Atlas Rules Resources Adventures Stories FAQ Search Links
Corruption of the Swords - Your Trusted Friend, the Necromancer ...by John Calvin, Max Monas and Jens "the Stalker" Schnabel
This adventure is designed to be linked with other Phase I adventures in the 'Corruption of the Swords' campaign. Since this is the suggested beginning of the campaign, it can easily be played on its own, though.
Unknown to all, one of the Outer Beings is breaking free of its planar prison. It has spent centuries making preparations for this event.
Through manipulation and curses, the Outer Being has been able to set the stage for its escape. Its plan requires that the Swords of Wayland be used in massive acts of blood sacrifices before finally being brought together.
With the taint of blood, the combined swords will provide the energy to power the second component, another artifact in the shape of a staff. This staff has the ability to create a rift in the multiverse itself, and set the Outer Being free.
Phase I adventures are low level adventures designed to draw PCs into this plot. The meeting with the Necromancer, Eirus Fhalu, starts off the campaign, unless the DM wishes to run some of the other adventures first. Later, the orc attack that the PCs encounter may lead them into intrigue in Darokin, confrontations with cults and assassins, and perhaps even to the discovery of one of the Swords of Wayland, Roc.
This adventure begins when the PCs are travelling somewhere in northern Darokin for whatever reason, and meet Nicos, the inn-keeper in the nearby village of Gorania. Where exactly Gorania is located is up to the DM. The most ideal location is somewhere in the vicinity of the Vesubian River near Corunglain. The reason for this can be found if the DM reads Appendix 1 containing the biography of the paladin Oliver Attleson, and particularly how and where he died, but it's up to the DM. If it is more desirable to place Gorania somewhere closer to the Streel River in the heartlands of Darokin, then it's not a problem.
During this adventure, the PCs will meet Eirus Fhalu, a necromancer. They may be suspicious of that fact, assuming they ever find out, but Eirus will seem completely benevolent, and once they stumble onto the threat of a number of ghouls, Eirus will help them all that he can with his knowledge so that they can end the threat of the ghouls before it spreads. In truth, though, poor Eirus had a lot more to do with the creation of these ghouls than he's admitting. In fact, he is directly responsible for them, having created them himself. The catch is that he doesn't know it, so no amount of magical probing of his mind will reveal it. Eirus is actually just what he appears to be - a benevolent man who became a necromancer to help the common people (as can be seen in his talks with the PCs), but he's a cursed man! The Outer Being has taken partial possession of his soul after he participated in a failed adventure, and though it hasn't claimed him completely yet, even its incomplete control is vastly overpowering to poor Eirus. The Outer Being will force him to do things, which he will find abhorrent and desperately work against, completely oblivious to the fact that he caused them! In essence, Eirus has a split personality and is at war with himself. The PCs, and Eirus, won't discover this anytime soon, however. Once the PCs begin destroying the ghouls the Outer Being created through Eirus, it could, of course, interfere and stop them, but it won't - it has planned its escape for centuries, and it's not about to risk being revealed prematurely over a few lousy ghouls. After all, it can always have Eirus create new ones later, thinking that once the ghouls are destroyed, the annoying heroes will leave it alone to continue its dark plans...
How to Involve PCs
There are several reasons why the PCs could be near Gorania. They could be travelling between Darokin and Corunglain in either direction and get off track somewhere. They might be on their way to or from another adventure, or they could have been hired by some merchants to scour the countryside for goblinoids, so that these won't threaten their caravans on the main roads. This would especially be the case if it's revealed, as it may be at the end of the 'What Lurks in the Shadows' adventure, that northern caravans have been endangered more than usual by goblinoids recently. They could also have been hired to travel to Rennydale with some goods, perhaps just a letter, which would explain why they're off the main roads.
Your group has been travelling the countryside for a few days. So far the weather has been good, but today your luck seems to have run out, for the clouds look menacing. Already there is a bit of drizzle coming down, and it looks like it's going to get worse... While wondering where you can find shelter from the coming rain, you notice something up ahead on the trail you're following. As you get closer, you realise that it's a man who is having difficulty with his cart. The cart is loaded with cargo, but one wheel has come off, and it is half-unloaded, half the cargo having apparently dropped to the ground when the wheel broke. The man appears to be both annoyed and a little desperate until he notices you coming down the trail. Apparently, you are the first people he has seen in a couple of hours, for he immediately runs toward you, waving his hands... Once he comes close to you, he shouts through the beginning rain, "Hello! Please, kind travellers, be good enough to help me! I am Nicos Mikhali, the owner of the inn in the village of Gorania. You look like stout folk, and I need your help to get my goods to my village before they're ruined by this cursed rain!"
The man asks if the PCs want to help him. Should, for whatever reason they refuse, he says that if they help them he will give them a room and food for the night, which he thinks is much needed, since a thunderstorm is coming.
The DM should try to convince the PCs to help Nicos. If and when they do, read out the following:
After working for about an hour, you've finally managed to unload the rest of the cargo and put the wheel back on the cart, but the rain has become a little worse. Nicos notices your discomfort, though, and says, "Yes, I know this is not a fun task, but you really are helping me out here - I'm most grateful for your kind assistance... And don't worry - once we get to my village, you can sit before the fire and warm yourselves. I'll lend you dry clothes if you need them, give you a room and a mug of ale, perhaps even something stronger to warm the old bones on this cold and wet day, eh?" The prospect of the warm fireplace is quite alluring, and the mood improves as you continue your work. After you've uploaded about half the cargo, a scream suddenly breaks the monotonous sound of the rain, and you look behind to see what caused it - a group of small humanoid creatures are rushing toward you, weapons drawn. They're about the size of human children, but with small, flat faces and pointed ears. They wouldn't look all that dangerous were it not for their sharp fangs and sickly, reddish skin...
These are a group of goblins. There are only six of them, and they are little more than pests, so the PCs should be able to deal with them in short order. Still, they represent a more serious threat to Nicos and his cargo. Nicos will defend himself if required to, but he's not much of warrior, and witnessing the prowess of the PCs, he will quickly decide the hang back and make sure none of their mounts run off in the confusion rather than interfere in the actual battle (for which he is ill-equipped anyway).
Goblins (6): CR 1/4; Small Humanoid (4 ft. tall); HD 1d8; hp 4, 3, 3, 2, 2, 1; Init +1; Spd 30 ft.; AC 14 (+1 size, +1 Dex, +2 leather armour); Attacks +1 melee (1d6 -1, clubs); SQ Darkvision 60 ft.; AL NE; SV Fort +2, Ref +1, Will +0; Str 8, Dex 13, Con 11, Int 10, Wis 11, Cha 8.
Skills: Hide +6, Listen +3, Move Silently +4, Spot +3 Feats: Alertness
Once the battle is over, Nicos will thank the PCs and ask that they hurry to load the cargo and get to the village. Read the following:
Once the goblins have been dispatched, you notice that Nicos is looking at you with awe, "Say, you really are stout folk, aren't you? Perhaps even adventurers? If not, you certainly have the potential! I must thank you - if you hadn't been here, those damned goblins would surely have killed me and taken my cargo! But maybe we should hurry... the rain seems to be getting worse!" You hurry to load the last of the cargo, then follow Nicos as he takes you to his village. It's a good thing too, because Nicos is quite right about the weather - it's raining quite a bit now, and you're drenched! You can't wait to get out of your wet clothes and sit down by the fire he promised you... After what seems like an eternity, but is probably less than an hour, following the dips and bends of the trail, you finally see a small village before you. "Welcome to Gorania", Nicos says as you enter. Gorania seems very similar to most other villages you've seen. There is nothing much unusual about the village. The only exception seems to be a tower in the nearby forest, the top of which can just be seen from the village, rising above the top of some trees. A little trail, off the road, seems to lead from the village to the tower. Still, it's far enough away to allow someone his privacy, as it would probably take fifteen to thirty minutes to walk there. All around the village are the fields of peasants.
Obviously, this is mainly a village of peasants, although Nicos has an inn, and there is also a blacksmith and a merchant's shop. First impressions tell you that this is a nice little community with friendly people, though there are obviously few people still out in the rain. Those who are outside heartily greet both Nicos and you, though. Nicos takes you to the stables where you hasten to help each other make your mounts comfortable. He leaves his goods there for now, saying that getting you all warm is more important right now - he can always collect his goods from the stables later. After you're done in the stables, Nicos leads you to the inn and sits you down at a vacant table. He serves you drinks and food, which is all on the house.
Then he books a room for you. Unfortunately only one room is available, so you will have to share. On the other hand, it is free. Meanwhile, you're left to sit amongst yourselves... There are a number of people in the inn, but the atmosphere is very friendly despite the grim weather. You almost get the impression that these people use the weather as an excuse just to sit here and enjoy each other's company. Nicos gets clothes and blankets for those of you who don't have extra clothes.
The Village of Gorania
The description above is quite accurate. The tower in the forest is some 2.5 miles away, and it takes someone about 30 minutes to walk there.
DM note: This is optional information for when the PCs decide to ask about the tower. Should they not ask they will hear stories about the tower and its inhabitant when they arrive in the inn.
The PCs' stay in the village may seem a bit long and dull given all the information described below. If the DM feels the players' thoughts are wandering due to all the details, he should add some actions with some of these suggestions, or some he can think of himself... The following events can be played pretty much in any order, though the first works best while the PCs are getting themselves together in the inn after having escaped the rain...
1. The Bull and the little girl. A little girl had unwittingly begun playing in the pen behind the inn where a peasant keeps his bull. The PCs need to work fast to bring her out. If they are in the inn, the DM may rule that they are not wearing armour and such, because they removed it all while it was wet and they were drying themselves at the fireplace. They could use magic on the bull or be forced to kill it with missile weapons or enter melee, which is dangerous, if their initial attempts are not successful...
Suddenly you hear a scream outside the inn. As you rush outside, you find that the scream came from a woman who is frantically running toward... you?
No, it's not you, it's something behind you... You look around and see a pen for animals. Inside it, a little girl wearing a red scarf is playing with some wooden figures. What's troubling is that at the other end of the pen, a vicious-looking bull is stamping its front hooves into the wet dirt... It is obviously about the charge the girl, yet she doesn't seem to have noticed it. The woman is screaming in fear for her child, fast running toward the pen...
The mother of the child came here to get her girl inside from the rain when she realised the danger. She'll run to the pen, but before she can get in, the bull begins running, and the mother faints... The girl remains oblivious to the bull, so she'll be surprised, and since she is AC 10 and has only 2 hit points, she's almost certainly done for unless the PCs can save her... Give the PCs a few seconds to decide what to do, but no more! They need to react fast here and don't have the time to plan anything, and the way the situation is role-played should reflect that.
Sample stats on the bull (based on those of a Bison) are given here, but note that the full Challenge Rating should apply only if the PCs enter melee.
Bull (1): CR 2; Large Animal (about 10 ft. long); HD 4d8+10, hp 24; Init +0; Spd 40 ft.; AC 13 (-1 size, +4 natural); Attacks +6 melee (1d8+6, Head Butt); SA Stampede; SQ Scent; AL N; SV Fort +7, Ref +4, Will +1; Str 18, Dex 10, Con 16, Int 2, Wis 11, Cha 4; Skills: Listen +8, Spot +5 2. The Runaway Horse. Yet another animal encounter. This one works best the next (or subsequent) day when the weather has cleared up a little, and the PCs are outside somewhere in the village. A peasant is bringing a few horses through the village when one of them is startled by a barking dog and runs away - right in the PCs' direction!
Though you enjoyed the inn, it was getting a bit musty and most of you are glad to be outside in the fresh air again... As you take a deep breath and enjoy the rustic charms of the village, you suddenly hear some commotion and someone shouts, "Look out!" As you turn to look, you see a horse galloping straight toward you at full speed!
Let the PCs roll a Reflex save. Those who make it are out of the horse's way. Those who don't may be trampled by it. Roll 1d3. On a result of 1 or 2, only one PC is hit, but on a result of 3, two are trampled.
Anyone trampled takes 1d6+2 points of damage. Determine which two randomly, and don't forget to let size factor in (a human is more likely to be hit than a small halfling, for example). However, once this is determined, the horse might fall over the PCs. Make a Reflex save for the horse. If this fails, it may fall over one of the PCs! Choose one PC randomly and have him roll yet another Reflex save. If the PC fails his save, he takes 2d6 points of damage. Naturally, if all PCs make their initial Reflex saves, none are trampled by the horse, which, in turn, is not tripped, and just continues to run. The PCs may seek to track it down and catch it, gaining the gratitude of the peasant it ran away from.
Heavy Horse (1): CR 1; Large Animal (about 9 ft. long); HD 3d8+6, 18 hp; Init +1 (Dex); Spd 50 ft.; AC 13 (-1 size, +1 Dex, +3 natural); Attacks 2 hooves +3 melee (1d6+2 for each hoof); SQ Scent; AL N; SV Fort +5, Ref +4, Will +2; Str 15, Dex 13, Con 15, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 6; Skills: Listen +6, Spot +6.
3. The Drunk Man. This encounter can be played at any time in the inn, preferably in the evening or night. One of the peasants have had a bit too much to drink and as the PCs will discover, he has a bad temper to boot. As this peasant, Jacob, has been drinking, he has revived an old discussion with the neighbouring peasant, Bertram, over who has the right to use the local well. The feud has been going on for years and years and is one of those old discussions that can never be settled to anyone's satisfaction. Trying to is a futile attempt, but obviously the PCs don't know that and might want to try... However, it is extremely unlikely that Jacob will listen to them... They could use magic (such as Charm Person) of course, but that would ruin whatever reputation the PCs might have among the other patrons, and they would be regarded as manipulative and arrogant from that point on... Jacob isn't really much of a threat as such, since even if he throws chairs or tries to hit someone, he is still drunk... The challenge will lie in incapacitating him without becoming overly violent.
If the PCs knock him out or use magic, they should receive no experience at all...
You're sitting in Nicos' inn late at night. Most people have gone home to bed, but a few patrons are still drinking and talking. One of them has been hitting the bottle pretty regularly you notice. As he gets into an argument with another patron, he seems agitated, and their discussion quickly becomes loud and heated... Suddenly the man rises from his chair and hits the table hard with his fist as he shouts, "By tha' Immordals, Bertram - enouff! You may talk big... but ya' fool nobody 'ere... We all know that tha' water is on me propo'tie and b'long ta' me!" The man reaches out for the other man, Bertram, who quickly retreats backwards... As he does, the drunk man lifts his chair and throws it him. Bertram quickly runs for the door, but the drunk man shouts after him, "Com' back 'ere, ya' cowart...
We'll seddle 'tis oonce and fer all...". He tries to stumble after Bertram, but Nicos tries to stop him by grabbing his arm, saying, "Enough, Jacob...
You've had enough!". Jacob responds, though, by making a wild movement with one arm, hitting Nicos right in the face and sending him to the floor, while he throws a chair after poor Bertram with the other... Unfortunately his aim isn't very good while drunk, and the chair heads straight for your table! Suddenly a brawl is on!
If one of the PCs is very charismatic, he or she may try to diffuse the situation. In that case, the DM should roll an NPC reaction for influencing NPC attitude, but Jacob's initial attitude will be hostile, so it will be difficult to make the check, and the DM should also force the player to role-play the situation, not just roll a few dice.
Otherwise Jacob will be hostile. The other patrons and Nicos will withdraw to let him cool down, but the PCs might want to stop him before he breaks every table and chair in the inn. Let them try something. They may have to subdue him, although the villagers will think badly of them if they use weapons or magic to do so, which should be obvious to the PCs (and which the DM might want to make them aware of).
Jacob, Drunk Human: CR 1/2; Medium Humanoid (about 6 ft.); HD 3d4, 9 hp; Init -1 (drunk); Spd 30 ft.; AC 10; Attacks -1 melee, drunk (1d3+1 fist, 1d6+1 chair); AL LN; SV Fort +1, Ref +0, Will +0; Str 13, Dex 8 (drunk, normally 12), Con 11, Int 9, Wis 12, Cha 8.
4. The Thief. A local thief has been stealing from travellers recently. He's avoided stealing much from the locals, because that would only draw their attention, and besides they never have anything valuable anyway. Rich travellers are fair game, though! The DM can do what he wants with this character, who is known only as 'Weasely' (his real name is Wesley). He might try to pickpocket the PCs in the village outside the inn or he could try sneaking into their room while they're sleeping or away. If they discover his attempts to pickpocket them and escape, he'll definitely try to steal from their room!
'Weasely', human Rogue 2: CR 1/2; Medium Humanoid (5 ft. 9 in. tall); HD 2d6 +2; hp 11; Init +3 (Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 15 (+2 armour, +3 Dex) (AC 16 against one opponent from Dodge feat); Attacks +2 melee (1d6+1/crit 18-20/x2); SA sneak attack, evasion; AL CN; SV Fort +1, Ref +6, Will +0; Str 12, Dex 16, Con 13, Int 11, Wis 10, Cha 13. Skills: Climb +3, Disable Device +5, Disguise +6, Hide +8, Listen +3, Move Silently +8, Open Locks +8, Pick Pocket +8, Spot +5. Feats: Dodge, Mobility. Possessions: Leather armour, short sword, dagger.
5. The Dream. This is a peculiar encounter that takes place only when all the PCs are asleep. It is merely a dream, but the DM should play through the encounters as if it were a real battle. During the dream, the PCs will meet continually difficult opponents who will eventually kill off all of the characters... in their dreams! In truth nothing happens, but the dream contains clues to what the PCs might be up against, so the longer they can survive the better. The dream will seem quite vivid to the characters and if possible, the DM should try to convince the players that what is happening is not a dream... If the PCs have potions of healing, for example, the DM should let them be used normally. Of course, when the PCs awake, none of their equipment will have been used, but during the dream, they should ideally think so...
It's late and having finished your drinks, you finally decide to go to rest... Nicos takes you to your room, asking if you need anything else for the night, such as extra blankets. Although you have all you need, Nicos says, "Well, if you need anything, don't hesitate to let me know - you are my honoured guests, after all, even though I cannot offer you separate rooms!" With that he bids you goodnight and leaves... After that you finish up and go to bed. Some of you quickly fall asleep, while others talk a little, but lying there in the darkness, all of you suddenly have a peculiar sensation... Those of you who fell asleep awaken again with an odd feeling and those who remained awake are silent. Just beyond what you can hear, there is an odd noise. No, you cannot call it a noise since none of you can hear it, but it is still there! An overpowering sensation of being watched! Eventually one of you lights a candle you have in the room and to your surprise you find that a robed, hooded man is standing in your room.
He seems to be of average human height, but you cannot see his face under the hood of his dark robe. As you are about to talk to him or gather your weapons, he suddenly says, "Ha, and you think you can best us? We'll see about that, you pathetic upstarts...". Then, before you can respond, he makes a gesture and says a few words... and is gone! No, actually you realise that it is you who are gone! You're all together and all your equipment is still with you, but you're definitely not in the room of the inn anymore. If you were to hazard a guess, you'd probably say that you're outside lying on the ground, but it's very difficult to tell, because while it is as cold as it is outside, the entire area is covered in a dense fog, and you have great difficulty seeing further than ten to fifteen feet away... The ground also feels strange, as if it were quite muddy, but it doesn't seem to be the case. There is an odd smell, sort of like a mixture of smoke and something damp in the air... Quite likely you have been magically teleported away from Gorania for some reason, but you have no idea where you are...
Let the PCs compose themselves for a bit, and let them explore this odd land. They should find that this strange land is nothing like anything they've ever seen. There are no celestial bodies visible in the sky, and they won't be able to find roads, trees, or houses. Add detail based on the above, but take care not to clue them in to the fact that this is merely a dreamscape of their minds...
After a while the PCs will begin to walk away from this place, as there is nothing else for them to do. Once they've done so for a while, they will meet a pack of ghouls...
You walk for what seems like eternities. You have lost all track of time, as there is no way to measure its passing in this barren land, so you could have walked for minutes or hours when you suddenly hear something... As you move closer you begin to make out five humanoid figures working on the ground, so they could be peasants. As you move close to them, however, they turn around to face you, giving you quite a shock - they're definitely not farmers! At least, not anymore... Their gaunt, pale faces seem more like those of the deceased and the foul stench that attacks your senses bear witness to their undead nature. Their teeth that have all been sharpened so they look more like fangs, and they lick their horribly long tongues as they look at you and say, "Live... Flesh! MEAT!!!"
Obviously the ghouls will immediately attack. Note that the PCs must get within 10-15 feet of the ghouls to make them out, so there is no escape from this (or any subsequent) encounter.
Ghouls (5): CR 1; Medium Undead (about 6 ft.); HD 2d12; hp 18, 12, 11, 10, 9; Init +2 (Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 14 (+2 Dex, +2 natural); Attacks Bite +3 melee, 2 claws +0 melee (Bite 1d6+1 and paralysis, each claw 1d3 and paralysis); SQ Undead, +2 turn resistance; AL CE; SV Fort +0, Ref +2, Will +5; Str 13, Dex 15, Con -, Int 13, Wis 14, Cha 16. Skills: Climb +6, Escape Artist +7, Hide +7, Intuit Direction +3, Jump +6, Listen +7, Move Silently +7, Search +6, Spot +7. Feats: Multiattack, Weapon Finesse (bite).
Remember that every time a ghoul hits or bites someone, that character must make a Fortitude save (DC 14) or be paralysed for 1d6+2 minutes, though elves are immune to this.
If one of the PCs die, then he is, to the other PCs, dead. The others may choose to carry his body with them or leave it behind as they please - it won't affect the further encounters. The DM might wish to take note of how PCs treat their fallen comrades, though. If at any time all of the PCs die, go to the 'End of the Dream' section below...
Once the ghouls are defeated, the PCs will probably want to explore the area around them, examining their bodies for treasure or the ground they were digging in. No amount of searching will reveal any treasure or clues though, and the PCs will eventually have to walk on...
After the horrifying encounter with the pack of ghouls, you eventually continue your walk, as there is little else you can do... Having walked on for an indeterminable amount of time, you can suddenly make out a man in front of you. Having just met ghouls, you're naturally cautious, but he calls you to you, shouting, "Hello! Please help me. I'm lost in these strange lands... Where might I find shelter for this evil night?" Sensing that he is in just the same predicament as you are, you walk closer, and there is no indication that he is any sort of undead monster. Relieved, you walk toward him, but suddenly he draws a rapier! Immediately cautious, you prepare your defences, but it's too late - the man has two allies who have used the opportunity to sneak up on you, and they attack your group from behind as the man in the front charges you with his rapier!
These men are assassins of a cult called the Dark Petals Cult (see Appendix 3 for details), though the PCs will obviously have no knowledge of this whatsoever... yet. They are also a premonition of the assassins from the 'What Lurks in the Shadows' adventure and the stats given below are identical to those in that adventure. One of the assassins has a magical Rapier +1. If captured, the PCs can use this weapon normally, but only for the duration of this dream - once the dream ends, it will disappear, just as the PCs' potions or charges on wands, etc., will all remain intact.
Assassin 1, human Rog1: CR 1/2; Medium Humanoid (5 ft. 10 in. tall); HD 1d6; hp 6; Init +7 (Dex + Improved Initiative); Spd 30 ft.; AC 15 (+2 armour, +3 Dex); Atks +1 melee (1d6+1/crit 18-20/x2); SA sneak attack; AL LE; SV Fort +0, Ref +5, Will -2; Str 12, Dex 16, Con 11, Int 9, Wis 7, Cha 5. Skills: Escape Artist +7, Hide +7, Intimidate +1, Jump +5, Move Silently +7, Profession (Apothecary) +2, Spot +2, Tumble +7. Feats: Blind Fighting, Improved Initiative. Possessions: Leather armour, rapier, 13 gp.
Assassin 2, human Rog2: CR 1/2; Medium Humanoid (5 ft. 7 in. tall); HD 2d6 +1; hp 14; Init +3 (Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 15 (+2 armour, +3 Dex); Atks +3 melee (1d6+3/crit 18-20/x2); SA sneak attack, evasion; AL LE; SV Fort +2, Ref +6, Will +0; Str 15, Dex 16, Con 14, Int 9, Wis 11, Cha 6. Skills: Craft (Trapmaking) +4, Escape Artist +8, Hide +8, Listen +5, Move Silently +8, Pick Pocket +8, Spot +5, Tumble +8. Feats: Blind Fighting, Combat Reflexes. Possessions: Leather armour, rapier +1, 19 gp.
Assassin 3, human Rog1: CR 1/2; Medium Humanoid (5 ft. 9 in. tall); HD 1d6; hp 6; Init +3 (Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 15 (+2 armour, +3 Dex); Atks +3 ranged (1d8/crit 19-20/x2 crossbow, 1d6/crit 19-20/x2 short sword); SA sneak attack; AL LE; SV Fort +0, Ref +5, Will -1; Str 11, Dex 17, Con 11, Int 15, Wis 8, Cha 14. Skills: Diplomacy +6, Disguise +6, Escape Artist +7, Gather Information +6, Hide +7, Listen +3, Move Silently +7, Open Lock +7, Perform +6, Profession (Bookkeeper) +3, Spot +3. Feats: Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot. Possessions: Leather armour, crossbow, short sword, 7 gp.
If killed, the PCs can search the assassins' bodies normally.
However, any treasure or gear taken from them will disappear once the dream ends. Eventually, the PCs will have no choice but to continue their travels once again.
Though cautious of your further travels, you are eventually forced to accept that you have little choice but to walk further. You continue in silence, weapons drawn... You do so for what seems like endless hours, when finally you begin to make out something up ahead. It might be a mountain wall, but it could also be a structure of some kind. As you get closer, you find that it is actually both - it is definitely a mountain-side, but it has a huge door in it, right in front of you. Thinking that it might be better to get out of this hostile wilderness, you light a lantern and carefully open the door to take a peek inside... You are relieved to find that the inside seems to be nothing but an abandoned cavern, and you enter, prepared to face yet another obstacle, but nothing happens. You walk for a time, but there is no sound and you eventually decide to explore the caverns. You walk down long corridors carved into the mountain itself, and you have the feeling that you're descending. Eventually, the cavern seems very damp and water drips down from stalactites above, making you once again long for the warm fire in Nicos' in... As you continue, you come to a water pool, but something catches your eyes. Something is glimmering around the next corner in the modest light of your lantern. As you curiously walk closer, you find that it is a massive treasure of lots and lots of gold and jewels and other valuables. Joyful at having finally found something positive in these dark lands, you walk closer. Only suddenly something breaks your view of the treasure - a shadow moves in front of you... It is difficult to focus on, but as you concentrate you can make out a vaguely humanoid form, just in time to notice that this ghostly figure is striking at you with a short sword which seems to be equally unreal and ethereal.
This creature is a Sword Wraith (see Appendix 4). It is a premonition of the very Sword Wraith which the PCs will meet at the end of the 'All of yer treasure, argh... belong to us' adventure at the very end of Phase I of the 'Corruption of the Swords' campaign, and it has exactly the same stats.
Since this is a tough opponent, it is very unlikely that the PCs will survive this battle. Note that they cannot escape because the Sword Wraith is faster than they are and can catch up without trouble. Most likely, any remaining PCs will 'die' during the battle with the Sword Wraith, particularly since they are likely to require magical weapons to hurt it.
If the PCs decide to glance for a weapon in the treasure pile, they will find two daggers and a broad sword. The broad sword and one dagger are both +1, while the other dagger is +2. There may be other magical weapons in the pile, but the PCs will have to spend time searching for them, which they don't have during the battle with the Sword Wraith. The sword 'Roc' will not be in the pile, however. If, against all odds, the PCs are able to defeat the Sword Wraith, they will not be sure if it is truly dead, though, because nothing of it will remain. As a ghostly figure, it will simply 'fade away' as a cloud slowly being dissolved once defeated, and the remaining PCs should be left to ponder just what this means... If the PCs die, go to the 'End of the Dream' section below.
As stated above, it is highly unlikely that any of the PCs will survive the dream-meeting with the Sword Wraith, but if anyone does, there is one last encounter. The encounter will be fatal no matter what the PCs do, but it might give them a clue as to what they are up against... The final meeting will be with the Outer Being itself, but the PCs won't know that. They'll be totally overpowered by its mere presence, but the DM might wish to have them roll Will saving throws. No matter how well they roll, however, their saving throws will fail. If a natural 20 is rolled, the DM could allow any PC who does so to fight normally for one round, then roll another saving throw. It won't matter much, though, because the Outer Being will have an Armour Class of 42 and will be utterly immune to any spells the PCs can cast, so the outcome will inevitably be the same. Don't let the Outer Being act until all the PCs are paralysed, though!
Still uncertain whether you actually killed that strange, ghostly swordsman, you hurry up to leave this place in case it returns somehow...
Again you walk for some time, but now it's at least inside the cavern.
After some time you find that parts of the cave are more finished than others, as you come to an area that is carved out in great detail and is as well done as the corridors of a castle. You walk for a time until you come upon a great door. As you examine it, an iron gate suddenly drops down behind you, and you're trapped with no place to go except through the large door. As you listen you take some relief in the fact that you can hear voices from the other side. You cannot make out exactly what they say, but you're certain they are voices of men and women like yourselves, and you eventually decide to open the door, seeing as how you have little choice...
The scene that meets you staggers you, however - the door you've just opened, has opened onto a small ledge. You're in a large, open cavern and a large gathering of people are at the opposite sides of the room. They're all dressed in hooded robes, much like those of the strange figure that brought you to this dark land, and to your horror you find that what you thought to be conversation between these people is actually the chanting of some dark ritual... The small ledge you are on is separated from the rest of the room by a wide lava stream, though, so you see no way for these people to reach you. But it is little comfort to you, because right in front of you on the ledge is a huge robed and hooded humanoid figure. As you enter it turns to you and reveals itself. The sight of it is such an abomination to you, however, that your conscious minds refuse to comprehend it. All you can fathom is some vaguely humanoid abomination... As the creature looks to you, it says, "Ah, I see the sacrifice has arrived, my children - come to me!"
Let all the PCs roll Will saving throws at this point. They're up against a DC of 30, so they won't make them unless the DM decides that a natural 20 should always succeed and a PC actually rolls one. In that case, let the PC attack the creature as described above. The creature won't strike back - just wait for the PC to succumb to its power the next round, confident that the PCs can in no way harm it. Make sure this is clear to the PCs.
Eventually, all PCs will fail their saves...
As the abomination beckons, you find that you have to obey it. You walk closer and then stand still. As you all do, the figure lunges out at each your chests with some parts of its body... arms... or tentacles, you still cannot tell. And as easily as if it had reached down to pick something up from the ground, it reaches inside your chests and pulls out your hearts, as the crowd around it cheers it on! With horror you look at the gaping holes in your chests where your hearts were, and you see your blood ruining your clothes as it gushes out. As you watch, you also begin to realise the taste of your own blood in your mouths. You slowly begin to realise that life itself is draining away from you fast, yet you are still unable to move despite your impending deaths. As you are forced to watch during your last living moments of horror before all goes dark, you witness how the crowd applauds the foul abomination as it begins to feed on your still beating hearts...
The Tower in the Forest:
If the PCs ask about the tower, the villagers say:
"Who lives in that tower? Well, "Doc" Eirus Fhalu lives there. They say that he is a wizard who is doing all sorts of research, you know! Actually, most people here are quite proud to have a man like this amidst us... He is a nice person, who is conducting research in order to help people with all sorts of diseases and make cures for them; he is definitely a good person to have as a friend if you get into trouble one day!"
When the PCs hear that he is a person who deals with arcane knowledge (particularly if it becomes apparent that he works in the field of Necromancy) and they get a bit worried (which they should) they are told:
"Don't worry. He is a good fellow. He isn't doing any harm, he is just going about his research and doing more than his fair share for the village. Once there was this group of people travelling, well I might say rushing, into the village. They were looking for a cleric. They ran into some trouble on the road and one of their friends was seriously wounded. As you can see, there are no clerics around here who can help us or other people who are in need of immediate help. They said that it was a matter of life and death, and indeed the poor fellow was in a serious condition.
Eirus walked past and asked whether something was wrong. They said that their comrade needed help quickly or he would die. Eirus told them to bring their friend to his tower. Don't ask me what happened and what he did, but he had the guy up and running in no time. We knew he could do some things to heal people, because we had seen it before when Ichale fell down from a tree and broke his leg, but this was amazing. I think they later came back and gave him some treasure they found when they came back from their business".
By this time the PCs should hopefully be intrigued enough to investigate this person and his dwelling. If they go to the tower, read the section below headed The Tower and "Doc" Eirus Fhalu.
This old patron in the inn is full of tall tales. If the DM desires, he can pester the PCs a bit with him, though not everything he says is utter nonsense. This encounter can be used whenever the PCs are drinking or eating, or just sitting around in the inn's common room:
A little old man sits in the inn, drinking beer. He wears the clothes of a peasant; he is small, but that is probably because he is quite old. He has got a bit of hunched back and is a little unstable, but has a friendly face.
He also has with some scars on both his face and hands which attest to the stories of his adventures. He apparently concludes that you are a group of adventurers, because he slowly stumbles over to your table and asks, "Would you valiant adventurers mind if I join you?" Before you can answer, he helps himself to chair and sits down, then continues before you can interrupt him, "...For you remind me of the time when I, too, was travelling and looking for adventure." At this point Nicos returns to your table, and says, "Oh no, not again Balri... Leave those people alone". When he says it, he does so with a big smile on his face, though. In fact, the atmosphere in the inn, and in the village in general, is very friendly. The old man then begins to tell you the tales of his adventures, "Have you heard about the Lost Mines? No? Well, let me tell you. This story was told to me on one of my own travels. I was with quite a group, you know, I think there were 6 of us ..... no, 5 ......... no, it was 6 ....." He pauses for some time, as he tries to remember just how many people this group really consisted of. Eventually he gives up and makes a dismissing gesture as he continues, "Aahhhh well, it doesn't matter that much, how many we were. I have seen people come and go. Some of them I lost contact with; others died, unfortunately enough, during our travels. Huh, were does time go.. I envy you, you know! You've got your whole lives in front of you, while the only thing that I have left are my memories. Talking about memories, ...".
He pauses for a moment, "I remember this tale about a sword, powerful enough to .... what was it again? I can't remember. You have to forgive me, my memory isn't what it used to be. Do you know that I was known for my memory when I was your age? Yeeees, it was quite little trickster, you know. But that is a whole other story. What was I telling you?"
The PCs will have remind him at this point, but he tells about the mage in the tower instead.
Should the PCs not have heard anything about the Eirus Fhalu, Balri tells them the things that are printed above about him under the heading The Tower in the Forest, before he continues...
According to Balri, Eirus is one of the nicest people alive (go over the top here in order to make sure that the PCs know Balri is exaggerating, but no so much that they won't believe him or, particularly, the other villagers). This should be the first encounter with the village, its villagers and the wizard who is living in the tower. Maybe they will have a chance to meet this guy, maybe not (up to the DM).
"You know, Eirus is certainly one of the nicest guys to have ever roamed the earth. Have you heard of all the things he has done for people around here... If not, just ask me. I'd be more than happy to tell you all about it!" During the old man's stories the bar fills up with people who come to have drink after a working all day on the field. Stories are being told, jokes are being made and you're offered a couple of beers by the workers.
DM Note: It should be absolute clear that these a very friendly people, who always welcome a traveller in the nicest way possible.
If the PCs doubt Balri, his stories about Eirus will later be confirmed by other people in tavern and by Nicos. When he has finished his story about Eirus Fhalu his story jumps back to mines. This seems to come out of nowhere.
Balri talks of the Mines:
"Ah yes, the Mines and the sword. You will have to help me, because my memory isn't what it used to be... Well the story of the mines was told to me when I was travelling with a group of other people who wanted to look for adventure. I can't remember what was told now.. Let me think." He waits for a few minutes... "I can't honestly remember what was being said about these mines...... Oh , my memory ... It is not what it used to be, once I was known for my memory, you know... I remember another story about a sword called "Rock...". Well, "Rock" something... Hmm, or may it was "Stone" something... Anyway, we heard stories about this sword and we decided to try and find it, but never succeeded. This is the legend which I heard was this..."At this point, it seems as if Balri doesn't have any problems with his memory... at first..."Hundreds of years ago, the sword was used by a paladin called Oliver Attleson. He fought to defend the city of Corunglain against the hordes of invading goblinoids. Eventually, the city was overrun by the orcs despite his efforts, though, and the sword was lost..." "Actually, during my travels I've heard stories about other swords, similar to that 'Rock' or 'Stone'-sword Attleson was supposed to have wielded, I ...... I forgot what was said about them. I think that it was said that these swords belonged together, or something. Unfortunately I never held one of these swords, although I spend a life time looking for them, ........ a life time, ......... such a long time and I never even saw one of these swords. Make sure you don't waste your lives chasing legends and tales. Won't do you any good. What was I saying again? Oh yes, the swords. I think there were eight of them, no ....... I am sorry there were five .... No. Oohh I can't remember. My memory! I used to be known for my memory, you know.. People say that this is all just a legend now. I think I have to agree with that one. I never really heard anything about it. I mean ... I heard stories of course, but I never saw this sword myself.
There are things that we have found, however, but I will tell you that another time.....I am off to bed now. It is rather late for me, you know.
Sometimes I envy you young people. You still have your entire lives before you, while I have just my memories to comfort me. That is the way things go in life, I guess. I just thank Tyche that I have reached this age and the she has smiled a little upon me. I just wish that my memory would be better." After this he stumbles out the tavern. Nicos comes up to you and says:" I am sorry that this happened. I promised you a nice room and a quite night. I didn't know Balri was going to be around. He is got a nose for these things. He is always there when travellers, the few we get, come here. He always tells them these stories. That is probably because we don't listen anymore, because we have heard them all hundreds of times. Don't pay attention to him, because I think he may just have made up most of these stories. Or maybe he heard them somewhere and tells them as if he had been through them himself. He always had quite a lively imagination and I don't know whether what he tells is true. Here have another drink, on the house.
What would you like?"
Balri talks of the Wounded Man
The DM should try to represent this as just another tall tale Balri tells the PCs, preferably so that they dismiss the story to some degree... In fact, it contains some essential clues, though!
"You want to hear more stories from old Balri? Ah, you're too kind, my young friends... Let me think... Hmmm, I remember a story my father once told me. It was very long ago, and since I didn't experience it myself, I'm not at all sure about any of this, but it's an good story anyway, though a bit sad...Long ago on a bright day when the villagers were working in the field as always, a warrior came stumbling out of the forest... his armour, so they say, was tattered and in ruin, and blood streamed down the side of his face. One of the villagers went to him. He had apparently lost his shield and his armour was ruined, but even though he was mortally wounded, he held himself with pride and rejected all offers of help...You know, I guess I remember that story because I grew up hearing it and always wanted to be like that man, even if he never existed and it's all just a tall tale, he still sounds very noble and heroic, eh? Just the very image of the man helped me on my own travels and times of trouble on many occasions, you know. And I have known a few... hmmm, now I'm just a little old man. Never mind. Still, you might get as much from the story as I have... Well, maybe I should finish it. The villagers brought the wounded warrior inside and placed him in a bed, hoping that he would recover. For days he was confused and talked all sorts of nonsense which none understood, since it was barely more than a whisper. Everybody feared he was dying, so several of the young men tried to back-track his trail in order to find out what had happened to him, but they never discovered anything... and some of them never returned! Or so the story goes. I don't remember it all, but they say some of the young men disappeared in the forest back then and were never found, and it hung over the village like a heavy fog for a time. As if that wasn't bad enough, the warrior died from his wounds a few days later. I guess they were just too severe. Well, at least they managed to give the warrior a proper burial..."
DM Note: The 'wounded man' Balri is talking of here is actually Oliver Attleson. He didn't actually die when ambushed by the orcs (see his biography in Appendix 1), but was mortally wounded and stumbled into the village of Gorania where he finally died of his wounds a few days later.
The villagers never discovered who he really was and had him buried in a unmarked grave in their graveyard. In fact, he is still buried there to this day!
The Tower and "Doc" Eirus Fhalu
The PCs should be intrigued enough to pay this person a visit sometime. Should they for whatever reason decide not to go and see him, they will run into him on the streets and he invites them to his tower, with the message that he would like to ask them about something.
Once the PCs decide to visit Fhalu's tower, read or paraphrase this:
The path to the tower leads off the road that leads into the village. It is quite a narrow, winding path and not well maintained. After about 35 minutes you arrive at the tower which appears as you pass a sharp bend in the path. The tower itself isn't that impressive, actually. It is round and three stories high. Moss covers the bottom of the tower.
If Fhalu is with the PCs, he will open the door and invite them inside. Otherwise he will answer the door when the PCs knock or, if they appear to lose interest, he will have noticed their arrival and open the door to welcome them once they are about to leave. Once they go inside, read the following.
Entering the tower, you see a large hall with stairs leading to the first floor and doors to the right and left. Eirus Fhalu leads you to the room to the right. "Welcome to my tower. This is my home and my laboratory. If you would come with me, we can sit down and have a drink or something." You enter a fairly large room, lavishly furnished. There are also a bookcases full of books. In the corner of the room stands a big table with all sorts of weird looking instruments on it. "This is my study", Eirus explains. "Here I keep books that I find invaluable to my researches. I also meet with the people who have appointments with me here. You know, I sometimes help people when they have ailments. Most of the time it's nothing serious, but sometimes I come across things that I need to write down, so they can help me with my research. This also brings me to the reason why I asked you to come here. Sorry to be so blunt, but I don't have much time ....... Oh, where are my manners..? What would you like to drink?" After asking each of you what you would like to drink, he excuses himself for a moment and fetches the drinks for you. While he is gone, you take a moment to look around the room and at his books. The bookcases are filled with books on anatomy, herbs, healing with herbs, and all sorts of books on medicines. Funnily enough, no books on magic are found. Also, the skulls of some animals lie in the bookcases. As you're looking around, Eirus returns with all your drinks." Sorry, for the interruption." He passes around the drinks and then sits down with his own. "Now, the reason why I asked you to come here, is that I would like to ask you to find some special berries for me. You are probably thinking 'can't he do that himself' and you are right of course, but as I said I don't have much time because I am virtually on the verge of a breakthrough on a very important project. I don't want to ask any of the villagers, because it involves a little travelling in the forest. That doesn't sound very dangerous, obviously, and it probably isn't, but if one of the villagers went in there, they could become the prey of some wild animal - I don't want that on my conscience. Another thing is that these berries are best found during night-time when they shine strangely in the dark, so the best time to look for them is at dawn or dusk when it's not too light to find them and not too dark to get lost in the woods - finding them during daytime is almost impossible, as I have learned from bitter experience...""I thought that I could ask you, because you seem to have the potential for that sort of thing, especially after I heard about how you helped Nicos. I don't want you to go anywhere specific, but I would like to ask you to go into the forest and look for some green-yellow berries. They will probably be not so easy to find, but when you know what you are looking for, it will be hard to miss". He smiles and grasps a jar filled with little green and yellow berries. "They only grow in the forest. If you could do that for me, it would be most helpful. I use them for a special potion that the villagers buy from me. It can be used for when you are ill or wounded... Could be handy for you," he says with a smile. "If you could bring those berries to me, I would be most grateful, and I will give you a jar of the potion. It is quite strong, so I think that unless you run into major trouble, the jar could last you for a while. What do you say?"
Hopefully the PCs will accept Eirus' offer. If they are reluctant, let him point out that while he'll share the results with the PCs, he needs it to help wounded people in the village or anyone passing through. If they do not help him, he will be unable to help villagers or travellers in need for some time... If the PCs demand gold or if Eirus is forced to offer them any, it should be obvious that he is slightly disappointed with the PCs - that they're not the selfless heroes he hoped they would be. He will offer money, though he has very little, 20 gp at first, 50 gp at most. At the DM's discretion, the potion Eirus will make could also be more potent than most. For example, it could contain ten doses, each able to cure 1d6+1 points of damage, but also be able to cure poison if three doses are swallowed... The PCs need to accept this offer for the adventure to continue.
After the PCs accept the offer, Eirus tells them a little about what he is working on and he invites them to his lab.
"So you accept? Good! This will be a great benefit to the villagers of Gorania and anyone travelling through the village. Thank you! Now, I thought you might like to see my tower. I'm afraid I don't get many visitors here, so I'm only too pleased to show you my humble abode. For the same reason, it may be a bit of mess, I fear... Please follow me. First I'll show you my lab." Eirus leads you out of his study and takes you up the stairs you noted when he first invited you inside his tower. As he does, he continues talking, "You see, I cannot search for the berries myself because I'm currently doing some research on a serious illness. Not just any old illness, mind you, but the sort that can kill entire populations, much like a plague. I think I'm close to discovering something, so I dare not leave my research for now, as I might otherwise be too distracted to pick it up again later..."
You reach the top of the stairs and Eirus leads you into what is quite evidently his laboratory. It is also, as he had already warned, a bit of a mess. A large table is filled with all sorts of beakers and odd instruments. Plants are lying about and several books lie open on the table as well. On the shelves there are yet more books as well as both skeletons and skulls of animals and several stuffed animals as well. Clearly, Eirus is a bit of a taxidermist. However, there are also a few live animals in cages around the laboratory. Several jars seem to contain the more grisly preserved internal organs of various creatures. Eirus apparently notes your discomfort with these, as he says, "Yes, I know those can be a bit unnerving, but I fear that close examination is the only way I'll ever learn more about the complex nature of the body... Never fear, though - none of those remains are from humans, as naturally I would never perform my studies on humans. After all, that would be unethical, wouldn't it?" Slightly surprised by that comment you look around again, yet it seems as if none of the various remains in his lab are those of humans or indeed any other humanoid.
"You see, research into such matters are extremely important to me, because during the Great War, when plague spread through the lands, particularly Glantri, I realised that priests could not combat the disease - they had only their spells, which were rather limited at times, and they just couldn't cast enough of them to help the ordinary people. So the spells available always went to the most 'important' people first, such as kings and nobles, and, yes, adventurers, which meant that the poor common people often died from the plague, simply because the priests' powers of healing were usually exhausted before it was their turn to receive them." As Eirus turns to this subject, you note that some of his compassion has been replaced by bitterness and anger... It is obvious to you that this subject is something he feels strongly about, and he seems angry on behalf of the common man and his problems during the Great War - he truly seems to care for the common people... even though he isn't one of them himself!
"You see, I became aware of this problem during the Great War and started studying it intensely, and I realised that by using non-magical means, many diseases can actually be fought and even stopped! So to prevent another plague from killing many innocent, common folk, I'm trying to find out how the body works and what can be done to save it from all sorts of ailments. Because of this, I've worked hard to acquire much knowledge of the mortal body, particularly on animals as I 'experiment' on them because experimenting on humans would clearly be an evil thing to do.
Even though I could probably gain better knowledge that way, I'm not willing to pay for it with my conscience... or my soul!"
In fact, Eirus has great knowledge of the anatomy, etc., of animals, gained through his 'experiments' on them because his ethics prevent him from experimenting on humans - he is quite serious about that!
To study these things, however, he has needed to study the influence of magic on the body, and the best way to do that and gain knowledge was quite simply to become a necromancer - he has all the skills, but uses them very differently than most necromancers.
DM note: The fact that Eirus is a necromancer should either be left out by him, so the PCs have to find this out by looking at the various books on magic in his lab, or he will tell them in such away that it looks like he is a little embarrassed or even ashamed of it. He will explain that since he has experienced quite a number of unpleasant reactions to this, he became rather careful with telling this to people. The descriptions of this is left to the DM, however, because the PCs might not find out. For example, Eirus might have studied necromancy at the Great School of Magic in Glantri, but either been thrown out because he refused to use necromancy 'the way he was supposed to' or because he left in anger over the way the common people is treated there.
The PCs may wish to talk to Eirus for a while, but once they're done it'll be late in the afternoon and he'll remind them that looking for the berries will be easiest at dawn or dusk, so if they started right away, they might get lucky and find them in a few hours...
The Forest in the dark.
As chance would have it, the PCs will not find the berries in the forest quite as easily as Eirus (and the PCs too, probably) had hoped... To find the berries they will definitely have to search the forest at night.
If they are reluctant to do so, try to persuade them by having their anxiety of darkness after the nightmarish dream they had at the inn resurface and tell them that they won't be able to rest anyway. Eventually they'll have to search the forest at night if they are to find the berries Eirus needs. If they continue to search during dusk, they'll eventually run into a black bear, just to show them that roaming the forest during the day is not exactly without its dangers either...
You've been searching the forest for the berries Eirus needs for a while now. It's dusk, but sunset is still about an hour away, so you won't need to stop your search yet to get out before darkness falls...Suddenly you hear a strange sound in the bushes to the right of you... You look carefully, as suddenly a massive beast rushes towards you. It is a dark bear with some wicked-looking claws... It screams as it charges towards you!
Let the PCs roll for surprise. A bear can be a ruthlessly efficient predator, and can probably surprise most of its prey...
Black Bear (1): CR 2; Medium-sized Animal (about 5 ft.); HD 3d8+6, hp 19; Init +1 (Dex); Spd 40 ft.; AC 13 (+1 Dex, +2 natural); Attacks 2 claws +6 melee, bite +1 melee (each Claw 1d4+4, Bite 1d6+2); SQ Scent; AL N; SV Fort +5, Ref +4, Will +2; Str 19, Dex 13, Con 15, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 6.
Skills: Climb +6, Listen +4, Spot +7, Swim +8 The black bear is primarily hungry. If the PCs are having a hard time, they can throw food on the ground and run, and the bear won't pursue them. If the PCs are taking serious damage, the DM should also hint at this.
This is just one random encounter, but the DM can add more if he feels like it. Goblins like those at the beginning of the adventure could be met in the forest, and the DM should definitely roll for random encounters in a Temperate Forest setting if the PCs spend large amounts of time here. Also remember that it is certainly possible to become lost in a forest! This one isn't so large, so the PCs will find out in time, but it could be used to scare them a little.
Another encounter is with an owl...
Walking through the woods, you're suddenly startled when you notice an owl in the tree next to you. You're not sure why, but while you've seen a number of birds in the forest - squirrels, and a single deer - you have a feeling that you've seen this particular owl before and you get the sensation that it is watching you! Well, obviously it is, but you're starting to think it might be spying on you...
This owl is quite harmless. It is here only to stress the fact that encounters are not always deadly or need result in combat of any sort. The owl is completely at the DM's discretion. The PCs might wonder about it, though. For example, they might suspect that it is the familiar of Eirus Fhalu spying on them. If the DM so desires that might be the case, but there is no reason for the PCs to suspect so, as they never learned if he even had a familiar. Their reactions might be amusing to the DM, however.
If searching at night, the PCs will find the berries Eirus sent them to find. Ironically they will find some near the old graveyard, which they can see from the area where they find the berries. Roll secret rolls for each player. It doesn't matter what you roll, really, just decide on one PC who finds the berries they're after. If one of the PCs has a particularly good Spot skill score, then he's probably the most likely candidate to note the berries and point them out to his companions.
However, that is not all, they'll find at the time...
Still wandering the forest looking for the berries for Eirus Fhalu, you've almost given up when you note that your search has taken you near some old ruins up ahead. As you examine it for a little while, you realise that this must be the old graveyard Balri mentioned at one point...Suddenly something catches your eye. Right there in the bushes are some berries that seem to gleam in the night. There is no doubt in your mind - those are the berries Eirus sent you to find! From his descriptions, there can be no question about it. There are only eight of them, but according to Eirus, that should suffice, so you hurry and pick them up, roll them into a piece of cloth, then put them in your backpack...Just as you are about to leave having found the object of your search, you hear a strange sound up ahead, though... Someone is walking around in the graveyard!
If the PCs know Eirus is a necromancer, they might suspect him of doing some foul business here. If that will lead them to investigate, the DM should try to support that belief. If the PCs are a little reluctant to go closer, try to appeal to their curiosity or to their ethics (especially effective if there are paladins or clerics in the group). The PCs need to go to the graveyard for the adventure to unfold. Assuming the PCs do investigate, read the following...
As you move closer, you can make out humanoid figures up ahead. You can't see what they're doing at this distance and you lose sight of them as they disappear behind another wall. You move ahead to follow, but apparently they are both sneaky and know this area better than you, because as you follow them, you suddenly find that they are all around you, and you know only too well what they are - the same sort of horrible, corpse-eating ghouls you met in your dreams! Horrified you prepare for battle as they attack you, screaming with glee, "Living Flesh - Living Meat!!!"
There are four ghouls around the PCs, but they should be able to handle them. All in all, there are nine ghouls in the graveyard, but the other five are currently hiding in their graves, feeding on other corpses buried here, so the PCs won't find them at the moment. Their stats are still given below, though. The first four ghouls encountered are the 16, 12, 11, and 9 hp ghouls.
Ghouls (9): CR 1; Medium Undead (about 6 ft.); HD 2d12; hp 21, 18, 16, 15, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9; Init +2 (Dex); Spd 30 ft.; AC 14 (+2 Dex, +2 natural); Attacks Bite +3 melee, 2 claws +0 melee (Bite 1d6+1 and paralysis, each claw 1d3 and paralysis); SQ Undead, +2 turn resistance; AL CE; SV Fort +0, Ref +2, Will +5; Str 13, Dex 15, Con -, Int 13, Wis 14, Cha 16. Skills: Climb +6, Escape Artist +7, Hide +7, Intuit Direction +3, Jump +6, Listen +7, Move Silently +7, Search +6, Spot +7. Feats: Multiattack, Weapon Finesse (bite)
Once the PCs have killed the first four ghouls, and probably looked a bit around the graveyard without finding anything else unusual, they should return to the inn or Eirus Fhalu. They might suspect that Fhalu has something to do with these undead, but he'll actually be most anxious to help them combat this undead threat with the significant knowledge of undead he possesses as a necromancer.
If the PCs get Fhalu's advice on the ghouls and then return here, they finish the adventure by finding the rest of the ghouls and destroying them.
Returning to Eirus with the berries.
Eirus is very pleased and thanks the PCs...
"The berries? You found them! Oh, and there are eight of them! Well done, my friends. If you give them to me, I'll get to work on that jar of the potion I promised you right away. It'll take me at least a week to make it, but you're welcome to wait around the village if you want to. If not, you can collect it whenever you come by Gorania again. Rest assured that apart from getting a jar of the potion for yourselves, you've also done a great service to this community. I'll remember to mention your efforts to the villagers..."
Eirus is anxious to begin brewing the potion and will forget all about the PCs immediately unless they have something else to ask him.
Asking Eirus about the Ghouls.
If the PCs mention the ghouls they found at the graveyard to Eirus, he will be quite disturbed, and then ask the PCs to describe the undead to him.
"What?? Undead at the old graveyard? Oh dear, that is not good! In fact, it is rather terrible news, to tell you the truth. Say, could you describe them to me... in as much detail as possible, please." You describe the undead to Eirus. When you mention their long tongues, their vicious claws, and their sharp fangs, he seems concerned.
When you further mention their paralysing touch and the fact that they spoke, he looks positively troubled...
"Oh my... You know, those are Ghouls you're talking about. They hunger for carrion and eat the flesh of the dead... though they do prefer to eat living flesh, as you say. They may not have seemed terribly powerful to you, but make no mistake - they're horrible abominations of nature! It is said that people who used to eat other people while alive or who were unspeakably evil may become ghouls upon their deaths. It is a rare thing, but it seems to be the case here, since you saw nobody else at the graveyard. Besides, I know of no magical formulae with which to create these vile creatures, so I'm fairly certain they must have come about spontaneously... or at least one of them! You see, while ghouls typically eat the flesh of the dead, they can spread their horrible, undead curse to corpses they do not eat, so if left alone, the number of ghouls could grow quite large, particularly in a graveyard with lots of potential victims.
Something must be done about this! Say, I know I've already put you through one assignment, but would you be willing to help us with these ghouls, too?
As before, I'd still prefer to remain here to continue my research, but stopping the undead threat is more important. If you won't help, I'll have to do it myself, and my research might be lost then... Please help us!"
If the PCs really are heroes, they shouldn't be able to turn down a request like that. If they do and then return to the village for a few days, the rumours will spread and several villagers, including Nicos, will ask them to stop the undead threat before it spreads. The villagers have no knowledge of the undead, of course, but the fact that Eirus is concerned is more than enough to scare them all out of their wits... They don't have much to offer the PCs, but they'll sacrifice quite a lot to persuade them to help!
Assuming the PCs accept and continue their conversation with Eirus, read the following...
Eirus looks very happy, "You accept? Excellent! Now, apart from actually destroying the ghouls, the main problem will be to make certain you find them all. You see, once they come above ground, doing so is no problem, but ghouls like to lie buried in the ground feasting on dead flesh, and when they do, finding them can be all but impossible to those who don't know what to look for. First, try poking a spear or pike deep into the graves.
Yes, I realise that may sound like sacrilege and disrespect for the dead, but bear in mind what we're up against - if we allow the bodies to become undead ghouls, what respect would we be showing those dead people?" "Now, the clerics and wizards in your groups - do you know the magical formula of the first degree of magical lore that allows you to intuitively realise the presence of the undead? I believe some clerics also know of this spell, yes? Those of you who know it, use it! It will reveal the presence of ghouls and so will greatly aid your cause. Just a moment..." Eirus leaves the room for a moment, then returns a moment later with a scroll case, "In case you need to use the spell, I have it on a scroll here. I already know the spell myself, so I've been saving this one for an emergency, and I guess this qualifies... here! I hope it's useful.
You may want to scribe it into your personal grimoire in case you don't know it already. I have no problem with that as such, but bear in mind that doing so will take you two days of study, and the ghoul threat might spread in that time... If you do so, make sure your companions patrol the graveyard at night, okay?"
The spell Eirus is talking about is Detect Undead, obviously. He strongly urges the PCs to use the spell repeatedly in the graveyard, as it is just about the only way to be sure that the undead threat is completely eliminated. He'll repeatedly suggest that they check over the graveyard again and again to make sure they finished off every single, last ghoul!
Returning to the graveyard.
Going back to the graveyard and following Eirus' suggestions should pretty much end the adventure. PCs poking spears or pikes into the graves where ghouls are (as determined by Detect Undead or pure chance through trial and error) would make attacks against AC 12 because the ghouls cannot benefit from their Dexterity while underground. If the PCs hit, roll for damage normally. Eventually the PCs should be able to finish off all of the ghouls in this fashion. It might not be a big challenge, but they should be granted full experience anyway - there is no penalty for being smart and listening to Eirus' good advice! In one of the graves, the PCs might come across a buried short sword. The PC examining the grave (by either sticking a spear or pike into it or using Detect Undead) should make a Spot check at DC 16. If successful, the PC somehow notices the short sword (glint of metal, pike glancing it, etc.). The blade is a short sword +1 named "Thranial", and was forged long ago by elves. It ended up here because the person buried in the grave used to be an adventurer and discovered it during those days.
Once the PCs have finished off all the ghouls, the adventure is over. The villagers will cheer their efforts, and Eirus will applaud them as well. If the PCs seek him out, he will tell them that he owes them a favour and promise to repay it some day. Meanwhile, he'll be finishing the potion for them, or simply give it to them if they've spent enough time in the village.
If this adventure was played first (as suggested), the next adventure would be either 'The Starving Forest' or 'What Lurks in the Shadows'. If the PCs remain in the village, the caravan of Ceril Burton from 'The Starving Forest' could pass through on their way north (or south, doesn't matter much...) and hire the PCs as additional guards. If the PCs simply leave the village of Gorania, they could stumble onto both options 1 and 3 of 'How to Involve the PCs' in the adventure. If the DM wishes to play the 'What Lurks in the Shadows' adventure next, the PCs, having heard of Oliver Attleson and his sword "Roc" from Balri, could hear from someone travelling through the village that a portrait of Attleson is being auctioned away in Darokin, and might wish to go there to check it out. Once there they could be involved under all the three options described for 'How to Involve PCs' in that adventure, the first one being particularly likely if they also known Ceril Burton from 'The Starving Forest' adventure already.
If the PCs explore the village of Gorania further, they will eventually learn all the information Balri has to offer. They'll still have to sort out which of it is useful themselves, though. Further investigations into the origin of the ghouls will be inconclusive... There is nothing to suggest it did not happen exactly as Eirus described, so there is no evidence against him.
The PCs could decide to find out where the goblins who attacked Nicos and themselves came from. If they do, they'll discover that there have been an increase of goblinoid attacks on the northern trade routes off late, which will lead them to the adventures 'The Starving Forest' and then 'What Lurks in the Shadows'.
They might also conclude that Oliver Attleson is buried in the old graveyard, especially if they've already played the 'Starving Forest' adventure and paid attention to the clues there. If they explore the matter it won't reveal much, though. Attleson was not one of the bodies that became a ghoul, and since his armour was ruined, his shield brought back to Corunglain, and his sword "Roc" lost, there won't be any treasure or identifying articles in his grave and the PCs won't be able to tell it apart from the other graves... Besides, digging around the graves will not exactly endear them with Eirus or the villagers...