A Murder

Copyright Tero Oksala © 2004

Edited by Mario M. Butter for The Guild Companion

"Zarathan asked the Earl about the murders. The Earl watched out of the window and whispered, ":Who Knows""

A Murder

Zarathan asked the Earl about the murders. The Earl watched out of the window and whispered, "Who Knows".

Synopsis

Characters will encounter a series of crimes when they are in town. Three murders happened during last month. Investigations have been started, but no evidence is found, and the city guard is very busy with other things and cannot pay full attention to these investigations. During the investigation the characters find out that the main motive is revenge between two very different and shady brothers.

Background

About eight years ago, just before Earl Khalis Xaramar died, his son Uluasek Xaramar became ill. Khalis hired many healers who tried to heal him in almost every possible way. All attempts were futile and every healer finally said that boy will die within a month. Uluasek's younger brother Hedanas was worried about the condition of his brother; he could be found beside his brother's bed every day. Hedanas spoke to Uluasek, related rumours and gossip from the town, and even sang to him every evening. This lasted about two months during which Uluasek's condition worsened every day. He was pale and looked almost dead.

Suddenly one morning, Uluasek woke up and he felt healthy again. The disease had taken its price, though, Uluasek was now pale and sunlight burned him whenever it touched his skin. He was still a very intelligent and wise man, especially with a politics. During the next summer Khalis died, and because Uluasek was the oldest, he inherited his father's title and property. Hedanas was a little bit jealous, but kept his mouth shut. Hedanas spent two months in their family mansion, but soon moved to town.

Uluasek ruled many years and his younger brother became more angery every year. He wondered why Uluasek wouldn't help his brother. Uluasek kept all he earned and gave Hedanas only what he needed to live. Uluasek would feed beggars and other poor people, but wouldn't give his brother even the smallest birthday present. During the first year Hedanas joined a cult which worshipped an ancient god. He was fascinated with the cult and the gifts bestowed by service to this dark and ancient god. At the same time he started investigating his brother, suspecting that everything wasn't right. Hedanas studied all of his brother's moves for six years and during that time noticed that Uluasek imprisoned beggars from the streets and killed them. Hedanas knew that if he exposed Uluasek, he would be captured and charged with treason.

The cult studied Hedanas background closely when he joined and noticed that he was son of the Earl Khalis. Seeing an opportunity to gain wealth, the cult mentioned to Hedanas that one of the cult Elder positions would soon be free and if Hedanas can achieve better status in outer world, then he can be raised to Elder status in the cult hierarchy.

For two long years Hedanas carefully plotted his revenge. The plot was simple - implicate his brother in a few murders. Hedanas knew that Uluasek gambles occasionally with a few friends, and if Hedanas murders a few of the gamblers who owe money to his brother, then a motive becomes quite clear. He murdered three members of the gaming group, not realising how much they owed to Uluasek.

Hiring the PCs

When the characters are in the local inn a beautiful young lady comes to them, asking if they have time to speak with a lonely lady. If the PCs consent, the lady sits and orders a glass of wine. Lady Joansa introduces herself to the characters and says that she is searching for some volunteers to investigate her husband's murder. She offers a 200 gold piece bounty for a live capture, and 100 gold pieces if the killer is dead. She explains that the guards are very busy, investigating some kind of huge smuggling operation around the docks.

GM: Lady Joansa tries to use praise so that the PCs will help her. Joansa is also very attractive and won't hesitate to use her wiles if necessary.

The lady promises to pay reasonable living expenses during the investigation. Joansa says also that if the characters want know something about her husband they can come to visit, but now she doesn't have time to talk more. She wishes the PCs good luck and departs from the inn.

GM: PCs can do following scenarios as they will. Below is suggestion how each scenario goes, using the flow chart the GM can see what happens if certain events happen. The GM can still change the order as he/she likes, but some scenes should be played in order.

Rumours

Characters can collect rumours and information from around town. Some of the following rumours contain incorrect information, but something useful can found if handled properly.

The list of rumours is divided into sections to go with the various scenes. The characters can still collect rumours from the earlier sections when they proceed further in the adventure. After every rumour is the truth.

Rumours for first section:

  1. Murder weapon varies, some say that it was teeth and some say that it was a huge axe. Everything between these extremes can be heard. Truth: Real murder weapon was a dagger.
  2. Victims are also being discussed. Some say that they were local nobles; some say that they were beggars, and some say that the victims were sailors. Truth: First victim was local noble, second victim was an inn keeper, and third was a local smith.
  3. Murderer is a maniacal serial killer and won't hesitate to kill anyone who crosses his path. Truth: Murderer is Earl's brother Hedanas, who is not really a serial killer.
  4. Victims tried to fight back, but the murderer was stronger. One rumour tells that the murderer got hurt during one battle. Truth: Murderer did get hurt during one battle, but no one knows how badly. Every victim was ambushed and they had no chance to fight back, except for one.
  5. The murderer killed some guards when they tried to stop him. Truth: Hedanas arranged bodies so that guards will find them first and no one saw or tried to stop him when "working" with the bodies.

Rumours for second section:

  1. There was a big riot was at the docks with a few persons arrested. Truth: These arrested were the cult thugs. City guards tried to cover up what really happened.
  2. A dark cult wandered around the town and hired many sailors and thieves to their service. Truth: The cult hired many thugs from the alleys as reinforcements.
  3. Uluasek's brother has been murdered. Truth: No one really knows how, and they don't know exactly where to find Uluasek's brother's apartment. He is still alive.
  4. Earl Uluasek hired a few very experienced adventurers as a body guard. Truth: Earl Uluasek hired a few investigators from a nearby town to investigate murders.
  5. Some terrifying assassin murdered two guards. 5. Some terrifying assassin murdered two guards. Truth: These unlucky guards were taking thugs to prison, but the thugs tried to escape and two guards died in that attempt.

Rumours for third section:

  1. The town guards arrested hundreds of citizens who were involved with a drug dealing ring. Truth: The town guards arrested only five members from the smuggling group.
  2. There was a big gang fight during the night. Truth: The cult thugs tried to catch the PCs.
  3. Three nobles were robbed last night. Truth: This is only rumour and it is not true.
  4. Two local counts were arrested for drug dealing. Truth: These two counts worked with the Yurthafur Gerimbar and tried to take drugs to the smugglers.
  5. 5. Guard were assassinated in a very cruel way. Truth: This should be heard after PCs are arrested.

Inquiring at the Guardhouse

City guard headquarters are best place to start an investigation, because the victims are kept there. Guards will let PCs investigate the bodies and they will allow the PCs to examine all of the evidence found at the murder scenes. The officer will explain to the characters who found the bodies and where and how they were positioned. He will tell the names of the victims and give any information that he can.

The guards who found the victims were patrolling during the night. All the victims were found in alleys and were all lying on their faces. In each case, the body was in U shape, and it appears that someone arranged them so. Two of the victims were stabbed with a dagger and the third one was strangled with a chain. The guards don't have any more information.

One of them will mention that a guard (Krek Jolus) was found dead this morning. Krek was secretly investigating the murders, but no one knows how his investigation was coming along. The officer doesn't let his guards investigate murders, unless he gives a direct order to do so. Usually the guards will use outside investigators when needed. The other guards won't disclose anything from their investigations to the officer, for fear of a punishment. The guards know where Krek's property is kept.

The first victim was Jasar Tedastos, a local rich noble, who spent his time at home. He was quite a popular man and everyone loved him. His heart was good, and he was very handsome as well. He was survived by three boys (Georg, Rudasha and Kilthana) and a wife (Joansa). They all live in a mansion just outside the town. Jasar was an expert with swords and he swaggered with with pride in his skills. Duels were normal when he showed up and he never lost. He was stabbed with a dagger.

The second victim was Na'eem Theodnas, an inn keeper. He owned the Weathervane Inn, popular among people from the higher social classes. Na'eem was a bit shady and very intelligent. Some say that he won the inn in a wager with the former owner. Some say still that he bought it, but no one knows where Na'eem got his money. He was 38 years old and quite handsome. He was an originally an adventurer, but some terrible beast killed several friends and his wife, causing him to quit that life. Some may wonder why that beast killed Na'eem's wife and friends, but he will not discuss the subject. If someone asks about it repeatedly, Na'eem will get irritated. He has a daughter and a girlfriend, but his child lives in another town now. Na'eem also died from dagger stab wounds.

The third victim was Theodon Wolgras. He was an old smith and master craftsman. Theodon owned a workshop just outside town. He was 48 years old and a handsome man too. Theodon was very muscular and his works were famous in the town, making excellent swords and axes. Some hated him and some loved him, but he was especially popular among adventurers and children. The characters might find his friends in town. Theodon was a fighter about 15 years ago, but quit his adventuring career and founded a workshop. He has no wife or children and everything he owned was sold at auction. Interestingly, there was blood on the victim's shirt, but the blood wasn't his. He was strangled with a chain, but the guards believe that the murderer was the same person. He was left lying on his face in the same position as the other victims.

The murder weapon is very special kind of dagger, very old and with a needle inside the edge which injects poison in the target. This dagger is most likely unique, because of its shaping. It has a curved edge, suitable to stabbing because it rips more. It is extremely sharp and can quite easily penetrate even studded leather armour. The murder weapon was found in Na'eem's back. A murder weapon for the first victim was never found, but if the dagger is compared to the first victim's wound, it can be seen quite clearly that it is a perfect match. There is a small symbol on the edge of the dagger, which the guards do not recognize. If the characters cannot detect poison, get a healer etc. tell to them that the poison is very rare and expensive. Whoever identifies the poison doesn't know how murderer got it. Only with a lot of luck can the poison source be traced to the mountains. The murderer knows a lot of poisons and has good skills in handling them.

The second murder weapon was chain taken from a cloak. It is made of steel covered with a pure gold. There is a little bit of blood on the chain, not from the victim.

Talking to the Investigators

One of the guards can bring the dead guards' property for the characters to examine. The guard (Krek Jolus) was poisoned with the same poison used previously. A citizen found him just outside of the city gates and immediately alerted the town guards. Nothing was stolen and Krek's body was in good shape, except that he was dead.

All Krek owned is in a box. There is a shirt, trousers, ring mail, long sword + scabbard, dagger, pouch (30 silver pieces and 50 gold pieces!!!), two silver rings, boots, cloak, underwear and some other personal effects. The guards say that he also possessed some papers with his notes regarding the murder investigation, but they weren't with the body or the personal effects. Possibly Krek had hidden those papers, but guards don't know. Krek usually kept those notes with him and showed them to no one. They also said that Krek drank alcohol the evening he died; all the guards know that he was almost always sober.

Some of the guards knew something, but they are not sure if it is part of the investigation. They think they heard Krek mention Earl Uluasek Xaramar's name.

GM: The guards know very little about the investigations, but they can tell much about Krek. He was a lonely person who has no family or relatives. He didn't drink booze often (noting that he only drank two times during the last eight years). Krek's friends and relatives were here, his fellow guards. You can reveal as much as you want, but be careful that you don't reveal too much too easily.

Examining the Murder Weapons

The guards cannot tell the players anything about the dagger, but they will say that the chain might be from the cloth, golden chain is quite common in the cloaks that nobles or adventurers use. It is very expensive, because there is a thin gold layer.

More information about the dagger can be found from a library. With some searching the characters can find that the dagger belonged to an Earl whose name was Khalis Xaramar. The symbol in the dagger was his wife's family crest, but soon after he married into the Khalis family the symbol was forgotten.

GM: You should make clear to PCs that this dagger belongs to the Earl.

Seeing the Earl

Uluasek's mansion is a very old and beautiful. The yard around the mansion is heavily guarded and entering the mansion without permission might be extremely difficult. Uluasek gives orders to the guards that they should let the characters pass. If the characters ask about the victims, he says only that he knew one of the victims, Jasar Tedastos. The Earl has seen him a few times at parties and in the town council, but that is all that he knows. If the characters say that the Earl's name was mentioned when they talked with the town guards who found their dead fellow this morning, Uluasek will only answer, "Who knows". He is part of many important projects and one of the most respected people in the town. He has arranged food allocation days for poor people and he helps the poor quite often in his town. Maybe someone is jealous or got irritated about the things he has done. If the characters want to search the house, the Earl gives his permission, but he will observe the characters as they are searching.

If the characters knew that in the dagger has the Earl's symbol and they ask about it Uluasek will not deny it. He will tell the characters that he can show them that the dagger is in his weapon collection.

But it isn't, and the Earl is shocked. After that he says to the characters that it must be stolen. He didn't kill those poor citizens. Uluasek thinks that maybe someone is setting him up as guilty for the murders.

If the characters want look at all the clothes that the Earl has (to see that if the chain is missing from some of the clothes), he will give his permission. All the clothing is in good shape and nothing appears missing. The Earl's hands are bandaged and if the characters ask about his hands, will he say that he burned them badly. He cannot show his hands now, but after two days he can when the bandages are removed. If the players demand hard enough, the Earl will show his hands. His hands are very badly burned and no one can tell if there had been any wounds before burning. He has an alibi for the nights of the murders , his servants can tell the players that the Earl went to bed early as he normally does. The servants think that the Earl was in his bed during those nights.

Characters cannot find any more clues or information from the Earl's mansion at this point. He has twenty guards at all times around and inside the mansion. In the mansion are a few servants, two waitresses, cook, gardener (actually undead too, but the Earl disguises it very well), cleaner and equerry. They all say the same things, and they don't know any more about the Earl's past if asked. The Earl hired them some time ago (just after Hedanas left, but they don't anything about the Hedanas).

Investigating Victims' families

The first of the victims was Jaras Tedastos. His wife was the one who hired the characters to do further investigations regarding her husband's murder. She will tell the characters that Jaras was a popular and nice person who helped the poor and the helpless. Joansa says that Jaras practiced fencing techniques and spent a lot of time doing paperwork. His greatest project was a poor house for beggars, and when he passed away Joansa planned continuing his work. Lady Joansa will show the players Jaras' workroom (noting especially a debenture that he owed to the Earl, 1000 gold pieces) and whole house if the PCs are willing to search it. Nothing more can be found, but during the investigation Joansa will mention that some money was occasionally found missing during the last few years. The money was stolen from the chest in the workroom. She doesn't have any idea how or who. Joansa will tell the characters that the there were two Counts who hated Jaras, Queldaras Komasher and Jilford Gretanas. Jaras took their lands a few years ago when he beat these two in duels.

If the characters talk with the children they will say that their dad played dice and cards with his friends every week. He took money from the chest and gave it to the children and that no one told their mother. Joansa is shocked at this comment, if she hears it.

The second victim was Na'eem Theodnas. His girlfriend (Sandara) owns the inn now and can tell more about Na'eem. Na'eem was a nice and handsome guy, but he gambled too much. Na'eem gambled away most of his money, but sometimes he won huge sums. Na'eem told his girlfriend that he owes 100 gold pieces to Earl Uluasek who arranged gambling among a few carefully chosen people. Sandara doesn't know who the others were. She plans to pay what they owe to the Earl quite soon. She hopes that the characters can find the murderer quickly. Sandara will tell the characters that a few adventurers and one Count in the town had threatened to kill Na'eem, but they know of Na'eem's excellent skill with fighting axes. A Count from this town named Yurthafur Gerimbar also threatened Na'eem. Yurthafur moved to town a few years ago from the mountains and quickly gained Count's status and a lot of wealth. He owns a house just outside town. Sandara hasn't seen the adventurers in the town and she doesn't know their names either. She will inform the characters of her alibi - she was working in the inn at the time of the murders. There are many customers who will say the same thing to the characters.

The third victim was Smith Theodon Wolgras. The only way to find some information about him is to ask around town. After a few hours of intensive searching, the PCs find three adventurers at the local inn. These adventurers knew Theodon quite well. They can tell the players that Theodon gambled occasionally and no one hated him. He was very popular in town, but his history is shady. No one knows exactly what he did during his adventuring career. The adventurers appear very sorry about Theodon's death. One of the adventurers says that Theodon owed money to someone, but they don't know who that person is. They know that Theodon could easily pay any loan back, because he was a very rich person.

Handling Irrelevant Information

There are now lots of people who are suspects. If the PCs are going to investigate suspects they should interrogate every suspect separately. One of the suspects is Count Queldaras Komasher. He lost a fencing contest and got angry about that. Peoples in the town can guide PCs to his mansion, but Komasher's guards will answer only that he left three weeks ago headed north for some business things. He is coming back within three weeks.

The next suspect is Count Jilford Gretanas. He lives in the town, and owns a few apartments around town. PCs can find him easily from his office. Jilford has an alibi for the murder nights (he was with two prostitutes during those nights) and he doesn't know anything about Jaras' death. Jilford says however that it is better he died, because he deserved to die. He was a very annoying person, a gambling maniac and probably someone who he gambled with murdered him. He is not willing to answer anymore questions and calls the guards to lead the "guests" out. The last suspect is Earl Uluasek, but PCs don't have enough evidence against him.

GM: You should play Jilford as a very shady person who might be cold blooded murderer. Jilford is very intelligent and tries to hide that he is actually very interested in the investigations.

Yurthafur Gerimbar is a suspect which the PCs have no evidence against at all; even though he threatened to kill Na'eem Theodnas. Various townspeople can tell the adventurers where Yurthafur lives - he owns mansion outside the town walls. After a short walk the PCs arrive at Yurthafur's mansion. There are no guards at all and very quickly they notice that there are three wagons in front of the house. There drivers are in their seats and four men beside each wagon carry something to them. A man wearing studded leather armour stands beside the first wagon and gives orders. When the PCs are close (within 100') one of the men notices them and shouts something (which the PCs cannot hear). Everyone beside the wagons turns around and man wearing studded leather orders the PCs to stop. PCs will quickly notice that the man is Yurthafur. He asks the PCs what business they have in a private area. He doesn't wait for the PCs answers, instead ordering his men to arrest the "intruders". PCs should not try to resist arrest, because everyone who tries to escape or resist is killed. Yurthafur is a drug dealer and his wagons are full of drugs. There is a small change that the PCs might notice before they are taken to cellar. Yurthafur calls city guards to take the PCs to a prison, but the officer explains that these adventurers are investigating the murders. Then Yurthafur apologizes for his actions and whispers to the PCs that if they say a word about what they saw, they will be dead very soon. He has no time to answer questions that the PCs want to ask. Yurthafur's cook can tell the PCs that his lord wanted to kill Na'eem, because he stole something from Yurthafur recently. The cook says that he doesn't know more and if something comes up he will send word to the PCs about it.

GM: This good time to let PCs to wander around a little bit gathering rumours and other information.

Investigating the Gambling Operation

As PCs might notice the loans that the victims owed to the Earl were quite small (some of those) and should pose no problems. The biggest question is who murdered these three people and why. The characters might know at this point that all evidence point the Earl. They cannot be sure, because the Earl has an alibi, though not very good. If the PCs listened carefully they might have learned that there were many carefully chosen gamblers which played with the victims. There are very few who even know about the gambling, though Earl Uluasek and Joansa's children might know something.

The characters may decide to go back and ask the children if they remember some names etc. After a short discussion with the children, they will tell the characters that they think one of the gamblers is Heforshos Keel. Joansa knows that Heforshos is a town guard and usually handles all the paper work. He can be found in the headquarters.

Heforshos works in his office, and will meet the characters immediately. The characters notice that he is little bit embarrassed. If the characters ask why, he collapses and says that he took a gold coin from the officer's desk. If the characters are confused about what Heforshos said, he pulls himself together and asks immediately what the characters want. He won't tell the PCs anything about the gambling group voluntarily, but if threatened he will tell everything that he knows.

Heforshos tells them they played in an empty old house outside the town, just beside the Uluasek mansion. There were six gamblers and the Earl himself. Only three are left now and Heforshos is scared to death, because someone is killing the gamblers. He doesn't owe the Earl anything, but knows that two other, who are alive, owe the Earl about 100 gold pieces each. He asks the PCs to not to tell anybody that he gambled with them, because his officer will discharge him (gambling is illegal). The other two gamblers are Julius Tuul (adventurer magician) and Sahas Nelgaras (spice merchant). Only Sahas is in town now, and the PCs can find her at the Sinking Ship Inn.

Sahas can be easily found in the dank inn. There is a delicate spicy aroma around her. She is a very beautiful woman, about 30 years old with long black hair. Sahas introduces herself politely and asks how she can help the characters. She will order drinks for the characters if they request. Sahas answers the questions to her best, if the PCs first explain why they are asking. Sahas knows little about the murders and she also knows that everyone who owes money to the Earl can pay their loans back. She has no idea why the Earl would murder his fellows. She knows that the Earl is very shady person and can be very scary. One of the victims claimed that Uluasek is not actually human, but Sahas cannot be sure. Sahas knows the following things about the gambling and loans:

  • Loans varied quite lot, all except Heforshos Keel owed something to Uluasek.
  • Sahas owes 105 gold pieces to him.
  • They played once every week in the old empty house, which is just beside the mansion.
  • They always gambled at night.
  • Uluasek came through a secret tunnel into the house.
  • They drank a variety of wines and ate rare fruits etc. (excellent food)
  • Two of the victims spent more time with the Earl (Theodon Wolgras and Na'eem Theodnas) than with anyone else

She can answer other questions, but her knowledge is very limited.

Seeing the Earl Second Time

The next reasonable step is to meet the Earl a second time. Uluasek is happy when the PCs arrive but a little bit doubtful. He asks immediately how the investigation is proceeding. If the characters tell about the investigations he listens carefully and nods constantly. If the PCs ask about the loans, the Earl starts laughing. He says that he has nothing to do with the murders. Someone stole his family dagger and actually he gambles with a few friends, but that's it. If the PCs name names and ask about those from the Earl, Uluasek will say only that he doesn't want to talk about the gambling ring. He will tell if pressured the right way or if the characters show all the evidence that they have. Then he will tell who played, how often and everything that the characters want know, but no new information will be gained. Uluasek tells that sums that they owed to him are quite small, except one, and he was in no rush to get those. He mentions that during the murders he was sleeping and the characters can ask the servants and the guards. The Earl will also tell the PCs his brother's name, but his brother is not in town now. The guards and servants don't know more, and they will state that if the Earl leaves the mansion someone would defiantly notice.

The Earl can show his secret passage, it begins in his office and leads outside the walls. There is an empty house about two hundred meters away from the walls. There the lord gambled with his friends.

GM: You should play the Earl as though he might be hiding something, it will make the PCs suspect him. Actually the Earl is a vampire and hides it with disguises and spells. He doesn't want to reveal himself at any costs.

Hey, My Weapon is Stolen!!!

The next night someone steals a PC's weapon. That weapon should be unique, with symbols or carvings that it can be easily identified by the guards. If there is no such weapon, then you could use a belt, chain etc.

When the characters wake up, the PC whose weapon was stolen will quickly notice that it is missing. There is dust on the floor, but it can be from anywhere around town. Small traces can be found on the window's frame, maybe some kind of grappling hook left those marks. There is also a piece of fine silk with a small symbol on it (part of the Cult's symbol). With luck and skill the PCs might notice that it is cult's symbol.

If the PCs go to the guard house and tell what happened they will get a very simple answer. The guards cannot do anything now, but they promise to investigate it if they get enough time.

Attacked!

This event happens only when PCs are travelling in shady alleys or at night. Hedanas hired some thugs to beat the PCs and send a message to them. Message is very simple - the PCs should leave town immediately or they will die. The PCs should not investigate things that don't concern them. The thugs have set up an ambush to get an advantage in the fight. These thugs have only clubs and pitons but they have skills their use. The thugs will not kill the PCs, they will beat them until all are unconscious.

GM: You should roll some perception checks during the fight. If the character makes a successful hard perception check then he will notice that on the arm of the thug leader is a tattoo of a skeletal hand holding a ruby.

Guards will arrest these thugs (if any of them is alive). The only who possesses a tattoo is the leader, who hired the other thugs from the shady alleys. The leader is only one who knows about the cult, but a very hard interrogation check is needed to gather any information. He will give very little information about the cult, because somehow he cannot remember all of it.

GM: The cult leader gave a herb to the leader. It destroys almost all that he can remember from the cult.

Investigating the Symbol

The citizens don't know anything about the cult for sure, but some rumours can be collected (see above). The first reasonable place to start is a library, which might reveal more information. The characters can also use their heraldry or symbol lore skills, the skill roll is hard. During the investigation some of the following information may be gathered:

  • The Cult's real name is the Black Sapphire
  • Some adventurer said that the cult worships some ancient god, which could be evil or good.
  • The cult is quite small
  • No one, except a few carefully chosen members, know where the headquarters are located

That is the only what can be found from books, no real explanations about the hierarchy, motivations and so on. Why did those thugs attack the characters?

Confrontation with the Earl's Investigators

Characters meet group of the Earl's investigators. They are willing to reveal very little information, but will ask the characters more about their investigations. The investigators will tell the characters that Earl Uluasek sent them to investigate the murders. Someone might have set the Earl up as guilty of the murders, but they don't know yet who.

Investigators will ask the characters if they know anything about the killings and who hired them. It is up to the characters what they reveal to the investigators. These investigators are very shady and might even scare the characters because they seem to be familiar with this kind of situation.

If the characters explain all that they know, the investigators will talk about the cult. The cult operates in town, but they don't make too much noise. The cult started to operate in town a few years ago. They will take only carefully chosen persons to be members and very little information considering their activity can be found. Membership is for life and if someone leaves the cult, he disappears shortly afterward. No one knows what happens or when it happens, it just happens. The investigators warn the characters to do nothing what might raise anger of the cult. Asking around might help the characters to find information about the cult, but they should be careful because the cult might react to the situation violently.

Investigating the Cult

Characters who ask around about the cult will get very little information. No one knows or they don't want to tell. Some information might be gained from the following list:

Background

  • The cult has a stable place in town. There are only 50 -100 members at a time in the cult. Most of the members are "mundane people", but there are about 15 members from the higher social classes. The cult membership includes five merchants and one of them is chief of the merchant's guild. A few of the local nobles joined the cult to get more excitement in their life. Also a councillor of the town senate is a member.
  • Most members have some influence in the senate and through the cult goes everything that the merchant's guild buys or sells. The cult also owns part of the drug dealing and selling rings. They counterfeit money and forge important documents to use in gaining money and influence. Most important part of cult activity is still worship of an ancient god. Every month, when high masses are held, the cult sacrifices two citizens (usually slaves bought from the underground slave market) to their god.
  • The Cult has headquarters in the town's sewer system (Lie)
  • The Cult leader is some Baron (True)
  • The Cult hires more members now (True)
  • The Cult's headquarters are in the nearby forest (Lie)
  • The most important goal of the Cult is gaining more influence (True)
  • The Cult kidnapped beggars some time ago and used them in their dark rituals (Lie and True)
  • Some of the cult members can be found in the dark alleys (True and Lie)

Framing the PCs

When the characters are travelling around the town in the evening they will hear crying. It ends just before the PCs approach the place where the sounds seem to orginate. They see that a guard is murdered and the character's weapon is lying beside the body. Almost immediately after that some town guards arrive. They notice the dead guard quickly and arrest the PCs. All equipment is removed and handcuffs are placed around their wrists. The guards are not willing to listen to any explanations and take the characters to prison (assuming that the PCs don't try to escape). If the characters escape the guards will sound an alarm and sooner or later they will catch the characters.

GM: You can also let the characters to catch real murderer while escaping the town guards.

After two hours the guards start interrogating the characters. The PCs can explain what really happened and hope that the guards will believe them. The interrogation will take many hours and finally the guards will let the characters go, if any of the PCs don't confess. (That might happen if the character fails a willpower check.) The guards will eventually tell them that they will watch the characters closely.

More Clues are Found

Two days later when the characters are wandering around the town they will hear someone whispering, calling to them from a nearby alley. When the characters go to the alley they will notice that an old man is sitting, leaning against the wall. He looks at the characters and says that he might have something to help the characters. He is friend of a victim and wants the characters catch the murderer.

The man claims that he has seen Uluasek's brother around here many times. He sneaks in the dark alleys and tries to avoid people. The brother rented an apartment in the town centre and lives there. Hedanas is a very shady person and some say that he has some connections to a secret cult. If the PCs want to ask questions, the man will answer if he knows. Following things may be gleaned from talking to the old man:

  • Hedanas is Earl Ulusek's brother
  • Uluasek inherited from his father and Hedanas didn't get anything
  • Hedanas' finances are bad
  • Hedanas has many connections to the underworld

After that the man stands up and leaves quickly. The old man won't reveal any more information.

Attacked!

This encounter happens in the evening or night. When the PCs are walking on the street, thugs ambush them (if the PCs don't notice thugs). The leader of the group says that since the characters are not willing to believe warnings then something bad will happen.

The thugs will try to kill the characters. There are too many thugs to to beat (except with extreme luck) and the characters will be forced to flee. The thugs try to follow the characters and kill them if they catch the PCs.

GM: You should plan chasing so that the characters have some chance to escape, but they will get some wounds (not lethal). Finally they should escape. The thugs scatter around the town if the characters hide from them. Then only small parties will be encountered, but not all at the same time. This should be an exciting situation and players should get the feeling that the character's life is in a real danger.

The Brother

Hedanas' apartment can be found when the PCs ask around town a little bit. His apartment is in the town centre, just beside the market place. Very few people know that Hedanas lives there, but they will tell the characters, because people have heard about the investigation.

Hedanas is home and lets the characters come in. He will say that he doesn't know anything about the murders, except the rumours that he has heard. If the PCs ask why he lurks in the alleys Hedanas says only that someone has tried to murder him twice, and now he is not willing to take any risks. Hedanas is handsome man, about 30 years old. He is very intelligent which can be seen in his eyes. He allows the characters to investigate his apartment, but says that he has to go soon (he will not tell to the characters where he is going). The characters might notice (with a hard perception roll) that Hedanas has a tattoo, which is almost same kind of tattoo seen on the thug. There is some difference. If the characters ask about the tattoo, Hedanas says only that he received that tattoo six years ago, when he was travelling alone in a different country (Actually the tattoo shows status in the cult. Hedanas tattoo shows higher status than that of the thug.)

He will wait until the characters have investigated his apartment and leaves with the characters. With a hard perception roll the characters find a few bandage rolls and bloody rags under the bedspread. If the characters ask about the bandages and bloody rags, Hedanas answers only that those are his friend's (a merchant Julius Thanastos) things. Hedanas doesn't know anything about those (Lie). Outside the house he wishes the characters good luck and leaves in a different direction than the characters.

GM: You should say to the character that Hedanas seems to be hiding something (as many others in this case). Now is a good time to follow Hedanas, because he is going directly to the cult headquarters. Hedanas looks around all the time and seem to be little bit paranoid (actually he isn't). PCs should be careful that he doesn't notice them. If they're spotted then Hedanas will buy miscellaneous stuff and go to his home trying again in the evening. Hedanas doesn't want kill the characters, but if he notices that they follow him any more he hires an assassin.

The Cult

Only good way to find the cult's headquarters is following Hedanas. He tries to avoid all people and hides in the alleys when it is possible. He walks a few blocks and enters a house. The house is three-story and in a good shape. The PCs cannot see inside because of the closed shutters. On the third floor is small balcony and balcony doors are open.

GM: If there are any characters which have good hiding and/or stalking skills they may enter through the balcony otherwise it is a suicidal mission, even with good weapon skills.

If the characters search the nearby alley they might find (an absurd perception check) a key, which can be used to enter to the house. The characters can also wait for someone to come out and try to arrest him to get more information from him. Next one who comes out of the house is Hedanas. He opens the door, looks around and then leaves the house quickly and goes directly to his home.

The second person who comes out is one of the cult members. He is the leader of the merchant's guild, even though the characters don't necessarily know him. He goes directly to his office, which is in the town centre. PCs can notice (with a very hard perception check) that he has same kind of tattoo on his hand as on Hedanas hand.

When the characters get into the cult headquarters, they should be very careful. The house is carefully guarded and sneaking past the guards is necessary. There are very few members in the house and very little evidence about the cult's activity can be found. Most likely this house is a meeting place and the real headquarters are elsewhere. Some of the members have high status in town and some are just ordinary people, nothing more.

If the characters arrest Hedanas he will confess if evidence is revealed and if the characters pressure him hard enough. He tries to escape if possible and will eventually tell all, including what he knows about his brother. Hedanas will say that he thinks Uluasek might be a vampire who has killed many beggars lately to get blood. He also says that revealing Hedanas will destroy the cult. Some of the cult members have high status in the town and revealing them will destroy town's economy. Also, the cult will seek revenge if Hedanas is arrested.

The merchant (Julius Thanastos) tries to escape, but if he doesn't succeed he will surrender. Through the interrogation the merchant reveals that Hedanas planned something, but he doesn't know what the plan was. The merchant only knows that it concerns Uluasek, Hedanas' brother, who did something bad to Hedanas.

Conclusion

The characters have to make a difficult decision. If they take Hedanas to the guards, the cult might seek revenge. If they reveal the whole cult, then town's economy might suffer, because to the cult membership includes some quite powerful people. The third problem is Uluasek. Hedanas said that he is a vampire and murdered people some time ago. There is no evidence of these murders, but the characters can investigate Uluasek and make sure that he is or isn't a vampire.

It is up to GM how things proceed, but the PCs should make their decision and do as they want to.

Tables and charts