The Calimite is a brief solo adventure designed for one or two PC’s of first level. This adventure is 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 brief, intended for a single one-day session. It contains some travel, some investigation, one combat encounter, and some racing where the character(s) can earn a little money. In this adventure, the party arrives at Ormpur, metropolis of The Tuigan Empire, where they take up with a group of Tuigan nomads on the way to Shaarmid for the annual horse fair. But events in Shaarmid will cause the characters to be swept up into Tuigan power struggles and force them to defend themselves against quite unexpected foes.
It is suggested that you play The Calimite with two characters run by the same player. Create two Forgotten Realms characters at 1st level with Waterdeep as their home region (you may pick a different region, but bear in mind that your characters must not be native to The Tuigan Empire, and that the action begins in Waterdeep). 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.
The story begins in the year 1427 Dale-Reckoning with both your characters in Waterdeep. 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 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 reading 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 1373 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. 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 The Calimite!
The Curtain Rises
As we begin, your characters have grown bored hanging around Waterdeep. Fortunately, the metropolis of the Sword Coast is a hub for everywhere. One day, craving a change of scenery, you wandered down to the docks, where ships of all nations crowd each other in their slips, and essentially just stuck out a thumb.
Hours later you were rewarded when a wandering musician took an interest in you. Adjusting the lute strapped across his back and absentmindedly scratching his goatee, the dark and roguish young man mentioned that he was about to embark on a ship, the Righteous Catamount, bound for a port called Ormpur. You’ve never heard of Ormpur, but what the hell?
As you follow the bard up the gangplank, he introduces himself as Llewellyn. He seems to have some relationship to the captain, or at least the old sea dog doesn’t swat at him like he does everyone else on the boat. Llewellyn has a pretty comfortable cabin, and there’s an adjoining one for you, free of charge as long as you work for your keep during the voyage. Don’t worry, the bard will help you learn the ropes (literally, in this case). By the time the vessel reaches Ormpur, you can add one rank in Profession (Sailor) to both your characters.
Llewellyn has mentioned a few times that he has cousins in the hinterland, east of Ormpur at a place called Shaarmid. This will be his first time visiting them. Apparently the whole region is some kind of backward nation filled with nomads who hunt wild animals on the plains. He doesn’t really know much about it, but it sounds exciting.
The action begins as you step off the Righteous Catamount, down a gangplank into a closely packed city ringing with the snorting of horses, bustling with dark-skinned, slant-eyed people, and smelling strongly of…saffron?
The Calimite DM Notes
The first time I will run The Calimite, my party will be a pair of Raptorans from Races of the Wild, played by a friend of mine named Gary. They are siblings, a male ranger and female druid, both 1st level. Their home region is the Western Heartlands, which makes them native speakers of Chondathan and users of the Thorass alphabet. Both are orphans of a burned village south of Waterdeep, since adopted into a human family and raised as humans (to the extent possible). Since adulthood they have come to the city, in part to live in an accepting and cosmopolitan atmosphere, but also as the first step in a journey to locate the true home of their people.
They will be accompanied by a DM character, just for insurance. Llewellyn, who presents himself as a traveling companion, is a 2nd level bard of Waterdeep, which makes him also a native speaker of Chondathan and user of the Thorass alphabet. Crucially, Llewellyn is more than he seems. He is both a spellfire wielder and a Harper. Unknown to his companions, the apparently carefree bard is embarking on a multiyear mission that could change the face of Faerun. Namely, Llewellyn has been selected as the first Harper to investigate The Tuigan Empire, which has become known in The Western Realms as ‘The Empire of Night’.
The few westerners who know anything about the empire at all are fixated on the rumors of large numbers of Werewolves there, hunting travelers for their sport, hence the nickname. This misunderstanding is due to the fact that since the days of Jebe Khan the empire has employed clans of Werewolves as border guards. Therefore, the Werewolves (who are numerous in the border areas) are often the first thing that visitors see. Since few men will continue traveling after they’ve been scoped by Werewolves, the clans are also the only thing many visitors see before they turn back forever. The rumors of hunting humans for sport are also inaccurate but based on a grain of truth, since in days past the werewolf clans were used to track and destroy the numerous bands of slavers that crisscrossed The Shaar at that time. Some of the harrowing tales brought back to Thay and Chessenta by the surviving slave-traders have since spread into the west, eventually reaching the ears of the Harpers. Therefore, Llewellyn was chosen to investigate, being a nobody who could travel easily without drawing attention and also, sadly, an expendable person in case things go wrong.
Llewellyn approached the Raptorans on the docks in Waterdeep, identifying them as potentially interesting traveling companions. Hearing their story of seeking the homeland of their people, the Harper earned their trust with a little white lie, saying that he knew a tale of birdmen living far to the south, in The Shaar. As it so happened, he himself had cousins there, at a place called Shaarmid in the middle of the plains. He was about to travel there, embarking aboard the Righteous Catamount for the city of Ormpur on The Shining Sea.
The captain of the vessel, a globe-trotting Illuskan sea trader of Waterdeep named Taman Broes, is a Harper sympathizer, which is why the Raptorans are able to notice his preferential treatment of Llewellyn during the voyage. All three characters are able to pick up a little sailing expertise during the trip, gaining 1 free rank in Profession (Sailor) by the time they make landfall.
The Party Arrives At Ormpur
Chronology. The Righteous Catamount makes the port of Ormpur on a Dragonrest, the end of the first Tenday in the month of Tarsakh. The horse fair at Shaarmid happens during the last Tenday of Tarsakh, with the last big races occurring at the end of the month, the day before Greengrass. The characters will need to travel 14 days to reach Shaarmid from Ormpur, so if they leave on Firstday, the day after they arrive, they can make Shaarmid on a Fifthday, the midpoint of the fair. This leaves the characters four days to conduct their investigation before the Calimite runs in the big race on that Dragonrest.
First, there is the heat, so unlike Waterdeep in Tarsakh. The sun beats down on the waterfront, even this early in the year. Fortunately, there is a stiff breeze coming off the water. Other travelers, noticing the characters turning their faces into the wind in pleasure, remark that the town is called the ‘City of the Seabreeze’. Along with the breeze comes the strong smell of saffron.
The city itself looks odd and unplanned, but after a few moments it becomes apparent that this is because it has recently doubled in size. The low stone and stucco construction of the city proper, with its narrow lanes, tight alleys, and cramped markets, is surrounded by concentric circles of shantytowns, where families have built huts from mud and scrap wood, carefully fenced with dry brush to divide one plot from another. Townspeople will tell the characters that the shantytowns date from recent years, after the destruction of Sheirtalar, when many of the people there relocated to Ormpur for safety from the nomads.
The people here are Tashalans, and in fact Ormpur is the only majority Tashalan area outside Chult. The Tashalans are short, darkly olive-skinned, with tightly coiled black hair, which both men and women wear either short or bushy, but never long or braided. A few men have scant, wispy facial hair. Many of the people are displaying some sort of snake-themed jewelry. The characters will also notice many Shaaran people, who are taller, long-faced and yellow-skinned. Some are nomads, dressed in their traditional nomadic garb of leathers and fringe, but in addition most of those in the shantytowns are Shaarans from Sheirtalar, who dress in urban fashions. Shaarans are pictured in Shining South pages 6-7. They favor feathers over jewelry, speak Shaaran and also write in Dethek runes. The nomadic Shaarans in the city are always encountered in pairs; this is a superstitious reaction to the urban environment. Finally, there are large numbers of Tuigan in evidence, who are very distinctive in their traditional garb, pictured in The Horde page 9. They speak Tuigan and write in the familiar human Thorass alphabet. The Tuigan in the city are either individuals, often mounted or leading a horse, or large groups on foot, often rowdy with one or more members drunk. In either case, they move through crowds with barely-concealed authority, regarding themselves as masters of all they survey. They are likely, for example, to swat or strike an annoying street urchin, whereas a Shaaran or a Tashalan would just shoo him away. It is easy to see, however, that they are always very well equipped and they spend a lot of money, which the townspeople are happy to get. Both Shaaran and Tuigan nomads have their campsites on the plain outside the city, where a number of yurts can be seen, with herds milling around.
The language of the people is also Tashalan, though everyone can also use Common. Most noticeably, the writing on everything, including signage, is strange. The Tashalan language uses the Dethek alphabet of the Dwarves, with its blocky and runic look. Everyone pronounces the name of their city ‘orm-PAR’ and the characters will get funny looks for saying ‘orm-PUR’.
In the market, silver and gold coins are called dirhams and dinars. There is also much trade done in the currency called Shaar rings. These thin, polished ivory rings are strung in long ropes like beads and used all over The Shaar, favored by nomads in particular because they can be worn like jewelry. In fact, many people have strings of them as wrist or ankle bangles, necklaces and especially hair ornaments for both human beings and livestock. Shaar rings are worth 3 GP per piece. There are large piles of saffron being bought and sold by brokers all over the markets, and the characters will be told that the plains near the bay are the only place in Faerun where the saffron crocus grows in sufficient abundance for a profitable trade in this spice. However, the saffron trade is dominated by established wholesalers and the characters will find no way to make money here.
On the corners, the characters can witness small groups of thin, wiry people dressed in white cotton pants with rope belts, practicing a strange, fluid martial art filled with low feints, leg sweeps, handstands and bizarre locks and throws, looking as much like dancing as fighting. If they question the leader, called Mestre by the group, they are told this is a Tashalan fighting style called Capoeira.
The Characters Try To Get Started
Having arrived at Ormpur, the characters now need to make it to Shaarmid. The distance as the crow flies is over 300 miles, and they probably do not have enough money for mounts (even if they do, they can still encounter the ordu on the road: see below). If they investigate the possibility of signing on with a Road Caravan, they will find that their timing is unfortunate. Ordinarily the caravanners on this route have a use for additional guards, who can make 1d20 GP per level per day in such an arrangement. However, this is the time of the big horse fair at Shaarmid, which is only a Tenday away. There are so many people on the plains now that predators, humanoids and bandits alike are all keeping a low profile. In fact, travel across The Shaar is never safer than it is in Tarsakh and Mirtul. During these two months, the typical Road Caravan not only has no need for extra security, but actually charges passengers a fee of 1d20 GP per day to travel with the group. The characters probably cannot afford this, either. They are, apparently, screwed.
But then they have a fortunate meeting, which can occur with one person at the market (if they have not bought mounts, and are therefore just hanging around) or with the whole ordu on the road (if they have scraped up enough cash for horses and they are on the way out of town). The characters meet Badr, a Tuigan woman who is the khatun of an ordu camped just outside the town. She has come to Ormpur driving her herd of cattle, which she has just sold to the traders here, from whence the animals are bound for the markets of Lapaliiya. She now intends to buy a large amount of local wine to sell for a profit at the horse fair, where they are headed next. She says the ordu can make Shaarmid on a Fifthday, the midpoint of the fair. She will be happy to allow the characters to travel with them free of charge, in exchange for some interesting stories and their help with the animals.
Not only this, but Badr will cut them in on the deal she intends to make. If the characters have any cash, they can ‘invest’ it with her, and she will buy more wine to sell at the fair. If the characters take this option, they can surrender a certain amount of their GP now, and get double that amount back when they reach Shaarmid.
The Road To Shaarmid
When the characters follow Badr out of town to join up with her ordu on the nearby plain, this will be their first experience of Tuigan life. There are several details you can use to make this exotic for them.
The ordu consists of two yurts, one in which Badr and her two grown sons Amun and Aki live, and another where there is a young family (Tarik, the husband, and Malika, his wife) with three teenage daughters (Bel, Bala and Bhangla), for a total of eight people, or eleven including the party. All the men in camp are shaved bald but wildly mustached, while women are plain, but both sexes dress alike and everyone wears jewelry in the form of Shaar rings. Badr and the three girls carry only a bow and a knife, but all the men are belted with scimitars as well, and Tarik is also a lancer.
There is a large herd of sheep, a few goats and a mob of shaggy, wild looking horses nearby. If the characters are counting, there are 39 horses, 200 sheep and 40 goats. Her companions’ personal horses are saddled near each tent. A few dogs are milling around. The men are taking down the first yurt and stowing it for travel as the characters arrive. Badr immediately invites them into her yurt for tea, saying “no tea, no pride!” The furnishings consist of rugs and cushions, and the tea is strong, flavored with butter. There are joints of meat hanging in the rafters, drying and smoking. When everyone is refreshed, the characters are put to work gathering up the animals and taking down the remaining yurt, which takes two hours. Each of the yurts is loaded onto four of the available horses, and another half-dozen of them carry the boxes of wine. In addition to these each person in camp saddles up two separate mounts, and the characters are each given two mounts of their own and shown how to saddle both, keeping one for an emergency remount in case of attack. With everyone’s possessions stowed for the road, the group takes up weapons and swings into the saddle.
The trip to Shaarmid will take 14 days, during which the characters will help out with everything in camp and on the road. At the end of this time, they can all add 1 free rank in Profession (Herdsman) to their skills, and anyone without Ride will have earned 1 rank in this as well. There is no road or track to Shaarmid; the trip is all across country, though the route is well known and traveled by many other groups.
Life is simple but satisfying with the nomads. They travel at a slow pace, since they must drive the herds as they go. In the morning they collect water, bathe and drink, and care for the horses. Breakfast is a handful of dried fruit and a cup of salty butter tea, with some tsampa mixed in. All day is spent in the saddle, sometimes watching the herds, sometimes scouting ahead or hunting, away from the group. The riders stave off hunger in the daytime by sucking on rock-hard cubes of dried cheese, or raiding a nearby fruit tree or berry patch. If any game has been found, there will be fresh meat for the evening meal. Otherwise, each person contents himself with dried jerky and sausages, maybe with a few herbs or wild onions if any are available at the campsite. When commenting on the lack of vegetables, someone is sure to say, “grass is for animals, and meat is for man!” At every camp, all the mounts must be taken care of before anyone can relax. Around a late evening fire, a flask of kumiss is usually passed while the nomads share stories, toasting each other by saying “our friendship has been raised!” Each night, everyone helps to erect a single yurt, in which they all sleep fully clothed (it is snug with eleven people). If the characters ever grumble about the work, someone will laugh and say, “our people have a saying – if you said yes, you can’t say it hurts!”
The ordu leaves Ormpur on a Firstday. For a week the weather is windy, rainy and increasingly hot. This is the wet season in The Shaar, so there are numerous ponds and streams available. Everyone comments that this is the best time of year to travel on these plains, normally so dry. That Thirdday they encounter a herd of bison, which consists of 19 individuals. Today, and any other 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. If any of the bison are captured, the characters can sell them at the fair for 15 GP each.
On Fifthday they encounter their first people. This is an ordu of Shaaran nomads of the Eagle tribe, smaller than theirs and much poorer. There are only six people in the ordu, the khan and khatun (Kanem and Wata) plus his brother Tuek and two young daughters Nafs and Mala. The latter three are 1st level fighters, but the khan is a ranger and his wife a druid, both of 4th level. They have no horse herd, only goats. In addition to their poverty, the Shaaran nomads also look and speak differently from the Tuigan. Their dress and ornaments are very different (they favor eagle feathers, for one thing), and their weapons are inferior. They carry spears instead of scimitars, and leather armor instead of the chain shirts that the Tuigan wear under their dels. Their horses are most notably different, being the spotted Shaaran ponies instead of the shaggy Steppe horses of the Tuigan. They are more than happy to share a camp that evening, at which everyone has a grand time. Like the Tuigan they are worshippers of Teylas, so that evening Badr burns a piece of silk as an offering, in honor of the guests. Wata performs divinations to determine that the rest of the journey will be auspicious for both groups. Both the khan and khatun have huge Shaaran falcons for their companions, and the characters can each gain a permanent +1 to Handle Animal checks involving birds by spending some time learning their falconry.
The characters may be interested in their fellow wilderness experts, but Badr has noticed something else. The Shaarans have been to The Dun Hills and harvested a great number of olives, which are brining in leather sacks carried by their own mounts. She believes she can get a good profit on these if she sells them to hungry spectators at the horse fair, so she spends some time with Kanem bartering some of the wine for them. She will cut the characters in on this too. If they wish, they can make a return on these equal to what they were already expecting on the wine (in other words, their initial investment on the wine will now triple, not double, upon reaching Shaarmid).
On Seventhday the ordu passes a pair of elephants. From this point on, the wind dies down and the weather cools off, though it still rains every few days, usually at night. On Ninthday they sight a herd of wild horses in the distance. These are 13 Steppe horses. On the next Secondday it is a pair of cheetahs, which are worth 150 GP apiece if captured, or 300 if the characters can also train them (six weeks). On Thirdday the ordu passes a column of smoke rising form the southern horizon. Shortly thereafter they are hailed by a pair of Ogres.
These are the legendary Ogres of the Valley, about whom the ordu has heard much they will share with the characters. The Ogres are dressed in shining magical breastplates and carry huge, thick magical lances. They are riding elephants with razor sharp tusk caps and using magical reins that can cause the animals to fly. The two ogres, who introduce themselves as Vaprak and Krusk, share a camp with the ordu that night, entertaining them with Tent-Pegging and other games, and telling lots of stories. If the characters participate and impress them, they will each be given a Potion of True Strike as a gift. They purchase several sheep from Badr and roast them for a grand feast, which they share with the characters. The ogres are valuable mainly for what they know of the political situation. It should be obvious to the party that this is a military unit and can be questioned about anything they feel they need to know about the area.
The Horse Fair at Shaarmid
Shaarmid is a large city of almost 25,000 people. The characters will be immediately impressed by its high, strong walls, with multicolored banners flapping in the stiff wind. All the city’s gates are thrown open for the fair, which has been going on for five days now. in fact, the plain nearby is thick with tents of all shapes and sizes. The round tents of the nomads, with their herds grazing nearby, are interspersed with the sqared-off pavilion tents tents of the settled people like the Mulhorandi, Durpari and the Gezerites. Inside the city, there are people of every description, though a majority are Shaaran or Tashalan. The signposts are printed in the blocky, runic Dethek alphabet.
The characters will be overwhelmed by the variety of people in the city’s markets and squares. In addition to the Shaarans, Tashalans, and Tuigans, there are Mulan from Mulhorand, Durpari from The Golden Water, Gezerites, Raumvira, Shou, Semphari and Ulgarthans. The party can find and speak to a person from pretty much anywhere. Everyone they interact with, even briefly, should be described exotically. For their part, these NPC’s will be very bemused by the birdmen as well.
Badr and her sons leave Tarik and his family on the plain to find a campsite, while she enters the town to unload her wine and olives. When this is done, she pays off the three characters and cuts them loose. They can continue to stay with the ordu or find their own accommodations. In fact, any innkeeper they approach will let them stay free for the remaining days of the fair, in the hope that the exotic new tenants will attract other customers to his taproom in the evenings.
And what about Llewellyn and the cousins he supposedly has? Well, his inquiries in town quickly turn up the fact that they are both dead. Nonetheless, the Harper dutifully sends off the Bird Token to notify his superiors that he has arrived.
Each day, the characters will have a chance to participate in any number of contests at the fair. They can bet on the Horse Racing or even ride in one personally. They can meet the jockeys and learn about the Breeds of Horses. They will get to see or participate in Wrestling Contests and Archery Contests plus more Tent-Pegging. Llewellyn will perform every day.
One strange episode that happens in the market will be important later. The characters notice, as they are walking around, that there is a large leopard wandering around in the market. It seems to go wherever it wants to, approaching people without any alarm. For their part the townspeople seem to leave it alone. The butchers give it a little bit of meat when it approaches their stall, while others set out a saucer of milk or a sweet. No one will answer any questions about the leopard, seeming to regard it as a joke if the characters ask. The characters will get a chance to interact with it on one occasion when it wanders up to sniff and lick their feathers.
It is that first evening, when the characters are sitting together in a tavern, perhaps after hearing Llewellyn play a tune or two, that they are approached by an extremely wealthy, turbaned Durpari man, with rings on all ten fingers and robes trimmed with gold. After buying them drinks of expensive Rashemi firewine, the man introduces himself as Sabi. He is one of the wealthy horse breeders that Shaarmid is famous for; in fact, Sabi owns the largest, most prominent stable in town. It is in this capacity that he has approached the characters. He hints that he has a job that only they can perform, and entreats them to come to his stable later that night.
At the abandoned stable, the merchant meets the three characters alone, with only a pair of bodyguards in the shadows. Apologizing for his secretive manner, he says that the details of his problem are too sensitive for a public place. Sabi has a magnificent horse, a Calimite, scheduled to run in the big race on the upcoming Dragonrest, last day of the fair. The field will be incredibly prestigious. Two horses owned by The Golden Family will also be racing. Sabi spent a lot of money to buy the Calimite, and as part of his investment he performed a divination, in order to get some sense of whether he would have good luck in the race. But when he asked whether his horse would be fortunate, he was told by the spirits that the results had been thrown in doubt, because one of the owners was fixing the race with magic.
Now Sabi needs someone to investigate the rest of the field and find the guilty party. There is a lot of money riding on it. Not only is the winner’s purse a hefty 3000 GP, but Sabi himself has placed bets with many other breeders, including some in The Golden Family. These are people, he suggests, that it would be better not to lose money to. If the characters locate and expose the cheater, he will pay them 500 GP each.
If the characters ask about race-fixing, Sabi refuses to discuss it. But he does suggest the characters speak to the Marshall of Horses for the town, who is a sort of one-man governing body for the races at the fair. The Marshall of Horses has extensive power, traditionally backed by all the racing concerns of the town. He can hear evidence of match-fixing, and he has the authority to order property to be searched and horses to be examined if there is suspicion.
This year’s Marshall of Horses is a retired jockey by the name of Toki. He can be found in the citadel at the center of town, going over last-minute arrangements. He is extremely busy fielding requests and complaints from all manner of people, but he makes a few minutes for the characters. He can give them a tutorial on the ways a race could be fixed, and he will also introduce them to the field.
The field for the big race, he explains, is already set. Each horse’s owner earned a spot by winning one of several previous races and also placed a large deposit with the town. In addition to Sabi’s Calimite, Spirit of Fire, there are two other horses widely regarded as strong chances to win, owned by two feuding members of The Golden Family.
West Wind is a Lhesperan owned by Anawat, the khatun of the northwestern Ankheg tribe. She is the wife of Arigh Boke, khan of the Cheetah tribe in the northern central Shaar. The Ankheg are currently rivals of the Lion tribe in the southern central Shaar, whose khatun is Artusas, wife of Mongke.
In addition to being khan of the northeastern Hyena tribe, Mongke is one of the most ambitious and violent of all Jebe Khan‘s descendants, the true inheritor of his grandfather’s savagery and ambition. Thanks to his second wife Shatila, his young son Drasna is now the underage King of Ulgarth for whom Mongke is regent. With control of the vast lands of Ulgarth, plus his own conquests in The Golden Water, Mongke is greatly wealthy. The childless Artusas jealously hates Anawat for bearing a son to Arigh Boke, putting the Khan of All Shaarans in his family line instead of her own.
On top of this, Mongke and Arigh Boke are rivals to each other as well. Their fathers Jochi and Batu are in a strugle to claim the loyalty of Subedei Khatun’s remaining Noyan in The Tuigan March region. If Batu eventually becomes khan of the March, it would be a virtual certainty that either Mongke or Drasna would be the next Great Khan.
Therefore Artusas, once she learned that Anawat would be racing West Wind, immediately entered her own Dambraai, Drow’s Bane. The rivals have wagered a huge amount of cash, but crucially they have also bet some of their indentured craftsmen currently living in colonies in the Demonblood Dam region. The winner therefore becomes better positioned in the power struggle for The Tuigan March. Both women are riding their horses personally.
The other three horses are less prominent. There are two Sempharis in the field. Cross of Dede is owned by a Gezerite noble, and Death to Witches was entered by a rich retired adventurer down from Chessenta. The final horse is a Chionthar named Liberation, owned by Sabi’s archrival breeder, a wealthy Shaaran stable-owner named Tambo.
The investigation of these horses and owners will give the characters a chance to meet some strange new people. They will quickly learn that, despite their reputations, Artusas and Anawat are both above reproach. No one in The Golden Family would dream of fixing a race. Just mentioning the possibility is enough to nearly start fights wherever the characters go. They should get the strong impression that even if they thought the two women were suspects, they would not be able to interrogate them and live.
They can also scratch another name off their list. Georgios the Brawler, the retired adventurer from Chessenta, is a Forsaker, as the characters can learn as soon as they ask about him. He has a fanatical hatred of magic and anyone who uses it. This only leaves Tambo and the Gezerite.
These two owners could not be more different. Adam of Gezer has come to town with a large retinue including several clerics of Dede. These strange folk have pitched their huge, ornate tents on the plain outside the city, where their racehorses are kept under guard of a number of very tall, very dangerous Gezerite men, in shining breastplates and square cowhide tower shields, each man carrying a longspear and a wicked-looking sickle-like blade called a shotel. But Adam of Gezer is completely open and welcoming to the characters, to the extent of sharing a meal with them and serving them coffee himself in his own tent. He invites them to participate in that evening’s vigil, since the Ge’ez offer prayers to Dede every night. If the characters do so, they can have the benefit of a Bless spell for the following day.
In contrast, Tambo offers them nothing but hostility. When the characters present themselves at his stable, he is just wrapping up a conversation with one of his workers, and very suspiciously drops his voice to a whisper as soon as he sees them approaching. He is very curt and will not allow them access to his horse or his buildings. Even worse, the characters can later see several obvious magic users being ushered out of the stables by Tambo himself. The characters will be completely blocked from gathering any further information about Tambo. His stable will be under heavy security, and few people will be willing to talk about him.
After these investigations, it should be easy for the character to guess who is fixing the race. Unfortunately, they will be completely wrong.
The Shocking Twist Ending
If the characters report Tambo to the Marshall of Horses, his stable will be raided publicly, and the news will be all over town. The characters will have to be present personally (with the number of vendettas in the town, the Marshall of Horses has no time for anonymous accusations) and Tambo will be furious with them. But he will be vindicated. There is no physical evidence in his stable. The suspicious magic users will be located and found to be friends of the family who were merely placing bets. As it turns out, Tambo always has such heavy security around his stable at festival time, and people don’t like mentioning him in conversations because he has an abrasive personality and rubs people the wrong way. Most damning of all, when the local wizards examine Liberation closely they will all concur that he has not been magically enhanced. The party has now made enemies of both Tambo and Toki, whose authority has suffered a blow because of the false accusation.
By this time it should be Ninthday, the last day before the race, and the characters will have to return to Sabi and admit defeat. When they can finally meet him at the end of the day, the breeder is morose, but tries to convince himself it is just the will of The Adama that the chips should fall where they may. He serves the characters hot tea from Shou Lung and invites them for a walk around his stable. It should now be late evening, after dark. They are walking by the stable where Spirit of Fire is kept when someone hears a noise (call for Listen checks).
When Sabi flings open the stable door, the characters surprise a group of three men who are in the process of stealing Spirit of Fire. One of them already has one foot in the stirrup. Call for initiative at this point.
The thief with one foot in the stirrup will swing into the saddle and ride straight out the open barn door into the night, trampling over Sabi to do so. As he departs, he tosses a tiny object to one of the characters, saying with a laugh, “We found your ring, Sabi! You should have saved one for yourself!” The other two men square off against the characters, intending to fight them with fisticuffs. Llewellyn strums a chord, using Inspire Courage. He will not participate unless things get very bad.
All three bad guys are werewolves. Their overconfidence leads them to believe they can defeat the characters with fists alone, but if they are threatened they will change to hybrid form.
Neither man has any treasure or equipment with him, but their features identify them as Half-Tuigan and they have scarification on their faces that indicates they are Hyena tribesmen, some of Mongke’s people. If the characters let anyone else see the bodies or get a description, they can confirm this. The object they threw is a ring inset with three dull, smoky gems. Llewellyn can conclude, with Bardic Knowledge, that this is a burned-out Ring of Three Wishes.
The most likely explanation is that Sabi used the Wishes to enhance the Calimite’s statistics and thereby cheat on the race. The divination was therefore pointing the finger at himself, though he didn’t realize it. However, Sabi is now dead, and the characters have to decide whether to pursue the Calimite. There is a possibility that the party will not want to do so; if so, Llewellyn produces a pair of silver daggers and offers encouragement. At this point, they should be wondering just who the hell he is. But that’s for later. For now, they have to follow the thief.
If they do, they can track the horse through the alleys of the city, out one of the gates, and a few miles outside the town to a quiet spot between some hills. There they see the Calimite and the rustler, apparently unaware of any pursuit; but when the characters approach, that’s when several dozen armed nomads rise up from cover to surround them. All are Shaaran Hyena tribesmen much like the rustler. They appear to have no leader until the leopard from the marketplace steps out from behind one man and sits down on its haunches. After washing its paws for a minute or two, there is a moment where the creature fountains upward into the air, changing shape and gaining in size, until it becomes a man, an elderly, bald Tuigan in sweeping robes and gold jewelry.
“I am sorry you got mixed up in this!” he says, then thanks them if they treated him well earlier, or scolds them if they did not.
The old man is Batu, second son of Jebe Khan, who learned to become a shapechanger during his childhood in The Shaar. The men with him are his own tribal entourage, and the theft of the Calimite was his idea. He had been warned by a crazy old hermit in Unther that an unscrupulous horse-breeder would cause problems for his daughter-in-law. His men discovered that Sabi had used the ring, and the old man chose to deal with the matter himself. Why, he says, should the son of Jebe Khan go hat in hand to the Marshall of Horses like some common bookie? Besides, this way the Calimite gets to live. If it was exposed as a magically-enhanced horse, the law would require it destroyed. Not even a member of The Golden Family would publicly defy the rules of the race!
Batu does understand the characters’ disappointment, however. He will make good on Sabi’s debt to them. In addition, if they treated the leopard well earlier, they can now count Batu as an NPC ally. More importantly, with Sabi dead and the Calimite gone, there is an open spot in the race. Batu, who has a mischievous streak, wants to see one of the birdmen race. He will insist that the Marshall of Horses accept a late entry, and also contribute his own favorite racehorse, a Raurin named Sheik of Sheiks.
Putting a Bow On It
The next day dawns clear and cold, perfect weather for the race. Resolve this according to the rules in the Horse Racing section. Artusas and Anawat both have no ranks in Profession (Jockey) (their untrained modifier should be 4) and plenty of ranks in Ride (their spur checks should be auto-hits). Of the remaining horses, Tambo’s stable can afford the best jockey, with modifiers of 13 in both skills. The two Sempharis are ridden by off-the-shelf jockeys with modifiers of 12 in both skills. Roll hit points for each horse at the table, then draft a quicksheet with everything else you need.
Sheik of Sheiks is a ten-to-one underdog, if they care to bet, but the odds are only two-to-one that he can make it into the top three. The winner’s purse is 3000 GP, payable in Shaar rings, plus a trio of fine Lhesperans, masterwork rhino-hide armor and shields for all three characters, a pair of hunting leopards, and an elephant-load of raw ivory, worth another 900 GP anywhere outside The Shaar. Then, of course, there are several steppe horses laden with various local foodstuffs, plus the proceeds from whatever the characters bet on themselves. There is also the rivalry between Artusas and Anawat to resolve, based on how the race turns out.
Badr and her sons will be at the race, as will the Ogres the party met earlier and virtually everyone they’ve spoken with since. If they do well, they will have many friends, which is good because they’ll have to decide what to do with themselves now. Badr will thank the characters for making things interesting, and make a gift to each person of their two mounts and all their tack.
Dragonrest is the end of the horse fair, but the day after is still Greengrass, when all the NPC’s we’ve seen so far will be saying their goodbyes and packing up amid the celebratory sharing of flowers, stealing of kisses and singing of songs. At this time the characters can decide what they want to do with themselves, and you can keep them around in that capacity as NPC’s until they are needed again!