Part 11: Born Evil, Slain Good

A great Harn campaign with the esteemed Patrick Nilsson, AKA "The Dongmaster" as GM.

Part 11: Born Evil, Slain Good

Postby Matt » Wed May 11, 2016 11:40 am

OUR FAMILY DIES TOGETHER (session 11, All PCs) ...

"Your feeble attempts to scare me fails Jarop. I am not to blame for the deaths of these two nor do I care. If you feel frightened then maybe you should surround yourself with real soldiers instead of this... Rabble. Good day!" The steps grew louder and out from the basement strode a heavy set soldier clad in mail wearing a heavy sword around his waist. He was followed by a similar looking guard and Largo of Lorjan, the guildmaster of the mercantylers. Obviously he had been quarreling with Jarop and left the master of the Lia-Kavair in the basement. Whatever it was about there had been some venomous words between the two. Mogger who was holding his hat eyed Jarop's thug guarding the staircase leading down from which Largo's party has ascended. Behind him Jeremiz and Slakka waited silently. They had been summoned by the chandler for a few words and only Evil Erol was abscent having spent much of the winter in Techen where he still lingered. The dwarf was quite nervous and he stuttered a thanks to the thug when he told them to descend to Jarop's office. Below, Jarop stood bending over two corpses that lay across his large oak table. Two other thugs as well as Lurz Shadowcloak stood beside him, and two unknown mercenaries who looked like they have seen better days, guarded the entrance. Mogger stepped forward and kneeled to his master.

Jarop seemed to be in a foul mood. "Get up you twit. I am not some baron wanting to be smooched." He lifted the midget in his cloak showing surprising strength in his corpulent self. Grabbing a flagon of wine he filled a goblet and handed it to Mogger, who swallowed it all down in one gulp and nodded nervously afterwards. Jarop seated himself behind the table, hid two bloody notes in his purse, and let the newcomers eyes turn to the two dead people. One was a female thief named Kilina who often operated on her own outside the rim of the city. The other was a dark skinned man slightly bearded. His name was Arvid and he used to be a skilled assassin working for the Lia- Kavair. Both were naked and both had had their hearts cut out. It was well known that the two were lovers. The chandler drank greedily from the flagon and when he was done sat massaging his temples as he spoke. "It seems that someone is having fun at my expense. These two were valuable members of my family." He raised a hand waving away Slakka who was about to comment. "Yes assassin, your accomplish was a freelancer. But I paid for his work more than anyone else and he was a good asset. As was Kil..." The last words floated away into a whisper. Jarop had been fond of the female who was his niece. His faced turned into sneer. He lifted his dark eyes to Jeremiz as he spoke.

"There is someone in this city who has taken it upon himself to kill members of our guild. That knuckle-face Largo claims he is not to blame and maybe he is not. But I am not in the position to take any chances. Damn!" He slammed his fist into the flagon breaking it into shards and spilling wine over the two corpses. Jarop cleaned himself with a silk handkerchief and continued. "I have sent for you to keep an eye open for any hint of trouble. No one saw what happened to these two and they were found dead in an alley close to Kalphor Wharf. I suspect the Coranan Lia-Kavair but..." He shook his head "... They must either have persuaded Naveh himself to join their ranks or gained skills we are unable to. I believe neither." Slakka who waited casually for the chandler to calm himself added. "And I can almost bet a penny that this deed hasn't been done by the holy priests either. Cutting throats, not cutting out hearts, is their mark." Jarop nodded as Slakka continued. "But the killer or killers were handy indeed if they were able to rip out the hearts of two such esteemed persons as these two. There is no other mark of struggle." The chandler rose from his stool. He sighed and shook his head making the fat chin wobble. "The worst part is that my gut tells me that this is merely the beginning of something more sinister."

Jeremiz approached the two corpses and caressed his chest. He made a face and reeled back. "Brrr... If you are right master then there is no telling who is next. But I pray that this was a one time event. I knew Kilina and am sorry for your loss. She was a great purse cutter." Jarop face turned solemn. "Lad I hope you are right. I do not want to loose any more of my sons and daughters." Lurz who had been eyeing Slakka all the time coughed. The chandler turned to face him. "Yes, yes. Mogger, Jeremiz, meet our new brother. Lurz has finally seen the light and come to join the Lia-Kavair just as his brother once did." Slakka raised an eyebrow but was unable to add anything before the other assassin spoke. "Derash the Sorcerer wasn't exactly what I had hoped for and with these two kills, well let's just say that swearing loyalty to Master Jarop was easy." An evil smile appeared on his lips. Slakka knew what he meant. "Good for you Shadowcloak. I however rather play the independent fool." Jarop shook his head. "These are dangerous times Slakka the Black and if there is anyone with the means to protect his people, I am that man." The assassin shrugged but didn't seemed convinced. "Tell that to Arvid and Kil Jarop, not me." The chandler made a throaty sound and sneered once again. "You are a fool like your father and your grandfather before you.

I will not lift a hand for you if this killer comes snapping at your heels." Slakka simply nodded. "Then don't."

Mogger fearing an open conflict stepped in-between his master and his cousin. "Do you want us to find this killer Jarop?" The chandler frowned at the midget. "Are you daft? I summoned you to make sure you have a look over your shoulder, not go hunting after some ghost who may kill you before long." He sat down again on his stool wiping his sweating brow. "Mogger you once proved to be a valuable member of the Lia-Kavair before I rewarded you with The Silk Hat. Like with all members of our family you need to keep an eye open. And stay alert. I hope by the shadow of Naveh that this was a one time kill. Slakka you know where to find me if you change your mind." He nodded to the guards who opened the door. The meeting was over. "Jeremiz be careful. I value your loyalty more than you might think." With those words the three left the chandler's basement and strode out into the buzzing market. Mogger turned around to face his friends. "Escort me to my tavern. We have much to discuss." Moving through the city in silence the party reached the Trevorman and entered through the backdoor of Mogger's establishment. Well seated the midget pointed a finger at Slakka. "You are one brave fool cousin though I admire your confidence." The assassin chuckled. "Mogger you rat, you really think I want to bind myself with that greedy bastard. No doubt this is a scheme set up by Jarop and Lurz to lure me to join you freaks. I work alone, me, nobody else unless I deem it fit."

Jeremiz moved from his seat as Bhurt standing behind him drooled down into his ale. '"Nice phlegm you have there retard..." The thief emptied the tankard on the guard's feet. This brought a smile on the bearded man who seemed to enjoy the cool feel of ale on his sweaty feet. Mogger laughed and continued. "What irks me a little in all this is that my master didn't tell us the whole truth. Noticed that he hid two small bloody parchments? Well no doubt these carried a message..." He eyed Slakka and Jeremiz above the rim of his tankard. Jeremiz was about to answer the dwarf when Zhurban the barkeep came rushing in to the kitchen from the tavern. He was breathing heavily and had to lean on the wall for support. Mogger ran over and closed the door and helped Zhurban to sit. "Argh... Phew... You never know... What... Has happened... There has been a murder at the beach north of here. It was horrible... Phew... Some poor lad with a dagger like this..." The barkeep threw a sharp dagger on the table marked with a skull. "... Laid naked and his heart was cut out." Slakka stared with wide eyes at the dagger. Mogger and Jeremiz didn't have to ask to whom the dagger belonged. The priests of Naveh wielded such daggers. And wielded them with skill. Zhurban continued. "As if that wasn't enough, one of the poor neighbors asked me if I wanted to buy this note for a penny which of course I did."

The small piece of parchment lay on the table for a moment before Slakka grabbed it. But before he could read it Zhurban continued. "According to this poor wretch, he took the note from the hole where the heart had been. Though I do not know what it says I deemed it wise to take it to you Mogger. And the dagger. I found it under the body. It took some time to pry the lad's hand open because he was quite stiff from death when he was found." Mogger thanked his uncle and shoved ten pence into his hand and showed him out. Returning to the table he saw doubt in his cousin's eyes. Slakka had become a father to a used to be. He seemed more concerned with his family than himself and like his grandfather before him, those direct in line must be protected at all cost. Mogger sipped on his ale and cleared his throat. "You think that the killer was a Naveh priest after all cousin?" Slakka was unable to answer because a nervous Jeremiz, who had been silent for a long time, leaned over across the table and whispered. "I do not like this one bit friends. I mean unlike you I do not surround myself with guards." Slakka shook his head. "No cousin, I still do not think that the killer was a Naveh priest though..." His words echoed away. Mogger patted him on his arm which woke the assassin from his day dreaming. "No..." He made a grim face as he read the note. "The killer wasn't a Naveh priest, the victim was..."

CHILDHOOD MEMORIES ...

The thieves and followers of Naveh are a hunted bunch of people in Golotha. The three deaths are only the beginning of a new terror that has arrived in the city. Hervos, a former member of the Naveh priests had been sent by his master, the current high priest to take up a position in the household of a Shostim mercantyler named Torek (map key 18 in Shostim). The mercantyler specialize in dealing with mundane goods but now and then he deals with ancient and arcane items (though he only deems them as ancient). Two years ago he came across an ancient looking amulet depicting a lizard of sorts with a large gem, possibly a ruby, located where the heart should have been on the silver creature. The gem had a crack within, quite visible for the casual observer, and Torek feared he might not be able to sell it. The amulet also had another effect. When the weather was warn it felt freezing to the touch and vice versa though no injuries came from touching it (this is an effect from a previous damage; see below).

Unknown to Torek, the amulet is an Earthmaster artifact. It's purpose is to increase the spiritual attributes of its wearer, making such traits as intelligence and will power dominant. However the artifact was damaged in a magic experiment that its former owner conducted. Many stories later the item ended up in Torek's chest of loot. During the night of 30th of Navek and 1st of Morgat, Hervos was ordered to slay the mercantyler. Entering the locked chamber of his master and his spouse, the assassin had but to close in for the kill. Torek had forgot to return the mysterious amulet to his chest and Hervos saw it glimmering in the darkness, calling to him, begging him to take it. What happened after that is uncertain to the priest. He woke in the woods, sweating, fatigued and horribly confused. The amulet is corrupted after the incident with the magical experiment and it twists its owner making the bearer remember and strongly feel thoughts and passions of the past. It also strengthen the senses of the wearer of what would not normally be possible for any humanoid by far (not even the Sindar). Great assets to someone who carries it. But there is one major flaw not so easily dismissed.

The feelings it invokes on its bearer are strong and confusing. Twisting everything Hervos ever believed in into the opposite, the object has made him an angry and vengeful man acting on his feelings instead of the natural cold that has had him brainwashed over the past two decades. So instead of being a remorseless killer who suppress his heart, the assassin has a passion inside him that burns stronger than any feeling he has ever fought to hide. He remembers his childhood, suckling on his mother's breast, hearing her sing to
him, comforting him when he was cold and sad. Hervos also remembers quite vividly how he was kidnapped by his superiors. The cries of his injured mother dying has driven him mad with vengeance. The former Naveh priest blames his god, his fellow brothers, and all those who follow the shadows for taking him from the one person who ever loved him. In short the amulet has driven Hervos insane with a passion he can't handle. And for the worry of Jarop and the rest of the followers of Naveh, the assassin will not rest until he has killed them all. He hopes the burning throb within will cease to exist if he does.

Naveh on the other hand is amused by this turn of events and casually observes the twisted priest descend upon his prey. It is the God's will that only the stronger will survive and unless proven worthy, and unfit for the task, the person who shows coward tendencies will fail to reach the streets of Kamil. Hence, Hervos still has his powers and it seems through the amulet, indefinite use of these as well. Unlike his fellow brothers, Hervos dress in a Crimson loose outfit with a black cloak and wears a silver mask with the carvings of a young child, depicting life instead of the silver skull showing cold death. It would be almost impossible to put stats on Hervos because he is almost "divine" when he wears the amulet (and he can not remove it himself). His attributes are increased far beyond a human, he is invulnerable to poisons, diseases, and he heals injury levels by the hour. The only way to kill him without the luck of all the gods combined, is to remove the amulet. That will be impossible almost at the current state. Hervos does not sleep nor does he need any nutrition. The amulet provides him with this from his victims. It is Hervos own twisted idea to carve out the hearts of the fallen opponents. The former Naveh priest has one weakness that will be detailed below.

THE SILVER CHILD IS COMING ...

Three people have died. Two members of the Lia-Kavair were killed quickly during their lovemaking, and a Naveh Adranatha was slain when returning home to his temple after successfully having killed a minor victim on the 30 Nuzyael up in Ithius. The Naveh priest put up a good fight but was killed swiftly when his god was unable to save his life. Hervos cries after each kill, another confusing state the amulet puts him in. Still the remorse is nothing compared to the burning hatred boiling his blood. The only thing that can stop the madman (if he can called a man any longer) is come face to face with an assassin, thief, Naveh priest or whatever, caring for someone else like a baby. This will confuse Hervos considerably and it will break the spell over him for a few hours. During this time Hervos realize that he can not get his former life back and that his killings have been for naught. He will then try to kill himself by having the amulet destroyed in some way or another. Unlike most Earthmaster artifacts the amulet has already been damaged and it will take little effort to destroy it. However Hervos will need help doing so.

This adventure is not only based upon the killings of the man with the silver child mask. Events will happen in Golotha that may or may not shake the foundation of the PCs' lives. Hervos will kill people by the dates below, sniffing them out with his high senses. Other events may be added in-between or after depending on the GM's discretion. In any case the Lia-Kavair will be brutally injured as will the temple of Naveh. The following people will be attacked and slain on the following dates:

    10th of Peonu... Two young boys, both thieves and not even turned teenagers, are found killed outside the safe house where Alvaro lives with his fellows. The latter flees town at the advice of Jarop and finds refuge in Weseda.
    12th of Peonu... One of the lads of Kolkene, a great but depraved swordsman named Clipper (for his skill to lob off hands), is found murdered in the same style as the other five victims. His corpse will be located in the an alley close where Mogger lives (whom might hear the fight...). Clipper's sword is bloody, which may prove that the opponent is not a ghost. Most of the people in Sewer Town will be terrified at this moment because if someone was able to kill Clipper, then his adversary must be skilled indeed.
    15th of Peonu... Two thugs who pay lip-service to Jarop are found slain in a house belonging to Nobar. The litigant always a coward contacts Slakka who is a "friend" of the alcoholic guildsman. He wants the assassin to take care of the bodies. They have been killed in the same fashion as the others. Several people heard screams from their apartment and afterwards when it seemed as the battle was over, they could hear sobbing from someone crying.
    19th of Peonu... Hervos comes after Jeremiz if he is home. If the thief is not and even if he is, Hervos will be intercepted by two of the Naveh Dranatha dressed to kill the assailant who is stealing their livelihood and making them look weak. A bloody struggle evolves and several neighbors in the area will see the dagger-dance of cloaked men with silver masks (but they will not see to what extent). Jeremiz should if he is home take the opportunity to flee into a nearby building. The Navehans will injure Hervos badly but they will fail to stop him and end up like the rest of the others, without hearts. The possessed former priest will flee the scene after the battle which will draw Mamakas to the scene.
    21st of Peonu... Jan-an-Aral, is assaulted by the attacker and is nearly killed. The foreign assassin is however Rethem's, maybe Harn's, best assassin and has one or two tricks up his sleeve. Surviving the onslaught by diving into the water and using one of his two arcane items, he manages to escape Hervos. Jan-an-Aral will seek out both Slakka and Lurz and warn them that they may be next (since they are the only other two remaining master assassins in the city beside the Naveh priests). The Dalkeshan will then disappear for a while until the whole affair settles and it is safe to return.
    24th of Peonu... One of Jarop's masters is slain along with his whole staff. Gerd of Yruth is killed in his boat with all his followers. They had protected themselves against an attack but where unable to avail the murderer who slaughtered the bunch. New master will be Obras who reluctantly agreed to the position until a better suited man can take over.
    • 29th of Peonu... Borana is nervous and fears for Slakka's life. She sends word to him to come to her. When he arrives Hervos is waiting for him (the GM may have to tweak this considerably since the PCs usually go about their own business) to add the assassin to the rest of the victims. After a few rounds of fighting, Borana will enter the scene with Slakka and hers baby, screaming their eyes out. This is when Hervis backs off confused, dropping one of his daggers. The scene is too much for him, and he will back off to a corner of a wall a sink to the floor. A few moments later he will remove his mask showing a beautiful face of a blonde young man weeping. He will mumbles things like "They stole me from her bosom" and "I was so young when they killed my heart" or "What did I ever do to deserve such pain and sorrow" and even "I was once a brother of foul priests". He will continue for a while before he regains consciousness. Then he will tell Slakka and Borana that they must help him destroy the amulet before he looses control of "his feelings". If they agree Hervos will die as soon as the amulet breaks under a hammer (or similar item). He will die looking content...

Each victim will have a piece of parchment tucked into the hole where the heart had once been. The notes will of course be bloody and all have the same phrase written on them: "No one is born wicked, it is the thieves of hearts who are the plague behind all evil. They will all be punished. I swear it..."

IN A STATE OF CHAOS ORDER FAILS ...

Golotha is in a turmoil. Jarop sends word to his Morgath brother that he must help his sibling against this threat. Always an influential man, the chandler succeeds in getting the Mamakas to patrol more frequently around his domains. Not that Jarop enjoys the presence of the knights, but it is better for his thieves and assassins to get caught by these knights, than a ghost that steals the heart from the very body. Jarop will also hire a handful of the mercenaries from The House of the Dead Men. The Morgathians will also send out a few of their own priests to scour the streets in search of a killer who copy their work. They are the ones spreading terror and it is their town. The following events are added to spice out the story and make Golotha come alive:

    • Two priests of the Octagonal Pit are assaulted by men dressed in black cloaks and hoods. One of them dies while the other is grievously injured. He lives but will be a cripple for the rest of his life. People suspect there is a quarrel between the Morgathians but those master gossips know that the followers of Chaos dress in either dark gray or dark brown robes, not pitch black.
    • Scozar (map key F6) is scouring the city for known thieves selling incendiaries for protection at a outrageous sum of 48d per flask (100% over regular price). "No one force you to buy them but they are good blazers..."
    • Lady Herera Borganau, sister of the commander of the king's guard, has arrived in the city to visit her friend the queen. She will personally stay in the castle but a part of her entourage and money cache will be located in a rented house. Two guards (MF and LF) plus an armed ostler will be located there. There has been a flood in the castle and thus some of Herera's items will have to be stored some place else. It is rumored amongst thieves, that her cache is vast...
    • On the 13th of Peonu, three people are executed and several are flogged. One of the most well-known of these is a Peoni priest named Jemi (see map key H7), who was caught aiding the poor out in Trevorman. He was in The Silk Hat earlier with Mogger, healing two of his whores, and has been very kind to the dwarf and his patrons. The strong and honest men". After the execution two Morgath priests will come asking questions in houses and taverns in Trevorman...
    • Largo and Harald, the Lorjan brothers will contact Slakka in one way or another (probably in the Blood Raven) for a job that pays 3£ (plus ten shillings for each other man). It is an easy kill, to murder a bachelor knight who has been unable to pay and is in town with two mercenaries, and what seems to be a squire. The knight is poor, has few ties and is probably going to enlist in the care of Jarop who knows the nobleman. The knight named Kolkor has been unable to repay a loan he took to be able to buy back his steed, his armour and weapons that he lost against Zaurial in the Melee at the Chakta tournament held last year. The mercantyler has tired to have to wait for his money and wants to statue an example. Largo will also commend Slakka on his work in Tharda with a wink, telling him that he has spread the word of the assassin's competence to other very powerful individuals.
    • Derash, the powerful renegade will enter The Silk Hat at nightfall when Mogger is sleeping. He will wake the midget and warn him not to meddle in his affairs. Mogger who has been spying on the sorcerer transformed into a dog earlier, was unaware of Derash' wards. Now the sorcerer will tell the "dog-boy" to stay well aware of his business or find himself the main course in a nobleman's dinner. Derash will leave in the shadows with the words "Oink, oink..." and that he might call upon the dwarf before long to do a job for him.
    • During one of the warmer days, The House of Bagnax, thespians will perform for free in the square outside Smoking Meken Inn. It is a newly written play called "The Curse of the Shadow King" and is in short a play regarding the mysterious kills in the city. During the performances, one archer of the House of the Dead Men (map key H5) is overheard by the PCs to mutter "That witch, playing the fool, I bet she is behind all the kills..." The archer is referring to Beneala who is a popular seer (but too expensive for most poor) and who once read the archer's hand, predicting that he would fail his master (which he did and was severely punished). If the PCs wants to question her she will tell them to come to her house late at midnight. She will ask them what they want and that whatever they are after will cost 12d per read. "You want me to talk to ghosts, look into the future or into the past, or simply tell you of the coming prophecies?" If asked about the killings she will tell them "It is elusive, but I have seen a man dressed in blood, hunting those who follows the Shadow God. He wears a mask of silver and his heart boils with vengeance and only a child can stir the chaos in his twisted soul." She knows nothing else.
    • Because of the murders, few of the thieves dares to openly go out into the squares for fear of being seen and later on killed. This opens for those who are brave to steal purses from the rich...
    • Jeremiz' father Odder from Shostim is in town for a guild meeting and he will pay two thugs not of the Lia-Kavair to beat common sense into Jeremiz for stealing the money when he fled to Golotha. There is a fifty percent chance that these thugs will attack the thief when he is with some of the others in the gang. (this event has been described earlier in Deep Dark Alleys)

CAMPAIGN ADDS ...

Unlike most of my adventures I wanted something more magical in this one. Not because I think magic is cool, too much of it deteriorate the setting, but I wanted an uber-NPC (for once) who is almost indestructible. I also wanted to bring fear into the hearts of the otherwise so confident thieves of Golotha. Most of the background may not make sense but this adventure was not constructed to make sense. It was constructed to make the PCs sweat, run for their lives, and take precautions against the stalking killer of thieves.

Time: 7th Peonu Golotha
Days: 16th - 30th (15 days all in all)
Characters: Slakka, Jeremiz, Mogger, and Bhurt
Players: Dan, Jonny, and Darius
Date: Saturday 8th May 2004
Length: 16:00 - 01:30 (help us for the love of god...)

Notes: Yawn... Railroading and such is not fun, and I suspect it never will be as well, unless that is I have no brain to use. This was no good session because no matter what the PCs did the events took place nevertheless. The killings went on as smooth, the PCs felt hunted, and in fact it went better than planned. And that is what made it so boring for a GM like me. No making up events on the fly, no discretion worth mentioning or so. In short the gaming session proceeded as written above with very few steps outside the main story.
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Matt
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