Elder Shade

A Hârn Adventure by David Johnson, April, 1998

Introduction

The bailiff of Oslef has had no end of problems with one of his mines. Only three years old, the mine in question has had a history of interference by the Bujoc, who claim that the mine and its vale are tabu. A winter guard is posted at the mine to prevent Bujoc sabotage. Last season, there were many reports of haunting in the mine. A few well-placed lashings and an exorcism got the crew back to work. Two months ago, in the middle of winter, the replacement mercenaries for the guard found the mine unguarded. Fortunately, there was no sabotage. The guards were never found.

After reopening the mine at the first of the year, two miners return telling tales of more haunting. The bailiff had them whipped. The next day, as the bailiff is sending the pair back under guard, two more arrive, telling the same tale of haunting, and news that one of the miners has died, and that the miners have refused to reenter the mine.

This adventure takes place during the first tenday of the year. The miners set off to reopen the mine the second of Nuzyael. On the sixth of Nuzyael, the first two returned telling stories of a ghastly shade.

Starting the Players

The players need to be in the area of Laket in Melderyn to get to the mine in time for all the events to occur. It would be best to have them in Oslef, but this could be difficult, as it's such a backwater. Since Laket is on the Genin Trail, it shouldn't be too difficult to have the party there.

If not witnessing the events in Oslef first hand, the party will definitely hear about it. The Warden at Laket, the Miner's Guildmaster, as well as anyone within earshot of a close-by tavern will hear the news the first day.

If the players don't have immediate interest in learning the facts first hand, they could be recruited by the Guildmaster as strikebreakers. Knights and officers among the party would be requested to check on things by the Warden or Bailiff. Of course, any priests would be solicited for an exorcism.

If the players can't be in the area, they can be sent there for a variety of reasons; all the GM has to do is modify the timeline somewhat to get the party there in time.

Mokhim Mine

This was originally a Khuzan silver mine thousands of years ago. The meager silver lode quickly ran out, and the dwarves mined it off and on for copper afterwards.

For some reason, it was closed over a thousand years ago.

Five years ago, a surveyor for the miner's guild rediscovered the mine and a strange sight. The mine's stone door had fallen forward, and the interior was populated with skeletons of long dead Gargun. It was assumed at the time that a plague had struck the orc colony. It was written up as such. In any case, the surveyor found evidence of copper ore.

Three years ago, Mokhim mine was reopened by the miner's guild. The mine officially belongs to the King, and the Bailiff of Oslef is directly in charge of it.

Its location almost requires it to be closed during the winter months. But because of the Bujoc dislike of mining, along with their tabu of the immediate area, a small band of mercenaries is kept there over the winter. It officially reopens on the first of Nuzyael, but the merriment of the new year means that it really reopens on the second (or later, depending on the weather). Mokhim is about eight leagues, or 20 miles, up into the Anadel Highlands from Oslef. On foot, this will take almost three watches, or ten hours, of travel to get there. There will still be snow on the ground, but it will not hinder travel.

Tales of a Shade

Last year towards the end of the mining season, there were many reports of haunting in the mine. These were limited to strange lights and clanking sounds. A few strategic whippings convinced the miners back to work. after a sighting of a ghostly figure, a Laranian exorcist was sent. The incidents stopped and the season concluded without incident.

This year, on the sixth of Nuzyael, two miners returned to Oslef. They had witnessed "a 'capitated body dragging 'is head by the awful innards where a neck ought to be." One of the miner's leggings was stained in fright.

The next day, two more miners arrive telling a similar tale, but adding that one of the miners, Carbran, a quite skeptical man, approached it and announced that it was nothing more than Bujoc trickery. But then the apparition grabbed Carbran and "ripped 'im twain like a rag, and drugged 'is halfs off to the dark."

According to the two, the remaining eight miners, including the master of the mine, will not go back to work until an exorcist can do a proper job this time.

The Bujoc

The Bujoc tribes dislike mining. Added to this, they consider this vale to be tabu, and are greatly distressed that people are here. They believe that the Ge'Sha, or Unlife, sleeps within the mine. For the past three years, the miners have been distracted by the Bujoc variety of protests: ritual appeasement of the earth, pitfall traps on the trail, etc. These have only annoyed the miners. Their usual tactic of luring gargun to troublesome mines won't work in this situation because of the tabu.

One group of Bujoc will arrive just after the party does. They will make one last ritual. This will involve mind-numbing chants, the painting of a smelly concoction about the mine entrance, and the anointing of garlic paste upon the foreheads of all the miners (if they can get away with it). They will be very edgy, but will not initiate any violence.

Two days later, they will leave (to go to their spring moot). They will ponder the situation there, and if the problem is not solved, it is likely that some factions will attack by the end of the month.

Cast of Characters

Carbran D'Linna

The dead miner who got dragged off by the apparition. He was a very serious man, and physically short and stocky. He thought that the ghost was merely Bujoc trickery. He never initiated conversations with the other miners, and was somewhat of a loner.

Regginard Dernas (Bailiff of Oslef)

Regginard grew up in Oslef, and was appointed the position of Bailiff to succeed his father. Although a fair man, he has a temper, which has his peasants in fear of him.

Barryn Alaga (Warden of Dyriamarch)

He is the eldest son of the Earl of Elorin (Harden). He is a capable administrator, but views Laket as an uncultured area.

Faltan of Oriss (Miner's Guildmaster)

A corpulent man, he is often found in Laket's inn downing yet another pint of the indigenous rye beer. He deplores the details, and concentrates on the "big picture", which has so far been his success. The renewed trouble at the mine has him angry. He considers the miners to be a superstitious lot. He is considering "strike breakers" of one sort or another.

Erig of Veck (Master of Mokhim Mine)

Born a serf, he earned his freedom working the mines. His hard work has been his success. Mokhim is his first mine as a master, and this is his second year. He treats his workers well, and indeed sees himself as one of them. He is an excellent carouser. He refuses to send his miners back to work until the phantom is exorcised. Lately he has been beset by episode of sleep walking.

Duraga (Sha Woman)

The real leader of a local Bujoc tribe, Duraga knows some of the truth of Mokhim, having learned it from the last Sha Woman. She does not want direct violence against the miners. She can't understand why the miners haven't fled yet. She is prone to fits and babbling, but this is mostly an act to give her a certain mystique. She is an excellent herbalist.

Hothac (Bujoc Chief)

He is the nominal head of the local Bujoc tribe. He will do as the Sha Woman directs, but pretends to be his own master.

Jomman of Norabben (Miner)

Jomman is an aging man. He has worked the mines for over forty years. He is always talking about past mine accidents and tragedies, much to the dislike of the other miners. Given half a chance, he is quite capable of talking one's ear off.

Hord the Blind (Miner)

An orphan who started working the mines quite young, he was once known as Hord the Kid. A mine explosion left him blind at the age of sixteen, giving him his current moniker and a scarred face. He is now twenty-three years old. Despite his infirmity, he can negotiate the mines better than most. When in the mines, the others trust his instincts. He felt that there was something wrong with Carbran, but he couldn't put back up his suspicions. He claims that he can hear tappings deep within the mine.

The Clues

Carbran's Pack

Carbran's pack is kept by Jomman. Inside is an aged Khuzan parchment map of Anadel, several scented candles, and a book of Ilviran poetry.

This is also a single sheet of vellum, obviously once part of a bound volume. The script is Runic, and written in a very old dialect of Jarinese. There are a few translated notes in the margins. A title has been scrawled upon the top.

The Various Marriage Rituals of Navehan Sects
"...on which he was led. And he lay down and died. Alas. But Sawyc bound it fast. The forgotten left a key in far Mara long hidden in dust. A wondrous artifice beyond any skill. Like the egg of a goose wrought in mythral. A truly beneficent thing now suited to our purpose. Let it rest till times after times in this pit. The warding is now done. What a mighty jest, the ancient hiding the elder! Godspeed, Koron, Andrar, Herren. Rest in Mokhim. What do they seek, so unfathomable? It is madness. But Naveh comes upon us. Will we..."

The Dreams

Characters with latent psychic abilities have a good chance of having psychic episodes while in the area, which in this case will take the form of strange dreams, somnambulism, or night terrors.

The dreams will always be the same, for all characters who have them, and consist of a sea of quicksilver, into which one is continually falling. If asked, Erig will remember having the same dream last mining season.

Characters who experience night terrors will wake up in a cold sweat in extreme terror. Neither they, nor any sleepwalking characters will remember having nightmares or dreams.

The Truth

A being both foul and terrible appeared at Telumar around 600 BT. The precise events were lost to time. The Khuzan, with help, trapped the being and bound it to the depths of Mokhim with great wards. The mine was then sealed with further wards.

That great and terrible being was one of the Elder Brood. This race was the predator race that destroyed the Earthmaster civilization. They are foreign to Kelestia and have utterly alien motives and drives. For millennia, they have been seeking a way to Kethira, but the roads have been well guarded by the surviving Earthmasters. One, however, did find his way to Telumar. This Elder Evil caused great havoc, but it was eventually captured by a group of Khuzdul, with the help of a half-elf mage, near Mokhim. The wards emplaced on its prison were designed to keep the people out. There is an Earthmaster artifact that keeps the Elder Evil in.

Note: this is a rather Lovecraftian. If this is inappropriate for your campaign, it can easily be changed with little effect on the events the players are involved in. Any variety of demon, or even a "nameless evil" would work as a substitute.

A lyahvi mage by name of Linnas of Braegh discovered an ancient document with a long and convoluted history. He found it in the library of the Temple of Ilvir in Tashal, filed under the heading, of all things, "The Various Marriage Rituals of Navehan Sects." After reading it, he stole it. [Alternate player lead in: the party is hired to retrieve the document.]

Inferring the existence of an Earthmaster artifact of great power, he set out to find it, only to discover that it was hidden somewhere in Mokhim mine.

Assuming the persona of "Carbran", he proceeded to search the mine. This proved too difficult to do with the foreman watching all the time, so he came up with the scheme of faking the haunting to shut down or clear out the mine. His lyahvi spells were more than sufficient to succeed. During the winter, he managed to scare off the guards, and had the most of a month to do some earnest digging. He came very close to finding his goal.

When the mining resumed, he got serious about the haunting, and faked his own death at the hands of the "phantom". He has just found the sealed vault in which the Elder Evil is hidden. He wonders about the purpose of the wards emplaced, but he is too close to his goal to heed their implied warning.

Linnas of Braegh (Lyahvi Mage)

A Lyahvi mage from Kaldor, He is rather short and stocky, but has a very keen intellect. He has a narrow perspective, focusing in one the task at hand, while ignoring events around him. The closer he gets to a goal, the more obsessive he becomes.

He pretended to be a miner, and had most of his fellow miners fooled. He greatly disliked the actual work of mining, even though his other work within the mine was at times even more physically challenging.

The Prison

Outside the door to the Elder Evil's prison, characters with psychic abilities might be able to pick up faint emanations from the entity. These emanations result from its dreaming, and will not affect a conscious character without prolonged contact over days. Linnas has had prolonged contact, however. He is slowly going insane.

The door to the chamber of the Elder Evil is four inches thick pitched oak, bound with iron. Etched in the door are many runes and sigils. These are meant to keep people out. Some of the etchings are similar to ones found at Earthmaster sites. Others are clearly of Elvish origin, written in an unknown language. Most have been deactivated, the trapped variety by Gargun two hundred years earlier, or the warding variety by Linnas. Only two wards remain. One is upon the door, and prevents destruction to the door. The other is upon the lock, and shuts the door fast within its frame. Both are complexity nine wards.

The hinges have been removed by Linnas, but this hasn't helped. However, it is only a matter of time before he can defeat one ward or the other (or fries his brain trying).

The Elder One is bound by an Earthmaster artifact within a ten foot square stone room. This artifact creates a "stasis" field that is impervious to all energy and forces, including time, magic and thought. All that can escape are "dreams", and then only over days. This stasis field is a seven foot diameter mirrored sphere. Before it is the artifact itself, floating above a severely rusted iron pedestal, a mirrored globe the size of a goose egg. The field will collapse if the artifact comes in contact with it.

The gods forbid it should ever by released. The Elder Evil's powers are formidable. No description or stats are given. Should it be released, it is up to the gamemaster to concoct a suitably horrific entity with alien powers and magicks. The only thing the players will have going for them in this situation is that it is still wounded and disoriented from its fight centuries earlier.

Spicing Things Up

The following are little tidbits to harass or help the party. These can help balance the adventure to the capabilities of the players. Use sparingly, or not at all.

Gargun Swarm

Just plain bad luck! Twenty to twenty-five Gargu-Hyeka of one of the Chindra tribes show up with a kidnapped princess. They know of the mine's existence, and wish it for their new home. Fortunately, the players will not be alone against this threat. There will also be the miners and the Bujoc. The best timing for a swarm would be when the characters discover the terrible thing that Linnas is attempting. Then they will have the choice of helping in the desperate fight against the Gargun, or descending the mine to stop Linnas.

Of course, there will be many who blame the swarm upon the Bujoc.

Naveh Priest

The dwarves and elves have long forgotten about the being that they imprisoned centuries before, but there is someone who still knows of the imprisoned Elder Evil. That someone is Naveh! His inscrutable mind keeps track of the Elder Brood. When Linnas set off one particular ward that Naveh had emplaced upon the prison door (after the dwarves and elves left), he knew he had to act or see ruin.

He sent a nightmare to one of his priests. Waking up in a cold sweat and bloodcurdling scream, that particular priest set off from Tashal to Mokhim. His mission is to assassinate Linnas and to commit himself to the other world and eternal guardianship of the door.

In the long term, he works for the players' interests, but he can definitely work against them in the short term.

Mine Flood

Purposely flooding a mine is not an easy task, but the Bujoc have been planning it for months. They will do this by diverting the water upstream into an air shaft unnoticed by the miners.