Return to the Tang Palace

Haicheng region new PNG image

In this Scarlet Heroes dungeon adventure the thief Gong Trond returns to the Tang palace in Haicheng to search for the treasure of Tang Guotin, the cult sorcerer whom he killed in his previous adventure. The cultists who lair in the palace worship Z’ol-Iku, the Immense One of the Deep, an enormous spherical being of tentacles, mouths and eye stalks who dwells in the deep sea. This time, unlike his previous adventure in the Tang palace, Trond will not be hunted by the city watch guards as he is dealing with the cultists with the approval of Magistrate Hao Ying of Haicheng.

Trond is a third level thief with the following traits:

  • Ruin Explorer: 4
  • Great Stealth: 3
  • Friend to the Black Sapphire Tong: 1
  • Resist the Red Tide: 1

The Bronze Horse inn

After leaving the Five Pinnacle Pagoda Trond withdraws 45 gp from the vault of the goldsmith Komatsu Quan. He returns to The Bronze Horse inn where he spends a day resting. The next day he buys new equipment before returning to the Tang palace.

Money: 4 gp, 1 sp and 5 cp

Money in the vault: 40 gp

The Tang palace

Locations: 20

Inhabitants: cultists of Z’ol-Iku

Threat: 3

Favoured colours of interior rooms: greens and floral shade

SAM_1303

Courtyard

Are there cultists on sentry duty due to the palace having been entered by Trond and others? No.

He goes to the rear of the palace and enters via the courtyard that leads to the kennel and the servants’ entrance. Surprisingly, there are no cultists on sentry duty in the courtyard, even though the palace has been entered by Trond, the guards of the city watch, and the temple guards of the Five Pinnacle Pagoda.

Turn elapsed

Check for wandering inhabitants: none

Kennel

Feature: a dangerous intruder or beast who has entered the site. The motive of the intruder is to kill the inhabitants. This suggests some criminal character who has a grudge against the cultists of Z’ol-Iku for some reason.

I roll on the “underworld” NPC table and get the result of “exiled foreigner.” For a change I want a demihuman rather than a human NPC. I roll on the “race” table and get “dwarf.” Oracular word: vengeance. I decide that the NPC is a dwarf Repenter woman. She greets Trond with flat rejection.

He cautiously enters the kennel. There is a dwarf woman here, black-haired and beautiful but with a face bearing terrible scars. He remembers Arkadi Hewnspire telling him about the Repenter dwarfs who scar their bodies in the hope of winning the favour of their goddess, the Mother Below.

Has the Repenter woman seen Trond? No.

The Repenter woman is looking towards the servants’ entrance to the palace. She carries a sword and wears dwarven plate armour. Trond tries to avoid her by keeping to the shadows within the kennel.

The difficulty of the check to avoid the Repenter woman is 15. Trond fails the check.

The Repenter woman sees him and advances towards him with her sword raised. She tells him that the treasure stolen by the cultists belongs to her by right, and she will not share any of it with some thief from the gutters of Haicheng.

Trond kills the Repenter woman and finds five gold pieces in her pouch.

Money: 9 gp, 1 sp and 5 cp

Turn elapsed

Check for wandering inhabitants: eight hit dice worth of Minions and Elites – five HD 1 cultists and one HD 3 cultist. These cultists are grudgingly submissive to the new leader of the cult who has taken over from Tang Guotin. They regard Trond with scorn.

Six cultists enter the kennel. They see the corpse of the Repenter woman and Trond attempts to hide in the shadows again.

Trond fails the check.

One of the cultists sees Trond and shouts a warning to the others. A cultist in chain armour tells Trond to surrender; this time they will sacrifice him to Z’ol-Iku straight away.

Trond kills all of the cultists and enters the stable.

Stable

He finds nothing of interest in the stable.

Turn elapsed

Check for wandering inhabitants: four hit dice worth of foes numbering several Minions or Civilians – three HD 1 cultists and their captive for sacrifice.

Three cultists enter the stable with a captive, an elderly Imperial man. They probably intend to smuggle him down to the docks and take him out to sea to sacrifice to Z’ol-Iku. Trond tells them to let him go and they throw him to the floor before advancing to attack.

Trond kills two of the cultists and the third flees back into the palace. He goes over to the sacrificial victim who has been too weakened by his ordeal to escape. After a while the man tells Trond that his name is Guo Shi. He is an impoverished former daifu who turned to his old friend Tang Guotin for help, only to find him horribly changed by the cult that he had become the leader of.

Turn elapsed

Check for wandering inhabitants: none

Trond helps Shi to his feet. He takes him out of the palace grounds and tries to find help.

Turn elapsed

Check for wandering inhabitants: none

Outside the palace

Is Trond able to find help? Yes, but… sublimely bad or good timing by a sudden event. I decide that this means the return of the three cultists that Trond met in the stables during his first adventure in the palace.

Outside the palace gate Trond hails a teamster who is driving an ox cart in the direction of Shi’s house. He helps Shi into the cart and gives the teamster a gold piece for his trouble.

Money: 8 gp, 1 sp and 5 cp

No sooner than he has seen Shi off, he sees three familiar cultists returning to the palace on horseback; the Imperial man wearing plate armour encrusted with green gemstones and his two companions, a man and a woman in leather armour. They are covered with trail dust as if they have just returned from a long journey. They see that Trond has just helped Shi and they gallop towards the palace gate.

Garden

Trond runs back into the courtyard and hides amidst the dense vegetation of the palace garden. The cultists cannot search for him easily on horseback so they return to the stable with their horses and then return to the garden on foot to renew their search.

Trond attempts to make his way through the garden towards the door to the storeroom where he met Sister Huian previously.

The difficulty of the check to avoid the cultists is 13. Trond succeeds on the check.

He makes his way quickly and stealthily across the garden to the storeroom door, avoiding the paths and keeping to the areas of denser vegetation. As he slips through the door he can hear the cultists searching for him on the other side of the garden.

Storeroom

Are there guards posted in this strategic location? Yes.

Encounter: five hit dice worth of Minions and Elites – two HD 1 cultists and one HD 3 cultist. I decide that they attack Trond straight away.

Entering the storeroom again he is confronted by three cultists on guard.

Trond kills the cultists and tends his wound.

Hit points: 11

Turn elapsed

Check for wandering inhabitants: none

Did the three cultists searching the garden hear the combat? Yes.

The cultist wearing the gem-encrusted suit of armour enters the room, followed by his two companions.

Trond kills the cultists and tends his wound.

Hit points: 11

Turn elapsed

Check for wandering inhabitants: none

He leaves the storeroom by the door leading to the scullery.

Scullery

Hidden treasure: wrought iron stool worth 60 gp (from previous adventure).

The Man of Clay and Jade is not present. He searches the room.

The difficulty of the check to find the iron stool is 11. Trond succeeds on the check.

Under a stack of wooden laundry tubs he finds some loose floorboards. Lifting these he finds a treasure compartment containing a wrought iron stool. It is too bulky to carry around easily so he leaves it where it is, intending to return for it later.

Turn elapsed

Check for wandering inhabitants: seven hit dice worth of Minions and Elites – four HD 1 cultists and one HD 3 cultist. These cultists are rebels who want to leave the cult. They are dismissive of Trond.

An Imperial woman wearing a chain hauberk enters the room from the door leading to the shrine of Z’ol-Iku, followed by four other cultists. Trond gets ready to fight but the cultists ignore him and head straight to the door leading to the storeroom. Most likely they are rebels fleeing from the cultist who replaced Tang Guotin as the leader of the cult.

Shrine of Z’ol-Iku

Encounter: nine hit dice worth of Minions and Elites – six HD 1 cultists and one HD 3 cultist. These cultists are also rebels. They react to Trond with qualified consent. Oracular word: duty.

Treasure: standard treasure trove for the encounter (H2).

Trond enters the shrine of Z’ol-Iku again. There are seven cultists here but once again they are not hostile. One of the cultists, an Imperial man in chain armour, explains to Trond that many of the cultists were not worshippers of Z’ol-Iku but were simply following as the guards of Tang Guotin. He warns Trond about the new leader of the cult, a woman named Maeda Jia who is a fanatical devotee of Z’ol-Iku. He says that he and his companions are preparing to leave the palace and will not accompany Trond.

Trond leaves the room by the door leading to the kitchen.

Turn elapsed

Check for wandering inhabitants: none

Kitchen

He returns to the kitchen. There is nothing of interest here. The seemingly magical lantern that was hanging over the fireplace is no longer there.

Turn elapsed

Check for wandering inhabitants: none

Dining room

Feature: a dangerous intruder or beast who has entered the site. The motive of the intruder is to reclaim a seeming trifle of actual great importance.

What could this trifle item be? I roll on the random table for dining room contents in the Red Tide sourcebook and get the result of a brazier. For the intruder I roll on the “potential foes” table in the urban adventures section and get the result of a “disguised warrior.” I decide that this a warped cultist of Z’ol-Iku who has come to reclaim a magical brazier that Tang Guotin stole from another shrine of Z’ol-Iku.

He enters the palace dining room, which is magnificently furnished with a table and chairs of wood covered in carved red lacquer. The walls are painted in orchid blue. There are wall screens in the corners of the room to conceal servants when they are attending the diners. The screens depict various subjects: the Altgrimmr Mountains, street scenes of Haicheng, junks sailing the sea, and one of Tang Guotin’s ancestors and his soldiers fighting the Shou.

He can see a warrior dressed in Kueh-style armour who is approaching an ordinary brass brazier in the room, apparently with the intention of taking it. He tries to sneak past the warrior into the next room. Passing the warrior he sees that he is wearing somen facial armour that conceals his entire face.

The difficulty of the check to sneak past the warrior is 13. Trond succeeds on the check.

He succeeds in sneaking past the warrior and reaches a door in the southeast corner of the room.

Turn elapsed

Check for wandering inhabitants: none

Great hall

He enters Tang Guotin’s great hall. The walls are painted blue and hung with wall scrolls depicting the past heroics of the Tang family. At the far end of the room is a hardwood throne inlaid with flowers of green jade. He leaves the hall by a door in the southwest corner.

Turn elapsed

Check for wandering inhabitants: none

Salon

Feature: a noncombatant inhabitant of the dungeon. The motive of the inhabitant is to negotiate with the cult leader Maeda Jia. Rolling on the “elite and noble” NPC table I get the result of “scion of a noble lineage.” I decide that this is a decent member of the Tang family.

Tang Guotin’s salon is richly furnished with folding lounge chairs and wine cabinets of blackwood. The walls are painted green. A young Imperial man is sitting in one of the chairs and drinking wine. He looks rather nervous. He stands up and greets Trond, introducing himself as Tang Tao the eldest son of Tang Guotin. He says that he has come to the palace to negotiate with Maeda Jia regarding the ownership of the palace, which is rightfully his now that his father is dead. He says that Maeda Jia is apparently now the leader of the strange cult that his father was a member of, and seems to have taken over the palace. He was shown to this room by one of the palace guards and told to wait here.

Trond tells him about the cult of Z’ol-Iku, and warns him that he is in great danger. He has been told by rebel cultists that Maeda Jia is a dangerous fanatic. It would be pointless negotiating with her. No doubt the cultists intend to sacrifice him to Z’ol-Iku.

Is the wine that Tao is drinking drugged? Yes.

Trond was right. Tao begins to reply but his speech becomes slurred and he collapses onto the floor. Trond picks him up and leaves the room by a door in the opposite wall.

Turn elapsed

Check for wandering inhabitants: none

Stairwell

He enters the room featuring a stairwell leading up to the first floor of the palace, where the guards of the city watch caught up with him. He leaves by a door in the southeast corner that leads back to the servants’ rooms around the entry corridor into the palace.

Servants’ rooms

Are there guards posted in this strategic location? Yes.

Encounter: five HD 1 cultists and one HD 3 cultist. The HD 3 cultist has two special abilities granted by Z’ol-Iku:

  1. He spreads the Plague of Z’ol-Iku; if touched the victim must save or die in 3d6 days.
  2. His touch is also ruinous; once a fight, save or armour is ruined.

Feature: an item of information, whether book, note or talk. The feature is a wall scroll of unusually well-drawn erotica of local denizens, with a note about the special abilities of Maeda Jia written on the back. The feature triggers a spell on the investigator. Roll spell randomly: Furious Tempest of Flame.

In the entry corridor there are six cultists guarding the palace door, including one in a chain hauberk. They advance to attack and Trond puts Tang Tao down and draws his sword.

Trond kills two of the cultists and wounds the cultist in the chain hauberk, but that cultist then reaches out and touches Trond’s leather armour.

The difficulty of the saving throw against the ruinous touch is 12. Trond fails the saving throw.

Trond sees his armour peel away into decaying scraps which fall from his body.

AC: 7

Trond wounds the cultist again, but once again he touches Trond.

The difficulty of the saving throw against the Plague of Z’ol-Iku is 12. Trond succeeds on the saving throw.

Whatever magical blight the cultist intended to harm Trond with has no effect this time. Trond kills all of the cultists and tends the wound he received from one of them.

Hit points: 11

Turn elapsed

Check for wandering inhabitants: none

He strips the leather armour from one of the dead cultists and puts it on.

AC: 5

Turn elapsed

Check for wandering inhabitants: none

He sees a wall scroll painted with human figures hanging on the wall near the palace door. Examining it closely he sees that the figures are men and women having sex in different positions. Probably it was from the personal collection of Tang Guotin and was put up here for the entertainment of the guards after he was killed. He takes the scroll down off the wall. On the back there is note scrawled which reads as follows:

“Beware of Maeda Jia. She has terrible powers that were granted to her by the Immense One of the Deep. She strikes swiftly with her sword like a snake, and the blade is poisoned. Even if you do not die then the wounds will still continue to open as you fight on. Her touch causes the Plague of Z’ol-Iku.”

As soon as he has finished reading the note it bursts into flames and he throws it away. A billowing cloud of fire erupts from the scroll and fills most of the corridor.

The difficulty of the saving throw to avoid the flames is 17. Trond succeeds on the saving throw.

He manages to throw himself to the floor and avoids the flames.

Was Tang Tao killed by the flames? No.

Luckily he put Tang Tao down far enough up the corridor to avoid the flames. He goes and picks him up again and leaves the palace.

Kennel

He returns through the stable to the kennel.

Turn elapsed

Check for wandering inhabitants: none

Garden

He returns through the courtyard to the garden.

Turn elapsed

Check for wandering inhabitants: seven hit dice worth of Minions and Civilians – six HD 1 cultists with a captive for sacrifice. The captive is an Imperial woman, a prostitute from the slums.

He carries Tang Tao towards the garden shed where he intends to leave him while he explores the upper floor of the palace. He hears a shout coming from the courtyard. Turning around he sees that six cultists have entered the courtyard from the street. They have a captive Imperial woman with them. Seeing that they have been distracted by Trond the woman breaks away from the them and runs into the garden towards Trond, crying out for help. Trond puts Tang Tao down again as the cultists enter the garden. He draws his dagger and when the nearest cultist is about 15 feet away he throws it at him. His dagger misses the cultist and is imbedded in a tree.

Trond kills all of the cultists. He retrieves his dagger and tends his wounds.

Hit points: 10

Turn elapsed

Check for wandering inhabitants: none

He carries Tang Tao into the garden shed where he puts him down on the bench. The woman follows him inside and tells him that she is a prostitute from the slums named Liling. She was captured by the cultists to be sacrificed to their deity. Trond tells her that the drugged man is Tang Tao, the rightful heir of the Tang palace. Liling says that she will remain in the shed to attend to Tang Tao while Trond returns to the palace to look for the remaining cultists.

Kennel

He returns to the kennel.

Turn elapsed

Check for wandering inhabitants: none

Servants’ rooms

He returns to the servants’ rooms.

Turn elapsed

Check for wandering inhabitants: none

Stairwell

He ascends the stairs to the upper floor. He leaves the landing by a door in the southeast corner.

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Solar

He enters a solar with wide paper windows along the east wall. The walls are painted orchid yellow and room is furnished with lounge chairs of blackwood.

Turn elapsed

Check for wandering inhabitants: none

He leaves the room by a door in the north wall.

Library

Feature: an unusual piece of movable furnishing, which is an object of devotion by the cultists.

He enters a library where the walls are painted green. Browsing through the books on the shelves he notes that many appear to be concerned with cultic subjects or with the exploration of strange, unknown places, such as The Book of Dark Shrines by Koga Heilgar and The Voyage of the Lost Xebec by Lut al-Mazin bin-Ilyas.

On the far wall of the room he finds a wall scroll of great artistry but repellent subject matter, depicting Z’ol-Iku about to devour the tiny bound figure of a man. He takes the scroll with him.

The scroll is worth 60 gp.

Turn elapsed

Check for wandering inhabitants: none

He leaves the room by a door in the north wall.

Master bedroom

He enters Tang Guotin’s bedroom. The walls are painted orchid blue and room features a four-post canopy bed of wood covered in carved red lacquer.

Turn elapsed

Check for wandering inhabitants: none

He leaves the room by a door in the west wall.

Bathing room

Feature: an architectural feature of the palace – furnishings made of parts of human prey.

He enters a bathing room where there is a large wooden tub. There are rows of human skulls set into the tiled blue walls, and a perfume cabinet made from human bones. The cabinet has been broken into and the perfumes that were inside have no doubt been sold to a fence.

Turn elapsed

Check for wandering inhabitants: none

The Bronze Horse inn

He returns to the ground floor and the storeroom, where he retrieves the wrought iron stool. He returns to Liling and Tang Tao in the garden shed. It seems that there are no more cultists in the palace and that Maeda Jia has travelled elsewhere. Tang Tao recovers and Trong accompanies him and Liling back to The Bronze Horse where he buys meals for the three of them. Tang Tao says that he will reoccupy the palace with guards when he has the money, so that any surviving cultists do not return.

Money: 7 gp, 5 sp and 5 cp

Afterwards Trond goes to fence Jen Mhairi, who pays him a total of 15 gold pieces for the iron stool and the wall scroll from the library.

Money: 22 gp, 5 sp and 5 cp

Trond receives one experience point for his adventure.

 

 

 

 

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