The region is in turmoil, and Mother Zhenya, a lively and eccentric old elfmarked noblewoman, offers a balm to both noble and commoner in the form of Halcyon, her so-called bathhouse and meditation retreat. The retreat is located on the grounds of her family’s walled estate a few miles outside the city. Zhenya is the last remaining member of the Dietreidenwald family, a minor house that won some distinction in a long-ago conflict. At Halcyon, attendees bathe in the waters of its hot and cold pools, are taught relaxing meditation techniques, and are guided through transcendental self-reflection exercises by Mother Zhenya herself or one of her personally trained acolytes. All while exposed to her specially formulated incense.
In truth, Halcyon is a cover for Mother Zhenya’s criminal operation. The cagey alchemist distills a mildly hallucinogenic narcotic that makes its users relaxed and highly suggestible, from the psychoactive fungus that grows in abundance in her house’s cellars and nearby caves. She uses the drug’s vapor, which she calls driftbalm, during every activity held in Halcyon. Once a client is addicted, they are happy to pay for Halcyon’s additional relaxation services and will talk at length about any subject Mother Zhenya or her acolytes ask them about. When her clients return home and can’t maintain the peace of mind they felt at Halcyon, Mother Zhenya sells them the narcotic under its guise as relaxing incense. In instances where a client can’t afford to purchase any driftbalm with coin, the collective is happy to trade it for information or other services.
Joining Mother Zhenya’s Halcyon Collective. Mother Zhenya selects her acolytes very carefully, focusing on loyalty to her before considering any of their other attributes. She always approaches a prospective new acolyte; those that approach her are immediately dismissed. Once their trustworthiness has been established, she runs acolytes through a series of tests to determine their skills at legerdemain, skullduggery, and gaining a mark’s confidence. New acolytes are paired with experienced ones until they have earned the trust required to operate without supervision.
What is Expected of a Member. Whether information is gained through tending to their duties at Halcyon or for Mother Zhenya or simply in the course of their travels, acolytes are expected to turn over every scrap of information they glean to Mother Zhenya.
Order Axioms. The core beliefs of Mother Zhenya’s Halcyon Collective are as follows:
- No knowledge is too inconsequential to sell.
- Our clients are like a garden. If we are patient, they will eventually bear fruit.
- Enlightened people such as us do not keep secrets from each other.
Benefits of Membership. Being a member of Mother Zhenya’s Halcyon Collective has a number of perks:
- All acolytes have free room and board in Halcyon’s servants’ quarters. This equates to maintaining a comfortable standard of living.
- Mother Zhenya provides all acolytes with cover identities, alibis, and safehouse access if necessary.
- Mother Zhenya pays any bribes or fees necessary to free acolytes from the authorities.
- Acolytes have advantage on Intelligence checks they make with regard to the history and present activities of noble houses in Hirschberg.
- Acolytes are immune to driftbalm and have advantage on Constitution saving throws against nonmagical hallucinatory effects.
In Midgard: Mother Zhenya’s Halcyon Collective at a Glance
Type: Criminal organization
Symbol: An hourglass adorned with an image of a lit candle, floating in an iridescent cloud
Disciplines Taught: Distilling, information brokering, poison-making, propaganda, sleight-of-hand
Affiliated Weapons: Shears, sickle
Important NPCs: Mother Zhenya Dietreidenwald (NE elfmarked thief lord, see Creature Codex), Marguerite Poiriarre (NE elfmarked blood mage, see Creature Codex), Craetus Branbiirg (NE male druid), Lorus (LE minotaur gladiator)
Primary Sanctuary: Mother Zhenya’s commune, Halcyon
Major Sanctuaries: The Dietreidenwald townhouse in Hirschberg
Hirschberg is a troubled city. Its ruler is comatose and left no heir to rule in her stead. The duchy’s nobles bicker and moan about what they should do about the matter while accomplishing nothing at all. Its former allies in the Electoral Kingdom of Krakova have been subjugated by the vampires and darakhul of the Greater Duchy of Morgau, placing hordes of undead in uncomfortable proximity to the city. Farther away, but still troublingly close, are the horrors of the Wasted West.
Allies and Enemies
Members of the lodge often execute their plans in a manner that hides their presence from observers, so the breadth of their activities has gone largely unnoticed by most:
- Prince Octabian Hirsch-Dammung has seen his profits fall in recent months as his business interests have fallen prey to theft and burglary. He is uncertain how criminals keep striking unerringly at weak points in his security, but he has noticed several of his business managers alternate between seeming somewhat dazed or very irritable.
- Gholban Freytag is a darakhul spy who spends a great deal of bloody Krakovan coin, purchasing information about troop deployments and movements. His attempts to gain a spy inside Halcyon have failed thus far, but he remains hopeful that he’ll have a cheaper source of information soon.
- Mother Zhenya Dietreidenwald (NE elfmarked thief lord, see Creature Codex, adding proficiency with alchemist’s supplies, herbalism kits, poisoner’s kits, and the Nature skill and adding immunity to poison damage and the poisoned condition) is a thief and murderer in addition to being a traitor to the Grand Duchy of Dornig. In her youth, Zhenya carried on an affair with a much older alchemist, learning as much of his craft as she could before ridding herself of him and making her own name. She has learned the best way to hide a thing is in plain view, so she has made of herself a very public figure in order to hide her true businesses of drug dealing and selling secrets. She does brisk business with darakhul spies who use the information to plan raids against Hirschberg’s military interests.
Mother Zhenya’s Halcyon Collective can be brought into your campaign in a number of ways:
- General Embrose Hirsch-Dammung needs a discreet group of people to investigate devastating lightning raids against his troops on the Krakovar border. He wants to know how the undead have discovered the location of all his troop deployments. He is unaware that one of his captains is addicted to driftbalm and trades military secrets for the drug.
- Mother Zhenya has offered to treat the comatose Imperatrix. Desperate to find a way forward, the Houses Major have assigned a representative to investigate the popular noble and her organization. That representative has hired the characters to do a thorough check on the Halcyon Collective.
- Each morning, Lieutenant Mina Harsgard wakes with little memory of the previous night. She worries she may be spilling secrets while in her cups and hires the PCs to follow her in her nightly travels.