The Deadly Garden
A Sacnoth Dominate Era Adventure
This article originally appeared in the January/February 2023 issue.
Pale, beyond porch and portal,
Crowned with calm leaves, she stands
Who gathers all things mortal
With cold immortal hands. . . .
from “The Garden of Proserpine”
Algernon Charles Swinburne
(Solomani poet, d. 1909 [-2612 Imperial Calendar])
Initial location: Tizon1, Sacnoth Dominate
Date: 45 Dominion Era2 (4380 Old Terran calendar)
Required equipment: Free trader starship (owned or chartered)
The travellers are approached at a Tizon startown tavern by Ingunn Randulfdottir Lysen, a local, minor noblewoman. She is looking for a band of adventurers to travel with her to Entrope3 to find her younger brother, Asvald. While visiting Entrope a few years ago, Asvald married an Entropic noblewoman, Kurtix Jadirel. While Asvald is not the heir to the Lysen family holding — that is Ingunn’s elder brother — the marriage did estrange him from their parents and the rest of the family, except Ingunn. She and Asvald corresponded regularly but she has not heard from him for several weeks. His last message said that Jadirel had fallen seriously ill. Ingunn does not know if Asvald has also succumbed to this illness or if there is some other reason she has not heard from him.
Ingunn can pay an amount equal to a half complement of middle passages and 60% of standard cargo fees — for a free trader — for the trip from Tizon to Entrope and back to Hrunting4, where she and her brother will either pay standard high passage rates to return to Tizon or find another ship on which to travel back home. (The travellers are free to book actual passengers and cargo through to Entrope and back to Hrunting.) She also offers a 20% bonus if the travellers will assist her at Entrope in finding her brother and bringing him back (assuming he’s willing to return). Because Asvald may be seriously ill in an unknown manner, Ingunn will pay a 10% bonus if one of the travellers is skilled at Medical-2 or better.
Maghiz, the mysterious disaster which befell the ancient Darrians, Entrope managed to survive on its own, just barely, and even accepted refugees from other nearby worlds where the ancient Darrian settlements did not survive. The ruling aristocracy has its origins in those original settlers, with the descendants of the refugees having never been treated as equals in the centuries since.The trip to Entrope, via Ansehelm5, is uneventful. Along the way, the travellers will learn, from a combination of library data and conversations with Ingunn, that Entrope is an inhospitable place — unbreathable atmosphere, frozen surface water, densely populated with artificial environment settlements — ruled by a thuggish aristocracy. It is an old world, settled long before the Sword Worlds, apparently originally by ancient Darrians. After the
While not a Darrian world, Entrope is close to the Darrians, though it also trades with the Sword Worlds. Not as advanced as the most advanced Sword Worlds or Darrian worlds, both Sword Worlders and Darrians have been reluctant to trade too much with Entrope because the world on its own is more populous than either interstellar polity and both are wary of creating a peer-level adversary on their border. On the other hand this also makes Entrope a place where Sword Worlds and Darrian intrigue is often afoot.
Once on Entrope, Ingunn will eventually learn that Jadriel’s illness was terminal and that she has travelled to her family estate on neighboring Wynstan6 to live out the rest of her life (estimated to be just a matter of weeks at this point). Jadirel’s family is reluctant to talk about Asvald — apparently his marriage to Jadirel was not looked upon kindly by her family either — but eventually admit that he was “taken” to Wynstan with Jadirel. No other details will be forthcoming.
Whether or not the travellers helped Ingunn to try to find her brother at Entrope, she will make them an additional offer to carry her to Wynstan to contact her brother and hopefully bring him back with her. Unfortunately, she can only promise that her family will pay an additional 10% bonus, explaining that — despite their estrangement — they would not want to see Asvald held against his will.
Assuming the travellers accept Ingunn’s proposition, they will learn that travel to Wynstan is prohibited, with only private starships belonging to aristocratic families being allowed to visit the world. Furthermore, they will learn that while Wynstan appears initially to be a “garden world” — and is seemingly a beautiful place to visit — the world is a satellite of a large gas giant, Stengraynser, that is surrounded by powerful radiation belts which subject those on the surface of Wynstan to doses of radiation which are deadly after exposure for a period of months. (The local flora and fauna have adapted to the radiation.)
Entrope nobles often “retire” to their estates on Wynstan at the end of their lives (though most usually are older than Jadirel). It is also a common tradition for spouses to “retire” together, even though one spouse may not be as near to death as another. As best as Ingunn can determine, Asvald likely has only a few weeks left before his exposure to the radiation on Wynstan will kill him.
Travelling to Wynstan is complicated by the prohibited nature and practical difficulty of wilderness refuelling given Entrope’s small size, high population density and the absence of a gas giant in the system. The travellers may choose to purchase unrefined fuel at the starport and perhaps even book passengers and cargo under the premise of returning to Ansehelm. If they seek to depart without fuel, passengers or cargo, throw 8+ plus to avoid an encounter with port authorities, with a DM equal to the highest level of Admin, Bribery, Broker, Liaison or Jack-of-all-Trades skill.
If the travellers attempt wilderness refueling after departure, throw 8+ to avoid detection by Entrope’s multiple system defense boats, with a DM equal to Survey skill plus half the sum, rounding down, of the highest levels of Pilot and Navigation skill among any combination of the travellers.
Wynstan does appear to be a “garden world”: standard size (and gravity) and atmosphere, a hydrographic percentage comparable to Old Terra, orbiting in the habitable zone of its orange dwarf star, Gerdur. Travelling in from the 100-diameter limit of Stengraynser, Wynstan appears as an ice-capped sphere, its green-brown continents surrounded by blue ocean and swept by white clouds.
Locating Jadirel’s estate — in a temperate region characterized by a comfortable warmth during the day which fades to a pleasant coolness as night falls — will be relatively easy but lightly-armed retainers — equal in number to the travellers — will seek to stop the travellers from gaining entry to the estate. By the time Ingunn and the travellers arrive, Jadirel will have died but Asvald is being held prisoner, having been forced to travel to Wynstan against his will by Jadirel. He likely cannot be rescued without a fight and, while well enough to move slowly on his own, is already exhibiting severe symptoms of radiation poisoning — which will likely require treatment before he reaches Hrunting if he is to survive.
Travelling through Entrope a second time will again be a challenge. Travel to Irka7 — again there is no gas giant — is also restricted so the local authorities there — equipped with a single, lightly-armed system defense boat — will want to know where the travellers’ ship is going and from where it has arrived.
The travellers — and Ingunn — will also suffer from exposure to the radiation on Wynstan. Throw END or less for each week — or partial week — of exposure to avoid suffering -1 to END. Once the travellers have left Wynstan, throw END or less for each six-week period, to recover 1 point of END, with this period reduced, if under the care of someone with Medical skill, by one week for each level of Medical skill. (No matter the circumstances, Asvald will be at END 2 when he and Ingunn depart Wynstan.)
The travellers must return Ingunn and Asvald to Tizon to obtain the additional bonus promised by Ingunn for travelling to Wynstan to recover her brother. The payment will be made by Ingunn’s family without any dispute.
Sword Worlds calendars: When Gram was settled the event was marked with a new calendar system. The Founding Era (F.E.) calendar begins with Year 1. (The Old Terran Gregorian calendar was maintained for dates prior to the Founding Era, with no efforts made to connect the two dating systems.) When the Sacnoth Dominate was formed the Dominate government again established a new calendar system, beginning the Dominion Era (D.E.). Founding Era dating continued to be used for dates prior to the establishment of the Sacnoth Dominate, resulting in two distinct calendar eras: Founding Era from the settlement of Gram — in the year 4122 of the Old Terran calendar — to the establishment of the Sacnoth Dominate — in what had been 214 F.E. — and then Dominion Era restarting at Year 1. With the shift from Founding Era to Dominion Era, the calendar system became similar to Old Terran “era name” systems which numbered calendar eras from the year of accession of a hereditary monarch.
Alien Module 8: Darrians - Secret of the Star Trigger, Game Designers’
Sword Worlds: The Day After Ragnarok, Steve Jackson Games, 2004.
“The Sacnoth Dominate”, Hans Rancke-Madsen, The Best of the Journal of the Travellers’ Aid Society, Volume 1, Steve Jackson Games, 2004.