15 · Traitor's proving
This adventure should provide plenty of action, intrigue, mystery, and challenge for any group of low-mid to mid-level players. The ostensible mission, to escort a dwarf carrying a fabulously valuable gem south to the town where it will be met by the merchant who will take charge of it, and to guard the gem against the bands of thieves and brigands who lurk in the woods near the road, will be difficult. Completing the job may well require the players to find and use a secret tunnel full of additional traps, dangers, and opportunities.
However, the secondary goal, that of ferreting out the traitor who is passing information on the movement of valuable cargos to the highwaymen, may well prove considerably more complicated, and require that the players use their brains as well as their brawn. Careful tactics, with both the town guards who accompany them and the thieves they encounter, offer the best opportunity for fulfilling this part of the challenge.
15.1 The Dwarves” treasure
Glorin has come to Buhr Thurasig as a representative of a small, retiring Dwarvish group that still mines the hills of the Grey Mountains. The band has unearthed a huge, beautiful emerald, which they wish to sell or barter for supplies they need — particularly grain. wine. leather, and cloth.
The most able merchant/broker in the town, Trigaric, arranges a complicated deal, involving several other merchants and tradespeople. In order to assess the emerald’s value, it must be sent to an expert in gems who lives many miles to the south. Ordinarily a prize of this magnitude would suffice to lure any ambitious trader in jewels to make the journey to see it for himself, but in this case the person best suited to evaluating the gem has pleaded that age and poor health prevent him from making the journey. As the man is, in fact, neither as old nor as sickly as he claims, rumor suggests the real reason he’s declined to make the trip has to do with the evil reputation of the area and the reported hazards of the road. The jewel expert adamantly refuses to venture any further north than the town of Baraldrin’s Gate, so Glorin reluctantly agrees to take the stone there.
Trigaric has arranged with Vergandrieg, the captain of the town’s guard, to provide an escort for Glorin and the jewel, since rumors of the astonishing find have already circulated through the town and are percolating into the countryside. However, there is a trade fair coming up soon in the town and Vergandrieg can spare only a few people for this job.
Trigaric feels sure that this precious cargo is going to attract the attention of every band of thieves and raiders within reach of the rumors, so he takes the additional precaution of offering the PCs, a likely looking band of tough, seasoned, adventurer/warriors, 10 gold pieces per person to escort the emerald and see it safely delivered to Baraldrin’s Gate.
Vergandrieg has been the captain of the town guards at Buhr Thurasig for almost eight years. The area is a dangerous one and in his time he’s seen his share of Orc raids, wolf incursions, troublemakers from Angmar or Mirkwood, and even the occasional Dragon attack.
Raids by bands of brigands or highwaymen on parties travelling between Buhr Thurasig and points south have been a continuing problem, one Vergandrieg has been able to do little about, since most of them occur at some distance from the town, and he doesn’t have enough men to spare many for chasing down the thieves and raiders.
For the past year he has been careful to get as much information as he can about the thieves and their movements, hoping to learn something that will help him protect travelers against them. He hopes one day to have enough men and time to spare to make an attempt at cleansing the roads and forests where the outlaws congregate.
Vergandrieg is still far from being able to accomplish that mission, but he has noticed a disturbing pattern to the raids. Two particular groups of outlaws seem to be operating independently, but they appear to have some source of information about the movements of parties on the road, and which ones arc carrying particularly valuable cargoes.
In some cases. the outlaws appear to have learned of merchandise removals which should have been known only to the traders involved with the goods and a few of his own guardsmen. Because the groups of merchants being victimized are rarely the same, he has been forced, unhappily, to conclude that someone in the ranks of his own troops is passing information to the outlaws.
Vergandrieg is concerned and upset about the raids, but the thought that one of his own people might be involved infuriates him. He is determined to find out who is responsible and see the traitor punished as quickly as possible.
15.2 The NPCs
Rather large and handsome as Dwarves go. Glorin is the most outgoing and personable of his band of dour, reclusive, and pessimistic miners. Keeping in mind that good humor and amiability are relative, Glorin appears to most other people as a somewhat grumpy, irascible, even ill-tempered type, who will, nonetheless, talk your ear off given the chance and occasionally spring for a round of drinks at the tavern.
He actually likes travel and the company of others more than he will admit, even to himself, and though he feels constrained to criticize and complain about everything and everyone with whom he comes into contact, closer acquaintance will reveal the warmer currents of a genuine kindness and sense of humor that run deep in him. Glorin can be a loyal friend and an amusing companion to those who get on his good side, but he doesn’t give the loyalty lightly or reveal his deeper nature quickly.
The captain of the town guard of Buhr Thurasig is a rough-looking, heavy-set man in his early fifties. Grizzled hair and beard, together with a face deeply lined both by exposure to the weather and chronic worry, give him the appearance of greater age. But he is still a powerful man, physically and mentally.
Vergandrieg’s family has lived in the area for many generations and the hold they farm is a prosperous one. A long-time family tradition places the oldest son of each generation in charge of the hold, while the next goes into the town guard. More than one member of the clan has risen to the position of Captain.
The current Captain had two sons and one daughter. All three chose careers in the guard as well, but the oldest son was killed several years ago in a battle with a band of outlaws, which fostered Vergandrieg’s hatred and determination to destroy the raiders. His other two children show great promise as warriors and one of them will very likely also succeed to the position someday.
This thirty-six year old guardsman was the third son of the joining of a master metal-worker and one of the best weavers Buhr Thurasig has ever seen. Thandrain might have gone into either trade (his older brother is now the chief metal-worker in the town) but chose instead to join the town guard. He’s been with the guard for eighteen years and has achieved a thoroughly undistinguished career.
Although powerfully built (running to fat around his middle) he is only moderately good with weapons. less adept with animals. and clumsier still at anything requiring cerebral activity. The rest of his family is clever enough, and no one has yet been able to decide if Thandrain is deficient in brain-power or just can’t be bothered to use what he has. His occasional flashes of wit together with an appearance of general, systemic laziness incline most people toward the latter theory.
Thandrain has been married for twelve years to Gieselin, a once-beautiful shrew of a woman whose looks have been hardened and wiped away by self-indulgence, temper, and ill-humor. No one is quite sure how her husband has managed to maintain his amiable good temper under the constant onslaught of her complaints, but there’s no doubt that his frequent absences on guard duty have prolonged their marriage and possibly Gieselin’s life.
The pride of the man’s life is undoubtedly his four children, who range in age from four to fourteen. The two boys and two girls show promise of considerable talent and intelligence, and it’s not unlikely that all will surpass their parents” minimal achievements in life. Thandrain will gladly regale anyone who’ll listen with long stories concerning his children : their remarkable feats and wonderful observations.
The difficulty of raising four children on a guardsman’s salary has caused considerable speculation about how he does it. That fact plus his lack of other achievement in the guards have placed him on Vergandrieg’s list of suspects in the leakage of information. However, most people underestimate Gieselin’s abilities in managing the household, the willingness of the children to contribute their efforts and any extra income they may earn through odd jobs, plus the amount of money Thandrain himself collects in taking on extra assignments for bonuses.
Roginor’s parents died of disease within two years of each other, leaving him orphaned by the time he was twelve. Since the boy was good with his hands and reasonably clever, a master goldsmith took him in to train him. The metal-worker had one other apprentice : a slightly older boy, less able and intensely jealous of the newcomer’s ability.
When Roginor was fifteen, his rival stole a large sum of money from their master and hid a portion of it in the younger boy’s belongings. Unable to prove his innocence against the other’s lies and the planted evidence, and lacking the support and backing of a family, Roginor fled the area. For several years he travelled, surviving as best he could, migrating northward, until he finally settled in the town of Buhr Thurasig, where he felt safe from his past and any chance of encountering someone who might know his history.
The young man chose to join the guards there. Although his training as a warrior was minimal, he had grown tall and strong, without losing his agility and deftness, so he was able to develop the skills he lacked quickly. He also hoped his fellow members of the profession would be sympathetic to his unwillingness to discuss his background.
Although he’s been with the guards in Buhr Thurasig for more than four years now, his unknown past and his reticence about it have made him the focus of continuing suspicion. No one quarrels with his skill with horses and swords any more, however, and few will voice any open doubt to the face of this tall, brawny young man. The mystery surrounding him has placed Roginor high on Vergandrieg’s list of suspects in treachery.
He is civil and normally polite, but Roginor speaks very little and almost never volunteers anything. He will not be drawn into any kind of casual conversation. His stern, immobile face doesn’t completely disguise his youth, but his deep brown eyes reveal a self-contained maturity and confidence rare in one of his age. He has light brown hair and a nearly blond beard.
Otogorth is 42, a rough, hard-looking man of medium height and burly build ; he’s been with the guards for eight years. He joined late in life, following the death of his wife in an Orc raid. His two grown sons continue to live on and work the hold headed by Otogorth’s brother and sister.
Otogorth impresses one as the sort of person who is mad at the world and everyone in it. He has been that way to some extent for his entire life but the attitude intensified after his wife’s demise. He is a ferocious fighter but a laconic companion.
Although not garrulous, he can be drawn into a conversation without much difficulty. He has strong opinions and a prickly temper, takes offense readily, and will even pick fights, apparently for the fun of it. As a result, he has few friends, within the guards or outside. Otogorth rarely visits his family hold as he quarrels constantly with his relatives. Even his sons aren’t particularly fond of him and do their best to discourage prolonged stays.
The man tends to leave chaos and bad feeling behind wherever he goes. Those who know him well try to avoid lengthy contact unless they’re looking for a confrontation. For reasons not clear to anyone beside himself, Otogorth finds Roginor’s refusal to talk about his past irritating, and he will do his best to provoke a confrontation with the younger man. Roginor’s wall of self-containment is solid and his patience long-tempered but he has limits and Otogorth might drive him beyond them.
Because he feels that he’s had a raw deal from life, Otogorth is no great believer in loyalty to anything beside his own wants and desires. That fundamental greed has led him to conspire on occasion with the leader of a group of bandits and to sell useful information to them. Otogorth plans to retire in a few years and set up an establishment somewhere to the south. The money he’s collected from his treachery is being saved toward that dream.
Twenty-eight years old, tall, wiry, with reddish-blond hair worn in a long braid down her back, Lisgaria has been a member of the guards for only two years. In that time she has nearly been thrown out twice. Her enemies and exasperated superior officers describe her as « having a problem with authority »; her friends and defenders counter that what she really has a problem with is stupidity. They all agree that she is singularly lacking intact, patience, or tolerance.
Although Lisgaria was born in the vicinity of Buhr Thurasig, she left the area at the age of eighteen to seek adventure and excitement. If even half of her wild, outrageous bar tales are true (or nearly), the girl found what she sought. So far, she hasn’t revealed why she abandoned her interesting free-lance career, although rumor has suggested that a nearly fatal encounter with a blood-wight may have robbed her of at least some of her youthful nerve. It certainly left some ugly, though not seriously disfiguring scars on the side of her face, neck, arms and upper leg.
When off duty, she tends to be gregarious and voluble, regaling listeners with long, elaborate, and probably only slightly exaggerated, tales of her past adventures. On a mission, however, she will withdraw into a reserved and fierce concentration which misses nothing of what is going on around her.
The leader of the largest, most vicious band of brigands terrorizing the highway south of Buhr Thurasig, Korbrild is 46, a heavy-boned, toughly built man, with long dark hair and sharp, icy cold blue eyes. His face is seamed with scars and his nose changes direction several times on its way down his face.
There is almost nothing good to be said about Korbrild and no one would say it if there were. He is an effective, if heavy-handed leader ; not overly shrewd or clever, but brutal and utterly ruthless. He imposes his will through fear and force. His followers don’t like him, but all fear him, a few respect him, and one or two even admire him.
He chooses new recruits for his group carefully. Korbrild keeps an eye on the youngsters in the nearby towns and settlements, paying particular attention to the bullies and troublemakers. Every now and again he finds a child who possesses a combination of aggressiveness, indifference to the thoughts and feelings of others, combat skills or at least reasonable potential, and susceptibility to promises of an interesting and profitable life. Youngsters of this type he will lure away from their towns and families and initiate into his band. Should they prove unable or unwilling to adapt to the life, they disappear.
Korbrild loves his life as leader of the outlaw thieves in the forest. He takes great pride and joy in the band of people he has trained and molded in his own image, regarding them as his real family. Of course, he’d draw, quarter, rack, mutilate, and flay any member of that group who even hinted at disloyalty, rebellion, or betrayal.
Sovorn the One-Handed, Feld, and other members of Korbrild’s band
Sovorn was one of Korbrild’s earliest recruits and greatest successes. Twenty-eight year old Sovorn is fairly short, but stocky, with red hair and hazel eyes. He grew into the role of Korbrild’s second-in-command by virtue of his cleverness as well as ability with weapons. He is actually considerably sharper than Korbrild, smart enough to refrain from flaunting his superior intellect openly until he’s in a position to be sure that the mutiny he’s contemplated for the past several years will succeed. Sovorn was born with a withered right arm, a defect no healing spells have so far been able to cure. The skill of his left hand with sword and dagger has more than made up for his lack of a right.
Feld is older than Korbrild by more than ten years and is the only current member of the band who wasn’t recruited as a child. In fact, he wasn’t recruited at all.
Feld saved Korbrild from a group of soldiers who nearly had him cornered during one of his recruiting trips to a nearby town and has since regarded it as his life’s work to be bodyguard and manservant to Korbrild. Feld keeps his grizzled hair short, and his bushy beard disguises the fact that he has only three teeth left in his mouth.
The rest of Korbrild’s band are seven young men and four women, ranging in age from sixteen to twenty-seven. The life they lead is dangerous in more ways than one and over the years any number of his people have been killed by travelers they’ve tried to ambush, guards, or other members of the group. Far from disapproving of the waste, Korbrild smiles on this process of weeding out the weaker links and proving the strong ones.
Rigdarabin is the forty-two year old head of a clan consisting of six other adults and eight children. Their hold is several miles off the road, and well away from any town. His family is primarily made up of farmers, but they also do a fair amount of hunting and gathering to supplement the food stores. Several bad years for crops forced Rigdarabin and four of the other adults who were trained in warrior’s skills to take to preying on travelers on the road. He doesn’t like doing it, but he likes even less watching the children of his clan starve. He and his people are neither cruel nor vicious ; they’re simply desperate. Rigdarabin is tall and on the thin side. He has blond hair and beard, and dark green eyes.
15.3 The layouts
15.31 The road to Baraldrin’s Gate
- 1 · Main route out of the town
- The road runs generally south from Buhr Thurasig and is the main route out of the town, connecting it with a number of towns on the plains below the Grey Mountains, and finally winding its way down to join the Men Mithrin just west of the point where that road turns south toward Dale. Though unpaved, the surface is generally level and well-packed, broad, and clearly marked. A long, eastward bend skirts areas of irregular terrain, rocky in some places and treacherously muddy. slippery, and even marsh-like in others.
- 2 · The Black Knob
- The road bends around the perimeter of a large, steep outcropping of dark granite called the Black Knob. Erosion, primarily by weather, has left a tall knoll rising high above the road. The knob is visible from a considerable distance : on closer approach one can see an octagonal stone tower rising from the flattened top of the mountain.
- 3 · Wall of rock
- As the road continues to wind around the base of the knob, travelers heading south will find themselves with a sheer wall of rock rising some eighty feet, straight up, bordering the road on the left.
- 4 · The Beacon Tower
- A slender, octagonal stone spire sits on the highest point of the knob and rises an additional fifty feet above the surface. Approximately two thirds of the way up the tower, a broader circular disk appears to slice through or surround the spire. The disk is also of stone. Only a very perceptive viewer can see from a distance that there are windows in the circular wall of the disk. The tower doesn’t come to a point but has a flat top where once the watch-keeper could build a fire to warn the surrounding country of approaching danger.
The wall of the knob is just as sheer at the base of the tower as it has appeared along the side of the road. If a traveler leaves the road, however, and skirts the base of the knob for a short distance he will find that a steep, narrow path winds tip the side of the cliff to the base of the tower.
A great deal of dense shrubbery surrounds the tower. It is extremely hard (-30) to see that there is a small door in the wall behind about six feet’s width of thorn bushes. The door is locked, but the mechanism is old and it’s only medium (+0) to pick.
- 5 · Forest
- This heavily wooded area contains a mixture of deciduous trees (primarily maples and oaks) and evergreen pines and firs. Dense undergrowth makes passage anywhere off the road difficult except on the maze of narrow, poorly marked trails hacked through the shrubbery. Travelers unfamiliar with the area are well-advised to stay on the road, as navigating the woods, even on the paths, is difficult and perilous.
Hidden deep within the forest, at the heart of the maze of trails and paths, is a semi-permanent settlement which is home to members of a band of thieves who make a living by preying on passing travelers.
There is an 80% chance per mile that any passing group will be attacked somewhere along the two mile stretch of road that passes within the forest. The odds on an attack increase co 90% should the party be foolish enough to decide to spend the night under the shadow of the trees.
This is the operating area of Korbrild’s band.
- 6 · Marshland
- The ground slopes down into a valley formed by a narrow, cold stream and the trees gradually give way to lower growing shrubbery of the kind that thrives in damp, boggy soil. There is a nest of Hummerhorns not too far from the road, and a 60% chance that anywhere from 1 to 12 of them will attack the party.
- 7 · Tunnel Entrance
- On the north side of the road, the land begins to slope up in a fairly gradual ascent. Trees continue to grow in the area but not in such dense accumulation. Unless one has looked down on the area from a height (such as the beacon tower), it is nearly impossible 90) to see that there is a narrow opening at the top of what appears from ground level to be only a tall and extensive pile of rocks. The entrance is only very hard (-20) to find if one knows approximately where to look.
- 8 · Alternate opening into the nutria
- Sheer Folly (-50) to find. It is, however, safe to assume that any thieves operating in the area are familiar with this means of access.
- 9 · Another opening
- Into the tunnel.
- 10 · Yet another opening
- The opening at furthest distance from the entrance at (7), this would presumably be the usual exit for those using the tunnel to avoid the hazards of the road.
- 11 · Ford
- The stream the road crosses is normally only thirty feet wide and about a foot deep, making it relatively easy to cross. If there have been heavy rains recently or a thaw in the mountains, the stream could be running much higher, making the crossing much trickier.
- 12 · Forest
- Dense woods similar to that at (5). A small settlement on the edge of the wood well away from the road is home to another band of thieves. These are less professional than the ones operating in the other wood, taking to robbery only when food supplies are low, or other means of livelihood are not providing adequately (30% chance of attack).
This is the location of Rigdarabin’s band.
- 13 · Crossroads
- Just to the south of here, the road crosses the dangerous highway, Men Rhûnen. Because this highway is frequently used by parties of Orcs, or emissaries of the Necromancer or the Witch-king, it would be wise to send a scouting party ahead to check the crossroads before attempting to cross. Should a group not check, there is a 50% chance that they will be seen (and attacked) by a band of Orcs on the road.
- 14 · The road continues south to Baraldrin “s Gate
- The last fourteen miles of the trip should be relatively uneventful as the road is generally clear from the crossroads to the town.
15.32 Beacon Tower
- 1 · The tower’s door
- Leads into a dark, arched passage, which runs straight ahead for about eight feet before opening into the interior of the rower. A multitude of spider webs block the corridor. These are nor difficult to detect or break, but the wise adventurer should realize that any movement of the webs is likely to alert their creators to the presence of intruders. Fortunately the spiders in residence in the narrow niches along the side of the hall aren’t the giant types from Mirkwood, but neither are they your average garden-variety Arachnid. These have bodies about a foot in diameter and stand between two and three feet tall.
The pack of spiders consists of ten individuals, but they will not all respond to the presence of the intruders at the same speed- A bite from one isn’t necessarily fatal, but would require the victim save versus a level 3 poison. Failure means the character falls unconscious for 6 rounds and takes 2–5 hits.
- 2 · Interior of the tower
- The stone walls of the inside are plain ; the floor is also of stone. The most notable feature of the decor is the wide stone staircase rising in a spiral which hugs the walls of the tower.
- 3 · Circular mosaic
- Made of colored stones set in the floor. The design shows concentric circles formed “from rings of stylized vines and leaves. It is hard (-10) to detect the presence of a small stone that is set slightly higher than the others. Pressing this piece down will cause a circular door set at the exact center of the mosaic to spring open. It is sheer folly (-50) to see that as the door opens a mechanism releases a spray of highly concentrated poisonous gas. Failure to disarm the mechanism (extremely hard, –35) will result in 8 to 12 hit points of damage to anyone standing with ten feet.
A small compartment about two feet deep and a foot in diameter is revealed by the circular door. The book secreted within is old and fragile but the writing is still legible, showing a list of spells to level 10 of Sound/Light Ways.
- 4 · Shelves
- A series of wooden shelves are built into an alcove hollowed out of the wall under the stairs. The planks hold only an assortment of dust bunnies and a pile of tiny bones which probably once belonged to a rat or other small rodent.
- 5 · Plaque
- A carved wooden shield about three feet high and two feet wide hangs by a wire draped over a metal hook on the wall. Carved in relief on the shield and painted with considerable care are two dragons rampant over a hand holding an upraised sword.
It is extremely hard (-30) to detect that moving the shield will activate a pit trap in the floor. Two of the stones directly below the shield will swing down on invisible hinges, dropping whoever is standing on them into a twenty loot well fed from an underground stream. The well contains about eight feet of water.
A metal plate, flush with the wall, is revealed when the plaque is moved. The surface of the metal is finished in a decorative pattern of lumps and pits. It is very hard (-20) to sec that a series of indentations on the right side can be used to grasp and pull the plate back if the fingers of the right hand are pressed into them.
When the plate is removed from the opening, a mechanism (Sheer Folly, –50, to see ; Absurd, –70, to disarm) at the back of the niche behind it is activated, and launches a six-pointed bronze throwing star out of the niche into the room. This star is magical, and will complete a 360° sweep of the room, veering from its course in an effort to make contact with someone, attacking as a dagger with a +30 OB. Once it has found a target or completed a circuit it will return to the niche, to rest quietly there, and may be recovered without further danger. The star is embedded with a rune of power that will let it repeat that performance once every twenty-four hours.
The only other thing in the niche is a small metal statue of a slender, horned, and winged creature that resembles no known race of Middle-earth. Bare feet end in three elongated toes, very long hands have six slim fingers, and the virtually noseless face contains slanted and slitted eyes. A jeweled headdress fits around the horns, covering whatever hair the creature might possess. The statue is dirty, dusty, and somewhat corroded, but the gems alone would be worth at least 50 gold pieces.
- 6 · Bottom of the stair well
- A series of stone steps, each 2 feet wide and rising about 8 inches, goes up from this spot. There is no railing along the inner edge of staircase, so a climber would be wise to be careful of their balance. A fall off the side beyond the first few steps could be inconvenient.
- 7 · Trap
- It is very hard (-20) to detect that a fine, nearly invisible, but very tough cord is stretched across the step, from a tiny tack in the wall, to a second tiny tack attached just beneath the edge of the riser on the far side. The unwary could find themselves taking a nasty tumble over the side, or back the way they came.
- 8 · Another trap
- It is extremely hard (-35) to detect that the landing at the top of the sixth flight includes a loose stone precariously balanced on a fulcrum beneath it. Stepping on the stone in any place but the exact center will cause it to rock and unbalance the climber. The trap is crude but effective as a fall from this height (about sixty feet) would make a real mess on the floor below.
- 9 · After reaching the top of the staircase
- A right turn through another arch gives access to the platform of the disk. The ceiling of the disk is about twenty feet high and appears to be made of wood. The walls are of stone ; regular window openings offer a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside.
A second staircase, narrower, steeper, and longer continues upward into the upper tower section. Sunlight slipping through the cracks in the roof show the outlines of a rectangular panel which can be opened to allow access to another series of steps leading to the flat top of the tower.
- 10 · Barracks quarters
- A number of men must have quartered here at one time, as a series of partitions divides the platform into separate sleeping areas. Beds and cabinets, long unused, are scattered around and decaying into garden mulch. One cabinet has an intact lock, which is only hard (-10) to pick. Inside are several bits of clothing, molded beyond any hope of usefulness, a gold wrist band which allows the wearer to cast an Illusion II spell once every three days, and 43 silver pieces.
- 11 · Top of the tower
- The flattened top of the tower served as a place to build the beacon fire. A circular stone container in the center held the wood for the blaze, while four stone pillars set in a rectangle apparently formed a place to store extra wood. There are still a few logs remaining in the storage area and a large pile of ashes in the circle.
15.33 Cave of the Bulor-Ilg
- 1 · Entering the tunnel
- (see #7 in section 15.31 above) involves letting one’s self down through a fairly narrow hole in the rocks and a drop of about five feet to the floor of the cave. Although the cave is mostly nature’s handiwork (in some places widened and even having a few connecting passages excavated), the main passage is a long crevasse formed by the movement of a gigantic piece of rock, rather than having been eroded by water. For the first half mile, the tunnel is narrow, with high, straight, smooth walls, and the floor tilts twenty degrees to the left making walking awkward until one gets used to the slant.
- 2 · For a distance of about thirty feet
- The passage narrows to about twenty-five inches wide, making it a difficult squeeze for larger members of the party.
- 3 · The passage opens out again
- Becoming wide enough to allow travelers to go two abreast. There are three gold pieces lying on the floor of the cave, but any attempt to pick them up will cause a 70 pound rock to slide off a ledge twenty feet above and roll down on top of the greedy soul, unless he or she can move out of the way very quickly.
- 4 · Bats” roost
- A recess in a side tunnel is home to thousands of bats. They hang upside down from the roof and walls of the recess, literally covering it with squirming bodies. A narrow chimney well above and to one side offers an opening to the outside just wide enough to allow the creatures to pass in and out. The bats aren’t particularly dangerous except by their sheer numbers. Should a loud noise or sharp movement disturb them, they will all take to the air at once, creating a chaos of moving bodies in which unwary intruders are likely to receive some rather nasty scratches.
- 5 · Grotto of the Bulor-Ilg
- A large chamber with a high, domed ceiling and walls decorated by nature with richly colored rock outcroppings opens off the main passage. Investigation will reveal a depression in the center of the chamber, which has been deeply charred and holds a small pile of ash. Oddly, an unusual, rich, spicy odor still emanates from the bit of ash. though it must have been long ages since the last fire burned here.
A niche has been carved into the wall at the far corner of the grotto, high enough to be at eye level only for a fairly tall Human or Elf. A border painted around the niche shows a series of creatures similar to the statue found in the tower (see #5 in section 15.32 above) in various positions and activities. There is nothing in the niche itself, though a small depression indicates that something must once have stood there.
- 6 · The passage narrows again
- And the ceiling slants down until passers must crawl on hands and knees, and in one particularly tight spot, squeeze through on their bellies. Claustrophobic characters will experience considerable discomfort here.
- 7 · Invisible Barrier
- If any member of the party is carrying the peculiar horned statue found in the tower (see #5 in section 15.32 above), the entire group will encounter an invisible, sorcerous barrier at this point. They will not be able to pass through it, and nothing they try will avail to pierce, penetrate, circumvent, remove, or destroy the barrier.
- 8 · Barrels
- A series of wooden casks stand along the side of a wide part of the passage. These barrels once held grain and other foodstuffs (one still smells suspiciously like malt hops), but the contents have long since rotted, evaporated, or been stolen by mice and other critters.
- 9 · Ghost’s Grotto
- In the unlikely event that the party should have placed and left the statue (see #5 in section 15.32 above) in the niche. then the Ghost of Ulgandraeth, who was in life a Mage of considerable ability, will appear as soon as they enter the area and greet the party pleasantly.
For more on the Ulgandraeth, see below.
Nature (Human and otherwise) being what it is, the party will probably find only another grotto, which appears at first sight to be completely empty and deserted. Further inspection will reveal the existence of a peculiar rune, belonging to no system known by any of the party, scratched into the wall of the cave.
Touching any part of this sign will cause a sorcerous explosion alight to detonate in the center of the room, doing no physical damage other than blinding for three rounds any members of the party who. are within twenty feet and facing toward the sign. Those who do find themselves blinded will hear a strange voice whisper in their ear, « Return the Bulor-Ilg to his shrine. »
Once the party figures out what this message is directing them to do (assuming they aren’t all hopelessly thick-headed), returned the statue (see #5, section 15.32 above) to the niche (#5, Grotto of the Bulor-llg), and come back to this place, they will find Ulgandraeth to be quite accommodating and helpful. He will even offer them a considerable reward, leading them to a small treasure-hold they would never have been able to reach otherwise (#11 below).
- 10 · Sorcerous cave-in
- If the party has not yet met Ulgandraeth, they will find the passage blocked by what appears to be an extensive cave-in. Should they try removing some of the rocks, they will find that their efforts don’t make a dent in the pile, no matter how long they continue to work. If Ulgandraeth is with the group, however, he will mutter a few words, and the entire accumulation of rocks and debris will disappear, leaving a clear passage.
- 11 · Storage chambers
- Cabinets and shelves have been built into the nooks and walls of the rooms here. Ulgandraeth will urge the party to help themselves to whatever they need or want as no one has used these caverns for many ages and probably never will again. Unfortunately most of what was stored here is no longer in usable condition, but among the things that might still be worth claiming are : several large garnets, uncut but of gem quality ; a large crystal of tourmaline worth 80 silver pieces ; a +5 short sword (the blade needs a bit of polishing and the edge sharpening, but the metal is sound); a small, plain metal box which, when opened, casts a 100” Fire Bolt — it has sufficient power for three more bolts ; 6 ancient gold coins —each appears to be equivalent to about 5 gold pieces ; and 120 copper pieces.
- 12 · Alternate Entrances to the tunnel
- The one on the north side poses no threat of admitting ambushers as the sorcerous rock slide will continue to foil the passage of anyone not in the company of Ulgandraeth, but the one to the south of the main tunnel poses a very real hazard, as it is close to the road and certainly known to the brigands who work in the area.
- 13 · Amphitheater
- A large round chamber which slopes down to a stone platform, forming a natural amphitheater. There are also stone benches lining the wall and floor. If anyone sits in the chamber long enough he will eventually become damp, chilly, and quite bored as even the ghosts that once prowled the stage finally gave up and departed some eons ago in search of more interesting and profitable haunting grounds.
- 14 · Shrine
- Another, smaller domed chamber contains a series of niches carved into the wall. Each of these alcoves contains a small statue (about the size of a finger) showing the the Bulor-Ilg in a variety of poses and holding different objects, some recognizable, like the hammer and the sword, others completely strange. It is extremely hard to see that each small statue is armed with a tiny poisoned needle that will spring out to stab the hand of anyone attempting to pick it up.” Anyone pierced by one of those darts must make save versus a level 2 poison or take 2 to 20 hits. There’s not much point in taking them, anyway, as the workmanship isn’t all that good and there’s nothing else about them to grant the statues intrinsic value or charm.
- 15 · Passage
- Slopes gradually downward, becoming increasingly steep as it goes. Nothing interesting will happen to anyone traversing this tunnel until he gets to the place where it abruptly ends in a sheer forty foot drop into a well.
- 16 · Tunnel’s Exit
- A few rocky steps lead upward to the exit, and the passers must negotiate around a couple of sharp rocks sticking out of the wall, partially blocking the egress.
The tunnel emerges at #10 described in section 15.31 above.
15.4 The task
The task in this adventure is actually two separate jobs : first, to escort Glorin and the jewel safely to the town of Baraldrin’s Gate, and secondly to discover the traitor in the guards assigned to the party.
Accomplishing the first task will involve evading, outrunning, or overwhelming the bands of thieves operating on the road. Since the brigands have been
warned about the movement of valuable cargo, it is a near certainty that the party will be attacked by at least one band of robbers.
The second task is trickier and will require some cleverness on the part of the players. Direct interaction with the guards accompanying them will most likely prove instructive, even entertaining, but won’t reveal the identity of the traitor. A better possibility would involve capturing one of the thieves and offering some sort of bargain. The players should be able to come up with several ways to approach the problem.
Starting the players
The players are assumed to be staying at « The Wailing Wind » Inn in Buhr Thurasig at the outset. If they’ve recently weeded out and disposed of the raiding Orcs (see section 14.0), it will be entirely natural for Trigaric to search them out when he needs extra help to secure Glorin’s emerald on its journey south. Otherwise he might be stopping by the Inn for a drink and be impressed by the group, or have heard rumors about their prowess. In any case he will offer them 10 gold pieces each to escort the jewel to the town of Baraldrin’s Gate where it will be passed into the care of a master jewelsmith. If that isn’t enough to convince them to take on the job, Glorin himself might offer them an additional bounty to help secure his own safety.
Sometime after the party has agreed to escort the jewel, Vergandrieg will seek them out privately and explain the problem he’s had with his guards and offer them the possibility of an additional reward for identifying the traitor in his ranks.
The biggest source of aid to the players should be the guards who accompany them on the trip. Although one of their number is a traitor, and the others all have various sorts of emotional and personality problems, they are still professional fighters, experienced in combat, well-armed, and well trained. They should also be moderately familiar with the terrain, although they may or may not know about the existence of the tunnel.
The information about that passage should come from Vergandrieg, who will add the warning that the underground way is rumored to be haunted and beset with other dangers as well, so therefore should be used only in case of dire necessity. He can tell them that the entrance to the cave is nearly impossible to find except by looking down from above, and he might even provide them with a rough map of the route. Alternatively he can warn the group that they should bear right, right, left, and then right again at the forks in the tunnels to get the maximum benefit and distance from the passage.
As described in earlier sections, the entire area is dangerous, and liberally provided with possible hazards. The terrain itself is treacherous, rocky and uneven. The wildlife of the region is varied, abundant, and rarely benign. With any luck the party won’t meet any of the seriously dangerous creatures in the area, like Dragons or Fell beasts, but plenty of less powerful annoyances will look for opportunities to prey on the group.
Korbrild and his band of cutthroats are the most serious threat to the safety of the party. They have the advantage of superior numbers and knowledge of the terrain. If the party resorts to the tunnel (as they should have to), Korbrild’s group will not be daunted. They are familiar with other entrances to the tunnel system, and will either pursue the travelers underground or attempt to set up one or more ambushes (perhaps even all of the above). The traitor within the player’s group shouldn’t be much of a factor either way when it comes to actual fighting. He will try not to do any more damage than necessary to his secret allies, but he will certainly not betray his duplicity openly by refusing to fight or even giving the appearance that his heart isn’t in the effort.
Rigdarabin’s group, because they aren’t really professional thieves, poses less of a hazard to the travelers. If the group of player characters is a large one, the Gamemaster might want to utilize them as additional allies of Korbrild, otherwise he might want to leave them out altogether.
The traps and hazards in the tower and tunnel aren’t particularly difficult or dangerous. The Gamemaster might want to drop a hint about taking the statue found in the tower with them should the players seem disinclined to do so. Of course, if they don’t have the statue with them, the player’s progress won’t be impeded by the barrier in the cave, so it isn’t absolutely necessary that they bring it, but they will lose the opportunity for an interesting and potentially profitable encounter.
The safe arrival of Glorin and the jewel at Baraldrin’s Gate will, of course, bring the players their earnings from Trigaric. If the group has bargained with Glorin for an additional reward, he too will pay up. In addition, if the players can bring Vergandrieg the identity of the traitor, he will pay them 10 gold pieces each for the information. If they can bring him the body of the traitor or reliably report his death, the captain will probably go to fifteen, and should they bring the traitor back alive and in custody, he will be pleased enough to make the reward twenty gold pieces for each. They will also win the confidence and respect of the captain and people of Buhr Thurasig, which might be useful in further adventures.
They also, of course, get to keep many of the treasures they’ve found on the journey, which could be a particularly rich hoard if they’ve replaced the statue in its proper niche and explored enough of the tunnel to meet with Ulgandraeth.
Since the primary encounters in this adventure involve the raid on the party by the group or groups of brigands along the road, exactly how those conflicts are orchestrated will largely be up to the discretion of the GM. Korbrild’s attack will almost surely begin as a straightforward ambush somewhere along the road, in the vicinity of the tunnel. The party will prove stronger than he anticipated, however, and should at least be able to fight well enough to give themselves time to flee to the relative protection of the tunnel. Should the party have difficulty accomplishing that much, the GM might sacrifice one of the NPC guards to hold off the raiders long enough to allow the rest of the party to flee.
Once the players are in the tunnel, there are various ways to handle the thieves” actions. They could all chase behind the players in a group, trying to run them down one by one in the narrow confines of the tunnel. More likely, though, Korbrild would decide to split his band into several parties, and using his knowledge of other entrances to the tunnel, attempt to surround the band while they are within, overpowering them from various sides. Alternatively, he might divide his men into two groups, one led by himself, the other by Sovorn, and assign them to guard the two most likely exit points, prepared to ambush the players as they leave the tunnel. By doing so he could take advantage of the narrow exits which would prevent the players from emerging as a group as well as their temporary partial blindness while their eyes adjusted from the dim light of the cave to the greater brightness outside.
The chieftain of the larger group of thieves is just about the meanest, nastiest, wiliest, most vicious and ruthless son-of-a-gun anyone in the area has ever met. He fights hard, mean, and dirty. He has no interest in taking prisoners or leaving potential threats around, and tends to be quite thorough in assuring that loose ends are sewn up.
Korbrild possesses no sense of honor and a very pragmatic idea of loyalty. Should he find himself trapped or hopelessly cornered, he might well try to bargain his way out of the situation. Brilliant he isn’t, but he has a crafty cleverness. It will certainly occur to him that the fact that he knows there is a traitor in the group’s midst and his willingness to identify the turncoat can be used as a bargaining chip. He also will know that he’ll have to use it carefully. By the time he’s cornered, he will likely have done sufficient damage and demonstrated his less-than-noble fighting techniques in sufficient detail to assure that the entire party of travelers thoroughly despises him. If they think there might be an alternative way of getting the information, they probably won’t hesitate to dispose of Korbrild and make a bargain with someone slightly less despicable.
Sovorn One-Hand, Feld, and the rest of Korbrild’s band
All of Korbrild’s band are strong and ruthless fighters ; they should be, he selected them carefully and nurtured those particular traits. Sovorn can fight better with one hand than most people do with two, and Feld’s age has slowed him only a little. Like their leader, all of Korbrild’s men have a healthy respect for their own persons, and will, if pressed against the wall, try to talk or bargain their way out of trouble. Of the group only Sovorn and Feld know the identity of the traitor — Feld because Korbrild trusted him enough to occasionally use him as a messenger to his contact ; Sovorn because he makes it his business to know as much as possible about everything going on around him.
If the opportunity or necessity for bargaining doesn’t come up, Sovorn and Feld will both fight to the death, even should they realize that the battle is lost. Most of the rest of the band will flee if they see that their leaders are defeated or the battle is clearly going against them.
Because he (and his people) think of themselves primarily as farmers rather than professional brigands, Rigdarabin’s group fights with none of the viciousness and ruthlessness of Korbrild’s group. Nor do they have the time to invest in perfecting their combat skills. They do consider themselves as struggling to defend and support their homes and families, however, so what they lack in.sk ill is at least partly compensated for by conviction.
If the party has had its fill of fighting, or includes a moderately perceptive and skillful diplomat, they can turn this fact to their advantage. Since Rigdarabin’s band preys on travelers primarily to make a living, they can probably be bought off without a battle. In fact, they will likely settle cheap ; they really are just concerned with assuring a few meals for themselves and their families.
In his lifetime, some 200 years prior to the time frame of this adventure, Ulgandraeth was a Mage of little ability. He was also exceeding curious and spent a large part of his youth pursuing adventures and knowledge. In the course of one of those excursions he came upon the cave of the Bulor-Ilg and his interest was captured. He could make nothing of the peculiar statues and paintings he found in the shrine cave. Nor did anyone living in the area have even a clue about what they represented or meant.
Ulgandraeth devoted the next several years to travelling and research, attempting to learn something of the figures — who created them, and why. His efforts went almost entirely unrewarded with success, and so he finally returned to the shrine, to spend long days and nights in the cave, contemplating the carved statues and paintings on the wall.
It finally occurred to him that he might gain the knowledge he sought with the aid of a demon, could he learn the appropriate spells and collect the power to use them. He spent another year in the preparations, arming himself to summon the most powerful demon he thought he could manage to control long enough to extract the information from him.
Ulgandraeth succeeded in calling and holding a demon, and after some bargaining he learned as much about the creatures as he wished. In return he agreed to become guardian, in perpetuity, of the shrine, a task that would not end even with his death. Instead he became a ghost, with all the rights and privileges thereof, but the limitation of being confined to moving only within the reaches of the tunnel itself.
The Mage learned much of an ancient Dwarvish people who had once, many ages past, dwelt in the area, almost by themselves, save for the beasts that roamed. And he came to understand much of the mythology that grew out of their years of isolation and yearning for knowledge of how the cosmos was ordered and operated.
These Petty-dwarves developed a belief in a race of spirits, known as the Bulor-Ilg, who were closely tied to, and even had some ability to influence, the forces of nature., The worship of these spirits grew into an elaborate series of rituals, invoking at need the aid and intervention of these deities, which came to be centered in and around the cave Ulgandraeth now guards.
When the statue of the Supreme Balor was stolen some years ago, Ulgandraeth was unable to prevent its removal. He is aware that a spell on the statue should insure that it will eventually be returned to the cave, but he still has had no peace or rest since the time of its theft. He has spent the intervening years devising traps and barriers, designed to force the replacement of the statue in its proper shrine when the time comes that it is carried into the cave again.
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