Surprise at Addis is a brief solo adventure designed for one or two PC’s of levels 2-4. In this adventure, the party takes a journey across The Shaar from Shaarmid to the nation of Gezer, meeting many strange people and creatures along the way with whom they can talk, deal, gamble, fight, and (of course) race horses. But their happy time comes to an end when they discover a gruesome surprise at the end of the road, and a small group of volunteers must put their lives on the line for their Gezerite friends.
This adventure can be run as a sequel to The Calimite, or you can use it as a stand-alone. If you have run The Calimite and are now going to run Surprise at Addis as a sequel, then you are ready to play. Skip to the DM notes.
If this is your first adventure, it will be a short introduction to The Tuigan Empire, a Mongol-themed area of my own invention located inside the Forgotten Realms, and a way for the DM and players to test out some things (particularly the Horse Racing system) without the burden of a long story arc. The story is short, intended for a single one-day session. It contains some travel, some combat encounters, and some racing and other contests where the character(s) can earn a little money. It is suggested that you and your DM should use The New Party Member Intro to get your character(s) to the starting point. You will have to omit references to previous events, and you may want to adjust the encounter toughness because the DM character Balud should not be present unless one of your characters is a lycanthrope.
It is suggested that you play Surprise at Addis with two characters run by the same player. Create two Forgotten Realms characters at level 2-4 with any home region (but bear in mind that your characters must not be native to The Tuigan Empire). Humans are suggested, but any race is acceptable; however, playing a Small character (such as a halfling) will make you unable to ride a full size horse, limiting your enjoyment of the adventure. One of your characters should be a fighter, but the other may be anything you wish. Alignment, religion, skills and feats may be anything you wish, but at least one character should have at least one rank in Ride. Your characters may begin with maximum possible starting hit points and maximum possible starting gold pieces according to their class. You may purchase any equipment you like, including items exclusive to the Forgotten Realms, but you should not begin with a mount. If one or both characters are magic users, your starting spells may be anything you wish, including spells specific to the Forgotten Realms. Magic items may be anything you wish.
The story begins in the year 1427 Dale-Reckoning with both your characters emerging in the town of Shaarmid. You may create a backstory for them if you so desire. This may be useful if you intend to keep them around as NPC’s in the campaign (where their past lives may become useful hooks if you or the DM should revisit them), but it is not required.
What Your Character(s) Might Know
If your character(s) have any ranks in an appropriate Knowledge skill (such as History, Geography, or Nobility/Royalty), or if you intend to do some research during your travel time in-game, then feel free to follow the links around the campaign wiki (beginning with those on this page!) to reflect the odds and ends your character picks up. There is a lot, so don’t go crazy with it. Also bear in mind that the campaign area is still in development, so some links do not yet work and some information may be incomplete.
As mentioned elsewhere, the campaign area was creating using extensive published material for the Forgotten Realms. For information on the campaign area circa 1384 DR and earlier (the cutoff year), the most helpful of these are the two core books for the 3rd edition Forgotten Realms, the Player’s Guide to Faerun and the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting. Other supplements which have been used extensively for material are The Shining South, The Unapproachable East, Lost Empires, Serpent Kingdoms, and Underdark, plus the 2nd edition campaign setting The Horde (though please note that The Horde is set in 1360 DR). In addition to these, several other Forgotten Realms products such as Races of Faerun, Magic of Faerun, Power of Faerun, Lords of Darkness, Faiths and Pantheons, Champions of Ruin and Champions of Valor contain material which touches on the campaign area in a way specific to the particular topic of each volume. Any or all of these works are available in PDF form from your DM, free for the asking, but none are required.
Now you are ready to play Surprise at Addis!
The Curtain Rises
As we begin, your characters have just been paid off and decommissioned from mercenary service for the Dwarves of The Great Rift. You left your homes a long time ago (at least, it seems that long) to enlist with the local branch of the Great Rift Department of Reclamation, Office of Contractor Relations, which stamped your paperwork, gave you your tags, and sent you through a portal to your bustling muster inside the Dwarven metropolis of The Great Rift. For months now, you’ve been tramping around the Underdark with your unit, pursuing Drow and other creepy crawlies best left unmentioned. You consider yourself a hardened veteran. Now they’ve given you your papers, your back wages, and a handshake, and you walk up a long ramp into very bright sunlight, heat and dust.
They tell you this town is called Shaarmid, in the middle of a giant baking grassland called The Shaar. Apparently this place is some kind of trade-meet, and it seems like they’ve just had a fair. Surrounded by a low, squat wall from which hundreds of pennants are flying, the mud-brick buildings of the city are nonetheless festively painted. There are colorful, strange people everywhere, buying and selling and packing up to go back wherever they came from. It’s pretty clear that you had better find some transportation soon if you intend to get out of here, since it looks like Shaarmid will be a ghost town within a day or two.
Fortunately, a particularly exotic person takes an interest in you as you wander the tents pitched on the plain outside town. This individual, who introduces himself as Menes, is some sort of a cleric, though of a god you’ve never heard of. As a cynical warrior with the dust of battle still clinging to your boots, you don’t pay much attention to his stories of a strange man called Tariq Dede who was executed and rose from the dead thousands of years ago in far-off Mulhorand. You are more interested in the flask of honey wine he gladly shares, which is excellent, and the helpful way he offers to carry your pack for you. The strange little man is brown as coffee, with fine, chiseled features and a fuzzy halo of woolly hair. His priestly robes are trimmed in green, black, and yellow and his holy symbol is a four-pointed cross with a hole pierced through the middle. His manner is soft and kind, but his eyes are sharp. His strangely accented Common sounds like what you think heiroglyphs carved on a temple would sound like if they made a noise, and he smells of dust and spices.
You and Menes make your way through the bustle of traders breaking camp until you reach the ornate pavilion tents of a very wealthy man and his large entourage. Whoever this is, he has had very good luck here. His men are the same color as Menes, but taller and thicker. They are taking down their large, brightly colored tents, removing the gold and silver decorations, the silk hangings and the expensive carpets, strapping on bright steel breastplates and preparing their beasts for departure. Their horses, which are numerous, are handsome Calimites, and they also have hounds, war elephants, even tame cheetahs! A few more robed clerics, who look quite a bit more senior than your new friend, are supervising everything from the edges of the chaos, when out of the center of the bustle walks the man Menes has brought you to see. Adam of Gezer is tall, dark, handsome and well-built, with a shaven skull and a noble face. You are taking a professional interest in the enormous greatsword strapped across his back while Menes introduces him as Knight of Dede (Peace Be Upon Him), Lord of Nazret and Axum, Protector of Addis, and so forth.
The gist of it is that this man is a wealthy noble and merchant lord of a far-off nation, who has come to Shaarmid to participate in the world-famous horse races held here each year. This year, he has actually won the purse, and now prepares to return to his homeland by a long journey east across The Shaar. When Menes has satisfied Adam of Gezer of your bona fides, both men warmly invite you to accompany them with genuine interest.
What the hell. It sounds like a relaxing trip, and you’ve got nowhere to be. Besides, you can smell coffee brewing in the camp, and your mouth is watering. You’d better get your stuff packed on one of the horses and then go find a good cuppa.
Surprise at Addis DM Notes
The first time I run this adventure my party will be a pair of Raptorans, (one druid 2 and one ranger 2), both of whom are afflicted werewolves, making them 4 HD creatures of ECL 6. They’ll be accompanied by a pair of DM characters. Balud is a werewolf as the Monster Manual (ECL 5, HD 3) and Menes is a first level cleric.
Chronology. The party departs Shaarmid on Dragonrest, 10 Mirtul 1427. On 14 Mirtul they are at The Shaarwood. They cross The Landrise on 16 Mirtul, reach the old road on 19 Mirtul and enter Dambrath the night of 23 Mirtul. By 24 Mirtul they are traveling in the shadow of The Toadsquat Mountains and they arrive at Shabab on 28 Mirtul. On 5 Kythorn they are at Azulduth, and it is Dragonrest, 10 Kythorn 1427, when they reach Addis. Their recuperation at Axum lasts until 13 Kythorn when Adam of Gezer reappears to bestow gifts and end the adventure.
The action begins in Shaarmid on 10 Mirtul 1427, the first Dragonrest after Greengrass, which makes it summer in The Shaar. On Greengrass, Kerri rode Batu’s Raurin, Sheik of Sheiks, to second place in the big race on the last day of the horse fair. The Raptorans cashed in on a large bet and made some new allies, including Batu and Adam of Gezer. They have accepted an offer to travel with the Gezerite’s entourage when he leaves for his homeland, and they have spent the last Tenday helping him make preparations.
Adam of Gezer and his people are Gezerite. They are the color of coffee, with fine features and lean, conditioned physiques. Though Adam of Gezer has a shaved head, most of his fighting men and servants are in cornrows or dreadlocks, while his clerics sport fuzzy halos of bushy hair. All the jewelry worn is gold, never silver, which is associated with women. Their strangely accented Common sounds like what you think heiroglyphs carved on a temple would sound like if they made a noise, and they smell of dust and spices.
The weather in Shaarmid has been getting hotter, but at least it hasn’t rained. Most of the visitors in town for the fair have been departing, leaving the town much less bustling. It now has the look of a dry, dusty walled village. The brightly colored pennants have been coming down, and the townspeople are no longer invariably smiling and happy. Prices have been coming down, as merchants who shamelessly gouged foreigners are now charging local prices again. The innkeeper who allowed them to stay for free during the fair has been making suggestions about a bill, especially after several Shaaran ne’er-do-wells try to pick a fight with the Raptorans in his taproom, so the characters should think about disappearing soon. This impression is strengthened when they notice several muscular Mulan men in the greaves, bracers and togas characteristic of Chessenta loitering around the edges of the camp and occasionally following them when they enter town. This should remind them that they have three enemies still in town.
The Raptorans are able to make all their sales and purchases and help Adam of Gezer gather supplies for their journey. The Gezerite also spends a lot of time in town apart from them. When they question him, he explains that he is tending to certain business arrangements. They have no good reason to pry into it, so they should let it lie.
Llewellyn left the characters a few days after Greengrass. He says he is proud of them and enjoyed their time traveling together, but he’s not interested in going to Gezer. Instead, he thinks he’ll be heading north, where he has heard a little about Demonblood Dam and thinks it might be a good place to earn a little money and fame. Before he goes, he gives each of the Raptorans a Bird Token and instructions how to use it. He tells the Raptorans that if they meet again he will help them in any way he can. It is only after he has left that they realize that the two tokens must have cost most of the profit he made on this trip. Also, he never tried to claim any of the treasure they took. He is far too generous to be just an ordinary traveling musician.
Badr departed with her ordu almost immediately, much richer thanks to selling the animals they helped capture, and the wine and olives they helped trade for. She tells them she’ll be going east to Azulduth next, and if they ever see each other again she will remember them fondly and give them whatever aid they might need. As they say their goodbyes, the Raptorans are embarrassed to realize that their time with the Tuigan has had an effect on the unmarried young men and women in Badr’s ordu. Aki and Amun seem to be competing with each other to help Kerri saddle the horses properly, while the three teenagers Bel, Bala, and Bhangla are fussing around Stedd. This could be awkward in the future.
The two Ogres, Vaprak and Krusk, also say their goodbyes. They will be patrolling the northern plains near The Tuigan March for most of the year, they explain, but they regard the Raptorans as friends and will give them whatever help they can if they meet again. They give each character a masterwork lance as a parting gift, saying they won them by wagering on Tent-Pegging with some Tuigan, and explain to them how to take tail hairs from their stallions to make a Spirit Banner for themselves.
Finally, Batu appears at their camp one day. Adam of Gezer knows who he is and seems genuinely honored by the visit. The two men treat each other very courteously, drink Gezerite coffee and exchange gifts as tradition requires. But Batu has come for Stedd. The Tuigan explains to the ranger about his new life as a werewolf, telling him of the traditions and pride of his new form. Batu has come to offer the Raptorans a guide and mentor, as tradition requires, so that they will learn to control their transformations and use their powers wisely. This person, they are surprised to see, is the third rustler they cornered in Sabi’s barn, the one who got away aboard the Calimite. He introduces himself as Balud and says that he will accompany the characters as far as they need him. He is one of Batu’s men and regards the task as an honorable one, having no bitterness over the fight that killed his two companions. A Tuigan, he explains, respects a good fighter even if they are on different sides, because today’s enemy may be tomorrow’s friend. Before departing, Batu gives each of the Raptorans a princely gift, 100 Shaar rings for each of their four horses (200 per character), showing them how to knot them around the beasts’ necks.
Life On The Road
By the time Dragonrest, 10 Mirtul rolls around, all of their business has been transacted and everyone is ready to go. The large entourage swings into the saddle and strikes out onto the plain heading east. Adam of Gezer rides a Calimite with the vanguard, while his clerics ride in the howdahs on the elephants. His footmen and others ride in the middle of the group. Balud and the Raptorans come behind with the rearguard.
The entourage is composed of numerous fighting men, clerics, and the servants of Adam of Gezer. The troops are of two varieties. Those on horseback seem to be aristocratic individuals or nobles, mounted on fine horses, which they say are Calimites raised on ranches outside Gondar, the capitol. They wear polished steel breastplates with the Cross of Dede on front and back, and typically carry lances and longswords. They are fond of brightly colored pennants for their lances and decorations for their horses, favoring the colors red, green, black, and yellow.
The fighting men who ride the elephants are foot troops, who seem to be farmers and freemen loyal to Adam of Gezer. They wear padded armor made of quilted cotton in a checkerboard pattern of black and white squares. They carry a tower shield called an Ishilunga, which is a cowhide stretched over a large square wooden frame. The pattern of spots on the hide is how each regiment is distinguished from the others. These troops carry a weapon called a Shotel, which is a sickle-shaped blade the size of a longsword, used for striking around an enemy’s shield, and slings.
The clerics traveling with the group seem to be of many different grades. The most senior wear rich robes trimmed with gold and silk, brightly colored in green, purple and yellow, with tall headdresses. Their younger companions may wear only a white robe decorated with embroidered crosses.
The journey is long, almost 1200 miles. Adam of Gezer has told them it will take thirty days to complete. The entourage travels during the daylight hours and makes camp only when the sun begins to set. They are also early risers, breaking camp each day in the dark before sunrise. Adam of Gezer explains that it is a superstition of his that good luck will always be with him as long as he is in the saddle by sunrise every morning. Even with the elephants, the entourage travels faster than the ordus did because there are no herds to drive along. This means the party occasionally gets bored on the trail, but there are so many exotic people to converse with, and the riders make their own diversions so well, that this is less of a problem than it might be.
Each day is much the same on the plains. The Gezerites rise in the dark and tend to their horses and elephants before themselves. The senior clerics lead prayers in which everyone participates on bended knee, each man rising to kiss the cross before going about his business. They eat nothing but bread and drink nothing but a little water at the beginning of the day, but while they are in the saddle they are constantly breaking into their saddlebags to share cakes made with spices, or take a drink of rich honey wine, or nibble on a piece of fruit, some cheese or a handful of olives. They take much more enjoyment from their food and drink than the nomads do. Every few days, one of the riders prepares a bag for the characters, so the Raptorans can snack in the saddle like their escorts do. The bags might have nuts dusted with sweet spices, or flatbread rolled up around fresh herbs, or some curds of farmer’s cheese mixed with tiny, lethal chili peppers. The riders do not stop at midday unless they have a reason, though small groups are always drifting away to hunt, to scout, look for monsters, or find fresh water. This activity sometimes appears random until the Raptorans realize that Adam of Gezer invariably knows where every man is at any given moment.
It is when the entourage stops for each night camp that the Gezerites truly feel free to be themselves. Adam of Gezer begins to keep an eye out for possible campsites each day as soon as the sun begins to dip, and by the time it has touched the horizon he has found one. All the Gezerites tend to the beasts, and then a few men get a roaring fire going while others break out the provisions. There is sometimes fresh meat, since the warriors of the entourage have invariably found something during the day, often a deer, antelope, or wild pig, but sometimes only rabbit or prairie chicken; but more often, it is a fast day. On these occasions, which the Ge’ez enforce rigorously, the evening meal is completely vegetarian. While the food is cooking and several of the men are making coffee, Adam of Gezer gathers the characters and a few of his senior clerics to discuss the next day’s travel.
After a short time, the meal is prepared, and everyone sits down to a vast amount of food, eaten from large round wicker platters set on the ground. There are tangy, pancake-like flatbreads laid out on the platter and then covered with five or six different dishes, each in its own heap. There will usually be greens, fresh cheese, lentils, carrots, stir-fried peppers, or many other things, surrounded by piles of rolled-up breads which are torn into pieces to scoop up the food. Everything is rich with butter, loaded with exotic spices and most of it also laced with chili peppers, which the Gezerites gobble with relish, washing everything down with large pots of honey wine. At the end of the meal there is always coffee, served in an elaborate ritual according to the rank and deeds of each man. The coffee is thick and intense, and after drinking, someone is always inspired to bring out an instrument and play. Songs float around the group, and some of the warriors rise to perform intricate dances while Adam of Gezer leads the rest in clapping the beat.
No one falls asleep until it is late, but when they do they simply curl up beneath their blankets. Despite the ornate pavilion tent he erected at Shaarmid, even Adam of Gezer sleeps under the stars when he is on the road with his men.
The language spoken in camp is Gezerite, an odd tongue that the Raptorans don’t recognize, but their scriptures are written in the human alphabet, Thorass, which they can read. The Ge’ez are pleased to realize this and make a point of educating the Raptorans, throwing in a few tales and proverbs about Tariq Dede at the same time. By the end of their journey both characters can speak and write Gezerite.
The clerics also do not intend to miss an opportunity to gain converts. Balud shows no interest in their faith, but they continually approach the Raptorans with stories of Tariq Dede and tales of their beliefs. If the characters wish to convert, they will be given gifts by everyone in camp, as tradition requires. Also, once the party reaches Gezer, only believers will be allowed to visit the capital. If the Raptorans wish to see Gondar or meet Emperor Tewodros, they will need to become followers of Dedeism. If they convert, each character gets one free rank in Knowledge (Religion).
The First Leg
For three days the group travels across the plains in a northeasterly direction. The weather is very hot but clear, with strong breezes that rustle the grass hypnotically. They encounter nothing during this time; most travelers have already passed, and they have driven off most of the monsters and large animals. On Fourthday, 14 Mirtul, there is a rainstorm and a break in the temperature just as the party arrives at The Shaarwood. This dry, open woodland is filled with stands of cactus and razor-grass, and the party enters only as far as they need to shelter under its eaves. The rain soon stops, which is when they notice that there is a Shaaran ordu already camped here. To their surprise, the Raptorans recognize that it is Kanem and his people, whom they previously met in The Dun Hills. Adam of Gezer asks to be introduced, and if the characters are friendly then the Shaaran nomads will share a camp with the Gezerite entourage that night. Kanem and Wata, whose ordu is all Eagle tribe, inform them that since leaving Shaarmid they have been traveling in Ankheg tribal territory. The Ankheg are the people of Anawat, Arigh Boke’s wife, and are not usually hostile to travelers.
They exchange tales and news, but there is also a little business to be conducted. These dry woods are well known to Shaaran and Gezerite travelers alike, since they are the only place in The Shaar where Tashalan pepper grows in abundance. This plant is an exceptionally hot breed of chili pepper native to Tashalar, which has become established in The Shaarwood over the centuries since nomads have been camping here and discarding the seeds in their refuse heaps. For some reason, the Tashalan pepper that grows in these woods is the most flavorful of all its varieties. For many years the nomads have done a good business gathering the peppers and selling them for their seeds, which are planted in many far-off lands. Kanem and his ordu have harvested a great number of seeds, and Adam of Gezer immediately begins negotiating with him. He will cut in the characters if they so desire. Whatever they invest in the pepper seeds will be doubled once they reach the region of Dambrath.
The Shaaran riders will spend some time with the Gezerite group at various contests, including Tent-Pegging and Wrestling Contests, in which Balud will also participate.
The Second Leg
For the rest of that Tenday and the beginning of the next the weather is again clear, and though the rains caused a cooling, the temperature is rising gradually as the party travels along The River Shaar. This stream, Balud explains, is the only waterway in The Shaar that flows year-round. It is favored by the nomads for this reason, and the fishing is always good. One day the werewolf hauls in a gigantic sturgeon, which provokes gales of laughter among the Gezerite riders until they taste it that evening, when they heartily congratulate the Tuigan. The waters become cooler as the party moves along; by the time they have reached The Landrise, the river is crystal clear and ice cold.
The entourage will be ascending a gap in the cliffs within a few miles of the ruins of Pelevaran. Balud tells the characters that this was a human kingdom, centered on The Landrise, that was destroyed 400 years ago by dracoliches. Very little is known about the area or even which group lived there. The ruins are thought to be cursed by the Shaaran tribes because of the evil creatures that occasionally wander out of the area. The ancient kingdom covered most of what is now Ankheg territory.
The Landrise becomes visible from miles away as a black line on the horizon, and by the time the four hundred foot cliffs have come into view the Raptorans are likely stunned. Adam of Gezer allows them to ride ahead with the scouts and return with the rearguard, so that they can enjoy gliding from the cliffs while the entourage wends its way up a grassy gap toward the top. While frolicking in this way the Raptorans catch sight of the tombs built out from the cliffs. Balud explains that these are platforms where Shaaran leaders are taken for burial by exposure. It is Sixthday, 16 Mirtul, when the party crosses The Landrise.
The Old Road
After that the riders turn east, hoping eventually to strike the old road that once led between Hardcastle and Delzimmer. This track, though long defunct, is still slightly better traveled and a little safer than the surrounding plains. Balud will tell the characters a little about the history of the two ruined towns and the abandoned road, if they seem curious. He will mention that since crossing The Landrise they have been in the territory of the Rhinoceros tribe, the least assimilated of all the Shaaran tribes. The Rhinoceros are traditional enemies of his own Hyena tribe, and if he were alone he would probably be challenged, but the nomads will not bother with such a large group. A few times on the track, Balud points quickly to a hilltop on the horizon, where the characters can just see a few horsemen melting away as soon as they turn in their direction.
On Seventhday, 17 Mirtul, they encounter two hunting cheetahs, which are worth 150 GP apiece if captured, or 300 if the characters can also train them, which takes six weeks. The next day they find a herd of Steppe horses grazing. The herd is fifteen individuals, including two stallions. Any time they encounter wild animals, they can attempt to capture and tame them, for personal use or sale. Provided they can get close enough (by first capturing the beast or else either luring it close while hidden or sneaking up to it), the characters can use Wild Empathy or the spells Calm Animals, Charm Animal, or Speak With Animals for this. Any wild animal is initially unfriendly. It must be made indifferent if it is not to flee or attack. It must be made friendly if it to be herded, or helpful if it is to be domesticated.
The day after that, Ninthday 19 Mirtul, the riders reach the old road, now little more than a flat stony median in the grasslands, and turn southeast, heading for the northern border march of Dambrath. Adam of Gezer will explain his reasoning for this route during camp the previous evening. Though the nomads occasionally have trouble with Drow in this area, he does not anticipate any such problems since he is clearly a foreigner and will be seen as a merchant. Plus, the entourage is large enough to intimidate most raiders. He also anticipates being able to find a trader from Dambrath in the area with whom they can do some business.
The old road, according to Balud, marks the beginning of Cheetah tribe territory. The Cheetah are becoming dangerous, he says, because this is the tribe of Arigh Boke, who is Mongke’s cousin, and Jochi, who is Batu’s brother. They will not attack because Adam of Gezer’s group is so large, but they will be watching. As the rivalry between these two branches of The Golden Family heats up over power in The Tuigan March to the north, Balud fears the Cheetah might one day fight his own tribe openly.
This is the day they enter the region of The Great Rift. They will encounter three wild boars today and two leopards tomorrow. The boars aren’t worth much in cash, but they make excellent eating. The Gezerite warriors will reward them with jewelry if the Raptorans bag one or both boars. The leopards, meanwhile, are worth the same as cheetahs. Balud will tell them a little of The Great Rift while they travel here.
On Thirdday, 23 Mirtul, there is a rainstorm, after which the weather turns humid and miserable. The party has now entered the border march between Dambrath and The Shaar, in the region of ruined Delzimmer. That evening, there is a whispered conference between the riders and Adam of Gezer, who then calls the halt early for once. He advises the characters to get a few hours sleep, because they will be continuing toward the border only after dark.
When night has fallen, Adam of Gezer and several of his riders rouse the characters. They travel south a few miles in the moonlight until they come to a post driven into the ground. Painted in red and white stripes like a barber’s pole, it stands alone on the plain. Slowly, Adam of Gezer leads the group past the post. “The border,” he explains.
Having crossed, the party soon sights a group of wagons pulled together in a semicircle, and mounted figures out front. The other group approaches, and the Raptorans can see it is led by a Drow. After ritual introductions – clearly there is an established protocol for these meetings – the Raptorans learn that the man is named Nazruddin, and he is the master of a caravan that brings goods to the isolated horse ranches on these northern plains. Nazruddin and Adam of Gezer consent to trade, and soon torches have been lit and a fire is blazing in Nazruddin’s camp. The riders approach and settle in.
The hospitality of the Drow is courteous but not warm. The caravanners share food and drink, but they are boastful and challenging, tending to sneer or chuckle at the Gezerite group. Balud, who is the target of much of this, explains to the characters about the Drow and the situation in Dambrath. The Drow will spend some time at various contests with the Gezerite group, including Tent-Pegging and Wrestling Contests, in which Balud will participate. The characters can also note the presence of tall, blond slaves in the camp, whom Balud explains are the Arkauins of Dambrath.
Adam of Gezer, meanwhile, is bartering with Nazruddin. The characters can sell all the pepper seeds they bought for twice what they paid. In addition, Nazruddin is carrying a large amount of Dambrathan pearls, which are used as currency by the northern ranchers. He’ll be glad to sell them to the characters, who can get double profit on them once they reach Gezer.
With business completed, Adam of Gezer brings out an ornate carved wooden chessboard whose pieces are King Azoun IV of Cormyr, the members of the Crusade, and Yamun Khahan and the Horde on the other side. He explains its provenance to the characters as he engages Nazruddin in a game, which the Drow seems to enjoy very much. If the characters wish to play chess, they can do so with four opposed rolls: Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma, and an unmodified d20. Nazruddin will only play for money or magic.
But meanwhile, in the camp some of the Gezerite riders have made some unwise remarks about Cross of Dede, Adam of Gezer’s Semphari. The Drow replied that their own Dambraai mounts were the greatest racehorses on Faerun, and soon boastful words couldn’t be taken back and the camp had divided in two, which is how things stand when the noise alerts Adam of Gezer and Nazruddin. Both men soon agreed that honor should be satisfied, and so it was resolved that Cross of Dede would race Nazruddin’s best mount, True Black, in the hour before dawn. Nazruddin will race True Black himself. Adam of Gezer, meanwhile, boasts that he is traveling with the second-place jockey from the great race at Shaarmid, who will ride Cross of Dede. Of course, he is talking about Kerri.
Resolve this contest according to the Horse Racing system. Adam of Gezer will wager one of his elephants loaded with ivory from the purse at Shaarmid, but Nazruddin wagers magic: a bottle of Great Elixir with five swigs inside. Whatever the outcome of this race, the Drow will have their honor satisfied and the two groups will part amiably at dawn, when Adam of Gezer will lead the characters back to the camp, now preparing for another day’s travel.
That dawn begins Fourthday, 24 Mirtul, and the party heads north, rounding the tip of The Toadsquat Mountains before turning east to travel in the shadow of their foothills. The mountains are old and worn, and for three days they pass through empty country under a haze of humidity. Despite the lonely scenery and oppressive weather, a change has come over Balud. The werewolf is much more relaxed, even playful, with the characters, leading them on hunts and chases and challenging them to wrestle more frequently. Since sighting The Toadsquat Mountains, he says, they have entered the territory of his own tribe, the Hyena. The Raptorans realize that for the first time since they met in Shaarmid, Balud can truly let his guard down without fearing attack. This should impress them with how tribal and dangerous Shaaran society must have been before the coming of the Tuigan.
The first river they cross is The Rift River, which they must ford. There is a stone bridge, but it is long ruined, having been cast down during the fall of the demon-ruled empire of Eltabranar over a thousand years ago, as Adam of Gezer will explain. It is Eighthday, 28 Mirtul, when they sight The Toadsquat River. There is a rope bridge here, above which is a dilapidated gate at the mouth of a tall, narrow, canyon. As the characters ascend the rocks to the gate after crossing the river, they are astounded to see Gezerite crosses carved into the boulders at every switchback. Another rainstorm begins to pound the hills just as they draw within sight of the gate, and Adam of Gezer hurries them through before they are soaked. The gate leads deep inside a twisting canyon to a monastery whose buildings are facades carved back into the rock face. The characters are met there by a gleeful Gezerite, who introduces himself as Isaac of Gezer, the Abbot of this monastery, which is called Shabab.
Isaac of Gezer summons monks to care for the beasts and help the characters get comfortable, and they are soon ensconced in a rock-hewn chamber, bare but cozy, where the smell of coffee brewing drifts in from a corridor. Unprompted, he assures the party that flash floods are not a problem, since the monks have constructed gutters and sluices that funnel the rain into deep cisterns. As the coffee is served, he explains that this is one of the few remaining ancient monasteries established in foreign lands by Gezerite hermits centuries ago. There used to be more, but they have fallen one by one to the neighboring realms. Here, these virtually abandoned mountains provide a good place for the monks to live quiet lives and avoid entanglements. They have irrigated gardens inside the canyons and scrubland above where they keep sheep and goats. The party is welcome to sit out the rainstorm here and stay the night.
There is also business that can be transacted here. The characters learn from the monks that a family living here are actually serfs of Adam of Gezer. Zenawi, the man in question, was a brewer in Gezer until Adam realized that Gezerite Tej could be profitably sold to the Halflings of Luiren and the Drow of Dambrath. The noble simply relocated Zenawi and his entire family to this remote monastery, where he was directed to restart his operation and sell the produce south. Adam of Gezer returns periodically to collect the profits of the brewery, which are considerable. According to the feudal system of Gezer, this is quite an acceptable arrangement. Zenawi and his family are legally Adam’s property, and the Gezerite actually exceeds his obligation to them by allowing the brewer to take his own share before Adam’s profits are calculated. Of course, the monks explain with no trace of shame, all taxes to the Ge’ez are taken off the top first. Adam of Gezer is so pleased with his profits that he will give each of the Raptorans a princely gift, 500 Durpari dinars each.
In addition, the characters themselves can make a great deal of money here. Isaac of Gezer has noticed the Monk’s Belt which Stedd wears and offers to buy it from him at the full listed price. This is much more than the half price he could get for it later, but in order to sell it Stedd has to first decide whether or not he intends to revisit Ormpur, where Mestre gave it to him as a gift. If the Raptorans are sincere about learning Capoeira eventually, they will probably decline to sell out of loyalty to Mestre. But they may be willing to sell if they have decided in the meantime not to return.
The Last Leg
The next day is Ninthday, 29 Mirtul, and the characters resume their journey, turning northeast to make for Azulduth and Gezer. Later that day they sight a herd of 27 bison, which are worth 30 GP each in Gezer if they can be captured. The humidity continues for two more days until Secondday, 2 Kythorn, when the weather finally breaks. The Gezerite riders, instigated by Balud, have decided to celebrate the cool snap and refreshing breezes with a wyvern hunt.
Resolve this fight using the Monster Manual. Balud proposes to use himself as bait, waiting in hybrid form with a readied lance, so that the Raptorans can fall on the beast as soon as it dives on him. The beast’s poison gland can yield 1d6 doses of its venom, which are a prize for the Raptorans.
The party travels another day through superb weather, until Fourthday, 4 Kythorn, when the scouts announce they have found a party of three hunting lions. Balud, who is bounding with energy, feels like pursuing. The Raptorans can go, but this will be a tough fight for them.
The day after that, Fifthday 5 Kythorn, the party arrives at Azulduth. This salt lake, which announces itself with a shimmering haze on the horizon for miles away, is surrounded by a crusty white salt pan. The characters spy numerous lizards and reptiles on the flats and vast flocks of flamingos, spoonbills, herons and other wading birds in the shallow, shining waters. Incongruously, there is an ordu camped here, on the edge of the salt pan, and when they approach the Raptorans learn it is their old friend Badr and her followers.
Badr has been camped here for a few days to scrape salt, which she can sell profitably anywhere in The Shaar or to the north. She has made so much money since Ormpur that she will gladly sell right to the party. Whatever they invest in salt here can be sold for double that amount when they reach Gezer. In addition, the unmarried members of the ordu are still acting interested in the Raptorans. If either character reciprocates, then they will be challenged to an Archery Contest where they will be given a masterwork composite shortbow, for their strength rating, no matter what the outcome. Badr can also be used as a merchant if the Raptorans wish to buy or sell anything before their arrival in Gezer. Adam of Gezer explains that this may be a good idea, since they now enter the most dangerous part of their trip. For the next five days the party will make a broad detour around southern Rurikan, passing far to the east through the border marches of Veldorn, in order to avoid any encounters with undead. If the Raptorans wonder why this is necessary, Adam of Gezer now explains the situation that exists between Rurikan and Gezer. Moreover, Veldorn itself is not exactly safe either. Many of the monstrous populations that formerly ruled its great cities now exist as wandering bands, either uncontrolled or else only nominally loyal to Mongke and his Hyena. The travelers will move at night from now on and avoid all contact with anyone.
After leaving Azulduth the party proceeds through the plains according to Adam’s plan, and the five days thankfully pass without incident. Let the players see you rolling some encounter dice to ratchet up the suspense.
Finally, on Dragonrest, 10 Kythorn, after more than 1200 miles, the party comes in sight of Gezer. Unfortunately, their first sight is not what they wanted to see.
The Surprise at Addis
Ahead lie the steep peaks of The Dragonsword Mountains with the plateau of Gezer laid out before them like a rucked carpet, its canyons and hilltops shining in the fading light of evening. Golden fields of grain cover the slopes and goats can be seen grazing the hilltops. A glint of sunlight from a nearby promontory betrays the Church of Addis behind the hill, but a column of smoke is rising there. Adam of Gezer is instantly alarmed. He impatiently sends riders forward, including the Raptorans.
On the hilltop, behind the crest of the rise, sits the pilgrim Church of Addis, a squat, geometric pile in the shape of a cross, which seems to have been carved from the hill itself. Bodies are strewn around the grounds and thickly clustered in the gates of the church. As the Raptorans approach they can see to their horror that the bodies are in all states of decay, some little more than skeletons. Furthermore they appear, from their features and their dress, to be of many races, Tuigan, Shaaran, and Mulan. There are no Gezerite bodies out here, but inside the church they are all there: the clerics and pilgrims who died where they fell, locked in battle with undead hordes. They are grimly slashed and mutilated, their rich robes now dripping with gore.
Back at the camp, Adam of Gezer lays out the problem. It will be dark within hours. He must continue north with all speed to be sure his other towns are still there, gather his forces to sweep away any undead still in the area, and alert the Emperor at Gondar. However, it is repugnant to him to leave the dead here without any respect. Moreover, it seems likely the undead may return, to feed or to loot the building. Someone must stay at the church to lay out the bodies and defend the grounds until help can arrive. But whoever stays will face a long night of terror without any hope of rescue before dawn. Knowing it may be suicide, Adam will not ask any man to do such a thing.
After a pregnant pause, a small man the characters had previously ignored steps forward from the group of Ge’ez. His priestly robes are trimmed in green, black, and yellow, his manner is soft and kind, but his eyes are sharp. This is Menes, a lowly initiate, but he speaks bravely when he says that he was a priest here at Addis before the journey and it is now his duty to bury his friends sand keep the vigil over them. He will do so even if no one else will stay.
His bravery clearly moves Balud, who pledges that the spirit of the Tuigan will fight alongside that of Gezer this night. The Raptorans should now be willing to volunteer, and if they don’t, Balud will slyly suggest that this is the sort of thing that brings people to the notice of Emperors. It couldn’t hurt them to have a few friends in high places if they intend to continue searching the mountains for their people.
With Menes, Balud, and the Raptorans now committed to staying, all the riders of the party prepare to depart, each man clasping hands with the four volunteers as if wishing them goodbye. Finally, Adam of Gezer bids goodbye to the volunteers, giving them the Gezerite Cross that he has been traveling with, to keep them safe in the night. Then the party quickly saddles up and moves off north while the sky begins to darken.
The characters should spend the time between now and nightfall seeing to the bodies and preparing their defenses, if any. Menes will plant the Gezerite Cross at the alter and intends to stand by it all night. The undead and Ge’ez corpses currently in the church and grounds have the following gear: one dozen each of scimitars, leather armor, and small wooden shields; one dozen each of falchions and chain shirts; half a dozen each of golden holy symbols; 200 Shaar rings; 300 Durpari dinars, 200 Mulhorandi dinars and 500 Gezerite dinars, or ‘Emperors’, with the face of Tewodros on one side and the Cross of Dede on the other.
That night, the four of them will be attacked by a large mob of human commoner zombies, followed by ghouls. The zombies will enter from all three directions, in groups of five or six at a time. The ghouls will follow singly after a time, and at some point a single ghast will crawl over the ceiling and drop on Menes, who will be turning undead each round.
If the party is still alive by morning, they are rewarded with the sight of a large number of Gezerite cavalry galloping up the hill toward the church, pennants snapping in the dawn light.
Putting A Bow On It
Assign random gear to the zombies and ghouls according to the number of each, and roll magic items as for a 6th level treasure. The ghast should have the 7th level treasure from the pre-generated lists in DMG II, replacing the platinum pieces with Shaar rings. The coinage is Mulhorandi dinars and dirhams, and the picture in the locket is of a Mulan woman.
The Gezerite riders will secure the area and offer the Raptorans the hospitality of Adam of Gezer at his nearby village of Axum. Adam himself will appear a few days later, after the characters have enjoyed the life of heroes for a while, being waited on hand and foot and brought silver ewers of ice-cold drinks by beautiful Gezerite women. When the prince arrives, he will have news. The riders of his fief pursued the packs of undead for dozens of miles south, across the border into Rurikan, where they slaughtered them and erected a cross deep inside the realm, as a warning to Rurik. Adam of Gezer has spoken with the Emperor about this directly, and Tewodros was not displeased with the gesture. Moreover Adam of Gezer has been told to express the Emperor’s personal gratitude for the bravery of their service to Gezer.
The prince has also brought with him all the characters’ profit from their various trade goods, plus a pair of fine Calimite stallions (his own gift) and a dozen Gezerite trade bars for each character, which is the reward the Emperor Tewodros has authorized. The trade bars are Gezerite gold from The Dragonsword Mountains, the size of the palm of a man’s hand and stamped in the shape of a Cross of Dede. Each one is worth 100 GP.
Finally, the Emperor has instructed him to give the Raptorans his personal Gezerite Cross, an inconceivable honor. Those present fall to their knees at the sight of it.
If the characters have converted before or if they do so now, they can get additional benefits. For one thing, as believers they will be entitled to own shares in Gezerite farms and businesses. Adam of Gezer will allow them to buy into his brewery, his coffee plantation, or both. Each of these will turn a profit of 100 Gezerite dinars per month, which will continue to accrue until the character in question turns up at Shabab or Axum to claim the money.
As foreigners, the characters are not allowed to visit Gondar, so they will have to spend their recuperation in Axum. They can buy and sell as needed here, and they should now spend a little time planning where to go next.