–– · Coup de Théâtre Final
Ce chapitre n’est pas utilisé dans la version traduite et modifiée de la quête. Il est présenté ici à titre d’information.
11.0 Search in the Wold
The adventurers again sense the completion of their task as they travel to the last-known location of the Palantíri. This time, they may even manage to keep the enchanted orbs ! Despite their success, a nasty surprise awaits when they return victorious to Minas Tirith.
11.1 A twist in the tale
As detailed earlier (in Section 7.5), Taladhan foresaw the Jugglers” treachery. In a dream, he overheard the plot devised by the Journeyman at a meeting in a high tower contained within an immense cavern. He learned that the double-crossers intended to steal back the Palantíri after they had delivered the orbs into Taladhan’s hands. The vision was accurate. The suspiciously large sum of money that Taladhan offered the Jugglers to smuggle the Stones over the White Mountains was enough to convince them that the cargo was extremely valuable and thus worth keeping in addition to the delivery money.
Taladhan originally intended to have the Palantíri brought to a spot on the west bank of the Anduin River about 5 miles north of the southern edge of the Wold. After his premonition, the sorcerer changed the delivery site to a location 50 miles farther north on the east bank. The change was initially made to hinder any ideas the Jugglers had of sending an advance force to scout the area. Then, Taladhan evolved his master plan. He decided that the best way to foil the greedy Jugglers would be through trickery rather than force of arms. Taladhan instructed Elegar to covertly order two replica Palantíri from the Glassworks of Minas Tirith. The terms Palantír and Seeing-stone were to be avoided ; rather Elegar was merely to describe the products wanted : two orbs of translucent black glass, one a foot in diameter, the other two feet across. Since knowledge of the Palantíri is extremely limited at this time in history, a description of their exterior appearance is unlikely to attract attention. The very few people who have heard of the Stones tend to think that they exist only in myth.
Taladhan hopes to fool the Jugglers by letting them steal the fakes, instead of the true Palantír, thus ridding him forever of the rogues” attentions. Unfortunately for the PCs, the introduction of the replicas will add a wholly unknown and extremely troublesome element to their quest ; they too may mistake them for the real thing !
The fakes were created in the Minas Tirith Glassworks which lie on the Fourth Tier of the city. From there, they were shipped, by water and land, to Lake-town. Taladhan arranged to have the false orbs pass along the Old Forest Road (see Section I 3.6.1) where he ambushed the wagon carrying them (thereby avoiding revealing himself as the receiver of the delivery and avoiding the shipping costs as well!) and brought the fakes to his tower, Sarn Goriwing. The journey to Sam Goriwing from the ambush point was slow due to the size of the glass spheres and the increasing Elven presence in the Greenwood (not to mention marauding giant spiders). However, they arrived safely at the tower. There, Taladhan wove subtle enchantments to render the false glass spheres more like the Palantíri in their appearance. The enchantments were mainly cosmetic, conferring no powers upon the fakes, the exception being a spell which toughened the glass spheres and allows each to be dropped twice without breaking.
The enchantments complete, the fakes were transported to the newly arranged rendezvous in the Wold. As soon as the real Palantíri were delivered and the Jugglers had departed, the Stones were swiftly taken north by Vacros into Greenwood and on to Taladhan’s tower. The fakes were left in their place in anticipation of the return of the treacherous Journeymen.
Upon the Jugglers” return, the adventurers arrive at the bandits” lair in the hope of recovering the Palantíri. The simultaneous presence of a band of Orcs, who are interested in the contents of the large wooden cases, contributes to a very interesting situation indeed !
11.2 Travelling to the Wold
The journey to the Wold takes about 6 days, assuming a mounted speed of 5 mph over the 375-mile distance and a 12 hour travelling day. (The adventurers should be hurrying now. They are nearing their goal and cannot want to be denied the Stones again.) The PCs are not far behind the Jugglers and arrive just before these rogues attempt to steal the fake Palantíri.
The first day’s journey brings back memories as you retrace your steps between the Juggler’s Hall and Edoras. Whereas Rohan was in the midst of autumn when you last traveled this terrain, the first stirrings of spring now green the cold-bleached grasses and soften the arc of the sky with mare’s-tails. The snow in the mountains is melting and the rivers are swollen. Old men wander the foothills to the south, hoping to find gold in the sediment washed down from on high. Deer graze in complacent herds. Edoras surges with Rohirrim preparing to leave their winter homes for mountain chalets or summer-long tent-living while following their beloved horses. You cannot linger and stop only to refresh your mounts and reprovision your supplies.
Leaving Edoras, you head northwest toward the Iach Onodló : the bridge that spans the River Entwash. Late on the second day after leaving the Juggler’s Hall, you near the swollen waterway. The ground is spongy, soaked by spring flooding. The bridge still stands, however, and provides the only way to cross the turbulent waters.
The old bridge stands, but it is far from safe. The overfull river has severely weakened the piers supporting the span, and this has not gone unnoticed by two large Forest Trolls named Gugle (Gûga) and Drudge (Drûdâg).
In an incredible piece of brain-work, they have decided to hide under the bridge until a decent-sized meal arrives. When dinner crosses the Entwash, the pair intends to ram the bridge piers with their stony shoulders, thereby dumping their prey into the water. The brilliant part of their trap is a crude net woven from rope and positioned across the river downstream. The Trolls hope to pull in the net and their victims after these unfortunates have drowned or ceased struggling due to exhaustion.
It is Extremely Hard (-40) to spot the Trolls : they are well hidden, and it is late afternoon when the PCs arrive, the low sun casting deep shadows under the bridge. (Forest Trolls can operate in diffuse sunlight without being turned to stone.) When at least three of the PCs stand on the span, the Trolls strike. The bridge collapses, sending all characters on it into the waters below. Each receives a +20 Fall / Crush attack from falling masonry and is carried swiftly downstream to the net. As each PC hits the knotted ropes, there is a 5% cumulative chance that the strands will break.
Once the bridge is down, the Trolls charge to the net, one on each side of the river. They are big and heavy enough to wade the raging stream, unaided if necessary. Any PCs not in the river may attack the Trolls.
Gugle (Gûga — Troll)
Drudge (Drûdâg — Troll)
Characters in the water may drown and must make swimming maneuvers. At least 1 skill rank is needed to avoid automatically commencing to drown. The difficulty of the swimming maneuver corresponds to the armor worn by the character with an additional –10 penalty due to the swollen state of the river. (Plate=Absurd, Chain=Extremely Hard, Rigid Leather=Very Hard, Soft Leather=Hard, Heavy Clothes=Medium) Three maneuvers must be made before the net is reached ; failure on any of them means a loss of 25 temporary Constitution points (recoverable at the rate of 2/hour). If any character reaches 0 points, he or she losses consciousness. If still in the water, the unconscious character loses 30 points/round until dead (death ensues when the total passes a negative value equal to the normal temporary Constitution stat ).
It is Sheer Folly (-60) to climb out of the river before hitting the net, because the current is so strong. However, it is only Very Hard (-30) to climb out at the net, so long as a Hard (-15) maneuver is made to avoid getting entangled in the rope (contortions skill is suitable for escaping entanglement). Partially drowned characters operate at a penalty to all actions equal to the number of Constitution points lost.
No character will drown, if he or she is conscious when reaching the net : it is easy to keep one’s heads above water with the aid of the ropes. However, partially drowned characters will be thoroughly exhausted and unable to fight when and if the Trolls drag them out of the water. Should they survive this extremely nasty encounter, all those PCs still on the west bank will have to figure out how to cross the now-bridgeless Entwash !
She is the ghost of a Rohir woman whose lover was killed during an Orc raid on the tower in TA. 3001. The tower was their home, and she threw herself its roof two months after her mate’s death. Her ghost does not speak or answer questions, but jumps from the tower’s blind side bore anyone can reach her. No body can be found on the ground. However, if anyone digs in the area where the body should lie, a skeleton is uncovered. It wears a silver amulet around its neck. The skeleton belonged to the distraught woman, and her amulet allows its wearer to remain completely calm in all situations. Fear, surprise, and anything that affects demeanor does not affect the wearer. The wearer’s calmness may cause a 4th level Fear effect in all foes viewing the wearer in situations in which any sane individual ought to be terrified or awed. The Rohir woman did not know of the powers of the amulet.
The tower has three levels. The ground level contains nothing. The middle level holds merely burnt furniture. Here, a Very Hard (20) perception (sight) maneuver will reveal a loose stone behind which lies a pure white Holy dagger that slays Orcs. The top level is open to the sky, and a skeleton lies on its stones. The bones are the remains of the Rohir woman’s lover. Should the PCs bury the two skeletons together, the ghost will rest. (The GM may award a special .XP bonus for this.) Gripped in the skeleton’s hand is a war mattock with a red-wood shaft. It is a +20 weapon that also allows the wielder to knock down any non-magic door with one blow.
A good tracking maneuver at the small ruin can establish further details of the comings and goings there. A group of ten Jugglers stayed the night at the ruin after having delivered the Stones. As the stars wheeled overhead, they were joined by another twenty Jugglers, who entered the camp in twos and threes from all directions. In the morning, the group headed north to attack the bandits. An extremely good tracking roll will reveal that three Jugglers left the main group, traveling east (see Section 11.5.1).
11.3 The NPCs
Although Sunlending is present to lead the Jugglers in the Wold, his right-hand man Juangert Feral& coordinates the group’s tactics. His discretion directed that reinforcements join Jugglers after the delivery of the Palantír, and he will specify who scouts the bandits” lair where the Stones now rest and who sneaks in to make the theft. Juangert is a full member of the Order of Journeyman Jugglers and is well versed in subterfuge.
Juangert hails from the far lands of Olyas Kriis. Chy blood runs in his veins, and he possesses the creamy skin, almond-shaped eyes, and kinky hair of that kindred. He is of medium height, 5′10″, and wields a strange weapon called a pelarn. (It resembles a short lance with a slightly enlarged boss. It attacks as a spear with a +10 modification. The two-handed pole arm has a +15 bonus when used to parry due to its boss.) The pelarn is a family heirloom from the Utter South where it is commonly used by warriors.
A large man, with a full reddened beard, Angrus leads twenty bandits who live by harassing traffic on the Anduin. Angrus possesses a powerful personality, a booming voice, and a great bastard sword, which he wields with ferocity. He needs these attributes : his men are a troublesome bunch, mainly thieves, cutthroats, and brigands.
Angrus fought as a mercenary several years and has experienced two stints in jail. He is well content with his career as a bandit and with his small band of men, since the prosperity of the Fourth Age brings much trade down the river and into his hands.
Nagan leads a small bunch of exceedingly vicious Orcs who scavenge in the Wold. The Uruk fled Dol Guldur in T.A. 3019 when it was cleansed by Galadriel. Settling on the Wold as his home away from home, he gathered other fleeing Orcs under his banner. The band shelters in chalk caves by day and emerges at night to hunt travelers and treasure.
Thus far, Nagan has done well. His successes have emboldened the Uruk chieftain, and now he plans to take the obviously valuable contents of the cases guarded by Taladhan’s men guard.
11.4 The setting
The action takes place in a small valley overlooking the Anduin. Ruins of an old house lie in front of a cave which is home to Angrus and his bandits. There is more to the terrain than meets the eye, because a narrow passage at the back of the bandit’s lair descends to an underground river flowing through a series of limestone caverns.
Millennia ago, the limestone chambers were home to a strange group of cave dwelling people known as the Gondrim (S. « Stone-people »). All knowledge of the peculiar tribe is now lost, and the only trace of their existence is the burial chamber of one of their Kings. The tomb lies on an island in the midst of a large underground cavern, through which the PCs are likely to pass after having recovered the Palantír.
11.5 Ups and downs
11.5.1 Four-way fight !
Four factions, all with differing aims, confront one another in the Wold. GMs should be prepared to keep their eyes and ears open as the conflict unfurls.
Rencontre : (Jugglers)
Juangert Ferillot — Chyan Warrior/Fighter lvl 10
Jugglers — 30 Warriors and Bards Lvl 5
Rencontre : (Bandits)
Angrus — Human Warrior/Fighter lvl 10
Bandits — 20 Rogues and Warriors Lvl 4
Rencontre : (Orcs)
Nagan — Orc Warrior lvl 10
Orcs — 30 Common Orcs Lvl 3
The four adversarial forces
- The PCs. They are here to claim the Palantír for the King. They suppose that the bandits don’t expect the Juggler’s return. The adventurers are prepared to fight both.
- The Bandits. Angrus and his men have been hired by Taladhan to substantiate the sorcerer’s grand plot. They expect a fight and are being well paid for their services. However, Angrus is deceived concerning his appointed adversaries : Taladhan led the bandits to believe the Jugglers are less numerous and dangerous than is so. The rogues anticipate overwhelming the Jugglers easily when they return. Furthermore, the bandits are not expecting the advent of the PCs or the Orcs.
- The Jugglers. The Jugglers journeyed to the Wold in two groups. Sunlending, accompanied by Vacros, led ten men who carried the Palantír to the bandits” lair. Unknown to both Vacros and the bandits, an additional twenty Jugglers, led by Juangert, traveled to the Wold in advance and hid while the smaller group delivered the Stones. Retreating a few miles after the delivery, Sunlending’s Jugglers met with Juangert’s and all stole quietly back towards the ruins the following morning. The Jugglers know nothing of the PCs or the Orcs.
- The Orcs. These scavengers are present to grab whatever they can get. Their main targets are the cases in which sit the fakes, but they’ll be happy to abscond with anything valuable or useful. Nagan saw the Jugglers delivering the cases to the bandits and deduced that something of value was up for grabs. The Ores know the bandits will fight to retain their goods, but have not anticipated the Jugglers” return and do not expect the PCs to arrive on the scene.
The course of the conflict
At dusk, the PCs approach the bandits” lair by way of the narrow path along the east bank of the Anduin. Ahead, the Jugglers prepare to commence their attack. Three Jugglers have climbed to a vantage point above the bandits” cave, while the rest cluster on the path just out of sight of the lair (see the map). Meanwhile, unaware of the Jugglers” presence, Nagan’s Orcs gather on the north side of the ruin, ready to pounce.
The bandits have not spotted the Orcs, but ready themselves for the jugglers. Ten bandits lie well hidden amongst the ruins, bile the other ten stand just inside the cave entrances.
As the PCs move forward, it is Very Hard (-20) for them to perceive the Jugglers on the path before them. (Close to the Jugglers position, the PCs view is obscured by the brow of a hill.) The course of the battle hinges upon whether or not the PCs spot the Jugglers. Both possibilities are described below.
The PCs perceive the Jugglers
If the PCs spot the Jugglers, they have the option of leaving the path and climbing to a vantage point overlooking the lair. This requires Medium (+0) climbing maneuvers and Light (+10) stalking maneuvers. If a stalking maneuver is failed, the adventurers will be immediately spotted by the three Jugglers above the cave. If a climbing maneuver is failed, the PCs must remain on the path. Should this occur, the PCs must either wait until the Jugglers have moved or else attack them (in which case, proceed along lines similar to those described under The PCs Do Not Perceive tk, e jugglers).
Once they reach their vantage point, it is Very Hard (20) for the PCs to see the Orcs gathering and Extremely Hard (-30) to notice the three Jugglers. However, they have gained a decided advantage : their foes diminish one another’s forces while the PCs observe and suffer no casualties. Fighting initially breaks out amongst the ruins, and the Jugglers have the upper hand by weight of numbers. After a short time, some of the bandits leave the cave to assist their fellows in the ruin. At this point, three things happen :
- The Orcs attack
- The three Jugglers above the cave bombard the bandits with rocks and missiles.
- Having now revealed their position, the three Jugglers shout to their colleagues and point towards the PCs” location (unless of course the PCs have already joined the fray). Eight Jugglers move towards the PCs. If the PCs decide to charge down the hill and meet the advancing Jugglers, they gain +10 OB for their first strike (due to the slope). The battle now rages with all four factions involved. (Go to Climax.)
The PCs do not perceive the Jugglers
If the PCs do not spot the Jugglers on the path ahead, then the Jugglers hear the PCs coming, hide, and let the adventurers pass before them. The terrain is littered with many small caves, ruts, gullies, and large boulders, making it Extremely Hard (-30) for the PCs to see the concealed Jugglers.
- Should the PCs fail to spot the Jugglers, the hidden rogues do not ambush them, but permit them to attack the bandits first. Hence, the PCs proceed towards the lair and attack as they wish. If the PCs pass through the ruins, some of the bandits make surprise attacks on them. Once fighting begins between the PCs and the bandits, the Jugglers and the Ores attack simultaneously (by coincidence). A four-way fight ensues. (Go to Climax.) (2) Should the PCs notice the hidden Jugglers, then the Jugglers attack them. Juangert shouts orders, causing eight Jugglers to stay and engage the PCs while the remainder charge the bandits” lair. As these Jugglers assail the bandits, the Ores swarm down from their hill. The three Jugglers above the cave aim their fire at the Ores. If the PCs are able to defeat the eight Jugglers, then they may join in a four-way battle at the lair.
As battle progresses, an opportunity arises for the PCs to break free and enter the cave through the smaller entrance guarded by two bandits. The GM should attempt to manipulate all of the PCs into the lair.
Several Jugglers and Ores follow the adventurers, and then the three Journeymen above accidentally cause a landslide. Huge rocks and boulders plummet down the cliff face, totally blocking both cave exits. A final conflict takes place inside the dark cavern, around the cases containing the fake Palantír.
Provided that the PCs won the battle, they are now in possession of what they should believe to be the true Palantír. However, they are faced with the problem of escaping from the blocked cave with their prizes.
It would take many hours for the PCs to dig their way out. They should be encouraged to explore the narrow tunnel leading from the back of the cave. The passageway, little used by the bandits, twists and turns downward to a small cavern, about 20” lower than the lair. Here two boats are moored in a underground river. The water is cold and flows swiftly ; it requires a Medium (+0) maneuver to board the boats.
After 100” the river widens to fill a magnificent limestone cavern. Formed by the dissolution of rock, its roof is 50” high. Torchlight catches glistening beads of water dripping from large stalactites hanging from the vaulted ceiling. At one end of the cavern, stalagmites project upwards from a small island.
While passing the island, it is Hard (-I0) for the PCs to perceive that amongst the natural beauty of the calcium carbonate columns rests a flat man-made structure. Those who venture on to the islet notice the top of the burial site. The entrance to the tomb is a large flat stone slab requiring at least four men to move. The slab forms part of the roof of a single sunken chamber, and the PCs should be able to slide it horizontally, making just enough room for a man to climb through the crack. The floor of the chamber is 30” below, and on it rests the stone bier of an ancient Gonadan King. The corpse lies on its back, eyes staring upward to the ceiling. It is garbed in a simple white robe. To observers above, the King appears to be carved from stone. Should one of the PCs be lowered on a rope, he or she will quickly establish that there is a real body present. Across the chest, with both hands, the royal corpse grasps a single grey-stone sword which rests lengthwise on his body. No other items are located in the chamber.
The walls of the tomb are perfectly square and pocked with small 1 » diameter holes (about 50 holes on each wall). It is Sheer Folly (-50) to climb the walls. Should anyone wish to take the sword, he or she must peel back the King’s fingers which grasp the hilt tightly. Any shift in the sword’s position is followed immediately by the shattering of the four walls of the chamber, revealing a stone golem behind each (see Section 16.0). The four stone warriors are I0” tall and charge the thief as he or she attempts to escape. The golems will not damage the King’s bier.
Should the thief escape with the sword, he or she obtains a great prize, but not without its shadow. The sword is forged of simple grey stone. The weapon is heavy (7 lbs.) and magical (+15 OB, +10 DB). It delivers an additional crush critical and gives the wielder automatic initiative twice per day. However, it is cursed : should the wielder come within IOU” of any pure stone statue (portraying man or animal), the statue comes alive and attacks the wielder for 1–50 rounds.
Leaving the large cavern, the PCs hear the shriek of bats as the river flows swiftly into a small cave. The still-dark air surges with small flying creatures, and the PCs are deafened by the beating of bat wings. Each PC takes 1–10 bat attacks as the adventurers pass through the cave (see Section 16.0 for stats).
After another 300”, the underground river emerges from a narrow entrance beneath a sheer rock face. The PCs have reached the Anduin and should be encouraged to keep their boats, since the river provides a quick and easy route back to Minas Tirith.
11.6 Gamemaster’s notes
11.6.1 Enemy moves
The GM should refer to the relative timeline in Section 16.0 to gain a clearer picture of the activities of the NPCs in Search in the Weld.
Before the Jugglers delivered the true Palantír to the bandits” cavern, a group of Taladhan’s Half-orcs arrived at the lair with the fake Palantír and the balance of the Jugglers” payment. The Half-orcs were led by the Easterling Shakal Draik (see Section 14.3).
When the Jugglers and Vacros arrived, the Half-orcs hid with the fake Stones in the cave. Vacros ensured that the transfer of the true Palantír proceeded in a dignified manner. Shakal and Angrus met with Vacros, Sunlending, and two other Jugglers in the ruin. The packing cases changed hands, and the Jugglers were paid their due. Vacros bid Sunlending farewell and shepherded the true Stones into the cave as the Jugglers departed.
Suspecting that the area was watched by other Jugglers, Vacros stayed with the bandits until nightfall. Then, while the Journeymen gathered at their campsite to the south, Vacros, Shakal, and the Half-ores switched the real Stones with the fakes and left for Sarn Goriwing. Angrus and his bandits remained on guard by the fakes in order to convince the Jugglers that they were stealing the true Palantír.
11.6.2 Suggested new characters
Because the PCs will, in all likelihood, be returning to Minas Tirith with what they believe are the Palantír, it would be inappropriate to introduce new characters at this stage. New characters should be introduced in Minas Tirith after it has been established that the PCs” quest is incomplete.
11.6.3 Experience points
It is recommended that the GM award a bonus of 10,000 XPs for the recovery of what the characters believe to be the true Seeing-stones, but then retract 80% of that bonus when they find out that what they have recovered are fakes. They should regain this 80% when they recover the real Stones (in addition to a bonus for achieving their goal).
The GM should utilize the encounter tables in Section 16.0 to enhance the journey and should apply XPs as the encounters dictate.
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