Adventurers Journal

The Manner of Dying

“We’re never getting out of these caves.” The human in shredded leathers panted between words as the dwarven woman who had been mostly carrying him set down her burden to rest.

                “Dessar will protect my friend. Allow me to see to your leg.” Another human in heavy armor, this one with golden skin and dark hair as opposed to his friend’s deep, almost coffee-colored tan and sun bleached curls, probed the broken leg of the thief. The three slash marks of the wound were already looking red and angry as infection settled in. The injury was taken mere moments ago.

                The dwarven woman sat on the ground in a lotus position and slowly moved her hands in a hypnotic rhythm. A tear in her stony skin along her left bicep slowly closed almost like a zipper. The sickness inherent in the wounds hadn’t been able to sink into a healthy dwarf the way it had in a human. Skittering and dragging sounds came from down the tunnel that led into the temple complex. The remnant of the Glittering Blades Adventuring Company had been exploring for several days. Three of their companions lay dead or worse behind them, lost in waves of the the living dead that had attacked  and forced them down into the caves. They lost count of the times they had stopped to rest before being pushed on by the endless swarms of the pursuing dead.

                “Come, it is time to go.” The dwarf’s dark-adjusted eyes saw a shambling undead form before it had reached the torchlight. She stood and reached to help the still wounded thief to his feet.

                The priest sighed deeply and stood. “Go my friends. I will stay here and teach these foul creatures the glory of The Shieldbearer.” Ban Gao, the human priest, took a firm grip on his shield and hammer facing away from his companions.

                “Don’t be a fool, Gao. They’ll tear you down in moments. We can outrun them if we just keep moving.” The rogue grimaced at the tightness of the dwarf Ilaxok’s grip as he leaned on her shoulder.

                “Gao, we can all make it together. Come now, let’s be off.” Ilaxok’s deep voice rattled in the tight passage, and the first of the zombies sped up its shuffling pace as it came into the torchlight.

                “No my friends. I cannot carry Erastos or heal his wounds with my few remaining spells. With his injured leg, he cannot hold the passage while others escape. It must be me. My god demands it. Flee and remember the call of Dessar to defend those who are hurt. “ Ban Gao smiled sadly as he stepped forward and smashed the shambling ruin of an elf to the ground. The moans of others came up the passage, indicating the horde had found them.

                “Gao, come with us! I’m not leaving you.” Erastos grabbed Ben Gao’s armor and began to pull him.

                “He’s right. One must stay that the others may escape, and he’s the best choice.” Ilaxok’s rumbling voice was pained. She leaned the injured rogue against the wall and made the formal bow of her monastery to the priest. “Dessar shield you and bring you home to us brother. We will sing of you.” She took the protesting thief on her shoulder, and the two of them faded into the tunnels as Ban Gao lit more torches and scattered them around the cavern.

                Hours later, the two stumbled into the dying light of day. The cavern behind them had been silent for some time. They stretched far past exhaustion to put as many miles between the hordes of undead as they could. Finally, it neared dawn, and even the tireless dwarf slumped, completely spent. The two leaned against a great tree and fell asleep, oblivious to the world.

                Erastos, the human thief, woke first, and the sliding of his blade from its sheathe disturbed his dwarven companion. Ilaxok spun to her feet in a smooth motion, taking up one of the combat positions of her monastic school. There before them in the clearing sat what was once a human. A staff with a dirty white rag atop it was held in her left hand as she sat tailor fashion before the two. Her skin was taunt to her grinning skull, and her flowing red hair remained beautiful despite the undeath that had claimed her. She had no eyes but only burning embers in the sockets. A pile of battered armor lay before her.

                “Greetings, Glittering Blades. I bring you tidings from the master of Fortress Kilianost. Your friend, the priest, has gone to his god.” The once human woman spoke in a melodic voice with an accent that told of languages long lost to the ears of men.

                The rogue stepped forward with the thick, curved blade of his sword at the ready, the splint they had made for his injured leg bearing his weight for the moment. “Did you slay him? Filth!” he spat in disgust.

                “Hold, Erastos. Listen to her voice. This is no simple skeleton or zombie before you. What are you, creature of the night?” The dwarf rumbled as her chi glowed from her hands.

                “I am the court bard of the fortress, both historian and teller of tales. Would you have me sing you a song?” The creature’s grin stretched too large for any human face and her teeth were sharpened into spikes.

                Erastos hissed and drew back. “Banshee.” He said in a flat voice. “What would you have of us?”

                “I only want to tell you the tale of your friend. I know nothing of how he lived, but my master would have you hear of how he died so the manner of his death would not be lost to the living world. I bring you his armor. Would you hear it?” her singsong voice seemed to lull them both into a stupor as she began to speak.

                “You violated the sanctum of the dread god and woke the guardians from their slumber. The zombies and skeletons were those who had worshipped there in life, now bound to the temple in undeath. When they began to stir, it brought those of us in the fortress to full wakefulness from our dreaming state. The master sent forth his hounds, those you call ghouls, to seek out what disturbed our rest. The Hunt, what we call the court of the fortress, stirred and armed themselves. I do not know if you heard the horns, but all were anxious for blood and sought out the honor of the kill after such quiescence.”

                “One member of your party had barricaded himself in a monk’s cell of the temple. My consort destroyed him, reaching through the walls to tear out the warrior’s soul. He will make a worthy servant and should feel honored to have both his spirit and body separately bound as guardians of that place. Two others separated from your group were torn down by the mindless hordes as you ran into the tunnels.”

                “The hordes pursued for some time, fighting now and again until you could escape. Many of them were destroyed by some few spells and more by your weapons. I see now that you were all injured, and we could smell the blood. Finally, your friend decided to flee no more and stood in the tunnel.”

                “His prayers to Dessar rang up the passage. I assume this was as you ran away from him. The first of the horde that reached him were destroyed by his hammer, but the numbers coming upon him soon became overwhelming. He charged again, and his shield illuminated , rending those nearest to him to dust.”

                “Again the skeletons and zombies surged forward, and again the first wave was utterly destroyed while the stragglers died against shield and hammer. Finally, the first of the hounds reached the battle, and their bestial, humanlike forms surged through the band of his power, though their bodies smoked and some even flamed from the holy energy. His prayers echoed over their snarls, and the first to reach them was bashed with his holy shield and exploded in a clap of thunder. The other hounds retreated as he used the blessings of his god to heal himself again. “

                “My consort arrived, fresh from the kill of your other comrade. He had earned pride of place in destroying the priest. The horde fell back, moaning or snarling as was their wont. He floated like a dark dream and turned to me smiling before he engaged. The damnable priest’s shield flashed white again, but it was too weak to turn away Rodrick The Mighty, he who in life was the first warrior of the temple. Rodrick’s ghostly hands sank into your friend’s body and began to tear loose his spirit. The priest cried in agony but prayed again and bashed my love with his shield, the symbol of the hated God Dessar. Rodrick also screamed and began the fade. The two met their ends together. Rodrick’s heart gem fell to earth, ringing against the armor of your now dead priest.” The banshee hung her once beautiful head and placed an onyx the size of a man’s thumb on the pile of battered armor.

               “The Lord of the Temple grants you safe passage for one day and one night from this moment. Do not be caught here again, or there will be no mercy. Tell your friend’s church of his death so that his courage may be remembered.” The creature climbed to her feet and walked into the woods, leaving the two adventurers to gather their friend’s belongings and the heart gem of the spectre he had slain with his last breath. They would see his courage remembered, and all would hear the manner of his dying.

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The Priest of Dessar named Ban Gao used his turn undead ability to great effect in the tunnel. Against the hordes of zombies and skeletons, he used the destroy (spell?) with area effect option. That caused the smoking and disintegration of some of the horde. Against the ghouls, what were referred to as hounds in the story, he used the area effect destruction option but most were injured. Against the one which exploded when struck with his shield, he used the single target destruction option. Against the spectre, he used the single target destruction option, and killed it as it was killing .


The Ruined Bridge

                A Heroes’ Tears Encounter for 3-5 characters of levels 8-10 or around 36 total levels. This is intended as a drop-in adventure that can be used anywhere. The creatures encountered aren’t that tough, but they are intelligent and fight like it, which explains the higher required level.

Back Story

                Wulfgrim, King of the Bandits, is dead. It is common knowledge that he was destroyed during the tribal wars several centuries ago. He was a warrior/bandit of some note and was widely known for his savagery. Those he took prisoner were tied to stakes and burned alive as a warning to others. Over time, he gathered a like-minded group together who would embrace any tactic in opposing the other tribe. However, this group’s identity is lost to history. It is unknown how the group was slain, but the members all vanished, and the small tower they held as their stronghold was deserted. Rumors told of foul magic, but this was all long ago. The rumors have become legend and are passing into mythology. Wulfgrim’s Bridge remains the best way across the gorge, and it has never needed significant repair in all the many years of its existence.

                Merchants moving through the area have reported that the homes of the locals were destroyed. No one lives in the ruins of Wulfgrim’s Village now. Some who have gone to investigate have reported nothing was to be found, and some have vanished. Now, the merchants have stopped coming altogether.

For the Storyteller

A hamlet had grown up around the bridge to serve the travelers who cross over. That hamlet ceased to exist several weeks ago.

                Wulfgrim has been a dread knight for ages. He was locked by a contemplation stone that trapped him in memories of his past. The gems that powered the stone finally burned out, and now he is awake. Many of his loyal men have become skeletal warriors or ghuls. Those they have captured are now zombies or skeletons. Wulfgrim believes the war he waged against the other tribe still rages and that everyone who enters his valley is of the other tribe.

Rumormill

                General

                Level 1

  1. The dead have risen around the old bridge! (True)
  2. A dread necromancer has taken the area for her own! (False)

                Level 2

  1. Ghuls have been spotted near the ruined bridge. (True)
  2. A dark temple was in Wulfgrim’s Village, and spirits have taken over the area. (False)

Level 3

  1. Someone is creating undead nearby. (True)
  2. A dread cult has arisen with an army of the dead. (Mostly false, no cult and a small army)

Level 4

  1. No one is coming to help us. (True)

Magical

Level 1

  1. Thorns and brambles have been growing profusely in the area. (True)
  2. The crops have been cursed! (False)

Level 2

  1. Someone is casting significant necromantic magic nearby. (True)
  2. Ritual magic has tainted the area. (False)

Fortune

Level 1

  1. Several small traders and a couple of caravans have come up missing. (True)
  2. It is a trade war. Some merchant house is trying to control the area. (False)

Level 2

  1. A messenger from a noble house is one of the lost. (True)
  2. Some of the “missing” merchant guards have been seen at a tavern in town. (False)

Level 3

  1. A three-wagon caravan that was strongly guarded has been the last one to vanish. (True)
  2. A great beast devours all on the road! (Lots of medium sized beasts. False)

Beginning the Encounter

                The following encounter takes place in a valley with a large stream or river. It can be dropped in as a wilderness encounter anywhere in the world.

Stumble Upon – The characters are going down the road where the ruined bridge is located and find themselves in a running battle. In this case, begin the adventure with The Road In section.

Missing Merchant – A merchant’s guild who has lost a small caravan hires the adventurers to find out what happened.

Plea for Help – The father of a lost child asks the adventurers to help find his daughter. She was gathering mushrooms in the nearby forest and vanished.

                Missing Merchant

                The merchant guild in this section is The Red Wheels Trading Coster; it is a small group of traders in general consumer goods and foods. If the players have connections to another group of traders, feel free to substitute them and change the names of the merchants involved as you please. The merchant here finds the group at a tavern, but if the storyteller wishes to change the location of the encounter, he or she may do so.

 The human man who had just entered the tavern was well dressed in the sumptuous garb of a merchant prince but wasn’t fat and sleek like one would expect from that type. His jaunty hat with a red dyed feather was held against his side by a shockingly muscled arm more suited to a blacksmith than a purveyor of fine goods. His eyes, narrowed into a serious glare, searched the smoky gloom until his eyes land on  you. The merchant’s rough, weathered face split into a smile. He walked quickly to your table.

                Iason Redwheel (hm NG F{Merchant}7) is a very direct man. He sits in front of the adventurers after ordering them a round of whatever they are drinking. He then dives into his story without regard for any previous conversations which might have been underway at the table. “I’ve lost people. By the wheel, I’d like you to find them.” Though he talks about his wagons when asked, his primary concern is the welfare of the people in the lost caravan. Master Trader Zenobia Dealer was in charge of the three wagons with Traders Bion Geophagos and Isidora Eleni. There was also a drover of goats with a herd of fifteen, one assistant, two guards and three apprentice traders. Each wagon was pulled by two oxen and were carrying large jars of olive oil, wine and two casks of spices. For each person rescued, he will pay 50 gold pieces. 10 gold pieces each for information of their fate. For the rescue of each wagon, he’ll pay 75 gold. He’s a tough bargainer, as you would expect from someone who started as an apprentice wheelwright and worked his way up to master merchant. His Diplomacy and Sense Motive Skills are both 15. The important thing to him is getting the job done, and the characters are the only adventurers in town right now. He also knows General Rumors 1-1 and 2-2 as well as Fortune 1-1 (which he personally knows to be true), 2-2 and 3-1. Other than information about his own missing people, he spins all other rumors out slowly and reluctantly.

                Plea for Help

                Hesiod is just a run-of-the-mill small-time farmer. The details provided aren’t significant to the story. In this version, we used an Alliard Human description, but if you are in another area, the storyteller may choose to change his gender, ethnicity or race as is appropriate.

 A man comes into the tavern squinting against the gloom. His face is burned coffee-colored by the sun and deep lines are graven into his face. He’s wearing the undyed garments common to farmers in this area but might have better shoes than most. He takes off the boonie style hat worn by most in the region and walks over to the closest barmaid. They talk for a moment, and she points towards you. He nods and says something you can’t hear. Nervously scrubbing his face with his left hand, he walks to your table. “Hello, good masters.” he says in a quiet, deep voice. His eyes are red like he’s not been asleep for several days, on drugs, or he’s been crying, and he repeatedly rolls his soft hat in large calloused hands. “My little girl has gone missing in the forest. We’s all tried to look for her, my cousins and friends all. There be beasts out there in the woods that ran us off. Can you help? Her name is Zoe good Masters.”

                Hesiod Geophagos is a somewhat prosperous farmer living on the outskirts of town with his family. Zoe is eleven years old with brown hair and eyes. He has 27 silver and 44 copper pieces to offer the group. If hard-pressed, he will promise 20% of his corn crop, five goats, including a good billy, two milking nannies and one ox. It is all he has. If that isn’t enough, he and two of his cousins will commit to working for the group one day per week for two years as long as his daughter, Zoe, is returned alive. He isn’t a skilled negotiator, so he just asks the party for help and tells about the money. Then, he’ll offer his livestock. If really pressed, he mentions the promise of service, but only if Zoe is brought home alive. If the party agrees to find her, he’ll tearfully thank them and shake their hands with a crushing grip. If they refuse, he’ll say that the group didn’t owe him anything anyway and wish the party good fortune. They will hear him sob as he turns away. He knows General Rumors 1-2 and 2-1. He will also say one of his cousins became an undead, and they were forced to kill it.. He doesn’t know how it happened to his cousin, but they separated looking for Zoe and found a zombie cousin. If the group does help, he will lead them to where Zoe usually goes into the forest near his cottage and fields.

Levelling the Adventure

                If your party is too high a level for this adventure, then increase the number of skeletal warriors (+2 per average party level above 10), ghuls (+2 per) and zombies (+1d12 for average party level above 10) and add a lesser mummy.  For groups whose average party level above is 13+, then use a additional Captain Skeletal Warrior per level inside The Bridge Tower and give all skeletal warriors six more Arrows of Area Harming as described in The Dark Ranger. Increase Wulfgrim’s fighter level +2 for each average level of the group above 13. For groups of average party level above 15+, make the mummy a greater mummy with one lesser per additional level and add a second zombie horde of identical size at the beginning of The Bridge Tower encounter hidden inside B0. For groups of too low a level, subtract 1d4 zombies per level below level 8  and remove one skeletal warrior at level 7 and level 8. If the group is average level 5 or lower, they really shouldn’t play this encounter, but the storyteller may take away the Greater Mummy, drop Wulfgrim’s level to 10 and remove the Arrows of Area Harming.

The Adventure

                There are generally two ways for the characters to get to the ruined bridge. They can either take the forest approach through the local wilderness, or they can go down the trade way. If they really want to throw a curve ball and infiltrate through the stream, then have them encounter The Dark Ranger first, then the ghuls at The Bridge Tower, and then begin the Lost Village. If they take the forest route or The Road In, have them come in on the side away from the village.

                The Road In

 The trade way is a muddy track with deeply carved ruts from generations of wagons. There is grass and gravel along some of it, but most is simply dirt about two arm’s length across. The forest looms over it with great trees and the smell of rotted loam thick about you. Across the track towards the stream is ground that was recently farmed but is overgrown now with weeds and brambles.  A breeze conjures dust devils from the road before you. A smell of cooked meat hangs heavy in the dense air, mixing uncomfortably with the smell of rotted loam.

                This area is just an abandoned path near an empty farm. No encounter. When the group continues along the path and  they go over a hill to the stream’s valley, go to Warning Sign. There are footprints and wagon tracks in abundance. Some of the footprints are as recent as yesterday (Tracking Skill DC 8).

                The Forest

 The woods here are relatively open with deer and human tracks in abundance. Stumps of large trees where there has been logging aren’t uncommon, and this area is used as a huge woodlot by neighboring villages. Brambles have sprung up in profusion and tangle the legs of any walking through. The thorn bushes are wrapping around other plants and choking the life out of them. It is quieter than you would normally expect with few sounds of birds. Crows flock from tree to tree in abundance and caw when they see you, but otherwise, the wildlife is silent. Mushrooms and toadstools peek out from under bushes here and there.

                Use this description if the characters enter the valley through the woods and avoid the main road. 

                If following Zoe’s tracks, the party wanders from bush to bush. The tracks are easy to find and follow. After nearly a mile, the tracks turn and stride long with deeper prints. Tracking DC 12 determines the following: Something with human-sized, clawed feet was chasing Zoe, and she was running. Her tracks disappear and then turn and go towards Wulfgrim’s Village. Tracking Skill DC 16 finds heavy canine tracks among the brush with dead grass directly around the printas if burned away. Gray fur can be found in some of the thorns. Wilderness Lore DC 15 determines wolf of some sort, while DC 20 determines a dread creature. Go to Warning Signs. Every six rounds, Roll 1d4 – if 1, the group finds a small animal (squirrel or possum) with pieces cut out of its body and staked to the ground with a carved wooden stick. Around it are human-sized prints which quickly vanish. This is a trace of Lysimachos, the Dark Ranger.

 

                Warning Sign

 Topping the hill, the valley spreads out before you. The fields are all empty of crops and overgrown by weeds. Nothing moves within your sight save smoke on the plinth to your right. Six bowshots ahead is the first large home of the village. One of the walls looks to be collapsed. The bridge over the deep ravine carved by the stream seems intact, but holes are in its walls, and the tower at the far edge seems sturdy, but burn marks darken its sides as well. Across the wide stream you can see several other small cottages and a few other large buildings. Many of these structures show marks of a fire or other damage. A burned humanoid body is tied across a stone stand in a depression to the right of the road. Bits of smoke still curl up from the embers filling the pit and wrap around the outstretched limbs of the burned figure. A sign carved in wood using ancient characters rests on the edge of the depression. Brown speckles, what might be blood, dot the sign.

                The burnt body is wearing the remains of a quilted gambeson and arming cap usually worn under armor. It appears to have been a human male, and its mouth is open as if screaming. It is too badly damage to find any injuries other than fire, but from the way the ropes are abraded, you can guess he was still alive when the fire was lit. The stone still radiates heat to the touch, and embers glow at the base. The sign is written in an archaic version of High Creden. If anyone has that language skill they can make it out. Otherwise, Decipher Script DC 18 to read: “None shall enter this vale and live to tell of it. If ye are wise, ye will flee. Wulfgrim has risen.”  Go to The Dark Ranger

                The Dark Ranger

                Lysimachos the Gray was a ranger of great repute when he took service with Wulfgrim centuries ago. Like most of Wulfgrim’s greater servants, Lysimachos has become a skeletal warrior, but he still retains his skills in the wilderness. He has been out scouring the forest of Dread Wolves that have been attacking the lesser undead. He is short for a human with a remnant of shoulder-length black hair around his skeletal head. He is wearing well-made, gray, studded leather armor with brown-bronze studs. His longbow is a strength bow. His great sword is well-made but not exceptional. He wears a Ring of Command that grants a +2 to charisma attribute for purposes of the Turn Undead special ability. He uses it to command the Shadow he controls. He always moves silently and hides. One of the advantages of immortality is endless patience, so he doesn’t hurry. He will use the Shadow melee to engage the group with its spells and then in melee. He will then summon 1d4 zombies from the village on the second round that will arrive in 1d4 rounds. He summons a similar group every second round of combat. When the Shadow attacks in melee, Lysimachos will begin to shoot his Arrows of Harming with an area effect harm spell that heals undead or dread spirits. If damaged personally, Lysimachos will stab himself with an arrow to heal and then flee. He has 12 magical arrows and 30 normal ones. He usually finds the party during the Warning Signs section, but if they evade him, he will engage from behind when they get involved in any other fight. It will usually take him four rounds to get within longbow range if he doesn’t find the party at Warning Signs.

                Lysimachos Dark Ranger (Skeletal Warrior) – HP: 90 AC: 19, fl19, t12 INIT: +6  SPD: 30 ATK: Longbow +7/+2 ranged (1d8+2+1d4 {Area Harm}) or Greatsword +8/+3 melee (1d12+3+1d4) GRP: +6 SAVE: F+3, R+4, W+8 ATTR: S14, D15, C-, I15, W15, Ch12 SK: Move Silent+10, Hide+7, Listen+7, Spot+7, Know(Ancient History)+4 Special Attacks: Necromancer’s ice (+1d4 to damage), Special Defenses: Undead XP: 950. Feats: Power Attack, Attack of Opportunity, Cleave. Special Equipment: Arrows of Harm 10’ radius 3d8 pts of damage (heals undead), masterwork studded leather.

                Shadow sz med haunt, HP: 38 hp  AC: 15, fl 12, t 15 INIT: +3 SPD: 30 ATK: Touch +6 melee (1d4 + Soul Sear touch attack) GRP: +6 SPC AT: Soul Sear, Spells 6 0th 5 1st 2 2nd SPC Q: Immaterial, Haunt Traits  SAVE: Fort -, Reflex +4, Will +4 ATTR: Str: 14 Dex: 16 Con:-  Int: 8 Wis: 12 Cha:14 SK: Spot+6, Listen+6, Search+5 CR: 4 XP: 2500 Spells: L0 Touch of Elements x6, L1 Acidic Spittle x3, Rotting Fog x2, L2 Absorb Life, Fearful Gaze

            After encountering Lysimachos, go to The Bridge Tower. Remember, Lysimachos will run before he engages in melee and will retreat towards the bridge. If he gets away, he will go to the top of the tower and use his bow against the party. Don’t forget to subtract any summoned zombies from the total available at The Bridge Tower.

 

                The Bridge Tower

 The hexagonal tower that sits astride the far side of the single-arched bridge is nearly fifty feet from its crenellated top to its gray stone foundation. The sides are weathered and pitted with age with a broken area at the top that looks like a rotten tooth. Thorny vines grow up its side with a number of brilliant white roses scattered about. Arrow slits pierce the tower’s sides starting around thirty feet up. The bridge is wide enough for a single wagon and goes through the lowest level of the tower. A low rail that was probably once carved in fanciful statues, long since weathered into misshapen lumps, is on both sides. A toll-taker or guard post is on the near side of the bridge. Long ago, there may have been two posts, but the other is shattered, and any gate that went between the two is long gone. A large cottage sits near the winding trade way near what once were neat fields but now are covered in brambles. Several cottages or trade houses sit on the far side, most damaged in some way or burnt. The ravine is deep for leagues in either direction; loose shale forms its side and the rushing stream flows at its bottom. More of the thorny roses dot the ravine’s sides.

               The ravine here is nearly thirty feet high and made of loose rock requiring a DC 15 climb check. Climbing the tower is relatively easy (DC 5), but the thorns and roses are from Vampire Rose Bushes which Lysimachos has planted throughout the area, and any climber is considered prone when attacked by them. If Lysimachos has successfully retreated, he will run to the tower, drop both sides of the portcullis, bar the door, and go to the top level to shoot at the party with his bow. Two other skeletal warriors are in the tower. They will shoot from the arrow slits on level 3 unless someone gets into the portcullis. If that happens, they will use longspears through the murder holes in the floor of level one to attack while the characters try to get through the doors. Any approaching the damaged cottage at B0 will awaken the zombies and will be attacked. Two rounds after the zombies attack, the ghuls from under the bridge will attack. There are 20 more Arrows of Area Harming in the tower, and the skeletal warriors there will use them while the group is engaged with zombies and ghuls or to heal themselves if damaged. Spell casters will be targeted first. If any skeletal warrior is killed in the tower, the other skeleton will sound the alarm gong to bring Wulfgrim out of his crypt.

                B0 – Ruined Cottage: This small home is roughly eight paces square. The western wall has been shattered by some great force, possibly when part of the roof burned away. The insides are wrecked with all the former owner’s possessions scattered around. Several humanoids look in your direction. When they see you, they begin to moan and shuffle slowly towards you with arms outstretched. You can hear the click of their jaws clamping shut as if already biting you.

                Zombies (12) sz medium undead, HP: 38, 38, 38, 38, 38, 38, 38, 38, 38, 38, 38, 38  AC: 9, fl11, t8 INIT: -2 SPD: 20’ ATK: 2 Slams +1 melee (1d4+1), if both hit or if grappling then Bite -1 melee (1d6+1 *Causes Disease) GRP: +1 SPC AT: Dread Malediction (When bitten Fort DC 10 or 1d4 Con) SPC Q: Undead SAVE: Fort+2, Reflex-1, Will+1 ATTR: Str: 11 Dex: 7 Con: 0 Int: 0 Wis: 11           Cha: 11 SK: Listen+3 XP: 160 Will attempt to overbear when more than 3 are present.

                B1 – Broken Guardpost: This is a small booth where a guard probably once stood. Its companion is rubble. There was once a gate between them, but it is gone. The track turns into the stone of the bridge here. Under the bridge is a cave where ghuls have taken up residence. If they hear zombies moaning, they will move up the slop and attack in two rounds.

                Ghuls (6) sz medium undead, HP: 30, 30, 30, 30, 30, 30 AC: 15, fl13, t12 INIT: +2, SPD: 25’ ATK: 2 Slams +4 melee (1d4+3, chill touch) and Bite +6 melee (1d6+3, chill touch and Decay) or Blood Drain Bite. GRP: +10 SPC AT: Chill Touch (Any touch inflicts 2d4 damage 1 pt of str and con loss. Fort DC 16 to halve damage and negate attribute loss), Decay (Post combat illness), Blood Drain Bite (Full Round Action, 1 point con damage plus normal bite effects heals Ghul of 1d8 + damage inflicted). SPC Q: Undead SAVE: Fort+3, Ref+3, Will+3 ATTR: S17 D14 C- I8 W12 Ch13 SK: Listen+4, Spot+2, Jump+5 XP: 240

                Level 0 – There is a portcullis on either side to get in: Strength check DC 40 to raise, Hardness 10 and 120 hit points to destroy. Under Passage: Stone floors and walls with one iron-banded wooden door in either wall. Door hardness of 8 and 60 hit points to destroy. There are four murder holes across the top of the 12 foot ceiling. Both doors are identical. Two zombies shuffle around area 2 at base of stairs. They attack if the door is opened or forced.  The stairs are extremely narrow and steep and only allow for one medium or two small creatures to use them at a time.

                Vampire Rose (2) sz medium plant, HP: 32, 11 AC: 15, ff16, t9 INIT: -1 SPD: 0’ ATK: 4 x 1d8 Slams +5 melee (1d2+blood drain) {It hits engage grapple} GRP: +7 SPC AT: Blood Drain (When grappling drains 2 points per round per vine) and Sleep Pollen (Within 30’ Fort Save DC14 or go to sleep within 5 rounds for 30 minutes or more) SPC Q: Plant SAVE: Fort +6, Ref+3, Will+2 ATTR: S14, D8, C13, I0, W13, Ch12 Sk: Listen+6, Hide+12 XP: 160

                Zombies (2) sz medium undead, HP: 38, 38  AC: 9, fl11, t8 INIT: -2 SPD: 20’ ATK: 2 Slams +1 melee (1d4+1), if both hit or if grappling then Bite -1 melee (1d6+1 *Causes Disease) GRP: +1 SPC AT: Dread Malediction (When bitten Fort DC 10 or 1d4 Con) SPC Q: Undead SAVE: Fort+2, Reflex-1, Will+1 ATTR: Str: 11 Dex: 7 Con: 0 Int: 0 Wis: 11 Cha: 11 SK: Listen+3 XP: 160

                Level 1 – The stairs open to a flat hallway (4) with a circular stairway to the right, door to the front and open area behind. The open area (5) has racks for spears and bows. Currently, the racks have five spears and two great bows in them. The dining area (7) and kitchen (6) are dusty and unused. There are two zombies directly in front of the stairs. Unless the characters entered with great stealth, there will be one skeletal warrior at the base of the circular stairway and one in area (5) who is able to attack from both above and behind anyone on the stairs with a longspear reach weapon. If either skeletal warrior dies, the other will ring the large bronze gong in area (5) to summon Wulfgrim.

                Skeletal Warriors (2)– HP: 90, 90 AC: 25, fl20, t12 INIT: +6  SPD: 20 ATK: Longbow +7/+2 ranged (1d8+2+1d4 {Area Harm}), Longspear +8/+3 melee (1d10+3+1d4), or Broadsword +7/+2 melee (2d4+2+1d4) GRP: +6 SAVE: F+3, R+4, W+8 ATTR: S14, D15, C-, I15, W15, Ch12 SK: Move Silent+10, Hide+7, Listen+7, Spot+7, Know(Ancient History)+4 Special Attacks: Necromancer’s ice (+1d4 to damage), Special Defenses: Undead XP: 950. Feats: Power Attack, Attack of Opportunity, Cleave. Special Equipment: Arrows of Harm (6) 10’ radius 3d8 pts of damage (heals undead), breastplate armor and large steel shield. Only use shield with broadsword.

                Zombies (2) sz medium undead, HP: 38, 38  AC: 9, fl11, t8 INIT: -2 SPD: 20’ ATK: 2 Slams +1 melee (1d4+1), if both hit or if grappling then Bite -1 melee (1d6+1 *Causes Disease) GRP: +1 SPC AT: Dread Malediction (When bitten Fort DC 10 or 1d4 Con) SPC Q: Undead SAVE: Fort+2, Reflex-1, Will+1 ATTR: Str: 11 Dex: 7 Con: 0 Int: 0 Wis: 11 Cha: 11 SK: Listen+3 XP: 160

                Level 2 – The stairs open into a large area with stools scattered around. Three arrow slits provide some light. Areas 9 are long unused sleeping quarters with rotten furniture.

                Level 3 – Areas 10 are larger sleeping areas with rotten and collapsed bunk beds and empty chests at the foot of each bed. Arrow slits pierce each wall.

                Level 4 – The stairs open into a large open area with several rotten chairs and tables. The wall to your left has crumbled, and parts of the floor above are falling in. Rooms 11 are spacious sleeping areas long abandoned. If Lysimachos escaped, he will be found above this area on the roof and will shoot down any remaining Arrows of Harm at the group. If too hard-pressed, he will jump into the stream and escape.

                The Lost Village

 This hamlet was until recently a prosperous place of small farms and tradesmen that served the travelers using the bridge. Small houses surround the main cart track. Most of them are ruinous now. Several show signs of recent burns and others have had walls bashed in. More of the thorny roses bloom among the rubble.

                When Wulfgrim and his fellows tunneled up out of their crypt it was midday and the villagers put up a fight. One of them set a house on fire to try and burn the undead and succeeded in setting fire to the whole hamlet. Now, virtually the whole place is ruinous and infested with zombies. If the portcullis on the village side is not down, zombies will attack anyone under the tower. When any zombies begin an encounter, they will moan loudly which beckons to all others within the village.

                V1 Burned Cottage – Small half-timbered residence with a half-collapsed thatched roof that is badly burned. Six zombies are within it.

Zombies (6) sz medium undead, HP: 38, 38, 38, 38, 38, 38  AC: 9, fl11, t8 INIT: -2 SPD: 20’ ATK: 2 Slams +1 melee (1d4+1), if both hit or if grappling then Bite -1 melee (1d6+1 *Causes Disease) GRP: +1 SPC AT: Dread Malediction (When bitten Fort DC 10 or 1d4 Con) SPC Q: Undead SAVE: Fort+2, Reflex-1, Will+1 ATTR: Str: 11 Dex: 7 Con: 0 Int: 0 Wis: 11 Cha: 11 SK: Listen+3 XP: 160

V2 Destroyed Cottage – This cottage burned to the ground.

V3 Broken Smithy – This was the smith, and as such, the structure was more resistant to burning. Major impacts on the inside broke out one of the walls and collapsed the whole upper floor. The forge on the west side is still mostly intact, and there are full tools and bar stock available. Eight zombies are around the forge.

Zombies (8) sz medium undead, HP: 38, 38, 38, 38, 38, 38, 38, 38  AC: 9, fl11, t8 INIT: -2 SPD: 20’ ATK: 2 Slams +1 melee (1d4+1), if both hit or if grappling then Bite -1 melee (1d6+1 *Causes Disease) GRP: +1 SPC AT: Dread Malediction (When bitten Fort DC 10 or 1d4 Con) SPC Q: Undead SAVE: Fort+2, Reflex-1, Will+1 ATTR: Str: 11 Dex: 7 Con: 0 Int: 0 Wis: 11 Cha: 11 SK: Listen+3 XP: 160

V4 Destroyed Cottage – This cottage also burned to the ground.

V5 Carter’s Shop – The lower level of this residence is a carter’s shop for wagon and wheel repair. The main door is hanging open, and there is a dangling sign of a wagon wheel over it. There is a four-wheeled wagon recently repaired inside. All tools and parts are available. The family’s room in the upper floors is undamaged, and in a small chest under the master’s bed is 18 gp, 41 silver and 87 copper. There are 10 zombies in the shop.

Zombies (10) sz medium undead, HP: 38, 38, 38, 38, 38, 38, 38, 38  AC: 9, fl11, t8 INIT: -2 SPD: 20’ ATK: 2 Slams +1 melee (1d4+1), if both hit or if grappling then Bite -1 melee (1d6+1 *Causes Disease) GRP: +1 SPC AT: Dread Malediction (When bitten Fort DC 10 or 1d4 Con) SPC Q: Undead SAVE: Fort+2, Reflex-1, Will+1 ATTR: Str: 11 Dex: 7 Con: 0 Int: 0 Wis: 11 Cha: 11 SK: Listen+3 XP: 160

                V6 Cottage – This cottage is in the best condition of any of them and is covered in the thorny roses. A small weaving of sticks with thick thorns and more of the white roses blooming from it covers the door. Inside the floor of this cottage is missing. There is a tunnel inside that leads to Wulfgrim’s crypt. Six zombies are stationed around it. The hole has been carved into rough stairs that lead down into the darkness. A lamp with oil is on a table to the side of the stair. The contents of the cottage have been thrown outside in a pile of trash.

Zombies (6) sz medium undead, HP: 38, 38, 38, 38, 38, 38  AC: 9, fl11, t8 INIT: -2 SPD: 20’ ATK: 2 Slams +1 melee (1d4+1), if both hit or if grappling then Bite -1 melee (1d6+1 *Causes Disease) GRP: +1 SPC AT: Dread Malediction (When bitten Fort DC 10 or 1d4 Con) SPC Q: Undead SAVE: Fort+2, Reflex-1, Will+1 ATTR: Str: 11 Dex: 7 Con: 0 Int: 0 Wis: 11 Cha: 11 SK: Listen+3 XP: 160

Vampire Rose (3) sz medium plant, HP: 31, 22, 17 AC: 15, ff16, t9 INIT: -1 SPD: 0’ ATK: 4 x 1d8 Slams +5 melee (1d2+blood drain) {It hits engage grapple} GRP: +7 SPC AT: Blood Drain (When grappling drains 2 points per round per vine) and Sleep Pollen (Within 30’ Fort Save DC14 or go to sleep within 5 rounds for 30 minutes or more) SPC Q: Plant SAVE: Fort +6, Ref+3, Will+2 ATTR: S14, D8, C13, I0, W13, Ch12 Sk: Listen+6, Hide+12 XP: 160

                The Crypt

                In ancient days when Wulfgrim first became a dread knight, he constructed this crypt as a final place of retreat for himself and his minions. A group of adventurers tricked them all into staring at a contemplation stone which trapped them in their memories for centuries. Over time, the gemstones powering the contemplation stone failed, and the group was freed. They tunneled up to the surface to again wage their war, not realizing their enemy tribe was long gone. The floor of the crypt is all polished flagstones in a dark gray color. The walls are a light drinking black, but every ten feet there is a mural showing a human being burned alive while tied to a stake. These vary between men, women and children, nude, clothed and fully armored. There is no light in the crypt. The doors are all made of a dull red wood carved to resemble flames. Ceilings are a uniform 12 feet high. Torch sconces dot the walls every ten feet (between the murals), but all are empty. There is a strong smell of rot and corruption, and the air is stale.

                V1 The Entrance – The rough carved stairs leading down into the pit give way to carved flagstone flooring. Dirt walls become solid stone. The commander of Wulfgrim’s personal guard is stationed here. He is a size large skeletal warrior and attacks anything entering. If he isn’t present, you see a massive empty wooden chair in the corner of the room facing the entrance. If he is present, he is seated in his daunting wooden chair, but immediately attacks upon your entrance. If he engages in battle, the skeletal warrior and zombies from V3 will start to enter the room in two rounds as will the three zombies, a mummy and Wulfgrim from V2.

                Captain Skeletal Warrior – HP: 218 AC: 30, fl25, t11 INIT: +3  SPD: 30 ATK: Greatsword (used one handed) +15/+10 melee (1d12+4+1d4) GRP: +14 SAVE: F+8, R+5, W+9 ATTR: S18, D14, C-, I15, W15, Ch12 SK: Move Silent+10, Hide+7, Listen+7, Spot+7, Know(Ancient History)+8 Special Attacks: Necromancer’s ice (+1d4 to damage), Special Defenses: Undead XP: 1650. Feats: Power Attack, Attack of Opportunity, Cleave, Weapon Focus/Specialization (Greatsword). Special Equipment: 3x Potions of Area Effect Harm (3d6 10’ radius) 

                V2 The Temple – The center of this room has an 8’ x 5’ stone table with shackles on each end. Blood gutters at the edges of the table  are filled with relatively fresh blood. The body of a skinless, presumably a human male, is shackled onto the table. To the right of the room against the wall is a 10’ carving of Maasara’s black disk symbol. The desiccated human standing in front of the Maasaran symbol carries a staff and is wrapped in bandages. He turns his blazing red eyes towards you. Three walking corpses on the opposite side of the room shamble in your direction. A figure wearing a tarnished, though quite ornate, ancient plate mail armor and hoisting a shield is on the far side of the room. The figure draws a sword when it sees you, seeming to grin.

                The figure in ornate armor is Wulfgrim the Dread Knight. When he sees the group, he beings casting, first summoning two Shadows per round for two rounds with Summon Frightful Spirit (They are placed behind the group), and then one Shadow per round for three rounds (in the middle of the group). If all his followers are killed before he finishes summoning, he will cast Bladestorm and move forward into melee. If Lysimachos jumped into the river to escape the group, he will attack from the rear at this point. The guardians in V4 will enter the room in round three. Diotenes, the mummy priest of the group, will move to hide behind Wulfgrim and cast spells. Once Wulfgrim engages in melee, he begins to sing. Use FSU’s War Chant; all skeletal warriors will join in singing as will Diotenes the mummy once he has finished casting spells. The zombies moan loudly.

                Wulfgrim (Dread Knight) – HP: 180, AC: 32, fl27, t11 INIT: +5, SPD: 20 ATK: War Axe +26/21/16 melee (1d10+13 + illness), GRP: +20, SAVE: F+21, R+14, W+17 ATTR: S20, D12, C-, I12, W14, Ch18 Spec A: Spells 6 0th, 5 1st, 4 2nd 3 3rd , 2 4th , 1 5th Illness (Melee strikes DC 19 or -2 dex), 8 points from each melee strike taken as healing energy  Spec Q: Undead XP: 14,000 Feats: Attack of Opportunity, Exotic Weapon, Weapon Focus/Specialization/Mastery, Improved Initiative. Special Equipment: 2x Potions of Area Effect Harm SPELLS: 0th Bat Sight, Spirit Talker, Slice, Defile Weapon  1st Terror Voice, Spirit Sight, Harm Living, Rotting Fog, Agony Pin, Soul Razor  2nd Pierce Magic, Despair Darts, Poison Wind, acid Bolts, Flay 3rd Conjure Swarms, Poltergeist, Wounding, Pain Bolt, Summon Lesser Frightful Spirit  4th Summon Frightful Spirit, Rune Cleaver, Blood Spirit  5th Level Dragon’s Teeth, Wail of Damnation, Bladestorm 

                Shadows (summoned) sz med haunt, HP: 38 hp  AC: 15, fl 12, t 15 INIT: +3 SPD: 30 ATK: Touch +6 melee (1d4 + Soul Sear touch attack) GRP: +6 SPC AT: Soul Sear, Spells 6 0th 5 1st 2 2nd SPC Q: Immaterial, Haunt Traits  SAVE: Fort -, Reflex +4, Will +4 ATTR: Str: 14 Dex: 16 Con:-  Int: 8 Wis: 12 Cha:14 SK: Spot+6, Listen+6, Search+5 Spells: L0 Touch of Elements x6, L1 Acidic Spittle x3, Rotting Fog x2, L2 Absorb Life, Fearful Gaze

                Diotenes (Lesser Mummy) – HP: 77, AC: 17, fl18, t9, INIT: -1 SPD: 30’ ATK: 2 slams +10 melee (1d4+3/rot) or Staff +12 melee (1d8+5/rot) GRP: +10  SPC AT: Rot (Fort DC 12 1d4 con), Spells 4 0th, 3 1st Vampiric Regeneration (Half melee damage taken as healing) SPC Q: Undead, Damage Reduction (+1/5) SAVE: Fort -, Ref+1, Will+7, ATTR: S16, D9, C-, I10, W16, Ch14 XP: 2500 SPELLS: 0th Slice, Defile Weapon, 1st Soul Razor, Agony Pin

                Zombies (3) sz medium undead, HP: 38, 38, 38  AC: 9, fl11, t8 INIT: -2 SPD: 20’ ATK: 2 Slams +1 melee (1d4+1), if both hit or if grappling then Bite -1 melee (1d6+1 *Causes Disease) GRP: +1 SPC AT: Dread Malediction (When bitten Fort DC 10 or 1d4 Con) SPC Q: Undead SAVE: Fort+2, Reflex-1, Will+1 ATTR: Str: 11 Dex: 7 Con: 0 Int: 0 Wis: 11 Cha: 11 SK: Listen+3 XP: 160

                V3 Guard Chamber – This area has a half-dozen carved alcoves, three in each wall. Murals of flayed men are beside each door. Each alcove has a corpselike human body in it, and one skeleton is dressed in fine armor. They move towards you out of the alcoves. The zombies begin moaning.

                Skeletal Warrior – HP: 90, 90 AC: 25, fl20, t12 INIT: +6  SPD: 20 ATK: Longbow +7/+2 ranged (1d8+2+1d4 {Area Harm}), Longspear +8/+3 melee (1d10+3+1d4), or Broadsword +7/+2 melee (2d4+2+1d4) GRP: +6 SAVE: F+3, R+4, W+8 ATTR: S14, D15, C-, I15, W15, Ch12 SK: Move Silent+10, Hide+7, Listen+7, Spot+7, Know(Ancient History)+4 Special Attacks: Necromancer’s ice (+1d4 to damage), Special Defenses: Undead XP: 950. Feats: Power Attack, Attack of Opportunity, Cleave. Special Equipment: Arrows of Harm (6) 10’ radius 3d8 pts of damage (heals undead), breastplate armor and large steel shield. Only use shield with broadsword. Uses longspear while the zombies are engaged and will shoot arrows into the melee healing all undead within 10’.

                Zombies (5) sz medium undead, HP: 38, 38, 38, 38, 38  AC: 9, fl11, t8 INIT: -2 SPD: 20’ ATK: 2 Slams +1 melee (1d4+1), if both hit or if grappling then Bite -1 melee (1d6+1 *Causes Disease) GRP: +1 SPC AT: Dread Malediction (When bitten Fort DC 10 or 1d4 Con) SPC Q: Undead SAVE: Fort+2, Reflex-1, Will+1 ATTR: Str: 11 Dex: 7 Con: 0 Int: 0 Wis: 11 Cha: 11 SK: Listen+3 XP: 160

                V4 Guard Chamber – The opposite wall has five alcoves in it, each occupied by another of the corpselike humans. They moan and reach out their arms towards you. A skeleton in fine armor steps out of an alcove on the far side of the room to your right. There are large 10’ x 10’ murals of flayed and burning humans at either end of the room.

                Skeletal Warrior – HP: 90, 90 AC: 25, fl20, t12 INIT: +6  SPD: 20 ATK: Longbow +7/+2 ranged (1d8+2+1d4 {Area Harm}), Longspear +8/+3 melee (1d10+3+1d4), or Broadsword +7/+2 melee (2d4+2+1d4) GRP: +6 SAVE: F+3, R+4, W+8 ATTR: S14, D15, C-, I15, W15, Ch12 SK: Move Silent+10, Hide+7, Listen+7, Spot+7, Know(Ancient History)+4 Special Attacks: Necromancer’s ice (+1d4 to damage), Special Defenses: Undead XP: 950. Feats: Power Attack, Attack of Opportunity, Cleave. Special Equipment: Arrows of Harm (6) 10’ radius 3d8 pts of damage (heals undead), breastplate armor and large steel shield. Only use shield with broadsword. Uses longspear while the zombies are engaged and will shoot arrows into the melee healing all undead within 10’.

                Zombies (5) sz medium undead, HP: 38, 38, 38, 38, 38  AC: 9, fl11, t8 INIT: -2 SPD: 20’ ATK: 2 Slams +1 melee (1d4+1), if both hit or if grappling then Bite -1 melee (1d6+1 *Causes Disease) GRP: +1 SPC AT: Dread Malediction (When bitten Fort DC 10 or 1d4 Con) SPC Q: Undead SAVE: Fort+2, Reflex-1, Will+1 ATTR: Str: 11 Dex: 7 Con: 0 Int: 0 Wis: 11 Cha: 11 SK: Listen+3 XP: 160

                V5 Passageway – The passage has large murals on each way depicting burning humans. Many small tables made of bones in the corners hold human skulls.

                V6 Captain’s Chamber – This chamber has anoversized wooden rocking chair to the right with an oil lamp on a small wooden table beside it. On the left most wall is a mural of a horse running across a plain. An easel sits directly in frontof the door with a thin wooden sheet on it that is partially carved in an image of the horse in the mural. Small woodcarving knives are on a low table beside the easel.

                V7 Wulfgrim’s Chamber – There is a large, well-maintained poster bed with no mattress on the opposite side of the room. An oil lamp hangs from the highly polished ceiling by a chain. Two wardrobes are on the left of the chamber, and a chest is in the center of the room on the right. The chest is locked; Disable Device DC 16 to open. The chest is also coated with a powerful contact poison. Search DC 18 to notice. If the chest is touched, Fort DC 17 or Lose 1d8 dex. Within the chest are 275 gold pieces of an ancient type, two burned-out diamonds 6/6 that once powered the contemplation stone, and a bejeweled helmet with gold filigree worth 400 gp.

                V8 Diotenes’ Chamber – This long chamber is covered in murals of flayed or burned men. An upright coffin sits on the far left. To the far right are a barrel-shaped table and a wooden chair. On the table is an open leather-bound book. The table has a door that is locked (Disable Device DC 14). Inside is an obsidian holy symbol of Maasara worth 27 gp, a jeweled bracelet made of platinum with a burned out sapphire worth 58 gp, 96 pieces of gold in an ancient style and 16 copper of the same era.

                V9 Trap Chamber – There is a darkness spell of level 5 cast by Wulfgrim in this room preventing any light from functioning. The floor is covered in a viscous fluid which is in actuality a  potion of harm (Alchemy check DC 22 to determine liquid type). Each round a living creature spends in the fluid, they take 3d8 points of damage (Fort Save DC 20 to half). The far door is locked; DC 18 Disable Device to open.

                V10 Prison – This is where the prisoners are held before they are transformed into zombies on the ritual table in V2. A little human girl, an older human woman, a middle-aged human man and a late teen human male are here and seemingly unharmed though weak and dehydrated. There are six empty sets of shackles. The girl is Zoe from Plea for Help. The woman is Zenobia Dealer from Missing Merchant, and the teen boy is one of  caravan’s guards. The middle-aged man is an uncle of Zoe’s who was out looking for her and was captured. They are all traumatized by the experience, and Zoe just stares into the distance without talking. All the adults burst into tears when they realize they are being rescued. The shackles are Disable Device DC 10 to open. All prisoners are weakened from their captivity and completely incapable of combat.

                V11 Prayer Room – There are several small pads for kneeling with a number of black Maasaran Disks in front of them. The walls are covered with murals of undead massacring humans, dwarves and elves. A corrupt, bloody smelling incense burns in a brazier to the right of the door.

 

Ending the Encounter

                If the party leaves before Wulfgrim is slain, he will seek them out as he believes they are members of his rival tribe. Each month he can attract another skeletal warrior to his band to a maximum of 15. Every six months, he will attract a priest of Maasara of 1d8 levels. If the party is victorious and brings Zenobia Dealer back to The Red Wheels Coster, make her a level 2 Fortune contact and Iason Redwheel a level 3 fortune contact for free. If the party returns Zoe, make Hesiod Geophagos a level 2 general contact

The Hammer of Vengeance

                The broad, muscular ogre sat alone in the crowded tavern. Nearly all of the long tables filling the vaulted room were taken, but a space was empty within reach of his arms. His long hair hung lank and lifeless and his eyes were bloodshot as he hunched over his mug like a dog guarding his bowl. After staring off into the distance for some time, he picked up the heavy earthenware flagon and hurled it to shatter against the sawdust covered floor.

                “Oi!” the overweight bartended shouted as he wiped down the far end of the bartop. Standing, the ogre staggered a bit and contemptuously spilled silver coins from his purse, enough to buy the cup a thousand times over. He turned and walked carefully, as only a drunk can, between the rows of tables. The raucous crowd paid him no mind except when he stepped on the tail of a serpentine midniss whose cobra hood flared out as he hissed in anger. The ogre nodded and waved an apology; his other hand rested on the long weapon hilt sticking up over his shoulder in a not too subtle threat, and the snake man settled back down grumbling and speared a gerbil, dropped it still wriggling into his mouth, and slurped its tail down like spaghetti.

                Combat raged in the fighting pit that dominated the center of the large warrior’s guild hall. A gnome in heavy armor waited behind his shield, pick raised, for a spear-wielding plains elf to come into reach. The elf was finally tripped by a quick kick from a very short leg and then bashed in the head by the flat end of his foe’s weapon. After a dazed moment the grinning gnome helped him up and the two climbed the stairs to buy the drinks the elf owed his much smaller foe. The pit cleared for a moment as servants ran to spread more sawdust over the blood and sweat of the floor.

                As the mock battle ended, the tall and thick ogre grabbed the fur wrapped club that hung from a leather tether and began to beat the suspended shield beside the pit. He staggered again as he leaned into the blows and the room gradually fell silent. The tusk-mouthed ogre looked about owlishly and blinked for a moment before mumbling, “I am Shump.”

                “Speak up you great beast!” yelled a lean human in fighting leathers through his salt and pepper mustache.

                “I AM SHUMP, ONCE OF THE WILD RIVER CLAN.” He growled, filling the room with his voice.

                “That’s better.” The human settled down, as did most of the rest of the crowd watching to see what was going to happen. At the mention of the ogre’s clan, many smiling faces became serious and hands drifted towards weapons.

                “I would tell you of my deeds and of a vow fulfilled.” His voice was gravelly and unused to projecting so loudly but it was as deep as the oceans.

                “Put aside your blades. I was ONCE of the Wild River Clan but was captured when I was little more than a cub during an attack on The High House Monastery in Perdition. Along with the rest of the captives, I was enslaved, used as little more than a beast of burden.”

                Many of the listeners murmured at this amongst themselves, and the broad-shouldered warrior swayed slightly beside the huge hanging shield as he waited for the room to quiet.

                “But I am ogre, and better than any other race, we endure.” Another, wilder looking ogre sitting among a group of humans raised his mug towards the speaker.

                “Over many seasons I labored, but one of the masters noted the spark within me. He began to instruct me in the ways of the monk, and I excelled. The teaching became less a labor than a joy as my chi strengthened within me.” A dull smile widened his tusked mouth, looking out of place on his weathered and bristly face.

                “More than ten years ago I was accepted as a journey practitioner and left the place I had come to regard as home so that I might prove myself in the world. Many monsters were slain and foes routed before last year. At that time, I received word that my master, the only human to treat me as a man and not as a beast, had been slain in the night. I vowed revenge.”

                “It took months to track them, along with the aid of a few friendly magi and a veritable mountain of gold, but find them I did. The blood spirits, a group of dread worshipping scum living in a fallen temple deep in the swamps, had done the deed. They had attacked the monastery to recover some relics hidden within it, and my master was killed trying to protect them.”

                “The blood spirit hideaway was deep in the swampy delta, long lost to any but their foul cult. Once located, I spent several days scouting. It had the aspect of a castle, though ancient in styling, with a square wall and three towers on each side, roughly fifty paces apart. There was no moat, but the surrounding rice paddies served much the same purpose. Chained thralls worked the paddies with hopelessness in their eyes as armored overseers paced the pathways between them.”

                “In the dark of night I began my attack. After scaling the wall, a none too alert who guard had been nodding and fighting sleep choked out his life after I crushed his throat. For most foes, I would have put them out of their misery, but this foul human could revel in the agony of his passing. I took his sword, sling and buckler in my bag and crept down the stairs to the main floor of the bailey. Two more guards were ended by nothing more than my hands, though my magic made fists as hard as steel when I struck. I took on the form of mist and floated softly across the parade ground, blending with the natural fog of the night.”

                “Floating among the rude huts of the thralls, I resumed my solid form behind the lone overseer on night watch; the overseer was a midniss and would be tougher to take unawares. I quietly performed the moves of a kata and drew the strength of the earth into myself. I began to feel chilled, and my skin grayed to match the rock wall of the fortress. Another hurried kata saw my strong right hand become blacker than the night with what looked like sparks of darkness dripping from it. I crept up on the snake man. It heard something and turned, so I lunged to grab his mouth and prevent a shout but was too slow. The quickly muffled shout rang from the walls as we rolled around in the mud. I was far too strong and my enspelled hand grasped the creature’s serpent throat, sucking its life force into me. After a moment all was still, but the silence came too late. The guard were roused.”

                “Slaves emerged blinking out of their homes, seeing little in the darkness. I threw the ragged prisoners weapons of the guards I had killed and whispered they were free if they could stay that way. An older man, wasted by bad food and hard labor, hesitantly took a club into his hand and looked at his fellows. Having no more time to be an abolitionist, I shouted my war cry and charge towards the sleepy humans coming out of their cells. None wore armor, and my hammer crushed them as they stood. Nearly a dozen died before the castle was roused”

                “Armored humans and another ogre came pelting down the steps of a far tower. I summoned my chi and put a glow into my hammer. The first to arrive died quickly, but the others fought well. I took several wounds but had absorbed much of the life essence of the slain midniss which protected me from harm. One by one my enemies died until it was ogre fighting ogre. I had finally taken injury and was slowed - luckily he was a savage fighter and untrained. His blows were powerful but uncontrolled. Our battle seemed to last hours but was probably only a few seconds but at last I stood victorious, blood streaming from slashes to my thigh and one through my armor; the fallen ogre blew red froth from his mouth and tried to breathe through a crushed ribcage.” Shump pulled aside the tasset of his finely made and badly patched studded leather armor to show a wide red scar across his upper leg. Several of his listeners winced and a small sea elf grabbed his own thigh in empathy.

“I staggered up to the door of the main keep. It was thick wood with bands of iron, aged well and cared for. Of course it was locked. None were approached so I took a moment and performed a simple kata taught to most trainee monks and the worst of my injuries closed. Concentrating on my hammer, I went through the movements of yet another spell in the trained dance that was monastic casting. The head of the great weapon went dark and darkness seemed to well up from it. With a mighty roar I struck the door and it exploded, fragments falling away from the spot of impact.”

“Inside was a dark temple adorned with skulls and red candles. Robed figures chantedin a circle around a wizened old man. They ignored my entrance, which spoke well for their concentration. An elven woman near to my height dressed in tight alchemical leaf armor strode from an alcove, her almond eyes gleaming. She smiled, showing the wide cow teeth of the elves which always looked so out of place in their slim faces. Long, narrow spears crackled with magic from each of her hands as she began the wind dance technique of the bleeding wind school. She seemed to flow around the room ever closer but never giving me a target because of her exceptional quickness. Her spears licked forward and tasted my blood on a few occasions, but none were deep. I swung futilely and could not gain the space need to cast a spell as the katas took up too much room. Blood seeped from a dozen pinpricks on my chest and arms while she was still unwounded. Dancing faster and faster, the elf wench began the storm of swords, a more advanced attack routine. I faked a leg sweep, and she jumped right into a torso-height blow with my off-hand. The crunch of ribs breaking overwhelmed both the noise of our breathing and the robed figures’ chanting. She continued to dance and attack, but at a slower pace now. My next successful blow broke her left leg just as she scarred my face with a spear. A final strike killed her to the head deformed her beauty and killed her.”

“My blood ran down my armor and onto the floor, much of it flowing into gutters probably kept for that purpose, as the robed figures came to a crescendo of shouts and the torches all went out. The elder human in the center of the cabalistic symbols choked out a cry and gave a last rattling breath. His body began to glow, and what looked to be his skeleton floated above him. Its orange burning eyes fixed on me and flew towards me with claws outstretched. It stopped just out of reach, chanting burning words that faded from memory as soon as they were uttered, and a dark gray bolt flew from the floating horrors fingers and into me. I shuddered in pain and chanted mumbled through the mantra of agony through clenched teeth as my magical protections faded. The spectral mage cast again, and I frantically went through the movement of one of my most powerful kata. We finished at the same moment, its bolt of foulness rebounding from me as I forced away the power of the arcane cage. I swung at it, and my hammer went through its mystical body as though nothing were there. I roared in frustration.”

“Another quick kata saw my hammer and fists glowing a dull white which cast harsh shadows in the room. The robed figures still lay about gasping, none yet standing. Swinging once again, the spirit dodged to the side, and my weapon shattered the rock of the floor where it struck. The creature hissed, but I did not hear it with my ears; its voice seemed to be in my mind, and its claws sank through my flesh to strike directly at my life force. My cries of pain and the foul thing’s rapturous noises blended into a horrid chorus. My hands still sparked with my own chi energy, so I dropped my hammer and grabbed at my foe. I caught it, though it seemed I was trying to grasp water; I held it tight and hammered with my other hand. Its hands sank into me again and again as we flailed at each other. It finally broke apart, and I fell to my knees shuddering in pain.”

“The first of the robed figures attempted to stand, and I staggered towards them with death in my eyes. They were old humans, both men and women, with horrid scarification scars proclaiming their dedication to the death cult. If they were death worshippers, I sent them to their gods that night.”

“My vow fulfilled, I moved slowly through another kata to regain some bit of strength and took up my hammer again. Stepping outside I was prepared to die, expecting more cultists to be there and meet me. The thralls stood, bloody and battered, but with triumphant smiles. Only three in ten of what were originally a hundred or so of them yet lived, but they were free. We spent a few days burning out the nest of foulness and nursing what injuries we could heal before setting off into the swamp to return to civilization.”

“My vow fulfilled, I stand before you to proclaim myself Shump the Oathkeeper, holder of the great hammer Bonebreaker.” The Ogre stood proudly and held up a great hammer whose head was the size of a small man’s chest. Its crystalline head sparkled in the torchlight.”

He ended his tale and looked about, surprised by the silence. The mustachioed human who had called him a beast stood and raised his flagon in salute. “Warrior,” the man said with respect. Others repeated it and soon chants of “Warrior” rang through the hall. The fat bartender left off his wiping and limped up pass the ogre a full mug of ale, and  the gathered freeswords cheered.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The spell Shump cast to make his hammer go black and shatter the door is Smashing Blow. His hammer is a chi implement so he focused what is normally a touch spell through it. 


Birds of a Feather

By Martin Lambert                                               Edited by Paige Busby

                Cinioch came to me highly recommended. He was a hunter late of a destroyed clan of Hallenck from this area and was willing to work as a guide. He was a slim man, just a finger length over five feet in height. Like most Hallenck, he was covered in piercings, small carvings of bone pushed through his cheeks, nose, eyebrows and ears. Most were animal figures, like the blue woad tattoos that covered the parts of his face, neck and hands that I could see. His tan leathers covered all the rest. His brilliant green eyes were a shocking contrast to his copper face and wild windblown black hair. He looked up at me as I explained the purpose of the expedition and just grunted. He stared for a moment, making it a bit uncomfortable for a civilized woman if I am honest. This was my first time leading an expedition though I had been on a couple as a scribe and junior naturalist. We were to gather information for The Naturalist’s Guild on the sinopteryx, a large avian hunter of the endless plains of the Golden Sea. I had grown up in the salons and soirees of high society in the trade cities of the Great River Region and wasn’t used to the more savage areas. If I was to be a fellow of the Naturalist’s Guild, this was part of the job - bringing back lore from even the most barbaric or dangerous areas to the masters and also to our patrons. It came with the territory, and I was fit enough and even dressed for the part.

                “Mmmmm, aye. I’ll find ye birds. They aren’t rare in the grasslands.” His voice was deeper than one would expect for someone so small.

                “Yes, very good. We’ll leave in the morning. Do you have your own supplies?” I asked. He  grunted again and nodded. This probably wouldn’t be a trip filled with scintillating conversation.

                Days later we were in the heart of the grasslands several leagues from the nearest road or trail. Cinioch had found several feathers hanging onto the grasses. Most were white, bushy spines and only sharp eyes would pick them out in the blowing grasses where they blended so well. Many of the grasses were close to my own height which is just a hand under six feet, I could see above them but just barely. Beneath a copse of trees, we came upon some depressions scraped into the ground and filled with shed feathers, offal and feces. Surrounding the dirt pits were huge footprints which seemed to be formed by the long feet of the avians. The three front facing toes with their long scimitar claws made distinctive marks in the ground. The sinopteryx are known for digging offal pits a few hundred yards from their nests. They should be close now.

                We had a goat staked out in a clearing near one of the mess holes as bait. It was bleating and tugging on the rope as we hid under one of the rare trees. Cinioch laid his spear in front of him, and I was armed with my journal and quill. We stayed as still as possible for some time watching the goat struggle, the grass blow in the breeze and the sun crawling across the sky. Finally, a throaty trill came from the grasses to our left. The goat went wild, bucking and moaning. Another trill, much louder, came from straight ahead. The tall grasses at the edge of the clearing seemed to explode and revealed a ten foot tall avian sprinting towards the goat. The huge bird kicked at the poor creature and laid open its belly in one long slash from the razor edged spur on the back of its foot. The goat bleated weakly and collapsed, kicking at its tormentor and shaking its horned head. The sinopteryx leaned down with its serpentine neck and snipped the billy’s head off using its curved beak like a pair of scissors. It trilled again, much louder and longer, almost like a high pitched yodel. Then it dipped its long neck down to its kill and began biting off chunks, throwing its head up and shaking it to swallowing them whole. The baggy skin under its beak called the crop began to expand with stored meat. I scribbled my observations to make sure all the information was captured for my report.

                That earlier trill from the left sounded again. Another of the huge birds slowly emerged from the tall grasses around its lean body, both short wings spread wide as if in challenge. The length of the tail feathers and height of the feathers on top of the head marked them both as males. The first one lifted grass green eyes from the poor goat and spat up the meat it had swallowed with a choking cough. I continued to write down every detail. This could be a territory battle between rival pack leaders!

                The two pranced towards each other, stepping high and moving slowly. The crests of feathers across their heads stood straight up, and the fan of feathers on their tail spread wide almost like a peacock. They both started making a harsh coughing sound, and each time they did, their heads dipped and raised back to full height. It looked like a stylized dance. Cinioch slithered closer to his spear. I tapped his shoulder and indicated he should stay still. He gritted his teeth and shook his head slightly and pursed his lips as if to speak but got lower in the grasses where we were hiding.

                Smaller sinopteryx were emerging from the grasses. There were at least ten, though it was difficult to keep count since they weren’t coming completely into sight and blended in so well. It appeared both  packs had assembled and were watching the dance battle between the males. Those that had gathered seemed to be females based on their smaller size and more golden colored feathers. They all started making a strange zoothing sound, almost like the noise made by softly blowing through a harmonica.

                The males continued to pose and cough at each other for several minutes while the females kept making the odd noise. Both males were on one foot and stretched out their neck, making a rasping buzz and never taking their huge round eyes from one another. They stood still for a long, tense moment. Finally, with some signal I couldn’t perceive, they squawked and rushed at each other. They slashed with the spurs on their spring loaded feet and leaped impossible heights into the air. Their little vestigial wings flapped uselessly and their serrated beaks clashed against each other. Bloody feathers covered the small clearing.

                The females of the pack squawked and hopped around excitedly. I had completely lost count of them, and a few were within easy arm’s reach of our hiding spot. Fortunately, they weren’t looking at anything other than the battle over the goat carcass. Cinioch slowly spread some grasses he had picked over us as minimal cover. I blew a piece out of my face and continued writing.

                Both males were in bad shape now, weaving and dodging a bit more slowly. The one that killed the goat, recognizable because of the fur and blood on the sides of his long neck, finally got a deep slash in with his left spur. The intruder fell to his knees with a low trill. The now dominant male turned his back to the other and scraped dirt on him with both feet and cawed loudly. The dominant male’s females all gathered around the goat carcass and began to feed while those who had been in the pack with the defeated male gathered around the victor and licked his injuries with their raspy tongues.

                After a few minutes the defeated male got weakly to his feet and wandered off through the grasses alone.

                Cinioch began to slide backwards and indicated I should do the same. We had plenty of information, so I agreed to the retreat. It was painstaking trying not to attract the attention of the dozen gigantic predators nearby. My heart was pounding with excitement. We had recorded a territory battle between sinopteryx packs - far more than expected from this trip.

                In short the birds of a feather all battle together when they meet.

                                                Lisel Stormscribe – Journeyman member of Thunder Falls Naturalist Guild.

 


Rime Of The Ancient Magi


The rhythmic thump of the great log against the thick door echoed through the great hall. A chant used by the men bashing the vast log on wheels into the iron bound doors rang through the air. Hisses from the great reptiles they used as warbeasts made a chilling counterpoint to the twang of archer’s bows. The gnomes defending what looked like a huge pile of rubble were nearly silent, only a few crying out in pain when a lucky arrow found its mark. A young gnomish lad wearing poorly fitted chain mail scampered up one of the twisting paths in the wall leading from the floor of the great hall up to one of the numerous hidden windows that opened above the doorway under assault. He would run up a few steps and then anxiously skitter back down, always watching the doddering elder making his way gingerly up the narrow track.

“Master, we must make haste! The men are nearly through the portal!” the boy shrieked over the crackle of the ram and squeak of its poorly greased wheels. He pulled out his greatest treasure, a focus wand, and eldritch light sparkled from its tip.

“I will get there in time, or they will come to me. Either way we’ll do no better if I fall off this ridiculous goat path before I’m needed.” The old man’s quavering voice had a peevish tone as he carefully placed his walking stick on the narrow walkway before taking another painful step. The boy practically danced in anticipation, “Go then if you must. Defend the crannog from the raiders. I’ll be there directly.” Given his release, the boy ran up to the window and opened it. The raucous noise of battle cascaded in the opening.

“Sir Banda, may I cast against them?” the boy pleaded with a dried bit of flower in one hand, his fingers quivering in anticipation.

“Do what you like, just stop bothering me while I climb!” came the cross response from down below.

The boy pushed his thin blond hair out of his eyes slowly stroking the silly chin beard of which he was so proud and peered out of the window. Some forty feet below him, two dozen huge humans wearing metal and leather surcoats were attacking the crannog, the gnomes’ communal hall which they had camouflaged with rocks and brush. They had felled a large tree to use as a battering ram and were steadily bashing in/down the doorway. Warbeasts hissed and snapped as their handlers pulled their leashes and arches continued to loose while dodging return fire.

He pushed back the loose sleeves of his too large robe and crushed the dried flower between his hands, scattering it towards the humans as he chanted and twisted his fingers into unnatural shapes. For just a moment, the clear sky over some of the archers and one of the lizards darkened and freezing water sluiced out of the air. The torrent stopped as quickly as it began, but the two men who were under it had been coated in ice and were cursing and slipping in the sloppy remnants of the spell. The scaled creature shivered and shook like a dog.

“I made two of them stop shooting!” he squealed in glee before realizing that was hardly appropriate for one in training as a mage. He straightened and tried to act dignified as the ancient gnome slowly stumped up to the window.

Sir Banda, senior mage of the crannog, peered out from under his unruly eyebrows. “So you did boy, so you did. Well cast.” He patted the apprentice on the back with something like grandfatherly affection.

“That was my only spell! You must teach me more battle magic and quickly!” To the apprentice’s horror, his voice broke during the declaration, and he turned a brilliant scarlet.

“Ha, more magic? Learn to use what you have, lad. Rime is one of the most useful spells in a caster’s book. Observe.” The older mage crushed more of the dried lily between his hands and repeated the same chant. His quavering voice seemed to gain more power through the act of casting, and the strange syllables flowed out smoothly to touch the ears of those listening but never imprinting on their memory. The pathway from the lake surrounding the gnome’s island was steep and kept most raiders away. These were more persistent than the rest though and had hiked up the hill under a steady rain of arrows from the crannog’s defenders. Water again sluiced from the sky and covered the pathway down to the water but did not touch any of the humans.

“Master, you missed!” the young gnome, who looked much like an unwrinkled version of the elder, hopped around with nervous energy.

“I missed nothing. Watch.” The old mage crushed another flower, chanted, and again the sky tore open with icy water. This time the rime coated the men on the log and several lost their grips on it. Those left strained to keep it rolling but another human lost fell, and the great trunk thudded down, crushing two beneath it. One of the armored men fell to the ground and slipped while rising. The log began to roll down the hill and the others left holding on slipped along with it. The log and three men slid all the way down the slope and into the water. Two of the humans were dragged down by their armor to lie beneath the waves. The attackers broke apart in confusion, some trying to recover the log bobbing in the water and others dodging arrows sent to them by the crannog’s defenders.

The doors to the gnomish home burst open and heavily armored warriors emerged. Where the humans slipped and slid, the gnomes kept their feet. Instead of attacking directly with weapons, they rushed behind their shields against their much larger foes, knocking most of them to the ground. The spiked picks favored by the diminutive warriors rose and fell, dripping with scarlet.

One great bull of a man bounced the warrior that shield rushed him and crushed the fallen gnome with an axe. He roared to his men that they should fall back, but only a few were still on their feet. Two archers began to step backwards while loosing arrows at the crannog’s defenders. Their steps were off the ice, and they did not fall. The massive human grabbed two of his fallen comrades and slid them down the ice patch towards their boat. He singlehandedly held off the gnomes as his fellows boarded. Finally, the commander of the guard managed to trip the man, and the gathered gnomes fell upon him, picks raised above their heads. Still loosing arrows, the surviving humans rowed away, shaking their fists and vowing vengeance.

The old caster wheezed in laughter and clapped as he watched his people rout their foes. He poked the younger caster in the back and leaned forward on his staff. “What did you learn boy?”

“Uhh, don’t just strike directly with magic?” The youth shrugged as he tried to watch the ending of the battle.

“That’s part of it. Our victory was assured because we coordinated with the warriors. They put crampons on their boots because I told the captain we would be using ice magic. Our men were prepared for it, and the enemy was not. Even though the humans were larger and stronger they could get them to the ground. Prepare the others in your group and plan on all aspects of your spells. When you cast, the archers dropped their bows. That was very good, but you didn’t account for the slipping effect of Rime. I moved the battlefield by sending part of the human raiding force down the hill towards the lake. Two of them even drowned in the water, though that wasn’t planned.” At the end of each sentence, the old gnome banged his staff on the ground for emphasis.

“Now lad, let’s go down the path and congratulate the warriors. We shared a victory today.” The ancient magi slowly began to move down the path. The young apprentice looked again at the battlefield where the ice had begun to vanish. He nodded and moved to help his master.

 

Game Information:

Rime is a first level conjuration spell which was the only one cast in this story. Its effects are to make things slippery, which can cause the targets to drop things and/or to fall.. If the situation dictates a directional fall, then a target can quickly move out of its relatively small area of effect. In this case, the old mage cast a few of them side by side to create a slide towards the lake. He then disarmed the humans using the ram by causing the log to slip out of their hands and sent some of them sliding.

The gnomish warriors were using the Crampon type of equipment, which are spikes that can be fitted to the bottom of boots. They prevent slippage on ice. The gnomes also used the bull rush tactic with their shields against the human warriors. Normally, bull rushing a larger target is a bad plan, but with the Rime spell in effect and wearing crampons, the humans were prone to slipping and the gnomes were not. This allowed the gnomes to knock the humans to the ground and gain the +4 attack bonus against a prone foe.


The Grinning Rogue: The Courtesan's Contest

These tales are compiled for the enjoyment and edification of our audience. I must say, I do boldly put my liver and health at risk for my dear readers by buying and drinking prodigious amounts of spirits at various public establishments. There, I pry tales out of various and sundry characters. As in all cases, the names have been changed to protect the guilty."

- Iason Glamure of SeaGate

You maycall me Alexis.

I am a member of the Guild of Courtesans in SeaGate. For the correct amount of platinum, I will accompany a gentleman—or lady—to events. I can also entertain them in their home and host private parties. I have a few side jobs of note: I gather information for those who are willing to purchase it because many tongues wag in front of a beautiful lady or when soaked in claret. I also provide additional services… for the right price.

This night, I was accompanying a toad of a man. Normally, I never would have agreed to escort him as his social standing was far below my normal standard, but he was going to a party at the Seaworthy family manse, and I just had to make it.

A bit about me: I am an elven woman of above average height. Easy on the eyes. This night I am wearing a flowing forest green gown that clinches at my wasp waist. It is sleeveless with a wrap that is so fashionable right now. My hair is up in the complicated braid-work demanded by this type of formal engagement. Though I have considerable physical charms, it is my grace and wit that have me in such demands in the circles that require courtesans. Prostitutes are only used for their physical abilities and appearance, but we courtesans are well versed in art and science. We also play a variety of instruments and are exceptional dancers. In short, we are the perfect adornment for those who move in high society.

The Seaworthy family manse is a sprawling compound made within the boles of several huge trees in the center of their sector. It was the birthday of one of the many members of their clan, and this was their coming of age party where the youthful nobility were presented for the first time. In addition to entertaining Mr. Toad, I was to socially ruin a nascent buyer and seller of shares in various merchant enterprises around the city. His competition believed his impeccable reputation gave him an unfair advantage.

The arched ceiling of the grand ballroom was made of the living wood of our host trees, polished and shined for the occasion with multicolored lanterns reflecting their light from strategically-placed mirrors. The fractured reflections from above illuminated the room. My green dress alternated from red, pink, and black depending on which lantern’s light or shadow played across my body. Many of the Seagate glitterati were present—or at least the younger half of it. The receiving line took some time to navigate, but we were finally through and could take our places in the dance.

The first number was a phantasia, and we, along with hundreds of other attendees, stepped through the flowing piece. Mr. Toad danced as well as I expected. He stepped on my dress, twice, as he awkwardly hopped through one of the changeovers. The dance finally ended, and I retreated to the northern wall of the ballroom, by tradition held for the ladies, to repair my outfit.

Most of the women at this party were the younger scions of lesser nobility or the children of the rich who would like to be mentioned in the first social rank. I may have been the only true courtesan present. This fascinated the protected girls of the nobility, and they peppered me with questions about what it was like to be able to pick and choose freely among a variety of men. At first, I shared with them the wondrous moments of the trade, such as the time when I danced with Elbereth CoinSpinner, the high priest, at a reception in the Great Temple. When I judged the time right, I began to spin tales of the designated target: We shall call him Dealer. Tears glistened in my eyes as I lied about how my position was not merely glamorous parties and moonlit strolls. I mentioned Dealer’s horrible temper and how I was afraid of him from an earlier private entertainment. I let the other ladies know that, luckily, none of my bruises showed in formal dress. I told them I was blessed as other courtesans had gone missing entirely. The young socialites began to mutter among themselves and dark glances were sent towards the door when the servants announced the entry of Dealer and his lady. It could not have been more perfectly timed. The group soon split up, and I returned to Mr. Toad at the beginning of the next dance.

He seemed to have improved his step, and we went through the faster moves of a lively reel without disaster. Mr. Toad and I took wine from a passing servant during a break in the music. My distasteful companion, hoping to impress, introduced me to a variety of successful merchants and members of the great guilds. I just hung on his arm, charming many. I was formally introduced to some of the ladies I had been chatting with earlier. One of them was named Eirene, and her escort was a handsome young lord with a tanned face and calloused hands of a swordsman. We shall call him Teodorus. He was fresh to the city from his southern desert estates. Teodorus had just entered society after being raised on his parent’s vast plantations. I had heard the boy’s name before, and he had the reputation of a faultless gentlemen and valiant warrior. Eirene and I chatted at some length about the social happenings. She was trying to pretend that all this was old hat to her, and I covered for her lapses in knowledge faultlessly. With surprising subtlety, she told me that she had informed Teodorus of my problems with Mr. Dealer. It was nice to hear that he was outraged at the thought of violence towards a woman, not everyone views even the greatest of courtesan’s in that way. I squeezed her hand in faux thanks.

My moment finally came as Dealer was about to be formally introduced to me. Just before he took my hand to raise it to his lips, I fitted on my special ring. It pricked his finger, and he quickly flung away my hand to see a small spot of blood on one of his fingers he began to dab with a silk hankerchief. Undetected, I slipped my special ring into a hidden dress pocket and replaced it with a near identical match. I apologized abjectly to Dealer and made my hands shake in mock terror. Teodorus stepped between myself and dealer to take my ringed hand and look at the offending band, noticing a slight burr of metal at the bottom of my newly donned jewelry. “This must have been the cause,” he said. “Just a simple accident.” Dealer stalked away, already becoming enraged by the poison now coursing through his veins. I allowed myself a smile as I thanked Teodorus for his gallantry.

Mr. Toad desired to do business with Teodorus’ family in order to help trade the spices they produce; we were, therefore, bound to that very pleasant couple for the evening and gave me a break from the exclusive company of my companion. Eirene was a joy, still fascinated by the formal event. She had just been introduced to proper society four months before, so this was likely just the fourth or fifth event she’d ever attended. Her family was well regarded in the armor trade and helped factor for several consortiums of craftsmen. The evening passed pleasantly, and I noted that Dealer was becoming more and more flushed. He was hurried and brusque in his actions as the enraging poison took hold. Perfection.

Later in the evening during a quick reel, I deftly steered myself into Dealer’s path. He ran into me with poor grace, and, as I fell, I ground the sharpened heel of my slipper into his ankle. His temper erupted, and he shouted incoherently while his fist hit my jaw. The music stopped as the player’s saw what happened. The hissing intakes of breath filled the room for a moment until Dealer screamed and swung at me again. Teodorus stepped forward and tripped the brute before he got to me. He declared that Dealer was a brigand and no gentleman for striking a lady. He pronounced that, if Dealer dared, he would meet Teodorus at noon the following day with the weapons of his choice to settle the point of honor. Completely out of his mind by now, Dealer roared off the floor and charged at Teodorus.

The young warrior side-stepped the scoundrel’s charge and tripped the crazed merchant yet again, warning him away. Dealer struggled to his feet and stormed back up, windmilling his fists. Finally, the Seaworthy house guards arrived and set upon Dealer. They beat him to the floor while he raged like a beast. It was a glorious spectacle, all I could have hoped for. Dealer was dragged from the room and tossed into the streets. Socially, he may as well have been killed by the dashing young Teodorus whom all the young nobility congratulated for his courage and precision. Mr. Toad helped me to my feet, apologized, and took me home right away. My other employers gave me a great bonus for that evening as the ruin of Dealer was complete.

Battlefield or ballroom, always keep your wits about you. The smiles of the wealthy are like the daggers of thieves.

 

Game Rule Information:
When chatting with the young ladies, Alexis used the Alter Emotion Ability to get them angry with Dealer. She used Sleight of Hand to switch the poisoner’s ring with one that exactly matched it, minus the injector tip. The sharpened heel of her slipper that went into Dealer’s ankle was a sneak attack feat called Enrage Foe.

Enrage Foe: Your sneak attack can make foes extremely angry.

Prerequisite: Int 13+, Cha 13+, 4d sneak attack.

Benefit: When you strike a foe with a sneak attack, you have the option to do 2d less of damage. This forces the target to make a will save versus the total damage suffered or become enraged. An enraged foe wants to destroy the one who did the sneak attack and will do so in melee if physically possible. They will move with the greatest speed to the sneak attack, though they will not do something obviously self-destructive like run over a cliff if the sneak attack is on the other side of a chasm. The target must have an intelligence of at least 2 to be affected and must be subject to both critical strikes as well as mind-affecting spells (though this is not a magical attack).

Example: Karina is a bard with a 5d4 sneak attack. She uses a thrown dagger to Enrage a centaur that is fighting her group. 5d4 minus 2d leaves a possible 3d4 of damage; she rolls and inflicts 11 points of damage. The centaur rolls a will save and gets a 10, failing the check. It becomes enraged and charges at her. It doesn’t see the concealed pit trap she is standing behind and falls into it.

Poisoner’s Ring Advanced Equipment List Cost: 10 gp Weight: N/A

A poisoner’s ring is a ring of any type with a gem or jewel set into it. The gem may be either removed or hinged open to reveal a needle that can be tipped with a single dose of any type of injection-based poison. This is illegal in all cities of good or lawful alignment.

Berserker Weed Common Equipment List Cost: 5 cp Weight: N/A

Berserker weed is the shredded leaf of a plant that grows in the far north. If rolled and smoked, it brings a sense of power and invulnerability. Those taken by its effects assume others know how powerful they are and will react violently to any insult or injury. The weed grants a +1 circumstance bonus to strength and constitution and a -2 circumstance penalty to dexterity and wisdom. It requires increased dosage of the weed to gain the effect after the first use. The user must fail a Stamina Save DC 10 in order to feel the drug.

Alchemical Note:

Berserker Weed is a component in incense of anger as well as an injectable poison. The DC to create the incense is 19. The DC to create the poison is 24.


Freeswords: Dwarf On The Plains


The long, low mess hall was smoky from the torches lining the walls. In the center of the room was the warriors’ pit, and many surged up around its railing to cheer on the two inside it. Finally, one of the combatants, a huge bear of a man wielding a hammer, got a solid blow against the other, a weasel-quick elf with a scimitar. The elf fell, stunned. The crowd roared and moaned as their bets were tallied, and ale slopped over the floor. People slowly filtered back to the long tables and benches, reenacting the battle with their hands and near-empty mugs. The serving wenches bustled about with trays full of drinks, showing amazing dexterity as they dodged armored men and grasping hands.

The bartender stepped up to the verdigris-coated bronze shield that hung by a chain from the roof. He banged upon it with a great wooden spoon. His peg leg tapped against the floor, and his great belly swung back and forth with the full motion of the banging. The shield rang like a bell, and gradually the crowd quieted, except for the far-corner singing of a Meilosh sauroid deep in his mugs.

The bartender spoke: “Brothers, a tale! One among us has a tale of valor to tell, and you be the judge! Will he drink for free if it be a true adventure, or will he buy a round from the house if it be the imaginings of a coward!”

Chants of, “A tale! A TALE!” rang through the halls as a rhythmic banging of the wooden mugs formed a sort of twisted drum line.

A silver dwarf in a battered breastplate stood and waved his arms for silence. From a nearby table, a Plains Elf shouted, “Stand up you wee man. We can’t see you!” Hoots and howls followed his jest.

The dwarf pointed at the tall, slim elf with a thick sausage-finger, “You’ll see me hammer right enough, and, when you’re on the ground, I’ll be the taller!” Laughter continued to ring through the hall as mugs were refilled and drained.

Finally, the crowd quieted and the dwarf continued in a deep voice that echoed like the grinding of stones deep beneath the earth. “Last summer it was. We were in Titan’s Fall over in the Golden Sea, exploring some of the old crypts in the region. We were approached by the elders of Clan Greatstrider that run that place.

“One of the Suk’hebataar Zuuts was active near Titan’s Fall. The local Bronze Dwarven Clan, The Greatstriders, was fortifying the town, but they needed scouts. That’s where we came in. I am Ferolous Stonehammer, leader of the Seven Shields Adventuring Band. In a region controlled by cavalry,”—here, a group of horsemen cried out “Aye!” and drained their mugs—“we were all ground-pounders with some stealth abilities.

“Unless you want to crawl everywhere, the Golden Sea terrain is a nightmare for sneaking. The land is made up of waving grasses around waist-height on a man. Rare copses of trees dot the landscape. We came to the area where the Suk’hebataar were rumored to be. As was their tendency, they had set up camp out in the open, near water. They had scouts dispatched. It looked like a full arbat of ten warriors was out on patrol. Luckily, Fareyes, our plains elf comrade, had the exceptional vision that earned him his name. He told us there were no families in the Zuut. That meant it was nearly a hundred warriors with no saplings to slow them down. That confirmed it: It was a raid—not just a tribe passing through. It was time to go. We found out what the Greatstriders needed to know, and now we had to make it back to town to collect our reward.

“The return passage was difficult. We couldn’t stand up within sight of the Suk’hebataar, and a man on horseback can see a long way on the plains. We were nearly a league away from their camp when we heard a cry behind us. One of the scouts had discovered our trail. The rest were coming. So did we flee, hide, or stand?” Here, the warriors screamed out each of the three answers for a moment before allowing the tale to continue. “We couldn’t run. Ye may have noticed my legs are not overlong, so we decided to make for a nearby copse of trees and try to slay the oncoming men.

“But of course, I haven’t introduced my comrades to you! There was me.” The dwarf performed a surprisingly graceful flourish with his bow. The crowd laughed. “The elf, Fareyes, you already know. He was our scout. Our mage was the human Gregorius Starbolt of the Lion Tower.” On one side of the hall, a fat human held up a Lion pendant and cheered, but he sat down shortly after a rain of boiled potatoes bombarded him from another table. “We had two brothers, Harbad and Jored Grimmson, who were the very devils in a close fight. Our second elf was an archer, Aramil Whiteflower, who also commanded some minor magics of the Serpent school. The bravest of all was Falanth Ironheart, a gnome priest of Fyurnail, the God of Courage. We had been together for nearly three years, except for Gregorius who had only joined us the previous summer.

“Once under the trees, we all locked shields, except for the two elves. That way each warrior could cover another. We’d all gain protection. There were four Suk’hebataar horsemen thundering down upon us. Another six in the arbat scattered out a bit, much further behind. Aramil started firing arrows, bringing down the first horseman with a pattern of three in his upper stomach. When the horseman fell, it slowed another down, leaving only one horseman approaching. His short horsebow loosed several shafts our way, but our shields caught all the blows. (As you may know, in an exchange of arrows, the archer firing from behind cover has an advantage.) Aramil put a shaft through the horseman’s lower face. He fell from his horse, screaming. Falanth surged forward out of the shield line to finish him and grab both the loose horses. The third Suk’hebataar drew his scimitar and charged the gnome. Jored Grimmson threw himself at the legs of the horse, breaking one of them along with some of his ribs (he was stepped on by the great beast). Both horse and rider were killed in the thunderous fall. Falanth laughed and proclaimed that he would be damned by Fyurnail if he failed to acknowledge such bravery. Laughing like a maniac, he healed the groaning human and scooted back towards the shield line to help Jored. The fourth of the enemy whipped one of those vicious barbed lassos over his head, dropping it around Harbad’s shield and arm while turning his horse to thunder away. This pulled Harbad out of the line, tearing his flesh with the steel barbs. Gregorius chanted and gestured with his free hand, and a spark of electricity zipped out and struck the fleeing horseman. He shuddered and fell from the horse with smoke rising from his corpse. The horse continued to flee while Harbad chopped at the braided rope with his sword. Once nearly a dozen yards from the group, he finally came free. He staggered to his feet and came lurching towards us, his shield arm hanging limply by his side.

We now had two horses, and the rest of the arbat was approaching. Aramil stepped forward from the shield line and loudly chanted while mystically waving his arms about. Fareyes’ javelins and the Suk’hebataar’s arrows nearly struck the gesturing elf as they shot back and forth. The three slain warriors groaned and glowed green for a brief moment. They began to rise in a jerky, gruesome manner. We all fell back in horror from the elf, save Gregorius who snorted, saying, “Never trust an illusionist. It is time we were off.” Clapping Aramil on the shoulder, I ran to support Harbad as we fled.

While the enemy warriors were distracted by Aramil’s macabre illusions, we made our escape. On our way back to Titan’s Fall, we were richly rewarded by the elders of Clan Greatstrider, and the city knew to fortify against a raid.”

The dwarf’s tale had generated much noise from the listeners, and the huge bartender rang his spoon upon the old shield once again. “Warriors!” The crowd continued to roar and bang their mugs upon the long tables. “We have heard the tale of Ferolous Stonehammer. What say we? Is he a warrior and leader true to his salt, or is he a lying vermin that should be cast out from our company?”

Chants of “Warrior! Warrior!” filled the hall with only a few voices crying “Craven.” The bartender filled a mug to the top with foaming ale and handed it to the dwarf who raised it to the assembled company. The cheers roared on late into the night.

 

Game Information:

Shield Wall Feat:

Requirements: Shield Proficiency, base attack bonus +6 or higher, medium shield or larger.

Benefit: If the user stands next to another character with a medium or larger shield, each gets the bonus of the other’s shield in addition to his own. If there is a character using a medium or larger shield on both sides, the bonus is cumulative. For every two characters in the shield wall, one standing directly behind them (within 5’) may gain the average shield bonus to armor class of the two in front of her.

 

Barbed Lasso – Martial Weapon

Appearance: The barbed lasso is a rope of braided animal sinew with metal blades woven along the last ten feet of its normally twenty-foot length.

 

Use: The user may make long-rang trip or disarm attacks with the barbed lasso. If either attack is successful, the victim takes 1d4 damage. The rope may then be used to drag the enemy. It is normally tied to the pommel of a saddle, so the horse does the dragging, rather than the far weaker man.