Return of a Sorceror-Queen
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Author: Daniel Bandera
System: D&D Darksun
Requirements: This adventure is for 3 to 5 characters of 6th to 8th level.
The characters, while exploring the ruins of Yaramuka, are captured by a cult that worships the former queen of Yaramuka. The cult’s leader, Murduk, tells the party of their plan to capture Hamanu. The cult uses magical coercion to convince the party to help them.
A. Adventure Synopsis
This adventure is for 3 to 5 characters of 6th to 8th level. The characters, while exploring the ruins of Yaramuke, are captured by a cult that worships the former queen of Yaramuke. The cult’s leader, Murduk, tells the party of their plan to capture Hamanu. The cult uses magical coercion to convince the party to help them. The party is sent to infiltrate Urik and retrieve a magical decanter to power the magical prison created to hold the sorcerer-king. After reaching Urik, the characters discover the city shut off to the outside world, and the party has to sign up with a devious merchant from House Stel, Sulla. While in his employment the party makes contact with the veiled alliance, which helps the party locate the decanter. With the help of the veiled alliance, the party retrieves the decanter from a tower in Hamanu’s palace and flees the city. The party returns to Yaramuke, where Murduk tells the party the truth. The decanter holds Queen Sielba’s soul, and the cult is going to perform a ceremony to return her to life. However, Hamanu follows the characters to Yaramuka with his army and attacks. The party must fight to escape the ruins and the struggle between two sorcerer-monarchs.
B. Background - The Sack of Yaramuka and the Death of a Sorcerer-Queen
In the 167th King’s Age, the year of Ral’s Agitation (-1,771 FY) ,in an attempt to increase her power, Sielba, Queen of Yaramuka hatched a plot against her closest enemy, Hamanu. She wished to unseat Hamanu as ruler of Urik and take his place. This would give her control over Urik’s valuable obsidian quarries. She tried to create an alliance of the merchant houses that would instigate a boycott of Urik. Sielba hoped this would weaken Hamanu’s rule over Urik and lead to an uprising of the people. In the chaos that followed, she planned ride to Urik as its savior and defeat Hamanu. The grateful citizens would then welcome her as their new beneficent ruler.
However, Hamanu discovered Sielba’s scheming with the merchant houses. He quickly formed an alliance with two powerful houses (House Otil and House Incab both gone now) that had yet to join Sielba’s cartel, and made plans to attack Yaramuke. When Sielba learned of the war preparations, she sent her army to attack Urik. Hoping to gain the initiative and destroy the Urik forces before they were prepared. In the battle that followed, the Urik soldiers showed the valor for which they are known, and along with Hamanu’s cunning strategy, the Urikites drove off the attackers. Hamanu and his army then marched on Sielba’s city to destroy it and her. As the shattered remains of her army returned to Yaramuka, Sielba with thoughts of preparing for the siege that would soon be on the city. The citizens of Yaramuka rallied around their queen, and fought hard against the attackers. The magical battles between Sielba and Hamanu electrified the sky. The battle raged for almost 2 weeks before Hamanu’s cunning struck a heavy blow. One day a messenger sneaking through the Urikite lines entered the city and claimed to carry and offer of alliance from Alabech-Ra, sorcerer-queen of Raam. Sielba was to meet with Alabech-Ra to discuss the offer. When Sielba went to the meeting, on a high mountain peak, she was prepared for treachery. When she arrived she founded no one there. She waited but the sorcerer-queen of Raam never appeared.
Returning to her palace, Sielba was not prepared for the trap Hamanu had placed for her there. The messenger, after having his memory altered, had been sent by Hamanu to draw Sielba from her palace. While she was gone, Hamanu teleported into her palace and awaited her return. Hamanu had hidden himself inside the palace garden. As Sielba returned her mind occupied by thoughts of Alabech-Ra and the needed alliance, Hamanu struck. Uttering the mystical phrase, he released the spell he had prepared for her. The spell, a variant of the trap the soul spell, separated Sielba’s soul from her body and imprisoned it in the water of the garden’s fountain. The water turned a golden color and thicken in consistence. Hamanu collected the fountains water in a magical decanter before returning to his army and ordering it to attack the city. By dusk of the following day, Yaramuka had been sacked and was in flames. The Urikites celebrated their collected booty. The citizens of Yaramuka were rounded up and forced into slavery in Urik. After his attack on the sorcerer-queen, Hamanu had left her body behind. After conquering the city, he ordered that it be founded and hung from the walls, but his officers reported back that it could not be found. Hamanu was not concerned, after all he had Sielba’s soul, and returned to Urik to celebrate his victory.
C. The Queen’s Cult
The cult of the queen began shortly after the sack of Yaramuka by some of the survivors. Citizens of Yaramuka, who had fled the city before Hamanu arrived to lay siege, returned to see what they could salvage. A charismatic templar, Hendrix banded the group together and made a revelation to the group. “She is not gone forever,” he told them, and revealed to them their queen’s body wrapped in a magical shroud. He told them of Hamanu’s treacherous trap, and that if they could retrieve the decanter they could revive Sielba. Hendrix directed the group to build a headquarters in the ruined city and start a new life. This new life was hard. The former citizens of Yaramuka struggled to raise crops and find water in the city ruins. All the while Hendrix tried to build the groups fighting prowess, training the men and women for the time when they would storm Hamanu’s palace and free their queen from her entrapment. Not much is know of the cult’s first leader, and of what is know seems contradictory. Tales report Hendrix knew of the queen’s fate, because he was one of the templars who witnessed Hamanu’s attack on the queen. He also was with the high templar when her body was wrapped in the magical shroud and hidden in a secret crypt below the palace. Tales tell of his great valor in defending the city before falling from his wounds and being left for dead. That the Urikite soldiers would have made the mistake of not ensuring the death of a highly ranked templar, seems doubtful, but there are no other explanations of how Hendirx escaped Yaramuka, if he was still there before Hamanu’s army arrived. The cult slowly began to recover from the destruction of the city, and grew in size for three generations before it took action to free its queen. The leader of the cult at that time was Bruce, a descendent from Hendrix. The cult number 300 individuals. Sneaking into Urik, Bruce lead the members on a raid on Hamanu’s fortress. The raid was doomed to failure. Only a handful of members escaped Urik and fled across the desert. They returned to the ruins of Yaramuka, but were not there long before Hamanu’s templars came looking for them. So, taking their queen’s body, they fled into the badlands around Yaramuka. There they hid in caves and eked out an existence for the next millennium. The cult became a group of hunter-gatherers. The history and legends of their queen they past down in an oral tradition, but memory of how their queen was taken from them and of the decanter that contained her soul became intermixed with folklore and myth and faded from their knowledge. The cult remained in this state until one day almost four hundred years ago, when a group of the hunters discovered a battle scene. They found a seriously wounded man, who had just defeated a nightmare beast. The man was too badly wounded to survive much longer in the desert and would have perished in the hunters had not taken him back to their caves and cared for him. When the man awoke, he thanked his rescuers and promised to repay them one hundred fold. The man was Tigis, a powerful psionicist of the Order. Tigis began to instruct the cult members in the Way. Weeks later, when Tigis left the tribe he promised to return each year and continue to instruct the cult members. By the time Tigis died, sixty years later the tribe of hunter-gathers now had many powerful psionicists. Tigis’s influence on the tribe was not limited to psionicist. He helped to civilize them as well, reintroducing them to agriculture, reading and writing, as well as other aspects of civilization. The tribe advanced over the next hundred and twenty years, adjusting to its new way of life. One hundred and eighty-two years after the cult first discovered Tigis, one of its elders entered a trance as part of his psionic mediation. During the trance, the elder, named Necho, claimed to have had a vision of queen Sielba. In the trance, she told him of the ceremony required to bring her back from the dead. She gave him a list of spell components that would be needed, and commanded him to seek these out. In response to this vision, the cult members began to raid caravans and villages trying to gather the list of spell components. The cult’s activities were hampered because no one in the cult had any magical knowledge. The cult continued raiding for the next hundred and twenty years, they began to take prisoners from the raids who became slaves for the cult members. Some of these prisoners were granted their freedom if they joined the cult. One such individual was Tizoc, a former Drajan noble. The rival nobles of Tizoc’s family destroyed his family and sold the survivors into slavery. Tizoc had been sold to the templars of Urik to work in the obsidian quarry, and was being transported to Urik when the caravan was attacked by cult members. Tizoc became a slave to the current cult leader, who quickly converted Tizoc to the belief that Queen Sielba would save Athas and make all their lives better. After two years of service, Tizoc was freed and welcomed into the cult. He became such an enthusiastic member that ten years later when the current leader died, Tizoc was chosen as his successor. Tizoc most memorable act as cult leader was to move the cult out of the caves that had been their homes for the last millennia, and back to the ruins of Yaramuka. After moving into the cult’s old headquarters, Tizoc discovered old records of the cult’s beginning. In these records his learned of the magical decanter, containing Sielba’s soul. Under Tizoc’s reign the cult began to treat its prisoners kinder and more were welcomed into the cult. Tizoc also tried other ways to gain the needed spell components. For those items which the raiders could not find, he sent representatives out to try to purchase these items in the city-states. The Veiled Alliance in Urik soon learned of these strangers from the desert who were looking for spell components. A young mage, named Morlak, contacted these strangers. Intrigued by the strangers’ story, Morlak agreed to tutor a few of the cult members in order to improve their magical knowledge. Five years later Morlak would turn to his new friends for help. Hamanu conducted the city sweep called the “Week of the Red Hood,” that almost wiped out the Veiled Alliance. The cult members offered Morlak and a half dozen other mages sanctuary in the ruins of Yaramuka. As a reward for their help Morlak agreed to take on the cult’s current leader as an apprentice, as well as determine were the magical decanter was hidden in Urik. After rebuilding the alliance, Morlak had the members track down the magical decanter, and once found to keep track of it. Over the years, the veiled alliance continued to track the location of the decanter however Morlak never reveled to them why they did this. When Morlak disappeared twelve years ago the contact between the cult and veiled alliance was cut. The cult leader Morlak had taken as an apprentice, pasted on his magical knowledge to his successor the current leader of the cult. The cult is lead by Murduk, a mage, with another mage Kessit, his lieutenant. The rest of the members are mostly fighters either human, dwarf, or mul. Murduk also has hired two plains giants. He has sent these two giants on a mission to recover a spell component needed for the awakening spell. The component only grows on islands in the silt sea. The giants will be back from their mission by the end of the adventure and will be present for the awakening ceremony.
D. Yaramuka today
The ruins of Yaramuka are described in the adventure Black Flames, which took place in the year of King’s Contemplation, FY 5. This section relates the changes to the ruins over the last seven years. Yaramuka, as described in Black Flames, was mostly buried in the sandy wastes. Since then the consent desert winds have uncovered much of the northern and eastern side of the city. The Wall was described in Black Flames. It was a magical barrier that caused any evil creature with greater than 10HD to loose three of its five senses. This barrier was destroyed during the titanic battle of the dragons, Alabach-Ra and Farcluun. Now any creature can come and go in the ruins of Yaramuka. Today, most of the ruined buildings of the city are esposed. The roofs on all buildings are gone, and most bulindgs over two stories have collapsed. The characters may find a few buildings that are being used as a lair by a raiding tribe of some kind. These buildings may be patially restored. The one For current denizens of Yaramuka see Appendix A.
Part One: Yaramuka
The adventure begins with the party approaching the ruins of Yaramuka from the east where the city walls still stand. The DM needs to determine why they are there. If the party came looking for lost treasure, they will be disappointed as the ruins have been picked clean over the last millennia. The DM should use the following seven encounters to soften up the party. Use as many or as few of these encounters as he deems necessary to weaken the party before their show down with the cult of Sielba.
- The city entrance The party approaches the ruined city gate. About 100 yards of the city walls still solidly stand to either side of the gate. The rest of the city walls have massive breaches and large collapsed sections. The gate itself has long since wasted away. However, if the party attempts to enter the city through the open gate they are stopped by the ghosts of the gate’s former defenders.
8 undead THAC0 13; Dmg 1d8/ 1d8; AC 0; HD 8; hp 48; MV 9; SA Strength drain; SD immune to cold, sleep, charm, hold, paralyzation, and cannot be turned; MR nil; SZ M; AL N; ML -; MAC 3; XP 2,000. These ghostly gatekeepers attack with incorporeal long swords twice per round. Each strike drains 1 Str point from the victim. Lost strength points return after one hour, at the rate of one per hour. If a victim loses five Str points, for each subsequent point lost he must make a save versus death magic or lose one point of Str permanently. They fight until destroyed, pursuing the party deeper into the city but they will not pursue any who flee away from the city. The party can avoid these haunts by entering the city through any of the large holes in the wall farther down.
- Wyndlass Attack. A wyndlass hides inside of the door way of a ruined building. It lashes out with its tentacles at anything passing within range. It gains a +1 to surprise rolls against the party.
1 Wyndlass THAC0 9; Dmg 1d10 x 10 / 1d4; AC 3; HD 12; hp 53; MV 3; SA surprise -5; SD nil; MR nil; SZ H; AL N; ML 15; MAC 7; XP 5,000; The wyndlass is from Dragonlance, and is described below…
A wyndlass looks like a land-based version of a giant black octopus. It has ten 25’ long barbed tentacles, and can attack two opponents at once, using five tentacles on each. It has a powerful beak which can only bite those held in its tentacles. Wrenching free from a tentacle requires a successful bend bars check and inflicts 1d6 points of damage per tentacle from which the victim frees himself.
- Slig Ambush
A group of slig plan an ambush here, hoping to lure some of the bandits of the city to them. They have blocked the road with rubble to a high of 5 ft. The sligs have thrown six corpses covered in robes on the ground in front of the pile. On the far side, four sligs crouch with spears ready to attack. Four other sligs are hidden in holes dug in the sand around the ambush site. The two ruined buildings on either side are also part of the trap. If characters enter one of these buildings, they are lifted of their feet in a large net of giant hair ropes. The nets are worked by two sligs hiding in the building. The net is only big enough for one human size person. If the characters bend down to check the corpses, the sligs hidden behind the rubble pile rise up and hurl there spears. On the second round, the sligs hidden in holes jump up and attack. If no one enters the trapped buildings after the 3rd round, the sligs inside emerge on the next round and join the melee.
12 Sligs THAC0 17; Dmg weapon+1; AC 6; HD 4+1; hp 23; MV 12; SA nil; SD nil; MR nil; SZ L; AL CN; ML 15; MAC 5. Equipment: bone long sword (-1, -1) 1d8 /1d12 +1, and bone spear (-1, -1) 1d6/ 1d8 +1.
- Aratha attack
Bursting through a pile of rubble and sand, an aratha attacks the party. After the initial surprise attack, it uses it psionics to attack the characters.
1 Aratha THAC0 11; Dmg 1d10 x 4; AC 3; HD 9; hp 47; MV 11; SA psionics; SD immunities; MR nil; SZ L; AL N; ML 16; MAC 3; MTHAC0 12; PSP 180; XP 6,000; Psionics summary: Telepathy: sciences- mindlink; Devotions- attraction, empathy. Psychokinese: Devotions- molecular agitation. Psychometabolism: Devotions- body equilibrium, suspend animation. Psionic attacks/ defense modes: PsC, PB, MT/ TS, MB, TW. Special abilities: Immune to petrification magic and all heat-related damage. The aratha are carnivores that will eat any meat. An aratha has a large, purple-to-brown carapace and six hairy legs. Its four long, flexible, clawed tentacles can reach in any directions, and can lash out 20’ but retract to 8’ when not needed.
- Slig Lair
Here the slig tribe dwells in a cave leading down into the catacombs of a ruined building. If any survived the ambush they return here and all the adult sligs are on guard just inside the entrance of the cave. The rest of the tribe is 70 ft farther down, in a large cavern. There is no other exit besides the main. If not alerted to an attack, only 2 sligs stand guard outside the entrance, while the rest are in the large chamber. There are 8 adult sligs, and 16 children.
8 Sligs THAC0 17; Dmg weapon+1; AC 6; HD 4+1; hp 23; MV 12; SA nil; SD nil; MR nil; SZ L; AL CN; ML 15; MAC 5; Equipment: bone long sword (-1, -1) 1d8 /1d12 +1, and bone spear (-1, -1) 1d6/ 1d8 +1.
A large ettin has a lair in this ruined building. He will attack unless he can be outwitted by the party. The ettin can be pacified by offers of food and treasure. He knows little about the ruins and cannot offer the party any information.
1 Ettin THAC0 10; Dmg 1d10/ 2d6 or by weapon; AC 3; HD 10; hp 55; MV 12; SA nil; SD surprised only on 1; MR nil; SZ H; AL CN; ML 14; MAC 8/ 7; Equipment: right hand club 3d6, and left hand club 2d8.
As the party explore the city they surprise a group of mixed yuan-ti as they leave a ruined building’s basement. There are 2 abominations, 4 half-breeds, and 5 purebloods. If the party appears powerful the abominations will flee with the purebloods covering their escape. The half-breeds stay long enough to ensure the abominations can escape and then they too flee. Purebloods must roll a morale check after the half-breeds flee to see if they will continue the fight. Fleeing yuan-ti leave the city, not returning to their hidden lair in the ruins. Once outside the city they regroup at a pre-arranged meeting place and attack any pursuers.
2 abominations THAC0 11; Dmg weapon; AC 4/0; HD 9; hp 54; MV 9; SA spells; SD nil; MR 20%; SZ L; AL CE; ML 15; MAC 4; Equipment: steel scimitar 1d8/ 1d8. Spells: cause fear, darkness 15’ radius, snake charm, sticks to snakes, neutralize poison, suggestion, and polymorph other.
4 half-breeds THAC0 13; Dmg weapon; AC 4/0; HD 7; hp 43; MV 12; SA spells; SD nil; MR 20%; SZ M; AL CE; ML 14; MAC 5; Equipment: bone long sword (-1, -1) 1d8 /1d12. Spells: cause fear, darkness 15’ radius, snake charm, sticks to snakes, neutralize poison, suggestion, and polymorph other.
5 Purebloods THAC0 15; Dmg weapon; AC 4/ 0; HD 6; hp 35; MV 12; SA nil; SD nil; MR 10%; SZ M; AL CE; ML 14; MAC 6; Equipment: bone axes (-1, -1) 1d8/ 1d8.
Event 1: Cult Ambush
The party has been noticed by scouts of the cult of Sielba. The group sets an ambush for the characters to take them prisoner. There are two 6th fighters per party member, plus the two magic-users of the cult. Two of the fighters are covered with improved invisibility. Four of the others have invisibility cast on them. Any others including the leaders are hidden behind an illusionary wall spell. The invisible fighters attack first. On the second round the leader drops the illusionary wall spell and the remaining cultists attack. The cultist attack a party member until he is reduced to half his hit point total. At that point they demand that character surrender. If the character refuses the cultists try to grapple him, or the leaders use hold/ charm spells to restrain the party member.
6th level fighters THAC0 14; Dmg weapon+1; AC 5; hp 47; MV 12; SA nil; SD nil; MR nil; SZ M; AL LE; ML 14; MAC 6; Str 17, Dex 15, Equipment: bone long swords (-1, -1) 1d8/ 1d12, mekillot hide armor, leather shield.
Kassit, subleader, 7th level mage THAC0 18; Dmg weapon; AC 8; hp 19; MV 12; SA spells; SD spells; MR nil; SZ M; AL NE; ML 14; MAC 3; Equipment: bone dagger (-1, -1) 1d4/ 1d3. Spells: 1st: 4, 2nd: 3, 3rd: 2, 4th: 1.
Murduk cult leader, 14th level mage THAC0 16; Dmg weapon; AC 6; hp 36; MV 12; SA spells; SD spells; MR nil; SZ M; AL LE; ML 15; MAC 3; Equipment: staff 1d6/ 1d6. Spells: 1st: 5, 2nd: 1, 3rd: 5, 4th: 2, 5th: 3, 6th: 2, 7th: 1.
If the party is captured, they are bounded, gagged, and blindfolded, and marched to the cult’s lair. If the party proves to be a match for the cult, the leader will call out for a truce with the party. If the party agrees to the truce, the leader tells them he thought they were bandits and offers them protection at their hidden sanctuary. The cult is headquartered in a partially restored former mansion of Sielba, though not her main palace. There are 10 more fighters guarding the headquarters, as well as food, supplies, and weapons. Murduk brings the party through the courtyard, and into the main building. He leads them to an old banquet hall and motions for the party to take a seat in the chairs set at the table. The hall is lit by touches and has no windows. On the far side of the room is a raised dais topped with an alter. Lying on the alter is the preserved form of a beautiful woman, the dead dragon queen, Sielba, under a white linen blanket. The leader goes directly to the body and kneels for a moment in mock pray. After a few minutes of silence, he rises and returns to the party and offers them food and water. As other cult members bring in refreshments their leader addresses the characters. He says he is the high priest of a cult who worship the fallen queen Sielba. He tells the party how Queen Sielba was a benevolent ruler who was not afraid to oppose the evil Hamanu. While kind, she was not powerful enough to resist Hamanu who killed her. Murduk wants revenge against Hamanu. Before her death, the queen had created a magical cell to imprison Hamanu. Unfortunately, Hamanu killed her before it was finished. Murduk plans to trap Hamanu in this magical cell, however the chamber’s energy was powered by a magical fuel, which Hamanu took back to Urik when he killed Sielba. As the party continues eating, Murduk continues to praise queen Sielba and tells of her many “good works” which she performed as queen of Yaramuka. He hopes to convince the party to join the cult, for Murduk is going to geas the party into retrieving the “power source” from Urik and returning it to him. He tells them to imaging the prestige as well as the rewards they will receive for capturing a sorcerer-king and ending the reign of an evil ruler. First he will ask the parties permission, but if refused he will either wait until the sleeping poison added to the food takes affect, or he orders his men to restrain the party. After this is done he will geas the characters.
Event 2: The Mission Preparation
Murduk describes the power source as a liquid thick like kank-honey and with a color similar to white wine. He also describes the magical decanter used to hold it, warning the party not to open it or allow it to break. In reality, the liquid is Sielba’s soul. He plans on reviving Sielba so she can reign as queen over a restored Yaramuka but he needs to retrieve her soul for the ceremony to work.
The cult can offer the following to help the party:
- Shelter: The party can rest for two days in safety at the compound, but there are no healers among the cult.
- Disguises. The cult can not give the party authentic Urik clothing, but can help them change their appearance perhaps to appear as traveling merchants. The cult can also provide a wagon-full of cheap ornaments if the party wants to pose as merchants to enter Urik.
- Supplies: The cult can provide any mundane equipment the party may need, including weapons of bone or stone.
Before leaving the DM should roll an INT check for each party member before they leave to see if they remember that Hamanu has closed Urik off to the outside world. Only merchants are let inside. Ten cult members escort the characters out of the ruins of Yaramuka. After a half day of travel the escort bids the characters good luck, before stopping and setting up camp. They will await there for the return of the party.