Death on the Wing

Copyright Joe Mandala 1998

Source Material for Middle-Earth

This adventure is written as a supplement to Rogues of the Borderlands™. It can also, perhaps, be set in the mountains of Mirkwood. I suggest using the Rogues of the Borderlands™ as a general sourcebook, and the first edition Rangers of the North™ and/or the second edition Arnor™ series for additional tie-ins. It is designed for 3-6 adventurers of at least 3rd level (3rd-5th), and at least one of the party must be proficient in rock climbing and/or rope mastery.

Perhaps the party is travelling to or from Culwic. They may also, perhaps, be heading to Galenros (though out of the way, this is feasible). Any number of lead-ins from adventures in and around Caras Celairnen and in the wilderness of Numeriador would work equally well for this ready-to-run adventure, and there are many possibilities for using this adventure as an introduction to goings-on in any number of small towns in the area. At any rate, the adventure begins with the PCs on the road. En route, this small vignette unfolds.

As the group is travelling, they see two dark shapes swoop out of the sky to the north of the road. After a brief flurry, both take off again, each carrying a dark, seemingly heavy, burden. The shapes are large winged creatures of some type, and they fly to a nearby set of cliffs and disappear (presumably into a cave). When the PCs investigate, they will find a mortally wounded man who is terrified beyond sanity. He will die shortly, regardless of how much aid is performed, but he will gasp out, saying, "...they have Vanuki... they've got my wife!" The belongings of the victims are scattered all over the area - the fire is smoldering still. A few (6) gold pieces and some other coins are scattered about, and in the flight path of the attackers. Other gear includes: trappings for 4 horses (who apparently have run off - they are all simply medium riding horses); 12 saddlebags filled with 36 4-pint bottles of Dorwinion wine (worth about 2 silvers each) which are labeled as a shipment to an inn in the nearby town of Culwic, about 30 miles to the north; a longbow (+5, design) and a few smashed arrows; a morning star (+5, magical); and a saber. The dead/dying man is wearing a leather breastplate and helm, a target shield, and near him lies another target shield of exceptional make, covered in runes (+5 magical, extra +10 to DB vs. elemental attacks).

The cliff is about 800 feet high at its highest point, the cave being around 400 feet up. The cliff is extremely hard to climb unless one were to travel around 6 miles to the west - at which point there is a gentle slope up to the top. If one were to then travel back along the cliff top and climb down to the cave mouth, it would be a very hard maneuver. While on the cliff, the creatures might attack, and if they do, it would be a sheer folly (at best) maneuver to hang on and not fall (pray that safety rope holds). If one falls, there is really no chance of catching oneself before hitting bottom and dying. There is an alternative, however. It would be an extremely hard perception maneuver to notice that there is a winding, narrow path up the face of the cliff to the cave mouth. Climbing the path would still be a hard maneuver (it is not in very good repair), and an attack by the creatures would make it only slightly easier to hold purchase on the cliff face if one were on the path.

The cave entrance is 30 feet wide by 20 feet high. As one goes deeper into the cave, it slopes fairly sharply downward, dropping 20 feet to the fell beasts' bedding area. If intruders surprise the beasts (unlikely) at home, they will be happily munching on the remains of the two people they snatched from the campsite. In the bedding of the fell beasts lie the indigestible items of these and previous victims: 3 1-oz gold coins from Mithlond, 35 1/2-oz gold coins from Arthedain, 45 1/2-oz gold coins from Gondor, 5 1/2-oz silver coins from Gondor, 1 ruby worth around 2 1/2 pounds of gold, tome 1-5thlevel Open Essence "Physical Enhancement", mace +15(m) "of slaying" undead, scroll level 5 Evil Cleric "Dark Channels," boar spear +10(m), +25 vs. animals, "of slaying" bears. If the PCs are lucky enough to off the flying monsters, this will be easy pickings for those of abdominal fortitude (the place reeks badly).

Near the back of the cave are three natural openings too small for the beasts to enter. They lead to a network of natural fissures and passages inside the cliff. If someone with a caving skill examines them, however, he will see that some of the passages have been artificially altered. This may lead to a search for secret entrances, of which there are two (very near the large cave). They are both very hard to spot and very hard to open. Once through, however, one enters a roughly 15x15 room rudely hewn from the living rock. Inside the room are a bed, desk, dresser, and chest, which are badly decayed and dilapidated. The chest holds the only items of note: a 6 oz lump of badly corroded silver, 5 1/2-oz gold pieces minted c. TA 1250 in Mithlond, a pair of corroded bracers, an intact wand (+1 hybrid spell adder), and another wand (Daily II Healer "Organ Ways" lv. 2). Presumably unbeknownst to the visitors, there is another secret door in this room. It is extremely hard to find and hard to open. It opens on a stairwell down to another, smaller room. This room contains three chests, all of them small. Two of the chests were wooden, and are rotted almost completely away. Inside are a 1 lb., 9-oz chunk of corroded copper and a 13-oz lump of bronze (respectively). The third chest is a badly rusted cast iron trunk. It is also trapped (very hard to detect and extremely hard to disarm). An astute observer will notice an almost waxen seal (though not exactly wax) in the seam of the lid. The lock is rusted shut, so will have to be pried off. As soon as the "wax" seal is broken, a cloud of gas will forcefully exhale into the room, expanding to a small 5' diameter cloud. All within must resist a 6th level nerve poison or be reduced to blathering idiots (RR fail 1-25 results in twitching convulsions which will last 5 minutes, leaving the victim sore and tired, taking 3-30 hits and 3-30 exhaustion points; RR fail 26-50 results in major convulsions probably resulting in medium fall/crush or bash attacks lasting 5-10 minutes, leaving the victim in pain and exhausted, taking 5-50 hits and 5-50 exhaustion points; RR fail of 51-100 results in unconsciousness and coma for 1-10 days, after which the victim will be mentally retarded [reduce all mental stats by 30+2d20], and RR fail of 100+ is brain death). Inside the chest are: a +2 Channeling adder rod; a x2 Channeling multiplier wand which can cast Open Essence "Essence Hand" (2nd level) 9 times; and a wand which has 3 uses of 2nd level Closed Channeling "Creations".

Name

Level

Crit

Init

HP

AT

DB

Attacks

Male fell beast

20

La

10

240

12

50

90HCl/90LGr/90Lba/60Lbi

Female fell beast

18

La

9

220

12

55

80HCl/80LGr/80Lba/55Lbi