Keepers of the Fey, Part I: Lady of the Lake
A story hook and side trek adventure for four to five characters, levels 1-3
In the distance, you see a large lake with an exposed boulder in the middle. Lying back on the rock, propped up on her forearms and exposed to the sun, completely naked, is perhaps the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen. She is sunbathing on the rock. Her hair is abnormally long, reddish-brown, and covers most of her body, splaying down into the water. She appears to not notice you are there.
The side trek begins by reading the previous text to the players. This can be done any time while the player characters are traveling through wilderness.
First clues (determined by passive or active perception):
* A passive or active perception DC10 check notices many tracks near the edge of the lake. They appear to be a mix of different animals and bipedal footprints.
* Anyone who says they are looking into the water or the lake’s bottom near the shore will also automatically see one of two things (see “looking into the water” section, below). Even if they do not say this, though, they may still notice one of these two things. In this case, a passive DC15 perception check means they’ve taken notice of the same information.
* A passive or active perception DC15 check notices a small white bird flying overhead. It appears to be circling the lake.
* A passive or active nature DC14 check provides the PCs with the following lore about the woman: She is obviously a water nymph. Water nymphs are typically harmless and love to sing and dance, but they are difficult to approach. Doing so will usually cause them to disappear. They will occasionally play pranks, but more often than not they will ignore interlopers. When a water nymph does decide to communicate with someone it usually does so in a dreamy, mystical manner and by utilizing obscure phrases and riddles that make them difficult to understand.
* A passive or active nature DC19 provides the following information as well: water nymphs hide jewels and other treasures in their lairs beneath the water.
Further investigation of the tracks:
A passive or active perception DC10 check notices that all bipedal tracks lead to a little-used trail to the north, and seem to originate from the same trail the PCs used to approach the lake.
Speaking to the woman:
In response to their first words, the woman on the rock will look at the PCs with luminescent green eyes, and speak dreamily: “All keepers must take the high road.” She then points to the trail leading upward (the same one to which all the bipedal tracks lead, if the PCs noticed that earlier). It leads around the lake and to the north. She will say nothing more, only smile at them and lay back, soaking in the sun.
For her statistics and lore, click here.
A PC who makes a passive or active insight DC15 check realizes that she will likely respond in a scared manner to anyone attempting to approach her too closely. She hides it well, but beneath her nonchalant exterior, she seems very wary of them.
Anyone asking her questions of a personal nature, like who she is, where she came from, etc., will elicit the following response: “I am water. Ask me not for what I am, but where I come from, for I am timeless.” After that she will smile and lay back in the sun.
Anyone who asks her about the bipedal tracks or those people who have come here and followed the trail north will receive the following cryptic reply: “All keepers go looking for answers. The jars await them.” After that she will only smile at them and lay back, soaking in the sun. She will not respond to any questions about the jars.
Anyone asking her for assistance in determining whether or not they are a “keeper” and/or asking which direction they should travel from the lake will elicit this response: “Look not to me for the answer, but to nature’s mirror instead. One will see, one will touch, and the one who touches must fully trust. He must be pure of heart, strong of arm, and one who fights. He must trust in the sense of the wisest one.” If pressed, she will sigh and continue to repeat this cryptic riddle again and again as though the PCs are quite dense, but will say no more.
Attacking the woman or swimming out to the rock:
Anyone attempting to attack the woman or swim out to the rock will cause her to slip into the water, providing one last lustful glimpse of her nakedness. The water nymph will then dive beneath the surface and never return. She has crossed back into the fey world through a secret portal at the bottom of the lake. She will not flee until a PC reaches a distance of 10 feet or more from the shoreline, which requires them to swim. At that point, the PC is well beyond the distance where the sword and illusionary muck are located (see “looking into the water” section, below).
Searching underwater near the rock:
If a PC dives beneath the water near the rock and searches carefully (DC15 perception), he or she will find an entrance to a small rocky cave filled with water: her lair. Inside that cave, they will find some unusual fey markings, some rock carvings, some polished rocks, and a few pieces of pottery. They will also find a pile of decorative, but worthless buttons, and what appears to be an underwater bed made of lake weeds. A thorough search of the lair (requires an ability to breath underwater or to hold one’s breath for many minutes and a DC19 perception check) will find a small sack that has been hidden amongst the weeds by the nymph. The bag contains 15 gold coins, 20 silver coins, and a small jewel. If the PCs specifically say they will search the weeds, lower this DC to 12. The jewel is worth 500 GC. Taking them, though, will forever anger the nymph, and should they ever pass near this lake again, the nymph will attempt to steal something of greater value from them and play a prank on them using her ghost sounds and other magical abilities; she will then flee back to the fey world through the portal with her stolen item. At the bottom of the lake, much deeper than the cave entrance, is a hidden portal to the fey world. It is hidden between a rocky crevice. It is through this portal that the nymph passes from one world into the other. Should a PC somehow find the portal and follow her through it, they will find themselves in the fey world beneath a different body of water, next to the frightened nymph, who will defend herself.
Looking into the water (nature’s mirror):
Any PC looking into the water near the shore will see one of two things: 1) The PC with the highest wisdom score will see a beautiful sword, edges glitter in the sun, and its hilt made of pure silver. Tiny jewels encrust its pommel and cross-guard, and some sort of arcane symbol glows faintly at the base of the blade (as if etched into it). The cross-guard is fashioned into the shape of a bird of prey. The weapon rests on the bottom of the lake, three feet from the water’s edge at a depth of about three feet, and is clearly visible to him or her, who sees it through the crystal-clear water. 2) All other PCs will see a huge nasty growth of dense, slimy reeds and muck, nothing else. The viewer of the sword does not see this nasty stuff. He or she only sees the sword resting in a pool of pristine water at the sandy bottom. Likewise, the other people do not see the sword. But if those who do not see the sword pass a DC25 insight check, they will notice the reeds and muck seem to be abnormal in some way. They will recognize it as some sort of illusion, but this illusion will continue to persist. Likewise, a successful DC25 detect magic attempt will inform them that magic is at work here, that the reeds and muck are some sort of illusion, but it will not break the illusion.
Asking the nymph about the sword:
Anyone who asks the nymph about the sword will receive this response over and over: “One will see, one will touch, and the one who touches must fully trust. He must be pure of heart, strong of arm, one who fights. He must trust in the sense of the wisest one.” If pressed, she will continue to repeat this cryptic riddle as though the listeners are quite dense, but will say no more.
Claiming the sword:
If the person who sees the sword attempts to reach in and grab the sword, his hand is unable to reach it. It looks like he should be able to reach it, but he can’t. His arm will “bend” away from the sword. Any objects (rope, etc) used to try and snare the weapon will also fail to reach it; the objects appear to warp unnaturally away from the sword and/or become unnaturally shortened in the water, but as soon they are pulled back they will re-emerge from the water looking perfectly normal. When this happens, the nymph will laugh. Anyone attempting to swim toward the nymph will cause the nymph and the sword to disappear completely and forever. Though the viewer of the sword cannot pick up the sword it certainly looks real. Any kind of insight check will convince him it’s real (because it is). By contrast, anyone else making a DC25 insight check will realize the reeds and muck are some sort of illusion, but they will be unable to break that illusion. Likewise, a successful DC25 attempt to use detect magic will inform them that the reeds and muck are a magical illusion, but will not break the illusion either.
The sword, known as Aerifrial, Sword of the Fey, is an artifact. Click here for its statistics.
If the person who sees the sword convinces the PC who qualifies as the sword's favored choice (see below) to reach in and grab it even though that other person can’t see it, the favored person will grope about uselessly in failure unless the person with high WIS, who can see the sword, assists him in finding it (i.e. tells him which way to move his hand, etc.). The person who can see the sword will immediately know that his instructions are working. The instructions will not work with any other PC (those who are not favored by the sword).
To determine which PC is the sword’s favored choice use this criteria (the PC with the highest point total will be the sword’s chosen):
1) The sword will prefer a good aligned character (worth 5 points of concordance), a lawful good character as its second choice (worth 2 points), and an unaligned character as its last choice (worth 0 points). It will immediately be angered if it senses an evil PC has grasped it (set initial concordance of the sword to 0 no matter what other criteria the wielder meets).
2) It will prefer a human wielder (worth 5 points of concordance) or a half-elf wielder (worth 3 points), but will tolerate the temporary possession of an eladrin, elf, or dragonborn (worth 0 points) until a worthy candidate of one of those two races becomes available. Until then, it never rises above “satisfied” concordance (12 total) with its temporary wielder. Also, it will immediately be unsatisfied (set initial concordance to 1 no matter what other criteria the wielder meets) if a teifling or member of any other race attempts to claim it.
3) The sword will prefer a fighter (worth 4 points of concordance) over a paladin or warlord (worth 2 points) or a ranger (worth 1 point). It will immediately be unsatisfied (set initial concordance to 1 no matter what other criteria the wielder meets) if a wizard or warlock or member of any other class attempts to claim it, or if anyone who attempts to claim it lacks the proficiency of long sword.
4) When comparing individuals (after adding up score totals for numbers 1-3 above), the sword will prefer the PC with the higher strength as long as he/she otherwise qualifies to wield the sword (worth 1 point per strength bonus).
If the viewer of the sword (the PC with high WIS) gives the sword’s favored PC directions on how to grasp it, the person will continue to grope around a bit in what feels like disgusting weeds and slime and then, as he is about to give up and declare the other person mad, will grab hold of something rubbery, slimy and living. He or she does not think it is a sword, though. Rather, it feels like some sort of creature trying to wrap itself around his or her arm. If the person is convinced not to let go (that he indeed does have the sword, perhaps by the high WIS viewer who can see the sword for what it is), and pulls the object free of the water it will break the illusions completely, revealing the magic sword in its entire splendor. The sword will then speak to him or her. The person with high WIS, if watching, will, of course, only see him gripping a sword the entire time (not a creature).
A successful retrieval of the sword will cause the nymph to say: “Perhaps you are not keepers after all.” She will then giggle and disappear into the water.
Anyone bearing the sword who does not take the path pointed out by the nymph (toward “the keepers”) will find that the magic sword is gone the next morning after he sleeps. All his other belongings are exactly as he left them the night before and a search of the entire premises shows no signs of intrusion or unknown visitors. If they return to the lake, they will find the sword has magically teleported back to its place of bondage, awaiting a new worthy person to find and claim it to use it to free the “keepers" and seek out the jars.
To keep full possession of the sword (as much as one can possess an artifact, that is) the user will need to take it before the riddle-makers who are found at the end of the path pointed out by the nymph, and survive the ordeal with the jars. The artifact will then remain in the PCs possession for as long as it remains concordance with him or her, or until the sword feels compelled to “move on” (see the description and stat block for Aerifrial, The Sword of the Fey).
Continuing the adventure:
You can continue this side trek adventure with Keepers of the Fey, Part II, which will be posted on this site in the coming weeks, in which the PCs will need to free "the keepers" from magical bondage inside the jars. These jars, of course, are protected by vile magic and creatures. Or you can expand this side trek adventure in some other manner if you wish, or incorporate it into a larger campaign by utilizing the sword as a story hook device to generate encounters and quests that involve the fey and enemies of the fey, like the drow and other followers of Lolth.
--TO BE CONTINUED--