A most unusual hobgoblin tribe dwells in the region of the Jotens near the Sterich town of Davishton. The tribe is more neutrally inclined and is anxious for allies to protect them from marauding giants. In their desperation, they are attempting to forge an alliance with the Lion Throne. There is much more at stake in this undertaking then first meets the eye and may have devastating consequences.
The Black Daggers Revisited
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The Black Daggers Revisited
An agent of the King of Keoland had a radical proposal. In the light of the rather desperate straits Keoland had found itself in following the liberation of Sterich, this agent decided to make an alliance with a tribe of hobgoblins (the Black Daggers) that lived in the nearby mountains. The alliance began as one of mere convenience, but later fostered into wary respect. This warmed up to the point that the agent, one Bentazur (Foot Note 1), decided to sponsor a delegation of the hobgoblins to petition King Skotti for recognition of the tribe and annexation into the kingdom itself. A party of hobgoblins, to include the tribal chief’s son, Dhaar Daggerstorm, marched from its home (called Aggrethor by the hobgoblins) to the Keoish capital.
The proposal forwarded by Bentazur met with catastrophe. On the way to Niole Dra, the diplomatic delegation was ambushed by masked riders (FN 2). The party was forced to fight off the riders several times. The party also encountered overt hostility from the various towns and inns that the party stopped. These events made it clear to both Bentazur and to Dhaar that it would be futile to continue to Niole Dra and petition the King for a title and land for the hobgoblin tribe. The party turned back to Aggrethor and reported their failure to chief Krell.
Bentazur was not willing to let the matter drop. He traveled back to Niole Dra by himself and petitioned an audience with the King. Politics being what they are in Keoland, Bentazur had a long wait, but finally was given a private audience (FN 3). Nothing was released to the general public concerning this meeting, and the details are known to only a few, but Skotti and Bentazur negotiated a compromise agreement.
In exchange for a trade agreement, military support, and intelligence exchanges, the Kingdom of Keoland is to recognize the sovereignty of the traditional hobgoblin lands of Aggrethor as a separate state. Bentazur is to be the ambassador and agent in charge of the implementation of this policy.
The terms of the alliance that were hammered out included trade agreements. Aggrethor is rich in iron, and the Black Daggers have become quite good weaponsmiths. The hobgoblins are to trade raw ore, metals, and finished weapons to Keoland for shipments of foodstuffs and cloth. The small town of Davishton (located in eastern Sterich, near the base of the Joten Mountains) is to be the sole trading post to handle traffic between Keoland and Aggrethor. The inhabitants there are mostly miners and merchants, and are quite willing to keep quiet about the situation if it means that their town will profit from it (FN 4). While Keoland needs all the resources it can get, the trade with the Black Daggers is primarily for raw ore and bars of metal rather than for weapons (the distinctive dagger marking on the weapons may reveal their source). Any shipments of weapons are sent to Westkeep (where no one looks too closely at any supplies received, nor asks many questions).
The military assistance and intelligence gathering terms are to be even more circumspect. If the word went out that there was any formal military aid coming from the hobgoblins then there would likely be riots among the Keoish population. (Geoffite refugees, who are still without their homes due to giants and humanoids would be particularly bitter about any such compromise). Generally, the use of Black Dagger assets would be confined to gathering intelligence from the regions adjacent to Aggrethor (the Crystalmists, Hellfurnaces, and Joten mountain ranges). However, several small bands of particularly skilled hobgoblins have infiltrated the Lost Land of Geoff and are starting to send information out to Keoish agents. Skotti was also very interested in having more spies to assist the besieged forces in Westkeep. Dhaar Daggerstorm himself is leading a small spy cell that reports to the Keoish commander there (FN 5).
In return for this aid, Keoland is to provide military assistance to the Black Daggers should they request it. This is perhaps the trickiest part of the alliance. Once Keoish troops commit to any assistance, the secret alliance will be out, and the ramifications could be quite severe. Agent Bentazur is the liaison for the operation and is the one who has authority to send Keoish troops to aid the Black Daggers. So far, things are quiet in Aggrethor, so no assistance has been needed yet. But there have been movements of giant scouting parties near Aggrethor’s borders, so Skotti may be forced to show his hand sooner than expected.
King Skotti is playing a dangerous game in making this alliance. He needs all the allies he can get, especially in the beleaguered city of Westkeep. But an open alliance with the Black Daggers is out of the question. Should word of this compromise leak out to the Council of Niole Dra or to the general population of Keoland, the King would suffer politically (FN 6). Many ordinary citizens of Keoland would not react kindly to the news that its leaders would in any way ally or negotiate with hobgoblins. Agents of the Scarlet Brotherhood would not miss such an opportunity to further exploit the situation, and this may even shake the support of allies of Keoland (especially the Yeomanry and the Principality of Ulek, which both are fighting for their lives against hordes of humanoids). It would be pure speculation as to how the Knights of the Watch would react to such a revelation.
On the hobgoblin’s part, there is mixed reactions to the secret nature of this alliance. Chief Krell Daggerstorm is bitter about the failure to secure a title, but being surrounded by hostile giant tribes poised to crush his tribe makes him pragmatic about the alliance. Many of the younger warriors see this compromise as an insult and would counsel a cessation of the agreement, but on the whole, the tribe remains loyal to their chief. Many of the more hot blooded warriors have volunteered to serve in Geoff or Westkeep in order to work off some steam and claim some glory (FN 7).
In sum, this issue is a political powderkeg. While the benefits of the alliance currently outweigh the liabilities, all it would take is one error and this carefully crafted scheme could fall apart with ramifications that could cripple Keoland and shift the balance of power in the south.
1: Bentazur is a wizard who specializes in abjuration magic. Once a war wizard who led troops in the reclaiming of Sterich, he has become fascinated with the hobgoblin culture. So much so that he now has sage proficiency in all aspects of hobgoblins and other humanoids.
2: The identities of the masked riders were never ascertained. All wounded riders were carried away by their comrades. Bentazur suspects that a certain faction of nobility opposed to the King sponsored the attacks, but also hypothesizes that the Scarlet Brotherhood would have much to gain by preventing such an alliance. It is a possibility that whoever sponsored the attacks may suspect the alliance, and try again to bring the endeavor down.
3: It is a tribute to not only the perseverance of Bentazur to wait so long to gain a meeting with the king, but also a tribute to his record fighting in the king’s service that he got to meet with the king at all. Most King’s Agents have only enough pull to see at best an advisor to the king, but Bentazur was canny enough in the byzantine world of Keoland politics to cut through the red tape. In particular, Bentazur is keeping Lashton, the Keoish court wizard, out of the loop. Bentazur has a past history of animosity towards the sly archmage and may be inviting trouble on this point.
4: Davishton is a small town located along a branch of the Davish River. Generally isolated, and economically depressed, the trade from the Black Daggers was viewed as a welcome boon by the majority of the population. Access to river traffic westward to the larger towns in Sterich’s interior makes Davishton an ideal trading post.
5: The agents who receive the intelligence from the hobgoblin spies are generally unaware of the identities of the sources. The hobgoblins have been instructed by Bentazur to leave their intelligence reports in hidden drop sites, where other agents collect them at a later date, sometimes leaving new orders as well. Thus, the hobgoblin spies must be able to write and read in order to pass on information. The spy cells have been equipped with special lockable scroll tubes to store their reports. The spies can recognize each other by showing these distinctive devices. The scroll tubes are made of white jade with abstract designs carved on them (worth 200 gp), and have several buttons along the sides that have to be pressed in a particular order to open. A thief may open with a successful open locks roll, failure mean the tube explodes, doing 1-8 damage to anyone in a 10 foot radius.
6: Especially in the light of Skotti’s stubborn insistence on holding the city of Westkeep. This action has created much criticism and controversy in the halls of the Lion Throne. Some high ranking military leaders as well as many nobles view Westkeep as a lost cause or a foolish waste of resources. Adding the fact that hobgoblins have to be employed to make the occupation work may doom the enterprise in the eyes of many.
7: A hobgoblin spy cell usually consists of about five hobgoblin warrior/thieves. They are able to walk Geoff and the former lands of the Sea Princes without attracting too much attention. Presently, there are three such groups operating in Geoff. One cell reports to Keoish spies in the Stark Mound city of Alvein. This cell reports enemy actions from in and around the Hornwood and Gorna. Another cell operates in northern Geoff and reports to agents in Hochoch. The third cell is still attempting to infiltrate Geoff through the Oytwood, and will not be in a position to report to any Keoish agents for some time yet. There is only one cell operating in Westkeep. It is lead by the chief’s own son and has been quite successful in acts of espionage and sabotage. The spies operating in the mountain ranges report directly to chief Krell in Aggrethor and he passes on information to Bentazur.
Possible adventuring hooks include: stumbling across one of the spy cell’s drop sites, finding a scroll tube (with orders inside) in the possession of a hobgoblin, being hired to assist the Black Daggers against their giant attackers (in lieu of sending a conventional military force), and if the players are stationed in Westkeep they may be ordered to directly assist Dhaar’s spy cell. Finding out about the alliance may present your adventurers with a moral quandary, do they report what they have learned or keep the secret? Depending on their loyalties (to one Keoish faction or another, other interested parties, to Lashton, or to the King) they may attempt to assist Bentazur or bring him down. Knowing that this information could destabilize Keoland, agents of the Scarlet Brotherhood may have to be foiled in their efforts to expose this alliance. The characters may be embroiled in other plots and counter plots to either protect this alliance or see it fail.
The Black Daggers: Original