The Search for Balin
A la Recherche de Balin (3A 3000)
Tili’s eldest son, Tali, has pored over copies of his father’s maps and records. The scattered reports concern the founding and fall of Balin’s encampment within the halls of Khazad-dûm. Tali believes he has the key to the mystery behind Balin’s doom. He theorizes that Balin’s folk kept the records of their own tale in the Chamber of Mazarbul (cf. #38). There, high in Moria’s Seventh Level lays confirmation of his postulation. All he needs is someone to recover those records on his behalf.
To this end, he has gathered together a group of adventurers to recover the Seven Books of Mazarbul.
Requirements: A mid- to high-level party of adventurers willing to preempt the Fellowship and sack Balin’s tomb. The emphasis should be on stealth and cunning rather than simple brute strength.
Aids: Tali has detailed maps of Month, including a particularly good one of the Seventh Level. Tali himself will also insist on accompanying the adventurers.
Rewards: Whatever wealth the adventurers can find, excluding any books on the history of the Dwarves and any of the Royal Items of Durin’s Line (cf. #54).
Moria’s Chamber of Records lies on the Seventh Level of the Dwarven complex, near the twenty-first Hall of the North End. Here, the ancient lore of the Dwarves rested undisturbed for millennia—before the rise of the Balrog in T.A. 1980 cast the Naugrim of the First House out of their Mansions. Soon thereafter, Orcs tore apart the chamber, destroying records and smashing sculptures.
Once Balin founded his experimental colony in the halls of Khazad-dum, he made a foray up to the Chamber of Records, discovering its tragic state. Never one to let adversity daunt him, Balin immediately ordered the reconstruction of the room. The results pleased him greatly. Thereafter, Balin spent many long hours in the hall, overseeing the wilting of « The History of Balin’s Folk, » the work that told the tale of his colony and its fate.
It was only fitting that—in the final months of Balm’s reign, while his little kingdom stood under siege from forces from below—Balin made the Chamber of Records his throne room, It was from here that he ruled the last remnants of his doomed domain. Later, after he fell in battle, it was here the Dwarf-king was laid to rest. His body rests in a stone sarcophagus set in the center of the room.
Although no Dwarves escaped the last stand of Balin’s folk, rumors of their fate persisted for several years. They intrigued many people, including Tali’s father, Tili. Thus, Tili resolved to lead a mission into the Deeps in a mad attempt to recover Hadhodrond’s treasures.
Tili wasn’t the only one stirred by the legends of Khazad-dûm. After many years of enduring constant abuse from his father for not having taken up the mantle of a warrior, Tali determined to arrange a mission to Khazad-dûm to recover the most valuable works of recorded history the Dwarven people had known : the seven Books of Mazarbul.
Tali is not a typical Dwarf. He is unusually short, and he is rather shy and retiring. His only overt passion is his love of history.
Tali’s beard is long and white and worn in a handsome single braid. A pair of gold-rimmed spectacles perch tentatively on his nose, the result of spending decades reading and writing by candlelight. His complexion is pale from long periods indoors and, unlike most of his harder kin, Tali’s skin is soft and uncalloused. He is not well-muscled, but what he lacks in strength, he usually makes up for with tenacity.
Tali is determined to secure the Books of Mazarbul. They provide an opportunity to prove his courage to his friends and family. They also represent an unparalleled chance for him to at last to earn the respect of his father.
As such, Tali has vowed not to turn back until he either succeeds or dies in his chosen quest. He dearly hopes that he can count on his companions. Given the probable composition of his party, which should include non-Dwarves, he is necessarily nervous. Still, Tali is less xenophobic than other Dwarves, as his studies have reflected the nobility of races other than his own, there have been documented occasions upon which Men and Elves have fought alongside Dwarves to the greater glory of all. The Battle of Five Armies, about which he has written an exhaustive treatise, is just one example of the honor of outsiders. He hopes to find similar characteristics in his new compatriots. A question also remains : will they respect him ?
Under no circumstances will Tali allow himself to be left behind. He has worked too hard, too long. To be excluded from the final chapter would be intolerable. This may be his only opportunity for personal redemption, and he means to take it. What’s more, he has made a thorough study of the maps, and his knowledge of Khazad-dûm may prove invaluable to the adventurers.
The only site central to this adventure is the Chamber of Records (cf. #38). Therefore, the GM should plot two routes between the East-gate (cf. #9) and this hall : one for the journey in and one for the trip back. Of course, the adventurers may find themselves in need of more than a pair of ways to get between these two points.
The GM should also be familiar with all of the places used in Chapitre 17–3 – The Exploration Expedition, just in case the PCs succumb to avarice and decide to go hunting for treasure. If not, this should be a fairly straightforward adventure. Assuming the adventurers are careful, they experience only a few random encounters beside the one listed below that takes place in the Chamber of Records. Still, if luck is not on their side, they may be facing a desperate battle.
The PCs, along with Tali, must make their way from the East-gate to the Chamber of Records on the Seventh Level. There, they will find the seven Books of Mazarbul, the objects of Tali’s quest. They must then exit Moria safely, keeping both Tali and the books intact.
The adventurers are welcome to whatever treasure they might find in Moria, and, if they are persuasive, they might be able to convince Tali to help them locate such with his extensive knowledge of Khazad-dûm. If Tali has one fault, it is his tendency to wax eloquent upon the subject of Hadhodrond. During one or more of his rambling monologues, he is sure to mention the Royal Items of Durin’s Line, the Three Axes of Azaghal, and the items buried in the Crypt of Alvis. He would like the chance to see these wonders himself and thus ascertain the truth of the tales surrounding them. If the PCs appeal to his sense of responsibility as an historian, they cannot go wrong.
The bulk of the encounters the adventurers will come from the Master Encounter Chart. Use it well and play whatever comes your way. The most exciting part about any expedition into Moria is the unpredictability of it all.
In the Chamber
The Chamber of Records is a ruin. The Orcs and other scavengers have visited it time after time, and there is little of value left. Books lie scattered across the floor : the tomes were tom from, their shelves and thrown. Many pages have been ripped from their bindings, covering the stone like autumn leaves. Some bear scorch marks from a fire set and then hastily extinguished to prevent an inferno.
The destruction is heartbreaking to any who value knowledge and its storage receptacles. Light streaming through the window well in the ceiling only reveals the wreckage more harshly, although it does provide a welcome break to the gloom of the underground wins.
Tali is overjoyed to have arrived in the Chamber of Mazarbul. He sets to work immediately, sorting and shuffling through all the bits of paper he can find. It will take him a long time to review everything, there is far too much material to simply= remove it all. The PCs should set guards at the doors. Only after a minimum of eight hours will Tali be ready to leave.
As the light from the window well dims, Tali suggests to the PCs that they spend the night. He points out that they sorely need rest, and there is no place more secure than the Chamber of Records. The Balrog’s minions reach their peak activity level in the darkness, and the adventurers would do well simply to lie low until the dawns first light.
If the PCs object to his proposal, Tali begs, cajoles and pleads. He will say or do anything to stay. If worse comes to worst, he will flat out refuse to leave and simply turn back to his work and ignore the PCs. If they try to take him forcibly, he threatens to scream, alerting every creature in this Level and the next to their presence.
By morning, Tali is ready to leave, having worked feverishly through the night. He has located all Seven books of Mazarbul, and they are all relatively intact.
If the PCs force the Dwarf to leave early, roll 1d6. The result is how many of the Seven Books he has retrieved when compelled to depart. Randomly determine which books he recovers. Unless gagged, he insists continuously on returning to the Chamber of Records ; if the PCs will not cooperate now, he will come back later with someone who will.
Wise adventurers who alert the Balrog’s creatures to their presence before they reach the chamber will abort their mission and head home. They will not be able to withstand the ravening horde of Orcs and Trolls, not to mention the Balrog, long enough for Tali to gather the manuscripts he seeks. If they do retreat, the denizens of Khazad-dûm will forget the intrusion in a few days, and within a week, their vigilance will subside to normal. The adventurers can then essay another foray for the books with better odds for success.
If the PCs fail in their task, but survive, they can try again later. The Orcs are confident that nothing of value remains in the Chamber of Records. Nor do they realize that the Seven Books of Mazarbul were the PCs’ target. Continued efforts should eventually succeed, provided the PCs escape death.
If Tali collates the manuscripts and the adventurers preserve his life the scholar becomes a living example of the phrase : « no friend ever did a Dwarf a favor… without being repaid in full. » Tali’s gratitude is deep and lasting. Of course, the PCs may keep any treasures they might have found ; more notably, Tali includes them all in his new book about his adventures in Moria. This tome will be read and repeated throughout Dwarven society, and (if the adventurers comported themselves properly) the PCs will be counted as heroes by Dwarves everywhere.
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