Hearts of Stone 12: Winter Ale

Posted: 21 December 2016 in Hearts of Stone
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Dwardel and Marblehall, 24-26 April 216.

The party is now in one of the safest areas in the Dragon Empire; House Artalin is not famous for its warriors or wizards, but it is immensely wealthy and powerful, and if anyone messes with it, the Archmage and the Emperor come down on them like a ton of bricks.

Scouting around the town, the adventurers learn the following:

  • The local dwarven brewery is haunted.
  • There has been a rash of disappearances in and around the town. Some of the missing are found, dismembered as if by some large beast; some are not.
  • There is some sort of secret facility below the town hall. Some say the Archmage sealed it up during a visit 50-60 years ago to contain subterranean monsters; some say he also created the monsters. X7-09 maintains his sources confirm the latter and that they also say the monsters are responsible for the disappearances.

After settling in, X7-09, Valore, Boris and Silmaria escort Casila to a joyful reunion with her cousin Octavian, the House Artalin Factor in Dwardel and de facto ruler of the town, although he is careful to defer to the mayor in public. Octavian is delighted to see his lost-lost cousin again, and entertains the group at length while his lackeys send word to Marblehall for an escort. A few hours later, this arrives and takes them with due pomp to the family seat, where Casila is again welcomed joyfully and an impromptu feast develops.

In a bloodless coup, Casila takes over the County; she is the rightful heir, and her Uncle Martyn never wanted to be Count anyway. Mindful that she is a woman in a time of little gender equality, and hasn’t been seen for a decade, Casila determines that she needs to score some political points, rally support, and demonstrate her capability in short order. To this end she enlists the party as her retainers, gives them little badges to prove it, and unleashes them back into Dwardel, reminding them that it belongs to her now so collateral damage needs to be kept under control, and asking them to invite her old friend Amberlith, landlady of the Giant’s Flagon, the only inn in town, to visit her in Marblehall. As her retainers, they are entitled to free board and lodging at Marblehall, and will be otherwise rewarded too; in return, there are a few little jobs she’d like done, once they have finished the business they say awaits them in Dwardel.

Having passed on the message to Amberlith, Valore and X7-09 decide that the first order of business is the haunted brewery. It transpires that one of the temples in town follows Valore’s religion, the Creed of Pytus, and that the local priest has tried exorcism without success. After a daytime tour of the brewery to familiarise themselves with the layout, our heroes settle in to wait for the ghosts to arrive. This they do in due course, causing Zadok and Silmaria to flee in terror and a shaken Boris to declare “I’m never touching another drop.”

Volare and X7-09, however, are made of sterner stuff and ask the ghosts to explain themselves.

“We were told there would be Winter Ale,” they moan. X7-09 locates this and pours out generous tankards of the stuff, while Valore prays to Pytus for guidance and gains an intervention allowing the immaterial ghosts to drink their fill. Their unfinished business resolved, the ghosts fade away.

GM NOTES

The timing here ended up more or less as planned, in that they have returned Casila to her home, found powerful patrons, and have settled in, at least for a short while, to a specific location. They now have the run of Marblehall, including its extensive library, but look likely to base themselves in Dwardel. Valore is researching the Creed of Pytus, Boris and Pascal (X7-09’s chamaeleon, who is clearly more than he seems) are looking at the magic books left by previous generations of Artalins, and Boris and Silmaria are reading Martyn Artalin’s improbably large collection of bawdy drinking songs. Other things are happening off-stage in secret, revolving around clandestine use of icon rolls and concealed plans; the first visible outcome will be the disappearance of Lord Fluffington III, the Duke of Glitterhaegen’s prize griffin, but more of these matters next time.

Thanks to the ghosts in a brewery thing, Boris has now acquired a minor phobia of alchohol, to everyone’s great amusement.

I was pleased both that the group referred to this slightly extended episode as “the season finale” without prompting, and that they managed to resolve an encounter without violence. Valore knew, and explained, that ghosts are immune to normal weapons and only affected by magic; and the party spellcasters, unusually, have no damage-inflicting spells, so they had to think their way out.

Christmas has crept up on me this year, so no lessons learned or general reflections for you this time; maybe I will have time for that over the holidays.

Meanwhile, thanks for reading and commenting, and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all. I’ll see you on the other side.

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