Sunday, September 16, 2018

The One-Eyed Man and the Forsaken Ones (part 1)

This is a fully playable adventure for OSR D&D, based in my Nukaria setting.  Check the tags for other posts related to that.  This is only part 1, dealing with characters, places, and events.  The who, what, when, where and why.  There will be a part 2 with my statblocks for these characters and enemies, along with two "shovel-ready" dungeons.  But that will all come, in time.

The Hook.

The Queen of Cryanne is a recently elevated peasant, a commoner by birth with a gilded tongue for manipulation and sucking cock.  She wormed her way into power through the old King, and after silencing the more conservative elements of the Martial Class, the Wizarding College and the Church, became the de facto ruler of the Kingdom, even though technically the old King's champion is the Regent.  The reasons for this are two fold.  First, the King's Champion is a good man, but completely unsubtle.  The subtle movements of the Court are utter impenetrable to him.  He is a blunt instrument, through and through.  The second reason is this.  The Queen was elevated to her status when after appearing before the King, she told him she could spin cloth that was light as hair, yet made for the hard, impenetrable armor.  The King humored her for a while, but after she failed to produce any results, he had her thrown in a cell with a dawn deadline.  Literally.  But the next morning, rather then lopping off her head, she emerged with a formula that only worked under the rarest of astrological conditions and a shirt that looked like it was woven of shadow and moonlight.  And when the shirt proved able to protect the wearer from anything short of a flight of arrows, the King vindicated her and promptly married her.

However, in the months since the abdication of the old King, the Queen's countenance has become troubled.  At first the Queen's brother suspected this was merely because of her swelling stomach, and some discomfort caused by her pregnancy.  Then a strange One-Eyed Man has appeared at court, shadowing the elite of the Kingdom.  They all remarked on his presence, and all matter of ill omen was attributed to his arrival.  The Queen especially seemed troubled by his arrival.  Finally, the Queen's brother spoke to her, and upon hearing what had happened, was horrified.  He knew his sister was no Magic-User, she could not have made such a thing.  So when this strange One-Eyed Man had appeared, at first he had merely suspected that the Queen had blown him in exchange for him stealing the shirt and smuggling it into her cell.  When he found out the bargain the Queen had actually struck, he was horrified.

There are three months left before the Queen must make good on her end of the bargain.  But if she can find out the One-Eyed Man's name, she won't have to pay the grisly price.  The Queen's brother has no idea what it is, but he desperately needs you to find it.  You can name your own price, but if you don't have one, he is willing to make you Friends of the Queen, and heap gold and honors upon you.  If you succeed.

And one final thing to note.  The One-Eyed Man warned the Queen that knowing his name wouldn't help her.  All hope he was bluffing about this.

                                                                  by Nick-Zero

The One-Eyed Man.

No one knows his name, but he's been everywhere.  From the Merchant-Kings of the Young Kingdoms to the old Sovereigns of your Holy Cities, everyone knows who he is.  He appears to help people, to give them what he needs.  He always asks a ghastly price, though few will state what it is.  He also appears near and after recent catastrophes.  There are numerous bounties on his head, but he's never been caught for anything.  He is attributed many feats, some bordering on gruesome myth.  He is said to be a pervert and possesses a wicked appetite for all evil things.  But very people have any hard information on him.  One thing is known though.  He came from a desolate region to the Far South, from a group of people who only recently conglomerated with their neighbors into the Young Kingdom of Cryanne.  It's a region bordering on savage, with few resources and even fewer reasons to go there.

Additionally, unbeknownst to anyone as of now, the One-Eyed Man has returned to his homeland in the far South to perform a ritual for a lucky woman.  A Croning, based on the passage from beauty and youth to wisdom and maturity.  Once he has finished this ritual, he will then return to the capital, speak to the Queen and extract his terrible price.  He does not expect to encounter the players, but when he hears of them, and he will, he will enlist them in his purposes.   

The One-Eyed Man is the most important person in this adventure.  He is the one who will string the players along, and if you do it right, manipulate them into doing something despicable.  At first, he should only be a whisper on the wind, with people whispering and talking about him.  Secondly, he should start stalking the players, appearing where they least expect it, enough for them to catch a glimpse of him, but no more.  Finally, he should confront them.  His goal from this confrontation is not to kill them, but to manipulate them.  He will arrive and say something cryptic like, "If you've come to stop me, you're fools.  Better men than you have tried, and they're moldering in the earth now.  What hope do you have?"  Then he will mention, "The Opal Eye will be mine.  You cannot have it!  Then once I have it, no one, not even the Queen will be able to stop me."  Then he'll laugh maniacally.  He might fight them, he might not.  But he won't kill them, he'll toy with them.  This is because the One-Eyed Man cannot enter the Catacombs, because he is worried that if he does he will be trapped down there with no way out.  He wants to plant the idea in the player's heads to go retrieve it for them, then take it from them.

The Southern Borderlands.

Where the One-Eyed Man is from.  These lands are a rugged series of foothills and plains, where the people live in scattered, isolated villages or travel around, living in tents and setting up their pavilions wherever they see fit.  The primary occupation of most is to try and scrape by as a farmer or to herd livestock, particularly goats, sheep, and other hardy creatures that can survive on the sparse greenery and in such rugged terrain.  The people here tend towards chauvinism and conservatism, priding themselves on the fact that they live as their fathers did, carrying out their pure, unsullied traditional ways.  They can be quite friendly if you get to know them, but they tend to shun those who are undeserving of their affection.  As such, most reckless, rootless drifters (such as Adventurers) or spoiled, soft urbanites will earn only their scorn.  They'll take your coin, though they will always make sure to let you know that this is not your land, and you do not belong here.

Another thing to note is that this is a land littered with shrines and totems dedicated to the Gods of the Wild, and the Servants of Chaos.  Here, far from the Temples of the Law Gods on the borders of wild, untamed mountains, such things are still common, despite all attempts by the Agents of Law to expunge such practices.  If you know where to look, you will find that your God is not the only one honored here.  And while the local authorities pay little heed to this, despite the protestation of their Overlords back in the Holy Cities, there are also rumors of darker things that occur in these places.  Heresy and human sacrifice are said to be common place here, with strange, vile religions sprouting in the shadows of the Mountains, where masked cultists worship things not quite Lawful and not Quite Chaotic, freakish monsters that twist and melt reality like candle wax.  And while this is largely gossip, there may some truth to these stories.  This is another reason why no one sensible or sophisticated ever dares go here.

Things everyone knows about Cryanne's Southern Borderlands:
- The people here are staunchly conservative and opposed to change
- Alcohol is banned here, with strict penalties to those who would break the law
- They have a reputation for heresy, superstition and worshiping false/evil Gods
- Human sacrifice is supposed to run rampant through the place
- The people are hardy, well accustomed to the rocky wilderness in which they dwell
- They drink a lot of tea
- They practice arranged marriage
- Their women go about veiled, for cultural and religions reasons
- Some of the men do too, but these are for pragmatic reasons

The Southern Borderlands are an area with a danger level of 2.  Whenever the players travel through here, roll 6d6, one for each time of day: Morning, Afternoon, Evening, Dusk, Midnight, and Predawn.  Every time you roll a 2 or lower, roll on the random encounter table below.
Randon Encounters in the Rocky Hills

1- The One-Eyed Man.  He needs to run into the players anyway at some point, this could be as good a reason as any.
2- The Grey Mountain Ape.  This is a Hallucination monster.  The players can only encounter the Grey Mountain Ape have heard of it and they believe it is real.  If your players hear the story of the Grey Mountain Ape and do not believe it, they will never encounter it until they change their minds.  Instead they encounter a totem of the Ape, a carved wooden pillar with 1d30 silver worth of hand carved jewelry, some food and wine left behind as offerings.  Taking any of these is majorly bad luck, and the locals regard it as blasphemy, but it has no mechanical effect if you do not believe in the Ape.  If you do, then the Ape appears the next night and tries to attack the Thief or Thieves. 
3- Ikul and his "hunters".  They are armed with bows and arrow, long knives and spears.  They are out hunting game.  Ikul seems like a nice guy.  They will invite the players to come have tea with them.  They will tell them about the Grey Mountain Ape.  If the players seem vulnerable, they will put on their masks (wood covered in tin) and attack them, beat them until they stop resisting, tie them up and drag them to the Mountain Cave, to offer up as sacrifices.
4- Blowdog.  A small, doglike thing that looks like a living stuffed animal.  If approached, it inflates, doubling in size.  It will continue inflating like this until it explodes.  All adventurers know what Blowdogs are automatically, and will know to steer clear.
5- Flock of Crows.  These Crows, like all of their kind, can talk.  Crows cannot speak a direct lie, but they can lie by omission and cleverly misspeak.  As long as they do not speak a direct lie, they are fine.  Since Crows love to make mischief, they will fly over to anyone they see to talk to them and beg for scraps.  The Crows do know a lot, but much of it is gossip, idle speculation, or strange things the Crows overheard from someone more sensible.  Roll on the Crow sub-Table below to see what they want to talk about.  If you feed them something, they will start following you around for more food.  If you feed them enough, they might even be eager to do something for you.  If you attack the Crows, they will attack as a swarm, but they don't want to fight, just to harass you.
6- Corpsewood Tree.  Trees are rare in these parts, so the ones who manage to survive do so through pure spite.  This aura of darkness tends to attract disreputable men, who come to these trees to do despicable things.  Roll on the Corpsewood Tree sub-Table to see what this tree is most associated with.

Crow sub-Table: What do these feathery assholes want to talk about?
1- tell the players about something dangerous
2- tell the players about the Grey Mountain Ape
3- Tell the players about the Human Sacrifice that happens around here
4- Tell the players about how marriage is basically the same as human sacrifice
5- Tell the players about how raising a daughter is like specifically preparing a whore for another man
6- Tell the players about how adventuring isn't a real profession and they are just too stupid, immoral, or lazy to find a proper occupation.

Corpsewood Tree sub-Table

1- Sex Tree.  This tree is associated with acts of sexual conquest, whether willing or unwilling.  If anyone pauses to rest under this tree or passes by, a number of beautiful naked women equal to the group's number will appear and beckon them over. These women do not speak, but they will invite the other group to come engage in coitus with them.  If the other group refuses, they will attack the group with stone handaxes and their supernaturally long nails.  If killed, they are revealed to be shells of skin over wooden sticks and that they bleed red sap.  If the players do lay with them, the women will disappear immediately after.  Approximately 1 year later, the half-wooden children of the players who resulted from this coupling will appear before their parents and seek revenge.      
2- Murder Tree.  Someone got stabbed under this tree.  At night, a Ghost will manifest beneath this tree.  The Ghost is a warrior named Pentagoras.  He was an adventurer traveling these roads with his companions until they were attacked by a man wearing an eyepatch.  Pentagoras' companions traveled ahead to try and find help, but they never returned for him, and he succumbed to his wounds while they were gone.  As such, Pentagoras hates his companions and wants them dead.  Only after all of them die will he be able to move on.  He will ask any who seem martially inclined to assist him in this endeavor.  In exhcange, he will offer them his magic sword, which was buried with his body.  But he wants to see his remaining companions dead first.
3- Sacrifice Tree.  A human corpse is draped through the branches.  It has a golden necklace around its slit throat and a pair of rings on its hands.  Each piece of golden jewelry is worth 50 silver.  If you take them, as soon as the sun sets, the corpse will animate and, along with 1d6 other corpses that rise from their resting place among the roots, will proceed to hunt down the Thief and retrieve the treasures.  They always know where the Thief is, and will not stop until the Thief is dead and the treasures returned to their dead hands, or until they have been destroyed.   
4- Drinking Tree.  This tree produces delicious looking red fruits.  If you taste one, the fruits taste faintly of brandy.  If you eat one, make a CON save.  On a failure, you get drunk as if you'd just spent the last hour guzzling wine.  Effect lasts for 1d10 hours.

The Town of Icharis.

A small town, ringed by independent farms and a wall of hard packed clay, with a small moat full of wooden stakes and flammable tar.  The population here is homogeneous as a pod of toads, with nary a child to be seen, though there are many of pregnant women.  The locals all speak with a strange accent that makes them a bit hard to understand when they talk to you, and when they speak quickly amongst themselves, it is all but impenetrable.  Most of them will offer you a polite nod and a stilted greeting, but few will be willing to talk to you.  However, there are a few people who would be willing to speak to you.

                                                                   by hazeldarkman

Sella and Mayone [My-own-a].

These are the two servers who work at the tiny, disreputable tavern in the center of the village.  The owner, Zarvan, is only occasionally around and they usually have little work to do, so a bunch of exotic strangers will be more than enough to peek their curiosity.  Sella is a doting, almost motherly figure, and she loves to cook and if you let her, she will bore you stiff with stories of her children, now grown up and moved away. 

What she knows about the One-Eyed Man: He's very old, according to her.  When she was just a child she saw him walking down the path in front of her house, carrying what she guessed was a piglet in a sack.  Even back then, he looked no older then he does now.  Or at least, she assumes, since she hasn't seen him in years.

Mayone is the younger of the two, and much prettier.  She has an interest in exotic men, and will crawl under their covers if you let her.  This sort of behavior wouldn't be tolerated of any village woman, but Mayone is from another town over, so the locals just pretend it doesn't happen.

What she knows about the One-Eyed Man: He has no real interest in women.  Once she was nearly caught philandering with a swineherd, so she ran and hid in an outbuilding.  She ran into him there, smoking a hookah and watching over a mother pig, who was sleeping while her piglets ran amuck around her.  Despite the fact that she was barely dressed and clearly flustered, he seemed not to care, or even notice.  He also warned her that she should probably stay away from men for the next week or so, if she didn't want her belly to grow.  She has no idea how he did that, but it spooked her.  Since then, Mayone hasn't seen the One-Eyed Man, and has no desire to do.


Zarvan is the closest thing to a leader Icharis has.  He manages the other people in Icharis, oversees and arbitrates disputes, and handles anything else the village needs.  He's also a generous host, and if the party sticks around for too long or is too helpful, he will offer them one of his three daughters as a bride.  Assuming they can pay the price he offers them, of course, and seem to be good-hearted, successful men.  He also has a son, named Ikul, though Ikul is not around much.

Zarvan is also an expert on local legends and has much knowledge of the area, and if any Adventurer types show up in his town, he will ask them to look for the Grey Mountain Ape.  It's a beast that is said to come down from its mountain den to snatch disobedient children from their beds and newborn lambs from the midst of a flock.  Shepherds and dogs are no match for it, and rarely even see it.  He claims that it was recently seen near here, and has been a problem for years, eating travelers and those who stay out too late, or wander too far from the protection of town.  He will also offer to come along and guide them, or round up some men with strong arms if the party fears they need help.

What he knows about the One-Eyed Man: Ikul has a particular vendetta against the One-Eyed Man, though Zarvan doesn't know why.  He also knows that the One-Eyed Man has an unusual interest in the Palace of the Forsaken Ones.  Zarvan will tell you that the Palace of the Forsaken Ones is an ancient structure up in the mountains that many centuries ago was the home of a group of Sorcerer-Kings, whose cruelty and violence was unmatched.  These were the Forsaken Lords, brutal men who sold their souls to demons for immense power.  They ruled this land and many others for three centuries, but were eventually brought down by a group of heroes.  But with their last breath, they cursed their Palace and Treasures, and it is said that too this day, the Palace of the Forsaken Ones is infested with murderous ghosts who kill anyone who enter.  Zarvan then says that only madmen and fools would even think of entering the ruins of the Palace.    

                                           All the Elf-Men are cute as heck, and very attractive.
                                                                 by Renzus

           (All the armor of the Handsome Men and their Elf-Men allies is ridiculously impractical.)
The Adventurers.

They are a group of beautiful strangers who came from a distant land.  All of them are absolutely gorgeous, very polite, and dressed in strange, bizarre outfits.  The locals think they are terribly exotic, but they are also worried about them, as they believe they are Handsome Men, and thus are walking on egg-shells around them.  However, they have money and haven't made any trouble yet, so no one's rounded up an angry mob to try and run them out of town yet.

However, these Adventurers are not Handsome Men.  They are actually Elf-Men, Humans kidnapped, purchased or stolen as a child by the Handsome Men, and then modified to better suit their "big brother"'s needs.  They are riddled with cancers and defects on the inside, but outside they are shockingly beautiful.

Why they are here is a mystery, but the long of the short of it is this.  They are the Elf-Man equivalent of stray dogs, having run from their "older siblings" and fled into the Young Kingdoms, far enough away that they hope the Handsome Men will not bother sending soldiers to retrieve them.  This guess of theirs has proved fairly correct, but they are still looking over their shoulders for Man-Snatchers or slave hunters.  They will not say this, of course, but they will claim that they have many powerful enemies, and are just keeping a low profile.  This is also the reason they travel at night, or so they claim.

The Adventurers won't reveal this unless severely prodded, but they were hired by someone to investigate the Palace of the Forsaken Ones.  This someone is Cali, but they won't say this unless you really seem to be helpful.  However, Cali has asked them to delay for some time, so they are bumming around town, waiting for her to give them the order to go ahead.

Mesaline is the most social of the group.  She is beautiful, charming and friendly.  She hates making a fuss and is very helpful.  As such, when she arrived, wearing a partially translucent robe of silk with a low neckline, she nearly incited a riot.  As such, she has covered her hair and bosom with a black shawl of homespun.  This, if anything, makes her look more beautiful.

However, there is something you should know about the Elf-Men.  Like the Handsome Men, they dislike involving themselves in anything messy, dirty or violent.  They cannot bear to see others in pain.  However, these four are adventurers, and thus, a certain amount of messiness is necessary.  As such, the Elf-Men, like their Masters, develop alternate identities called "War-Faces".  For the Handsome Men, this usually involves magic and actual transformations, but for Elf-Men, it is merely a change of clothes, mannerisms, and usually a mask of some kind.  So if you catch them unprepared, the Elf-Men will just run away, get changed, and come back to fight you.  Make the most of that, but be warned, the Elf-Men are very good at running away.  And of course, if the Elf-Men are going into a situation they know is going to be dangerous and messy, they change ahead of time.

Mesaline's War-Face is one of the secondary types, as she is no Magic-User.  She changes her clothes out for a translucent catsuit of spun glass and lacquered mask of jade and wood.  The catsuit is magical and grants you the ability to apply double your DEX modifier to your AC, though only a small woman could actually wear it, and you would need another Elf-Man to modify it for you to be able to wear it.  Mesaline doesn't use weapons additionally, her knowledge of Handsome Men martial arts letting her fists strike as if they were d6 weapons.  She is a level 2 Boxer.              

Huella is the most maternal of the group.  Like all the Elf-Men, she is sterile, but they couldn't eradicate her motherly instincts, so she cares for the other members of the group as if they were her juniors.  This mothering is very appealing, and even Gorax likes it, though he'd never admit it.  She has also adopted a shawl to cover her long hair, but her otherwise conservative dress made her much more presentable. 

Huella's War-Face is a reflection of her conservative and compassionate nature.  She covers herself head to toe in clinging, rubberized leather with only small slits for vision and breathing.  This does look a bit like a gimp suit, by the way.  However, despite the restricted vision and tightness of the fabric, her accuracy doesn't drop and neither does her speed.  She fights with a telescopic sword concealed in a fat conductor's baton.  She is a level 2 Alice.

Pinoto is the cutest thing.  He is an excellent archer and a very beautiful creature, but years of comparing himself to the Handsome Men have left him with a very severe inferiority complex.  This makes him very self-effacing, self-sacrificial, and a bit cowardly.  As such, he prefers to follow other's leads and only attack those they have softened up first. 

Pinoto's War-Face is mostly body-paint, mixed with tight pants of dark blue silk, and arm bands meant to stealthily store more arrows (his weapon of choice is a bow).  He then paints himself the darkest blue imaginable, and covers his face with a mask that looks like a compound eye, dark lenses pointing in all directions.  This War-Face leaves his muscular chest exposed, a fact he finds endlessly embarrassing.  He was told not to change it though, as Huella and Mesaline both believe that would be an act of cowardice, and he is determined to show them he is no coward.  Pinoto is a level 1 Fighting Man.   

Also, a note.  Mayone has developed a crush on him, and as such, Pinoto avoids her.  He is too embarrassed to tell her that when he was made into an Elf-Man, the Handsome Men took his testicles.  The same is true for the other Handsome Men, though they were obviously neutered in other ways.
Gorax is the reason they travel at night.  He's vicious, brutal, and a good friend.  They like him and he likes them, though he would find it difficult to say.  He's a man of action, not words.  Also, unlike the others, Gorax is pure human, his features lacking the subtle artistry of Handsome Men.  Yet despite this, he still looks slightly off, and his touch is cold.

Gorax doesn't have a War-Face.  If violence starts, he will leap into the fray with no preparation needed.  Gorax is a level 4 Vampire.  He's stronger, faster, and can regenerate if he has blood.  His teeth can tear out someone's throat if he gets a grip under you, though all Bite attacks are made at -4, unless done against a restrained or helpless target.  He also wields a sickle made of glass that leaves ghastly wounds that do 1d6 damage a round until you take an action and successful check to staunch the flow of blood.  He takes 1d4 damage a round from sunlight, and if he is bathed in light, he cannot use any of his Vampire powers.
What they know about the One-Eyed Man: Not much, but Cali seems to admire him, for some reason.  He's also a bit of a local legend, but they don't really know anything about him.  They suspect he is a local adventurer who retired, and they hope to track him down and learn his secrets.

The Palace of the Forsaken Ones.

It's a massive, crumbling complex outside of town, perched on a distant, lonely plateau.  If you are standing in the right spot, you can see the tip of its stone roof poking out.  As you approach it, you will find its dense walls have been reduced to a few small hills and the thick foundations of what must have been impressive walls.  Beyond that, you will find a massive, seven story building not disimilar to an elaborate villa, with many domes and minarets and the like.  The bottom three floors of this structure are covered in a stone pyramid, and the base of the pyramid and the four corners are covered in magical runes to "Preserve" and "Strengthen" and "Repel Life" and "Harm".  Any living creature that tries to approach the pyramid starts to feel a sense of nausea that gradually builds to an overwhelming urge to puke.  About thirty feet before they reach the pyramid, they puke up everything in their stomach, and every hair on their body is standing straight up.  If they manage to reach out and touch the pyramid, they will find that touching the stone does 1d6 damage, no save, as anti-life energy surges out of the enchanted stone and blazes its way up their nerves, causing exquisite pain and no other effect.

There is one other structure on the grounds that is still standing, and it appears to be an elaborate church building, a small, hollow pyramid with an altar on top.  If you enter it, you will the interior degraded and water damaged, full of murals that have been mostly destroyed, some tarnished fixtures too large or bulky to steal, and dozens of statues of other, archaic Gods being tortured in graphic detail.  At the end of the nave you will find an altar made of black granite, with human bones set into the stone itself through some feat of magic or craftsmanship.  There is also a somewhat obvious door behind the altar, leading down into the Catacombs beneath the Palace.

Rayna [Ray-nah] the Priestess.

She is an older woman, her beauty full and ripe like a cornstalk.  She wears a translucent dress of reddish silk, and is quite attractive.  She will pretend to know who the players are, and will ask them to do something for her.  And if your players are anything like mine, they will immediately distrust her.  Don't fight against such a response, play it up for them.

Rayna will pretend to have been waiting for the players, claiming that she has long awaited a group of noble souls who would arrive at this place.  She will speak to them and try to figure out what their desires are, but if she has no idea, she will offer them three things, 1) the chance to be heroes, 2) the chance to obtain great treasure, or 3) the chance to obtain great magical power, as well as eternal life.  Rayna will tell them about the Forsaken.  She will say they are Demons of utmost power, who once ruled this land and others, but were cast down and imprisoned in their palace.  She will claim to be part of an ancient, long-dead order that has the sworn duty of guarding the Palace of the Forsaken, and preventing anyone unworthy from entering the Palace to potentially free the Forsaken.  She will tell them that while she would never abandon her duty, she is no longer enough.  She says that the Forsaken are slowly breaking loose of their bonds, and soon they will be free. 

Thus, she has been awaiting a group of heroes to come down into this place and aid her in her quest to finally kill the Forsaken, and rid the world of their evil once and for all. 

If the players seem unmoved by such a noble goal, she will tell them of the enormous wealth the Forsaken possessed, how they filled their Palace with the plunder of a thousand conquests, and how their ledgers overflow with stolen goods of all the great civilizations of the West.  She will also tell how they possessed great magical arms and armor, rare relics of the type not seen since the Age of the Gods.   
But secretly, Rayna is actually the exact opposite of what she claims.  The order that once shielded this Palace and attempted to maintain its defenses, Sejakis is its last surviving member, and the One-Eyed Man has seen that he is no threat to anyone.  Rayna is actually a member of the Forsaken's scattered cult, having finally returned for the Croning and to hopefully ascend to semi-divine status.  However, there is one catch.  She is a lowly Wizard/Scholar, and cannot brave the Catacombs or the rest of the Palace without help.

But she was delayed in arriving here, and had no time to hire any adventurers or mercenaries.  So when she found out Cali was ahead of her, she is hiding out here, hoping to somehow stop them from entering before her.  She would kill Cali, if given the chance.  The feeling is mutual.  So when the party enters, she will spring at the opportunity.

Rayna will ask them to accompany her.  She can translate the runes and languages of those inside the Palace of the Forsaken Ones, and she is a moderately powerful Wizard.    

If anyone tries to attack Rayna or cast a spell on her, she vanishes.  This is because of her Invisibility spell, which is one of the ones she can cast.  She will use this to creep away.  But if the players somehow manage to penetrate this, she will flee down into the Catacombs, where the Forsaken Ones are said to dwell.

What she knows about the One-Eyed Man: He has instructed her to retrieve some of the water from the Black Fountain, the Black Despoiler's sacred treasure, and if she can, he will elevate her to the status of divine.  The One-Eyed Man is powerful and benevolent, but totally lacking in mercy.  She also knows about the Opal Eye and that it is the One-Eyed Man's treasure.  She won't mention the latter fact, but she will tell them that it possesses great power, and can be found in the Catacombs.

                                                    by johnsfboslet2001

The Catacombs.

This is a dungeon, where strange creatures inhabit an ancient, abandoned underground structure, meant to contain the beasts that were once worshiped here as Gods.

That dungeon will be covered in a later post.

 (It becomes much less impressive when you realize the masks are made of wood and covered in tin)

The Cult.

The Cult has no name, regalia or official scripture.  When doing something that might mean they are going to be doing something illegal, they wear masks, and all the members have a wooden talisman.  This talisman is etched with a strange mark.  The mark is not magical, but looking at it for more then a few seconds make you start to go cross-eyed, and induces migraines.  They aren't really a cult per-say, more of a secret society. The cult has one real objective, and that is, to secure living people for sacrifice.  Every so often they round up travelers, strangers and local eyesores and beat them with sticks, hog-tie them, and take them to the Mountain Cave.  There they leave them, hoping that the Forsaken Ones accept their offer.  They usually do, and thus the town is allowed to continue existing in the holy land of the Forsaken Ones, for these creatures do consider it their land, the current inhabitants mere tenants in their eyes.

A note on the Cult, additionally.  The Cultists are all motivated by loyalty to their families, who would be endangered if sacrifices weren't provided to the Forsaken Ones, and fear of the former.  Some are also motivated by a vague loyalty to their leader, but if they are challenged by a foe sufficiently strong or blood-thirsty, they will break and flee.  They are not loyal to the Forsaken Ones, and actively loath the fell creatures, but do not actually believe they stand any chance of defeating them.  They are correct in this assumption.  Without the help of any other group (such as the party) the Forsaken Ones would take them apart with impossible ease.

Nica [Niece-a].

Nica is a girl that the players should meet in Icharis if they are asking around for information.  Nica seems like a nervous, flighty girl, constantly looking over her shoulder.  She seems constantly anxious, though she will deny this.  She is decently attractive, in the same way a familiar living room is, but her constant tension irritates people.  Nica will answer any real questions about Icharis and will remind the players of the story of the Grey Mountain Ape.  She will even invent a wild tale of seeing it not to long ago.

However, Nica has some secrets.  First of all, she is actually a member of the Cult, and knows that the story of the Grey Mountain Ape is actually a lie perpetuated by the Cult.  It helps explain why people suddenly vanish in the middle of the night, and keeps people away from the Mountain Cave and the Home of the Wizard Sejakis.

She doesn't know anything about the Palace of the Forsaken Ones, except that some kind of Demon King lived there long ago, and that his ghost still wanders the halls, devouring those he comes across.  It's majorly cursed, and bad luck to even go near it.  Steer clear is her advice.

What she knows about the One-Eyed Man: He's terrifying.  She saw him once from a distance, and that was enough to convince her of how dangerous he was.

Ikul [Ih-cool].

Ikul is the leader of the Cult.  He acts as a charismatic father figure to the members of the Cult, who cling to him and ask for his protection.  The Cult members are, to a certain extent, aware that this is a fantasy they are clinging to, but most are too scared of the Forsaken to bother.  Ikul also knows it is a fantasy, but he is willing to play along, for as far as he can tell, appeasing the Forsaken is the only way Icharis won't suffer a fate worse then death.  But while Ikul keeps a cool head, he has personally experienced the power of the Forsaken before, and knows that they cannot be defeated by mere humans.  As such, if someone who wished to oppose the Forsaken were to come to him, he would aid them, but always in such a way that gave him plausible deniability.  He will not risk everything on a vain hope, he knows what happens to those who do battle against the Forsaken.

Ikul lives in the hills with a troupe of hunters, living mostly off the land.  They hunt goats, elk, and hare, and claim to be looking for the Grey Mountain Ape.  They don't actually though, because they all know the Ape isn't real, and it's just a story that they made up.  But if any travelers encounter them, they will regale them with gruesome tales of the Ape.

They will then try to capture anyone who looks vulnerable, hide them and bundle them off to the Mountain Cave, where they will offer them up for sacrifice.  If Ikul is caught doing this or threatened for doing this, he will explain that this is the only way that Icharis can continue existing.  If he doesn't provide warm bodies for the One-Eyed Man, the One-Eyed Man will destroy Icharis and kill his father and sisters.  Ikul sincerely believes this, and cannot allow that to happen.

Ikul doesn't know much about the Palace of the Forsaken Ones, other then that the One-Eyed Man seems interested in it, which is enough of a reason in Ikul's book to stay away from it.

What he knows about the One-Eyed Man:
He demands sacrifices from them.  If living humans are not presented to him at least once a month, he will destroy Icharis in the most personal, cold-hearted way possible.

The House of Tysiak.

One thing everyone knows about the Southern Borderlands is that the semi-famous Sejakis, Son of Tysiak, Wizard of Cryanne was from there, but after several decades of faithful service, finally left the King's household to return to his homeland.  Most people assume that in the years since, Sejakis died, as men are known to do.  In truth though, Sejakis is still alive.

You can find his tent pitched among the distant hills, overlooking the town of Icharis, though if you didn't know where to look, you'd never find it.  His dwelling place is an ancient edifice of weathered bricks and stone that was sculpted by Sejakis' magic when he was young.  Around it you can find a cluster of green houses and livestock barns, to keep his flocks in and help maintain his plants.  Sejakis was known for his green thumb, and as long as he lives, his gardens will continue to overflow with delicious produce and beautiful flowers.  His servants come down to Icharis every so often, bringing wicker baskets overflowing with potatoes, figs, dates, barley or nuts, along with the occasional old goat or horse that Sejakis wishes to give to some impoverished family or large blocks of cheese, carefully wrapped in embroidered cloth.  This has made Sejakis very popular among the locals, and almost all feel some affection toward him.  At the same time though, they do wonder.  If Sejakis does love them so, why has he not been seen outside of his home in a decade and a half.  Indeed, no one knows the answer to this question.  Those who go up to visit his house will find his servants welcoming and affable, and his daughters beautiful, but they will not see Sejakis himself.  And since he has been so generous to them, they respect his apparent wishes.  So when his daughters tell you that Sejakis is busy, or locked in laboratory, or sick, or any number of excuses, they accept them and leave.  Some never go back, deciding it was just bad luck and returning to their lives.  Some suspect some other reason why he couldn't see them, but these are mere suspicions, and rarely voiced to anyone, as most would regard speaking against Icharis' generous patron an act equivalent to blasphemy.

If you go to speak to Sejakis, if the servants cannot turn you away, you will be turned over to his daughters.

                                  Cali looks very normal, she goes to great lengths to ensure her image.
                                                         by CJ-Backman

                                     But if you look under her robe, you will see she is no mere Human.
                                                                   by johnariosa

Cali [Ka-li].

Cali is the oldest daughter, and usually stalks the parlor of her father's house.  She seems to be about 20 or so, easily old enough to wed.  It's a little weird that she hasn't yet, the villagers would agree, but most assume this is because of her father.  This is not entirely correct.  Cali invites people in, entertains guests, and charms them with her winning smile.  Most people ignore how she stares, and her strange conversation topics.  She's nice and pretty, so most forgive her eccentricities.  Besides, most have only spoken to her once or twice, and they haven't been in contact with her for long enough to notice anything weird her.

But Cali is also a vicious, brutal killer.  She serves the Forsaken and the One-Eyed Man, and she wishes to free the rest of them from their shackles.  She hopes this will grant her favor, and the Forsaken will then grant her the power she desires.  Cali has allowed her Wizard sister, Alino, to enhance her body, to make her strong and fast and much tougher than any mortal.  However, she still needs more.  Cali wants to head down for the Palace with her hired Adventurers immediately, but Alino is asking her to delay, saying she has some kind of formula that will greatly increase her sister's strength.  Cali is fine with delaying for a little while longer, but if her sister was hurt or killed or her lab was destroyed, she would immediately see her sister to safety, then set off to raid the Palace with the Elf-Men at her back.  

But Cali is smart, and know how bad that soundsSo she goes goes out of her way to keep people from suspecting her inhuman nature or her status as a secret cultist to a bunch of imprisoned Monster-Gods.  She keeps a small book with her, but then will "accidentally" forget it while she steps out of the room, so people might check it.  The book, if opened, will be revealed to be a spellbook full of a few "relatively" harmless spells.  She also wears a full, voluminous robe and a ring associated with an ancient Wizarding college.  In truth though, Cali is no Wizard or even a Magic-User, but a freakish monster.  Underneath her robe her body is a mass of twisted muscle and piercing bone spines, capable of impaling almost anything.  If threatened, Cali will attack with the retractable claws hidden in her wrists and knees, and with her stinger.

Cali's weakness is that she hates both Wizards in general and Rayna the Priestess.  She also has a desperate thirst for power.  She knows that the One-Eyed Man has returned to his homeland for a reason.  He is here to uplift a mortal, and he has decreed it will be woman.  But he has not said who it will be yet.  As such, Cali has decided it will be her, and will do anything to achieve it, even if that requires tricking a bunch of fools into killing Rayna then killing them.  Unlike Rayna, who seeks spiritual transcendence and life everlasting to become closer to her "Gods", Cali is only interested in the Croning for power.       

What she knows about the One-Eyed Man: That he is not human, and possesses powers far greater then her.  He has also chosen her for his election.  If she can bring him the Chalice of Unending Sleep, then she will allowed to ascend as the subject of the Croning.  She knows about the Opal Eye, and will use it as a potential lure to get the players to retrieve the Chalice of Unending Sleep for her.

Alino [Ah-lean-oh].

Alino is the younger sister of Cali and a daughter of Sejakis.  She seems kind of stuck up and disciplined, roaming around the grounds in quilted leathers no matter the temperature, armed with a brace of daggers, a sword and staff.  She very effectively channels the image of a martial woman, and judging from her appearance and cold mannerisms, you'd think her some kind of woman warrior.  However, this is not true.  Alino is no fighter, and has no interest in fighting anyone who could possibly fight back.  She only likes prey that has been sufficiently weakened to be utterly helpless, and will not fight anyone who she thinks could be a threat to her.  She also has very little interest in power for its own sake, and the offer of the One-Eyed Man.  She supports her sister Cali's bid to complete the task set before them, and hopes that Cali will be the one to ascend to the status of semi-divine, like one of the Forsaken.  However, at the same time, she cannot stand the idea that Rayna or anyone but a true-born daughter of Tysiak will ascend.  As such, she has been working frantically on a new formula, a series of potions and muscle grafts that will make Cali even stronger.  If she has just a few more sacrifices or a few more days, she will finish her work, and will be able to greatly increase Cali's strength.  Once her work is finished, then she will release her sister to go claim the Chalice of Unending Sleep and return victorious.  

Alino's weaknesses are two-fold.  Firstly, she cannot resist potential prey.  Abandon a child, young girl, or wounded man near her and she will whisk them away into one of the hidden caves near her father's home, then begin working on them.  There she tortures them, slicing them apart and extending their deaths into days, weeks or months of agony.  She is a true artist of her craft.  Unbeknownst to everyone, she is the one taking the people left in the Mountain Cave and killing them.  Others would suspect the One-Eyed Man, her Father, or the Cult.  All are incorrect.

Alino, when she fights, if she must, is Magic-User, and a good one at that.  The sword and armor all are a distraction, meant to throw her opponents off.

What she knows about the One-Eyed Man: That he is one of the Forsaken, broken free of the shackles that still bind his three siblings.  He wants to release them, but cannot enter the Catacombs himself.  Neither can Rayna, Alino or Cali.  They wards have weakened over the centuries, but they aren't weak enough yet to tolerate the presence of the very thing they were meant to contain yet.

Sejakis [Se-jack-is].

The Wizard Sejakis is still alive, and living the home he built by one of his ancestors for their clan so long ago.  But while she has endured, Sejakis is a shell of his former self.  He's an old, senile, slightly demented man, his brain and body long ago given over to the rigors of age. Now he rarely leaves the second floor, eavesdropping on coversations taking place below and imagining monsters in every corner.  He only trusts three people, Cali, Alino, and his Wife.  The last one especially, she has been his constant companion for almost forty years, never once leaving his side.  Even now she watches over him, he will tell you, pointing her out.  You might not be able to see her, but you will know she is there.

Sejakis is afraid.  He knows something bad is going to happen.  Despite his wife's calming words, he still fears for his safety.  He suspects that the Uglies are coming for him.  He has written vast, rambling treatises on the Uglies, the ones he can see in his dreams, and made gruesome art of them to cover the walls of his bedroom and study.  Anyone who mocks him for this or disagrees with his assertion will be thought of as an Ugly, and Sejakis will ask his wife to get rid of them.

Sejakis is insane and weak, little more then a mad fool at this rate.  If his wife is not around, you will be able to kill him easily.  If she is, he will still die like any man, but so will you.

Additionally, Sejakis is not wrong.  The "Uglies" are coming.  Not just for him though, but for everyone.

 The Family Crypt.

Sejakis is a descendant of Tysiak, an ancient and feared warrior from legend.  Few know of Sejakis' ancestry, and few outside of the people from this region would care too.  But here it is an ancient and prized bloodline, one that many are eager to enter into.  As such, Sejakis' ancestors all rest here in a set of intricate tombs, made from caves that have been modified and extended.  You will find the bones of everyone here, from Sejakis' brothers, all long dead, to his father and grandfather and all the way back to Tysiak himself, whose bones are interred behind a massive boulder that could only be shifted through the use of magic or a combined STR of 35.

Each of these individual dead are interred in stone cells with limestone lids, that can be rolled back with a STR of 10.  Inside each skeleton has been adorned with the clan symbol, a Rhinoceros Beetle (usually made of gold) and a few small trinkets.  Each Rhinoceros Beetle is worth 50 silver, though no one from the Borderlands will buy such a thing, as it is bad luck to.  Additionally, each skeleton has 1d6 small trinkets, each worth 30 silver.  None of these are magic.  Taking them from the dead will have no effect, and the skeletons will not rise from the grave.  However, if the players are caught looting the tomb by any servants, they will be attacked and the servants will try and capture them.  If they can succeed in this, they will take them to the Mountain Cave.

There are no tombs for the wives, daughters or sisters of these dead men.  If Speak with Dead is used on them, they will all say that their female relatives outlived them, and the corpses do not know where they are.  As far as the corpses are concerned, their women are still alive.

If you shift the boulder at the end of the tomb to try and loot Tysiak's body, you will find it empty.  There is no body there, only a single Rhinoceros Beetle made of carved jet and a secret passageway leading down into the Mountain Cave.

The Mountain Cave.

There are dozens of caves littering the hills around Icharis and Sejakis' home, but this one is special.  It is a small dungeon, where Alino does her work, and where the Croning will take place.  This is full of the transfigured, tortured and tragic "daughters" of Alino and the One-Eyed Man, the twisted monstrosities she has created with the people delivered to the cave for sacrifice. 

This dungeon will be covered in another post.

The Croning.

Whoever first manages to bring their treasure to the One-Eyed Man will be the winner of the contest, and a candidate for ascension.  They will then be invited, along with the losers, to the ritual chamber in the Mountain cave, beneath Sejakis' home.  There they will endure an hideous and macabre trial, but with the help of the One-Eyed Man, they will survive.  They will return to life almost as strong as him, though still weak compared to the other Forsaken.  This ritual is terrible to behold, and anyone seeing it will likely be scarred for the rest of their lives.

Any other Forsaken who were liberated from the Palace of the Forsaken Ones will also be here, to attend the ceremony.

The players may be able to find and interrupt the Croning, and to prevent any of the women from ascending to semi-divine status.  During the Croning, the One-Eyed Man will be temporarily weakened, so if you wish to try and strike him down, now is the time.    

If the players do nothing:

The One-Eyed Man will elevate Cali after she manages to free the Red Tormenter and steal a cup of water from the Black Fountain.  Rayna will be killed in the ensuing battle, along with all of the Adventurers but Pinoto, who will be scarred for the rest of his days.  Then after she ascends at the Croning, she and sister and her sister's deformed "children" will join the One-Eyed Man and assault the Queen in her castle.  The Queen's newborn will be snatched away and the Queen herself will vanish in the night, despite the heavy guard around her.  The Queen's brother will flee the castle and begin a desperate search for her, one that he will never complete.  A few days later, other claimants to the throne will rise up and the whole nation will be rent apart by horrific civil war.

And the One-Eyed Man?  He will escape any form of justice or blame, though some will suspect his involvement.  There won't be any proof though.

No comments:

Post a Comment