Rumors on the Borderlands
By Erin Smale & Greg MacKenzie
The gossiping fishwives, the old man at the tavern, and the blind beggar have all heard the rumors and retold them. Fishermen either affirm or doubt them, and the Castellan’s Soldiers share them over a pint of bitter, for rumors entertain and amuse, and in them sometimes may even be found a grain of truth. The DM may decide if any of the following Rumors of the Borderlands are true or not.
The Undead Boneshakers always have a jewel in place of where their heart should be.
T: A pulsating red jewel is found which seems ordinary but is infused with the power to bring to life any corpse if it is placed within where a heart should be.
F: Placing the red jewel in a corpse’s heart cavity turns the corpse into an Undead Boneshaker.
Descendants of the Bordermen, though few in number, roam the wilderlands. They are not friendly.
T: Encountered Bordermen assume the party are graverobbers and demand trial by single combat (1 champion each); by tribal law, winners may take the loser’s belongings and be on their way.
F: If the encountered Borderman can be convinced the PCs aren’t the spirits of vengeful ancestors, they will provide food, healing, and aid until the end of the next encounter.
The Castellan of the Keep offers a reward of 100 Gold Coins to any who capture a Borderman and return with said prisoner to the Keep on the Borderlands.
T: The Castellan wants to contact the Bordermen and see if they will serve as guides and scouts.
F: The Castellan wants to interrogate the Borderman about the location of the Lost City.
The Castellan of the Keep offers a standing reward of 10 Gold Coins to any who kill or capture a Bandit and return with proof to the Keep.
T: An item of the bandits apparel will be marked with the emblem of a skull and dagger, a scrap of cloth containing the emblem will suffice as proof.
F: The Castellan is trying to fulfill some crack-pot prophecy about “Four and forty brigands slain” and “A skull and dirk to make lands whole again.”
The location of the Lost City of the Bordermen is inhabited by carnivorous white apes who devour any daring enough to enter the city. At each full moon the White Apes shuffle and jabber in the light of the gibbous moon in an un-natural celebratory dance, at their feet may be found the gnawed bones of previous trespassers foolish enough to enter the ruin.
T: The white apes are devolved remnants of the Bordermen whose ancient charge is to ward the Lost City until the Bordermen reclaim it – they understand speech and revere a stone obelisk surrounded by white ape skulls deep underground (the Vault of Gylphs).
F: The white apes filled the power vacuum when the Bordermen left the Lost City; exposure to Bordermen tools and magic accelerate their evolution (1 ape in 20 is capable of using tools and weapons).
The priests of the Bordermen were turned into White Apes as punishment for their offenses against the gods.
T: The “curse” may be lifted when the true descendent of the line of Borderman chieftains returns to the city with the appropriate sacrifice.
F: The priests were punished and transmuted to disembodied white Ape skulls – they are aware, capable of communication, and direct the activities of the white apes; they reside in the Vault of Gylphs deep below the Lost City.
The current location of the Lost City of the Bordermen is magically revealed at every new moon by a hidden moon dial.
T: There are several “false” moon dials – only the dials where rivers split may be trusted (hexes 15.11 & 19.11).
F: An accurate reading requires a searcher to consult the dial with the aid of an Emerald Sextant.
The carcasses of strange and terrible sea beasts washed up on the shore east of Waterby. The man who found them said their eyes were made of jewels; afraid of the White Apes, he collected all he could while the sun still shone and returned to the safety of Waterby a rich man.
T: The man now lives large in Waterby, but has haunting dreams about an ivy-cloaked ruin in the hills, prompting him to sponsor expeditions to find it.
F: Had the man searched more thoroughly, he would have discovered the skeletons of several beasts to be composed of interlocking crystals – when connected to the jeweled eyes (in the right sequence and structure), they may be employed to fashion an ersatz Emerald Sextant.
The corpse of a man within a block of ice floated down the Coldstream River to the ferry where he was found by the bargemen. When they plucked the block from the water they found the body to be a warrior of the Land of Orkir. When they smashed the block open his eyes opened and his lips moved with speech yet not a sound did he utter before he died. In his care was a leather scroll case containing a parchment said to be 100 years old.
T: The parchment contains a roster of figures and an ancient glyph translated as “emerald” (the figures are a coded sequence of hex numbers that plot a route to a giant crystal submerged beneath the Shining Sea).
F: The ice preserved the warrior in a form of undeath, and though the man was dumped back in the Coldstream after being pronounced dead, his corpse is even now shambling around the area in search of his scroll case and parchment.
An expedition set out from the Keep months ago to find the trade route to the east and only two men returned alive to tell the tale. Battered and bloodied, they said the expedition was set upon by bandits a month into the journey, surrounded, they tried to return to the Keep but the bandits harried their column during the retreat until one fateful day they overwhelmed it’s defenders. These two fled on foot.
T: The men are actually spies, sent by the bandits.
F: The men are big fat liars – their story is a fabrication intended to gain access to the KEEP. They’re actually assassins from the REALM and their target is (d6: 1 the merchant (Caves of Chaos area #24), 2 the priest (KEEP area #7b), 3 the Curate (KEEP area #17), 4 the Castellan (KEEP area #27), 5 the bugbear chieftain (Caves of Chaos area #36), 6 a random PC).
When the winds blow down from the north sometimes they bring a bloodthirsty wind from the Whispering Desert. The hot wind can drain a man of all the blood in his body, or so it is said.
T: The fishwives’ gibbering tales are true, though such winds occur only in the hills south of the Northern Mountains. Characters must save vs. Death Ray or their blood drains from their body to form a red blob that acts as a Black Pudding of equal hit dice (the character loses 1 hit die of damage each round until reaching 0hp, though the process may be halted by a Lawful Cleric as if turning a Wraith).
F: This is a gross exaggeration, though especially hot winds do course through the hills south of the Northern Mountains. These winds cause extreme dehydration; characters must make a check or suffer 1d8 points of damage each day they’re exposed.