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Jhaktahn's Apes

by Rodger Burns

A small problem has recently arisen in the normally placid woodlands of eastern Theranderol. Jhaktahn, a minor noble with pretentions of magical brilliance, recently turned his interests towards the creation of new magical beasts - and to near-universal surprise succeeded spectacularly, creating an flame-furred apelike monster with exceptional toughness, minor magical talents focusing on illusion and apportation magic, and even a certain degree of intelligence and ability to follow orders. Jhaktahn was almost completely insufferable over his creation... right up until the point where they apparently broke their bonds, tore him to pieces and escaped into the surrounding forests.

Several different groups within the surrounding towns are making plans to deal with the new monster infestation and avenge Jhaktahn's death, of course. However, these plans are developing somewhat slowly - nobody's that eager to charge straight at the lair of a bunch of monsters capable of murdering an Alphatian noble, and most are quietly hoping that someone else will take the chance first. Also involved is the sorceress Elmynene - an estranged lover of Jhaktahn - who suspects that things aren't quite as they seem. Elmynene doesn't quite believe that Jhaktahn could manage to simply breed a monster capable of murdering him and then lose control of it; she suspects that some unknown rival or other malicious force was involved in setting up a plot to kill him. She'll ask the PCs to involve themselves, investigating to find out exactly who might have set up Jhaktahn.

In actuality, the situation is even worse than Elmynene thinks. She's right in that Jhaktahn didn't create his apes without help, but wrong in thinking that he was set up by a rival wizard. In fact, Jhaktahn has been an unwitting pawn of nothing less than the powers of Entropy - and his 'apes' are actually bar-lgura, lesser Fiends and creatures of natural evil. Untold numbers of bar-lgura exist in the depths of Pyts and similar outer planes, but the ones unwittingly created by Jhaktahn are something different - as devoted to Entropy and capable of further empowerment as any of their kind, but by virtue of their creation on Mystara native to the Prime and so shielded from Immortal detection and banishment spells. The Immortal who manipulated them into existence (who could be Atzanteotl, Thanatos, Hel, or even Talitha or Masauwu) is currently letting them rampage along Jhaktahn's former estates, to keep up the pretense that they're just another form of magical mishap. Soon enough, though, they will quietly disappear, to be used for other Entropic plots.

What happens next depends on the PCs. If they rush straight in (or avoid getting involved at all), the Entropic Immortal behind the whole plot will take the opportunity to have his minions take a dive - a few bar-lgura will be left behind, fighting furiously but hopelessly, and the PCs will seem to have an easy triumph. It'll be one short on answers, though, and months or even years later the party will hear word of strangely familiar ape-monsters wreaking havoc elsewhere on Mystara.

If the PCs take some time to investigate Jhaktahn, though, they'll likely discover clues as to the bar-lguras' true nature - monster-creation tomes that turn out to have subtle ties to demonology and outer planes tainted by entropy, correspondence with some of the more twisted wizards of Blackheart, possibly even red herrings and distractions that turn out to be planted by Entropic agents. Armed with this knowledge, the PCs can take on the bar-lguras knowing the true nature of what they face. They'll find a much tougher fight - the fiends' patron can't simply rely on the PCs slaughtering a handful of monsters and thinking they've taken care of everything, and so will order every single bar-lgura ever created by Jhaktahn at the party in hopes of silencing them permanently. But if they're victorious, they'll know that the threat inadvertantly created by the Alphatian wizard is gone for good.

Bar-Lgura (Leaping Fiend): AC 4; HD 8***; MV 120'(40'), climb 90'(30'); #AT 2 claws/1 bite; Dmg 1d6/1d6/1d4; NA 1d4 (2d6); SV F8; ML Special; Treasure Type K; Int 8; AL C; XPV 2300.

Bar-lgura are immune to normal weapons (but not silvered or magical weapons), energy drain, disease and ESP spells. They are mortal beings and do not have Immortal level Anti-Magic or Power unless specially enhanced by an Immortal of Entropy. However, they can use the following spell-like abilities - darkness at will, telekinesis at will (200 cn limit), phantasmal force 3/day, dimension door 3/day, invisibility 10' radius 1/day. They have infravision (60' range) and receive a +2 bonus to saves against charm spells and other mind-affecting magics cast by a Lawful or Neutral character.