Domain of the Month
Keening info in 3e: RL3E / RLPH, Gaz 5
This hook may be a little large for a single adventure but it may work for a campaign or you could take from it in context. Enjoy!
Babies are going missing from nearby Tepest and the inquisition there names the fey. The party is hired to find where the babies are going. The babies are being taken by a cult who is holed up in Keening trying to escape the Kargat. The cult is involved in some kind of ritual to resurrect all those killed in the Scourge of Arak at Death's behest to try and overthrow Azalin Rex. Can the party discover the cult's sinister plot and stop it or will they clash with the Kargat and start a war between Tepest, Darkon and maybe the rest of the Core?
Yanoff Lech, an up-comming member of the Darkon Ezra sect, is putting together a mission to destroy the undead horror of the City of the Dead within the heart of Keening, and is hiring any able body he can to join him on his quest.
Millious Sabercloak, a rather disreputable darkon wizard has heard tales of lost arcane secrets deep within the caves of Keening that once belonged to the Arak and has hired the PC's to find them.
A professor at one of the core's top universities has come across documents that hint at a lost civilization in Keening that predates Arak's arrival in the demiplane. Wanting to be the first to lay claim to any buried ruins or artefacts, he quickly hires the PCS as bodyguards and sets off for Keening. Of course, in Ravenloft, the journey is half the challenge... And once they arrive, they must deal with the local "Population" and whatever else they may unearth.
David of the Frat
A criminal known for his violent crimes and wanted in several lands escapes from his most recent murder across the border to the Dead City. The heroes are hired to track him down and bring him back to serve trial. But what happens if he is already dead? Or more accuretly no longer alive.
An artefact is unearthed that can control the undead and make them the slave to the wielder, a soldier in search of an army. He cannot raise the dead so instead he journeys to where and army already exists. It is a race against time and through the land before he reaches the city. But there are other forces also at work, those who wish the device for themselves and those who wish it destroyed at all costs for even the most powerful of undead might find themselves its slave.
A fey, mourning for the loss of her love and partner, decides to join him in his resting place inside the mountain. As passage she steals a small infant and flees with it. The heroes must give chase and reach her before other forces do.
The Guardians find references in ancient books from the city making reference to a powerful Drow artefact that helped bring the Dark Elves into the land. So powerful and artefact it might be able to aid those seeking escape, or more horribly draw other lands into the Mist. First, more research must be done in the City of the Dead, and then a journey into the mountain must be made.
This story is shamlessly stolen and altered for Ravenloft, I take no credit for the original talent of the writer, I am a self professed hack. It does work however as a handout or discovered in a crumbling tome if you are going to Keening for any reason. The masterful original this was derived from is ‘The Primal City’, by the great Clark Ashton Smith. If you’re a fan of Lovecraft you will love Smith. DM notes follow the tale.
The City of the Dead
In these latter days, when all things are touched with insoluble doubt, I am not sure of the purpose that had taken us into that little-visited land, I recall, however, that we had found explicit mention, in a volume of which we possessed the one existing copy, of certain vast ruins lying amid the bare plateaus and stark mountain of the region. How we had acquired the volume I do not remember: but Sebastian Polder and I had given our youth and manhood to the quest of hidden knowledge; and this book was a compendium of all things that men have forgotten or ignored in their desire to repudiate the inexplicable.
We, being enamoured of mystery, and seeking ever for the clues that material science disregards, pondered much upon these pages written in an antique alphabet. The location of the ruins was clearly stated, though in terms of an obsolete geography; and I remember our excitement when we had marked the position on a map of lands to the south, in the forsaken and desolate domain of Keening. We were consumed by a wild eagerness to visit the alien settlement. Perhaps we wished to verify a strange and fearful theory, which we had formed regarding the fate of Keening’s original inhabitants; perhaps we sought to recover the buried records of a lost civilization... or perhaps there was some other and darker objective...
I recall nothing of the first stages of our journey, which must have been long and arduous. But I recall distinctly that we traveled for many days amid the bleak, treeless uplands that rose like a many-tiered embankment towards the range of high pyramidal summits guarding the dead city. Our guide was a halfling, sodden and taciturn, with intelligence little above that of the donkeys who carried our supplies, and a smell that was worse. But we had been assured that he knew the way to the ruins, which had long been forgotten by most of our fellow-countrymen. Rare and scant was the legendry regarding the place and its builders; and, after many queries, we could add nothing to the knowledge gained from the immemorial volume. The city, it seemed, was nameless; and the region about it was now untrodden by man.
Desire and curiosity raged within us like a calenture; and we heeded little the hazards and travails of our journey. Above us stood eternally overcast heavens, matching an equally ominous vacant landscape. The route steepened; and above us now was a wilderness of cragged and chasmed rock, where nothing dwelt.
Often we lost sight of certain eastern peaks that had served us for landmarks. But it seemed that our guide knew the way, as if led by an instinct more subtle than memory or intelligence; and at no time did he hesitate. At intervals we came to the broken fragments of a paved road that had formerly traversed the whole of this rugged region: broad cyclopean blocks of gneiss, channelled as if by the storms of cycles older than human history. And in some of the deeper chasms we saw the eroded piers of great bridges that had spanned them in other times. These ruins reassured us; for in the primordial volume there was mention of a highway and of mighty bridges, leading to the city.
Polder and I were exultant; and yet we both shivered with a curious terror when we tried to read certain inscriptions that were still deeply engraved on the worn stones. No living man, though erudite in all the known tongues of the world, could have deciphered those characters; and perhaps it was their very alienage that frightened us. We had sought diligently during many years for all that transcends the dead level of mortality through age or remoteness or strangeness; we had longed for the elder and darker secrets: but such longing was not incompatible with fear. Better than those who had walked always in the common paths, we knew the perils that might attend our exorbitant and solitary researches.
Often we had debated, with variously fantastic conjectures, the enigma of the city at the base of the lone mountain. But towards our journey's end, when the vestiges of that lost people multiplied around us, we fell into long periods of silence, sharing the taciturnity of our stolid guide, Thoughts came to us that were overly strange for utterance; the chill of elder eons entered our hearts from the ruins - and did not depart.
We toiled on between the desolate rocks and the sterile heavens, breathing an air that became thin and painful to the lungs, as if from some admixture of cosmic ether. By my pocket watch it was high noon, but one would be unaware of that fact due to the deepening overcast sky. We reached an open pass, and saw before us, at the end of a long and vertiginous perspective, the city that had been described as an unnamed ruin in a volume antedating most other books.
The place was built at the base of Mount Lament, originally called Pale in Ancient Baklunish. It was surrounded by snowless arms little sterner and loftier than itself. On one side the peak fell in a thousand-foot precipice from the overhanging ramparts; on another, it was terraced with wild cliffs; but the third side, flung towards us, was no more than a steep and broken acclivity. The rock of the whole mountain was strangely ruinous and black; but the city walls, though equally worn, were conspicuous at a distance.
Polder and I beheld the bourn of our search with unvoiced thoughts and emotions. The halfling made no comment, pointing impassively towards the summit, which loomed over the ruins. We hurried on, wishing to complete our journey by daylight; and, after plunging into an abysmal valley, we began at mid-afternoon the final ascent towards the mountain.
It was like climbing amid the overthrown blocks of a citadel. Everywhere the slope was rent into huge, obliquely angled masses, often partly vitrified. The few trees in this area were leafless and contorted, as if they were subject to a constant gale. Plainly, at some former time, Keening had been subjected to the action of an intense storm; the constantly blowing winds a sullen reminder. I felt a vague sense of awe and terror, as I recalled. A passage in the old volume, hinting ambiguously at the fate that had long ago destroyed the city's inhabitants:
'For the people of that city had declared the sky gods dead; and the clouds descended in their anger and smote the city with dreadful winds and sand; and thereafter the place was peopled no more by the living who had built it, the only thing still alive were clouds. The inhabitants ever cursed for their arrogance.'
We had left our three donkeys at the slope's bottom, merely taking with us provisions for one night. Thus, unhampered, we made fair progress in spite of the ever-varying obstacles offered by the shattered scarps and flora. The trees gave way to sharp-bladed weeds and thorny thickets that snagged at exposed flesh.
The sun should have been high above but clouds obscured it; and I was surprised, as we went on, by the increasing windswept wear upon the rocks. Turning, I saw grayish vapory masses, which might have been either more clouds or mist, that were drifting about the crown of the peak that overlooked the pass; and one of these masses, rearing like a limbless figure, upright and colossal, had interposed itself between us and the path.
I called the attention of my companions to this phenomenon. The gray masses were different from the cloud-forms in the sky. They possessed a peculiar capacity and sharpness of outline, a baffling suggestion of weight and solidity. Moving sluggishly into the heavens above the pass, they preserved their original contours and their separateness. They seemed to swell and tower, coming towards us on an air whose wind was blowing against them. Floating thus, they maintained the erectness of massive columns or of giants marching on a plain.
I think we all felt an alarm that was nonetheless urgent for its vagueness. Somehow, from that instant, it seemed that we were penned up by unknown powers and were cut off from all possibility of retreat. All at once, the dim legends of the ancient volume had assumed a menacing reality, we had ventured into a place of hidden peril — and the peril was upon us. In the movement of the gray masses there was something alert, deliberate and implacable. Polder spoke with a sort of horror in his voice, uttering the thought that had already occurred to me:
'They are the sentinels who guard this region for the banshee — and they have espied us!'
We heard a harsh cry from the halfling, who stood gazing and pointing upwards. Several more of the unnatural cloud-shapes had appeared on the summit towards which we were climbing, above the ruins.
Then, with terrifying swiftness, the cloud-presences towered from the four quarters, emerging from behind the great peak or assuming sudden visibility in mid-air. With equal and effortless speed, as if evoked by an unheard command, they gathered in converging lines around the slope. We, the climbers, and the whole mountain and the valley below, were plunged into a darkening twilight cast by the clouds.
The wind weighed down upon us as if we were burdened by the wings of a thousand evil demons. We were overwhelmingly conscious of our exposed position, for we had paused on a wide natural landing of the mountain’s ascent. We could have concealed ourselves amid the huge fragments on the slope; but, for the nonce, we were too exhausted to be capable of the simplest movement. The rarity of the air had left us weak and gasping. And the chill of altitude crept into us.
In a close-ranged army, the mist columns mustered above and around us. They rose into the very zenith, swelling to insuperable vastness, and darkening like angry gods. The sun, still covered, left not the faintest beam to prove that it still hung unfallen and undestroyed in the heavens. The columns then took on a more humanoid shape and with growing anxiety we finally realized what they were, the spirits of others who had perished upon the mountain.
I felt that I was crushed into the very stone by the eyeless regard of that awful assemblage, judging and condemning us. We had, I thought, trespassed upon a region conquered long ago by strange elemental entities and forbidden henceforward to man. We had approached their very citadel; and now we must meet the doom our rashness had invited. Such thoughts, like a black lightning, flared in my brain, even as my logic tried to analyze the reason for the thoughts.
Now, for the first time, I became aware of sound, if the word can be applied to a sensation so anomalous. It was as if the oppression that weighed upon me had become audible; as if palpable thunders poured over and past me. I felt and heard it in every nerve, and it roared through my brain like torrents from the opened floodgates of some tremendous weir. It was the wailing of the banshee.
Her swiftness was that of mountain-sweeping winds. The air was riven as if by the tumult of a thousand tempests, was rife with an unmeasured elemental malignity. I recall but partially the events that ensued; but the impression of insufferable darkness, of demonic clamor and trampling, and the pressure of thunderous onset, remains forever indelible. Also, there was her voice that called out with the stridour of clarions in a war of gods, uttering ominous syllables, that man's ear could never seize.
Before her frightful visage and deafening song we could not stand for an instant. We hurled ourselves madly down the shadowed slope of the lonely mountain. Polder and the guide were a little behind me. I saw the halfing one last time in that baleful twilight through sheets of sudden rain. The banshee was upon him then, and I heard her say above the wind ‘Tell me- where is my child?’ The halfling was struck dumb with fear and could not move nor answer. I was then on the verge of a cliff, which, in our ascent, had compelled us much circumambulation. Below was a black and churning river flowing westward that I later learned was the Kryder. In the growing darkness Polder barreled into me and we both plummeted over the edge. After that I remember nothing more except the sense of vertiginous falling. By some miracle we must have been carried away by the river’s depths without being overtaken as our guide had been. How I escaped is forevermore an enigma. When I returned to awareness I was alone, washed up on the northern bank in the early dawn. The air had turned sharp with nightfall in a mountain land. My body ached with a hundred bruises and my right forearm was limp and useless when I tried to raise myself. A dark mist of horror stifled my thoughts. Struggling to my feet with pain-racked effort, I called aloud, though I knew that none would answer me. I searched the valley and found myself, as I had expected, alone. Nowhere was there any trace of my companions: they had vanished utterly as clouds vanish.
Somehow, by the early light, and with a broken arm, I climbed the steep embankment.
There, I witnessed a scene out of a nightmare. A dozen soldiers were guarding a remnant of the broken road beside the river, but they no longer lived. They stood nearly motionless, with only the dregs of their uniforms fluttering in the wind. Their mouths were gaping, as if in a silent scream. Each still gripped a rusty iron sword, raised high but their armor had fallen to the ground, the leather straps having been gnawed along with their flesh. Seeing this I circumvented the road and the woods beyond and went the long way around to the city. I passed some fields of prickly wildflowers and neatly cultivated thorn bushes. Men who looked like scarecrows tended the fields, moving slowly and methodically. They were going through the macabre motions of life. If any of these passive zombies saw me they made no outward sign. I eventually came upon an eastern gate into the settlement. Again, here, as in the fields and by the river undead went through a mockery of life. I moved quietly and cautiously and was left alone but I felt my sanity slipping from me. The streets were strewn with dung and garbage. Skeletal and rotting rats darted about in the dark alleys. At the northern end of the city, inside a second wall beyond a dry moat sat a palace of crumbling stone. I entered and eventually found the throne room. There, in the gloom a beautiful woman sat, watching me. I thought I was alone at first until she spoke.
‘Know that you have come before Kazerabet, queen of the undead. You are trespassing in my kingdom. Leave immediately or my legions shall tear you apart.’
‘I lost my way and did not mean to intrude your Highness. With your permission, I take my leave.’
Although I do not recall how, or by what route I escaped that namelessly haunted and guarded city. I know I exited that cursed land because the next thing I remember the sky was now clear, and the stars were undimmed by any semblance of cloud; and that somewhere along the way I found one of our donkeys, still laden with its stock of provisions.
Plainly I was not pursued by the undead. Perhaps they were concerned only with the warding of their mysterious decaying city from the living’s intrusion. Some day I shall learn their true nature and more about the mysterious woman that commands them. I shall discover the secrets of those ruinous walls and crumbling keep, and the fate of my companions. But still, through my nightly dreams and diurnal visions, the dark shapes of ghosts move with the tumult and thunder of a thousand storms; my soul is crushed into the earth with the burden of fear, and they pass over me with the speed and vastness of vengeful gods; and I hear the banshee’s voice calling like clarions in the sky, with ominous, world-shaking syllables that the ear can never seize.
I've updated this with some more details for Arak/Keening, and Darkon as they relate to Dargal Pass (this includes some Involution story seeds, as well as some details from the Heart's Final Beat & The Lady of the Lake from Book of Shadows p.40 have been added):
Secrets of the Necromanic Craft
Examine Description: The Secrets of the Necromantic Craft has a cover of intricately carved bone and a clasp made with a child's skeletal hand, vellum pages of human skin are written in magical ink utilizing human blood and vampire dust. It weighs twenty-two pounds, is three feet long, 2 feet wide and five inches thick. It is priceless, not only due to its exquisitely macabre workmanship but also because those researchers that did not go mad studying the tome or were killed by their creations confirmed that all information contained within was accurate.
History: This book describes many facets important to a student in the school of necromancy. Although non-magical copies with errors have started to circulate around the core, the original book was delivered to the University of Il Aluk by a ghoul who rasped 'A gift from the Queen to further your academic endeavours.' Saying this the ghoul then crumbled to dust. Sages believe the original also contained a spirit or entity of some intelligence. If one asked a necromantic question out loud to the open book in Kahlitosh the pages would turn to the relevant information. The book was stolen from the university early in the eighth century. Its current whereabouts remain unknown.
About the Author: Kitlan, the former commandant of an entire undead principality, penned the original copy of this heavy tome. She was purported to be the renowned scholar of a group calling themselves the Necromancer Nation in a region known as the Nadiel Peninsula. Escaping a town the Death Master names as Dilney it is now whispered that she sits as a queen upon the throne of a nameless palace in a city of undead.
Contents: This book contains many useful necromantic spells and also describes how to create and recharge various necromantic magical items. The book also contains an encyclopaedic description of undead, along with a discussion of their special powers and weaknesses. The book ends with a translation dictionary for the ancient language Kahlitosh, used within the Necromantic Nation. This book acts as a Primer for Necromancy.
Effects: Any who are not a necromancer reading so much as a line inside the covers will take 5-20 points of damage, fall unconscious for the same number of turns and permanently loose one level of experience. Any non-magic-user perusing the work must also save verses magic to avoid a madness roll. Only the original causes these effects.
Examine Description: A scroll describing a necromantic amulet.
Mezio's Terror: These devices were first forged by a necromancer named Mezio. Their secrets have only recently been brought to light by Rausenes' Secrets of the Necromanic Craft. When activated, this talisman cloaks the wielder in a red aura of malevolence, terrible to behold. Rausenes has compared the amulet's necromantic radiance to the chilling aura of a lich, though it has a decidedly different effect. Everyone within thirty feet of the wielder could find themselves rooted to the spot, frozen in terror. These amulets can hold up to 50 charges.
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