Summary: A cultist in town plans to take over using a ring he’s crafted that will give him the power to summon and command Tzeentchian horrors. Once there’s enough of them around, a herald of Tzeentch turns up to swipe them and walk away. Because obviously. Upon seizing control of the town, the Tzeentch herald will offer an alliance against Nurgle.
Discovery: The ring’s construction process gives off some disturbance in the Warp, but the Tzeentch cultist has been careful to cover his tracks. The ring can be detected with a Difficult(-10) Psyniscience check in the town in general, or an Ordinary(+10) Psyniscience check when within a block of the cultist’s apartment, as his efforts to prevent the Warp disturbance from spreading further have increased its presence nearby.
Any character with at least one Divination psyker power who spends the night in town will have dreams of the entire region awash in plague, an oily black sickness spreading all along the river. The sickness reaches up out of the river and into town to afflict the inhabitants, until a blue fire erupts from the cultist’s apartment, spreading throughout the town, across the river, and through the entire region, burning away the plague and leaving the people healthy and beautiful. The fire then comes together in the form of a great, blazing bird of prey and flies away from the planet entirely. The town depicted in the dream is clearly the same town as the one in this hex, with the same capitol building, courthouse, and etc., and the dream clearly depicts not only the building, but the specific apartment that the cultist lives in, number 306. Upon waking, the psyker needs make no checks at all to find the building. This dream requires the psyker to make a Challenging(+0) Willpower check, and if they fail, they take 1d5 Insanity. Though they do not necessarily know it (though the blue color scheme and bird motif certainly provide clues), the psyker received this dream by the power of Tzeentch.
The third day the characters are in the town, after they’ve had a chance to have the premonition dream and investigate the following day, the Tzeentch cultist completes his ring. The subsequent abundance of pink horrors in town makes it pretty damn hard not to notice that something’s up. The horrors don’t stick around for long – Tzeentch doesn’t like to be straightforward – but even if the characters have left town before finding out what’s up, if they ever come back, it is only a Routine(+20) Inquiry check to get local townspeople to talk about that one time a bunch of Chaos horrors showed up and killed a bunch of dudes.
Exploration: The Tzeentch cultist’s workshop can and does fit inside a small chest whenever anyone comes knocking. The ring itself is fully crafted, and he is now only doing the fine detail work to inscribe the proper runes of summoning upon it, which requires only a few small tools, his notes, and the ring itself, all of which can be stuffed inside a chest no wider than a man’s shoulders and no taller than from his navel to his collarbone. The cultist works feverishly on the ring eighteen hours a day, although his sleep cycle has gone berserk due to his obsession and he does not keep consistent hours, so there is a 75% chance that he is at work on the ring whenever the characters come by his apartment. If they announce themselves at all (for example, by knocking on the door or shouting “Inquisition! Open up!”) he will take about thirty seconds to shove his materials into the chest before answering. If they enter unannounced by kicking the door down (it’s a flimsy door – any character with an S bonus of at least 3 can manage it without rolling) while he’s awake, they’ll catch him working on the ring, and more or less the same if they decide to barge in unannounced while he’s cleaning up his workshop.
If asked what he’s working on, the cultist has a clever (though agitated) personality, a starting Disposition of 25, or 15 towards anyone clearly Imperium aligned, and will say that he does fine detail jewelery work and sells the results for a living, usually shipping them to wealthy patrons in Imberkavitas. This can even be verified, somewhat, in that at one point he did do this kind of work, and patrons in Imberkavitas will verify (if contacted via vox or if the characters hike up there to check) that they’ve used his services in the past after a Routine(+20) Inquiry check, however, if the Inquiry check gets at least 3 DoS (or in other words, if they beat a Challenging(+0) Inquiry check), the patrons will say that he’s apparently been booked solid for over a year now. Not a single patron contacted knows by whom he’s been booked, and the cultist will give evasive answers if interrogated, claiming his most recent patron demands a high volume of goods and doesn’t like to give details. If threatened (i.e. by a standard Challenging(+0) Intimidate check, for example, or if he takes at least one point of actual damage), he will give a fake address in Imberkavitas and claim he has no idea what the patron uses them for. It takes a Difficult(-10) Insight check to determine that he’s lying.
If the ring itself is examined, it takes an Ordinary(+10) Forbidden Lore (Heresy) check to identify that it’s clearly Chaos mojo from its inscriptions. A psyniscience check to try and determine if the ring is the source of local Chaos mojo is Routine(+20), and if failed, it’s because the whole apartment is swamped in so much Chaos energy that pinpointing the ring as the source is impossible.
If the chest is broken into and searched, the cultist’s notes are written in Chaos Marks, which he’ll claim is just the dialect of the upper class in Imberkavitas – and he’s not wrong. Anyone who can actually read the script with a Routine(+20) Linguistics (Chaos Marks) check will quickly be able to discern the clearly sorcerous nature of the notes.
If the cultist is kept from his work, this will delay the arrival of the horrors by however many days the cultist is unable to work on the ring. If the characters talk to him for just ten or twenty minutes and then leave, there won’t be any noticeable delay at all and the horrors will still arrive two days after the characters do (or in other words, on the third day the characters are there). If they keep him busy for an entire day with some kind of interrogation but then let him go, the horrors will arrive three days after the characters do (put differently, on the fourth day they’re there). If the cultist is killed outright and the characters do not hand the ring and notes off to someone interested in finishing the work, then the whole summoning has been thwarted, even if they leave the ring lying around somewhere. Surely someone is going to find it and either sell it or keep it for themselves, but unfinished it has no sorcerous power and won’t find its way into the hands of a sorcerer by pure chance (although if the characters intentionally deliver it to a sorcerer, that sorcerer may finish it – this is a judgement call by the GM based on the sorcerer’s personality, do they want to summon Tzeentch horrors?).
If the characters want to help the cultist complete his work, there’s not much they can do other than not interrupt it, and the megalomaniacal cultist won’t even instruct his horrors not to attack the characters if they’re still around when he attempts his coup.
Confrontation: Once the sorcerer has completed his ring, he will summon up 1d5+1 Tzeentch horrors immediately. The Tzeentch horrors will obey his every command, and he will immediately sic them on the local Red Guard. Once at least half of the original pink horrors have split into blues, the sorcerer will summon up another 1d5+1 to reinforce them. If the characters are in town for this attack but haven’t spoken to the cultist, the cultist will ignore them unless confronted. If confronted, he will command the characters to stay out of the way, and attack them if they refuse or even try to help. If the characters have spoken to the cultist during earlier investigations, then regardless of the result of that conversation, the cultist sees them as either enemies, parasites, or loose ends, and either way will sic his horrors on them.
After the Red Guard are defeated and the sorcerer has stormed the city hall and taken it for himself, or after the total number of horrors is once again reduced to half of the original rolled (i.e. all 2d5+2 of them), the cultist summons up another 1d5 Tzeentch horrors, but this time they are led by a herald of Tzeentch, who takes the form of a man with large wings, blue on the exterior and pink on the undersides, who cloaks himself in the wings (or, if the Red Guard were defeated by the first wave of 1d5+1, the cultist will summon up 2d5+1 Tzeentch horrors in addition to the herald). Once this herald arrives, he immediately seizes control of the Tzeentch horrors, kills the cultist, and assumes control of the town.
If the characters have been fighting against the Tzeentch horrors, the herald will call them off immediately after being summoned. If the characters press their attack after the herald has finished with the cultist, the herald will ask them to stay their fire, as he has connived to come to this plane to offer them an alliance against Nurgle. The herald will make this offer regardless of whether the characters are Imperium or Chaos aligned, so long as at least half of them aren’t specifically Nurgle-aligned.
If the characters are open to the suggestion of alliance, the Tzeentch herald will first demand they kill, or at least exile, any Nurgle-aligned characters in the group. This is probably not going to go over well, so the combat may well resume immediately at this point. If there are no Nurgle-aligned characters in the party (or if they actually go through with exiling or killing a party member), the herald will point them to three Nurgle infestations in the region: the Nurgle fly cultist at 02.03, the Nurgle zombie lord at 03.06, and the Nurgle cultist seeking to revive his family at 08.08. The Tzeentch herald offers the characters the services of whatever Tzeentch horrors remain by entrusting the ring to them. They may carry the ring with them, and whenever they like, they make activate it with a Routine(+20) Willpower test as a half-action, immediately summoning any surviving Tzeentch horrors to attack the servants of Nurgle. After any Nurgle cultists, zombies, or daemons in the hex have been killed, the horrors will be immediately desummoned back to the herald’s location.
For every Nurgle infestation so cleansed, the Tzeentch herald will give the characters a sack of Warp gold that counts as a Very Rare item for purposes of trade on requisition tests. If all of them are cleared, the Tzeentch herald will leave the town in the hands of whichever character the party agrees on, whether that be one of their number, an NPC friend, or nobody at all, and then take the horrors with him back into the Warp.
The Tzeentch herald is here to exterminate the presence of Nurgle and isn’t interested in alliances against others, however he can be persuaded to offer the services of the horrors against other targets on a one-for-one basis if the characters bring it up, or if the characters sound uninterested in the original offer, whereupon the herald will sweeten the deal by offering mutual alliance and ask if there are any non-Nurgle targets the herald would like his minions directed against. The herald will attack one Imperium or Khornate target for each Nurgle target eliminated, no questions asked, so long as the target is in a hex encounter and not part of an urbancrawl. The herald is more reluctant to get stuck in a major conflict (like the shadow war for an entire city often turns out to be). Convincing him to attack a Slaanesh, unaligned Chaos, or urbancrawl-based target requires a Challenging(+0) Charm check. Convincing him to attack a Slaanesh or unaligned Chaos target who is also urbancrawl-based requires a Difficult(-10) Charm check. If successfully persuaded to target an urbancrawl target, the Tzeentch herald will still demand a very specific target (i.e. “clear the cult in this specific building” rather than “wipe this cult from the city” or especially “kill all Slaanesh cultists in the city”). Regardless of exactly which targets are picked, the herald will only allow the horrors to be summoned on a target after the party have already cleared a Nurgle target for him. Under no circumstances will the Tzeentch herald use his horrors to attack a Tzeentch target (unless you count the Tzeentch cultist from this encounter, who the herald kills immediately after being summoned).
If the characters won’t accept the offer of alliance (including if they refuse to turn on a Nurgle-aligned party member), the Tzeentch herald will try to kill them, or at least drive them from the town,, and then take up residence there and try to entice others into accepting his alliance. If the Imperium is conquering their way up the river in force, the herald will depart before they arrive, since at that point the Imperium can be relied on to deny the planet to Nurgle anyway.
Rewards: The big reward here is obviously the horror squad that can be used to attack Nurgle targets or, with just a bit of bargaining, some Khornate, Imperium, or even Slaanesh or unaligned Chaos targets.
If the characters end up confiscating the ring, they or another can finish it with an Arduous(-40) Forbidden Lore (Heresy) check. The ring can be used as a half-action three times, the first two times to summon 1d5+1 Tzeentch horrors loyal to the wearer of the ring, and the third time to summon 1d5 Tzeentch horrors and the herald, who will immediately assume command of all the ring’s Tzeentch horrors, wherever they are and regardless of who wears the ring. The Tzeentch herald will make the characters the same offer under the same circumstances as previously, except that he will not bother conquering the town and thus will not offer it to them unless the Tzeentch horrors were already stuck in with the Red Guard (or PDF, if the ring’s horrors are being used to assault an Imperial town when it is used for the third time) at the time the herald is summoned.
Copies of the ring made from scratch require over a year to craft, so while it is theoretically possible to make one from the cultist’s notes, actually doing so is not really within the timeframe covered by this hexcrawl. In the event that it does happen, each ring draws on the same pool of horrors, so no matter how many rings there are, only three batches of horrors can be summoned, and the third will always be led by the Tzeentch herald, who will immediately take command of all horrors. Regardless of how many rings were used to summon them, those are his horrors and they will answer to him.
The town itself is worth 1d10 influence to whoever is installed as its ruler and 1d5 influence to anyone associated with the one installed. Being Highborn is unnecessary to be installed as ruler whether or not any Tzeentch horrors are even summoned. The town may be levied for two Influence to auto-succeed on any Influence check made for anything that’s common or cheaper, any solid projectile weapon or service that’s average or cheaper, any medical care, low-tech weapon, or armour that’s scarce or cheaper, and any drug or consumable that’s rare or cheaper.