Sunday, 1 March 2015

LotFP Solo - Part the Forty-Fifth: "Stained with each evil that pollutes"

Scene: 4
Chaos: increased to 5
setup: start to investigate suicide
Threads: investigate suicide, chaperone Emmeline
NPCs: Emmeline, Lady Margiste, Lady M's governess, Gerdie, maids, cook, stable girl, groundskeepers, steward, confessor, valet, secretary, gamekeeper, soldiers, physician, marquess (see notes at the end of this post)

An aged priest, wearing embroidered robes and an elaborate golden symbol of the Light God studded with numerous rubies, walks briskly through in the hall. Frère Ambrosius is the Marquess' confessor, as he was his father's before him.

Seeing the valet talking to a group still in their travelling clothes, he veers from his trajectory to see who they are. "Lady Margiste!" he cries with sudden recognition, "my child, you've chosen a fearful time to return to Château Télème."

"Please explain. Is it father--?"

"Your father has taken a turn for the worse, I'm sorry to say. The only consolation is that he'll soon depart this world of sadness, and bathe in the Welcoming Radiance of the Light God's Mercy. His physician does the best he can. I'm sure he's only trying to hold on until your brother returns, so that he may see his son assume the mantel of the Marquess Limenne. I am sure your presence will cheer him, my child, when he has the strength to receive you. Just make sure you don't tell him about the awful events of the past two weeks. He's not strong enough to bear such ill news."

"But what is going on?" asks Lady Margiste.

"Death, my child. Death has come for your father, and finding him not yet ready for the journey, has been hanging round, waiting. First a soldier fell from the battlements. Broke her neck, poor lass, but at least she didn't suffer. We all thought it an accident at the time; now I'm not so certain. Soon after we discovered one of the huntsmen had killed himself. He opened his veins with a knife. After that, rumour spread through the castle. People complained of nightmares, of strange sounds on the wind. And then the desertions began. So few of the castle staff remain. And now, there's been another suicide. Young Randa, one of the maids. She hanged herself in the laundry..."

"Something's not right here," says Lycinia. "Lady Margiste, if you'll permit me, I'd like to look into these... occurrences."

"Of-- of course," begins Lady Margiste hesitantly, then she stops herself and speaks with a clear voice of authority. "I've no doubt, Princess Lycinia, that your keen elven senses will uncover clues that these others may have missed."

If Franval feels the sting of her words, he does not show it.

"Thank you, lady," says Lycinia. "Gerdie, you coming? Anyone else?"

[Q: Does Gerdie want to help? Unlikely: 94, Exceptional No.]

"Sorry, says Gerdie, "but this really isn't my thing. An' I hate to say it, but Randa was worse than useless. She's not goin' to be missed."

[Q: Will the valet accompany her? Likely: 96, Exceptional No. He inwardly agrees with Gerdie's assessment.]

Franval mumbles something about duties requiring attention, bids Lady Margiste, her companions, and the priest a curt farewell, and stalks off.

Lycinia and the confessor go alone to the castle's laundry. The linens are still sitting in a vat of steaming water. The maid must have decided to kill herself in the middle of her chores.

[Q: Has body been moved? Unlikely: 24, Yes.]

Her body has been cut down and laid out on one of the tables, and her face covered with a dirty sheet. The severed end of the rope still hangs from the rafter. Lycinia looks under the sheet. The girl's face is contorted, her blackened tongue protrudes from between her grimacing lips. Lycinia says a soft elven prayer for the dead, then covers the unfortunate girl once again.

The two search the room, but find nothing out of the ordinary. They decide it would be prudent to search her quarters.

[The searching is divided into two parts. First a Mythic question (Is there an obvious clue?) with an Unlikely chance. If that results in a No, everyone gets to make a Search roll. If a search roll, succeeds, I will ask Mythic, Is there a hidden clue? -- again with Unlikely odds. This way obvious things turn up of their own accord, but not finding a clue doesn't necessarily mean there wasn't one.

Neither Lycinia or the confessor made any successful rolls, but I got an Exceptional Yes for the obvious clue in the maid's room. I rolled a random object on the Artifact/Relic table (AG8) in the d30 Sandbox Companion.]

Randa shared a tiny bedroom below stairs with one of the other maids. There is barely room for both Lycinia and the cleric to stand between their beds at the same time. There is nothing unusual amongst either of their possessions, but underneath Randa's pillow, Lycinia discovers a clay scarab with strange characters scratched into the underside.

"This seems out of place for a servant girl," says Lycinia, "I'm going to hang on to it."

[Q: Is the confessor amenable? 50/50: 88, No + Event: Move away from a thread - investigate suicide.]

"It affects this household, and the spiritual well-being of its residents. I cannot just allow an outsider to claim it. You understand..."

"Fine, you keep it."

"I shall examine this item more closely, and let you know what I find. For now, I insist that we let the matter drop. I am going to get someone to bury the girl's body outside of the castle walls at once."


"She doesn't deserve a religious burial; suicides shall never repose in the bosom of the Light God."

Scene: 5
Chaos: increased to 6
setup: 2=Interrupt (was: settling in, dinner, sleep)
Interrupt: NPC action Emmeline - Mistrust / A representative

An irritated  Lycinia is taken to her chambers by one of the remaining household servants. She finds Emmeline already unpacking their trunk.

"Oh, good, you're finally back," says Emmeline. "I think that some people here know more about what's going on than they will admit. I overheard the master-at-arms talking to one of her soldiers about the hanging. She said something I couldn't quite make out about them needing to keep quiet about the particulars of what happened to maid, and to the others. Then she saw me in the corridor and stopped talking very abruptly! What's going on here? Do you think it was murder?"

[Emmeline's suspicion counts as [1d6=2] a Major Rumour, with a Magnitude of (2d6=4) Annoyance. I will check the truth of it should Lycinia confront the master-of-arms. There will be a +1 modifier on the truth roll as Emmeline certainly counts as having a reaction roll of 12 towards Lycinia.]

Scene: 6
setup: settling in, dinner, sleep

Emmeline coaxes Lycinia into one of her fine new dresses, and the two descend to the great hall. A crackling fire burns in the hearth, and chandeliers provide a warm light. The walls are completely covered in painted wooden panels, depicting the valorous deeds of Lady Margiste's knightly ancestors.

Lady Margiste and her governess are there, as is Gerdie (and in a dress, no less!). They are joined by Frère Ambrosius, Franval the Marquess' Valet, and two others. The first is introduced as Durcet, the Marquess' private secretary. He is a long-faced man with a serious mien, clad in black scholar's robes and with permanently ink-stained fingertips. He can't be more than 25 years old, but acts nearly twice that. The other man is Severin, the castle's steward, who appears not to have slept in days. He is a large, powerfully-built man in the prime of life, with thick, brown hair that suffers from an untamable cowlick. He wears a fine brocaded tunic and breeches, and carries an old-fashioned set of wax writing tablets everywhere he goes. They are sitting next to his plate throughout dinner -- when he isn't making notes in them.

[Q: Is there an incident at dinner? Very unlikely: 17, Yes.
Q: What? Take / Anger; I rolled two d8s to determine who angry at whom: Steward vs. confessor. UNE determines the substance of the argument: current scene. If this were a 19th century novel, the dinner scene would go on for at least 20 pages. But as this is an RPG about killing stuff with swords, I will truncate it somewhat. I will leave overlong dinners to my Runequest game...]

The dinner starts off well enough, despite having to be served by the cook and one of the below stairs maids (as the rest have all fled). Lady Margiste's governess does her best to keep the conversation to polite and uncontroversial matters. But in the end, the cloud of unease hanging over the château becomes too much to bear, and Franval asks the priest if he and the elven princess found anything in the laundry or the maid's room. The steward becomes incensed and starts shouting at Frère Ambrosius that this is a private circumstance, and he should have looked into it by himself so that the elven Princess could settle in properly; we can't go worrying such an esteemed guest with petty internal matters!

A vicious shouting match ensues. It only ends when Lycinia jumps in to defend the confessor, (reaction roll=10 towards the Severin) and actually manages to talk down the steward.

Scene: 7
setup: Altered (was: meet the Marquess)

The night and morning pass without incident. The next afternoon [day 50] finds our travellers in the parlour. The governess is working at her embroidery. Emmeline and Lady Margiste are ignoring theirs in favour of chatting. Lycinia is reading a history of the wars of the kingdom which she found in the castle library. Gerdie is dozing in front of the fire.

Franval appears in the doorway. "Ah good," says he, "you're all here. My lady, your father would like to see you. And he requests you bring along your dear friend Miss Emmeline, and also the elven princess, whose acquaintance he is very desirous to make."

Lady Margiste is a mixture of happiness and trepidation. She had not been permitted to see her beloved father on the evening of her arrival, and she is ever fearful that his illness should grow worse.

The Marquess' chambers are in one of the great towers. Before his illness, he used to like to look out over his domain from atop the tower; but he has been bedridden for some time.

When they have climbed the stair up to his room, Lady Margiste raps on the heavy door. The Marquess' physician appears, and slips out of the room, pulling the door shut behind him. "I'm sorry," he says, "I know Franval has just been to fetch you, but I'm afraid the Marquess cannot receive visitors after all. I'm sorry, Lady Margiste, but I cannot even admit you. He's taken quite a turn, and I've had to administer a strong sedative. I shall send word if his condition changes. I'm doing all I can."

[Q: Does he turn away Lady M too? 50/50: 42, Yes.]

So saying, he slips once again into the chamber, and pulls the bolt behind himself. But as the door was pushed hurriedly shut, a horrifying odour wafted out of sick room the into the stairwell. The stench of death -- and worse -- causes everyone's eyes to tear up a little, but afterwards Lady Margiste's tears do not cease to flow. Emmeline takes her hand and tries to reassure her that it's just the bitter smell of medicine, and with the physician's care there isn't the least cause for concern. The bitterest medicines, she insists, heal the fastest. Lycinia can tell from the look on Emmeline's face that she doesn't believe her own words in the slightest.

Scene: 8
Chaos: up to 7
setup: Altered (was: go riding to divert Lady M)

The evening and night pass slowly, with Lady Margiste growing ever more anxious for the news that never comes. And so the next morning [day 51], after breakfast, Emmeline suggests they saddle up some horses and go for a ride over the snowy grounds, perhaps down to the forest. Lady Margiste looks expectantly at her governess. "Go along, my dear," says the old woman. "It will be good of you to get outside in the fresh air. I will stay here and mind things at home. Besides, you'll have a nicer time on your own; let the young have their fun!"

The four of them dash off to get dressed in their riding things and bundled up against the winter's chill. Lycinia and Gerdie grab some weapons as well. They all meet in the main hall and set out across the courtyard for the stables.

[But it's an Altered Scene -- so someone is dead in the stables.
Q: Is it the stable girl? 50/50: 23, Yes.
Q: Was is suicide? 50/50: 44, yes +Event: Horror - PC

Horror is a special event result unique to the Mythic Variations horror theme. You are supposed to choose between Physical and Psychological horror for the adventure (I would add a Spiritual category as well depending on the game, but that's a discussion for another time). I'm going with Physical for the adventure, as the original conception for the adventure is 'there's someone outside in the snow--or some thing!'. But, I have no idea who/what they are, and I'm planning on letting the dice decide. So for each Horror event, I will roll on the d30 Sandbox Companion's table AG6, Phenomena, and interpret the results in the most awful way possible. For this first one, I rolled Poisoning.]

When they enter the stables, Lady Margiste is about to call for the stablegirl when she stops short, and begins to scream and scream. The stablegirl lies dead on the ground, her skin livid, her sightless eyes staring, her face contorted into an expression of agony. There is an empty glass phial in her hand. "She's been poisoned!" shouts Lycinia.

Lycinia tells Gerdie to get the girls out of here, and kneels down to examine the corpse. [She succeeds in a search roll] Lycinia notices a sheen on the girl's skin; she didn't drink the poison, she poured it over herself, and spread it about with her hands. [As this is a Horror event, there has to be some danger, so Lycinia needs to make a saving throw vs. poison. She'll get a +4 bonus for noticing it was contact poison. She makes her save.] Lycinia examines the body very carefully, but doesn't see any other obvious clues. She decides to quickly search the stable's loft before anyone else arrives on the scene.

Scene: 9
setup: investigate the loft

Lycinia darts up the steps into the hayloft, which serves double duty as the stablegirl's residence. She immediately goes to the girls bed and looks under the pillow.

[Q: Is there a scarab under pillow? 50/50: 41, Yes.]

She is rewarded by the sight of another clay scarabs, identical to the first. She pockets it, and looks through the rest of the girl's possessions.

[search roll=1, success.
Q: Is there a hidden clue? Unlikely: 36, Yes.
Another roll on the Artifact/Relic table produces: mask.
But a mask of what? Perhaps a roll on the B/X random encounter tables will help. 1d8 for monster level = 4; 1d20 on the 4th level chart produces Ochre Jelly... try again: Wraith). I have just the thing...]

In the bottom of the clothes chest, Lycinia finds a very old, very tarnished, very heavy silver mask in the shape of a man's face. Its eerie, eyeless gaze unsettles her to look at, as if it is aware and looking back upon her from beyond. The cold, pitted metal makes her skin creep when she touches it. She thinks she should keep it a secret for now, as she doesn't trust anyone in the castle save Emmeline.

[Q: Can Lycinia hide the mask for now? 50/50: 00, Exceptional No +Event: Horror - PC. The horror is: energy drain (hp)
Q: Is it from the mask? 50/50: 81, no.
Q: From a spell? 50/50: 49, Yes.
Q: Can she see her attacker? Unlikely: 55, Yes +Event: Move toward a thread (the investigation)
Q: Is the attacker someone from the castle: Unlikely: 42, Yes. - the Valet, who turns out to be a (1d8-3=) 2nd level Magic-User.]

Lycinia hears movement in the stable below. She quickly hides the mask under her cloak, and looks down to see who it is. There is a sudden flash before her eyes, as if she'd stared into the sun for too long, and a sickening wave of colourless energy washes over her, dampening her life force [Magic Missile, 2d4= 3 damage; she's got 13hp left]. She cries out in shock, but recovers an instant later, and sees the Marquess' valet running for the door.

Valet 17 12 10 11 10 10  8 12

[Round 1, Valet wins initiative]
Lycinia runs down the steps three at a time and chases after her assailant. She reaches the bottom just as the Franval rushes out the stable door, and slams it shut.

[Round 2]
Lycinia  reaches the door and tries to fling it open; it won't budge! The treacherous valet must have sealed it with his magic [Hold Portal, in fact].

[Q: Does Franval get away? Very likely: 31, Yes.]

Lycinia is climbing out of a window when the castle's soldiers arrive, alerted by the commotion. The master-at-arms, a grizzled veteran who wears a false nose made of brass to cover the worst of her battle scars, shouts for Lycinia to halt. The three soldiers behind her form a semi-circle before her, halberds at the ready. "What do we have here?" says the master-at-arms, plucking the silver mask from Lycinia's grasp.

"I can explain," says Lycinia.

--- --- --- --- ---
                 CH CN DX IN ST WI HP
maid           f  9  6 10 12  7  6  3
maid           f 17  6 10 10 12  9  3
maid           f 11  9  5  7  7 14  4
cook           f 12  8 13 10  8  6  3
groundskeeper  m  6 12 11  9 15 10  4
groundskeeper  f 11 11  5 11 15 12  4
steward        m 13  9  9 15 15 11  5
confessor      m 12  4 14  8 11 16  2
secretary      m  8 12  9  9 11  8  6
gamekeeper     f 10  9 12  6 10 11  3
master-at-arms f  7  7  6 10 13  9  3
guard          m 12 14  9  8 10 11  5
guard          f  6  9  9  9 14 14  4
guard          f 11 10  6 12 10  8  4
guard          f  6 10  9 10 12  7  4
guard          f 11 10 12 11  9  7  6
physician      m  9  6 12 14  9 14  3
marquess       m  9  7  8 10  8  8  3

All the NPC stats above are for 0-level humans. Anyone who becomes important has a chance for a character class (level 1d8-3), to be determined when necessary. Hit points can be re-figured if combat breaks out. Again, this is an attempt at keeping things mysterious. I'm also only going to name if they start showing up a lot, in order to make things easier to follow.

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