The Sinister Secret

Adventure #3 in Signs and Portents.
Difficulty: Moderate.
Description This mini-adventure is a stand-alone scenario for a campaign based in Selvos, Kanday. It is designed to get the party out of Selvos and into the surrounding wilds. In addition, it introduces them to the darker side of Selvos, and further deepens their understanding of the region’s intrigues as well as potentially making new friends (and enemies).

Table of contents

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  • The Hue and cry. Selvos is, mostly, a peaceful town. A few people might drowned, or die from banditry, but rarely do people go missing. Even rarer still do children disappear. When that happens, the hue and cry is raised; and all go out to join in the search.
  • My babies! A cry louder than that of any fishwife rips through the market place. A woman with a tear-streaked face latches onto your clothing and pleads for your help. She lets go and latches onto another – begging them to help her find her babies, gone missing yesterday. The search, once local, now consumes the whole city.
  • Overland travel The outpost could be discovered by a group travelling overland from Rethem. Old roads cross the area; many petering out while others take circular routes through ruins, peat bog, and marsh.
  • If it wasn’t for you annoying kids! While not written in this direction, the party could take the role of pirates, or any other coastal-based group out to destroy the competition for the lucrative black market trade in Selvos.

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  • Agrikans! It’s always Agrikans. The city is paranoid with the idea of secret Agrikans sneaking in the back alleyways and plotting the city’s overthrow.
  • They saw something they shouldn’t. All know the dangers of the dark allies and byways. There is dark magic that lurks in these places; and darker souled men and women. The kids will turn up with the tide no doubt, … eventually.
  • Lia-K’avir or Navehians. Both are known to recruit children. If either have their hands on the kids, they’re long gone out of the city; if not by boat then certainly overland, off-road.
  • Pirates. Everyone knows not to linger on the docks after midnight. Pirates and press-gangs descend like locus and pick everyone up!

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Four children have gone missing. The militia has done all it can, searching the ships, scouring the coastline, and even checking the low-water caves. Corporal Kopin of Osforn, however, insists on asking the temple for help. His son, he swears, is not the type who aims for misadventure and his mother is certain the boy is still alive. The temple promises to aide in the search, sending its populace out to search.

The party eventually discovers that the children went to the haunted and abandoned mine across the bay when a small coracle is found on the opposite shore. They are sent to retrieve the children, but naturally find more than they expect.

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The way it happened

It started innocently enough. The children found a skiff on the north side of the commons. They used it to cross the River Eisma. They were swept a bit downstream, and landed in the watchtower’s shadow (where the skiff remains). They started to climb towards the watchtower, when one child tumbled down a pile of scree – and into a void. The void is well concealed behind years of bracken, and well-placed wooden screens covered with dirt.

In the void is a large set of stone doors that lead into a set of ancient ruins, currently being used by smugglers to store their goods before bringing them into Selvos. Unfortunately for the kids, the pirates found them and locked them into a room for a time. There is great debate among the pirates as to what to do with them.

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The children’s story

Fairela (daughter of Mevadia and Parond the Clothier (9), age 6), Rymres’ daughter of Jilelen and the Butcher Mosa of Basyin [29a], age 7), Klyrech (son of Deren and Corporal Kopin of Osforn (2), age 5), Lymal (boy, age 6), Midanyl (boy, age 7) and the twin girls, Erenila and Erenesa (age 8) (children of Alagra and Captain Menar of Surrata [30a]).

They had no plan, until Klyrech found the skiff. The group was playing on the sands along the river. Erenila and Erenesa decided to row the skiff around the anchorage. But the current caught the skiff and the children couldn’t keep control of the skiff. When it ground on the other side, the group was tired and scared. In exploring the area in the shadow of the watchtower, they discovered the ruins and were quickly caught by the pirates and thrown into the old pantry. They’ve been given water and let out regularly; but now they’re dirty and scared.

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There are signs of gargun in the ruins, but no actual gargun. Occasionally the pirates bring in animals (and even gargun) to sell on the market. They are typically stored in cages and kept in the mule stable. Because of this, the room always smells of relatively fresh dung.

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Enter the pirates

The pirates inhabit the ruins about 2-3 days over the course of the month. They bring in their goods by skiff on the moonless night, and move them out as soon as possible to smaller boats; and sometimes to ships on the anchorage. In the case that the ship isn’t in the anchorage, the goods are moved to the ruins to wait. Ideally, everything is done during the new moon (29th – 2nd); but this time, the pirates have been in residence from the 30th. Their ship is late.

The kids were quickly discovered by the 5 pirates present. They are locked in the old pantry. The pirates are on watch for any discovery; and will use the second floor (which overlooks the void) to their advantage.

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Ghosts and history, oh my

The pirates have used this place for the past 6 years on an irregular basis. The few that stay tend to keep very busy. They know the place is haunted and do not want to deal with it.

There are three ghosts:

  • Nadia, a young girl who drowned in the bay in 586TR. She tends to be a wispy shadow that passes at the edge of your vision. She doesn’t seem to understand anyone or the age she’s in. Touching her brings forth images of drowning and coldness. The Twa sisters ballad Lyrics | You tube video with lyrics.
  • Abrose, an elderly man in strange armor. He is badly shaved; as if his beard were ripped off his face, his hair is short, and he is forever attacking. Touching him brings forth images of battle; and of great loss. When seen he screams a blood-curdling noise and races towards his foe, battle axe raised. He is only about 5’ in height; but broad of shoulder. Musical clue: Thank you by Simple Plan | Youtube Lyrics
  • Tom-tom, a middle-aged man who wanders about. He avoids being touched, and if he does touch the living, there is a great sense of loss. Tom-tom looks like a shepherd. If the party can’t find the kids, he’ll try to lead the party to the pantry. But he doesn’t want to be seen by the pirates, and will not talk (although, he like the other ghosts will react to psionics and savorian magic). Musical clue: Serenity by Godsmack Lyrics | Youtube with Lyrics.

The place is actually a buried Khuzdul outpost. There is no written history about Khuzdul being this far out from the center of Harn; and very few Khuzdul travel this way. Long forgotten, and burried over time, the place is well built and was completely vacant and forgotten until it was discovered by the black marketeers.

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  • Saving the children . This is the primary goal of the adventure. If not discovered before the ship arrives, the children will be bound up and put on the ship; to be sold in [[|Golotha]].
  • Bringing the pirates to justice. The five guards will be joined by 10 able-bodied seamen to move the goods. The seamen are all from Golotha and are pretty blaze about piracy, slavery, and killing the party. If they are caught, they will eventually identify the ship they are from; which is enough to cause the ship to be impounded.
  • Looting the place. There is 200d of raw goods in the ruins. The pirates are marginally armed and armored and carry a total of 12d among them. There are some ancient coins in the ruins as well, but they’ve been unnoticed for a very long time.

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Conclusions and aftermath

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The black market void

Without the pirates regular trips into Selvos, banditry will be on the rise in the countryside. There should be more muggings and a surprisingly large number of out-of-work sailors gathering in Selvos. The number of ships in port is down slightly from the last few years, but the larger number of stragglers seem to have come in via the local caravans (which makes no sense at all if the party investigates it). When questioned, these strangers admit to either coming to Selvos for higher paying jobs that didn’t pan out (a trip into the Moors is most likely) or from ships down from Golotha. Most of the actual pirates found “legal” jobs quickly after the outpost was discovered and the pirate ship did/didn’t show up. The few remaining are innocence who thought there would be work for them in Selvos. Eventually, the population will return to normal numbers. As ships (eventually) come in looking for more crew.

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The children come home

The southern wharf and docks will be very grateful. Player-characters will receive special treatment from the associated NPCs for the rest of the campaign.

The town will be unhappy if any of the pirates remain alive. There will be grumbling, and interactions will be difficult.But the parents will always treat the party well.

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The dead put to rest

Each ghost can be found in the complex. There are musical clues to put them to rest. Play the music, show the lyrics, let the PCs work it out.

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How it really happened

The following logs show how the party dealt with the scenario.
10 – Long gone and forgotten
11 – Back for the ghosts
12 – Abrose and the burning man
3 – Breakfast and recovery

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Thank you for reading.

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The Sinister Secret

The Fantastinomicon ketherian