Chapter 2 - A Lesson in Loyalty
© 2009 - Randal Snyder
This adventure is the first follow-up to Chapter 1 - The Test, which is an introduction to the Seekers, a secretive organization in the world of Thorin.
While it is possible to adapt the adventure without using Chapter 1, there are characters that are introduced in Chapter 1 that will need to be referenced. Characters can be of any experience level, but is best used with new and inexperienced PCs.
Having delivered the Gorum Stone, the Lady Soldat begins plans to put her new recruits to yet another task; they must retrieve an artifact from the mountains. Several dangers loom between Soldat's villa and the resting place of the artifact. The cave in which the artifact rests is guarded by a fanatical group of Tuathans, sworn to protect the cave from any and all intruders.
The group will eventually encounter a family of Tuathans, descendants of soldiers left to guard the cave until relieved. During the Great Betrayal (or Great Revolt), the war that carved the Empire and freed the non-human slave-kin from their human masters, a legion of Tuathan and Endraki soldiers found a cave that included ancient texts and objects.
After plundering the cave for much of its treasures, the bulk of the legion left to pursue the army of Corak, the great Phylinx general who is credited with defeating the Empire. But left behind were 200 of the most loyal Tuathans to defend the cave and any treasures that might be buried within.
The Tuathan soldiers, men and women, kept their vigil through years of drought, snow storms, plagues of ravenous insects, and desperate isolation. Eventually, three generations passed and most of the original soldiers had died of old age or the ravages of their hard lives. Their strict code forbade them from having relationships within their ranks. Cut off from the rest of the world, they stuck to their orders even as the old and frail died. Eventually, only a dozen children remained - children of shame.
Scouting parties over the years captured humans and slave-kin who claimed the Great Betrayal had ended, but the elders refused to accept it. Endrak was forever and could not be destroyed! They simply could not believe that their battle had come and gone without them or that the Empire had surrendered.
Years passed and many of the scouts, children and grand children of the original unit, abandoned their posts seeking a life of their own.
Eventually, there were only four - mother, a son, a daughter and her betrothed. They are fanatics, convinced that they are destined to fulfill the orders given to their ancestors one-hundred years ago.
Lady Soldat invites the group to dinner to discuss what the Goram Stone revealed to her. "By scrying, I have found something of interest to me and I wish for you to rescue it." She explains "it is not far from here. In the mountains is a valley that was once a city of gods. You will know the place by the apple tree growing from solid stone. It is the place of the life drinkers."
She will describe a valley to the North, isolated from the world where wild warriors roam. Her tale includes a hunter's trail that cuts through to Nilem and the unknown lands beyond the mountains. Within the cave, hidden behind a wall there will be a door to an ancient chasm and within this chasm will be the artifacts I seek.
If asked how she knows this she explains that it was revealed to her in a vision. Her visions are very accurate.
Journey through the mountains will require abandoning horses at some point. The terrain will simply be too steep and no trails will take the group to their destination. The weather is cool, but in the mountains, snow is possible even in the late spring and early fall. Lady Soldat expects the journey to take four days. Thus it will be eight days round trip.
A normal human requires a minimum of 2 liters of water per day, though this assumes little exertion. Typically, characters will need four liters of water per day (one liter = 1 kg). The following table illustrates how long a typical person can survive without adequate water. This assumes a Health Score of 5.
Temperatures in the mountains range from -12 C to 21 C.
Without adequate water, the Narrator should impose a -1 to -10 penalty to all skill checks depending on how dehydrated the character is. Initial signs of dehydration include -1 to -3 penalty, Thirst, Loss of appetite, Dry skin, Flushing, Dark colored urine, Dry mouth / Cotton mouth, Fatigue / Weakness, Chills, Head rushes.
If the dehydration is allowed to continue, when the body experiences fluid loss of 5% the following more severe dehydration effects are normally experienced: -4 to -6 penalty, Increased heart rate, Increased respiration, Decreased sweating, Decreased urination, Increased body temperature, Extreme fatigue, Muscle cramps, Headaches, Nausea, Tingling of the limbs
When the body reaches 10% fluid loss emergency help is needed IMMEDIATELY! This level of fluid loss is often fatal! The effects of severe dehydration include: -7 to -10 penalty, Muscle spasms, Vomiting, Racing pulse, Shriveled skin, Dim vision, Painful urination, Confusion, Difficulty breathing, Seizures, Chest and Abdominal pain, Unconsciousness
Be aware that these are not the only effects caused by dehydration, these are simply the most common.
The trail will eventually lead to a mountain ridge that must be climbed. Ropes, pitons, and other common climbing gear will be required. Proper climbing gear will add from +1 to +6 to any climbing checks.
Nature is fickle and the weather can change in an instant. Basic camping gear may mean the difference between survival a bitter death. Using the character's Wilderness Survival skill or Education will allow the character to locate or make a basic shelter if necessary. Luck or searching may locate natural formations.
On the Road
Before the group leaves town they will meet a young Kanis youth.
A teen kanis girl witnessed the battle with the Nilese mercenaries and is enamored with the group and wants to join. She claims that she is an orphan from across the mountains and looking for a better life than what her “place” is. She will follow the group even if they deny her request.
She is eager to please, dorky, and naïve. Fox-like with redish fur and white highlights down her nose, on her eyebrows, and tips of her ears; she is slender and small framed.
Her clothes are dirty and worn, but not ragged and she is dressed in a simple leather corset with a tan blouse and baggy red leather pants. Over her shoulder in a leather satchel are her only belongings - a handful of clothes, some food, a whistle, and some herbs, smoking weed, and various other mystic ingredients that she collects in the mountains. Jii-yaun is an average trapper and survivalist, but it nearly useless in hand to hand combat.
The road North winds through woods and rising and falling grades of rock and much of the road disappears beneath overgrown weeds or fallen trees. As the miles pass and distance grows from Lady Soldat's villa, fewer and fewer homes welcome the travelers until one in particular catches their eye.
It is a simple farm overgrown with weeds. A series of stones marks the graves of the former owner and her family. A sign written in crude Endraki and post on a pine tree by the road reads, "Beware!" This is the last form of civilized shelter available for two days and the sun is setting.
The farm house is a circular log and mud structure with a thatched roof in need of repairs. However, inside are obvious signs of recent camping as the dirt floor is scuffed and the fire pit has fresh ash and tinder and several logs and sticks sit unused beside it. No one seems to be around. Only a field mouse scurries off when things are moved.
Long ago any belongings of interest were stripped away including a stove of some sort that left a pit in the ground and hole in the wall where the fire pit is now. Simple wooden rafters and their ties and dowels make for a comfortable night's rest, though the roof has several gaps where smoke and rain leak through.
Roll an Empathy check. Whichever two characters roll highest will have the following encounter when they sleep - Characters that sleep here are visited by a small child in their dreams. The young boy seems vibrant and wishes to play and offers an apple. If the character is nice, they will wake up to find an apple laying near their bedding. But if they are mean to the child, he will throw a temper tantrum and yell, "I don't like you! You're mean!" Horses will begin to whinny and grow uncomfortable, eventually waking the characters. When the mean character looks to the horses, their horse will kick, buck, and snap its reigns and gallop off into the night.
On the third day of travel, the road disappears beneath overgrowth and reappears later. This is the hunter's trail, a road controlled by goblins in the hunter's camp further along the road. Underbrush and vine thistles slow the horses' movement and will wear down clothing and leave minor injuries on the characters.
Along the route, the group will notice several camouflaged tree stands, simple wooden planks and logs covered in canvas and tree branches.
A few miles further some bone totems line the road. Each totem is made from the carcasses of a kill, typically a boar or wild cow, and the bones are arranged with the skulls and bones tied to a tree or arranged like some sort of mockery of a doll. Some of the bones are bound together to make the skeleton stand on its own. Some skulls have been carved with strange markings, feathers, or painted with a brown-red color.
Another mile down the road, the thick trees have been thinned and most of the trees near the path have been chopped down leaving an unnatural clearing at the base of a steep incline. The road suddenly rises between two rock faces that nearly create a perfect V shape and blocking the road is a wooden fortification; a spiked fence complete with sharpened spikes.
The fortification is intended to keep wild animals away as the goblins skin their kills. Bears and wolves are attracted by the scent of blood and rotting meat. However, since they erected the makeshift wall, the goblins have seen fit to charge travelers a toll to cross. They know well that there is no wagon or horse path around this area and charge a hefty toll - 1 silver coin per person or horse.
If the characters try to attack the camp, or pick a fight, the entire camp will join in the fight hurling stones, bones, and other debris. These are not warriors, but they are hunters and are proficient in their weapons.
At the center of the camp is a totem to Mortarious, the black huntsman, lord of death. A shriveled old female Slag demands that the group honor the god with a sacrifice. Any offering of food, alcohol, or objects of importance will suffice. The Slag is the hunters' shaman and the goblins follow her commands with great fear of her power.
If the party refuses to honor the god, she will command the ogres and troll to block the path and will confront the party again. Worse, if they spit on the totem or defile it in some way, she will command the goblins to attack.
The Slag shaman focuses her magics on Necromancy and Metamorphosis. Some favored spells include:
Animate Corpse - Used on her fallen allies or hunted animals. (Spell Rank 5, Total Rank 8, T# 16, Touch, 1 Target)
Life Drain - A black cloud that saps the victim of their life energy. (Spell Rank 6, Total Rank 9, T# 18, Visual, 1 Target, 4d5 Glance)
Relieve Pain - Temporarily removes Combat Damage. (Spell Rank 6, Total Rank 9, T# 18, Visual, 1 Target, 4d5+4 Glance)
Stone to Mud - Converts the path to a muddy pit, slowing movement by 1/2. (Spell Rank 6, Total Rank 9, T# 18, Visual, 4 meter area)
Mud to Stone - Characters caught in the mud can be trapped when the mud solidifies. (Spell Rank 6, Total Rank 9, T# 18, Visual, 4 meter area, Dodge)
The Finding Stone guides the group to an overgrown valley filled with boulders and jungle terrain. Visible from across the valley is a small cave with an obvious clearing, path, and fire pit at the entrance. It is guarded by four Tuathans who were tasked with guarding the cave as a family duty. They are the third generation of a brigade of troops sent to guard the area during the Great War one hundred years earlier. The unit was originally 200 strong, but as time went on soldiers disserted or died. What remains are the great grandchildren of the most fanatical of the Tuathans.
They are experts at survival, having survived on their own for generations. The valley provides enough food and shelter for them to live healthy lives, but they will prepare to attack anyone who trespasses on their land. They will begin by yelling, “be gone,” and “you are not welcome here.” Second, the archer will fire three warning shots. Finally, they will draw swords, the archer will shoot to kill, and the priestess will begin preparing spells.