Domain of the Month
Darklord: Frantisek Markov
Domain created in 698. It was part of the Core but thought dissolved during the Grand Conjunction (year 740). It was rediscovered in 743 as an island located in the Sea of Sorrows.
A group of Lamordian colonists sent out to colonize Markovia have disappeared. The boat they were using was found beached on the Markovian coast and the wreckage abandoned. The party has been hired to investigate what happened to the colonists and report back. The party heads to Markovia and the boat crashes from a storm. The party finds tracks leading away from the crash site. They follow the tracks to a single home. They are welcomed in by a hunched over figure with a strangely large amount of hair all over him. He takes their coats, armour, weapons and any other equipment from the party with their consent (so that they will be more comfortable is his excuse) and leads them into the kitchen. There, they meet Frantisek Markov (probably using a pseudonym) who asks them to dine with him. The party is then seated around by many flat-headed heavily clothed servants. The party is then offered Lamordian Wine or Barovian Brandy to drink. Despite the party's possible suspicions, the drinks are not drugged (at least not yet). The party is the subjected to a wonderful meal of an unidentified meat (he may claim that it is Darkonian beef but it is actually the sweetbreads of the Lamordian colonists). Then, the dessert is served. The dessert is a pastry filled with some sort of red viscous filling (he may claim that this is a sauce made with Kartakan Meekulbern but it is actually the blood of the colonists). The party is then offered one final drink (this one drugged) and then they are told what it was that they ate. They must now do a Horror or Madness Check (DM's choice). If they drank the drink, they now fall unconscious and if they did not, they are knocked out from behind by Markov's servants. They wake up in a group of cells below the house and now must retrieve their equipment (hidden in the house somewhere as determined by the GM) and escape. Can they make it out alive?
Well, I'd like to quote my big adventure More man than beast, the follow-up I'm writing to the official adventure (my victims... Er, Players are testing it since last month).
During the time Markov regained strength after being tortured by Akanga, a few years, many things changed in Markovia.
Of course, the PCs must save the day, thus handing Markovia to one darklord or another...
The adventure is much more complex, of course, but I had to summarize it.
"Markovia? Some people say that the word brings on their minds 'a butcher'. Why would somebody connect a butcher with a desolate land it is beyond my knowledge?
Others say that they think of something even more strange: An artist! Think of that!
What I think more possible? Instead of a butcher or an artist, I believe possible this place could be connected with a strange psychotic man or creature that has aspect of both professions. A perverted man that takes pleasure in pain and gore and thinks it is some kind of grotesque art." (These words come out of a sailor in Lamordia)
Ravagers start appearing far more frequently on the Coasts eastern of Markovia. As the PCs check this, they discover the reason is that Sahuagin chased Ravagers away and pushed them nearer the human settlements. All the Sahuagin the PCs find and interrogate are stronger somehow, but they seem distorted (having more functional lungs but mottled, functional tentacle covered with contact poison, tougher hide but strange and translucent etc)
Why Sahuagin did that? Why are they distorted like this? The strange appearance should lead the PCs to Markovia even if takes a little investigation. Probable answers are that Markov got his hands on a tribe of Sahuagin and distorted them. They multiplied (a bit) but after 1-2 years got away from the Darklord's reign and escaped. Trying to distance themselves of a mortal man that somehow was FAR more potent than he seemed, the tribe entered Ravager's lands (or seas) and they entered human lands. . .
PS. Check the QtR about the seas for ideas.
ScS of the Fraternity
Years ago, Markov pursued a promising means of transforming animals fully into human beings. These experiments were perfectly human in appearance, physically superior in strength, and even quite brilliant. Sadly, they required constant injections of human cerebro-spinal fluid to prevent them from reverting to their broken-one shapes. Markov kept several as assistants, though when his supply of fluid ran out he had them destroyed, rather than face their mutiny. Unfortunately in the chaos, one escaped.
After weeks in the jungle, Carne made his way to the shores of Lamordia is a crude raft. Mentally and physically superior to human beings, it took only a little effort to assimilate into human civilization. Indeed, he's become known as quite the philosopher - championing a doctrine of human racial-superiority, survival-of-the-fitest, and the idea of a ruling race of super beings. Nobles and learned scholars have taken a shine to the idea of being a race apart from the peons and peasants beneath them.
Something of Markov's obsessions have rubbed onto the self-professed superbeing - like Markov he seeks to be a god over lesser beings. In special clinics Carne begins experimenting in converting patients beings into Super-men, combining bestial strength and endurance into their human bodies. From these clinics comes funding for his true efforts - the creation of an army of mindless thralls.
Something of Markovs madness rubbed off on the mad mutant - he yearns to rule as Diosamblant over a race of ape-thralls. In secret he fosters an army with which he will enslave humanity. Each day brings him closer to his goal.
Unfortunately, Carne requires human cerebral fluid to keep his mind from descending into bestial madness. Worse yet, he requires more and more of the precious brain fluids to sustain his sanity. The locals have begun to take note of the disappearances. Carne's supporters have kept the problem secret and discouraged action - though some concerned civic official might ask some adventurers to look into the problem on their own.
"I still remember when the earth shook. We all thought that was about it, although I'd never been much on those stupid 'end'a the world' rants the priests go on about every so often... Still and all, it gutted my old business. I'd been runnin' caravans from Falkovnian to G'henna, and with G'henna gone, I lost out big. Don't miss Markovia half so much. I lost a few good guards trekking through that wilderness, and the one time I took that hermit Markov up on his hospitality, I barely made it out alive, never mind the wagons, fellow merchants and guards. Bad place, all 'round. Now my buddy Gunther says they've found Markovia out in the Sea of Sorrows. I keep hopin' I'll hear that's crumbled into th' sea. After bein' stalked through those damned woods by half-human monsters, it was actualyl NICE to see Barovia. Never thought I'd say that, didja? Take my advice kid. Steer clear of Markovia. Better to die of scurvy out on the sea than go there for anything."
-Old Pietro, former caravan master, overheard in a Martira Bay flophouse.
Reginald de Curry
Testimony of Duncan ApLeary, retired marine.
When we first met, I thought he was witch-cursed.
Caliban? Yeah, I guess you could call it that, though it doesn't really matter. He was a good man, never mind his looks.
I'd gone overboard during a storm, and managed to stay afloat by clinging to a piece of a longboat. (Ezra must've pitied me, or I'd have drowned that night.) By the time the storm passed, the ship was gone, and the only shore in sight was this island with some odd statues on the beach. Took me most've the day to swim there....
I met him on my third day there. He was being chased by some beasts that ran like men. On two legs, you ken? Anyway, we both got away--barely--and we stuck together after that. Saved each other's lives a couple times, and patched up a beached longboat that we found on the east'rd shore.
It was risky, of course. Patched longboat, jerry-rigged sail, no idea how far from the Core we were; but we couldn't stay on that island, no sane man could. We were lucky; a merchant vessel picked us up after a few days, and let us work our way back to shore. He didn't make it, though.
I'd thought he was witch-cursed, you remember. His teeth were too big for his mouth, and his fingers were too short for his hands, no thumbs, really. I was wrong. As we left the island farther behind us, he began to change. His mind wandered, he started acting strange, and his body started to twist up scurvy-like. His heart gave out a week out of port.
I couldn't figure it, but the ship's doc straightened me out. It was that island, you see. Something about that island changed its beasts, so they walked and ran like men, but some were changed more, so they became men. And if they left the island, they'd change back, or die trying.
Just like my friend.
David of the Frat
A Barovian family’s only son moved out of the village and established a small home just over the Markovian border. Days later came the Great Upheaval and the family bemoaned the loss of their son, young daughter-in-law and infant granddaughter. Now that the land has been rediscovered they are interested in seeing if rumours are true and if their woodsman son survives. The heroes are hired to make the journey, hire a boat and see for themselves.
ScS of the Fraternity
Vjornm Horstman and the Falkovnian Ministry of Science have heard rumours of Markov and his animal men. They have sent forth a Talon agent to investigate how Markov creates his broken ones, and possibly to bring back some samples.
This agent has infiltrated a busy port and is recruiting for an expedition to Markovia, perhaps under the pretence of looking for exotic plants, or the missing Lamordian colonists. The Agent has come into the possession of a magical homing device, borrowed from the Ministry of Wizardry. The members of the expedition are secretly tagged while enroute to the island.
Soon after arriving on the island, the agent slips away. Naturally, his dupes will start looking for him. The agent lets his pawns do the leg work, while he watches in secret.
Should the players be captured and brought to Markov, the Agent waits for them to be midway into their transformations before "liberating" them. Of course, as soon as they're back on the boat the Agent slips them powerful tranquilizers to keep them sedated for the long trip back to Horstman's secret lab inside Lamordia.
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