This article originally appeared in Pyramid #7
A Two-Part Adventure for GURPS Vampire
by Chris McCubbinEditor's Note: This adventure is too big to run in a single issue of Pyramid -- this is the first half. The second half will run in Pyramid #8, our July/August '94 issue.
This adventure was originally written for GURPS Vampire Companion, but was removed because the book ran out of room. Even though the Companion isn't out yet, there is very little in this first half of the adventure that the players would need the Companion for. (The second half, which comes out at the same time as GURPS Vampire Companion in late June, is another story -- you will probably want the rules from the Companion to finish the adventure.)
It's important to note that as a magazine adventure, "Tervel's Haven" does not contain "official" source material for White Wolf's World of Darkness. The official world may have a very different situation in Florida and Bulgaria, where this adventure takes place.
The castle which has no name stands as it has stood for 1,200 years. Its dark stone walls are no more weathered than they were when last the millennium turned. Its heavy wooden doors are as taut and solid as they were when they were first hung, when Charlemagne still ruled over his reborn empire. The castle is a place where even time does not go -- perhaps it is a place where time fears to go.
The historians and archaeologists do not visit the castle to discover the time and means of its building. The tourists do not drive past and snap photos. The military does not come by during maneuvers to evaluate its strategic potential or bivouac in its courtyard. Even the omnipresent bureaucrats have no record in their files and ledgers of the castle, or of he who dwells within.
But the people of the surrounding towns, they know that the castle is there, and they know what lies within. They do not speak of such things at all to outsiders, and seldom among themselves, but they know -- that knowledge has been burned into their genes for a millennium.
For long centuries before they became townspeople, their ancestors were village people. And the village people knew to not walk alone after dark, and never to leave the house after midnight. They knew what signs and talismans to leave by their doors and windows (not because he feared them, oh no -- the villagers were simple, but not simple enough to believe that -- the talismans were displayed because he sometimes chose to respect them). When a drunkard, or a fool, or a reckless youth forgot these rules, there was grief but no great shock in the villages when he could not be found the next morning. When a traveler ignored the villagers' offers to come inside to stay until dawn, there was great surprise in the villages if that traveler was ever seen again. And the mountain trail that leads to the castle -- that trail was never used. That is to say, never used by the villagers.
Today the village folk are townspeople; their neat little wooden homes hum with refrigeration and crackle with radios. Farm trucks and a few automobiles rumble busily on the roads that connect the towns in the shadow of the mountains. Some of the townsfolk try to tell themselves that they no longer believe in the superstitions of their ancestors, but their hearts still believe, if their heads won't admit it.
And they never use the trail that leads to the castle, and they still keep certain signs and talismans by their doors and windows, and they do not walk alone after dark, or leave the house at all after midnight, and they never speak of such things to outsiders, and seldom among themselves.
Tervel's Haven is an adventure for three to six Camarilla vampires built on 300 to 500 points. It works best if the characters have some earned experience and have acquired a certain degree of Status or Reputation within the sect.
The MissionIf the PCs are flying in to Tampa, they will be met at the airport by Svetlana and Diaz, in a modern stretch limo with all the trappings. There will be plenty of room for up to eight people to comfortably share the two passenger seats. If they're driving in, they'll be expected to meet Svetlana at 10 PM not more than one night after their arrival, at a central location near the University of Tampa.
Once they're in the car, it will turn south on to Highway 41. After minimal pleasantries, Svetlana will get right down to the meat of the matter.
Getting to TampaUnless the GM is already running a Florida-based campaign, the first part of running "Tervel's Haven" in an ongoing GURPS Vampire campaign will be getting the PCs to Tampa.
This can be plausibly accomplished in a fairly direct fashion. Vampire communities are rather insular and gossipy little cliques, where everyone needs to know what everyone else is doing all the time. When the prince of Tampa had need of agents for a confidential mission, she went looking for outsiders, hoping to thereby keep idle rumors to a minimum. She made certain discreet enquiries among her peers, and eventually somebody with authority over the PCs offered their services (the PCs could easily be the same group of vampires who served the Malkavian Justicar, Arcadian Walsh, in the adventure "Mortal Desires," from GURPS Vampire). The PCs are then simply informed that they have been selected to undertake a confidential mission for the Prince of Tampa.
The above is merely the simplest and most direct means of getting the PCs involved in the adventure. The GM is encouraged to reject it if any more Machiavellian or dramatic alternatives suggest themselves.
"I have recently been in communication with Tervel, an elder of clan Tzimisce. Tervel is one of the ancient Tzimisce who survived the anarch rebellion without affiliating themselves with the Sabbat.
"Tervel has lived in what is now Bulgaria for more than ten centuries, but he has given me to understand that he now wishes to relocate. His message said he wished to distance himself from, how did he phrase it? 'That potent and voracious chaos which may well devour this entire region before it is sated.' I can only assume that he's referring to the current political situation.
"Such speculation, however, is immaterial. The main fact is that Tervel has asked for sanctuary in the city of Tampa, and I have decided to grant his petition. In return, he has pledged to help defend this city from all enemies both internal and external. With the Sabbat to both my north and south, I cannot afford to pass up an opportunity for such a potent ally.
"However, it is absolutely essential that Tervel's arrival and presence in Tampa be kept an absolute secret, even from the other Kindred of the city. Were it generally known, his presence would act as a magnet to diablarists and extremists of all stripes, and I don't even care to speculate on what the Sabbat would do with such knowledge.
"Although I have nothing but trust for the Kindred of my city, it seemed to me best under the circumstances to turn to reliable outsiders such as yourselves, rather than to burden any of the native Kindred with this knowledge.
"Your mission is quite simple. You will go to Bulgaria and meet with Tervel. You will negotiate the terms of his move in my name. Then you will return to Tampa and prepare for Tervel's arrival, seeing that all his conditions and wishes are met. When he is ready to come to the states, you will receive him and take him to the haven you have prepared. You will act as his assistants for a time while he learns the city and adjusts to America. Then you will leave this city and go about your business. You will leave for Europe in three days' time, and I expect your duties will last for a span of not less than three nor more than six months.
"In return for your loyal service in this matter, you will earn my most profound gratitude."
If the PCs are in the service of another vampire, who has "loaned" them to Svetlana, she will add the following: "Your master does not know of Tervel, but he does know that I regard your mission as confidential, and he has assured me that he will not inquire as to its nature. I do not ask you to lie to him or to evade direct questions, I only ask that you not volunteer the nature of your mission unnecessarily. I think you will find that he will not inquire after the specifics of your duties." (It is, of course, up to the GM whether the PCs' superior -- if any -- actually does respect Svetlana's wish for confidentiality.)
The drive on Highway 41 lasts 15 to 20 minutes, after which they pull off on a local road and head west, towards the bay. After another 15 or 20 minutes travel down progressively more primitive roads, they arrive at their destination -- a small and apparently quite decayed old brick lighthouse. After you all leave the limo, Svetlana will announce, "This is Mangrove Point. The lighthouse will be Tervel's new haven." The lighthouse itself is a small building adjoining a 50' tower. The few windows in the ground floor are tightly boarded up. Svetlana will produce a key and unlock the padlock on the rusty iron door. Inside, the building is a single room. There are the remains of an ancient kitchen (with a coal-burning stove and sink, both broken), and a few fragments of old furniture. There's no latrine -- that was an outhouse, long-since washed away by storms. If any of the PCs have experience in engineering, construction or architecture, they can make a perception roll to notice that structurally the building seems much more sound from the inside than it did from the outside. On a successful roll vs. the appropriate skill at -2, the vampire will notice skillfully-concealed signs of recent repairs on the structure.
After a few minutes Svetlana opens the wooden door to the tower and leads the PCs up the worn stone stairs. Any questions are met with a curt reply of "later." At the top of the tower the ancient gas lamp is a barely recognizable lump and the reflector is dull and twisted. The railing to the catwalk around the beacon looks none too sturdy. The view of the bay, however, is spectacularly beautiful, with the lights of Tampa to the north and St. Petersburg across the bay.
After a few minutes taking in the view, Svetlana will lead the PCs back down the stairs, still refusing to take any questions. At the base of the tower, Svetlana will stop and press a certain spot on the wall, which will cause a small compartment at about head-level to spring open near the door to the room. In the compartment is a small black rectangle -- what looks like (and in fact is) an electronic remote control. She will take this object and lead the group into the room. There, with the first hint of a smile that the group has seen on her face since they met, she will point the remote at a spot in the center of the floor, and push a button. With an electronic hum, a heavy trap door in the floor swings back. With another button, a strong electric light turns on beneath the floor, illuminating a solid set of concrete stairs.
As Svetlana leads the way down the stairs, the air in the stairway smells clean and unused. It's cool, but not dank. The walls are solid slabs of unpainted concrete.
At the bottom of the stairs, about 20 feet below ground level, is a reinforced steel door with a computerized digital lock and keypad. Svetlana enters the code and pushes the door open. Inside is a large 30' x 40' room with several doors leading off it. The walls and floor are unpainted and unadorned concrete, but the doors are solid natural wood, the lighting is soft fluorescents, and the walls hold plentiful electrical outlets and phone jacks. When the group is inside the room, Svetlana turns and at last explains the secrets of the lighthouse.
"The lighthouse was originally built in 1871. It was abandoned shortly before I arrived in Tampa, 50 years later. I bought the property about 10 years ago, and shortly thereafter we began work on the renovation.
A note of pride enters the prince's voice. "The architect I brought in estimated that the tower was just one good storm away from falling down on the house. I had it rebuilt from the inside out, then we put this residence beneath it. Most of the work was done at night. The whole thing was disguised as a university archaeology project. Nobody in the area had any idea what we were really doing. I had intended to have it furnished as a private refuge and retreat, but I never got around to it. I think it will suit Tervel admirably."
Svetlana then completes the tour. Off the main room are five more rooms averaging 20' x 30'. All the rooms are fully wired, with plentiful closets and storage space. There is a working central heating and air conditioning system. There is running water, and even a room that could be fitted as a kitchen, should Svetlana ever have a need for such a thing.
The final stop on the tour is behind another secret door, which in turn leads to another door with another computerized lock. Behind that door and down yet another flight of stairs, about 15 feet below the floor of the residence bunker, there are two rooms. The larger room, 30' x 30', has iron rings set into the wall and a drain on the floor. It's obviously suitable for use as a prison, torture chamber or vampiric larder. The other room, 15' x 15' and behind yet another reinforced door with a computerized lock, holds a canvas bag containing a collapsed portable army cot. "This is the inner sanctum," Svetlana explains, "I put the cot here in case I ever needed an emergency refuge for the day. So far, I've never had occasion to use it.
"This will be Tervel's new home. You are responsible for seeing that he is comfortable within it. I will also prepare a refuge for Tervel near my haven. He will want others, but he will prefer to establish them himself. Two should be sufficient to start.
"When you leave for Bulgaria, you will be given a case containing blueprints and photos of this residence to show to Tervel. Keep the plans in a safe place as much as possible, carry them with you only when necessary, and destroy them when the renovations are completed."
The tour over, Svetlana will lead the vampires back to the limo. She will answer any questions they might have about their mission on the ride back. Her final words for the evening will be, "You will leave three nights from now. If you need money, it will be provided. If you need anything else or have any questions, please come to me personally. For the next three days, I am entirely at your disposal."
After the drive, Diaz will take them to comfortable rooms with no external windows in the downtown office building Svetlana uses for a headquarters and haven. If the group failed to feed before 10, there will still be sufficient time for a quick hunt downtown before dawn.
The PCs may spend the next two nights preparing for the trip as they see fit. True to her word, Svetlana will always be "in" for their calls or visits. Any reasonable request will be provided. If the PCs express a preference not to hunt, they will be provided with vessels from which to feed.
DepartureSvetlana sends word on the second night that the group is to have their bags packed before dawn. On the third night the emissaries find Diaz waiting for them as they awake. He takes them to Svetlana's chambers, where they find their bags waiting for them, with Malilini going through their belongings. Svetlana is also in the room. Vessels will be brought so that the emissaries may feed before their trip.
If any of the PCs are planning on taking more than one small bag to Bulgaria, Malilini recommends that they leave more behind. She also tells the PCs, in no uncertain terms, that they are not to take any firearms with them to Bulgaria. Svetlana will back her up on this -- Tervel has specified that his guests should arrive unarmed.
Malilini explains that the trip to Bulgaria will take three full days. The PCs will be travelling in sealed containers, mostly by air. She leads them to where their conveyances -- padded plastic boxes about 8' x 4' x 4' -- are waiting. She then produces a syringe kit and a vial of dark-colored liquid.
"This shot will keep you unconscious for most of the trip, and keep you from burning up too much energy. If you make the trip unconscious, it'll be safer for all concerned -- there's less chance you'll give yourselves away by rattling around at night. Also, it can be pretty nerve-wracking to spend two complete nights in total darkness, unable to move." (The fact that Malilini has access to drugs that affect vampires should be a tip-off to the characters as to the extent of her abilities.)
In any of the PCs refuse the shots, Svetlana will join Malilini in urging them to take the sedative. However, if they are adamant in their refusal, they will be allowed to enter their containers without any sedation.
If the PCs take the shots, they will awaken on the third night following, having lost only a single Blood Point to The Draining.
Any PC that refuses will lose the normal 3 Blood Points. Furthermore, as Malilini warned, they will find it most harrowing (unless they go into torpor voluntarily) to be confined in their tiny boxes for a whole night.
Any unsedated character must make a roll vs. normal Strong Will each of the next two nights or go into a Frenzy, during which they will try to tear their way out of their box (a process which will take 20-ST minutes to accomplish). Vampires with the Unfazeable disadvantage don't have to roll. Vampires with the Mediation skill can make a Mediation roll each night, and if that succeeds they do not have to make a Will roll. However, kindred with Claustrophobia at quirk level will have to make a Will roll every half hour they're awake in the box, and those with any stronger form of Claustrophobia will be completely unable to make the journey without either the sedative or going into torpor. If a character does frenzy and tear his way out of his box, it is the GM's option as to where he finds himself.
Finally, shortly before midnight, they are sealed in their respective containers and carried out to the truck that will take them to the airport.
BulgariaBarring any catastrophic panic attacks, the PCs will arrive three nights later in Sofia. If they accepted Malilini's injection they will awaken at their usual time, still in their containers, feeling a bit stiff but otherwise in excellent shape. There is a hum in their ears from the engines of the cargo jet they're riding in. After a span of time that feels like no more than 15 or 20 minutes, they hear the landing gear extending and feel the plane touch down. Their crates are quickly unloaded and stacked on some kind of motorized vehicle, which drives them somewhere a short distance away.
At last, the lids of their crates are pried off and they find themselves in the canvas-covered bed of an old truck -- Soviet Army surplus. Two nondescript, rather stupid-looking workmen are removing the lids, and they seem completely unsurprised to see apparently living humans in the crates. Malilini is standing by the truck's tailgate, keeping watch.
When all of the emissaries are decanted, Malilini's assistants unload the empty crates, leaving the bed of the truck holding the emissaries, their baggage, a pile of empty military-surplus knapsacks and frames, and an insulated cooler with a red cross on the lid. After the last crates are unloaded, Malilini will indicate the cooler and say, "Our excursion this evening features complimentary beverage service." Inside the cooler are sealed bags of whole blood. Each bag holds enough to restore two Blood Points, and there is one bag for each PC. The blood does not have to be taken all at once, but any blood not taken that night will go bad.
Malilini will then climb into the cab of the truck and start the drive to Tervel's castle. If any of the PCs think to ask, one or two of them can ride in the cab with Malilini. The drive lasts about two hours.
Malilini stops the truck on an unfinished mountain road, and comes around to let down the tailgate. She indicates an almost-invisible trail off to the right of the road. "That's the only way up to Tervel's castle." She explains. "There are no branchings, so you don't need directions. It's about a four-hour hike, and you have more than seven hours until dawn, so time shouldn't be a problem. I brought mountain packs," Malilini indicates the stack of knapsacks in the back of the truck. "If you want to repack your things in a ruck, go ahead."
If asked why she is not going all the way to the castle with them, Malilini's reply is a curt, "I wasn't invited." She then gives one of the vampires a piece of paper with a phone number on it. "When you're ready to leave, call this number. You'll have to send somebody down to the village to phone. I'll pick you up here the next night, at midnight. You shouldn't have any problem getting down here by then -- the hike is much faster going down."
As the hikers start off through the brush, they will hear the truck start and its engine recede behind them.
Throughout their hike up the mountain, three animals will follow their entire progress. Periodically (whenever the GM feels it's dramatically appropriate), the vampires will catch a glimpse of the two wolves and one raven following them. The animals never expose themselves to sight for more than a few seconds, and never approach closer to the vampires than 20'.
Tervel is using the beasts' eyes to monitor the emissaries' progress. Other than that, and their compulsion to follow the hikers, they are completely ordinary creatures. Killing or harming one of the three watchers is one of the few things the PCs could do during their ascent that would visibly annoy Tervel for the remainder of their visit.
Tervel has prepared seven tests for his guests. There is only one way to "fail" the tests, and that is to not arrive at the castle by dawn. Tervel is not "grading" the tests; he just wants to see what kind of Cainites he's allied himself with. This is, however, something that the PCs should not discover. They should be left with the feeling that had they chosen differently or performed a bit more ineptly, Tervel would never have welcomed them or gone through with the move.
The tests should not seriously endanger the party so long as they remain focused on their mission, but it may be possible through singularly bad luck or singularly bad judgment that the PCs might get themselves into something they can't get out of. In such an event, it is left to the GM whether to inject Tervel himself into the scene, to end the hostilities and lead the (hopefully humbled) emissaries to the castle (under normal circumstances, the emissaries will see nothing of their host until they reach the castle, but if the GM thinks Tervel's presence is needed on the way, the Methuselah will be wherever the PCs are, instantly), or to let the PCs bear the full consequences of their immoderate conduct. Some circumstances will be more deserving of special help (a vampire who's otherwise been behaving intelligently fails a Frenzy Roll at the worst possible moment) than others.
The GM (and perhaps rules-conscious players as well) will note that several of the tests involve creatures or powers that do not relate to anything in Tervel's character description. This is quite deliberate. As a Methuselah on his home territory, Tervel is a creature of immense power and impenetrable mystery. He has been preparing to receive his visitors for several months, at a minimum. After the tests, the PCs should forever after wonder which of the tests were "real" and which were "illusions," and they should never really have a clue how most of the tests were arranged or accomplished.
The Test of Mercy
The first test commences only a few minutes after the hikers leave the truck, before the trail starts to rise sharply. It comes in the form of a young girl, about seven or eight years old, with pigtails and wearing a bright frock in the traditional peasant style. The child is standing in the trail, impassively watching the approaching vampires. She's gripping a small rosary.
When the hikers reach her, she looks up at them and says, "I'm frightened. Please take me back to the church. It's just a little way further along the trail." She'll speak Bulgarian, and if none of the PCs know that language she'll look up at the party imploringly, say something incomprehensible, and point in the direction they're going anyway.
If the vampires decide to make the child a meal, she'll put up no significant resistance. Her vitae will provide up to 6 Blood Points. If they take her along with them, she'll trustingly take the hand of the one in the lead and walk along silently.
After about 10 to 15 minutes the party will reach a long clearing, looking lovely and peaceful in the moonlight. At the far end of the clearing (about 100 yards away) is a small Orthodox church. As the hikers enter the clearing, a figure of an elderly priest carrying an oil lamp will appear in the church door. The PCs will find that while they are in the clearing, they cannot leave the trail, as though the church were somehow protected from their approach. If the child is alive and free, she will run laughing across the clearing into the arms of the old priest. The two will wave cheerfully to the PCs, then vanish into the church. If the child is dead, the priest will point ominously at the vampires for a few moments, then silently shut the door of the church. If she is alive, but the party does not release her, the priest will stand in the door and shout unintelligibly at them, but will not leave the church. However, when they get to the place where the trail leaves the clearing, they will find that they cannot proceed with the child -- a force like the one keeping them on the trail will bar their way. If the girl is released or killed, the impeding force will vanish and the group can continue on their way.
If the vampires remain in the clearing for more than a minute or two after the church door is shut, they'll see a strange phenomenon. After a few seconds, they'll notice that the church looks older and less well kempt than it did when they arrived. Then they'll notice that the stained glass windows are broken and the door hangs askew. The roof will sag visibly, than fall in. Finally, the walls will crumble.
Less than 10 minutes after the door to the pretty little church shuts on the figure of the priest, there'll be nothing left of it in the clearing except the faint outline of a foundation, and a few chunks of ancient masonry. The PCs still find themselves constrained from leaving the trail.
If the PCs pass back through the clearing on a later night, they see only the ancient ruin of the little church, so far decayed that if they didn't remember where to look, they'd probably never know that there had been a building in the clearing at all. All magickal constraints on their movements will have vanished.
The Test of Courage
Once past the church clearing, the party will enter a region of very heavy brush and old trees. After a few minutes, they start to hear a faint crackling noise and the smell of smoke will reach their nostrils. Soon they see the dull red glow of a brushfire behind them.
No matter how much they may quicken their pace, the fire overtakes them with unnatural speed. When the fire reaches them, each member of the party must make a Will Roll (Courage) to resist Rötschreck. Soon the fire is all around them.
If they try to turn around and go back, a particularly large blazing tree immediately falls across the path, blocking that route. Both sides of the narrow path are a solid wall of flame. The only possible route is ahead.
Each member of the group should make one or more DX rolls to avoid flaming debris falling on the trail (roll 1d: 1-3, one DX roll, 4-5, two, 6 three). Each time they make a DX roll they must immediately check for Rötschreck again. If they fail the roll they take 1d-2 aggravated damage, and roll vs. Courage at a penalty equal to the amount of damage taken.
The fire is of little real danger to the party, but they should not realize this at the time! Even if they do succumb to Rötschreck they will naturally flee along the path in the direction they need to go anyway -- it's the only route not blocked by flames. However, vampires in the grip of Rötschreck cannot make any attempt to dodge falling debris. They will simply take the indicated amount of damage and keep fleeing. Also, any characters who succumb to Rötschreck or who state they are sprinting to try to outdistance the fire will take 2d fatigue from the run (the fatigue loss can be avoided with a successful roll vs. Running).
After about half a mile, the trail will start to rise, the heavy brush/forest will give way to more rocky terrain, and the fire will burn itself out.
When the PCs return down the path, they will find this section of the trail blackened, barren and still smoking. The burnt out area will start at the foot of the mountain, and extend almost to the edge of the church clearing. The fire was quite real. However, on a successful roll vs. Naturalist it will be obvious that the fire started and stopped in an arbitrary and unnatural fashion.
The Test of Might
About 20 minutes after beginning their climb, each of the hikers can roll vs. sight perception to notice a small cave off the side of, and slightly above the trail.
About 100 yards past the cave, the trail takes a turn and they find several humanoid figures blocking their way in front of them. If the vampires are keeping a watch to the rear, or state that they are turning or looking back for any reason, they see another group of humanoids crawling out of the tiny cave and climbing down to the trail behind them.
The humanoid figures are zombies: ST 13, DX 11, IQ 8, HT 18 with Brawling 13 and Broadsword 14. Half the zombies are armed with light clubs (wielded with the Broadsword skill) and half with real swords. The swords are of rather poor quality and little value, but do full damage. There are two zombies for each vampire -- one ahead and one coming up from behind. The zombies shuffle forward and mindlessly attack until destroyed. The zombies die when they reach 0 HT. There is no HT roll, no chance of unconsciousness -- they just die.
This is a simple test of the emissaries' combat prowess. The zombies do non-aggravated damage.
The trail is about 3 hexes wide at this point. The mountain is quite steep here, both above and below the trail, and cannot be ascended or descended without a Climbing roll. One attractive tactic the vampires might try is to push the zombies off the side of the mountain. This can be done several ways -- with grappling, Judo or simple knockback. However, if the vampires are trying to throw the zombies off the trail, the zombies are smart enough (just barely) to attempt to return the favor.
If a vampire is thrown down the mountain, he will fall for about 7 yards; the slight slope of the mountain will break his fall, however, so he only takes 1d-4 damage per yard fallen. If none of the vampires fall, it can be assumed any zombies who fall are out of play, but if both vampires and zombies fall, any zombie who's still able to attack after the fall will try to attack the fallen vampire.
Once the fight is over, any vampire who's fallen off the trail will have to make a Climbing roll to get back to the trail, or one of the other party members will have to go down and get him (normal Climbing roll to get down, roll at -3 to get back up with a conscious character, -5 with an unconscious character, with an additional penalty for any Encumbrance the unconscious vampire might add).
When they come back down the trail, the PCs find no trace of the Zombies whatsoever. If they enter the small cave, they find it cramped and quite shallow. On a successful Tracking roll, they will be able to see signs that the Zombies had been crammed in there together for a short time (less than 24 hours).
The Test of Sympathy
As they continue to climb the twisting mountain trail, the party comes upon a perverse and outré tableaux. In a wide spot on the trail are two chained figures. One is male, manacled by the wrist directly to the rock of the mountain. The other figure is female. She has an iron collar around her neck attached to a chain, which is in turn attached to an iron plate in the rock wall. On a rock a few feet away, out of reach of both, are the keys to the collar and the manacle.
The female is Kindred, obviously in a full Frenzy from the Hunger. She is wailing and straining wildly against her bonds to try to get to the young man. The two are restrained so that as long as the man keeps his body as far as possible from the vampire, her fingertips are just a few inches from being able to touch him. Both are dressed in somewhat tattered casual clothing, and both are reasonably, though not remarkably attractive (or would be under more congenial circumstances).
The young man is, of course, terrified. He's staring at the woman in horror, moaning (in Bulgarian) "Katya, no, no, please. What's wrong, Katya? You don't want to hurt me."
When the man sees the hikers approaching, he shouts for help. "Please, help us! My wife, there's something wrong with her -- I think she's gone mad! Please, let me go!"
The test here is simply to see what the PCs will do with these two. Do they let the man go, give him to the vampire, or feed on him themselves? Do they release the vampire, leave her where she is, take her with them, or take her vitae? Tervel will draw his own conclusions from the PCs' actions -- once again there is no "right" answer, but the vampires should definitely be left with the feeling that their choice in this matter is important.
If the man is questioned, he will say that his last memory was of going to bed with his wife the night before. When he woke up it was shortly after sundown on this night, he was chained to this rock and his wife was trying to kill him with her bare hands. If he is released he will stare doubtfully at his mad wife, then say, "Perhaps you should . . . just leave her there for now. For her own good. I'll return for her in the morning, with some others." Then, if allowed, he will hurry down the trail. Originally, he will speak Bulgarian, but if none of the PCs understand he will switch to somewhat halting English (Language skill 10).
The woman is a 14th Generation Caitiff neonate. She has ST 10, IQ 11, DX 12, HT 10, no significant combat skills or advantages. She has only a single Blood Point (but if devoured by the PCs, she will yield 10 Blood Points). If given enough vitae to take her above 5 Blood Points she will fall out of her Frenzy, but will still wish to feed from the human. If he is no longer available, and she is out of her Frenzy, she will eye the hikers hungrily, but can be dissuaded from attacking by any significant demonstration of force or vampiric power (of course, if she's still in Frenzy she'll madly attack any PC that comes into reach, regardless of consequences). If given enough vitae to restore her entire Blood Pool, she will completely lose interest in her husband.
She is suffering from total Amnesia, and remembers nothing of her former life. Her first priority is to slake her Hunger, but once her Blood Pool is fully restored she will come with the PCs willingly enough, if asked.
If Katya goes with the vampires, Tervel will take no interest in her whatsoever. He will insist on treating her as a slave or retainer of one of the emissaries. If Katya becomes an ongoing part of the campaign, the GM may assign her additional attributes. She's probably no more than a 200-point character.
When they come back past this spot later the restraints will be gone, but a careful inspection will allow them to find the spots where they were formerly bolted to the rock.
The Test of Will
As they continue to ascend the mountain, the vampires come to a scenic overlook of surpassing beauty. They can rest for a moment from their climb, while they look out over the rolling hills below. The fields are bathed in the light of the swelling moon, and the lights of several farms and small towns twinkle in the distance.
However, as they stand staring, they are overcome with a strange and terrible compulsion -- an urge to throw themselves off the side of the mountain, and fly over the moonlit lands below. But if they do throw themselves off the mountain they will not fly (even if they have a discipline that might allow them to do so, it won't function while under the compulsion). Instead, they will fall several hundred feet to jagged rocks below.
The first time the compulsion comes it is relatively mild -- each vampire must make a Will Roll at +3 to resist. However, when it passes, the group finds itself still unable to leave the overlook. Ten seconds later it comes again, and this time it is much stronger -- an unmodified Will roll. Ten seconds later, it comes again, still stronger -- roll vs. Will -2. After the third compulsion, the emissaries will be released to continue on their way.
Although none of the PCs can leave or turn away from the overlook while the compulsion is upon them, if they make a given Will roll they can attempt to tackle, grapple or otherwise restrain any of their fellows who happened to fail.
If a member of the party goes over the cliff, he will automatically take enough damage to drive him into torpor. Furthermore, the night is getting on, and it will be impossible for his companions to rescue him and still make the castle by dawn. The party will be forced to abandon their lost member. Should they try to mount a rescue attempt anyway, the GM should impress upon them how hopeless and suicidal the effort is.
If Katya is with the party, she will be affected by the compulsion just like everybody else. If she goes over the cliff, she will never be seen again.
However, if one or more of the PCs goes over and the rest make it to Tervel's castle, his fellows will wake the next night to find their battered and broken comrade lying nearby in torpor. He can then be restored through normal Blood Healing. Apparently, Tervel arranged to have the victim rescued and delivered just before dawn.
When they go back down the path the overlook will still be quite striking, but not nearly as amazingly lovely as it seemed before. There will be no sign of the strange fatal compulsion.
The Test of Wit
At last, near moonset, the vampires round a final curve and see Tervel's castle ahead of them in the light of the setting moon. It's smaller than they might have imagined, and not at all ornate. A squat, square, extremely functional little fortress.
Between them and the castle, however, is a dome of chalk-white rock, and squatting on the rock, keening mournfully at the setting moon, is the hulking, inhuman figure of the Moonsinger.
As the hikers approach the creature, the moon touches the horizon and the Moonsinger halts its song. When the PCs are in hailing distance it will call out to them. "Toll, toll, toll to pass." If any vampire tries to get past the white rock, the Moonsinger will scoop him up and throw him back forcefully.
If asked what sort of "toll" the Moonsinger expects, it will croon, "Tale or riddle, song or jest, that is my price. Pay the toll."
The Moonsinger wants each of the vampires in turn to step up and sing him a song or tell him a story. (If Katya is still with the party, the Moonsinger will ignore her.) The GM should require the players to actually sing or tell at least part of the toll. At the end of the performance, the vampire must roll against the appropriate skill (Bard, Singing, Performance or any other the GM deems appropriate).
If the vampire makes his roll, the Moonsinger politely applauds the performance and allows the performer to pass.
If the vampire fails the roll, the Moonsinger jeers the performance and calls out, "A forfeit, a forfeit." (If the performance was, in the GM's opinion, particularly well roleplayed, that can stand in place of a successful skill roll.) If asked what he means by "a forfeit," the Moonsinger will say "Something of value, you must give it to me!" The Moonsinger wants something belonging to the PC, and something of personal value to him. (It doesn't care how valuable the forfeit might be to anyone else.) A lucky penny, a pocket knife carried for years, a favorite pair of shoes, all are acceptable forfeits. Money, or the backpacks loaned by Malilini or some other utilitarian item of no particular value will probably be rejected by the creature (unless the vampire can win a Contest of Skill between his Fast Talk skill and the Moonsinger's Detect Lies to convince the creature that the object is really of personal value).
The Moonsinger will also accept a single Blood Point as a forfeit -- the vampire need only open a vein and let the vitae fall into the creature's hands. If the vampire refuses to give a forfeit, or has nothing the Moonsinger will accept, the monster will make a lightning-fast slash with its claws, doing 1d+2 points of aggravated damage, and causing a Blood Point to be lost. Once the forfeit has been paid, one way or another, the vampire can pass. If the vampire critically fails the skill roll, the Moonsinger will strike the hapless performer for 2d aggravated cutting damage (draining 1 to 3 Blood Points) without offering the option of paying a forfeit, and if the victim is still conscious afterwards the Moonsinger will bodily chase the offender out of the area (towards the castle).
However, if the performer critically succeeds at his skill roll, the Moonsinger will let go with a rapturous series of yips and barks and roll off its rock and do somersaults around the clearing. Then it will cry, "A favor! A favor!" and present the performer with a gift. (If any of the PCs think to wonder where the Moonsinger was keeping the object before he handed it to the vampire . . . good question.) The exact nature of the favor is up to the GM, but it should be something small, ancient and precious. It might have some minor magick if the GM permits.
Once the entire group has performed and rendered all requested forfeits, the Moonsinger heaves itself to its feet and bounds off into the night. The vampires will not see it again, unless they threaten the castle in some overt way, in which case the meeting will be much less pleasant.
The Test of Valor and Wisdom
At last, with the first faint signs of a lightening of the Eastern sky, the weary hikers pass through the open portcullis of the castle, into the ancient dirt courtyard. However, they are not met by their ancient host, but instead by a small group of oversized, hairy figures crouched around a campfire. If the PCs know anything at all about the Garou, they will recognize the figures as werewolves in their fearsome Crinos form. There is one Lupine for each PC, plus one more. (The PCs may notice that the wolves which have been following them for the entire ascent are nowhere in sight -- good, let them notice.)
As the vampires enter the courtyard the lupines rise to their hind legs, standing at their full height of 9' or more. They take defensive postures and utter faint growls of warning, but otherwise make no move towards the party . . .
Vampire Prince of Tampa8th Generation Gangrel
Age 101, 5' 10", 140 lbs.; blonde hair and blue eyes
ST 11, DX 10, IQ 14, HT 12
Basic Speed 5.5, Move 5
Blood Pool 22, Humanity 17
Dodge 5, Parry (Fencing) 8, Parry (Karate) 8
No armor or encumbrance
Advantages: Alertness +2, Appearance: Beautiful, Generation (8th), Status 2, Vampire Package, Wealth (Filthy Rich).
Disadvantages: Duty (-15), Sense of Duty: Tampa Kindred (-10).
Quirks: Very Formal, Never Displays Emotion.
Skills: Administration 14, Diplomacy 15, Fencing 12, Guns (Pistols) 12, Guns (Shotguns) 11, Intelligence Analysis 13, Interrogation 14, Karate 12, Leadership 15, Lip Reading 13, Literature 12, Musical Instrument (Piano) 15, Savoir-Faire 15, Strategy 14, Tactics 12, Writing 13.
Languages: English 16, French 14, Russian 14, Spanish 12.
Disciplines: Animalism (Power 4), Sweet Whispers 13, The Beckoning 13, Song of Serenity 15, Sharing of Spirits 14, Drawing out the Beast 16, Fortitude (Power 5), Protean (Power 5), Gleam of the Red Eyes 15, Wolf Claws 15, Earth Meld 15, Shadow of the Beast 15, Form of Mist 15.
Svetlana's family was an ancient house of Russian merchants and aristocrats. It is not surprising, then, that when the Revolution came her whole family was mercilessly slaughtered. Only Svetlana, then in her early 20s, narrowly escaped and made a run for Western Europe. During her flight she met her sire, who Embraced Svetlana because of her intelligence and determination.
Svetlana and her sire soon separated (he preferred a much wilder, more traditionally Gangrel existence than she liked), and she spent a year or two in Paris, but she found that city rather crowded with Kindred in those post-war years. So she went to America in search of a place that was wild enough for her Gangrel nature, civilized enough for her personal tastes, and not yet flooded with vampires. She arrived during the Florida land boom of the '20s, and established herself in Tampa. During WWII she came to be recognized as one of the city's primogen, and she became prince in 1978, after the former prince was destroyed, apparently by hunters.
In recent years, Svetlana has enhanced her status in the Camarilla at large by significantly aiding in the Camarilla defense of Miami, which has earned her the most profound gratitude of that city's prince and kindred. Her relations with the nearby prince of Orlando are known to be a bit cool, but not dangerously so.
Politically, her position of leadership seems remarkably secure. The only one of her primogen which seems even faintly able to challenge her is her war-leader, an 8th-generation Ventrue named Richards (Richards does not come into this adventure, and his stats are left to the GM). Richards, however, seems loyal to Svetlana for the foreseeable future. Among Camarilla gossips, it has been suggested that Svetlana and Richards are working on a long-term plan, to wit; wait until the Sabbat defeat in Miami seems inevitable, see that the prince of that city falls to an "accident of war," after which Svetlana takes Miami, and Richards gets Tampa (or possibly vice-versa).
In person, Svetlana is very much an "ice maiden." Her speech is brusque and to-the-point, and her manner is formal and impersonal. She likes to surround herself with fine things, but her tastes run to the austere and grandiose, rather than the beautiful or comfortable.
She does not customarily go armed unless she knows of some imminent physical threat, but she's never seen outside her haven without her ghoul bodyguard Diaz, and usually one or two kindred guards, as well.
Diaz, Ghoul Bodyguard
Age 88, 5' 11", 180 lbs.; black hair and brown eyes
ST 15, DX 14, IQ 10, HT 14
Basic Speed 7, Move 7
Dodge 8, Parry (Karate) 14, Parry (Broadsword) 8
No armor or encumbrance
Advantages: Combat Reflexes, High Pain Threshold, Toughness 2
Disadvantages: Fanaticism (Svetlana)
Skills: Broadsword 14, Driving 14, Guns (Pistols) 17, Karate 21, Knife 16.
The above only includes Diaz's combat-related abilities, since PCs are not likely to see any other facets of his character.
He is a taciturn man with massive muscles. He acts as Svetlana's bodyguard, servant and chauffeur. He has been her ghoul since the end of the Second World War.
He normally wears a heavy pistol in a shoulder holster (he has a current and legal concealed carry permit) and a switchblade in his pocket. He keeps an aluminum baseball bat in Svetlana's limo, which he has been known to wield (using the Broadsword skill) against multiple opponents.
Svetlana and PrestationThe drama of the initial negotiations with Svetlana will be greatly enhanced if the PCs already have an understanding of the rules of prestation, and their fundamental perversity. When Svetlana says, "You will earn my most profound gratitude," she is acknowledging that she will owe the PCs a significant debt of prestation should they successfully complete her mission. (A complete explanation of prestation can be found in GURPS Vampire Companion or White Wolf's Vampire Player's Guide.)
If the PCs were to press for specific promises of more tangible rewards, that would be a great mistake. In asking for a specific reward, the PCs give Svetlana an out from her debt. Svetlana would consider such a blunder both stupid and weak -- it would significantly lower her opinion of the PCs.
If the players are not already familiar with the principles of prestation, and seem to be heading for a blunder, the GM can allow one or more of the PCs to make a roll vs. an applicable skill (Savoir-Faire: Camarilla, or Hidden Lore: Camarilla are both appropriate). If the roll is successful, the GM can explain some of nuances which prestation brings to the situation.
The above, however, assumes that the PCs are letting Svetlana off the hook unwittingly. It is entirely possible (though rather unlikely) that a Cainite might obviate the debt willingly. The most obvious reason to do this is if the vampire finds the mission intriguing for reasons of his own, but does not wish to become entangled in Svetlana's intrigues (although they are not detailed here, it can be safely assumed that as a prince, Svetlana is engaged in any number of potentially-entangling intrigues). This is a rather dangerous course, however. In addition to losing the potential benefits of the prince's gratitude, the PC also risks arousing both her paranoia ("If he's not doing this to get a claim on me, why is he doing it?") and her pride ("Does this worm consider my favor to be something of no significance?"), unless accomplished with the utmost care.
It might seem reasonable to ask, "If this deal is completely secret, and prestation is enforced only through social pressure of the Camarilla at large, how can the PCs know that Svetlana will honor the debt?" However, this also fails to take into account the perversity of prestation.
If Svetlana ignores or denies her debt to the PCs, they are entitled by irrevocable custom to bring their grievance before the community at large -- this means that all their vows of secrecy are revoked. Thus a secret debt is actually more likely to be honored than a public one, because in addition to all the other dangers of ignoring prestation, the debtor also risks the exposure of his secret. (Of course, Svetlana could just have the PCs quietly destroyed, but the situation at hand hardly seems to warrant such extreme measures).
Ravnos Elder7th Generation Ravnos
Age 405, 5' 1", 100 lbs.; black hair and brown eyes
ST 9, DX 14, IQ 16, HT 15
Basic Speed 7.25, Move 7
Blood Pool 30, Path Rating 14
Dodge 8, Parry (Brawling) 8, Parry (Knife) 9.
No armor or encumbrance
Advantages: Ambidextrous, Baby Face, Charisma +2, Combat Reflexes, Intuition, Language Talent +3, Luck (lower level), Status 3, Vampire Package.
Disadvantages: Code of Honor (Ravnos), Compulsive Behavior: Smuggling, Skinny.
Skills: Acting 17, Archaeology 13, Bard 14, Blackjack 15, Brawling 14, Camouflage 15, Climbing 12, Dancing 18, Detect Lies 14, Diplomacy 15, Driving (Car) 15, Fast Talk 18, Fortune Telling 19, Freight Handling 15, Gambling 17, Guns (Pistol) 15, Holdout 19, Jeweler 13, Knife 16, Knife Throwing 16, Law 14, Masquerade 18, Linguistics 21, Lockpicking 15, Merchant 17, Pickpocket 16, Pilot (Fixed Wing) 16, Research 14, Savoir-Faire 17, Sex Appeal 16, Stealth 17, Streetwise 18.
Languages: Assume that Malilini speaks all major languages at 17+. She will also know most European minor languages and dialects at a similar level.
Disciplines: Animalism (Power 6), Sweet Whispers 14, The Beckoning 15, Song of Serenity 16, Sharing of Spirits 14, Drawing Out the Beast 16, Animal Succulence 15, Celerity (Power 2), Chimerstry (Power 6), Ignus Fatuus 16, Fata Morgana 16, Apparition 16, Persistence of Vision 16, Horrid Reality 18, Fatuus Mastery 16, Fortitude (Power 5).
Malilini was born late in the 16th century somewhere in central Europe, to a gypsy band that already had strong and ancient ties to the Ravnos. By the time she reached puberty she already knew that several of her relatives were vampires, and actively craved that state for herself. When she was about 25, her wish was granted -- she was embraced by a senior Ravnos.
Since well before the American Revolution Malilini has been the best smuggler in the world. Smuggling is her Ravnos obsession -- she will never resist an opportunity to sneak something in where it doesn't belong. In her time she has trafficked in drugs, jewels, slaves, art, arms and antiquities. When it comes to smuggling, she has only one moral scruple -- to deliver the goods as ordered.
Malilini is one of the most widely-travelled Cainites in the world. She averages at least three different continents every month. Even if she had never been embraced she would have been a brilliant natural linguist, but after four centuries of constant travel she has now mastered virtually every tongue known to man.
In person, she is a tiny woman with nothing even remotely vampiric about her appearance, even in the best light. She has a quick, rather sardonic wit. She prefers bold clothing and extravagant surroundings. She always has on her person, at an absolute minimum, a throwing knife, a black jack, a heavy knife and a powerful handgun. She carries this arsenal not so much because of paranoia, as because she enjoys knowing that she has the weapons and nobody knows she has them -- it's a manifestation of her compulsion. Sometimes, if she's feeling particularly devilish, she might pack a grenade or two as well.
Guardian CreatureAge unknown, 17', weight unknown, no hair, silver eyes
ST 90, DX 16, IQ 12, HT 16/120
Basic Speed 8, Move 8
Dodge 13, Parry (Brawling) 16
PD 4, DR 40, no encumbrance
Advantages: Claws (does cutting damage hand-to-hand), Combat Reflexes, Danger Sense.
Disadvantages: Appearance (Hideous), Inconvenient Size (Large).
Quirks: Sings under the gibbous moon, Loves stories, songs and puzzles.
Skills: Acrobatics 18, Brawling 22, Detect Lies 13, Singing 19.
The Moonsinger is the physical guardian of Tervel's castle. Neither Tervel himself nor the Shadow Lord werewolves of the area know precisely what this strange creature may be. Some of the Garou say that the Moonsinger was committed to Tervel's service by whatever power the vampire bargained with for his defense, others say that the deal was done directly between Tervel and the Moonsinger, and the creature is not only the guardian of the castle, but also the source of its magickal glamour.
Physically, the Moonsinger resembles nothing so much as a hairless and grotesquely obese cross between an orangutan and a baboon. It has the fleshy folds and long, sinuous limbs of the former, the canine muzzle and fangs of the later. When it moves, it moves on feet and knuckles like a great ape; but when it sits, it folds its legs completely under it, and the folds of fat settle around them so the creature takes on a solid, almost conical shape, as though it were growing directly out of the mountain soil.
Not even Tervel knows where the Moonsinger makes its lair. Normally it is only seen when some hostile invader overcomes the magickal cloak around the castle and advances on the gates. Then the Moonsinger comes roaring out of . . . somewhere, rips the limbs off the invaders or crushes their bones to paste, then returns from whence it came. Sometimes, the townsfolk say, when the invader's intent is not hostile, the Moonsinger will content itself with scaring him away, or even warning him off. There is even one story of a small child who toddled out of her house one night. Her anguished parents cowered in their home, certain that the child had fallen prey to he whom they knew, but did not name. However, at sunrise the next morning the girl appeared alive, conscious and uninjured at the edge of her parents' garden. When questioned, she told them the "big monkey" had found her, driven off the wild beasts and led her home.
The only other time the Moonsinger appears is under the gibbous moon, when it will pull itself up on a certain rock near the castle and warble eerily until moonset. Few townspeople through the centuries have ever seen this performance, for it is protected by the same glamour that shrouds the castle -- but Tervel and the Shadow Lords know it well. Sometimes, when the gibbous moon has set, the Moonsinger will allow Tervel or a particularly valiant Garou to approach. Then it will converse for a time. It loves riddles, songs and word-play. Its voice is high and clear, like a young girl's, and it speaks to Tervel in the formal court Latin of ancient Constantinople, and to the Lupines in modern Bulgarian.
In combat it is utterly savage and virtually indestructible. The townsfolk remember the time in the War when three fully-armed Nazi APCs were ordered to set up a reconnaissance post on Tervel's mountain. The next day the vehicles were found twisted at the bottom of a cliff, the soldiers' weapons were splintered like broken toys at the top, and the soldiers themselves were scattered in gory and very small pieces over the whole mountain.
Next Issue: What are the werewolves doing in Tervel's courtyard? Is there betrayal on the wind? Or is something even deeper and more mysterious going on? In the conclusion of "Tervel's Haven" in Pyramid #8, things start off with the final test and get stranger from there. The vampires will finally meet Tervel, enjoy his hospitality, and try to get him to America without half the Kindred on the planet finding out about it. Until then . . .
Article publication date: June 1, 1994
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