Towards the end of a gaming session, I presented the following adventure hook:
A PC preserver and psionicist are approached on Tyr's streets by a friendly and familiar urchin-thief named TWILE (see Veiled Alliance supplement). TWILE has a "friend" that has lost his mind, will the PCs help? The friend, a 10-year-old boy named BERN, is dressed in nobles' clothes, and claims to be the son of IANTO, the master of merchant house Ianto.
TWILE is trying to help BERN because he hopes to get some sort of reward from IANTO (BERN is obviously from a well-off family). The odd thing about BERN is that he won't open his eyes. He claims that his father's enemy is trying to "see through my eyes" to figure out where BERN is. BERN begs the PCS for a piece of cloth for a blindfold (he is wearing a finely pattern leather jerkin that he cannot tear to make his own blindfold. TWILE thinks BERN is deranged, and asks the PCs to heal him.
The PCs believe BERN, though, and question him. BERN tells them that fort Ianto, IANTO's merchant fortress in a mountain cave barely south of Tyr's iron mines, was seized last night by troops from a rival merchant house. (Both IANTO and TROIKA export silk.) Mistress TROIKA is a master mindbender, and it is she that is trying to see through BERN's eyes. If she succeeds, says BERN, she will psionically dispatch assassins to his location, to remove him as a witness. TROIKA has already killed BERN's mother; his father, IANTO, is hiding in the fortress. BERN begs the party to help him rescue IANTO.
The players talk to a few templars contacts--some of the PCs are actually political players in the city; see the introduction. The templars explain that outside the city boundaries, even within Tyr's protected lands, merchants quarrels are strictly ignored: "If we involved ourselves in every hostile takeover, the merchants would refuse to do business in Tyr." They try to talk to Master Sintha, who represents merchants to the city counsel; Sintha explains that Troika is a new house, has not yet been noticed or approached by the Tyrian merchant's league, and therefore is neither protected by nor subject to the loose rules of the merchants' league. Sintha adds that if Ianto is unable to throw off this upstarts, then perhaps it is time to approach Troika -- after the dust settles. (If the PCs had better interviewed BERN, and had told Sintha about the rust-uniform troops, then Sintha might have taken a mild interest in the fact that Troika was backed by another house, but the rust uniforms would not have pointed to Vordon).
BERN has had some psionic training (thanks to a rich and cautious father who had him enrolled) and as a result has a fair understanding of Psionics. He has no psionic defenses yet [NOTE: this was before I implemented the new psionic rules; TROIKA's contact still worked from a distance]. BERN's only psionic power so far is Dream Travel, which he used to escape the fortress, and wants to use to bring the PCs back in to rescue his father. Bern explains the Dream Travel power to the PCs, and describes an almost sealed-off room in the fort where he managed to hide eight hours in order to use the power and escape.
The players take my hook. Promised rewards and the gratitude of a moderately successful
merchant house, the PCs agree to Dream Travel with BERN to fort
Ianto to help rescue IANTO, who, BERN says, is hiding in the fort. Unfortunately, the PCs
neglect to adequately question BERN about the layout of the fort. We close the game
session, and I have two weeks to prepare the adventure.
The PCs take a room to begin BERN's Dream Travel. BERN uses Esperweed to enhance his ability, and is successful (to be honest I didn't roll it :) ).
The PCs are surprised when they wake up in pitch darkness in a walled-off portion of a cave (area 2-1). BERN says that this was a torture room centuries before IANTO took it over, cleaned it up, and walled off the portions that he did not need.
This was of course BERN's favorite hiding place (he is a 10-year old boy, after all) and his father told him to hide here and dream travel away when House Troika invaded. BERN tells PCs that there are two levels of caverns, and that they are on the lower one; the upper level contains the gate out of the fortress.
The PCs ask how Troika invaded in the first place and BERN tells them that Troika feinted an impossible frontal assault to draw Ianto troops to the front of the cave-fortress, then somehow got troops to attack from the back of the cave on the first level. These new troops were not wearing Troika livery, but some rust-colored uniforms. Their unexpected attack was devastating and IANTO ordered his own troops to surrender, and ran with his son to hide in the fortress caves. BERN still can't figure out how the rust-troops attacked from behind, but guesses that TROIKA somehow discovered an unknown set of caves that led to one of the caverns that IANTO had walled off.
When the PC's eyes adjust, they see faint flickering light coming from a chink in the wall near the ceiling. It is going to be a tight squeeze to get through. (Good thing that no kreen or half-giants are in this party!) They can't use light for fear of alerting the Troika guards. But climbing, squeezing, and dropping in darkness is noisy!
BERN and two PCs squeeze through; the second PC makes enough noise to alert the guards in the areas 2-3* caves who pursue them across the cavern, and, sadly catch BERN (10-year-old legs . . .) The other two PCs get away, but the fortress is alerted, and, you got it, THE PARTY IS SPLIT! Bad news, and definitely not what I had planned as DM!
The other two PCs, who I will call Group B, realized that the best way to get out without alerting more guards (who are pursuing group A) is to peek through the chink and Dimension Door out (thank heavens for well-played Psionicist PCs.) Group B finds themselves wandering around a huge, mostly empty and unoccupied cavern. (The fact that both groups have a preserver that turns them invisible helps evade enemies, but also keeps them from noticing each other and reuniting.)
Group B observes Troika troops taking crates of valuable silk down the stairs, past the well, to a large hole in the rock (area 2-2) The valuable merchandise is being put into storage, or as PCs overhear from one of the guards, "out of the way." Out of the way of what?, Group B wonders.
As OLGA and BRANDT ponders this, the strangest thing happens: In the middle of the huge cavern (area 2-4), a blueish doorway appears.
BRANDT, a psionicist, recognizes the portal as a dimension door, but is baffled when four soldiers in rust-colored uniforms rush out both sides of the doorway (towards the north and south of area 2-4). The men seem disoriented for a moment, then regain their balance, and poise to assist four more soldiers who rush out each side of the doorway.
The first soldiers push the disoriented soldiers in the direction they had come out of the doorway, and return to help the next group. As the soldiers regain their balance, they begin a very brisk march around the cavern; the ones who came out the north side running north, those on the south side go south. Each soldier seem to have some sort of white arm band on one arm -- the ones coming out the north side have the armband on the left arm, and the ones running south have it on the right arm.
Group A finds a huge circular stairway cut into the cave wall (next to a well) at the south edge of the huge cavern (they don't know their orientations, though). They are actually only fifty feet south of group B, but neither group knows this, since both groups are invisible. Group A ignores the well and bolts up the stairs, assuming that the troops have been sent to get them.
Suddenly Group B see the same thing that Group A had seen: the shimmering blue portal, and soldiers helping each other out of both sides (north and south, to help you picture this) of the door.
Group B is very close to group A, but since they are invisible, hiding on the west side of the rock. The rust troops are not looking at them, and are in fact not moving towards them, but north and south along the East side of the barely lit cavern. Group B assumes that the fortress is on alert and that the rust colored folks are coming after them. When a couple rounds go by, and about twenty troops have exited each side of the dimension door, OLGA panics and hurls a fireball at the dimension door, killing eight troops on either side (but only one falls backward through the dimension door). The dimension door disappears. Surprisingly, none of the rust troops that were out of the blast's way stop running forward or even turn to see what the noise and flame flash was; they just keep running forwards, speeding up a little. Although Group B is now visible after the attack blew the invisibility 10' radius spell, none of the rust troops seem to have noticed them standing right in the middle of the cavern. Group B decides to make for the opening to the west, and discovers the well and the large stairway. To their dismay, they notice that the rust troops have run along either side of the cavern and both groups seem to be running towards them (actually towards the staircase.) Group B decides to run up the staircase.
After two full rotations up the staircase, Group B (both characters have strengths under 8) realize that the rust troops are catching up to them, and turn around to fight. BRANDT gets knocked down before he can do anything; OLGA gets off a "flaming hands" spell which scorches the wooden steps of the staircase, and kills the front few rust troops. Amazingly, most of the rust troops ignore both their comrades' bodies and even the live enemies on the stairs, and seem only intent on getting up the stairs as fast as possible. (a few snarl at the PCs to "stay out of the way." Group B notices that the rust troops running up the left side of the staircase have armbands on their left arm, and vice versa. BRANDT tries to probe a passing trooper to ask "what is going on?" but the troopers are moving too quickly. The PCs get knocked down several times as the 20 so troops rush past them and the bodies of their comrades. The trampling bruises bother them less than the sheer confusion: what are those troops doing?
Follow Group A's meanderings in the Upper Level
Skip to Group B's adventures in the Lower Level
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