon (this incantation is a variant of the stone to flesh spell), which he sometimes uses to turn non-living material back into its pre- crystallized state. In addition, he can also choose to have his breath weapon inflict cold damage only, and not turn non-living material into crystal at all.
Shardarath has crafted a few magical items to aid him. Most notable is a band of protection +2, which adorns one of his scaled toes (hence his improved AC). He also possesses a crystal ball with ESP, which he uses to spy upon the nations of men in Norwold.
“When I first heard about this research facility, I was skeptical of its practical use. Located in the middle of nowhere, on an Island as cold as a black hag’s heart, and run by somebody with part Thyatian blood - how could things be any worse?
In fact, I only went because Otharal recommended the place, as I trust the old fool’s judgment if nothing else. Now I have studied there for three years, and have mastered several new spells, most of which I believe are almost unknown outside of the facility.
When I return to Alphatia, I think I’ll claim back the part of my Estate which was taken from me quite unfairly. I’m now confident that I’ll be victorious when I resolve matters with that fool Kirith in a duel shield.”
– From the diary of Ariandor II, Alphatian Mage
Camp Avernius is located on Sklogtir Island, which lies just to the north of the mainland. It is an inhospitable isle, with tundra and low lying icy hills offering little protection from the cold winds of the Norzee. The Island’s inhabitants include a number of monsters, such as ice wolves, ice trolls and frost salamanders. A few small communities of cryions also live here, following a semi-nomadic lifestyle on the Island. No Shonak tribes exist here – in fact there are no human settlements on the island at all, with the exception of Camp Avernius itself.
Camp Avernius is an underground magical research facility where cold and ice magics are studied. The facility is cut out of ice and rock next to the coast and the temperature inside is controlled magically. It also has an underground port, where the facility’s sole ship is moored. This magical ship is used to transport goods that the facility needs from other ports. It has been primarily designed to travel underwater (its enchantments do not permit it to fly), and as such, vaguely resembles a huge metallic shark. To avoid unwanted attention, the ship usually moors a couple of miles from the port it is travelling to, and the crew makes the rest of the journey by foot. However, the ship still has been spotted on a number of occasions, leading to rumors of sea monsters.
The overseer of the facility is Avernius himself. He was born on the Isle of Dawn and has an Alphatian father and a Thyatian mother. He is therefore generally not trusted by both Alphatian and Thyatian citizens he meets, as both groups suspect him of having loyalties to the other empire. It is because of this that he has moved away from the Isle of Dawn completely to study magic elsewhere.
Avernius set up the facility by first summoning water and earth elementals to dig through the ice and rock, and then placed various enchantments to make the place both habitable and warded against intruders. Now there are about 20 mages studying here, together with about 25 support staff. Most of the support staff prepare meals, clean, and perform other menial tasks. However, some of the support staff gather spell ingredients from the surrounding area instead. Naturally, those that do this particular task are adventurers who are able to survive the dangers on the Island, and they are paid well for their services. There is also a cleric in the facility who provides healing and the creation of food and drinking water for those who live at the camp.
This facility makes an income by firstly charging a flat fee for any that wish to study here. In addition, some magical items are crafted here and sold in various cities so ingredients (both mundane and magical) that are not found on the island can be purchased to aid the magical research conducted in the facility.
Avernius tries to keep the camp with a low profile, but it is nevertheless known to the Alphatian ruling council of wizards. In fact, they even have a spy in the facility to keep tabs on its progress. They do not view the camp as a major threat however, as Avernius has no political ambitions. Some of the research that’s been completed (including new spells) has been secretly copied by their spy and sent back to the ruling council for study.
A party of adventurers could get involved here in a number of ways. Avernius travels quite frequently, and occasionally recruits adventurers to help with various tasks back at the camp, so he could hire such a group in a number of cities. If they agree, they will be assigned to deal with any monsters which are causing the facility trouble, and also to look for much needed magical spell components on Sklogtir Island itself.
Any magic-user player characters in the party may get to hear of the camp, and try and gain entrance so they can study and research new spells. This would be an excellent opportunity to introduce new spells into the campaign. Variants of existing spells could also be introduced (such as the magic missile spell firing shards of sharpened ice instead, causing cold damage, etc).
If the party is hired to work at the facility, you can arrange for them to be picked up by the magical ship if you do not wish the party to make a very long trip over frozen tundra and icy seas (though this could be written as an adventure in itself).
There is a danger on Sklogtir Island of which the facility is completely unaware. A few centuries ago, there was a similar research station elsewhere on the isle, which was run by a group of Alphatian Mages. Unfortunately, a small expedition party stumbled across an ancient randara (see the D&D Creature Catalogue), which followed them and gained entrance into the facility through its shapechanging ability. Most of the inhabitants of the research station were subsequently slain, but a few mages escaped and magically warded the entrance, so the creature could not escape. The creature is still trapped inside to this day.
The residents of Camp Avernius could find the old research station and remove the magical wards in order to gain entrance, unaware of the danger inside. Once released, the randara could then gain entrance to Camp Avernius by appearing as one of the residents (or by another ruse). Once inside, all of those at the facility would be in danger. Almost all of the magical protections defending Camp Avernius are designed to prevent intruders from forcing their way in initially, and will not help once an intruder is already inside. On top of this danger, Avernius and some of the other more powerful mages often travel (via teleportation), and so are away from the camp quite regularly, and may not be around to help. So it could be up to the Player Characters to try and save the facility – and themselves!
This scenario could be particularly dangerous, as Camp Avernius is in the middle of nowhere, with limited supplies, and any help would normally take weeks to arrive. However, if the Player Characters do need assistance, Avernius could teleport back to the camp after his travels and arrive in time to help them. Or it could just be the randara, pretending to be Avernius....
This is definitely an adventure where a devious Dungeon Master can have lots of fun, even if the players don’t!
The Village of Hemvaara
“I went to Hemvaara to try and secure a steady supply of frostberries for trade, as they often fetch a small fortune due to their magical protection against the cold. Very quickly, I managed to secure a meeting with the village mayor in his small office. There was something familiar about his face, but I couldn’t place him in the meeting. All went well and I was guaranteed a small supply every month, allowing for possible disruptions in winter due to the weather. It was only after I was aboard my ship and sailing back to our guild house in Alpha that I remembered who the village mayor was – none other than Sigmund Ericsson, a wanted criminal in Landfall! I had seen his face on a bounty poster there, and so I considered passing this information on to collect the sizable reward, until it occurred to me that the trade agreement I had just secured with him would earn me even more...”
– Diary of Jodryll Cader, Minrothad Merchant Prince of Clan Corser
Far to the North of Alpha, and even Kaarjala, lies the village of Hemvaara on the north-eastern coast of Norwold. This is the most northern permanent human settlement in Norwold. Approximately 400 people live here, who make a living by fishing, collecting timber, and herding livestock. They also harvest and sell the magical frostberry (see below). The climate here is not as cold as most other areas this far north, due to a number of volcanic hot springs in the area, together with warmer air currents travelling up the coast from more southerly regions. This has caused a small local eco-system to develop which sustains evergreen trees and other plants in the area, such as the arctic willow.
The magical frostberry also grows in this region, and, if used in Alchemy, can create a potion that gives 50% resistance to any magical cold, and infers complete invulnerability to normal cold. In addition, the duration of any such potion lasts for 24 hours. Needless to say, this berry is well sought out by mages and alchemists. The village grows, harvests, and sells small amounts of these berries to various merchants who travel here. However, the coast is very dangerous to navigate due to numerous rock outcroppings, some of which lie just under the water line. As a consequence, only one trading ship from the Minrothad Guilds makes the journey by sea (which it mainly achieves by that nation’s expert prowess in sailing and sea magics). Even then, the journey is made quite infrequently, as even the Minrothad merchants almost lost one ship while navigating this route. The standard merchant trade route is made by land along the coast from Vasteranga.
The villagers of Hemvaara are mainly of Kaarjalan stock. However, there are also a small number of foreigners living here, as this place is often used as a hideaway for criminals due to its remote location, and because it is outside the jurisdiction of both Norwold and Kaarjala. However, these criminals usually keep a low profile and avoid illegal activity in the village, in order not to attract any undue attention.
The current head of the village, Sigmund Ericsson (Fighter, Level 9), is wanted in Landfall after crossing the Stevedores Union (see the “Streets of Landfall ” fan gazetteer for more on this organization). He fled here to avoid the bounty hunters who were looking for him, and was subsequently made the mayor of Hemvaara after successfully leading the village’s defenses against a Shonak raiding party.
Since then, he has organized the selling and distribution of the magical frostberry grown in Hemvaara to foreign merchants. He has however been very careful to ensure that any local villagers who help in this trade are well paid for their efforts. In fact, the villagers did not even know that the frostberry could be sold for such high sums before Sigmund’s arrival. However, he was well aware of its value due to working on the docks under the Stevedores Union. He also has a good knowledge of what most items can be sold for in major ports.
As a consequence of the new frostberry trade, the village of Hemvaara has accumulated wealth far beyond what it had managed previously, which has added to Sigmund’s popularity. Most of the other criminals who have fled here are also involved in this trade, and work together with Sigmund to ensure that no other organization can get hold of a ready supply without going through them first.
Needless to say, numerous alchemists and mages would be willing to pay a fair price to get hold of various quantities of frostberries, but are unable to do so as all of the regular supply has already been promised to other merchants. These merchants only sell their frostberries at very high prices, which has inevitably led to individuals attempting to get hold of a supply of their own. However, due to the dangerous and distant location of Hemvarra, adventurers are sometimes hired to secure such a supply.
Any adventurers hired for this task will not be able to get hold of any frostberries from Sigmund, due to his existing trade agreements. However, he only controls the frostberries that are farmed in Hemvarra itself. Wild frostberries grow in the forests around Hemvarra which the adventurers could harvest if they spend some time searching the surrounding area. The frostberry is quite rare; however a couple of days foraging should provide enough frostberries to make the trip financially worthwhile.
The only problem here is that Sigmund, his organization, and most of Hemvarra are not going to take kindly to being undercut in the frostberry trade. If they are aware of adventurers foraging for frostberries in the wild, then they will attempt to stop them, using force if necessary. However, villagers would not directly attack an armored group on their own, but would instead inform Sigmund about the foragers at the earliest opportunity. Sigmund would then gather his gang and attack the foragers when most advantageous for him. In addition, Sigmund will initially be suspicious of any group of armed adventurers arriving in the village, as he is fully aware that bounty hunters are after him and some of his gang. He would therefore have such groups watched and followed as a matter of course.
To make matters worse, any surrounding forest situated more than 4 miles from Hemvarra is uninhabited by humans, and thus should be treated as dangerous wilderness area. Therefore, foraging there for frostberries could end up with the party encountering various monsters. However, if the party stays within 4 miles of the village, then they run the risk of being spotted by one of Sigmund’s men instead.
How successfully any adventuring party deals with the above dangers will determine the final outcome of their mission.
Shonak Burial Isle
“I tell you boy, there’s treasure on that island all right, but it’s not worth the risk. I went there once myself, with other adventurers, just like you.
Now I can assure you that I‘ve cleaved many a skeleton, zombie and ghoul with my trusted axe, so I don’t get the jitters just because some bag of bones is shambling towards me. However, there was something about that island that just felt wrong from the moment our boat landed on the shore. That’s when I agreed to stay with the boat owner, who refused to be left alone while my group went looking for treasure.
We waited five days in the freezing cold for the others to return, after they had entered the nearest cave from the shore, but they never came back. Me and the boat owner finally set sail on the sixth day, back to Alpha, and scarcely said a word to each other on the entire return trip. That’s when I gave up adventuring - when I realized that gold is no good to you if you’re dead.
Now I know what you’re thinking boy – how do I know treasure is on the island when I never left the boat? Well, I don’t know what was in the caves up there, but I do know what magical items my old adventuring group were carrying when they left the boat, and unless somebody has managed to grab them in the meantime, then those items are still there.”
– Garren Rockhammer, dwarven ex-adventurer, speaking at the White Wyrm Inn in Alpha
This inhospitable island lies at the northern end of the Bay of Tears. It is devoid of any vegetation beyond grass and lichen, as are most of the lands that are this far north. It is also very flat, consisting of frozen tundra and rocky outcroppings. What may avoid initial inspection, however, is that there is almost no wildlife on the island either. It is therefore eerily silent, with the exception of the cold whistling winds that scourge the lands. Some may pick up on this silence subconsciously when arriving, which will cause them to become unnerved, though they may not be able to identify the exact cause of their fear. Some Shonaks say that they can hear the dead whispering to them on this island, though whether this is actually true is a matter for speculation.
Most Shonak tribes (which are similar to real world Inuit tribes 500 years ago) cremate their dead. However, a few tribes who migrate towards the north-eastern end of Norwold bury their deceased instead. Their bravest warriors and other noteworthy tribesman often get buried on this burial isle, either in the caves that are closest to the surface, or in barrows on the surface itself. Usually, the possessions of the deceased are buried with them, to help them in the afterlife.
The Shonaks are able to reach this island all year round, either by boat in spring, summer or early autumn, or by crossing the Bay of Tears on foot during winter when the waters freeze over. The boats the Shonaks use are called “umiaks” and resemble large canoes made of whalebone and seal leather.
There are many natural caves on this on island, most of which are interconnected by underground tunnels. In one part of the caverns, there exists the remains of a Qeodharian camp, which was used as a summer base by sea raiders many centuries ago. It connects to the sea by a tunnel which can be navigated by boat. This abandoned settlement is not known to the Shonaks.
Qisuk the Accursed
Also unknown to the Shonaks is the fact that the island is inhabited by a shamanic lich named Qisuk. He was, until about 10 years ago, a Shonak shaman who was banished to the burial isle for summoning and communing with dark spirits, which was forbidden by his tribe. He was also banished because he had gained significant magical powers, and was considered a threat by the shamans of his and some other Shonak tribes. This banishment is handed out to shamans who betray their kinsmen or meddle with dark powers, and is an unpleasant fate. The accused is bestowed with a curse which makes it impossible for him or her to cast any spells, and then is left on the burial isle in spring to starve to death after the ice has melted in the surrounding bay. As the only water available to drink on the island is either sea water, or unclean pond water, some die before the starvation even kicks in.
Qisuk had already cast a spell on himself before his imprisonment and banishment, the effect of which was to keep his soul in his own body after his death. This spell was taught to him by a dark spirit he regularly communed with, and was a variant of a ritual spell sometimes used to gain lichdom. Qisuk was aware that his own death could ultimately bring him significant power beyond what he possessed, but he was also aware that the ritual itself carried significant risks, and was not guaranteed to succeed. He therefore never had the courage to bring about his own death intentionally, which was one of the requisites needed for the ritual to be completed. However, once he was banished to the burial isle, his hand was forced. He completed the non magical requirements of the ritual, while the spell itself had already been cast, thus enabling Qisuk to circumnavigate the curse that had been bestowed upon him.
Fortunately for Qisuk, the spell worked and his life force remained in his body after his own death. He awoke, one week after his ritual suicide, with his full spell casting abilities restored. The curse bestowed upon him previously had prevented any spellcasting until his own death, and was now negated since he had actually died.
Qisuk was vain during his life and this has continued in his undeath. He has employed a ritual using a small vial of vampire blood to stop his flesh rotting away, which has been mostly successful. In addition, the continually freezing temperatures on the island have slowed down any decay to a bare minimum. Qisuk therefore appears as a gaunt and deathly pale human, as opposed to a skeleton, as most liches do. This means that any player characters encountering him are not subject to fear, which would normally be the case when encountering a lich. In fact, most characters may not realise he is undead at all. However, any cleric of 15th or higher level who makes a wisdom check will know that he is undead if they come within 30 feet of him. In addition, any cleric of 25th level or greater will not need to make the wisdom check – they will know Qisuk is undead as soon as they see him (just as they do with undead beholders). Please note that although Qisuk lacks the fear ability, he has all of the other generic abilities that liches do, including a paralysing touch.
Qisuk’s goals are quite straightforward. He wishes revenge on the shamans and tribesmen who banished him to the Isle, and he also wishes to amass as much magical power for himself as possible. He has no real interest in ruling lands, just merely acquiring powerful shamanistic and clerical rituals, as well as magical items. He is also currently trying to amass more minions, so he can attack his previous tribe and the shamans who banished him. However, it should take a number of years before Qisuk has the resources to make him confident enough to put his plan of revenge into action.
His statistics (BECMI) are as follows: AC -9/-6, HD 9+14*****, hp 59, AT 2 or by spell, Damage 2d4 + 8/1-10 + paralysis or by spell, Int 18, Morale 10, Save as C23, Alignment Chaotic (Neutral Evil), XP 15,500
Qisuk can cast spells as a 23rd level shaman (cleric). In addition, he has acquired the weapon mastery level of master with the mace. When attacking in hand to hand combat, he attacks once with his mace, and simultaneously uses his other hand to try and touch an opponent in order to paralyze them. However, these attacks should use whatever rules are in place for player characters using two weapons at the same time, and therefore may incur a penalty to hit. Qisuk gets an armor class bonus of 3 against the first three hand to hand attacks against him in each round, due to his weapon mastery. This bonus has been included in the AC -9 figure given in the statistics above.
He also has the following magical items: bone armor +2 which improves his AC by 6 (included in the stats above), a mace +4 and a ring of spell turning with 7 charges. Other magical items are at the discretion of the Dungeon Master. However, please note that Qisuk is weak for a lich (though still a powerful opponent), and has not been in existence for as long as most liches have, so he has therefore not amassed as much treasure as the rulebook indicates for this type of creature.
Qisuk currently has the following undead minions at his disposal: 30 skeletons, 8 wights, 6 wraiths, 4 barrow wights (see the new monster section at the end of this article) and 2 krattis (see the [ “Kingdom of Kaarjala ”] fan gazetteer for a description of this creature).
The existence of the Shonak burial isle is not widely known, and rumors of its existence could normally only be found in Kaarjala, or from various Shonak tribes. However, a few other individuals know of it, such as the dwarf, Garren Rockhammer (see above).
Naturally, once adventurers hear about Shonaks being buried with all of their treasure, then their interest will probably be piqued (though any lawful clerics would object to unabashed grave robbing). The party could even be hired by Garren Rockhammer to see if they can discover what actually happened to his old party. Either way, it shouldn’t be too difficult to get a party of player characters to travel there.
Once they arrive on the island, their approach will determine what they encounter. Qisuk does not want to be discovered – as far as his former tribesmen are aware, he is dead, and he does not want that illusion dispelled. His revenge plans include taking his former tribesmen by surprise, which will be far more difficult if they know he is still a threat. He will therefore only be encountered if the adventurers delve into the deeper caverns in search of treasure.
The upper caverns contain numerous lesser undead that are not directly controlled by Qisuk (and are therefore not included in the list of his minions given above). Any cleric turning undead that are controlled by a more powerful being usually become aware of this fact after the first turning attempt. Qisuk therefore does not control these lesser undead directly as he does not want his presence known, so any adventurers restricting themselves to the upper caverns will probably not become aware of his existence. In addition, he might order the krattis to try and scare off the adventurers with their shrieks, if they begin to get too close to the lower caverns.
Qisuk has lit the lower caverns with eerie blue continual light spells, which will be the first clue adventurers will see that indicates that something powerful may reside on this Isle. If any adventurers enter this part of the cavern network, then Qisuk will attempt to ambush the party together with his minions. It should be noted that many of the caverns are connected by tunnels, and Qisuk knows the layout very well, so orchestrating an ambush from all sides would not be difficult. This should surprise any adventurers, as up to this point, they would only have encountered scattered and weak undead who were without any strategy, as opposed to a well-coordinated and large attacking force led by Qisuk.
If the party manages to overcome Qisuk and his minions, then they can take whatever treasures they can find on the Isle. As much of the treasure was placed here by the Shonaks, then much of it will take the form of their cultural objects (such as sculpted walrus tusks, pearls and armor/weapons made from bone). Some of this will be of a good quality, and will fetch a decent price if sold in any city. Furthermore, treasure left by adventurers who died previously on this Island will be here, together with whatever the Qeodharian raiders left behind centuries ago. It should be noted that the Qeodharians were mostly killed in their last raid, and never survived to get back to their base in order to retrieve what was theirs. In addition, there are also the magical items that Qisuk possesses which could be claimed by any adventuring party that manages to defeat him.
If the final battle on the Isle goes against the party, then all is not necessarily lost. Qisuk would be interested to know why the party have come to the isle, together with what they already know about him, and may offer an unconditional surrender in order to establish this. Qisuk is quite open about his hatred towards his old tribe, and the party could offer to help Qisuk capture some of them (or to perform some other task), which Qisuk might accept as a service in exchange for their lives. It should be noted that Qisuk is quite naive, and would be subject to bluff attempts. He would consider the party to be making an offer of service they intended to fulfil, rather than to be lying in order to save themselves. To openly and knowingly lie in front of his or her own kin was almost unthinkable in Qisuk’s old tribe, and the party could exploit this to their advantage in trying to negotiate their way out. Obviously, once it became apparent that he had been tricked, Qisuk would then add the adventuring party onto the list of those he plans to take revenge on.
“I knew it! I knew the terms of the treaty King Ericall signed with the halflings of Leeha was a mistake, but he wouldn’t listen to me. The trade concessions the halfings agreed to do not even equal what we could have gained by now in taxes if we hadn’t allowed Leeha to stay autonomous. King Ericall’s brain was addled with beer and smokeweed when he signed that blasted treaty, and to this day he still believes he got the best of them in the negotiations.
And now I hear that a trail route through the Icereach Range was discovered about six months ago. Apparently it leads to an old Thyatian Colony, and the Leehans have now managed to establish a trade route between that colony and Leeha. As the route does not cross the Kingdom of Norwold, we are unable to tax the merchants, and therefore, cannot make any profit from this trade route at all! The Halflings have even built a fortified camp along the trade route as a stopping point for the merchants and traders – Camp Bravefoot I think it’s called.
I think I will leave this information out when I next report back to the Empress Eriadna’s advisors. From what I hear, there is already concern over the lack of financial returns coming into the Imperial coffers from Norwold, and this news will only make matters worse.”
– An extract from the journal of Mariella the Councillor, chief adviser to King Ericall of Norwold
Far to the south of Shardarath’s lair, or the machinations of Qisuk, lies Camp Bravefoot. Nestled next to the White Bear River, it serves as a stop for merchants and traders travelling between Ghyr (a former Thyatian colony) and Leeha. A wooden palisade runs around the camp, as well as a ditch that has many wooden stakes driven into the ground, in order to deter raiders from attacking the camp. There is also a makeshift dock built here for the trading boats that arrive, as well as a few small warehouses. An inn has also just been built, which is called “Gateway to the West”, and is run by a female halfling named Isolda Merrysmile. This inn serves both excellent food and drink, and allows travelers to rest in some comfort during their travels. The total population of the camp is about 500 at any one time, which includes guards, merchants and travelers, who are mainly either halfling or human. In this regard, the term “camp” is slightly misleading, as it has already changed from being a camp and into a trading village.
For those travelling from Leeha, the trade route begins by boat, sailing up the White Bear River. There is a dwarven settlement called Pumice some way along the river, which some merchants visit in order to trade and rest. The town itself is not on the bank, but instead is located in the foothills nearby – however, the dwarves have built a dock to allow boats to moor on the bank of the river in relative safety.
In any event, all boats dock once they reach Camp Bravefoot, as there are no established trading stations further up the river. Here, wares are unloaded from the boats, and are either sold at the market in the camp itself, or are transported overland