A Mission to Steal
Mission : Vol (3A 1640)
The riches of Khazad-chum are beyond measure. It is by far the richest city in Endor. So it is that, over the years, many have undertaken secret sorties into the Dwarven halls. Most fail, the participants disappearing altogether in quiet ignominy. Only a notable (and legendary) few of these expeditions have actually, succeeded, the deeds hailed by professional thieves. Any Khazad, of course, vehemently curse such plundering.
Word has come to the adventurers via a reputable source that certain disaffected Dwarf-guards covet a special share of Hadhodrond’s vast wealth. Should members of a thieving expedition provide them with a portion of the plunder, they appear willing to look the other way. Their source also assures the PCs that he can make any arrangements necessary for a safe, silent entry into Khazad-dûm
Requirements: The courage and tenacity of a lion, or madness in the blood. Only experienced, well-armed characters should even consider attempting this nearly suicidal mission.
Aids: Sketches or knowledge of the Levels and Deeps is essential. Such can be provided through the PCs’ contact (Heol). Even so, without inside help from traitorous Dwarves, the task would be impossible.
Rewards: 10% of everything the adventurers can lay their hands on. Of course, if they get greedy, they can always try for more.
Gain, a captain of the Khazad guards, has spent too many years protecting Moria’s glorious treasures. He now thinks of the wealth as his own. After many decades of foiling plots aimed at parting the Dwarves from their treasures, he has hatched one of his own.
He has made a contact with an outsider—Heol of Maethelburg—whom he has reluctantly decided to trust. (It is Heol who contacts the PCs about the job.) Gain hopes to commission a strong and brave party to enter the city and steal one of the kingdom’s greatest prizes : the Three Axes of Azaghal. The trio of axes lies hidden in a shallow lake on the Second Level, in a room aptly called the Chamber of Axes (cf. #27).
Gain also wants a share of anything else the PCs manage to find. This might translate into quite a fortune, given that treasure is scattered throughout Moria. The greatest concentration of this wealth can be found in the Kings bedroom (cf. #54c) and the royal armory (cf. #54d #54e #54f). Extremely well guarded, no one has ever pilfered these chambers.
Gain believes that, with his assistance, the PCs might succeed where all others have failed. He speaks of an arrangement with the guards, who will remain occupied while the PCs make their assault on the heart of the Dwarven stronghold. All he wants in return is 90% of the booty.
Although only two characters are listed below, there is very good chance that the adventurers will also encounter several others during the course of their raid—especially members of the court of the First House of the Naugrim. See Chapitre 17–1 – The Embassy to the Dwarven King
for a description of the King and Queen Under the Mountain, as well as notes about their court).
Gain is an old, pale-skinned Dwarf who hails from a long line of trusted guards. These warders traditionally keep Khazad-dûm’s valuables safe from any outsiders. Wrinkled and wizened, Gain wears his long beard forked and braided. He tucks the ends into both his belt and the tops of his boots. He is also noted for the long, distinct scar over his left eye, an almost-white mark he sustained long ago in the King’s service.
This wound apparently rattled Gain’s brain, for he has never been the same since the day of that battle. Because he was injured in a noble pursuit, he was promoted to a Guard-warden’s rank and charged with an honorable task : the keeping of the King’s treasures.
Having slowly become unbalanced, Gain now counts the treasures that he has guarded for so many long nights as his own. He resents the fact that the King treats these objects as royal property. After all, Gain has long since earned them all and more through his valorous service. One dark night, while standing watch over the treasure horde, an idea came unbidden to Gain’s mind, and ever since it has remained uppermost in his thoughts.
Gain entertained a plan to make the vast treasures of Khazad-dûm his own. He is particularly fond of the Three Axes of Azaghal, a valiant Dwarf from ancient times from whom (for no reason besides his madness) he believes he is descended. He has determined that the weapons shall belong to him and no other.
To that end, he has contacted a person on the outside who has arranged for a band of thieves (the PCs) to break into the halls of Moria and spirit the axes away, along with whatever else they can carry. Although Gain is asking for 90% of what the PCs acquire, he feels it is only just, since he is taking a tremendous risk in betraying his King. He has no doubt that Dwarven blood will be spilled by the invaders in the course of their mission, but that is an eventuality that cannot be prevented, sad as it might be.
Fruin is the youngest of Gain’s grandchildren. His beard barely reaches the top of his belt, and then only if he hunches over. He makes up for his youth, though, by being utterly duplicitous.
A greedy creature, Fruin walks around with the glint of gold in his eyes. Two years ago, his grandfather arranged for the lad to work beside him as a guard of the Khazad’s treasures. Since then, his only thought has been making off with as much of the collected wealth as he can possibly gather.
While much younger than Gain, Fruin is more than his grandfather’s equal in treachery and deviousness. Although Gain believes that the idea to rob the Dwarven horde is his own, it was planted in his head by his grandson. Fruin is more than happy to allow the old warder to believe he is the mastermind behind the plot. That way, if something untoward should occur during the raid, Fruin can deny all knowledge of the scheme. He plans to blame the entire affair upon a deluded old Dwarfs fevered dreams.
Whenever he gets his way, Fruin is a pleasant, almost oily Dwarf ; however, when matters turn against him, his manner turns surly and hostile. He has little or no sense of honor. Fruin always pushes any advantage he has to its outer limit, and he is not above using horrible and cruel means to satisfy his ends. This amorality enables him to hatch his nefarious conspiracies. It is a trait that becomes painfully obvious whenever he manages to get an upper hand.
Gain also wants a share of anything else the PCs manage to find. This might translate into quite a fortune, given that treasure is scattered throughout Moria. The greatest concentration of this wealth can be found in the Kings bedroom (cf. #54c) and the royal armory (cf. #54d #54e #54f).
This adventure focuses on the West-gate (cf. #1), the Chamber of Axes (cf. #27) and the King’s bedroom and the royal armory (cf. #54d #54e #54f). Naturally, as the PCs wander, they may visit other sites—especially along their eastward descent. Here again, a familiarity with the layout of Moria will reap benefits in time saved during a game session.
The adventurers hope to sneak into Moria via the West-gate. There, Gain and Fruin wait to greet them. (By the time of this initial rendezvous, the Dwarves have disabled any guards.) From there, the party proceeds through the tunnels to the Chamber of the Axes. Once they have the axes in their possession, they can seize any additional treasures they can carry. If they wish, their traitorous Dwarven companions lead them down to the King’s chambers where the greatest of the Dwarven riches are stored.
Along the way, they risk discovery by loyal Dwarves at nearly every turn. They must be ready to kill any and all that find them as quickly and as quietly as possible. Otherwise, they will surely bring the collective rage of a mountain full of Khazad down upon their heads. If this happens, their chances of escape are next to nothing.
The hazards are many, but the potential rewards are phenomenal. Even the meager 10% share promised by Gain equate to wealth beyond the PCs’ wildest dreams. If they are caught, however, they face awful sanction. Punishment is invariably swift and terrible.
Assuming the PCs choose to accept this most dangerous of missions, they may experience a relatively fixed chain of encounters. These rendezvous may occur in a different sequence, and the GM should feel free to add any new encounters suggested by preference or happenstance.
As always, you should use the Master Encounter Chart to determine if the PCs experience a random encounter while marching through the halls of Khazad-dûm. Use the listed percentages for encounters during the day. Halve the percentages for travel at night, when most of the Dwarves are fast asleep. If necessary, Gain should be able to provide the PCs with a safe location in which to hide during the day ; if the PCs are discovered, such a hide-out will be of little benefit to them. When a roll indicates that the PCs have an encounter, roll on the table as usual. Treat any trap results normally.
If Gain or Fruin accompanies the PCs, though, they should be able to circumnavigate mechanical hazards with ease. Results that list an Orc Patrol should be interpreted as an equivalent patrol of Dwarves. If the result indicates the Balrog, the PCs have stumbled across the King himself ; along with his royal retinue of courtiers. Any other result means that the PCs have encountered 1–3 Dwarves traversing the halls or busy at work.
With cunning, Gain and Fruin may be able to double talk their way through most encounters unless the PCs do something unwise. Gain is not skilled at making excuses, and there is a good chance (01–30) that a group of encountered Dwarves will not believe any story he tells them. Fruin, on the other hand, is a consummate liar. There is only a light (01–05) chance that a random Dwarf will discern the untruth.
Gain provides the adventurers with a rough map of Moria, along with the answer to the Ithildin-inlaid riddle on outer surface of the West-gate. The PCs should approach the door on a moonlit night. If so, they can read the inscription on the door. (See Section 10.1 for more about Moria’s Outer Doors.) Should the PCs then say « Mellon, » the door will open and they will be able to pass through it into the halls of Khazad-dûm.
Once inside, they are met by Gain and Fruin. Gain is exceedingly nervous, but he covers his trepidation with a gruff demeanor. Fruin is as friendly as can be expected under such circumstances. He seems to regard the entire affair as a rather casual endeavor.
As they lead them the way from the gate into the Western Entry Hall (cf. #2), the two Dwarves caution the PCs to be silent. The party then begins the long march across through the base of the mountain.
The traitors walk in the lead to guide the PCs around any traps in their path. If the party encounters any other Dwarves in the tunnels, Fruin steps forward to talk with the newcomers while Gain hustles his charges into a nearby hidden alcove or along a secondary path. Eventually—probably sometime in the early morning—the group should reach an area outside the West Gathering Hall (cf. #6). At that point, the traitors guide the PCs to a nearby hideaway where they are to remain until the following evening
Gain and Fruin leave the PCs to wait in the secret room, sealing the door behind them. As long as the PCs remain hidden, nothing threatens them : the place of concealment is well hidden and off the beaten track. If they decide to set out on their own, their intrusion will be discovered before long.
The Chamber of Axes
The huge Chamber of Axes (cf. #27) is a spectacular hall. Although usually vacant throughout the night, it is grand and beautiful. A long, shallow lake dominates the cavern. Its depth never exceeds twenty feet. The wide Axe Bridge that crosses the subterranean mere stands only five feet above the water’s surface. This marvelous causeway is over thousand feet in length. Unfortunately for the PCs, Gain informs them that their quest for the three axes requires them to halt in the middle of the bridge, where the party will be most vulnerable.
A raised, submarine ridge lies directly beneath the bridge ; beneath the causeway, Axe Lake is barely fourteen feet deep. At the midway point of the Axe Bridge, one or more of the PCs must strip down and dive into the frigid waters to search for the treasures hidden beneath the lake’s silvery surface. While the PCs can dive into the water from the bridge, getting out is another story. The pylons that support the causeway’s weight are hard and smooth and covered with a slippery slime that makes them nearly un-climbable. The PCs’ best bet is to send one or two divers into the water while the others wait to haul them up with a length of rope.
Although Gain has a general idea of where the axes rest, he has never seen them himself. In fact, no one has seen the weapons in several lifetimes. Still, he is certain they are still there. It’s just a matter of patient searching.
Each time a diver goes into the water, he or she has a slim (01–02) chance of finding the stone chest in which the axes are stored. Magical means of detecting magic and precious metals can increase the probability (to 01–10) of finding the cache. The whole exercise may take hours. A single dive takes about ten or fifteen minutes, and the water is so cold that a diver can only spend a half hour in the water before hypothermia begins to take its toll.
If this seems excessively difficult, remember that no one has ever found the three Axes of Azaghal Then again, until tonight no one had ever made much of an effort. Most folk respect the past, as well as the dangers involved in fleeing Moria with such a prize.
Given enough time, the PCs will eventually find the stone chest. It lies along the northern face of the chamber (cf. #27)
, significantly farther from the bridge than Gain had guessed. Of course, once they find the repository, their task has just begun.
The chest is sealed with mortar. It is too heavy to lift cut of the water, and it requires almost a half an hair to unseal. Beneath the seal, the PCs find that the chest is also locked. Picking the lock underwater in the dark is an Absurd (-70) maneuver. Luckily, the PCs can try as many times as they like.
Opening the lock should only be a matter of time. Of course, time is what the PCs are fighting here. Eventually, someone may enter the chamber and wonder why a group of outsiders is swimming in the lake.
Assuming the adventurers succeed in opening the chest, they uncover three of the Khazad’s most valued treasures—the Long, Night, and Stone Axes—as well as a large bundle of gold wool worth over 50 gp.
The King’s Chambers
Once they have acquired the axes, the PCs may be inclined to take an even more insane risk and attempt to rob the King himself. Although attempting such a feat borders on lunacy, the potential rewards are unbelievable. Adventurers emboldened by a successful capture of the Three Axes of Azaghal may find such a target tempting. After all, everyone always said the hardest part of the job would be getting into Moria. Now that they are in, they might as well make the most of it.
See the description of the King’s chambers for details about the locations of his valuables. If the PCs decide to make their assault at night, the King is asleep. His chambers, however, are always well guarded, and not only by the listed traps.
A full unit of Dwarven guards (enough to be a problem for the party) stands vigilantly at the doors to the Kings bedroom. Similarly, sentries are stationed in the throne room, as well as each of the rooms of the royal armory.
It’s up to the PCs to fashion a plan of attack. If they are wily, swift, and lucky enough, they may actually escape with some of the greater treasures. Of course, if even one Dwarf starts yelling and calling an alarm, the PCs will be in for the race of their lives. The odds of getting out of Khazad-dûm before being captured or slain suddenly shrink.
There is an excellent chance that the PCs will eventually be spotted by someone who refuses to be persuaded by Gain’s and Fruin’s lies. If the PCs do not kill or disable these skeptical Dwarves right away, the Naugrim will call a general alarm. Then, five bells sound, and the formerly quiet halls of Khazad-dûm resound with the stomping of Dwarven boots. The Outer Doors close and the hunt for the intruders begins.
Word spreads quickly through Hadhodrond. Within minutes, the sleeping Dwarves throw off their drowsiness and hurl themselves into action. They embark on a room to room search, and rest not until they have captured the intruders and brought them to justice.
Can the PCs figure a way out of the mountain ? Without the alarm, Gain and Fruin could have smuggled them through the West-gate without any problems, but now the traitors can do the PCs little good. Unless they feel confident about assaulting an entire unit (or more) of elite Dwarven warriors, the adventurers should start considering more desperate measures.
If the PCs are lucky, the traitors will be able to ensure that the gates to the PCs’ chosen escape route are not closed by zealous Dwarves. If not, they might think to dash to the east side of one of the Levels in an effort to find a window or a cistern through which they might escape. This in itself is no mean feat, for the narrow apertures are designed to prevent passage. (See Sec. 9.2.)
Of course, leaving the mountain via one of these alternative methods will likely drop the adventurers from the frying pan into the fire. Once outside, they will have to scale the side of the mountain to get to the valley floor far below. Doing so may involve running into hostile beasts, and, if they take too long or choose the wrong way, they may encounter even more hostile Dwarven patrols hunting for them high and low.
If at all possible, Fruin sticks with the PCs to the bitter end. He might even leave his grandfather behind, to cover the rear while the adventurers make their escape. Before allowing their flight, though, Gain insists on setting up a rendezvous point. Selecting a place to meet at as soon as they can all get free, Fruin chooses a little cave in the hills west of the mighty Redhorn (cf. Chapitre 03 – La région et le climat).
Should the party escape Khazad-dûm, Fruin takes the first opportunity to steal as much of the booty as possible and sneak off in the night. He has no intention of letting the PCs get away with even a small portion of the Khazad wealth. Fruin might even knife them all in their sleep, so that they cannot track him down At the very least, he does his best to hamper their efforts to follow him (e.g., by stealing their boots).
Fruin plans to head into the hills and make his way south toward Dunfearen (Dunland). He hopes to earn fame and fortune with the mighty weapons he now possesses.
Meanwhile, if the PCs so desire, they can try to find the cave where Gain is waiting. There, Gain immediately demands to know what they have done with his grandson The old Dwarf-warder had no knowledge of Fruin’s plans, and he prefers to believe the PCs have killed him rather than accept the truth. He realizes he cannot defeat them all, though, so he tries to escape as soon as possible.
Whether the adventurers succeed or fail, they face a peat deal of trouble. Assuming the adventurers attempts anything other than stealing the Three Axes of Azaghal and leaving without being noticed, their actions attract Bain’s attention. The Dwarf-king offers a tremendous reward for the thieves’ heads. Bain takes special care, however, to issue his call quietly and diplomatically. Only Dwarven bounty hunters will undertake the quest for revenge, for the Naugrim must obscure the fact that Khazad-dûm proved vulnerable to a robbery.
For the rest of their lives, then, the PCs face the Khazad as foes. If their faces were never spotted, it may be a long time before they are caught ; otherwise (particularly if they let Gain get away to tell the King that the adventurers had put him under a spell) they should be afraid to show their faces anywhere Dwarves might appear or enjoy influence, After all, if word gets back to Bain that the thieves have been located somewhere or that the treasure has turned up in someone’s possession, he’ll send forth Dwarven assassins. These able Naugrim will try to make an example of any PC they can find.
The flip side of all this is that the PCs may be rich (unless, of course, Fruin got away with all the loot—but that is another story). In such case, they can enjoy their wealth. It may only be a matter of time until the Dwarves find them, but they can bide that time in splendor.
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