Dragonstar: The Serpent's Teardrop

Idol Threats

Based on the adventure “Idol Threats” from the “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” Roleplaying Game Core Game book, published by Last Unicorn Games © 1999.

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Bad Decisions

Commander Obolos of the Blizzard Tusk frowned at the strange object on his viewscreen, trying to visualize the scale of the thing in his head based on his First Officer’s readouts. It looked like the pitiful tokens he had torn down a thousand times on a thousand planets, yet here it was dwarfing his Arrogant-class Corvette. He knew it hadn’t been sighted spinward of Rielak before. But something that size didn’t just appear out of nowhere.

“Commander!” cried his First Officer, an edge of panic in his guttural shout, “It’s bombarding us with some kind of scan. Encryption protocols have been breached!”

Obolos sat sedately back into his commander’s chair. This was something he knew how to react to. Altaran military secrets must be kept at whatever cost. He smacked his upper lip with his tusks.

“Bad decision my strange friend. White Legion… fire at will!”

The stocky corvette dove towards the alien object, particle beams lancing out across the black. Torpedoes and laser cannons joined the fusillade, a veritable barrage designed to tear starships, asteroids, and even dragons to pieces. With no obvious shields or weapons the strange stone-like surface of the object should have disintegrated in mere seconds.

The Blizzard Tusk turned after its first pass and found the object behind it, fully intact, with barely a scratch across it.

And then the thing lashed back. A sliver of silver light, like a giant whip, cracked across the corvette’s bow.

The bridge of the Blizzard Tusk exploded into a frenzied dance of blood and light. Obolos’ power armor went rigid, gel cushioning the blows he took and his helmet closing automatically over his face. He crashed from his throne to the deck as pieces of an unlucky orc crewman tumbled past him. Fires flared over weapons control and core systems consoles as the veteran crew hurriedly brought their damaged ship back under control. His limbs eventually released, Obolos stood and roared at the visage of their enemy on the now cracked viewscreen.

“Status.” he spat.

“Particle beamers down, overload on the laser power grid. Hull breach on decks one through three, but it’s contained. We have propulsion, but overload damage to the core systems could mean…”

The First Officer stopped, his eyes glued to the flickering viewscreen. The stars, dim pricks of light seen beyond the sunlit back of the object, were twisting as if caught in a galactic whirlpool. Space twisted then tore in a rainbow-colored explosion, the head of the object disappearing into unknown fathoms beyond. Obolos glowered at his retreating enemy, then turned with unbridled rage.

“Follow it!”

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Making Friends

The Whisperkiss starcast it’s way through remote stretches of space towards the primitive world Oraja V. The ship and its crew were on orders from Admiral Alsir to deliver a crate of weaponized medicine to an undercover Trailblazer by the name of Davus. Located close to the no-go zone of the Serpent’s Teardrop the Orajan system was remote enough to avoid closer inspection by the Domains of Altara or Golion. Apparently Davus and Alsir were intent on keeping it that way, or at least easing the transition that would eventually come when Golion folded the world into its domain.

The native species on Oraja V was a low-g adapted human variant currently living at a renaissance level of technology. Davus had been undercover there for some years but his reports to the Royal Exploratory Service were surprisingly vague and occasionally filed in the wrong place (as Elocinda discovered during the journey there). Alsir had opted to go outside the RES and use his “deniable assets” for this delivery, a move that would help keep Davus’ work on the down-low. Along with the drow gunslinger was the still mysterious David and the arcane scientist Silverhand. The elf did ask the newcomer what he did, but in his usually mildly pleasant yet some how brusque manner David replied “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”

Silverhand took some time during the journey to Oraja to study the medicine they’d been tasked with delivering to Davus. He was unable to replicate it, but during his research was able to tell it was weaponized for easy, quick, and stealthy dispersal in a technologically limited society (perhaps by introduction to the water supply and eventual spreading through personal contact). He was also able to find out that the disease it was designed to counter was a mutation of dysentery commonly found in kobolds. Through his own and Elocinda’s research it was obvious that Oraja V had no indigenous population of kobolds, so an alien source was suggested.

Considering the society they were about to interact with, David went about creating rudimentary swords and stiletto knives with the supplies on board. Elocinda, concerned that her skin color could cause concern enlisted Silverhand’s help in temporarily disguising it. Unwilling to consider simple make-up Silverhand tested an approach using his nanoswarm and their ability to interact with Elocinda’s skin cells directly. He first tested a small patch, having the swarm create a spider design on her skin while David looked on. The human sharpened a knife slowly as the miniature arcane robots did their work, commenting that if it didn’t work “I can cut them out.” Silverhand’s theory did pan out, although it took a lot more work and tweaking before the skin color was consistent and safe for use in the sun. Elocinda had to be put under for a good portion of the journey as the nanoswarm worked, and she barely recovered in time for their arrival.

The Whisperkiss arrived in orbit and kept itself eclipsed from the sun to prevent any renaissance era telescopes from marking it. As the crew pinged Davus’ datacom they armed themselves with the weapons David had created; a scientist and two assassins on a mission of mercy. Davus eventually responded and agreed to meet the party in a remote meadow in the valley of Tolvan the following morning. Whisperkiss had to move around the planet to the sunny side in order to triangulate the coordinates of the verdant valley amidst the impressive mountains of Oraja V, but he was in a high enough orbit and the telescopes of the local technology level were crude enough that detection was near impossible.

The next morning Silverhand and Elocinda teleported to the edge of the agreed upon meadow and hid the medicine crates in some bushes. David teleported a bit further away and kept himself hidden in case of trouble. Before long the party was met by the tall, slightly bumbling, but very enthusiastic Davus, who introduced himself as Dr. R’Garet (the name of his cover identity planetside). After covering the crates with some sacks on Silverhand’s suggestion, the elf and the drow (pointy ears hidden by a headband and a hood) rode in R’Garet’s cart into the local village of Upper On Tolvan. They passed through the pleasant meadows and impressive vineyards of the region as the Doctor described to them the incredibly peaceful and prosperous society he had integrated with.

The Orajan’s it appeared, benefited from the geography of their planet. Massive and nearly impassable mountain ranges shielded valleys and provided them with rich soils. While violence and war were a part of Orajan history, the difficulty in getting from one valley to another reduced the impact or the explosiveness of any conflict. The setting, low gravity, and general attitude of the populace was therefore very welcoming and kind, and they focused most of their attentions on their families and their excellent wines. They also had a very strong connection to their goddess (who the Doctor associated with the Lover of the Unification Church) and therefore a very idyllic existence. R’Garet confirmed that the disease that had suddenly appeared in the population was of a kobold source. Despite his best efforts some smugglers had finally come to Oraja V and in the process of stealing some of the exquisite local wine had infected the population. It wasn’t a pandemic yet, but the weaponized cure was designed to prevent the local population from ever knowing they had been infected.

The pagwas pulling the cart, bull-like creatures with goat-like heads, took a meandering and relaxed pace into the village as David followed the cart some distance behind. In the village it became obvious that no-one was particularly suspicious or concerned with the new arrivals, so as the crew unloaded the cart at Dr. R’Garet’s house David walked up and introduced himself. The Doctor then invited the party to luncheon at his friend Akon’s estate before joining the village in a festival that afternoon. Considering their work done the party decided a little R&R was in order and followed the R’Garet out of the village and up to a spacious single-level mansion overlooking an impressive vineyard. Akon, it appeared, was a very successful vintner and merchant with a large family, and the lanky, olive skinned and curly haired local welcomed the strangers openly.

On R’Garet’s advice the party claimed to be from another valley called Forias and they soon settled in to a massive meal with Akon’s large extended family. Sadly, before anyone could really dig in the crew’s vacation was cut horribly short. The sky above Oraja suddenly erupted, a rainbow colored tear in orbit frightening the gathered family. David quickly snuck away from the table and tried to call Whisperkiss to determine what had happened. Transmission to the soulmech was spotty, but the ship claimed something had torn through realspace and the area above the planet was awash in magical and mundane radiation. Whatever had arrived, it had scanned Whisperkiss’ data banks to the deepest level, bypassing all security. With sensors down due to the radiation the vessel couldn’t teleport the party back up or even see exactly what had done this. At the table Elocinda spooked the children and women as she muttered “the goddess smiles upon us, rejoice in her presence,” with an unintentional malice. Akon, obviously not one to balk, quickly suggested that he and R’Garet go into the village and speak with the “Professor.” The party decided to follow.

The Professor lived in a nice but unkempt three story building in the middle of the village. Clambering up the cramped stairs the party found an impromptu balcony on the top floor with an old man glued to a renaissance era telescope. Obviously fascinated by the eruptions above his planet, the Professor had no clear answers and was not of the clergy so could not answer questions of the event’s magical properties. What his telescope could see that was not visible before was an object in orbit, a massive statue with arms and a head. Silverhand, while looking through the telescope surreptitiously had his arcane nanoswarm clear up the optical deficiencies of the lenses. This in turn allowed Elocinda’s sharp eyes to see a small piece of ejecta falling through the atmosphere.

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Making Enemies

In short order the party was soon able to determine this ejecta to be heading towards the valley of Tolvan. Whisperkiss was able to get sensors back online and sent pictures to David who recognized the falling object to be an escape pod from an Altaran battleship. Data suggested that if the pod failed to slow its descent it would impact the valley like a small nuclear bomb, and given the low technology and attitude of the people there would probably be very little chance anyone would survive. R’Garet, the Professor, and Akon headed further into the village to speak with the church elders while the crew watched the pod’s trajectory and kept their fingers crossed.

Finally Whisperkiss confirmed that the pod was using braking maneuvers, but it still streaked across the valley sky like a fireball from the Abyss, smashing into a mountain gorge above and beyond Akon’s estate. Concerned that their new found friends may soon be the victims of Altaran aggression, the party had their weapons teleported down from Whisperkiss and bound quickly across the low-gravity countryside towards the impact site. Climbing into the burned and scarred gorge they eventually found the Altaran escape pod which Silverhand slowly approached while Elocinda and David covered from different sides of the steep terrain.

Shaken and wounded, but nonetheless dangerous, two Alaran White Legion orks and a weren commander positioned themselves around the entrance to the crashed pod. Silverhand walked forward and initially offered assistance, claiming to be “off-world Imperial citizens, here to help.” The weren commander, a brutish fellow who introduced himself as Obolos, seemed to trust the elf, leaving his cover and believing the cover story. However, the massive brute was insistent that the party lead him and his troops back into the valley to get food and shelter while Silverhand tried to convince them they should travel deeper into the mountains to avoid contact with the locals. With his temper rising Obolos saw no reason to increase his troops’ or his own hardship, and also called out Elocinda who he’d caught sight of on the south side of the valley. With a shoulder mounted particle beamer trained on the drow and his orks covering Silverhand, the weren again demanded to be brought to the village he had passed over. Silverhand hesitated, still unwilling to bring the White Legion amongst the Orajans, so Elocinda took matters into her own hands.

With a lightning quick draw the drow nailed Obolos’ shoulder mount with one of her laser pistols, the damaged unit exploding in a fiery burst upside the weren’s head. Almost immediately after that David, still concealed on the other side of the gorge, sniped one of the orks in the back, the troopers white armor turning quickly red from a gaping hole in the spine. A firefight erupted and Silverhand hit the dirt. Obolos dragged himself back to the open door of the escape pod while the other ork, disarmed by Elocinda, wrestled with Silverhand and got a vicious frostblade to the elf’s throat. Obolos disappears inside the craft before Elocinda could finish him off, but once David moved to the valley floor for the angle, he quickly took care of the struggling ork holding Silverhand with an expertly placed sniper rifle blast into the top of its head.

The crew regrouped, looking to follow Obolos into the pod, when a rising and troubling whine was heard from the craft. Assuming the worst, the three of them turned and ran from the gorge, the low gravity of Oraja allowing them to bound thirty feet at a time. David picked up the struggling Silverhand and the two leapt from the gorge down into Tolvan valley just as the Altaran craft turned itself and the surrounding rocks into a giant fireball.

After hiding their gear and meeting up with Dr. R’Garet and Akon again, Silverhand and David took the Doctor back to Whisperkiss to take a closer look at the object that supposedly destroyed an Altaran corvette. The idol was hundreds of meters long, an ancient statue looking thing with a damaged face and multiple arms, many of which were missing. A small freighter had by then already approached the idol, a ship of kobold ownership that had blasted out of one of Oraja’s seas, and who’s captain laid claim to the idol as salvage. Negotiating with the kobold got David a few minutes on-board the relic. He teleported into a dusty corridor overrun by kobolds and in the short time he was allowed inside decided to explore towards the head. He found the coral like substance that the idol was created from appeared grown rather than carved, and closer towards the head the walls began to ripple like brain tissue. At the very end he found a simple room with a blank panel that hadn’t been investigated yet. Touching it he started what appeared to be an animation, almost like sand being moved across the surface. The pictorial story showed a figure much like the damaged one he rode in (perhaps a god or an uplift race) landing on a primitive planet and handing out technology (or at least the knowledge thereof) to the local species. That species eventually evolved to high level tech and created an idol in the shape of that figure which itself blasted off into space.

After being rudely kicked off the idol by the kobolds David returned to Whisperkiss and the crew discussed their strategy. The kobolds had a legitimate claim but R’Garet argued that if this were an uplift device it may have been intended for the Orajans all along. They may very well need to become more advanced now that the galaxy was beginning to knock on their doorstep. Unwilling to make a final decision or confront the kobold vessel head-on, the crew turned Whisperkiss back towards civilization and looked for guidance from the Mithral Star.

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Making Pacts

Back onboard the Golion flagship Silverhand, the still olive-skinned Elocinda, and David met with Galen at the Drop Bottom Inn. Smelling like alcohol and rough sex the human had obviously been relaxing in his own special way, but Alsir sobered him up quite quickly. The half-dragon admiral listened to the detailed report the other three provided then asked if they had done further research into the idol and its design. When Silverhand did so he found very little information (unconfirmed sightings, a few grainy images of the idol taken with low-tech devices) but was almost immediately tagged by a high-level filter being applied to the comm net by a government grade server. Silverhand tried the search again, this time with Galen on overwatch in the net, and the human was able to track the filter back to the Church of the Reaper in Savaran (silver dragon) space.

“Ding. You have a collect call from the CHURCH OF THE REAPER. Do you accept the charges,” quipped Galen.

While Silverhand went gun shopping with David (who found the elf a screamer pistol and an assault rifle for himself), Galen continued his research into the filter and eventually hacked into the server the filter was housed on in Savaran space. The hack revealed the filter had been put in place by Cardinal Trenar, a thri-kreen of advanced years who’d amassed the most research data on the idol anyone knew about. Armed with this information Silverhand put in a call to Trenar’s offices and mentioned their encounter with the idol. Without much further prompting the dry hissing voice of the Cardinal announced he would arrive on the Mithral Star in one day (an impressive distance to travel in such a short time).

Right on cue the following day Alsir contacted the crew in a furious temper, demanding to know why they’d brought a fleet of Reaper ships to him. Demanding they acquiesce to the Cardinal soon to avoid confrontation the half-dragon reminded them that they were deniable assets for a reason. The crew was soon contacted by the Savaran ships and cordially invited to join the Cardinal on his flagship. They left the Mithral Star in Whisperkiss, but the soulmech stopped part way, demanding to be deactivated while close to the Reaper ships with the crew’s promise they’d reactivate him later. The Church of the Reaper had a reputation it seemed of helping soulmech’s continue the journey they’d forestalled. Agreeing to this, Galen brought the ship in for a smooth landing in the cavernous hold of the Sword-class cruiser Crypt.

Armed with the coordinates of Oraja V the Savaran Reaper fleet left the Mithral Star and made the last leg of it’s journey in mere hours (compared to the Whisperkiss’ starcasting that took days). Upon arrival Silverhand and David suddenly realized the turn of events that destroyed Obolos’ original corvette may play out again and warned the captain of the Crypt to steer clear of the idol. Instead Cardinal Trenar, his near opaque white mantis like body cowled in black, and his silent green bodyguard boarded Whisperkiss and Galen piloted them closer to the massive craft.

“This is a pretty planet.” noted Galen.

“Shut up, Galen.” said the others.

The kobolds were still laying claim to the idol, but a brief comm conversation with Trenar changed their minds in a hurry. The insect-like Cardinal leaned very close to the screen and noted the crow’s beak (a symbol of the Trickster) hanging around the kobold captain’s neck.

“My god trumps your god.” was all he hissed.

Leaving the Cardinal and Galen in the relative safety of the Whisperkiss the party teleported over and again explored the interior of the idol. Silverhand’s nanoswarm identified a power source that was neither physically or magically created, and it also recognized the coral structure of the vessel as some kind of neural network. In the foot of the idol the group found a massive cube with the same brain like ripples at the head and an overwhelming power signature, but they still could not determine the source of the power. The Cardinal teleported over and they all approached the head and the panel David had originally interacted with.

The panel was still there but a crack indicated the kobolds had not left well enough alone. A greasy stain on the ground indicated one of them had paid for the mistake. Silverhand put his nanoswarm to work and was able to fix the crack in the panel so that the Cardinal could trigger the animation David had seen. At first enthralled by the story it depicted, Trenar seemed frustrated when it ended with no obvious effect. Guessing that the potential uplift device had originally had a crew, David started the animation again and touched one of the symbols representing technology as it was being “handed out” by the figure. The panel responded as a GUI system, and after refining his choice to steam technology based on Galen’s recommendation, the idol began to move.

From outside the structure Galen saw the idol moving into a landing configuration directly over the valley of Tolvan. Teleporting the crew back over (in case the planet’s gravity well overcame the idols and splattered anyone inside in the feet) they watched the descent beginning. The Cardinal, in a moment of surprising insight, revealed that the idol had passed over his world before the Empire had taken over, and he had always wondered why it had not stopped. He now had his answer. It had long ago lost it’s crew.

That night David returned to the surface of Oraja V to retrieve his sniper rifle, and Silverhand made a brief appearance at Akon’s villa to thank him and explain their departure. He assured the Orajan that their lives would be changed for the better by the approaching idol. Akon thanked him and gave him a bottle of ‘42 Tolvan before the elf slipped into the night and teleported back to the waiting Whisperkiss.

The Reaper fleet gave the crew a short window to depart the Crypt. Rewarded by Trenar with a bag of rare and varied silver pieces (for the “boatmen”) the crew were not sorry to leave the Cardinal and his cadaverous ship behind and began the slightly slower trek back to the Mithral Star.

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