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This is a D&D Module for Characters Level 3-7 (Total Party Level between 18 and 28, with at least one Magic User or Elf capable of 3rd level spells or higher). It is based on the Adventure Synopsis "Works of Art" from TSR Gazetteer 11, The Republic Of Darokin, p56. Much of the text in the "Introduction" and in "What's Going On Here?" is quoted or paraphrased from the Adventure Synopsis, all remaining module details are by Jenni A. M. Merrifield. Alchemical Substance Table adapted from one found in TSR Dungeon Module B1, In Search of the Unknown, p11.
To avoid confusion, "he", "him", etc. are used to describe players and PCs, and "she", "her", etc. are used to describe the DM and any generic NPCs.
The craftsmen of Darokin are among the finest in the Known World. As such, the goods that they produce are greatly valued and highly sought after. Just When world of a new artisan of exceptional talent reaches the market place, there is often a frenzy of speculation about his or her future and a great deal of haggling over the worth of their existing pieces. It is just such and event that brings the characters face to face with a true fiend in this adventure.
A female artisan by the name of Matrissa has suddenly taken the Darokin Art World by surprise. Rumours of her talent and skill for crafting magnificent stone busts has spread throughout the city. She works only in jet and produces pieces of such detail and quality that none like it has been seen in recent history. Exactly four of her works are on display at a local museum/art gallery in the city of Darokin, brought to the city by Simon Treemonsha, an Elf from Akorros, who is well known as an agent of Toney House. No other examples of her work are known to have been sold to private individuals and speculation on the eventual value of her art is high. The works on display are to be auctioned off in a few days time and the success or failure of this auction will partially determine what will happen in the art world.
In this module, the PC's either decide or are hired to make a voyage to Matrissa's home (which is known to be south of Akorros) in response to the success of the auction. This journey has one primary purpose: to purchase as much of her work as the characters can for as little as they can. If they're lucky and play their cards right, they might make a pretty penny from this venture. On the other hand, perhaps there is more to this Artist than meets the eye, and things may not work out at all according to plans
If you're a player, and not going to DM this Module, you should stop reading at this point or you may spoil the adventure for yourself.
The PC's happen to be in Darokin just before the auction is to take place and either hear about it from NPC's they deal with or see posters advertising the date and location of the auction. Depending on their personal inclination, the DM should either encourage them to decide on their own to make a voyage to Matrissa's home or they should be hired by an independent art dealer, or even a small Darokin Merchant House.
Although Simon Treemonsha is known to be an agent of Toney House of Akorros, it should be easily determined, if the right sources are asked or sent to investigate, that he is, oddly, working directly on behalf of Matrissa and not on behalf of Toney House. However, he does have high hopes of his House becoming the sole distributor of her works, especially if the Auction is successful.
The journey to Matrissa's home should essentially have two main purposes: to purchase as much of her work as the characters can for as little as they can and, if possible, to entice her to deal only with them (or the merchant(s) whom they represent) rather than Simon and/or Toney house. The PC's should be advised to wait to see what happens at the auction - if it fails, there is little reason to go rushing off. On the other hand, once the auction has occurred, they will have to move fast if they wish to chat with Matrissa personally before her agent is expected to return to Akorros with the wonderful news.
The four busts that are to be auctioned are amazingly beautiful and incredibly detailed - it seems as if every individual hair has been meticulously carved. The busts are life-size, the subjects are very beautiful, and the expressions are full of life-like depth. The subjects are two male humans, a male elf and a female human.
The art will be constantly guarded, both magically and mechanically, before and during the auction. It is not recommended that thief PC's be allowed to steal any of the busts.
If anyone examines the busts, they appear to be flawless jet stone, and do not radiate magic if a detect magic spell is cast in their vicinity.
Everyone who is anyone in the art and business world is at the auction, and anticipation is high. The Auction is a smashing success, even though Simon had set the initial bids significantly higher than might be normally expected for a new artist. The first two (the human males) start at 2000gp, and ultimately sell for 2800gp and 3000gp. The male elf starts at a slightly higher initial bid of 2500gp and a more heated series of bidding takes it right up to 5100gp. The female also begins at the same price as the elf (2500gp), but after two or three reasonable bids, someone very important and well connected with Mauntea house (the number one Darokin Merchant House) jumps the bid by a huge amount, taking it well past the selling price of the elf (i.e. 6000gp or 7000gp). This move leads to an intense bidding war between this person and a similarly important representative for Linton House (the number two Merchant House). It is left to the DM's whim who ultimately wins, but whoever it is, it ends at the astronomically outrageous sum of 10,000gp.
This should put pressure on the PC's to get to Matrissa before anyone else. With returns like that, how can they go wrong (especially if they are going for themselves or have worked out some kind of "percentage deal" with the Merchants who have hired them.)
Although Matrissa will be a kind and charming hostess, she hides a dark secret in the cellars beneath her richly appointed manor, which is about a days ride to the south east of Akorros [on the 8 miles to the hex map of Darokin, start at Akorros and go south two hexes and then south east one hex]. Matrissa is a fairly powerful magic-user, though the manor house in which she lives appears to be rather ordinary, if remote. But behind a secret door or two, lies the heart of her great evil.
In a well-secluded dungeon, protected from intruders or potential escapes by numerous magical and non-magical traps, she keeps a row of cells in which she imprisons those who will serve as "models" for her works of art. In addition, this area contains a pit which is home to a shockingly black cockatrice, which is like a regular Cockatrice in all respect except that its feathers and scales are a dull matte-black and it turns its victims into black jet instead of a more standard stone such as granite. When Matrissa decides to create a new sculpture, she simply arranges to "toss" one of her prisoners into the pit and waits. Once the monster has done its work, she recovers the victim and, usually, cuts the head and shoulders from the jet corpse to make a bust.
Matrissa "creates" her art by the judicious use of various spells such as charm person, sleep, hold person, and telekinesis. She will coerce a subject into the position that she "envisions" and then lifts them by telekinesis into the pit. Sometimes the resulting "art work" is so pain and fear-filled that she keeps it for her "personal viewing pleasure".
Matrissa charmed Simon and then she talked him into taking her "art" to Darokin on her behalf. Since her victims have all been from Akorros, she decided not to sell them there. She chose to use an "agent" because she didn't want to deal with the drudgery of it all - besides, she has more masterpieces just waiting to be made. Simon has since broken out of the charm. However, except for representing her on his own and not as an agent of Toney House, her suggestion would have been acceptable anyway and so he is not entirely aware that he was mentally manipulated. Now that things have gone swimmingly he expects he will convince her to give Toney House exclusive rights to handling sales of her work. Simon is not expecting anyone else to try and undermine him (he's not terribly bright for an elf...) and will spend a minimum of two full days after the Auction dealing with final arrangements before heading back to Akorros. It should also be noted that despite her manipulation, Simon still managed to get the best of the deal, because she agreed to a flat rate for each statue, if he could sell it. And while Simon set these rates quite high (they were masterful pieces of art and he is generally an honest elf), the fact that it was an auction and the unexpected bidding war on the last bust means that Simon pulled in many times the amount he must actually give to Matrissa. In fact, Simon set the minimum bids 500gp higher than what he must give her, so all he owes out of the 20,900gp is 7000gp - that's 13,900gp in his pocket!
When the PC's confront Matrissa, they should find her to be a dangerous foe who is almost impossible to overcome. Still, with luck, they should be able to defeat her. A particularly satisfying end would be to hurl her into the cockatrice's pit where she can experience for herself the frightful death of her victims.
The PC's will find that the prisoners in the cells are all very beautiful people who fell victim to Matrissa's magical lures and found themselves suddenly abducted by the evil woman. Their sadistic captor made the manner of their deaths quite clear to them and they have lived in terror that each day would be their last, sometimes while watching Matrissa "create" other "works of art". Matrissa also brought some of her "guests" up to "play" with her in her personal and very private "fun room" (a Torture Chamber) - after all, she only needed to keep their faces in perfect condition. The intense gratitude that her current prisoners will feel upon their release makes it easy for the DM to introduce one or more of them as a useful contact or romantic interest for the PC's in future games. (These NPCs have been left for the DM to define as best suits their overall campaign)
In addition to the treasure which they recover from looting Matrissa's home and dungeon, the PC's should receive a great deal of publicity for the rescue of the prisoners, the identification of the dead, and the return of any undamaged victims of paralysis. In Akorros, where the victims came from, they were all assumed to have been killed or abducted by some unknown person, but the lack of clues meant that the town guards were wholly unable to find any of them. Rewards from the victims' families may be provided also, at the DM's discretion, and should be determined in accordance with the specific level of the campaign.
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