Chapter 1 - The Test
© 2009 - Randal Snyder
This adventure is designed as an introduction to the Seekers, a secretive organization in the world of Thorin. Characters can be of any experience level, but is best used with new and inexperienced PCs.
The Seekers are seeking new recruits; people who can be trusted. As a result they have created a minor encounter to test their candidates.
You may run this adventure in any major city that maintains an aristocracy similar to the medieval lordship/nobility. For our purposes, the city is Ren in the Thorin Mountains to the north of the Freedlends. See the map here.
In every culture there are secret societies who seek knowledge for their own vices. The Seekers are such a group; secretive, powerful, and working to maintain their hold on society. While their primary motivation is to find proof of the ancient gods, many within the society use their knowledge to manipulate kingdoms to their will.
Over the centuries, the Seekers have formed alliances with and against kingdoms and have used their collective knowledge of the past to worm their ways into positions of power throughout the governments of Thorin.
It is told that it was a Seeker who found the first Book of Zecharias and translated the ancient text. These teachings became the founding principals of the Empire of Endrak. Other text were soon discovered and became cannon law.
Seekers became high priests and ruled the Empire of Endrak from the altars and unlocked many of the aspects of manna - the energies of the gods. Their influence guided the first Emperor in his conquest of neighboring kingdoms and subjugation of the non-human races.
But not all Seekers believed their place was to direct mankind - at least not as the priests of Endrak did. There was a split in ideals, a sundering. Many of the Seekers began to uncover new texts, artifacts, and relics of the ancient gods and began to question the faith that their work had inspired. This faction is what is now known as the Seekers while those who remained with Endrak and the teachings of Zecharias became known as the Zenohm.
The Zenohm continue to follow the ancient ways of the Seekers and will use the name Zenohm and Seeker interchangeably. As a result, some view the Seekers as villains and other as heroes depending on which group they most associate the Seekers with. It is often unclear, even among Seeker covens, whether their group teaches the ways of the Zenohm or Seeker.
Tenets of the Seekers
Seekers and Zenohm trace their heritage back to a small group of men known as the Starovek, Zova, or Elders. Each group follows these same teachings:
Search out the truth - always
Power lies beneath the surface - find the way
History changes only the faces - uncover the mask
The preceding is often recited with one orator speaking the first part and all members speaking the phrase after the dash. In order to identify another Seeker or Zenohm, members will often recite one or two tenets in a conversation. If they receive the correct completion of the phrase then they know that the other is at least familiar with the order.
Characters of Interest
Lord Comandt 'de Plur
Middle aged, balding, yet handsome. He is fit and noble in appearance with a small tuft of beard and mustache and short cropped hair that is frosted. He holds himself with an air of authority yet is quiet, speaking only of important things; business, culture, knowledge, politics, and so on. Though he is not without humor, he chooses serious topics.
His dress is simple, but refined, preferring bold solid colors to patterns and lines, and is usually seen in long-sleeved tunics, a gold inlayed silver belt, and simple chain with a medallion. The medallion depicts a horse head, the recognized symbol of a breeder and trainer of champion steeds.
Lord Comandt is knowledgeable of magic though practices none. He relies on his keen sense of perception to judge truth. His true power comes from his vast network of allies and contacts whom owe him a great deal.
His estate includes several well trained professional soldiers.
Lady Soldat da Rayan
She is a stately woman of noble upbringing, a bit robust, but fit. She moves with the grace and elegance of a dancer, always taking care with proper placement of her hands. Her dark brown hair is striped with lines of grey and her expression rarely deviates from her practiced "charm". It is a feat to force her to show her emotions.
The lady prefers reds, maroons, and golds, and often dresses in tight fitting bustier that accents her breasts. Her long hair is pulled back but flows from beneath any number of crowns or hats appropriate for the occasion. She is the "proper" lady complete with jeweled rings, necklaces, pins, stoals, and other accents.
While she is quite cunning, Lady Soldat does not take chances. She dabbles in magic, specifically Insight, enough to gather whether or not someone is telling the truth. Her vices are a crystal pendant and song.
As a noblewoman and head of her estate, Lady Soldat has many hired mercenaries to guard her crops and shipments of coffee and corn as well as dozens of workers to toil in the fields. In addition, she has made many allies of suitors who wish to make her their bride, all of whom are rich and powerful on their own terms.
Choose the most appropriate character/player for this scenario: The character is contacted by a close friend or family member whom they trust. With all seriousness the ally relays that they have been summoned to the court of Lord Comandt 'de Plur, a powerful noble and distant relative to the family. This nobleman has been known to make or break people's careers so it is critical that the PC make a good impression.
The nobleman's home is quite large and lies in the center of a large plantation of cash crops and horse stables. He is an avid breeder of stallions and is well known for the quality of his steeds. Even regents have purchased his horses at great cost.
It is at the stables that they begin their discussion. "I have been told that you are loyal and brave, is this so?" As long as the PC responds in a favorable way, he will continue. "I have a need for someone I can trust, an ally in unstable times to come. And you my friend have those traits, even if you do not see them yourself." He continues beating around the bush talking about honor, honesty, and above all a need for secrecy and loyalty and with all seriousness finishes with, "do you agree?"
If the character says "no" or anything to the negative without an adequate explanation then the noble will end the conversation saying "I am sorry you feel this way. You may go now." The test has failed and Lord Comandt will not contact the character again. This same scenario may be attempted on another PC, though next time it will be in the vineyard.
If the character agrees, Lord Comandt will nod and graciously offer the PC to stay for the next meal. Lord Comandt is rich beyond many of his peers though lives a rather restrained life. His meals are flavorful and he indulges in some of the finer foods, much of his home is sparsely decorated as he favors simplicity and geometry. His personality is dry, almost humorless, and he is quite attentive to detail.
Lord Comandt will engage in idle chatter and gossip, but he is focused on reading the PC's intentions and personality. Eventually he retrieves a small wooden chest, similar to a jewelry case with brass trim and a clasp that has been sealed with a golden colored wax. "I feel that I can trust you and so I am prepared to entrust in you something that is dear to me that others might desire. I need this case delivered the Lady Soldat da Rayan." If the PC agrees then Lord Comandt warns, "you should gather friends, only those who you trust."
If questioned about why the PC had been chosen, Comandt explains that there are many spies who watch his every move and he needed someone outside of their normal sphere of influence.
Lady Soldat da Rayan lives in a villa two days on horseback south of the main city (three to four days on foot). As a result, the PC will need to make preparations to travel. The road south cuts through several villages and hamlets along the way with food and lodging where necessary. Most villages will simply rent out a spare room to strangers for a reasonable fee.
Along the way, the box that Comandt provided will emit a muffled sound. Those who know the ancient Nilese language will recognize the words as "Your destiny approaches in 12 leagues." The voice is that of a woman, calm and even. Characters who know Nilese can attempt a language test T# 18. Success results in a partial translation of "... Destiny ... in 12..." Success by 5 or more gives a full translation.
Regardless of how the PCs travel, they will be cut off only few hours from the Lady's villa. A fairly large number of Nilese mercenaries armed with swords (wakazishi), curved-bladed spears (yari), and kama and chain cut off all routes through a hamlet.
These men have no intent of killing anyone, but they will attack with lethal force if necessary. They have been hired by the Lady Soldat to test the group's resourcefulness. They will demand that the group hand over the box and will try to capture them if possible. If the groups is riding by horse, they will target the horses with their spears first.
Results of the combat could have a large barring on the outcome of the test. Negotiations, bribery, or intimidation that avoids combat will be highly praised.
Lady Soldat is interested in the loyalty, courage, and resourcefulness of the group more than she is in the actual delivery. The mercenaries will return all of the group's belongings to the lady's villa in a day or two and so long as the group makes it to her home, she will offer them to stay to recuperate. Only then will the true merits of the test be revealed.
If the group hands over the box voluntarily, the test has failed. Arriving to the Lady's home will result in them being turned away most rudely. They will be called cowards, cheats, liars, and worse. No one from the Seekers will contact the group further.
If combat results in the character's capture, then they will be stripped of any valuables, armor, weapons, and tied inside an abandoned home near the combat site. They will be expected to free themselves and continue on to the Lady's home, empty handed. Lady Soldat will chastise them for failing to deliver the box, but will praise their bravery for choosing to fight rather than face the shame of cowardice. The test has not failed, but will require some additional minor challenges.
Lastly, if the group wins the fight or manages to escape and delivers the box, the test has wholly succeeded.
Assuming that the group has succeeded to impress the Lady, she will eventually reveal that the mercenaries were hers, that this was the first group to successfully pass Lord Comandt's test
She will open the chest and tell the group of the artifact that it holds. Within her dainty soft hands is a polished black stone with a silver crystal in the middle that glows with an inner light. Glyphs and strange writing can be seen within the glowing gem. This is the Goram Stone, or more commonly called, the Seeking Stone or Finding Stone.
Those who can read Ancient Nilese will begin to understand its glyphs and that they relate to location, direction, and destination. It will take a minimum of 10 minutes to attempt to understand how to read the artifact. Target Number 20. To enter a new destination requires T# 30 with an AC of 1 hour. Once a character succeeds, they can use the stone without future checks.
Lady Soldat explains the basic premise: "we decipher the glyphs and match them with those from ancient texts. Thus the stone shows us the way."