|The Mysterious Maure|
|Written by Robert Kuntz|
|Saturday, 12 April 2008 20:23|
The Mysterious Maure
by Robert J. Kuntz
Maure Castle has long been a "quiet instigator" of wonderment, adventure, and mysterious happenings in the Flanaess. — WG5, "Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure."
Maure Castle and its ruins have been lairs for many bandits, humanoids, thieves, outcasts, lepers, and others for centuries . . . and it is suspected that some new source of trouble has made its home here. — "The Adventure Begins."
Warnes Starcoat, Chief Mage to the Joint Courts of Urnst . . . warns that Rary's diabolical plans could soon lead him to covet the ancient knowledge of House Maure. Lord Robilar used to spend summers in Pontyrel . . .and many suspect that it is only a matter of time before his soldiers cross Knife's Edge, making their way to Maure Castle. — "Living Greyhawk Gazetteer," Duchy of Urnst.
This decrepit and infamous land has drawn attention over its history from unlikely sources. Mordenkainen visited it; other wizards, such as Eli Tomorast, apparently lived within its catacombs for variously disputed reasons. The House of Maure itself, too weak to even command its borders, could not stop those who used it as a base, or whom investigated its caverns and ruins while attempting to uncover the long lost secrets of its original power. Times do change . . . and although the House of Maure lives on as a frightening example of what the House of Urnst might have become, it is a figment none-the-less of the past. Its true strength, if one could call it that, is in those who have come to know what it is and how to glean from it what is needed to restore that ancient power in themselves. These interlopers are rigid in one regard: they will let nothing and no one stop them in their goals.
But it is likely that few foresee the real power behind the Maure's history, that which drove its progenitors insane and which beckons from within for those of great magical power who can delve deep enough to uncover the reasons for this. . . . And seemingly, the deeper one delves into these reasons, the sooner ones' fate becomes intertwined with that ill-fated House. . . . — Blyste Synafax, Priest of Wee-jas, Scholar of Southeastern History in the Flanaess, in part an answer to Warnes Starcoat's inquiries as to recent happenings in the Maure lands.
Notes, Commentary and Rumors about the Maure Lands
DMs should use the following rumors and adjunct notes and commentaries as guides for crafting events in this area. Much has transpired and each event will be detailed in as much as space permits, thus allowing these to fit within as many campaign story-lines as possible. Their various usage points are many and intriguing.
Note that rumors are marked T=3D True; F=3D False; or T/E or F/E, = partially "True" or "False" with Explanation.
F/E- An agency from (choose one: Hardby, Ponteryl) will supply armed and guided tours of Maure for the curious.
Although there are those in the surrounding cities always willing to pawn off worthless maps of this area, none but the strongest or most foolish dare organize an expedition to this place.
T/E- After Lord Hadric escaped from prison he relocated to Maure and is now the cause of many troubles for Duke Karll.
Ex-Govenor Hadric, who is studied in illusion magic, made good his escape from the prison wagon after his incarceration by Duke Karll for treason (note WG8, Fate of Istus and Living Greyhawk Gazatteer, Duchy of Urnst). It is correctly rumored that he used prepared spells to cast an illusory duplicate of himself while he was invisible and thus avoided the cell he was being ported to. He indeed fled to Maure and along the way subjugated a large band of brigands. His forces are added to periodically and now include several ogres who he has some scant agreements of nonaggression and limited cooperation with. Hadric wishes to grow to a point of supremacy in this area and challenge all power groups contending for it. He has not even scratched the surface of this effort and recently must contend with an increased number of other organized groups (see additional rumors) who have taken their own interests in Maure.
T- There are many secret passages leading to underground places where only heroes dare tread.
Quite so. And the real reasons for many of the opposing power groups which have congregated near and around the Maure in order to investigate these.
F- The long lost Erik Maure was actually buried alive beneath the castle and his ghost cries out for vengeance.
Erik Maure was a scoundrel who met his fate on the road to Pontyrel. He was waylaid by an orc raiding party after robbing and killing two innocent merchants. The leader of the orc clan, recognizing his signet ring, had his decapitated body returned to Maure Castle. It was interred in the family mausoleum. The recovery of his head was undertaken by bounty hunters secretly hired by the Maure family. The bounty hunters were never able to locate his head or those who had killed him. The whole affair was kept secret for years until finally the family let it be known that Erik Maure had died in a foreign land and that his body was lost. As an aside, the Orc Clan — "The Nail Biter" — spiked the head to the lintel of their main lodge, where it faces outward towards the Maure Lands to this day. Anyone discovering the true origin of the skull, and recovering and returning it to the family, will be given a reward of 400-600 gold pieces and will be asked to remain silent about the true circumstances behind the affair.
F- Lord Robilar has taken up residence in Maure Castle.
Lord Robilar sent two competent henchmen, Raux and Esheera, to parlay with the House of Maure. This attempt was unsuccessful; they were not admitted and returned to Robilar with their scant news. His many plans do include an excursion to test the strengths of these lands, but for now only comprise scouting and information gathering missions. However, the more power groups that gather at Maure will attract this Lord's attention, as he will want to defeat their leaders and absorb their troops and creatures into his own polyglot army.
T/E- The current state of the House of Maure is due to insanity brought upon by their line consorting with devils and demons.
It is known that this line is insane, but the reasons for this are uncertain. It is true that some of its seemingly endless dungeons have revealed strange symbols and reliefs of foreign if not alien creatures; and even Mordenkainen's tales of the strange wizard, his ancient librams, and the demon he commanded are well known. But anything else is pure conjecture. If any person from the Duchy knows the real reasons behind Maure's decrepitude then they are not willing to reveal these odd facts. And Maures' remaining household members are not speaking upon it either. It is known that no one is allowed within the castle. Even the many lines of the Dukes of Urnst who entreated them on political or social occasions have been ignored as a whole. Local elders could tell the curious of dumbfounded entourages of royal servants leaving these lands as fast as they had arrived. Today, though Duke Karll keeps a constant eye upon this House, he has no inclination to dig deeper into its past, though this might change if he catches wind of Hadric's influence in this area.
T/E- Many wizards and sorcerers visit this area.
Ever since the "Unopenable Doors" were accessed by Mordenkainen and his party from the Circle of Eight, there has been an influx of power-seeking adventurers to this area. However, further attempts to open the previously mentioned doors have failed. Mordenkainen on occasion monitored this area until years ago, when his services were needed during the Greyhawk Wars, at which time his watch ceased. Maure has fallen out of his reckoning, but Starcoat's recent debates and inquiries into it may again rekindle old thoughts about the dungeons this venerable wizard once adventured in and the lands which spawned them.
T/E- The many lights occurring in the fens about the Castle and other parts of the Maure have been the reason for the disappearance of many folk in this area.
This is partially true as these lights are actually will-o'-wisps. However, more often than not, many people disappear from this area either by choice or by more direct means, as a dagger thrust in the back. All told, the "people" remaining here and/or relocating to this area are an unsavory lot with ill intentions.
F/E- The nearby Bandit Camp (see "The Adventure Begins," Inside back cover map) was destroyed by Hadric's men.
This is utterly false, but they have otherwise relocated for specific reasons. Their contention with Hadric was heating and thus Mouk (their half-orc leader) considered relocating the encampment several miles west of their current spot. Around this time his lieutenant, Corash-Glupkt (another half-orc, but with pride in his orcish ancestry), attempted entry into the castle with the intent of finding treasures within it. As he never returned, Mouk blamed his disappearance on Hadric to dispel his hirelings' fears. He subsequently moved their encampment to a "more secure area" of rocks and rubble, which fit with his designs for distancing himself from the castle inhabitants, as these, so he imagined, might seek retribution upon them.
F- There are none living who have seen the inside of Maure castle other than the household members themselves.
This is untrue. Several servants of this family came and went as recently as 30 years ago. One surviving servant still maintains residence in a burrow just south of Echo Crypt (see Domain of Greyhawk map). He is a halfling named Terrence Greenthumb. His family tended the herb gardens for the household until these decayed by what he will refer to if found and questioned upon their employment as a "blight of mist and chill air" which grew closer to the castle over the years that the Greenthumbs maintained residence therein. He has some remaining memories of the internal layout of the servant areas and first floor rooms. He notes that they dealt with only one family member, a large man of apparent Suel origin, who met all of their needs. His name was not given; and no other beings were seen within, though he will relate if questioned closely that on many nights various voices could be heard murmuring as if from a subterranean depth and on one occasion he heard terrible screams issuing from somewhere in the upper towers, which were guessed to hold the various rooms of the Household members." (DMs: Terrence will not cooperate with any party in investigating this place; he fears it, though he also admits to being intrigued and has always wondered of its ancient history. Other memories may be added as you deem fit to expand upon what is herein presented.)
T/E- A ferocious sentinel with shining eyes guards the inner foyer to the Castle.
Somewhat true, though if Terrence Greenthumb (q.v.) is questioned about this he will only remember statues of many beasts lining the hallways and foyer. He guesses that this might be a latter addition by the family, perhaps as a precaution against prowlers. In actuality, this is a later addition to the guards and wards about the castle, a magical statue which animates as a hellcat if intruders are present in the castle, and for as long as they remain within it, conscious or otherwise. DMs must make up all other statistics for this. If killed it converts to non-magical crushed stone and can never be summoned again. This demonic beast is responsible for the recent slaying of Mouk's lieutenant, Corash-Glupkt.
T/E- Duke Karll has sent several henchman to watch over this area.
Duke Karll, as indicated, has kept a watchful eye upon the Maure Lands for some time. However, the two hand-picked rangers who were sent there on different occasions were exposed and assassinated. It is now considered suicidal by others in the Duke's employ to volunteer for this post. Duke Karll is currently seeking to hire single adventurers to reclaim these duties, though this plan has met with no success to date. Pay is 500 gold pieces/month plus a 250 gold piece signing bonus. DMs must craft any other particulars connected with PC initial hiring, travel to the Maure Lands, and also play-out their sluicing into one of the many power groups there."
T- A large bat has been seen circling the Castle of late; it circles several times and then departs to the south.
This is a fiendish bat controlled by the blackguard (evil cavalier) Nasht (8th level). Nasht is on a personal quest from Darkbridge Temple whereat he received divine insight that a certain tome exists within the castle which will allow him to summon a greater outsider. He passed near Felnarix while avoiding the Duke's patrols out of Seltaren. He briefly questioned a potter out of Pontyrel about recent happenings before slaying the man; in fact wherever he goes he uses this as an alternate information gathering method and quickly and efficiently disposes of all witnesses afterwards.
This man is sought by many civilized cities in the southeastern Flanaess as he has terrorized most of them. He completely destroyed a caravan en route from Ogremound to Hardby, slew several guards near Storm Keep, evaded pursuit by a band of rangers and ended up at Ogremeet, where he in turn slew several foragers from Robilar's army (this went unnoticed because of their low level). He worked his way east, skirting the Abbor-Alz, noted and mapped many sand-filled cavern entrances southwest of Karistyne (a lair of Formians) and turned due south to Dagger Rock, evading nomads and raiders along the way.
He made his way to Darkbridge Temple where he was given housing and accepted into its inner circle. His quest for a vision was granted immediately, as word of his "great deeds" preceded him. This divination indicated that his quest centered upon the ancient Maure Lands. He traveled north and entered Knife's Pass at its middle point . While skirting Griffin's Nest on the east, he was attacked by a yrthak, which killed his steed, but otherwise left him unharmed. He prowled the lands about this area for days before finding and destroying a troop of the Duke's medium horseman in an all-out night attack wherein he was severely wounded. However, he managed to escape north with a new mount (note that this has Duke Karll's brand upon it). He soon arrived at a point five miles south of the Maure Lands and encamped. He has used his fiendish bat at all times to scout the lands and skies around him. He will spend several days reconnoitering and the like and will then make a more direct approach by day to map the area and to question any inhabitants.
Nasht is death and destruction incarnate, and is possibly the worst unforeseen problem that has migrated to the Maure for some time. Only Robilar's or Rary's appearance in these lands would rival it. Worst still, he will soon learn the many-leveled nature of his quest and will have to seek alternatives to direct entry into the castle, for he senses a greater evil than himself within it! He will definitely attempt at that juncture to amass all disparate groups under his guidance or eliminate all opposition otherwise. Ex-Govenor Hadric will avoid him and gather fresh forces afield to counter this man's usurpation.
However, unless a stronger force, such as the Duke's men, intervene, Nasht will effectively raise within one month's time a rag-tag but formidable enough force of 200 heads (DMs must ascertain the mix). DMs should play this out to its fullest if adapted for their campaigns. Nasht is a realist. He will test the strength of the Castle by a frontal assault first and with his most unreliable followers (followed closely at the rear by himself and whatever strong guard he has). He is willing to expend up to 50 souls in this assault before he withdraws for further considerations. Whatever happens after that is up to the DMs.
Nasht, Human Barbarian 5, Fighter 2, Blackguard 1
Tactics: Nasht always attacks when he has the advantage. Unless he is taken by surprise he first drinks his potion of haste, rages, and then uses spring attack from a long distance on the party's primary spellcaster or healer. He always moves as far as he can from this traget to force opponents to come to him. If he believes he is close to taking this opponent out he will remain in his position, use the maximum power attack and take a full round action for 2 attacks on the opponent. During the combat he directs his fiendish bat companion to attack the opponent first and remain in position to set up a flank so he can take advantage of the flank bonus to his attack. If he drops the initial target he will attack the next remaining spellcaster or healer. If reduced below 20 hit points he will do his best to flee from combat using his dire bat companion to cover his retreat if it can still fight.
Nasht, Human 8th level Cavalier (Banneret) CE AC: -1 (+1 Plate mail and 17 dex) Hit Points: 66 Thac0: 12 Melee: 11 (10 with magical bastard sword), Ranged: 10 Weapon Proficiencies: medium Lance, Military Pick, Bastard Sword, Horseman’s Mace, Horseman’s flail, Dagger, Javelin. Class bonuses: +2 to hit with Lances, +1 to hit with Bastard Sword and Flail, Immune to Fear. Weapons of Choice (Bastard Sword, Lance and Flail: 3 attacks per 2 rounds (3/2)). Saving Throws: Para. Poison and Death magic: 10, Petra. and Poly: 11, Rod, Staff, Wand: 12, Breath Weapon: 12, Spell: 13. Possessions: +1 Plate Mail, +1 Bastard Sword, Potion of Speed, Holy Symbol of Evil Deity (Nerull).
DUNGEON and GREYHAWK are trademarks owned by Wizards of the Coast
Text portions not belonging specifically to other owners are copyright © Robert J. Kuntz, 1999, 2007. Permission is granted to copy and paste the text portions for game use only. No other use is implied or granted by this posting. Image copyright © 2007 Pied Piper Publishing. The right is extended to copy this image for game use only. For any other use, please contact the publisher.
|Last Updated ( Sunday, 13 April 2008 11:50 )|