Lazarus Lightward, an enigmatic Warpriest for the god, Tridoa, desires theWhitebone Tomes both to keep the cursed books away from anyone who may wish to use them nefariously and to research demons to study their weaknesses. He will explain that as a Warpriest, his study of these demons will help to learn how to defend against such creatures.
He waits in the town of Lockmour where Skezemo's accursed library stands. For every tome returned to him, Lazarus Lightward will pay a handsome fee. Lazarus will offer twice the coin promised once the last book is handed to him.
This quest can be introduced to a party in a couple of ways and can be played out by the DM with high or low importance.
Beginning the Quest:
Lazarus Lightward will approach the party initially when they reach Lockmour, hiring them to seek out the tomes. The priest is aware the books are elusive and probably far apart, and is happy to have them seek the books out while performing other duties. If asked, he can give some ideas and hints on where future books may be (as indicated In the "Lazarus Lightward" section.).
Optional quest startup, What a pretty book: The party has just cleared out a dark, secluded dungeon. Part of their haul includes a tome with a beautiful, blank ivory cover. Back in town, when they try to get the tome appraised the appraiser has no idea what it is; but he has heard that a man in Lockmour was looking for books like this one.
Once Lazarus is talked to, the DM can either have the hunt for the tomes as their main quest, or have it as a background quest while they do other duties ("if, in your travels you happen to find more of these books, I'll gladly take them off your hands for a fair price!").
Following are suggested locations for each of the books. however the DM can make up their own book locations as they see fit, to suit their own world.
The Graven Tome
Nestled at the base of a mountain is the town Fevarowen which translates to 'Nest of many Fevas'. The Feva is a beautiful bird of paradise native to the region. Lately, the Fevas have been disappearing however, and in their place there are only ravens. The people have grown fearful of the ill-omen and keep to their houses, nowdays, afraid to go outside under the scrutiny of the black birds which peer at then with an almost sentient malice. There are rumors of a great, winged demon being spotted high in the mountains, and now climbing it is taboo.
In fact, this is the truth; She, Graventolah has recently broken free of her tome and now haunts these hights. The black-winged harpy-demon preys on those who climb the mountain, swooping down from above in an attempt to knock people off precarious edges. At the moment she sends her black ravens down from the mountain to scout the land. She will know of the party arriving in Fevarowen immediately.
Killing her is the only way to get the book; her corpse will immediately writhe and warp into the first Whitebone tome.
Taking the tome from Fevarowen will cause the birds of paradise to return, and the townsfolk will be grateful!
Book of Living Dark
The second book is owned by Foreman Ironside, a dwarven engineer working In the deep copper mine within Hilderval mountain. Ironside has gone missing recently, however, and mine production has stopped; dwarves are complaining of deep, overwhelming shadows that even torches have trouble penetrating, and of miners being swallowed up by the darkness itself!
Foreman Ironside is dead - his corpse is deep within the mines where is has been consumed to the bones. The book is with him. Alghru is still trapped within the book, but his mere presence in this dark, claustrophobic mine has caused the shadows themselves to become hostile forces.
The hunt for Alghru's tome is a normal mine dungeon, however with the added danger of staying out of the shadows. If the pc's torches are extinguished, they have only a couple of rounds to relight their torches or find another light source before the shadows themselves begin to eat their flesh!
The Gambler's Rulebook
The Gambler's Rulebook remains nestled safely within the walls of Skezemo's library. If the pc's take it out of the walls of the library however, the demons and soul merchants who hunt the book and the demon within will be alerted to its presence. The PC's will be accosted relentlessly by these rogues unless they have book 2 in their possession. This book is here as a GM trap, to tempt the pc's into taking it without thinking and add an element of difficulty to their campaign unless they are wise enough to return the book.
Codex of Decay and The Pestilent Bible
These tomes are currently in the collection of Arowei; an elfish necromancer whose domain is the swampy forest known as The Direwolde. Arowei is a cunning woman; she knows the books well and wants to expand her own collection. But she is patient and knows that eventually people searching for the books will come to her - probably with other tomes. She plans to let others do the dirty work of finding the other books, and then kill the carriers when they seek out hers and claim their collection as her own.
Lazarus has no clues about where books 4 and 5 are, but Arowei has made sure that rumours were spread around the land about them being in The Direwolde to lure the other books in. Asking around various places will eventually reward the pc's with one of these rumours, and if they find out that Arowei owns them, Lazarus may even be convinced to come along with the party to lend a hand; he has heard of Arowei and the Necromancer is not to be trifled with.
Lazarus Lightward is a powerful cleric and will make the journey into the forest much easier. He does have some other tricks up his sleeves, but he won't reveal these tricks to the pc's.
The Wearied Tome
Somnaq's wearied tome lies far to the north, in the glacial village of Gurbentra. The norse-like inhabitants found the tome several decades ago, learned of its powers and have kept it safe. In the last decade however, their leader, Hroengarth, became deathly ill with a rare disease. In an effort to preserve their leader, the townsfolk bestowed upon Hroengarth the Wearied Tome. Somnaq's sleeping sickness overcame the chieftan in weeks and induced a magical coma which preserved his life. Now, Hroengarth lies on an altar in his great hall. The townsfolk will Violently attack anyone trying to steal the tome. The only safe way to obtain the tome is to find the cure for the leader's dread ailment.
The townsfolk of Gurbentra are in a constant state of weariness due to the book's presence, and often dangerously fall asleep in the frozen streets.
Lazarus is more than he appears, although his true nature won't be revealed until after the tomes are collected. The man has forsaken his church and now seeks to dominate demons. Few people even within the church know of his dissention and Lockmour is far from the centre of Tridoa's circle.
Lazarus remains in or near Skezemo's library. He may be found and talked to whenever the party wishes. Many things can be learned from Lazarus, if the pc's would but ask.
Questions and answers
Lazarus has heard rumours. He will offer some of these when asked on the location of:
The Graven Tome
"I hear the Fevas are disappearing from Fevarowen. Ravens take their place and the townsfolk whisper tales of a winged monster in the mountains. Seems a good place to start looking."
The Book of Living Dark
"It takes a lot for a dwarf to admit they are afraid. Yet Hilderval's copper mine has stopped production due to fear; the dwarves say the shadows themselves nibble at their skin. Alhgru"
The Gambler's Rulebook
"As a matter of fact, it is already inside the library! Bring me back another Whitebone tome as good will payment and you may borrow it. I hear that holding the Gambler's Rulebook gives you the luck of the devil!"
Codex of Decay or the Pestilent Bible
" I have heard no rumours about The Pestilent Bible nor the Codex of Decay, but rest assured, where you find one, you shall find it's twin. Ask around for rumours of these tomes your travels."
The Wearied Tome
"I was chatting with a merchant just the other week who had come from the frozen north. He mentioned that while trading in Gurbentra he was overcome with great tiredness and passed out in the streets! If it weren't for one of the townsfolk dragging him into the inn he surely would have frozen. It's not much to go on, I know, but it is something."
Lazarus is a learned individual when it comes to demons. He can provide some lore if asked of each demon:
"She, Graventolah. The Black Birdbeast of Mokloeth's demise. She is a beast of winged fury. Shahza the vengeful first called upon her over eight hundred years ago now. Spurned by her lover, Prince Faurin, she wanted nothing more then to see his kingdom fall. And the great white walls did fall, because She, Graventolah sent her fel ravens over the impenetrable bricks with an unholy bloodlust. Not a life was spared the flurry of steel wings and razor beaks.
You know where the kingdom of Mokloeth stood, but probably not as by that name: Ravenwood, as it is now known. No life other than the black birds thrive there now."
"Aah, Alhgru; the patron entity of all that goes 'Bump' in the night. Alhgru, I am told, has no actual form. It is an entity of writhing, hungry shadows. In fact, it's mere presence has been told to animate shadows nearby and give them a hunger. They ooze on their victims like oil and eat away at flesh like acid.
I am told that torches fail in the presence of Alhgru, but brands fashioned of Bamboo and blessed will always burn bright in his presence. You may want to remember that if you hunt the book."
"Be very wary of Aleatorem. Of all the demons caught, he is the one with the most wile. Aleatorem it is said, talked his way out of the pit itself. Trickster demon of greed, gambling and trickery, the Dice-keeper grew a black-market empire made to thieve souls and keep them from both the heavens and the pits. He is hated by both sides, but his minions are said to be fervently loyal. If you carry his book, you might want to make sure you keep it hidden from those who would profit from Aleatorem's return."
Shahra and Slaine
"If you ask of one you may as well ask of both; twins, they are, and nigh inseperable they be. Shahra was brought to this world against her will many centuries ago, I hear. Summoned by Yu'lo in the hopes of extorting her will to prevent his undead creations from rotting. He chained her with magic as soon as she came to this plane. But Yu'lo was a fool, for with Shahra comes Slaine, her brother, always. He was unbound and struck the necromancer down with disease and parasites until so sickly was he that he could not maintain Shahra's chains. Shahra broke free and enforced her will onto Yu'lo, decaying his form until only bones remain.
Shahra and Slaine are now known as the fel twins of war. Soldiers always think they catch glimpses of their silhouettes on worn battlefields - picking over the corpses and spreading decay and disease."
"The elder demon. Most do not know this, but Somnaq's domain used to be nightmares. However Somnaq is an old, old beast. He grew tired and lost his way. As penalty, he was chained in a black glass forest in a realm which stands halfway between life and death. The imprisonment in that forest was nightmare for Somnaq and Skezemo did the demon a service by caging him in the Wearied tome and carrying him out of there. I'm sure that anyone who falls to Somnaq's slumber for too long will become insane and frenzied by the horrors inside their own heads."
Lazarus will answer a few other miscellaneous questions, if they are asked:
Regarding Arowei and her ownership of her tomes:
"Arowei! I have heard of the woman - she is a woman full of guile and cleverness and is not to be underestimated! The living dead is her domain and she is a master at her art. Perhaps you could use a helping hand if you seek her out..."
Asking why Lazarus knows so much about demons:
"I am a Warpriest for the Lunar Lord, Tridoa, and he has charged me with learning the weaknesses of all who seek to threaten his domain. I study these demons that I may know their weaknesses."
Asking about Skezemo:
"The Archmage Aremis Skezemo is a historical figure - he was persecuted by the townsfolk of Lockmour largely through ignorance. Skezemo was consorting with demons, yes, but only to study them. He had not been dominated nor influenced by them and given more time, he may have made some important discoveries that could have saved many lives from damnation! Superstition and rash decisions are ever a thorn in the side of progress."
Once the tomes are all delivered to Lazarus, he will invite the party into the library to witness his work. Lazarus will place the tomes upon the altar within the library, then turn to the party. Suddenly, an eruption of vicious, barbed roots will burst violently from the stone below, lashing onto the PC's arms and legs and lashing them into place. In addition, a weariness will overcome them - brought on by the power of the possessed library itself - the PC's will become pacified. Lazarus will speak to the party:
"I apologize for the ruse, my enfeebled friends, but I cannot risk you interfering in this. You deserve to witness what I am about to perform for your efforts. You also deserve to keep your lives. Bear witness, now; the rebirth of the Hellmage!"
Lazarus will then turn to the books, open them to the final page and then begin a ritual - the process itself will only take several minutes, and with a sudden flash of infernal fire and a sound of hell-tormented screams the Whitebone tomes will burst into flame and disintegrate into nothing. Standing atop the altar will be a naked, impossibly old male who appears in the next couple of minutes to age backwards to middle-age. This is the Archmage Skezemo; the mage will stretch as though testing out his muscles, and then step down from the altar to shake Lazarus Lightward's hand.
"Welcome, Hellmage, back to the mortal plane. Many things have changed over these centuries, and we have much to discuss! Meet me outside."
"Thanks you, Hellpriest. You played this game very well." Skezemo will reply in a creaky tone, laughing painfully before garbing himselves in a tattered robe to one side before walking outside. Lazarus will turn to the party,
"I have you all to thank for this, friends. For your efforts I remain true to my words - you shall be spared. My bindings shall loosen in the hour. Will we meet again...? Perhaps. For now, farewell!"
Lazarus lightward will leave the room, allowing the party time to talk to one another about the ramifications of what just happened. Who is this Hellmage? Who is the Hellpriest? What are their plans!?
But that is a tale for another time.
Lazarus Lightward's goal from the start was to free Skezemo to get him to join with him - the Hellmage has much knowledge on demonic arts, and Lazarus is in fact a Diabolist; he consorts with demons and has much power over them. With the Hellmage by his side, Lazarus and his brotherhood has gained in power immensly!
Feel free to have Lazarus Lightward become a recurring villain in your group. Have him play the party for fools time and time again if you like - getting them to unwittingly help him out in manners which will further his goals. Let him be their Moriarty! It will make the final encounter all the sweeter, if Lazarus gets the better of the PC's several times first!