Welcome to the The Way of the Waysider; the home of Medieval Fantasy Roleplaying. Our primary Focus is currently on the Dragon Warriors RPG, but the maps and resources can easily be adapted to other FRPGs.
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Look out for more updates in the week ahead!
Have a great weekend.
A Dragon Warriors RPG Adventure
Today’s post is the second part of the standalone RPG adventure;What light through yonder window breaks. Part 1 is here. This adventure will eventually be re-written and re-organised as a free PDF, but is being released in this form, to take advantage of the ‘serialisation effect’ of a weekly blog post. This adventure is statted for up Dragon Warriors RPG, and is designed for 4 characters of 1st Rank, but don’t let that put you off, as it would be very easy to adapt this scenario for any other FRPG. This adventure is actually a part of a larger campaign entitled the Cantorbridge Tales; see ‘Vindashire and Cantorbridge Tales in the categories menu on the sidebar for all posts relating to this ‘Road Sandbox’ campaign. ———————————————————————————————
What a tangled web we Weave….
By now, the PCs should have worked out that something is very wrong in the City of Netherford. They may even have connected some of the strange happenings with Phillip Weaver; the four-year old son of wealthy cloth merchants, Margaret and Tobias Weaver. If so, then they will no doubt find their way to the Weaver House (it is the large blue house on the corner of Wharf Street and Scale’s Lane).
The house is a fairly sumptuous two-story half timbered building boasting solid doors, and a side-stable. Inside, the house is well appointed, with wood-panelling, costly hangings and roaring fires burning apple-scented logs. Yet all is not well in the Weaver household; once there, the PCs must convince the steward, Rollo, to let them in. Rollo is a haughty and very correct Asmulian servant who will be loath to let ‘vagabonds’ or ‘villeins’ disturb his Master, though one hint of knowledge about Phillip will assuage his doubts. The PCs will then be lead up to Master Weaver, who is sitting in his dark counting house, the drapes still covering the windows, disconsolate. His little boy and heir has been missing for several days, and now his Wife has vanished too.
If the PCs ask to see the boy’s room or Margaret’s they’ll find the Solar where Phillip plays contains a large floor length glass mirror that Tobias brought back as a present for Margaret, from Ferromaine. Any PCs who are magically sensitive will feel that the mirror is radiating a faint dweomer of some kind. They might also notice that the power is growing stronger as dusk approaches and the moon rises…. A search of Margaret’s room (wealthy couples often slept separately at this time) will also reveal a diary, written in Elleslandic, next to her jewel-inlaid triptych.The diary reveals Margaret’s secret; ————————————————————————————————————————————————————————– 13th of Weald-Monath, Year of Our Lord, 946 Anno Sancto
Oh God on High; do not think to punish your useless vessel in this hour, for today has been the most trying, and yet the most joyous day of my life! My waters broke in the early hours; thank St Simeon that my Husband was away.
I sent Maud for the Midwife though twas but an hour ere midnight. Old Mab arrived soon after, and I was wracked by the birthing pangs then. It lasted for hours and I was nigh spent, and when the babe at last came free, I knew at once by his grey pallor and stillness, that something was wrong; just as it had been all the other times. My babe was again stillborn and my life and happiness gone unto death with him. Mab nodded sadly as she cut the cord.
I burst into tears then and raged at God and all the Saints; for had I not been on pilgrimage, visiting every shrine on the Maiden’s Walk and taking the waters at St Bridget’s; had I not held ten vigils at the Cathedral, allowing myself not a wink of sleep as the Bishop had proscribed; and had I not purified myself by fasting and scourging my flesh, even as the Abbott of Clee had admonished me. All for nothing! Mab made to take the still babe then and I knew what its fate was to be; to hang as a garish token on her ‘witching tree’, that the evil spirit who brought forth this cold, dead thing from my womb should not escape and should instead be trapped, unable to visit the same evil upon me or some other poor women. And yet, this deed had Mab done four times for me ere this day; to no avail, for it seems an evil spirit is within my breast.
It was then seemed as if my lips moved themselves, as I begged Mab on bended knees to take the body to the ancient temple; the ruined tower across the river about which the fishwives tell such stories. One toothless old crone once swore to me, when I was a child myself, that in her Grandmother’s time, a babe, dead and cold, had been revived by the altar in the roots of that place. But if God had scorned me, why should I not turn to the Old Powers; for I had tried the straight and narrow way and if my husband had returned to this, my fifth dead babe, why I should be cast off for another, and lose my place and my station. What a bitter reward that seemed to me then for one who had been so loving of God. Mab took up the babe, but made a sign against evil; and then she was gone and I remember little of that night, save the rawness of my grief and a gathering despair. Indeed, I packed my bags, against the hour when Tobias might arrive and order me off. I finally slept just as the false dawn was across the eastern sky, but I dreamed such terrible dreams as I have never had ere that night nor since.
I awoke only an hour after dawn, as Rollo hammered upon my chamber door. Mab haunted his steps. At first she feigned as if all was lost, but then her cankered face broke into the broadest of grins. And; miracle of miracles, she bore in her arms a living, breathing child, who soon gave full vent to his lungs when she passed him to me. I looked into that tiny face and was lost; for it was the fairest thing I had ever seen. ‘There there Mistress Weaver’ Mab crooned, ‘for here’s a cure for what’s ailing ye and no mistake!’. I wept then; wave after wave of tears flowing unbidden and unstoppable, until I was quite hoarse and as weak as a new-born kitten. But the babe suckled greedily and soon all my cares were forgotten. God be praised; for perhaps that shrine is an ancient Fane to The Most High, wrought by the men of Selentium in far off days.
Yet I must declare in all seriousness now, that had the blackest devil healed my child and brought him back to me, then to that foul creature I would now gladly give my thanks, though not my prayers nor offerings; I am still in my wits after all. God be praised for this miracle! I shall name this boy Phillip, after my own dear Father, may God rest his soul. ————————————————————————————————————————————————————————— The Midwife
If it is early in the day, the PCs might want to seek out ‘Old Mab’. Rollo can direct them, for she lives nearby in Weavering; at the junction of Weavering Street and Weavers’ Walk. But Mab is not there; she is out in one of the nearby villages, tending to yet another women who is about to give birth, and the PCs questions must wait.
Through a Glass Darkly
If the PCs are in the Weaver house at dusk, they might notice (Stealth of 12) strange signs of movement out of the corners of their eyes; always as reflections in the panes of glass in the windows or the mirror, as if someone is crossing the room behind them. Yet when they turn, there is no-one there in the room with them. All the glass in the house now registers faintly with the dweomer and the mirror is like a sun.
As the moon climbs into the sky, but an hour after dusk, the mirror begins to glow to those with Mage-Sight, and suddenly all within the house can hear the whispered voice of a tiny child, chuckling as if at play and calling ‘Father!, Father!’. Tobias Weaver, if present, clutches his head; clearly unaware that anyone else can hear the voice, and obviously thinking that his reason has broken and given way to madness.
If the PCs do not watch or restrain him, then when the child’s voice starts singing an eerie lullaby, he will fall under some kind of spell and begin to walk towards the mirror in his wife’s room, his eyes glassy and his jaw slack. Indeed, the ‘boy’ Phillip will appear in the windows downstairs as a pale reflection, to try and get the PCs’ attention, whilst his magic summons his ‘Father’ into the Nantwylds with his song. If Tobias is still able, he presses his hand against the glass and finds the surface yields to his touch, as the moonlight spills in through the window. Soon he has vanished into the mirror, and can be seen in the pane, reunited with his Wife and Child, who suddenly appear from one of the other rooms in the mirror-version of the Weaver House.
If the PCs try to enter the mirror, it is much harder for them, as the surface of the mirror seems as thick and as sticky as treacle. All who wish to pass through must make a Strength check against an Str of 13 and each attempt takes a PC a full half a minute to pull themselves through; so that by the time anyone is on the other side, the Weavers are gone and the mirror version of the house is as cold and dark as the grave…….
A room with a view
Fate is a fickle mistress and a combination of bad luck or a lack of curiosity on the PCs’ part, may leave them at a dead-end and unable to find the Weaver’s House. What’s a GM to do? The answer is to run this encounter to get them into the Nantwylds. Where-ever the PCs are staying, they are turfed out of their rooms, to accommodate a wealthier group of pilgrims from Ongus.
The PCs must find new lodgings and the only places with any rooms are:
1) The Plough Inn on Fore Street
2) The River Inn on St Job’s Street (next to the Fish Market).
3) The Crossed Swords, on the junction of Chandler’s Lane and Drover’s Lane
In each case, the Innkeeper can be convinced to give the party the use of his daughter’s room for a reduced price; sending the poor girl to sleep at her aunt’s house when not serving at the Inn. The new room is smaller and in all ways inferior to their last billet, but does boast a nice full length mirror of beaten copper; you can I hope, see where this is going….
The following encounter happens on the fourth night of the eight-night feast of Martinmas; the first night of the full moon in fact. If this has already passed in your game by the time you need this encounter; say instead that this is a ‘blood-moon’; a full moon that is red and baleful. This is the night when the Changeling in Phillip Weaver’s shape is at its most powerful, but also allows the PCs to follow the ‘boy’ through the mirror, and into a Gloaming called The Nantwylds. On the stroke of moonrise, and eerie singing is heard in the PCs’ room, just below the level of audibility. Joan, a serving wench, will push open the door and glide into the room, obviously sleep walking. She will pass straight into the mirror, as if its surface is quicksilver and not glass. If the PCs attempt to follow her then the surface of the mirror seems to them to be as thick and as sticky as treacle. All who wish to pass through must make a Strength check against an Str of 13 and each attempt takes a PC a full half a minute to pull themselves through; so that by the time anyone is on the other side, then Joan is long gone and the mirror version of the Inn is as cold and dark as the grave…….
Gloamings are otherworlds, created by the collective power of the human unconscious, long ago. This particular Gloaming has no physical location in the waking world; but all mirrors in Netherford act as portals into this tiny realm, though humans cannot normally enter it unless they know a certain ritual. Only those touched by the Fey can enter without arcane knowledge or power, and only then during the feast of Martinmas. Thus only those PCs who are cursed and have lost their shadows can enter the Gloaming at this time; unless of course, the Changeling deliberately brings them or others into the Nantwylds using his siren dweomer (see later).
n.b. This map is a work in progress. In particular, the Labyrinth is not completed. The Nantwylds is a very small Gloaming, who patron lord has long since left. Since the people of Netherford have long been protected by the coming of the True Faith, the Nantwylds have been slowing ebbing away for many hundreds of years and the ‘reflection’ of the City of Netherford in the Nantwylds is of a decaying, tangled ruin swarming with ivy and thorn thickets and covered in leprous lichens. Even the river has shifted its course and many of the towers on the old east wall are now islands.
The Nantwylds are surrounded on all sides by thick mists. Seen from a high place, these mists appear to be low lying and do not stop the light of the sun; which hangs eternally just below the horizon, as if it is at just the moment after sunset. Anyone passing into these mists may never been seen again, for the mists are the True Wylds; the place where chaos rules and anything is possible. The Old Gods themselves once stepped from these mists; and elves and fey and all manner of fell things still enter the Nantwylds even today from this eldritch haze. Such monsters can do so safely, being creatures of eldritch nature. But humans are beings bound by natural law and without magical protection, stepping into the mist is perilous indeed. A traveller so doing could end up travelling vast distances or even back or forward in time. Sorcerors uses the various roads that leave the Nantwylds and enter the mists, to journey all over the world of Legend, as will be seen later.
The stars are forever alight in the eastern sky of the Nantwylds, but never show in the west and true night never comes; thus without lowlight vision, all PCs are at -2 Perception but a torch is never absolutely necessary except underground. The season in the Nantwylds is eternally Summer and the woods and forests smell of the sultry perfume of wild-flowers and of the harvest, and are ever alive with the buzzing of bees and the chirping of crickets.
In the beginning…. If the PCs followed the Weavers here, they emerge in the Labyrinth at location 6. If they were staying at an Inn and followed Joan in; from the Plough Inn, then they emerge from an exact facsimile in location 9 from the River Inn, then they emerge at location 7 from the Crossed Swords, they emerge at location 12 Whatever the case, if any magic-users in the party can make a Perception roll, against a Stealth of 10, they notice that this whole place is alive with magical energy. All Sorcerors, Elementalists and Warlocks gain +1d8 magic points per ‘day’. Mystics also now must fatigue TWICE whilst here in the Nantwylds, before being unable to cast spells. In addition, all direct attack spells gain +2 to Magical Attack and all indirect spells gain +2 to speed. Next time……………The Denizens of the Nantwylds!
How do you get your players to write good character biographies? The tactic I used in the Jewelspider Chronicles; my recent Dragon Warriors game, was to ‘drag’ a three-line outline of their character from each of the group, let them play these characters for 2-3 sessions and then discuss it again with them in more detail. I then wrote these character biographies based upon what they told me.
Jewelspider was a breakthrough game for my group as a result; Connor once said that ‘Jasper feels so much realer to me than any of my other characters.’
I think that’s because these character bios are not grand sweeping epics, but small stories that illustrate how and why the characters got to where they are now emotionally.
That is the key to a good character bio; it is not just fodder for the GM to create plot arcs and character driven stuff around (though these particular bios gave me some excellent GM fodder, as I related here). A good character bio tells the player how their character thinks and feels and what their goals are. Once you know that, playing someone who is not yourself becomes easier and the role becomes more consistent.
This is the kind of stuff an actor creates around any script he is given; so that he understands and can ‘get inside’ his character. This immersion is largely the reason that most of my group role-plays and is certainly the reason I do.
Of course, like anything, it can go too far and you do need lighter games that are pure hack and slash or tension busters once in a while, to blow off steam; but these are the exception, not the rule for us.
Anyway; have fun in the Cobwebbed Forests this week!
Today is the start of a mini-adventure, set within the larger ‘tapestry’ of the Cantorbridge Tales, but which can also be played as a standalone piece if desired. It is sited in Netherford, in Vindashire , but can be re-sited to any town or City in any pseudo-medieval world that the GM desires. Follow these links above for information and maps detailing the City and Shire in Legend or use your own.
Summary. Margaret Weaver, the wife of a rich cloth merchant, gave birth to her fifth stillborn child 4 years ago. She was so desperate for a living child, knowing that she would be cast off by her husband without one, that she bullied her midwife into leaving the corpse of the child in the ruins of a nearby Selentine temple; for local legends suggest that the temple has restored life to the dead in the past. The next morning, the boy was alive; or at least something had returned in his shape, for the ‘boy’ was now unnaturally strong and clever. Unbeknowst to his mother, however, he now uses mirrors to traverse the City on nights of the full moon, seeking out victims to bolster his life force, and also using his powers to whip up mobs, causing innocents to fight until blood flows and death follows. The PCs must confront this creature, for only they can see his true nature and find the gateway into the mirror realm where he can finally be slain and his soul set free.
The Hook for this adventure requires that some or all of the PCs can see the world of the eldritch. A Mystic’s See Enchantment spell might provide the solution; or perhaps the GM will decide that Vodenus’ amulet from The Miller’s Tale confers the ability to see the dweomer upon whomsoever bears it; assuming the players have been through that adventure. Alternatively the GM just needs to invent some other item or curse that allows the PC to see magic prior to this adventure. Indeed, as a general rule, medieval fantasy works best when the PCs can perceive the unseen world that common folk can not.
Whatever the case, the PCs have entered Netherford (or some other town or City) in the early winter of 950 AS, near the time of the Martinmas feast (early November in our world’s calendar). Martinmas in medieval times, was associated with Fey, because these creatures were thought to be most powerful in the ‘boundary moments’ between ‘states’ such as night and day, Spring and Summer or even life and death. Martinmas occurs at almost precisely the boundary between Autumn and Winter and so was a time of fear, as well as joy.
If the PCs are enmeshed in the Cantorbridge Tales, this adventure should start after they have managed the fallout from the journey to Netherford and their encounter with the Fey wolves; the trial, the burials and other matters dealt with in the last post.
The day after the PCs arrive in Netherford is the start of the Feast of Martinmas, which lasts eight days. The City is full to bursting, with no room at any Inn and Pilgrims swarming everywhere. Gaudily painted stalls are set out in all of the markets and streets. Indeed, traders have arrived from the nearby towns and villagers, and are camped on the Fayrefield or on the Abbey Foregate in the Sacred Precinct; selling all manner of items, from pilgrim brooches and tiny relic amulets to the many wares of the Camelots. Camelots are sellers of false relics and they ply their trade whilst keeping a watchful eye out for the Proctors, who will fine or imprison those who ‘debase the sanctity of the Fayre with mummery and quack cures’. In fact the Proctors are more concerned with ensuring that the Church does not lose too much of the coin being spent by Pilgrims, to the townsfolk or those paying the townsfolk for the privilege of stall space at such a time.
Church bells ring out the hours, for this time is one of fear, as the Fey are said to be powerful at Martinmas; even to the point of being able to tread on hallowed ground. The bells are said to scare them off and so they are rung rather more assiduously than is strictly necessary. Indeed, the PCs will see as they walk about that many of the more well-to-do houses have lines of salt across their thresholds, whilst the poorer folk make do with bundles of holly and rowan wood nailed to their doors; and burn rowan-wood on their fires to keep the chill and other, more nameless things at bay.
Note; if a GM wishing to use this scene is not following the Cantorbridge Tales, then they will need to invent some encounter or curse prior to this scene. See this post for how the curse befalls the party in the Cantorbridge Tales. You need merely invent something similar; you don’t need to follow the rest of the campaign to take this kernel and use it as you see fit.
As the PCs are walking around; perhaps seeking answers to the problem of their curse, they may notice an unusual number of crows watching them from the tops of nearby houses (Stealth 15). Then, when they next cross a market or other public space, an old Varni women calls out to them and sends her boy over to tug their sleeves until they join her; if they will not come, she speaks directly to the mind of the PC with the highest Psychic Talent and says ‘Do not scorn me shadowless one; come and learn of your fate’. She proves to be a blind Varni woman who tells fortunes and she requests that the PCs come and sit in her smoky tent for a moment. Though her face is so gnarled it seems scarcely human, Esmeralda has an oddly quiet presence. The PCs will notice the entire inside of her tent is stitched with strange symbols; any magic-user in the group can recognize them as ancient symbols of protection against evil with an Intelligence check of 15 .
The woman says she feels a powerful doom has settled on the group; ‘I can smell it on you like a woman’s musk’ she breathes, her milky white eyes looking sightlessly at them. ‘For this reading, their will be no coin; I will do as I am bade by my Master!’ she says, almost resentfully, and then she asks for the palm of one of the PCs and she strokes it gently. ‘Ah Yes! You think you are cursed, but God has a plan for you. He wants you to be his Hounds and contest with the evil that others cannot see in their very midst. You are in great danger, but you also have a chance for your lives to mean something. Do not try to turn aside from this fate; it will pursue you all the days of your life until you come to a grim ending. Not through relics will you find surcease from this dweomer, nor through prayer, but only by your deeds. More than this I cannot say; dare not say, for we are watched by the servants of Arawn even in this moment. Go now and choose wisely!’
Esmeralda then bids them goodbye and shuts up her tent; she will answer no more questions, but might promise to meet them ‘…in St Stephen’s Churchyard this eve at 8 bells.’ if they insist. But if the PCs turn away even for a moment to confer and do not state they are actively watching the old women, Esmeralda, her tent, the boy and all her belongings are gone when the PCs turn back to where she was just a moment before. Passersby and tradesmen will not remember seeing any woman and will look strangely at the PCs if they persist in their questioning; ‘I’ve been standing here selling since before cocks crow squire and I can h’assure you there weren’t no old woman hanging around hearabouts; not today!’ These traders faintly register with a lingering scent of the dweomer; as if recently ensorcelled.
The Mermaid and the Mob
As the PCs drink in this information, just across the Fayrefield or Marketplace from where they stand, a riot begins outside a tent with a sign bearing the words ‘Blackthorn’s Magnificent Mermaid. Come and See THE Maritime Wonder of The World; only 1 florin’. A man is being borne aloft by the crowd to a pillory, or whipping post. The Watch are trying to intervene but cannot get through the throng. The man is dressed in a stained robe, as if he is a scholar. He is yelling in a high, nasal voice ‘Unhand me you scum! How dare you manhandle the great Marcus Blackthorn! My Mermaid is REAL I tell you!’
If the PCs enquire of the crowd, they will discover that the man is going to be whipped for charging folk to see his ‘false mermaid’. Blackthorn will hear this unless the PCs take pains to conceal their conversation and he’ll beg the party to rescue him, pleading and shouting his innocence and offering them coin in a stage whisper as he is tied to the pillory. Hearing this, the crowd suddenly surge towards the PCs; luckily all are unarmed. PCs who can see magic, will note that all of the mob seem to glow with a faint trace of dweomer shortly before they attack. They may also notice a reflection of a very small boy in a pane of glass on a nearby building (Stealth 14). As the mob attacks the PCs can hear a woman calling out from behind them ‘Phillp! Phillip! Oh where are you?’
Mob (12): Attack; 11, Defence; 5, Barehands; (d3, 2), AF 0, Movement (10m; 20m), Magical Defence; 3, Evasion; 4, Health Points; 8, Stealth; 11, Perception; 6.
The mob forgets about Blackthorn and charges the party, trying to surround them and beat them to death. This is no scuffle; there is something evil driving the crowd. The PCs must survive for 1d8 rounds; after this time, the mob is dispersed and arrested by the Watch, who saw everything and will not arrest the PCs, even if they resorted to deadly force to defend themselves. One way to stop this riot before it begins is to smash the pane of glass with the boy’s reflection in; as he is controlling the crowd. A single hit with a missile weapon or thrown object will break the glass and the spell; the combat will suddenly end, as all the rioters stop and stare incredulously at one another, before running off down every lane and byway ere the Watch can apprehend them.
If they saved him, tried to save him or just said nothing but fought the crowd, Marcus Blackthorn will thank the party and give them 50 florins. He will also invite them to see his mermaid, which anyone with dweomer-sight will recognise as real, though smelling very strongly of salt, the sea and decay. He claims to have bought her from a fisherman in Bishop’s Landing if they ask. The fishermen told him that he was fishing near Saltley when something got entangled in their nets. Sadly she was dead before they could release her.
‘I can’t understand it’ he’ll exclaim if asked about the riot. ‘One minute it was all ‘oohs’ and ‘ah’s like normal, then this fine lady comes in with her brat, and the next thing I know, the crowd are out to lynch me.’ If asked about the woman, he can describe her dress which was very finely made and that she wore a white wimple stitched with silver thread in the design of a corn-cockle. She also had a beautiful set of pearl earrings. He will also relate something else that he’s just remembered; before the riot, her tiny boy was looking at the mermaid and instead of the usual mixture of fear and revulsion children usually feel upon looking at his creature, the boy looked suddenly angry. Blackthorn can tell them nothing more.
If they didn’t even try to save him or insulted him, he will rail at them, screaming all the while, and will tell them nothing unless they bribe him with at least 50 florins.
Lady with a Pearl Earring
If the PCs ask around the town, they should be able to identify the woman with the child who was at the riot; but only if they ask in the Weavering District or at any of the wealthier guilds off Guild Lane. It will take the PCs an entire day to search the whole City if they only have the information from Blackthorn about the wimple and the pearl earring and do not specify a district ; even then, they’ll have to split up to search the whole of Netherford. During this time, roll against the Perception of every party member against a stealth of 16; if anyone fails, they have their coin-purse cut, for their are many ‘sharps’ working the crowds during the fayre. If the PCs search the right district, they find that the woman’s name is Margaret Weaver and her husband is a wealthy cloth merchant Tobias. All of this assumes however, that the PCs even think to look for her.
The end of Esmeralda
Whether the PCs were due to meet the old Varni again in the church yard of St Stephen’s at 8 bells or not; she does not turn up. If the PCs are waiting for her, then they see a group of 8 Watchmen with torches dragging a still form out of a side alley off Dyer Street 2 hours later. It is Esmeralda; she has been murdered. Her body is covered in tiny burns and singe marks, especially around her metal jewelry.
If the PCs are not waiting for her, they will see her body in the morning, as the Watch display it in various squares, asking for information connected to her death. If they inquire, they are told that she was found in an alleyway off Dyers’ Lane and that ‘she’s the third one this month; smelling like they was burned or summat.’ The other corpses were found by the warehouses off Wharf street, and close by the Fishmarket, if the PCs think to ask the Watch.
A PC with dweomer-sight can tell that the corpse is not just dead, but that something has ‘ripped’ the very soul from Esmeralda; her body is surrounded by a residue of something eldritch and dark.
The watch insist on burying Esmeralda in a mass grave outside the town, unless the PCs intervene.
The PCs might have learned by now, that the walls of St Boltoph’s are plastered with court judgements, proclamations and also messages of various types; including jobs. The GM can use this facility to keep the PCs busy if they have reached a dead-end. Have an NPC at their lodgings or elsewhere mention the messages, if the PCs are at an impasse. Several of the hooks here also advance the main plot.
The following messages are present on the walls whenever the GM desires or roll 1d6 if stuck for inspiration:
1) A cryptic message reads ‘Butchers all, should wait for full faces and then meat to discuss their differences. This is a coded reference to a fight that the apprentices of the town have arranged with the students of Clerky. It will happen on the first night of the full moon at the meat market. If the PCs attend, they will see 1d6 x 10 of each side turning up at moonrise (about 11 bells) after a day of drinking in two taverns. The apprentices first assemble at the Butcher’s Arms whilst the Students meet in the Bishop’s Inn; both groups begin arriving and getting some ale on board after about 8 bells. If the PCs do not inform or otherwise intervene; there will be a serious but brief running battle through the streets, that will involve the Watch (and pickpockets, who will cut the purses of anyone knocked down during the fight). What is not understood, even by those organizing the fights, is that their anger and hatred is being created and sustained by Phillip Weaver; or whatever has stolen his form. He will be present, though only those with dweomer-sight will see his reflection in panes of glass along the route of the fight.
Students and Apprentices: Attack; 10, Defence; 5; (Clubs, d3, 3 points or Daggers, d4, 3 points), AF 1, Movement (10m; 20m), Magical Defence; 3, Evasion; 4, Health Points; 6, Stealth; 12, Perception; 5
2) A warrant for the arrest of Waylarund Thomas and Mabel Hopps for the murder of Gareth Hopps. A reward of 20o florins is offered for the capture of the two who are believed to be hiding inside the City. Further information can be obtained from the Watch which reveals that Mabel was the wife of a respected local brewer and ale-keep who kept an alehouse in Tanners’ Lane (The Stretched Hide). It is believed she and her lover murdered Gareth and tried to sell his premises before making their escape to Cornumbria. Unbeknowst to the Watch, Waylerund Thomas has a brother in Rufford and a sister married to a porter who lives on Salt Street. The pair are hiding out in his sister’s basement until the ship of a trusted friend comes in, in six days time, when they intend to leave the City. His relatives can be discovered by drinking in the Stretched Hide and buying a few rounds. A journeyman by the name of Matthew Tanner can tell them of his kin because he used to dice with Waylerund.
3) A note is affixed to a wall of the church; it is written in a scribe’s hand, and obviously was not penned by whoever composed the words. I am in desperate need of aid; my father died suddenly and I know he was slain. The Watch will not take me seriously because he was inside our house and it was locked from the inside, but he was as strong as an ox and couldn’t have died as they said. I will pay with my Father’s old sword that he got in the Holy Land if you can help me. Ask for Avice Granger at St Lott’s Church and Brother Tyler will point you to me if ye be of good intentions. Avice’s Father was indeed slain; when the PCs go to the scene, it is very obvious that magic was recently used in the area. The dweomer is particularly strong around a large bronze mirror that is standing in one corner. Such things are uncommon amongst the poorer townsfolk but Avice will tell the PCs that it was a gift from Mistress Seymour (wife to the head of the Potters’ Guild), for Avice is her maid. If the PCs try to investigate, the only pattern they might be able to find is that Godric Granger died on the night of a full moon. If they wait until such a night, the mirror radiates magic; this is not specific to this mirror as shall soon be seen, for young Master Phillip Weaver is a changeling and is using mirrors to travel around the City, feeding on the innocent. If a PC channels 2 magic points at the mirror on such a night, they can actually enter the mirror, though they will not be able to leave the room in the reflection. However, they will find that the mirror version of the Granger house is not the same as the one in the waking world; there is a message scrawled on the table in charcoal from the fire, that says ‘I hate you Mother! Why did you bring me back? All I do now is Kill Kill Kill!’ If the PCs tell this to Avice; she will show them a curved scimitar her father won as a soldier in the Holy Land in his youth. The blade is theirs if they find out who did this terrible deed. The blade is inlaid with semi precious stones and is worth 280 florins.
4) A note simply reads ‘ I am afraid for my life and my sanity. I keep seeing strange things that are not there, but fear I am the victim of a haunting. I need men, strong of arm and mind, to spend a night in my house and tell me if they can see what I have seen. Ask for Master Barrowmen at the Pilgrim’s Rest and I’ll give you 40 florins for your trouble. Master Barrowmen is not this poor wretch’s real name but the alewife at the Rest knows where to send the PCs if they enquire; he is Severus Gornsley and proves to be a scarred old man who lives alone as a watchmen in one of the small huts close to the shambles. The hut is a rude affair; one room with a packed earth floor and an open fire pit that the old man shares with his hog Netty. He does however, have a tall mirror on one wall; his daughters’ that he made in his days as a bronze-smith in his youth ‘afore I got burned and lost me nerve with the hot metal’ he relates. His daughter is now dead, of an ague, as is his wife. But Severus swears he sees things moving in the mirror some nights, especially when the moon is full and he ‘will not rest his head another night in this house till I knows the truth of it!’ Indeed the old man will tell them how he found small footprints close to his fire one night; as if someone had been standing over him. ‘But me doors and windows was locked up as tight as can be, and they still was come morning light. There’s some evil in this, or I’ve lost me wits.’
Severus fits his name; a tough old man, too proud for pity but too scared to tell his neighbours of his plight. PCs who take his money should be ashamed of themselves. If the PCs do stay on a full moon, there is a 50% chance that if they can stay awake (roll under their HP on a d12 to remain awake all night) that they see movement in the mirror. It is of course, the changeling, but he will flee as soon as he sees the PCs, and they cannot follow him out of the room in the reflection; anyone who saw his reflection in the glass at the riot will recognise the boy as the same lad. He appears to be a 4 year old child with an unnatural expression of lust and hatred carved across his otherwise cherubic face and flows of powerful magic surrounding him.
5) A message reads ‘A group of Pilgrims require safe passage to Cantorbridge and are willing to pay men of virtue and skill at arms to escort them southwards, along the Salt Way, starting the day after the end of the Martinmas feast. Ask for Lord Aldred’s Men at the Bishop’s Inn.’ This hook is for the next part of the Cantorbridge Tales; any NPCs the GM wishes to introduce or to keep from the section of the adventure from before this, can now be introduced or reintroduced; see here for details of most of these folk. Lord Aldred’s Men are travelling to Cantorbridge to perform at the feast of St Augustus and Etienne De Toyne wishes to see his Uncle’s sword Everhalt, which is displayed at Cantorbridge Cathedral, as it contains a powerful relic. Gervase will also be going south as part of this same party if he was cursed, as will Odo, if he is still alive; for both seek a way to break the curse. Finally, Marcus Blackthorn (see above) is also heading south, taking his mermaid to Cantorbridge for the feast. Other NPCs will also be introduced when this part of the Tales is over. Such pilgrim groups were very common, as folk banded together to avoid travelling along lonely roads. This particular group will pay the PCs 300 florins for safe passage to Cantorbridge, plus a share of lodgings and food on the way down.
6) This message reads ‘Help needed to track down my ne’er do well husband Tomas and give him a hiding. He has taken up with some doxie and I will pay good money to see him taken down a peg or two. Ask for Rose at the Butcher’s Arms.’ This story appears to be one that is all too common; a man falls into drink and depravity and leaves his poor wife in the lurch. Tomas Basset, a butcher, has taken up with a whore who lives in Chandler’s Lane and has taken his wages with him. Rose Basset is very annoyed and ashamed and wants Tomas given a bloody nose in public. She does not know where he is, but wants revenge. Rose can tell the PCs that Tomas usually drinks in the Stretched Hide alehouse on Tanners’ Lane. Patrons there know him, but the story is not as simple as it seems; Tomas is deep in gambling debts and is in hiding from a gang of thieves known as the ‘Nantwell Knives’. These villeins operate out of another Nantwell alehouse, known as The Bull and Bear off of St Stephen’s Lane. One is waiting in the Stretched Hide and will follow any inattentive PCs and try and kill Tomas if the PCs lead them to him. Indeed the whore, Mary Blunt, who is sheltering Tomas is just a friend and there is nothing between them but that; she is helping him because she feels guilty for encouraging him to go to the Bear in the first place and that’s how his dicing habit started. He owes 200 florins.
Nantwell Knives (5): Attack; 14, Defence; 6, Daggers; (d4, 3), AF 1, Movement (10m; 20m), Magical Defence; 3, Evasion; 4, Health Points; 9, Stealth; 17, Perception; 9.
Two days after the riot, there is a new message on the wall of St Boltoph’s, written in a firm hand that is obviously not written by a scribe.
‘My son has disappeared and the Watch cannot seem to find him. He is only four and I can pay 400 florins to whoever brings him home safely. Come to the Guild of Weavers and ask for Margaret if you have information about Master Phillip Weaver.
Next time: The PCs must find Margaret Weaver and then confront her ‘son’ in the mirror realm he has created.