Heart of a warrior
The death of a true legendary warrior can leave a scare across the land, for such a heart is so strong that it can never die. If the heart is not given properly to the gods that it can reach out to the souls of others and draw them back from the dead.
Plot setup: The priests of Droven (home spun dwarvish god, but any religion with a strong anti-undead theology will work) have recently recaptured
The Heart of Complee. Complee is a long dead human king and general responsible for doubling of the Kingdom’s land area and the defeat of the last established Orc kingdom, (but again any famous warrior will do). His Heart is contained in a holy chalice or jar which prevents its influence from being felt by the dead, and also resists divination magic. A group of the priests and perhaps paladins are transporting the heart to their scared Citadel along a lonely mountain road. They are attacked. They’re attacker is a single masked human man of immense speed, power, and skill who manages to over power the Holy men and make off with the relic. This is a likely point were the PC may enter the game in order to track down the relic.
The Carrot: The PCs will find out, based on descriptions of bystander, survivors, magic or informants that the man who stole the relic was named Root of the Lower River (or whatever). He is a commoner from the neighboring human kingdom of Parna. And though he has no land or rank he does have a reputation as a peerless warrior, constant bully, sometimes thief and complete scoundrel. Root is a mercenary who will sell his powerful sword arm/s to any who will pay. The PCs will now begin tracking Root, who due to his fame can’t go anywhere without being remembered or at least noticed.
The Hook: Why would the PCs care about chasing a deadly warrior with a powerful object across rugged country side and international borders? The simplest reason is that the PCs are priests of Droven who either survived the attack or are sent by the church to reclaim the relic. Conversely they could be a formerly associated with Root, and are looking for their piece of the action. Or they could be looking for the relic itself for their own reasons.
Part 1: The Trail
Chapter 1 -Police Work: The heart was being transferred to its resting place by five Priests, all armed, armored and experinced. Despite what should have been large deterent the part was attacked, over powered and the item stolen. The attack started with a volley of cross bow bolts and ended with Root entering a mellee against the priests. Root left at the scene a five shot crossbow, a unique item. With in the dwarvish kingdom there are only a handful of craftsmen capable of assembling such a thing. This particular crossbow was crafted by a dwarf Guildfriend of the Clan Lymespike who resides in the dwarvish seaport of Ironspear. Independent on how you want to stretch this out the party should eventually get in contact with Guildfriend. Guildfriend reports being robbed of the item by two human men in a daylight break in. One man was captured, tried and convicted by the courts of Ironspear. The other fits the description of Root. Roots former companion has been sentenced to death for his crime, and a sentence which will be carried out very soon. He claims however to know where Root was going (the dwarvish courts didn’t care at the time of his trial), and to be able to lead the PCs (assuming this character is not a PC) there if they get him off the hook. Again depending on the nature of the PCs they can either negotiate the release of the man to serve the greater good, break him out of jail or perhaps something I haven’t thought off. Root’s companion knows that he was hired to steal the relic by portly mage in the neighboring Kingdom of Parna. He can't provide any more of a description than that because although the man was with Root when he met with the Mage twice in Parna the mage looked different both times. There was something about the Mage the was similar in both encouters, voice presence and movement, but all the details were completely changed. They met the mage first at small town calle Ogre Mill, just across the river from a brothel that they lamented not visiting, and the second time at large Church of Bell'ra just inside the human lands.
Root stole the crossbow solely to assist in the attack on the priests (Droven priests are not aloud by there religion to use missile weapons of any type). Furthermore, Roots deliberately abandoned his campanion once he had acquired the crossbow. He doesn’t know exactly where the mage and Root were supposed to meet except that it was west of the capital city of Parna’s Throne and somewhere along the Strong Arm of the River.
Chapter 2-The Chase: Armed with this information the characters begin to pursue Root across the Dwarvish kingdom and down into the human realm of Parna. Lots of random wilderness encounters could happen here, and they might even catch up to Root now and then but not be able to over take him. (Either they lose the fights or it results in a stale mate) Root should be a very powerful and clever foe, while he may not have the greatest mind for abstract thinking, he is a natural warrior. Most importantly however they should hear word of Root’s passing from the people they meet, these stories should reinforce Root’s reputation as a warrior, and undead encounters will help to keep them focused on what they are chasing. A properly paranoid PC would attribute this to the chalice being comprimised. (Although Root has not cracked the chalice and the undead encounters are merely coincidence) At any rate if you have no desire to have random encounters, attenuated combat or excess role playing you can just skip to the next part.
Part 2: I wonder if this will become relevant later?
Chapter 3- Swindler’s at Parna’s throne: Parna’s Throne is a mess of a city, it stretches across the Strong Arm of the river Parna for miles (the river runs east to west). The original “city” was nothing more than a keep located on an island some 100 yards off the northern shore. That Keep (made from an ancient and forgotten form masonry that involved partially melting uncut stones together so the wall looks like a bunch of fried marbles or natural conglomerate) is still there. The Mitirangu lords of the city later built a second fortress made of earthan walls and trenches on the northern bank. That Fortess was also isolated from the main land by the construction of a large mote. Thus the second Keep is also on a form of island. Later, as a town sprung up, and Dwarven stone masonry became available a stone wall was built in a semi circle along the bank with new keep at its geometric center. As the PCs approach the town along the river road as they would be certain Root did, they will see three large bronze statues standing in the middle of the road. The largest and central statue is of a man on a great horse with a javelin raised over as if to hurl down at the approaching travelers. On his head is a crown, and this a representation of Parna. Parna is the mythical historical founder of this kingdom who did everything a mytho-historical hero should and for which they named everything after him. To his right and behind him is a statue of a tall slender man with a pike leveled to receive a charge. This is his younger half-brother Uthred. To Parna’s left a tall thin man with his face mostly hidden in a hood is represented, his gaze is centered downward, and his arms are at his side. In his right hand is a short sword and in his left hand a tightly wrapped scroll. That is statue of Kress the mystical warrior who accompanied Parna. These are their ceremonial monuments since few know where they are actually buried or what they really looked like.
All this background is explained to them by the kindly old man who they quickly catch up to on the road just as the sun is setting. The old man is actually a highly trained thief in disguise. He will attempt to get their story and quest out of them. In particular he will want to know what the chalice looks like. If he gets this information he will suddenly remember that he saw a man with such an object just the other day. In fact he will come clean (sort of), he will throw of his disguise and admit that he wished to pick their pockets but after hearing there story claims to have remembered something. He says that Root is hold up in a crypt located in the cemetery on the other side of town, and that Root has been extorting money from his thieves guild. And that he would be happy if they would take care of him right away. This is also a trick.
: The thief explains where they need to go to find Root on the other side of town, and encourage them to go tonight since Root would likely have been drinking all day. The thief then leaves and set his plan in motion. He quickly constructs a fake chalice and with a gang from his thieves guild descends upon the cemetery in time to ambush the PCs. The thieves surround the PCs and make this offer "
For all that you have will we give you this chalice, it is ours for we have stolen it from the thief you look for. Thus we are guilty of no crime, and deserve a reward for our heroic efforts. Give us all that you have of value, and if you try to attack us I will open the chalice among all these dead and send us and this whole city to hell."
: The PCs don’t let him go or don’t describe the chalice. The thieves still descend on them, but one of the other thieves has a sack that he claims to contain the chalice. They make a similar demand.
: The thief gets nothing out of them, and relates only the story of Parna.
The goal of this side adventure is to tell the PCs of Parna and his companions and to remind them of chalice’s power to raise the dead.
Chapter 4-The mounds, the beast, the priest, the corpse and his whore: After Parna’s Throne the PCs continued to head along the Strong Arm of the River Parna until they come to the branch of the BayamMiti forest and the town of Parna’s Cradle (http://strolen.com/viewing/7761). The town is unusually full of Inns, warehouses, travelers and what passed for bureaucrats in a feudal system Parna’s Cradle is a crossroads of sorts that has turnpikes at all the roads so that taxes may be collected from travelers and is also a river port. At Parna’s Cradle the PCs should discover a whorehouse where two days ago one gigantic man totting dwarvish pottery refused to pay his tab last week. Root had stayed at the whore house for days running up a tab. This is actually where he made the exchange of the relic with his employer, and received a new contract from his employer. Root then headed North into the Bayamiti to fulfill his new contract. His employer managed to enter the town stealthily and leave stealthily. Yesterday a few of the whore’s caretakers/pimps drank up enough courage and went North after him to try and collect the money.
Root’s behavior at the whorehouse is the talk of the town (or at least the underside of town) it shouldn’t be hard for the PCs to find it out. The whore who got stiffed will agree to go with them if they ask. The trail will reveal two tracks and sets of camps (one older one belonging to Root and a newer one belonging to the caretakers). After two days of travel it will start to rain very hard, and destroying the trail. But the PCs will come across the bodies of the caretakers. Cleaved with a great sword like Root’s, and there is a quickly disappearing trail leading into the woods away from the bodies. After a short distance the trail is gone but there is slight glow of a fire up ahead. What the PCs encounter is the ruins of a fort built very much like the original keep at Parna’s throne.
: The keep really isn’t visible any more, being entirely overgrown, and actually looks like a shallow crater. Inside the Keep (really just four walls) there are three oblong mounds (made of similar stone but overgrown as well) and in the corner a troll/giant/ogre/ whatever is roasting part of a caretaker over a fire in a crude shelter. The creature wields a large sword, and combat ensues. The mounds are actually the graves of Uthred, Parna and Kress but they are unmarked. Digging them up will cause problems see Part 5. The next day, the PCs encounter a priest with a wagon heading north alone. He says that he received word of unidentified corpse in an isolated town to the north. This town is an island of safety in the other wise untamed wilds of the north. No nobles have taken land up there and the journey’s to and from the town can be a dangerous journey. But the local Holy man has no skill in interning the bodies and souls of the unknown dead, and therefore sent a pigeon south requesting a man of Droven. Thus this priest (a member of Droven’s human sect or whatever fitting religion) is heading north alone to intern this body of strange man. If this isn’t enough to convince them to go north they can find more evidence of Root’s camp sites that survived the rain storm. The town is large for a farming village and prosperous but contains no inn or general market place. There is no noble nearby so they all live as free peasants. It is as idyllic as the smurf village. The town people believe they are protected by a goddess who resides in the great lake several miles north of them. The talk of the town is that they saw and left alone a body that resembled Root. And Root’s body this most certainly is, his great sword still gripped his hand. But his body is terribly mangled. It should look like he lost a fight with a dragon which he did. He may have several magical items and some gems with him. There is no chalice.
The lake is actually inhabited by Good Dragon (what ever chrome you prefer) who was granted this land ages ago in a quiet agreement with King Complee. The Dragon prefers to keep “her people” out from under the thumbs of local lords. Normally she enchants or tricks any challengers but Root turned out to be serious threat. If the PCs are diligent in their search for Roots attacker they should eventually find the Dragon.
: The PCs have Root corned in the Keep. He is slightly wounded from the battle with the pimps and slaying the large troll (which he is burning) that was residing the Keep. He has also taken off his armor so that he may dress his wounds. If he is cornered Root will open the Chalice to cover his escape or he may inadvertently open it. If the PCs magically or stealthily secure the chalice in some fashion they will find that it has been cracked and the seal damaged (during the battle with the Troll). Proceed to Chapter 6.
Part 3: Getting to the heart of the matter
Chapter 5: “The guilty party is in this Castle” -The next step the PCs should follow will be to journey south to Duke Morton’s caste. Depending on you and your PCs preference this could be an elaborate piece of intrigue or fairly straight forward. At any rate the Duke did not hire Root for any task. The Duke’s chief advisor is an elderly sage and mage who has been tutoring the Dukes youngest son. And it was the indeed the Duke’s son who contracted with Root to steal the heart and kill the dragon. He paid root with gems he stole from the family jewelry, and if any gems were found on Root they could be identified by Duke Morton. The
Heart of Complee is for a spell that grants eternal youth and life, and the death of the dragon was also for spell components but also so when the Duke’s youngest son outlived all his older brothers he can expand the holdings of his Duchy. These spells have been secretly copied from the wise old mages spell books to the Duke’s youngest son’s spell book. Whether or not the Duke’s son intended to cast those spells or not each spell is accompianed with detailed description of the Dragon at Complee’s Lake and the
The Heart of Complee. By all accounts the youngest son is callow, foolish and also a very poor mage.
In essence the young son is a fan boy. He is obsessed with the stories of Parna and a search of his belongs will reveal several Parna myths that he has rewritten with himself as a pivotal character. He also written a series of edicts he will deliver once he becomes Duke and a speech he intends to deliver at his coronation. His bravery is largely in his head though and if he thinks the PCs are beginning to get close to him he will flee the castle. He is heading for the mounds in order to resurrect Parna and his companions to supply him with an unstoppable fighting force, and finally bring to reality his fantasy.
Chapter 6: At last the Plot- The Chalice has been opened outside the mounds but nothing happens right away. The timing of the arrival of the undead should be coordinated for a balance of PC survival and dramatic effect. But ideally the undead rise while the PCs are away, and each goes his separate way and will lead to a different adventure. The PCs should not remain ignorant of the raised legends for long and will have to track each of the down.
Uthred: This encounter should work as an anticlimax. Unthred’s trail is one of stench and disgust, plant life around him grows weary and grey, no animals are to be seen, and he can be smelled from miles away. However, when the PCs encounter Unthred they find him weeping over his own reflection in a pool of water.
Resolution: He does not want to be this hideous man/beast and wishes his life to end. . . again. He will beg the PCs to put his soul to rest and if they refuse he will force their hand through combat. But his goal is too lose the fight.
Parna: Like Complee, Parna’s heart is strong enough to raise the dead and attract the undead. And once that heart is removed from his consecrated grave and moving about undead begin to flock to Parna and bend to his will. Unlike Unthred, Parna does not have as much trouble with being dead. And indeed Parna sees no reason why being a death knight should prevent him from being King. Thus he and his growing legion of undead are marching on Parna’s throne.
Resolution: This is tricky and could be an on going quest. But solutions may range from defeating Parna and cutting the heart out of his chest, in listing the aid of a good dragon, convincing him to rule by proxy through his relatives and excepting exile or convincing Parna that his plan cannot succeed and he will destroy his kingdom in the process.
Kress: Kress is a lich. And unlike Parna and Uthred there is no reasoning with him. All he wants is the love the Princess who he fell for hundreds of years ago. And after hundreds of years in the ground he will go to any length to possess her.
Resolution: Stopping Kress will likely come last because he doesn’t exhibit the threat that Parna does and is capable of much more subtle movement than Uthred. Some investigation into his past may indicate his love for the elfish woman, and the PCs may be able to head him off at the pass so to speak. They may also be able to enlist the help of the elfish princess in setting a trap for Kress.
Notes about running:
When we ran this we had a partnership between a dwarf priest who survived the attack by Root and Root’s former partner. We also had a bard character who wished to use the heart to raise his undead love. So essentially we had three characters built up entirely for this campaign, but we also had two characters who had survived the previous campaign who were straight up “bring it on” adventures. They eventually got so frustrated with Root that their personal quest was just to kill him.
I went with option A of chapter 4 and they were upset that something else had killed Root, and could really care less about the motivations who ever was stealing the chalice. The two “bring it on” character weren’t helmed by the strongest role-players in the group either, and they had strong meta-gaming tendencies. And when they thought they’d have to chase some low level spell chucker instead of a high level warrior, I almost had a walk out. It was tough to switch the character’s motivation from finding the Chalice and defeating Root to defeating the undead. I think the switch is problematic.
The chalice: This is dwarvish, and it has to look dwarvish. What ever that may look like in your world
The Heart of Parna: Parna’s heart is essentially the same as Complee’s heart as far as magic items are concerned. But it also grants Parna the ability to control the undead he creates.
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CodexThe Priests of Droven ( Society/ Organizations ) Religious - Regional
The Priests of Droven are as near a thing the Dwarf city states of the Ven (Barrier) Mountains have to a central government. They enforce laws, arbitrate disputes, monitor trade, intern the dead and in all ways keep chaos at bay.