The Investigation Begins
After battling an ogre and somehow finding a little time to sleep, the group continued to make their way through the woods. As they walked down the path, two figures were spotted in the distance—one wearing a red cloak, and the other in white. Before the party could walk much closer, the two disappeared from sight.
The group decided not to pursue that incident further. They stumbled upon a fort, learned later as Fort Brakenwood. A curious man approached the group, immediately suspicious of everyone. After some initial questions, it was soon learned that he was an investigator of a murder that recently took place inside the fort. The investigator stated some initial facts of what happened:
- A captain of the guard, Captain John, was murdered sometime around midnight that night.
- A few people stood guard at the fort to protect the road from various goblins.
As the investigator brought the group into the fort (as he insisted that they could not leave), they encountered a cleric named Barse, caretaker of a Melora-based church. After the initial greetings, Vira pressed the cleric for more details about what happened. The group learned:
- Cleric Barse was wandering into the woods at the time of the murder, outside of the fort.
- He overheard witnesses say that Captain John was shot through the heart with an arrow.
- The body had already been taken off by the time the Cleric reached him, so he did not have time to observe the body itself.
- Captain John was not a normal captain of the fort.
- The fort was ultimately founded because Springdale wished to protect travelers and traders from dangers of the woods.
They also learned about the Draco, elite guards who are generally unlikeable and presumed to be stationed in Springdale, and Jack Pennybrooke, a wanted trickster whose legendary crimes proceed him. As the discussion ended, Ghorrd decided to stay behind to speak further with the cleric while the rest followed the investigator into the fort. When they approached the gate, the group spotted a massive notice, which read:
WANTED, JACK PENNYBROOKE
REWARD: 5,000 GOLD
WANTED ON ACCOUNT OF: Impersonating a cleric, blessing newborn babies in fictitious gods’ names, deflating local cheese markets with free goods, giving out large quantities of produce without a permit, breaking into guard houses and steeling numerous items, including but not limited to, bed sheets, stools, and waste bins, declaring town holidays without a permit, painting the front of a guard house green, impersonating a guard, using a dog to impersonate a guard, arresting the mayor without authority, arresting guards without authority, evading capture, entering judgments without an invitation, letting farm animals into the street, unlawful movement through the town including rooftops, the sewers, and onboard merchant’s wagons, tying various clothing items of ward leader’s on flag posts, including under garments, evading arrest, public indecency.
Despite all of those crimes, the investigator said that no one knew what the man actually looked like. After pondering over this man for a moment, the investigator then led the group into an enclosed area, where several disgruntled people stayed. One of these people was Alice, who, after being interviewed by Vira, revealed more statements (according to her view):
- The fort was locked down, and the walls would have blocked any incoming arrows. Therefore, the arrow must have been shot from inside the fort itself.
- No one besides the guards themselves can independently confirm that there WAS a body.
- Alice was the person who pulled the arrow out of the captain’s chest. Everyone thought she was the murderer.
- Nobody liked Captain John, who loved to talk and order everyone around.
- Alice’s alibi was that she was on duty guarding the southwest watchtower. She insists that she did not check out a bow for that night, and yet one was missing.
They also learned a little bit more about the investigator, whose name was Jacques and was approximately a quarter gnome, a quarter eladrin, and half human. Meanwhile, Harann interviewed a man called Commander Uragin, who gave the following statements:
- He was in the fort’s kitchen at the time. The captain came storming in and yelled at people. When he marched out of the door again, Uragin witnessed him being shot in the chest right there.
- Anyone besides Hammer was good enough with a bow to have killed Captain John.
- No one actually saw the person who shot the captain because of the moonless night.
- He saw Alice running up with a bow, but she said that she found it on the ground.
- Only Hammer (the blacksmith) and himself were inside the kitchen.
- Ronald and Wallace (two other guards) were sleeping beside the kitchen’s side door.
- Tom (another guard) was in his quarters above the kitchen.
- Burt (another guard) was inside the armory at the time, and the commander suspects he was sleeping there.
The commander then gave the arrow to Harann to inspect, and it did indeed have blood on it. Vira was bothered by the fact that the body was taken away before it could be inspected and the fact that no one actually saw a person shoot the arrow. Erendar then thought about the possibility of using a truth potion to determine who is lying.
Hammer also explained to Rubetta that the robed figures the group recently saw were likely two new people that they dub “The Lady and Lord.” They follow the mayor’s order explicitly.
Ceremony of Cleansing – What Vira Saw
Previous to this, Ghorrd had spoken to Cleric Barse privately, asking him if he had the knowledge to perform a cleansing ceremony for Vira after her adventure in the tomb. Barse replied that it might work with his experience, and the two waited for Vira to follow them back to the church. They soon left the area to give it a try.
Rubetta suddenly remembered the tale of Jackdaw, a classic gnome story about a trickster. It reminded her of the Jack Pennybrooke person mentioned earlier. However, no one seemed to have a reaction to the comparison.
Meanwhile, Erendar continued to make some inquiries, including why the body was taken away so quickly and who made that order. Burt (one of the guards) responded that Hammer had given the command out of respect for the dead man. Erendar later questioned Hammer, who explained that the Gods would not accept a half-body, which could have rotted within hours after the heavy rains they had received.
Harann also questioned the commander in the kitchen during this time. He gave the following statements:
- The commander didn’t think any of the group could have seriously killed the captain, except for maybe Tom (a guard who is fearful of small creatures), because he was considered crazy.
- He also mentioned that Ronald and Wallace helped Hammer wrap up the body for its journey.
Later, Erendar wished to try a spell that would cause people to say the truth. Unfortunately, everyone lined up but Hammer. They tried to persuade, trick, and intimidate him, but he refused to join the others.
While all this was happening, Ghorrd, Vira, and Cleric Barse had made their way back to the church in order to perform the cleansing ceremony. The cleric eventually began the ritual, which had some unexpected results. During this process, Vira saw many things:
Vira remembers many things. She remembers the lies, the ruler she betrayed, the lives she took. She remembers the suspicion she held, the deception she spun, the darkness of night that she pretended to love.
She remembers springs following winters, and shaking the cold from her with a brisk walk through the palace. Golden columns lifting up on either side, proud marble floors, and the hanging gardens of fruit-bearing trees. Limes were always her favorite.
What palace? Where…?
She remembers a man of golden hair, a proud build, and laughing eyes that made you truly feel welcome. Always the weight on his shoulders, even if he tried to pretend otherwise. The world always expected so much out of him—although never as much as he expected from himself. How could she forget that? He worked his golden hair with his finger nervously, attempting to control his curls when he could not somehow summon a perfect fate for the lands out of thin air. Such a man always who worried about justice, about freedom, about the health and happiness of his subjects. She remembers hiding her scorn for the man’s naive selfless devotion for his people.
Surely the man had a name? But she couldn’t remember…
Vira remembers making a pact of shadow and fire, one that would last the ages, one that everyone but she would live to regret. It would have all been there still if it wasn’t for her. No, perhaps she was not the most important player in that…but even so she was essential. How else would that golden haired main have met his untimely fate? How else would the shield of snow white have been shattered? She remembers a kingdom built so proud, so courageous… and yet to fall by betrayal, subterfuge. It was splendid poetic justice, really. A wonderful, skillful complication of using everything that the emperor was trying to destroy against him. She remembers an archangel speaking to her about justice, and her responding with fire.
Memories thunder senselessly past…
And above all Vira remembered singing and laughing…
When she awoke again, Vira was fully possessed by someone very powerful. After a brief conversation, the newly possessed Vira attacked both Ghorrd and the cleric before the person retreated back into her mind. Cleric Barse was injured so badly that Ghorrd hurried back to the heart of the fort while carrying him. His dog stood guard in the church’s doorway while Vira waited, afraid of what could happen next. During this process, she had gained the ability of Uncanny Understanding.
After leaving the cleric to the others, and telling them to bring help, Ghorrd returned to the church. At the fort, it was later discovered that the cleric had lost all memory of the past day. While Ghorrd and Vira were talking, a woman approached them and inquired about her. Ghorrd insisted that no one could enter the church until Vira had been given the clearance by the cleric. The woman agreed and then left. At the fort, Rubetta suddenly remembered that she needed to lend a hand, and hurried off to see them.
Slavers and a Mysterious Girl
As the investigation continued meanwhile, more clues were found. Notably:
- Erendar discovered a few different rituals, including a ritual to remove the smell of a pig’s corpse.
- Harann found a target board with some arrows like the one from the murder close to the fort.
A strange man also visited Harann inside the church’s tower, inquiring about the Lady and Lord frequently mentioned around the area. He implored Harann to find out more about them.
Vira, Ghorrd, Rubetta, and Erendar encountered some slavers in the area. They heard a woman’s voice in a strange language. While they spoke with the traders to distract them, Erendar teleported inside the temporary building to set the woman free. Vira was quick to almost fight the leader, but the others diffused the situation. Later Vira saw Hammer nearby and approached him instead. She used her power to determine if he was lying about the murder:
The man is telling the truth… yet lying. Deception with words without flaw. She feels like laughing; so much her style, yet such the amateur! Why, a palace guard could outwit this simple smithy! He was afraid, yes of the magic, but that was only secondary; his real fear was for someone else’s sake. Amusing. Well, no; pathetic, really…
Vira and Ghorrd cornered him for further questioning, but he could not be intimidated by either person. Erendar ultimately could not free the girl and ultimately teleported away, unseen. Rubetta, meanwhile, asked her magic torn page about the murder, which said:
The murder at Fort Brakenwood was a mysterious affair; a captain before unknown to the fort stormed forward, giving commands to all that were near, and announcing expansions that were to be made to it. Soon he earned the ire of all who claimed the fort as their home. Their trouble wouldn’t plague them long however, as an arrow tasted blood, and brought the captain to the ground. Although both Alice and the Commander saw the death-or so it was reported-Alice was the first to make it to his side. Hammer, the fort’s smithy, came soon after, and as the fort’s make-shift medic, he tended to the body, and confirmed that the man was dead. With the cleric’s blessings, Hammer insisted that the body be taken off for burial in Springdale before the rot set in. A group of travelers and a woman of evil wandered into town, and upon word of the investigator they set to work solving this mystery. They passed by the one who drew the arrow without suspicion, and they likewise did not question the long disappearance of the investigator. Few were surprised when the investigator did not return once the murder was solved, as while he did not kill, nor assist in the attack that night…The words reach the end here. Part of the page is taken up with a picture of the captain, arrow protruding from his chest, as he began to fall. The drawing is a beautiful work of quill and ink.
Further intimidation of Hammer failed, and so Vira rushed back to the fort’s center, determined to use her power once more before the ceremony. She used it on Alice:
A girl, a pitiful girl. Honest, though, or at least tries to be. Too caring about what others thing, too caring about doing her part. Oh my! How worried she is, Vira can practically feel her squirm. But… ignorant. She looks at Vira with questioning, uncertain eyes. It seems she’s ignorant of what the Smithy is hiding, which means either Alice is a fool-likely, Vira muses with dark amusement-or the smithy is good at hiding what he wants hidden.
The Ceremony, Take Two
At midnight the group again met at the church to perform an exorcism on Vira. Soon after the ceremony began, Vira actually split into two people. After a brief conversation that made no sense, the spirit began to notice the others in the room. It wasn’t before long that they were in battle. Vedorin was able to gain the upper hand with control over Vira and a few missed attacks by the others. After a powerful attack from Harann and a few healing spells however, the party was eventually able to turn the tide. Before Vedorin disappeared, their foe shouted something about a sister. Vira became confused over this, as if the comment was directed at her.
The party eventually decided to rest for the night. While most slept inside the church, Vira moved to a stable. Outside this stable a woman watched her (the same mysterious woman who approached her earlier in the investigation) with knowledge of Vedorin and a mood to kill. She did not act on these feelings, however, and the group slept.
The Shed Chronicles
The next day Vira set off to investigate to the north. Harann investigated in the south and then later met her. They discovered:
- A jacket of a guard uniform (presumably Captain John’s) with blood on the inside, but not on the outside. A hole was also present, where an arrow should have gone through.
- The arrow used in the murder was likely shot with a great bow. The guards in the fort do not have a need to learn how to use a great bow because of the trees in the area.
- After investigating a small shed, containers with no lids were discovered inside. After breaking them open, pig corpses that did not smell came out. They also tasted like human.
The jacket was later confirmed to be the captain’s. Meanwhile, a curious tiefling named Kevian had entered the conversation as they tried to solve this newest riddle. Vira managed to persuade the commander to open the shed with his key. They broke open the other containers and found in addition to the pigs:
- Glass jars with a type of clay inside that, once applied to the skin, can change color to give a disguise.
- Merchant’s clothing
- A handwritten note that read:
I suppose you nosey investigators found me out. What fun! I hoped for nothing less. However, you still have a murderer to catch—make no mistake about it. But who would have killed me? I wonder, I wonder…
The group quickly realized that, in fact, no murder had ever been committed. The “captain” was likely Jack Pennybrooke.
A Man of the Cloth
The cleric had previously announced that a service would soon begin. Some in the group decided to then move further south, and while the cleric was in the church, continue their investigation with the one person they had not thoroughly questioned. They split into two teams—Harann, Rubetta, and Kevian went over to the cleric’s home while Vira, Ghorrd, and Cleo sat in the church.
Harann was able to teleport inside the small home. Inside, he discovered a simple chest at the bottom of the cleric’s bed. He teleported back outside but was not able to open it. They decided to run away with the chest in hopes that Furiaem could open it. Meanwhile at the service, the other three watched as Cleric Barse performed a ceremony on a dead deer, which then returned as a (non-evil) spirit of Melora. They spoke with the cleric for a few minutes after the ceremony while the others ran away.
When the chest opened up, they discovered several ritual scrolls, ink, quills, and the cleric’s life savings. The scrolls performed spells such as an increase of healing, nature, blessing, and perception. One cast a small explosion, and another caused Vira’s mind, eye, and hand to become steadier (once everyone met again, they helped examine the chest as well).
Harann, Rubie, Furiaem, and Kevian all decided to then move on to Springdale. Ghorrd, Vira, and Cleo stayed behind to return the chest to the cleric with their apologies. When they met him again, he appeared to be in a state of shock, as was natural. After a brief conversation, however, Vira became suspicious of why he was so immensely beside himself. She decided that there was nothing left to chance and laid out her final theory about how the murder happened:
- Cleric Barse had previously said he was in the army—she guessed he was a soldier who carried a greatbow.
- He had a motive to kill the captain because he had previously overheard the captain boasting how he would expand the fort—and thus destroying some of the forest.
- Cleric Barse was wandering the woods at the time of the murder and had no alibi.
Shortly after hearing these statements together, the cleric admitted to shooting the captain. He then received the news that he had not, in fact, killed anyone! Ghorrd and Vira debated whether or not to bring him to justice, but in the end they decided to do nothing, as the murder never happened. With these final thoughts, Ghorrd and Vira left the fort to join the others in the forest to the north.