The Lorestaves: The Adventure, Background and Part One

The Lorestaves Adventure
Background and Part One

The Lorestaves adventure was to takes place in Morvia, the planned default setting for Sword’s Edge Publishing’s Arcane Kingdoms line. In the Lorestaves adventure, the player characters were to find ancient staves, items forgotten even in legend. These staves have the power to release ancient gods imprisoned by the one god now worshipped, Herotus. The PCs could have stumbled onto the secret or may be seeking out stories of the ancient gods, depending on how the GM would have liked to insert them into this storyline.

Morvia as a world was to be detailed elsewhere. This particular adventure supplement details only a small portion of the city of Bowden. What is important to understand is that magic is not accepted by the general populace. In some places, wizards and sorcerers—even clerics—may find themselves the target of abuse or perhaps even violence. The underlying reason for this is explained below. However, there are powers in the world that protect and nurture users of magic. The greatest of these is the Magnus, the master wizards who resides in the massive fortress of Highstone. At this time, Nicodemus Magnus rules in Highstone, sheltering and teaching users of magic.

Outside of Highstone, the attitude toward magic varies. Many rulers and nobles consider magic an important tool, others detest or fear it. The common folk, for the most part, fear magic as something supernatural and uncontrollable. There is no overarching attitude toward magic save that of the One True Church of Herotus. The Church, the only religious body in the known world, opposes magic and its use. It is important to note that the clerics and priests of Herotus do not have access to divine magic.

Background
The legends say that in ages past, twelve great demon lords threatened to plunge the world into darkness. Herotus entered Morvia to save this world and its people from the terror of the demons. Twelve kings of men, the mightiest warriors alive, swore themselves to Herotus. As a symbol of their bond, they carried greatswords, forged in the heavens and each etched with the name of a demon lord. These twelve knight-kings led the armies of righteousness against the evil hordes amassed by the demon lords. Their holiness made these knights invincible.

At last, these twelve great knights, sworn to Herotus, faced the twelve demon lords of the outer void in a great battle lasting twelve days. By the grace of Herotus, his knights triumphed, slaying the corporeal forms of the demon lords. Herotus gave his champions long lives, but all men pass, and the knights died on the same day, a day without sun.

On the night of their deaths, the priests of Herotus took the swords of the twelve knights. These holy blades were placed in the temple of the Holy Mount, where legend insisted Herotus handed down the blades to his chosen knights. The bodies of the knights were likewise interred on the hallowed ground of the Holy Mount. Due to its reputation as both the resting place of the knights and their storied swords, the temple grew in size, wealth and importance.

Soldiers, commoners and knights came from all over the world to live at or near the temple, to protect the relics of the chosen knights of Herotus. These guards formed the Blessed and Loyal Military Order of the Holy Mount, now known in Morvia as the Knights of the Holy Mount. Only 100 knights are accepted into the order, and one may only advance to become a knight on the death of knight. One may become an Initiate of the Order, but not a knight.

While legends insist that the bodies of the twelve holy knights and their swords remain in the Temple of the Holy Mount, there are no tombs and no swords. There have not been in living memory. A prophecy has come to the notice of the One True Church of Herotus that without the swords, the twelve demon lords will return and destroy the world. The Knights of the Holy Mount believe evil minions of the demon lords stole the swords more than a century ago, intending to pave the way for the return of their masters. Scholars believe they have unlocked some of the secrets of the swords’ whereabouts in the writings of the 23rd Abbot of the Blessed Order. He wrote that the minions of the demon lords could not destroy the swords, but hid them, disguising them as simple staves.

For almost fifty years, the Knights of the Holy Mount have searched for these staves, hoping to return them to the temple, where they will once again be revealed as the weapons forged in the heavens, weapons to protect Morvia from the ravages of the demon lords.

This is what the Church of Herotus claims. This is not, however, the truth. Many in the Church, including the Abbot of the Blessed and Loyal Military Order of the Holy Mount, know this story is false. They know the truth about the staves and about the ancient gods, but through faith, belief or self-interest, they have hidden the truth from the world at large.

The truth is that Herotus was once a lesser power. He seduced other lesser immortals, minor deities and demigods, to aid him in overthrowing the ruling pantheon. They schemed and lurked and undid what good the gods offered those beings in their care. Finally, the key to vanquishing the old gods was offered to Herotus.

Take the gods’ worshipers, and you take the gods’ power.

Into the world came the one called the Wanderer, the Divine Voice and the Shining Prophet.

The Wanderer brought word of the One True God—Herotus. Herotus would protect the world from the evils of those demons who masqueraded as the divine. The priests and adherents of the old gods disputed the Wanderer, some even fought him, but the Wanderer could not be dissuaded, could not be harmed, and his magic always proved more powerful. The world turned from the Old Gods and soon Herotus became the One True God.

The world changed. Magic, once a realm of science and philosophy, became a cauldron of superstition. Though the Wanderer had produced wondrous magics, the priests of Herotus lacked the spells of healing and life that had nurtured fragile civilizations for so many centuries. As magic was denied them, the religious powers denied it. Kings and princes followed the dictates of the religious masters. Wizards and sorcerers became bogeymen and scapegoats.

Herotus is a jealous and paranoid god. Soon after he defeated the Old Gods, he destroyed those deities who supported him who were powerful enough to threaten him. The others, he bound to him, using magics that could easily destroy worlds. He offered nothing to his worshippers. He recalls, too well, the fate of those gods generous enough to share their divine power with mortals. As such, the clerics of his religion have no access to divine magic.

What no one knew then was that the Wanderer was Incarnos, a deva—a guardian spirit of the Old Gods. He had seen the suffering of age and disease and wished to save the world from such pain. He had believed this was a curse of the Old Gods. For centuries he studied the Planes of Reality, seeking an answer to his dilemma. Herotus found him, promising to release Morvia from the bondage of the Old Gods. Incarnos believed him, and helped him turn the world against the Old Gods.

He quickly learned Herotus had lied to him.

Trapped in an immortal body, devoid of his powers, Incarnos walked the world. With the same diligence with which he had planned the downfall of the Old Gods, he sought some way to contact them, perhaps release them. Why had they not stood against Herotus? Why had they proved so weak?

Finally, Incarnos has learned the truth, but Herotus—and the Church sworn to him—does not wish this knowledge to survive. The Church has sent its hounds to find Incarnos and kill the unkillable. Incarnos, though, cannot release the Old Gods. Only mortals may. The secrets are trapped in 12 staves created at the dawn of time—the Lorestaves. The Knights of the Holy Mount, sent out to find Incarnos and the staves, believe he is an evil minion of demon lords and that the 12 staves hold the key to finding the lost weapons of the 12 holy knights.

As our story opens, the PCs witness Knights of the Holy Mount questioning Incarnos. They are not gentle, but he will not break. Though he feels pain, Incarnos is immortal.

If the party contains wizards or sorcerers, the Temples is a great place to hide. There is little law enforcement and those who appear capable of defending themselves are left along. The party may also contain clerics. While Herotus does not offer divine magic, a cleric may have tapped into a source of divine magic unknown or forgotten. Remember, it is possible for a cleric to not devote herself to a particular deity, though this restricts access to domains. However, perhaps this cleric will find an Old God, though this adventure, that mirrors her beliefs.

It is important for the party to be good aligned. At least a majority of the party should be good. Many of the prods to action are based on sympathy for fellow creatures and a desire to protect the weak.

The opening of the adventure takes place inside the Squandering Snail. The PCs may have come here to relax, to gamble or even to hide out. If they are seeking ancient knowledge, they may have learned of the great temple to the Old Gods that once stood where the Squandering Snail now stands. Perhaps they have some kind of relationship with Carylle of Temelburh (listed in the NPC section as the barmaid Cornille), who has asked for their help finding an ancient artefact her researches have led her to believe is hidden somewhere in the Squandering Snail. Perhaps the PCs are denizens of the Temples or of Bowden who regularly visit Causens’ Corner for a bit of action.

Part One – The Gentle Hands of these Most Holy Men
Everyone in the Temples knows and despises the Knights of the Holy Mount. These holy warriors have no sympathy for common human frailty, and they consider the Temples a blight on the face of the world that should be removed, preferably with fire. The Abbot’s knowledge of the true history of the Temples may contribute to this. Needless to say, when the Holy Knights came to the Temples, searching for a particular person, they received no help. Their actions drew the ire of Duke Javarre, and they have been forced to restrain their “righteous passions.”

However, even the opposition of the populace of the Temples did not prove enough to foil the Holy Knights. They found their quarry.

Incarnos has been drawn to this place, but he cannot say why. He believes he may be close to finding one of the Lorestaves, but he also knows that even were he to find it, he requires the aid of mortal to unlock the secrets. He has some hope that by doing so, he will earn himself release. He did not realize he had become the target of the Church and the Holy Knights and made no effort to disguise or hide himself. He has learned, through long centuries, how to disappear within the societies of mortals.

When he is found, it is in the Squandering Snail. He has long known the need for currency when surviving in a civilized society, and so he has turned to one of the quickest ways he can make money—gambling. After centuries of practice, he has mastered both dice and cards, and can all but control a cast of dice. When the Holy Knights entered and disrupted the game, Faelan silently thanked the One True God for the blessing. Incarnos had won almost 50 princes (sp), and it didn’t look like his luck would change anytime soon.

The PCs may be in a position to overhear the initial exchange.

Seven Knights of the Holy Mount enter the gambling den. They swagger in, eyeing the patrons of the establishment with disdain. Sneering, they push their way through the crowd to a table at which a knot of people has gathered. They rudely knock these people away. The leader of the group grabs one man and turns him around. The man is tall, standing at least a hand taller than any of the knights. He seems unperturbed when faced with seven armed Holy Knights. He wears simple clothes and is not armed.

“Hello, fiend,” the Holy Knight says. “Your terror is at an end. Now you will tell us where you have hidden the staves.”

“Gentlemen, I believe you are mistaken,” the man replies. “You do not serve the one true god, only a usurper of gentle gods.”

At that the leader of the Holy Knights backhands the man. The man rolls with the blow, but does not appear injured. His face has no mark on it.

The man smiles. “Ah, the gentle word of the supreme deity, yes?”

The leader of the knights spits in the man’s face. “Your words are as twisted as your masters.”

The leader gestures, and the other knights begin to beat on the man. They have daggers in their hands, but they do not stab him. Rather they beat him with the pommels of these daggers. They drive him to ground, striking him mercilessly. The man curls into a ball, flinching and crying out with each blow, yet still there is no mark on him.

One would hope that good-aligned PCs would, at this time, react. They need not actually physically intervene. The PCs might approach the leader of the knights, Heston of Gueste (now known, as all Holy Knights are, as ‘of the Mount’), and ask him to refrain from physically assaulting an unarmed man offering no resistance. They might ask what crime the man has committed. Should the PCs become physically involved, they will take the Holy Knights completely by surprise—at least for the first round. If the PCs speak to Heston, he will react as follows:

The leader of the knights crosses his arms and frowns. “Are you in league with this servant of evil that you would speak on his behalf?”

Unless the PCs protest their innocence and leave the knights to their beating, Heston will become even angrier. No matter how mildly and rationally the PCs may act, any questioning of the “holy mission” of the knights is seen as violent opposition by Heston.

“You dare to question the will of the One True Church?” The lead knight draws his greatsword.

While he does not intend to strike the PCs with his weapon, considering the situation, PCs might consider themselves under attack and act accordingly, if they do not, the scene progresses as follows:

Greatsword in hand, the lead knight’s eyes narrow. “You will surrender yourselves to trial by the Blessed and Loyal Military Order of the Holy Mount in the name of myself, Brother-Captain Heston of the Mount. Divest yourselves of any weapon you may have.”

This is basically a game of chicken. Heston knows that if he shows weakness in this place, he and his men might not walk out alive. The opposition of the PCs has inspired many of the other patrons of the Squandering Snail. The PCs might not notice, but Heston certainly has. His position, with only six knights, could be perilous.

If the PCs do not surrender, Heston has been backed into a corner, and he will need to act.

“As you will,” Heston says. “Your actions betray your intent. Iolan, Metres, we have more servants of the dark ones here.”

Two of the Holy Knights turn away from the continued beating they are inflicting on the unresisting man. They draw their swords.

At this point, the PCs will need to defend themselves or be arrested. If they are arrested, they will be taken to a galley in the harbour. This is the galley the Holy Knights arrived in. Due to Duke Javarre’s lack of cooperation, the Holy Knights have operated from this galley. They will load the PCs and Incarnos on and set sail for the nearest fortified monastery, known as a chapterhouse.

During the trip, Incarnos will relate whatever information the PCs request of him. He will also help them escape. He cannot and will not harm another living being.

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