PF Savage: Legacy of Fire

mikeawmids

Explorer
SAVAGE: LEGACY OF FIRE

Running the Legacy of Fire adventure path, converted to Savage Worlds Adventure Edition. The four player party consists of;

NADIYYA EMBERSTORM
Beautiful and athletic young human woman, with long black hair and smouldering red eyes. Pale skin that resists the burning gaze of the desert sun.

MISFAR
Elven wizard. Dark complexion, grey ponytail and grey eyes. Searching for lost ruins swallowed by the desert. Unfailingly polite & courteous, even to his enemies.

ZAIN AL-SAHLI
Tall and muscular human man, devoted to the sun goddess Sarenrae. Bald with sun tattoo forehead head. Slow to anger, but fearsome when roused. Wields an enormous hammer.

FUK URF
Sandy skinned desert goblin. Bit of a loner. Likes to catch and eat small vermin that live in the desert (lizards, scorpions, ect...)
 

mikeawmids

Explorer
Chapter One: Sultan's Claw

The Legacy of Fire adventure path opens as the party travel into the desert. They were approached in Solku by a gruff old man called Garavel and hired to accompany him to Sultan's Claw, an oasis in the shadow of an ancient, withered tree.

Each PC has been provided with a riding camel for the journey. To the surprise of all, the beasts are possessed of uncharacteristically pleasant dispositions. Nadiyya names her camel Blaze and its attitude (randomly determined by rolling 2d6 on the Reactions table) is Cooperative. Misfar's mount is Uncooperative and he has named it Geminara, after a former lover with a similarly disobliging nature. Zain has named his Sonny and it is Friendly. Fuk has not bothered naming his mount. Mirroring its rider's indifference, the beast is Neutral.

Misfar spots a column of dark smoke rising from beyond the next dune. Nadiyya and Zain rush ahead. Misfar and Fuk follow warily. A half dozen wagons are drawn up around the Sultan's Claw. One of the wagons is on fire and the flames have set the old tree ablaze! Nadiyya feels drawn toward the inferno, as she is to any open flame. She urges Blaze onward, with Zain and Sonny hot on their hooves.

Nadiyya can understand the language of flame. She speaks directly into the fire, calming the flames. Fuk dismounts and offerers first aid to those already injured battling the blaze. The nomads are alarmed by the sudden appearance of the goblin, but Garavel gestures for Fuk to continue and the nomads step aside. Meanwhile, Zain lifts a barrel of drinking water from one of the other wagons and pours it over the fire. Misfar consults his spellbook and summons a cloud of swirling sand to smother the flames. At this point, the fire is practically out. Fuk whacks out his (impressively proportioned) goblin willy* and emits a long, steaming stream of bright yellow piss to finally extinguish the blaze.

* Fuk's player insisted on rolling 2D6 to determine the length of his character's junk = 9 inches.

A beautiful young woman approaches the heroes. Garavel sinks to his knees reverently and indicates the party should follow his example. They do so. Fuk goes one better and prostrates himself in the sand at the woman's feet. She steps over him and addresses the heroes directly;

"I am Almah Roveshki. You must be the trouble-shooters Garavel hired in Solku. You arrived in the nick of time and have my thanks for saving the camp. Impress me further by finding out how the fire began. Garavel will introduce you to the other members of the caravan, any one of whom could be responsible."

Almah ducks back into her tent, leaving the heroes with her grizzled major-domo. Garavel nods respectfully and enquires who they would like to speak to first?

Q: "What was in the burning wagon?"
A: "It belonged to Eloais, an astrologer and Almah's personal fortune teller. He was trapped inside when the wagon caught fire and was burnt to death."

Q: "So this is a murder investigation?"
A: "That is for you to determine."

Q: "Did Eloais have any enemies, here in the camp?"
(Persuasion)
A: "Dashki, the scout / gnoll expert harbours strong feelings for Almah and may have been jealous of the time and attention the merchant princess gave to Eloais."

The party decide they would like to interview/interrogate Dashki. They find the alleged "gnoll expert" skulking behind Almah's tent, trying to perv on the princess. He is a filthy and nigh feral individual with long, greasy hair and bad teeth. Garavel is outraged and draws his sword. Nadiyya persuades the makor-domo to sheath his weapon and let her deal with Dirty Dashki. Dashki himself is immediately smitten with Nadiyya, who is just as Attractive as Almah (literally, she has the Edge to prove it).

Q: "What were you doing behind Almah's tent?"
A: "Nothing. I was checking the camp for hidden dangers."

Q: "Don't lie to us, Dashki!!"
(Intimidation, failed)
"Where were you before / during the fire?"
A: "I was eating by the campfire. When I saw the flames, I rushed to help."


Zain does remember seeing Dashki beating ineffectually at a burning shrub, but is pretty sure he was not among the nomads gathered around the fire, as he and Nadiyya first galloped into the camp.

Q: "What was your opinion of Eloais the astrologer?"
A: "He was a fool, always looking up at the stars - or down his nose at me. Burning to death is a nasty way to go, but I shan't be shedding any tears for him."


The party are reasonably convinced that Dashki is telling the truth.

Q: "Who else might have wanted to kill Eloais?"
A: "Don't know. Maybe it was pugwampis."

Q: "WTF is a pugwampi?!"
A: "It's a type of gremlin. Wherever you find gnolls, you'll also find pugwampis - and this whole desert is lousy with both."

Q: "Why would pugwampis burn Eloais' wagon?"
A: "They wouldn't, but their presence alone is enough to cause unhappy accidents. They act like Bad Luck magnets for anyone nearby."


So, according to Dashki, the astrologer's fiery demise was an accident, triggered by the proximity of tiny Bad Luck monsters. That sounds like a hard sell. Fuk suggests that it might be easier just to frame Dashki as the arsonist, kind-of-joking-but-not-really. Before Almah will accept the party's explanation, she demands to see an actual pugwampi, with her own eyes. The party are dispatched into the darkening dunes to capture a living specimen.

Fuk pokes around the charred ruin of the astrologer's wagon and does find evidence of tiny, humanoid creatures in the vicinity. The heroes also meet Father Zastoran (cleric of Nethys), who laments the disappearance of his favourite goat, but has little of value to add to their investigation. He does offer the party some Healing Potions if they find his precious Rombard. The heroes scour the area around the camp but cannot find any more tracks. They can, however, hear the distant bleating of a distressed goat.

The party follow the sound and soon reach the edge of a dense cactus forest. Rombard's helpless bleating beckons them into the prickly copse. Nadiyya decides to cut a path through the thorny jungle. She focuses her power - and nothing happens. Her player tries to spend a Benny to re-roll the failed Focus check, but something stops her. It doesn't take the players long to realise the pugwampi's bad luck aura is suppressing their ability to spend Bennies to re-roll. The party enter the cactus forest. Zain and Fuk weave between the cacti without getting prickled, however Nadiyya is Fatigued and Misfar (Critical Fail) is Fatigued and Wounded.

"Cursed pugwampis!" the wizard cries, as he trips over his own feet and falls head-first into a clump of particularly prickly plants. Someone (or something) sniggers quietly, amused by the wizard's misfortune.

The party find Rombard tied to the thorny trunk of a huge cactus in the centre of a clearing. Nadiyya, Zain and Fuk sense movement all around them. Only Misfar is surprised when the pugwampis attack!

Six tiny creatures appear from among the cacti. Fuk draws a bead on the closest gremlin, only for the bowstring to snap! Cursed pugwampis!! Again, Nadiyya focuses on her sword, willing the blade to burst into flame. Nothing happens, then suddenly the huge cactus in the centre of the clearing is ablaze! Nadiyya is Shaken by the arcane backlash.

(Seriously, two Critical Fails in a row? Cursed Pugwampis!!!)

On the plus side, the burning cactus negates the Dim Lighting penalty! Zain swings his battle hammer with wild abandon and pulverizes a gremlin. The other pugwampis find this hilarious. The gremlins taunt the heroes. Nadiyya fails to remove Shaken condition, spends a Benny to recover (it seems the pugwampis bad luck aura only prevents Bennies being spent on re-rolls).

"We need an intact body to show Almah!" Nadiyyah screams, as Zain smears another pugwampi into the ground.

The gremlins attack - and all miss. Fuk grapples a gremlin and manages to hold onto it!

"Fuk got one! Let's go!!"

Nadiyya cuts the rope tethering Rombard to the burning cactus. Misfar (finally!) casts Burst and flays the remaining pugwampis with a cone of burning sand! The heroes (carefully) exit the burning cactus forest, dragging Rombard and their captive pugwampi. They return to the camp at Sultan's Claw.

Fuk presents the squirming pugwampi to Almah and her court. The rest of the party describe their experiences with the bad luck aura. Her curiosity satisfied, Almah orders Garavel to wring the creatures neck and dispose of it away from the camp. He takes the writhing pugwampi from Fuk and ducks out of the tent. Once her major-domo has returned, the merchant princess continues;

"Twice now, you have demonstrated your value and I would share with you the details of my mission. The Pactmasters of Katapesh have tasked me with reclaiming the town of Kelmarane from the savage gnoll tribe occupying the ruins. I need strong and resourceful allies to assist me in this undertaking. Once trade begins to flow through Kelmarane once more, you will find yourselves generously compensated. Can I count on you to seize this unique opportunity?"

The heroes are interested! Killing some gnolls for a fat payday sounds good to them!

"Excellent! Garavel chose you well, it seems!"

"Thankyou, princess."
answers the major-domo, "However, we have a small problem. We had planned on staging our assault on Kelmarane from here, but recent events have highlighted how vulnerable we would be in the event of a counter-attack. My map shows an abandoned monastery to the north-east. It would serve us well as a temporary headquarters.
"My men are needed here, to protect the princess. Can you heroes be relied upon to scout the ruins and deal with any dangerous inhabitants?"


The party agree to clear out the old monastery.

TBC
 

mikeawmids

Explorer
Chapter Two: The Old Monastery

Misfar is still plucking cactus spines out of his face the next morning, as the party prepare to break camp. After reuniting Father Zastoran with his beloved Rombard, each hero is rewarded with a healing potion.

"You'll find the monastery several miles to the north-east," Garavel says, squinting off toward the horizon, "Beyond the monastery lies the town of Kelmarane. Try not to advertise your presence. We don't want the gnolls to know we're there until we're ready for them."

The heroes leave their camels behind and continue afoot. Fuk takes the lead, he has years of experience navigating the trackless desert and the party reach the old monastery before noon. A half dozen giant vultures circle the ruin. The kettle (no, really, Google it) spot the party approaching their crumbling eyrie and swoop to attack!

Misfar is raked by razor-sharp talons and suffers a second wound! Ignoring the pain, Misfar casts Sand Blast and shreds his feathered assailant in a flurry of burning sand. Another vulture attempts to grapple Fuk and carry him off, but the wily goblin drops prone to evade the attack. Fuk rolls to his feet with his bow drawn and fires an arrow through the vulture's leathery wing. He puts a second arrow in the shaken vulture, killing it. The big black bird crumples at the goblin's feet. Zain casts Dazzling Aura (with a Raise) and the sunburst tattoo on his head begins to glow, blindingly bright. Nadiyya's sword bursts into flame and she skewers another vulture with the burning blade!

A dark shadow falls across the party. An enormous vulture drops out of the clear blue sky, its 60ft wingspan eclipsing the sun!

The two remaining not-actually-that-giant-after-all vultures attack first, followed by the mega-vulture. Fuk shoots & kills one of the smaller birds. Nadiyya swings her flaming sword at the mega-vulture, it is both singed and Shaken. Misfar gambles half his remaining Power Points on an empowered Burst and delivers 27 damage to the mega-vulture, more than enough to kill it! The wizard's spell scours the flesh off the vultures head, leaving a surprised looking skull bobbing on the end of its long, scrawny neck. Zain batters the final vulture out of the air and the battle is won!

The sand around the old monastery is littered with dead vultures. Fuk begins stuffing giant black feathers into his pack, for some weird goblin reason. The party head into the ruin. It's about now that Zain remembers he can cast Healing and heals Nadiyya's and Misfar's wounds. The nave is a long, shady chamber strewn with broken masonry from the collapsed ceiling. A large tree has fallen through the western wall, beyond which can be seen an overgrown garden, home to a family of surly baboons. A door in the eastern wall opens into a large library, half buried by sand blown in by the wind. The heroes approach the chapel. Faded tapestries flanking the stone altar depict the golden sunburst of Sarenrae. Zain kneels before the altar and offers a quick prayer to his Goddess.

Having secured the monastery, the party set a watch and wait for the rest of the caravan to arrive.

Nadiyya and Misfar search the library. Most of the books are badly damaged, but one old tome has held up against the elements; Courts of Stone and Flame. Together, Nadiyya and Misfar translate the ancient text; it recounts the battle between the Templars of the Five Winds and a rogue genie called Jhavul.

Meanwhile, Fuk climbs onto the roof of the chapel, where the giant vultures laired. The nests are full of old bones and also three large eggs.

'Well, that's breakfast sorted,' Fuk thinks, stuffing the eggs into his pack.

Fuk also gets a roll on the random treasure table! He has a 1% chance of finding something good! Fuk rolls 100%. Fuk finds nothing good. Fuk stares off to the north and sees the ruined town of Kelmarane, beyond a sea of gently swaying pesh fields.

Back in the chapel, Zain is scrubbing crusty vulture shit off the altar, when he feels the whole thing shift slightly.

'I hope Sarenrae's not watching this,' he thinks, pushing the altar aside.

The altar covered a hidden trapdoor! Zain opens it and sees a dark, dusty chamber, wherein five stone statues stand in a half-circle. Zain drops down to investigate. Almost immediately, he hears a voice in his head.

"Warrior of God. Approach."

The voice seems to be coming from the statue of a tall, bearded man resting against a massive, two-handed hammer.

"I am Vardishal. Once I was known as the Templar of the North Wind, general of Nefeshti's armies and scourge of Jhavul. Now, I am forgotten. In the garden above, buried beneath the roots off the great tree, you will find my weapon. Take it, warrior. Wield it in battle and rekindle the embers of my legacy."

"For the glory of Sarenrae, I will honour your memory!" Zain promises.

Zain clambers out of the pit, returns the altar to its rightful place, then heads to the garden. The baboons hoot and howl in protest, largely ignored by the brawny fighter. Zain digs among the roots of the fallen tree and excavates a massive, two-handed hammer * wrapped in a fine, blue cloak **.

* Tempest is a +1 genie-bane maul that deals +1d6 damage to elemental creatures (including genies)

** Cloak of the North Wind, grants the Fleet Footed Edge (+2 Pace, running die increases one die type)

TBC
 

mikeawmids

Explorer
Chapter Three: Kelmarane

By sunset, the merchant princess and her retinue have reached the monastery and begun fortifying the ruins. The heroes convene in the chapel to strategize. Garavel spreads a map across the altar, weighing the edges down with a pair of ornate daggers.

"We need to gather more more information, before we attack," Garavel explains, "We know the gnolls hold Kelmarane, but we don't know who leads them, how many there are or what kind of reinforcements they can call upon. I propose that a small group infiltrate the gnoll camp to assess what we're up against."

"That'll be us then?"
Misfar surmises.

He's not wrong.

"There is more," Almah adds, her expression uncharacteristically pensive , "Before Kelmarane fell to ruin, its people succumbed to a demon, spreading madness and destruction. The Pactmasters sealed the demon in the crypt beneath the church. This evil must also be vanquished, once and for all."

The heroes bed down for the night, anticipating an early start. Fuk opts to sleep in the empty nest atop the chapel. Nobody in camp rests easy, their sleep is disturbed by a ghoulish howling from the ruins of Kelmarane. The call is answered from among the foothills of Pale Mountain. Fuk notices lights in the distance, far beyond the pesh fields and the ruined town.

The heroes head out at first light, using the arid pesh fields to cover their approach. Nadiyya notices an odd trembling underfoot. Moments later, a pair of huge, centipede-like creatures erupt from beneath the ground!

Only Nadiyya gets an action card in the first round, but at least her high Notice prevented the dustdiggers from getting The Drop.

The first digger rises up and lunges for Nadiyya! Her shield does nothing to deter the monster's crushing mandibles! 25 damage = Shaken + 5 wounds!!! The optional Wound Cap rule is in effect, reducing that to 4 wounds, which is still plenty dangerous! Nadiyya soaks some of that damage, but is still grievously injured! The second digger goes for Misfar and seems determined to swallow the elven mage whole. Nadiyya does not recover from Shaken, but is able to gulp down a healing potion as a free action.

Zain is dealt the Joker, everyone gets a Benny! Moving with unnatural grace (thanks to his new magical cloak), Zain moves up alongside Misfar to defend the wounded wizard. He swings Tempest with such force that the digger's chitinous armour shatters like a old pot! The second digger burrows into the sand. Nadiyya gets an Opportunity Attack, but her blade bounces off its hardened carapace. The monster resurfaces beside Misfar. Fuk gets the other Joker and finishes off the second digger before it can finish off the wizard.

The heroes wipe the monster blood from their weapons and continue through the pesh fields, wary of further attacks from underground. They reach the outskirts of Kelmarane unmolested. There is not a soul in sight, but the heroes can hear the barking of gnolls among the ruins. The abandoned church stands among a desolate and windswept cemetery. Zain is eager to cleanse the demonic corruption gestating in the shrine's undercroft. The party attempt to move unseen, darting between ruined buildings. Turning a corner, the heroes come face to face with a gnoll patrol.

Fuk ducks into the cover provided by a ruined shop front as the two gnoll marksmen raise their bows. Fuk fires first and one of the archers is punched of his feet by an arrow to the chest. Zain casts Deflection and the sun tattoo on his head burst into light, dazzling the remaining gnolls. The gnolls stab blindly with their short spears but miss. The four hyenas accompanying the patrol split up to attack Nadiyya and Misfar. Nadiyya's sword bursts into flame and she cuts a hyena in half!

Nadiyya twists aside as the gnoll archer takes a shot, smoothly decapitating the second hyena as she pivots around.

Misfar defends himself against the other two hyenas.

(Rules question, if anyone reading wants to chime in: does using the Burrow power in melee range of an opponent trigger an Opportunity Attack?)

Zain sweeps his new hammer at the two foes attacking him, one is shaken, the other is killed. He finishes the shaken gnoll off in the next round.

Nadiyya charges the gnoll archer and brings her flaming sword down upon him with calamitous effect. The two surviving hyenas flees into the desert.

"We should have taken one alive," Nadiyya suggests, somewhat belatedly, as Zain moves the bodies out of sight, "Wait, are any of them still alive? Did anyone check?"

Queue Vigour rolls at -2 for the 4x gnolls. It turns out that yes, one of them is still clinging to life. The heroes interrogate the wounded gnoll.

Q: "What's your name, gnoll?"
A: "Narg."

Q: "Alright... Narg. Answer our questions truthfully and we'll let you go.
"Who's in charge here, and where do we find them?"
A: "Kulldis tribe have new Alpha, a human warrior called Kardswann! He killed the old chieftain and took over the tribe. He is in the Battle Market - that large, domed building in the centre of town."

Q: "Tell us more about this Kardswann!"
A: "He is very strong! Very powerful to have defeated the old chieftain. He fights with a big axe and uses magic!"

Q: "How do we get into this Battle Market?"
A: "Doors are always open! Visitors are welcome!"

Q: "Know anything about a demon under the church?"
A: "I don't know anything about that!"


The heroes run out of questions. Narg looks up at them hopefully.

"Are we actually going to let him go?" Fuk asks.

The party decide to tie Narg up for now, and release him after they have murdered the rest of his tribe, leaving him to wander the desert alone and plan his revenge. Fuk plays along, even though his own plan is to sneak back here and murder the helpless gnoll while the rest of the party are occupied elsewhere.

TBC
 
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mikeawmids

Explorer
Chapter Four: Xulthos the Defiler

The midday sun hangs over the ruined town of Kelmarane, its oppressive heat beating down on the heroes like an open furnace. Despite the sweat trickling down his bald head and stinging his eyes, Zain Al-Sahli interprets this as a promising omen, indicative that his goddess is watching over him.

"The light of Sarenrae shows us the path!" he cries, "We have a sacred duty to purge this church of demonic corruption!"

"Easy there, big fella. It's on our to-do list."
Fuk grumbles.

The interior of the church has been gutted and skeletons litter the ground, remnants of the battle between the Pactmasters Guard and the corrupted priests of Sarenrae. A magical barrier obstructs the entrance to the crypt beneath the church. Before the party left the monastery, Almah disclosed the ritual for deactivating the barrier, but warned them that to do so would release a powerful demon trapped below.

"Once I read from this scroll, there's no going back," Misfar says, "We must defeat whatever evil lies beyond, or it will spread its foulness across the land once more."

Zain nods. He is totally up for this. Nadiyya and Fuk exchange a worried glance. What if they are biting off more than they can chew?

Too late for that now! Misfar speaks the magic words to dispel the barrier. Steeling themselves for the battle ahead, the party descend into a large, rough-hewn chamber, the walls of which are lined with shallow niches, where the shrouded corpses of the faithful were laid to rest.

There is no sign of the alleged demon, but the heroes do hear an evil voice whispering in the darkness.

"Many years have I languished in this prison, endless decades have I waited for the seal to be broken. Now, thanks to you, my captivity is at an end. But before I depart, I will kill you one by one, until the last of you begs to be made my slave. Which one of you, I wonder, will that be?"

"You are going nowhere, save back to Hell!" Zain cries, "Show yourself, demon, so that I may end your reign of terror!"

Fuk squints into the gloom and discerns a large, invisible creature clinging to the ceiling of the crypt.

"There! It's there!" the goblin squeals, firing an arrow at the unseen horror. His aim is true, but the demon is resistant to mundane weapons (half damage).

The thing on the ceiling scuttles forward. Misfar screams as invisible claws close on his torso, slashing through his dusty robes and breaking skin. He struggles free before the demon can cut him in half (Misfar spent his last Benny to Soak a truckload of damage).

Zain casts Solar Flare and the demon shrieks as it is blinded. The demon counters with Hypnotic Pattern, but the heroes shield their eyes and resist the mesmerising assault on their senses.

(Another rules question: does the penalty from Blind affect Parry? We ruled yes, but the rules as written aren't awfully clear on that point. Zain's argument was that a blind person can't defend as effectively against an attack they can't see coming.)

Zain swings Tempest, inflicting a wound on the demon and dislodging it from the ceiling. The invisibility effect fails and the heroes get their first good look at what they're fighting. Their adversary is a large, demonic spider monster with huge, snapping claws! It is so goddamn-awful-looking that it triggers an immediate Fear test from all who gaze upon it! The whole party fails! Nadiyya is frightened and gains the Hesitant hindrance for the rest of the battle (act on the worst of two action cards). Misfar is panicked and flees from the crypt, before his lifeless corpse joins the dead interred therein. Zain is Distracted (after a Critical Fail on his Spirit roll, everyone agreed he got off lightly). Fuk is horrified and gains a Major phobia of all demons (- 2 to all rolls while in their presence)!

"Cowardly wizard! Stay and die with honour!" Zain hollers at Misfar's back.

Misfar keeps running.

Nadiyya is dealt a much needed Joker (and everyone gets a Benny - even with the Hesitant hindrance, a Joker still counts). She screams and drives her flaming sword into the belly of the prone demon! It suffers another two wounds and squeals like a pig being forced through a mangle.

"You have not seen the last of Xulthos the Defiler!" the demon hisses.

It rights itself and attempts to flee, leaving a trail of acidic demon blood in its wake. Nadiyya and Zain get attacks of opportunity on the retreating monster. Nadiyya swings her flaming sword and hacks off one of the demon's spider legs, hindering its escape.

"Defile this!!" Zain roars, bringing Tempest down on the demon's head and splattering demon brains across the floor!

TBC
 

mikeawmids

Explorer
Chapter 5: Battle for the Battle Market

With a bit of GM prompting, the party remember they have heard the names Vardishal and Kardswann before. Misfar pulls his copy of Courts of Stone and Flame from his pack and flips forward to the bit about the Genie War. Both Vardishal and Kardswann were Templars of the Five Winds, along with three others: Davashuum, Pazhvann and Zayifid. All five templars were powerful jann in the service of a djinni princess called Nefeshti.

"Why would a powerful jann be leading a pack of degenerate gnolls?" Misfar muses.

"At the monastery, I spoke to a spirit calling himself Vardishal." Zain adds, "He told me where to find this sweet magic hammer."

"These Templars have been in-active for centuries,"
Misfar says, "Yet we have crossed paths with two of them in the space of as many days. It is most peculiar indeed!"

Peculiarities aside, the party still have a job to do! It's about 3pm and the party are only lightly wounded. According to Narg, Kardswann can be found in the Battle Market, a large, domed structure in the centre of Kelmarane. If the gnoll can be trusted (lol), they should be able to swan in through the front door.

The heroes advance up the main thoroughfare toward the Battle Market. The front doors are wide open and a colorfully costumed goblin waits to greet them.

"Be welcome travellers! Welcome to the Kelmarane Battle Market!" the strange creature simpers, prancing this way and that as though in dire need of a lavatory, "Kardsw - sorry, Ugruk, master of the Kullid tribe welcomes you! Come in! Come in!"

Q: "Ugruk? We heard Kardswann was in charge here."
A: "Ugruk is new-new chieftain."

Q: "So what happened to the old-new chieftain?"
A: "Old-new chieftain is indisposed right now."

"Indisposed is a pretty big word,"
Zain rumbles, menacingly, "How about you explain a little more clearly, for those of us with only d4 Smarts."

The goblin greeter explains that about an hour ago, Kardswann fell into a deep sleep and Ugruk, his second in command, seized his chance to take control of the tribe. The party realise that Kardswann's incapacitation must have occured around the same time that they were finishing up with Xulthos the Defiler. Could the two incidents be connected?

The heroes enter the Battle Market. The centre of the building is dominated by a raised, blood-stained stage, overlooked by balconies on the higher levels. A crowd of gnolls, orcs and human brigands gather around the battle stage, baying for the next death-match to begin. Several seedy looking smugglers are seated at a long counter, where a one-eyed gnoll bartender is serving drinks.

The heroes sidle up to the bar and order drinks. Meanwhile, two human prisoners are being dragged up onto the battle stage.

"New in Kelmarane?" one of the smugglers enquires, "Must be, if I've not seen you before. If you need weapons or armour and have the coin to pay for quality, then I'm your man. Gorundal's the name."

"Nadiyya Emberstorm."
Nadiyya replies, "What's going on over there?"

"Savages!"
the merchant mutters, quietly enough that he wont be overheard, "The Kulldis captured a group of adventurers several days back. They've been making them fight in the arena. They call it spirt, but it's a death sentence. Oh, look, here we go again."

"Hurvank!! Hurvank!!"
chant the crowd.

"Who or what is Hurvank?" Misfar asks.

"Arena champion," Gorundal answers, "Big bastard. Nasty too. I don't think I can watch...."

A large, brutish ogre stomps onto the stage, dragging a studded greatclub.

At the same time, a tough-looking gnoll warrior with grey streaks in his fur appears on the balcony overlooking the arena.

"That's Chief Ugruk," Gorundal explains, following Nadiyya's gaze, "The top dog. He calls the shots, for now at least."

Nadiyya does not like the odds stacked against the two unarmed prisoners. Misfar does not like the odds stacked against the party if they aggro the entire Battle Market all at once. Unable to sit drinking while two defenceless men get smashed into jelly, Nadiyya vaults onto the battle stage. She swings her flaming sword and severs Hurvank's arm above the elbow! The crowd are shocked into silence as blood gushes from the wound! Hurvank gawps at his severed arm, flopping around at his feet like some kind of horrible fish.

Chief Ugruk is the first to recover his wits.

"One thousand gold to whoever brings me her corpse!"

The gnolls and orcs and human brigands clustered around the battle stage exchange looks. That's a lot of gold and no-one wants to share! Misfar off-loads a Burst spell into the tightly-packed crowd, obliterating two gnolls and a human mercenary. The surviving bad guys look pissed, so he takes cover behind the bar. The one-eyed gnoll bartender smashes a bottle against the counter and menaces Misfar with the jagged end. Misfar cracks the gnoll bartender over the head with his staff, knocking him out cold.

Zain charges into the crowd and starts swinging Tempest, taking advantage of his new Sweep edge. Chief Ugruk makes a Support/Intimidation roll to motivate Hurvank (+1). The wounded ogre retrieves his greatclub and swings it clumsily in his left hand. Nadiyya ducks and rolls under the attack. Three gnolls gang up on Zain, three more climb onto the battle stage to claim the bounty on Nadiyya's corpse.

The two prisoners are not as helpless as first thought, the smaller man screams encouragement (Boost Trait) and the larger man bravely grapples one of Nadiyya's assailants in a vice-like headlock.

"Who are you guys?" Nadiyya asks.

"I'm Felliped - you can call me Fel." the little guy answers, "The big guy is Ox."

"Less talking, more fighting!"
Ox grunts, breaking the gnolls neck for emphasis and kicking its sword over to Fel.

The bard scoops up the weapon. He's not much of a fighter, but his incompetent flailing does take some of the pressure off Nadiyya.

Hurvank makes another clumsy sweep with his greatclub, heedless of his gnoll 'allies' on the battle stage. Nadiyya and Fel continue hacking at the ogre champion, but cannot seem to put him down for good.

Fuk hears a crazed shout and turns to see the goblin greeter from the main entrance bearing down on him with a knife raised! Fuk buries his axe in the goblins' skull and leaves it there, switching back to his bow.

Chief Ugruk summons his personal bodyguards onto the balcony. A few of them have bows.

Zain spends his last Benny soaking damage from the three gnolls ganging up on him.

Misfar grabs a bottle of liqueur from behind the bar. He takes a swig to steady his nerves, then throws the bottle at the ogre. It shatters against Hurvank's broad back, drenching the ogre in alcohol. Nadiyya snaps her fingers (re: Elemental Manipulation) and ignites the ogre's alcohol soaked loincloth. Hurvank goes up like a bonfire (and starts taking on-going fire damage every round). Hurvank stops, drops and rolls to extinguish the flames.

Chief Ugruk barks a command and the gnoll archers on the balcony open fire. Nadiyya is shot twice, but has no Bennies left to soak. Oxvard is shot in the spine, he convulses and falls prone, the arrow protruding from his back.

Fell scrambles over to his dying companion and tells him (tearfully) that everything is going to be OK.

"Won't you sing for me, Fel?" Ox whispers, blood tricking from the corners of his mouth, "Just this one last time...."

Nadiyya crawls away, wincing at the two arrows in her side. Behind her, Hurvank has beaten out the last of the flames and regained his feet, a mask of dull witted fury twisting his burnt-ass face. Being a vindictive sort, Chieft Ugruk holds up a paw - ordering his retinue to hold fire (they are essentially on Hold). Hurvank looms over the wounded woman. Understanding Nadiyya's predicament, but unable to reach her, Zain hurls Tempest at the ogre. The hammer hits Hurvank in the face! The ogre is shaken! The GM awards Zain a Benny for heroism and he immediately uses it to re-roll his damage. The new total is enough to explode Hurvank's thick skull like an over-ripe melon!! The ogre goes down in a shower of bone fragments and matted hair! Chief Ugruk is so stunned he forgets to give his bodyguards the order to fire.

Nadiyya takes cover behind Hurvank's slumped corpse, shielding her from the archers on the balcony. Arrows thud into the dead ogre's back. Chief Ugruk leaves two archers to provide cover and leads his other two bodyguards down to join the battle. Felliped applies pressure to Oxvard's wound, sobbing as the light fades from his old friends eyes. Zain vaults up onto the battle stage, big hands glowing with the healing power of his goddess.

"No!" Nadiyya cries, pointing to Oxvard, "Help him!"

Unfortunately, Zain rolls a Critical Failure on his Faith roll. Sarenrae rejects his prayer to save Ox. The light in Zain's hands abruptly dies.

"He's gone!" Felliped cries, cradling his dead friend, "Oxvard is gone!"

"But why?!"
Zain stammers, his faith in Sarenrae shaken to the bedrock.

A red mist descends on the bereaved bard. Fell grabs his sword and charges Chief Ugruk. One of the gnoll bodyguards gets in the way and the raging bard cuts him down!

Zain tries to heal Nadiyya. She is healed! Several arrows thud into the cleric's back and he is driven to his knees. Fuk shoots and kills one of the archers. Misfar crit fails his Spellcasting roll and is Fatigued. He starts peering around suspiciously, expecting to see a pugwampi.

Felliped kills the second bodyguard! Wow, he sure is mad about his dead friend! Only Ugruk is left standing. Nadiyya stabs the chieftain in the back, then decapitates him on the back-swing.

After eight (exhausting) combat rounds, the battle for Kelmarane is won!

TBC
 

mikeawmids

Explorer
Chapter Six: A Prelude to War

After the deafeat of Chief Ugruk, the surviving members of the Kullid tribe slink away, tails tucked between their legs. Fuk clambers onto the roof of the Battle Market and flourishes a colourful rag to signal the all clear. Almah and her retinue abandon the old monastery and head into town. Almah claims the suite of rooms overlooking the Battle Market, which she renames the Victory Market. Garavel, Zastoran and Dashki are assigned quarters nearby. The merchant princess grants the party the deed to a large (albeit ruined) mansion near the waterfront.

A large, powerfully built man is found sleeping within a locked storeroom. The party assume this is Kardswann, former Templar of the Five Winds and more recently, usurped leader of the Kullid tribe. Misfar and Father Zastoran both examine the sleeper, but nothing they attempt will rouse the slumbering janni. Misfar has Kardswann moved to the party's new headquarters, where he poses less of an immediate threat to the merchant princess.

As word spreads that Kelmarane has been made safe, travellers begin trickling into the town. These travellers bring coin and their coin attracts merchants. Soon, the Victory Market is flourishing and the road to Kelmarane is thick with caravans, carrying goods to and from the town.

Once their wounds have healed, the heroes have the opportunity to enjoy some downtime and pursue their own personal goals.

Nadiyya is driven to learn about her ifreeti heritage. Every day, she visits Kardswann's room, in the hope that the comatose templar has woken up. Every day, she is disappointed. Instead, she pores over the party's copy of Courts of Stone and Flame and visits the market to look for rare book vendors recently arrived in Kelmarane.

Meanwhile, Misfar fills his hours with painstaking research into other ruins swallowed by the desert. He uncovers references to a lost temple called Marudshar, located somewhere to the north. Could this be the site he's been looking for? He scribbles frantically in his journal.

The death of Oxvard weighs heavily on Zane's conscience. He returns to the old monastery to meditate on his failure to save the warrior. He receives a vision from the goddess, showing how the Lions of Senara looted a shrine to Sarenrae and disturbed the bodies of the priests interred therein. Zain approaches Fel, demanding the location of the desecrated shrine and that they travel there together to lay the dead to rest. Zain asks Fuk to come along, knowing the goblin's survival skills will make it easier to locate the shrine. Fuk is just happy to be included!

(This side-quest was treated as a Quick Encounter.) Between Felliped's recollections and Fuk's desert lore, the trio find their way back to the ruined temple. Skeletons of the restless dead wander the darkened halls. Zain brandishes his holy symbol and compels the old bones return to their graves. This is enough to lift the curse on Felliped and restore Zain's faith in Sarenrae.

Meanwhile, a travelling priest comes to Kelmarane, looking for the heroes. He is tall, bald and gaunt, dressed in colourful robes that do little to soften his grim demeanour. He sits cross-legged on what used to be the battle stage and waits for the heroes to come to him. Almah, Garavel, Nadiyya and Misfar approach. Who is this mysterious holy man and what does he want?

Q: "Who are you and what do you want?"
A: "I am Zayifid the Wanderer. I heard tales of the mighty heroes who reclaimed Kelmarane for the Pactmasters of Katapesh and wanted to see them for myself.
"However, as I walked in the shadow of Pale Mountain, I noticed a great gathering of the other gnoll tribes. The Al'Chorhaiv, the Broken Jaw, the Wormhollow clan - those and many more. All have answered the call of the Carrion King and gathered in the House of the Beast.
"It is my fear that word of your victory has reached Ghartok's ear. Now he gathers an army to retake Kelmarane with an overwhelming show of force - and slay the heroes who dared to oppose his will."

Q: "Hold on. Zayifid? As in Zayifid-Templar-of-the-Five-Winds-Zayifid?"
A: "Er... no. I don't know who that is."


Nadiyya is convinced, but Misfar is not so easily swayed from his suspicions.

Q: "Are you sure you're not THAT Zayifid? I mean, it seems unlikely that another, totally different Zayifid would turn up in the story at this moment."
A: "I'm not THAT Zayifid!! Can we get back to the gnoll army, please?"

"For now...."
Misfar mutters.

Q: "So who is this Carrion King?"
A: "Ghartok. A monstrous gnoll pledged to Rovagug, god of destruction. He commands all the other tribes in the Pale Mountain region. He lairs in the House of the Beast, a huge temple complex built long ago by evil priests, as a place to conduct their wicked rituals."

Q: "And you want us to kill him?"
A: "It is in your own interests to bring the King low, before his army descends from the mountain to wipe your town from the map. I only bring you this warning as a courtesy, for I abhor death and bloodshed and would not see the people of Kelmarane suffer needlessly. What you do with this information is now up to you."


Having delivered his warning, Not-THAT-Zayifid vanishes in a puff of smoke.

"Yeah, that was totally THAT Zayifid." Misfar says, "But why would he lie about his identity? Can we believe anything else that he said?"

"It would be foolish to disregard his warning."
Garavel says, "Perhaps when your companions return, the four of you could search for this House of the Beast. If the holy man spoke true and there is an army of gnolls gathering there, it should not be too hard to find."

"I will instruct Dashki to accompany you,"
Almah adds, "He thinks like a gnoll and could be of use to you."

"... smells like a gnoll too. ..."
Garavel mutters, but he is glad to have Dashki out of town and away from the princess.

TBC
 

mikeawmids

Explorer
Chapter Seven: Into the Brazen Peaks

The party are now Seasoned!

The heroes are reunited with their camels, which have been largely ignored for the majority of book one. The steadfast beasts don't appear to have taken this personally, apart from Geminara, but she was always a bitch. She goes for Misfar's fingers as he tries to fit her bridle.

Dashki reckons that if the party travel quickly and quietly, they could reach Pale Mountain within four days. He is not enthused with the idea of leading strangers so deep into gnoll territory, but he will do as the princess commands. Felliped is also travelling with the party.

Father Zastoran gives each hero a healing potion. Zain approaches Gorundal the merchant/smuggler (who now has a semi-permanent store front in the Victory Market) to buy a platemail corselet to cover his torso (Zain makes a Wealth roll; he gets the item but goes broke).

As per the Travel rules in SWADE, a playing card is drawn for each day that the party are on the road. A face card (Jack > Ace) results in an encounter, with the card's suit determining the nature of the encounter: enemies, strangers, treasure or an obstacle.

Day One (Four of Clubs):
With Fuk and Dashki leading the way, the party ride out of Kelmarane and into the foothills. The spire of Pale Mountain is visible in the distance, towering over the lesser peaks. Fel sings to keep everyone's spirits up, until Dashki hushes the bard into silence. This is gnoll territory and you never know who is listening....

Day Two (Queen of Clubs): The distant roar of a waterfall grows louder as the party resume their trek through the mountains. They reach the base of the Anvil at midday, where the Pale River plunges 150ft into a deep pool of churning water.

"We must climb." Dashki states, "Who has rope?"

Climbing the waterfall requires 3x Athletics checks, each one representing a third of the ascent. Everyone in the party has d6 Athletics - except Dashki, who has d8 but no Wild Die. Nadiyya volunteers to go first and secure a rope to assist the others.

"Wait!" Misfar says, doing some quick mental arithmetic in his head, "I can burrow through the rock by spending three Power Points. I can move 15ft per round, or 30ft with a Raise. If the waterfall is 150ft tall, it will take 10 rounds for me to reach the top, or 5 with a Raise. The duration of the spell is five rounds. I can take additional recipients for another 1 point per head. Theoretically, I can take half the party - including the camels - to the top, assuming I roll a Raise on my Spellcasting die, for 13 Power Points. After a short rest to recover, I can bring up the other half of the party!"

"Are you sure you've worked that out right?"
Nadiyya asks, doubtfully.

"Sounds complicated..." Fuk agrees, "Fuk not want to get stuck in rock if you mess up."

"I don't think the camels are going to like this plan either."
Zain adds.

"They'll like falling 150ft when a rope frays a lot less!" Misfar snaps.

The heroes have to blindfold their mounts before they will follow Misfar into the wall of solid rock. It takes two Bennies, but the wizard gets his Raise and burrows to the top of the waterfall, taking Geminara, Nadiyya & Blaze, Zain & Sonny and one of the other two unnamed camels. They emerge safely and wave down to the others, stranded at the bottom of the cliff.

It takes two more trips and another five hours, but Misfar eventually ferries everyone to the top of the Anvil. The sun is setting and the party make camp, wishing they had just taken their chances with the rope.

Day Three (Red Joker):

A Joker means two different encounters occur simultaneously, in this case: obstacle + stranger/s.


The mountain path is blocked by a landslide. A wounded lion is trapped, pinned down by a heavy rock. The helpless beast snarls when it spots the party approaching.

"Kill the beast!" Dashki urges, "We cannot clear the path while it is alive. It will certainly attack us the moment it is free."

Fuk raises his bow, but Zain motions for him to lower the weapon. Zain lays Tempest down and approaches the lion unarmed. He is able to calm the beast, so that it does not attack as he lifts the boulder. The injured lion limps clear and Zain calls upon Sarenrae to heal this noble beast. The lion is so grateful, it follows the party! Zain names the beast Mufasa, because of course he does. The party clear the road and continue their journey toward Pale Mountain.

Day Four (King of Clubs): Early the next morning, the rest of Mufasa's pride come sniffing around the camp, looking for an easy meal. They are scrawny beasts and desperately hungry. The party spend a Benny to influence the story! According to Nadiyya, Mufasa was the leader of this pack, but was left for dead after he was trapped beneath the rock-fall. His brother Scar (sigh) has taken over th pride and the two lions must fight for dominance! The heroes cannot interfere in this combat!

It's not much of a contest. Mufasa pounces on Scar and utterly wrecks his opponent in a flurry of savage claw attacks. It's all over in seconds.

"Wow, Fuk glad we didn't have to fight that guy!" Fuk says.

Mufasa nods respecrfully to Zain and leads his pack away, presumably back to Pride Rock for some hot lion loving. Mayhaps one day they will meet again (assuming someone takes the requisite edge to get a permanent animal companion).

TBC
 

mikeawmids

Explorer
Chapter Eight: Doorstep of the Beast

Mid-afternoon, the party arrive outside the House of the Beast. They would have arrived sooner, only Fuk decided he wanted to skin the dead lion and craft its pelt into a cool cloak (so his face is framed by the beasts jaws). He does look pretty badass.

An enormous temple nestles amidst the crags of Pale Mountain. It is ominously quiet. Gnolls mounted astride giant hyenas patrol near the ruins, but there is no sign of the army Zayifid claimed was gathering here. Misfar notices that these gnolls look much bigger than the ones from the Kullid tribe. The party are suspicious. Why did Zayifid lure them here, if there is no threat to Kelmarane?

Against their better judgement, the party approach the temple. They leave Fel to look after the camels. They reach the outer wall without attracting any attention. The main entrance is guarded by a squad of huge, armoured gnolls, so the heroes give that a wide berth. Fortunately, a section of wall has collapsed, creating a back door into the inner compound.

Beyond the wall lies a large courtyard, choked by a forest of tall limestone pillars. A half-dozen gargoyles carved from chalky white stone perch watchfully atop several of the columns. The gargoyles don't appear to be alive or dangerous, but the party are immediately suspicious. Unfortunately, there is no other way of reaching the main temple building, besides fighting the gnoll guards on the front gate.

Sure enough, the gargoyles animate as soon as the party enter the compound. Rather than attacking, the gargoyles pair up and attempt to grapple intruders. Misfar is Entangled (bad), while Fuk is Bound (worse). All three victims are hoisted up into the air! Fuk crit fails his Athletics roll and drops his bow. Misfar wriggles out of his robe and falls back to the ground, leaving the two gargoyles to fight over his travel-stained rags.

The two gargoyles holding Fuk ascend, until they are above the huge domed temple. Part of the dome has collapsed. The gargoyles release Fuk, dropping him through the hole in the roof. Fuk reaches out and grabs onto the edge! Below him, a giant scorpion circles restlessly, venomous stinger poised to strike at anyone dropping into its lair. Fuk tries to pull himself up, but just doesn't possess the upper body strength. The last two gargoyles circle the struggling goblin, waiting for his fingers to slip.

The others saw Fuk fall, but aren't aware of his current predicament, dangling 50ft above the den of a massive scorpion! They race toward the temple. Zain unbars the door and charges the scorpion! He bats the questing pincers aside and smacks it upside the head. Nadiyya puts a flaming arrow between the giant scorpion's eyes, killing it!

Zain looks up, he can see Fuk dangling from the edge of the roof.

"Jump!" Zain roars, "I will catch you!"

Fuk jumps!

Zain catches him!

The last few gargoyles are driven away. The party find stairs leading down into the sub-levels beneath the temple. The familiar stench of gnolls wafts up from below, as well as something far fouler....

TBC
 

mikeawmids

Explorer
Chapter Nine: Digging for Secrets

Steeling their resolve, the party descend into the belly of the (House of the) Beast. Sickly green flames flicker from smoky braziers and the air is thick with the stench of carrion. The dungeon beneath the temple was once a tomb, but the industrious gnolls have transformed it into a sprawling excavation site. Wretched slaves toil beneath the whips of their gnoll overlords, piling wooden barrows high with ancient bones and hauling them deeper into the complex.

"What are they digging for?" Nadiyya asks.

"Fuk ask!" Fuk offers, slipping away before anyone can grab him.

Stealthily, Fuk approaches a pair of human slaves, too busy with their back-breaking labour to notice the lightfooted little goblin.

"Hey! What you dig for?" Fuk asks.

A roll on the Reaction table determines these slaves are Cooperative. They are prepared to exchange information for a promise that the party will break their chains. The slaves know the gnolls are expanding this level of the dungeon, but there are whispers that Rokova - Ghartok's second in command - is using the excavation work to conceal his own search for something else entirely. The slaves don't know what the sneaky gnoll mystic is really after.

Q: "Where do we find Ghartok?"
A: "The Carrion King is usually lounging on his Maggot Throne, below. Follow your nose, you can't miss it - although you may wish that you could."

Q: "What about this Rokova?"
A: "He has a room on this floor, although he rarely uses it. He can usually be found with the King."

Q: "What are you doing with all the bones?"
A: "We take them from the crypts and empty them into a hole."

(they don't know why, only that the gnolls told them to do it)

Q: "How did you end up here?"
A: "We were attached to a merchant caravan bound for Katapesh. The caravan master took a shortcut that skirted the Brazen Peaks and we were ambushed by gnolls. Those of us that survived the attack were chained together, dragged here and put to work."


Fuk assures the slaves he will be back to free them after the party have dealt with the Carrion King. The prisoners agree to bide their time.

A gnoll patrol passes. They snarl at the slaves, but fail to notice Fuk.

"Fuk come back soon!" the goblin promises, melting into the shadows.

The party consider their options. If Rokova is working against the Carrion King, it could be worth checking his room, but they don't know where it is, nor do they want to blow their cover searching for it. However, if they can dig up some dirt on the treacherous mystic, he could be a useful ally against the King. Also, they really want to know what he's looking for beneath the temple.

The party try to sneak passed the gnoll overseers guarding the mine (using the Quick Encounter rules). The heroes (and Dashki) remain unseen. Fuk spots two hulking gnolls (the slaves called them Unchosen) guarding a door.

'That has to lead somewhere interesting', the goblin reckons.

But how to bypass the guards without alerting the rest of the dungeon? Can gnolls see in the dark? Dashki says they can. The party recall that Dashki is some kind of self-proclaimed gnoll whisperer. Rather than attempt anything too convoluted, Misfar hits the Unchosen with a Slumber spell. The huge gnolls yawn, then slump to the ground, dozing peacefully. Fuk ensures they never wake again.

"Fuk check for traps!" Fuk announces, after wiping the blood off his axe.

"Wait!" Misfar cries, pulling the goblin back, "I sense something...."

The wizard detects a magical trap on the door, but cannot discern its exact nature, nor can he dispel it without the Dispel power. Instead, he casts Burrow on himself and Fuk. The two of them sink into the floor and emerge on the other side of the trapped portal.

They are in a study, of sorts. A large magnifying lens has been affixed to the edge of a makeshift desk, the surface of which is covered by ancient scrolls and faded maps. A bright orange robe has been discarded in one corner of the room. Misfar recalls Zayifid the Wanderer wearing something similar when he visited Kelmarane. Rifling through the notes strewn across the desk, the wizard finds a journal written by Rokova or Zayifid or whoever actually uses this chamber.

'Several weeks have passed since I came to this loathsone place, yet I am no closer to finding the Tomb of Shirak than the day I arrived! All the clues point me toward the Maggot Throne, but I cannot get close while that brutish mongrel Ghartok occupies it.

'Rumours circulate of a group of heroes reclaiming Kelmarane from the Kullid tribe. With a small nudge in the right direction, perhaps they can be manipulated into taking out another petty warlord. With any luck, they'll destroy each other and save me the trouble of tying off any loose ends.

'I visited Kelmarane in the guise of a travelling priest. In hindsight, I should have come up with a better alias than Zayifid. I baited the hook, now I have to wait and see if they bite.... Once Ghartok is defeated and I crown myself the new Carrion King, there will be nobody to stop me unlocking the secrets of the tomb and claiming the great treasure that lies within!'


"Son of a witch!" Misfar curses, tossing the journal across the room, "That bald bastard lied my face! There was never any army! He just wanted us to do his dirty work!"

Misfar converts a Benny into five Power Points and uses them to burrow out. He describes to the others what he and Fuk found inside the sealed room. Zain feels an overwhelming sense of unease emanating from his magical hammer, almost as though the spirit of Vardishal is trying to tell him something. The party decide to stick with the original plan to take down the Carrion King, with a side objective of murdering this Rokova clown while they're about it.

TBC
 

mikeawmids

Explorer
Chapter Ten: Hail to the King

The party are low on Power Points, but every hour they spend loitering in the dungeon increases the risk of discovery. The heroes decide to take the fight to Ghartok, while they still have the element of surprise.

Following the stench of death, the party descend into the throne room of the Carrion King. The air here is foul beyond belief, but the heroes all pass their Vigour rolls to resist Fatigue. The southern half of the chamber is separated from the northern side by a deep pit, half-filled with the bones and the bodies of the dead. More bones clatter through a hole in the ceiling every few minutes, most likely dumped there by the slaves on the floor above. Narrow walkways along the east and west walls of the chamber traverse the pit, but these walkways are guarded by the Unchosen.

A huge, scarred gnoll sprawls across a seat fashioned from shattered bones and held together by lengths of ropey sinew. At his side stands a aged, grey-furred gnoll leaning heavily on a staff. These two must be Ghartok and Rokova, the party assume.

The heroes stealthily advance to the edge of the pit, using the columns for cover. They are close enough to eavesdrop on the conversation taking place between the two gnolls.

"How much longer must I wait?" growls the Carrion King.

"Difficult to say, your highness." Rokova answers, "My spies report the Heroes of Kelmarane have infiltrated the temple, but we seem to have lost track of them. Why degrade yourself hunting them down, when we know they will come to us? They are here to assassinate you, after all."

"A fools ambition!"
snarls the King, "I am blessed by Rovagug the Destroyer. All who oppose me feed the worms."

The heroes initiate hostilities with a surprise round! Zain bullrushes the nearest Unchosen and buries Tempest in its neck. Fuk pops out from behind a pillar and shoots the King. Ghartok soaks the damage, but goes Berserk!! The audacity of these cursed heroes, to oppose him here, in his throne room!! Misfar casts Sandstorm, centred on the Maggot Throne. Ghartok and Rokova emerge unscathed due to a less than stellar damage roll.

Rokova takes a step back and casts Armour on himself (+4). Two more Unchosen lumber forward to defend their king. Misfar casts a spear-sized shard of glass at the one charging towards Fuk. The Unchosen is Shaken, and Misfar is all out of Power Points. He spends a Benny to get some more. Fuk shoots the shaken gnoll in the eye, killing him outright. Ghartok leaps across the carrion pit, landing amongst the heroes! He swings his axe in a ruinous arc, both Nadiyya and Fuk must spend Bennies to avoid being wounded. Zain sweeps his own axe in a circle, disembowling the two Unchosen trying to gang up on him. They both topple into the carrion pit, clutching handfuls of their own spilt guts.

"Rovoka! Aid your king!" Ghartok commands, as the last of the Unchosen fall.

The treacherous mystic raises his staff and casts a bolt of flame at his master! The Carrion King is wounded!

"Treacherous cur!!" Ghartok roars, "So bit it! Die alongside these infidels! Awaken, avatar of Rovagug! Awaken, Thkot Tal!!"

The surface of the carrion pit ripples as a gigantic centipede monster
emerges from the loathsome depths! It is over 30ft long and covered with spikes!

The gnoll mystic shimmers and is replaced by a young, athletic man with fiery red hair.

"Help me kill it, then I'll explain!" the stranger cries.

Dashki takes a shot at the abomination, his arrow bounces off its hardened, carapace. Zain braves the spikes to attack, he practically cuts the thing in half, but it refuses to die! Misfar casts a magical spear into the centipede and finishes the job! Thkot Tal collapses across the battlefield. Not to be disheartened by the fact his monstrous pet got taken out before it could act, Ghartok sweeps his axe at Nadiyya and Fuk, hitting them both. They are seriously wounded.

The Carrion King is dealt a Joker! That is super bad news for the good guys! He is all done playing around and makes a Wild Attack against Fuk! The goblin is incapacitated! Fuk's Vigour is permanently reduced to d4 and he is Bleeding Out! Zain would just love to attack the King, but if he doesn't stabilize Fuk, the goblin will definitely die. Zain heals Fuk. Misfar tries to put the King to sleep, but Ghartok resists.

Rovoka holds his action. He seems content to let the heroes exhaust their resources battling the gnoll king. Dashki shoots Ghartok in the back, but does so little damage the King doesn't notice. Ghartok resists Slumber again. He is full of energy and not at all ready for bed!

"More healing please!" Fuk cries, after his lingering wound penalties cause another attack to sail wide of the mark.

"Drink your damn potions!!" Zain bellows, charging into melee with the King.

Misfar casts Slumber again.

"Sooner or later, this will work!" he says.

(Not this round, it doesn't. Keeping wasting your Power Points, wizard. Hahaha!)

Ghartok cleaves! He leaves a scratch across Zain's new breastplate that won't polish out anytime soon. Zain casts Dazzling Aura to blind the King (at least temporarily). Ghartok staggers back a step, shielding his eyes. Another step and he will be on the edge of the pit....

Seeing that the Carrion King is on his last legs, Rokova casts Bolt and finishes him off. A fireball burns a smoking hole in his chest! Ghartok falls to his knees and Zain kicks him into the pit. The King lies still, smoke, sprawled across the body of the dead centipede.

"Wow! You guys were lucky I was here to save your asses!" the red-headed stranger says, smiling broadly, "No need to thank me! It's all in a days work for a Templar of the Five Winds!"

TBC
 

mikeawmids

Explorer
Chapter Eleven: Deals with Djinn

The Carrion King is slain, betrayed by his own treacherous vizier, who it transpires is more than he seems. Shedding his disguise, the gnoll mystic is revealed as Zayifid, one of the Templars of the Five Winds.

"So is this your true form, djinn?" Misfar demands, "Or just another layer in your rich and creamy lasagne of deception?"

"You see me as I am,"
Zayifid replies, "I must apologise for my subterfuge. It seemed prudent to keep my real identity a secret, at least until we had dealt with Ghartok. Bravo, by the way. Yes, I dealt the killing stroke, but you all helped tremendously!"

"We've read your journal, Zayifid."
Misfar interjects, 'We know you lied to us. There was never any army. You just needed to get us here to kill your boss."

"Oh, there would have been an army,"
Zayifid answers, "In my guise as Rokova, it was all I could do to delay Ghartok sounding the call to arms. The moment he heard how you defeated the Kullid tribe, he became obsessed with your destruction - but I convinced him I could bring you here, saving countless lives in the process. You're welcome!

"Now that Ghartok is out of the picture, I can take his place."


Zayifid's outline shimmers as he assumes the likeness of the Carrion King.

"The fine people of Kelmarane need not worry about the gnolls of Pale Mountain ever again! Job well done! Bravo all round! I imagine you're keen to get back and let the princess know how you saved the town! Safe journey, my friends!"

"We're not going anywhere until you tell us what you're searching for."
Nadiyya states, crossing her arms in defiance of Zayifid's dismissal.

"In the Tomb of Shirak." Misfar adds.

"You got me!" the djinn chuckles ruefully, "Long before this place was claimed by servants of the Destroyer, it was the palace of an elemental prince. Shirak served the prince and was entombed below with many powerful artifacts. A magical barrier prevents me accessing the tomb, hence the search for the secret entrance. Help me find the entrance and I will share the loot!"

The heroes go into a huddle to discuss Zayifid's proposition. They don't trust the capricious djinn any further than they could throw the lamp he crawled out of. Nadiyya believes the relic hidden beneath the temple could help her understand her ifreeti heritage. Misfar has developed a powerful dislike for Zayifid and wants nothing more to do with him. If there are still servants of the Destroyer occupying the House of the Beast, Zain is compelled to burn them from existence. Fuk abstains, he doesn't really mind either way.

When the party turn back to the Maggot Throne, it is unoccupied. Zayifid has turned ethereal and disappeared while they were talking.

"Son of a witch!" Misfar cries.

The party search the throne room for the secret entrance to Shirak's Tomb. Misfar notices that the Maggot Throne rotates on its base and that turning it 90' opens a secret door! The party descend into the Tomb of Shirak....

TBC
 

mikeawmids

Explorer
Chapter Twelve: Tomb Raider/s

The heroes start down a flight of granite-hewn stairs, spiralling into darkness. A faint light appears, growing ever brighter as they descend. They emerge into an elaborate underground garden illuminated by large, glowing crystals. The verdant foliage rustles gently, caressed by cool breeze that seems to come from nowhere. A shallow stream gurgles across a pebbly streambed. The scene would be perfectly idyllic, if not for the four sandstone sculptures throughout the garden, each one chiseled into the form of a huge, angry face.

The water is refreshing and the fruit growing upon the trees is ripe. The party enjoy a short break to recover their Power Points. The stone heads are a little disconcerting and the heroes decide not to linger. An arch in the western wall leads to a smaller chamber. A heavy bronze plug seals the entrance to a lower level. Zain manages to get a good grip on the edge of the immense disc and lifts it up, revealing a deep, dark pit. Unsettling whispers emanate from the dark, tiny voices skittering about on the edge of hearing.

The heroes all pass their Fear checks.

"Let's get this over with." Nadiyya suggests, uncoiling a length of rope from her pack.

The heroes tie several ropes together and knot one end around the almond tree in the garden. The pit is 100ft deep and crawling with illusory spiders that the heroes do their best to ignore. Nadiyya almost loses her grip when several spiders seem to become tangled in her hair.

"Nadiyya, don't panic!" Misfar calls down to her, "It's only an illusion, they're not real!"

Nadiyya calms down and reaches the bottom safely, as do the rest of the heroes. Fuk is disappointed that he could not eat any of the illusory vermin.

The rope ends above a tall stone pillar, rising from the centre of a huge, subterranean cavern. Surrounding the pillar on all sides is a sea of treasure! Gold and silver pieces glitter in the light from Zain's torch and giant gemstones rise from the surface like icebergs in an ocean of coin. The hoard is vast beyond belief!

"Fuk rich!" Fuk sings, dancing on the spot, "Fuk wealthiest goblin in all world!"

"A person could not hope to spend even a share of this treasure,"
Nadiyya marvels, "Not even in a hundred lifetimes...."

"We can rebuild the ruined temple in Kelmarane, bigger and better than the one in Katapesh."
Zain says excitedly, imagining the glory of such an undertaking.

Misfar is silent, staring hard at the golden hoard.

"Something about this seems off...." he murmurs.

Misfar casts Dispel, but does not roll high enough to change anything. Not to be deterred, he stirs the surface of the treasure pile with his staff. He smears the image, as though he were tracing a brush across the surface of wet paint. The gold appears to have no physical presence whatsoever.

"As I suspected!" Misfar states, looking pretty pleased with himself, "Another illusion."

The other heroes are less pleased with this development.

"What wizard do to gold?!" Fuk demands, "Still spend good, right? Still legal tender?!"

"I'm afraid not, my smelly friend. No merchants will accept counterfeit coin, let alone illusory gold."

"Gaaaaaagghhh!!!"
Fuk shrieks, writhing on the floor in anguish.

Nadiyya and Zain are a little better at masking their disappointment.

Misfar pokes around the edge of the pillar and finds a narrow bridge of solid stone that crosses the cavern. He leads the party carefully, tapping his staff ahead of him to stay on the path. It's unknown what lies to either side of the bridge and the heroes are none too eager too find out. The party reach what appears to be a wall of solid rock, but they have noticed a trend and Misfar pokes the wall with his staff. Sure enough, it passes right through, as though the wall weren't even there.

Passing through the illusory wall, the heroes enter a sunken temple with a sandy floor. In the centre of the chamber looms a horrific statue of a multi-tentacled abomination. A string of runes around the base of the statue reads; 'And lo, those who speak not the truths of Rovagug shall be the first to be consumed by the Waiting Beast'.

The party put their heads together, but cannot determine what the 'truths of Rovagug' might be.

"Destroyers gonna' destroy?" Nadiyya guesses.

Wrong! Without warning, the statue surges into motion, covering the distance to the heroes so suddenly that it enjoys a Surprise round!

One tentacle whips out and sends Misfar flying into the cavern wall with a bone-jarring thud. A second tentacle coils around Fuk's scrawny body and wrenches him into the air. Fuk cries out, bloody spittle staining his pointy teeth, as the (no longer) Waiting Beast begins to squeeze....

Fuk struggles to escape the Waiting Beast's rib-splinteringly tight embrace, but he is securely Bound. Zain weaves between the writhing tentacles and makes a Wild Attack against the appendage grappling Fuk. Tempest strikes true and severs the tentacle, soaking Zain in a geyser of foul black ichor from the stump. The Waiting Beast howls in fury! A tentacle whips out and sweeps the warrior's legs out from under him. Zain rolls away as a second tentacle spears the ground where he had just fallen. Dashki cries out as he is snatched up by another of the monster's questing limbs. Misfar picks himself up and hurls a handful of sand toward the beast. It transforms into a scything blade of glass that cuts clean through the tentacle holding the gnoll whisperer aloft.

Zain staggers to his feet and continues carving into the Waiting Beast.
Misfar casts Slumber on the injured monster. It immediately falls limp and begins to snore loud, monstery snores. Misfar urgently gestures that the rest of the party should be really ****ing quiet. Zain gingerly edges away from the sleeping horror.

"Search the tomb, but be quick and be quiet!" Misfar whispers.

The only item of much interest is a sinister black sarcophagus, marred by crude carvings of a nine legged spider with a gaping maw. The party have spent enough time in the House of the Beast to recognise this as being the unholy symbol of Rovagug.

"Do you really want to open that?" Dashki asks, fearfully.

"Not really." Zain shrugs, but he does it anyway.

Working together, the party try to lift the heavy lid without waking the Beast. With agonising care, they slide the lid to one side, revealing the skeletal remains of a long dead gnoll priestess. A plain looking scroll case is clutched in her bony fingers. There is no other treasure in the box.

"Is this it?" Nadiyya asks, prising the scroll out of the dead gnoll's grasp, "Is this what Zayifid is looking for?"

She begins to unroll the scroll, but Misfar reaches out to stop her.

"Maybe we should pull back to the garden before we open that?" the wizard suggests, with a meaningful glance toward the Waiting Beast.

TBC
 

mikeawmids

Explorer
Chapter Thirteen: Scroll with the Punches

The party retreat to the garden of the stone heads. Zain moves the heavy bronze disc back into position above the pit. Nadiyya unrolls the scroll, while Misfar cranes to peer over her shoulder. The ancient papyrus is marked by a single, sprawling rune. Neither Nadiyya or Misfar can comprehend or draw any conclusions about the nature of this rune or the purpose of the scroll.

"Zayifid might know more." Nadiyya suggests, "We could - "

BONG
!!!

Her train of thought is derailed by the sound of something huge crashing against the underside of the bronze disc covering the pit.

Zain (who had been enjoying a quick power nap) leaps to his feet and reaches for Tempest. Fuk staggers upright, still moving stiffly from his injuries.

"By the Starstone! What was that?!" Zain cries.

BONG!!! BONG!!!

"The beast from the crypt!"
Misfar shouts, hastily shouldering his pack, "It must have woken up and followed us up the shaft! Nadiyya, secure that scroll! We must flee!"

Abandoning their camp, the heroes race for the staircase ascending to the Carrion King's throne room.

BONG!!! BONG!!! SMASH!!!

The bronze seal succumbs to the Waiting Beast's onslaught, releasing the horror from the pit! Zain glances over his shoulder and glimpses the Beast emerging into the garden. A tentacle coils around the trunk of the almond tree and tears it out of the ground. The Beast spots its prey fleeing into the stairwell and surges after them!

This scene was treated as a Quick Encounter. Each player decided which skill their hero would use during the escape. As long as there were as many successes/raises as there were players involved in the scene (so in this instance, 4), the scene is a success and the party escape.

Muscles screaming in protest, the heroes sprint headlong up the long, spiral staircase. The Beast howls behind them, shaking the walls. Nadiyya rolls Athletics and outpaces the rest of the party. Misfar rolls Spellcasting to create barriers of solid stone behind them as they flee, slowing the Beasts' pursuit as it stops to smash through each wall the wizard raises in their wake. But he can only keep that up for so long and soon runs out of magical juice. The Beast begins to gain ground, writhing tentacles reaching for the flagging heroes.... Zain rolls Faith to blind the Beast with a flash of Sarenrae's radiant aura. The Beast shrieks, retracting its tentacles to shield its eyes from the light. The party keep running. They can see torchlight from the throne room up ahead, they're nearly there!! But the Beast has not given up the chase! As the heroes spill into the throne room, serpentine tentacles reach after them. The Beast is too huge to fit through the secret door, but its beaked maw fills the portal, waiting to rip apart anyone it can pull back into its mouth. Fuk rolls Shooting and fires arrow after arrow in rapid succession, straight down the Waiting Beast's yawning gullet! The Beast howls in frustration and withdraws back down into its lair.

The heroes take a moment to dust themselves off and catch their breath. That was altogether too close!

"Tell me you still have the scroll...?" Misfar gasps, looking to Nadiyya.

"Yes," interrupts a deep, guttural voice, "Do tell us you have the scroll."

The Carrion King steps out from behind the Maggot Throne, slowly clapping his furry paws in mock applause. Only, the heroes know the real Carrion King is dead, so this must be Zayifid, the treacherous and shapeshifting djinn. Along with their faux King, a half dozen gnolls emerge from hiding around the throne room; half are regular sized gnolls armed with bows, the other half are the hulking Unchosen.

"Hand over the scroll and you might yet leave this place alive," offers Ghartok/Zayifid, "Frankly, you've saved me a lot of time and effort and I'm feeling magnanimous."

The gnolls glance at each other. Magnaniwhatnow? Was their chieftain always this loquacious?

"So, this scrap of old papyrus is pretty important to you?" Nadiyya asks, holding up the scroll, "It must be, considering all the lies you've spun. Wouldn't it be just awful if it were destroyed now, when you were so close to getting your hands on it?"

Nadiyya snaps her fingers and a tiny flame appeared in her other hand. She holds the scroll inches above the fire and arches an eyebrow toward the King.

Ghartok/Zayifid grins back at her. Nadiyya feels her confidence waver.

"Go ahead. Try and burn it. I suspect you'll find it quite indestructible."

Misfar gasps as Nadiyya drives the scroll into the flame. True to the King's prediction, nothing happens. The scroll is impervious to fire.

"You have absolutely no concept of what you hold, do you?" Ghartok/Zayifid says, condescendingly, "How precious. I could tell you. It would blow your tiny minds - but why waste breath talking to the dead? Kill them!! Bring me the scroll!!"

Zain charges the nearest two Unchosen and kills them both in a single Sweep of his magical axe. He can hear the spirit of Vardishal whispering in his mind, insisting the scroll not fall into Zayifid's possession! The final Unchosen batters Nadiyya, she raises her shield to block the blow, but the force behind it still drives her to her knees. The huge gnoll raises its fist for a second blow, but Fuk shoots it in the armpit and it reels away. Nadiyya lunges forward and drives her sword into the Unchosen's groin!

Misfar advances on the Maggot Throne. A gnoll archer pops out and looses his bow at the wizard. Misfar ducks and obliterates the wretched creature in a burst of burning sand. Ghartok/Zayifid is caught in the damage field, but ducks behind his big chair to avoid the worst of it.

"No more hiding, djinn!" Misfar cries, stepping over the bleached bones of the dead archer.

He reaches the throne, but Zayifid has turned ethereal and escaped!

"Coward!!" the wizard shouts, not caring whether his enemy can even hear.

Noting that their King has vanished into thin air, the last few gnolls slink away.

"That treacherous lamp donkey might have escaped, but we still have the scroll," Misfar states, after the dust has settled, "I doubt we've seen the last of him, so stay alert! We should head back to Kelmarane and report to the Princess."

"If I had but the strength, I would bring this unholy place to ruin afore we leave,"
Zain muttered, piously, "No matter, we have slain many servants of the Destroyer this day. Praise be unto Sarenrae!"

"Fuk still a little sad about the not-gold,"
admits the little goblin, "But Fuk got to fight a big monster and that was fun!"

"Let's get out of here,"
Nadiyya agrees, stuffing the mystery scroll back into her pack.

TBC
 

mikeawmids

Explorer
Chapter Fourteen: The Plot Thickens

Having defeated the Carrion King, the heroes return to Kelmarane. Felliped and the camels are relieved to see them all alive and well. We glossed over the return journey using the Quick Encounter rules.

Almost immediately, the heroes are summoned by Almah, who receives them in her luxurious suite overlooking the Victory Market. Garavel and Father Zastoran are also present, to offer their counsel. The heroes kneel before the Merchant Princess, who bestows a kiss unto each of their brows - even Fuk, which is a bit like kissing a camel's leathery ballsack.

"The sight of you all returned safely lifts a great weight from my heart," Almah says, "Tell me, what did you learn of this Carrion King and his intent toward our new home?"

"The Carrion King was a mighty gnoll warlord and follower of Rovagug the Destroyer,"
Nadiyya explains, "We fought and killed him in his throne room beneath the House of the Beast."

"Then he and his gnoll army pose no further threat to my citizens?"

"There was no army,"
Misfar says, "The Carrion King had many warriors, but their orders were to find the entrance to a hidden tomb beneath his lair. We discovered that Zayifid is a shape-changing djinn and part of an ancient order called the Templars of the Five Winds. He lied to us and to the Carrion King, pitting us against each other so that he could claim the contents of the tomb while we were fighting.
The Carrion King poses no further threat to Kelmarane, but I am concerned about these Templars and what their plans may be."

"Perhaps I can allay a few of those concerns."


A tall, muscular man stands framed in the doorway to Alnah's suite. It is Kardswann, the djinn who previously ruled the Kullid tribe from this very room! Until now, he had been lying comatose in the heroes waterfront mansion.

"Princess, stand back!" Garavel growls, reaching for his sword, "How did you get passed the guards?"

"Peace, friends."
Kardswann says, "I mean you no harm. In fact, I offer my gratitude for breaking the control that foul demon Xulthos had over me.
You speak of Zayifid and the Templars of the Five Winds. I am also part of that order. We served the djinni princess Nefeshti in her war against a wicked djinn called Jhavul. After Jhavul and his army were defeated, we five Templars went our separate ways. Zayifid was always a trickster, but the behaviour you describe gives me pause. You mention that he sought the contents of a hidden tomb?"

"Why should we trust you?"
Misfar demands.

"Because I was there, fighting alongside Zayifid and the other Templars when Jhavul fell. If this prize Zayifid seeks is a relic of that war, it could be very dangerous in the wrong hands."

"He sought a scroll, in the Tomb of Shirak."
Misfar says, warily.

"That could be very bad," Kardswann answers, "As well as her Templars, Nefeshti was allied with a human wizard called Andrathi. Andrathi possessed a powerful relic called the Scroll of Kakishon. In the final battle, Andrathi used the scroll to weaken Jhavul, but was destroyed in the process. Without his sacrifice, we would likely have been defeated. If Zayifid is seeking the scroll, he is seeking the power of Jhavul sealed within the relic. It is vitally important that he does not get his hands on it."

"What would you do, if you had the scroll?"
Misfar asks.

"Deliver it to my mistress Nefeshti," Kardswann answers.

"What would you do if I told you we have the scroll?"

"Do you have the scroll?"

"Maybe."

"If you did have the Scroll of Kakishon, I would advise you to share that information with no-one outside of this room. Zayifid is not the only person with an interest in claiming Jhavul's power. I would encourage you to use your most powerful magic to hide the scroll, until I can contact my mistress.
Do you have the scroll?"

"Yes."
Misfar admits, "But we have no magic powerful enough to conceal the scroll."

"There is a magi in Katapesh called Rayhan,"
Almah says, "He is a close friend and I would trust him with my life. If he cannot weave a spell powerful enough to conceal the Scroll of Kakishon, nobody can.
Garavel, I charge you with escorting the heroes safely to Katapesh and introducing them to Rayhan."

"As you will, Princess."
Garavel agrees.

"I will attempt to contact my mistress and notify her that the Scroll has been found and that Zayifid can no longer be trusted." Kardswann adds, "I will seek you in Katapesh, once I have her answer."

The party prepare for the journey to Katapesh.

TBC
 

mikeawmids

Explorer
Chapter Fifteen: The Long Road to Katapesh

Having learnt that possession of the Scroll of Kakishon brings great peril along with it, the party journey to the city of Katapesh, to consult archmage Rayhan; re: containing the threat. The heroes are to be escorted by Garavel and a small contingent of the merchant princess' guard. Dashki volunteers to stay behind and protect the princess until her major domo returns. Garavel grinds his teeth in frustration at the thought of leaving the filthy gnoll whisperer alone with his mistress. Felliped will accompany the party to Katapesh, to deliver the sad news of Oxvard's death to his next of kin.

The camel train sets out at dawn, as the first rays of sunlight illuminate the gilded dome of the Victory Market. The party follow the bank of the Pale River east to the town of Hookford. Around midday, Nadiyya notices a body caught in the reeds on the opposite bank. Fuk creates a crude grappling hook and Zain manages to snag the corpse and reel it in. Two arrows protrude from the poor fellow's back. Fuk searches the body and finds a small pouch of precious rubies stitched into the lining of his robe (one character's Wealth die increases one die type). Zain burns the body and intones a prayer to Sarenrae over the ashes.

The party reach Hookford at dusk, but decide to camp outside the walls, rather than seek lodgings within. Garavel has already warned them that since Almah forbade the sale of slaves in Kelmarane, flesh peddlers seeking to trade with the gnoll tribes gravitate to Hookford instead. The mournful cries of their 'merchandise' can be heard into the night. Zain decides he is not cool with that. Garavel warns him that as distasteful as slave trading may be, it is still a legal enterprise governed and taxed by the Pactmasters of Katapesh. If the heroes interfere with or outright attack the flesh peddlers, the heroes would be in the wrong.

"You and I have very different beliefs on the concepts of right and wrong," Zain replies. He has already decided that he is going to sneak out and help the slaves when the major domo is not looking. He manages to get the rest of the party on board with his plan.

Misfar casts Slumber on Garavel and his guards as they gather around the campfire, putting them soundly to sleep. The party head into Hookford. The slave pens are lightly guarded, but there are more men carousing in a nearby tavern. Fuk throws the bag of rubies into the taproom. Blood red gemstones are scattered across the floor and a brawl immediately erupts as the slavers fight over the spoils. Zain and Nadiyya stealthily incapacitate the few guards still watching the merchandise and unlock the pens, urging the escaping slaves to head west to Kelmarane. Having completed their mission, the heroes return to their camp, wake the sleeping guards to take watch, then head to their bedrolls.

Rather than crossing the desert, the heroes wanted to get a boat ride down the Pale River, which would carry them all the way to Katapesh. A friendly NPC regretfully informed them that following a particularly dry spell, parts of the riverbed were impassable by boat. Grumbling, the party follow Garavel into the desert.

Fuk spots vultures circling up ahead and the party investigate. They find the wreckage of a merchant's caravan. The vultures feast on a pair of dead camels lying nearby. Nadiyya notices something hiding beneath the wagon. An injured man crawls out, pleading for his life.

"Please don't hurt me! Take whatever you want, just let me go!"

"Calm down, friend. We're not brigands!"
Zain says, "What happened here?"

The man introduces himself as Radi Hamdi, a travelling merchant who was on the road to Katapesh when his wagon was attacked by bandits. They slaughtered his camels, stole his goods and left him for dead. Fuk looks for tracks, but can't find anything.

"Which way did the thieves go?" Nadiyya asks.

Radi doesn't know. Nadiyya doesn't think the merchant is being entirely truthful.

"We should keep moving." Garavel says, shielding his eyes from the sun, "If we linger here, we won't make it to the next oasis before dusk."

"Please, take me with you - at least as far as the oasis!"
Radi begs.

"I don't trust this guy!" Nadiyya whispers.

"We can't just leave him to the vultures," Misfar answers, "We'll escort him to the next oasis and leave him there. I'll help you keep an eye on him until then."

The heroes continue eastward with Radi riding double with one of Garavel's men. Nadiyya manoeuvres Blaze close enough to listen to their conversation. Radi seems very interested in why the party are heading to Katapesh.

"What kind of merchant are you?" Nadiyya asks, suddenly.

"Mostly dates and other dried fruits." Radi replies.

Again, Nadiyya gets the impression that the merchant is lying to her. Before she can act on her suspicions, the ground rumbles underfoot. The dunes around the caravan erupt, as a gigantic worm-like monster explodes from beneath the desert floor.

"Death Worm!!!" Garavel shouts, struggling with the reins of his terrified mount, "We can't fight that thing!! Ride for the oasis!!"

The heroes spur their camels into desperate flight from the monstrous worm. Misfar turns in the saddle and hurls an arcane bolt at the pursuing behemoth. Miraculously, he beats its toughness and the worm is Shaken. The injured beast burrows back beneath the sand.

"You drove it off!" Radi exults, "Thank the gods! I thought we were done for!"

The worm reappears directly beneath the rear-most rider, rising from the sand and swallowing both the man and his camel whole!

"Arrgghhhhh!! We are done for!!!"

Sensing the tremors of hooves across sand, the worm turns its blind head after the riders and vomits forth a cone of acidic bile. Garavel's yanks on the reigns of his mount to avoid the toxic spew, but his camel stumbles and breaks a leg! Garavel is tossed from his mount as the injured beast goes down. The brave old warrior staggers to his feet and draws his sword, for all the good it will do against the monster bearing down on him.

Nadiyya turns her mount and races to reach Garavel before the Death Worm.

"Garavel!" she screams, reaching down to the old warrior. Garavel grabs her hand and allows himself to be pulled onto the back of her speeding camel. The Death Worm crashes into the sand where he had stood.

"Take my bow and keep it off us!" Nadiyya cries, thrusting the weapon into the old man's hands.

The Death Worm devours another of Garavel's men and begins to slow down. The surviving riders put some real distance between themselves and the monster. When they look back, the worm has given up the chase and disappeared back beneath the sand.

TBC
 
Last edited:

mikeawmids

Explorer
Chapter Sixteen: Oasis Interlude

The heroes reach the oasis sanctuary, although not without casualties. Two of Garavel's outriders are dead, swallowed whole by a hungry Death Worm. The camels are exhausted and drink deeply from the natural spring bubbling up from beneath the arid earth. The party won't reach Katapesh for another day and they are all too drained to continue tonight. The heroes begin setting up camp, while Fuk climbs a palm tree to keep watch over the darkening dunes. The rest of the party gather around the cook fire to eat.

This presented the opportunity to run an Interlude!

Nadiyya stares into the flame, listening to its song. She has understood the language of fire since before she spoke her first word of Common. Her thoughts drift to the past, when a young Nadiyya plunged her hand into the hearth in her family home. She remembers her mother screaming and pulling her back, how her expression changed from maternal concern to bleak terror as the flames danced along her baby daughter's arms. Nothing was ever the same again, after that day. Nadiyya joined the party hoping to discover the truth about her strange elemental affinity, but is no closer to the answers now than the day she left Solku.

Misfar sits opposite the troubled young woman, lost in his own memories.

"You seem distracted, friend." Felliped says, lowering himself onto the sand next to the elven mage, "A burden shared is a burden halved, as a good friend of mine used to say."

"I was thinking about someone I knew, a long time ago."
Misfar replied, "A woman. Brilliant and beautiful, but so stubborn! Her name was Geminara and she was my teacher. I admired her even before I realised that I loved her, but she never saw me as anything more than a student. I did everything I could to impress her, but her mind could not be changed.
"I did something reckless. Stupid, even. I attempted to perform a ritual that was much too advanced for me. I was trying to prove something. The spell got out of control and Geminara was... hurt, trying to save me."


Felliped listens in solemn silence, waiting for Misfar to continue. For the first time since being rescued from the Kullid tribe, the bard is struck dumb.

"She doesn't teach anymore and she refuses to see me, or listen to any more of my futile apologies. I didn't know what else to do, so I left. One day, I just started walking and I've not stopped since. Maybe one day I'll find something to lessen her pain, or relieve my guilt."

While the wizard bares his bleeding heart, Zain Al-Sahli reflects on his own sad story. Many years ago, his village was attacked by murderous brigands. Zain's father was cut down trying to defend his family. Zain and his mother were taken by the bandits and sold into slavery. They became separated at auction and Zain has not seen his mother since, though he has searched for her throughout the land.

Each player who participated in the Interlude is awarded a Benny.

The party settle down for the night. Fuk maintains his vigil over the sleeping camp. The watchful goblin spots dark figures skulking in the shadows surrounding the oasis and raises the alarm. Battle-crazed gnolls charge into the firelight, as the heroes and their entourage frantically scrabble to arm themselves.

Thanks to Fuk's keen night eyes, the heroes are not taken unawares. Misfar rolls out of his bedroll and points an accusing finger toward the nearest cluster of gnolls, conjuring a burst of scalding sand to scour the meat from their mangy bones. Zain charges into the fray, cutting down a pair of gnolls in a single swing of his magical axe. Felliped runs his shortsword through a raiders chest, while the cowardly Radi hides beneath a wagon. While the majority of the gnolls are fighting tooth and nail, Fuk spots a half dozen archers hanging back to better pick their targets. One of Garavel's two remaining guards is shot in the throat and killed.

A huge shadow looms out of the desert, a pot-bellied ettin spinning a pair of spiky flails! The two-headed brute lumbers towards Zain and brings his weapons down with bone-breaking power. Zain is wounded.

Nadiyya is slowest to react. There are two gnoll raiders upon her before she can take up her sword! Felliped moves to back her up and is Shaken. Nadiyya draws her sword and the blade bursts into flame. Nadiyya drives her burning blade through a gnoll's heart.

Ignoring the pain (he took the Nerves of Steel Edge for this very reason), Zain disembowels the ettin! The two heads wails disharmoniously as their guts spill out across the sand. Zain revels in his victory and does not notice the gnoll skulking up behind him. Zain is incapacitated by a devastating stealth attack! His Strength is temporary reduced one die type and he falls unconscious.

The heroes drive off the few remaining gnolls. Zain regains consciousness, but is still weak and groggy from blood loss.

TBC
 
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mikeawmids

Explorer
Chapter Sixteen: Katapesh, Bazaar of the Bizarre

The heroes are now Veteran rank.

The party limp into Katapesh the following day. Of all the characters, only Zain has been to the city previously - and the last time he wore a slave collar around his neck. As the second largest city in the Inner Sea, Katapesh is impressive in its sprawling immensity. The ramshackle shanty town that has sprung up outside the city gates is larger than Kelmarane in its entirety. Tall sandstone walls enclose the city proper, beyond which can be seen the colourful spires of a thousand different temples and palaces.

"Welcome to Katapesh, Bazaar of the Bizarre!" cries Radi, who is still with the party, despite Nadiyya's misgivings, "They say anything that can be bought or sold - and even some things that can't - can be bought or sold here!
Thankyou for your protection on the road, but now I must take my leave. Ask for me in the Lower City if you ever need anything! Farewell, my friends! Farewell!"

"Good riddance!"
Nadiyya mutters, as the strange merchant melts into the crowd, "Let's find Archmage Rayhan and get rid of this cursed relic...."

A look of concern settles on Nadiyya's face as she pats herself down frantically. The Scroll of Kakishon is gone, lifted from her inner pocket without her noticing the theft!

"Radi! That snake!" Nadiyya curses, leaping to the most obvious conclusion, "He must have taken it! Did anyone see where he went?"

Garavel shrugs helplessly. Felliped looks nonplussed. Radi has vanished!

"He mentioned the Lower City," Misfar says, "Although that could have been a ploy to throw us off track."

Garavel heads to Rayhan's estate, to lay the groundwork for the heroes visit. The party will rendezvous with him there, after dealing with Radi and recovering the stolen scroll. Felliped departs to deliver his grim tidings to Oxvard's kin, leaving the party to fend for themselves in the (mostly) unfamiliar city.

To gather information on Radi's whereabouts, the party must make a Networking check, rolling Intimidation or Persuasion to find out what's what.

Zain is still too banged up from his fight with the ettin to be either persuasive or intimidating. Nadiyya takes the lead with Misfar supporting. Several hours and a few bribes later, the party learn that Radi is meeting with a representative of the One Source merchant guild to negotiate the sale of a valuable artifact. The meeting is scheduled for dusk and is taking place in the back room of a large, well guarded pesh den/brothel.

"Let's watch the entrance and snatch the thieving serpent when he crawls out of his hole." suggests Nadiyya.

"We can't just abduct a man in the middle of the street," Misfar says, "There will be witnesses and we'll be branded as criminals."

The party formulate a plan. Nadiyya will keep lookout for Radi approaching the pesh den (Notivce). Misfar will cover his face and approach the thief, pretending to be a beggar (Stealth). Once he is close enough to touch the target, he will cast Teleport on the thief, magically transporting him to a nearby alley (Spellcasting), where Zain will be waiting to grapple him (Fighting). Fuk will cause a distraction, to minimize the risk of being spotted (Performance). Their plan is played out as a Quick Encounter.

Nadiyya spots their target approaching the pesh den from the direction of the Lower City. Unfortunately, Radi is not alone, he is surrounded by a group of ruffians hired for protection. With no way of warning the wizard of this development, Nadiyya gives the signal. Fuk starts capering to draw the crowd's attention away from what's about to go down. He's an incompetent juggler, but a few people pause to watch. Radi's guards swagger on by. Swathed in rags, Misfar emerges from an alley, sees the wall of thugs between him and his target and does an immediate u-turn back into the alley. Instead, Misfar casts Burrow to sink into the street, moves into position beneath the group and sticks his hand out of the ground to grab Radi's ankle! The merchant trips and shrieks as he sees the disembodied claw groping at his leg! Radi's guards are too stunned to react. Misfar gets a good grip then casts Teleport, sending the target to the alley where Zain is waiting. Before Radi can get his bearings, Zain has grappled him in an unbreakable headlock! Despite his wounds, Zain is able to hold onto the squirming merchant.

The hired goons begin bickering over whose fault it is that their employer has disappeared. The party quietly withdraw with their prisoner, staying off the streets to avoid any unwanted attention.

Lies start spilling from Radi's mouth the moment Zain uncovers it.

"My friends! It is good to see you again so soon! But why - "

"Enough of your bullshit, thief."
Nadiyya cuts him off with a back-handed slap that rattles the merchant's teeth, "Give back the scroll you took from me, or I'll burn you until you'll wish you had."

Nadiyya takes an arrow from her quiver and blows softly on the metal head. Warmed by her ifreeti magic, the point begins to glow red hot. Radi's eyes bulge in fear and he struggles helplessly in Zain's arms. The big man looks troubled and exchanges a glance with Misfar, who is also concerned by the sudden slide toward torture and mutilation. Even Fuk has turned a slightly greener shade of green.

"Nadiyya, maybe I should take over...." the wizard suggests.

"The Roof Market!" Radi suddenly blurts out, "I have a shop! I hid the scroll there! I can go get it for you right now, just please don't burn me!!"

"Let's all go,"
Nadiyya says sweetly, "We wouldn't want anything bad to happen to you, now would we?"

TBC
 

smcc360

Villager
First of all, this is a great write up! I'm enjoying it very much.

(Rules question, if anyone reading wants to chime in: does using the Burrow power in melee range of an opponent trigger an Opportunity Attack?)
The Teleport Power specifies that adjacent foes don't get a free attack when the power user teleports, but Burrow makes no such declaration. So I think that it does trigger an attack.
 

mikeawmids

Explorer
First of all, this is a great write up! I'm enjoying it very much.



The Teleport Power specifies that adjacent foes don't get a free attack when the power user teleports, but Burrow makes no such declaration. So I think that it does trigger an attack.
Thankyou for your feedback and your kind words! I'll try to remember that the next time it crops up. :)
 

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