Citystate of the Invincible Overlord

Proximo's Villa
Lux Chainbreaker's Quest

Their work in Ahgram done, the party deliberated about their next move. They knew that Proximo’s villa lay to the southeast, and they suspected the Fane of the Redcap to be south of Ahgram. From the few clues she had, Ophelia estimated a rough southwesterly direction to the Tomb of the Subtle Prince, but she had not yet unlocked the puzzles of Desert Shadows.

Thorn suggested a loop from southeast to south to southwest, allowing Ophelia time to figure out the code in the book, and the others agreed. They set out for Proximo’s place at once. Lux reminded the party that the primary goal was to recover the armor of General Decius, but he also wanted to free the enslaved gladiators. A rough plan was drawn up after they scouted the layout of the complex.

Ophelia and Thorn waded into the river to approach from the water. While Ophelia crept to the gate to admit the party, Thorn made a sniper attack on the wall guards as a distraction. Once inside, the fight was intense but never in question. Between Freya’s powerful assaults and Cora’s radiant attacks the guards had little defense.

Thorn and Lux were not quite as fortunate. While Ophelia used both stealth and skill to free the imprisoned gladiators, Lux (hampered by his heavy armor and need to await Ophelia’s lockpicking expertise) waited at the villa residence’s main door. Thorn, cut off from his friends by a narrow alley, was being attacked by two guards and suffered extensive wounds.

Once the residence was opened, the party was met with guards and an enormous, hulking figure, wearing the armor of a hoplomachus. He identified himself as Proximo Lanista. Instead of joining the fray, however, he directed his men to hold the doorway, shouted commands and jeering at the party.

Once the guards were done, Lux squared off against Proximo and tried to keep his attention. This allowed Ophelia to creep behind him and land several devastating blows, even as Cora and Thorn peppered the behemoth at range.

Despite a grueling battle, Proximo was finally felled. Lux found the keys to the armory and discovered the longsword of Decius and his breastplate and helm.

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Palace Intrigue
If You Can't Beat 'Em, Outwit 'Em!

Late at night there is a knock at the door. A hooded, cloaked slender figure with brilliant green eyes asks (in a feminine voice) to speak with the group. She offers a single emerald earring – as her proof of identity, she says, and as payment for their time.

Once inside the room, she removes the hood and veil, and she introduces herself as Thala. She has come on behalf of a great personage who has taken an interest in them, and has come to arrange a discrete meeting.

The party is brought to the Shrine of Corellon through back alleys. The gate guard ignores them completely. Once inside the shrine, they are introduced to the wealthy lady from the market, who is Lady Sasaela the Gentle, the Second Wife of Abu Hazam al-Khas, the Caliph of Ahgram. She is joined by the blind beggar (and former Legatus) Valarius Davo and Sister Melasiel of the Shrine of Corellon..

She tells the story of General Decius Gladium Sicerem, who served the former Caliph of the city of Ahgram loyally for over two decades. Seven years ago they won the battle of Martok against the southern orcs, but during the fighting the Caliph had been struck with a poisoned weapon. Before he died, the Caliph named General Decius as his heir to rule Ahgram, rather than his cruel wastrel of a son, and the Lady’s own husband, Abu Hazam.

As the army returned to the city with the Caliph’s body in state, a party of guardsmen intercepted them and arrested General Decius for the murder of the old Caliph. He was captured and enslaved, and since then nothing was known of his fate… until recently.

Valarius picks up the tale, explaining that a small corps of loyal soldiers sought out Decius’ whereabouts. It took some time, but a new gladiator in the arena was creating quite a stir. The soldiers recognized the General’s fighting style at once, and learned that he belonged to a trainer called Proximo. Sadly, before they could act, Decius was slain in the arena.

She feels the Caliph must be punished, but she needs their help.

Her plan is complex, but it will depose the current evil Caliph and his dangerous vizier Atia, restore the rightful heir to the throne and clear the name of a great hero.

To accomplish it, however, will require subtlety and misdirection. First, the heir – Sasaela’s son, Mahmoud – must be secured outside the city in a safe location. Second, the surviving communiqué between Atia and Abu Hazam must be retrieved from the Caliph’s things. Finally, a loyal member of the Caliph’s Guard must be found who can work with the palace guards.

Thorn volunteers to bring the boy to safety. He accepts the help of Valarius and his men.

First Objective: The Letter

The letter is believed to be in the Caliph’s locked private chambers, which is usually guarded. There are several possible approaches that can be taken to achieve the goal:

Ophelia led Lux and Cora through the palace by stealth, having crept in through the harem (aided by Lady Sasaela). Once inside, they crept through the hallways up until they reached the upstairs hallway leading to the Caliph’s office.

Ophelia then climbed a tapestry to walk along the beams over the guards’ heads. She quietly opened the transom over the door, slipped inside and secured the latter. After rejoining her friends, they moved to the next objective:

Second Objective: Loyal Guards

The heroes decide to approach Octavian Steel-Eye, the Captain of the Guard to obtain his help.

Octavian is wary, but listens patiently to the heroes. He reminds them that they are complicit in a treasonous conspiracy, and that if their plan fails, they have guaranteed their own execution. He says he would join the rebellion, but such a risk requires an incentive. In this case, he requires Lady Sasaela’s hand in marriage and her assent to his becoming Regent until Mahmoud comes of age.

After some discussion, Cora agrees to his terms. They then return to the harem to deliver the news to the lady.

Optional Objective: Retrieving the Book

Knowing that Ophelia requires a book from the Caliph’s library ( Desert Shadows), Freya volunteers to take this task. To slip by unnoticed (being too large to sneak easily), she borrows some clothing and veils from the harem.

Without much drama, she found her way to the library, discovered the book and returned.

Conclusion

With all the evidence in their possession, Lady Sasaela, Captain Octavian and the party entered the chamber where the Caliph was consulting with the city’s elite. Sasaela laid out the proof of collusion between Abu Hazam and Atia to implicate General Decius in the murder of the old Caliph, the document in which the old Caliph declared Decius to be his heir, and documents showing that Mahmoud is actually Sasaela’s son, but by Decius rather than Abu.

With the Palace Guard behind the Captain, Abu was exiled from Ahgram, Mahmoud recognized as the new Caliph, and Lady Sasaela recognized as regent. She also announced her imminent marriage to Captain Octavian.

Once things settled down, Lady Sasaela thanked the heroes for their efforts and informed them that they will always have a home in Ahgram.

Next: Proximo’s Villa
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Ahgram
The Jewel of the Desert

As they stroll through the markets, the heroes briefly encounter a wealthy woman with her retinue. She has two armed guards and a plainly-dressed woman with her, and her rich clothing and emerald earrings mark her as an important personage.

Not far off is a reputable inn with rooms for the night. The prices are reasonable, the rooms comfortable and secure, and it’s not far from the main gate.

Lux

Continuing his quest to recover the goods of General Decius Gladium Sicerem, Lux is aware that the current Caliph of Ahgram came to power seven years ago. The former Caliph had commanded Decius to rule, but the General was charged with murder and enslaved. This is where the trail ends.

  • The City Guard and most of the armed forces in and around the city dress in Roman styles, rather than the more desert nomad dress of the locals. Most of the commanders, too, bear Roman names, even though the majority of the forces have local names.
  • Most people, if asked openly about General Decius, will be evasive and try to get away from the conversation as quickly as possible.
  • One old, blind beggar finds the man who was asking about the General and takes him aside. He shows the tattoo of a Legatus of Ahgram on his arm, identified himself as Valarius Davo and fondly remembers Decius as a great man. He tells Lux that Decius was sold to a gladiator company owned by a man called Proximo, and fought in the arena as Blood Dancer. He hasn’t been seen in a couple of years, but if anything of his remains, it will likely be at Proximo’s villa, outside the city.

Cora

Having found two temples to Corellon vandalized, she must determine the fate of the shrine in Ahgram. She seeks to return the book Glade Whispers to the Citystate, but is not aware of anything that may have been taken from Khal.

  • The Shrine of Corellon in Ahgram lies in the Palace District, which (when she arrives) is closed off, the gates shut. Sounds of a battle may be heard, and the gate guards look worried. They know no more than the characters.
  • After about an hour (with crowds growing outside the gates, questions flying) the Gate Captains come to the door. Addressing the crowds, they explain that the City Guard fended off an attempted attack on the Shrine of Corellon. The attackers have been killed or driven off, and the area is now safe. The gates are opened, onlookers swarm, and life goes on.
  • At the shrine, Sister Melasiel is happy to show Cora the Shrine, and to show that no serious harm has been done. She explains that the attackers were elementals called Spriggans, twisted nature spirits. They are known to be servants of a shadowy figure known as the Queen of Air and Darkness, a mortal enemy of Corellon.
  • Sister Melasiel does not know much about the Spriggans or their mistress, but she does offer the library to Cora and her friends, if desired. Here they find a legend of an ancient shrine to the Queen called the Fane of the Redcap, only about twenty-five miles distant.

Ophelia

Knowing that the book (sometimes called Desert Shadows) she seeks is found inside the Palace of the Caliph, Ophelia must find some way to enter this heavily-guarded compound. Not only is it in the most secure district of Ahgram, but is itself the most secure building in that city.

  • The city’s beggars are looking out for a female Tiefling at the behest of Mehut Shadowscale of Khal. If they have not already met, Valarius Davo presents himself to Ophelia and offers to “sell” her a “valuable necklace” – a scorpion amulet, similar to the one carried by Qasim, back in the Citystate.
  • Ophelia meets the guildmaster, Hecate, and her Reader. They tell her that they will find a way.

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Caravan Skirmish!
The Battle at the Oasis

Desert.jpgTwo days of unremitting heat, biting sand-flies and hot, duty winds out of the cool breezes of Khal’s port lies a small oasis. It is here the heroes take a break in their travels just before midday, perhaps to nap during the high heat, water their mounts and prepare to push on.

They awaken to see a dusty caravan arrive from the south. The caravan master hails them and begins arranging for his mounts to be fed and watered, and his guards begin preparing tents to spend a few hours resting during the heat of the day. Just as they are about ready, a shout from the men gets the guards scrambling. A raiding party approaches!

Despite the heat and fatigue, the party split up to take the attackers — tribesmen mounted on camels. Ophelia skirted the watering hole to engage on foot while Lux and Thorn mounted up to meet the enemy. Cora guarded the camp with ranged attacks while positioning herself to heal her friends.

The battle was hard-fought, the tribesmen assaulted the heroes as well as the caravan. One of the guards, a statuesque warrior with a greataxe, seemed to be holding the attackers at bay and preventing any looting until she was overcome.

In the end, with Cora and Thorn badly hurt, the party won the day. They gathered new mounts and helped the unconscious warrior, who asked to join the party. They agreed, and Freya became the fifth member.

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Khal
The City on the Sea

Moonday, 44 Brightsway 698

The port city of Khal lies on the southern shore of the Homeward Sea, built atop the low, sandy cliffs astride the Ellaham River. Its port is heavily guarded, not only by sleek, lateen-rigged galleons, but also of two pillars of stone, topped with giant statues. Around the bases of these plinths are brass bombards pointed out to sea.

The city is built of stone and wood, and exotic palm trees sway in the hot, dusty desert breezes. The sound of industry and commerce float in the air, and as the Sea Sprite pulls between the entry plinths it enters a large, circular port area with docks ringing its perimeter. At the far end, near the entrance to the river, are located drydocks on which strange vessels are being repaired and refitted.

A haze of smoke hangs about the docks, smelling of spicy wood and soot. As the ship pulls into port, an inspection team wearing flowing robes and turbans board the vessel.

Cora

Instructed to find the Temple of Corellon in Khal, she wanders a few streets until she finds a small throng of robed figures standing before a large, burned structure.

  • The senior priest, Eldritch Venefix, greets Cora and asks about her business. He apologizes for the sorry state of the church, but offers whatever aid he can.
  • The Temple lies in smoking ruins, having burned to the ground the night before the heroes arrived. The event was no accident, since a column of desert sand was apparently used to batter through the main doors of the Temple. The lay members are searching the ruins even now, trying to save whatever art or relics they can.
  • Venefix is surprised to hear that the Citystate Cathedral suspected Khal for the theft of Glade Whispers. Such an act would be unthinkable to any of the faith.
  • He does feel that others should be alerted to possible vandalism. There have been rumors of raids during the night, and with two Corellon temples defiled, he fears another attack. The nearest Corellon shrine of any size is in the city of Ahgram, to the south.

Ophelia

While wandering the dockside market-stalls, Ophelia sees a flash of light from the corner of her eye. Looking, she sees a large Dragonborn sentry using his belt knife to reflect sunlight her direction. He isn’t glancing her way, but he shrugs his shoulders to indicate an alleyway nearby. He looks towards her and nods.

  • Mehut reveals that the man known as the Subtle Prince was named Rashem Ta’abi. He reiterates that two centuries ago, Rashem Ta’abi was an assassin of such skill that he could infiltrate an armed camp of elite guards, pass through a secure cordon and murder not only the Caliph of that land, but all his retinue as well before leaving the camp as unnoticed as when he arrived. When he eventually died, his secrets were rumored to be buried with him.
  • Legends say that his rewards for the Caliph’s murder was so vast that it took several carts to move it. Fearing for his life with such a burden, the Subtle Prince and his treasures simply disappeared one day. He hasn’t been seen since.
  • It is thought that his tomb is hidden somewhere near the city of Ahgram, to the south. No map exists to show its location, but there is rumored to be a secret road to it. A book called Desert Shadows tells of this road, but it is kept in the palace of the Caliph of Ahgram.

Lux

Lux and Thorn are tasked with securing transport to the city of Ahgram, some days to the south across many miles of desert. It is said the journey is hard, but made much easier by the presence of a hard-packed road with inns and oases along the way.

  • The stockyards are filled with dozens of jostling, annoyed animals and colorfully-clad people from many lands, haggling in loud voices. Two large pens dominate the area: one for sleek horses, and the other for surly, dusty camels.
  • Seh-ta, the horseman, has a selection of mares for sale. If asked why no stallions, he spits and explains that mares are more biddable to commands and less prone to excitability. He will begin bids for riding horses at 100 gold coins, but he can be bartered as low as 60 (Diplomacy +6, Will 15). His warhorses start at 1000 gold coins, minimum 550.
  • Ahmet, the camel-trader, has a fine selection of camels for sale. These beasts start at 90 gold coins (minimum 55) , and Ahmet himself has Diplomacy +7, Will 14.
  • The market-stalls in town have a fine selection of goods, both common and exotic (list is a separate attachment).

Once properly outfitted, the party left the oasis of Khal for the blowing sands of the desert.

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Pirate Attack!
Confrontation at Sea

Axeday, 40 Brightsway 698

Once on deck, the boatswain pointed across the Homeward Sea to the horizon. He told Lux that they were being chased by a Brig of War, possibly from the Red City, by the look of her. She was faster, better-armed and closing fast.

Captain Valyra seemed to shake off her drink, sharply issuing orders and efficiently turning the ship’s best aspect to the wind. The sails cracked as they filled with air, and the ship smoothly raced across the waves. Even so, the boatswain grimly informed the captain that the enemy was gaining.

After a beat, the captain hollered for the crew to prepare for boarding. She turned the ship to turn the enemy’s prow into the wind to slow them. She spoke with Ophelia, telling her that the enemy was likely to board. Her crew would hold off the enemy, if she and her companions would attack the enemy ship. If they could capture the powder magazine, they could force the pirates to surrender.

The party hid themselves behind the rail, waiting until the pirates grappled and boarded the Sea Sprite.They then swung across to the lightly defended enemy deck. After a brief battle, Cora seized the magazine. Calling across to the pirates, they threw down their weapons and surrendered. Captain Valyra claimed the pirate vessel, changing its name from Greyhammer to Sea Sprite.

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Blackport
Boarding the Sea Sprite

Silverday, 34 Windsway 698

barque.jpgOnce outside the walls of the Citystate, the party find the horses Huggy procured for them, and set off south. While traveling along the edge of the Deepmurk Forest, they were accosted by a band of brigands. Before they could decide what to do, the would-be thieves were ambushed, shot with arrows. Looking around, Ophelia spotted Brakki the goblin, who waved at the party before disappearing into the wood.

The heroes arrive at the bustling mercantile port town of Blackport. The town itself nestles in a low bowl of land surrounded on three sides by low cliffs, on the crests of which are built watchtowers, ballista defenses and a fine lighthouse. Sea birds wheel overhead as a half-dozen ships lie at anchor, teamsters and crews busily moving crates and kegs.

Beyond the port the Homeward Sea stretches endlessly, crystal waves alight with the brilliant sunlight from a clear blue summer sky. Somewhere far to the south lies the mysterious lands of Qalia.

Pushing their way past hawkers, tinkers, merchants and craftsmen, the party winds its way to the docks. They are brought up short by a garishly-dressed halfling with a pipe in his mouth. He is Davin Stoute, the first mate of the Sea Sprite. He points the way to a weathered-looking vessel being loaded with cargo, and explains that she sails with the next tide, in two bells’ time. The captain, he says, will be along presently. In the meantime, Davin shows them to their bunks and helps them stow their gear.

Once at sea, Davin shows the ship’s routine, and invites the party to join him at the Captain’s table for dinner. He seems hesitant as he does so, and does nothing to encourage them. When Cora asks, he explains that despite her mastery of seamanship, Captain Valyra “… can take some getting used to.”

At dinner, the captain is already sloppy drunk. She slurs her words and tells off-color jokes, and Davin looks genuinely apologetic. He explains that Valyra is an excellent ship’s captain, but when there is little to do, she tends to drink. He begins clearing dinner plates, when…

The alarm sounds!

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The Escape
Into the Storm Drains

Hammerday, 32 Brightsway 698

Sewer5.jpgIn the storm drains below the streets of the Citystate, a bounty hunter and his crew seek to earn the Overlord’s coin by capturing the fugitives. Pragus Shaan, a notorious Tiefling bounty hunter, has set a trap for the heroes. One of his men, Qasim, was the man bearing the shield to give to Lux.

Shaan sprung his trap by collapsing the drain behind the party, forcing a confrontation. Now well-rested, the party sprung into action. Despite poor visibility and unsure footing, they managed to overcome the opposition. Despite various cuts and bruises, the team was in high spirits.

That lasted only as long as it took Lux to recognize Qasim as Lady Ashyra’s manservant. At this revelation, Thorn speculated that Lux could be walking into a trap. Lux disagreed, arguing that outside the Citystate he had no enemies, and that Ashyra had no reason to lure him out. If the Overlord wanted him dead, it would be better to keep them in the Citystate.

Cora and Ophelia agreed, and pointed out that there was no evidence that their quests were suspicious. Thorn reluctantly agreed, and the party continued to leave the City’s storm drains.

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The Inn
Prologue

Sworday, 30 Brightsway 698

The heroes have a spacious but spartan area in the attic of the inn, some four stories above the ground. While unfinished, it is comfortable and food is brought up from the kitchens. Each person has their own bed, locker and small but private space.

Throughout much of this time, Thorn paces constantly but says little. He is obviously confused and seems angry, but refuses to talk. His conflict comes from the fact that with all the buildings and people he cannot sense the spirits. He is deeply troubled by the cruel slavery they encountered in the mine.

Ophelia

mystery-man-gun-legler.jpgShortly after settling in, Ophelia finds a mysterious message in her things. It invites her to a secret meeting late at night outside the cathedral of Corellon. She is to come alone, but to bring a small sample of the ore she helped liberate.

  • When Ophelia arrives at the meeting site, a coach rolls up and the door opens. From inside the dark coach, her mentor beckons her to climb aboard. The coach takes off moments later.
  • The mentor examines the ore and informs Ophelia that it is as he feared: bone iron. He explains that weapons formed of it have necromantic properties, or can cause necrotic damage. It can also be distilled into various poisons. These were the discoveries of the Subtle Prince.
  • Two centuries ago, in the land of Qalia far to the south, there lived an assassin of such skill that he could infiltrate an armed camp of elite guards, pass through a secure cordon and murder not only the Caliph of that land, but all his retinue as well before leaving the camp as unnoticed as when he arrived. When he eventually died, his secrets were rumored to be buried with him.
  • For the next stage of her training, Ophelia must discover the location of his tomb and recover what she can.

Lux

Ashyra.jpgThe next morning a small party arrives, requesting a meeting with the paladin Lux. In a draped-off booth, the leader reveals herself to be an exotic, dark-skinned woman with wealthy and colorful clothing. With her is a servant who bears a covered shield.

  • The woman identifies herself as Lady Ashyra Shade-Blossom of Khal, and she has come with gifts and a commission. First, she uncovers the face of the heavy shield her man carries. On its face is painted three links of chain, the center one giving way. She presents it to Lux, naming him Chainbreaker for his valiant actions in freeing the slaves.
  • She explains that her late husband, General Decius Gladium Sicerem, served the former Caliph of the city of Ahgram loyally for many years. Seven years ago they won a great battle against the Orc city of Martok, but the Caliph had been struck with a poisoned weapon. It was rumored that on his deathbed, the Caliph expressed his desire that his General rule Ahgram, rather than his cruel wastrel of a son.
  • As the army returned to the city with the Caliph’s body in state, a party of guardsmen intercepted them and arrested General Decius for the murder of the old Caliph. He was captured and enslaved, and since then nothing was known of his fate.
  • Lady Ashyra wishes to hire Lux to restore her husband’s good name by recovering something of his: his helmet or armor would be ideal. If she has proof of his death, she can petition to have their lands restored.

Cora

fantasy_elf_person_face_ear_hair_abstract_hd-wallpaper-1334707.jpgLater that afternoon a lay member of the Church of Corellon arrives and asks for an audience with Sister Cora. After making introductions, she presents the Priestess’ Seal, indicating that she is on official business. She requests Cora’s presence at the Cathedral at her earliest convenience, where she is to meet with the sacristan. She can say nothing more, other than to add that it is a matter of some urgency.

  • The sacristan, Melina Loske, shows Cora to the sacristy. The door has been demolished, and the room beyond littered with a great deal of sand. She brings her to an ornate chest which has been crudely battered open, its contents missing. Sister Melina explains that an ancient book of holy poetry, Glade Whispers, had been secured there and is now missing. The reason this is troubling is that it contains as part of its text potent magical rituals.
  • Sister Melina fears that the book has been stolen by a rival of the Cathedral, perhaps the temple to Corellon in the southern city of Khal in Qalia. She emphasizes the importance for discretion, but it is imperative that Glade Whispers be recovered.

The innkeepers have arranged for passage aboard the Sea Sprite, a Thestran barque, from the town of Blackport which lies two days south by road. But before they can leave the Citystate, the heroes must somehow be smuggled outside the city walls, as the manhunt for their capture is still ongoing.

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Epilogue
Postscript

Moonday, 26 Brightsway 698

With their friend Grimm returned to them, Huggy and Warbling Sobrun reward the party by sheltering them from prying eyes. They are offered an attic room in the Light Gale Inn, with free room and board for as long as they require.

The party elected to chain Selis in the wine cellar, to see if they can learn more about the bag of ore they confiscated.

Game Notes

This concluded the first part of the scripted campaign, taking the characters from first to second level. It was primarily intended to offer a taste of the game system and give some insight into the nature of the world and the evils that will no doubt seek to take revenge on our heroes.

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