17 · Beast's blackmail
This is by far the hardest mission the PCs have been asked to undertake in the area of Buhr Thurasig. Accomplishing this task requires a group of high-level, well-seasoned, experienced adventurers ; explorers and warriors with the courage, ability, and confidence to face some of the worst dangers the Grey Mountains hold : Trolls, Orcs, a powerful Mage, and an irritated Fell Beast. To fulfill their goal on this job they will need every bit of resourcefulness they’ve developed and learned in their previous encounters.
17.1 Mage’s tribute
The citizens of Buhr Thurasig paid little attention when rumors first reached them that the ancient Tower of the Wolf-friend (about twenty-five miles northeast of the town) was again occupied. For long years it had been standing empty, save for the wolves that were said to roam its halls.
The Mage who took up residence there was periodically seen in the town. purchasing supplies or arranging for deliveries, but he made no attempt to establish friendly relations with the local residents. It was over a year after he first appeared before the town folk finally learned his name : Haeldwyn.
Haeldwyn made it clear that he had no desire to socialize with his neighbors, and the towns” people consequently ignored him and left him alone, except when he wished to arrange a business deal. Within a short time after they learned the Mage’s identity a new problem surfaced, a distraction of sufficient magnitude to chase all thoughts of their unsociable neighbor from their minds.
The Fell Beast that began to overfly the town was huge, at least forty feet long and with a wingspan of nearly sixty feet. The first two times he was seen he only circled over the town once or twice before disappearing into the northeast again. The third time he landed near an outlying hold and levelled a languz with the beating of its wings (or so it was said).
Following that incident, Haeldwyn sent a message to the town, warning that he was in control of the Fell Beast, and that he expected regular offerings of certain foodstuffs, money, animals. and other supplies in return for keeping the beast from inflicting further damage or casualties on the town.
Naturally the people of Buhr Thurasig believed that the surly Mage was just trying to take advantage of the circumstances for his own benefit and refused to meet his demands. He followed up with a second warning and a statement of when and where the beast would next appear should the town persist in their rejection. The town did, and the Fell Beast arrived as Haeldwyn predicted. The creature had only to kill a few frightened herd animals before the folk of Buhr Thurasig were convinced, and produced the required payments.
In the years since, the tribute has continued on a regular basis. The residents fiercely resent the blackmail. but feel themselves helpless to do anything about it. The Mage is careful to send the beast flying over the town periodically as a reminder of what might happen should they decide to rebel or resist.
Several years ago a small company of the City Guards set out to take on the mission of convincing the Mage to discontinue the blackmail or, failing in that, to defeat and destroy him. None of the group, which included three men and two women, returned or has been heard from since.
Although the amount demanded by the Mage wasn’t large or burdensome at the beginning, he has been steadily increasing the requests over the years. At this point, the level of extortion has grown to where it imposes a serious hardship on the town. With no end in sight, and a nearly ruinous blackmail hanging over them, the residents of Buhr Thurasig are extremely worried and approaching desperation. They feel that something needs to be done about this threat, and soon.
17.2 The NPCs
In this adventure, as in several previous ones, the townspeople of Buhr Thurasig may be of some help or assistance, particularly in the matter of a guide. It would help to review the relevant characters, described in section 14.2.
This Half-Elf Bard has been residing in the town for some years, though no one is quite sure why he chooses to stay, since he has no relatives or other obvious ties with the area. It appears that he simply likes the place and appreciates the locals as a receptive audience for his bawdy songs and endless, undistinguished poems. He has been in the region long enough to have won the basic trust of most of the people ; therefore, he knows about the Fell Beast and the Mage’s extortion.
What most of the populace doesn’t know is that it was the beast, and rumors of the story surrounding it, that brought him to the area. His family has a long history of fascination with Fell Beasts and has studied them extensively. Adunavar suspects that the Mage is using an object that was created by one of his own forbears to exert control over the beast. Adunavar has come, hoping that someday he might have the chance to investigate that possibility further. He missed the earlier party, or he would probably have accompanied them (almost certainly to his own doom). If he believes this group has a reasonably good chance of accomplishing the mission Adunavar will sign on to accompany them. He isn’t going to be much help as a guide, since he isn’t particularly familiar with the region, but he can wield a bow with some skill and is a fair fighter.
Adunavar is tall (6′3″) with blond hair, blue-green eyes, and pale skin. He appears somewhat less reserved and conscious of his dignity than most Elves. Brown leggings and a brown tunic form the basis of his wardrobe ; the tunic may be worn over a white or green shirt, depending on his mood. A knife occupies a sheath attached to his belt and when travelling he carries a long bow. Adunavar is basically an agreeable and friendly companion, except for his insistence on spouting (or even ad-libbing) long snatches of bad poetry.
Rilge-Cal, Elgert, and Beldor
The three Hill-Trolls — Rilge-Cal, an adult male, Elgert, an adult female, and Beldor, an adolescent male — have their home in a small cave not far from the path that leads to the Tower of the Wolf-friend. They have been there since long before the Mage showed up, and at first they were annoyed by his arrival. But when he began to draw groups of Orcs to the area to serve him, and then arranged for regular deliveries of supplies from the town, they were delighted. The hunting became much easier, and they quickly discovered that the Mage didn’t seem to mind the loss of an occasional Orc, pack animal, or even a hog or cow from the town, so long as he wasn’t inconvenienced by the raids.
In fact the living has become so easy that the Trolls are growing fat and lazy. They weren’t very bright to begin with and what brains they have are beginning to atrophy through lack of use. Elgert retains enough sense to get in out of the sunshine, but the others are inclined to push their luck. Their huge size, power, and sheer animal ferocity still make them dangerous, however, especially if it’s been a while since the last food delivery and the Orcs have been particularly careful of late.
The Captain of the Mage’s Orcish guards is a large, ugly fellow who achieved his position by virtue of his size, strength, ruthlessness, and a slight advantage in brains over most of his fellow Orcs. He’s a stickler for discipline and obedience ; even a hint of insubordination or questioning will result in summary execution of the guilty party. A + 10 battle-axe and +5 dagger assist him in keeping order in the ranks.
Aside from the usual Orcish prickly disposition, Grizbat has another reason for his ruthless insistence on attention to duty and order. The one person Grizbat truly fears is the Mage. Haeldwyn ; the Orc Captain understands very well that he holds his position by the Mage’s grace and that failure will earn him the same fate that befell his predecessor — he’ll become Fell Beast food.
To give him his due, Grizbat is an able, if harsh, captain. He’s held the position for many years now, staved off a couple of challenges from others in the band who considered themselves better qualified for the job, and most of all, he engineered the defeat of the party of Guards the town had sent against them. Haeldwyn has a great deal of trust in Grizbat’s efficiency.
This huge (5′6″, 240 lbs.) Orc officially functions as Grizbat’s bodyguard, and unofficially as his « enforcer ». Sharzig isn’t very bright and knows it, but he enjoys the power and authority he wields in the company by virtue of Grizbat’s reliance on him. He is fanatically loyal to Grizbat, recognizing that it is due to the captain’s influence that he holds his prestigious position, and he would do anything, including fighting to the death. for him. Although not very agile or adept. his size and strength more than compensate, and his +10 scimitar can do a lot of damage when swung by his massive arms.
Ulgin is Grizbat’s lieutenant and second in command. Though he isn’t as big as the Orc Captain, he’s nearly his equal in cunning and ruthlessness ; Ulgin believes he would make just as good a captain for the band, and perhaps better, but he’s clever enough to keep those sentiments to himself. Nevertheless, he’s keeping his eyes open and preparing for the right opportunity. If Grizbat were to make a serious mistake and fail Haeldwyn, it wouldn’t break Ulgin’s heart ; he will be ready to step into the breech and take charge of things.
Grizbat suspects Ulgin’s intentions and doesn’t trust him, but he also recognizes the lieutenant’s ability to get things done in an efficient and orderly way. so he tolerates and continues to use him. The Orc Captain wouldn’t hesitate to kill or throw responsibility for some misstep upon Ulgin should he ever make an open move against him.
Ulgin carries a +5 broad sword and is also a very adept bowman ; his quiver contains fourteen arrows, whose tips have been dipped in a level 2 poison which causes death in 6 rounds.
Haeldwyn’s mother was of the Eothraim, the Northman horse-lords, but his father was a stranger to the area, a Dunlending. Haeldwyn’s father never fit in particularly well in the area where he’d taken up residence, and many of the local residents suspected he was spy or an agent of the Necromancer. After a few years his father finally decided he could no longer tolerate being an outcast among his wife’s people and packed up to leave.
Haeldwyn’s mother had by then discovered that marrying with him had been a mistake, and she refused to accompany him when he left, keeping their small son with her as well. The boy was devastated by his father’s departure and never forgave his mother for what he considered her role in separating them. He also harbored a deep resentment against the Eothraim for driving his father away.
Until he was sixteen he continued to live among the Eothraim, nursing his smoldering resentment, and making little attempt to learn the skills they considered important, particularly the warrior’s arts. Worse yet, he wasn’t good at riding and possessed none of the instinctive empathy with horses characteristic of his mother’s people.
Haeldwyn managed to find another outlet for his anger and resentment. He was a bright, clever boy who learned to read at an early age. Somewhat to his mother’s dismay, Haeldwyn began to thirst for books and learning, particularly anything and everything he could discover about the arcane arts. He collected every scrap of knowledge available in the area and, before he was really ready and without much formal guidance, began to experiment with magic and spell-casting.
At the age of sixteen he finally left his mother to seek out the guidance of a Mage whose reputation had spread that far. It took some time for the boy to locate the person he sought and in the process he learned a good bit about surviving in a hostile and difficult world, but Haeldwyn did get to his destination and placed himself under the tutelage of the old man. Two years later, he had absorbed everything the elderly Mage could teach him, and learned a few things that were not considered part of the normal training. Haeldwyn began to find that there were inherent limits to what he could expect to achieve, and characteristically, he resented it and blamed everyone else, particularly his master, for that irritating reality. The young man left the old Mage after stealing a couple of books he thought might be useful and embarked on a life-long search for ways, both legitimate and otherwise, to extend his knowledge and ability.
His search took him to several odd corners of Middle-earth. He kept apart, as much as possible, from the company of other people, preferring to spend his time with his books and experiments. Though he wasn’t physically adept at much else, he did manage to become an effective thief, skills he improved and enhanced through his ever-increasing knowledge of spells and the use of magic. That ability allowed him to steal, not just the books, scrolls, and other arcane objects he desired, but enough money to support himself in a pleasant and comfortable style.
Eventually he drifted north and heard about the deserted Tower of the Wolf-friend. The tower’s origin was shrouded in mystery, but its most recent inhabitant, who’d died some fifty years before, had been a Mage with a particular affinity for the wolves that roamed in packs throughout the southern mountain area. The location sounded like a perfect place for a Mage to settle, and so he made his way into the mountains and took possession of the fortress.
From this headquarters he made occasional forays, to the town of Buhr Thurasig for supplies, and further afield to collect more books and magical items. In the course of one of these journeys he found an object that proved invaluable in furthering his desire for both privacy and comfort.
The thing he found allowed him to capture and control one of the many Fell Beasts that inhabit the Grey Mountain area. Through his influence over the beast he uses it to terrorize and blackmail his neighbors into providing for his needs and desires, while insuring his personal security.
Haeldwyn is a man of middle-age, blond like his Eothraim mother, but with his father’s dark eyes. He’s fairly tall, but very thin, with sharp angular bones and a wide mouth that can frown with impressive severity. He carries a sword which can deliver up to 10 Cold criticals/day of a severity equal to any other delivered in melee.
17.3 The layouts
The road to Haeldwyn’s Tower
- 1 · The Road
- « Road » is something of a misnomer ; the track is more of a wide footpath which follows the course of the Gildrin Stream northeast from Buhr Thurasig and continues to meander along the valley for the first twenty miles or so of the trip. The path is wide enough in most places to allow 2 and sometimes 3 persons to go abreast, but occasionally becomes so narrow that passers are forced to continue in single file. Fortunately, the road is slightly higher than the stream bed itself, and the surface is mostly even and firm. Only after a heavy rain or sudden thaw does the water rise high enough to make the passage hazardous. It is presumed that this journey is being undertaken sometime between late spring and early autumn, as snow and ice can make the journey difficult to the point of impossibility.
- 2 · Troll’s Cave
- Rilge-Cal, Elgert, and Beldor have set up a cozy (by Troll standards) home in a cave here. From the road it is a light (+ 10) task to see that a series of rising ridges of rock might form a sort of crude staircase. At the top of these steps a stone platform forms a front porch for a cave entrance directly ahead, facing toward the road. It is very hard (-20) to see that a small stream of smoke rises from an opening in the rock above the cave entrance. Bones scattered carelessly around the area should serve warning to anyone approaching the cave’s entrance that they might find themselves in the soup (literally rather than figuratively) if they aren’t careful. During the daylight hours the odds are 90% that each of the Trolls is home (roll separately for each individual); at night the odds arc 50% for one and 20% for each of the other two.
A crude trap guards the door. Entering the cave from broad daylight, it is extremely hard (-30) to see that a large rock stretches for 3 feet across the floor twenty inches inside the entrance. No one is likely to be hurt tripping over the rock itself, but the noise should be sufficient to alert any sleeping Trolls within.
To the left beyond the rock a cooking fire smolders low most of the time. A series of pots and other rough implements line the floor near the fire. None of the Trolls are fastidious about housekeeping ; more bones and other unidentifiable substances and objects litter the floor. It is sheer folly (-50) to see that a large rock in the corner guards a hollowed-out opening. This is the Troll’s treasure hoard : a star-shaped gold brooch set with sapphires, worth about 20 gold pieces ; a tiara of badly corroded silver which is basically worthless ; an unset ruby about the size of a fingernail, worth about 25 gold pieces ; (3) +5 arrows ; forty copper pieces and 6 silver.
- 3 · A wide flat area
- Is overgrown with rhododendron and laurel bushes. It is extremely hard (-30) to see that among those shrubs there is a small stand of Mirenna, bearing enough berries for about 3 healing doses.
- 4 · Rock slide area
- The wall of rock to the left of the road is very steep and unstable. Large rocks and boulders litter the road for a distance of one hundred feet. The company will need to proceed quietly and carefully here as any loud noise or extra vibration might dislodge more loose rocks.
- 5 · Orc Band Cave
- It is sheer folly (-55) to see that there is an opening in the cliffside about three hundred feet to the left of the road. This cave is the headquarters of the Orc band which provides the troops that guards Haeldwyn’s fortress. Once inside it is routine (+30) to see that the cave holds mostly female, adolescent or immature Orcs. A few adolescents might try to attack the party in defense of their band. but no serious opposition is likely to be mounted ; nor is there anything of much worth hidden here.
- 6 · Tower of the Wolf-friend
- (Haeldwyn’s fortress) Sec 17.32 below.
- 7 · Fell Beast Cave
- A difficult, winding trail about a mile long and rising at an angle of thirty to thirty-five degrees leads to the main entrance to the Fell Beast’s lair. It is absurd (-70) to see that an even narrower and steeper path winds around the side of a rock outcropping to another entrance, unless one remembers that beast’s caves usually have a back door. If one tries to look for the path it is extremely hard (-35) to find.
Tower of the Wolf-Friend
Haeldwyn’s fortress home actually consists of three stone towers of graduated height rising above a single story edifice built against the wall of a vertical cliff. The approach to the building is a well-worn, steep. but not difficult path leading up from the road to the main gate.
A secondary door leads into the building on the ground level between the curves of the second and third towers. This entrance cannot be seen from the road and is still very hard (-20) to notice when one makes a circuit of the building on foot. The door is camouflaged to look like the stone of the rest of the surface, and is built to close very flush with the walls, allowing only a barely noticeable outline of a rectangle to betray its presence. There is no knob or handle but none is needed ; once unlocked, the massive panel swings inward with a stiff push. The lock is extremely hard (-30) to pick, but gaining entrance this way presents a different set of hazards (see #6 below).
- 1 · Main Gate to Haeldwyn’s fortress
- The primary entrance and exit is formed by a small cylindrical tower with a heavy wooden gate set into the wall facing outwards. Two Orcs are always on duty to work the gate and guard the entrance. Nothing other than routine comings and goings has happened here for a long time and the guards have become complacent and sloppy about checking on the identities of those requesting admittance.
- 2 · Reception Area
- All incoming parties arc stopped here, where they are checked out, then allowed to unload the goods brought. or deliver messages. Most visitors never proceed beyond this point. All public business is concluded here. Two more Orcs stand guard duty here.
- 3 · Interrogation Rooms
- Two small rooms which can be used to deliver secret messages, conduct private business, or question anyone whose presence raises doubts or suspicion.
- 4 · Orcs” Common Area
- This is the combination lounge, recreation area, kitchen, and dining area for the members of Haeldwyn’s Orcish guards. The cooking area, including an immense fireplace, is at the end of the room that butts up against the cliff wall. From the center of the room to about 5 feet from the wall, a group of six long tables with rough wood chairs provides the eating area. There are always from 3 to 8 Ores in this area, with that number rising to around 15 at meal times.
- 5 · Armory
- This is the storage area for the Orcs” battle gear : armor, including both chain and plate mail, and weapons. A series of cabinets holds leather vests, leggings, belts, and boots, while hooks on the wall support an assortment of swords, dagger, bows, stars, whips. maces, battle-axes, pikes, and javelins. All are heavy and of fair to slightly better than average workmanship. The door separating this area from the main room is generally kept locked (very hard, –20, to pick). Stairs here lead up to the second level of the middle tower.
- 6 · Secondary Entrance
- This door has been unused for so long most of the Orcs have forgotten its existence, and if reminded would probably say that it no longer functions. They are wrong about that — the door can still be opened, though it is heavy and swings with great difficulty. The hinges are rusty and corroded with disuse and it would be nearly impossible to slip in this way without attracting a lot of attention.
- 7 · Orcs” Sleeping Quarters
- A series of pallets (about 20 in all) line the floor, separated by locked cabinets. The locks on the cabinets are hard (-10) to pick, but the contents aren’t worth the effort. The cabinets contain only extra clothes or trinkets and trophies of value or use only to their owner.
- 8 · Mage’s reception area
- The door into this area, which is the first level of the third, and tallest tower, is kept locked at all times (sheer folly, –50, to pick), and only Haeldwyn himself has a key. A cord outside the door is attached to a bell which allows the Orcs to summon the Mage should his attention or presence be required. A circular staircase leads to the upper levels of the tower and a series of cabinets on the wall hold weapons, although the only thing of any interest or value is a sack of coins the Mage keeps handy here for paying the Ores or a supplier. The bag contains 4 gold pieces, 12 silver, and 40 copper.
- 9 · Roof of the main part of the building
- This area isn’t quite flat — it tilts at a slight angle from the center down to the sides to allow snow and rain to run off through drain holes built into the parapet.
- 10 · Parapets
- The wall is built about three feet above the roof level and is two feet wide. Doors from each of the towers give access to the parapet and two Orcs usually stand guard here on the walls, one between the first tower and the roof of the entrance tower (# I ), and the second between the first and second towers. From this height they have a fine view of the mountainside and valley for a distance of nearly five miles on a clear day.
- 11 · Cells for holding prisoners
- Solid stone walls with doors formed of a series of vertical bars separate the cells from each other and the aisles to the doors and stairs. These are all empty. Keys to the cells hang on a hook near the landing of the stairs.
- 12 · More cells
- This area is laid out much like the level below, with keys to the cells hanging near the stairs. One of these cells is occupied by a very thin, emaciated man of indeterminate age, whose clothes are still barely identifiable as those worn by the city guards of Buhr Thurasig. Eloric is conscious, though he will be nearly overcome with astonishment should someone other than the Ore guards or the Mage show up in the tower. On questioning he will admit to being the last surviving member of the company of Guards which set out to remove the Mage some years ago. Up until a year ago he had a companion in the tower, but she finally succumbed to starvation and the brutal treatment. Eloric will gladly accompany the party once he is freed, though he will be too weak to offer much help in a fight. His knowledge of the fortress and the positioning of the guards, gleaned from Orc conversations he’s overheard. could be useful.
- 13 · Storage area
- Barrels lining the walls contain various grains, ales, and dried fruit, while smaller containers in cabinets hold spices, oil, extra dishes, and other similar supplies.
- 14 · Orc Captain’s Quarters
- Grizbat’s notions of housekeeping don’t extend to hanging up his clothes or putting away his belongings. Various bits of leather apparel arc strewn on the floor and over the mat that serves as his bed. Pieces of paper and a few dishes, some still containing the remains of food, also litter the area. The single drawer of the desk contains a lot of useless papers, a small +5 throwing knife, and 6 silver pieces. The cabinet holding his personal items is standing open and appears to contain nothing of interest.
- 15 · Mage’s Sitting Area and Guest Quarters
- Several comfortable chairs and cushions are scattered around the chamber. One quarter of the room is curtained off ; that section contains a comfortable bed and cabinet to accommodate quests. Since Haeldwyn took up residence there have been no visitors and this room is rarely used.
- 16 · Secret Door
- The door from the section of Mage’s tower at #15 out to the parapet which runs back into the cliffside isn’t locked but it is hidden behind a heavy. dark, ugly tapestry. It is extremely hard (-30) to see that there is another door at the far end of the parapet which appears to lead right into the cliffside itself. That door is locked (sheer folly, –50, to pick), and the only key hangs on Haeldwyn’s belt.
The door leads to caverns under the Tower of the Wolf-friend (see section 17.33 below).
- 17 · Mage’s library and work room
- Closed and locked cabinets line most of the walls of this circular chamber. The locks cannot be picked as they’ve been embedded with a spell that responds only to a particular word spoken by the Mage himself as long as he is alive. If Haeldwyn is aware that his premises have been breached (80% chance if any Ores have been engaged. 20% otherwise), then one small cabinet will be standing open and conspicuously empty.
Two long trestle tables consume much of the floor space ; bottles, jars, a lamp, containers of herbs (unlabeled or unrecognizable), bits of paper, tongs, spoons, and odd pieces of glass cover the tables. A leather-bound book sits open on one table, but it is written in a language almost no one now living can identify and read. A peculiar odor, something between crushed mint and roasted hair, permeates the room.
- 18 · Mage’s Sleeping Quarters
- Haeldwyn enjoys his creature comforts and the things his ill-gotten wealth has been able to buy. The bed is large and soft, the bedclothes are satin, and the canopy is hung with a rich brocaded fabric. A fireplace keeps the room warm year round and a large armchair is well-stuffed and adjusts to the owner’s shape.
A wardrobe in the corner holds several changes of clothes, including the usual long, flowing robes, a couple of sets of tunics and leggings, a heavy wool cloak, and a lighter one. Standing in the corner of the wardrobe are two staves ; one is “plain carved wood, the other is similar but for the gold knob at the end. This is embedded with a Lightning Bolt which can be used every four rounds up to 5 times/day. A chest of drawers holds several sets of more intimate clothing, a comb, hairbrush. and mirror.
Caverns under the Tower of the Wolf-Friend
- 1 · Entrance through the door at #16 of 17.32
- The tunnel is just 6 feet high here and only about three feet wide, so the passage is tight.
- 2 · A series of stone steps
- Carved out of the sloping floor of the tunnel lead downward. It is Extremely Hard (-30) to see that the fifth step from the top is trapped, and Very Hard (-20) to disarm. Any weight greater than forty pounds placed on this step will trip a mechanism that will release a shower of boulders from the ceiling to drop on anyone on the steps. Any character will be hit by 1–5 of these boulders, and each attacks as a +60 Large Crush attack.
- 3 · Wooden stairs
- This a series of forty extremely steep wooden steps going downward. Each step is about a foot wide and each riser is eight inches high.
- 4 · Wood Platform
- Built on a complicated set of wooden supports, the platform is cantilevered out over a 20 foot vertical drop, something like a diving board. There is no apparent way to get down from the platform to the bottom of the drop below. The platform appears to be well anchored in the wall, but there is no rope, ladder, or stairway, and no way down other than a permanent rune of levitation marked on the stone.
- 5 · Another rune graces the wall near the bottom of the drop
- The tunnel levels out here and continues for some thirty feet, wide enough for two people to walk abreast and high enough to allow everyone to stand without discomfort.
- 6 · Trap
- It is extremely hard (-35) to see that at this spot, where the tunnel narrows, there are several sensors built into the wall to detect vibration and movements other than air in the passage. It is absurd (-65) to disarm the six gas jets (3 on each side of the tunnel, at heights of I foot, 3 feet, and 5 feet, which will ignite and spew streams of flame across the passage as the unfortunate passer enters this narrower part of the tunnel. The jets shut themselves off after 3 seconds, but can be reactivated in a fraction of a second should further motion be detected, and they have fuel enough to burn for three hours.
- 7 · Crevices
- This is a natural trap. Until one is within two feet of them, it is very hard (-20) to see that there are a series of three deep crevices zig-zagging across the tunnel at various angles. The crevices are very deep (over fifty feet). The first is only two feet wide, the second not quite three, and the third over four feet across.
- 8 · Rock fall
- A pile of loose rocks from an old cave-in litter the ground for several feet of the tunnel. It isn’t hard to get over and across these rocks, but it is almost impossible to do so silently.
- 9 · Mage’s retreat
- In this large underground cavern, Haeldwyn has prepared a strategic retreat where he can survive and outlast even a prolonged siege. The cavern holds a table and a reclining chair, but is otherwise crammed full of barrels and containers of water, food. herbs and other supplies that might be needed for survival over a period of time. A locked cabinet in one corner (extremely hard, –35, to pick) holds a reserve supply of money (5 gold pieces, 22 silver, 140 copper), a +5 dagger, a sword with a jeweled hilt, worth at least 20 gold pieces, I dose of Gefnul, 2 of Rewk, and 4 doses of Darsurion.
Fell Beast’s cave
Igrandril, the Fell Beast which has been captured and enthralled by Haeldwyn, used to have a residence much further north in the Withered Heath. The Mage has provided him with a cave residence near the Tower of the Wolf-friend which is reasonably comfortable (for a Fell Beast). Nevertheless, Igrandril is less than thrilled with the accommodations, mainly because it isn’t the “home” of his choice. The cave has no man-made traps (with a Fell Beast in residence on the premises, who needs them?), but the maze of tunnels leading from the side entrance (« back door »), is an obstacle in itself.
- 1 · Side entrance
- The tunnel is broad enough for one person at a time to pass comfortably ; two could walk abreast but it would be awkward. The floor is reasonably smooth and level, but most of the tunnels slant slightly upward from the direction of this entrance.
- 2 · Natural Well
- This is nothing more than a very deep hole, unmarked and unguarded in any way. The hole is 3 feet wide at its broadest spot and about five feet from end to end. Water is visible about six feet below the cavern’s ground level, but it is fouled with beast waste and is therefore undrinkable.
- 3 · Passage leading upward
- Travelers can begin to get a whiff of the noxious odor indicating the presence of a Fell Beast somewhere in the vicinity.
- 4 · The passage
- The passage is twisting and windy, occasionally becoming quite narrow and difficult to pass in places.
The odor is getting strong enough to be unpleasant and uncomfortable.
- 5 · Nest
- About five feet before the final bend that opens into the beast’s main nesting chamber the stench becomes nearly overpowering.
- 6 · Fell Beast’s Den
- This is a very large chamber (approximately 70” by 80” by 70” high). Igrandril sits on a litter of bones, pelts, bits of clothing, leather, armor, and weapons as well as a small trove of gold, silver, copper, pewter, and brass objects. A silver urn. of intricate workmanship, only slightly corroded, has rolled off the pile and sits right in front of the opening from the tunnel into the nest. Igrandril generally curls himself up in here in such a way that he can keep an eye on both the main entrance to the den and the outlet from the smaller tunnel, whose existence he is well aware of.
- 7 · Main entrance to the cave
- This is the access used by Igrandril himself, a long broad passage with a high roof. It is littered with beast droppings.
17.4 The task
This is a complicated mission, which involves several separate jobs be accomplished in order to complete. The first phase of the task involves getting to the Tower of the Wolf-friend, braving the dangers of the mountains, including Trolls, Orcs, and the lookouts from the Tower itself.
In the second phase of the operation the players must gain access to the Tower, past the Orc guards. Their goal is to find Haeldwyn and the object he is using to control the Fell Beast, then defeat the Mage and gain possession of that item.
Finally they must deal with the beast itself, either by defeating and killing it, or causing it to take flight and be gone. In all likelihood the party won’t include anyone powerful enough to use the Beast-thrall, but even if there are, there are good reasons to refrain.
Starting the players
If the Players have completed one of the previous adventures it would be quite natural for them to decide to spend a little time in the town of Buhr Thurasig soaking up the glory and admiration their previous successes have earned. While they are there they might witness the Fell Beast flying overhead on one of his periodic warning/reminder visits. From there it would be perfectly natural for them to ask some questions about the Fell Beast and for the fed-up citizens to explain their plight.
Alternatively, the Player Characters might be drawn to the town after hearing rumors that the local population is having problems with a Fell Beast. In this case, it might be necessary to have some other NPC who has heard of the group and their exploits and will recommend them to the town council as the people who might be able to take care of the problem. The Characters could also take the matter on themselves by meeting some poor, fed-up town businessman in the tavern and getting him drunk enough to spill the whole story, whereupon they could approach the council themselves to offer their services.
In either case, the council will be able to tell them the story of the previous party that went out to take on the Mage and what is known of their fate. Someone will suggest that as a further shipment of supplies is due to be taken to the Mage soon, the party might disguise themselves as townspeople, accompanying the caravan to deliver the required goods.
The people of the town won’t be able to tell the Players much about what is going on in this case, beyond the bare facts that they are being blackmailed by a Mage who is somehow in control of a Fell Beast. The Bard, Adunavar, can offer more information. Once he finds out or begins to suspect that an expedition is in the offing, he will want to accompany the group and would probably be willing to trade the knowledge he has for a place in the party. One of the things he might offer is a piece of poetry :
“Neath gaseous clouds that scatter light,
In depths of fire, by dark of night,
Bright shards of ice form mold and guide
For molten metals that flow and glide.
The Master speaks his words of power
To shape the void and mold the hour ;
He breathes his dream o’er the swirling brew
And sets the spell’s heart-essence true.
A chain he weaves with mystic skill
To take in hand the Fell Beast’s will ;
That he who can the forces call
Might hold the Fell Beast’s soul in thrall.
Adunavar can add, by way of explanation, that an ancestor of his, the Elven smith, Alderial, forged the Beast-thrall, a bronze amulet on a chain, which allowed one who was powerful enough to control and use it to enslave a Fell Beast and force the creature to do the Master’s will. His forbearer created the object at the behest of a powerful Mage, and a great deal of arcane knowledge and spell-casting went into its creation. But once the job was done, Alderial had doubts about whether such an item might not be too dangerous to turn loose. For one thing it offered great power and potential for harm to the one who could wield it : and for another, the Beast-thrall operated partly by linking the souls of the master and the creature enslaved. Adunavar’s ancestor feared that through the connection, the soul of the user might well be infected and corrupted by the greed and viciousness of the Fell Beast’s spirit.
Instead of turning the Beast-thrall over to the Mage who’d commissioned it, Alderial fled with the object and hid it. The commissioner was one of many who pursued Alderial and sought the thing he’d created. Adunavar has no idea who actually found his ancestor, but Alderial’s body turned up some years later in a ravine in the Misty Mountains ; the Beast-thrall had disappeared.
Adunavar believes it likely that this is the object Haeldwyn is using to control the Fell Beast. He would like to recover the amulet in order to destroy it, which can be done only by melting it in the same forge Alderial used to create it.
There is an abundance of potential hazards for anyone attempting this mission. The mountains themselves are dangerous, with steep trails, potential rock falls, and a wide and wild variety of preying animals.
The Trolls living near the road are more nuisance than hazard, but even they shouldn’t be taken for granted.
The Orc Guards of Haeldwyn’s fortress comprise a more serious threat : there are quite a few of them, they are trained as vicious fighters, and they’re organized under a ruthless but cunning leader. Their Captain Grizbat knows that failure on his part to keep the threat away from the Mage is likely to result in his removal from office and life itself, therefore he will throw everything he’s got against any intruders. His troops are more intimidated by Grizbat than by any other potential enemy and will fight to the death for him.
The Mage, Haeldwyn is not much of a fighter, but he is a powerful magic-user and he won’t give up without a ferocious struggle, using all the weapons he has at his disposal.
The Fell Beast may be the most challenging problem. Fighting a Fell Beast is a serious and usually fatal undertaking, nearly as foolhardy as taking on a Dragon. A clever group of players should realize that the beast is probably unwilling to be a captive of the Mage. There is a real possibility that the beast would just fly off if made to realize that the Mage can no longer control it.
The town council will pay the Player Characters handsomely (20 gold pieces each), of course, for completing this mission, and they will get to keep at least some of whatever treasure they find in the Mage’s tower. If they kill the Fell Beast or cause him to fly off, they’ll be able to help themselves to the rich hoard it has collected. Even so the Players will earn a great deal of prestige and cachet as the people who faced down a powerful Mage and a Fell Beast to recover the Beast-thrall.
Rilge-Cal, Elgert, Beldor
The Trolls are neither particularly bright nor brave. They are unlikely to initiate an attack unless they have a clear and overwhelming advantage. More likely, they will try to hide from a party that has superior numbers and strength. However, if their home is invaded or endangered, they will all fight ferociously (if not particularly intelligently) and can be dangerous by virtue of their size and power.
The settlement of Orcs near the road to the Tower consists primarily of female and immature Orcs and will react somewhat like the Trolls to the presence of intruders in the area. The group will not attack under any circumstances, and will probably try to hide from the newcomers. Some of the young Orcs may attempt to defend their home, should it be invaded, but they are not strong enough to present much of a challenge, and there’s no particular reason to fight them anyway. This band guards no treasure and presents no overt threat to the players.
Grizbat is a fierce fighter but he’s also an able captain, and his first reaction on learning of an invasion in the fortress will be to make sure that the outer defenses are still manned, and then marshal all his other available troops to the attack. He will not join in the fight himself unless or until it becomes absolutely necessary. As captain, his primary responsibility is arranging strategy and co-ordination, and he’ll concentrate on those efforts until it’s no longer possible. Should he have to join the battle, he will fight with a vigor and ferocity that will stun even the experienced adventurers facing him, and will inspire his own troops to greater efforts. As long as he is present and alive, Grizbat’s troops will fight to their last gasp, and the Captain himself will not give up the battle no matter how badly it seems to be going.
Sharzig, Ulgin, and other orc guards
The more Orcs the Player Characters can dispose of before the general alarm of their presence is sounded, the better. Once the alarm has been raised, they will have only two rounds before other Orcs start joining the fray. Should Grizbat be with the Orc troops on the first level (50% chance), the Players will have two additional rounds before he is able to bring all the Orcs present into an ordered attack against the newcomers. If the Captain is in his quarters they will have four rounds. Once Grizbat arrives he will make sure that all his available troops are engaged in the battle and that reinforcements are brought in to help any of his Orcs who are having difficulty.
All of the Orcish Guards will fight with as much force, bravery, and skill as they can muster, encouraged by their Captain. Should Grizbat fall, the Orcs will be somewhat demoralized and a few (2 to 4) might even desert the scene. If Grizbat is killed, Ulgin will attempt to take his place as leader (50% chance that he will be as effective as Grizbat in keeping all the Orcs fighting at peak level and efficiency). If Grizbat, Ulgin, and Sharzig all fall, there is a 50% chance, the rest of the Orcs will give up the fight and flee.
Although the Mage is an accomplished thief, he’s not much of a warrior. He relies on the Orcish Guard around his fortress to insure his safety. When an alarm is raised he generally gathers what weapons he has and withdraws to his cavernous retreat deep in the cliff behind the Tower of the Wolf-friend to wait out the crisis. It has never happened before, but should Haeldwyn be confronted directly he will fight to the last with every sorcerous weapon at his disposal. Fortunately for the Player Characters, the Beast-thrall won’t be of much help to him in the caverns as the beast cannot get into those tight tunnels.
Like most Fell Beasts, Igrandril is quite powerful, and extremely dangerous. He is a creature of instinct and would just as soon eat intruders as anything else.
The object known as the Beast-thrall is a round bronze amulet, about three inches in diameter, which hangs on a chain of gold-plated steel mesh. The front
of the piece shows a Fell Beast with wings upraised, feet bound together, and a bridle-like cord encircling the muzzle. On the back of the medal is picked out a flame carefully enclosed in a heavy circle of chain.
The medallion was forged by the Elven smith, Alderial, and functions by linking the mind of a strong Mage to the Fell Beast. Although the Mage’s control of the creature is absolute, it has a range of only 100 miles. Should the beast be able to get beyond that limit the control would be broken, but if he were to come within range again he could be recaptured. Only a Mage of 7th Level or higher has power enough to use the Beast-thrall, and it should be noted that the linking of souls the amulet permits has an effect on the enslaver as well as the enslaved. It will be quickly noticeable that anyone using the amulet begins to exhibit an increase of the disgusting traits that mark Fell Beast : cruelty, aggression, and greed.
17.6 Gamemaster’s notes
There are two aspects of this adventure that may require some guidance or hints from the Gamemaster. The first and simpler one concerns the drop in the caverns where no stairs or ladder offer a way to negotiate the descent. The Mage himself uses the rune of levitation. The Gamemaster might want to remind the Player Characters at the outset of the Hobbit, Sam Gamgee, and his concern with having « a bit of rope » along on his adventure.
Secondly, it is possible that the group might have a Mage of high enough level to use the Beast-thrall, and it would certainly present an easy and obvious solution to the problem of the Fell Beast. The Gamemaster may have to make it very clear that the easy way isn’t necessarily the best way. The GM should stress that using the amulet is an evil thing in and of itself (enslaving any creature, even one as nasty as a Fell Beast, was something Professor Tolkien himself frowned on), and it has a seriously evil effect on the one using it, as his spirit becomes infected with the greed and corruption of the beast.
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