S3E1: Power Behind the Throne, Part I – Skeletons in the Closet

Full version in Swedish

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The old fortified manor house of Havenblast (Art by Richard Luschek)

In which our friends visit Marike’s family and find out a bit more about her father.


Wednesday, July 4th – Friday, July 13th, 2512 (August 26th, 2020)

 

Food run to Wittgendorf

After their adventures at Castle Wittgenstein, the adventurers had agreed to split up. While Zima and Dmitri rode north to track down Nanker’s crew, the rest of the company were going south to visit Marike’s family at Havenblast (pronounced HALF-en-blust) and find out more about her supposed father.

As agreed, the adventurers first sailed to Grissenwald to sell off a small fraction of the loot from Castle Wittgenstein, buy food for the money and return to Wittgendorf with it.

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Grissenwald (Art from the 4E Death on the Reik)

To Nuln and on

The next day, they sailed south again for the great city of Nuln, where they visited Aenlinn’s family for a few days.

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The docks of Nuln (Art by Rhys Griffiths)

While Said stayed in Nuln to have the boat repaired, the others bought horses and travelled south by land for Havenblast.

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Peasants harvesting hay in the fields outside Wissenburg (Art by Sam Manley (?))

Saturday, July 14th

 

Welcome to Havenblast

After some 2 ½ days of traveling across the countryside and the city of Wissenburg, the adventurers finally neared Havenblast, an ancient fortified manor looking much like a miniature old-fashioned stone castle, its buildings in a compact square around a courtyard and surrounded by a deep ditch.

On the way, the adventurers first passed the attached village and market square, then between the “outer yard” (the household’s own farm) and the orchard through a birch-lined walk up to the manor house itself.

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Havenblast and its surroundings (Map by Kerry Mould & Thomas Shook)

As the adventurers arrived, most of the household were dining in the great stone hall, including the lord of Havenblast, the land-magistrate Sir Warmund von Hollinger, his wife Gertrude, most of their children, and Warmund’s sister, Marike’s mother Beate. The adventurers were fed and afterward assigned places to sleep; Marike had her customary guest bed in Beate’s quarters, while the others were to share the sleeping loft with the servants.

Kethe

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Kethe (Art by Theo Axner)

The middle daughter Kethe, who had been missing since last afternoon, eventually arrived. Sir Warmund sternly pointed out she was about 21 hours late for dinner – the banquet last night, where he and Lady Gertrude had intended to introduce Kethe to one of the unmarried sons of the visiting Baron von Neurath – and promised to think up a suitable punishment for her.

At supper Sir Warmund declared his judgement: in fact the punitive labour assigned was also an honourable mission. He’d had word from the village priest of Kröte, half a day’s travel west, about a case of suspected witchcraft the villagers needed help investigated. Kethe was to equip a small retinue, go there in his name and investigate. Kethe immediately started trying to talk her cousin Marike into coming along.

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The memories of Beate

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Elise (Photo by Rob Roy)

When Marike eventually got around to showing her mother the locket with the miniature portrait of Samuel Heintz (and of Esther Lieberung as a child), Beate was badly upset. She recognized Samuel and vaguely remembered having done something terrible. Lady Gertrude’s old chambermaid Elise interfered, telling Marike that Samuel’s name was not one to be mentioned in the house. Marike was insistent, however, and Elise agreed to talk to Lady Gertrude and ask her to tell about what happened 30 years ago.

Gertrude agreed, and later that evening they met at the southern parapet to talk over a glass of wine. Marike brought her company and Kethe invited herself; Sir Warmund and Elise were also present, but Gertrude did most of the talking. “I had a feeling this would need to come out sooner or later,” the lady sighed and begun her story.

 

Gertrude’s story

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Freiherrin Ingrid, age 34 (Art by Lukas Cranach Sr.)

Samuel Heintz (as Gertrude told it) served at Havenblast as a physician and secretary for Sir Roland, Warmund’s father and predecessor as magistrate, for two years in 2478 to 2480. He came from the north with a glowing recommendation from the Imperial Baroness Ingrid von Wittgenstein, whom he had served earlier on, and he was educated and very knowledgeable. He was also handsome, charming and quickly became very popular. He and the young Warmund became good friends, and many local women were attracted to him. (Lady Gertrude claimed she never liked him herself.)

After a while there were rumours about Samuel. He was said to be a magician, selling magical potions and ointments secretly; in time, wilder rumours told about him teaching magic and even holding secret gatherings with young villagers. The von Hollingers didn’t take these rumours seriously, to their cost.

Potions or not, he eventually turned out to have provided people with more or less poisonous or mind-altering drugs, in order to influence them. It seems he also drugged Beate and… took advantage of her helpless state. This did not became clear until after his disappearance, but Gertrude and Warmund (who was still apoplectic with rage at the mention of this) agreed that it was after this that Beate never was quite herself.

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There were rumours of some sort of witches’ coven assembling in the woods

After Geheimnisnacht 2480, Samuel fled north and was never heard from again. He was rumoured to have led some sort of witches’ coven in the woods to the west, near Dötternbach and Kröte. Several local youths had apparently seen strange things and were badly shaken; some even lost their minds for shorter or longer periods. One young woman of Kröte was found drowned in a lake soon afterward – it was unclear whether she drowned herself deliberately, by accident, or even was murdered.

There were many rumours of witchcraft, and many local young women and men were denounced as participants.  The drowned girl was denounced by many, and some even accused Jungfrau Beate, “which was of course preposterous”.

Sir Roland, not wanting any scandal, took steps to clam things down with the help of the local priest and the Baroness von Falkenheim who owned much of the land to the west. He declared the absent Samuel an outlaw for feeding the local youths poisonous drugs and making them imagine things, and ordered the families of the denounced to discipline their youths and put an end to the nonsense. Eventually things did calm down.

Beate was badly shocked and didn’t speak at all for over a year. She turned out to be pregnant, and Marike was born the next April.

* * *

Marike and Kethe, both shaken by the story, spontaneously undertook to track down Samuel and make him answer for his crimes.

 

The cook’s tale

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Lotte the cook

After Sir Warmund and Lady Gertrude retired for the night, the adventurers slipped into the kitchen, where the old cook Lotte agreed to have a nightcap with them. Lotte, who was also around back in the day, remembered Samuel very well and had some additional tidbits on him:

  • He definitely made drugs and potions that might have magical qualities – in fact Lotte had helped him out with ingredients at the beginning.
  • From tales by her relatives in the western villages, she was also pretty sure something did happen there in the woods.
  • She also wasn’t convinced Beate hadn’t been involved. Beate had been head over heels in love with Samuel almost since he arrived, and Lotte didn’t think he would have had to drug her to get her where he wanted. The girl meant no harm but she was young and foolish.
  • She remembered the girl from Kröte who drowned, too – one Tilde Mohr. She became a bit of a scapegoat after her death, being blamed as a witch. Some also said she was pregnant at her death – perhaps with Samuel.

Eventually, the adventurers went to bed after agreeing to join Kethe on her mission to Kröte the next day. After all, it seemed that was close to where the old events had taken place. Perhaps there might be more to find out there?


GM’s notes (spoilers)

5 thoughts on “S3E1: Power Behind the Throne, Part I – Skeletons in the Closet

  1. mrdidz

    Nice! story plot. Did you make it up or was it based on one of the scripted adventures?

    I like the images as usual and may have to add some of them to my own collection. Where did the Baron and Lady Gertrude come from they look almost like game characters are they computer-generated?

    Marike reminds me a lot of Salundra from ‘Making the Rounds’, same taste in hats too. But the illegitimate daughter of a magic-wielding cultist! I wonder if it will explain why she and Ester shared such a passing resemblance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. theoaxner

      Thank you. This subplot is mainly my own work, but I’ll be working it in with elements from various published adventures – starting next session, in fact.

      As you might recall, it was heavily hinted back in S2E24 that Esther Lieberung was in fact the illegitimate daughter of Samuel Heintz and Ingrid von Wittgenstein, so the players’ current working hypothesis is that Marike and Esther were indeed half-sisters. They’re very curious as to whether there are any more uncannily similar half-siblings out there – not an unreasonable inference, given Samuel’s evident inability to keep it in his breeches.

      Like

    2. theoaxner

      Oh, and about the NPC illustrations: unfortunately I can’t put links to the images when displaying them as a gallery.

      Sir Warmund and Lady Gertrude are both concept art for computer games, yes.

      Sir Warmund is a 3D rendition of Count Caldwell from Thronebreaker: the Witcher Tales, done by the art studio Rascals. https://o2u.artstation.com/projects/QzXvwd

      Lady Gertrude is from a piece of concept art for the Pathfinder: Kingmaker game by Polish artist Valeriy Vegera, but seems no longer featured on his Artstation page.

      Like

    1. theoaxner

      Thanks!

      Sam Manley is one of the more prolific illustrators of the 4E line, so you’ll find his stuff here and there. I question-marked the attribution since I’m not 100% positive this illustration is one of his – the 4E books generally credit all their artists on the contents page but don’t credit individual illustrations, unfortunately.

      Like

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