Post Mortem, Darkly
Intro for the players:
Heroes of might and glory, the very stuff legends are made of. Such were the adventurers at their peak. Unfortunately not all tales end well, and one day they all perished in the final battle.
But this is not where the story ends
Rather it is a new beginning, for this is how a great tale begin:
Post Mortem, Darkly.
Sealed in the moist soil by the avatars of the GateKeeper; insects crawled all over their faces, earwig-like and translucent. They were T’Schint bugs, the ghastly insects so commonly found in this spirit realm; crawling into ears and nostrils, skittering randomly about on their partially revealed faces. For they thrived on the panic and suffering of the fallen, drawing spiritual energy from their anxiety.
No matter how much they screamed, no one heard or at least, no one bothered. For these were the Halls of Waiting, the endless plains, the domain of the GateKeeper of the Gods, and he would come when he had time.
Then, with the abruptness of shattering glass, a bitter-sweet honey taste suddenly filled their mouths and their spirits were unbound, free to crawl up from the soil - their shackles burst. To the angered droning of the T’Schint bugs and to the infuriated scream of the Gatekeeper they flew to the dark and clouded skies. The chained hooks of the Gatekeeper shot after them, connecting and entrenching deep in their flesh, but they could not be stopped.
Then there was silence.
They were awake now.
Dead no longer.
First all was dark, and then their eyes opened to reveal an individual with piercing grey eyes and black hair crouching by their side, softly sucking on his white meerschaum pipe, only to release a wispy cloud of smoke, the fumes thick with spicy scents. They could hear the beating of the heart, as well as the beating of the heart of the man behind him, partially hidden by the shadows of a nearby crypt entrance. The bald man in the background undoubtedly thought he was hidden, but he was not, for they could see him, smell him and hear him more vividly than they had ever sensed anything before.
As should be obvious by now, the PCs have been awoken from the grave. Using a mixture that includes the herb BlissMort and the geases of the mage Karol, the one hidden in shadows behind the meerschaum smoking man, they are now powerful undead in the service of the Meerschaum Smoking Man. Whether or not the PCs have met with, and possibly been double crossed by, the Meerschaum Smoking Man before is up to the GM, but it would strengthen the plot considerably.
As for now the Meerschaum Smoking Man is in dire need of their services and their unique skills, which is the secondary reason why he went to the trouble of resurrecting them. The primary reason being that he has absolute control as he holds the keyphrase that will release them back to death, for the work he intends for them is dirty indeed - suited for the children of the night.
The keyphrase: Eldanaras Ulfath will sever the bond between the PCs and their souls, while the first part alone, Eldanaras, will inflict severe pain and draining of energy in the PCs, which is quite handy for showing who is master and who is dog.
In the city of Lazhkmazhon, now under curfew for there is winter in the mountains, there is a woman that must be brought to him. She is under the protection of the clergy of the God of the Dead, and getting past the wards on the temple would be impossible for any living man, which is why the PCs are involved. It is imperative that this woman is not harmed, something the Meerschaum Smoking Man repeats over and over, but her child must be disposed off (he says this without remorse, just as a cold matter of fact).
GM info: Long ago the Meerschaum Smoking Man dealt regularly with the woman, one Selyn DeJaod, and with their dealings came love. He became infatuated with her, perhaps pathetically so, and she humoured him for a while, though she never returned his sincerety and affection. As he sought her love, he lavished her with gifts and he told her his most intimate secrets while they played in between the linen.
In the end she tired of him and went off, quickly finding her true love in another man, and with that man she bore a child. Four years have passed, but the Meerschaum Smoking Man cannot forget her, cannot forgive her and is frightened of the knowledge she possess.
So in the end he resurrected the PCs, bound them to his service. In the background Karol, the Spirit Mage, hands him two helmets; one for the PCs, one for him. These helmets were forged long ago, by the mages of long lost Andaur, and of the original set of four, only these two still remain, for the others have been lost a long time ago.
The helmets, dented and worn, allow communication between wearers and thirty minutes after every midnight he will don it, and so should one of the PCs, so they can plan and scheme and coordinate their efforts (and secretly, so he can eavesdrop or utter part or all of the keyphrase, should he so desire). However the communication works even when not worn, and the cunning (and sharp eared) PC might one night overhear a conversation on the other end; a conversation foretelling of his plans and of their pending doom.
The Temple and the Child:
In the city of Lazhkmazhon, which will be hard for mortal men to enter unnoticed in winter, the temple of the God of Death is a derelict building of stone and wood, barely more than a ruin, the thatched roof having partially caved in. To the keen eyes of the Shadow Revenants, runes are revealed, inscribed on every wall and every window, every door and every lantern. And they can see the deadly essence emanating from them, though they feel undaunted, as if the runes beckon and comfort, rather than threaten and kill.
Inside Selyn DeJaod will be easy enough to find, for she and her child is alone in the derelict building, as the priests are all dead and decaying. They could not, would not raise her fallen husband, nor, earlier, cure his disease, and day and night she lies by his side, rotting, bloated priests all around, crying for him to return. At other times she is pumping her veins full of drugs with a makeshift syringe, to take away the pain. Some nights she even mounts her beloved, drugged and miserable, confusedly believing he is alive again, and so she can be seen, atop the large, decaying man, whispering affectionate words of love and desire. She is truly fallen, with weeks old make up smeared on her cheek and dirt on her hands, as well as dozens of needle marks on her revealed arm.
GM Info: It is true what the Meerschaum Smoking Man said; for months she was their guest and the wards were lifted to allow her, her child and her man to stay unaffected at the Temple. In the end the priests were unable to cure him of his deadly disease as they had promised. At first she was paralyzed, shivering with convulsions, and then she blacked out. When she woke up only she and her daughter still lived, and the priests were all dead. She thinks she killed them, but she does not remember. She will be very hard to get any useful information from, and very easy to capture.
The child of Selyn and her beloved is a three year old girl with blonde curls and green eyes. She wears a tattered old dress and walks around the temple with her plush bear, shivering and talking to an imaginary friend. ‘Hey, come on mister, let us play hide and seek! It is your turn to find Silas and me!’ she will shout, seemingly to no one in particular, just as the PCs are about to capture her, and then she will run off, darting into tiny crawl spaces. (Silas is her plush bear).
This is no ordinary child. She is pure and innocent, the offspring of true love between extraordinary individuals. She is also cold, hungry and… delusional? She has been neglected by her mother these last weeks, barely surviving on the rotting foodstuffs of the priesthood.
And in this place of dying, a powerful spirit has been struck with something as rare as pity and affection, and it is talking to her, protecting her. This is her imaginary friend, whom she keeps referring to as mister or my friend. The spirit is mostly invisible, but to the PCs he can be felt as a dire presence they cannot pinpoint, but surely feel.
This then might be the most dangerous challenge of the scenario, as the PCs struggle to slay the girl, whose screams and stare hurt them, and whose imaginary friend and guardian is an ancient spirit of true power.
On the other hand, they might have mercy.
As the PCs finally catch up with the girl, no doubt having fought like madmen to reach her, she will ask them, in an oddly mature voice: ‘What does your heart tell you? Can you be saved?’ If they kill her, their chance of salvation is gone, and whatever happens next they are effectively dead (do let them play the scenario to its conclusion).
If they reply, whatever they reply and if they do not harm her, she might save them, indirectly through her innocence and her bond with the spirit. If they killed many people, they might be deformed or otherwise twisted (mentally perhaps). If they were gentle and caring, they will be restored to life with no strings attached. If this happens, the hounds of the Gatekeeper will not bother them anymore, for they have truly been redeemed. Likewise the keyphrase of the Meerschaum Smoking Man will no longer have a hold, though he does not know that.
Stirring the pot, aka plot twists:
- Chains of the Gatekeeper: At the beginning the players are informed of chained hooks being entrenched into their flesh. These are the shackles of the Gatekeeper, for he is not about to let them get away that easily. Thus, at daytime when they are at their weakest, the Gatekeeper will send a hunting team of minions to finish them off. The PCs will be warned by an intense searing pain where the hooks hit, and they will remember their flight from deaths realm in that instant. The nature of the minions is left to the GM to decide, though unlike the PCs they should be unfazed by sunlight.
- Sounds from the other helmets: The other helmets still exist. One is at the bottom of a river, and the other in a ruined castle. The river helmet is fairly quiet, but the chirping of birds can often be heard from the castle helmet. And, as mentioned earlier, the helmet of the Meerschaum Smoking Mirror man is also a source of noise, whether it be the snoring of the man, or the distant conversation, as from another room (the Meerschaum Smoking Man is not aware of the incredible hearing of the PCs).
- Keeping the woman alive. Selyn has lost the will to live and is sick. She cannot survive the cold without aid.
- Keeping the PCs alive. The PCs should overhear the Meerschaum Smoking Mans plans at some time during the scenario, preferably after the incident at the Temple. While they cannot double cross him easily, they should somehow avoid him until they have found aid. If they spare the child and kill very few, their chances of salvation are much higher than otherwise
- The PCs might be recognized, possibly in the act of killing, and the rumour of their fall and undead nature might spread. This will result in hunters come for them, their reputation gone from bright to night and in some explanation problems if they are saved from unlife.
- The mystery of the Temple: What happened at the temple? Was it the spells of the Priests that killed them, as they tried to exorcise the malevolent presence within the husband of Selyn? Did they themselves get infected and die, or was it Selyn herself that killed them in a moment of insanity and rage? Whatever reason, this might surely affect the PCs or even result in a side quest.
Info about the Shadow Revenant PCs*
The Shadow Revenants are undead with the soul bound within its rotting body. As the PCs are recently slain, their bodies are fairly recognizable and still bear the wounds given to them in their final battle. Their skin has turned dark grey, and their eyes all white with no visible pupils at all. They have been buried with their armour, spell books and weapons, as well as clothes and regalia befitting their former stature, though any potions, money and the like has been removed.
These Shadow Revenants retain the abilities they had in life, plus these modifications for being undead (some fairly standard undead powers, others not):
- Mortal vulnerability to the sun:
- Dire vulnerability to the stare and voice of innocents (meaning some kids mostly)
- Unease and nausea caused by hallowed ground and holy objects
- The only way to feed is by strangulation of living animals or people, though people give more and sweeter nourishment than animals. Most nourishing of all is the blood of innocents.
The Dark Revenants feed on the soul of the dying. By feeding they gain energy in some sense. (As I use Rune Quest, I use Magic Points). They can use undead powers by spending energy, but later, if they are to regain redemption and real life from the Gods, the deaths they caused will weigh heavily did they feast upon the death of the living, or only enough to keep going).
- They can deal frost damage merely by touching an opponent - Small energy consumption.
- They can teleport from shadow to shadow (very useful at daytime) - Moderate energy consumption
- They can breathe lethal noxious fumes with a medium sized area of effect (much less effective where there are strong winds) - High energy consumption
- They drain souls by strangulation The soul is drained as the victim dies.
- Their ability to sneak and hide has been improved manifold, and even the clumsiest warrior can scarcely be heard.
- They are immune to cold, except being frozen solid (which would immobilize, not kill)
- They are vulnerable to soul affecting magics, as their spirits are bound to their body by frail enchantments
*Shadow Revenants are variants of the Dark Revenants associated to the Blissmort Toxin