The Argenhall Apostasy - Matt Roth
The Argenhall Apostasy
The forsaken mission at Argenhall has lain silent for nearly a year, but the dangerous incubus that has claimed lordship of it has done anything but lay idle. As signs of his incursion creep across the land, the next step of his invasion nears completion. As war builds across the land, the local baronies search for outside aid. The PCs must negotiate the dangers of Argenhall to find allies among its demoralized survivors before the incubus can rally his forces and bring the region beneath his foul banner of corruption forever.
The Argenhall Apostasy is a Pathfinder RPG adventure designed for four 7th-level characters. PCs should reach 8th level by the adventure's conclusion.
Missionaries constructed the grand mission of Argenhall to be a bastion of peace, but the continued support of military-minded powers saw the holy site transformed into a military outpost. The local denizens of the forest opposed this incursion, and in spite of missionary efforts to bring a mutually beneficial peace, balked at all offers of hospitality. In time, the incubus Rakaz'greh took notice of the burgeoning conflict and stoked the fires of war.
The once-opulent mission became a war-battered fortress. Desperate forces on either side of the conflict sought an advantage wherever they could—and Rakaz'greh was there to offer one. Bolstered with supplicants from both sides, the weakened forces fell before the warlord. The survivors scattered, hateful and despairing. The regional powers blamed one another for the fall of the fortress, As the mission remained silent, however, the baronies grew complacent and resigned the incubus to being one of any number of distant threats to their power.
The Lord of Argenhall, however, did not rest quietly. With demonic support and obedient supplicants, Rakaz'greh began rituals to terraform the forest to his liking. This spread through the soil, turning the the season's harvest to rotten, vermin-infested refuse. Unable to ignore the demonic incursion, the regional baronies assembled a small contingent of soldiers to investigate the source of the curse.
Only one returned, bearing a missive from Rakaz'greh. Within he demanded that all lands surrounding his new seat of power swear fealty to him. The obedient would enjoy prosperity beneath his banner, while others would quickly perish amidst the hostile landscape.
Still, the predatory warlord prepares to take what he desires by force. Seeing the potential of the two surviving commanders of his former enemies, Rakaz'greh sows the seeds of sin within. The deeper their hatred for one another grows, the closer they come to accepting Rakaz'greh's banner as their own. Without the aid of the PCs, it is only a matter of time before Rakaz'greh's forces storm through the blighted soil in conquest.
Players traveling through the region will quickly notice the heightened tension between neighboring baronies, as well as the results of the poor harvest. Blighted creatures that rove outward from Argenhall might happen across their path, alerting them to the threats within the forest, or one of the barons could directly approach the PCs with offers of titles and land in exchange for their aid.
PCs may decide to investigate the Argenhall mission at the behest of a patron, an adventurous curiosity, or a noble desire to cleanse the mission of its evil overlord. PCs of 7th level will face little threat from most mundane wildlife, and will instead only be slowed by fiendish animals or a scouting party loyal to Rakaz'greh, consisting of redcap and his two hunting hounds.
Laying siege to the mission and its overlord are the focus of the adventure, which takes place in two parts. The first allows the PCs to experience the war-weariness and the sinful attitudes that attracted Rakaz'greh's attention. In the final part, the PCs will take the battle to Rakaz'greh and contest his lordship of the mission directly. Although designed to offer the PCs the most advantages against the incubus warlord, PCs may choose to tackle the mission's challenges in any order.
Part 1 : Forgiveness of the Forsaken
Flame and conflict have scourged the the mission's ivory-white walls, offering a dismal glimpse of what lies within. The public gatehouse, service entrance, and collapsing walls near the catacombs offer obvious entrances to those who do not choose to scale the walls directly. These entrances place the group close to one of Argenhall's factions and their individual defenses.
Rakaz'greh's forces control the majority of the mission, protecting the gatehouse with a schir (Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary 3) and guards (Pathfinder Roleplaying Game NPC Codex). Elsewhere, enslaved sprites (Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary 3) labor to maintain the grounds and serve as eyes and ears to muster troops to a hasty defense. Among his most numerous defenders are the nezlibogs (new creature) that were spawned in the wake of his victory over the mission. These twisted demons are forcibly forged from fey souls, rather than those of evil mortals, and appear as shadowy mockeries of nature that can mold plants into blighted, living weapons.
Between the restless dead of the catacombs and the ruined walls of the mission, the overgrown gardens hide the fey's sole survivors. As the last defender of the forest, Eloise (ranger swan maiden [Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Monster Codex, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary 4]) is inflamed by the losses of her family and consumed by a drive for vengeance. A born warrior, she boasts stark black feathers, an ironclad resolve, and fierce temper. Save for her sole ally, a stubborn fey giant toad (Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary 3), she trusts no one and treats all as intruders. But as she finds the taste of vengeance delightfully palatable, Eloise treads steadily down the path of wrath and, unless shown the light, will be consumed by sin.
In the mission's service quarters, Garrick Erlston (spell hunter; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game NPC Codex) leads the surviving missionaries. Once acting warmaster, he was among the first to fall when conflict erupted. A hasty raise dead scroll saw his return, but he saw fit to favor caution over valor. In cowardice, he failed to repel Rakaz'greh and brought his surviving troops into the cellars beneath the mission for safety. Isolation and death have made him paranoid to a fault, and he sees demonic corruption creeping in from all sides. He has begun to distrust his own soldiers (1 noble crusader and 2 vigilant bodyguards; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game NPC Codex) and is more hard-pressed to trust new faces. They assemble crude traps from cold iron caltrops, flasks of lantern oil, and hastily crafted spears to deter intrusion, while their supplies run perilously low. As Garrick lingers in inaction, the sinful nature of sloth creeps into the back of his mind, tempting him to give in to the inevitable.
Although Eloise and Garrick are initially hostile, neither is irredeemable from their self-destructive path. Through their explorations of the mission, the PCs can prove themselves to one or both factions, overcoming the weight of their sins and finding common ground with which to confront the ultimate threat to them all—the warlord Rakaz'greh.
Part 2 : Uprooting Evil
Rakaz'greh concentrates his power in the largest section of the Argenhall mission, and this is where he and his closest advisers can be found. Within the protective walls of his fortress, Rakaz'greh focuses his efforts on two powerful, but separate, rituals that will cement his control over the region (see occult rituals; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Occult Adventures).
The fallen fiendish nymph Lishura tends the transformative ritual beneath the chapel, using the souls of a half-dozen dryads as fuel. Meanwhile, Dyslin (court poet; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game NPC Codex) works to wear down Eloise's and Garrick's resolve, hoping to turn both into servants of sin. Misguided fey creatures and desperate humanoids serve as guards throughout the fortress and aid in the completion of these two occult rituals. Yet casters involved in the ritual are fatigued and unprepared for combat, offering PCs a tactical advantage. Likewise, if the PCs have allied with one or both of the other factions within Argenhall, they can attack elsewhere simultaneously to prevent both the ritual's completion and the arrival of reinforcements.
Conversely, failing to interrupt the rituals can turn the tide in favor of Rakaz'greh. The demonic blight bolsters the strength of his troops with planar attributes, while letting either Eloise or Garrick fall into the depravity of their sinful desires earns the warlord a powerful new general.
Rakaz'greh himself (incubus swashbuckler 4; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Advanced Class Guide, Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary 3) alters his tactics based upon observations of his attackers, potentially aiding in the hasty completion of one of the rituals or drawing them away in a direct confrontation.
Slaying Rakaz'greh puts an immediate end to his plans, but the blight and misery surrounding Argenhall and its legacy will remain for years. PCs might wish to further explore the conflict between the forest's fey and the neighboring civilization, particularly if one or both factions survive.