Prologue

The adventure starts with the characters arriving in the town of Fenlay, heart of the Mandelton barony, seeking a night's rest.

It has rained all day, leaving you soaking wet and covered in mud as you trudge into the town of Fenlay, your intended stop for tonight.

In the rain, it looks to be grim little town. Smoke hangs in the air as the rain drips off the thatched roofs into mud-filled streets. A small castle, really nothing more than a keep, sits at one end of the town. In the centre of the town a badly eroded statue and an inn can be seen. The sign hanging outside crudely depicts three knightly warriors.

An Offer of Work

The Three Knights is a basic but homely tavern. It can provide stabling, hot food, water for baths, beds with only a minimum of fleas and, of course, drink. It is run by the Hanovan family: James and Mary with their two nearly-adult children Delia and Sam.

Automatic
The tavern's clientele are largely local folks enjoying a flagon of ale and the company of their friends. The conversation in the bar went quiet for a little while as the characters entered but quickly picked up again.
Easy
A large man propping up the bar is eyeing the characters (Anders Mence).
Moderate
One of the smarter-dressed locals (Alderman Arnold) departed the tavern shortly after the characters arrived but left her beer.
Hard
A dwarf sits in one of the darker corners of the tavern (Angus Klakram).

A short while later, as the characters dry themselves by the fire and eat a much-needed meal, three people enter the tavern. One is Alderman Arnold who has returned with two men. It is clear to the characters that all three are town dignitaries going by their age, dress and the gold chains around their necks. The trio is unarmed and led by a largish man in his 50s with a pompous manner. They approach the characters directly.

Excuse me good folk, but from your appearance you are mercenaries and pursuers of adventure. I am Alderman Granville and my associates are my fellow Aldermen, Arnold and Southwell. We are in urgent need of your services.

Granville explains that about a week ago goblins kidnapped the newborn child of Baron Hanson De'Souf. The Baron's young wife is distraught and after the strains of childbirth she is near death. The goblins live in the deadly complex of tunnels and ruins named for after the great demon Strata. No man would willingly enter such a terrible place except for gold, but the reward the Baron offered was barely more than a working man earns in a week. The Baron claimed poverty after several years of bad harvests and appealed to people's better nature, asking them to think of his poor wife.

No one stepped forward to help so the Baron, together with nearly all his men-at-arms and retainers, went in search of the child. That was five days ago and no one has returned. With the Baron missing, his gravely ill wife confined to her bed and the heir also missing, the Barony is in real danger. It is vital to find out what has happened before the neighbouring baronies try to take over Fenlay and the Baron De'Souf's lands.

The Aldermen will pay 50 GP per person for definite proof about the fate of the Baron - either the Baron alive, his signet ring or his body. A similar amount will be paid for evidence of the baby.

Asking Questions

A lot of information can be gained by talking to the aldermen and others in or around the tavern. No one has any reason to lie and the [Automatic] information will be easily acquired with a simple question, but characters have to make friends to discover more useful information. Some townsfolk are better informed or more willing to talk on particular subjects. Game Leaders should take this into account when deciding what to reveal to the players.

By the end of their enquiries the characters should have a good understanding of what their mission is and why it is important to the townsfolk. The players should also suspect that not everything is as it appears, leading them to investigate the castle and the staff there. This is not vital; characters who ask no questions and rush straight to the dungeon can still complete the adventure.

Automatic
The baby was born seven days ago and stolen that night. The Baron entered the dungeon five days ago with eight retainers.
Easy
No one understands how the goblins entered the castle or why they stole the child.
Moderate
The baroness is sick with worry and has not been seen in public since before the birth.
Hard
The castle gates are locked and no one is allowed in or out.

For information on the Baron and his wives, Alderman Southwell is the best source of news.

Automatic
The Baron is in his forties and was devoted to his first wife but she died two years ago. He remarried a much younger woman about a year later. The missing baby is his only child and heir.
Easy
The Baron is reasonably well regarded as a competent ruler though not loved. His first wife had the popular touch and this greatly helped the Baron.
Moderate
The Baron's second wife, Pollyanna, is just sixteen and a distant cousin from the barony of Nearfarthing, several days ride away. The marriage was arranged.
Hard
The death of his first wife left the Baron grief-stricken. He would not be seen for days but eventually recovered and about year ago he decided to remarry.

When it comes to local politics, Alderman Granville is the best informed and enjoys talking about it.

Automatic
The Hundred Baronies is a volatile area where barons (often little more than warlords) vie with each for influence. This occasionally involves armed raids and other forms of violence.
Easy
The neigbouring barony of Upper Cresswell under the unpopular Baron De'Monfit is the biggest threat to the barony of Mandelton. Should the Baron be lost, De'Monfit will try to seize Mandelton.
Moderate
The nearby barony of Easterling is a desperate place. It hasn't had a baron since the old King Jeffery got rid of Baron Augar for his crimes sixty years ago.
Hard
The Baron's second marriage was a shrewd move to ensure an heir and build alliances with the more distant baronies on the far side of Easterling.

A few locals have been in (or at least claim to have been in) the Dungeon of Demon Strata when they were younger. Memories have dimmed over time and their stories get bigger with each telling, but in reality the locals know very little. Of all the locals, Anders Mence is the only person to have explored the dungeon in any depth. He is now a drunk and a troublemaker.

Automatic
The dungeon is massive, spreading over many miles, and incorporates ancient ruins as well as new settlements of many races. There are several entrances such as the dwarven mine in the Harrain Hills (about 15 miles away) but the nearest is King's Vale, three miles north-west of the town.
Easy
The pillars by the entrance look magical but are safe to walk through.
Moderate
Entropians (a frog-like people) live in underground rivers. To win their trust, sit in the water and wait.
Hard
The Wooden Man will help anyone who is lost.

The goblins are the one subject most people will lie about or at least be too embarrassed to discuss the truth. The dwarf Angus Klakram, an itinerant trader, is the best informed on this subject.

Automatic
Goblins are vile creatures. They steal sheep, turn wine bad and are generally to blame for everything. It is about time someone went down into the dungeon and killed them all.
Easy
The dwarves trade with the goblins for metals from deep in the earth. Some of the human farmers in the hills trade with goblins as goblin fertiliser is very good for the fields.
Moderate
There are some folk in the town (but exactly who, no one knows) who have dealings with the goblins.
Hard
Occasionally a baby is born who looks a lot like a goblin. The family will pretend the baby died but in reality the goblins will take it away in exchange for a few coins.

There are many local legends about the dungeon and, according to legend, just about every folk hero, god or criminal who ever lived has visited the dungeon at some point. The priest Tom Dour can tell the characters the most notable and believable of them.

Automatic
Korvak, an evil priestess, ruled the local area hundreds of years ago until destroyed by three knights. The tavern is named after those knights.
Easy
The statue in the town square just outside the tavern is dedicated to the knights.
Moderate
Korvak was a devil-worshipper and could raise an army of undead creatures.
Hard
Korvak was not killed but imprisoned for all eternity.

An inspection of the statue outside the tavern will reveal:

Automatic
The badly eroded and damaged statue depicts three shapeless figures.
Easy
Something was engraved on its base but erosion has made it almost unreadable. All that can be read are the words "Devil", "Korvak" and "Imprisoned".
Moderate
Each of the three figures has a sword in its right hand, but in their left hands one has an octagonal stone or gem, one has a cup and the third is holding a rod or staff.
Hard
On the base of the statue, faint lines easily mistaken as vandalism depict a pyramid. There are also ancient heraldic symbols - a dog, a nettle leaf and an oak tree.

The Castle, The Baroness & The Baby

Ever since the Baron left, only four people remain in the castle: two men-at-arms, the cook and the Baroness' personal maid. Everyone outside the castle and the two men-at-arms believe the Baroness is also in the castle, confined to her room by illness. However, the cook Mrs Stevens and the maid Annabelle saw the Baroness leave with the Baron through a secret passage. The Baron made them swear oaths to keep the secret saying the baby's life depended on it. As the days go by and it looks more and more likely that the Baron is not returning, the staff are getting very worried.

All the other castle staff either went with the Baron or have been sent home. The gates are locked and the Baron left instructions to let absolutely no one into the castle. However, with only two guards, breaking into the castle by climbing the walls is only a [Moderate] task. Persuading the guards to open the gates to the characters (strangers to the town) would be [Hard] but if accompanied by the Aldermen, it becomes an [Easy] task.

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open/oneshots/demon_strata/prolog.txt · Last modified: 2014/03/10 12:18 by darth_tigger
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