Setting A remote town in the nation of Parna that is effectively ruled by a peasant Sheriff.
The story thus far.
Outside of town a couple of miles is the house of Shawn the Carpenter., and although Shawn has been dead for eight years now his legacy and legend still persist throughout the nation of Parna. This persistence of Shawn’s fame is in no small part due to the continued exsistence of his house. The house is Shawn’s life work and his great master piece. There is no other house like it in all of Parna country side. The Miti-rangu peasantry have covered the nation their in sod house, the Ivanol have been building their sturdy long low stone homes since before the Miti-rangu arrived, and the low born Ator, if they are inclined to build their own homes, generally construct them out of mortar and rough cut logs. But Shawn built his home almost entirely out of cut and dried lumber, and then paneled both the inside and outside of the house with stained and finely engraved lumber. Any one of the panels is a master piece of woodworking. Engraved roses climb in relief parallel to the stone chimney, the frame of each door and window depicts a story for the mytho-historical traditions of Parna before the Ator invasion. The house does not just contain master peices but is itself a master peice.
The town has never truly given over, on a cultural basis anyway, to the Ator’s feudal rule and many of the old traditions still remain. The town still elects a Sheriff, land and houses are still treated as if they are owned its occupants, Bell’ra is still worshipped and though coin is no longer minted the peasents still hold market days.. And Shawn’s house is a simple of that life, when peasents owned the land and the land did not own the peasents. While the people do have a Lord, he is of a more martial than economic nature, and prefers to make his living with the lance rather than with a ledger.
Shawn was an Ivanol, but chose to live in a Miti-rangu community and take a Miti-rangu wife: Rehema. Rehema still lives in the house alone. Both of her sons never returned from the war, but her youngest daughter still lives in town and his married to the family of the current Sheriff. The daughter visits close to once a week and the mother often comes into town for market day, but it is known the Rehema lives a lonely life.
It was not doubt Rehema’s need for company, and her good Bell’ra nature that inspired her to invite a traveler to rest the night in her home. It was early spring, and Rehema was working a basket outside her house when the man came strolling out of the woods with an empty pack and a toothless smile. He could not have looked more an Ator, red hair flying out from the sides of his head, skin pock scarred and freckled, a fur collar on his cape, fur boots, a brightly dyed shirt and riding trousers. And though he had no horse or lance, he claimed to be Knight of the realm and vassell of the local lord. He sprinkled his boasts with flattery, and wit enough to charm the company starved old lady. The man left two days later and took with him several pounds of dried meat, a bag of flour, a small cooking pot, to flask of oil and one her husbands old dirks. He had asked for none of this, but Rehema did not begrudge him it. Age had given her too much peace to care about such trifles.
A haunted house though is not a trifle, even to a woman as world worn as Rehema. The day after the young Ator left her was market day. When Rehema returned home the next morning she found her home had been abused. When she pushed open the front door part way put the doors swing was interrupted by soft mass of material. Pushing harder against the door, she managed to dislodge the pile of animal corpses stack in her entrance way. There were her two watch dogs, her three cats, a half dozen mice and a score of bats pile in front of her door. And though childhood instincts told her to be frightened by the small pile of death, she managed to quietly push aside any panic and proceed calmly. Placing her basket on the ground, she carefully entered the house and quickly threw open the shutters of the main room. It took her old eyes a minute to adjust to the flood of sunlight and she cautiously scanned the room and saw everything almost as she left it. A moment of pondering scene allowed her to notice the puddles around the room’s ornately carved water barrel. She took a step closer to the barrel to find that not only was it overflowing, but there was a rainbow of lamp oil floating on the surface. Looking into the barrel she saw her four lanterns and what might be every candle in the house drowned at the bottom of the barrel. Before she could decide what to make of that however movement caught her eye.
There was a dark silhouette on the wall. She turned to see what was blocking the stream of sunlight, but the room between her and the windows was empty. Spinning back to the wall she could still see the silhouette, and she frantically looked about her home to see what could be casting the shadow. Then the shadow opened its eyes, to opaque white panels in appeared in the dark form, and it reached out. Rehema stumbled, made dizzy by all her frantic movements. A high pitched hiss came from the middle of the room and a seeming untouched chair fell over as the silhouette along the wall darted towards her own shadow. Somehow the old lady made the door, but not before she felt an icy hand brush throat. Rehema got back to town her clothes torn and her eyes wild.
That day the Sheriff and his sons walked into the house. Not a minute later was the Sheriff attacked. His sons said they saw nobody, but their father collapsed. He did not die, but has not left his bed since that that day. He has remained in a state of half sleeping delirum, he refuses all food and water, and insists on near complete darkness. And his skin has been growing unnaturally dark and his eyes have gone white.
Chapter 1: Assessing the damage.
The Carrot: The PC are brought into clean up the mess. If they need a reason besides a haunted house and sickly town elder than perhaps than the following reasons will present themselves. 1) They are members the of the community with long standing relationships to both Shawn’s family and the Sheriffs. 2) One the PCs is a priest either local or traveling and the town people ask for his/her help. 3) The Sheriff’s youngest son gets desperate and petitions the lord for help. The lord’s steward decides something should be done about this and commands the PCs to investigate. 4) Rehema has some money hidden away, not much say 20 gold coins, but she will give it to the PCs if they can restore her to her home.
The Action: The first thing the PCs will have to do is determine what has happened. They will have to navigate through the various personalities involved in the incident and determine a course of action.
The Ghost The creature in the house is an undead beast, a Shadow, that feeds off the life force of living creatures. It is completely invisible except for its shadow, but it can wear clothing or pick up items. The creature is not injured by light, but it is uncomfortable in the light and will try to return to darkness when exposed to light. It can only be injured by powerful magical or heavily blessed items. (In game terms, we said +2 or better) In combat it does not use weapons, but will choke its victims. Physical contact with the creature cause a livings persons strength to be drained until contact is broken off. If the creature chokes the victim to death, than that victim is dead. If the creature completely drains the strength of the person before the person is choked to death than it will disengage and that person will be cursed. Over a period of ten days or so that cursed person will slowly turn into a Shadow. The new Shadow will retain its memories and personality at first, but over time most of that will be lost. This particular Shadow was a Miti-rangu farmer who was killed by an Ator knight during the war. He is no longer a truly intelligent creature, but retains only an intense anger at the Ator occupation. He haunted the house because the Ator man stayed there. He will stay there until the house is destroyed or he is killed. He will preferably kill Ator men but for the most part he is an instinctual killer and thus not very selective.
Rehema Rehema is a wise but stubborn old woman. Despite the loss of her sons or perhaps because of it, she does not see point to the ethnic violence that mares her nation. She wants her house back most of all, but will not take foolish risks to get it back and will always encourage calm rationale plans.
The Sheriff Sahuba of the Lake was large man in his 50s. He had been a bounty hunter in his youth, than married and took the job of local tax collector before the invasion. During the invasion he fought with main army, and was there when the King surrendered his Crown to the Ator prince. Five years ago he fought as a foot solider in the Wind Forest Campaign, and participated in storming the Castle of the Tyrant. After that campaign, he burned his pike and armor and swore never to march again. Though in recent years, Sahuba has been a calm man and leader of the community he is famous for his violent nature which is unusual among the Mite-rangu. As a young man he would beat his wife and once struck a priest of Bell’ra when he told him that the church was out of beer. Sahuba considers the town to be his and will not hesitate to issue commands to any member of the community. He does not trust the Ivanol peasants, and verbally abuses the Ator leadership. It is this constant critique of the Ator and insistence on keeping the old ways that make him so popular. The old ways serve him however in that he owns most of land in the town.
The Oldest Son Mubatu is Sahuba’s oldest living son at 23 years of age. He accompanied his father on the Wind Forest Campaign, but served as a Hereld for the Ator Calvary. He speaks Ator fluently, and has made several connections in the Ator nobility. He remember well his father’s violent past and still resents him for it. He knows that his father still retains a large horde of gold coins from his Tax collecting day, and plans to use the money to buy a marriage into Ator nobility once Sahuba dies. Mubatu has his father’s air of superiority and moral flexibility, but a great deal more emotional reserve. On the whole he is a charismatic but distant man.
The Younger Son Uthred is 20 years old and the husband of Rehema’s daughter. He is a high strung but decent young man. Like his father he is known to fly off the handle, but unlike his father he doesn’t have the violent nature. Instead Uthred is famous for giving indignant speeches punctuated by voice cracks and large but often misused words. As a result he will often make rashes choices that have cost him some respect in the community. He loves his wife adoringly, and slights against his wife or his family are the things that get Uthred most incensed.
Rehema’s Daughter Erin is 26 years old and looks very much like a Miti-rangu woman. She has the straight fine black hair, the dark eyes and tan skin. But she is considerably taller than most Mit-rangu women, and has the fuller figure of an Ivanol woman. When she was younger, she went to live with Ivanol relatives and learned much the Ivanol ways. She is familiar with tenenats of the Telmerase Cult, handy with a dirk and knows how to cast a few enchantments and divination. But after several years in the Ivanol world, Erin grew sick of the clan feuds, what she felt was an inconsistent spiritual life, and living on the edge of society. Most of all she was sick of the leather bodices and boots that dominated Ivanol women’s wardrobes. She returned to her father’s home only find that he had past on several years before. Determined to settle down, she went about looking for a husband. She found Uthred, and fell for him much to everyone’s surprise. She supports her husband in most things, and believes in him with almost mother like affection. But it is well known who sets the word in that house. They have a young daughter together, Shawna. Rehema is like her mother calm and thoughtful. She is not easily manipulated or intimidated and more than anything wants to live a quiet life with her family. Erin will help the PCs locally only.
The Ator A former groom for an Ator lord, he was granted his freedom once having Ator serfs became unfashionable. It was the worst thing that ever happened to him. He has no land, there is almost no work in Parna, and he is hated by the majority of Parna due to the color of his hair. He is a liar and a thief and though he acts confident and jolly he is really scared and hungry. He is on his way to the town of Parna’s Mouth where he hears of a group free Ator peasants have set up some kind of money making guild. He basically wants to survive. And though mistrustful of others he is a little lonely, and will be particularly open to conversation with other Ators of his social standing. He knows nothing of the ghost and if he is forced to go back he will try anything to avoid it.
Other Players The town will likely have another elder or important figure that will want to over see the resolution of this problem. Their should also be a cleric character that can detect undead and have enough knowledge of these matter to identify the curses and what will be necessary to defeat the Shadow (this good easily be a PC). There should also be a foreigner or traveler who can direct the PCs once they leave the areas (This could also be a PC).
Chapter 2: The right course of action is always a road trip.
The Carrot: The PC have figured out one or another that the house is haunted and that the Sheriff is cursed. They should also have determined that they need special weapons to defeat the creature. Somebody either and NPC or a PC determines that the best way to deal with both of these is to travel a temple of Droven. Problem is Droven is a dwarfish god and his temples are located in the Dwarf land far in to the mountains to the east. But their advisor feels certain that the Dwarfs can equip. them with weapons capable of defeating the ghost and lift the curse of anybody that happens to be curse. There is a good chance that if the PCs fought the shadow that at least one of them is curse as well. If a PC is cursed you should allow him to regain his strength enough to play while the curse runs its course. Mubatu and Uthred will insist that the PCs take their father to the temple so that he might get treatment as soon as possible. Both of the sons will offer to accompany them. Eventually Uthred will insist on it, and he will help outfit the PCs with Wagons and horses.
Day 1: The Rider After a the first day of a rider will approach them. He is man form the villiage and he says that it is urgent that Mubatu return at once. Mubatu will go back, and indeed it is Mubatu that arranged for the rider to come fetch him. Once back he will begin his bridal negotiation.
Day 2: The Naysayers. The Party should now start to see the massive mountains in the distance at every clearing and crest of the hill. The party will encounter (about midday) a traveling Knight and his squire. He will insist that the PCs take a meal with him, and he we regail them with stories of Ivanvil bandits in these words. Regardless of whether they eat with him or not he should also notice the infected person in the back of the wagon. He will warn that they are carrying an unholy beast and try to kill the infect man unless the PCs can talk him out of it or enchant him in some manner to the contrary. He should be fairly weak willed.
Later in the day they reach of the foot of the mountains right around sunset. They are at the bottom of giant switch back trail they encounter a pair of Ivanvil hunters. The hunters will warn them not go up that road, because the ridge at the top of the road is cursed.
Day 3: The Ghosts
The next morning they will cross one last river among the foothills and become confronted with the long road into the mountains.
They should reach the top of the switch back at the end of the day. At the top of the ridge the PCs will encounter a low wall that can serve as wind shelter during the night. As it should be windy enough to hide most sounds. During the night the PCs will begin to hear voices, and the wails of suffering. It should sound like ghosts, but it is in truth three thieves (goblins or Ivanvil). They have item that allows for mystical ventriloquism and employ old fashion black faced and black outfit stealth. They will try and distract the PCs in order to rob them, not of everything but a few things. In the morning the body should be gone, he turned into a shadow over the night and is heading back home.
Game play Note: As I type this up I realize I have run this adventure three times with three different groups. Each time the response to the Ghosts was different. Normally I have the goblins run away if discovered, but the last time I ran this one two of the PCs managed to corner the goblins. The roles went badly and they made some poor choices and two of the PCs (including the healer) ended up being incompacitated. This encounter is not important to the plot progression and was only intended to shroud the Sheriff’s disappearance in a little more mystery, and make the journey seem hazardous. However, the journey should not be so dangerous that the players do not want to make the return trip.
Day 4: The Fog Maze
In the middle of the night the sky went black and there were no stars to see and when the sky finally lightens in the morning the travelers find themselves in a cloud. Visibility is limited to less then three meters and even at that distance things are hard to make out.
The road however is not a visible due to the fog, but the PCs should be aware that time is of the essence and they have to get to this temple before the curse runs its course. The fog maze is like any other maze with wrong turns, dead ends and hazards. There will be times when the road is no longer visible, when small trails intersect it, perhaps small streams or patches of lingering snow or ice will present hazards, and their will be spots were the road turns suddenly away from a cliff or drop off. Other items to encounter will be roaming groups of mountain goats, at one point they may hear the the sounds of giant wings in the air above,
Gameplay note I have run the fog maze twice and I have found it really boring to run each time. But what surprised me each time is how the PCs jumped right into it. If your PCs are the nervous type, than make a bigger deal about the sounds, it will give them a chance to role play out reactions. But on the whole this maze did not move the plot any and is essentially just filler.
Day 5: The Bridge
The PCs hopefully made it through the maze, and over the pass down into the pine forests of the dwarf nation. If the sheriff did not disappear the previous day, he will have be gone this morning. The road here is paved with cut stones, and the day is clear and bright. About midday they should start to hear the river, and by late afternoon they should reach the river. The river is at the bottom of small ravine, swollen with the spring thaw, violent and loud. Across the ravine is a large stone covered bride with belfry on top. The bridge has a thick gate of tightly woven iron bars with a huge heart shaped lock in the center. Hanging next to the gate and out bit from the bridge is a rope. Pulling the rope will ring the bell which will bring that Gate Guard which will allow travelers to pass through the bridge for a fee.
Waiting among the trees a few hundred yards off the road on the same side of the brigde as the PCs is the a troop of bugbears
(# should be dependant on PC ability). They are hoping to rob any travelers before the garrison comes out to open the bridge. The bugbears are not particularly alert and will only come out when they hear the bell rung. They will disengage from combat if they start to lose the fight, if they see the dwarf garrison approaching or if the PCs cross the river. The Bugbears generally arrive within ten minutes of the bell ringing and the dwarves within 30 minutes. The bell is loud but its effectiveness could be questioned by the PCs against the noise of the river.
Of course getting a wagon or mounts across this bridge would pose no obstacle to a good thief or properly prepared mage, but then the PCs would then be criminals. And 1 mile up the road on the other side of the river is the dwarf garrison. Even if the PCs break through the bridge they may be able to negotiate settlement with the dwarfs. As to the toll, the dwarf nation actively uses a coin currency and the fee is one silver piece per pack animal crossing the bridge and one silver piece per four people (or whatever). If the PCs do not have any coin they will have to try and negotiate a trade.
Days 6-7: You can’t be ambushed everyday
Once in the dwarf lands, assuming the PC are not fugitive, the party should be able to travel unmolested to the Temple. There the PCs will have to make their case for aid, if no PC is willing or qualified to make the case than Uthred will make the plea for aid. The dwarf priests will lift the curse. The Droven Priests will give the PC a box containing four cut stone daggers and four golden holly sprigs. To use these weapons the four sprigs must be placed at corners around the area containing undead creature, and within that area defined by the sprigs the daggers are imbued with ability to strike any undead creature. Further more as long as the sprigs are left undisturbed than the undead will be unable to leave the area defined by the sprigs.
Being that the PCs will now be in dwarf a city, and perhaps even staying at an inn. This would be a good time start laying the seeds of the next quest.
Days 8-13: A pleasant spring pony ride
The PCs travel back the way they came this time without incident, encounter or bad weather until they reach the wind shelter at the top the ridge. There they meet two villagers who have traveled up the road to find the party. Apparently the Sheriff has returned to town, but has stayed confined to his home, and communicated with the town only through his oldest son. Those who have seen him say that he was sitting in a dark room with a clock pulled around his face. Many of the villagers think that it is not him, and the Mubatu has found an impersonator so that he run the town as his fathers proxy. The PC should be able to piece together what happened.
Chapter 3: This is nothing a well adjusted family can not work out.
The Carrot: After the PCs use their items to dispatch the Shadow in Rehema’s house they then determine that they have a new problem. Sahuba has become a Shadow himself but is only slightly aware of the change, and is refusing to accept the fact that he is dead. And even if convinced that he is dead he will see no reason as to why this should keep from carrying out his term as Sheriff. In addition to the obvious natural laws he has broken, there are other problems. Since his return, one day after he disappeared from the trail, two village elder have been found dead in their beds. There were signs of a struggle but no tracks, witnesses or broken latches. Also the Lord of the County became afflicted with a terrible fever while hunting near the village and has since that day not left his keep. If these are not enough reasons to motivate the PCs to act than other ones will arise.
Mubatu wants his father out of the way, and even more so he has become an undead monster. A fact like that could ruin his reputation with the Ator and sink his chance of socially uplifting marriage. He will promise the PCs payment if they will dispatch it, but Mubatu himself is too wise to fight the old man himself. However, he has become desperate enough to dispatch any normal person that stands in his way, and that includes his brother. He will also use the PCs attack as opportunity to steal his father’s gold.
Uthred wants to stay loyal to his father despite his changed shape, and so does much of the town. No matter what Uthred cannot bring himself to betray his family. But Erin see this as problematic at best and will try her best to convince the PCs to dispatch her undead father-in-law.
The action: A move against Sahuba will have to be stealthy in that he has the support of the town. If they attack him directly, then they will have to deal with several good but confused towns people who will defend him. Uthred will also try to defend his father. The crux of this conflict is that Mubatu is right for all the wrong reasons, and Uthred wrong for all the right reasons. But the PCs will be asked to join both sides.
Note about Game play Last time I ran this the PCs were confused as to what to with the undead Sahuba or how to handle Uthred’s loyalty. And I think they were disappointed the climax didn’t involve a great deal of combat. But rather relied on having them cope with the divided loyalties of the town. If the PCs want a more climatic battle. Than have Sahuba retreat to the Lord’s Keep. Their the Lord has just become a Shadow and still has a hand full of man at arms to command. Sahuba and he will form an alliance and the PCs will have to enter the castle, defeat the Ator soldiers and the two undead fighters. This will also provide the opportunity for more treasure to be gained.