A YULETIDE QUARREL
by Steve Foster
A scenario for 4 to 6 adventurers suitable for use with Dragon Warriors (characters about 5th rank) or Advanced D&D (characters about 3rd level).
Referee's introductionThis scenario is set in a valley cut off from other lands by deep snow for the period of the adventure. It centres on an ancient monolith and the powers that kept it under control. Try to instil a lot of atmosphere into the adventure by stressing the wintry aspects of the valley and the weather. Your players will probably not realise how difficult deep snow can be.
In the inhospitable borderlands between Cornumbria and Aldred's feif, it is the custom for travellers to journey together for safety. Thus you find yourself travelling Dobby's Walk (an old and ill-kept road) back to friendly lands with a priest, Bleoric of Anscombe.
Bleoric is an odd man. He is of middling years, tall, and has long, lank, white hair. His left hand is mutilated by fire and he can use only the thumb and first finger. Yet the unusual length and strength of the remaining digits more than compensate for the loss. His face is long and thin, dominated by a fine Selentine nose and piercing grey eyes that never quite seem to focus on the man, preferring perhaps to focus on the soul.
Bleoric is a pious man who sees the Almighty everywhere and in everything. At first you think he is a fanatic and make fun of him, but he bears every misfortune of the road with good grace and always has a comforting quotation at hand. Soon you change your opinion of him for this is a type of man that you— rough adventurers all— have never seen before. He is truly devout and fearless in his faith. You no longer have the heart to mock him and when he stops for prayer at roadside shrines you now sheepishly join him.
So things stand when you reach the valley known as Estring Bottom. This flat plain is surrounded on all sides by steep hills and cliffs. The river Esselrode runs through it and the whole valley makes fertile land for growing and grazing. In the valley bottom lies the small hamlet of St. Stephen's where you plan to spend the night and, hopefully, sit out the approaching storm.
You spend the first night as planned in the inn, the Bull and Bushel, which is run by the village reeve, Aelric. During the night, several inches of snow fall and drift in the winds. In the morning you prepare to continue your journey but Aelric only chuckles. "You’ll not be leaving here fore while, I be thinking," he says in his lilting country accent. "Sometimes the whole valley is cut off for a week or two when the snow hits like this. I remember, when I were a lad, that we were cut off from St. Andrew's feast 'till nearly St. David's day."
You look at each other, appalled by the prospect of being snowed in for three months or more, but Aelric continues. "Still, that were a very bad winter, and I doubt if this will last more than a week."
The characters may try to leave anyway. If any of them do then read them the following paragraph. The net result of such recklessness is the loss of 1d3 HP each owing to cold and mild frostbite.
You trudge through the snow for about a mile. It is easy going here on the valley bottom, but your boots and leggings are not proof against the snow and cold. Your legs soon feel chilled and damp. Strength and heat are drained from your body. Now the road rises to leave the valley and you encounter the drifts: three, four or even six feet deep in places. Each step requires an effort and for every foot gained it seems that a pound of snow has found the gaps in your clothing. You realise that to continue would be sheerest folly, and reluctantly you return to St. Stephen's and the hospitality of Aelric.
When the characters are all gathered at the inn, pick up the narrative again here.
"Anyway, today is St. Stephen's Eve and it is our custom to hold a celebration. As you're stuck here you can join in as our guests," says Aelric.
This you do, and lend a hand preparing food and hauling around the barrels of ale. The festivities start at midday with an ancient ceremony at the Estring Maiden, a standing stone on the outskirts of the village. Aelric is dressed in a white cloak and he dances around the stone as the villagers sing this song:
In the depths of Winter's gloomingAs each plant is mentioned, Aelric places a crown of it on the stone. Then as the final verse is sung he takes up a wooden cudgel which has been wrapped in similar leaves and prepares to strike the stone as the verse ends. However, a loud voice breaks through the song. "Stop! I shall brook no pagan magic on this holy day!"
Sing a song of days gone by
The Maiden of the Old King's dooming
Rests but a while 'neath moonlit sky
With a rowan branch encrown her
Holly place upon her brow
Mistletoe, lest spell shall founder
Evil lingers even now
Hear us now, 0 lost Estorus
Aid your folk against the foe
As you did in days before us
Strike again in fateful blow
Bleoric, whom you last saw blessing the food in the inn, has appeared. All are shamed, for it is not right that the old customs be performed in front of a priest. The villagers start to slink off to their homes, leaving Bleoric to pull the crowns from the Maiden and break the cudgel on a convenient rock. Then Aelric pipes up, "Friends, today is the Eve of St. Stephen and I for one still intend to celebrate."
Good cheer is restored, and you head for the inn and the victuals there. There is a stranger in the inn, though the man is obviously well known to Aelric. His name is Pelesaar, and he is a tall, very thin man whose features are beautiful rather than handsome. He refers to the villagers as "Son of Adam" or "Daughter of Eve" and you are not sure, but you think you have caught a glimpse of pointed ears beneath his fine black hair. When the festivities are well under way, Aelric asks Pelesaar to sing and this he does in a high tenor to the accompaniment of his own harp. He sings a song in a strange, lilting language and then repeats it in Elleslandic (AD&D: the common tongue). It is a song of warm summer days and love betrayed that tugs at deep feelings within you and brings a tear to the eye. Then he moves straight onto several lively dances to the delight of everyone. Even old Droff, who is over seventy and requires a stick to walk any distance, is soon leaping about the floor with a girl almost sixty years his junior. Now, when almost everyone is tipsy, Aelric proposes a game of “Blind Boggart" (which combines several features of Blind Man's Buff and Postman's Knock). Thus the afternoon continues.
Choose a character at random and take that player to one side. The next paragraph is for his or her ears alone:
After several giddy games of Blind Boggart you are forced to leave the inn to answer a call of nature. You do what you must, and then glance toward the Maiden stone. Something is wrong but in your half-drunken state you cannot see quite what. You stagger over there and see the body of Bleoric, lying in the snow. He has been dead for some hours, as there is a light covering of snow on his body, and there is little recognisable left of his head. But that is not all: where the Maiden stone had stood, there is only a deep, empty pit.
The adventure begins
The players are now ready to start the scenario proper, and they should already be discussing possible motives and causes amongst themselves. Undoubtedly, they will wish to question leading villagers so here are the details you will need. Anyone not mentioned here is just a normal person, somewhat frightened by the killing.
Aelric is just a normal human. He is about 35 and has a large paunch. When asked about the maiden, or the dance, he will tell this story:
"Well, I learned the dance off my father and he learnt it off his and so forth. There's a legend that goes with it saying that Estorus was a chieftain in these lands long before the Selentine legions came. In those days, trolls and hobgoblins roamed free across the country but Estorus tracked them down and fought them. One by one he killed them until only Aramriogh, Queen of the Trolls, was left. It's said he fought her with steel and sorcery for three whole days and three whole nights until finally he defeated her. With the aid of magic taught to him by the elves he turned her into stone - the very stone that stood here. It is said that she swore vengeance against elf and man alike should she ever be freed. Estorus was buried in a tomb at Duckscliffe drop, but that is just an empty chamber now."
Pelesar is an elfin mystic of the 7th rank (AD&D: 5th level druid). He will join the characters on any quest to destroy Aramriogh. His stats are:
DW: ATT15; DEF 12; enchanted sword (d8+1,5); Ringmail AF 3; 11 HP; EV 5; MAG ATT 20; MAG DEF 11; STR 12; RF 13; INT 12; PSY 12; LKS 17
AD&D: AC 7; LVL 5; HP 26; Druid; Elf; Neutral; STR 13; INT 12; WIS 16; DEX 13; CON 14; CHA 15; Staff of Striking (7 charges); Spells:
1st level – Detect snares and pits, Entangle, Faerie fire, Pass without trace.
2nd level – Cure light wounds, Obscurement , Charm person or mammal.
3rd level – Summon insects, Tree.
This is what he knows of the legend of the Maiden:
“In the time of my great-grandfather's great-grandmother there was a war between the mortal chieftain Yestor and Aramriogh, a witch-woman said to be half mortal and half troll. Aramriogh sided with the forces of the Fallen One. Men said she sold her own soul to ensure victory. Yestor, after suffering a great defeat, came to the home of my people for aid. Belcepiel, who was queen of my people, feared that Aramriogh would next turn against us, so she told Yestor of a spell that would summon the power of the Old Lords. Yestor visited the dwellings of three of the Old Lords and each sent him on a quest in return for aid. The story is then unclear, but it seems that the final quest was for the love of Belcepiel herself. Nobly, she sacrificed herself to become the wife of the Old Lord of the lake, and Yestor was able to defeat Aramriogh and turn her flesh to stone. It is said she swore vengeance against men and elves both, but particularly she swore that the spirit of Yestor would never know peace until her vengeance was done."
Droff is 74 years old and though he is bad-tempered, half-blind, half-deaf and arthritic he is still the most intelligent person in the village. He knows his own days are numbered and he finds it sardonically amusing that everyone else's now are too. If the characters do not speak to Droff, you should have him accost them for his little speech. When questioned, Droff will laugh hideously – a laugh which degenerates into a very productive cough – and then speak as follows:
"Well, I think I'll not be the only one popping off this winter. That old troll woman has you trapped good an' proper with this here snow. You're only hope is to get her first, and I don't fancy your chances at that! But this ain't the first weird thing that I've seen in these parts by any means. Why, when I was only a lad my cousin Hrostig went to the Ironstone in Elderswood Forest on this very night He danced around it three times widdershins and Old Nick appeared and scared him good and proper. Me, I'd rather take my chances with Old Nick than that troll woman!"
Having said that, and perhaps thinking better of it, Droff takes care to cross himself as he totters away.
Probably,the characters will now set off first either to the Ironstone or to Duck's Gate (the order is not important). Remember that the valley is still cut off by snow, and more snow looks to be on the way.
A Mystic using the Pursuit spell (AD&D: Ranger's tracking skill) will notice a trail leading off towards Elderswood Forest. This can be followed easily to the edge of the forest and there is no need to check for random encounters. The Ironstone – an ancient mound of red earth in a forest clearing – lies about half a mile into the forest and the journey in the ebbing winter daylight is quite difficult. Each player must roll his/her Strength (AD&D: Constitution) or less on d20 to avoid 1 HP damage from the cold. This point can be recovered by spending one hour in a warm place. At some point, select a character randomly then read out the following:
You are some way into the forest, passing beneath snow-laden boughs when you hear a snapping sound. You look up to see a large branch falling towards you...
The character must dodge an attack of SPEED 12 (AD&D: save vs. poison). If this fails, the character takes a blow as though from a spear (2d4, 4). As they continue on towards the Ironstone:
You plod through the snow covered forest a while longer and then come to a large clearing. Your first impressions are of a pleasing russet against the prevailing white. Leaves in autumnal colours still cling to a few branches. The snow has not stuck to the ground and the rich, red earth still shows through, presenting a mosaic of light and dark patches. In the centre is a large hummock, perhaps 8 feet high and 20 feet across, of the same reddish earth and, here and there, lumps of kidney stone (an iron based mineral which occurs in rounded kidney-like lumps). Strangely, no plants grow on the Ironstone though the forest is thick and healthy round about.
You circle the stone once or twice to examine it and then you hear a noise like someone running through the snow. Turning, you see that the clearing is surrounded by wolves. You see at once that these are not normal wolves. They are large and unusually furry. Their muzzles drip with yellow foam. There is a strange green glow behind their eyes. One wolf, larger than its brothers, howls loudly and then they rush forward to attack.
There are twice as many wolves as there are characters in the party. The combat factors of these wolves are the same as for normal wolves – in fact, this is just a pack of normal wolves that have been demonically possessed – but they will attack furiously until killed:
DW: ATT 15; DEF 3; Fangs (d4,5); AF 0; 1d6+4 HP each; EV 3; MAG DEF 1.
AD&D: AC 7; HP 2d8+2; Bite for 2-5.
When this menace has been disposed of, the characters may carry on with their examination of the Ironstone. They will notice nothing more unless one of them remembers the story of dancing around it three times anti-clockwise. This is what happens then:
As you complete the third circuit, there is a trembling in the ground as if some large animal were approaching. A huge stag bursts out of the forest and leaps onto the top of the Ironstone. It bellows loudly and whirls about three times, and as it does so, it changes into a naked giant of a man almost eight feet tall and muscled like a wrestler. A set of antlers sprout from his temples and he has a reddish beard which covers his jowls, chin and neck. He speaks to you, and his voice is like the bellowing of a stag, noises that no human throat could make. "Who has summoned Brenabar?" he demands.
This is Brenabar, the Old Lord of Beasts, perhaps the residue of some prehistoric deity. Like the other Old Lords, he is not fully real and he cannot harm or be harmed physically. If attacked, he will simply vanish and you should concoct an unpleasant surprise for the fool who atttacks him! His words to the party will run on the following lines, but you may have to paraphrase to allow for the actual course of events:
"I am Brenabar, to whom all the beasts of this forest owe allegience. Your ancestors worshipped me in the old days, before the coming of the One God, but they turned their back on me and now my power is dim. Then a great evil roamed the land and a man sought my aid against it. The aid was pledged and I now give it freely to you. You must seek my brothers first at Smithies Mound and then Estamere for only they can give you the rest of what you shall need."
He now breaks a branch off a holly tree and blows on it. He hands it to the nearest player:
"Beware, little ones! My brothers are not so generous as I. "
With this, he spins around and once more a stag stands on top of the mound. With a final bellow, it leaps into the forest and vanishes.
The party should now be setting off for Smithies Mound in Rowanwood. Pelesar knows its location, as do all of the villagers. They may proceed directly there, in which case each character must make two d20 Strength rolls against cold as before. Otherwise, they could choose to return to the inn for a short break and thus recover from any previous cold effects. When the party eventually arrives at the mound, read this description to them:
Smithies Mound is about half a mile within Rowanwood, a forest of mixed evergreen and deciduous trees, many of which are very old and twisted. There is none of the pleasant, airy feel of Elderswood, Rowanwood feels cramped and somehow run down. Perhaps, if forests can grow old, this is what one looks like in its fading years when the vitality has been sapped from it. The air has an unpleasant tang to it, an acrid smell that carries on the nipping air like some peculiar fungus. You will be glad to leave it.
You finally arrive at Smithies Mound. It too lies in a clearing - but dead trees, not live ones, surround it. The mound itself is a flat cone, covered in snow. On top, there is a squarish block of granite which, according to local legend, is the anvil of Wayland the Smith.
The players should now try to summon the second Old Lord. This is done, as before, by dancing three times widdershins around the mound. This time, however, there is no immediate effect. Wait until the players start to become confused and begin to try other ideas then introduce them to Wayland, the Old Lord of Earth:
You hear someone clearing his throat, and when you look to the edge of the clearing there is an old man standing there. He wears a grimy cloak of fur which reeks even from this distance. His wrinkled, bald head is covered in sores and his long white beard is horribly matted. His left leg is withered and twisted, and he supports his weight on a crude wooden crutch. "I have come. What do you want of me?" he says.
Improvise the conversation with the Old Lord. He is quite willing to aid the party, but there is a price to be paid. His own left leg is withered and useless and his price is the strength from the left leg of one of the party. Naturally, this will seem an extortionate price and the characters will be very reluctant to agree. However, they will soon discover that Wayland simply vanishes and re-appears elsewhere in the clearing when attacked, and that they now cannot find the trail out of the clearing —all paths appear to wander back into it! Meanwhile, Wayland will interrupt with irritating and tactless comments such as "Soon you will be dust, man. Surely you will not miss your limb for such a short period?" or "I cannot understand such a to-do over a bit of skin and bone." Think of a few comments of your own and use them deliberately to irritate the players. Eventually, one or other of the players must give in and agree to Wayland's price. Immediately, Wayland will stand up tall and throw away his crutch. He reaches into a nearby tree and with a golden sickle cuts a sprig of mistletoe which he hands to the character who is carrying Brenabar's holly branch. The unfortunate character who paid the price to Wayland now collapses to the ground with a withered left leg. He has lost 1d3 HP which can only be regained through natural healing. He needs a crutch to walk, which reduces his movement by half (he cannot run), and his Reflexes (AD&D: Dexterity) are reduced by 3 (to a minimum of 3) until the leg is somehow restored. Check if this affects the character's EVASION or combat abilities. However, this sacrifice will not go unrewarded. This player will receive an extra 5 experience points at the end of the adventure (AD&D: 200 extra points).
After rendering his aid and exacting his fee, Wayland simply vanishes and the characters are free to leave Rowanwood.
As Brenabar has said, the final place that the characters must visit in their quest for aid is Estamere, a lake nestling against the cliffs which surround the valley. As before, the characters may either go via the inn in St. Stephen's or directly — risking more damage from the cold. In either case, as they approach Estamere, Aramriogh will attack as follows:
You now head towards Estamere, trudging through crisp snow that is almost knee deep. You notice that it has become much colder. A sharp wind has sprung up and it is swiftly bringing heavy clouds from the northeast As you watch the clouds approach, you see the first snowflakes drift down. They are large and the cold wind is blowing them almost horizontally toward you.
You slog on for a few minutes more, but you now realise that you are in a storm of some power. The air is bitterly cold and burns your exposed flesh. Snow sticks to you and weighs you down; it is now thigh deep in places and you can see no shelter nearby. This is no natural storm! you realize -but it is too late. Already the cold has numbed your limbs and it would be so nice to have a short rest. One by one, you fall onto the soft snow and drift into a horribly warm sleep...
This is a good place to pause for a few minutes to refill the coffee cups or to get more beer from the fridge. Let the players dwell on their dilemma. When you are ready, this is where the players awaken.
You awaken to feel hot, summer sun beating down on your backs. There is green grass and clover under you and you can hear birds singing and insects buzzing. You rise to your feet and discover that you are in a sunny clearing by a blue lake. Near the lake is a throne on which sits a tall man dressed in a cloak of silvery fish scales. At his feet sits a very beautiful elven woman. You of course realise that this is Cthusak, the Old Lord of the Lake. The woman introduces herself as Belcepiel, his wife. "It was my power that saved you from the witches storm," he says. "What do you want of me?"
When asked for help he says, "My aid is not free but the price is small. I am a lonely being and I seldom have company. I ask only that you take pity on me and agree to keep me company until sunset. For my part I can promise to feed you and entertain you well. "
If the players agree, Cthusak will break a bough off a rowan tree nearby and hand it to the holder of the other branches. Cthusak gestures and produces a fine spread of meats and other dishes for the party to consume. He will also heal any member of the party who requests it with a spell of Lesser Healing (AD&D: Cure Light Wounds). If the party refuse his offer he will simply insist that they rest a few hours before he returns them to their normal world. In either case, select a character at random for the following:
You are standing a short distance from the other members of the party, admiring the lake, when you discover Belcepiel standing next to you. She looks concerned and whispers to you. "You have been tricked! You shall never leave here!" she says. "Here, time obeys his will and it is always day. Sunset shall never come. For a score of mortal lifetimes he has kept me here as his prisoner, but with your aid we may all escape." She holds up one arm which bears a silver bracelet from which a long, thin chain of silver leads to Cthusak's throne. Obviously he likes to keep his guests under control. "To the north of here is a cave where Cthusak's Crystal of Eternity lies. Break that and the forces which bind us here will be destroyed. Beware, though, of its guardian."
If the party head north they will eventually come to a cave in the cliff face. A statue of a winged satyr sits on a lintel stone which has been placed across the entrance to the cave. As the party approach, this "statue" will suddenly leap down and attack them.
DW: ATT 28; DEF 20; Fist (d10,8); AF 7; 32 HP; EV 7; MAG DEF 17; Rank Equivalent 16th.
AD&D: AC 0; 50 HP; Strikes with fists for 2-16.
If the characters defeat the satyr, they will be able to enter the cave. Also, the characters will notice that a fine rowan tree grows right next to the cave and they may take a branch if needed.
You enter the cave at last and find only a roughly hewn granite block. On this rests a plate-sized mass of calcite crystals from which three prisms of smoky quartz sprout This must be the Crystal of Eternity that Belcepiel spoke of.
One of the characters must smash the crystal. It cannot be moved from its block.
When you smash the crystal it makes a noise like a thousand mirrors shattering. The whole world seems to quiver and whirl in sympathy. You experience an image of yourself repeating the action of smashing the crystal again and again as though caught at a nexus in Time. The cave roof shakes and bits of rock fall from it. The lintel stone above the door cracks noisily. You dash from the cave as fast as you can, emerging not into the warm summery glade but once more into the wintry valley. Behind you there is no cave, only a blank cliff face.
"We must waste no time now," says a voice. It is Belcepiel, emerging from a clump of trees. She wears a cloak of white eagle feathers wrapped around her tall body. "Let us hurry to Yestor's tomb."
No stats for Belcepiel are provided. The reason for this will become clear later. For now, it is enough to know that she will avoid all physical and magical conflict.
Duck's Gate —Yestor's Tomb
The party will now have nowhere left to go but here, to the old tomb of Yestor (aka Estorus). This they can do with little trouble — they need only check for frostbite as usual.
You come to an almost vertical section of cliff face sheltered by a small clump of trees. Here, a narrow rocky passage leads into the cliff to a doorway of dressed stone. The doorway opens into a small, stone room (room A on map) which, from the worn flagstones, appears to have been much visited. The walls appear to have been ornately carved at one time, but they are now much overgrown with lichen and mould. There are no other exits from the room.
If the party have visited the tomb first of all then this is about as far as they should get. They may solve the riddle of how to get into the next chamber but do not worry about that. For now though, do not describe any more of the chamber unless the players have the three branches that they will need. If they do, tell them that there appears to be some sort of frieze running around the middle of the room and wait for one of them to decide to clean the muck off the walls:
You use your sword and knife blades to scrape the growth away. With these sharp blades it falls away in great slabs so that after an hour or so you have cleaned up the entire frieze. You can now see that it consists of tiles in a zig-zag pattern, each tile bearing a letter, that form words in the language of the legions: DVX ESTORVS CADAV. HAECE SEPPULC. IN MONTES
Latin is used here to represent the ancient Selentine tongue. It does not matter whether any of the players themselves can read Latin because that is irrelevant to the puzzle. This phrase is very bad Latin, as any educated characters in the party will notice, and does not really make sense. Also, the characters should remember that Yestor is supposed to pre-date the Selentine Empire. Give one experience point to the first player to spot the apparent inconsistency [AD&D: 50 points].
You have also found that each letter tile can be depressed about an inch into the wall but cannot be prised out with a blade.
Let the players ponder the puzzle. Actually, this room has been added some 500 years after the rest of the tomb was built, by a wizard who wished to protect the tomb's contents. He has constructed an almost meaningless sentence in which the letters H(olly), R(owan), and M(istletoe) occur once only. If these tiles are pressed simultaneously — and they are so placed that this will require three people — the central section of the long wall will sink into the floor. Give 3 experience points (AD&D: 150 points) to the player who discovers this. If the party are spending an indecently long time on the puzzle, have Pelesar or Belcepiel solve it.
There is a gust of stale air from the passageway beyond the secret door. Your torches and lanterns splutter alarmingly for a few seconds, then all is well. Great cobwebs fill the corridor ahead and fat, black spiders scuttle to safety in the shadowy corners. (Room B on map.) The passageway opens into a small circular chamber which contains a dusty sarcophagus of smoothly polished black granite. Clearing the dust away, you reveal the words FAMVLVS INCOGNITVS crudely scratched into the lid.
A Strength check must be made for any character wishing to slide the lid off the sarcophagus and who has a Strength less than 15. A mummified corpse is revealed. Its hands are crossed on its chest, but the index finger of its left hand is extended and points to the northwest. The robes of the figure are too decomposed to be recognised, but it still wears a gold circlet, gold ring and gold necklace which are worth 600 Florins. However, if these are taken, the ghost of their owner will appear and scream hideously, causing a Fright Attack. It will not follow the party however; it will be content to fade away after a few moments with a last despairing wail. (AD& D: The ghost makes one attempt to touch the character who took its treasure.)
"This is not Yestor. This man was far too small," says Belcepiel. "His real tomb must be elsewhere. "
If any player was watching Belcepiel when the sarcophagus was opened —and they must have said so explicitly — then they would have seen a look of first glee, then of anger momentarily cross her features as the corpse was revealed.
From this room a secret doorway leads to the rest of the tomb. The corpse's finger points to this and anyone searching that section of the wall will find it to consist of only mud and wattle. It can be broken down easily to reveal a square chamber.
Room C on map:
This room was probably the treasure chamber of Yestor/Estorus. The air in this chamber is fresher than into previous one. Perhaps, over the centuries, the cliff has shifted and formed a minute gap through to this room from the outside. Certainly there is a large crack, almost a hand-span across, in the east wall. Unfortunately, the cold and damp have also been able to attack. An inch of water lies on the floor. The once rich tapestries on the walls are now rotted and mildewed, their subjects lost completely. What was once copper, bronze and iron is now verdigris and rust. Magnificent wooden chairs have decayed to shapeless heaps, To the north and west are wooden doors, though the bottom few inches off these are rotted away. As you examine the room you hear a scuttling noise from a pile of detritus in one comer. "Huh, just a rat," you think to yourselves, for you are used to such noises. The noise repeats itself, and you tum just in time to see the pile of detritus rise to its feet. It is a pulpy mass of fungus and rotting wood in a parody of human form. Spores rise from it like smoke. Now another appears from the south-west corner of the room. Raising misshapen arms, they close to attack.
These are Fungus Men (AD&D: fungus-covered zombies):
DW: ATT 13; DEF 6; Mace (d6+1,5); AF 1 (3 vs. stabbing weapons); 1d6+18 HP; EV 3; MAG DEF 6 (but cannot be commanded by magic); Special attacks: Whisper of corruption (character must roll above his Psychic Talent on d20 or fight the monster at -2 ATT and -1 DEF): Spores (10% chance of taking root in flesh - the character is then eaten away by fungus for 1d6 HP each day until he dies and becomes a fungus man himself, or is cured by magic).
AD&D: AC 8; HP 2d10; Strikes for 2-9. Special Attacks: Whisper of corruption (save vs. Petrification or fight at -2), Spores, (save vs. poison or take damage as for Dragon Warriors rules above.)
Doubtless the characters will wish to search for scraps of treasure which have survived the rot in this room. Tell them that there area few scraps of gold leaf about, to the value of 30 Florins, if they are prepared to spend fifteen minutes picking it up. If they do so, Belcepiel will become quite angry: "We cannot afford to waste time just to satisfy your greed!" The party, when they have finished, may leave by either of the wooden doors. These are so rotten that any character will be able to break them down.
Room D on map:
The northern passage from the treasure room leads to another door. This is not so rotten, but even so there are several cracks in it through which an orange light glimmers. It is quite warm here.
One of the characters must break down the door. This requires a d20 STRENGTH roll. This is what the characters will then see:
The door splinters in the middle as you break it. Obviously it was locked securely and only the condition of the wood has allowed you to enter. The room ahead of you is of bare stone with a high arched ceiling. The light and heat come forma large brazier at the other end, where great tongues of flame leap from it, leaving sooty marks up the walls. You can just see, as you approach, that there is a small alcove behind the brazier and in it are two small chests and a long, thin chest. You approach more closely, despite the heat and then you leap back in horror — several fiery hands reach out of the flames and try to clutch you. What you thought were flames is in fact a writhing mass of fire elementals.
It is not intended that characters will have to fight these elementals. If someone does wish to then you will find them described on page 85 of Dragon Warriors Book 1 or page 338 of the AD&D Monster Manual. There are fifteen of these elementals so attacking them is not a wise move. Some characters may try to jump through the flames. The elementals would easily catch such a one and tear him to shreds. Well, how does one get past? This cannot be done at once as a piece of equipment from another part of the tomb is required. In any event, reaching the treasure is not a vital part of the characters' quest — however covetous they may be. However, if anyone examines the brazier very closely they will notice the following:
You can see that the brazier is a shallow saucer of bronze perhaps five feet in diameter and almost an inch thick. It rests on three short legs of untarnished copper so that the centre is kept about six inches from the floor. It looks like there is a small hole in the floor at this point, but you cannot see how deep it is nor what it contains. You could probably crawl along the floor and reach in to it but you would certainly be in the grasp of the fire elementals.
If the characters return here with the bronze ball from room F, they need to roll the ball into the hole. The floor in fact slopes gently towards this hole and anyone can roll the ball in with a little care. This releases the elementals as follows:
The ball rolls into the hole and drops from sight. There is cracking noise, then a moment of silence, then a noise like sand falling onto stone. You hear the loud grinding of rusted gears that protest their new activity and then a section of the vaulted ceiling slowly withdraws to reveal a large flue rising into the cliff above. After a few more seconds of creaking, groaning and squealing the flue is completely open, and then with a vast roar of joy the tethered elementals streak to freedom.. Behind them, the brazier is barely warm to the touch.
The characters may now examine the three chests. They are unlocked and easily opened. The first small chest contains eight small blue gems resting on a white satin cushion. Anyone examining the gems will find them to be flawed and to crush easily between the fingers. However, if the cushion is cut open there will be 3 genuine sapphires inside, each worth 250 Florins. The second chest seems to contain only letters and other correspondence in a faded and unreadable spidery script. It has a false bottom which can be found by a little examination and hidden in this are a scroll containing the spell Phantasm (AD&D: one-use Shadow Monster spell) and a healing potion. The long, thin chest contains a fine sword with a brightly polished steel blade — pattern welded as was the custom long ago — and with a handle of gold and white lacquer. It is magical, though its bearer will have to find that out for himself or herself, and has a bonus of +1. The party must leave this room via room C.
Room E on map:
This room is a long corridor running the length of the tomb. It is dark and dank and you may wish to use the following description to give it atmosphere. It describes the corridor as first seen from room C:
You easily demolish the rotted door and find yourselves looking down a long narrow corridor. The air is once more fetid and unclean as if something had long ago died here. Thick cobwebs hide the comers but not the spiders that rest on them. Your torches and lanterns pick out the glistening trails of slugs on the walls and, here and there, you can see the unclean, plump white bodies of the creatures themselves. The floor is damp and slimy and you can hear the soft plop plop' of moisture dropping into the puddles along its length. To your left, about five yards away, you can see a rusted door.
The corridor is undistinguished apart from the section marked E1, towards the west end. Here, a deep puddle has collected on a depression in the floor. It covers a trapdoor that will open under the weight of a normal person (i.e. of STRENGTH 9 or more). You must decide whether or not any player has stepped on the trap. If they do, you must make a SPEED roll with a speed of 13 against that character's EVASION to see if he or she falls into the pit (AD&D: character must roll under Dexterity on D20):
Without warning, the floor judders under your feet and then drops away from you. You make a desperate leap for safety. (If the character fails the speed test... ) Unhappily, you were not quick enough and you fall into a deep pit, impaling your leg on a spike in the floor. Next to you is a skeleton in the armour of a Selentine legionary. Another spike has pierced his chest, and it is only his presence in the trap that has broken your fall and kept you from a similar fate.
The victim takes 1 D2 points of damage from the fall and the spike does damage as a spear, (2d4, 4), with armour protecting as normal. Perhaps the player has been lucky and the spike has merely grazed his leg? His colleagues will easily be able to pull him out of the pit, but the pit will close again after about an hour.
Room F on map:
This room is a small tomb, belonging to Yestor's fool. It does, however, contain the bronze ball needed for room D:
You have entered a small chamber containing a small sarcophagus and a few scattered items. The walls are bare and without decoration but there is a single inscribed stone opposite the door. Belcepiel reads it aloud. "Here lies Hobble who served as fool at our court for thirty-two years. Our good friend and trusted servant. Signed with the Royal Seal of Yestor." Then she adds in a surprisingly acid tone, "The little maggot! So this is where he ended his days." Hobble's chattels for the afterlife are touchingly few. Where Yestor had chairs of precious wood and fine tapestries Hobble has only simple wooden stools and woollen blankets, now mildewed and threadbare. His only personal possessions are the tools of his trade: a fool's rattle, a bladder on a stick ands set of juggling balls. The wooden lid of his coffin has been smashed open. It reveals a pathetically small and twisted skeleton.
If the players examine the juggling balls, they will find that one is extremely heavy. It is in fact a 4 inch bronze sphere wrapped in felt. See room D for how this may be useful. The rattle, which is a wooden fool's head on a baton, is very slightly magical and will register as such to a Detect Aura or Detect Magic spell.
Room G on map:
This room is also entered by a rusty door from the corridor. It appears to have been some sort of gallery:
You have pushed aside another creaky, rusty hinged door to find a large cobweb filled room. Tapestries and portraits hang on the walls but they are so thickly shrouded in dust and webs that you cannot make out their subjects. In the middle of the room are several marble plinths placed in a U shape. On these stand small statues and tall vases with, as before, thick cobwebs running off to the corners. You can hear faint scrabbling sounds as the larger spiders scuttle to safety in the recesses of the room.
The characters will probably enter the room to explore it. That is the time to introduce them to the occupants of the room:
You enter the room to examine the contents more closely. It is quite unpleasant to brush away the thick webs for the larger spiders scuttle over your limbs to reach safety. Then, you notice the large shape looming in the thick webs at the centre of the room. It drops from its nest and leaps towards you. You raise your weapons to defend yourselves but your arms are trapped in the sticky webs!
In fact, the characters are being attacked by two giant spiders. The first has just dropped to the floor to attack. The other will drop onto a randomly selected character in the next combat round.
DW: ATT 19; DEF 4; Bite (d6, 3 and strong poison); AF 2; 2d6+10 HP; EV 4; MAG DEF 4.
AD&D: AC 4; HP 4d8+4; Bites for 2-8 and save vs. poison or die.
Webs reduce ATT by 2 and DEF by 1 for each round the character is entangled (AD&D: penalty of -1 to combat rolls each round). A character may try to free himself if he wishes, and may not fight while he is doing so. The chance of character freeing himself is 30% in the first round, 20% in the second and 10% in the third. Add 15% to these chances if the character has an edged weapon or a firebrand to help free himself.
The characters, if they survive, will presumably wish to search for treasure in this room. The tapestries and paintings are too decayed to hold any value. The statues and vases, eight in total, would be worth 100-500 Florins each to an art collector in a city, however each character could carry only one item and they are very cumbersome. The players must realise for themselves that these vases and statues are the valuable items. When they have finished they must leave the room through the door by which they entered.
Room H on map:
This room is entered via a well preserved door that is bolted on the outside. The bolt is easily withdrawn and this is what the players see:
You enter a short passageway that leads up some steps to another corridor with four alcoves off it. At the far end of this corridor is a stout iron door held shut by clasps of bronze. In each of the four alcoves, the floors of which are at knee height, lies the statue of a knight in armour. "These are the tombs of the bodyguard of Yestor," says Belcepiel, "His tomb must be very close.''
The characters may wish to examine the tombs. The statues are just the tops of immense marble slabs that form the lids of the coffins. They could not be moved without some sort of lifting harness. The door at the far end is more interesting. Though the door itself is of iron, the clasps on it are of bronze. Eventually, one of the characters will surely prise away the clasps:
Having prised away the relatively soft bronze clasps, you lever the steel door toward you. With much pulling and creaking it comes away from its frame only to reveal a blank stone wall behind. You are just uttering oaths of disgust when Belcepiel screams in terror, "The bodyguard! Keep them away from me!" You turn to see that three shambling corpses now block the corridor..."
These three undead warriors have escaped from their graves while the party were making so much noise opening the door. They are actually out to get Belcepiel and will ignore any other attacks against them for one round before retaliating:
DW: ATT 20; DEF 13; Sword (d8+1,5); AF 6 (3 vs. magic weapons and spells); 21, 23 and 25 HP; EV 5; MAG DEF 11; move 12m.
AD&D: AC 1 (5 vs. magic weapons); HP 5d8; HTK 20, 27 and 22; Strikes for 2-9; turned as spectres.
When these have been defeated, the party will be able to examine their tombs and discover the mechanism that allows the top to slide back almost two feet. No undead warrior has emerged from the fourth alcove. The characters can slide the lid on this back easily now that they know how it works, revealing a narrow set of steps which lead to:
Room I on map:
This is the tomb chamber of Yestor. It is well preserved, still showing vivid colours in the friezes that dominate the walls. They depict the major events in Yestor's life: warriors hold him aloft on their shields, making him their High King while still a child; a wailing crowd indicates the defeat by Aramriogh; forest scenes show his exile amongst the elves; the fate of Belcepiel is depicted; and Yestor's eventual victory over Aramriogh and the founding of his dynasty.
In the centre of the room is a large sarcophagus painted with the image of a dark-haired, hook-nosed man. Tall lamps, long unused, stand at each comer of the sarcophgus. At Belcepiel's urgent request you man-handle the lid off the coffin. Inside, Yestor's body is remarkably well preserved, though dried and shrivelled it has not rotted. His hands are clasped at his chest and firmly grip a long, heavy mace whose end is shaped like a gauntletted fist. "Place the branches on his chest," says Belcepiel, her voice quavering with the same tension that grips you all. As soon as this is done, you see the wrinkles begin to smooth out on Yestor's skin. Withered limbs begin to lengthen and swell as the sinew regenerates. Slowly, very slowly, Yestor is returning to life.
(Referee: Read only if the characters have the rattle.) You suddenly hear a tiny voice from the jester's head on Hobble's rattle. "The Witch! The Witch!" it screams. "She can only slay him truly when he is alive again! Stop her! Stop her!" You whirl round to look for Belcepiel and are met with a fearsome sight...
(Referee: Read only if the characters don't have the rattle. Randomly select a character to be Belceplel's first target, but if a character has already taken Yestor's mace it cannot be that
character.) There is a scream of triumph from behind you. You feel long claws rake your flesh. You whirl around to see a hideous vision...
(Pick up both threads of the narrative here.) Belcepiel, or what you thought to be Belcepiel, has revealed her true nature. The white feather cloak has parted to show not the lithe, feminine form you expected but the clawed feet and hideous rubbery body of a troll-woman. Before you stands Aramriogh, once Queen of the Trolls. "Fools!" she cries. "Now through your unwitting aid I shall have my vengeance on Yestor, but first of all I shall deal with you!" Spittle runs down her lips as she screams this last. It is time to fight.
Aramriogh is not as tough as the myth surrounding her might lead one to suppose. True, she did sell her soul for sorcerous powers and she did once lead armies of trolls but her abilities were largely organisational and her control of nature is not suitable for close-combat. Nevertheless, she is no pushover:
DW: 10th rank Elementalist— Darkness Magic with subsidiary Water and Earth Magic; ATT 25; DEF 17; Talons (d6+2,6); AF 3; 40 HP; EV 5; MAG ATT 28; MAG DEF 18: Magic Points 30/10/10.
AD&D: 7th level Illusionist; AC 4; 42 HP; claws for 2-7.
Spells: (1st level) Darkness, Phantasmal Force, Wall of Fog, Change Self
(2nd level) Blur, Hypnotic Pattern, Mirror Image(3rd Level) Continual Darkness, Fear
Aramriogh's power is curtailed by rowan, mistletoe and holly. Any character holding or wearing such gains some protection from her magic. Mistletoe gives +2 MAG DEF vs her Earth spells, rowan +2 vs Water spells and holly +2 vs Darkness spells. (AD& D: each plant gives +1 on saving throws vs. her spells) Placing a garland of one of these on her reduces the MAG ATT of her spells similarly (AD&D: +1 to saving throws vs her spells.) She is wholly powerless against Yestor's mace. She cannot attack its bearer with weapons, talons or spells. Moreover, a single blow from it is enough to kill her:
Yestor's mace strikes home and Aramriogh lets out a despairing yell of astounding volume. She pauses for an instant, her eyes glaze over and then her whole being changes to a grey pillar of stone, the Estring Maiden. Then, even this form is destroyed for the stone crumbles away to dust, and an unnatural wind scatters it to the four comers of the earth. Aramriogh is gone forever. There is a crumbling sound from Yestor's tomb. Now that his task has finally finished he too is reverting to dust there is little more to do now. Perhaps it is time to return to the village and bury poor Bleoric.
(Of course, if the characters manage to defeat Aramriogh without using the mace then this ending will need to be adjusted slightly.)
You return to the vIllage of St Stephen's pained by your wounds and losses. Night has fallen. As you crunch through the deep drifts towards the welcoming glow from the windows of the inn, a figure steps silently from the shadows near the churchyard. It is Belcepiel.
This is the real Belcepiel, freed from the Old Lord's realm when the players smashed the crystal but immediately flung from them by Aramriogh's magic. If the characters blurt out your story of the afternoon's events she will reveal how it all started:
"My father was a mortal, a wizard who collected magical secrets. Aramriogh was my half-sister, sired upon a troll-woman by my father in exchange for ancient lore. In childhood, we were so alike that we were often mistaken for one another, but she had a warped and twisted nature and was always being punished for one misdeed or other. As we grew older my own beauty grew, as does that of any elven maid, but Aramriogh's body instead began to take after that of her mother. She fled our home and sought refuge with the trolls where, thanks to her clever mind, she soon rose to be their leader. She was a naturally gifted warrior and soon had forged the trolls into an unbeatable force. So it was that when Yestor came to my people for aid we knew she would soon turn her forces against us and so we gave him our help. I myself pledged my life to the Old Lord of the Lake in order to guarantee his aid, and with the combined power of the Old Lords, Yestor was able to trap her. Leaderless, the troll army soon faded away.
"However, Yestor knew that his victory was only temporary. the Old Lords had told him that Aramriogh had sold her soul to the Son of the Morning in exchange for power over the forces of nature. That one had also prophesied to her that Yestor alone held the means to kill her but that no blow from his hand could ever touch her. So Yestor had trapped her in the Maiden for centuries, bound there by the ritual that his descendants have carried out every year until yesterday. When the ritual was broken, Aramriogh was freed and used you to gain access to Yestor's tomb. There, she had to trick you to restore him to life before she could kill her ancient enemy. Fortunately for us all, she had reckoned without the deceit of the Fallen One and you, using Yestor's weapon, killed her."
Actually, it was 1986 so that's more like 24 years ago! I thought this was lost forever. The 'zine that I wrote it for never paid me (b$%#ds!) and then folded. I wrote the text on an Atari ST if I remember correctly, so the original is long since lost. Great to see it resurface.ReplyDelete
Oh, and Alan Garner's "The Moon of Gomrath" was a big inspiration.
OK, maybe it was 1990 but it was written and played a few years before being sent to that 'zine.ReplyDelete
You're right, Steve. I don't know where I got that bit about 14 years from! Probably a combination of wishful thinking and hitting the Christmas port a bit early.ReplyDelete
I spotted the Alan Garner influence, the cloak of eagle feather was a nice touch. Which magazine was it published in? I know I've read it before.ReplyDelete
I can't remember the name exactly. It was an Irish 'zine called Fantasy Chronicles or something. I think it folded after about :3 issues.ReplyDelete
Did someone mention port?ReplyDelete
It was Fantasy Chronicles, published out of Dublin - well remembered, Steve. In fact I have the issue right here and it says "December 1986". There's been a lot of port (and whisky, and Singha beer) under the bridge since then.ReplyDelete
Ave Davide !ReplyDelete
Well, poor Latin, but I've seen worse. If there is "CADAVER" in the sentence, then "DUX ESTORUS" should be in the genitive: "DUCIS ESTORI". "IN MONTES" implies an idea of movement, of direction; if it's static, then use the ablative "IN MONTIBUS"
It's not for me to correct Steve's Latin or Greek, I think - though as he says in the scenario, it's not supposed to be grammatically correct. I can at least take the credit for correctly declining dragon in the title of the fanzine Ordo Draconis. "People called Romanus, they go home..." Who said that? :)ReplyDelete
the Monty Pythons !ReplyDelete
"People called Romanus"; in Latin, they would turn it as "they called Romanus"; hence "Romanum vocaverunt"
"They go home" = "Domum redeunt"
And here it is on YouTube:ReplyDelete
I had a Latin master just like John Cleese.