Part 1: The Zoologist
The party enters town and witnesses a stressed conversation between the zoologist Lilyana and Yetta. Lilyana petitions the party to help her trap the cockatrice and find her lost colleague.
Part 2: Haywood and the Elderberries
If the party decides to help Lilyana on her terms, they will head south along the river to track down the lost colleague. They will find the lost colleague in the care of a great cockatrice in an elderberry field and have to figure out a non-violent way to help them escape.
Part 3: The Butcher Shop
If the party returns with elderberries or the lost colleague they are able to lure the cockatrice out of the building. Only two of the cockatrice are suspicious of the trap and attempt to escape.
If the party does not have either the lost colleague or elderberries the cockatrice must be forcibly removed from the butcher shop, at great risk to the civilians inside.
A caravan of zoologists was moving through town when one of their cages broke, unleashing a flock of cockatrice on the town. The cockatrice, enticed by the smell of fresh meat, swarmed the butcher shop. They petrified the baker, their children, and several customers, and have been holed up inside for several weeks. One of the zoologists stayed behind to try and amend the situation while the rest of the caravan continued onto their destination. However, the zoologist has not had much luck luring them all back into their cage.
She is the de facto leader of the frontier town Veritas.
She is one of the two zoologists that remained behind the caravan to try and re-capture the cockatrice flock. She has been setting up traps outside of the butcher shop but has not had any luck luring them out.
He went into the woods to try and locate elderberries to make the traps they’ve set up more appealing to the cockatrice.
Veritas is a riverside hamlet with a rough through-road and a few farms.
The butcher shop is run by Atwater and his two children. They, along with a few customers, have been trapped in petrification by the cockatrice.
The elderberry clearing is located approximately 5 miles south of Veritas. It is an artificial clearing made by a blind Greater Cockatrice. In the center is a single tree that’s being used as a nest.
With a resident population floating around 30, Veritas does not have organized leadership and only has a small handful of volunteers making up a token watch presence. There is some crime, but not an unusual amount. Passerbyers are asked to behave themselves and most do.
Veritas was established as a trading post by an overzealous wizard. In a fit of divination the wizard foresaw a booming town built along the very river that runs through this town. He used the Fabricate spell to construct 47 buildings, surely a sufficient amount.
Two years have passed since its construction and Veritas has not yet grown into the buildings made for it. The wizard, feeling that their duties were complete, moved on. Now, most of the buildings sit empty, unmaintained and degrading.
Still, droves of visitors move through the area. Curiosity regarding the magically-fabricated buildings brings them in, but it doesn’t keep them. The location is inconvenient to reach.
Points of Interest
1. Wooden It Be Nice (Carpenter, Yetta)
Tucked away in an unassuming building is a small workshop. An unpainted, intricately carved sign that reads “Wooden It Be Nice” hangs above the doorway.
Yetta owns and operates this small carpentry workshop. Fabrication magic may have built the town, but it isn’t maintaining it; Yetta is.
She named the shop after the common phrase visitors greet her with, “Wouldn’t it be nice,” before suggesting they fix up the town and make it look nice as if it were so easy.
2. Mart’s Miscellany (General Store, Mart)
Near the town square is a collection of three buildings steeped in junk, some of it even useful. The collection threatens to consume more neighboring buildings. This is Mart’s Miscellany. You can find anything non-magical worth less than 25gp here. Anything worth less than 10gp can be found in abundance.
Mart is a middle-aged woman that believes everything has its use, and she’ll be damned if she lets something go to waste before that use has been found. Her husband, ESMOND, does his best to help customers find what they’re looking for in the shop.
3. Nature’s Remedy (Herbalist, Tatton)
Nature’s Remedy’s front door is obscured by a wall of plants and vines. Sunlight beams inside through high windows, washing the entire room in gentle light. Plants are hung high and low, filling the entire space like a greenhouse.
The shop is run by Tatton, a muscular young man with curly hair and dark, umber skin and an exuberant love of plants. He often helps provide Rue with ingredients for her alchemical products.
Tatton runs the shop alongside his fiance, Ainsley, a heavy-set young man with an infectious laugh.
4. Nature’s Salve (Alchemist, Rue Byrde)
Nature’s Salve is a two-room building. The first room is stocked with potions and preserved ingredients on several shelves. The back room has a bunsen-burner style candle, empty bottles, and additional stock of raw ingredients.
The shop is run by Rue Byrde, an older woman with a square jaw and long grey hair.
5. Norvella’s (Weaver, Norvella)
This shop is run out of Norvella’s home, a quaint two-room structure.
Norvella is an elven woman about 200 years old, give or take a few decades. She works slow and steady, but the quality of her work is unmatched.
6. Shepherd’s Rest (Inn, Becket and Petula)
This unassuming building has a few benches outside and flowers by the door. Inside, Becket and Petula operate a reception desk and organize the day-to-day tasks for their children, Braeden, Marshal, and Greyson, to complete.
Becket and Petula are pudgy with tawny, yellow-brown skin. Becket keeps an immaculately trimmed beard. Petula wears a flower in her hair and keeps a fresh bouquet of flowers in every room. Braeden and Marshal are 14 year-old twins. Greyson is 5 years-old and doing his best to keep up.
7. Steak through the Heart (Butcher, Atwater)
Owned and operated by Atwater, a gruff older gentleman looking after two children; Patience, a blue-skinned tiefling boy, and Dawn, a human girl with russet, reddish-brown skin. Patience regularly visits Norvella to learn more about weaving. Dawn eagerly helps Atwater carve up meat for the shop.
8. The Crying Cow (Tanner, Slade)
The taxidermied head of a cow hangs over the front door. It slowly drips water fed by a Decanter of Endless Water hidden inside its skull.
The tanner is a bald, old man named Slade. He is curt with a macabre sense of humor. His son, Wilfred, helps run the shop.
9. The Iron Florist (Smithy, Willow Kimberleye)
A cute wooden sign that reads “The Iron Florist” and is decorated with painted flowers hangs above the doorway. The ground outside the storefront is littered with potted plants crafted out of metal.
This shop is run by Willow Kimberleye, a short human woman with burn marks all over her body from metalworking. She is brazen, but polite, lacking only a healthy sense of self-preservation.
Willow has the time and materials to construct everything short of Plate armor. However, the characters must succeed on a DC 20 Charisma (Persuasion) check or she will adorn whatever is built with metal flowers and other flourishes.
10. The False Book (Magic Book Shop, Alvena)
The entrance to this building isn’t overly decorative, but the wood quality is much smoother and cleaner than its peers. The door handle turns sharply and glides inward with a gentle push. The inside of the building has several shelves lining the walls, a round table in the center of the room for reading and tea, and a balcony above with a private collection.
Alvena is the keeper of this shop. She is a tall human woman with short brown hair swept back away from her face. She wears long, fuzzy robes and large, round glasses. She often forgets that patrons cannot reach the upper shelves.
Mindfulness Handbook. Read aloud something you do not want to forget, and the book will read it back to you. Repeatedly. Loudly. Non-Stop. So that you don’t forget!
On Mimics. A treatise on Mimics. When picked up, the book unfurls two legs and tries to run away.
Strazahr’s Pebble Golem. While this book is in your possession, you can spend eight hours and 500 gold performing a ritual to create a Pebble Golem (see Appendix A). It is under your control, and it understands and obeys your spoken commands.
The book is consumed in the process.
Ikonn’s Ruminations on the Future. When you open this book the voice of Ikonn begins speaking to you about the future. They speak of things you do not understand; dabbing, flossing, the Disco. The longer you listen, the more urgent and aggressive the ruminations become.
Monsters and Their Favorite Treats. This ornate blue and silver tome details the eating preferences of various monstrosities. For example, did you know that elderberries are like catnip for Cockatrice?
Why You Should Definitely Not Become a Necromancer. This book is about how you definitely should not animate the dead. Nothing to see here.
Part 1: The Zoologist
As the characters enter Veritas they come upon this scene:
A visibly strong older woman with buzzed red hair is standing with her arms folded. She is talking with a shorter woman with disheveled black hair dressed in a green jumpsuit. The two women are talking in hushed tones. The larger woman appears agitated.
As the characters approach they can attempt to listen in on the conversation. A DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) check reveals that the larger woman is named Yetta and she wants to know when the cockatrice will be dealt with. The shorter woman is named Lilyana and she is insistent that she is doing everything she can to resolve the situation.
You can read a snippet of this conversation aloud:
The shorter woman continues mid-sentence: “don’t know where my partner is and without the elderberries I’m having a much harder time luring them out. I’m sorry, Yetta!
The older woman replies in a reserved, stern tone “If you can’t figure out something soon, we’re going to have to burn the building down and call it a loss. Good day, Lilyana.” She unfolds her arms and leaves Lilyana.
The party may approach Yetta to learn more about the situation. She eagerly explains her dilemma to the newcomers, hoping they will be able to help. At this point she is overwhelmed and sleep-deprived. She speaks rapidly, spewing a jumpy, stream-of-consciousness explanation.
With wide eyes she begins to explain the situation. “We were traveling through with a larger caravan. Our captive cockatrices escaped from their cage and have taken over the butcher’s shop. There are people inside that have been petrified, and I’ve been trying to lure the cockatrice out but they aren’t taking the bait I have, and my partner went into the woods to find more but they should have been back days ago and I don’t know what happened to them but I can’t leave the cockatrice here unattended either.” She takes a deep breath, her eyes watering. “Yetta wants to just kill all the cockatrice but it’s not their fault! We captured them because they were injured and needed rehabilitation. They’re really sweet if you have the right treats for them, there’s no need to kill them! I just don’t have the right treats here and I don’t know where my partner is!” she cries out before collapsing onto the ground, hands pressed to her face.
If the characters interrupt or ask her to repeat some of the information, she will oblige. The information can be summarized as follows:
- Lilyana and her partner, Haywood, are zoologists.
- They were traveling through Veritas with a larger caravan that was moving a variety of creatures to a rehabilitation and study center.
- A loud noise in town startled the cockatrices and in a panic they knocked their cage out of the cart and it broke open.
- The cockatrices fled to the hamlet’s butcher shop, petrifying the people inside.
- Lilyana and Haywood stayed in town to try and re-capture the cockatrices. The rest of the caravan kept moving.
- They have been trying to lure them back into their cages for six days.
- Haywood left town three days ago to search for elderberries to lure the cockatrices out with. He has not returned.
- If they cannot resolve the situation by the end of the ten-day Yetta is going to have the butcher shop boarded up and burned down. They will attempt to put out the fire after the cockatrices have died but before the ceiling collapses on the petrified people.
If the characters chase down Yetta and ask her what’s going on, she provides the same basic information. She is noticeably annoyed about the entire situation.
Part 2: Haywood and the Elderberries
Haywood went south along the river to try and find elderberries to lure the cockatrice back into their cage with.
If the players follow the river south, a DC 12 Wisdom (Perception) check reveals footprints in the mud alongside the river.
After the characters follow Haywood’s trail for five miles the woods open up into a clearing filled with tree stumps and low-lying bushes. The bushes are dotted with colorful clusters of blue-purple berries. In the center of the clearing is a single tree, it’s branches pruned and weighed down by a large nest with a great cockatrice sleeping atop it.
The trail opens up to a 200-foot wide clearing filled with tree stumps and low-lying bushes. There is a pungent urine-like smell in the air. The bushes are dotted with vibrant blue-purple berry clusters. In the center of the clearing is a single tree, its branches pruned and weighed down by a large nest. The feathered back of a cockatrice as large as a horse can be seen atop it breathing steadily.
Give the players a few moments to deliberate before reading the next boxed text.
A human figure rises over the edge of the nest, looking toward the party. They wave their arms dramatically, trying to get your attention. They begin to climb over the edge of the nest, but a twig snaps, alerting the great cockatrice to his movement. It quietly wraps its head around him, pushing him back into the center of the nest.
After the creature exposes its head to pull Haywood back into the nest, a character may attempt a DC 15 Wisdom (Perception) or Intelligence (Nature) check to notice that the creature is blind.
The party must distract the great cockatrice for three (3) rounds for Haywood to climb out of the nest and descend the tree into the bushes by himself. If another character is at the base of the tree to help, he can descend in two (2) rounds.
Alternatively, they can wait 2d10 hours for the great cockatrice to leave its nest in search of food. If the characters wait in the elderberry field, there is a 10% chance for every hour they wait that a cockatrice walks into one of the characters. The cockatrice will eat a few berries, look at the character inquisitively, then bite the character until they petrify. If the character does not respond, the cockatrice moves on after they have been petrified.
If the Great Cockatrice is alert when the party flees the clearing, it will follow them to the edge of the clearing and pause there, screeching at them before returning to its nest.
Scaling the Encounter
This is a CR 8 creature being run against a level 1-2 party. It is not intended to kill the party. However, if you want to run this encounter for a higher level party, consider the following changes:
- Party level 4-5: Remove the limitation that it must use the Search action before attacking.
- Party level 6-7: Remove blindness.
- Party level 8+: Add one (1) cockatrice to the encounter for every two (2) players.
Running the Great Cockatrice
The great cockatrice is naturally aggressive and easily provoked. This cockatrice in particular is blind and has made its home in an aromatic elderberry field.
If the characters alert the great cockatrice, it will approach the last location that made sound with abrupt speed and use the Search action to identify if there is a threat nearby. It will attack any creature standing (not prone) within 15 feet of it on its next turn.
While any creature Medium or larger is standing in the bushes a DC 12 Wisdom (Perception) check is required to notice them over the smell of the elderberries. They can completely avoid detection by lying prone in the bushes or smearing elderberries on themselves.
Part 3: The Butcher Shop
When the party returns to town Lilyana rushes up to greet them. She wants to know if the party has found Haywood and any elderberries.
The party either brought back Haywood or elderberries:
If the characters successfully brought back Haywood, he has filled his backpack to the brim with elderberries, in addition to whatever the characters managed to gather.
If the characters did not bring Haywood back but managed to collect some elderberries, Lilyana is dejected but focuses on the task at hand.
In either case, Lilyana will take the elderberries and begin laying out several snare traps. After the snares are set up she waits for the party to open the butcher shop’s door.
There is 1 cockatrice for every two characters. Roll 1d4 for each cockatrice, on a 1 or 2 the cockatrice is Restrained by a snare. The rest attempt to scatter. Roll initiative.
Catching a Cockatrice
If a character grapples a cockatrice then they can move half their movement speed toward the cockatrice cages. Once a cockatrice is moved into its cage, they can be dropped and are unable to escape.
Alternatively, non-lethal damage can be used to knock them unconscious.
The party does not have Haywood or elderberries:
The cockatrice are holed up inside the butcher shop. There is one (1) cockatrice for every two (2) players. There are five (5) petrified people. Initiative begins when a door or window into the building is opened. Track initiative for the petrified people.
In the first round, 1d4 of the cockatrices leap from atop petrified statues, which begin to rock back and forth.
Whenever a cockatrice attacks a target that is standing within 5 feet of a statue with Reckless, it destabilizes the statue.
The petrified statues are victims of the cockatrice. There are several conditions they may be in.
Stable. The statue is in a balanced upright or horizontal position. It will not move on its own.
Unstable. A creature can use an action to attempt a DC 12 Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check to stabilize the statue. An unstable statue falls on its next turn.
Falling. When a petrified statue falls, a creature standing within 5 feet of it can use a reaction to attempt a DC 14 Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check to catch it. On a success, the creature prevents the statue from falling but becomes Restrained under its weight.
Held. While held, the creature bracing it is Restrained. The creature can use an action to stabilize the statue, ending the Restrained condition.
Fallen. The statue smashes into the ground. Roll a d4 for the number of limbs that break off.