This article originally appeared in Pyramid #8
By Michael Phyillaier, Jr.The crystal sculpture twinkled, even in the gloom.
Mordal glanced around furtively -- the Demon wasn't around. Quickly, he used his axe to craft a hollow clay sphere, placing a metal rune inside. He then threw the sphere into the lava stream where it quickly drifted away. Mordal prayed the message would find its way to another Dwarf.
The Demon floated in, "So, where's my new sculpture, decrepit one?" The voice was like splintering wood.
"Here," was all Mordal grunted in reply. If only the Demon would become substantial for a moment...
"Exquisite as always." The Demon and the crystal sculpture disappeared. Mordal cursed his own foolishness and prayed for deliverance.
Mordal is an ancient dwarf who is being held captive by a greedy demon. More important than Mordal, though, is his axe. The axe is a powerful magical item given to Mordal by an ancient Dwarven clan. The axe was the symbol of the clan and its absence has diminished the honor of the clan. The axe (and Mordal with it) have been missing and presumed dead or destroyed for 30 years. Mordal is alive, as it turns out, but his health is failing him.
Mordal's Axe has Accuracy +2, Puissance +2, Quickdraw, Loyalsword, Shape Earth, Shape Stone, Earth to Air and Earth Vision cast upon it. It has a Limit: only dwarven mages with a skill of 15 or higher in Mining, Geology, or Prospecting can use the axe. The axe also has two points of Self Power. It is not only a frightful weapon, but can also be used (as Mordal has for the past 30 years) to create sculptures of unparalleled beauty.
The axe is made of cobalt steel, wrapped in rust-dyed leather. The axe also has several "personality quirks." It will employ only one of its spells at a time, and will not allow a different one to be cast until the first one has run its course (except Accuracy and Puissance, of course, which always work). If used for sculpting objects that have already been touched or crafted by someone else, the axe forces its user to pay for the spells used to work on the item. Lastly, the axe has an innate artistic taste; it simply will not sculpt bad art, no matter how unskilled its owner.
Mordal is near death. His last wish is to see the demon killed, or at least to return the axe to his fellow Dwarves. Mordal is a 205-year-old dwarf with ST 11, DX 12, IQ 12 and HT 10. He has Axe/Mace-20, Geology-16, Sculpting-18 and an assortment of mining-related skills. (His statistics used to be even higher, but 30 years of imprisonment have taken their toll). He is frequently tortured by the demon, and will have at least 7 points of unhealed wounds at any given time. He also has walking pneumonia. Mordal does not fear death or the demon, but he fears the shame of dying a prisoner and of losing the axe to non-Dwarves.
The demon's name is Naught Good. He has ST 30, DX 15, IQ 12 and HT 15/20. He has an Ethereal Body, Telepathy Power-10 with all skills at 15, Combat Reflexes, High Pain Threshold and Strong Will +5. His Disadvantages are: Sadism, Overconfidence, Intolerance of Dwarves and Humans, and Greed. His quirks include: Loves to talk in riddles, Believes human minds are weak, and Thinks fighting with weapons is for lesser beings.
Naught Good has been selling Mordal's sculptures to various rich nobles and priests throughout the land. He uses a sniveling Goblin named Alvin, a 50-point con man, to deliver and sell the sculptures. To date they have sold 30 sculptures. Each one is a work of beauty.
ADVENTURE SEEDSThe PCs can be hired by a Dwarven clan that has found one of Mordal's messages. Or the adventurers can find one of Mordal's messages and take it upon themselves to try and rescue him. The runic message contains only the location of the cave, and asks for help, nothing more.
The PCs can run into Alvin and/or one of the sculptures. A Dwarf member of the party might and recognize the work as Mordal's.
The characters can be hired by a buyer of one of the sculptures to rescue the artist for his own use.
The PCs could be adventuring in the wild and run across Alvin's trail. After tracking it to the cave, they see Alvin talking to Naught Good. One of the explorers can then recognize the demon for who and what he is.
Or the party could be relatives of Mordal, assigned the duty of finding the truth about what happened to their patriarch and the axe in order to restore their clan's honor.
No matter which seed is used, getting to Mordal is just the beginning. Naught Good is a skilled Telepath and not easily harmed due to his Ethereal Body. Also, Naught Good has lots of other demon friends. If Mordal is rescued alive and the axe recovered, he will prove a useful Patron for further adventures, and Naught Good makes a splendid enemy.
Article publication date: August 1, 1994
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