The City of Dogs
Aralez is a moderately populated but prosperous city located on the edge of the Uncohr Badlands, and the Volrals Badlands. A single river, the wide and muddy Davendrell, runs between the two separate badlands, and is the main thoroughfare for people visiting the city. Two overland trade routes also intersect at Aralez. The Gilsea trade road runs to the south to the prosperous mining and mountain communities of the Gilsean Highlands, crosses the Davendrell at Aralez, and continues north to the largely open frontier that is the greater Uncohr Badlands. The Chillend trade road heads straight into the Volrals Badlands where it meanders through canyons and yardangs where its end was the now tumbled down ruin of Chillend. The city was abandoned because of desert encroachment, and is now little more than a crumbled ruin.
In the middle is Aralez, a desert city astride a turbulent and middy river, with a multi-racial frontier population and a peculiar interest in breeding dogs. There is a robust middle class in the city, and it is a free city, having no nobility or established royalty controlling anything. The hounds of Aralez are valued across the continent, species have been bred for various types of hunting, for tracking, for war, and even absurd breeds for showing and displays of wealth.
Business is booming in Aralez besides the dog business. Goods from the Gilsean highlands pass through the city, where they are warehoused, and either put on ships bound for the coast, or on the Chillend road, heading inland towards the capitol. This flow of jewels, precious ores, animal pelts, and more is a significant source of wealth and not one to be made light of. The Davendrell brings riverships down from the green and rolling hills of the Daven region loaded with livestock, animal goods like leather, and wool, and no shortage of foodstuffs like grains, root vegetables, tree fruit, and other such goods.
A major point of interest is the annual Tournament of Canines, where the various breeders bring their best for show. This is not just a show for local amusement, buyers from across the continent arrive to see what is the new breed, or to find fresh blood for their home kennels. Even the King sends people to find the next group of Royal hounds, or to make sure that the Royal Kennel has hounds as good or preferably better than the Aralez breeders.
It is quite the predicament now that several prize show dogs have vanished, abducted. The local high ranking kennel masters are up in arms, and several search parties have been launched to find the culprits of the dognapping and bring them to a violent sort of justice.
Enter the PCs
The PCs are brought in by whichever means is the most convenient to investigate this event. They can be directly hired by a consortium of breeders, or hired by the ranking kennelmaster, and it can be to protect someone's kennels from being poached, or to help find the missing dogs. Time is not on their side, and the dogs must be returned unharmed, if possible. Those responsible, they don't have to be alive when they are brought to justice.
The PCs should make some sort of plan, stage an ambush, lay a trap, whatever they do should be fine so long as it allows them to take the hook.
The hook is a group of disguised men who will attempt everything to evade capture and will flee into the desert, heading down the Chillend road, towards the ruins of Chillend. They should elude capture, having concealed horses, and familiarity with the yardangs of the Volrals. This should, however, lead the PCs to where they need to go.
Red Herring - The PCs might not attempt to track the dognappers and might head straight to Chillend, which is fine. The city is a ruin that has been overrun by the desert. Sand dunes have crept over walls and pushed through doors and windows into houses. The main keep has caught fire, and only the sandstone walls remain. There is little of interest in Chillend, but a side-quest can be built around the ruins playing host to a dangerous monster, or a brigand gang completely unrelated to the dognapping. If questioned, the Chillend bandits know about the dog thieves, and know basically where they are laired. If the PCs keep heading into the desert, feel free to start throwing increasingly nasty things at them like sandstorms, desert worms, poison oases, pretty much anything but what they are looking for.
On the Trail in the Volrals
There is an ancient keep hidden in the Volrals, a citadel carved into the side of a mountain. This is a military outpost that is hundreds of years old, long abandoned and long forgotten. The citadel has eight levels, and a single main gate large enough for horses to pass through. The citadel is sparsely manned, but this won't matter to the PCs.
Moka Mozun and the Band of the Red Khaddin
Moka Mozun is a large humanoid wrapped in leather armors and is armed with throwing axes. These details pale in comparison to the leering oversized warmask that Moka Mozun wears. The mask has a fearsome warrior visage, and causes fear in those who see it. In combat, Moka Mozun is a competent fighter, and fights like a duelist, not a soldier or mercenary. He has a pair of magic axes. One can 'true strike' to disarm a foe, allowing Moka Mozun to remove a foe's weapon or shield. The other is a 'ghost' blade that ignores all non-magical armor. If defeated, Moka Mozun can crush a curious stone and will vanish is a pulse of magical light.
The Red Khaddin are a group of mounted warriors, clad in the same leather armor as Moka and armed with non-magical throwing axes. The Red Khaddin can throw small handbombs that make loud noises, create clouds of colored smoke, and stinking clouds. Rather than being a group of gruesome and vile bandits and killers, the Red Khaddin work to demoralize and force their foes to retreat, with frightening horses and other mounts being a specialty. If hard pressed, the Red Khaddin can escape by throwing smoke bombs and flash bombs.
The Battle at the Wall
If the PCs manage to overcome Moka Mozun and the Red Khaddin, they will be able to force themselves into the desert citadel and discover that what is inside the walls is much worse than what was outside. There are more men of the Red Khaddin inside, along with a maskless Moka Mozun. Unmasked, Mozun should be recognized as a man seen at the kennels, and is a surprisingly non-descript average looking fellow.
The Hounds of the Citadel and the Kennelmaster Gravven Hollard
Gravven Hollard is a likewise plain looking man, save for the vigorous scaring across his arms, bare chest, and neck. He has a large and powerful voice, more commanding than his frame would give credit to. He wears nothing more than a plain pair of leather pants and understated bravado. After he commands the PCs to surrender, commending their strength, he will offer them a place in the Red Khaddin, to ride as his lieutenants. If they agree, Hollard will drug them in a celebratory feast and lock them in prison cells and do what he pleases with them. If they refuse he will lift a gate and release his 'children' to attack. Hollard's children are the missing dogs.
Hollard's hounds were formerly mundane dogs but they are now infused and corrupted. They now have stats comparable to dire wolves, increased armor, and their bites inflict poison status. This isn't a lethal status, but rather causes nausea, disorientation, and lethargy. Fighting the dogs cannot be avoided once they are released, and they will fight until dead or incapacitated. This is what Hollard has been doing, he has been abducting dogs for years and has been breeding his own special breed of warhound, one specifically suited to being infested with dark magic.
Hollard is a werewolf, and when it is time, he will transform into a direwolf and attack along with his hounds. He is exceedingly dangerous, and cares for the hounds, his healing powers are impressive and if things turn south he will protect his hounds. In the melee, Moka Mozun still has his throwing axes and will throw a variety of spells to support Hollard, especially buffing spells to increase his strength and speed, as well as healing spells.
Gravven Hollard and Moka Mozun have to both be defeated, and the infested hounds have to be put down. There is little treasure to be recovered, and the fate of the missing hounds has been discovered. The fates of quite a few missing people can be laid to rest, along with their remains. Hollard made sure his hounds had a taste for human blood.
The main reward for Aralez is experience points. There isn't a happy ending, just closure and corpses. Hollard was just a werewolf who preferred the company of hounds over men. Moka Mozun was a rogue 'red mage' who followed Hollard out of long time companionship. The Citadel is cleared out, the Red Khaddin have been scattered, and there is plenty of mundane loot, plus whatever magic items remain from Mozun's arsenal.
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? Responses (3)-3
This could easily be the plot of a Conan story. The Bloody Hounds of Khaddin!
Interesting. Poor pooches.
Well-written, if somewhat straightforward.