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The Giant's Puzzle Boxby Jesper Andersen
The Giant's Puzzle Box is a marvelous invention, both magical and mechanical, created more than 1,500 years ago by the master gnomes of the Falun Caverns in present day Soderfjord Jarldoms. The gnome realm was since overrun by kobolds and very few of their fantastic creations exist today.
This box was discovered, not in the Falun Caverns but in the ruined castle of a 'great giant' - the mysterious and very powerful race of giants that used to live in the southern and western parts of the Northern Reaches but are rarely seen today.
It was liberated from the humanoids infesting the ruin by a dwarf hero and adventurer named Thorok the Brave and brought back to civilised lands, where it was eventually sold by the Mercies Auction House in Darokin City in the year 999 AC.
The puzzle box is 10 feet wide, 5 feet deep and 5 feet tall. It is covered with runes of an unknown origin and exquisite carvings of dragons, giants and beasts. The frame itself is made from incredibly durable polished hardwood, inlaid with precious metals and gemstones. An aura of magic on the box can be easily detected.
The box has no keyhole, no visible joints and no clear indication of what is up or down. It is incredibly beautiful.
It was sold at the Mercies Auction House for an astronomical amount of money via a middleman to a secret private collector. Agents of the Darokin Diplomatic Corps (DDC) recorded at the time that at least 6 other parties bid on the puzzle box:
•An elf named Gathan Longstrider
•Kilgim Stonespike, a dwarf representative of the Royal College of Sages
•An Alphatian noblemand and wizard named Pyce Tiliant
•A Soderfjord godi (priest) of Odin named Hralfdein Steinsson
•Reinaldo Araullo, a wealthy Darokin wine merchant
•Lady Tegan, a mysterious woman from Glantri
A short time after the sale of the puzzle box, the middleman was found drowned by the docks in Darokin City.
When the middleman was found drowned, the DDC suspected foul play and they have been trying ever since to track down the new owner of the puzzle box. The DDC has been busy doing background checks on the bidders and investigating their motives but so far with little progress.
Furthermore, thieves from the powerful Thyatian thieves' guild - the Shadow Hand - and spies from the Minrothad organisation known as the Blue Eels (see Gaz 9 page 10) as well as agents of Barimoor (see Ylaruam Gazeteer) have all converted on Darokin City since the time of the auction, trying to learn more about the power of the puzzle box and what ancient treasures could lie within.
The DM should feel free to write up the Giant's Puzzle Box any way she pleases. Keep in mind that it was created by Falun gnomes - not Modrigswerg dwarves - so the nature of the magic on the box is probably not dark and evil in nature. What lies within the puzzle box, however, can be as dark and powerful as the DM wishes. The contents most likely pre-dates the lost Nithin Empire and so could contain giant-crafted magic items, ancient inscribed runes now long forgotten, rich treasure or perhaps simply the toys of the giant's child?
Any one of the bidders could possibly be behind the murder of the middleman. Or it could have been the secret buyer who wanted to cut any connection between himself and the purchase? Or it could be any of the parties mentioned above or even a simple unfortunate street mugging gone wrong.
The Players could get involved in any number of ways. The DDC could approach them to investigate the murder and the motives of the bidders - or one of the bidders could ask the PCs for help trying to buy or steal the puzzle box from its new owner.
Up next: the bidders!
Hralfdein Steinsson is a half-crazed godi (priest) of Odin from Soderfjord Jarldoms. When the Giant's Puzzle Box was to be auctioned at Mercies Auction House, he travelled to Darokin City determined to win it for his church and the glory of Odin.
Hralfdein is convinced that the puzzle box is a sacred relic handed down by Odin to his loyal followers and he is angry that it is now in the hands of heathens. Of all the bidders, Hralfdein had the least to bargain or bid with, so his cause was more or less hopeless from the beginning. The thought of possessing the box has taken over his mind, however, making him a truely dangerous opponent.
Gathan Longstrider is another of the bidders on the Giant's Puzzle Box at the auction at Mercies Auction House. An elf from Alfheim, he speaks very little about his past and never mentions his clan or family. Gathan dresses in the practical style of a traveller and most suspect that he was bidding on behalf of someone else. In this, they are right.
Gathan serves a powerful green dragon named Nerghaal, who has a lair deep in the darkest parts of Alfheim Forest. Nerghaal is fascinated with anything ancient and magical and desires whatever is inside the mysterious puzzle box.
The elf was never meant to actually buy the puzzlebox - merely find out who acquired it and then find a way to steal it for Nerghaal afterwards.
Kilgim Stonespike was one of the bidders on the Giant's Puzzle Box at Mercies Auction House. The dwarf is a representative of Rockhome's Royal College of Sages - a scholarly organisation, which strives to collect and preserve knowledge, particularly that which was thought lost to the ages of time.
Although the Royal College of Sages is dwarven organisation, it does have a few non-dwarves among its members - typically highly acknowledged scholars and/or adventurers, who have proven to be friends of Rockhome. The Royal College of Sages operates all over the Known World and beyond, funding expeditions in search of lost knowledge (securing many valuable treasures along the way).
Kilgim Stonespike was sent to Darokin City, once word of the Giant's Puzzle Box reached the royal halls of Dengar, tasked with recovering the box for the College. Unfortunately, he did not have the financial means to purchase it. Kilgim is not entirely sure why the Elder Council of Sages is so keen on getting their hands on the puzzle box. Personally, he finds it fascinating because it apparently is incredibly old (even by dwarven standards) and yet untouched by time. Kilgim would have preferred to know the contents of the puzzle box before emptying the College's coffers to get it, though, so he is not terribly upset it went to another party.
Lady Tegan is a beautiful, elegant Glantrian woman in her late 20ies. Many suspect her of being a spellcaster and somehow tied to the nobility of that country. She was one of the bidders at the auction of the Giant's Puzzle Box but did not win the auction. This greatly upset her employer, the cruel Prince Innocenti di Malapietra of Caurenze in Glantri.
Lady Tegan has been working for Prince Innocenti for a few years now as the curator of his personal collection of art and magical items. In that role, she has travelled the Known World collecting many fantastic items for the prince's collection.
For a while, Lady Tegan was also Prince Innocenti's secret lover - that is how she earned his trust to begin with. What the prince did not know, is that all along Lady Tegan was actually working for someone else - the Fellowship of the Pouch.
Five years ago, Prince Innocenti double-crossed the Fellowship of the Pouch, when they were getting him the spellbook of a rival mage. Upon delivery, the unfortunate thieves were arrested and torn to pieces by horrible monsters in the arena, and the Fellowship was cheated of its payment. Since that day, the Fellowship has plotted its revenge on Prince Innocenti.
Lady Tegan's mission was twofold: 1) To get as many inside details on the security of the Prince's castle and the whereabouts of his treasures and 2) To gain his confidence and one day be entrusted with a substantial sum of money with which to purchase art for the Prince - and then vanish with it (of course giving the Fellowship its share).
After the death of the middleman (see the Giant's Puzzle Box), Lady Tegan has also disappeared from Darokin City and she has not shown up in Caurenze. Perhaps she finally had enough of her dangerous double-cross - or perhaps Prince Innocenti finally wised up and "took care of her"...
Reinaldo Araullo is a wealthy Darokin wine merchant and one of the bidders at the auction of the Giant's Puzzle Box. He is the head of his merchant family - House Araullo - which ranks in the top 25 if not top 20 houses in Darokin. This is quite an accomplishment, considering that he started with just a small shop he inherited from his father about 45 years ago.
Reinaldo Araullo invested what little fortune he had in a shipment of wine from Karameikos. Later, a fire consumed the largest warehouse storing wine in the district and bandits disrupted his competitors' import of wine from Thyatis. Within half a year, Reinaldo had earned triple his investment and his fortune grew from there.
Although many suspect the merchant of shady dealings, nobody has ever been able to make a criminal charge stick. Witnesses grow silent or simply disappear and it is well known that Reinaldo has many important friends in the constabulary and among the magistrates and in important guild circles.
He is not yet in the league of the largest merchant families, but in the wine trade he is a player to be reckoned with and most people respect his achievements - even if they also fear him.
Now in his early sixties, Reinaldo Araullo can be found at his mansion in the elite quarter of Darokin City, when he is not at his vineyard estate north of the city. He has several tough sons and a few hothead grandsons - all ready to take over the family business, but for whatever reason old Reinaldo takes his time in naming a successor.
Pyce Tiliant is an Alphatian wizard and nobleman and one of the bidders at the auction of the Giant's Puzzle Box. He is a handsome man, "pure" Alphatian (black long hair, dark eyes, pale skin) and appears to be about 30 years old. Pyce dresses according to his status but is not a dandy. He owns a substantial mansion on one of the floating islands of Ar back in Alphatia and has access to much powerful magic. To the casual observer, he appears bored, rich and arrogant - and that is just the way he wants it.
In truth, Pyce Tiliant is anything but a foppish Alphatian nobleman out to secure another trinket for his collection. He is a hunter, and the prey he is stalking is a man.
Coming to Darokin City and attending the auction at Mercies Auction House was all part of a plan to bring him closer to his target. Very few except Pyce Tiliant know who that target is - or why Pyce is hunting him. Some suspect it is a matter of avenging some dark deed done in the past - others insist that Pyce is actually working on behalf of the Crown, administering the Empresses' justice outside Alphatia.
Whatever the truth, Pyce Tiliant is not a man to be trifled with. He is a powerful mage with a vast array of spells - many unknown to most outside the Empire - and a number of magical items.
He always prefers his wine iced and has a special spell handy with which to cool it.