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The Monolith Adventureby Ville Lähde
THE MIGHT OF ROCK AND THE HEAVENS
"In their own times, told the Makers,
sang the people of the Stars their enchantments
in chorus with the roar of the deep
Under feet, under soil, in rocky hollows
were forged and kissed the mighty unions
of the Underfolk and the Kings of Stars
But unions and alliances grew rotten, forgotten
were the children of rock and the heavens
Aspiring to pass beyond the veil."
- A forgotten and lost Traladaran lament
This adventure was originally written over 10 years for D&D, to be used in the official Mystaran world, then known (to me) only as the Known World from the Blue-Box Expert Set. It was published in the Finnish RPG magazine "Magus". The experience levels of the PC's were designed to be around 5. - 6., but the adventure can easily be adjusted with minor changes. The original location for this adventure was the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, described in the Gazetteer by the same name. However, some details concerning the adventure area, the Barony of Dmitrov, were changed, and some new mythological elements were written to create the background of the story. If the DM doesn't wish to effect those changes, the adventure can be easily rewritten for any similar locale. (Note: Upon the writing of this adventure I was still using the older demographic features of Karameikos used in the old Expert Set, with a much lower population. Using the Gazetteer demographics may change the atmosphere of the story a bit, creating a much less frontier-like setting. Also some details of the Barony of Dmitrov deviate a bit from the Gazetteer.)
Note: This adventure was inspired by various works of fiction, including C. S. Lewis's "The Silver Chair", Ursula le Guin's "Wizard of Earthsea", a wonderful continental sci-fi comic series "Khena et Scramouche", the One-on-one D&D adventure "Blade of Vengeance", and some poetic elements in the work of Susan Cooper.
As the keepers of elder lore still remember it:
Countless of seasons ago, long before the people of Traldar arrived to the land that are now called Karameikos from the lost Nithia, a strange people lived in the southern parts of the land. They called themselves The Children of the Old Covenant. Their appearance and the details of their life are unknown by latter generations and other peoples, as they vanished a long time ago and also tended to keep isolated. Only a few scattered sages, especially those of the elder races, still remember the story of the Old Covenant and its cursed children.
The roots of the story reach far. The world was in its infancy. The Hinterlands and the latter Empire of Thyatis weren't separated by the Dread Sea, as the land hadn't yet felt the wrath which the dark Loremasters of Blackmoor awoke. In the bosom of Mystaran rock lived the People of the Rock, sometimes called the Underfolk, harvesting riches from the living veins of the world and growing mighty abodes out of them. The lands above them were largely uninhabited, but high in the heavens lived the People of the Stars in their cloud islands. They harvested the tears of the Cosmos, decorated their ethereal halls with them, and this was good. Neither of the two peoples desired that which belonged to the other.
The unstoppable wheel of Time kept turning, however, and brought a fateful moment of transition for both peoples. Still it wasn't marked by wars or suffering, but the greatest and most unpredictable of all forces, love. The Underfolk grew slowly fond of the fair People of the Stars, and the latter in turn sought peace and silence in their solemn countenance. Thus was the Old Covenant formed and sealed with caresses and kisses across the rifts of difference. But the fruits of this union were sad ones, because the children born from it were a mockery of the beauty and solemnity of the parents - some say this was a punishment for breaking laws so ancient that both of the two peoples had long forgotten them, never aware or their own transgression. In the rough beastly forms of their children the parents saw their own most vile and despicable features, ones they had for ages hidden from themselves, buried under layers of custom, ritual and oblivion. The Underfolk returned to their hidden chambers, behind lock and key, and the Cloudy Castles slipped to lands unknown. The Children of the Old Covenant were trapped forever on the land, between Rock and the Heavens.
Cycles of the Sun went on, and many cataclysms rocked the world, but by luck, fate or providence the Children's abodes were left intact, and they never touched the concerns of other peoples. Still their numbers dwindled and their blood grew rotten. When death was already reaching for the last of them, they appealed to their lost parents for one last time - but alas, those above or below couldn't hear them anymore, or chose to ignore this sad plea. To keep death at bay they built Circles of Star Monoliths as temples of Rock and the Heavens. With the skills inherited from their parents they shackled the might of the land and the air to help them rule their land and keep the sparkle of life alive. But this accursed existence didn't appease them, and the feeling of power didn't substitute their worldly homesickness. As their last act of defiance they gathered at their last monoliths of rock and the heavens, and faded away like a whispered lament in the wind. The accursed fruits of the Old Covenant were laid to oblivion.
For the DM:
Rare as it is, old legends are sometimes close to the truth. Yes, there were the Underfolk and the People of the Stars, although both of them have long since retreated to destinies unknown. And the story of their children is equally true, except for their final fate. Instead of finding the long-sought rest, their tortured souls were bound to the Monoliths, perhaps by the same forces that had punished their parents.
These stories have been mostly forgotten, however, and none of the PCs have ever had the chance to learn them. As said earlier, the stories have been preserved in the most obscure lore of the elder races, save some scattered laments or anecdotes of the Traladara. And even in the case of the elder races, the stories haven't been preserved in clear narrative form. Instead they have been disguised as moral stories, philosophic lessons in the form of stories, and mostly only as oral tradition. Few sages ever saw point in writing them down.
(Note: Originally I had drawn detailed maps of the scenes of the adventure. There was a map of the Barony of Dmitrov, the village of Dmitrov, the Star Monoliths, the Seagull island and the Elder Woods logging camp. But since I don't have the original issue of Magus anymore, I couldn't include them. And anyway, I don't own a scanner. Sorry.)
The events take place in the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, more specifically in the Barony of Dmitrov. The barony consists of a small (about 20 miles long) cape in the southern part of the country. The lands of Dmitrov are bordered by the much larger Barony of Vorloi to the north, and the waters of the Sea of Dread surround it elsewhere. Baron Dmitrov rules his lands from his manor, which is actually more like a fortified homestead. It is surrounded by a small village called Dmitrov. The village includes a small river harbour, as it has been built near the only river of the cape, Narodnik (Traladaran, translated roughly as "Forestfolk"). As can be seen from the maps (check Thibault Scarlat's page for several maps of Karameikos), the village is located at the southern parts of the cape.
A very old and battered Thyatian road, built after the invasion 100 years ago, leaves from the village of Dmitrov to the north, branching near the northern border of the barony. The western branch leads to Specularum through the lands of Vorloi, and the northern branch leads eventually to the Eastern Duke's road. Note: Dmitrov and Vorloi have often clashed over the road taxes that Vorloi collects from the traffic leading to the lands of Dmitrov, who claims that the taxes are higher than they should, and are designed to keep a Traladaran dominion from developing. Vorloi, on the other hand, has repeatedly accused Dmitrov of taking part in smuggling... an accusation that might have some truth in it.
The barony is not only small, but has also a small population of only a few hundred. Approximations are hard to make, as the last census was carried out a few decades ago by the Thyatian invaders, and since then some families have moved in to the barony, ruled as it is by a Traladaran lord. Baron Dmitrov rules over several dozens of tenant families who farm the rich soil of the barony, and a small fishing community on the western beaches of the cape. In addition to this there are several freeman farmers who pay a portion of their taxes to Dmitrov as "shield tax", to pay for the protection the baron offers. (Note: As Karameikos in the Gazetteer era has been written to be a quasi-feudal society, that is, no serfs, some explanation had to be offered for the remains of feudalism in the country. I decided that the Karameikan land policy is a mixture of elder Traladaran clan practises [the freeman farmers] and tenantship. The tenants rent the land and have to pay taxes and perform work services in the same manner as serfs, but they are not so strictly bound to the land... although this difference sometimes escapes the poorest of Traladaran tenants. But for example, tenantship isn't a hereditary bond, and a tenant could in principle buy his freedom, although many lords tend to make this very difficult.) In the village and the fishing community there are some craftsmen, but only the ones essential to the functioning of the community.
The barony is mainly plains, except for a dense forest in the western parts of the cape, north of the fishing community. The forest is called Narodnasjak, the Thyatian version is roughly "Elder Woods", which describes very well its nature. The forest is very old and densely grown. Next to nobody ever goes there, as old stories tell of a Guardian of the Forestfolk who will extract revenge on anyone harming the trees. Nearly all of the wood that is used in the barony is imported, even though baron Dmitrov has started a few experimental forestry projects and organised some logging in the fringes of the forest. The latter doesn't produce much, however, as the morale of the workers tends to be very low, and strange non-lethal accidents plague the logging camps. So, in general the barony produces grain, fish and some dairy products and meat, nothing else of significant commercial value. Anything else than food is more expensive than usual, compared even to the neighbouring Vorloi lands. However, the local population tends to favour the local (mainly Traladaran) merchants, as they are traditionally suspicious of the merchants of the Vorloi family.
The south-western tip of the cape narrows to a small headland, "Star Rocks", which has high and dangerous cliffs and stunted woods. A mysterious circle of stones at its highest point has generated wild stories among the local population. A few miles to the sea from Star Rocks is Seagull Island, a rocky islet that is the home of thousands of sea birds. Some of the local fishermen visit the islet from time to time to gather eggs and guano, which they sell to the local farmers as fertiliser.
OUTLINES OF THE PLOT
Until now the barony of Dmitrov has been relatively peaceful. In spite of the political clashes with Vorloi, the Traladaran population has been basically left alone to tend to their own business. The land is remote from the wilder humanoid-infested areas of the country, and the curse of lycanthropy has never reached it. Since political relations with Ierendi and Minrothad are good, no significant threats come from the sea either. However, things have been changing lately. Some freeman farmers have disappeared from their huts, and twice a fishing boat along with the crew has vanished without a trace. There are rumours of halfling pirates, Ierendi buccaneers or even something worse... old wives watch the skies, muttering the words of ancient songs and warning of bad times. This is the situation when the PCs arrive in Dmitrov. (Note: It is up to the DM to decide how the PCs are brought into this matter. They may have been sent here by a rich Traladaran merchant, who is a supporter of Dmitrov, or by the Thyatian officials to investigate reports of strange events etc. Or Dmitrov may simply hire them as investigators.)
In reality the disappearances are the work of a learned mage Askold Ragnhild. He comes originally from Soderfjord jarldoms. Initiated to the secrets of the Art by a local wise woman, he studied at first in the magical college of Uppsala in Vestland, and travelled later to Glantri. In Glantri he found old elven documents that described the forbidden rituals that the Children of the Old Covenant used to control the Elements. When researching the rituals he found out that the Star Monoliths function as magical amplifiers. Casting spells and weaving enchantments in the middle of the circles is much more effective than normal, giving a learned mage powers tenfold, even hundredfold greater than before.
Askold couldn't resist the temptation and started organising an expedition to find a working or recoverable Circle of Star Monoliths. About time, since life in Glantri had become very hard for him. Even though Askold had chosen the path of magery, unusual among the Northerners, he was still a child of their traditions, believing strongly in their gods. In the end Askold couldn't keep his beliefs totally hidden, and he was banished. He travelled to Karameikos, and eventually Black Eagle Barony, asking baron Ludwig von Hendricks for funds and resources for the expedition. He could of course have contacted the Guild of Mages is Specularum, but he was afraid that public exposure would tempt other wizards, and he would have to compete for power. (Note: When I originally wrote this adventure, I didn't account for Bargle, who would certainly learn of Askold's plan and try to exploit it. But this is easily remedied, if the DM wishes: Bargle may very well be using Askold as a pawn in his own political and magical games. Also, Bargle may well be aware that what Askold is attempting is way beyond him) The baron realised that the execution of Askold's plan was risky and dangerous, and any accidents would hurt the reign of Stephan Karameikos badly, which suited him well. (Note: You may include agents of Hendricks in the adventure, trying to create a disaster. But as is told later on, real success of Askold's plan isn't an option, he may just succeed in creating a catastrophe) Thus he gave Askold the assistance he asked for. A small warship transported Askold and his goons to the Seagull Island.
Very soon Askold learned of the remaining monoliths. But time had had its toll on the circle of the monoliths, and it would have to be restored. (Overview of the original Circle: A circle of 10 Stonhengesque encloses the ritual grounds. In the centre is a large stone slab, on which the rituals are supposed to be performed. On either side of it are two large stone rings, through which certain constellations are supposed to be seen during the rituals. A smaller circle of runestones spreads around these centrepieces.) There would be a lot of work to be done. One of the huge stone rings had broken, runes had eroded from most of the runestones, and several of the outer monoliths had fallen and/or cracked. In addition to that, wild vegetation had taken over the area. Askold knew that many new stones would have to be cut and enchanted in order to make the Circle work again. He didn't have enough manpower to do this in time, as the next potential moment of the ritual was nearing. Thus he begun kidnapping Dmitrov's subjects and using them as slave labour. The stars and the rock would be in the correct constellation soon, and the people of Dmitrov were nearing their moment of doom...
In the beginning of the adventure the PCs are asked to investigate the disappearance of many people. During the course of the story they'll look into various kidnappings, meet the ancient guardian treant of Elder Woods, are thrown in the middle of a foreign politics conflict, and finally if they are successful, they are led to the ancient monoliths, where ancient powers are about to be unleashed.
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As noted above, the capabilities of the villains can easily be changed to meet the needs of the DM:
- Askold Ragnhild, Magic-user level 7
Bodily he is nearing 70 (see below), but spiritually and intellectually he is still a vigorous and energetic person. He has long blond hair with a touch of grey, and a long beard. He wears a pitch black cape, which has Northern runes embroidered on it. His eyes are bright, and his voice seems to be much younger than he looks.
Askold was born in Soderfjord Jarldoms, in Whiteheart valley. He grew up as a son of a lumberjack, raised by his father with a strong and sometimes cruel hand. In early age the boy showed talents for reading and writing, even for magic, and a local wise woman encouraged the family to send the boy to learn in the magical college of Uppsala in Vestland. Literate men were still scarce in the North, and one would have brought fame to the family. But in the college Askold could never yield to the hard discipline, once escaped from his father's harsh regime. He became obsessed with old and forbidden books of black lore, perhaps the wise woman had already planted this desire in him. Eventually he was caught bribing the library guard, and he was expelled. The bitter youth joined with travelling conjurers, tricksters, soothsayers and alchemists. When he reached the age of a man (14-16 in the case of the Northerners), he arrived in Glantri.
During his travels Askold had gathered some funds mainly by stealing, and could start wizardly studies. For years he studied, enjoying the more chaotic atmosphere of the Great School of Magic, compared to the dry academia of Uppsala. However, his progress was slow, as he didn't have exceptional talents. True to his nature, Askold blamed his teachers for this, saying that they hid advanced knowledge from him and pampered other students. He started stealing from other students, and even from graduates. Secretly he managed to gather a small library of expensive books of secret lore. It was during this time that he stumbled upon the fragmentary lore of the Star Monoliths.
As mentioned before, Askold's religious nature would cause him trouble. Askold and some other Northerner immigrants used to gather in an empty house to pay homage to the Northern gods. One of his teachers found out about this and confronted his student with this information, saying that the only way to avoid a trip to the Tower of Whispers would be to give in all of his accomplishes. The teacher had assumed that the young student would crumble under his authority, but he hadn't taken Askold's northern blood into account. Askold grabbed the old master by the throat, stopping him from using his magic, and squeezed the life out of him. But with the last dying breath the master uttered a command word of a necromantic spell, which aged Askold by decades in a heartbeat. As told before, Askold had to flee Glantri, and he begun his search for the Monoliths.
Askold isn't actually a cruel or evil person, but he simply can't tolerate anything or anyone getting in front of him or deceiving him. Life hasn't been gentle on him, and he has become very bitter. He is intelligent and wise, but not a very accomplished wizard (especially for his apparent age). He considers himself to be the most important person in the world, and is interested only in power. Due to some bodily maladies neither sex arouses any interest in him. For the PCs he should be a devious and dangerous opponent, who uses his magical resources to the best of his abilities. One of his current ambitions, in addition to gaining control of the Monoliths, is to get his youth back.
Strength: 13, Intelligence: 16, Wisdom: 13, Dexterity: 12, Constitution: 12, Charisma: 8
Hit points: 21
Languages: Soderfjord, Thyatian, Glantrian, Elven (ancient dialects, only written)
Skills: Stealth (Urban) 12, Knowledge of Northern Runes 16, Sleight of Hand 12, Knowledge of Star Monoliths 16
Quarterstaff, 4 silver-inlaid throwing daggers, Pearl ring (250 gp), Pouch: 10 Glantrian pp, 200 Thyatian gp, ruby (1000 gp), Pouch: 4 stones, "Continual Darkness" spell on them
ROD OF CANCELLATION, SCROLL: Conjure Elemental (Note: Askold will use this only during the ritual of the monoliths)
Spell Book: (Some Glantrian/Northern spells may be added to give Askold some flavour)
1) Read Magic, Floating Disc, Shield, Magic Missile, Read Languages, Protection from Evil
2) ESP, Mirror Image, Web, Continual Light
3) Fly, Protection from Normal Missiles, Haste
4) Hallucinatory Terrain, Massmorph
- "Bark", Ancient Treant
"Bark" is a guardian of the Elder Woods, and he may thousands of years old. His powers and spells have kept intruders away from this forest, even though most of the southern forests of this land have been cut away by Traladarans. "Bark" remembers the times when the southern woods still reached the Great Dymrak. The Thyatians are still newcomers, "children", to him. He lives in a magically hidden cave in the middle of the Elder Woods.
Nowadays "Bark" has stiffened a bit, as during the last centuries he hasn't been able to take the long walks to Dymrak that he so loved. The Elder Woods are his home, but alone they are a bit small for a treant. The smallest violation of the trees makes him angry. He would enjoy chats with elves.
Statistics: Standard Treant, or if the DM wishes, some positive modifiers of "Larger" Creatures.
Languages: Treant, Traladaran (ancient dialect), Dryad, Elf (Callarii, ancient dialect), All Faery languages
Special Abilities: May animate 4 trees (see "Treant" in Monster section of rulebook). Non-edged weapons do only 1hp damage. Knows every part of Elder Woods, acts without hindrance even if blinded and/or deaf.
Spells/day (Note: Some of these may be replaced with druid spells and/or elven spells from the Alfheim Gazetteer, or Faery Spells from the Tall tales of Wee Folk -book.)
1) Cure light wounds, Light, Purify Food & Water
2) Bless, Know Alignment, Speak with Animals
3) Growth of Animals, Cure Disease, Striking
4) Talk with Plants, Create Water
Note: These are the spells "Bark" normally memorises. If he knows that conflict is imminent, he is sure to choose more offensive ones.
- Baron Dimitri Dmitrov, level 4 Thief
A shortish 48 years old man, with black hair and brown eyes. He likes to dress in tight leather armour, which is adorned with his coat of arms. Generally prefers rich and beautiful clothing. Has an especially nice voice.
When Stephan Karameikos began luring Thyatian nobility to his newly purchased realm decades ago, a proud and rash young noble arrived to his castle. However, he wasn't of Thyatian descent, but a son of a prominent Traladaran merchant family. The young man, Dimitri Dmitrov, didn't see his commoner background as an obstacle, and wanted to get a new opportunity in the service of the new duke. Karameikos found this youngster an appealing person, and what's more, a skilful politician and tactician, and after a suitable period of service knighted him and gave him a dominion. Later on this was to become the Barony of Dmitrov. Dimitri was content with this, and he didn't wish to waste time sulking over Stephan's apparent favouritism of Thyatian nobles. He didn't take part in the early Traladaran insurrections, he just received refugees of beaten clans and incorporated them to this dominion.
In the next decades Dimitri Dmitrov served Stephan Karameikos well, managed to establish the economy of his dominion, and drove away several bands of smugglers and buccaneers which had plagued the area. As a reward for these deeds he was given the title of Baron. The other nobles grumbled about this - the Thyatians were suspicious of the Traladaran upstart, the Traladarans refused to acknowledge the breach in traditional rules of nobility. To all of them Dmitrov would remain a commoner in noble's garb. Thus Dmitrov hasn't had much influence in the politics of the nation. This doesn't matter much to him, though, as he sees that there's much more to do in improving his baronial lands. As a symbol of defiance, however, he selected as his coat of arms a Griffon pierced by a Traladaran spear.
Although in game terms Dmitrov is a "thief", this doesn't mean that he practices thievery as his profession. He is more like a rogue or "rake" - his skills were learned in his youth. Thanks to his intellect, charisma and sleight of hand he managed to make several good deals (first one when he was 14!). He treats all humans well, regardless of their religion or ethnic background, but is reserved and suspicious around elves and halflings. Dwarves he sees as "sleeping lions", whom one shouldn't aggravate, so to them he is polite, if a little stiff. In general, behind his polite and sweet countenance is a stealthy observer, who is constantly watchful for attempts to undermine his rule.
Strength: 11, Intelligence: 17, Wisdom: 9, Dexterity: 18, Constitution: 8 (A hereditary heart defect), Charisma: 16
Hit Points: 14
Languages: Traladaran, Thyatian, Minrothaddan, Ierendian
Skills: Bargaining 16, Negotiation 16, Administration 17
Adorned leather armour +1, Short Sword with a silver-inlaid hilt, Medallion of Office, 3 golden rings (100 gp each)
- Porius, Cleric level 4 (of Thanatos)
A man who dresses in blackened mail and black clothing. With pale face and especially pale skin he resembles a skeleton, especially as his eyes are deep in their sockets. He is also bald.
Porius comes originally from Thyatis, Hattias, where he was initiated in the cult of Thanatos, the patron of death and destruction. The cult has been traditionally strong there, and is equally strongly persecuted by the followers of the official churches of Thyatis. Years ago Porius fled religious persecution (or specifically, death penalty due to grievous murder of children) to Black Eagle Barony, and has been in the payroll of the Baron ever since. Porius is the leader of the men that Baron Hendricks has sent with Askold to help in his task. Porius has been instructed to keep close tabs on the mage and stop him if he gets powerful enough to threaten Black Eagle. The most important thing is that this mission inflicts damage on Karameikos.
Porius is an exceptionally brutal and cruel man, who simply enjoys violence. Inflicting pain arouses pleasure in him. This applies also to himself - he has hired a soldier to torture him whenever the opportunity arises. This has actually nothing to do with more conventional masochism, as Porius's intention is to inflict and experience intense pain, fear and suffering. As a fanatic servant of Thanatos this comes with the territory. Porius never uses healing spells.
Strength: 13, Intelligence: 9, Wisdom: 16, Dexterity: 8 (limps due to self-inflicted wounds), Constitution: 10, Charisma: 4
Hit Points: 20
Skills: Ceremony (Thanatos) 16, Torture 9, Intimidate 13, Bravery 16
Blackened chain mail, Shield
"The Stranger of Dark" - a war hammer +1, 1 Darkness spell/day
Unholy symbol of Thanatos (value 100 gp), Pouch: 200 Thyatian gp
1) Darkness, Cause Fear
- Secretary Megreit Wissenschaft, Normal Woman
A beautiful woman in her thirties, Megreit has long blond hair and a soft voice. She dresses in shirts of white silk and wears leather pants, complemented with a red cape.
Megreit is the personal secretary of the ambassador of Ierendi in Karameikos. When during the adventure rumours spread about the involvement of Ierendian pirates, she is sent to investigate. Megreit's relatives came originally from Heldann, but she has been thoroughly integrated to the Ierendian society.
She is a nationalistic person who will be very offended if (unfounded) accusations are made against her homeland. She doesn't use her good looks as a tool in politics. Reports everything to the ambassador in Specularum.
Strength: 12, Intelligence 16, Wisdom 13, Dexterity 12, Constitution 13, Charisma 15
Hit points: 7
Languages: Thyatian, Ierendian, Minrothaddan, Traladaran
Skills: Negotiation 15, Knowledge of Karameikan politics 16, Knowledge if Ierendian politics 16
Equipment: Dagger, Ring of spell storing: Sleep, Shield, Protection from Evil
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This adventure is divided into main stages of events. The PCs are led through these stages, hopefully moving towards the climax. In the descriptions of each stage I have included the essential information and some suggestions about the way the events could unfold. But eventually it is up to the DM and the PCs how the adventure forms. I haven't made any suggestions about the length of the stages. The DM may, if she/he wishes, decide when the time for Askold´s ritual is ripe, and make this a race against time. Note however, that then the option of "forcing fate" to make the climatic battle happen is not available to an honest DM - if the PCs are surprisingly clever and resourceful, and manage to stop Askold very early.
During this stage the PCs get acquainted with the Barony of Dmitrov. As mentioned before, there are various ways to bring the PCs into the story. They might arrive in the village of Dmitrov due to some other errand, and be contacted by the Baron there. Or the herald of the Baron might try to contact them elsewhere, perhaps in Specularum. In any case, this section has been written assuming that the PCs are in the service of Dmitrov, but that is not necessary.
Information on the village of Dmitrov:
The village is a small community that is centred in the surroundings of the Baron's manor. There are about 200 inhabitants in the area - in the manor live the baron, his family, some of his "court" and a garrison of 30 soldiers. There's also a small harbour in the village, situated in the mouth of the strong river Narodnik. From the harbour ships can move to the sea too. The Northern Road starts from the central marketplace (see above). The local population lives by fishing and growing grain. After each harvest wagons with heavy loads of flour travel to Specularum. The mill is few miles up the river. The people of the village are happy with their life and respect their baron, although the latest events have rattled them somewhat.
Dmitrov's Manor is a large, well-built house, which includes a fortified tower and a small palisade. From the top of the tower one can see far across the surrounding countryside, as the manor in on top of a small hill. Due to its location the manor is easily defensible. The soldiers of the garrison live in the tower, the "court" of 10 people in the eastern wing and the baron and his family in the western wing. The rooms of the manor are very tall, and the walls are covered with old Traladaran goblins and frescoes that depict the old legends of the people. The baron doesn't have a lot of riches, but in the recent years the (smoked) fish and grain trade has brought more silver and gold in his coffers.
(Note: I haven't included prices to the services below, although they were included in the article. Every DM has her/his own policy in these matters. The descriptions offer some guidelines, though.)
This establishment is owned by a young couple who moved here from the north a few years ago. As horses have to be transported here a long way, they take a high price and make a healthy profit. The husband is called Julius (Thyatian), nearing his thirties. Tatjana, 23, tends to do the bargaining, leaving the labouring to her husband.
The Inn "Sloshing"
The Innkeeper is a retired seaman called Stanislav. He charges a slightly high price for a night, even more for a room with a lock (4 rooms without lock, 1 with lock, and many square yards in the common room). The food is exceptionally good, and comes with the room, which tends to lessen the complaints of travellers over prices. Onion and dill -filled flounder is the house speciality, beetroot soup with sour cream (bortsch) is a favourite during winters, and during the summers Stanislav serves mountains of smoked fish with schnapps of vodka.
"The Shining Lantern" - a bar
The hostess Galina is a 60-years old widow. She has hired a sturdy doorman Jura (Fighter 4) to protect her both from violent customers and over-enthusiastic courtiers - especially the older farmhands seem to think that life as the husband of a well-off barkeep wouldn't be too bad. The food is cheap, and the drinks can be bought with a reasonable price, depending on the quality. If a customer speaks nicely and politely, she might slip in a small glass of dwarf spirits, bought from passing Minrothaddan merchant vessels. Most of it is however reserved to the smith and the storekeeper (see below), who guard this special privilege jealously.
The Smith and the General Store
This combined establishment is kept by two dwarven brothers Gron and Hil (both Dwarf 4). They make a lot of their wares in the smithy and workshop, but they have to buy something from the north. Rations and clothing is cheap, so is rope, leather, simple metal tools etc. But weaponry, armour, oil, glass etc. are very expensive. Both are very good craftsmen, although their wide area of expertise means that they aren't specialists in any field.
The harbour is enclosed by two breakwaters. Mainly fishermen's boats are kept there, in addition to the small sailing ship that is converted into a warship, "The Hawk". It has a crew of 10 seamen and 20 marines, who live in a small barracks in the buildings of the docks. Evenings one can hear interesting stories in their regular tables at the bar, since they know the surrounding waters very well.
Beginning of the adventure:
When the PCs arrive in Dmitrov people have already begun to disappear. Many villagers are nervous and slightly suspicious of strangers, but they won't start throwing accusations...yet. If the PCs inquire into the apparent nervousness, they have a good chance of hearing about the disappearances. Since well-armed parties are seldom seen in this area, the word of their arrival will soon reach the baron, who will send his herald to contact them very soon. The herald will offer them a job. At this time he won't go into specifics, other than hint at a substantial reward for a job well done. He'll ask the PCs to meet the baron at his manor the next morning.
The character of the baron has been described earlier. The DM should try to pose him as an honest man, who very well knows that some of the PCs may be more capable and experienced adventurers than him. The PCs are offered goblets of exquisite Minrothaddan wine, and the baron meets them in the sitting room by a warm fireplace. He gives them the following information: During the last week several men, about 10 in total, have disappeared from his tenant farms. In addition to this, two boats from the fishermen's village at the western coast of the cape haven't returned, even though there haven't been any storms lately. The subjects of the baron are worried, and rumours abound about ghosts of the Elder Woods, halfling pirates of the Five Shires, even werewolves. The baron himself suspects that the brigands that plague the Duke's roads have expanded their activities to his dominion. He requests that the PCs would visit the three tenant farms where people have disappeared, plus the fishermen's village.
If the PCs inquire about possible rewards, the baron gives a generous downpayment (100 gp for example, depending on the way the DM handles money in her/his campaign). In addition to this the baron gives them a letter of recommendation, which states that they are on his official business and should be given (reasonable) assistance. The herald provides them with a sketchy map of the Barony.
During this stage the PCs should visit the three above mentioned tenant farms and the fishermen's village. Depending on their success at the investigations, they gather a few important clues. Also, during this time rumours about the involvement of Ierendians in the recent events begin to spread. The ambassador's secretary Megreit Wissenschaft arrives at the Baron's manor, and a political conflict is in the making. It is up to the PCs how the situation develops. Note: The Ierendian thread of the adventure is the most open-ended factor, and can be used by the DM to expand the adventure.
Travel in the Barony: If Askold's mischief is discounted, the area is very peaceful. There are no monster encounters, roving packs of predators (like wolves), or even brigands.
The Tenant Farms:
"MARUNA" is a rare sight in this area, a tenant farm owned by a halfling. William Maruna has won the baron's trust and disarmed his customary suspicion of halflings. A total of 20 halflings live at the farm. No halfling residents have disappeared, but two temporarily employed human farmhands vanished few nights ago while herding sheep in a nearby meadow. The weird thing is that only two sheep were taken, which would suggest that this isn't the work of ordinary robbers. If they have time, the PCs can spend a nice evening here, enjoying the hospitality of the halflings - good food, pipe tobacco and storytelling. If the PCs hint at the suspicions about halfling pirates, William dismisses them outright. He knows that the pirates wouldn't practice kidnappings of ordinary citizens. He will laugh at suggestions about werewolves.
POROS FARM is the largest one in this area, with 30 farmers working in the area. The house is large and well built, with the appearance of some riches. The master of the house, Ivan Poros, will gladly talk to the guests and answer their questions. The following information is available:
- Four men have disappeared, all during night-time. All of them were working at the fields when they disappeared, repairing fences or guarding the herds.
- One of the farmhands claims he saw a ghost in the night of the third disappearance. In reality he saw the cleric Porius, whose pale face seemed to hover in the dark. The farmhand can give sketchy description of the "ghost".
- There are rumours that the ghosts of the Elder Woods are responsible of the disappearances.
IVANOVICH FARM is in the southern parts of the cape. Since most of the disappearances have taken place there, the residents are very suspicious of any strangers, especially non-humans. If the PCs act politely, succeed in employing their charisma and using the authority of the Baron, they can find out the following:
- Six men disappeared from the farm, all of them while working at the fields that are close to the sea.
- A group of Ivanovich's workers were scared a few days ago, when they found a small forest near the southern coast - forest that seemed to have sprung up overnight. When the place was visited the next day, nothing else was found than a sword lying in the sandy beach. It was not rusty. It is clearly of Karameikan craftsmanship. (Askold had cast Massmorph over his men during the raid.) Old wives have started talking about "the walking trees" of the Elder Woods.
- The master of the house, Pjotr Ivanovich, is convinced that Ierendian buccaneers are to blame.
THE FISHERMEN live in a small village north of the Elder Woods. They are very scared after two boats vanished without trace. Their leader, a classical sea-dog (eye patch, munches tobacco) tells what he knows. In total six fishermen have been lost. Both boats were heading for southern waters. Guesses about the culprits range again from Ierendians to halflings and Sea-Bane.
Note: It is very possible that at this stage the PCs decide to make further investigations, for example in the Elder Woods. The DM must decide how to handle them. See Stage III.
The Trouble with the Ierendians:
During this time Megreit Wissenschaft arrives in village Dmitrov to investigate the allegations that have been made against her people. She is very angry and demands that the baron finds out who is responsible for spreading them. In the bars and the streets there is already talk of revenge, of the deviousness of the Ierendians, even surprisingly of war. The atmosphere seems to have changed very quickly. The baron is puzzled by this, as his subjects are rarely openly hostile about anything. He doesn't think that the Ierendians are to be discounted as culprits, but angering the ambassador without proof wouldn't be wise. He sends word to the PCs and asks them to intervene.
Finding the origin of these rumours will require both streetwise and small bribes, best of which being a few pints here and there to loose the tongues. The trail will lead to a dockworker. If intimidated sufficiently, he will confess that he was paid handsomely to spread the rumours and aggravation. The man who employed him had a pale face and spoke with a distinct Thyatian accent (Porius, of course). Also, the sword found at the Ivanovich farm may be used to direct suspicion away from the Ierendians, but it is hardly conclusive evidence.
When the culprit has been found, the rumours subside slowly. Miss Wissenschaft remains in the village, however, to keep tabs on the situation. The baron will give the PCs a small reward if they solve the situation without bloodshed.
During this stage, or possibly earlier as mentioned above, rumours direct the PCs into the Elder Woods, where they meet the Guardian treant Bark. He asks their assistance against the henchmen of Askold, who have felled many good trees of the forest. If they are successful, the PCs may find out that the villains live in the Seagull Island.
One morning a farmhand of one of the tenant farms arrives in the village. He says that he has seen a small column of smoke arising from the Elder Woods. The baron asks the PCs to investigate if this has anything to do with the disappearances, after all there have been various rumours about the ghosts of the forest. If they haven't heard of them earlier, the PCs could be supplied with some local legends of the forest.
Elder Woods is an ancient oak forest. The thick foliage blocks practically all sunlight from reaching the ground, thus the undergrowth is scarce, mainly consisting of various species of fungi. When the PCs are nearing the forest, smoke is no longer visible. When they enter the forest, Bark will become aware of them almost instantly, and will spy on them, using his magic to determine their intentions before making contact. If the PCs don't harm the forest and are "good" as far as Bark is considered, he'll eventually lead them to a small clearing, using his animal servants to accomplish this. There he'll contact them. The treant is very polite and talks in a very roundabout way, and expects same kind of behaviour from others. If the PCs are silly enough to attack him, he'll use his animated trees and spells to repel them.
Bark is very worried, because a large group of humans have invaded the forest (as the Seagull island is virtually barren, Askold's servants need firewood and timber for scaffolding in the monolith building site). If the PCs mention something about their mission and/or offer their help, Bark is very happy and will be even more polite in the future. He could of course try to repel the invaders himself, but he is busy repairing the damage in one area where a small forest fire was lit yesterday (one of Askold's goons was careless with his torch). He promises to help the PCs in their mission if they help him.
- The camp of Askold's goons is in the western edge of the forest, near the coast. The burnt section of the forest is north from it. In the camp are 15 soldiers, one magic-user and 5 slaves. They have felled a good amount of oaks and are presently stripping them and readying them for transport. The camp is in a round clearing of about 50 yards wide, surrounded by the forest on all sides. Five soldiers patrol the perimeter at all times, and five guard the slaves who are working by the piles of logs (Note: At times the soldiers have to do some labouring also, as Askold needs all capable hands). There are three tents in the camp, two big ones for the soldiers and one small for the magic-user.
15 soldiers, Fighter 2
ST +1, DX +1, CON +1, Hit Points: 13
Equipment: chain mail, shield, sword, crossbow, assorted coins of 10 gp worth each
Julius the magic-user, level 4
INT +2, DX +2, Hit Points: 12
Equipment: dagger, 3 throwing daggers, spell book, 50 Thyatian gp in pouch, a pearl-decorated flute (100 gp)
1) Magic Missile, Shield, Light, Read Magic, Read Languages
2) Levitate, Web, Wizard Lock, Mirror Image, ESP
The slaves won't fight, even to liberate themselves, as they have been tortured to utter submission by Porius. The soldiers are experienced and skilful, and won't easily flee, as they wouldn't have anywhere to go. (They would be picked up from the coast, but not until a certain signal has been given.) If the PCs are losing the fight, the DM can always bring in Bark.
In addition to the personal effects of Askold's goons, nothing of significance if found in the camp. However, the slaves are aware of the following:
- The base of the villains is in the Seagull Island. They can describe the island and the base approximately.
- Their leader seems to be an old and powerful wizard.
- These particular slaves have been used in cutting trees and preparing the base camp, but the others were sent by boat to somewhere else. (To repair the Circle of Monoliths, but only the magic-user is aware of this, and he doesn't know the exact location. He only knows that it is somewhere in the cape land.)
By interrogating possible prisoners the PCs can find out the location of the base, the watchtower on Seagull Island (see below), the total amount of Askold's troops and the identities of Askold and Porius.
After the battle is over, Bark thanks the PCs and rewards them. First of all, he'll use his healing magic on any wounded PCs. Then he'll offer them a unique treant feast at his home. In addition to this, he'll give them a Potion of Healing, and a Potion of Animal Control.
This stage is written under the assumption that the DM wishes to realise the climatic battle of Stage V. This means that when the PCs arrive at Seagull Island, the Circle of Monoliths has been restored and Askold has already left to perform the ritual. Thus they must hurry to the Star Rocks, as the time of the ritual is nearing...
In order to find Askold's base, the PCs must find out it's exact location, the Seagull Island. This can be done at the Fishermen's village of village of Dmitrov. If asked, the Baron will give them a letter which authorises them to seize a boat from either the harbour of the fishermen. He can afford to give them only a few, two or three, soldiers, as many of his troops have been sent to patrol at the request of the tenant farmers. "Hawk" is pursuing smugglers, so it can't be used either (this is of course up to the DM).
If the PCs contact the Fishermen, their leader will grudgingly give them a sailing boat called "Foamhead", with a crew of two sailors, who are quite reluctant to participate in the actual combat.
Sailors Yuri and Kiril: Normal Man, Hit Points: 5, Leather armour, dagger
- The trip to the Seagull Island is fast from the Fishermen's village, a bit longer from Dmitrov. If the PCs briefed the slaves well, they should have a good idea of the layout of the island. The boat can land anywhere except for two high cliffs. In the southern shores of the island there are thickets which provide good cover. Askold's goons won't notice the approach if the PCs don't sail towards the island from the direction of the Watchtower or the temporary "harbour".
THE SEAGULL ISLAND is a barren, rocky islet. As a hiding place it is ideal, since very few people visit it with the exception of a few guano- and egg-gatherers, who tend to do their "harvesting" on the cliffs on the opposite side of the island from the camp of the villains. The islet is the home for thousands of seagulls, whose constant screams drown any noise. Note: If the PCs haven't acted quickly after the battle of Elder Woods, the soldiers here will be very vigilant, as the expected signal wasn't given.
- A small sailing ship "Lightning", fitted with a ballista, has been hidden in a temporary harbour. At the moment 5 soldiers and the captain are guarding the ship. If the PCs search the ship, in the captain's cabin in a locked chest they can find the sea charts of Black Eagle waters, a Black Eagle banner and an Ierendian pirate banner. (The ship has been making small sorties in the nearby waters to increase the Ierendian rumours.) The captain and the soldiers live in two tents at the beach.
Captain, level 4 thief
DX +1, Hit Points: 10
Equipment: leather armour, sword, crossbow, 25 Thyatian gp, a pearl ring (200 gp)
Soldiers: see Stage III
Slaves: The rest of the slaves, were sent here, back from the Monolith site, when the restoration was complete. Sadly, Porius has them all executed ceremonially. They are buried in a shallow grave a few hundred yards downhill.
If the PCs interrogate them, they can find about the Watchtower and the base camp. They will also find out about the sorties under the Ierendian flag, and Askold's plans of increasing them and beginning serious raids after the completion of "the boss's business". They know nothing about the Monoliths themselves.
- The Watchtower was built from the timber of the Elder Woods, and it is placed to guard the approach to the harbour. Its sides have been "painted" with guano as camouflage. Three soldier man the tower constantly, one standing guard at the top at all times. The ground level is comprised by a shed, from which a ladder leads to a platform supported by four long poles. There are three bunks and a small table (a crate). On the table is a deck of cards and assorted coins.
The soldiers here have the same information as above, except of course that they know that Askold has sailed somewhere with Porius and some elite soldiers.
- The base camp was established in natural caves. At the moment there are only a few soldiers, because Askold, Porius and the elite goons have already departed for Star Rocks with a boat. At the mouth of the caves two soldiers are constantly at guard. In the evenings they have a small fire in which they mull wine. If the soldiers notice any intruders, they retreat to the first "room" and prepare an ambush, calling the rest of the soldiers here. If a battle is initiated, the rest of the soldiers will arrive in a few rounds.
- "The Guardroom" is the first cave, in which six soldiers live. It is followed by "The Soldiers' Room", in which there are normally a lot of men, but now only 10 since some are at the Star Rocks and some died in Elder Woods. One notable feature here is a chest, which holds 100 bolts, three swords and 2 shields, all of Ierendian craftsmanship.
- The room of the lower-level mage branches off the previous cave. His personal effects are in a small chest, an they include 1 wolfsbane, 2 silver daggers and a silver pentagram (the mage was pathologically afraid of lycanthropes). Under his mattress he had hidden a small onyx (50 gp).
- From the Soldier's room another doorway opens to Porius's room. The only features here are a symbol of Thanatos painted on the wall, a small altar and two whips. Porius slept on the floor.
- Askold's room is behind Porius's room, and it is comfortable, even though it is just a temporary hiding-hole. The floor is covered with a carpet, there is a small goblin of a red dragon on the wall, and instead of a mattress Askold had his goons build a bed of sorts. It is covered with furs. There's a small table and a locked chest (trapped according to the wishes of the DM). There are maps of Glantri and Karameikos, a pouch of money (a substantial sum, decided by the DM), plus an ancient elven parchment that has a picture of the Monoliths and the Star Rocks. His diary is also there. On the pages the PCs can read his life story in general details - it is solid evidence of the involvement of the Black Eagle Barony, although the real intentions of Black Eagle aren't revealed. Between the pages is a transcription of an ancient scroll, describing the needed rituals. The Children of the Old Covenant aren't mentioned, but it is clear that Askold is trying to gain permanent control over powerful elemental entities, which clearly represents a huge threat to Karameikos. The time of the ritual is of course mentioned - for dramatic effect it should be very very soon, but again this is up to the DM.
This is the climatic stage of the adventure. The PCs must battle their main adversaries and stop Askold from conjuring up armies of elemental beings. The tormented souls of the Children of the Old Covenant will also intervene, making a final attempt to get the long-deserved rest. It is up to the PCs to save not only the people of Dmitrov, but also this forgotten people.
The Star Rocks is a steep neck of land in the southern tip of the Barony of Dmitrov. It can be reached only via inland, because the cliffs are high and almost impossible to climb. Askold arrived here with a boat that is hidden in thickets on the northern side of the isthmus. The Monoliths are at the highest point of the Star Rocks.
When the PCs arrive, Askold has already started performing the ancient ritual. The sacred stones have been restored and the area cleared of vegetation. Askold in standing on the central stone slab, with five bonfires surrounding him. The moon is low, and its rays pierce the two stone rings, making them glow. Askold is chanting ancient chants with alien words and drawing mystical runes into the air.
Porius and five elite soldiers are guarding the scene. Porius especially is ready to defend Askold to the very end.
5 Elite Soldiers, Fighter 3
ST +2, CON +1, Hit Points: 20
Equipment: plate mail, shield, sword
At some point of the battle, if the PCs don't manage to stop Askold in the very beginning, the mage turns to them. He is smiling victoriously and holds the Conjure Elemental scroll in his hands. He holds his hands up, reciting the magical words, and beams of ancient energy emerge from him, hitting the great monoliths. The ground trembles and the stars in the sky seem to vibrate.
Then two oval shapes, like wounds in the very fabric of the world itself, appear inside the stone rings. Behind one of them the PCs can see huge, brown figures, whose movements are slow but seem unstoppable. Behind the other they can see swirling figures, like living clouds, and a great gust of wind is felt. These are legions of earth and air elementals, summoned by the magnified power of Askold's ritual. If someone happens to be looking, Askold takes on the expression of utter horror. He realises that even though his powers of summoning have been magnified, he is still too inexperienced to bind the elemental hordes. Without anyone controlling them, the elementals are poised to enter the world, unhindered.
However, the elementals cannot reach the world. Hunchbacked and mutilated figures rise before them, blocking the portals in the stone rings. These are the Children of the Old Covenant, who despite aeons of torture are still ready to help the world. The PCs start hearing strange whispers in their minds, urging them to destroy the vile upstart wizard, for the sake of their own land and the sake of these accursed children.
Askold, as always, is not ready to see his own folly. He blames the PCs for ruining his plans and tries to kill them with his spells (is the DM wishes, the magnifying effect might strengthen his powers in the battle too). The battle should be very hard, potentially deadly. During the whole time the elementals and the Children of the Old Covenant struggle at the portals. Only the death of Askold can cancel the summoning spell and send the elementals back to their plane of existence.
If/when Askold is killed, the remaining soldiers will surrender, but Porius fights to the death. The portals will close, and the Monoliths of Rock and the Heavens will crumble to dust. For a fleeting moment the sad souls of the Children of the last Covenant hover in this world, before slipping into oblivion. Only a barely audible "Thank you", spoken by gruff voices, remains in the minds of the PCs.
If the PCs lose the battle, the consequences will be disastrous. The legions of elementals will destroy the Baronies of Dmitrov and Vorloi, including the Elder Woods. They will continue their march towards Specularum, where only the combined efforts of the Mages of the Guild, the few high-level priests, the Elvenguard, and the few high-level fighters who wield magical weapons (mainly the Order of Griffon) manage to stop them. Perhaps the portals are finally closed, leaving only some enraged and mad elementals to cause havoc in the countryside. However, the spine of the Karameikan army is broken after heavy losses, and Black Eagle will attack, supported perhaps by several local humanoid tribes. Fire and blood engulf the lands of Karameikos. Askold will not have time to enjoy his work, however. The elementals have no respect for those who destroy their solemn lives by ripping their souls to foreign planes.
The PCs have saved the lands of Dmitrov from great harm (and the whole Karameikos, but they don't know it), and have given a nasty blow to the Black Eagle. Dmitrov rewards them with handsome sums of money and perhaps even gives them some lower noble titles. Miss Wissenschaft thanks them also, opening up a good contact to Ierendi and possible future adventures. Bark will also contact them by a messenger bird and asks them to visit him one last time. He knows the story of the Old Covenant very well, and has decided to tell it to them (the "short" version, as the treant version is sooo long). In the end he sings the PCs themselves into the fabric of this ancient story.