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The Ark of Nader

by Joćo Cartaxo

I currently run a Mystaran campaign (3.5 ed rules) in Davania that centres in the city state of Illiolosti. I would like to share the campaign and hear the thoughts and opinions of fellow Mystarans.


The year is 1016, its a hot summer that's its reaching its end. In the village of Dolmeus not everything is ok...
Dolmeus was built around a stone garrison, Dolmeus, in the area outside the trench that protects the city state from attacks. The garrison, or its location, is old, being conquered, destroyed and rebuilt several times by humanoid and Mivosian invasions.
The lands around Dolmeus are fertile plains, overlooking the savanna and the forest of Mineus, a heaven for the hunters in Dolmeus. The village is a home base for several groups of adventurers, that roam the savanna in search of ancient Milenian secrets.

The cast:

Pandora, a human female fighter (archer).She has a strange appearance to a human, silver hair with small green stipes, pale skin and completely white eyes. With a elven look only her muscular and tall body betrays her for a human. She was raised by the elven clans of the Adarion woods and she's following some disturbing nightmares, involving a metal monster and her sister. She has a mark in her body that she shares with her sister, they are linked by that mark and sometimes can fell what the other is felling.

Seldaek, human male cleric. Seldaek is a survivor, he doesn't remember nothing of his life before is 12th birthday, or around that age. He rambled through the savanna following a voice that guided him, and that voice brought him to Dolmeus. He grew up there, with an old woman named Rosaline, and making lots of different jobs, farming, fishing, hunting, etc...
The voice never left him, it was always with him, guiding him trough is life. Around the age of 30 he departed to the forest of Mineus and during a month he performed a ritual that transformed him inside, always guided by the voice.
After the ritual he was no more a simple man, he was a cleric and the voice revealed herself has the immortal Diamond.
He's now following his night dreams of building a temple to Diamond in the forest.

Thorgilfik, dwarven male cleric. Born in the Iron hills, south east of Illiolosti, Thorgilfik was always a different dwarf and from a young age he was very curious of Kagyar, always making al sort of questions. One day he felt a strange calling in his sleep and when he woke up he was in the steps of the temple of Kagyar. The clerics took this sign as an omen and he was brought to the order. He is a masterful healer, and quite an handy one. He came to Dolmeus following a dwarven prophecy and is odd dreams of two dwarves fighting side to side, one made of iron and another of rock.

Yul, swashbuckler (from complete warrior) male rakasta. Born in the rakastan city of Artarashai, near the iron hills and son of a rakastan blacksmith, he's a reckless and brave rakasta who want's to follow the footsteps of his brother and enter the famous Artarashai guard. To do this he must prove his bravery to his people and thus he ventured to the area of Dolmeus with an old friend, Thorgilfik. The rakastas have strong trade relations with the dwarves, and Yul knew the cleric in one of his trips with his father to the dwarven city.

Kanadis, human male sorcerer. Kanadis is a young local farm boy. Only recently did he began to understood his strange magical powers but he's confident that he will master them properly. He trying to protect his old parents from the strange events that afflict the village.

Fistandantilos Gimneus
, human male bard. Fis is an itinerant bard that learned all he could from is master, the bard Bradius "Storysinger". He's usually the centre of all attentions and he like's it that way. He's the guy with knowledge and resources that usually knows "something about everything"...
After leaving his master he followed the current flow of disturbing news...Dolmeus...

The situation:

The farms around Dolmeus are being attacked by goblinoids, mainly goblins and hobgoblins, they simply attack the farms and take everyone. The goblinoids use some sort of "orange" fire that burns quickly.

News from adventurers and hunters report that the interior of the forest of Dolmeus is turning into a swamp. Undead are reported in the area...

The beginning:

The players all responded to a call for investigating these strange events and after meeting decided to give it a try and band together.
Several groups of adventurers are being "controlled" by a local wizard at the service of the army, Kalador. This creeping wizard walks around in full robes in the summer and no one can see any part of his body, all covered in some kind of cloth. Is voice is guttural, as if is vocal cords are damaged and a strange musky and spicy smell seems to follow him.

Chapter One - Rats in the Cellar

After an not very productive talk with the civil governor of Dolmeus, who reported them to Kalador, nicely, the group of adventurers went to the local inn, The Traveller's Staff.

On their way a bloody women comes screaming from a house if front of their path. She babbles something about rats, rats in the cellar and as she starts to fade away, Thorgilfik cast a CLW and the women, who asks for their help, her little baby lies on the cellar and there are gigantic rats down there.

Promptly, the group crosses the house and reaches the inner garden (I made Milenian houses a squared building housing 4 different homes with a common inner garden with a also common cellar), where the door to the cellar laid open in the middle of the garden.

They went downstairs and quickly where ambushed by... Dire rats! Not all went well, because Pandora stayed in the back shooting arrows and some rats penetrated their defences as they moved on.

Suddenly Yul is surprised in the middle of some shelves by a human looking rat, bigger than he was, and the "ratman" bit him on the neck, Yul riposted with is rapier, but the weapon had no effect on the "ratman"!

A few rounds later, all the Dire rats where dead, Yul, Seldaek, Thorgilfik and Pandora, all laid seriously injured, either by the rats or the jumping ratman, the damn creature was constantly on the move and evaded their attacks or negated them, somehow...
Kannadis, was furious and perplexed by the fact that the ratman seemed resist his several sleep spells...

The ratman looked around, grinned and escaped through a breach on the cellar's wall. They went after them, but only to see him escape through a hole on the ground in a strange looking tunnel.

They found a small child, unconscious but alive in the cellar and after some healing, and some discussion between Pandora, Fistandatilos and Kanadis regarding back protection, Thorgilfik said the breach was recent, probably made by the series of small earthquakes that afflicted the Illiolosti area two months ago.
The breach entered a tunnel full of strange drawings in the walls, and in one end a hole on the ground gave access to what seemed a sewer, judging by the smell...

They blocked the breach with material from the cellar and move to the surface, intending to speak with Kalador, and of course the Halav clerics from the village.

After they reported the events, Kalador said coldly that Yul had been bitten by a Wererat, and was probably infected with the disease. After some elucidations about lycanthropy, they where now very worried. Yul was "locked" in the Halav's temple cells and monitored by the clerics. The rest of the group
made some progress in the writings on the wall, it seemed that the tunnel belonged to an ancient sewer system from the city of Mineus, the same that named the forest nearby. The same that seemed to harbour the swamp and the goblinoids...
They discovered the sewers belonged to Dolmeus but it was old and closed mane decades ago due to a rats swarm. After some inspection they managed to calculate all passages to the sewers an mark them with ropes.

Meanwhile, a rumour spread like fire through Domeus, a wererat was in the village. Chaos rose like fire and the army had to calm to population who demanded protection. Silver weapons prices went nuts, and the group spend all their money acquiring silver equipment.

Kalador went to the lonely Yul, and talked to him. He said he didn't had a certain cure, it had something that might work but only after he transformed. He told Yul that if the spell failed he would kill him outright, and if he lived, Yul would be in debt to him. The rakasta agreed but growled to the mysterious wizard. In the next full moon, nothing happened to the rakasta and he went to his friends who where about to begin a chase to the already infamous ratman...curiously no one asked anything regarding why the disease hadn't affected the brave rakasta...

Chapter Two- After the Ratman!

Well, in the first session of this chapter, Kannadis and Seldaek stayed back in the village because the father of Kannadis got sick and the cleric went with him to help (in fact the players couldn't be present and as previously established, if a player can't be present their character stays back in a safe place until he can resume normally).

So Yul, Thorgilfik, Pandora and Fistandatilos made their descent through the hole in the ground. They found themselves in some ancient circular tunnelled sewer system about 20' across. A 5' passageway in one of the sides of the tunnel made it possible to advance without getting dirty...

Some character got...sick and vomited from the smell...

Soon they realised that the tunnel was crossed by other tunnels, some of he same size and others smaller. In these intersections arched bridges connected the passageways.
They got a little disoriented but due to their previous markings on the grates in the far ceiling (see previous chapter) they soon navigated with some accuracy.

They crossed a few Dire rats and battled them.

In one of the intersections, suddenly the passage becomes darkness, and Yul
feels something attacking him, he tries to scream but his throat is being crushed... all characters get a little confused, Yul falls unconscious and the other player's start attacking the...darkness...
Pandora fells something trying to grab her neck, and following their commands they all get back, stumbling into the light, without Yul...
Fistandalos got into the darkness, and miraculously got Yul and pushed him out while Pandora and Thorgilfik battle the mysterious creature.
They all managed to get out of the darkness, and what ever was in it didn't follow them.

Thorgilfik examined Yul and found that miraculously and had survived the vicious attack (Yep, he stabilised himself at -9 hp !!). His neck was in bad shape but the dwarf cured him and he woke up to see that his rapier was gone!! His father had made it for him and he had lost it!! If not for his companions he would have entered the darkness again to regain his weapon. "Damn fool rakasta!!" muttered the angry dwarf.

They decided to go back to town, and regain forces. The dwarf commented the darkness was somehow magical because his darkvision couldn't penetrate it.
And the session ended.

DM Note: Thorgilfik player decided not to continue to play because of the lack on continuity. I wasn't able to play regularly due to work and he got out. The dwarf became a NPC

In the next session, character rested, healed and bathed, they resumed their descent to the sewers, all six now.

They followed their map and after some more encounters with Dire rats, they got into a room with some strange pillars, one of them had fallen. Thorgilfik said that these room gave support to the entire system and the pillar had fallen due to the same earthquakes that made the breach in the cellar...

Suddenly a small human child appeared in the middle of the debris, shaking and frightened. The characters all froze in place, and the child ran away through a tunnel. Fistandalos managed to go after her, suspicious of a child in that place and as he searched in the shadows of the tunnel, the ratman appeared! They all fought but the ratman ran away, again, and they didn't follow him. Instead they searched the whole room and found a old leather bag with some food and two empty potion vials...

They got suspicious and as Thorgilfik, Seldaek and Pandora investigated a new tunnel, Fistandatilos, Yul and Kannadis remained in the room eyeing the two other exits.

The two clerics and the fighter found another room with one exit and a large hole in the ground. Again the dwarf said the hole was recent and probably made by the quakes. They looked down and seemed to see a passage. The dwarf was elected to go down tied to a rope and secured by the two companions. As he was going down the knot untied (Ups, Use rope failed!!) and the dwarf fell in the rocks below. Luckily he was near the bottom and didn't injured himself. Seldaek and Pandora started to laugh at the dwarf and didn't see it coming.
The ratman, silently approached them and pushed the cleric down the hole, who fell right on the dwarf who somehow protected his fall, and took the rope with him.

Now Pandora was alone facing a raging wererat, the two clerics down the hole and the rest of the group back in the other room. She started to scream for help and the ratman, smiling tried to bite her, but failing. In the heat of the attack she dropped her primary weapon, the longbow, and grabbed her backup one, a scythe. Well, she rolled a 20 in the attack and in the confirmation and made a lot of damage. The ratman was cut in half in her first strike. Still perplexed, her companions arrived and where astonished by her deed.
Soon the dead ratman turned into a greyish looking bald humanoid and they where really confused...They examined the body but only found a strange tattoo in his arm, depicting a dragon.

Well, the rest went calmly, the investigated to passage in the bottom and found a tunnel very similar to the one found near the breach on the cellar, and returned to the village.

Almost...because when passing near the darkness area, Yul managed to convince some characters to get his weapon back. The dwarf grumbling refused to participate in such foolishness and Pandora stayed with him, furious that he could risk his life for a stupid replaceable weapon.

The other four made it to the locale and saw the weapon on the floor. Approaching silently, Yul grabbed the weapon and the darkness descended on them.
What happened next was chaos, Yul attacked again, and the confused characters managed to exit the darkness area, but separated, Fistandatilos and Seldaek through a tunnel (not the same one they got there) and Kanandis through another. Separated, the two adventurers where slowly getting to a large tunnel. On the other side Kanadis found himself suddenly embraced by light, as the darkness moved through a tunnel and saw Yul laying on the ground. He examined him but couldn't see if he was well and started pushing him away from the damn intersection, yelling for help.

Pandora and Thorgilfik heard the call and so did the darkness...

Seldaek and Fis found themselves trapped between the retreating darkness and a jump through the disgusting river. They chose the later, and after the bard made his jump the cleric fell right in the fetid water and had to swim to the bard, who couldn't stop laughing.

On the other side the sorcerer made it to the dwarf and the archer and after examining the rakasta, the grumbling dwarf couldn't believe what he saw, the damn cat had evaded certain death, again!!! (Yep, he stabilised himself at -9 hp, again! )

They all got together, with a really smelling cleric, a very weak rakasta still without his rapier... and made their way to the village.

Up there, after reporting to Kalador he instructed them in the knowledge of the Doppelganger, because their ratman was not a wererat after all.
He also knew the tattoo in the creature arm, a sign of the infamous Draconian Guard, the personal army of the Mivosian Triumvirate! They all became thinking of dragons but the wizard told them the guard was so called due to his founder, the famous Mivosian warrior Dracon.

And they started to plot what to do next...

Chapter Three- The tunnel to Mineus

Dm note: The player of Yul decided not to continue to play because of... the lack on continuity... I'm not able to play regularly due to work and he got also out. The rakasta became a NPC.
In first session the player's of Fistandatilos and Kannadis didn't make it so the adventure was played by Pandora, Seldaek, Yul and Thorgilfik (now both NPC's )

After the well deserved rest and healing, the group descended the Traveller's Staff and saw Kalador speaking with a group of 3 humans, all of them seemed sad an where listening to the wizard. After the group seated in a table Kalador abandoned the group and approached them with news.

He discovered that the strange engravings on the wall in the last tunnel discovered by the group belonged not to a sewer system but to a water supply system of the ancient city of Mineus. If he proved correct the tunnel would lead straight to the centre of the city.

He needed to study the engravings on the local (the drawings they made where inconsistent) and asked help for the two arcane casters in the group to speed up he process (Fis and Kannadis stayed with him...), the other 4 members would investigate the new tunnel, see if it took them to the centre of the city and return to report, without taking to many chances.
The group agreed.

As the 4 moved into the tunnel, their 2 friends stayed with the wizard. The tunnel was humid, with water dripping from the wall. After a while the water stopped but the tunnel continued humid.

They found a strange rock fall (caused by the earthquakes according to Thorgilfik) afterwards with a narrow access to the outside, as they peeked up they saw trees. After a search in the pile of rocks they found a small leather bag with a light vestment and a strange book written in a foreign language with some pictures resembling maps.

They moved on and found another rock fall with a narrower access that leaded to the outside but the smell told them they where beneath the forming swamp. They moved on.

They found a natural dry water cistern, with stalagmites and a dry spring. AS they moved some insane Rock Baboons charged them. The fight was fast but not very dangerous to them, they dispatched the baboons with little injuries.
The baboons looked crazy, with marks of constant fighting between them (two of them attacked each other in the fight).

After a while they found another cistern but this one was full of water.
Yul went into the water, tied to a rope. As he reached the middle he stopped on top of the spring and shouted to the companions. Thorgilfik, amazingly!!!, saw some water moving near the rakasta and shouted back. The swashbuckler without thinking swum as fast as he could, with the companions pulling the rope and he felt something touching him in the water.
As he reached them they saw a crocodile passing by them, with the rakasta still shouting.
After a small trap and calling they managed to attract the crocodile out of the water with a false bait and battled him. It was a difficult fight and several members of the group became injured but they all lived in the end.
They managed to cross the cistern swimming and when on the other side they walked a while and decided to rest, exhausted.

Afterwards, they where attacked by two tiger beetles and prevailed but not without some serious injuries in Thorgilfik, Pandora and Yul!
They nearly perished all.
They found yet another rock fall with a small animal dead on the floor. Up they saw the trees and heard water running.

As they moved, they reached a larger cistern with a steel bridge. When crossing, Yul made them stop and start to talk to the darkness in his language, no one else understanding. Someone in the dark, responded in the same language. After some words they found 3 rakastas, not quite like Yul, they had spotted fur and called themselves Pardastas.
Yul told the group to follow them.
They climbed some stairs, walked a tunnel and reached to forest, dense, humid and full of noises. They followed the pardastas through the remains of some buildings, already covered by the jungle, crossed the infernal jungle, and already completely lost they reached the Pardasta village, up in the trees.

They where taken to a rakasta who spoke Milenian and he presented himself as Zynn'tak leader of the village. With him was a pardasta with black fur he presented has his sister. Zynn'tak told them he was loosing hope has he called to the humans for help but no one arrived (long story, but this pardasta was the trigger to the first group to enter the campaign but they all died...).

He presented the Pardastas as the guardians of the forest along with Parwyn the elven druid. And he told a frightening tale to them;

A large obsidian tower as risen in the centre on Mineus that casts a dangerous shadow over the region. This tower appeared from nowhere and almost from night to day. Several creatures are being called to this tower, namely large numbers of goblinoids from several tribes and human bandits.
This tower is ruled by a creature that the goblinoids call Dark Soul in whispers. This creatures possess great magical knowledge and great power over fire. The goblinoids use a strange and difficult to put out orange fire.
Several creatures are being taken to the tower to work somewhere beneath it, humans from the farms, rakastas, and many other creatures from the savanna, including Parwyn the elven druid, their friend.

Yet another force is working in the forest they protect, and this force made the swamp appear. They walk in dark robes, enter sacred tombs and disturb the dead. After entering one of this tombs, something went wrong inside and those who entered didn't came out and the swamp started to form centred in the tomb.

These two forces battle each other constantly and the Pardastas are no able to face them. After such quantity of information they decided to return to Dolmeus and seek help. They promised to the Pardastas they would return...

Chapter Four- The tunnel to Mineus, part II

Back in Dolmeus and after a well deserved rest, the characters went to Kalador with the news. The wizard listened carefully and stood really silently and the words Dark Soul... The group asked him if he knew who this creature was he replied: The immortals bless us if I'm wrong but its my brother...
The player's simply gasped... Kalador told them they where both arcane students and that his brother, Calanor, attacked him in the old forest area (east of Illiolosti where Treants still roam...) regarding a disagreement on a search for an object, the result, if not saved by the Treants he would have neeing burned alive by the superior fire knowledge of his brother. According to Kalador, his heart felt to dark powers...
The object he sought was the famous Ark of Nader, a mystical artifact supposedly constructed by a Milenian wizard, Nader, who had the power to rise the dead on the battlefield. He gave them some writings on the subject but they are all dispersed and contradictory.

Regarding the other group in the forest he suspects they are the cult of Zargos and if his brother still seeks the Ark they are probably doing the same...

The wizard asked for the book with the strange writings to see what it was and proposed a deal to the group.
Another of his groups was ambushed by a large group of goblinoids and they lost two companions, as they have 6 members with two clerics and the other group has none he proposed an exchange, one of the clerics would go to the other group and one of them would come to their group. As a bonus, Kalador would let them choose first from several magical items he was going to distribute by the groups.
After some discussion Thorgilfik and Yul went to the other group (with the intent of cross information, he doesn't trust the wizard...) and the rakasta just followed him.

In the next day Kalador went to them with their new member, Pilatos, a human fighter and with news. The book they gave them was written in a military code and depicted the area of Illiolosti, with maps, troop movements, time tables, etc. The doppelganger was without a doubt a spy.
He asked them to investigate the tower a little closer but they should have extra care. They agreed.

Dm note: The player of Kannadis didn't make it so the adventure was played by Pandora, Seldaek, Fistandatilos and Pilatos.
Pandora is now a Fighter/Ranger (1/1) and Seldaek a level 2 Cleric.

They crossed the tunnels with just a battle with some tiger beetles with some injuries to Pilatos who proved an invaluable asset to the group, with great tactical knowledge and determination.

They reached the last cistern and after some waiting the one pardasta went to them. As they left, and crossed the ruined city area the pardasta signed them to stop and pointed to a house. They moved there and he climbed a tree. The group started to hear some voices and Pilatos grumbled... goblins...

What followed was total mayhem, a group of 4 goblins (two mounted in hyenas) 5 hobgoblins (2 with pole arms) and an injured chained spike bugbear managed to trap them in the house.
The battle was violent and brutal, in the end Pilatos and Pandora where down unconscious (the archer made another critical with the scythe with the modest damage of 54...), Fis made most of the combat with 1 hp, but his singing was essential, Seldaek manage to sustain some damage and the pardasta none. The two goblin riders managed to escape.
They moved quickly to the pardatas village and rested.
After 2 days they where on the leave to the tower, following Zynn'tak, his sister and 3 more pardastas they where taken to a small tunnel 5'x5'' that according to the pardastas would take them to the area beneath the old temple, where the tower now stood, and they crawled in...

Dm note: Fistandatilos is now a level 2 Bard. I hope to resumed the campaign around Christmas so until then...