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Original article from Dragon Magazine 236

Note that at the time of publishing this was 2nd edition, thus all stats are still in 2nd Edition format
by Ed Stark
illustrated by Bob Klasnich

Duke Kort Adler of Wierech stood facing west. Even five hundred feet up, at the top of his tower, he could see distinctly the different armies below him. The bitter cold of the Gorgons sorcerous wind ripped through him, but he could not abandon his post. His family, holed up in the same tower, was as safe as he could make it.
That is to say, not at all.
The tower shuddered. The undead had breached the outer wall before daybreak, and giant beasts brought battering rams and siege engines to assault. Those of his loyal knights who still survived tried to repulse them from the lower parapets, but to no avail. No matter how many they killed, the Gorgon's forces still came on. Now, they fought the Urga-Zai, and they died.
The tower shuddered again. A giant stone fell from the wall near the Duke. Grimly, he smiled. It could not help but crush a half-dozen goblins or orogs when it landed. Perhaps, he thought, it might destroy one of the giants working the ram. A small victory, but that was all the Duke of Wierech had left.
More stones fell. The cries of the goblins and the screams of prisoners carried up to the Dukes ears. He knew the Gorgons sorceries brought the screams to this height, but that did not make them less real. The Duke knew his pride had brought this upon him. He only hoped that his youngest son, sent to the coast only a week before, had made it out of the Gorgons clutches. Otherwise, the realm of Wierech would fall with him.
As if his thoughts were a catalyst, the tower shook one more time and began to sway. The Duke gripped the walls, but knew the outcome, He cursed the Gorgon as he fell, and his great tower toppled into a flaming ruin amid the icy stone.
The Fortress of Adlersburg had fallen.
Set between the mountains of Wierech, the Fortress of Adlersburg once watched over the Gorgon's Crown, one of the most evil realms on Cerilia. Its architect, the Duke of Wierech, hoped to contain the evil of the Gorgon and prevent it from infecting his realm. But his proud fortress only goaded the immortal awnshegh into testing, and then destroying, his would-be watcher. The fall of Adlersburg presaged one of the greatest debacles in the history of Brechtur. Many of the realms of the Western Reaches have yet to fully recover from the Gorgon's "lesson" to the proud Duke.
Today, Adlersburg is a haunted ruin. In the weeks after the death of Duke Kort Adler and the slaughter of his armies, the Gorgon over-ran Wierech and most of the neighboring realms of the region. Only the timely intervention of Muden, Danigau, and some remaining Anuirean forces kept him from conquering a large portion of the Western Reaches entirely. As it was, the Brechts and their allies paid a great price to drive the Gorgon's forces entirely from Wierech, and the Ruin of Adlersburg has never been completely free of evil.
The ghost of AdlersburgThe ghost of Adlersburg

[top]The haunting of Adlersburg

Many evils still haunt the Ruin of Adlersburg, but the sting to ancient pride is the worst. Ever since the great Fortress fell to the Gorgon's armies, the ruler of Adlersburg (a Duchess or Duke descended from the architect of the Fortress) has not been able to build or maintain a decent army or castle in the region. Wierech's morale, as a military nation, still suffers from the humiliating defeat ? and, perhaps, a curse.
Goblins, gnolls, orogs, and evil men find refuge in Adlersburg. Even though the Duke of Wierech rules the province of Adler and the military-minded priests of Kirche's Ttundarr maintain a presence in the region, they cannot free the old Fortress of evil.

[top]The living evil

In truth, the humanoids and evil men of Adlersburg do not live in the Fortress proper. They fear the ancient curse of Adlersburg as well, but dare to come closer than most in their desperation. They reside here against the hope of the current Duke of Wierech, and against the orders of the Gorgon. Most are refugees from either nation ? humanoids who escaped the Gorgon's armies just ahead of the whip, and humans who fled Brechtur justice in Wierech, Dauren, or Danigau.
All told, nearly two hundred humanoids and evil humans make their home here [enough for about 1 Mercenary Infantry unit, using the BIRTHRIGHT® war card rules], but they will not unite for anything but a life-or-death reason. In general, they hang together in small bands of 10 to 30 members. The bands are better equipped than most raiders ? rumor has it that the Urga-Zai goblins have been known to send them gear and weapons from time to time.

[top]Gorag Muleskinner

5th-level Gnoll fighter
S: 18/93
D: 10
C: 16
I: 11
W: 9
Ch: 5/13
AC: 2
hp: 34
MV: 9
THAC0: 16
  1. AT: 1

Dmg:1d10 (halberd)
Equipment: Improved mail +1, ring of protection +1, halberd, 200 gp, javelins (6).
Description/History: Gorag is the latest in a series of dominant bandits occupying the outskirts of Adlersburg. He commands the largest, best-organized band of humanoids and evil men in the region and would likely be the whole group's leader if it came to a battle with outside forces.
Gorag is tall, even for a gnoll (nearly 8%' tall) and wields his halberd like a toy. Extremely dangerous in combat, the black-furred gnoll still managed to accumulate a number of bright red scars, the most prominent of which cuts across the top of his nose. Rumor has it that he gained these marks at the hands of the Gorgon's torturers, when he tried to form his own band of gnolls with the Gorgon's Crown. Now, he leads his bandits with almost military efficiency.
Gorag desires to loot the buried chambers beneath the ruined Tower of the Duke. He does not believe in the "curse of Adlersburg," but his men do. He must either achieve some substantial victories to impress them or find some other means of excavating the area.

[top]Gorag's Bandits

Gorag's Bandits, male or female, human or humanoid, F2 (20-40): AC 5 (scale mail and shield); MV 9 (lightly encumbered); HD 2; hp 12; THAC0 19; #AT 1; Dmg 1d8 or 1d6 (long sword or long bow); SZ M (5' to 8' tall); ML steady (12); INT average (9); AL NE; XP 65 each.
Gorag's followers are exceptional humans, goblins, gnolls, and orogs. They can be armed with any weapons, but Gorag has trained 50% of them with the long bow. Gorag may have a 4th-level lieutenant among them.

[top]The undead terrors

The bandits shun the interior of the old Fortress for a very good reason. A few months after the Gorgon over¬ran and plundered most of the Fortress, he the ordered his armies to excavate and loot the sub-levels of the Tower of the Duke. Small foraging units organized and the digging began.
It did not last long. Within a few hours, goblins and gnolls fled the area screaming, and no amount of whipping or killing by their commanders could get get them to return to their duties. Fresh troops, along with armed guards, were sent in, and many died of terror and horrible wounds before they finally retreated.
By this time, the armies of the Brechts had driven back most of the Gorgon's over-extended armies in the region. He did not wish to give up all his advantage over some minor human treasures, so he ordered his armies to stop pillaging and defend the Ruin of Adlersburg. Eventually, the Brechts drove them out, and then they themselves left the area without disturbing the dead.
Legends speak of the Knights of Adlersburg and the Royal Guard who died defending the Tower of the Duke at the very last. Put to death in cruel and horrible ways, these valiant men and women have been transformed into ter¬rible undead, seeking vengeance on their tormentors.
All manner of undead roam the Ruins. Lesser undead, such as zombies and skeletons, number in the dozens. They arise only on special occasions, however ? the anniversary of Adlersburg's fall, perhaps, or when the Tower sub-levels are disturbed. Many of these creatures have been laid to rest permanently over the years, but many more still exist.
Greater undead inhabit the sub-levels of the Tower and some of the remaining Fortress structures. Haunts appear to be the most common in the outer regions. They hope to possess any available bodies and trek to the Gorgon's Crown, there to fight against the awnshegh's forces. Some say the haunts are all that remain of the Speckled Guard, one of the Knights' most prominent regiments. No more than a dozen haunts still lurk among the Ruins.
Phantoms exist in the upper Tower sub-levels. They drove the pillaging armies of the Gorgon out of the Tower once before and seek to keep the area inviolate from bandits, treasure hunters, and explorers. At least five to ten phan¬toms haunt the first sub-level of the Tower, still experiencing the tortures of the Gorgon and the last, painful moments of their lives. Once, these men and women served the Duke of Wierech as his personal servants and guards. Now, they protect the Tower through eternity.
No one knows what other horrible undead may lurk in the lower levels, since no reliable explorer has made it past the phantoms. Some say wights, sent by the Gorgon, patrol the lower halls, to keep anyone from plundering the Tower before him. Other, more terri¬fying creatures may exist here as well ? though no reliable information exists.

[top]The ghost of Adlersburg

Virtually every bard who sings of the Fall of Adlersburg ends his story with the tale of the Anniversary Night and the Ghost of Adlersburg. Every year, it is said, on the same night that the Gorgon hurled his sorcerous blizzard and his hordes of undead at Adlersburg, the battle is reenacted on the spirit plane. Those who enter the ruin of the Fortress proper can see the Tower still standing, in flames amid the snow, and can hear the cries of the dying as the final assault begins. The battle culminates, as always, with the fall of the Tower and the death of the Duke.
On these nights, some legends say, a true warrior of Wierech may bypass the phantoms and the haunts of the Tower region and enter the ghostly structure before it falls. The warrior may have to undergo tests to prove his true heart. He may be tempted by treasures, threat¬ened by illusions, or actually have to fight evil undead. The Gorgon's minions, the wights and other creatures, will cer¬tainly try to stop him.
But, if the hero reaches the top of the Tower alive, he can confront the Duke of Wierech's ghost. The ghost's power may or may not affect the hero (depending on how successful he was in passing the aforementioned tests), but the hero can try to persuade the undead Duke to allow him to search the ruins underneath the Tower for magic or treasure that could aid the people of Wierech. If the Duke is con¬vinced, he will call off his haunts and phantoms (the other undead are beyond his control). The Duke may require the hero to perform an additional quest of some sort if he is not overly impressed, and he may reject the suit outright.

[top]Raising the curse

No one knows how many sub-levels may exist in the Ruins of Adlersburg, or what monsters or undead may guard them. Gaining the permission of the ghost of the old Duke might make entering the underground levels possible, but the adventure begins there. In order to raise the Curse of Adlersburg and put the undead to rest permanently, the PCs must accomplish any number of goals, none of which should be clearly defined. Any of the following goals may be required:
  • Vanquish or dispel all evil undead in the ruins.
  • Rid the area of evil humanoids and humans.
  • Recover the Duke's sword, Giantslayer, a magical weapon with great powers and, perhaps, a powerful intelli¬gence.
  • Recover the bodies of the Duke's family, crushed and buried when the Tower fell.
  • Recover the eye of Adlersburg, a magical talisman to the Gorgon's Crown and place it within sight of his tower. (The true regent of Wierech can look through the eye of Adlersburg and see anything within a one hundred yard radius of the eye if it is properly planted).

The DM may also create other goals for would-be heroes to perform. None should be easily accomplished, and many lead to other adventures that could keep a hero adventuring in and around the Ruin of Adlersburg for quite some time.

[top]The treasure of Adlersburg

No one knows exactly what treasures lie buried beneath the Tower of Adlersburg. Protected by undead and, possibly, powerful spells and traps, the treasury of the former capital of Wierech has lain undisturbed for centuries. Some possible treasures include:
  • More than 10,000 gp (5 Gold Bars) in money and jewelry;
  • The weapons and armor of the household guard (enough to equip a unit ? about 200 men and women ? of infantry or elite infantry);
  • Magical treasures including the eye of Adlersburg, the sword Giantslayer, and other legendary items (miscellaneous magical items considered rare and powerful on Cerilia); and
  • An ancient library of knowledge assembled by the long-dead Wizard of Two Giants' Tread and several former priests of Kirche (includes 1d6 realm spells, 2d4 battle spells, and 4d6 conventional spells that may have been lost to Cerilian knowledge before now).

After his design work on the BIRTHRIGHT campaign expansion Havens of the Great Bay, Ed Stark's experience writing about pirates and other rogues has gone to his head. The recent re-design of his facial hair has earned him the nickname "Mr. Evil-Beard" among certain members of the magazine staff.
See Also: Adlersburg

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