|The search for the stronghold of the Ebon Blade will take the party through the wilder lands of eastern Cauthax. Largely unexplored because there are no usable passes through the southern DragonMist mountains to Drakkatu or Nosk, nor is there any trade between Cauthax and those dark lands. There are both monsters and friends to be found in this wilderness.|
A large number of bugbears have
been gathering in the hills just east of Theodoptra, planning to stage
raids into the caravan trade heading north and west of the city. Their
leader, Mogaf, is a very large bugbear (AC
5; MV 9; HD 5+1; hp 39; THAC0 17; #Att 1; Dmg (battle axe) 1d8+4; Ml 11-13;
XP 190) with a particularly good grasp of tactics and a commanding
presence among his warriors. His two sub-chiefs, Nugek and Kodeg, (AC
5; MV 9; HD 4+1; hp 27, 28; THAC0 17; #Att 1; Dmg (battle axe) 1d8+3; Ml
11-13; XP 175) are equally skilled at organizing and raiding and
will be able to assemble a significant defense of their cave. There are
32 warriors (AC 5; MV 9; HD 3+1; THAC0 17; #Att 1;
Dmg 2d4 or by weapon; Ml 11-13; XP 120), 20 females (AC
5; MV 9; HD 1+1; THAC0 19; #Att 1; Dmg weapon; Ml 11-12; XP 35),
and 12 young (AC 10; MV 6; HD 1d4 hp; THAC0 20; #Att
1; Dmg weapon; Ml 8-10; XP 12) in the camp. The females will
fight if pressed, but their training will lead them to gather the young
and form a single unit consisting of double rank of (longbow) archers.
They are highly skilled with their longbows (THACO 17) and will concentrate
fire on what they assume to be the most dangerous targets.
|The bugbears live in an organized ring of 12 heavy waterproofed canvas tents (5-6 bugbears per tent) surrounding a simple rough timber and sod feasting hall in a small clearing. They keep at least eight sentries (one in each cardinal direction) armed with longbows and signal horns. Because of the brutal penalty for falling asleep during watch, all guards will be alert and watchful.|
There is a considerable lifting of the somewhat oppressive nature of the forest for some distance surrounding this peaceful grove. In the center of the clearing is a circular pool of clear water. In the middle of the pool is a small domed island from which rises a small altar carved from a highly polished slab of a petrified tree trunk. The growth rings still visible in the wood show it to have been an ancient tree before its demise and petrification.
Just within the tree line is a number of small cottages
with sod walls and thatched roofs. Small forest animals such as rabbits
and squirrels scamper about and a small herd of deer will be found drinking
from the pool. If the characters look carefully, they will see a large
black bear watching them from the woods. If they do no harm, the bear will
wander off and the resident of this pleasant grove will make herself known.
S:9 D:14 C:13 I:15 W:17 R:16
10th Level Druid
|Naeha is a 10th level Druid, and watching
over this section of the wilderness is her responsibility. She appears
to be an attractive young woman, no more than twenty-five, who wears well-made
robes of rich green fabrics and carries a stout oaken staff. She has dark
skin, long wavy black hair, and deeply green eyes.
She knows about the gathering of Bugbears to the west, but has decided not to take any action, yet.
She also knows that the Ebon Blade maintains a stronghold to the east. However, as Naeha is only a lone Druid (with a few Elven friends), and as the denizens of the stronghold rarely make any mischief in her forest, she sees no reason to antagonize them.
In addition to her spell abilities, Naeha has the following granted powers: she gains a +2 to all saving throws against fire and electrical attacks, she identifies plants, animals, and pure water with 100% accuracy, she passes through overgrown areas without leaving a trail, she speaks the numerous languages of woodland creatures, she is immune to the charm abilities of woodland creatures, and she can shapechange up to three times per day from a creatures as small as a bull frog to as large as a black bear. She cannot turn undead.
|Naeha can cast (1st-4, 2nd-4, 3rd-3, 4th-3, 5th-2) the
following spells :
Living with Naeha is a small tribe of Sylvaranethani,
displaced by recent raids by the Ebon Blade. Two linked families totaling
15 individuals comprise this close-knit tribe. They are led by Salanais'tara
Gethanaerathenian. Salanais is a 10th level BladeDancer and a highly skilled
wilderness warrior. Three other Elfmen of the Gethanaerathenian family
are also warriors, expert (read:specialized) 5th level archers, and one
of their Elfwomen is a 5th level mage. The other Elven family, Yorelingrenaleranien,
is comprised largely of craftsmen including one highly skilled bowyer/fletcher
and an equally skilled woodworker. They would like to found a larger
Elven community here, but they lack the skilled LifeShapers necessary to
begin 'Shaping the trees into homes.
|Wherever the characters enter the foothills of the DragonMist
mountains, searching either for the Red Dragon's Lair or the Ogres and
the Hill Giants, they will come upon a pair of diverging wagon tracks;
one heading south (towards the Dragon's lair) and one heading north (into
the Ogres' and Giants' realm). They will be able to determine that
the wagons are no more than a few minutes to an hour ahead of them and
will be able to hear a frightened scream coming from the southern track.
Heading south is a wagon escorted by four Black Riders (4th level fighter; AC 4, hp 43, specialized with the long sword (+3 to damage with spec. and STR bonuses), THACO 15). The blades of the Black Riders are coated with a poison manufactured by priests of Vllnn which causes any wounds made by the sword to burn with excruciating pain; reducing DEX by one if a successful save vs. poison at -3 is not made. (If a character's DEX is reduced to 1, they will be unable to fight and will collapse in agonizing convulsions. The painful effects of the poison wear off naturally, restoring one point of DEX per hour with the first point restored immediately after the battle. Bathing poisoned wounds in fresh water can triple the return of DEX points.) Each black rider bears a black runic marking at their temples; this mark has the effect of removing normal fear and raising their morale to Fearless (19-20). Additionally, the runes gives them a +4 save to all fear-related spells.
The wagon is moving very slowly over the rough terrain; carrying some treasure (two bags of 250gp each) and two 'passengers'. Bound to a tall post in the front of the wagon is a beautiful young woman in a simple white shift. Allesandra is a 'gift' for the dragon, recently captured from a trade caravan making its way north from Lanthen's Crossing. The other passenger, kneeling and tied to a stout post and crossbeam, is the Theodoptran knight Herolus. He is still in his armor which is now considerably dented and bloodied and his helm is completely smashed in. He is also a gift for the dragon as the ministrations of the priests of Salsmen were unable to break him of his goodness. His eyes have been burned out, he has been beaten down to a mere 12 hit points, and his sword has had the edges hammered flat.
It is hoped that by promising regular deliveries of such gifts that the dragon will join forces with the stronghold of the Ebon Blade.
The Riders intend to have some fun with Herolus, watching
him try to 'defend' the sacrificial virgin from the dragon in his current
situation; blind, hurt, and forced to fight with a useless sword.
The hills of this area have become the home of a tribe of ogres. They occasionally launch extended raids into the eastern lands of Cauthax sacking tiny hamlets, raiding trade caravans, and carrying off prisoners as slaves and food.
With the nearby ogres to guard the entrance to their canyon lair, a group of Hill Giants has made their home in this remote area. Their cavern lair is also guarded by a small pack of dire wolves. They occasionally join with the ogres to stage a raid.
Far south of his mighty sire's domain, a very young red dragon has made his home. He has gone out of his way to make the area surrounding his lair look particularly blasted and burned in the efforts of scaring away potential enemies. Unless an expert in dragon lore is present, the signs will most likely (90%) be taken for the depredations of a much larger and older dragon. In addition, he constantly raids the Ogres and the Hill Giants for treasure he can fly off with.