Of the outstanding civil debts in Drak’kal, the greatest belongs to one of the Three Sisters’ most beloved heroes: Lightning Stokva. Many claim that had the sure-footed warrior been in the city when the Broztavya Circus went haywire, there’d be no new taxes to repair docks that would have surely been intact thanks to his quick blade. Given his status as a celebrity and the general tenor of the citizens, Stokva has gotten away without having to pay his dues for some time, but with the PCs as proxies, the Tax Office is feeling quite bold.
When the adventurers arrive at Lightning Stokva’s dwelling to inquire about the debt, if any member of the party is wearing their tax collector badge a PC that makes a DC 14 Sense Motive check recognizes the signs of another Klavekian mob in the nearby environs. However, the affable warrior invites the adventurers into his modest home and offers some spiced tea for refreshment before explaining why he’s late paying his taxes.
“As you may well know, I am a bit of a legend in these parts,” Stokva explains, sipping at his tea before limping slightly towards a chair at the head of his table and slumping into it. “A few months ago my companions and I ventured to a cave filled with manticores, clearing it out at the behest of a Mohkba noble. Unfortunately we were overwhelmed when the other parent returned, and caught off guard, only I survived.” His mood turns somber and sullen, and you recognize that there is true pain there. “All we had salvaged during that journey remains in its lair and, wounded as I was, I fled. Were you to travel there and collect it, I’ll give you their shares—more than what I owe. Other than that, I’m sorry to say, I simply can’t pay it and I plead to your mercy.”
Performing the hero’s favor does not necessarily mean invading a manticore’s lair; it can be as simple as agreeing to pay his 400 gold piece debt, but PCs are unlikely to offer their own funds. Appeasing to the citizenry at large is a possibility, and three days of canvassing with consecutive Diplomacy checks (DC 10 + 2 per previous day) earns enough coin and a plethora of signatures pledging to alleviate the burden to satisfy the Tax Office.
Adamantly refusing to take on the hero’s favor is also an option, albeit the PCs are likely to find it to be just as violent a solution. A DC 17 Craft (armor) check recognizes that both Stokva’s armor and shield are at least of masterwork quality, and a DC 17 Craft (weapons) check confirms that his sword is as well but the warrior adamantly refuses to relinquish these final gifts from his dead friends. Of course the party can attempt to overwhelm the local celebrity, but doing so sends him dashing outside into the protection of 2 Klavekian mobs [his stats are on the way in tomorrow’s Statblock Sunday! -MM].
Undertaking the hero’s favor sends the PCs on a day and a half horseback ride northwest led by a map that Lightning Stokva provides. The manticore cave is easy to find (a DC 12 Perception check) and there’s only one entrance to the cavern.
The large central chamber, set apart from the rest of the complex by 50-ft. tall slopes (DC 14 Climb check to ascend), is utterly filled with the bones of hundreds of dead creatures. Stealth checks made in this area suffer a -5 penalty.
The northeasternmost chamber is filled with the early stages of a mining operation, abandoned long ago. Most casual observers might think this to be the fault of the manticores, but a DC 13 Craft (alchemy) check (or any creature with the scent ability) picks out the nearly odorless smell of an unnatural gas. Every round a creature spends in this area triggers a Fortitude save (DC 13 + 1 per previous check); on a failure, the creature falls unconscious for 1d4 rounds (continuing to make saves each round, but now with a +4 bonus for being prone and below the densest pockets of gas). The second consecutively failed save increases the duration to minutes, and the third consecutively failed save increases the duration to hours; a fourth consecutively failed save leads to suffocation (and death 3 rounds later).
The northwesternmost cave houses the manticore that ended the slayers of its kin, and the beast has fully healed from the wounds Lightning Stokva inflicted on it as he escaped. When the PCs arrive in this cave, roll 1d4 to determine where the manticore is (1: about to return from hunting, 2: sleeping in the manticore den, 3: eating a recent kill, 4: picking through the Garbage Pit). Strewn about this chamber are the dead bodies of an adventuring party (with equipment; a cleric, a fighter, and a ranger) and 1,600 gold in assorted coins.
Having earned Lightning Stokva’s esteem (either through aid or force), the local hero offers the party his treasured peacock helm [the upcoming Magic Item Monday! -MM] to investigate the strange nightmares Issa’s been having, and to retrieve her personal keepsakes from the gang.
Issa’s home, the town of Ullast, recently disappeared along with most of its population. Issa was gone when the event occurred and after traveling across the Klavek Kingdom for months, she managed to sneak aboard a ship headed down from Enixam to Drak’kal and her cousin, a local hero in the Three Sisters. Unfortunately she didn’t know where Stokva lived and on Issa’s first night in the city she slept in an abandoned warehouse, awoken rudely by a local gang and forced to flee. Worse yet, the young refugee has had terrible nightmares. These terrors are unnatural, causing illusions and apparitions in her room as she sleeps that depict the dangers of her flight—always ending in the temporary shelter on her first night in Drak’kal.