Argonnessen is one of the most dangerous places in Eberron. Nondragons are unwelcome across much of the continent, and those trespassing into a dragon’s dominion could be attacked without warning. Dragons aside, the continent is filled with dangerous predators, many of whom have been imported to Argonnessen specifically to pose a challenge to dragons looking for an interesting fight. A low-level character shouldn’t even be thinking about going to Argonnessen. Even a swift trip—darting on to Totem Beach to make a record of etchings on the great statues—should be a daring and deadly challenge. Venturing into the depths of Argonnessen is a risk even epic-level heroes must weigh carefully.
Argonnessen is the stuff of legends. It is a place to hold out as a goal characters can aspire to achieve. When adventurers can finally set foot on the soil of Argonnessen, they should know that they are on their way to becoming legends themselves.
Death and Dark Magic
High-Level Ishamakhas, an outspoken member of the Conclave, was killed a month before while engaging in scholarly exploration at an ancient ossuary. Though he appears to have been overwhelmed by the undead guardians of the site, an anonymous message to a Conclave elder hints that the foul creatures were recent creations—undead minions of an Argonnessen necromancer bent on murder.
The wilds of Argonnessen conceal untold practitioners of the dark arts; despite centuries of effort, the Conclave has had little luck in rooting them out. In the aftermath of this brazen assault, the dragon elders hope to uncover the operations of the legendary Shadow masters—a cabal of draconic necromancers operating on the fringes of arcane tradition. However, the Conclave believes that investigation by the Eyes of Chronepsis runs too great a risk of drawing the cabal’s notice. The dragons seek outside help for this important and dangerous mission.
The PCs might be known to the Conclave from their adventures in Khorvaire or beyond. Any party involved in aiding (or hindering) the work of the Chamber or putting down a rogue dragon in Khorvaire or Xen’drik might have come to the notice of the Eyes of Chronepsis. Such characters could be sought out for this sensitive operation.
A lternatively, characters traveling through Argonnessen clandestinely might find themselves caught by agents of the Conclave. Sensing an opportunity, the dragons offer the PCs their freedom in exchange for service—an offer the party cannot afford to turn down.
The climax of this adventure can make use of any draconic observatory (Explorer’s Handbook 115).
- Dark Plots: The PCs must complete the investigation of the ruins where Ishamakhas died, dealing with the powerful undead that control the site. However, once these ancient guardians have been dispatched, the party finds evidence that Ishamakhas was not the first to visit the place. Two months past, a humanoid party came here to claim a now-missing relic—and to investigate the dragon’s death. Suggested Encounters: Zombie dragons (Dr 197) and skeletal dragons (Dr 192 and page 58 of this book) are sometimes found at ancient sites in Argonnessen, animated by the old magic lingering in such places.
- Assassins in Seren: As the PCs follow the trail of the mysterious party at the ossuary, they uncover a plot involving a faction of Seren barbarians selling draconic intelligence to the elves of Aerenal. Even as they break up the Seren operation, the PCs find themselves targeted by assassins. Whether or not the killers are successful at taking out members of the party, clues point to their having been hired by a dragon wizard named Arstyvrax. Suggested Encounters: The Seren enclave in the service of Aerenal can be represented by the village Mesk (Explorer’s Handbook 96). The Seren tribes are typically much lower level than any PCs adventuring in Argonnessen, so this encounter will turn on the tribesfolk’s vastly superior numbers. Alternatively, the barbarian queen Una Wyrmguard (page 66) and her warriors might be used.
- Observatory Showdown: The PCs arrive at the draconic observatory that is the lair of the dragon Arstyvrax, only to find themselves caught in a trap. The assassins dogging them are agents of Aerenal working under deep cover in Argonnessen. Their goal—to expose Arstyvrax as a member of the Shadowmasters even as they frame him for Ishamakhas’s murder.
Arstyvrax uses the observatory as cover for his forbidden studies, drawing planar energy from Dolurrh for necromantic research. The Aerenal elves assume that the party is in the dragon’s employ. However, whether the PCs and the elves end up enemies or allies, Arstyvrax eventually reveals his true nature as an undead minion of the Blood of Vol. In the end, the PCs face a frenzied final battle with the vampiric dragon necromancer himself.
Suggested Encounters: Arstyvraxis detailed on page 56. His observatory lair is protected by a force of skeletal dragons (page 58) and dragonbone golems (Dr 164 and page 59 of this book).
The Aerenal assassins can be based on the vigilant sentinel of Aerenal prestige class (MoE 85), the dragonslayer prestige class (Dr 126), or both.
Whether Arstyvrax flees or is slain, the wealth contained in his observatory is a suitable reward for the many dangers the PCs have faced. As well, exposing the plots of both the Shadowmasters and the Aereni puts the party firmly in the Conclave’s debt.
Arstyvrax is a canny foe, and he has not lived this long without learning how to back down from a fight he cannot win. The vampiric dragon cuts his losses if defeat is imminent, fleeing to heal his wounds and plot his revenge. If this happens, Arstyvrax needs a backup hoard in a secret location (hoards take the place of coffins for a vampiric dragon), and the party will have gained a bitter foe.
As the adventurers cross Argonnessen, they unwittingly stumble into a war game simulation run by the Light of Siberys. The exercise keeps the soldiers trained and sharp, and imported monsters from the Vast add an element of randomness to the simulation while posing no real threat to the dragons. Lesser creatures, however, have more of a problem.
Two dragon generals, Schaisos (LG male ancient white dragon) and Nyssyeran (LN female ancient copper dragon) each marshal a force of dragons in the simulation. When Nyssyeran spots the PCs, she drafts them on the spot and sends them on a deadly mission across the battlefield. Alternatively, Schaisos could encounter the PCs first and request their aid, promising safe passage across Light of Siberys territory if they comply (and demanding they leave if they refuse).
A rocky western stretch of Totem Beach (page 48) serves admirably for the war games, and provides an opportunity to add Seren encounters.
Nyssyeran instantly sizes up the characters and recognizes their value. Monsters from the Vast add a dimension of chaos to the simulation, but an unwritten rule allows each general to make use of whatever resources he or she can find. Nyssyeran utilizes the characters’ relatively small stature for an infiltration mission across the battlefield.
- Capture the Shard: Nyssyeran explains that each general’s command center contains a sparkling Siberys shard, representing the heart of their defenses. A side gains a tremendous advantage in the next game if it can capture the opposing team’s shard. The shard is kept in a small stone bunker, difficult for a dragon to enter unless she uses an alternate form ability, but doing so leaves the dragon vulnerable to the monsters roaming the battlefield. Nyssyeran sends the PCs across the field to retrieve the shard and return it to her.
Before they leave, Nyssyeran warns the characters not to fly, whether naturally or by magical means. Ferocious dragons caught up in their tactics can fill seemingly empty sky in a heartbeat, and flying characters are more obvious and attract the attention of the other side (and dragon blindsense detects even invisible characters).
- Friendly Dragonfire: None of the dragons engaged in the simulation take note of the characters; nondragons possess the same status as the mindless beasts imported from the Vast. Enormous dragons wheel and spin overhead in a dazzling display of aerial acrobatics; a few engage in mock battles on the ground. Although the characters shouldn’t face direct attack from the dragons, the dragons don’t watch for innocent bystanders.
- Hostiles: Fierce creatures from the Vast add difficulty to the simulation, but don’t threaten the ancient dragons. Characters could have a tougher time with these threats.
Prowling the battlefield currently are three truly horrid umber hulks, two abyssal greater basilisks, a battletitan dinosaur (sans barding; MM3 38), and an elite demon war mount mivilorn (sans armor; MM3 107). Numerous smaller monsters also dot the battlefield, but should pose no danger to the party.
- Rush the Bunker: An ancient green dragon circles above the bunker, which has a thick stone door sealed with a padlock (Open Lock DC 30). Combat likely proves deadly—even if the characters triumph, the other dragons on the field don’t look on the murderers kindly. Clever tactics and powerful magic should allow the PCs to retrieve the shard and escape. Their best option might be to rush the bunker, grab the shard, and teleport out.
The characters’ grateful patron shows his or her thanks by not eating the characters. Possibly they also earn safe passage through this territory.
If the characters perform admirably, they gain a valuable contact. Perhaps the Light of Siberys requires the characters for another “covert ops” mission in the future.