Yeah, I’m (extremely) behind schedule with these Little Encounters… the Bestiary 3 is already out and I didn’t finish the letter “A” of the Bestiary 2. Thankfully, this is just a hobby (no deadlines!). I decided finally to face the Agathions and create a series of small encounters for these Neutral Good outsiders. Let’s see what I can do… the following encounter is geared toward offering an unusual sage for the party and, if the group (and the Gamemaster) is so inclined, can offer further (dire) complications.
The King of Owls
(chance of a CR 7-8 encounter)
While traveling through any heavily forested area the PCs hear rumors (automatically or through a Knowledge Local DC 15) of the “King of Owls”, a mysterious spirit or fey oracle that knows much about the surrounding woodlands because, if the tales are to be believed, he can hear and see everything that any of the local owls (or birds) perceive.
The exact location of the King of Owls is left vague. It can be found either by chance (maybe while the party is running from a tough encounter) or as a special reward (by saving or helping a sylvan denizen like an elf, ranger or druid). Either way, the King’s “court” is an ancient glade, covered in moss and shattered stones of some forgotten lightning-blasted monolith, surrounded by dark and tall oaks, always filled with hundreds of birds (most of the time owls). In the center of the glade lies a gaunt humanoid of pearly white skin covered in strange circular patterns, with dark and golden feathers growing from his arms, head and back. His feet are might talons full of platinum, electrum and silver rings, all encrusted with shinning gems (a treasure of 1.000-1.500 GPs approximately). His face is long, with a salient hooked noose, almost beak-like. His eyes are completely black, revealing old unfathomable wisdom mingled with resigned sadness. However, the most disquieting feature of the owl-man is a massive set of manacles made of a luminescent and sickly green metal (Knowledge Planes DC 25 reveal that it’s of infernal origin).
The King of Owls (our avoral) greets cordially all those that enter its glade without violent intentions. The agathion is immensely patient and will freely offer food and healing to anyone in need that isn’t clearly harboring evil intents or working against the woodlands and the surrounding wilds. For more important information (like the location of enemies, treasure or a hidden place within the woods), the King will demand a service (usually dealing with evil outsiders or their cultists; or helping any good outsider and their followers that are passing by).
Finally, the King can offer a special service of its own – one of his owls. After completing a service to the avoral, he will give to a chosen (good aligned) player one of his feathers. As long as the character carries that feather in one of his hands (and don’t let it fall), he will be able to talk and understand one specific owl. Treat this owl as if it was awakened. The player character can use the bird to scout the region within 1-mile of the party (use the owl’s Perception stats) or to carry a message to any NPC (or PC) in the woodland region (and closer villages). The owl will always find the person to whom the message must be delivered (and it can wait to carry back an answer). The owl will be in the character’s service for 7 days (or until the avoral feather is dropped). If mistreated or killed by the characters, the King will know and will henceforth work discreetly against the party (directing them to evil monsters and to difficult spots in woods, calling on giant birds and dire beasts to assault them at the worst moments possible etc).
If attacked, the King of Owls is severely limited by the abyssal manacles. He can’t teleport and must fight on the ground (thus his reduced CR). He can, however, call for help, with 2d20 birds (or use a swarm) coming down instantly and 2 giant owls appearing 1d6+1 rounds later. Two of his rings are magical. The first – with a command word for “spear” in celestial – becomes a magical golden spear that strikes enemies like the spell spiritual weapon, once per day, with a caster level of 5. The second is simply a ring of protection +1 that will shatter if used by a non-good character or by a character that, in any moment of his life, killed (or kills) an avian creature (of the animal, humanoid, monstrous humanoid or magical beast type).
What about the weird abyssal manacles? Well, the King won’t elaborate on the matter and will ask for discretion on part of the group. The true is, indeed, complicated: a few years ago the avoral found a powerful necromancer lying almost dead in the woods, running from demons summoned by a rival. The agathion saved the black magician and taught him mercy and compassion. Once healed, the spellcaster, offended but also profoundly intrigued, trapped the avoral with a set of magical manacles used to bind celestials. Discovering that the threat of death didn’t hold any meaning for the enlightened avoral, the necromancer left him bound to the ground, promising to return with dire and soul-chilling tortures. Eventually he did so, and while the King was indeed tortured, he remained steadfast in the defense of his act of mercy. The philosophical debate that eventually ensued between the necromancer and the celestial has kept the spellcaster returning every two or three months. The fact is that the avoral is perfectly orchestrating a change of spirit in the necromancer – through perseverance and sharp intellectual contest – guiding him slowly away from evil. Unfortunately, the presence of a third party to any of these encounters (like the player characters) would be disastrous to the celestial’s plans. The necromancer will almost surely retreat to his dark ways and probably inflict a dark curse on the party as to indirectly hurt the avoral.
The abyssal manacles have DR 30 and 100 hit points. Only adamantine can pass through the DR and, if shattered, 2 schirs are instantly summoned to destroy the “defilers”. Worst, the necromancer (level and stats are left to the Gamemaster, but here's is a quick example) is instantly aware of the fact.