The Halls of Durag Dol – Originally from White Dwarf Magazine but heavily modified by me.
On their return to the Empire from Nagaroth, the heroes spent some time recovering and getting established. There was one small subplot with Kozar. One night as he walked through the streets of Altdorf he encountered a group of robed figures running from the officials. These were not ordinary officials though, and neither were the robed figures (but Kozar didn’t pay much attention to that).
As these men got closer, one of the figures was clipped by a shot from a black powder pistol fired from behind. It just so happens that as he stumbled forward he ran straight into Kozar who immediately went to his aid and caught the man. Two others ran past the group in their hurry to escape; they may not have even noticed that the one had fallen. He was gaunt and had a shaved head. There was little time to talk however as Kozar’s attention was ripped away by the Witch Elf (WE) who had been accompanying him on a night of elfin entertainment. She had seen an assassin taking careful aim at Kozar’s back and moved him out of the way at the last moment. The arrow only skinned his check; the robed figure wasn’t so lucky, and took the arrow full on in the chest. He knew he was finished and tried to utter some sort of plea. Sadly, only a mumble emerged. He did have enough strength however to press an intricate crown into Kozar’s hand.
At this point the assassin made a hasty escape and the WE followed. Kozar was left holding the dead man and the strange crown. It was bigger than an average man’s head and extremely intricate with a large gem stone set in the front. Kozar decided that it would be better to stay put than try and do anything as the sounds of the dead man’s pursuers were closing in. He thought it was the watch, but it turned out to be the temple guard and witch hunters.
They immediately seized him and searched the body of the dead man. Interestingly, when Kozar tried to return the crown his hand would not release it. None of the men seemed too eager to touch it anyway and they whisked him away to the high temple. There he was informed that the crown he carried was none other than Nagash’s own. The men were cultists who had somehow broken into the deepest vaults of the temple and managed to steal the crown. Some priests viewed this as evidence that Nagash still lives as his possessions are trying to return to him. Needless to say, the priests asked Kozar to keep this experience to himself and had him followed to ensure that he did.
Here in the temple each of Kozar’s fingers was systematically broken in order to pry the crown free. It was incredibly painful and the ‘doctors’ were none too gentle. But after that ordeal Kozar was attended to by one of the temple’s best healers, who were secretly probing him to see if the short exposure to the crown had warped or tainted him in any way. He even went so far as to let Kozar read some chapters from a copy of Nagash’s Book of the Damned to see if he would succumb when confronted with something else of the necromancer’s. But Kozar passed several will rolls and really seemed ambivalent to what was happening. I have to admit that I was disappointed with this, but have to say that it was true to character and he played his honesty very well. I had planned to use this as a tool for introducing the heroes to a variety of undead and perhaps even a journey to the Southlands or perhaps even close to Nagash’s citadel, but they didn’t bite and so I let it pass. Kozar returned to the inn where they were staying and met up with the others.
Kozar was also informed that the arrow used to attack him was definitely not normal and when he examined it he discovered that it was of elfin make. The authorities did not guess this right off the bat and were much more interested in the crown. So Kozar left before the witch hunters could do much investigating. They did however finally figure it out and began following the heroes afterward to see if this was a key to some sort of weird plot. Paranoia was rampant. Kozar deduced that it was probably an isolated incident and related to his enemy – the family of a young elfin noblewoman he had spurned and humiliated. He did not think that they were so obsessed that they would try and kill him though.
Whilst all of this was happening with Kozar and the WE, Dillon and BM (BM) were out carousing. It turns out that they decided to drink at a bar that catered to dwarfs and that they happened to choose the one night of the month when it actually allowed Troll Slayers in. Needless to say, since the heroes didn’t choose their own direction the DM had to. Dillon and BM ended up drunk and passed out on the floor. The next morning they discovered that they had made a blood oath with Kili Thekerson, a troll slayer, to help him revenge the wrongs committed against the Durag dwarf Clan and restore the war hammer that Kili carried to its ancestors in an old clan hall that had been overrun and forgotten about for several hundred years.
After some preparations, the heroes set out to the hold (the DE stayed to work on training with some psi-abilities she had a natural talent for). It is located east of Sylvania in the foot hills of the World’s Edge Mountains about halfway between Slayer Keep and Zhufbar. Somewhere between the __ and __ rivers. The heroes entered unmolested. (I will have to include a map here at some point so that this makes sense.) The skaven had been here for several months without incident and the creature in charge of security was very lax. The first two levels of the colony were dedicated to farms, industry, and the temporal well being of the clan and the skaven copied this for he most part. They had converted many of the rooms into rat kennels, mold frames, etc. The heroes were able to walk through most of the first level without much of a fight, but they allowed one sentry to escape and so had a little more difficulty with the second level (both of these levels were designed by me).
Here they were presented with a barricade and simple trap. None of the skaven in the warren were especially accomplished except the white seer so they did not put up much of a direct fight. They allowed the heroes to break the barricade guarded only by a few slaves and then unleashed close to ten warp rats on them. The heroes did a poor job of managing Kili however and he charged straight into a combat that could have been easily won. Instead the heroes were severely hurt. Seeing this, the waiting guards thought to finish them off. They did not know about Kozar’s sword. He used the time stopping ability and saved the day. The heroes had to recoup at this point and took some much needed time to heal their wounds. Meanwhile the skaven prepared below.
Knowing that he had seriously erred and needed to finish the heroes quickly, the skaven in charge of security decided to put all of his forces into defending the lower levels. The heroes were left relatively unmolested for the remainder of the second level. They encountered some interesting rooms including an area where the skaven had begun cultivating a form of wheat that could grow with very little sunlight. This has been called black wheat and the heroes took a sample to the university in Altdorf for research. They also found a millstone and some of the dwarfen tombs. Most had been sacked millennia ago, but Kozar with his heightened Elfin senses found an antique helm and decided to keep it in spite of Kili’s warning not to plunder any of the dwarfen treasure. He was momentarily cursed for this, but ultimately ended up with the helm and no adverse affects.
At the third level, the heroes came to the Main Shaft (modified by me) where the skaven launched their first line of defense. This chamber was essentially the intersection of the colony. Here steps/passages from the above galleries intersect with the lower living and temple areas. It is basically a shaft that travels all the way from the surface to the mines below. Of course the top is sealed to keep unwanted visitors out and the mines have flooded. There are three walkways: one around either side of the shaft and one that roughly goes through the middle. There are no handrails or guards to keep someone from falling. Like the dwarfs of old, the shaven had set up their initial defenses here.
This area was mainly to slow down intruders, gauge their strengths, and pick off as many as possible. To this purpose the skaven had stationed two jezzailichs and a number of slingers here to harass intruders as they crossed the open shaft. The White Seer had also placed several magical traps along the walkway. When the heroes arrived, the skaven were waiting. Kozar quickly un-slung his bow and provided supporting fire, BM initiated a spell, Kili charged, and Dillon used his returning axe. This was a tough fight for the heroes and Kili took a jezzailich shot head on. He was so injured from the impact that he was inclined to stay here while the heroes moved on to clear the lower levels. The idea was that he would catch up in a little while. Now that I think about it, this wasn’t very troll slayer-like, but I think he had taken enough damage to kill him twice over so instead of just getting rid of him I had him sit it out. (Not only that, but the players were having trouble convincing him not to charge into every combat and needed a little reprieve from that sort of fighting.) The heroes pressed on.
The fourth level is the gauntlet (modified heavily by me) and as the name implies, it is designed as the main defensive position. Here the heroes faced some tough opposition. At first the whole floor seems to be comprised of only one chamber, but in reality there are secret side passages that parallel it. Fortunately for the heroes the skaven had not figured this out yet and only knew about the traps. Being aware of the heroes though, they did bring the surviving rat ogre into the fray (the other had been killed on the 1st or 2nd level). Again this was a tough fight, but the heroes discovered the secret doors and used them to good effect to ambush the skaven and turn the tides. In this manner they confused the skaven and turned the traps against them. The assassin, who had been assigned to security, took a chance to ambush BM here and nearly succeeded in killing him during this fight. Some magic saved him however and the assassin fled to the upper levels.
Finally the heroes entered the fifth level, the Kin Hearth (heavily modified by me). It was here that the most important activities of the dwarfen colony took place. Here the lore was kept, here the dwarfs worshiped their gods and ancestors, here the young were taught, and here the clan elders debated any relevant issues to the clan’s safety and progress. The skaven used it for a similar purpose. The most powerful leaders had taken this level and adopted it for their own purposes. The White Seer dominated the level with his personal and sleeping areas. The warlord/clan leader (in name) also had his quarters here. The assassin had fled at this point and was watching from the shadows to see if the more powerful skaven would finish this threat for him. The White Seer had even used his magic to control a cave troll which the heroes had to fight to get to him. This last fight proved to be memorable.
It was obvious from the get go that the heroes were out gunned. They had to face the most powerful skaven, with their bodyguards, after having fought their way here and were already fatigued and battered. They did succeed in vanquishing the troll fairly quickly, but that took about everything they had. That is why Kozar decided to use his time stop ability again. It proved to be very useful and he was able to dispatch the warlord and several bodyguards before attempting to slay the White Seer. It was then that he rolled a critical failure and dropped his sword; the spell’s costs proved too much and he collapsed having been completely drained of energy. Dillon had been incapacitated and Kili had suffered much from the troll (I brought him back recouped so he could help with the troll, plus that is what a troll slayer is all about anyway, right?). BM was essentially all alone with the White Seer and two of his bodyguards. That was when he decided to use the daemonic ruin he had learned from Narse, the Dark Elf sorcerer. It had a spectacular effect.
Time was temporarily halted and BM was brought before Tzentch himself, or so he thought. It was actually a greater Lord of Change answering his master’s call. Here BM struck a bargain with Tzentch’s servant to serve the foul god and received the help to finish the skaven as well. Both Dillon and Kili were shielded from this as they had long since passed out. Kozar being more in tune with the aetheric winds was awakened and offered his own deal. Slaanesh used the conduit created by Tzentch’s servant to make his own appeal. He promised Kozar untold pleasures: wealth, women, prestige, power, etc. which we promptly refused. Both Kozar and BM were shown a vision of Chaos’s final triumph over humanity and promised a part in it if they would worship these dark powers. Neither was aware of the other’s offer, nor the results. After this vision, Kozar was again drained but BM was augmented and sent several yellow horrors to help him. The horrors quickly finished the White Seer and almost BM as they turned on him when all of the other opponents were slain.
BM then had to tell the other characters that he had finished the last of the skaven off on his own. Of course he left out everything about chaos. He was able to explain this away by showing his battle wounds and the heroes were forced to accept what he said, for lack of a better explanation. Kozar had his own things to worry about and was under the impression that the whole thing was caused by his use of the sword’s chaotic magic. In truth, this helped both Tzentch and Slaanesh appear, but the main impetus was BM’s use of the ruin. Kili was also suspicious as Sognirstain, the magical hammer of clan Durag, gave him certain awarenesses. From time to time he could even distinguish some of the words the ancestors were speaking (their souls would speak through the hammer and were very active now that the characters were so close to their clan temple), and they told him to be weary of BM. The skaven were however dead and the heroes could complete their quest. They dedicated the hammer and any other treasures they had (including Kozar’s helm) to the clan’s ancestors and allowed them to rest. After some much needed rest and the final exploration of anything that had been left behind by the skaven, the heroes covered the entrances as best they could and returned to Altdorf with the spoils.
They had found several items that required more attention and expertise than they had:
- The jezzailichs
- The black wheat
- The special rats the skaven had been breeding for food
- Some of the mold specimens
These items they took to the university and left for scholars to wrestle with.
There were a few other items that they left at the Amethyst College for safe keeping:
- A small bag of warp stone snuff from the White Seer
- The White Seer’s special glove of life stealing
- Some skaven weapons including the warlord’s halberd
The heroes then took a trip to the Dwarfen hold of Slayer Keep to return the bounty of skaven ears that the Empire folks just laughed at. There they were formally recognized and awarded a sort of honorary dwarf status. For all intents and purposes this was just a nicety. It granted very little in the way of respect, reputation, privileges, etc. The one thing it did give them was the ability to travel freely through most of the dwarfen city and community. (I guess you could call that substantial as most humans, let alone elfs, never get that opportunity). While they were there recuperating they made some friends, learned some basic Khazalid (dwarfen language), and got to add dwarfen to their cultural familiarities.
During all of this, Kili asked the dwarfen priests to work with BM on whatever questionable thing he had done while fighting the Grey Seer. He had also noticed that BM would spend hours alone studying or meditating and this only fueled the suspicion. It turns out that BM had been lead to a Tzentchian tomb made of metal plates that was conveniently hidden on a dead body just inside the main hall of Durag Dol. It was no coincidence that he was lead there, nor that that cultist had been lead there only to die after tripping on a loose stone. It also wasn’t a coincidence that the skaven never found the body, and thus couldn’t take his belongings. This was all part of Tzentch’s plans and gave BM a guide to his new life as a servant of the dark gods. He and I worked out a fairly complicated daemonic pact with spell packages, consequences, vows, etc. The studying he was forced to postpone however while with the dwarfs as Kili was too suspicious and the priests kept him on a strict schedule.
It was also around this time that Kozar decided to use his sword’s ability to cast Death Vision, which grants the user a glimpse into a possible future where they witness their own death. In the vision Kozar saw the DE, who he had begun to have a romantic relationship with, welcoming them home. She proceeded to lead him up to one of their rooms. He was pretty excited at this point. When they got there she made her move but in the middle of their kissing she stabbed him in the back with a vicious looking dagger and laughed as he collapsed to the ground in his own blood. As he lay bleeding on the floor the DE’s face morphed and cycled through just about any character that I thought could somehow become involved in the adventure, or had been up to this point. He saw the faces of his family, each of the other party members, the cultist with the crown, members of the Amethyst college, witch hunters, etc. Needless to say, after this dream Kozar was very weary and actually went so far as to have special back plate made just in case. This also made him very standoffish and basically killed the relationship. He did however avoid that fate and is still alive. I would still like to work that in somehow though, just to freak him out.
At the time BM was doing his penance with the priests, Kozar went back to a spot on the trail they had used to get to Slayer Keep when they had run into a few odd undead. (They actually fought an undead orc and two or three humans.) Kozar was able to find a trail and follow it to an abandoned homestead close to a small mine. Kozar took some time to do surveillance and noticed that the place was inhabited. Interestingly he did not see any real people, just tracks in the snow. So he followed these into the mine. There he encountered several zombies and their creator. He was nearly vanquished in spite of his sword’s abilities. After recovering (this actually took him several days) however, he was able to sort through the Necromancers possessions and found several interesting items. Most important was a large skin-bound tomb in a foreign script. But he also found a silver skull pendant, a journal, and several other odd books that detailed history and some of the necromantic trade. I introduced this as another plot hook to see if the heroes would delve into it at all; just a temptation to see how interested they were.
The skin-bound book however was what I used to get them into their next adventure.