Deep within the perilous crags of the Abbor-Alz there lies a place of sanctuary and power. Built by the dwur (dwarves) of Dumadan in the square-towered style beloved of the Oeridians, Castle Karistyne is home to the renowned lady paladin of the same name and her loyal company of retainers. This article can be used in association with the Blight on Bright Sands core adventure arc to flesh out Karistyne and her stronghold.
Castle Karistyne dominates a fertile shelf-like plateau that juts out from the southern slopes of the mountainous western Abbor-Alz. It consists of a tall central donjon surrounded by a high curtain wall bolstered with five square towers. The donjon houses Karistyne and her retinue, as well as the Great Hall, a chapel to Heironeous and a forge manned by a pair of gnomish armourers. Atop the citadel, Karistyne keeps a pair of griffons, which she uses to survey the surrounding hills and maintain communication with the garrison of Greyhawk Mountaineer Militia at Storm Keep, many leagues to the west. Most of the garrison is housed in the outlying towers. Grain cellars beneath the bailey and a deep well ensure that the castle is capable of resisting a long siege. Thanks to the tilled fields on the surrounding plateau and trade with some of the local hillman tribes, Castle Karistyne is largely self-sufficient.
Four score men and women make up Karistyne’s household. Over half of these are men-at-arms that perform the daily duties of garrisoning the castle. Another score are specialists, including among their number several expert trackers and scouts, griffon handlers, fletchers, a dwur stonemason from Dumadan and a four-man ballista crew. Finally, there are the members of Karistyne’s war company, who, though loyal companions of the lady paladin, are puissant and powerful individuals in the own right. These are Karistyne’s seneschal, Aaron Marander (LG human male Ftr13), Caralin Arvendis (CG half-olven male Ftr8/Clr9 – Labelas Enorath), Helana Stanmaer (NG female human Clr12 – Fharlanghn), Shianne Stormhanded (CG female olve Wiz (In) 15) – an Invoker whose temper is often as fiery as the spells she slings - and Gasharin Helfloranis (CG male olve Ftr9), Shianne’s bodyguard and paramour.
Karistyne’s forces regularly patrol the hills within ten leagues of the castle on foot, and further by air. Foot patrols usually number no less than a dozen footmen clad in chain and armed with sword, axe and bow. Scouts wear leather or studded leather and carry spear and longbows and usually range in pairs ahead of the main patrol. Patrols are often led by one of Karistyne’s companions and have orders to engage the various hostile denizens of the hills, including, orcs, giant-kin and more dangerous creatures, where possible. If overmatched, patrols withdraw and send for aid from the castle. Karistyne frequently leads these sorties herself, if not occupied elsewhere.
Karistyne, female human Pal 15: CR 15; Medium humanoid (human); HD 15d10+15; hp 129; Init +4 (+6) (+0 (+2) Dex, +4 Improved Initiative); Spd 20 ft.; AC 20 (22) (flatfooted 20, touch 10 (12)); Base Atk +15/+10/+5; Grp +19/+14/+9; Atk +22 Melee (2d6+8/17-20, +2 holy dragonbane greatsword; Full Atk +22/+17/+12 Melee (2d6+8/17-20, +2 holy dragonbane greatsword; SA: Smite evil 4/day, turn undead 7/day; SQ: Aura of courage, aura of good, divine grace, divine health, lay on hands, remove disease 4/week, special mount; AL: LG; SV: Fort +14, Ref +9, Will +11; Str 18, Dex 10 (14), Con 12, Int 13, Wis 15, Cha 19.
Skills and Feats: Concentration +6, Diplomacy +18, Heal +16, Knowledge (religion) +14, Ride +14, Sense Motive +16, Cleave, Great Cleave, Improved Critical (greatsword), Improved Initiative, Mounted Combat, Power Attack, Weapon Focus (greatsword).
Spells Known: (3/2/1/1; base DC = 12 + spell level): 1 cure light wounds, divine favour, resistance, virtue; 2 bull's strength, eagle's splendor, zone of truth; 3 remove curse; 4 restoration.
Possessions: +2 holy dragonbane greatsword (Wyrmtide), +3 improved electricity resistance half-plate, ring of freedom of movement, gloves of dexterity +4.
Appearance: Karistyne is a soft-spoken woman, who, thanks to an elixir of longevity, looks to be in her late thirties, though chronologically she is 48. Her blonde hair comes from her mother, a daughter of one of the Great Families of Hardby. From her father, a Nyrondese knight-errant, she has inherited her olive complexion, her black-brown eyes, her prodigious build and her blade. She is oft seen clad in her blue-tinted half-plate with her greatsword, Wyrmtide (Dragon’s Death in Old Oeridian), strapped across her broad back. When not expecting battle, the lady of the Abbor-Alz favours white robes emblazoned with her coat of arms: a golden sword, point down, set between two silver lightning bolts on a blue and gold field). The lightning bolts symbolise Karistyne’s devotion to Heironeous, the Archpaladin.
Character: As a servant of Heironeous, Karistyne views it as her sacred duty to take up arms to drive evil from the Abbor-Alz and ensure the safety of the goodly folk of the hills. She is renowned as a keen dragon hunter and is rumoured to have slain seven wyrms with the aid of her companions. In the past, she took a keen interest in obscure Sueloise deities, particularly the cult of a lesser-known snake goddess whose name has apparently been lost in the mists of time. Of late, however, Karistyne has turned her attention towards the Bright Desert and the lengthening shadow cast by Rary the Traitor.
Karistyne can sometimes come across as quite arrogant in this assertion and she brooks no interference in achieving her goals. She detests the Free City of Greyhawk, seeing the Oligarchy as weak and corrupt. She has particular disdain for Nerof Gasgol, the Lord Mayor of Greyhawk City and refers to him as “the robber baron”. However, she has great respect for the Mountaineer Militia of Greyhawk, though she now looks to make alliances with other powers to ensure that the independence of her holdings from the Domain of Greyhawk. Karistyne has been seen recently in Hardby, where she is thought to have met with, among others, the Justicar Deirdre Longland. She is also rumoured to have contacts with the Archmage Tenser.
Karistyne is renowned for her tolerance and is a friend to most good-aligned faiths – a fact borne out by her choice of companions. She believes herself to be bound by ancient codes of hospitality. No-one in need is ever turned away from her castle gates, but if possible, she tries to personally detect evil upon visiting guests during an audience. Any bearing the taint of evil are either sent away or detained at the lady’s pleasure.
Aaron Marander, LG male human Ftr 13, Seneschal of Castle Karistyne:
Appearance: Aaron is in his early thirties, though the lines that years of sun, travel and many hard battles have left make him look older. Of Oeridian blood and Nyrondese birth, he wears his black hair and beard cropped short. Heavily built and standing nearly six and a half feet tall, Aaron cuts and impressive figure, especially when clad in his enchanted full plate armour. A devoted follower of Heironeous, he wields a great axe.
Character: Aaron is one of Karistyne’s oldest and most loyal followers. A supremely competent seneschal, he is also an able battle leader, capable of inspiring loyalty and devotion in his men. Aaron is a no-nonsense man, direct to the point of rudeness, for which he does not apologise. Despite his appearance as a bruiser, Aaron is well-educated, but while he appreciates learning, he values practical knowledge rather than arcane lore. Equally, he values practical thinkers, rather than scholars, but prefers both to boors and fools. Better to think your way out of trouble, rather than cut your way out is his motto – though he is well able to do either.
Helena Stanmaer, female human Clr 12 - Fharlanghn:
Appearance: Helena Stanmaer is a short, unassuming Oeridian woman with dark hair and a weathered countenance. She favours green and grey clothing and a quarterstaff. Her face expresses little emotion and to some she can seem like a gruff individual.
Character: Helena is taken with the wanderlust that grips so many of her faith. She uses Karistyne’s castle as a base of operation for her exploration of the Abbor-Alz and the Bright Desert. Helena and a small cadre of her brethren tend a small shrine within the castle’s gatehouse. She believes Karistyne to be an unwitting servant of the Dweller on the Horizon.
Helena is fascinated by shimmering horizons of the Bright Desert, viewing its harsh treatment of travellers as a challenge to explore its sands rather than a deterrent. She detests Rary the Traitor due solely to the fact that his dervishes and norkers have made the desert even more inhospitable than it once was.