The start scene takes place at a suitable tavern somewhere near Davokar. Smoke hangs thick in the low-ceilinged room, a fire crackles in the hearth and the troubadour Blackhawk tells stories of adventures and heroism as he plucks his strings. To round off he sings of a group, many years ago, that discovered the Sun Temple and great riches.
Finishing up, he sits down by the PCs table and flags down a drink. Another patron, looking haggard and worn beyond what you’d expect, also joins the table soon after, throwing a shilling in front of Blackhawk. “That was quite the adventure, troubadour, but it was not the whole story I believe. Will you finish it?” The troubadour looks troubled, bothered almost, but coin paid expects the requested story to be told. He takes a large swig and tells the second half of the story – how the heroes were ambushed while returning, how many died immediately and how almost everyone else were chased down. A few made it into a natural cavern by a small lake at the end of a tributary to the river Eanor, carrying what valuables they still could without slowing them down. A pittance of what they’d found in the Sun Temple, yet still a fortune. They were not heard from again. The stranger interjects, “But one survived, yes? One made it out of the cave. Otherwise the story could not be told.” Blackhawk nods solemnly, “One survived, from what I’ve heard, but with a shattered mind and soul.” The stranger nods along. “Indeed. I was not the same when I exited the cave as when I went in. Your song made me remember, but I would like to forget. You – ” The stranger turns to the PCs, “Will you give an old explorer peace of mind and find what I left behind in the cave, so I won’t be tempted to go back and get it? This will guide you.” The stranger pulls a curiously ornamented dagger, clearly very old, and spears it into the table, before falling quiet.
The stranger cannot offer more assistance, not where the cavern is or what it holds – the memories have been locked away. But the dagger can. Whoever holds the dagger in their bare hands feel a longing, pointing somewhere into Davokar. It also has other powers, see its stat block.
Motivations: Altruism, fame or wealth.
The lake is only a few days from where the PCs currently are. Handle the journey there as you would handle similar trips.
Situated as described above, the area is idyllic and peaceful, birds are chirping regardless of season, the water cool and still (possibly under a layer of ice). The entrance is small and concealed by rocks and vegetation.
The cave slopes downwards for a few hundred meters, twisting, turning and splitting off here and there, but the dagger can lead them where they need to go, until they reach a scratched stone gate. The gate was partially opened when the previous troupe came upon it, but they pushed it close to fend off their pursuers – which also re-activated its protective magic. When the door is breached a cracking sound is heard from it, shaking the foundations of the bedrock, splitting it and opening it to the river above. The tunnel starts to flood behind the PCs – going back is impossible, going deeper is the only option. Call for Quick checks to stay ahead of the water, or other checks depending on how they want to handle the situation (clinging on to something, for example; the rush of the water lessens somewhat after a minute or two). A failed check results in being swept along, suffering 1d8 damage (ignoring Armor), before being swept into the Dead City.
The protective magic also wakes the inhabitants of the Dead City, which lies at the end of the flooding tunnel.
THE DEAD CITY
Once the water reaches the Dead City it will dissipate in strength, before it starts to fill the cavern slowly as the Eanor continues to feed the fissure caused by the breach.
They come into an oval cavern, 50 x 300 meters long with a 5-meter-high ceiling. Buildings are carved directly from the stone. Streets five meters wide crisscross the city, but not in an orderly fashion. Building interiors and furniture are also carved directly from the stone. The treasure is hidden in one or several of these houses, in nooks and crannies, meaning the PCs must search for it (Vigilant if simply searching, Cunning or Discreet to guess suitable locations) – all while the water slowly rises and the undead roam the streets. The treasure is left up to the GM, but probably consists of an artefact or two, as well as valuables and coin worth several hundred thaler, should they get their hands on everything.
Unless the PCs are stealthy and just try to find their way through, they should eventually run into the Queen, possibly after a skirmish with her followers – who bellow to alert others and try to surround and direct the PCs towards her. She understands that the Dead City will eventually flood and hopes to convince outsiders to help them find a new home to rest peacefully in, in exchange for sparing their lives.
The PCs can sneak past, run past, fight their way through or negotiate with the Queen. The Queen knows why she and her people have awoken and that the Dead City is about to flood. Her desire is to keep existing and for that they need somewhere else to call home, preferably away from outsiders.
Opposite from where the PCs enter is an exit into the Underworld. They can find safe passage to the surface if they’ve successfully negotiated with the Queen, but they must lead the undead host to their new home or try to escape, possibly leading the undead to civilization. Should they lead them to another ruin, the Queen will thank them, but require them to swear an oath to keep this secret – claiming she will know if they break their word. There is no mystical ritual involved here, only that she counts on the PCs keeping the dagger. Should they get rid of the dagger, she will have her host hunt them down – possibly leading them herself.
ESCAPING THE UNDERWORLD
To survive in the Underworld, call for Cunning or Vigilant checks to orient themselves as well as finding sustenance, unless they were carrying enough when they suffered the flood (and it didn’t spoil from soaking), as well as Discreet to try and avoid hostile encounters. Possible encounters include Cave Rays, Pale Crawlers and Raskaal; all detailed in the Monster Codex.
As for where they exit back into Davokar, that is entirely up to the GM and how great a challenge you want to present them before they can get back to the relative safety of civilization.
FINDING A NEW HOME
Should the PCs know of a suitable ruin, they will need to lead the undead host there. Treat as a normal trip through Davokar (the Queen leads them out of the Underworld). They won’t encounter beasts, but possibly a detachment of Queen Korinthia’s rangers, which they would be advised to avoid from finding the undead, or at least reporting it back to the authorities. But the rangers can also be a way out for desperate PCs.
QUEEN OF THE DEAD CITY
The Queen has slept in the Dead City since the early days of Symbar’s empire, preserved by mystically augmented chemicals and thus different from the undead of this age.
Manner: Haughty and superior, but willing to make deals.
Race: Ancient Symbarian
Traits: Armor (I, coarse leathery skin), Undead (III), Damaging aura (II), Summon Swarm (II), Swarm (II)
Accurate: 5 (+5)
Cunning: 13 (-3)
Discreet: 10 (0)
Persuasive: 17 (-7)
Quick: 9 (+1)
Resolute: 10 (0)
Strong: 11 (-1)
Vigilant: 7 (+3)
Abilities: Dominate (adept), Exceptionally Persuasive (II), Leader (master), Ritualist (master), Twin Attack (master)
Rituals: Curse, Death Lord (converts a dragoul into a death lord), Desecrating Rite, Possess, Raise Undead, Spell Trap
Weapons: Two rusted swords, 6
Armor: 2 (skin)
Pain threshold: 6
Shadow: Strangely uncorrupted, the color of the moon
Tactics: Uses Swarm Breath and Damaging Aura, along with twin blade attacks, if forced into close combat, but prefers the Devotees do the dirty work whenever possible.
The Queen has 128 attendants, all utterly loyal to her. Uses stats as dragouls.
The creature can summon disgusting insects from the environment or its own mouth. This trait requires Swarm of the same level and summons a suitable swarm creature. A Full round action is required to perform the summoning, but only once per scene.
THE DAGGER REMEMBERANCE
The dagger activates when it touches bare skin, unless otherwise noted. When active, the blade and handle appear well-polished, seemingly new, otherwise dulled in color and worn. It is not an obvious effect and can be attributed to tricks of light and shadow. The visual transformation takes several seconds. During this adventure, the Queen is its bound owner.
* Ignore half of target’s armor.
* Wielder feels a longing to seek the bound owner and knows the direction.
* Wielder can speak and understand Symbarian, but not read it.
* The bound owner knows the dagger’s location (direction and distance) and can hear through it. This works even when not touched.
* When the bound owner dies, the dagger can be bound to another with all effect that implies.
* The tracking and surveillance functions can be interrupted with the ritual Sever Link, which alerts the bound owner. The dagger must be re-bound to regain these effects.