The seal Vivlorean placed on the Dark Portal is failing, and the Glun'Meh, the Unmaker (Reacher from Beyond) is able to seep through and touch Merisyl. Its influence is extremely limited at this time, but the corruption of its touch is already having an impact on the natural magical energies of the world. The impact is most pronounced in the plantlife of Merisyl, where the changes were largely unnoticed and unopposed. Others close to nature (fey, druids, etc.) are becoming aware that something is amiss as well, but their reactions have varied. Some see the breaking of the cycle of death and rebirth as the key to their own immortality, and so encourage the Unmaker's touch.
For those who encourage the Unmaker's touch, Glun'Meh reaches out to bend them towards his ends, in ways small and large.
Kelrod - M, Human, Level 4 Cleric (STR: 10, CON: 11, DEX: 15, INT: 13, WIS: 12, CHA: 15) HP: 24, AC: 17 (Lamellar, klar), Masterwork Kukri +3 hit; dmg (1d4/18-20x2) Orisons (4): Create Water, Guidance, Resistance, Virtue 1st Level Spells (4): Cause Fear, Doom, Entropic Shield, Summon Monster I 2nd Level Spells (3): Aid, Inflict Moderate Wounds, Spiritual Weapon Gift: Acute Senses. Kelrod plans on disrupting the economy of Mourleonne by enchanting the plant life around the city (and the Boroa nuts in particular) with stasis magic that prevents them from maturing, or from being processed into other forms effectively.
Enid Zoval - M, Ixen Sorcerer (Undead blood line) Level 8, HP: 47 (STR: 9, CON: 12, DEX: 17, INT: 12, WIS: 7, CHA: 21). Enid had a significant hand in creating the Sritari, and concocted a plan to disrupt the Conclave of the Orneaic Heptarch by infecting the population with a magical "virus" that allows souls from the Plane of Utopia to possess their hosts on the material plane in return for a task granted to Enid - the creator of this ingenious but diabolical plan. That task is an attack on the Conclave. Enid believes that with the Conclave defeated there is an opportunity to establish a Lawful Neutral realm in Ornea. Enid is one of five magic users who call themselves the Order of the Clockwork Magus - all strongly Lawful-aligned.
Corruption causes undeath without death - ripping creatures from the cycle of rebirth.
the Unmaking is Lawful Neutral. Objective is to achieve perfection through stasis - eliminating change.
The prologue is the adventure "hook", and takes place about six months prior to the events described below in "Fast Forward".
While working near the Boroabeltway in the woods north of the city you hear shouting in the woods to the northeast. A trio of Barghest pups has accosted a traveler in the woods. They are facing off in a colorful clearing of vibrant magenta flowers. Nearby, an odd deep violet - almost black - glow emanates from the base of a tree, and is slowly fading.
Additional trees will start to develop the purple glow every 2d4 rounds, spawning a juvenile random creature after 2 rounds. When the creature bursts forth from the magical "bubble" formed by the glow, magic acid spurts out in a 5' circle centered on the spawn point. This acid will cause 1d4 damage each turn for 1d4 turns, but can be wiped clean to prevent damage after the first round. For story purposes, it is helpful to the storyline if at least one character gets hit by this splash radius.
This will continue until the field of flowers is destroyed, or the group leaves the area.
Upon sharing their story back in town, someone will be sent to investigate, with samples from the area going to the mages guild for study. Nothing more will be thought of the matter until...
Creating a reason for an adventuring party to be together is always tough. This hook relies upon your PCs being willing to come up with their own reason for being north of the city. Hopefully your party will agree to one of the following, or come up with their own alternative:
Working on the beltway (any character with a mechanical bent could be employed on beltway maintenance, and any with a combat focus could be guarding those performing maintenance).
Hunting or foraging for food or herbs and medicines
A bored-looking guard interrupts you, calling you by name. "That is you, correct?" she says. "I have a note here from Honored Ars'Lyril at the mages guild. The Honored requests your presence at the guild hall with utmost urgency. I am told it will be made worth your while."
The guard has also been instructed to insist upon compliance, should the players balk at the invitation. This will be done not through violence (at least not at first), but by asserting that it is extremely important to the city as a whole, and the Chancellor in particular, that they assist the mages guild in this matter.
You are escorted deep into the Mage's guild to a room set up much as you would imagine an arcane research lab to look. Ars'Lyril is there, and looks perturbed, her normally dour visage mixing unpleasantly with healthy doses of "perplexed" and "frustrated" - possibly even with some "fear" thrown in.
"Well, well... if it isn't the harbingers of doom themselves..." she starts off sarcastically. She takes a deep breath and stops, and bows. "My apologies. I let my sarcastic nature rule me too often, but this is too serious a matter to be derailed by ruffled feelings and emotional overhead."
She gestures to a series of half a dozen glass containers each of which appears to be filled with some combination of dirt and Boroa nut parts. Adopting a lecturing tone, she launches into an explanation. "As you know, the Boroa nut is incredibly versatile. The shells, for example make an excellent fertilizer, when ground. The seeds themselves germinate quickly - making them an excellent renewable resource. The oil can be used for lamps, waterproofing, lubrication of machinery and much more. Our economy and quality of life depends on them to a larger degree than I care to admit."
She pauses, taking a deep breath. "And they are broken."
You look at her, puzzled - wondering both how a nut can be "broken" and what this has to do with you.
"The shells do not decay," she says. "And the seeds do not germinate. The oil can still be pressed from them, but it no longer ferments into its most flammable state as it once did. The nuts - are broken! It took a while to notice, as it didn't affect all of the crop at first. As best we can tell, the problem has been gradually spreading along the path of of the Beltway. As of yesterday, even the nuts at the closest point and at the furthest point of harvesting are affected."
"You must be wondering what this has to do with you... Do you recall the flowers we investigated from that odd incident some six months ago or so? Yes? Well they had a unique magical aura about them. One which we didn't think much of at the time. We've detected this same aura on the 'broken' Boroa nuts. It is the only lead we have on why these nuts are effectively immune to the normal passing of time. However, that lead has given us nothing - no hint of how to reverse the process, and no explanation for how it came about. Given that you are the only people to have ever reported the "spawning" of creatures near these plants, that perhaps you might be able to help us learn more about what is going on. We are at a dead end..."
If prompted with questions about the rate of expansion, the party (with Ars'Lyril's help) can estimate a point from which the impact might be originating. The mages have searched the clearing the party had previously reported, but they have not explored the origin point. They are unable to provide assistance with this exploration of the origin point, as the mages are all off consulting with other mages guilds on the problem, other than Ars'Lyril, who must remain in the guild hall.
Exploring the Origin Point
As the party nears the origin point, any member who was once splashed by the ectoplasmic acid will begin to itch where they were splashed. They begin to get a vague sense of a "presence" watching them.
As you get closer to the estimated origin point, you notice subtle changes in the forest around you. The normal rich scent of dirt and leaves isn't present. This portion of the forest smells almost... sterile. Also, with winter around the corner, you'd expect a thick carpet of leaves on the ground - but there are virtually none, and none of the trees seem to be even yellowing at this point.
As you crest a small wooded rise, you see below you in a clearing a pool of the same ectoplasmic energy you'd encountered months ago near the beltway. This pool, however, is easily 10 times the size of the portal you'd previously encountered.
Living in the pool is Kelrod, formerly a Cleric following Vivlorean, but who has now felt the touch of the Unmaking, and serves its ends.
Don't Split the Party
The Lady D'Elephian Coldross (F, Half-Elf age 54) has heard indirectly through friends at the Mage's guild about the party's adventures along the Boroabeltway, and has invited them to her semi-annual party. These events are her way of vicariously experiencing adventures, as she herself lost left left leg up to mid-thigh and her right leg at the knee in her early 20's (eaten away by black ooze), and has been unable to adventure since.
Also attending to the party are:
OOqurian'Ylæw, Male Elf Rogue 3 - Ooq (for short), recently infiltrated a bandit camp just off the southern trail to Chavir to steal back loot that had been pillaged from honest traders. He seems nonchalant about the fact that these bandits quite possibly have pursued him to Mourleonne and want revenge. Ooq wears a Medallion of Retribution, Rank II.
Æccasial, Female Half-Elf Ranger 2 - Æccasial tracked down and killed a Smilodon that had ravaged outlying farms, only to find that it had two newborn cubs, which she is now raising and training.
Greckle, Male Korthjach Fighter 2 - Greckle is a Gravestalker in the service of Vivlorean. Their unending fight against undead has led him here, on the trail of a band of an unknown undead type - intelligent, and easily able to pass for a living creature, yet existing outside the cycle of death and rebirth, and as such, an anathema to The Shrouded One. (Greckle doesn't know it, but what he is tracking are Disciples of Glun'Meh, the Unmaker - Reacher from Beyond.)
Lsefaig, Male Dwarf Hunter 1 - Lsefaig is actively trying to hone his nickname, exploring alternatives such as "The Subterranean Stalker", "Tunnel Tracker", or "Cavernlord". When asked about his actual adventuring accomplishments thus far, he sheepishly admits to having tracked and killed a Alligator living in the Mourleonne sewers. "But 'Sewer Slayer' isn't what I'm looking for in a nickname," he says.
Dichuxirna, Female Kobold Warpriest (of Endrell) 2 - Xirna, as she's known to her friends, follows the Hopeful Dawn path, and as such as recently helped a family reunite in Mourleonne. Vraya and Ravya, human twins were separated at the age of 13 during a shipwreck in the Bay of Durial Vraya ended up in Tiansophal and Ravya in Gyr'tal. While it was a miracle that both survived, the following 6 years separated and orphaned were tough. Xirna heard the story from Vraya a year ago while staying in the inn where she was working as a chamber maid, and pledged to reunite them. Over the course of the following year they found the orphanage where Ravya had grown up, and tracked her to Mourleonne where she had moved after marrying Trellac, a candle maker and wax sculptor.
Gaius Aegiad Scipio, Male Human Brawler 1 - Gaius originally hails from Aodar, and has been traveling as a hired mercenary. On his way to Orn this aspiring linguist successfully defended a merchant caravan full of dyes from being hijacked by goblins as they came upriver. Amusingly, one cask of dye was shattered during the combat, spattering a handful of goblins with vivid purple splotches. The crew of the merchant barge subsequently referred to them as The Purple Leopard Clan for the remainder of the trip.
Lady D'Elephian serves excellent food and spirits, and breaks the ice with the tale of how she lost her legs.
"It is my pleasure to host you today, at this humble gathering," says Lady D'Elephian from her wheeled chair on the platform overlooking the courtyard. "I appreciate your willingness to amuse an ex-adventurer with your tales of bravery. I myself once roamed free across the land searching for wrongs to right and evil to vanquish. Alas, I am now relegated to putting the adventures of others on paper for the enjoyment of those who stay safely within the bounds of civilization."
She pauses, surveying the small group... "Perhaps you have heard of some of my work? 'The Peril of the Nightblade' or 'Descent of the Damphir'? No? Ah, well... eventually these works will be read from Frostfeld to Verchix." She pauses, and takes a long swallow of champagne from an expensive crystal goblet. "Please enjoy my hospitality, for which I ask nothing more than to hear you describe for me your most recent adventures."
The disciples, if killed, will disintegrate into dust. The last to be destroyed will leave behind a purple crystal flower which radiates magic (abjuration, Protection from Chaos).
The Missing Bloom
Ooq has taken it upon himself to steal the purple crystal flower left behind by the undead the party recently defeated.
Scorch marks mar the wall in a radial pattern about 4 feet off the ground. A lingering smell of ozone can be detected. The previously locked drawer in which the crystal had been placed for future observation stands open, and empty.
Those able to discern magical auras can tell that the school is abjuration, with a fire subtype. It is very similar to that given by Ooq's medallion, for anyone in a position to realize that.
Lady D'Elephian had sent Ooq's invitation to the Weeping Stone Inn - a mid-range inn and tavern just south of the falls. The folks at the Weeping Stone indicate that Ooq recently left hurriedly - purchasing a heavy winter coat from one of the attendants (IIrrian, a young half-elf) who lives in Upper Mourleonne but works in Lower.
Ooq has in fact gone to Upper Mourleonne.
The air gets discernibly colder as your enclosed basket is gradually pulled upwards towards the top of the falls. The wind creates a gentle swaying motion, which would be relaxing if it weren't occurring hundreds of feet in the air, with nothing but an iron hook supporting you.
With a grinding jerk the sky carriage comes to a halt, and you open the door to a gentle flurry of snow framing the steaming cloud of your breath. The constant roar of the falls you have become accustomed to in Lower Mourleonne is muted, this far above it. The river leading up to the falls looks placid, even.
Ooq has headed out of town to the north - questioning locals will reveal this, should the party give a decent description of their quarry.
This is likely to be initiated by chasing Ooq, but can stand alone in any situation in which the party is traveling through upper Mourleonne.
At a nearby food cart a crowd has gathered excitedly. Overhearing their loud conversation, you come to understand that apparently not long ago a pregnant mother killed herself by stabbing herself repeatedly - screaming all the while "I will not be possessed!".
Others comment that with the recent spate of "unnatural pregnancies" it would be truly horrifying if this were to happen to any significant number of the women in town.
A rash of pregnancies has the town of Mourleonne in a state of panic. At first these pregnancies were celebrated, but level of concern began to rise quickly as it was discovered that many of them seem to have happened without a partner. At the same time, those incapable of bearing children have reported unpleasant stomach cramps, digestive problems and bloody stool.
The level of concern rose greatly, however, when one of the pregnant mothers killed herself by stabbing herself repeatedly - screaming all the while "I will not be possessed!". She was five months along.
Asking around about the pregnancies, the party is directed to apothecary Ilyeh Mylhal (Male Elf), who can inform them that the pregnancy issue has been going on 4 to 5 months. He suggests talking to one of the pregnant mothers - IItrian Siqu, Female Elf Level 2 Skald (STR: 14, CON: 11, DEX: 16, INT: 14, WIS: 7, CHA: 15) who very much wants to keep her child. Ylris, Female Elf Level 1 Bard (STR: 13, CON: 10, DEX: 16, INT: 18, WIS: 11, CHA: 16) has aborted hers.
Further investigation can reveal that Ylriss and 6 companions all shared the same spiritual leader 4 to 5 months ago. He was described as a human who was "male but not masculine", and was referred to as Pure Vessel Drahnwei. Drahnwei is a Sritari. About 2 months ago he disappeared - about the same time that the women in the group were realizing their pregnancy.
Drahnwei led his meditations at the Grove of the Lake Mother (location 13 in Mourleonne) and was known to live close by in the Groveside neighborhood (location 14). Asking around Groveside, his neighbors can point out his specific house, and confirm that he hasn't been seen in a while.
Al Mele to specify what happens when the party is infected with the necromantic sludge.
Inside the front door of the house is a small alcove with a second interior door leading to the house proper. The alcove is unremarkable save for its immaculate cleanliness.
Upon passing through the second door the first thing that catches your eye are two bodies mounted on the far wall. Each is pinned to the wall with their arms 120 degrees apart and legs at 120 degrees apart. Their skinless bodies have faces frozen in a rictus of pain - eyes bulging and teeth clenched. Both have been painted with a lacquered glaze preserving them against decay.
On the wall around them their skins have been cut into a precise pattern of pale white hexagons each framed with six dark brown triangles - leaving only the hexagonal space on the wall where the bodies are pinned uncovered.
The bodies belong to:
Ash'Dylsel, 44 year old Male Half-Elf Librarian (STR: 15, CON: 8, DEX: 13, INT: 8, WIS: 10, CHA: 14)
Cyliew, 376 year old Female Half-Orc Carpenter (STR: 18, CON: 7, DEX: 10, INT: 15, WIS: 15, CHA: 8)
Both were killed by Drahnwei.
Detect Magic reveals a faint lingering necromantic aura. On the flip side of the skin curtain is a detailed map of Lake Orn, with the hole in the middle where the bodies are being in the middle of the lake, and extensive detail around the lake shore, including highlighting a cave and a canyon on the west shore as well as a cave on the east shore. Someone very familiar with geography of Lake Orn (Knowledge Geography check DC22) would realize that the hole in the map completely obscures the island of Gurthos. If someone were to position a to-scale map of Gurthos into the hexagonal hole left in the map and draw lines connecting opposite vertices of that hole, the intersection would fall directly over a crevasse on the north side of the island.
Nestled on the leeward side of what appears to be an barren windswept mountain in the middle of the lake is the small village of Krya. The decorative brickwork and colorful roof tiles would suggest that this is a well-to-do village, and one where the villagers take pride in the appearance of their town. Numerous fishing boats dot the cove.
The village is populated primarily by Suli, whose energy resistances allow them to dive effectively in the icy waters of Lake Orn without suffering from hypothermia. Over the hundreds of years the village has been here the Suli have interbred with other races, and an interesting mix of Suli offspring has resulted. People with Elven, Dwarven and even Morphic features share the telltale elemental flash of Suli in their gaze.
While most villagers are somewhat reserved and reluctant to help strangers, the paladin Sujanni is eager to help outsiders, in return for some assistance finding two lost children.
With Sujanni's help, the party should be able to locate the cavern which was the focus of Drahnwei's necromantic spell. It is called Brynwik Cavern.
A viscous viridian sludge slides down the wall of the cavern and into the underground stream. The smell of rot hangs heavily in the air, and a sickly yellow, orange and brown fungus gives off an eerie bioluminescent glow.
If at some point the party catches up with any of Enid's followers, questioning them might result in a response like this:
"Even now the great ocean beasts are eating the sharks that ate the carp that consumed the flies that dined upon the waste of those infected with my Master's Contract.
And when that ocean beast is hauled up on the deck of a fishing ship and consumed by its crew - they, too, will join the Armies of the Clockwork Order.
Despite the unforeseen byproduct of your women becoming impregnated, there is no returning this spell to the wand..."
Burning the Brightwood
TODO: Establish that these pregnancies are the result of an "infection". Establish Daughter of the Brightwood as a capable healer.
TODO: Conflict in the brightwood. Central Ornea in the hills of Yeurone (just south of Acotez) live the Plainsmakers - a tribe of Strix who have been gradually deforesting the area to increase their hunting grounds. As a flying race, they hunt from the air, and consider the tree cover an inconvenience as it provides their prey easy hiding. The Brightwood is especially offensive, given that Strix are also nocturnal, and these woods eliminate that advantage as well. Recently there have been armed clashes between the residents of the Brightwood and thse Strix, including deliberately set forest fires.
Abode of Noria Khroleblud — Hundreds of years ago the necromancer Noria Khroleblud was thought to have perished in an earthquake in her underground mountainside abode. She lives on, however...
Party must overcome Orderions and place the vaccinated blood into the Mourleonne water filtration plant.
A Reversal of Fortune
The party as heard rumors about of a small riverside chapel of Premyzicin upper Mourleonne which was dealing with a spate of simultaneous births, only to have most of the staff found slaughtered, and the mothers and children nowhere to be found. The sole survivor was a stablehand named Kremmish, who hid near the small dock behind the chapel and saw what appeared to be "a stout woman with a gang of babies" get in a skiff and head up-river with something wriggling in a sack.
That stout woman is Hjarta Shazi, a midwife who had been caring for pregnant members of the congregation, and a worshiper of the Unmaker. In the sack is Wojgoot, a 441 year old Male Gnome Dockworker who follows Premyzic (STR: 8, CON: 17, DEX: 8, INT: 14, WIS: 7, CHA: 17).
Wojgoot had grown suspicious of Hjarta's odd behavior, as he'd spotted her several times hiding out behind the stables mixing in a fine grey powder into the drinks and food she insisted were for the proper development of the expectant mothers' breast milk. Wojgoot had thought nothing of it (after all, who was he to question the mystery of childbirth) until he noticed that the grass in around the area Hjarta had been adding the powder had stopped growing. Since noticing this, Wojgoot had been surreptitiously following Hjarta and taking notes on her behavior. Hjarta kidnapped Wojgoot and fled into the mountains with her fresh brood of seven Orderions.
The midwife's objective is to obtain an Orb of Utter Chaos and reverse it's polarity. Delivering this into the hands of a Harmonized Orderion would allow it to function as if one rank higher than it's actual rank.
The Orb belonged to a necromancer by the name of Noria Khroleblud who was once infamous for her corpse-thievery and thaumatological experiments. Her expansive residence / laboratory was lost after an earthquake several hundred years ago.
One of the most prominent features of Noria's abode is an extensive bas relief of naked bodies of various races climbing out of the open mouth of a large skull.
The upper levels of Noria's abode have been occupied by a byproduct of her experiments (a Darnoc). The Darnoc (who identifies himself as "Kieldon Gravemaster") was once an assistant to Noria. When an experiment they were trying caused a cataclysmic earthquake Kieldon saved himself by turning himself undead. He left Noria's presumably dead corpse in the lower level of the dungeon.
Noria (in life, an Elf) will be raised by the removal of her Orb of Utter Chaos from her throne.
TODO: Noria to send them on a quest.
TODO: Meat Locker Torture Room (Surgeon's Tools, preserved body parts, bodies on hooks)
Uniform Harmonized Orderion
Party is given an augmentation charm by Herastiphiusto increase their appeal as prey to the insects in the Caves of Elbion, located on the north shore of Lake Orn.
The earth rumbles beneath your feet as subterranean tremors shake the ground. Thunder rumbles in the sky as if in answer, and the scent of impending rain blows in with the wind. The evergreens scattered along the slopes that lead towards the caves sway violently, sending cascades of snow to the ground.
You spot a thin wisp of smoke - almost invisible against the snow-covered mountains, about 100' yards uphill.
A camp was hastily disbanded - its cooling embers not yet completely extinguished.
Nearby the embers of the campfire is evidence that a small animal (perhaps a rabbit) was skinned here, as tracks and spots of blood disrupt the snow. Detect magic around the camp reveals that divine healing magic was used here. The campfire is that of Adeline Sharpfold, a Holy Vindicator who is in the area investigating reports of Moss Trolls. The forested area outside the cavern is in fact occupied by two Moss Trolls. (TODO: Adeline Sharpfold full character sheet - to include ring of invisibility and ring of feather fall.)
During the fight with the moss trolls, Adeline arrives.
"You fight well." says an unseen voice. An imposing half-orc woman steps out from behind a tree that you swear could not have possibly have hidden her massive armored form. She breathes in deeply through her nose and raises her eyebrows questioningly. "You stink of magic. I smell it in your blood. You are bold coming to the mountains smelling so enticing. The mountains shake for you."
Adeline will happily explain that she came to the mountains to hunt Moss Trolls, but had no luck finding them. She postulates that the Moss Trolls also sniffed out the magic in their blood and was attracted to them. If asked to explain the comment about the mountains shaking for them, she shakes her head with concern. "There is old magic in these mountains - much older even than the Czamthovaloryc Elder. These shakes are a symptom of their unrest. Perhaps they smell what I smell - your blood is touched with a Power not of Merisyl..."
Party heads to the Caves of Elbion and feed themselves to the mosquitoes which swarm there. Party discovers that the presence of the vaccine in their blood allows them to be tracked.Spreading the virus helps limit the effectiveness of that ability as more people have the vaccine in their bloodstream.
As you enter the Caves of Elbion another rumble shakes the mountains. They seem more frequent, and a dusting of debris falls from the cavern ceiling.
Augmentation charm causes a chain of events... Something burrowing up from below collapses the cavern, and the party slides into a chamber deep below. The chamber below is a ruin of the Empire of Verrkoth.
The ongoing tremors have become more frequent, louder, and stronger. The fall of a stalactite startles you, and as your head turns towards the sudden sound, the ground crumbles away beneath your feet. As you begin to slide down the debris, you catch a glimpse of a gargantuan segmented black chitinous body passing through the previously hidden tunnel beneath the cavern floor. As the speed of your tumble increases, you see yourself heading towards a tunnel worm's huge, serrrated razor-sharp mandibles. As the massive mouth rises to meet you, an even-bigger tremor rocks the entire mountain, and suddenly the tunnel worm itself joins you in a downward slide.
The downward slide lasts 20 rounds, and the party will take 2d4 points of damage per round. Players can make a reflex save DC 18 to take half damage.
Party likely to be overcome (knocked out or killed). Healed by Adeline Sharpfold's stigmata ability. This, combined with the augmentation charm and the magic of the chamber below trigger a Mythic surge.