Mar 10, 2008
Title: A Less Than Perfect Switch
A renowned researcher of noble blood summons a few brave souls of extraordinary skill and courage for a special task. His child son is being secreed off, away from powerful adversaries whose rivalry with the noble run back many generations. A worthy guard must be sent to accompany him into the hands of a trusted colleague, from whence he will be spirited to a
secreted refuge. A hefty sum will be awarded upon completion of the route and a safe return to the noble's dwelling in the city of Waterdeep. As an added incentive, each member of the party who completes the escort and survives will have their choice of any one magical item, selected from the nobleman's private relic chamber.
The primary twist is that, although the mission seems legitimate, there are some unforessen 'catches'! The primary catch is that the PCs group is not the 'real' escort group at all, but rather a decoy. Clues to this fact are:
1) As they leave Waterdeep, the nobleman's 'son' in a lavish coach before them, a similar coach, wealthy and adorned as much as their's and strikingly similar, can be glimpsed passing them on a crowded main throuroughfair. It is also guarded with roughly the same number of guards as the PCs, and seemingly very well equipped. But! A Spot check is required to even note this other coach amongst the bustle of the street. A similar Perception check will reveal the significant details, such as the striking similarity of the two parties. If the other group is confronted, they will perceive the PCs as a threat to
the matter at hand, and absolutely will *not* reveal the nature of their task, even if the PCs speculate it. But, they also will be very reluctant to fight the PCs--this would delay the mission and arouse the town martials, who tolerate no hostilities within the city's walls. Of course, this is the 'real' escort party with the nobleman's 'real' son.
The 'real' party heads out from the south gate, the PCs exit the north one.
2) The second major clue comes when, no surprise, the party is waylaid en route to their destination (an estate hidden in deep country, known to few and shown on no map). The leader of the antagonists will reveal that he is working for the noble's rival, also as expected, but laughs at the PCs, expecting a more seasoned group for such a 'fragile' prize. Combat ensues and should the PCs gain the upperhand, as they should, just before confronting the main antagonist, now hopefully alone and possibly wounded, a rider appears and delivers a message (shouted to the antagonist if he is engaged in battle or spoken aloud from horseback alongside if standing out of the battle). The message is that he just received word from a spy inside
Waterdeep that a second group (the real one) was seen leaving from the north gate at a similar time, and of similar composition.
At this point, the antagonist will know he and his employer have been double-crossed, and will seek to flee. The PCs may pursue if able, with the antagonist leaping onto horseback with their ally and the two attempting escape.
Hitherto, the PCs should also begin to realize that they, too, have been misled. Should they question the boy they are escorting, more of the puzzle will fall into play. The boy tells the following story:
It seems, his father was a cartographer for the Waterdeep Explorer's League, a league which the nobleman was once a ranking member of.
Not long ago, the boy's father was sent on a survey mission by the nobleman but completely unbeknwonst to the rest of the League. Apparently, their was some wondrous discovery possible to be made and the nobleman perhaps sought to keep it's rewards all to himself. However, as far as the boy knows, the venture was a complete failure and not only was no evidence of the find ever turned over to nobleman, but his father was lost on the journey and never returned, leaving the boy in the care of his ailing grandmother. But, a contract had been signed. And so just a day prior, the boy had been summoned to fulfill his father's contract as best he might, in his father's stead. Posing as a decoy to draw off the nobleman's rivals hired mercenaries was this fulfillment. Even if the boy wished to resist, the nobleman could make alot of trouble for his ailing grandmother and himself through his sheer influence in the city. So, the boy accepted. And here they are....
The PCs will surely want to head back to Waterdeep to confront the nobleman. If they return the boy safely to the city limits, he surprises them with a reward. The boy gives them something that his father used in the planning of his venture that he entrusted the boy with, and seemed to his father to be of great significance. What is it? A scrap of a map, small and incomplete, but clearly penned in an era long past. The map piece, when properly studied by a trained expert, very clearly shows a small island marked with a strange, portal shaped icon. The coast is barely visible on the scrap, but a small clue can be found on it. There is a single visible feature, if one examines closely enough. The feature is of a round, circular ruin of some sort. Nothing else can be gleaned from the scrap, and no positive identification of what the ruin is or along what coast it lies can be made. But it is a tantalizing morsel...
When the nobleman is confronted in his dwelling, he will be unable to hide his shocked expression. Clearly, he did not expect the decoy party to live. When pressed, he will say as much. However, in a suprising twist, he actually congratulates the group on their moxy and, if they will but keep things quiet, offers them their rewards anyways! Gold and one magic item apiece!
Will the party accept? Or will they seek revenge? Perhaps, they will go to the local authorities about the double-cross. Or, they may even threaten to inform the League about the whole secret venture revealed by the boy. Maybe they will use this as leverage to extort further gain from the nobleman. The PC's have many a choice.....
Title: Feeling Drow-sy
A young man, looking quite disheveled and clearly shaken, appears before the party in the local inn or shoppe (wherever many
adventurers are currently gathered). He calls for heroes who will help turn back a tide of evil that has stricken his town. When an inquiry as to the specifics of the job is made, and the town is revealed as Winterspring, laughter from any nearby locals for some reason ensues.
If the PCs decide to question the young man further about the job, he will answers there questions in a hurried story:
The locals are laughing because this isnt the first time the 'fools' of Winterspring have needed help. It seems twice a year the town is attacked by one force or another. People view anyone attempting to live in Winterspring is foolish, knowing how often it is assailed. To the local, this is old news...
Winterspring, the man explains, is a town known for two things, both exceptional:
1) The climate is one of two distinct patterns, which alternate on almost a weekly bassis. When the winds blow with force from the
east, the town becomes just warm enough to grow crops...and it is spectacularly beautiful.
When blowing with force from the north, however, a frigidness grasps the town, blanketing it with snow and ice. The crops can now be harvested. The bi-polar nature of the town has leant it it's name, Winterspring.
2) The only crop that grows in the town is not a crop, per se, but a tall, rapidly sprouting flower not unlike a lily of the whitest petals
yet rimmed with gold, and blooming upon a bluish stalk that is stiff and roguh to the touch. This flower is called a maranas.
Maranas are a primary ingredient for curative potions of all sorts. But it's dew can only be harvested during it's 'death-cycle'.This is when it rapidly wilts due to exposure to extreme cold. And since it can only grow in temperate, warm climes, it grows only on certain weeks and is harvested for it's dew only on certain weeks. Winterspring alone seems to have the monoploy on the flowers, and the considerable wealth their harvesting entails.
Normally, the elves watch over the town, protecting it as need be, for the elves love all beautiful things of nature, and the maranas are indeed beautiful and treasured to them. The man tells of how his master, the mayor of Winterspring and it's sole magistrate, had long worked to unravel the mystery of the attacks, which were strange in a number of ways:
1) They seemed to occur with an almost pattern-like frequency. The man's master oftend lingered on this point, most of all.
2) Those who attacked were always of varying composition. It was never the same adversary. One year saw a band of orcs, and later a caravan of human gypsies. The year before that, it was a tiefling wizard and his cohorts as well as a first occassion of orcs led in that instance by a scholarly, magically trained hobgoblin. And so on. The most recent attacked, during which his master, the town's mayor, dissapeared, was by a new foe: Drow!
The young man fled, seeking help, as no elves had arrived to combat the Drow and the town guard had been overwhelmed and most likely had either fled or been killed. He hoped to bring back help to liberate the town and find his master (who he clearly has a deep admiration of).
It will most likely seem at this point that the assailants seek the Manaras for themselves, and hope to capture the town in preparation for harvesting. Little do they, or the young man realize, in the case of the Drow, this is far from the case.
Should the PCs accept, when they reach Winterspring (it is during a 'spring' rotation unless the DM prefers winter), as they near it and perhaps prepare to scout it, they will find slain bodies in a copse of trees. After a moment, with a good Listen check, a weezing can be heard emitting from one of them. Someone has survived! That someone is an elf ranger, by race and class. She holds an important key to the puzzle:
1) Elves, herself included, came to the town's defense as normal but were ambuished by Drow. Although they took many of the hated Drow with them, all of the party but herself were annihilated by them. It seemed to her like the Drow *knew* somehow they were coming, and from where, as if they had been studied somehow. She survived only in that her head wound renedered her unconscious and she must have bee left for dead. The Drow take no prisoners, giving no quarter, and must have thought her perished.
The elf woman will push for them to slaughter the remaining Drow, her hated like many of her species for the Drow clearly shining through. She believes with the might of the PCs and herself, they can accomplish this. She swears to "go alone" and "meet her end" if she must.
When the town is scouted, by whatever means, the following is the scene:
The Drow appear to be standing in the town's central square, which has an odd arrangement of four marble columns at it's heart. A few dead Drow bodies can be seen pushed off to the side in a hasty, negligent pile. In the same pile, mixed in, are what once were the town's loyal guard. The Drow stand alert, and will with a Spot or Listen check success spot any who near too closely (as per racial distances).
The apparent leader stands, back to the PC's general direction, from best guess reading a worn manuscript held in both hands and intently moving from marble pillar to marble pillar, studying them as well. Most notably, of the remaining Drow war party, none seem at all interested in the manaras flowers growing all throughout the town's well-kept gardens. They merely stand at full attention, roughly surrounding the columns at the square's center.
If the PCs, whomever is observing, watches long enough, they will see a door open to a large house facing the sqaure through which a wisened, if somewhat nervous looking elderly man in beautiful regalia of finely spun silk
will step. The man will walk over to speak with the Drow leader, who will shoo him away. The man will step back and merely observe the Drow leader as she continues her studies.
Tactically, the PC party, with the elf ranger and the young man, can see that a number of houses and shoppes surround the square, any of which can get them closer if they stay in back of them. Ultimately, the PCs will have to dash a length of 3 squares (15 feet) or so to engage the Drow in melee combat. They may spellcast/fire missiles at range, at will. Once the Drow come under fire in such a way, they will charge. Unfortunately, as the Drow are clearly watching all directions in a circular manner, no one direction offers any advantage to the PCs. But, if they can avoid detection, they will have the element of surprise.
Once the battle is joined, the Drow leader will *never* move from the area of the marble columns unless she is forced in some way. She will seek to regain her position afterwards, if possible. She is of the wizard class, and will use spells to combat the PCs. The other Drow are a mix of Fighter/Rogue classes. They are of similar number to the PCs and have decent war gear, but are likely injured to some extent, giving the PCs a slight advantage there.
The young man will immediately recognize the elderly human male in finery as his master, Winterspring's mayor, who will flee to his home when hostilities break-out. The young man is stunned, seeing that his master has thrown in with the Drow.
The Drow will fight to the death. Once all are subdued or killed, they may be looted for possessions. The leader, upon her death, will murmur increduously "the talisman will never be yours..." then expire. Drow now dealt with, the mayor can be confronted. The young man, if still in good condition (he will fight only if directly attacked, which will not be the Drow's main focus--the PCs are that), will take the lead here, demanding to know what the mayor has done. The elf woman will quickly put two and two together and surmise that the mayor sold the town and her own elvish party out. Why? The mayor reveals that he had grown tired of the struggle to keep outsiders from knowing Winterspring's hidden secret.
To those who ask what that secret is, the mayor's cryptic response will be to "wait upon the moon, at it's zenith to find". As for the mayor, his former clerk will curse his name and want to run him off, banished. The elf woman will think better of that, wanting to drag him back to her homeland and put him before her peoples for judgement. Where will the PC's stand? What do they think should be done with him?
If the PCs are smart, they will wait until midnight and face the marble column formation. As part of a ritual magic long ago cast, once on both
a year's Winter and Spring Equinox, a dimensional doorway of sorts opens in the formation's center. This shimmering green and yellow portal leads to a special chamber in a place whose location is unknown and indecipherable. The chamber can be described as such:
The room is about 8 squares (40 feet) by the same, perfectly square. The celing height is about half this. The walls are composed of the same marble as the columns outside the portal and are unbroken by either window or doorway. They are, however, inset with torch sconces with flames already alit. Scrawling inscriptions of dragons cover each wall and the ceiling above has a vibrant fresco of a towering red dragon upon it.
There is a center pedestal of marble, the top of which is shaped into a bowl. There is nothing held inside this bowl. In each of four cardinal directions is a similar, though slightly larger in height and girth, marble pedestal. Upon each of these sits a platter of marble, slightly concave as if something may be placed within it.
Above each pedestal, on the wall, can be read in the draconic language a riddle of sorts. Each of the four larger pedestals requires a certain, specific item be placed upon it. The riddles will hint at the nature of said items. The items will be difficult, though not impossible, to acquire. Each that is acquired, and place upon it's correct pedestal, will summon the following effect:
A slim shaft of bluish light will lance down upon the center pedestal and it's bowl, bringing into sight a portion of a visible item. This item can be described, when fully revealed, as a blood red disk about 6 inches in diameter. The perimeter of the disk is hedged by dragon bones. Each item placed will reveal a one-quarter segment of the disk, but the disk remains outside the prime material plane until such time as all four items have been placed and it is fully revealed.
The disk is a magic item (value 8 platinum) well worth the effort, as described below:
Inoku Ka-Ryu, or "Dragon Talisman":
An artifact of tremendous power, forged from the sacrificed souls of 10 changelings and the still beating heart of a red dragon.
The holder of such a totem, a flat crimson disk encircled by the blackened claws of a red dragon, need only concentrate for three actions upon it's powers to activate it's terrible magic. On this turn, the third of three, the holder will feel a tingling sensation throughout all limbs, as well as a feeling of heaviness in body. But their mind will feel not heavy but light, as if wisdom poured into them like a rushing wave. The holder's form will begin to shift, growing exponentially in both mass and girth, even as their skin hardens until such a time as steel-like scales red as blood encompass their form. In two actions time, the holder will no longer be what they were; instead they are now in body and in mind, an adult red dragon! Though the individual will remember their past, as well as allegiances and skills, they will have the rage and terrible bloodlust of a red dragon. Their control, through their enhanced will and mental prowess, is durable enough that although they will crave to feed, and crave to slay until their hunger is appeased, these desires can generally be constrained to those considered foes. The changeling dragon's allies are relatively safe.
The metamorphosis lasts until such time as the dragon nor it's allies are directly threatened, or until such time as the dragon has properly fed according to it's normal diet (in example, a small herd of beasts). After which time, the dragon changes back to the previous form, equipment and all. However, a price is to be paid for such power. He or she, upon revertion to normal form, will fall unconscious. This state is akin to a coma, and although rarely life-threatening, a save must be made to awaken. This save is possible only once per 24 hour period, and at high difficulty/great penalty. Until the save is made, the character remains comatose--helpless.
He or she who removes the Inoku Ka-Ryu from the center pedestal commands it for as long as they draw breath. Upon their death, the talisman is passed to the next person to pick it up. Only the bonded one may call upon it's morphic powers.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to completing this challenge, should the PCs choose to, and beyond the acquiring of the nescessary items (should be hard), is being certain to make the next Winter/Spring Equinox and fending off any would be invaders present at the time. Clearly, the Drow knew something of this secret chamber. Who else might know??
When the PCs wish to return from the chamber, they may do so simply by concentrating and wishing it so. For fun, they must figure that out on their own.^^
And, they have saved Winterspring to boot!