Perhaps you remember our previous story about the Eye of Eternity. In it, a group of heroes seek a powerful artifact in order to stop an awakening dragon. A potion was used to petrify the dragon, but the potion needs drop of the victim’s blood. The Eldarblade is the sword that cut the dragon, drew that blood, and made that potion available.
Currently, the Eldarblade sits at the Gylden Manor, near the town Hallow Fort. The Eldarblade, once a historic artifact that gave the Eldarblade family its name, sits there for show, as a symbol of the family’s long lost glory days. The eldest living descendant of the Eldarblade bloodline, the keeper of the Eldarblade, married into the Gylden family for money, and changed his name to do so. His sister sits at Moldhagen, the slowly failing land left to the last remains of the Eldarblade family. Their youngest brother is a disgrace, a failing adventurer, a good-hearted man who trusts too easily and loses money for it.
They each hate and mock each other. So when the Eldarblade goes missing while they are all sitting together at Gylden Manor for dinner, things really get heated.
The Stage is Set
The Gylden bloodline has made its riches through mining the local area for precious metals. The eldest of the Eldarblade siblings, Torwyn, married into the Gylden family on the condition of changing his name to keep on the Gylden legacy and to keep its fortune in its name. But the fortune is running out.
The Moldhagen is the last remaining land under the Eldarblade’s name and is overseen by the last remaining woman under the Eldarblade’s name, Ingweld. Harsh winters have rendered Moldhagen ill fit for farming of late; crops are failing and people have moved away in hopes of better luck elsewhere.
The players’ characters arrive to Hallow Fort, only to come up to a man trapped in a crow’s nest. The man is the baker’s son, who has been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to kill the Gylden family. He claims it’s not true, that the guards suddenly appeared and arrested him on false charges. He begs for the PCs to let him out, or at least clear the whole thing with the Gylden family.
It has already started raining when the PCs reach Gylden Manor. Ingweld Eldarblade, Torwyn Gylden and their youngest sibling, Beowyn Eldarblade, are all at the manor and ready to dine supper. Despite Torwyn’s protests, his wife, the snobbish Lady Gothrun Gylden, invites the travelers to dine with them, in exchange for stories.
It is during this supper that the Eldarblade is stolen from the main hall.
Sir Torwyn Gylden: The oldest son of the late Wynbar Eldarblade, Torwyn was not given Moldhagen upon Wynbar’s death. Instead, Moldhagen went to his sister, Ingweld. He did inherit the Eldarblade sword, but what good would it do him? He couldn’t sell it, people would know that he got rid of a family heirloom. Instead, he gambled away what money he had and married into the rich Gylden family, at the cost of his name.
Lady Gothrun Gylden: The lady of the house, and the last remaining Gylden pureblood. She looks down on pretty much everything and everyone, especially other races. The sole exception is her butler and private manservant, Ilian. Lady Gothrun has no idea of her husband’s gambling debts, and she does love having guests who can tell her stories or listen to her racist rambles.
Lady Ingweld Eldarblade: Last true woman of the Eldarblade name, Lady Ingweld oversees Moldhagen. Recent hardships have driven her into heavy drinking, especially after her last suitor left her without a word. Desperate to find a husband to continue the Eldarblade legacy, she will often hit on anything that moves when she is really drunk.
Sir Beowyn Eldarblade: Youngest of the siblings and considered a fool and naive by his older sister and brother, Beowyn is still a good man who wants to save those in need. Although noble at heart, his communicational skills are somewhat hindered by his speech impediment. His sister, for one, has no faith in him carrying on the Eldarblade name.
Ilian: The Gylden Manor butler and most trusted servant of Lady Gothrun. Having been hired by Torwyn only few months ago, he has already earned the trust of Gothrun Gylden, which is no easy feat by itself. He is a very smooth talker, has a very keen hearing and has a knack to appearing out of nowhere. Secret: Ilian is actually a criminal known as Alquair, a thief and a conman who is wanted for series of minor crimes.
Tom: The baker’s son who is trapped in the crow’s nest. Little spoiler for you: He really is innocent.
What happens is this: During supper, when everyone’s being either entertaining or entertained, the Eldarblade gets stolen. Shortly after everyone’s eaten, Ilian appears in the dining hall to deliver the news.
At the time, Torwyn is sitting next to Gothrun, growing tired by her constant talking about how Elves are so pale and how Dwarves are really antisocial, sitting in their dark and damp caved cities or whatever. Imagine your mothers or grandmothers talking about this or that kind of person, and that’s pretty much how Gothrun sounds.
Ingweld is drunk and probably hitting on one of the PCs. If one of them is neutered, such as a Warforged, but still slightly masculine, she will blindly try to get that character with her to her room. Between her awkward attempts at seduction, she will talk about her foolish brothers, or how the Eldarblade should be in Moldhagen where the true Eldarblade bloodline lives.
Meanwhile, Beowyn Eldarblade struggles internally over whether he should remain polite as a guest or say something about Gothrun’s racism. If he gets caught in a conversation, he will talk about how he always admired his ancestors and how he wishes he could fight the evil forces of the world with the family’s ancestral sword.
Once Ilian has told everyone the news, the PCs are strictly forbidden from investigating by Torwyn. As it is a theft of Gylden property, the party can remain at the manor as guests, but nothing more. It doesn’t necessarily stop them though.
As night falls, screaming can be heard from one of the servant quarters. Upon reaching the room, Ilian is found dead on the floor, and the Eldarblade stuck in his gut. At least the sword has been found, but who killed the butler?
The Crime and the Clues
Clue number 1: The Eldarblade is showcased in the main hall, where the main entrance to the manor is. Upon arriving to the Gylden Manor, it was already raining, and it still is when the Eldarblade gets stolen. There are, however, no footprints near the pedestal where it was kept. This suggests that the thief came from within the manor.
Clue number 2: The obvious choice for the culprit is the butler. After all, the butler always did it. He was not always in the dining hall, and he was the one to report it stolen. However, Gothrun refuses to listen to such “empty” accusations and Torwyn agrees. Ilian is a trusted member of staff, and it will require a convincing proof that he is guilty to convince them otherwise, which the PCs are not allowed to pursue.
Clue number 3: Upon finding the dead butler, the party can also find a secret compartment in Ilian’s room, containing a coin purse with a lot of money, and a wanted poster for someone named Alquair, showing odd resemblance to Ilian.
Clue number 4: A perceptive investigator can see that Ilian (or Alquair) was stabbed with the left hand, suggesting a left-handed assailant. (All the Eldarblade siblings are left-handed.)
Clue number 5: The PCs can talk to Tom, to see if he knows more than he lets on.
What Really Happened
Tom, the baker’s son, went to the next town few months back to visit a gambling house called the Proud Poultry. His luck wasn’t very good that night, but he did see Torwyn Gylden there. Tom had seen Torwyn there few times before, but this time he wasn’t gambling but talking to someone who looked like the butler. In fact, exactly like him.
He has kept it a secret from his wife, but Torwyn has a serious gambling problem. Between his debts and Gothrun’s extravagant lifestyle, the Gylden fortune is pretty much gone. Desperate, Torwyn decided to hire Alquair as Gothrun’s personal manservant and the manor’s butler, so that he could earn the lady’s trust before stealing the Eldarblade.
Torwyn had plans to sell it for enough money to cover his losses. After all, the sword has great historical significance. But Alquair found out how much Torwyn was about to make by selling the Eldarblade, and wanted a larger cut. They fought, ending with Torwyn stabbing Alquair with the sword but getting it stuck at the hilt. In a panic, he drops the sword and runs out of the room.
Twists and Turns and Other Clues
- The main idea with this story is to provide more than one suspect. Torwyn Gylden tries to steal the Eldarblade because he needs the money, Ingweld wants the sword to return to Moldhagen where she thinks it belongs, and Beowyn believes it is what he needs to become the hero he wants to be and thus earn some respect. The above assumes Torwyn is the real crook, but what if he wasn’t?
- Ingweld was the one who got Alquair to approach the Gylden family and offer his services, but his reward was all a lie. Upon receiving the sword, Ingweld uses it to kill Alquair, but a crack in the sword latches onto his spine. In her panic, Ingweld drops the sword.
- Beowyn does not get Alquair’s help, since his moral code forbids him to associate with criminals. Instead, it is Alquair who convinces Beowyn to “liberate” the Eldarblade so that it may continue doing good. Beowyn will excuse himself during dinner, preferably without anyone paying attention, and takes the blade.
- Although he becomes the obvious suspect, as he is not the criminal mastermind and is in fact rather naive, he hides the blade in Alquair’s room, just as the two of them planned. Beowyn will have his room searched, and remains a suspect, potentially even aggressively interrogated by his siblings.
- When Beowyn confronts Alquair, he refuses to hand over the blade. A short fight will ensue and Beowyn kills Alquair with the sword. Guilt ridden, Beowyn leaves it in Alquair and hides.
- Whoever speaks with Alquair, Tom the baker’s son is present to see it. Alquair recognizes him but doesn’t know what Tom heard. Tom is vital to figuring out who stole the Eldarblade or had it stolen.
- It is quite possible that Tom is the real mastermind behind the theft. If so, it is much more personal. He has a grudge against the Gylden family, possibly due to the mines. He makes sure that Torwyn loses his money, that he meets Alquair (Tom’s agent), and makes Alquair convince him to hire him as the butler. Alquair then plants the seeds of the Eldarblade being stolen. Tom kills Alquair, but has no need for the blade, so he leaves it behind, with enough planted evidence to point towards Torwyn.
- Tom is the vital evidence in the story, but what if the PCs don’t look to Tom for what he knows?
- Speaking with Torwyn should provide the players with enough to suspect that something is off. Alquair is a smooth conman who is very good and lying, but Torwyn is not. When asking Torwyn about the theft, or the Eldarblade in particular, he will avoid the question, demanding respect and refusing to speak with them. He will act shifty and hesitant, like he is trying to think of a clever lie.
- Speaking with any of the servants, they will talk about Torwyn as a person who frequently leaves to the next town and returns smelling of tobacco and cheap wine. They haven’t been paid their full wages in months, but anyone who mentions it with either Torwyn or Gothrun has been removed from staff. One even got put in the crow’s nest. They no longer work there because they want to, but because they’re too scared to quit.
- This last bit can be emphasized even more during dinner, when the servants are pouring wine. Their hands will shake, and they will apologize for the slightest mistake or perceived distraction.
- The Eldarblade is stolen and the lack of wet tracks suggest that someone from inside the house took it. A quick search reveals nothing, so it must be well hidden. Only someone familiar with the house would know where to hide it, or someone who stumbled upon the perfect hiding place.
- The biggest hindrance in the investigation is that Torwyn refuses to let the PCs investigate at all, claiming it is an internal matter. He does this quickly and aggressively, as soon as someone even thinks of the word ‘investigation’. Even if Gothrun or anyone else suggests to let the PCs help, Torwyn remains adamant. To emphasize this, have Gothrun boss Torwyn around up until this moment.
- Alquair (aka, Ilian the butler) will speak with Gothrun and convince her that letting her husband have his way in the matter will boost his confidence and make a good appearance for the Gylden family. Even if it sounds like nonsense, Gothrun trusts her personal manservant well enough to listen to his advice.
- The PCs could also use magical spells to assist them in the investigation, such as by casting a spell that forces others to speak the truth, or a spell that shows what has happened in the past. You can check out another blog post I made about how to handle magical lie detectors, or focus on the Gylden family refusing to let them help. If they then bring in their so-called “evidence”, the Gylden family will refuse to believe their “lies” and “hurtful accusations”, likely kicking them out of their house.