14 · Campaign and Adventures
The Court of Ardor Quest Scenario
No doubt, as is clear by the intimations in the text so far, the Court of Ardor was designed as a unit, and can be played as an extended quest scenario, the central figure being Moran, who must slay his evil mother to prevent the downfall of the sun and moon. But Moran cannot do it alone, and certainly the other players will desire illustrious backgrounds for their characters. Below are a few suggested histories:
- A younger prince or princess of Hathor (the last of seven or eight) or Tâliran, sent away for their own safety in anonymity.
- An unknowing child of yet another Court member. (Fëatur?)
- Kirani or Koronandan nobleman/politician’s offspring sent to recover an item of power, which (it is learned) is held by the Court.
- Someone tutored, or even brought up by, an old mage who tells the youth of a lost artifact (of the Guild of Elements? Ty-Ar-Rana?) who is assassinated by an agent of the Court before he can tell of its whereabouts. The PC must piece together information to locate the item (no doubt at a Court hold).
These are just a few of myriad possibilities which exist within the text for creating PC backgrounds, which will in turn enliven the flavor of the game overall.
The Court can also of course be simply used as a backdrop for a series of adventures, eliminating the quest elements.
Below is an outline for the quest as it might run.
- The Black Stone
The party of adventurers is hired to ‘secure’ the finds of a treasure-hunter – the treasure-hunter has run off but the party uncovers a strange silver pendant and a sinister black gemstone
- Secrets in the Dark
Returning to Korlan and plagued by disturbing dreams the PCs come to have reason to believe the Black Stone is wanted by nefarious forces – the party may or may not allow the Stone to be taken by these faceless enemies – they also acquire a second silver pendant, which (now paired with the other) is revealed to have power. The pendant is urging its wielder across the Bay of Koros, toward Hathor.
- Horrors in Hathor
Taking ship from Korlan the party sees mysterious portents. At sea a storm comes up suddenly while in the distance the party spies blue sails of an unfamiliar design of ship. The PC’s are shipwrecked on the coast of Koronandë and evading the dangers they escape overland into Hathor (narrowly avoiding a Mûmakanril raiding party). Following the pull of the pendants they come to Tanith and find another and this in turn leads them directly to another Black Stone – this one in the possession of an evil cult. They defeat the cult and claim the stone. However Hathor is in turmoil, since Mûmakanril forces have invaded (tipped off by Taurclax) Hathor. The Mûmakanril king wishes to capture the Black Stone. The Court thinks it may be in Tanith. To save his Hathorian ‘friends’ Gorthaur is forced to intervene personally to save the city (and prevent Indûr’s triumph) by alerting Koronandë and Tantûrak who sends a large force (out of friendship in Koronandë, out of fear of Mûmakanril supremacy for Tantûrak). The Mûmakanril are defeated and have to retreat. The king of Hathor is assassinated and in the chaos and riots within the country the PCs get a chance to flee.
- Servants of the Dragon?
The PCs may or may not take their second Black Stone with them, but the pendants are calling them toward distant Sarûl. Since that is where the evil cult came from and since they probably wish to leave Hathor they take ship again [perhaps a few more blue sails when passing Ardinaak?]. In Sarûl they secure another pendant but can learn nothing about the Gems.
Here they are given a prophecy about a great weapon to be used for evil purposes and that this weapon will in a short time cross their paths, though in an unfamiliar way (being in casket).
Sooner or later (sooner if Moran is not well disguised!) they will have to flee the Dark Priests sent to arrest them. Klaen will come to their aid and will help them evade pursuit by melting into the forest. They discover evidence that the emperor in Sarûl is allied with the Army of Southern Dragon: the latter shall attack Ciryatandor simultaneously with Tantûrak (Valmorgûl knows nothing of this, it’s the emperor own design) while the booty is divided (of course none of the two parties intends to stick to the deal once Ciryatandor is conquered).
- The Sword of Doom
While travelling through Ûsakan, they meet a caravan who guards a strange, coffin-like object. Klaen recognizes the guards as servants of the Court. The PCs seem to re-collect this scene from the prophecy in Sarûl. They should attempt to take the sword away. Upon deciding what to do with it, someone should mention the Darin Tesarath as an excellent source for information. When the PCs go to a guildhouse (perhaps in Hyarn) and ask for help, they are given a good advice for a hiding place, but the information is compromised because the female Fëatur receives it too. When they bring the sword to its place and leave the Court’s minions will appear and retrieve it!
- The Hill of Fire
Guided by Klaen through the haunted jungles of Ûsakan and northern Tumag the party is forced to take refuge from the Tantûraki army and fleeing westward they are caught in the Tantûraki campaign against Ciryatandor. They are forced further westward and have to skirt the bounds of Naurlindol – a hold of Ardor about which Klaen will tell them much. After a restless night of disturbing dreams the party will find refuge in a mannish settlement. Klaen decides to go to Taurondë by ship. In Taurondë though the PCs meet Linsul – she and Klaen recognise each other and Klaen decides the PCs should go into hiding.
Klaen leads the party through the treacherous fetid swamp of Geshaan, but is not permitted to reveal the entry to Ty-Ar-Rana and leaves the party to find their own way in [or does he just not know the way in?]. They can find no entry to the ruins, until they experience their first real ‘dream-walk’ back to the Ty-Ar-Rana of the First Age which reveals the hidden entrance to the intact underground halls. Once safe inside Ty-Ar-Rana the party can rest, recuperate, research into the lore and history found there, and learn to control their dreams…with this power they will be able to travel back in time to the First Age! [If they have problems with Ty-Ar-Rana’s mystical ‘libraries’ then Lyerin can visit to demonstrate and teach – he will not reveal any connection to Klaen or Moran though!]
- Into the Black
A serious collective ‘dream-walk’ where the PCs become fully conscious of existing as remote ancestors of themselves – in other words they play, for a few sessions, an alternate character. These alternate characters are Men of Geshaan of the late First Age (the time of the Luingon Alliance). They visit Geshaan in its heyday, infiltrate the Darin Tesarath, voyage to Tharin and thence to Angkirya…where they learn the true history of Ardor and the nature of their Quest. On the way back, they manage to learn the secret way into Menelcarca. Back in the ‘real world’ the PC’s are able to use this information to secretly enter Menelcarca and spy out the secrets of Court – in particular they need the date and time of the Ritual and Arduval’s list of confirmed and possible locations of the Gems of Unlight.
- Nightmares of Tuktan
Second ‘historical’ adventure – the PCs this time find themselves in the Second Age within the midst of the Tuktan wars and, intrigued by rumours of a great black jewel of unholy power, they get tangled up in a battle featuring Indûr himself (posing as Jí Amaav of course), pitted against Valkrist, Cambragol and the Suit of Swords. For the first time they also meet Laurrë, and gain a number of powerful weapons which they can hide in Hexagrams for recovery by their descendants (themselves!).
- The Jaws Close
Back in the real world but armed with mystically acquired knowledge of Ardor’s purposes and plans, the PCs seek out Laurrë, and convince him to reveal to them the location of the last Gem of Unlight at the castle of Kirnak, a ruin in northern Tâliran, in a special case made of kregora, a material which will block all magical emanations and prevent its detection. Naturally the Court is eager to collect the gem, and has minions everywhere seeking it. As of early 1651 they had narrowed the area to the Tâliran region. Then the PCs, accompanied by Klaen, set out to recover this Gem before the Court get there. They succeed, sneaking the Gem out of its warded ‘dungeon’ vault almost under the noses of the Court. Klaen (and maybe Laurrë) will assist with evading the pursuing falcon-riders. Rana is available to heal any PCs who are wounded.
- The Tower Trembles
Final confrontation, with the PCs together with the entire Guild of Elements. The secret of Featurion is revealed. The High Council of Ardor is surprised at the climax of the ritual in the depths of the Osto-mindon of Ardinaak…Moran must slay his mother with , rescue his sister…and the Sun will come out from behind the Moon…
The Player Characters are assumed to be all mortal (that is probably human) apart from one pre-determined character. Dwarves would also be allowed, but the party should not be dominated by them.
An ideal party should, in the best traditions of epic fantasy quests, be quite cosmopolitan – in this great battle for the Mûmakan many of its varies peoples should have a say:
|Elves||Covered by Moran.|
|Dwarves||Suitable – the local Dwarves are the Stiffbeards, notorious for being deeply divided and for associating with (and even living amongst) humans.|
|Kirani||Natural choices – wide range of PC backgrounds possible, historical dealings with Elves and a nation of traders which gives them an excuse to be almost anywhere. The adventure also opens in Korlan, but this could be altered to Dûshera with little difficulty.|
|Sharaeki||Also logical, but may appeal less to players.|
|Hathorians||Possible, but in certain regions there might arise problems with them. Outside of Hathor they tend to stand out in a crowd due to their colouring (the same goes for Elves, but they can move openly in some places and can often pass for Black Númenóreans elsewhere).|
|Tantûraki||Possible, but the PC would have to have a good reason for tolerating Morinân.|
|Mûmakani||Like the Tantûraki.|
|Tuktani||See Mûmakani but the Tuktani have a similar lifestyle without the violence and devil-worship.|
The Book of Andraax
Following is a text designed to aid the PCs in the completion of their quest. The text, “The Book of Andraax”, was written in fact by (the male) Fëatur, and copies can be found in various Court holds and in out of the way places, large libraries, etc. It is somewhat informative, without giving specifics about citadel layouts or other facts which might make things too easy.
(The following is bound as a book, and can be found in any language or script.)
“Herein is held the book of Andraax the Scribe. All that is recorded is all that is known by those outside of the Court of Ardor, Council of Darkness. Heed the words, for all are truth, or at least rumor. Many of these places I have seen. How, I shall not tell. Understand, and fear these places, as well you should”.
I. The Citadel, Tower of Darkness
The most imposing of all the places of Ardor, the Citadel itself consists of a single, round tower constructed of an unusual black stone and surrounded by eight smaller keeps. Each of this is connected via a bridge to the main tower. Six hundred feet in height, the tower is based on a small, rocky isle in the center of a greater island, amply shielded from the curious and unwary.
It is here that the skill of the exiled Noldor is mostly seen. Obviously the tower is the most imposing structure, but there are also other commodities that remind one that this is not the keep of a pirate or petty lord but a great structure of the mighty Firstborn. Grand and extensive parks surround the area and there is a great amphitheater for public performances and a wide sports field (including a swimming-pool) where all kinds of physical contests are organized. Even a generous basin is present which shows all types of sea life to visitors who might walk under it through a winding tunnel of impregnable glass.
The citadel complex was built under Valmorgûl’s personal supervision; the huge blocks fused so that the slick faces of the tower walls are as single unbroken planes, smooth as glass. The design is similar to the tower of Orthanc raised much later by the Númenóreans. Out on the ring of the island are eight outposts which guard the perimeter from any intruder.
(S. “Deepwater Darkness”)
Element: Water — Suit of Helms
A narrow inlet along the rocky southern shore of the Mûmakan leads to a sea-cave entrance in a cliff face. Within is a strange wonder of Middle-earth: Aurax-Dur, the hold of Gorthaur, the Lord of Helms. Here lies a huge grotto, the floor of which is entirely water many score feet in depth except for the very center where there juts a rocky outcrop. Upon this is constructed the castle proper. The entire cave is illuminated by many varieties of lichens which grow abundantly across the roof of the cave, casting an eerie blue-green light. Access to the castle is via a narrow causeway leading to the far end of the cavern, and through a long tunnel to the surface. There are also docks adjacent the causeway; for small sailing ships may pass through the sea entrance. Gorthaur is master here and guards his privacy with jealousy, only attending monthly Council meetings and performing his required functions.
(S. “Iron Tree”)
Element: Water — Suit of Helms
The citadel of Taurang was built in the period Y.S 50 – 90, well before the founding of Ardor, under the supervision of Taurclax. Smaller in sheer size and grandeur than most of the Holds of Ardor, yet strong behind walls of steel and stone, Taurang is also a meeting place of the Taurang Council, a cult of initiates who hold sway over the surrounding forests in Ûsakan. Taurclax being a direct lieutenant of Morgoth, Taurang’s original purpose was two-fold: first to serve as a center from which spies could operate to observe the actions of the Eldar in the South during the early years, and second to act as a power base from which Morgoth’s forces could thwart any powers of good that might arise. Some of the most terrifying manifestations of the latter are the “Winds”. Supposedly a ring of assassins, shrouded in mystery and misinformation, it has been suggested that the “Winds” are actually not Children of Ilúvatar by nature. This is purely speculation, but would explain the curious fact that no description of any of the assassins exists. They leave only a strange black metal dagger-like weapon in their victim, and it is said that the first person to touch the weapon feels a chill wind. According to rumor, the “Winds” have never failed to eliminate their target.
The second purpose of Taurang lost much of its importance with the formation of the Court and its associated citadels, whereas the first one retains it importance to this day.
(S. “Mountain of firey Pools”)
Element: Fire — Suit of Staves
In the distant past when the Valar wrestled with Morgoth in the forming of Arda, the tormented earth erupted in volcanic explosions. It was one of these places still hot with flowing lava that Rilia, “The Sorceress”, chose to make her home. Situated in the mountains of northern Tumag, it is a complex of tunnels and halls of dark grandeur. Morfuin the Lord Demon comes here as well, but it is the domain of the Mistress of flame. It is believed that Rilia was among the Noldor who returned to Middle-earth to recover the Silmarils from Morgoth, but was instead seduced to his service. Her training in the early years was under the Lord of Sorcery, Valmorgûl, but as she grew in power she sought ways of securing a place for herself. Granted leave by Morgoth to construct a citadel at a place of her choosing, she went far west knowing that the master desired far-flung outposts through which to monitor the activities of the Eldar. It was only natural that she was chosen as one of the great of Ardor. Then, in Y.S. 410 Sauron, Morgoth’s chief lieutenant, came to Naurlindol and spoke at length with its mistress. It seemed that the war against the Eldar was going well, but work on the purpose of Ardor was at a standstill. The master was not pleased, and his wrath would descend on Ardana and Morthaur if progress was not made soon. All this Sauron told Rilia, and he urged her to leave and serve him in Beleriand instead. She refused (not, certainly because of any allegience to Ardana or the Court, but perhaps she was confident of an eventual success, and that she had become enamoured of her own powers and position in the Ardan Council), and bade Sauron depart. He did, reluctantly, resisting the temptation to simply force her to come; and destroy Naurlindol, thinking that perhaps it would have future use. At any rate, her actions were to spark the beginning of an intense rivalry between Sauron and the Court.
In T.A. 1120 Eldarion, acting for the Guild of Elements, entered Naurlindol and secured many secrets, but he was detected and caught on the way out by Rilia herself. To her surprise her magic were useless against him, as his staff was apparently cancelling all of her powers. Morfuin, however, was able to subdue Eldarion by brute force, and wrest the staff from him. He was tortured but would reveal nothing of his intent or associations and Rilia, in a rage, ordered him slain and his body dumped, decapitated, on a Guild of Elements Pentagram platform. The staff was cursed with a word Etarkas and cast into a vault.
(S. “Silver Mine”)
Element: Fire — Suit of Staves
One of the three mines of the Court of Ardor, it lies beneath the hills southeast of the Pel Dûshera, and was one of the very few mines of mithril known in the entirety of Middle-earth. The tremors after Morgoth’s fall caused great destruction in Ithilkir and the mithril-vein was made inaccessible forever in the process. So Moria, the Dwarven city of Khazad-Dûm, is the greatest and only remaining mine of mithril in the Third Age (it is said that some of this wondrous metal was found in Númenór and that land is no more). The mine was first opened in Y.S. 200, and placed under the supervision of Maldaquár, the Noldo master of alchemy that went with Fëatur from Nargothrond and perished in the attack of the Luingon alliance. After the First Age only laens, aluminum, and many other precious metals are mined, many of which were utilized by Rilia to enhance the strength and sophistication of Naurlindol. Ithilkir itself was at first relatively crude and simple in design when it was left sealed after the fall of Morgoth. After the return of the lords in the Second Age all damage was repaired quickly and as the years saw greater riches uncovered, Airatano (now the commander of the fortress) sought to make it a place of strength and grandeur. It was well for his sake for it was soon after Sauron made himself head of the Ardan Council that one of the Nazgûl appeared at Ithilkir and demanded that Airatano release lordship of the mines. Airatano refused and together with Rilia (who was luckily present at the time, perhaps to act as a reinforcement) and his own force of demons lent by Morfuin, utilizing the defenses of the citadel, they forced the wraith and his retinue to depart. Sauron never spoke of it, and it can be safely assumed that Sauron chose to allow the incident to pass, rather than risk a disruptive rebellion forcing him to destroy most of the Court. Since that time Ithilkir has functioned quietly and efficiently under the demon’s direction, growing ever more beautiful and secure.
(S. “Watch of Terror”)
Element: Air — Suit of Swords
Perhaps the most awesome of the holds in a purely visual altitude is Tirgoroth, the communications center of the Court. It is the domain of Valkrist, the Lord of Arms, and the Messenger makes his home here as well. By design a graceful palace of high walls and slender towers, it is perched upon the summit of a sheer peak jutting out of the waters of the Ûsakan bay to an impossible height. Part of Tirgoroth’s mystique is, no doubt, the large cloud which hovers perpetually about the top of the peak, giving the impression that the castle is in fact floating on the cloud.
Only one entrance to the citadel is known for certain: the great drawbridge gate which opens onto thin air. Indeed, it serves only as a runway for the great grey falcons of Tirgoroth and their silver-and-blue clad riders. Another way is only rumored: the “ten thousand steps” a spiralstair which runs from the bottom chambers, still hundreds of feet above sea level, to deep below the sea floor, where a tunnel leads to the mainland. Whether this stair even exists is a matter of eternal speculation.
(S. “Delving of Jewels”)
Element: Air — Suit of Swords
Situated upon a rocky island in the center of a large, deep volcanic crater lake, Mirisgroth is a relatively small holding. But this is not all of the complex. Mirisgroth is actually an island within an island, in an extinct volcano which itself is an isle. Thus, the castle is surrounded by two concentric rings of sheer, jagged igneous peaks. The rings themselves are honeycombed with tunnels and halls, and the deep shafts which lead to the rich mines below. These mazes are such as to defy most any intruder.
Under the dominion of one known simply as “The Monk”, it is a mine of long history. Constructed and originally under the control of Drul Chaurka, one of the Chief servants of Morgoth long before the forming of Ardor, and when the Court was founded, the Monk was sent as his lieutnant In Y. S. 220, Drul Chaurka left Mirisgroth without fanfare or notice as to when he would return. In fact, no one saw him leave save the Monk, who swifty consolidated his position as acting Lord of Mirisgroth, so much so that, after the Court reconsolidated, the Monk was offered the second in command of the Suit of Swords, Mirisgroth being the secondary citadel. Foul play would be suspected of the Monk, but any such rumors were quickly squelched with the disappearance of his critics. It is also rumored that Mirisgroth is not only a rich jewel mine, but a source of platinum and many other valuable metals.
(Q. “Iron Mine”)
Element: Earth — Suit of Orbs
Angkirya is a design of Dwarven origins, but was apparently long abandoned when it was discovered by Fëatur in the second century of the Sun. From that time on, this mine in the hills of southern Tâliran was not worthy of mention, until Y.S. c. 200 when Fëatur chose it to be the location of the main citadel of the Suit of Orbs, and refined and expanded it to house the lords and ladies of that house. The mine itself yields black laen, veins of gold, amethyst and ruby.
For many years Angkirya operated smoothly, until Y. S. 598, just eight days before the time of the Great Eclipse, and the Ritual. All of the Court was at Angkirya feasting in anticipation of their imminent success, when word came of the attack by the Luingon Alliance upon the outlying installations of the Citadel. In the ensuing confusion Morelen, Ardana’s daughter and key to the Ritual, vanished. Fëatur was not suspect, of course, as she was at the defense of the Citadel with the rest. The Eclipse passed, and the sun and moon remained aloft. Morgoth was of course, livid with rage, and made plans to destroy the entire Court. But he did not have the time he thought, for five years later the Valar came East and cast him into the Void again. Morelen reappeared at the Citadel in S.A. 1000 with no memory of the event of her disappearance, or her location in the interim. Since that time, Angkirya has continued to function as it had in the past.
(Q. “Fang of the Heavens”)
Element: Earth — Suit of Orbs
A single tall spire resting upon the tallest peak in the Mûmakan, the Menelcarca is the ideal location for an observatory. It exists under the official dominion of Fëatur, but the Lord of the installation is Ardûval the Astrologer. Unlike many of the other holdings of the Court, Menelcarca has seen little in the way of violence, and has always been under Ardûvals personal control. Also, few of the other members of the Court have ever been there, thus fostering an air of mystery about it even within the hierarchy. Its exact location is virtually unknown, since it is inaccessible by normal means. The very lack of information breeds fear among the lesser servants of the Court it is a name of terror and Ardûval, despite his fair apearance and considerable charm, is held in fearful awe. It is rumored that the Menelcarca is so close to the Outer Void that Ardûval is able to converse with Morgoth Himself in his exile. These rumors are, of course, completely unfounded.
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