PDF Version: https://homebrewery.naturalcrit.com/share/HyANeAga4
Wolf’s Note: There won’t be an almanac tomorrow morning. Rather, content will resume with the Wednesday edition of the almanac, which will return to the Outlaws of Atwood Forest with a mini-adventure.
Welcome to today’s special installment of the Monday Mystery. If you missed last week’s mystery, you might want to start there – the Tomb of Seya has important clues that lead to the discovery of Ieyta’s resting place, where this adventure starts. Before we get into all that, though, you’ll need some background to game master this one (and the next) effectively.
The Kingdom of K’ren
The elven kingdom of K’ren was a historical empire covering the eastern half of the Eternal Empire and all of Northern Sariland – basically everything from the capital to the ocean on the eastern side, ranging to the Winterheart mountains in the north and to the Sarilandic Range in the south. It encompassed vast swathes of jungle, a good deal of which remains in the interior of the continent – in fact, the city of Anak, where Seya’s tomb was discovered, lies only across a river from the jungle beyond, though it is desert-like itself. It is into this jungle that the heroes will go when they follow the clue from last week. The trek takes them deep into places that even the Empire doesn’t patrol because they are so remote – places untouched for several thousand years.
K’ren, during its heyday, was a thriving empire known for woodcraft, worked goods, and the arts. It dwindled around the middle of the second age for reasons still unknown, around the same time that the neighboring kingdom of Tyrel also fell out of the historical record, plagued by invading orcs from the blasted lands beyond the Winterheart mountains. Populated mostly by elves, humans, and half-elves, the realm is said to have harbored great magical knowledge, especially of druidcraft.
The Lost City of Dena
The city of Dena was the historical capital of K’ren. It has a legendary status, most especially because it is said to have housed the queen’s archive, a library of Alexandrian proportions containing knowledge of just about everything that existed in the world of its day. Long rumored to contain spells which no one still remembers and secrets of locations and deities long forgotten, the library is a trove of knowledge unparalleled by any that the modern world has to offer.
Ieyta was the last queen of K’ren of whom there exists a historical record. She is said to have been a druid of great power and wealth who ultimately perished at the hands of invading orcs on a road near the northern border of the realm. No one has ever found her resting place because they’ve taken this to mean the north-eastern border of K’ren, near the Winterheart mountains. In reality, it means the north-western border of the nation, only one hundred miles south-east of the Eternal Empire’s capital, near the edge of the dense jungle that forms the south-eastern interior of the continent. That’s where the heroes will be starting this adventure, led by the clues of their previous mystery in Anak.
Your heroes should already be headed here if you ran last week’s Monday Mystery, so start there if you need an intro. Other than that, you’ll want to ensure they have supplies for the jungle – which can be easily purchased in Anak – and send them on a three-day journey. During it, they should encounter some form of hostile jungle creature – perhaps giant spiders or bats or a tribe of goliath barbarians. Have them a little bloodied up when they reach their destination.
Ieyta may have died on the road, but her handmaidens didn’t just leave her there – instead, they erected a tomb fit for a queen – or at least the queen of a dying empire. The structure is large, made of stone, and mostly underground, leaving only the entrance exposed. To unlock it, the heroes will need to each speak their true name – they can divine as much from the inscription on the door. Have a little fun with this one – true names should reflect the character’s identity. Have each player explain to you what their character’s true name means and how they embody it, and don’t be afraid to play up certain characters being afraid of their names, lying, or being changed by the epiphany of realizing who they really are. Once inside, they’ll face three challenges.
The Test of Faith
The test of faith is a bottomless pit about twenty feet across. A powerful wind rushes into the pit, threatening to drag anything nearby (and certainly anything above) down into it, but five feet from the pit is a sword mounted in a stone stand. While a character holds the sword, a bridge of whispy, vaporous fog appears for everyone who isn’t that character. The bridge is solid and can be walked upon, and protects from the wind enough to be crossed safely, but the character crossing is still incapable of seeing it until they reach the other side. The sword obviously can’t be thrown back, but spilling the blood of a good-aligned character in a small bowl near the far side causes the wind to abate for just long enough to do so. If the sword vanishes into the pit (by poor throwing), an evil laugh rings out, and the players must cleanse the pit with good-aligned blood to cause it to be hurled back out by the fiendish creature at the bottom.
The Crypt [Optional]
Between the first and second tests, you can insert an encounter occurring in the crypt of the handmaidens. Eight handmaidens are buried here, and their vengeful spirits rise and attack any character in the party who isn’t good-aligned. Use stats appropriate for your party’s level, and bear in mind that the handmaidens can be dissuaded by a sufficiently persuasive character with a good reason for disturbing their queen’s final rest.
The Test of Character
This is the second of three tests, and begins after the crypt in a room that can only be described as a sacrificial ritual site. There are four braziers in the four corners, kept burning by unknown magic, and in the center is a circular table with channels for blood. The inscription on the exit reads (in ancient Elvish) “Here you must yield those you care about.” The twist, of course, is that (being good-aligned) a “worthy” character must totally refuse to do so. Spilling any blood causes four over-levelled fiends to emerge from the four braziers and attack the heroes; refusing openly to do so causes the final door to open – it’s as simple as that. Unfortunately for the heroes, when they pass through the final door, they each find themselves in a separate demiplane, isolated from their allies.
The Test of Memory
At this point, you may ask the heroes questions about their allies. Don’t let the players who play those allies interject – here, each hero is being evaluated on their knowledge of the people they trust their life to on a daily basis. Ask questions of moderate challenge – something about a backstory, or a love or hate of something, or an NPC important to the character like a sister or an old friend. For each success, mark a point to both the character the question is about and the character who gets the question right. At the end, award each of your players a reward based on how many points they got, and give the player with the most points the location of Dena as an additional reward – it’s deep in the heart of the jungle, and they’ll have to brave numerous hazards to get there. Today’s mystery may seem slightly short, but it’s that way intentionally – it’s designed to fit into a session (or two sessions at most) and the test of memory will take up more time than you expect if you do it right, since players will spend quite a while racking their brains and piecing together bits of who everyone is.
Don’t forget to check back next week for the conclusion of the three-chapter Dena arc. In it, the heroes will encounter the lost city itself and will face their greatest puzzles yet, as well as their greatest rewards.