Having taken their time to get the Medyved side of the story last session, our valiant heroes devoted their investigations in the direction of the house Lodovka. Taking the short trip down the street, the party’s first look at the front gate of the Lodovkan villa was one filled with about a dozen angry citizens, shouting insults and jeers towards the villa walls. The commotion was apparently constant enough that six city guards had been posted at the gate to keep the rabble back. Gavriil the Arcanist engaged one in a discussion, trying to use logic and reason to convince the man that he was doing more to harm than good to the investigation by ‘demanding’ lord Tawno Lodovka be arrested merely on the unproven suspicions of lady Kerri Medyved. Duke Eneko the Bard/Cavalier attempted to explain to the man that he was breaking the law by causing a disturbance, and he could have the man arrested. Finally Noruas the Gunslinger got everyone’s attention, and told them that if they didn’t clear out she would start shooting, which seemed to get their attention enough to disperse the crowd.
Once inside, the PC’s were greeted by a seated lord Tawno Lodovka, who beckoned them over to speak. “I’m glad that you’re here, perhaps you will be able to finally clear my name and allow me out of this blasted confinement I’ve been party to for the past three days!” Tawno began. Lord Tawno turned out to be rather cooperative with the party, eager to turn his house over to the party for a search, anything to ‘help clear my name, since after all I am completely innocent!’ Gavriil and Eneko questioned the lord, while Noruas and Elysia the Ranger took it upon themselves to search the villa for any evidence.
Lord Tawno had much to tell the party– yes, he and Lord Davud were staunch opponents of each other in the political realm; yes, he was quite displeased with Davud over his insistence that the Lodovkan trade deal to utilize the lakes near the Gronzi forest for fishing be denied; no, he wasn’t certain who would want to frame him for the murder; yes, he did have an alibi for the night, he was playing cards with his three close friends at their place. More and more questions came in, and more and more answers were had. Eventually, topics ranged into more political matters, which the PC’s were very interested to hear about. Lord Tawno spoke about his political rivals in houses Medyved, Garess, and Orlovsky, as well as how alliances were shifting quickly between his house and his allies, the Lebedas and Surtovas. After a careless comment, Gavriil quickly followed up to learn more information– and was rewarded by Tawno informing the Grand Diplomat of his suspicion that the reason Davud was blocking the trade deal was because he was afraid of having outsider eyes too close to his family lands. To add to this, he brought up a rumor that he’d come across– that the Medyveds were moving men and materiel north, towards the lands of House Orlovsky!
In the meantime, Noruas and Elysia were getting along fine. Indeed, the pair had, while searching the second floor, found a hidden safe behind a painting. Inside were several business ledgers and accounting papers, as well as a letter from Lord Kozek Lodovka, the head of House Lodovka! Noruas took a quick look at the letter, which seemed to be urging Tawno to change Davud’s mind about the trading rights deal– “It must go through. Change Davud’s mind at *any* cost, lest we fall into ruin.” Elysia’s examination of the stack of papers revealed that House Lodovka as a whole was failing financially, many of the individual families practically penniless, quite the tragedy for a people who are used to extravagance.
This information was secondary however compared to the next discovery that was made; while searching through Lord Tawno’s quarters nothing special was found, yet a search of his wife, Lady Odette’s, bedchambers revealed a hidden knife underneath her mattress, dried blood still upon the blade! Noruas and Elysia took a look around the room with fresh eyes, noticing a large window with vines growing under it. It was determined that the vines underneath had indeed been disturbed– as though someone had been climbing up and down the wall. With this new evidence, Lady Odette was questioned– discreetly, and without mentioning that they found the blade in her room. Her alibi for the night was that she was feeling unwell, and turned in early for the night, sleeping soundly until the morning.
Deciding to confront Lord Tawno about this, they once again questioned him about who would have anything to gain by framing his wife– for they didn’t believe that she was the culprit after speaking with her, claiming no knowledge of her husband’s business and seeming in general to be more of a delicate woman, not so inclined to murderous fantasies. Lord Tawno of course was outraged that someone would attempt to frame his wife; he shouted some harsh words regarding any who would wish her harm before being calmed down.
The investigation continued– the group decided to go this time to the villa courtyard, to see if they could gather any more evidence from the area near Lady Odette’s window. The ground near the window didn’t offer many clues– after a bit of poking around, all they were able to discover was a single partial footprint. However, while they were searching, they did take note of the gardener nearby, who was nervously trimming a topiary crab. Calling him over to ask him questions, he became increasingly nervous, and even managed to muddle up their sole remaining footprint ‘by accident.’ Wondering if something was up, Noruas stared at the man hard– he had heavily tanned skin, dark brown hair tied up in a ponytail, and was about middle-aged– then asked him straight up, “did you kill Davud Medyved?” His stammered protestations didn’t fool her or anyone else present, and a moment later, he tried to run for it!
He made it to the villa wall, up and over, before Gavriil Dimensional-Stepped next to him and brought him to the ground, where he cowered for a time before spilling his story. Yes, he had killed Lord Davud, but the man deserved it! He didn’t appreciate fine art, and the gardener had been paid to do the deed anyways! The PC’s harked upon this note– who had paid him? How much? Where was the money now? A brief description of the man– of medium height, a haughty look, red hair– followed, along with a name: Lucas. Lucas had met Rangrim Ungart the gardener in his home a week and a half ago, giving him a sack of two thousand gold coins in order to commit the act of murder, seeming to already know of Ungart’s distaste for the lord. Ungart knew of the secret way into the Medyved villa, as he’d once worked for Lord Davud until being fired for his ‘ugly topiaries.’ With this knowledge, he was to sneak into the villa and murder the lord, before escaping and being told to hide the weapon in Lady Odette’s quarters. The gold he’d been paid was still hidden in his tool shack out back, which Gavriil quickly recovered.
The mystery, for now, seemed to be solved– though not in the long-term. The party took some time to discuss what they found, but also made sure to inform Lord Tawno of their discovery of the murderer. Some discussion was made wondering if this ‘Lucas’ was also involved somehow in the assassination attempt on Eneko’s life two years ago, but no conclusions were able to be formed. With that handled, Chief Sootscale was contacted in order to prepare an execution for the morning, for the penalty for murder in Tolemac is death. With much fanfare and at the first light of dawn, Chief Sootscale led a grand spectacle at the gallows, listing off the crimes of the accused before a hooded Munduk the Hill Giant (now befriended and working with Noruas’ mother as a smith at her shop) was instructed to bring the axe down, ending Gardener Ungart’s life. Gavriil made sure to arrange transportation for the body back to the undead hillside, so that he could later raise the man into undeath to serve the army.
The session ended out with a kingdom turn, finishing with Tolemac having endured for two years and eleven months! The new settlement of Ruhtra was expanded upon, gaining housing and an inn for its inhabitants along with a monument to Brigh!
Players, do not read!
My, how I do love a good murder mystery investigation! I was extremely pleased how this turned out, and only a few things went a bit sideways. I was a little disappointed that Elysia’s player wasn’t able to make the session, but we did continue on– it’s our policy to run if at least three of the four players are present. Through the entire investigation, the only thing that really and truly threw me off was when Noruas’ player inquired about the wealth of the Medyveds, and then why they could not simply resurrect Lord Davud. To be honest, this had not even occurred to me while I was crafting the scenario, and it took me a few moments to figure out a decent answer. Thankfully Gavriil’s player spoke up and offered a suggestion– ‘perhaps he had a DNR?’ which I kind of latched on to. Thus Kerri Medyved informed the party that it was Davud’s wish when he died to remain in paradise with Erastil, and not to be dragged back into the world by powerful magics.
So before I go any further, I am going to go ahead and post below all of the notes that I crafted up about this encounter, which came together about two hours before last session:
Lord Davud Medvyed & Lady Kerri Medyved; Sir Eldon Medyved
Lord Tawno Lodovka & Lady Odette Lodovka; Rangrim Ungart, gardner
Urgent: Lord Davud Medyved has been murdered. Wife suspects Lord Tawno Lodovka. Possible diplomatic situation. Needed back in the capital immediately. Elysia currently in charge.
Sir Davud Medyved has been found murdered in his home! Lady Kerri Medyved is understandably distraught, and absolutely convinced that Tawno Lodovka is responsible for the crime!
Tawno and Davud had both been pushing heavily in political affairs back home; Davud Medyved had been busily blocking all advances from house Lodovka to gain fishing rights to the lakes along the Gronzi Forest. Medyved claims that these lakes would be spoiled by the fisheries that Lodovka would build, while Lodovka asserted that this new land held the salvation of their dwindling economy, and were willing to pay handsomely for the rights.
Tawno Lodovka suspects that Davud was unwilling to relinquish the land due to the close eyes which would be upon their territory.
Tawno believes that he is being set up by someone, though for what purpose he does not know. Tawno’s alibi for the night of the murder is a late night game of cards with three of his closest friends. Tawno’s hair is short and dark-brown.
Lady Odette Lodovka suggests that the party look into Kerri’s activities of late with Lord Davud’s younger brother Sir Eldon Medyved.
Odette claims little knowledge of the disputes between her husband and Davud, as she makes it a point to stay out of his family’s politics.
Odette’s alibi for the night of the murder is that she went to bed early that night feeling unwell, and slept soundly through to the morning.
Odette’s hair is a dull red color.
Lady Kerri Medyved denies any claims of extracurricular relationships outside of her marriage.
Kerri blames Tawno for her husband’s death, claiming that while she knew he was a cutthroat negotiator, she hadn’t thought it would become literal.
Kerri’s alibi for the night of the murder was visiting the Desnan observatory, which can be confirmed by several of the priests of Desna. The constellations were quite beautiful that night.
Lady Kerri’s hair is long and dark brown.
Sir Eldon Medyved denies any claims of extracurricular relationships with Kerri, but when put under pressure will relent, and say that they had been meeting for months now, their love blossoming like the late spring rose.
Eldon seems to hold no great sense of loss of his brother’s life, claiming that Davud was always looking down on him for his lesser status.
Eldon’s alibi for the night of the murder was that he was out drinking the entire night in the Silver Knight Inn.
Eldon’s hair is short and light blonde, similar to his brother Davud.
Eldon’s alibi, several drinking buddies at the Silver Knight, will say that he was with them all night. Then one will correct him, saying that no, wait, he ducked out for about half an hour at one point to use the privy. When he came back he was sweating and looked pale, like he’d just thrown up.
The privy out back has its door turned away from the doors and windows of the inn. It would be easy enough for someone to sneak out unnoticed.
Medyved servants will share gossip both of Kerri’s loyalty and disloyalty to her husband; one will say that she thinks Kerri has some innate magical sorcery powers that she never lets anyone else see.
Lodovka servants will share gossip that there’s been talks of house Medyved assembling troops back home in Stoneclimb to march north towards Skywatch to claim more territory.
Jamandi has cordoned off the Medyved villa since the night of the murder, in order to preserve any evidence. Arkanus has done some preliminary investigations, and come up with little. A long strand of dark brown hair was found at the scene of the crime.
Medyved villa has a secret chamber found by twisting the sword on a set of armor in an upstairs hallway. Can be found with a Knowledge(Architecture) check DC22, or a Perception check DC32. Inside this chamber can be found several business papers in Davud Medyved’s handwriting detailing shady dealings in the fish smuggling ring which Jamandi had put down several months before, and a passage down through the walls which exits through a portion of the villa wall.
Medyved villa a secret desk drawer can be found in Lady Kerri’s bedroom with a Perception check DC20; this drawer is full of love letters to and from Eldon dating back a year and a half. Yes, they are steamy.
Searching the Lodovka villa will reveal a bloodied knife with a DC15 Perception check in Lady Odette’s bedroom, hidden underneath the mattress.
Odette’s room has a wide bay window, underneath of which a thick layer of vines cling to the stonework, winding down into the gardens.
Checking the ground underneath, a single bootprint can be found in the mud. This print cannot be traced back to anyone, nor can any tracks be made out from there due to time and use. The gardener is a bit past middle age, dark brown hair tied up in a ponytail in the back, and says that he doesn’t spend much attention on the vines on that side of the villa.
In the Lodovka villa, the PC’s can also find with a Perception check DC19 a secret safe behind a portrait of Lord Kozek Lodovka. The safe can be opened with a Disable Device check DC25. Inside can be found papers detailing just how dire house Lodovka’s finances are in; they are almost penniless due to a decreased demand in exports and a poor farming season in the north, and a letter sent from Lord Kozek himself states that the house needs to turn Davud’s mind at *any* cost, lest they fall into complete ruin.
Rangrim Ungart was hired by a red-haired individual who went by ‘Lucas’ to murder Davud; he was only so happy to after Medyved fired him from his old job at the house due to ‘what can only be described as an ugly assortment of topiaries.’ Rangrim was paid a sum of two thousand gold coins, which he has hidden away in his gardener’s shack out back.
House Lodovka’s crest is a green-shelled crab climbing from the blue waters toward the gray band of shore surmounted by a gray tower-keep in the center, against a backdrop of black. Their house motto is “The Waters, Our Fields.”
House Medvyed’s crest is a black bear, rampant against a red field, with a spread of black antlers above the bear’s head. Its motto is “Endurance Overcomes All.”
So yes, I kept to many of the notes I had made, but I also altered some. I decided to have Lady Kerri not allow Jamandi inside to make even a preliminary investigation, and as such I sent an e-mail to Elysia’s player before the previous session to give her the background on what she found so that she could relay information to the party. Lady Odette never cast aspersions towards Lady Kerri’s married life, but I hardly needed to have her do so after the party had so nicely latched onto that idea. So on and so forth, but the basics were all there. I found myself delighted every time the party thought to look at something else that I’d prepared for as part of their investigation, and it felt so completely rewarding as a GM to see my work pay off.
When I crafted the scenario, it started off a bit weird. As I mentioned in a previous comment, I needed something to get the PC’s back into the capital to meet up with Elysia. Looking through my upcoming pre-rolled kingdom events I noticed the Feud event, with feuding nobles, and decided to take it a step further, and incorporate into this story one of my player’s backgrounds. Gavriil’s backstory, to be precise: Very little had come of his own story since fundraising for the kingdom. Now, two years in-game after that event, was the perfect time to do something!
For those who are not familiar with someone else’s character’s background, Gavriil is the bastard child of Lord Poul Orlovsky, lead of Brevoy’s House Orlovsky. Though he grew up with his mother working in a magic shop in Skywatch, Gavriil bore a striking resemblance to his father and others of his house, enough so that he was visual reminder of embarrassment for his father, who wanted nothing to do with him. During fundraising efforts in Restov, Gavriil’s uncle had come to offer financial support to various groups, and upon finding the Arcanist there, he made it perfectly clear that their house had no interest in aiding the group.
Fast forward– political situation in Rostland is deteriorating. The houses are backstabbing each other, everyone wants more power, and the Surtovas are trying to cement their rule. Houses are roughly politically aligned in these ways: Houses Garess, Orlovsky, and Medyved; opposed by houses Surtova, Lebeda, and Lodovka. The battle lines are roughly drawn as such, but as Lord Tawno informed everyone, “political alliances are shifting; those who were your allies today may be your enemies tomorrow.” So a story started to emerge for me– House Orlovsky wanted to do *something* to destabilize the PC’s kingdom, even if it was only a minor scandal that would bring them embarrassment. Even better if it could further their own ambitions; rumors were that House Medyved were preparing to occupy some of Orlovsky’s land ‘to keep it safe from brigands and bandits.’
And so a complex story got woven– House Lodovka, known for their fishing exports, were low on money and needed to make a proper deal with Medyved to get some better fishing grounds. Medyved is resisting, and so we have a tension between the two houses whose villas are in the party’s kingdom. This gives individuals some interesting motives for murder. Medyved doesn’t want Lodovkans nearby or else the jig is up on their troop movements; Lodovka needs this deal to work or else they go bankrupt. Orlovsky is on the fringe, already wise to some of Medyved’s treachery, and looking to politically maneuver events in their favor. A dead martyr on the Medyved’s side throws the two houses into conflict, possibly eating up a significant portion of time and resources that Medyved would otherwise be putting towards their land grab at Orlovsky. All of that to say, it’s a right fine mess that the PC’s have just been placed into, and they don’t know the half of what is going on!
On the micro-side of the mystery, I began by figuring out the key players– Lord Davud, Lady Kerri, and her husband’s brother Sir Eldon for the Medyveds; Lord Tawno and Lady Odette for the Lodovkans. Once I had established that, I knew already that none of them were the perpetrators of the crime, but I wanted each to have something that would make them look at least partially guilty. I gave everyone alibis, either weak or strong; many got motives such as opposition in politics, or a hidden love affair; means was also provided in the form of secret passages and planted weapons. It wasn’t until I had established most of this that I tried to figure out who was actually paid off to do the deed. I settled on the gardener about the time I decided upon the clue of the bootprint in the mud underneath Odette’s door. I gave him a secret and non-apparent motive for wanting to do it, and the means were easy enough when combined with that motive. I decided that if confronted, he would essentially give everything up, not being the type for intrigue.
With all of the bits and pieces and clues set out for the PC’s to discover and put together however they wished, I was ready– and had a ton of fun with it all! I really enjoyed hearing the party spitball theories back and forth. One of the first was when Noruas’s player had the idea to ask about a happy marriage for Lady Odette and latching on to the idea, exactly what I hoped would happen, as it was a red herring– true but irrelevant to the murder. I realized eventually I’d made a mistake by giving Lady Kerri long dark brown hair like the one found in Davud’s bedroom….there’s no reason for Lady Kerri’s hair not to be there being his wife, it didn’t really put any more or less suspicion on her. I should have had her hair be a different color/length.
After everything had settled down and they’d found the gardener, there were talks about this Lucas fellow, and I was absolutely delighted when Eneko’s player asked, “Hey, the Lucas guy has red hair– is he related to Gavriil?” A subtle little clue that I’d left for the party, because yes, Lucas is part of the Orlovskys and thus related to Gavriil, and the Orlovskys have red hair in this game– well spotted! During the talks with Lord Tawno, Gavriil made several concerned notes saying that he believed it was possible that they were all dancing to someone else’s strings on the political board of another country, which tickled me pink– I think this mystery really got them involved and invested in the politics of their kingdom and nearby Rostland! It’s a good way to set the stage for Rostland’s eventual descent into chaos, and I figure it might lend itself well to a plot point for Eneko and Gavriil’s backstories in the future.