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Koskatep Level 11: Kalasah, The Black Hearthby Francesco Defferrari from Threshold Magazine issue 13
Kalasah, The Black Hearth
Secrets of Koskatep, Level 11
by Francesco Defferrari (Sturm)
Mother Kala lead us to safety when the sky was red with rage and the earth burned. We arrived in the city of our enemies the humans and ate them, and we were warm and safe and had children in the darkness of Kala. And we pledged us to her. When the humans returned she opened the earth for us, and saved us again. She told us to wait, and we are waiting.
Half cancelled tablet, approximately 2500 BC.
Koskatep, Level 11
This level can be reached only by going down from the chasm in area 5 on Level 10 (Intitepetl, published in Issue 12 of Threshold magazine). The PCs will find themselves on Level 11, Kalasah, once a city inhabited by Beastmen just after the Great Rain of Fire, now apparently empty.
The text below repeats the original description of this level in issue 1 of Threshold Magazine (Mirror of Eternal Night article). Read on to discover more on this level of Koskatep!
The levels of KOSKATEP in past issues of Threshold magazine:
#1: “Mirror of the Eternal Night” (Overview)
#2: “The Debris” (Level 1)
#3: “The Akropolis of Kotesh” (Level 2B)
#4: “The Lower Ruins of Kotesh” (Level 2A)
#5: “Ranesh, city of four people” (Level 3)
#6: “Karrast, dwarven gold” (Level 4)
#7: “Dark secrets of Ieronyx” (Level 5)
#8: “Shadows of Kundrak” (Level 6)
#9: “Signs of the Universe” (Level 7)
#10: “Mokrath, serpent eye” (Level 8)
#11: “Krystallac,Crystal Heart” (Level 9)
#12: “Intitepetl, Gem of the Sun (Level 10)
Level ELEVEN, THE BLACK HEARTH
Beastmen followers of Hel, primitive bugbears, occupied this level for many years after the Great Rain of Fire. Massacred by the Inti, they have left no apparent trace whatsoever, as the new masters of Koskatep considered them unclean, so they cleared the level of any trace of their presence to use it as storerooms. As the fairies of Grondheim never bothered to clear it up, old Inti crates and goods, most all completely decayed, still litter these rooms. Searching for many hours, it is still possible to find several ancient Inti magical weapons, as well as precious and semi-precious stones.
The secrets: Hel wanted to know what Ixion hid here and even though the Sun lord’s followers reconquered the place some centuries after, before her followers were able to break into the inner temple, she had foreseen that and made preparations. She inspired some beastmen to secretly create a very big parallel level next to this one, where whole families moved before the Inti attack. They have lived in this system of great caverns ever since, with radiance1 items, adequate water and food (mostly mushrooms and insects), and magical light, growing and preparing their invasion. They have dug more tunnels toward level Thirteen and now they are almost ready to strike. Out of nowhere thousands of ancient Beastmen will attack the Inner Temple and conquer The Dream of Fire, and Hel, Lady of Death, will forever rule over the infinite worlds.
After the Darkers2 take control, The Last One - now hiding in the level above - has summoned some ancient beastmen as ghosts, who now roam this level. Questioning one of them, he, and consequently Thanatos, has learned of Hel’s plan. He just loves it: using his newly acquired ghosts, he will slaughter Hel's beastmen servants, raise them as undead, and lead the combined force to storm the Inner temple of Ixion. He just has to decide if it’s better to massacre Nyx’s puny followers before or after that...
5.100 BC: Precious and semi-precious gems are found in the area and the local people, ancestors of the Azcans, build mines nearby. Slowly the temple becomes a town, and later a city, that falls under the influence of the Oltec empire and is named Koskatepetl, the Gem of the Mountains.
3.525 BC: The Azcan empire is formed and Koskatepetl becomes not only a source of gems but also of metals, to build new lethal weapons for the war.
3.057 BC: The Azcan emperor declares that the underground, secret temple of Ixion has to be opened to share its secret with the people. The priests refuse and destroy the city to seal the temple. A revolt of the Church of Ixion throws the empire into civil war and chaos; the site of Koskatepetl is abandoned and for several years infested by bandits and monsters that try in vain to occupy the place.
2.998 BC: Human refugees hide from the Great Rain of Fire in the ruins of Koskatepetl, but are soon slaughtered by a group of beastmen that take residence among the ruins. The inner temple survives the cataclysm and the invasions unscathed. In time the beastmen cover the ruins and create a complex cave system
2504 BC: The Inti, led by the church of Ixion, occupy the ruins and rebuild the city of Koskatepetl. The beastmen who survive the conquest hide in a remote part of the cave and are not detected. The Inti explore briefly Level 12, but realize it is poisonous and abandon Level 11 and 12, building their new city over them. Only a part of Level 11 is occasionally used as storerooms. Inspired by Hel, the beastmen seal a part of the caves (sublevels 1-4) to hide there.
2379 BC: The Troll Queen of Grondheim conquers the city, renaming it Krystallac. Just a few years later sidhe priests discover the existence of the inner temple of Level 13 and begin a century long negotiation with the sollux and the brutemen below to gain access to the artifact. They communicate through the temple of Ixion in Level 10 and do not settle Level 11. The beastmen thrive in their new hidden cave system.
2282 BC: As the Queen grows impatient about the unwillingness of Ixion to compromise, she sends her best troops to open the temple, digging a magical tunnel from Level 10 to 13. As this affects only the abandoned part of Level 11, the beastmen do not even notice. Inti troops soon attack the place, and Taymora intervenes shortly thereafter. This is the beginning of the War of the Empires, or the Twilight Wars, or the War of Southern Grondheim, that will last decades and will devastate the region. Mogreth intervenes as well a few years later.
2170 BC: Some fairies of Krystallac turn to the Unseelie, and decide to tell Elienor about Ashira’s tomb. The Troll Queen discovers them and exiles them, and manages to scatter the essence of Elienor after a terrible magical battle near the Crystal Lake. But she is gravely wounded by Elienor’s magic, and will never be able to recover. The Crystal lake is also damaged and its capacity as a portal greatly reduced.
2080 BC: In a time of crisis in Grondheim due to the Troll Queen’s malady Taymora and Intua, lizardmen and troglodytes, escaped from Mogreth, occupy Krystallac and keep it for a hundred years. As the lizardmen cannot locate all the portals left by the fairies in Level 9, they try to seal it completely, and likewise they ignore Level 10 and below.
1976 BC: After a long siege Taymora conquers Krystallac and renames it Kosmoteiros. Nyx knows about Ixion’s artifact but rather than try to steal or destroy it she decides to exploit the magical aura of the place to build her own strongest artifact that will bring fulfillment of her Dream. The followers of Nyx leave alone the levels below.
1777 BC: To prevent Kosmoteiros from falling into the hands of Thanatos, the priests of Nyx destroy the city with a terrible earthquake. Thousands die and the place is abandoned for many years as seismic activity increases in the area. The earthquake opens the Chasm and is felt by the beastmen too.
1664 BC: After the destruction of Taymora, fairies of the Unseelie court, former exiles of Krystallac, take possession of the place and try to use the Starlake, but do not discover Ashira’s burial and are not able to reach Elienor until much later. The dark fairies of Kundrak do not reach Level 10 and below.
1597 BC: Lord Keiros, a Tal3 nosferatu and follower of Nyx, conquers Koskatep from the dark fairies. Vampiric followers of Thanatos attack several times but are defeated. Lord Keiros briefly explores Level 10, 11 and 12, but does not use them.
1412 BC: Hutaakans conquer the site for Ixion and Pflarr, a seriously wounded Lord Keiros is forced to hide, and his followers are exterminated. The hutaakans slowly explore the levels below, reaching Intitepetl and its mummies, and succeed in communing with them. They explore also Level 11 and 12, but finding them empty leave them alone.
1021 BC: Orcs sack Koskatep, some hutaakan priests survive hiding in the lower levels, and will become more guardians for the hidden temple of Ixion, teleported from the temple in Level 10 by the will of the Immortal.
954 BC: After several battles a dwarven army defeats the orcs and conquers Koskatep, but they are soon in constant warfare with the gnolls that rule over the region. They do not explore the lower levels.
912 BC: The dwarves are finally defeated by the gnolls, who build their own city over the ruins. Shamans of Ranivorus and Thanatos begin to study the Starlake. The Gnolls do not reach Level 10 and below.
841 BC: Followers of Nyx, aided by ogres and giants, attack Koskatep but are unable to conquer it from the gnolls. Yet they succeed in killing the most powerful shamans of Thanatos in Level 7 and burning their notes.
603 BC: The ogre king Kulfan conquers Koskatep in the name of Nyx and ogres rule over the area for centuries. Human priests of the Lady of the Night live in the city along with them. They have some contacts with Level 8 and 9 and reach Level 10 and below, but do not use them.
95 AC: The Darkers almost complete the ritual to use the Starlake and bring forth the Eternal Night, but are stopped at the last moment by priests of Ixion, who drive out the ogres and occupy Koskatep for years. The priests of Ixion occupy all the levels down to the 10th, while they briefly explore Levels 11 and 12, soon abandoning them.
227 AC: The priests of Ixion have repelled several attempts by ogres, giants and followers of Nyx trying to reclaim the ruins, but are destroyed at last by a very powerful and ancient vampire sent by Thanatos, The Last One. Some priests of Ixion escape to the lowest level and become defenders of the inner temple, teleported from the temple in Level 10. In the following centuries ogres, giants, followers of Nyx and even adventurers sent by Ixion try to reclaim Koskatep, but The Last One destroys them all. He however fails to control completely Level 9 and 10, and so is unable to fully settle the empty Levels 11 and 12 with his minions.
912 AC: Traladaran freedom fighters hide in the ruins for some time, but are destroyed by the Thyatian army. The Thyatians soon leave the place.
998 AC (or later if the DM prefers): Lady Sonya, the Grand Daughter of the Night, a powerful priestess of Nyx, and her followers, are able to defeat The Last One and reclaim Koskatep. The Last One is not destroyed, but escapes to Level 10 with some faithful followers, to plan his revenge. Quehuar has however his own plan to stab The Last One in the back and destroy the Darkers too, with the aid of the followers of Ixion in Level 13.
1031 AC: The next alignment. On this date the Starlake could be used to bring forth The Eternal Night. Shortly before this date at the latest, the beastmen of the hidden level will attack Level 13.
Notes on this Level
The Random Critters table and the Wandering Parties table of level 2B (in issue #3 of Threshold magazine, pages 207 and 208) may apply here if the DM so wishes, ONLY in the empty part of the level. In this case there is a 1% chance in each room that a Wandering Party will be encountered.
The Followers of The Last One encounter table of level 1 (in issue #2 of Threshold magazine, page 122), can also still be used here if the DM so wishes, only in the empty part. One such follower could try to join the PCs to explore this level, with the final purpose of bringing them in the presence of The Last One himself (in Level 7). After the Darkers take control (see issue 1) a party of them could also be encountered in the empty part of this level.
Spells that provide magical transportation, such as teleport, passwall, dimensional door, magic door, travel, gate and spells such as clairvoyance and find the path do not work on this level as on Levels 5-9 due to powerful wards4 placed by The Last One and others before him. The DM could decide to apply the same rule to the levels above the 5th, at least from Level 2 and below, particularly if the PCs are of a high level.
The map and the inhabitants of this Level
The area in dark grey on the map is solid stone, very difficult to dig, even though it may contain small tunnels dug by critters and wandering monsters. The area in lighter grey of the main level is partially clear, but full of rubble, rocks and collapsed structures which cannot be recognized anymore. The “open” areas in the sublevels are shown as lighter because they are inhabited or cleared of debris and ruins.
The black “scar” in the middle of the map is the Chasm opened by the Kosmoteiros earthquake of 1777 BC, which goes all the way down to Level 12.
The main level appears empty but has its hidden undead inhabitants. The PCs could be able to cross this level without encountering anyone, if they go directly down through the Chasm. Even if they explore the main level, they could well be unable to find the sublevels, unless Hel decides otherwise if the PCs are her followers or somehow considered worthy (in this case the Immortal could lead a PC cleric or follower to areas 5 or 7, see below, through clues, dreams or answering to the Commune spell).
There is no light in this level unless the PCs bring it.
Map of Kalasah, Level 11
The Levels of Koskatep
1 - The Chasm
This is the only passage to and from Level 10 and 12. As described in previous levels climbing up and down or tying a rope could be quite dangerous as the water dripping from Level 7 has random teleportation effects, see sidebar. Around the Chasm, the tunnels appear empty and completely in the dark.
1 - There is the Dark Waterfall coming down from above. As the walls of the chasm are wet, it is extremely dangerous to try to reach Level 11 and below going down from here, but on this level it is also the only way.
Touching the Dark Waterfall may also cause random teleportation effects to Annwyn, particularly the areas where it borders the Carnifex prison5.
For some time the inhabitants of Intitepetl used part of this area as storerooms, with a passage that was since destroyed by the earthquake which created the Chams. Old Inti crates and goods, most all completely decayed, still litter some of the passages of this area. Searching for many hours, it is still possible to find several ancient Inti magical weapons, as well as precious and semi-precious stones (1 object decided by the DM for every hour of search by 5 people, or a 20% chance each hour for any individual PC).
The Last One, Quehuar of Level 10 and the Darkers will keep on ignoring Level 11 below as they have done so far. Only when the followers of Ixion open Level 13 to come up (if called by Quehuar as detailed in Area 4) will a permanent passage probably be built from Level 10 to 11. The actions of the beastmen in the hidden sublevels will obviously come into play too (see The Battle in this Level paragraph below).
2 - The Beastmen spirits
This area contains at least 50 beastmen spirits who have roamed this part of the cave since they were killed by Inti warriors 3500 years ago. They are lesser haunts, so unable to affect physically the material world, but their presence could still be quite discomforting and prevent PCs from sleeping here.
2 - There are old Inti crates and cases in this area too, and PCs searching for many hours may be able to find some lost treasures, as detailed in area 1 above.
After the arrival of the Darkers, The Last One will be hidden in Level 10 above, and he will also soon explore the main Level of Kalasah, in search of useful objects or restless spirits. He will find the beastmen spirits and turn them into full ghosts (HD 146), taking control of them. He will then be able to learn about Hel’s plan and he will send the ghosts to kill all the living beastmen inhabiting the sublevels (area 10 - 14), to turn them too into undead under his control and attack Level 13 (see also The Battle on this Level below). Note that if the living beastmen will be able to defeat the ghosts, the Last One’s plan could fail.
3 - Shialia and her group
This area is empty and does not even contain old Inti crates and jars, but from time to time whispers can be heard, and occasionally Lady Shialia, an ancient priestess of Nyx, and her group may be seen (as a ghostly horde). They were exploring this section a thousand years ago, while the ogres controlled Koskatep, but were killed by priests of Ixion in 95 AC. Almost nothing is left of them, but some items and bones could be found.
3 - Some small items belonging to Shialia and her group could be found in this area. The DM may decide they are the anchors keeping the ghosts here. Clever PCs could be able to communicate with the ghosts and obtain from them information about this level. Shialia and her group probably are still around because they are still waiting for Nyx’s promise of eternal life. PCs allied with the Darkers may be able to grant their wish. Shialia and her minions will not cooperate willingly with PCs aligned with Ixion.
Shialia and her group will instinctively understand that The Last One is a servant of Thanatos and will avoid him, so he will not discover them as with the beastmen ghosts when he comes down after his initial defeat. However if the Darkers do come down to this level, they will contact them and they will probably be raised as full Uncorporeal7.
4 - The petrified troll
This area contains what appears as the statue of a troll. The troll was an ally of the ogres a thousand years ago. As the DM prefers, he could have been turned to stone by a long dead basilisk or by a wizard’s spell. He may be turned back into flesh by the reverse spell. He could know well the layout of the level, but will know nothing of the hidden sublevels.
4 - There are remains of giant worm skins nearby. Some carrion crawlers or other worms and insects may be encountered in the area, and they could have carried involuntarily around ancient items or even gems.
The Last One may choose to turn the troll back into flesh just to transform him into an undead minion. The Darkers, should they find him later, will probably let him alone.
5 - The former Temple of Hel
This was a great temple of Hel in the ancient beastmen city. It’s just a great cavern, but its walls were heavily decorated and carved with images of Kala, as the beastmen call the goddess, in the form of a naked beastwoman with a monstrous face. Most of the carvings were destroyed by the Inti warriors when they conquered the city, but one face is still well visible on a wall of the cavern.
5 - There is still residual magic in the monstrous face of Kala, and indeed this is one of the ways in which it is possible to reach Sublevel 1 (Area 10). Any follower or priest of Hel/Kala praying in front of the face will be enveloped by writhing strings of darkness, slowly enveloping the individual completely, and then fading away, causing him or her to reappear in the middle of area 10, Sublevel 1.
The Last One will ignore the gigantic face, and the Darkers will let it be, as they will consider it worth preserving such an ancient carving. No one of them however will pray to Hel, and so they will not be teleported to Area 10.
6 - The Dead Ape Coffin
A carved stone coffin is here, roughly representing an ape-like figure. Looking around in this area, other less detailed coffins can be spotted, and also signs of other kinds of tombs. This was indeed the burial ground of the ancient beastmen city, and many were buried in this area. The occupant of the ape coffin may be an ancient beastmen or another kind of monkey or ape-like creature who lived in the beastmen city of old.
6 - There are many tombs and many kinds of burial offerings everywhere in this region, if someone has the patience to search. The DM could decide there is a 5% chance of finding something for each turn a PC spends searching. The offerings may vary from simple ceramics, to decayed leather clothes to gems, rusty armor and weapons, to magical items.
The Dead Ape Coffin in particular contains the skeleton of what seems like an ape-like creature 8 feet tall, with a vest and a staff. The staff may be magical at the DM’s discretion.
The Last One will find the burial ground and raise here all the remains he can use, from skeletons to ghosts, and use the immaterial ones to attack the hidden sublevels, and the material ones to strike back at the Darkers above. If the Darkers come to control this level, they will instead put to rest any unintelligent undead, but they will offer their help to any intelligent undead.
7 - The Magical river
This underground river flows slowly from east to west, and is not stagnant, though might seem so upon first sight. Small, harmless fish and shrimp can be occasionally spotted in its waters. The waters are not even contaminated by the radiance as the waters of Level 10 (see Area 6 in Threshold issue #12) and Level 12 are. This is due to Hel’s Immortal magic.
7 - The river is indeed another possible magical gate to Sublevel 1 (Area 10). Anyone bathing in it, drinking from it or sailing on it will be engulfed in a sudden splash of water and within it being teleported to the middle of the Lake in area 10 to the lake in Area 10 in about 2 rounds. Any vessel or object touching the waters will be teleported too. This is probably the easiest way to reach the hidden sublevels.
The Last One and the Darkers will not immediately discover the magical properties of the waters, but they may be able to if they have time to study them.
8 - The abandoned houses
This area had many beastmen dwellings when the city was still inhabited. Half buried or half decayed, many of their everyday items are still around, mostly clothes and objects created with animal skins and bones. Such remains often belong to animals now vanished from the Known World, or extremely rare, such as giant elk, mammoths, aurochs and dinosaurus.
8 - There are still treasures to be found in this area, mostly some pieces of raw gold and silver, bronze and gems. Magical items might also be found at the DM’s discretion, particularly crude amulets and rings which however still retain their magical properties. Some old bones also litter the grounds, the almost completely decayed remains of the ancient beastmen killed here.
The Last One and the Darkers will not care much about these remains of the past and ancient treasures. The Last One however could be able to awake some wights and wraiths here, at the DM’s discretion.
9 - The mines
This area once had access to the gem mines of Koskatepetl (sublevels 3 and 4) and much later of the beastmen city (sublevels 1 and 2). The passages which connected this area to sublevel 1 (area 10) and Level 12 were collapsed long ago by the beastmen on Hel’s orders, and it’s no longer possible to reach the levels below, unless someone has the patience to dig for weeks or months (or uses powerful magic).
9 - There is a change of finding gems in the rocks of this area, but unless a PC has a specific expertise on mining gems, they cannot be spotted easily. There is also a single special brown gem abandoned in this area, that can be found on a 5% chance for each person who searches for at least a turn. The gem is the magical prison of an Earth elemental, Jaakek, who was used in ancient Koskatepetl as a mining aid. The beastmen discovered the gem and used the elemental for the same purpose, while the Inti did not find it. Jaakek is bound to obey to anyone holding the gem and can be called once a day for an hour, or until defeated. If killed in combat, he will still come back the next day. If released from the gem, (by destroying it) he will be grateful and willing to come anyway to the aid of the owner of the gem, but he will ask to be called only when really necessary.
The Last One will not immediately find the brown gem nor he will explore this area too much, but he or the Darkers could eventually be able to find it if they remain in control of this level long enough. Obviously The Last One will use Jaakek as his slave, while the Darkers probably will use his help for a while, but eventually will release him.
10 - Sublevel 1, The Dungeon
This area, as explained above, can be reached by magical means only, through areas 5 or 7. Even if the real diameter of this level is not more than 500 meters (546 yards), once here the PCs will find themselves in a web of tunnels with a diameter of more than 5 kilometers (3,1 miles) inhabited by a huge variety of constructs and golems, giant worms, spiders, insects, oozes, giant lizards and frogs, dangerous plants and fungus, giant rats and even basilisks, cockatrices, chimeras, hydras, manticores, rust monsters, stirges, xytars and yowlers. All the creatures on this level are unintelligent and rather aggressive. There is a 10% chance for every turn spent here to encounter 1d6 creatures. There is also another 10% change than any battle will attract 1d6 more creatures. A certain variety of normal plants and fungus is also present. Plants are capable of growing here in the areas where there are crystals emitting green, purple or yellow light in the walls of the cavern. Several regions of this sublevel are still pitch black, unless the PCs bring some light. The sublevel is also roamed by beastmen8 hunters, who have infravision and so do not bring light.
10 - The sublevel is the hunting ground of the beastmen living in the levels below. Its strange real dimensions are an effect of Hel’s Immortal magic, as the goddess needed space to hide her beastmen for centuries, and the hill simply did not have enough. The strange abundance of monsters and creatures is also due to the will of Hel. Beastmen warriors usually face the dungeon in groups of five, but young warriors are also sent here alone for their coming of age. Beastmen will attack PCs on sight and try to capture them, to bring them as captives to the City (area 13). Beastmen have very high morale (12) because they believe themselves to be the chosen of Kala (as they indeed are) and never flee except when calling for more help if their opponents are clearly stronger. The souls of those who are slain in the dungeon feed The Machine in sublevel 4 (see area 14 below). The souls can actually be seen going down the floor by anyone, after someone is slain. This only happens to beastmen and other intelligent beings9, not to monsters. There are at least two tunnels going down from here to area 11 below. They are not surveilled by beastmen, but occasionally roamed by monsters.
The Last One probably will not come here in person but rather he will send the ghosts from area 2 to explore. The ghosts will not try to kill the monsters here, but they will try to attack the beastmen. However the ghost and their victims will be eventually captured by the Machine’s powers, and The Last One will try to use them to take control of the Machine (see area 14 below). The Darkers may not be able to discover the existence of these sublevels until The Last One is completely defeated or Hel proposes an alliance to them (see also The Battle on this Level below).
11 - Sublevel 2, The Mushroom forest
This area too should be only 500 meters long, but is instead more than 5 kilometers, and contains a thick mushroom forest in which beastmen grow food to sustain their population. Not only mushrooms are grown here but also plants, thanks to the light crystal. The growth rate of vegetation in the forest is much quicker than normal (but still not so quick it can be noticed in just a day). There is a 10% chance for every turn spent here that a group of 1d6+1 beastmen farmers or gatherers can be encountered, half of them females. The farmers will not try to attack PCs, but will run to the nearest passage going down to alert guards in area 12.
11 - There are still monsters roaming the forest, the same who inhabit the level above, but the chance to encounter them is much smaller (only 1% every turn spent here). There are at least three passages going down to area 12. The bottom of these passages is guarded by 3 beastmen fighters, who can call for help, so 1d8+1 more fighters will arrive in 1d4+1 rounds, coming from sublevel 3.
Once they have taken control of the Machine, see area 14, the Last One’s ghosts will start to slay any farmer encountered here, to raise them as more ghosts and ghouls (see area 2) and attack the levels below.
12 - Sublevel 3, The Radiant forge
This area is much bigger than it should be, about 3 miles wide, and contains a great forge, and metal mines, where the beastmen build any tools and weapons they may need, and the many parts of The Machine (see area 14) which need constant replacing. The area also has beastmen fighters all over so crossing it without being noticed may be difficult for the PCs. From 50 to 150 beastmen workers are constantly on this level and 10-30 fighters. The fighters will try to capture intruders on sight and the workers will aid them.
12 - The Radiant forge was built by Hel herself with Blackmoor radiance technomagic taken from the ruins of Koskatepetl10 and it has an almost inexhaustible energy. Workers in constant contact with it tend to develop strange mutations over the generations. Almost all the workers here now have a 50% chance of having a mutation, whose effect could be quite diverse. The DM should roll 1d12 and determine if the mutation is hideous (like an extra limb, on a result of 1-3), funny (like a blue ear, on a result of 4-6), useful (like the ability to create small fires, on a result of 7-9) or harmful (like blindness, on a result of 10-12). One tenth of the inhabitants of the City (area 13 below) may have a mutation too. There is only one passage leading down to area 13 and it is heavily guarded by 13 beastmen fighters (1 Level 8-9 beastman and 12 level 2-6 beastmen).
Once they have taken control of the Machine in area 14, The Last One’s ghosts and ghouls will proceed on this sublevel as in the sublevel above, killing anyone here to raise them as undead under their master’s control.
13 - Sublevel 4, The City
This region is composed of great caverns and tunnels thickly dug with beastmen houses. As happened for the other sublevels, the true dimensions of the area should be no more than 500 meters, but is instead more than 3 miles wide. Thousands of beastmen live in the city and more than half of them have at least basic fighting skills, including females and young. The city has many crystal lights and uses three orders of 8 hour shifts of sleep, work following each other continuously, so there is nothing like a “night” time. For this reason navigating through it without being seen is almost impossible, unless the PCs have some magical means to do so.
13 - The beastmen have all kinds of items a whole city can have, from gems to magical objects, yet the houses are all very close to each other and often inhabited by families of more than 5 people, so robbing them could be very difficult even for a high level thief.
Once they have taken the Machine, The Last One’s ghosts and ghouls will attack the city trying to turn all the populace into undead slaves of their master. The beastmen will obviously react with all their forces, and could prevail, as they have a sizable number of shamans and wiccas among them. Should the Darkers eventually discover the sublevels and the City they will try to reach some arrangement with the beastmen, rather than attack them. This arrangement may work or not depending on the will of Hel, who could decide to ally with Nyx’s followers, at least temporarily. See also the Battle on this Level below.
14 - Sublevel 4, The Tunnel down and The Machine
This is where the beastmen are digging the tunnel to reach Level 13 and the hidden, holy temple of Ixion there. The Machine is a big magical excavator built centuries ago with Blackmoorian technomagic and covered by anti-detection spells. The very rock around Level 13 below was warded multiple times by Ixion with Immortal magic to protect the resting place of his daughter and the dangerous Dream of Fire (see issue #1 of Threshold and Level 13, slated to be published in Threshold issue #15) so The Machine is indeed an immortal artifact too. Its main source of power are the souls of anyone who dies in the sublevels for any reason (natural death, killed by monsters, sacrificed by priests). Only when The Machine fulfils its purpose, opening a way to Level 13, will all the souls be released to Hel’s domain (or their appropriate resting place). About 50 beastmen wiccas and shamans are constantly at work around The Machine. Their main task is to maintain the complex anti-detection spell which prevents Ixion’s priest in Level 13 (and Ixion himself) from discovering the existence of The Machine and Hel’s plan to storm the sacred temple.
Also 50 beastmen fighters (Level 5-12 or more) always guard The Machine and will summon more help from the city if needed. At least 30 wiccas and shamans will fight any intruders if the fighters cannot deal with them alone.
14 - Obviously Ixion could learn of Hel’s plan before the tunnel is completed if adventurers aligned with his Church discover the sublevels and The Machine. If a priest of Ixion or even a simple adventurer allied with Ixion’s church arrive this far after all the above levels (as detailed in the previous issues of Threshold) she or he probably can understand what’s happening there. In this case Ixion will understand immediately and will begin to mobilize his forces, both in Level 13 and outside. A relevant force of priests and faithful will soon gather in Koskatep.
The Last One’s purpose here will be to take control of The Machine to use it to storm Level 13 (see also below). As soon as his ghosts will reach the sublevels they will be called and absorbed by the Machine, and will try to take control of it. The DM could play this “battle of souls” inside the Machine in the way he or she prefers, from just rolling a single dice to playing through it, particularly if a PC has been slain in this level or nearby, and could therefore be present inside the Machine as a captured soul.
If The Darkers arrive this far before The Last One, they may instead behave with much more caution. It could also happen that The Last One succeeds in taking control of the beastmen and The Machine, but is defeated by The Darkers before he is able to use it to open its way to Level 13. In this case The Darkers probably will not try to complete the tunnel. Nyx could decide instead to negotiate with Ixion: she is not really interesting in changing the past with the Dream of Fire (Level 13), but the future with the Starlake (Level 7). To protect his secret in Level 13, Ixion may well be available to make a deal with Nyx, leaving the Darkers be in the levels above, at least until the next alignment in 1031 AC. Even in the case of a temporary truce in fact, at the time of the alignment Ixion would still try to stop Nyx’s plans with the Starlake.
THE BATTLE ON THIS LEVEL
There will be no initial battle on this level, but the Last One will come down here to explore after his defeat on Level 7. Here he will discover the beastmen ghosts in area 2 and therefore he will get to know about Hel’s plan, probably less than six months after his initial defeat.
This will add another variable to the possible timeline outlined in the previous issue of Threshold. The main point for the DM, beside what PCs actions can change, is to decide if The Last One will decide to attack Nyx’s followers before or after Hel’s followers.
- If he decides to attack Nyx’s followers first, the timeline will proceed as outlined in the previous issue, and therefore The Last One will strike back from Level 10, but will be betrayed by Quehuar and his Inti mummies as detailed in the last issue. Quehuar may also be able to obtain the help of Ixion’s followers from Level 13.
- The Last One will be defeated again, but he may be able to escape with a few remaining allies to Level 12. At this point the Church of Ixion, the Darkers and all the other parties may start fighting among themselves for the control of Koskatep.
- During this time The Last One may be able to take control of The Machine as explained in area 14 above. If so, he will probably use the Machine and the beastmen ghosts to attack Level 13.
- If The Last One decides to attack here first, Quehuar will still turn against him and either The Last One or the Church of Ixion could emerge victorious. In the meantime however the Darkers above will strengthen their position and Hel, angry over the loss of her beastmen, may even offer them her help just to prevent a victory by Thanatos or Ixion.
- A final huge battle among the different factions may occur in the depth of Level 13. Mystara’s past could be changed forever or maybe the Immortals of Time will destroy Koskatep entirely to avoid this outcome.
- If The Last One destroys both Hel’s followers in Level 11 and Ixion’s followers in Level 13, but is later destroyed by the Darkers, Nyx and her followers will be the only masters of Koskatep. Nyx however will not want to use The Dream of Fire in Level 13 to change the past. If the Darkers are in control of Koskatep during the alignment of 1031 AC, they will however use the Starlake in Level 7 to open a permanent portal to Nyx’s homeplane. But if the Starlake’s corruption is not discovered in time (as detailed in area 5B of Level 7, in issue #9 of Threshold) the portal will open to the home plane of Thanatos (or to Annwyn).
- If The Last One is completely destroyed but the other factions remain, Nyx and Hel could ally against the followers of Ixion. Nyx and Ixion could ally, at least temporarily, against Hel to prevent her from using The Dream of Fire in Level 13. If somehow only Nyx and Hel’s followers remain, they will eventually came to blow over this.
- Even if the major factions (Ixion, Nyx, Hel and Thanatos) will eventually come to a final fight to determine an unique owner of Koskatep, the minor factions of the levels above (dwarves, lizardmen, dark fairies and the other fairies factions, even the government of Karameikos) could instead find a working agreement to coexist with the winning major faction, as detailed in the levels above.
The DM should take PC’s actions and choices into consideration when deciding how the timeline will exactly proceed. Obviously, if the PCs at some point are able to completely destroy a faction, or bring massive external help to Koskatep (such as the army of Karameikos, or the Church of Ixion) the final outcome should change considerably.
1Scavenged from Level 12, see next issue of Threshold. Radiance is here meant as the technomagic power used by Blackmoorian devices which created also the Radiance in Glantri, see also Gazetteer 3 The Principalities of Glantri, page 68.
2Name used by an organization of followers of Nyx in Karameikos created by me and Agathokles, see previous issues of Threshold and in issue #1, the article “Mirror of Eternal Night”.
5This idea comes from RobJN here: http://thornschronicle.blogspot.it/2014/06/design-diary-time-before-years.html For more information about the Carnifex, see here: http://pandius.com/lore.html and here: http://pandius.com/carnifex.html Annwyn is the homeplane of the Dark Fairies, see also the previous level of Koskatep in Threshold issue #8 here: http://pandius.com/Threshold_8.pdf and issue #9 about the Dark Waterfall: .http://pandius.com/Threshold_9.pdf. The chance of teleportation could be very low (only 5% of the times that someone touches the waters), or much higher, depending on the DM’s preference. This should be considered an Immortal level effect, thus not affected by any Teleport Ward, see note 4.
6These are special ghosts that the Last One will raise with an unique ritual. Beside the normal powers of Ectoplasmic Net, Gaze and Aging damage per blow, the Last One will also be able to see and speak through them, and the soul of any victim slain by them will be raised as another ghost under the Last One’s control, while the physical body of the victim will become a ghoul under the ghost’s control. Powerful clerics may be able to free the souls of such victims, thus destroying also the ghoul.
7About the Uncorporeals, see previous issues of Koskatep and the Elegy island article in this issue.
8For Beastmen statistics, see the Hollow World Boxed Set (BECMI D&D), the AD&D 2e Mongrelman stats from the Monstrous Compendium Volume II or the 2004 Blackmoor d20 Campaign Setting (page 189) or the 2009 Blackmoor 4ed Campaign Setting (page 226).
9Including PC’s, whose soul will be captured by the Machine. If the Machine is later destroyed, the souls will be freed and a slain PC could then be raised with the appropriate clerical spell.
10Level 12 that will be detailed in issue 14 of Threshold.