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September 5, 2008, 6:55 am

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Mourngrymn

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Ancient Knowledge

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To trap an ancient demon you need an ancient ritual.
And where do find such a ritual?
In the tomb of an ancient priest, of course.
And that’s where the trouble begins.

This takes place two years after the events described in Supply Run, five years after The Ruin and six years after A Test of Loyalty. The GM should refer back to these modules since many of the NPCs where first described therein.

Although the PCs do not need to have completed these scenarios it is necessary that they are known to, and on friendly terms with, Derry Althen since she will not approach them otherwise.

Background

The release of the demon Deinos five years ago by Derry Althen and Orin van der Mewe during their ill-fated first adventure together (refer to The Ruin for details) did not go unnoticed by the city’s legal and religious authorities.

The first thing the authorities did, once the full extent of Deinos’ powers was understood, was to declare the site too dangerous for exploration, thereby effectively placing it off limits to all would-be adventurers.

Of course, according to the perverse logic of such matters, this only made the place that much more attractive, and inevitably the number of badly planned and ill-prepared teenage "rights of passage" expeditions increased rapidly over the next few months. Luckily, with Deinos still trapped in the catacombs, most of these came to little harm. That is until one bunch found the hidden entrance to the catacombs and barely made it out alive, at which point the army put a guard unit on site and barred entry to any group who did not have proven demon hunting credentials.

Meanwhile the city priests held an extensive inquiry and finally concluded that the release was simply an unfortunate mistake caused by a combination of youthful enthusiasm and inexperience. They did however hold Derry to be partially responsible in that it was her misguided spell casting that allowed the demon its’ current level of freedom and ordered that she repair the damage, at least in the long term. Basically, it is now up to Derry to force Deinos back inside its’ intended prison.

Derry Althen - human female, age 21 - ancestor worshipper (assistant shaman), city founder cult initiate - a lock of her mothers’ hair in a silver locket is a spirit totem for the ghost of Matty Althen - combat skill poor - moderate magical ability

Derry knows most cantrips and petty magics (assign whatever spells you think are appropriate). She also knows several utility spells (e.g. creating light, igniting or extinguishing camp fires, locating lost objects, mending broken objects, etc) and some minor defensive and healing magics (e.g. magical alarms, minor healing, stemming blood loss, etc). However, apart from one or two offensive cantrips, she has no combat spells to speak of (such magics are the purview of the combat mage, not the shaman). However she is reasonably competent in a support role (casting healing or defensive spells, throwing in the odd spirit, and generally causing as much confusion as possible).

Derry also has the spirit totem linked to her mothers’ ghost that Mistress Eskarina made of her at her birth (refer to A Test of Loyalty for full details). This allows the ghost of Matty Althen to appear on the mundane plane. However since Derry is now a young woman, and a competent shaman in her own right, Matty is increasingly of the opinion that she should be capable of taking care of herself. Therefore she will put in an appearance only if Derry is in extreme danger. {{Note to GM: you can use Matty as a kind of GMs’ wild card to get the party out of trouble if they really mess things up.}}

Finally, Derry now has full shamanic powers, although she is still something of a novice in this area having only recently completed her Shaman Quest. However she does now have command of a few minor spirits which might prove useful. Some suggestions follow:

Healing Spirits - primarily useful for curing a person of disease - if the PCs have a spirit bottle (refer to A Test of Loyalty and The Ruin) she can place one of these inside it

Fear Spirits - possesses a creature and induces fear - normally results in victim running away

Spell Spirits - these have the knowledge of a single spell - will cast their spell once then return to the spirit plain - spell could, in theory, be anything (GMs choice)

{{Note to GM: Feel free to add any other spirit types you think may be useful, but remember that Derry is still something of a novice at this so don’t add anything too powerful.}}

Another Interested Party

As luck would have it only a few weeks before Derry inadvertently released Deinos, a student at the University of Ancient Myth and History by the name of Chester Butterfield, had just completed his First Circle examinations. He was now looking around for a subject on which to write his thesis, this being a requirement for entry into the Second Circle examinations that would permit him to call himself a sage

Chester had in fact taken a trip the Ruin himself some years previously (a less than heroic affair - he took one look at the gargoyles and ran for his life). Now, being something of a studious young lad, Chester had done a little more research on the subject than his piers and turned up some ancient references to the Ruins’ true nature. At the time he dismissed his findings as fairy tales (had he believed them he would never have gone), but Derry’s misadventure seemed to suggest that they might have some validity.

Consequently, since he now had to write a thesis anyway, Chester chose to do some serious research into the mythology surrounding the Ruin and the demon Deinos. With the result that now, five years later, with his thesis complete and his final examinations over, Chester Butterfield is not only a fully qualified sage but also the city’s foremost expert on the myths and lore surrounding Deinos.

Chester Butterfield - human male, age 26 - sage/magician - city founder cult initiate - minor magical ability - combat and wilderness survival skills abysmal

Chester’s magic skills are almost exclusively concerned with historical research. He knows several quite powerful spells for analysing objects, detecting magical enchantments, translating texts, preserving ancient document, and the like, but absolutely no spells of any other kind.

Chester is worse than useless in any kind of a fight. He has no combat abilities whatsoever, nor does he have any weapons or combat related spells. Not that this makes much of a difference since he does not act rationally in a fight anyway. Instead he runs around in a blind panic and generally gets in everybody’s way (friend and foe alike).

He also has a tendency to faint at the sight of blood (particularly his own), which probably counts as his only useful combat trait since, once he is unconscious, the opposition just might think he is dead and leave him alone or there again they might not.

An Ancient Ritual (well maybe)

Butterfield’s thesis has, almost of necessity, touched upon what little is known of the rituals involved in trapping the demon in the first place. Unfortunately this is a little too close to demonology for comfort (well according to the Church anyway). As a result the priests more or less bullied him into sharing his findings with Derry Althen (priests can be so unfair sometimes), in order to facilitate her attempts to re-entrap Deinos.

The problem is that he has not learned anywhere near enough to fully reconstruct the binding rituals used to entrap Deinos, or indeed to even begin such a task. Most of it was never written down at the time and the few records that do exist where penned centuries after the event. Much of this has long since been lost or damaged and what little remains is fragmentary at best.

He has however managed to date the Ruin with some accuracy, putting its’ construction at around 3½ thousand years ago (give or take a century or so). This places it firmly in the latter period of the Old Empire, and well before the founding of the current city, when the area was little more than an outlying province.

Little is known of the clerics involved in the ritual, but Chester has managed to identify one of its’ chief architects, a priest by the name of Douek. History records that, like most Old Empire clerics, Douek’s remains were interred in the Valley of Divine Favour far to the north and that his greatest deeds were inscribed upon the walls of his mausoleum. Those deeds, of course, include the binding of Deinos, so there is quite likely to be some useful information there.

There may perhaps be enough information to reconstruct the binding rituals (at least in part) if they could be correctly translated. However the inscriptions are most likely carved directly onto the mausoleum walls in the hieroglyphic High Script of the Old Empire which only a few scholars are now able to translate.

Chester Butterfield is one of the (very) few scholars who could translate the hieroglyphs but he does not know nearly enough about shamanic rituals to construct a binding spell from this. Derry Althen, being a competent, if as yet non too powerful shaman, might be able to construct some kind of ritual if there was enough information but would be totally incapable of reading the inscriptions. The only solution is for both of them to travel to the mausoleum.

The Valley of Divine Favour lies deep within the territory of the barbarian Northmen. Although not actually hostile the Northmen are, to say the least, less than friendly. Furthermore the Valley of Divine Favour still holds some religious significance for them so they are unlikely to allow foreigners access to it, and would certainly never allow one of the mausoleums to be opened.

An Expedition is Planned (or Where the PCs come in)

Derry Althen and Chester Butterfield must travel to the Valley of Divine Favour deep inside the lands of the barbarian Northmen, there to break into the mausoleum of an Old Empire priest to read the hieroglyphs inscribed upon the walls. The expedition is being organised by the City Founder’s Cult and they are prepared to cover any reasonable expenses (see, the priesthood is not so bad after all).

Since the Northmen are generally none too friendly they will need a cover story and, as is often the case with deception, the best option is to stick as close to something true as possible. Derry will pose as a travelling healer since she can easily pull this off with her magical abilities and a healer is usually welcome anywhere, regardless of culture. Chester will play the part of a scholar interested in the religious beliefs of the Northmen since he should be able to ask convincing enough questions for this and he might even get an invite to visit the Valley of Divine Favour (unlikely, but you never know).

All they really need is some hardy warrior types act as bodyguards. Chester doesn’t know anybody like that, but Derry certainly does (enter the PCs). Note that all negotiations will be with a temple official, and while such men combine the worst features of religious fanatics and petty bureaucrats they are rarely fools so the PCs will not be able to extort too exorbitant a fee. {{Note to GM: Suggest something like normal rates for caravan guard duty plus a share of any incidental booty.}}

Unfortunately Orin van der Mewe, Derry’s erstwhile adventuring companion, is not available since he transferred to the regular army a year ago. He is currently serving with a cavalry unit on the Great North Plain, which mark the border with the Barbarian Lands to the north.

The Journey North

It should take the better part of a fortnight to reach the northern border. The journey should be relatively uneventful since the roads are much travelled, and regular patrols by the imperial cavalry keep bandit activity well in check. Add a few "civilised" encounters for local colour if you wish (merchant caravans, travelling minstrels, country hamlets, etc).

Since it is impossible to prevent all unlawful activity you may, if you wish, add in a bandit encounter (of the traditional "stand and deliver" variety) here, just so the PCs get used to how their charges react in a fight. (Better the PCs find out about Chester’s combat "abilities" now, before they run into any serious opposition.)

For about the last five or six days the party must cross the Great North Plain, an arid plain that extends from the fertile lands of the City in the south to the Great Ice Wall in the north. Here the lack of water means that life is a matter of harsh necessity and the party will need to plan this leg with some care. {{Note to GM: The area is harsh and unforgiving, but not completely inhospitable. Think the American prairies rather than the Sahara Desert.}}

The Border Town

The southern half of the Great North Plain is controlled by the City and the northern half by the barbarian Northmen, but where the actual border lays is, to say the least, a little indistinct and the subject of considerable tension between the two peoples.

Situated close to the centre of the Great Plain is a small spring, fed from a natural aquifer deep below the earth. This is one of the few reliable water sources in the region and a small township has grown up around it.

Both the City and the Northmen claim dominion over the spring (in this semi-desert environment water is more precious than gold) and both maintain a garrison here, although neither dares upset the balance for fear of provoking a full scale war. As a result there is little law here and the settlement is a rough place. Here the wise man keeps his sword ready at all times and never walks the streets alone.

Nonetheless the town main contact point between the City and the Northmen, and as such acts as a trading post and a kind of de-facto diplomatic centre. Any group wishing to cross the border must come here to obtain the permission of the relevant government, assuming that is they do not want to be arrested (or worse) as soon as they enter foreign territory.

For the party the main order of business here is to obtain a pass that will allow them to travel safely through the Northmen tribal lands. This can be obtained from the captain of the Northmen garrison, a petty chieftain by the name of Berak Dearstalker.

Berak Dearstalker - ride & bow skills excellent, combat skills good, administration skills fair - sabre, horse bow, light chain vest, leather breeches, pot helm

Berak is not a particularly corrupt man, but he is somewhat bitter at being stuck as a "pen pushing" petty official rather than commanding a proper warband, and he tends to take his frustrations out on any foreigners (like the PCs) who come seeking travel passes. Consequently he will most likely put all kinds of bureaucratic problems in their way, just for the fun of it. Offers of "administration fees" will achieve nothing and (if the GM is feeling particularly cruel) might even get the PCs arrested.

This sort of thing is likely to continue until somebody mentions that Derry is (or at least claims to be) a travelling healer. Berak has a great respect for healers (like many warriors he owes his life to their ministrations several times over). Also he has recently heard that his home village is afflicted with a strange wasting sickness. If the party is prepared to travel to his village and offer their aid all the red tape will magically disappear.

If the PCs do anything stupid (like picking a fight) he can call upon a band of tribal warriors (the Northmen’s garrison troops), at least two of which act as his bodyguards at all times.

Northmen Warriors - ride & combat skills very good - sabre or mace, horse bow, light chain vest, leather breeches, pot helm - mounted on steppe ponies

Incidentally, Orin van der Mewe is currently serving with the border guard here. The PCs may contact him if they wish (and Derry certainly will if they do not). He regrets that, due to his military duties, he cannot accompany Derry on this trip, although he would dearly like to do so. He will however promise to come looking for them if they do not return on schedule since he can, with a little creative legal interpretation and some verbal gymnastics, justify this under his rules of engagement.

Decision Time

From the border town the Valley of Divine Favour lies a mere three days easy travel to the north-east but Berak’s village lies at least five days to the north-west. The party must now decide where to go.

Derry, being an essentially kind-hearted soul, wishes to visit Berak’s village and offer whatever aid she can. And, as she is quick to point out, Deinos has been free for five years without causing any serious problems so an extra few days is not going to make much difference.

Chester on the other hand, having (so he claims) heard tales of the Northmen’s barbarous treatment of "civilised folk", wants to go straight to the Valley of Divine Favour and get this whole thing over and done with.

It looks like it is up to the PCs to break the deadlock. {{Note to GM: Ideally the PCs should elect go and aid the village. To encourage this, have Derry make arguments that are both logical and compassionate while Chester just comes over as an abject coward. If they side with Chester anyway, have Derry constantly nag them until she shames them into it. If this fails skip straight to The Valley of Divine Favour.}}

The Village

Berak’s village is one of those out-of-the-way little places so far off the beaten track that travellers almost never visit it, and even local traders are rarely seen. Even with directions from Berak the party will have some difficulty finding it. {{Note to GM: You can legitimately have the PCs waste a day or two taking the wrong road and having to retrace their steps if you wish.}}

When the party first enters the village, the villagers are somewhat nervous, after all the village currently has more than enough problems without foreign warrior types (like the PCs) stirring up trouble. But when it become clear that Derry is a healer and that she has come at the request of Berak Dearstalker she will be hailed as a kind of local celebrity, as will everyone travelling with her (including the PCs).

Once the introductions are over the village healer will explain the nature and symptoms of the malady that afflicts the villagers, not that this is really necessary since the evidence is plain for all to see. Every creature the PCs see, both human and animal, has the look of the walking dead and in other circumstance the PCs might think them just that. Skin is pallid and colourless, muscles are atrophied, eyes have a dead and sunken look. {{Note to GM: Embellish this however you see fit, but remember that it must look like a natural, if somewhat aggressive and horrific, illness.}}

Despite all their effects neither the village healer nor the local priest has found a cure, or even established a cause, for this malady. They are beginning to suspect a supernatural cause but lack the magical knowledge to confirm this.

Village Healer - minor magical ability (healing spells) - good healing & herbalism skills

Local Priest - minor magical ability (healing, protective and utility spells)

Derry, with her shamanic background and more extensive magical training, will confirm their suspicions almost immediately and quickly ascertain the cause. She can also come up with a workable solution, but this will present its own problems.

The Cause of the Malady

The cause of the malady is that a small tear has opened in the fabric of reality. This kind of phenomenon is usually the result of a magical accident but can, under some very rare circumstances, occur naturally, and this is what appears to have happened here.

In this case the tear has allowed certain predatory spirits (something akin to a spiritual wolf) to enter the physical plain and, just like more mundane predators, they are not particularly malign but they can be quite dangerous. On the spirit plain they pray on other spirits, absorbing their spiritual energy to sustain themselves (in much the same way that wolves consume the flesh of their pray).

On the physical plain every living creature (human or animal) has an active spirit that animates the body and these are essentially identical to the entities that inhabit the spirit plain. This of provides a ready food source for the predators.

The wasting illness is actually only a side effect of the drain on the spirits’ spiritual energy, which is why the problem has, so far, been incurable. The healers have, in effect, been treating only the symptoms rather than attacking the underlying cause.

Derry’s Solution

The obvious solution is to close the tear. Unfortunately this is not really a viable option since it would require some fundamental changes in the nature of reality which, even if possible, would have far reaching (and possibly even more damaging) consequences. Besides such magics are well beyond Derry’s meagre abilities and she would not dare attempt them, no matter how much the villagers (or indeed the PCs) cajole her.

Derry has a much simpler solution. She will create a Spirit Barrier. This is similar the Spirit Beacon she created to as part shamanic training (refer to Supply Run) except that it operates the other way around, denying spirits access to the physical plain. All she needs a small quantity of Crystallised Dragon Blood. If the village can supply her with this she could start immediately. And there in lies the problem. The village has only one peace of Dragon Blood but that is part of the magical seal that holds the undead warlock Badja in his tomb.

Of course, if a band of hardened adventurers (guess who) were to destroy Badja once and for all, the seal could be dismantled and the Dragon Blood could be reused to construct Derry’s Spirit Barrier. Furthermore, as the villagers are quick to point out, everyone knows that undead warlocks always have hoards of treasure hidden away in their liars so it would certainly be worth the PCs’ trouble.

The Story of Badja

The villagers know very little about Badja except that he (or possible it) is a powerful monster imprisoned for all time so that his evil spirit will never again plague mankind.

Chester Butterfield however does know something of Badja’s nature, having come across the name while research the lore surrounding Douek. According to all the ancient texts Badja was an apprentice of Douek’s and assisted in many of Douek’s most notable achievements, including the binding of Deinos. However in later life he committed a crime so terrible that death was considered too lenient a punishment so instead he was cursed never to die but never to truly live.

The exact nature of Badja’s crime is not known for certain, and indeed varies considerably depending on which account you believe. He is accused of everything from raping all the concubines in the emperors’ harem to summoning an army of undead demons with which to usurp the throne - and those are the least implausible versions, most of the other accusations are either inherently contradictory or too bizarre to be credible. {{Note to GM: Feel free to add increasingly murderous, depraved and simply bizarre (and ideally mutually contradictory) crimes until your players either get bored or start throwing things.}}

The True Story of Badja

Although the recorded history does bear some grains of truth, the reality behind Badja’s story is far less dramatic. Badja was indeed an apprentice of Douek and did indeed assist with the binding of Deinos, but the rest is very much a case of history being written by the victor; and in this case the victor was Douek.

In truth Badja’s crime, if it can be called that, was to fall in love with a young woman by the name of Meyra. The problem was that Meyra was Douek’s daughter and he had arranged to marry her off to a powerful nobleman in order to advance his own political ambitions.

In order to avoid an arranged marriage to a man twice her age, Meyra ran away with Badja. Douek, enraged by this disrespect and lack of obedience (not to mention to the damage to his political ambitions), hunted them down, eventually locating them in small village on the northern plains.

However, by one of those bizarre quirks of fate from which legends are born, when Douek arrived to retrieve his errant daughter only Badja could be found. Meyra, and the unborn child she carried, had already fled to the south.

Badja refused to reveal Meyra’s location so Douek, in his rage, had the unfortunate apprentice buried alive in a natural cave a few miles outside of the village, along with any evidence that could be found of Badja’s affair with Meyra. This included Badja’s diaries, Meyra’s letters to Badja, and even several love poems written by Meyra proclaiming her undying love for Badja.

Douek then collapsed the cave entrance (by the old "hit it with a pick-axe until the roof caves in" technique) and sealed it with a magical lock so that Badja could never break out. Telling the locals that he had imprisoned a necromancer and that they he placed on them a sacred trust to ensure that it was never released he left the area never to return.

However, the story does not end there. Badja of course died (being buried alive is rarely conducive to longevity) but, with his name sullied his history all but erased, his soul not rest. He now roams the caverns as an animated corpse, unable to find true rest until the true story of his downfall is told.

Despite many years of searching Douek never did find Meyra and died a bitter and vengeful man. But, according to legend, upon his death a young merchant woman from the south sent an amphora of sweet wine, the tradition funerary gift of a dutiful daughter to her father, and that this was placed in the burial chamber.

Badja’s Treasure

Badja’s ancient gods have sent him visions revealing that eventually sages will come seeking his story and that, if he is ever to know true rest, he must be prepared for their arrival. To this end he has constructed a treasure room or sorts in which he has stored his diaries and the letters and love poems Meyra had written to him.

The important item is one of the earlier diaries written at the time Douek was searching for a method of defeating Dienos which details many of the finer details of the binding ritual used to entrap the demon. There are, however, no details of the basic spells involved (Badja wrote this for his own benefit and did not see the need to include this information).

Badja has also inscribed the story of his love for Meyra and Douek’s revenge upon the walls of the treasure room, scratched into the rock face with small rocks scavenged from the cavern floor. After all, he hasn’t had much else to do for the past 3½ millennia.

Note that this is the only "treasure" to be had from Badja’s tomb. The caves hold no magical artefacts. There are no scrolls inscribed with ancient spells. Gold, gems and jewellery are all conspicuous by their absence. The PCs are of course free to waste as much time as wish on a useless, and ultimately disappointing, search for such material wealth.

Chester however (assuming the PCs can get him to come this far) will be truly delighted. Long forgotten knowledge that he alone can interpret, this is more than could ever have dreamed off in his wildest fantasies.

Badja’s Tomb

About half a day’s travel from the village lies the tomb of Badja, a natural cavern sealed long ago to act as a prison for the undead warlock who was once apprentice to the high priest Douek. In order to retrieve the Dragon Blood Derry needs to construct her Spirit Barrier, which is currently powering the magical seal on the cave entrance, the party must enter the caves and finally lay the spirit of Badja to rest.

Derry, ever the adventurous one, definitely wants to go with them. The problem, as always, is Chester who feels that this is far too dangerous and simply refuses to go anywhere near the place (OK, he’s doing his abject coward act again). On the other hand he is also terrified of being left alone with these "murderous barbarians" and insists that the PCs stay behind a protect him.

It looks like the PCs will have to play diplomat again. {{Note to GM: Ideally both Derry and Chester should go along, although this is not absolutely essential.}}

Breaking into Badja’s Tomb

The magical seal is inscribed on the rock face just inside the cave entrance. It consists of nothing more than a few standard locking and holding spells in the hieroglyphic script of the Old High Tongue, a couple of enchanting runes and a Dragon Blood crystal to power the whole thing. It was really designed only to prevent the rubble being removed from the collapsed tunnel beyond.

To break the seal all the PCs need do is remove the crystal (levering it out with the point of a dagger will work just fine). The trick is to realise that this can be done safely (there are no magical traps on the seal). Derry can easily recognise the basic function, as can any PC with magical training (such as wizards or priests), but without reading the spell inscriptions she cannot be certain. Chester of course is the only person who can translate the inscriptions, so if the PCs left him at the village they will just have to risk it.

Once the seal is broken the PCs face the much harder task of breaking through the collapsed section of tunnel, which basically entails several days hard labour with picks and shovels (unless of course the PCs can come up with a really clever method of shifting several tons of rock). Note that the PCs cannot use the villagers as a labour force for this since they a far too sick to do any useful work.

Badja’s Tactics

Badja desires only one thing - he wants his true story to be known. When the PCs enter his tomb Badja believes that his prayers have finally been answered and he begins to guide them towards the "treasure room".

Unfortunately after 3½ millennia alone and trapped underground Badja is, to say the least, a bit unstable. Over the centuries he has become neurotic, introverted, paranoid, depressed, anti-social and not a little psychotic, not to mention having developed several entirely unique conditions. Consequently it never occurs to Badja that by far the simplest method of getting the PCs where he wants them is to simply talk to them. Instead he treats the whole encounter as a tomb invasion and tries to force the PCs to his treasure room. {{Note to GM: Talking wouldn’t work well anyway since nobody now speaks the language of the Old Empire. However if Chester is present he can communicate with Badja (after a fashion) by writing messages in the Low Script of the Old Empire. This may however take some time to establish (not to mention all the PCs persuasion skills to convince Chester not to run from the undead creature in a blind panic).}}

On the other hand Badja is highly intelligent and, despite his various insanities, still has enough presence of mind to realise that actually killing these invaders would be highly counter-productive (dead people are unlikely to be capable of telling his story). Thus he does not at any time actually endanger the PCs, preferring instead to tempt them (or force them if this proves ineffective) in the right direction.

Badja’s primary tactic is to hide passages that lead away from his "treasure room" using a combination of shadow magic and illusions (deep shadows with illusions of blank walls or dead ends beyond). He may also collapse one or two tunnels if the PCs are becoming suspicious (i.e. not believing his illusion) or moving in the wrong direction.

Note that Badja will not combat the PCs under any circumstances. If the PCs attack him physically he will temporarily blind them using his darkness powers to cover his escape then proceed as before.

Once the PCs reach the treasure room Badja will hide, or if necessary collapse, the entrance in order to hold them there indefinitely (in his somewhat deranged state he fails to understand that the PCs must leave the tomb in order to tell his story).

Badja - undead animated corpse - insane, highly intelligent - excellent stealth skills, good perception skills, poor combat skills - excellent at darkness/shadow magic, good at earth magic and illusions

Escaping Badja’s Tomb

The PCs now have a problem. They are trapped inside Badja’s tomb, and he is not letting them leave any time soon. If they attempt to leave, Badja either uses illusions to send them around in circles until the get hopelessly lost or simply collapses the tunnels, blocking off their escape routes.

The PCs could attempt to fight or evade Badja and thereby escape. Although extremely difficult this is not entirely impossible. Since he is undead Badja has a considerable advantage here, he has no need for food and water, nor does he require rest. However he does have one major weakness, he does not wish to kill them and indeed never attempts to do so. Smart PCs should eventually realise this and be able to exploit it to their advantage. {{Note to GM: You should allow any reasonably intelligent plan to work here.}}

The other (and much easier) solution is for somebody to guess the true reason for Badja’s imprisonment (i.e. his love for Meyra) in which case his spirit is immediately moves on to its’ final rest, leaving only an ancient (and quite dead) corpse behind. All the magically created shadows and illusion will dispel and the PCs are free to leave at their leisure. This is apparent to anybody who translates either the love poems or the later sections of Badja’s dairies. If the PCs managed to convince Chester to enter the tomb with them this is more or less automatic otherwise a certain amount of detective work will be required.

The Valley of Divine Favour

The Valley of Divine Favour lies about six days east of the village (or three days north-east of the border town if the PCs declined to help Berak’s village). Cut deep into the limestone bedrock of the Great North Plain, the Valley is truly impressive. Easily a mile deep and in places up to three miles across it gives the impression that some angry god has ripped a great tear across half a continent (think the Grand Canyon).

Meandering through the bottom of the Valley is the Orange River (named for the muddy orange colour of its’ silt laden waters). The rivers’ fertile mud brings the bounty of the Earth Mother to the Valley floor, truly a great blessing in this harsh land and the source of the Valley’s name.

Contrary to the beliefs of PCs homeland, the Valley of Divine Favour has no particular religious significance to the Northmen and the PCs are free to enter. The tombs cut into the Valley walls are however a very different matter.

The religion of the Northmen is based around the deification and worship of ancestral hero figures. They believe that the tombs carved into the rock face during the time of the Old Empire hold the mortal remains of the First True Heroes and as such they are considered Holy Sites, never to be disturbed. Viewing the outside of the tombs is fine (and pilgrims come from all over the Northlands to do just that) but entering a tomb is a desecration of the highest order.

To break into a tomb is certain death, not from any monsters that might lurk within (although such denizens are certainly not beyond the bounds of possibility), but at the hands of the Northmen themselves who kill any who would dare such sacrilege.

Douek’s Mausoleum

The tombs and mausoleums of the great and the good of the Old Empire are cut into the rocks along the northern wall of the Valley of Divine Favour. Kings and nobles, magicians and priests, artists and philosophers, warriors and heroes, all are entombed here.

On the front of each monument is inscribed, in the hieroglyphic High Script of the Old Empire, accounts of the occupants’ greatest deeds. In Douek’s case this includes an account of the binding of Deinos.

The PCs are of course free to examine these writings for as long as they wish and, once he is certain that the Northmen are not about to kill him out of hand, Chester will set about transcribing and translating the text. It is soon clear that this inscription contains only a broad account of the binding and not of the finer detains of the ritual, although there is sufficient information for a competent practitioner (like Derry) to deduce its’ basic shape.

What happens next is largely dependent on previous events.

If the PCs entered Badja’s tomb and retrieved his diaries Derry will realise that she now has sufficient information to reconstruct the binding ritual, or at least something very close to it. In this case she will suggest that they finish transcribing the inscriptions and then head home (she might be a little too adventurous for her own good, but she’s not stupid and she sees no point antagonising the locals unless absolutely necessary). {{Note to GM: In this case the mission is now successfully completed. Skip directly to Wrapping Up.}}

If the PCs have not obtained Badja’s diaries there is simply not enough information to construct a workable ritual. More details are required and the only place they might be found (as far as the party knows) is inside Douek’s tomb. There’s nothing else for it; they will just have to find a way in.

{{Note to GM: It is essential at this point they Chester Butterfield enter the tomb. The PCs MUST convince him to do so regardless of his obvious fear since he alone will be able to read the inscriptions carved into the walls.}}

Getting into the Tomb

Where there are graves there are grave goods, and where there are grave goods there are grave robbers. This is the nature of things. Curses and defences protecting the graves matter little and religious significance even less. There are always those who would risk their lives, and even their immortal souls, for the treasures within (remind you of anyone?).

The tombs in the Valley of Divine Favour are no exception to this rule and over the millennia countless tunnels and crawl ways have been dug into them. There is not a single tomb in the Valley that does not have at least entrance that was never part of the original design, and some have as many as three or four.

Some careful questioning of the "right" people (and PCs are always highly adept at locating the "right" people), along with a little gold to loosen the tongue, should reveal which of these tunnels gives access to Douek’s tomb.

Of course most these tunnels are well known to the local militia and they maintain a guard at all the known entrances (you didn’t think it would be that easy did you). The guard is not particularly tough, typically just a couple of militiamen, changed at regular intervals (whatever makes sense in your game world), with orders to watch the entrance and prevent anybody entering.

Militiamen (x2) - combat skills fair to good - spear, short bow, leathers, pot helm - single horn (to call for aid)

In order to get into the tomb the PCs will need to either sneak past these guards (difficult but not impossible) or defeat them before they can raise the alarm. The watchmen will fight if they believe they have the upper hand (they have missile weapons and a prepared defensive position to shoot from) but will most likely retire and fetch reinforcement if the fight is going badly.

Inside Douek’s Tomb

A narrow, rough cut tunnel leads into the back of the burial chamber. The party encounters no traps, either magical or mundane, along the way (this tunnel bypassed any such defences).

The burial chamber contains, as expected, plenty of grave goods. However there is nothing of any obvious monetary value here (the original tomb robbers took any such treasure aeons ago). All that remains are several dozen amphorae (the standard container for must liquid products in the ancient world), a few statuettes (which might have some small value on the art markets), and the normal plethora of ordinary household items.

The Chamber of Deeds (a feature of all Old Empire tombs) is accessed by a short passage from the burial chamber. Again there are no defences. Here the walls are inscribed, in the hieroglyphic High Script, accounts of the deceased persons’ greatest deeds and accomplishments. Amongst these of course is a detailed account of the binding of Deinos, a full translation of which will tell Derry exactly what she needs to know.

A second tunnel, much like the one the party entered through, breaks into the Chamber of Deeds (it looks like there have been at least two attempts to rub this tomb in the past 3½ millennia). {{Note to GM: It is vital that the PCs realise the significance of this since this is the key to escaping with their lives.}}

Once their work is completed the party must escape the tomb without getting caught. In the unlikely event that they managed to sneak past the guards on the way in, this is all they will face on the way out. More likely a full squad will be watching the entrance as they exit. {{Note to GM: You should allow the PCs a chance to spot the guards before leaving the tunnel (a perception roll of some kind would be appropriate) so they have a chance to plan their exit.}}

Warriors (x5) - combat skills very good - sabre, horse bow, light chain vest, leather breeches, pot helm

Militiamen (x10) - combat skills good - club, net, dagger, leathers, pot helm

The militiamen have order to capture the party alive if possible (although nobody said anything about undamaged) and to this end they will first engage with nets and clubs. If the fight goes badly they will switch to daggers and the warriors will join the fray with their sabres. Once this happens they will fight to the death (the PCs’ death that is). Note that this is a hard fight, which the PCs are unlikely to win. The most likely outcome is capture, followed by a public trial an extremely gruesome execution.

Alternately the party could backtrack and exit through the other tunnel. Here they will find only the two militiamen normally assigned to watch a tunnel (the militia may know where most of the tunnels are, but they don’t necessarily know where they all lead).

Getting Home Again

Assuming the party escapes the tomb they now face a three-day trek back to the border. Throughout this journey they will be hounded by angry bands of Northmen warriors out for their blood.

The key here is speed. It will take some time for word of the sacrilege and subsequent escape to get around so if they leave immediately and keep going they should make it back to the safety of their homeland.

{{Note to GM: If your players like a little more combat, you can legitimately have a squad of Northmen warriors catch them up just before they reach the border.}}

Once over the border PCs are reasonably safe but it would probably be a good idea to get as far south as possible, and stay there for a while (say a few years), since there the Northmen will undoubtedly put a price on their heads.

The Ritual of Binding

Once the party returns to the City, Chester and Derry, with the aid of the Church, will set about translating the ancient texts and reconstructing the ritual. This will take some considerable time and the end result will be largely dependent on which texts they managed to obtain. There are four possibilities.

The inscription from inside Douek’s tomb: The original ritual can be reconstructed in its’ entirety. Shortly thereafter a delegation of priests and shamans (including Derry) will travel to the Ruin to perform it and bind Deinos back into his sarcophagus. PCs might be hired as bodyguards for this but the trip should be largely uneventful.

The inscription from the front of Douek’s tomb and Badja’s diaries: A ritual can be constructed from these sources. However, while similar to the original binding ritual there are some minor differences. After some debate the City Council will decide to use it anyway and the priests make the attempt (as above). However the ritual fails to fully rebind Deinos, although it does strengthen to wards that hold him to the catacombs. Further research might produce a more effective ritual but this could take several years.

The inscription from the front of Douek’s tomb only: The basic form of the ritual is clear but the details remain a mystery. Eventually a workable ritual can be devised but this might take decades to achieve.

Badja’s diaries only: Not a hope. The diaries give tantalising glimpses but there is simply not enough information to recreate the ritual, even in part. The whole trip has been a complete waste of time.



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Comments ( 11 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Voted Murometz
July 21, 2006, 8:44
0xp
Wow...long one, but great! Need to rest eyes and reread before commenting further. I like how you structured this piece. *Labor of Love alert!* Good work Dragon Lord! HOH!
Dragon Lord
July 21, 2006, 8:52
0xp
Thanks - always nice to be appreciated
Voted Scrasamax
July 21, 2006, 9:09
0xp
Captivating, well written, and though long it never rambled. Excellent work Dragon Lord.
Voted manfred
July 21, 2006, 10:28
0xp
What should I say besides "Great work"?

Well done.
Voted Cheka Man
July 21, 2006, 11:49
0xp
5/5 for this great plot hook.
Voted Ancient Gamer
July 31, 2006, 7:55
Only voted
Voted Mourngrymn
July 31, 2006, 13:11
0xp
What hits me is the extent in which this is combined with other subs. When read of the mind they are a single plot they mean little but after reading this I wil lventure back and read the entire group of them. Good job DL.
Voted Chaosmark
August 4, 2006, 16:11
Only voted
chilled
August 25, 2006, 5:18
0xp
long sub, brilliant though
Murometz
February 14, 2007, 10:26
0xp
love this piece the second time around. Nicely layered, well-structured, easy to follow, full of surprises!
Murometz
September 22, 2007, 1:18
0xp
Bumpety-Bump! Righteous Sub!


Random Idea Seed View All Idea Seeds

Blood Lover!

       By: Murometz

Forsht Bligo is a dwarf who loves the taste of blood. He's become quite the connoisseur over the years. Pigs blood, sheeps blood, cow's blood, if it's red and warm, Forsht considers it a delicacy. The fresher and hotter the better. Forsht will often sneak up on cattle, prick them with his dagger, and catch the flowing blood in his orc-skull drinking cup. His life goal is to taste the blood of every living animal. Although he has not yet sampled humanoid blood, he is not averse to doing so if the right opportunity presents itself. He is not particularly unpleasant if approached and can be easily befriended. Its just that he simply can't get enough of the "Juice of Life", as he calls it. Forsht's troubles come in the form of frightened and angry villagers who have proclaimed the misunderstood dwarf a vampire. Since Forsht is amused by this, he does little to dissuade anyone. This will lead to some dicey situations for Forsht in the near future.

Ideas  ( NPCs ) | February 19, 2006 | View | UpVote 2xp


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