Your Trusted Friend, the Necromancer
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. By manipulating one of the immortals themselves, the Outer Being has been able to set the stage for its escape. Its plan involves the corruption of the powerful artifacts known as the Swords of Wayland, as well as blood rituals on a scale that could not possibly be imagined by most, be they mortal or immortal. The PCs will be inexorably drawn into this webwork of insane schemes through four seemingly unrelated adventures. Ultimately, it will be up to them to put the pieces together before the Outer Being's dark prophecies come to pass, but the unknowable one has been planning its escape for a long time. Compassion, curiosity, fame, and fortune...all of the stuff that heroes are made of, will insure that wittingly or not, the PCs will play their part in the Outer Beings grand design.
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 traveling 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 lously 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 traveling 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 traveling 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 realize 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 travelers, 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 of 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 armor); 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
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, though, 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.Village Encounters
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 armor 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 succesful...
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 realized 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 gallopping 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 neighboring 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 other patrons might have of the PCs, 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 travelers 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 travelers 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 armor, +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,
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 armor, 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 honored 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 realize 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, too, 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 – there 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 paralyzed 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, examing 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 defenses, 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 armor, +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 armor, 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 armor, +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 armor, 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 armor, +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 armor, 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 stalagtites above, making you once again long for the warm fire in Nicos’ inn…
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 Armor 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 paralyzed, 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, however, 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 realize the taste of your own blood in your mouthes. You slowly begin to realize 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…...
Copyright © 2001, John Calvin, Max Monas, and Jens Schnabel. Used by permission. All rights reserved.